Monday, December 13, 2010

Time for a change

“A pile of rocks ceases to be a pile of rocks the moment a human mind contemplates it as a cathedral.”

Those works were painted on glass, somewhere in a cozy corner of your typical downtown museum. They made their way into my notebook yesterday, and eventually into my curious mind. I liked those words enough to ponder them quite deeply.

When you start something, you start it with a purpose. A vision. A dream, a thought. And this blog, it seems, is all about a very personal evolution. In all these years of growing up and growing out of teenage, I have contemplated a lot. More often than not, this space has been more about ME than anything else. I don’t talk about global economics, ending world poverty or architecture. I talk about me. It’s always been that way.

Looks like my pile of rocks is similar to the millions of others that have been constructed all across the blogosphere: A little personal home, stuffed with insights, thoughts and ramblings. And then I thought about those cathedrals, you know. I thought about turning my home into a little cathedral, to allow for other incredible stories to reach this space: to talk more about THEM than just about ME. I thought about stitching something more into my fabric: Stories of the lives of others mingling with my personal experiences. Stories of a journey: not just through pictures of words, but through the very miracle that is the human experience. It's time to bring a change, and I think it's never too late to start.

Recently, I’ve been hearing so much that it would be an injustice not to talk about them: Stories of hope, of valor, of incredible courage and optimism. And they are not all mine. Some come from those everyday individuals that brush the mere surface of my personal experience. And yet, these spectacular stories of their struggles and ambitions penetrate deep into my consciousness to leave me spell-bound. They have moved me, deeply. They are true, incredible and wonderful. And I thought that it was time to bring it all to you, to establish a platform for their voices to reach more people—to touch more lives, to inspire, to teach. And in the back of my heart, this is what I've always wanted to do.  I’ve always been a better storyteller than an orator. You see, there is a difference. I think it’s time to write,...... a little less selfishly. Because others, have stories too--stories just waiting to be told, if we only lend an ear.

A few weeks ago, I started the Tellmeyourstories series. It’s everything I’ve discussed above. It’s about personal stories. Not just mine. It's yours, and theirs and mine. It’s something that we can all relate to and understand: stories of endurance, tenacity, hope, and determination. Some, even aim to highlight those who have been shadowed by time, distress and age. I have been away and infrequent, if you have noticed. This is because I have been working hard to learn the art of photography to help augment my writing. It’s been tough, but I hope it takes me somewhere in the end. I am still learning.

This blog will continue to be all it’s been: a little personal space to describe my experiences. But it will also be a little more than it’s always been: a personal space to describe other people’s experiences too, when I decide to turn the storyteller. Some of these stories come from the way I have perceived them. Others, in the way I have heard them. They are all true stories of human experience. In whichever way, I hope to bring them to you and I hope you’ll like it.

I’m back, folks! And it’s time to tell stories. Yours, mine and theirs.

Because, as I’ve mentioned on countless occasions before….everybody has a story to tell.
I hope you stay with me through this journey.

Much Love,


Saturday, November 13, 2010

They come with their stories


He’s slouching on the chair, weariness traversing the contours of his face. He has his head low as if to discipline an unnecessary reverie. A few words exchange and he finally looks this way. The brazen, penetrating eyes startle me. Somehow, they don’t seem to belong in a face so harrowed. Because the eyes have fire in them.

The doctor introduces me as an intern, and explains that I’m shadowing. I muster a meek smile and melt into the dark. A story unfolds.

Liver Cancer,” the oncologist talks, more to himself. “How do you feel?”


“You look good!”

“Well, I’m trying to.”

They talk prescription drugs and medications. The wife stays by his side, appearing natural and tolerant of the situation. She occasionally smiles, even. He is serious and sounds grave with his complaints, but she balances the talk beautifully, puncturing the gloomy conversation with something refreshing, an unusual question maybe. She’s trying hard to be cheerful, for the both of them. I pray for her to hang in there.

They’re good questions, the doctor says. We’ll do everything.

He sits back properly now, like somebody eager. Like somebody who knows he’s going to live. Like somebody who is reveling in that knowledge, like somebody who is sure of himself............

I am rather self-conscious and try to be as non-intrusive as possible. It is strange to just disappear into a corner and watch the biggest battle of life and not do anything about it.

The fire in his brilliant blue eyes still startle me. They talk progresses showing no sign of halting. He looks bored now, a little sober, I can see as they shake hands and head out the door. And then just as I start to think--- suddenly, we are done. As I scuttle after the doctor, the eyes flash with a ghost of a little hope. Something about those eyes introduce a little optimism to an agitated heart.

“Is he okay?” I ask hopefully.

“The cancer for this guy is in a serious stage. It’s metastasized to different parts of his body. So many cells to kill. It’s going to be real serious.”

The words leave me aghast. They have been brave.



The gravity if the situation is heavy in the next room, almost as heavy as the face that holds a countless wrinkles. There are pleas in this face, pleated in with the sorry helplessness of a silent sufferer. He rambles his burdens incessantly. There is no anger. No venom. No contempt. Just a complete acceptance. The weak voice is trying to push its point across, and the doctor grants him the time. As he struggles to make himself clear, his soft features mould into something empathetic, a weak-hearted attempt to look confident.

“Don’t you worry, we’ll make it go away. We’ll work as a team. We’re going to get together and come up with a nice plan for you. I’m sure we can do wonders.”

“Whatever you say.” His acceptance is unbelievable. I try to say something. The gravity is working on his shoulders, which look more burdened than I have ever seen.

I know I have to say something….but his pessimistic countenance leaves me bereft of words, the hopeless face is ridden with far more worries than I can read......


Maa.    Maaa…..”

She stirs a very very slowly, lazily. The freckled hands shakily reach out—searching, expectant. Immediately, they land in the daughter’s. They’re perfect—the ancient one interlocking the much younger one that she helped create. “I’m here, maa…”

Myeloma.” He says, “Do you know what that is?”

I nod.

We proceed.

The lady is listless. She cuddles back into her chair, like it will shelter her from all this incredulous nonsense. She is almost nodding now, fighting the sleep. The tired eyes are blinking, hazy and are dimmed by perpetual worry. Why? I don’t understand, the insolence seems to say. “Why do you make me undergo this at the age where I’d rather be doing something else? Cancer is such complete nonsense!”

There is sparse energy to her, but she’s managing. She’s pulling through. She knows she has to. I know she has been performing, and they are taking good care of her. There have been slightly depressing statistics lately, but there are better cures.

The daughter has a careful air. She is undaunted. Soon, the Myeloma should be gone. She tells me that I look awfully familiar, and I tell her I should meet her sometime. As I bid goodbye, I actually wish to never see her again. The hospital is not a nice place to make your home.

I look back. The ancient one has now dozed off, in quiet, instantaneous escape from all the torment. She has found her paradise, an exit, a way. In her own cradle, she must be going back to the times when life when she was young and unbothered by stressful excursions. I hope they will leave her unhampered for hours.


“He’s here.”

Kind, I think. It’s a kind face, a gracefully aged face, looking content today. “Thanks for calling me in today, doctor. I think you are doing a wonderful job. I believe in you.” He encourages.

“And you too, ma’m.” I return the pleasant smile. I like him.

The beautiful, intelligent face of the daughter is scribbling on a clipboard, keen and concerned.

“We’ll fix you.” The doctor promises.

The face is tremulous. A deep contentment oozes across it, reminding me of someone who is on the brink of an epic achievement. He is somebody who has lived his years well. He sighs, and then picks himself up again. “I know I can.”

“As long as you believe, I know you can too.” I talk to him within my head. We disperse. I’m touched by how the daughter affectionately walks him into the corridor. I wish to be more like her with my own father.


Here, we get many cases.” The doctor says, shuffling some pages. “And some of them are medical miracles. Like this lady. When she came in with lung cancer and an aggressive metastasis to different parts of the body, her CEA was so very high. They’ve dropped incredibly; she’s going to be an amazing survivor. She truly is a miracle.”

We heard you through the door, the husband says cordially. And we agree.

The experience has thawed her a little. I can only imagine the horrors she has faced. The voice is sharp, like a saw. She speaks in spurts, but with a depth gained only through experience. This woman is much more than just another survivor. She’s a marvel, a fighter, an inspiration.

And as I watch the miracle from a distance, I am overwhelmed. Life feels such a magnanimous gift, and some of us have to fight hard to preserve it, so securely. And as I glance upon pictures of such heroes staring back at me from glossy magazines, I feel the true magnitude of the emotion to its sincere depths. It’s time to move on.

Again and again. We see the defiant one, who refuses any treatment even if it risks her health; the shy eighty-year old who retires into her shell and talks little; the ambient and jovial young man who behaves like nothing’s the matter, the nervy and shaky soul that squeaks out in distress. I meet eyes that scream an apprehension, hope, love, trust, grit, confidence, persistence, and a mixture of many other things. The chemotherapy sessions. The nurses. The office. A biopsy. A bone marrow extraction. The world is whirling. My feelings are threatened; I’m befuddled, not knowing what exactly to feel. Everything descends on me like a comic tragedy fashioned by the gods: the baseless and shallow happiness of my life contrasting with the profundity in all these stories. My life feels inconsequential….so passing….irrelevant in front of the goliaths that come here. They are fighters. Survivors. Sometimes, soldiers. And this heart can only touch at the surface of their experiences, only wonder, only surmise….but even that much changes everything.


“The last one for today.”

I really start hoping that this is going to be different.

I know with an immediate certainty that this woman is unusual. For one, she is quietly chucking to herself and in jogging shoes. That is the first cancer patient I’ve seen today with that much genuine happiness. Even I appear more worried than her. I have to remind myself of that and correct my expression.

The brash, aggressive warmth in this punk-star and the effortless humor that tells me that despite everything, she is madly in love with life. She’s celebrating her last chemotherapy session. The triumph is alive, yelling from all over.

“So, you tell me that’s it? That I can’t come back? Oh my gosh, how rude to throw me out! For Pete’s sake, who will I tell my jokes to?”

The doctor cracks up. And then, we’re all laughing.

And as I let it go in the meaningless chortles in a sequestered room stuffed with its charts and prescriptions and languid white walls, I am grateful--grateful I came, that I tried to understand. Grateful that I was alive and that was so easy for me. To see life with its raw truths, unfolding and fighting to hang on, to see it for its unpredictability, its philosophy, its endurance….to see it through the veil of time: to see how different people face it—with courage, hope, optimism, grit, or triumph….within a single day… had moved me beyond expression, beyond rational thought, beyond everything. Today, I had seen a side of life that would have avoided even my imagination. I had stared courage right in the face.

Outside, I lifted my head up to the heavens and closed my eyes. The sun worked a mysterious charm, leaving trinkets on my skin. I inhaled some of the life around me, not knowing how much longer it would last. But despite the stories, despite the statistics, despite the pains, despite the daily struggles and hassles, despite the uncertainity, there was some amazing power to human endurance. Never had I come this close to understanding the human element, and it's inborn struggle for survival.. Despite everything, existence was beautiful.  And it was always stay that way.



Wednesday, September 8, 2010

And then she headed out the door

(This is a true story, but narrated from my own view point. The descriptions are based on how I have perceived the story. )

They were a group of good friends. A particularly boisterous crowd, peculiar in the sorts of people it included. The peculiarity is what made them noticeable, making these bunch of talented oddballs stand out. They would go on to become some different people, entangle themselves in different situations, and face very different destinies. But back then, at that point in time, they were all students. More importantly, they were friends. And that’s all that mattered.

She was the laconic one. The loyal and timid follower. Prone to being overlooked, but contributing to conversations in her own ways. First glances can lie, however, because there was definitely more to her.

An emotional and tender heart is what she concealed, there was a purity and richness to her thoughts. She felt with deep intensity, and the heart of her stories had more stuff than most others. Hers was to be a perfectly normal life too—studies, marriage, family, kids. But anticipation found a place in her life, because she expected so much out of such experiences even amidst the monotony that surrounded her. The 1980’s didn’t hold too many opportunities, and yet, there was space enough to strive hard and make the most of it. Something to make for herself, a professional life to craft. She wanted a fairytale, extraordinary as her wishes. And they thought she wouldn’t have it.

Defeating many others to it, she studied engineering and was hailed an intelligent academician. They cheered her then, naturally happy for her achievement.  She excelled, and then they thought that her future was falling in place, a secure and happy life was in store. Back then, it wasn’t hard to ascertain futures. More rigid rules, less flexibility allowed for most things to go as planned. A predictably hectic and pleasantly busy life was what seemed to be at the other end of the tunnel. That meant she was settling down. Those were the good times.

He, on the other hand was a different sort of a personality. He knew how to focus his energies, and there was a determined fervour to him. He could concentrate incredibly, on top of being impossibly intelligent. This could be the only explanation of how he made it to medical school. Dedicated and passionate, he worked hard. The group was happy for his phenomenal qualities, and proud that he belonged with them. Occasionally, the age old joke of how they could get free treatment from him if their health bothered them might have passed between them. They were a group of oddballs all right. But such talented oddballs. With such amazing influence, and an influx of diverse talent, there was little doubt that all of them would blossom. The future held promises of that.

They met, they talked, they joked like friends were supposed to. They dispersed into many fields, and kept in touch. For the laconic and shy one, the fairytale was coming true. Engaged to a smart boy from overseas, she couldn't possibly ask for more. She would get to travel the world, much of a big deal back then. Sweets exchanged, such a tempting proposal didn’t go back rejected. The friends cheered this time too.

“See,” they must have said, “Your life is going to be a fairytale. Much better than us.”

She married young, and married quick. Bound by the security that a wedding bestows, she allowed for her husband to fly away with his words of loving comfort and promises.

You can come too, I’ll make sure you can come with me. Very soon.”
Such assurances.

Yes, her life was in place. Just this little quirk. But the cloud would pass. She would get to see the world yes, and it would be a romantic affair. A fantasy was to be lived. She must have waved goodbye with those dreams clouding her eyes.

The friends were wiggling into different permanent relationships too. The years rolled, the invitations distributed, the kids born, the complaints discussed. Some had heartbreaks, some difficult love marriages, some bland arranged ones. Even the boy who went to medical school was a doctor now. And the smart husband still wasn’t back.  The assurance still sounded empty. They were all still her buddies. The friends were old now, and hers became the only fairytale not realised.

No, she wouldn’t have it. She had always stitched together a perfect life for herself, excelling. She would find a way to get to him. Even if he was unwilling for that fate, she would try. She was a wife, rightfully is. She belonged with him. So she tried and found a way.

She visited her close friend. Her favourite in the crowd, the one who went on to become a banker.
“Parvathi, I’m going to be travelling finally! I will get to meet my husband and live with him.” She told her banker friend gleefully. The girl converted money to dollars and then she headed out the door, towards a welcoming future. Parvathi must have thought that.

There was no door. They heard of her suicide a few days later.

Parvathi and the rest of the friends visited the funeral, and the charred body told a sorry tale of shattered dreams. It was a fairytale that stayed incomplete. A phone call from the husband saying that he didn’t want her, the news that he was already secretly married to somebody else, the severe depression that the intense disappointment that it provided, some kerosene and a matchstick was all it took. The flames engulfed the dreams, the fairytale, the expectation, the incredible friend, the loving wife. They ate her away.

The doctor later received a body for post mortem. A charred corpse, the sorts he would see every other day in his medical career. The intelligent brain could accurately describe the severity of the burns.. Another dead body, another day. But this time, the burnt body meant a little more to him. He knew of this blackened inanimate form when it had a life, when it spoke to him. When it joked and participated in his conversations. When it was his dear friend. It wasn’t just another day for the doctor. It was agonizing to have fate lay a dead friend before him for medical examination. But he must have found the truth then, that a person is much more than a dead body. A friend, she would always stay. Out of the millions of cases that came to the hospital for post mortem, it was the twist of fate that one of his close friends must lie here before him, lifeless. As he examined her, her story came alive. It was hard to see her dead. Maybe her story wasn’t a fairytale, but it would be remembered. By the doctor. By Parvathi. By the friends. By me.

I heard it in between errands, in between thrusting sweets into tiny plastic covers and answering Ajji. I heard it without giving much thought to it, as aunt spoke to grandpa about it. It’s about a somebody I don’t know, about a somebody I never met. But it is a touching story about a friend, about dreams and about the interesting twist of fate.

And I thought it was a story worth telling you. Fate behaves differently with people, and differs as much as people do. Stories come and go, and times change. But some stories are remembered more than others. And such stories need to be shared. It is when I share these profound tales of human experience that I feel, as a writer, I have completed a duty. I hope that she will be remembered.

Because she deserved a fairytale. Because once upon a time, she was more than a charred blackened body with degree 2 burns that came for a post mortem one fine morning.
I know that the doctor will agree with me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Going Home

19th August 2010

Dear Journal,

It takes a lot to be someone different. Someone special. Someone worthy….and someone responsible. But it takes little, to be someone happy. I’m happy today, amongst the clouds, flying—with both my heart and all the rest of me. And it feels like I’m too light for anything to matter. Anything to matter at all. They do that to you sometimes, the clouds….don’t they? Poets write so much of them for nothing, you know. They are worthy of emulation. Of imagination, of utter wonder.

The clouds.

And they’re clouding my mind…as they traverse, moving all around and into me, punishing clarity as they weave into my dreams, thread into the fabric of my stories causing such an extraordinary magnification of a sunny mood. They leave space for only one thought—that I am going home. The idea that I am going home, that I am going to be seeing my friends, that I will get to talk to them, that I will get to belong, and glancing upon all those people I hold close, that I love, that I would wish to meet, all the rest of my family….this time, I’ll be there. Among them. Belonging.

It brings back a warmth, the sort of half-forgotten warmth akin to the reminding love in old grandpa’s oversized sweater or the delight in finding loose change that you never knew was there in a pocket. Accomplishments have come and gone. I’ve worked harder, tapping motivation in the most bizarre ways, and surprisingly found that I do foster an incredible amount of self-contentment for everything that occupies my life. I’ve moved from eighteen to nineteen, I’ve trained my legs to be more nimble, learnt to endure the hot sun of California knowing of hidden respites and new possibilities, to leave estrangements behind to laugh like everything is just a joke. Despite every occasional tantrum I throw and my unkindly longish whines…I am satisfied here. Happy, loved and striving. There is so much to find, so many new things. There is cheer, there is hope, there is the passion for working hard for my dreams….but it doesn’t mask the fact that I’ve missed them. They’re a part of me that I could never quite leave behind.

Every time I talk to them from behind a screen, or through mute pictures, or in the pages of a diary…..I feel that I am just skimming the skin, just a little bite of the other side of the globe. Although I have tried, with painful consistency, to reach out and bother myself with what happens in their day to day lives—to live both here and there…it has been difficult. Sometimes, I have done this at a cost of forgetting my beautiful present, sometimes even at the cost of my time and patience. But I have still held onto them. Adapting to a new place, to new people, to new ways, doesn’t mean that you have to forget all that life was, all the people who were there and all the people who still are--All those who have tried to push you through, to be your shoulder, to help, to advice, or yell at you through a headphone when you’re doing something wrong….all those who are deserving of your gratitude.

And today, everything seems to fit in so well. Everything feels right. Flying home again, to where I know that I can feel the monsoons moist my skin and invade me with a favorite glee, where I can barge into a darshini and savor a filter coffee for an affordable price, where I don’t need fancy chairs to sit on, when there’s that old Jamakhana on which I could stretch my legs, where I can scoot into random bazaars and side lanes in search of fancy earrings, where I can travel the polluted and jam packed roads, back seated and talking to a cousin, not really minding on all the jams and the honking, where I can hear my name pronounced correctly, , where some relatives try to approach me in English instead of in Kannada assuming that I would have forgotten, where I can bustle about at important marriages feeling the weight of many eyes on me, where midnight dreams come alive as the coconuts sway to august winds outside the window next to which I grew up, building more dreams and staring at those very same trees, where all my childhood books stay intact and reachable, where illusions are flesh and blood, where I know that I will be absolutely surrounded, sleep-deprived, pampered, pinched, overwhelmed…..and still be very very happy.

I feel like somebody happy.

Like somebody among the clouds.

I can see that silver lining—both outside my window and within grasp of an invisible future. New Horizons are emerging.

Something tells me this is going to be an adventure.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


The day had dismissed me, of both work and of much speculation. Up above the eagles circled, regarding the convoluted valleys below with a superior disdain. I didn’t take lightly to their mockery, but there was little I could do now, so I trudged on, towards the bus stand, towards the end of another day.

A hand that held loose change waited, impatient to appease luck to take her home. As it is in these long summer months, all lingered drunk below the sun’s intoxication, drooping like my tired shoulders. A perfect stillness—inanimate and fevered.

No winds stirred to ecstasy the Douglas firs, nor dimmed the relentless beat of the heat, so furious and burning. I hated waiting for busses. It was just another normal day. Just a lack of any new possibilities. Maybe I should be glad for that?

The wait turned weary as shadows grew longer, and the battery charge on an iPod began to move from a happy green to an alarming red. I yanked the earphones off to face the abandonment that I had screamed away and a fruitless hope, unrewarded by patience. “You are late. There are no more busses today,” said father over the phone, somewhere from a coast away, “What are you going to do?”

What are you going to do? 

His long lecture simmered with the panic and concern, even over the phone. Somehow, the alarm didn’t quite register into a numbed brain, so dazed by the maddening stillness. The sheer enthusiasm that had made me stay back in college today to watch some specimens in lab still stayed as a residual joy in my heart, amongst the dramatic turn of events.

The day had just changed. There were no more busses to take me back, nobody to travel with. No easy way home. Great, prayers answered, just great!!! Said the fury. I let a long sigh escape me, collapsing. This was just sad. Inevitable. Irritating. Troublesome. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Wait….she whispered back, the senseless dreamer in me. Wait and look she said. I turned to where the phantom voice pointed.

Clear blue skies. A long winding road. Stillness. A transient calm. Look.

What? I barked back, irritated. “It’s just a stupid long road.”

“No, it’s a possibility.”

The inevitability tried to force a mutter of curses like a dull incantation from me. No! she suppressed it adamantly, no, this is not a stupid long road. And this is not a stupid hot day. This was a possibility. A possibility to find something. A possibility, which was painfully distant and out of sight. Something out of reach, but something that existed, nonetheless.

The sweat built up steady and the road stayed long and winding. Consumed by passing thoughts and vehicles, the observer looked to the light blue skies. Maybe I would find the “best” of everything down the road. Maybe I wouldn’t. But I knew that I had to make this fun. Or else, it wouldn’t be a day lived fully. And today wouldn’t last forever.

I weaved in and out of the spruce lined lanes, forgetting about everything else but the present. Purposefully scuttling in and out of the shade, I played cat and mouse. The sun enjoyed my act. He filtered down from between the branches with determination, but I was fast in avoiding him. I smiled back from within the little shade-cover that was the oasis that I had managed to isolate myself in, and quickly darted to the next. Oh yes, this was quite a foolish adventure. But it didn’t lack the thrill I associate with an original one.

As my game grew tiring, I passed a fenced school play-ground. The summer crowd was around, kicking footballs and playing catch on the sprawling emerald on the grass, toppling, laughing and running about. From the newfound shade of the sparse maples that dotted the sides, I watched them play—a freedom so unbounded spoke back to me. I wanted to rewrite myself and belong there too—roaming about with nothing but whipping hair, scraped knees and living lives that were full of that nameless possibility. The sun was now behind me, and I realized how late it was. I signaled to them as I walked away, hoping that that their distant forms acknowledged my presence, hoping that they'd remember me.
The sun was thawing. I could feel him slink away, melting and sulking into the darker, sinister shades that now emerged, pouncing and crawling. A gurgle from faraway sneaked into my ear slyly, and unheard stories took shape within my head. I strayed towards the beckoning fountain in the twilight, infatuated.

My heart skipped a beat. "Aha, see, I told you!!" said the dreamer from within my head, " I told you you would discover a new possibility." She was right. I had discovered what beauty looked like!

The last of the fading sunlight sprinkled a shimmer on the pool, a perfect farewell. They were little beads that glowed and pulsed, in myriad hues and colors. The soft glimmer warmed my heart, and I felt the reverberations break. Barefooted, stayed by the pool, bathed in a surreal glow. Now, the possibility had become a reality. I felt the joy explode within me, as an infant gust of wind blew, seemingly elevating a raised head even higher. This felt like a whole new world.

                               Oh, how many times I had glanced at this park from my bus window!!! It never had meant much to me. But here, in the now, a lost opportunity….a possibility, came to be discovered. Another secret nook, another escape, another favorite place to hang out. I knew the dreamer in me had shown the way to happier possibilities. I walked away with a discovery-- homewards, and leaving home behind as the sun submerged himself, unfurling a creaseless velvet sky in his wake.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Left Behind

“You can spread your soul over a paddy field, you can whisper to a mango tree, you can feel the earth beneath your toes and know that this is the place, the place where it begins and ends. But what can you tell to a pile of bricks?”
(Nazneen, from Monica Ali's 'Brick Lane')

When I look at the world from high vantage points, my perspective claws out the minute details of the sprawling scenery, pecking at the edges of distant shapes, discerning objects and bringing to focus the complex intricacies that lie below. Perched alone atop the terraces of biology lab in the enervating heat, I didn’t see much that overwhelmed me. An ordinary day decorated by bland taste, a few withering plants here and there and a cloudless sky that held a ferocious sun.

Beneath, a technology infested world talked back. I watched it move minutely, but with such great hurry and heavy deliberation. Everything so immediate, purposeful and directional. Every motion planned, every move, systematic. The busses were prompt. The students wasted no time. Their sharp urgency became my amusement. As I watched technology rumble and tumble all around me, spilling and whizzing away with dignified solemnity, I felt suffocation. Where were they all headed to? Why the need for hurry? Why is the world that rapid? Why can’t we relax and take time off to breathe? Sitting there, I perceived the environment as an organized chaos, a mad race of people, machines, purposes, secret intentions and ambitious desires. But surveying the world around me certainly didn’t make the perspective clear, no matter how hard it tried to identify. Maybe intentions and desires aren’t as easy to separate as physical objects. I felt disgruntled.

I was hardly keeping up with how the world was improving. The fluid passage of time, the smart quickness that governed life, the fact that I was getting older by the day…they were hard to deal with, a source of bother, of perpetual unhappiness. How much harder should I run to keep up? The world was moving! Clearly, my lazy bones had some work to do, and maybe I would finally discover order and comfort in this chaos that surrounded me. A disturbance was building within me, expanding to a din. Watching the chaos, I felt abandoned. I felt horrible, like humanity had overlooked my presence, like this space had left me behind.....

The hiking trail smelled of soil. Well worn feet moved on them, trudging. As the usual summer day’s heat pressed down, I wiped my brows but continued. Silver oaks and sequoias showed mercy on the battered soul, sheltering as much as they could. Of course, the classmates were far ahead on the educational tour, and my lack of energy was making me lag behind. The fatigue was building with inclination. I was trailing. I was still not moving fast enough for the world. I was still left behind. I was still unhappy.

We gently sloped into the woodlands, where the redwoods grew to heights that thrilled. The familiar moisture that lived under them healed my prickly skin. I looked to the trees, and they stole me. “They last so long that you could almost believe it could be forever…” the teacher was saying. I stared from my little nook, the one which wasn’t a vantage point. On the loose soil in the untamed wild, I saw a perfectly still world. Silence, apart from a few distant bird calls. Unchanging trees, that would always stay, fixed and firmly rooted. Secure and timeless. Everything that I ever wanted. This was my inner peace, staring right back at me. Everything that my elevated view that stared upon all of humanity hadn’t shown me.

We headed back now, winding our way through narrow trails. The undergrowth was inviting and fresh, and so full of silent plant life. Even in the silence, there was life. Vitality. An exploding variety of thriving complexity.

Blackberry bushes, trilobed leaves. A mischievous and venomous poison ivy, concealed cunningly in the green. Ferns, that spread their wings to sunlight’s whimsical wishes, thorns that alarmed with their loud presence, webs woven of bewildering sincerity collecting water, bay oaks spreading like nothing could stop them, a sapling emerging tenderly with such dedicated determination, deer that lingered behind trees with watchful eyes, the deciduous leaves that lay strewn all around that were fragrant even in death….my happiness was in this nameless wonder, in being granted enough time to appreciate creation. And today, my happiness had witnessed rebirth. I was, predictably, the last to emerge out of the trail. But here in the wild, it finally felt good, to be left behind.....

(* Special thanks to Ronia for the pictures, without which this post would have been incomplete. Thanks a ton for deciding to share!)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Right Places

The pale sunshine bounces off reflecting surfaces, filtering though rough wooden tiles and cracks in between walls. It penetrates the world, slow and sure, and the crows get cawing. Grandmother has just started to heat the water in the bathroom which is steamy from the pervading heat. Utensils clink and clank in the hissing kitchen and outside, the roads are getting crowded. But the six year old mind is asleep, and its brilliant dreams surpass anything that this world can conjure up. She continues to slumber. When from the realm of semi-consciousness, she returns to the present, she feigns a deep repose until her grandmother forces her awake.

“Wake up, and get ready…”

She’s fussy over a ruined dream as grandmother bathes her, and she finishes her prayers dutifully right after. When that’s done, Granny hands her a tumbler of milk, meaning to be a small reward for following up. But she sees punishment in that tumbler of milk, distastefully gulping it down in one go. Few things off the checklist. Her day has just begun—orderly and planned.

The coconut oil is cool on her scalp, and her hair has been quickly plaited for school. She likes it that way, presently. She likes staying by Grandmother’s side, clinging. There is a secret joy she derives from following her commands. When she earns the “good!” from the slightly critical Grandmother, she knows that this means a job well done. There is happiness in doing her Granny proud. The wooden swing in the Verandah, the stashed evening papers from Grandpa’s reading, the framed paintings of a variety of gods above her head, the sweet incense from the Puja Room, her favorite black dog Blackie who’s still sleeping upstairs, the guava tree in the yard, the traditional prayers she knows by-heart, the cheerful Rangoli drawn up front—they are all part of her world; sights, sounds and colors that define home, define her zone of comfort. But stepping out of it is what she forebodes every single day.

School, is not her special place. School is where the reprimands are serious, and tantrums never get her anywhere. Numbers and language. Much of it seeps past the disinterested brain, confusing and muddling and irritating in the process. She uses pencils that she doesn’t know how to sharpen, to scribble symbols which she doesn’t even understand. The wood of the benches isn’t as comfortable as that of the ancient swing which rocks her, making her fly. No, School can never be that special place.

The blue school bag is waiting. The lunch is packed. The mind is brainstorming excuses. Granny is ready to walk her. They start off, hand in hand. Her little hands find granny’s and hang on, not wishing to ever let go. She knows the moment must come, but she suppresses the pangs of cold terror that course through her at the thought. Grandmother is talking as they step into the wide outdoors, and she feels insecure.
“Eat your lunch,” says granny. “And bring back the homework. We’ll do them all together.”

The girl nods, resenting even the reminder of what’s in store for her. The hands cling tighter to the older ones now, clutching. She hates lunch period, where not finishing translates to severe punishment. She isn’t a gobbler, and even a few bananas that grandmother packs for her seem like the biggest meal ever.
“Don’t throw the peels everywhere, Lakshmi. Teacher will scold. Put it in the right place.”

The “Right Place” for the Banana peel had been behind the verandah doors of Grandmother’s home. She cannot think of where else they could belong. After her daily banana was consumed she would place it behind doors without thinking about alternative “right places”. The maid picked up all her garbage the next day, inviting her to fill up the space behind doors with more peels. But school doesn’t have verandahs. She doesn’t know what to do now. This adds to her her resentment.

School looms closer and the staircase that leads her to her hell looks threateningly tall. Grandmother’s hand squirm out of hers and she encourages the child with big smiles. Panic invades. The six year old stays rooted though, hoping, like every single day, that her escapist tendencies might suddenly create a way out. But the Ayah is near, ushering her to the staircase. Every step takes her away from comfort, love, and warmth and she is screaming to run back to it. She desires a release.

As her attempts fail like every day and she unwillingly turns away, tears are birthed at the edge of her eyes. She can’t control the hollowness, and she looks back to granny who’s still watching. She clutches the railing hard, making this a very difficult job for the Ayah...the tears are over-flowing now. The little heart flutters with a whole range of emotions and the eyes strain to hold her favorite person close as long as possible. Instructions echo sternly “Put the Banana peel in the right place”.

“Come back, Ajji,” she silently prays within her head. This prayer is more sincere and fervent than the verses she recites every single morning. Her horror and deepest fear is not spotting Grandmother among the crowd when it’s time to go home. Without Granny’s able hand, knowledge and guidance, she doesn’t know to manage life, the way home and unfinished homework. So far, Grandmother has always kept her promise. And even though she is being propelled into a world which she can hardly comprehend, she finds respite in the thought that Grandmother would keep her promise again today. She knows she is loved, and granny would solve all her problems. That is her sanctuary.

The little creature frantically searches for the grandmother after a few hours, the blue school bag hanging limp on shoulders after the classes are dismissed……..panic is building…..her eyes are continiously searching.......and Happiness explodes in her heart at the moment of recognition, and the face bursts into a smile. They walk back together, light-hearted at the end of an ordeal. She beams at Grandmother for once again saving the day.

“Did you eat your lunch?” questions Ajji affectionately.

The six year old prefers not to answer. She has a chore to complete. Excitedly, she rushes through the doors into the cool interiors, and takes out banana peels from her lunch box which she never discarded in school. Triumphantly, she throws them to behind the doors of the Verandah. She giggles as her heart wells with contentment. She is back, and the peel is behind the Verandah door. All things are finally in the “Right Places,”

She is home.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Story that never flew away

On a late evening train, in the middle of flickering lights and dim shadows, senseless aspirations and impossible dreams, subtle rhythm and repeating groans…the ignited cognition had scribbled its first attempts of fiction on a blank paper:

“The feel of the leaves of the pomegranate tree sent a feeling of strange happiness through me. I was in the pomegranate orchard, all by myself – away from my impatient mother. I sat under the tree although the young tree did not provide much shade. How long I sat there – I did not know because soon I had drifted into a deep sleep, away from the bitter events of my life.”

It was one of my first stories. I was fourteen.

Imagination was young, and alive. The heart was untouched by thoughts more confounding than pure wonder. Why I wrote the story, I do not know….but I would have probably allowed the whimsical tale scribbled on cheap paper to flap away with the winds. It would have been another incomplete thought, wasted emotion escaping through the window of the train into the yawning void if my mother hadn’t persuaded me to hand it over to her.

I looked away, ashamed to show my face to her as she scanned my beginning struggles with story writing. Thoughts that had been trapped within my mind were staring at the world through the rusty windows of a speeding train. When I worded them, it was some form of insane liberation. But that knowledge was supposed to have been my little secret.

To be honest, I never regarded my stories in a favorable light. I wrote them to pass the time. And then mindlessly threw them out of my brain or available open windows. I made them paper-planes, allowing them to fly to heights that I believed my words could never reach. That story should have been discarded.

But it had passed many hands instead. Several eyes read through them.

I was the girl who imagined vigorously, but always allowed it to die down. I never considered my thoughts worthy of an intelligent audience, because they sounded so bland and ordinary….even to me. Being the highly de-motivated, self-involved and hesitant high-schooler, I assumed that life would always throw my stories out its window…..unheard, unvoiced, and unnoticed.

Unworthy of attention.

When the author herself rejected her own words, carelessly dismissing them, who else would find them more appealing?
But a phone call had come, with the warmest sort of encouragement I have ever received for the story that should have flown away….If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be writing this 100th post today.

This 100th post wouldn’t have happened if my grandfather hadn’t praised a pathetic attempt at fiction by an unsure, hesitant teenager who hid all her imagination in the last few pages of school note books, and the back of her fantasizing mind.

Stories would have been voiceless, mute and ordinary…if not for the magic that ignited the writing fingers.

That magic, I’ll call faith.

His faith in me. My parent’s encouragement. Silent stimulants. Blogging has changed me, in more ways than one. It has become part of who I am. It's become my story.

It has 100 chapters to it today. I never thought it’d grow to such proportions. An Amateur’s Attempts is the creative oasis where the anecdotes that should have swept away, the secret notebook pages that should have fragmented in paper mills….have been safeguarded.

They have found voice. And a very appreciative audience. Thank you all.
I’m glad for my blog….my respite, my oasis, my identity. This blog is like my little beanstalk...a growing strand of an evolving thought process...cherishing, remembering and chewing on all that has been, is or will ever be...and I am extremely indebted to my readers.

The teenager who didn’t know how to talk wrote these three years ago:

"I have been labeled as a girl who doesn’t talk, and that is a natural trait of mine. Or I was labeled so. You see, this girl is talking. She can now talk through her writing; she is finding new means to express herself. I have realized how deeply there was a need for me to talk, and all those emotions, thoughts, feelings that I had bottled up, memories that I had stored over the years are pouring out. I am not the same girl anymore—something is changing, it is something that is very difficult to define….."

Back then, I didn’t know what I was………or who I was going to be.
Much of that still hasn’t changed. The truth uttered that day by my frank immaturity still holds.

I still don’t completely understand why I feel such a great need to write.

But all I know is that it allows it to let go and set something free. It allows me to express like never before. It allows me to become different people---The shy dreamer who regards the world in quiet wonder, a sensitive adolescent who turns irrationally emotional, the pseudo-philosopher when completive, and a frenzied poet who is overcome by a maniac enthusiasm to play with language….and often the casual writer who simply translates feelings to words.

It allows it to be……me.

(Thank you for reading the stories that would have flown away. Thanks for all the support, love and encouragement. Special thanks to GVK sir for so whole-heartedly making me a member of MBP. And of course, everybody on Mysore Blog Park for being so supportive! A warm thanks to all of you!)

Thursday, April 1, 2010


She would come every day with her brows furrowed deep, looking thirsty and resolute. Brown wrinkled skin that had slogged incessantly under the Indian sun for many summers, a stooping aged frame that shook to her mercurial tempers….receding white hair that she was obnoxious enough to colour an abnormally thick boot-polish black with cheap dye when she managed some extra money....that was Lakshamma for me.

She faught with my brother all the time.

It would start with a thump. Dropping the broom to the floor, she would proceed to argue in her throaty high-decibel squeak. I would leave them to it, knowing that it would conclude sooner or later. Sure enough, she would stomp out of the room irritated, her small frame shaking to her temperamental tantrums. My cheeky brother’s continuous stream of harsh criticisms were what caused this. They would constantly irk her to no end. She would show her anger on the broom, sweeping in a maniac frenzy, her ageing frame bending over.

Lakshamma was never impeccable in her chores---a fact that she wouldn't accept even if the evidence stared at her right in the face. There was coarseness to her shabby work, completed with hasty impatience. She was the busy-bee who always has too much to handle on her stooping shoulders and she never cared enough but to reply with a very blatant “no” if we occasionally complained about the quality of her work. Of course, her work wasn’t anything exciting, she never received promotions. Lakshamma was just the typical housemaid—tough, quick with a mercurial temper, shabby, hasty and gruff.

But nothing I’ve ever seen is more beautiful than the innocent heart of hers.

She was the somebody that had never grown out of childhood. Happily unaffected by the complex chaos that was the world, she had developed into a very pure-minded individual with clean hands. Her mind held the same childlike wonder towards the world…..although she never made any sincere attempt to learn. There would forever be that curious kid in her--- the one who looked at vehicles as marvels, and who didn’t know why aero planes flew or how many continents there were. For her, the world was just a very big puzzle not worth solving. She would admire from afar when god granted her the time. When he didn’t, she would get right back to work, following the bland routine. She would stare at walls and think deeply when we handed her the filter coffee in a steel tumbler. I often wondered what she thought about that much.

It was true life had been unfair to her. Her husband ran away, leaving her to face her world alone. She had seen hard days. And had survived through raw grit and endurance. Life had given her her blows very early and she had accepted the challenges. One thing that stood out about her personality was that she wasn’t the resigned, fatigued spirit who moaned about the injustice in her life. She was ignorant, that is true, but certainly not pessimistic although she had every reason to be. Every single day was survival for Lakshamma. And she knew that she had to work very hard to maintain a crumbling family. Burdened but never submissive to the ways of the world, she would slog under the sun, ignoring the weather. She was a fighter.

I shared my name with Lakshamma. My food. My dreams. I shared a lot. Although she gave me absolutely bizarre advises (like tattooing symbols on my forehead, for example), she sometimes slipped me snippets of her life. I found her a fascinating person to talk to. Her simplistic, honest-on-the-face and gruff habits pleased me in the weirdest of ways. And her antics were even more amusing. I had grown with the house, and Lakshamma has been part of the house ever since I can remember. She, in fact, has been part of my life ever since I can remember as well. She has seen me grow up, but she hasn’t for me. I might grow taller by the inches, but she’ll always look taller to my eyes. Somethings don’t change.

As I unveil my soul scrolls, I see that I have shared quite a bit with this woman---she’s integral to everything that defines home….she somehow has to be there in the background of any significant memory….because she’s always stayed there.

She was my first pillion rider, (that’s a story I would someday share in much more of a detail), and such an amazing flatterer. It was utter delight when I accidentally spotted her walking with those furrowed brows in Hawaii slippers down familiar streets. “There is somebody I know” I would say, if anybody asked. Doing that made me feel warm.

Lakshamma!” I would scream, no matter if she could hear me or not. Acknowledging her presence in my world has always seemed important to me.

Ultimately, my brother’s criticisms weren’t unjust you know. She was inefficient. She was hasty. She was sometimes really stubborn. But she was also somebody who didn’t give up. She was my friend.

I don’t get to meet her often anymore. She doesn’t work for us from the time we moved here. But if I do get to spot her on the streets, I wouldn’t forget to frantically call to my first pillion rider and acknowledge her presence in my life and growing up.

And I know that she’ll turn right back to smile at me, unforrowing her brow with recognition and throw a friendly wave at me before her Hawaii slippers carry her stooping, aged figure into the streets, her mud-caked feet disappearing into the common masses.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Reminiscing a Rainy Day

The earth smiles as she experiences as gradual thaw. Spring is inching closer and a shy dreamer pokes her head out of the chaos of life to try and make sense of it. The open air bites at the wheels that smoothly travel on the tar, and the dreamer takes notice. Pale yellow of early blossoms, stretches of emerald, the slick black of tar, and the comely whiteness of the skies above….color is returning to the world in all vivacity. The legs push harder on the favorite machine as she continues to travel, absorbed in the awakening enigma around her.

It takes little time to get used to the faint sunlight of the early March days and the very fickle winds. But things were different in autumn before the winter had set in. Autumn’s magic had a different flavor to it. The unusual trick of the stubborn autumnal October days had been an extraordinarily inconsistency in the weather. October had pretended lovely summer with splashes of unexpected rains in between. And as I passed the same tarred parking lots that were once slippery after rainy days, I remembered a very photographic journey from 4 months ago....

It is an autumnal day that has come with the rains. I open my eyes to see the raindrops collecting on the panes, knocking invitingly. I rejoice, evasively slipping out with camera in hand. The rains persist pleasantly, and the damp earth is thriving to the rare autumnal rains—a celebration of epic proportions. A key was unlocked, and a door yanked open. A bike is pulled out enthusiastically and then the world was pulsing to my rapid rhythm. I peddle relentlessly, a lone cyclist in the deserted gloom of the wide outdoors. A panoramic view of the hills add to the experience. The same roads. The same bike. The same person. And a different world.

If there was one thing I;ll never grow tired of, it is biking in the rains. Although it is an activity I thoroughly enjoy and savor, it is like that rare treat one has to anticipate. Firstly, it doesn’t rain every day. Secondly, it is very hard to evade my very guarding parents. I have never fallen sick because of biking in the rains before, not that I am very scared of the possibility of falling ill. It is the moment that matters and to see one slip away being locked up warmly at home is absolute anguish. But today is a lucky day indeed. The knowledge smiles on my lips as I peddle away.

The maples shiver helplessly, succumbing to the mighty force of the steady rains. They litter the street side, the beautiful tawny standing out against the black of the tar. The bike skids to a halt and I crouch next to them, the rain dripping off my very long hair. Believe me, those of you who haven’t seen the beauty in the webbed vein of a maple have missed out on much. I pick a soggy one up. It clings limply to my palm. The rain is like dew, collecting in very different ways on each maple. The fearless camera finds its food. It has become a moment which has stayed picture perfect.

Further along the road, I find something curious. A rose petal is quivering tenderly as the rains splatter mercilessly. It looks like the brutal winds haven’t managed to kill the little petal yet. She is the coy pink of an early bloom, stolen by the winds and tossed unfeelingly to the ground. It is a pity she has to find an end this way. I watch her suffering, feeling delicate myself. I’m forced to leave her there, tremulous and weak under the rains. Abandoned, she cries alone under the weeping skies. I have no choice but to walk away.

The bike is wet, the hair is damp and tangled. The far side of the fence is dancing to the rain, and the heart is enthralled. The ear is enjoying a melody and the mind is awake. Wide-eyed, I gaze at the bleak horizons and the planes which are hardly visible. It feels like nature’s little secrets lie just beyond, and that I’m unable to grasp it.

As time crawls steady, the rains subside and comforting, sleepy lull descends. The thirsty ground has been fed, and is yawning loud. The dreamer in me also retires and creativity is slowing. Understanding that the euphoria is evanescing with the rains, I turn back. I return home shabby as an old dog to receive an earful for my mischief.
But the mind is elsewhere, wandering in and out of the autumnal rains, reliving.

Monday, February 15, 2010

When it snowed in Mid-Summer

A reluctant school-goer has returned home. The shoes are shoved away and the maroon socks have been irresponsibly thrown to the winds. There is little to create ruckus about, so I am yet to think of something. The friends are away, locked up in their own personal havens and I’m still desperately searching for mine within my tiny head. Having found no such paradise to satisfy my imagination, I decide that it will have to be the outdoors and optimistically reach for the latch. The door opens into the disappointingly familiar street-side. They offer scarce fodder for the imaginative brain, and it is difficult for the dreamer to construct anything fabulous out of it. So, I accept the cruel dismissal and settle down on the porch, falling into the reclusive, purposeless comfort of the genuine idler. The irresponsible lounger has just sat down to think, and everything shall remain undisturbed for a while now.

The heat waves shiver off the tar and travel. The afternoon is still, and the sun is most impolite today. I feel his wrath on my prickly skin. The afternoon is scorching and I squint. I am most unresponsive otherwise, and quietly disregard. Although the coolness of red-oxide would feel much better on my bare feet, I choose not to move. The world inside is dark and shadowy, and has fussing adults walking around. Right here, in the wide open—absorbed in my own sleepy reverie, all is quiet, if not exciting. As the heat tickles my bare feet, and my skin starts to boil, the irritation grows. Inside my head, something else is growing. A gorgeously fantasized winter wonderland. How would it be if a beautiful, snow-covered meadow would replace this dusty street side? Within the blink of an eye, my imagination melds with reality and I perceive the street side covered to an inch thick with fresh snow. Within the next blink, the vision has evaporated, and the irritation has grown even more acute. A south Indian late summer is never the best time to start thinking about snow, but I’m too young to know that. How I wish it would have snowed right here…..

“Snow is nothing but small fluffy pieces of clouds, which are torn apart sprinkled around by playful angels,” had been the most scientific guess of a friend in response to my question of why it snowed up north at all, and it had soon become everybody else’s scientific guess when I was seven. The belief stuck, and soon, I had claimed the hypothesis as my own, confident of proving it right someday. The primary subject for the deep thinker had been things like these—and they provoked further discussions with our group of intellectual young scientists. Well, leaving that apart, the day had proven to be most unfruitful. I had wished for snow, and it hadn’t appeared, and it turned out to be another day systematically wasted in fruitless dreams.

The weekday moved on, and the ritual too, continued, as more and more of my friends shied away from the hot summers, into the curtained comfort of the sweet indoors. To lure them out into the streets became more and more of a difficult task to achieve as the days progressed, and more of the world wilted away into the dust. The frustration grew stronger, and I started wishing that the angels up in the skies would look this way too. There seemed to be a justice to my claim. Why did they always have to exist in the north? Didn’t we deserve some wonderful snow right here too? Maybe if they could tear apart some more clouds and sprinkle it down on Bangalore, I could take a day off and frolic in the fresh snow.

Or maybe if the angels granted me the power, I could be the one tearing up the clouds, or waving the magic wand. The shared yearning for something so improbable became the most central of all my desires, until I learnt to conjure snow out of useless things. I finally got to wave my magic wand. I discovered the secret formula for making it snow, even in mid-summer. And the idea soon became the biggest hit among all my friends, suddenly sky-rocketing me into instant popularity.

No snow? No problem! We could conjure them from thermo coal. Rub the thermo-coal on rough surfaces, and they would fragment so quickly into tiny pieces that floated about. When it was windy out, it would prove most effective to walk down the streets with your thermo-coal and rub it vigorously on all possible rough surfaces. Those were the best days—the days when we had plenty of discarded thermo coal in hand, and endless possibilities in the air. The noisy brood would walk about the streets bare-foot, letting the fake snow invade every nook and corner. And as the scorching summer had turned into gusty august and September days, the habit had persisted in all gusto. The small band of faithful followers would come behind me and the inventor of the fake snow would walk about the roads, announcing my triumphant victory by quick demonstrations if anyone asked.

“Rub, rub, rub,” they would scream encouraging, as the quick hands moved and they would thrill, laugh or allow the fake snow to cover their lashes. And I would grin, and laugh the afternoons off, feeling like I had accomplished something. It had been considered particularly ingenious at that point of time, and I had gleefully enjoyed all the stardom that had accompanied my accidental discovery. Together, we had made it snow like never before in Bangalore. Even though it could never mach up to the standards of experiencing snow for real, this fake snow was enough to satisfy us. If I had continued, they would have probably nicknamed me the “thermo-coal” girl, or something equally loony. Aha, if only life had such wonderful fairytale endings.

Then, the complaints had come, and they had been quite severe. The aunties with the broomsticks were annoyed. The children had created so much of debris that it was impossible to clear it all in a week, if not in a day. If you’ve ever tried to sweep at thermo-coal pieces, you will get at what I mean. The poor souls had slogged to remove all the thermo-coal off their front yards, and just when they had thought that they were done, the wind would blow all the particulate matter back to them. Every morning, they woke up to remove more and more and much more would dirty their yards every single day. It had thoroughly infuriated them, and they had caught us at the act next time, and reprimanded.

And that day, the little band had dispersed quickly and fallen apart, and the ingenious inventor had been seen as a cause of a mess so big. The aunties had suddenly changed my fate---I had gone from being the angel with her magic wand to the annoying brat. The carefully built up stardom had fragmented as fast as the frayed thermo-coal, and much had disappeared down the bend.
Although I later found other means to win back my band of friends and even coffee bites from the very same punishing aunties (courtesy of chubby cheeks), I had been disallowed from conjuring fake snow again. And although I had learnt to adapt to the scorching summers, somewhere in the back of the heart, I had felt a nagging resentment. I would never get to experience snow for real. And I was doomed to face my summers over and over again without any such grand respites. Would there ever come a day when I could walk in my winter wonderland which was very much real and not made up?

All this came back to me as I watched it snow for real this December, through my car window. I saw some very admirable things, and frolicked in the freshly gathered December snow, very much for real. I fulfilled my childhood ambition but it felt like nothing too great. And as I stared at the snow fall—cold, wet and beautiful, I thought back to my fake snow that I had conjured up just to satisfy my yearning, many summers back.

“Rub, rub, rub…..” a faint voice echoed so distantly within the dreamer’s head as I watched it snow.

This snow was beautiful, just like I had always thought it would be. But somewhere, for some inexplicable reason, it had been the Thermo-coal snow that had always been much better.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wintry Delights

Seasons change. You grow. Learn. Laugh. Play. Work.

Change is a part of everybody’s life. As I have mentioned in my previous post, some things in my life have seen a slight change, without any specific reason..... but even though my priorities have seen a shift as I grow, I’m glad that a few traits have remained safe with me, as individually pleasing as they have always been. The thirst to explore, enjoy, rejuvenate, and draw endless inspiration from the great outdoors is here to stay, and I harass my capacities to the maximum, just to thrill myself occasionally with my outdoors explorations. I find endless delight in the most inexplicable things, and often, they are so simple that it becomes quite impossible to believe that anything like some good misty rain or a distant sea gull’s call is all it takes to make my day. Turning a silent observer who does nothing more than watch nature play has become an addictive habit to the illogical dreamer in me.

Every journey is an exploration. The uncertainty factor that accompanies each journey is just as much as thrilling as the very experience itself. Every journey might be rigorously planned. But what you encounter along the way, you cannot ascertain with absolute accuracy, and as it turns truly unpredictable, the thirst to discover increases tenfold. I knew I was going to Lake Tahoe. There would be Snow. We would stay by Reno, in a hotel. It would possibly continue snowing. We would go snowmobiling. I would get to watch the lake….although I knew that these were to be expected, I knew that it would include more than just that. The weather foreshadowed something enchanting, and the winds held the same promise. So as we moved on, and it began snowing, I let my experience throw its surprises for me. To go engulf yourself in an experience without a fair idea of what it’s going to be has been one of my persisting habits, one which I’m planning never to get rid allows me to accept and enjoy experiences as they come.

Snow was always an integral part of my most vibrant of fantasies. As a kid, I conjured up snow from thermo coal, when the summers turned a little too unbearable…and that’s another story which is reserved for another leisurely recital. Snow enchanted because it was never within my reach and I grew up walking in winter wonderlands in my countless dreams….and my love for the colder, cooler and wetter clime has never diminished.

"On wintry day, as I drove,
on mountainous terrain, on deserted road,
from the clouds, the moon emerged,
and my paradise was rediscovered. "

The words spinned in my head and grew more defined as I whizzed away towards another impending holiday experience. I lulled myself into a reverie, my thoughts moving without a tail, but my eyes constantly registering. As we moved, I gazed at horizons, rolling pastures, and other cars on the freeway full of cheerful holiday goers. Life felt beautiful. A nice long 6 hour drive gives you just the sort of time to reflect, relish, enjoy and just be yourself.

The skies were a rich purple as evening neared. And my world changed. Snowflakes gently descended, breathtakingly beautiful and soft. It was the sort of nameless, silent invitation into all that was going to occupy my next three days. I squeaked and clung to my frosty window now gathering the flakes. I traced my little masterpiece on the window, in childish delight. The exact happiness that accompanied that moment of simple joy cannot be explained. It was nearing night and the city lights glimmered in the far distance, a connected network of neon blues and fiery reds sitting snug amongst all the snow. I reflected endlessly on how civilizations and nature can live in this harmonious co-existence. In the darkness, the fresh white of snow was piercing my eyes. Yes, I was about to walk in my winter wonderland….there was something about the way that snow was quietly gathering that made me clear the moisture on my frosty window again and again for better views…..and Taylor Swift screamed my classic country favorites from my i-pod:
“A don’t think that the passenger seat has ever looked this good to me….”
I agreed with her, in between flickering lights and racing shadows, whirling colours, and late night snow.

And adventure, was in store. When we finally parked, I rushed out into the inviting wide open, throwing my arms wide open, embracing the winds and taking a fresh lung full. The refreshing winds invaded my soul, lifting, liberating, unleashing. And slowly, I turned around in the dead of the night, twirling to a remembered melody, when no one was looking, in the middle of the parking lot…..the magic, would unfold.