Aha, eureka, I screwed up!
The discovery of my fallibility
Is what I call my epiphany.

It makes up for all the blunders
If only we proclaim ponderously
‘Oh how I’ve floundered!’

Blind spots! Myopia! Glasses to read!
with my thoughts I sit pretty
My hindsight is 20-20.

It must’ve tasted delicious, that apple,
To know the right from wrong,
I knew too much including I was wrong

When all is said and done
They come with a garb of wisdom
Making you feel wise when you should feel dumb.

Why can’t you come a little earlier
When my hair was still black
And wrinkles I had none?

But then it wouldn’t have been fun
All that wildness, the bets we based
On them gooses we chased!

I cherish you, embrace you
Gulp all the bitter medicine
Handed out by you

But hey I am healed, I am cured
Of my delusions, my lordly gait
Of my know-it-alls, and do-it-alls.

Epiphany- you slow me down
You land me safe, you give me rest
I look into the mirror, is that a halo on my crest?

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Women in workforce: Equality Vs Equity

We are talking of women in workforce. We have come a long way, making inroads and clawing our way into anything from armed forces to training commandos. We have fought for opportunities, voting rights and minimum wages. Having made our presence felt, we’ve now had to perform alongside the men. We’ve been judged by the standards set up by men for performace style matching men and assuming that we have to compete with men for that top job. Somehow the question of equality has been misunderstood by the assumption that Men and Women have equal attributes. When we realise that we are different and yet can perform in our respective styles, that will be the necessary premise for equity. Previously, we’ve had a Jacinda Ardern responding firmly yet compassionately to terrorism in an effective way as against male leaders responding in an aggressive way. If we could be left to be women and not a male in disguise, that would be equity. If men had equal familial responsibilities in terms of chores and kids, that would be equity. Equality can be achieved through equal opportunities but equity in workspaces has to be nurtured by bringing cultural changes, mindsets. We are otherwise living in great times where we have women working in all spheres of employment. Let’s celebrate equality and hope for better equity.  A space where women work with their own strength rather than a borrowed prescription from men. As they say in Hindi- *Aisa bhi kiya ja saktha hai.*

*Translation of the Hindi statement into English-A task can be performed alternatively yet effectively.

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Holding Ground

Mother used to say that however miserable one is, there’s always something to be thankful for. And each morning, when the sky brightened and light began to flood my cell, I agreed with her.’
Meursault in ‘The Stranger’, Albert Camus

It comes unannounced, when we are least prepared – our existential angst. It may come at a time when we are filled with misery or in our well-fed prosperity. We always seem uneasy even in our joy. Somehow, a calm forebodes a storm. On the other hand, we feel ravaged in our misery, as though there is no end to it and the storm leaves us weary and wary.

Each of us have found ingenious ways to deal/cope with it. Some of us drown ourselves in drudgery, some in mind-numbing proclivities; others in less harmful ways but nonetheless indulge themselves in one way or the other even in grief. Anything to take the place of that feeling of worthless existence.

The wise ones teach us to have our thoughts in control through meditation so we rein in when it assaults. Our efforts at holding on to the objective response of striving and struggling can get knocked off by the incessant waves of misfortunes.
We all stumble through life’s pitfalls, sometimes falling, otherwise dodging, scraping our knees, hurting, grieving, groaning, and exasperated with the interminable obstacles that we are presented with. To begin with we face them unfazed, slowly the relentless hammering of adversities, drives the nail of weariness home.
No amount of motivation, gentle understanding, or positive vibes will work to offset, repair, or mitigate the miserableness that we feel then. We wallow in self-pity. Caught in the maze of despair there seems to be no redemption from the vicissitudes of life.
Knocked out of all possible exits we suddenly realise there may be no way out.
When we finally realise that there is no safety exit or there is no rescue team, we then finally recruit our objective selves to summon our reasoning.
We understand that every situation no matter how bleak it looks no matter how plaintive it sounds, has to have a redeeming factor. A straw to hold on to. The light at the end of tunnel may never come, the rainbow after a storm may be delayed unbearably, but the redeeming factor is like the faint sound or a flicker of light that gives you an assurance that it is not all dark. That amidst the endless nightmare there is awakening. These little pay-offs may not show us the way out but can lift us up and help us to keep walking. It reminds us that things could have been worse and that even if there are no silver linings we have the ‘atleasts’ to cling on to. What are these redeeming factors anyway?
They are the edge of the cliff we stand and look down from and shudder gratefully for our spot on the top.
They are the sprouting of tender shoot in an almost dead plant.
They are the sleep that cradles us and rocks us no matter the execrable day we’ve had.
They are the unproductive work we do whose gains are uneconomic.
There is never an absolute gloom and doom. There is always something that strives to redeem the misery. The only catch is that we need to deliberately look for it. Like the toys of a toddler they are strewn around. Our eyes can only see them if we wake and shake ourselves up from our dreary mind. Even as I am writing this in the quiet of the dawn I see the slim ray of sunshine seep through the window past a little gap. I stop to get up to get into its path lighting my face with the warm glow.

Light, the tireless marketing guy that rings your door-bell unsolicited, tempers your angry frown with his imploring smile. We eventually shut our doors to him but, he has done his magic. He has found us from the deathly graves of thoughts and landed us back into life glaring our eyes, lifting our spirits.

The horizons are beautiful and promising. The tug of the home is great. The ground under the feet is what is real. The waves may make a little pit under our feet, but unwittingly bury our feet and we stand steady. It keeps you happy then to hold your ground.

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If you did not die today

To me, you were born today,
I knew you not, yesterday
Tomorrow would’ve been no different.
If you did not die today.

All of the inconsolable faces
Their yearning, sad sighs, 
I could’ve shed my tears too,
If you did not die today.

Oh how did you pass by
my shut castle of towering height?
Your song could’ve still reached me,
If you did not die today.

You left too soon, as if in hurry
The songs they’ll go on and tarry
I know you now, could’ve known you even better
If you did not die today.

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Don’t say a word

Don’t say a word

I am known to be a chatter-box. My children know well not to trigger me into a ‘sermon mode’. Much to my own surprise and adulation I can keep the mike going. I could put a Ted-talker or a standup comedian to shame. I have turned off many an online friend with my, way-too-long-that-I-don’t-have-time-to-read, messages! And so I  perilously caught myself alone with my own self today. Not truly alone, my family was sleeping (their late-nights) it out. I woke up early to tend to my dog’s/cat’s meal time, which don’t unfortunately align with ours, and I don’t have it in me to leave them in the lurch.

So, here I am, having a date with myself. I made green tea for my date. I cleared the dirty dishes languishing since the previous day and cleared my conscience– having paid attention to them. As is my wont, I heard a looong article of Newyorker as I washed the dishes. The article outlived the dishes making me wish for more dishes to wash.

I then sat down to clear my whatsapp inbox, in order that my one friend doesn’t feel unheard and to check when my other friend was last seen. Then I look for my daughters who show up in the whatsapp world and disappear mysteriously when they ‘see’ me online, as though I were an apparition!

Now on to my favourite part, I sit on the couch, unthinking all the dreadful thoughts that were threatening to be dreadful. Then I remembered my date and paid gentle attention to her. I started to say something nice to her as you know, I am all for polite courtesies.

She tells me, ‘Don’t say a word’.

I was taken aback!

‘You too?’, said I, looking/feeling hurt.

She says, “Hush quiet.”

She leaves me then with my dreaded dreadful thoughts and sits watching me with admiring eyes. I begin to ease in that air of friendly approval and quiet understanding. I put my leg up. Habitually my hand turns to the device and I turn to YouTube. This time letting it choose a song for me. 1945-a love story.

Wow! I thought.

This takes me to my halcyon days. I close my eyes to let the music and the words seep in.

“Kuch na kaho, kuch bhi na kaho”- I get a jolt, I sit upright. Is this a song or the universe yelling at me? I give in. I just sit there and listen to ‘Kuch na kaho’ with my date watching me approvingly. I truly should ‘Kuch na kaho’ often.

PS: For all those, for whom Hindi is Greek and Latin, here’s a quick translation-

Kuch na kaho, Kuch bhi na kaho: Don’t say anything, just not anything please!

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Wine and pickles, they say,

improve with age.

Is there a thing which improves the age?

Age would’ve been but a mere number,

It would have been a millstone around one’s neck,

It would have been the sagging and wrinkled spirit that fatigues us,

Age would have been that cynical old man, full of contemptuous anger and disappointment and frustrated disillusionment.

If not for the memories rich and varied,

for our history marked with events,

for the numerous milestones we crossed and achieved,

if not for the fulfillment of our full and complete lives replete with joy and and an equal if not disproportionate number of sorrows.

Age tells the saga of how well we endured the miseries that came our way.

So ever wondered what makes age better with the passing years?

Is it love? That drunken stupor which makes us Kings and Queens in our passion.

Is it grace? That comes with interminable waves of agony and makes one a shore with surprising treasures

Is it wealth? That everlasting allure that makes us work and sweat ironically with a promise of eternal comfort?

Is it health? That sense of well being that supposedly comes with good food and exercise and a stress-free lifestyle?

Is it family? That anchor, that secure space that lulls you into sleep, happy at the thought of the care and love that we invest and receive.

All of these have a certain wedge in our pie of life. But the crust that keeps all of these together is friendship.

A ship that cruises through the storms of our lives.

A lighthouse that beams to us from a distance guiding our weather-beaten ships back to secure shores.

A physician who heals not with the medicines but simply by their presence in our afflicted lives.

A comfort not by their physical presence but just by being in our thoughts.

A sunshine to our withering spirits, a warming hearth to our cold, grieving hearts.

A partaker of our feasts and famine, mirth and misery, sounds and solitude.

A sharer that magically doesn’t deplete our available time but multiplies their quality exponentially, giving us the joy of living life.

It is undoubtedly that elixir that keeps our spirits young and animates our otherwise cyborgic lives.

Friendship like love is hailed and romanticized as being spontaneous, unselfish, intuitive, and noble. Perhaps the reason why it also fails like love, most of the times.

Friendship also needs to be nurtured for longevity, if only we acknowledge and value it for the impact it has in our lives. Instead of relegating it as a lender of lost resort, friendship can be enduring if only we make little gestures, to show our appreciation, gratitude, for the place it has in our lives.

Little wonder then that friendship stands the test of authenticity, reciprocity, of being non-judgemental, of being empathic, acceptance and of being forthright and open. It not only passes these tests but thrives because of them.

Once the friendship is born and thrives and grows and plateaus, it can fade away to oblivion if conscious effort of presence, attention and care is not practiced. Having said that, friendship is that seed that sprouts even after long gaps of dissociation and distance with a little spray of water and warm sunshine through connection and communication. But for it to reach its potential and to harness its true benefits, it behoves on us to take care of this tender plant, so it can grow into this glorious tree under which we rest, bask, and revel.

Inviting friendship into our lives we learn what it is to live for and what it is to die for.

Friendship is truly that beautiful backdrop from where we perform the drama of our lives.

With friends holding hands, ageing seems less daunting, more meaningful.

To be seen, to be heard, to be cherished, to be celebrated in the garden of friendship with age flitting about as a butterfly….that is a wish, a dream, a sigh.

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Just be, just come…

I am listening to Tagore’s words. No I am not reading his poetry, I am listening to Gulzar’s translation of his beautiful lyrics rendered lovingly by Shreya Goshal in the song ‘Singar ko rahne do’.

Many of you would know that this song is a gentle coaxing of the lover to the beloved to come out with him in the evening and soak in the moment without preparing for it. He says, ‘please just come’, leave all the making up, the tying up your hair, or the kohl in your eyes, the straightening up of your work-worn dress, just be, just come.

As much as we perfect ourselves to be presentable to the world, to our colleagues, our friends, our parents, spouse, children ….there is also the longing for someone to say….just be, just come.

I realise, this longing is what draws us to people who seem to know us beyond our layers. It connects us instantly to people who seem to know who we really are than who we make up to be. It sure makes us uncomfortable, surely hiding behind layers is comfortable, convenient and safe. Who wants to reveal our imperfect selves to be in public display. Even the most independent of us strive to conform to the standards of beauty, of acceptable behavior, of order.

It is no wonder then we feel intimate with people who’ve seen our worst. They accept us with all those freckles, and tantrums and quirks and stupidities. They may not love you for those. Just be, just come,….no, they may not love your imperfections but they like you even as you possess them. They would rather see you as you are rather than a stranger whom they may like but don’t recognise.

How is it important anyway when the clouds are gatherng, when the breeze touches you ever so gently and out in that dusk, who is even going to notice all our efforts at perfection. All it matters is to be together, to feel the moment, content and secure at the thought, that for once, I can truly be sans my adornments, sans the fear of being imperfect, sans the insecurity of being rejected.

Friends have always been that for us, who look beyond our ideologies, our crankiness, our foolhardiness. It is perhaps easier for them as they have us in small doses, they don’t have to deal with us day and night. When they do connect with us it is not important for them if we are this or that….just be, just come

Spouse and children. They are these wondrous creatures who know us at our ugliest. Who in their high expectations of love, attention also don’t expect perfection. Burnt chapatis, messed up curries, dirty laundries, upswept floors,…..sure a lot of noise is made about those, but hell yes they are active participants in all those chaos. In turn, they throw at you their imperfections, disorganized spaces, tardy responses, procrastination, indifference. Just be, just come….the whole idea that we still stay together fitting our rough edges of imperfections hurting at times, only to smoothen it the next moment….just be, just come.

Forget the adornments, just come, just share, just love.

Singaar ko rahne do.

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Stepping up or down?

The steps that take you up are the self-same that take you down. Up and down we go, grateful how it elevates us or grounds us. It helps us go up, easing the hike up, it brings us down without letting us slip down the slippery slope. I like the way it takes us up or down, one step at a time. There is something gradual and graceful about stairs. It teaches us to reach or arrive in a steady pace allowing us to level up slowly. Before long we get to a place. You get to stop intermittently to either gaze down at the base gratefully or gaze up adoringly at the summit before continuing the arduous Sisyphean climb uphill. Sisyphean because we step up only to come down. Always.

The stepping down has always been given the bad rap, has had its worst connotations. Somehow stepping up to an exalted position is considered an achievement. There is no denying that the stepping up is a goal, a destination, a meaning for life. But the climb down is just, well, back to base.

However, down need not be lowly or a fall from grace. It is just a different view, a new perspective and a proof of a lived life full of flavour, both up and down. A reminiscence of an exciting life. A going down keeps us grounded, more grateful and empathic. Looking up from down gives us a measure of the distance travelled.

The base is always assumed to be dull. The summit is celebrated for its breathtaking views, and one feels exalted above all creatures big and small. It feels exhilirating and one can feel drunk at the dizzying heights. It can make you lose connection, somehow. The higher we go the fewer the connection with all else. We are just left behind with views. The valley down however has space and freedom and room enough to breathe deeply and devoid of the fear or pressure against falling down. Devoid of all the avoidable attention. It is very liberating. It is like aging. Although you fear nearing your end, by virtue of the distance travelled you are already on a high ground. A higher ground of wisdom, grace, courage, and acceptance. Somehow being atop has prepared us for being on ground.

Stairs are then an accessible bridge which restores the choice of going up and down in our hands and makes the journey less daunting and more doable. Quiet, unobtrusive, and mystical, a test of endurance, a reminder of conscious effort, an easing of a steep hike and a dispenser of humility. Anybody who takes the stair can vouch its reliability. No getting stuck midway, no power cuts. The ache in the calf muscles show effort, conscious effort, a direction, a purposeful sauntering. The huffing and puffing, and the audible beating of heart assures us, reassures us that we have a heart and lungs, a fact that we often forget, because of their involuntary functioning. It is precisely because of this effort, we value where we are. The sweat, the tears, the humdrum of the exercise feels sweet not because we are about to reach the summit, but because it makes you learn that there are no summits. There are just more steps, like the ladders amidst the snakes they rescue us, elevate us, and when we slip back, elevate us yet again. When we are done with the climbing up, it doubles up as an exit point, this time taking us down, all the while levelling us even as we descend. There is that needed equilibrium.

There are no stations or stops in stairs, just levels. Whatever level we are, it is no less than the other, each leading to another endlessly. The end is when we stop, when we feel arrived. In the age of elevators, our clambering up the stairs seems like an avoidable exercise, a lender of last resort, but stairs are our stoic companion, our everlasting mountains, beckoning to us invitingly, slantingly, for that slow, mindful, unfaltering, doddering yet determined, clawing, stepping up and stepping down.

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Tea is how life starts every morning. Its a habit, its the stretching out of the sleep, its the splashing of water to my face, its the ringing of the morning bell, its the seeping of the sun’s rays through the gaps of the closed windows, its the reading of newspaper, its the getting aware of morning sounds, its the birds chirping, the distant drone of the vehicles whirring, its the squinting of my eyes slowly getting used to the bright light after the dark night, its the checking of whatsapp messages, its the relishing of a brief period that would eventually kickstart the senseless frenzy that we define as our average day.

The tea itself is a ritual, it is slow, like Tai Chi, it provides a mindful break from the mindless activities that is yet to take off. I make tea, steeping hot water with black or green tea, ginger, a clove of er… a clove, a cardamom, a few pieces of Ceylon cinnamon, left to brew and consumed at just the right temperature, where you don’t need to blow or slurp, but sip and let the brew do it’s magic waking you up to reality—gently. Brew, wow, such a beautiful word. Is it a magic potion, or an exhortation to vivify both oneself and the life around. To brew denotes a gentle animation, of infusing, spreading warmth and flavours and then giving out this beautiful colour which is a joy to the beholder’s eyes. Yes, and  I was only talking about the brew, the tea.

What is so special about this tea? What gives it its flavour?  Is it the comfort, warmth, and well being that I have come to associate with it? Is it a mere habit, an addiction, or witnessing the magic of dried leaves opening up to its original shape of its plucked and torn leaves, and the willingness with which they shed their spirit, their energy in the little cup to be transmigrated into this living thing which needs a constant encouragement and a spur to keep moving, working, living and trying to make meaning everyday, hoping that the sum of all the meaningful days would render a meaningful life in the end. It is as though the energy that the leaves shed is absorbed and proceeds to dispense it to the others around.

Brewing the brew also makes me feel like a witch who drinks her potion for power. Now beware the witch! Anyway, the little brew, is quite a storm in the tea-mug (no cup for me, only a large mug), plunging me willingly to the vortex of the daily whirlpool, pausing next only for the evening brew which then slows me down ready to tackle the forced deathlike rest that I unwillingly plunge into. A sleep which is both a rest and a reluctant break to the conscious world I have spinned. I sleep, but with the looking forward to that brewing mug of tea luring me to another mysterious day!

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Graham Greene’s Heart of the matter: Thoughts

A book which narrates in good detail how a righteous man can feel corrupted fallaciously due to his strong religious values throwing him to a despair so intense that he ends his good life believing in eternal damnation.

If there is one thing that puts you off in religion, it is hypocrisy, where the unrighteous stand on the pulpit of judgement dispensing rewards and punishment to others. The plot on the other hand is about a truly righteous man who is a victim of his own staunch faith and conscience which amplifies his flaws borne out of love for the failed and fallen beings who he strives to comfort and pity owing to his love and compassion and a heightened sense of responsibility as a police officer, a husband and a lover.

The story itself begs the question, are the irreligious and the innocent stand a better chance at redemption than the religious and conscientious who are equally flawed  and who also hold the possibility of eternal damnation and a life filled with guilt and shame.

All this and more, besides effectively narrating human relationships with deep insights that are illuminating and ponderous.

The moral conflicts of the protagonists is dealt with at great length to the point of being tedious. The plot then gets weaker and long drawn and seems improbable. Makes you wonder if the religious convictions of Major Scobie was carried  too far absurdly and unbelievably.

The women in the novel come across as emotionally challenged and extraordinarily selfish at times. They represent either side of the religious aisle. Louise, being literary, could have been more balanced and Helen being the child couldn’t have grown so cynical in a few month’s time. Scobie himself is exaggeratedly righteous much to his own peril. These are something I found hard to relate. On the other hand, one needs to be conscious that these characters are from a time different from now. The women were economically, socially, psychologically more dependent on their men. As for Scobie, I now understand from discussion from other fellow readers, was representative of the author himself and others at that time who struggled to balance their own religious views with what they personally believed to be true. This conflict then gives the reader the insight on how religion could make or mar one’s life’s choices and could have a spiraling effect on their emotional life.

There are other characters however which are very real in their depiction , that of Ali, Yusef, Father Rank, Harris, Wilson, to name a few.

Although the story is set historically around the war torn 40s (They are felt in a few mentions of people and their activities) there are no elaborate details of the happenings that usually is a feature in most period dramas. This makes the book more concise and focused on the plot than the background.

That the characters are all morally ambiguous and conflicted gives it a real world feel to it. But the exaggerated sense of responsibility of Scobie and his logic defying stance with respect to the women of his life can make him feel less likeable or even relatable.

Having said all this the book abounds in insightful quotes that are quite brilliant and these along with the writing of the skilled author will leave you ruminating the story even after you are done reading. It threatened to be a favourite book but settled to be a book I enjoyed reading.

Here are some excerpts:

just as the stars on this clear night gave also an impression of remoteness, security, freedom. If one knew, he wondered, the facts, would one have to feel pity even for the planets? if one reached what they called the heart of the matter?

It seemed after all that one never really missed a thing. To be a human being one had to drink the cup. If one were lucky on one day, or cowardly on another, it was presented on a third occasion

It was as if she were carrying a weight with great effort up a long hill: it was an inhuman situation not to be able to carry it for her. He thought: This is what parents feel year in and year out, and I am shrinking from a few minutes of it. They see their children dying slowly every hour they live. He prayed again, “Father, look after her. Give her peace

They both had an immense sense of security: they were friends who could never be anything else than friends—they were safely divided by a dead husband, a living wife, a father who was a clergyman, a games mistress called Helen, and years and years of experience. They hadn’t got to worry about what they should say to each other.

He had no sense of responsibility towards the beautiful and the graceful and the intelligent. They could find their own way. It was the face for which nobody would go out of his way, the face that would never catch the covert look, the face which would soon be used to rebuffs and indifference, that demanded his allegiance. The word “pity” is used as loosely as the word “love”: the terrible promiscuous passion which so few experience.

“It’s so good to talk to you. I can say anything I like. I’m not afraid of hurting you. You don’t want anything out of me. I’m safe.”

What they had both thought was safety proved to have been the camouflage of an enemy who works in terms of friendship, trust, and pity.

Was it the butterfly that died in the act of love? But human beings were condemned to consequences.

Men can become twins with age: the past was their common womb

It isn’t beauty that we love, he thought, it’s failure—the failure to stay young for ever, the failure of nerves, the failure of the body. Beauty is like success: we can’t love it for long

Against the beautiful and the clever and the successful one can wage a pitiless war, but not against the unattractive: then the millstone weighs on the breast.

One can desire the peace of victory without desiring the ravaged towns

How I hate this war,” Scobie thinks. No matter how far away human strife and suffering may be, “one still has one’s eyes…one’s ears…the restlessness, the haunting images, the terrible impotent feeling of responsibility and pity.”

Here are some links to more insightful reviews



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