Thursday, August 11, 2016

Dying quietly

When some die
there are pictures in social media
When others die, there is nothing
Life goes on

And I wonder how people pick sides
and say that "oh, she was like that,
or "the suffering is now over"

When over and over, the one who died
was a person you never knew
and visitors to the home saw just as someone,
an old woman

a bundled form on a settee somewhere
that folks asked after with cousins and siblings
Is she okay, is she here with us

But some of us remember a few important things
a name, a person
and a memory that when I passed my grade 10 exam
She had taken me shopping
to buy me fabric for a salwar khameez
soft white cloth with small brown and red flowers
a summer cloud of a dupatta

generous, it had mattered a lot then

When some die, there are pictures in social media
When others die, there is nothing

No one dies in obscurity
Just because they aren't celebrated publicly
and people shift their feet
they do live on as quiet memories
in the minds of those who knew them
a little

August 11th (c)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hapus Aley!

Thankful and reflective in a world 
where much is mixed up.
that buying mangoes is still a thing

and memories are many
of fragrances
of sun warmed charpaaies
and the resin, dripping from stems

The Market where BRK used to buy the boxes
rough hewn and filled with sweet smelling hay
and remind me always

that hard working farmers grew them
and that the largest and that 
the best ones were always always
sent abroad, a word I did not then understand

Export Quality he used to say and
explain that the mangoes went on a plane 
to places far away

And now I buy them
unloaded off planes
and get a call from the store from a brother
from the Emerald Isle in the Indian Ocean

The Alphonso are here, are you coming
I pay him and get a box and a half
not knowing when the next batch will arrive by plane
Now I am at the receiving end of the export.

I alert friends who understand hapus
The children are happy, are these the REAL THING? They quip. knowing that I am a Mumbai girl

And I marvel that I, 
societally single
Am able to continue the traditions of my father
where buying mangoes is an annual ritual

I place a fruit at the alter and light a diya of thanks
for farmers who grow mangoes
the rains that watered them
and the insects that made possible, the flowers and fruit

and for memories
that wing me back to the places 
where charpaaies sit under mango trees
waiting ...

that someday I shall return

the same way the mangoes came to me

Thursday, April 21, 2016

To Rishma from me

When I started my M.Ed in 2011, I had wanted to take a course with Rishma. When I would be at Winter's College for courses after a full day of work, I would wonder what it would be like, as a poet, to work with a teacher who also lived and understood the same medium of expression: I would not have to silence myself and write a certain way all the time. That prospect was infinitely exciting. I couldn't take a course with her, as she was away.  

And yet when I wrote up my research, I had my poems intertwined with all the other big words I had used. Perhaps it was the magic, even without spending a single hour in her classes, I learned that it was possible, that I did not have to erase myself in order to do academic work. It has been promised that when the student is ready, the teacher will come. I have been gifted many Dronacharyas in my life, and Rishma is one. The time I was given with her was just a few minutes spent in the hallway of Winter's in front of her photograph. Yet to have lived in a time period as did she, is the learning. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ph.D Pathway

It sinks in
Finally sinks in
Where was I when I first saw the words
What was I doing just before I opened the mailbox?
What did I do right after

How did it feel, that moment ?

And this morning,
with the first robins
and that determined bluejay
jostling for sound bytes in the cedars,
as the orange glow begins to appear in the East Sky,
lie my heartstrings, scattered
it sinks in
Come, says The Institute: you are worthy

And I smile, as I am
I am not bound to this space anymore
The road is open and
I have the permission to speak
My life's work is finding me
With Two and and a Half Letters after my name
My words now have worth
Come, Stories, speak now.
It is time.

March 22nd, 2016

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Ivy League Mom


I wanted to share the wonderful news that my daughter, has been invited to Princeton U, U of Michigan, and Columbia University to pursue her Ph.D. in history. She hasn't decided where she is going yet, but she will soon.

Many friends and colleagues have asked me when I did to help her. Well, I do not claim credit for her success as each child is a gift. There are many others waiting in line to claim her and her success. You know how it is, the process is her problem, the outcome is everyones to gloat over. I smile at that. "Success has a thousand fathers, Didi", my wise brother reminded me. And I am sure many will pop out of the woodwork right about now.

What I do know is that apart from everything else, I stayed out of her way when she wanted to pursue her dream. When the child knows what she wants and how to get there, far be it from me to tell her not to try. Many did ask her from near and far, why history, what are the prospects, what will you do. They did not always ask it kindly, and they should have known better.

At times like this, she knew I was there to tell her to breathe and to look, unblinking at her goal. This is where the story of Arjun and the parrot's eye comes in handy. And the Universe conspires with you.

Thanks to all who have stood by my children and me through the 14 years here, and to those who have known me longer, and continue to keep me sane and strong.

I am thankful. Very.

Happy Family Day weekend.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Call me, maybe...

I smile when I think of the way life unfolds. How amazing it is that the spirit endures and gratitude flows alongside joy in my life as I look back and count blessings even as I breathe. A monk asks in a TED talk, does happiness come before gratitude or does gratitude before happiness.  I think it is the latter.

The Enlightened One has taught me and reminds me every day that my way forward is indeed the best one: without craving and without aversion, one breath in and another one out. Observe and let go. But here is the thing, He has also said that to be an observor does not mean that I do not speak up, I like that about this teaching, for I, sir, am no doormat.

I am fortunate that I have many who have walked with me in a multitude of ways, some whom I have not yet met who ask via social media: Kashi Ahes? and my loved ones from my maher, Shantikunj who daily share news about matki usal being cooked that day, or that the gulmohar is blooming. My aunt in Patna who shares my Amma's birthday who stands with me in my questions regarding a new normal that I am learning to live with, friends who took me grocery shopping, drove my daughter home from the hospital dropped off food for my son when I was unable to take care of with them. Aruna Akka who came by on lone day off and brought yummy upma, Mangala Pachchi with her bajri roti and baingan, Deeksha with your stoic presence beside me and that dear child with a wisdom far beyond his years. And my dearest Khurshid and Alka in Mumbai who had welcomed me with open arms to a school where I, then a 13 year old from Goa was a misfit in spite of my high academic scores. You were always kind, then as now. And for that kindness, I thank you and I love you dearly. I am very grateful.

Yet, I do I get messages for advice or to meet up, invitations to events with a caveat that for three years we have not entertained and we would love to see you now, I smile.

I get many questions about future prospects for a child's educational pathway that would require me to go through all the websites I have been sent and then chat for quite a long time about the "state of education in the province, country and the world at large", I politely decline the opportunity as my time as my advice are not relevant as I do not know the child and you cannot judge a programme unless you see the child within it. I smile.

But this I have to say: when you knew where to find me now, surely you knew where I was for a long time.

Call me maybe, just to say hi, before you actually need me. That'd be nice.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

My share and what it got me

"Update", read the email title when I peered at my phone through sleep soaked eyes at 5 am today. "I have deposited 90/- into your bank account" he had written. After two decades of a paper relationship of which there were some good years, maybe, and 23 years from the day of many smiles that I remember as my wedding day, I was getting the last piece of shared value that we had had together. An old bank account in Vasai, closed after many signatures and 180/- dollars divided by two, quite nicely. Hisaab.

I do not need a Pandora bead from my bracelet to reminded of this. I did not need anything, really. I am well, and I am happy. So after buying sambhar and dosa batter, I walked over purposefully to the shop that sold brass lambs and idols that I had seen countless times before. I wanted something solid and strengthening to commemorate the last string that tied that other life to who  I had been.

I searched the shelves even as I soaked in the characheristic fragance of agarbattis so reminiscent of a life left behind without really meaning to, it had just stayed there as I walked on maybe. Some idols were rough with jagged edges; others too large or too small. The crawling Krishna reminded me of the beloved one from my childhood that I had brought back in 2010. And then I saw her: hidden behind another idol. I asked to see her and there, each fold of her garments perfectly formed, each curve of her many arms, lifelike, she stood: a five inch Kali.

My nose tingles now with much emotion as I think of her standing tall on the slain demon at her feet, each arm raised in strength. She stands with her heel on his neck and to me that signified every fear I have had to face at the death of parents, at the societally sanctioned oppression from in-laws and the neglect of a relationship that just shriveled away, untended ad left me wondering what else, how much could one person do to sustain and revive it.

I see myself from 2013 waking up every day that winter through that summer into almost the next fall, counting ten blessings before my feet touched the ground. I think of how every sentence had to be read to decide that the children were taken care of, how I survived the quiet disappearance of friends at the imagined contagion invisible in the D word, how the the children and I held on to each other until the rapids were behind us. 

And I walked down that Naigaum street past the chawl and the garden, past the fabric shops into that lane where a Persian bakery makes Christmas cakes and a Nativity scence follows a Durga pandal. I walked with my Teeamma to see the Shakti with many arms. Just as I had been promised by my strong and dimunitive grandmother, all those years ago, I too grew many arms to fight my demons. Many helped and many still do. 
And I walk on my invisible multi-armed Shakti walking beside me.
I cleaned the idol with a freshly cut slice of lemon. She gleams like gold, does Ma Kali.
And I stand there with my tiny hand in my Teeamma's strong one.