Monday, October 23, 2006

Aye Khuda

He is visiting me again.

In boarding school, He took my mother’s role
Tidied my cupboard, helped me make my bed
And during Ramazan
Made me feast on beef kebabs
His name was my friend, Sabina

Again in college He entered my House
This time changing His clothes
Appealing to my intellect,
He made my heart His home
Yet, I failed to recognize Him
He called himself, Pervez

At work He hounded me
Becoming someone I could not resist
Lubna. She sat before me asking me to write
Poetry for her lover!
" Tread softly, coz’ you tread on my dreams" I wrote
In return, she held my hand and made me write
the words I longed to speak -
"La Ilaha Illallah, Mohammedur Rasoolullah"

I searched for Him high and low
Omar Khayyam, Rumi, Khalil Gibran
Sufi Mysticism, dervish, Rabi’a
He evaded me -

Suddenly, He is visiting me again.
This time a little remote
Distant, cold, faraway
Yet still a friend I won’t forget.

In her, I know Him.
I live Him in my heart
Day and night, like a Silent Prayer at break of dawn
I search Him inside
And dance like a woman gone mad
Whirling –
I become the dance.
I pick each sonnet of Ghalib in my hand
My lips sing
His Divine Song of Love

Ecstacy!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Of Birds, Bees, Beasts and Other Animals

Recently I received an invitation to a special party. The invitation read:

"Dear friends of Julie and Aftab,

Our bachas have grown to be a year old. We wish to celebrate our joy over their fabulous presence in our lives this past year with a tea party. This will be on October 2 at 4.30pm, at Aftab and Julie's residence. Sensible presents for Aftab include Fabindia smallest shirt size and Levi's jeans size 32. If opting for Fabindia, two inches should be trimmed off the bottom. Julie's Bluffmaster cassette is dying from overuse and she has been looking for a replacement. And oh yeah, bones, liver, stuffed cats and suchlike. If you prefer to gift edibles you should know that my dogs are strictly non-vegetarian as per their religious beliefs. Those planning to dedicate October 2 purely to Gandhigiri should keep in mind that the menu includes ham, potato salad, over-the-top cakes and wine of many colours."

I decided to make it really special. I have two babies - my two cats, Tobee and Spottu and am a foster mother to the two dogs belonging to our neighbours called, Laila and Majnu. Tobee ordinarily is a gentleman and extremely well behaved. Spottu! Well! The less said the better! He is naughty, aggressive and these days Tobee and Spottu, both are at each other more often than not. They have both fallen in love with Honeymoon, that sweet little girl-kitten who is now a big girl. At one time she used to be sitting on my power chair in the living room as if she was Queen of Sheeba. In fact, it is apparent that she is the Queen of Sheeba. You should see the way she has got Tobee and Spottu dancing around her little paws, like devoted Romeos! Laila and Majnu are in stiff competition with Tobee and Spottu over the milk they receive every morning and evening. Tobee and Spottu have to literally slurp up the milk before Laila and Majnu decide to grab their share. In animal kingdom, as in human, there are no good manners when it comes to food and sex. Free for all! Rule of the jungle! And why not? We are all a bunch of evolved jungalees, aren’t we?

So to change the atmosphere of fights over women and food, I thought I would give them a whale of a time!
On the 2nd I piled into my car, my two cats and Laila and Majnu and arrived 30 minutes after the party had begun. (Ahem! One must get noticed by late appearance and all that!) I was stupid! No sooner had the door opened Aftab and Julie charged at my family and me. Tobee and Spottu were smart. They squeezed in through the door and ran into the attached garden and up the tree. Laila and Majnu growled and snarled at Aftab and Julie and a fight broke out between the dogs on the one hand and the owners on the other.

" Julia! Who asked you to get yours?"

" But!" I said defiantly " I thought you would be pleased at this move since….." I was being circled threateningly by all the dogs and suddenly one pushed me so hard that I fell…" afterall" I continued as I fell, " This is a party for the animals….right?"

" Which animal are you referring to? " my friend said as she came to pick me up.

" I mean all of us!"

The cats had now decided to run between her legs and in that minute instead of picking me up, she too fell like a pile of bricks on me screaming " Aaaaw"! Her sister dashed behind the dogs " Julie! Aftab! Stop it immediately!" And slipped on the ketchup on the floor which had tumbled down from the table. We were three on the floor by now, trying hard to get up and being pushed back by the speeding dog-catch-cat chase. The house was in a state! Who is to stop a bunch of cats and dogs and other animals? There was pandemonium all over – tables laden with food were on the floor, humans screeched, and squealed, cats flew from trees at humans and landed on their shoulders, dogs barked and howled….it was a mess! The caterers ran away.

In my opinion, the party turned out superb! So many people on the floor, wailing and screaming, the music going on and on without anyone listening to it. Househelp, locked inside the kitchen, having sumptuous helpings of food. Good for them! They had a feast, while we had the beasts on us. There was no end to the chasing and there was no end to Majnu’s howling….he was the one who sat and stared at the skies and howled and howled as if there was a moon in the sky. What nobody had seen is the umpteen numbers of birds on the tree that were also chirping loudly, adding to the pandemonium in the flat. Majnu’s partner, Laila, always swifter than most others, chased Aftab and Julie till they reached the owners bedroom and turned the bed into a battlefield.

At that moment, I had a brainwave! "Get some water." I screamed. And then the work began – mug full of water was thrown on the dogs and cats till they dispersed. So did the humans. I was left with Majnu and Laila, Tobee and Spottu. An angry friend, a bad back and a bellyful of laughter.

On our way back, Tobee, Spottu, Laila and Majnu, all of us laughed and laughed! Oh! What a party that was! Wish you were there!



Written for my partner, who is away and missing home. We love and miss you too!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Affirming Diversity; Resisting Decisiveness

The day I arrived in the world, my mother’s stomach had been opened wide to bring me out. She was still under the influence of the anesthesia when the doctor and nurse decided to bring me to her. Slightly awake from the anesthesia effect, she opened her eyes and looked at the doctor – " It’s a boy, Doctor" she pronounced even before he could say anything. She had pronounced my fate as well. No, I was not a sex: Male. I was sex: Female. But my whole life has been coloured "grey" – gender ambiguity. I enjoy the trousers and the short hair. I loved the feminine qualities in me and the masculine ones. I loved women who were not really Oh, so feminine and men who are not anxious to prove they are MAN.

I like men like my current boyfriend, Yogi. Happy to sleep in my night dress and happy not to have to prove that he has what it takes to make me happy. In fact, Yogi challenges my thought process all the time. Like he did in Bombay this time after our return from Kolkata where he, I and my new friend Anusri met for a small one-night-out at the beach.

" Resist! Resist! Resist!" Yogi said firmly

" Okay! Chill! " Anusri and I had reacted together

" Time to think things over, guys. We can’t take things lying down any more."

" Yogi, ever since you have returned from Kolkata, you seem to be transformed from a cool collected chap to a militant rebel" Anusri observed.

" Blame it on the Bengali babu!" He said with a wink, looking at me.

" Please! I am not a babu" I retorted.

" Are you sure?" Yogi asked doubtfully.

" No! No! Yogi", Anusri came to my rescue, "Think diversity; Think many. Think gender-bender".

"Yup!" I laughed, " Think Judith Butler and all that. What? It has taken us twenty years or more to rethink ourselves – who we are and say and confirm what Butler said years ago, gender is a social construct and it is a grey space you just cannot put forcefully into black or while zones."

Yogi, Anusri and I were on Gorai beach. Just for this one night. Gorai beach? That’s the one I visited all my childhood years in Bombay – a beach which was isolated and you could sit inside the shacks, or on the wall and get intoxicated by the roaring sound of the sea. Your hair would turn into a large mass of wired mesh. And although you were asked not to, you would risk your life and sit by the water being bathed by the tide rushing in on you. The sand caving in under you to fit your bottoms. Relax! And sip your beer straight from the bottle like as if you had what it took to take the world by storm.

Sadly, Gorai is not the same any more. However.

In the present context, Yogi was really surprised that despite talking of diversity, many-ness, the 7th National Conference of Autonomous Women's Movements in India was visibly glaring with the absence of males. So had they decided to beat it and get on with their lives? Or, was it that the feminist movement in India had expelled them from their womb? Even this, was it that the movement had contributed to the making men who were now different and therefore did not need to go out there and make a statement. Or worst of all – had the movement created a divide. That there were men who felt threatened and hence became more male, while others who now felt liberated enough, fell into the grey zone, not really man, neither woman, somewhere in between. To go with the theme of the Conference - Affirming Diversity; Resisting Decisiveness. So where were they?

" How can one definitely say that just because I am in a male body, I have nothing that qualifies me to be what women pride themselves to possess? I cannot be cast into the box saying " The underprivileged – Sex: Male ". I am not going to accept this state. I will resist!"

" Cool it boy! After all we are all shaped by the feminist movement in India and abroad and that gives you a special privilege, to be who you are. "

" Thank God for that. Or else I would have had to keep doing what my father, grand father and great grand father had been doing all their lives! Born male. Get education. Become a professional. Work. Marry. F**K. Produce kids. Contribute to bringing up the next generation of labour force. Or get your girl-child married so she can produce another generation of homo sapiens."

He took a breath and continued, "I like to be able to be in a relationship, without having to make a commitment to marriage. I can make love without having to worry about having kids. I don’t have to be the sole breadwinner. In fact I am not the breadwinner at most times…I can just relax and do my music and make enough money to look after my needs only. I am responsible only for myself. I can cook and wash. And I don’t need my girlfriend to select my clothing and underwear. What a ridiculous thing to do! I have the opportunity to liberate myself from the clinging claws of women – thank God my mother never had the time to be there and cast her overbearing self on me. I was forced to think for myself."

" Thanks to the woman’s movement? Anusri asked again.

" Sure! Thanks to them! Can’t you see, I am not your typical Indian male? I have broken the gender stereotype and therefore I am not your typical Indian "son" who is breastfed by their mothers till they reach their funeral pyres!"

Anusri and I were going to get him this time. We raised ourselves from the wet sands of Gorai beach and were about to hurl ourselves on him, but!

He was right! Damn! He really should have been there at the Conference.

Bye! Bye! Ms Bi

The feminists in India are doing it again!

Starting September 9th upto 12th September, 2006, the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata is going to witness the National Conference of Autonomous Women's Movements in India . The critical day for me is the 10th September, the day marked out for women with alternate sexual preferences. Films, video, discussions, debates will walk hand in hand with art, literature, poetry, music throughout the day and night. Be yourself. Go and present what you have contributed to this field. Or just participate. Kolkata is getting ready and opening itself up to something new - providing a platform for discussions and debates on alternate sexuality. So is Kolkata prepared for it? Our Bengali babu has a feudal background. He is dominating and likes to believe that he is the custodian of the Bengali community’s’ value system. He is a bhadrolok. He cannot be open to such obscene discussions on sex and sexuality. In fact he would like to know what one has done with such base energies? Instead please tell him, he says, how you have mustered those desires and transformed them to higher intellectual pursuits. - Art, literature, poetry, drama, films? Expect him, therefore, to rave and rant and perhaps go to the extent of lathi charge and stone pelting to muffle the voices of the yet, under-privileged! He is going to say that these women have lost their lajja ( shame) and are behaving like prostitutes. When it comes to caustic remarks, our Bengali babu cares not for politically correct language. He wishes to sting and he does it well.

So in such an environment, the poor bisexual women are wondering what they are going to do. Who is going to hear their small and innocuous voice? Never mind the fact that although they are unrecognized, it is believed that they outnumber the gay and lesbian community. There also are a good number of them living in the heterosexual community. They have been making placards saying – " Bisexual women in India. Recognize the Grey Zone." As such, bisexuality is not an unheard of word nor is it something no body has discussed before. However, they feel they are the least understood. And in the present context, when everyone is defining who they are, - gay, lesbian, or whatever, the bisexuals feel they are being marginalized.

Still others ask, who in the Sam-Holy- Hill is a bisexual? In simple terms, a bisexual is one who is attracted to both genders, emotionally and sexually. If one is a lesbian, gay or someone belonging to any other existing or emerging sexuality, one might not find acceptance in society at large but at least one is known to be existing. If you are a heterosexual, then of course you are God’s own creation and the Gods will kiss the ground on which you walk. You contribute to the growing numbers of humankind, just by your act of sexual pleasure (hopefully!) you produce results in tangible terms. Therefore, may your flock increase. Forget for the moment, rape, incest and horrors of child sexual abuse.

But a bisexual? Dammit! Who the hell are they to ask for their place under the sun? But a bisexual will tell you they do need their place under the sun or they are being considered the 21st Century socio-sexual outcast. The reason? They are drawn to both sexes, and are comfortable to relate sexually and emotionally to both genders. In fact, they are the ones who feel the compelling need to interact at a very deep level with both genders. In fact often, being with one gender, they feel the need to be with the other as well. Ask any confirmed and comfortable with their sexuality, bisexual man or woman and they will tell you their truth – they long for both.
So are they a confused lot? Or are they escapists? Or they just don’t want to make any commitments? Or the worst! Seekers of joy of both the worlds?

I will take the last, first. Yes, they say they are comfortable and love to delight in both the worlds but not because they want it like that but because their very nature drives them to both. Here in this space, the pain and the pleasure co-exist and the desire to relate to a man at some times and a woman at other times, emotionally and sexually, are needs that come up ever so often. Sometimes, at different times and sometimes all at the same time. Then are they escapists, running hither and thither drinking out of a cup of emotional and sexual concoction all over the place and not facing the reality staring in their face - commitment to one is the key to lasting and emotionally rewarding relationships. Are they afraid to make a commitment?

This brings us to a larger question, what is a commitment? In my understanding, a commitment means, willingness to go out and pledge ones love to another and make a promise that one will be with the other through thick and thin, in all the days of their lives. Dedicated and always there. And already I have a problem there. To me it sounds like a marriage, an institution, a module I must fit into may be even if I have to sacrifice and compromise my originality. Therefore for me commitment is of the heart and not of the mind. Others may think differently. In such an environment, an honest bisexual may run the risk of being annihilated as far as their driving desire to be with both genders is concerned. And this poses a grave danger. The denied emotions will sit there in hiding and fester, causing in the long run a whole lot of physical and emotional problems to self and others around.

What drives a human being to form relationships with persons outside themselves? It is their need to share, to give and to receive. It means that they need to nurture and be nurtured in return. At a deeper level, it is to find an expression to their creativity. Is one person enough to get all these needs fulfilled at all times and whenever the need arises? Is there a surety in having our demands met everytime they arise? In other words, will the demand and supply curve intersect – Everytime? Over time? Over years on end?

So on to the last and final point – a bisexual longs for both. In that way they seem to be in a better position since they willingly want to be with both sexes, it is more likely that their needs will be fulfilled. At most times. BUT! Since they long to give expression to both sides of their emotional and sexual selves, without really making a commitment to any, lesbians and gay community demand that bisexuals stop sitting on the fence or face the consequences! No body is ready to dabble and give them a wee bit of love and care because they accuse them of moving around in circles that are taboo to lesbians – being with heterosexual men and women. Most men who are with bisexual woman, say, if their woman wants to be with another women as well, well it doesn’t matter. Anyway what can two women do together? They don’t have what it takes! Or they say, if the other woman has to be there, then she has to be included in their already existing relationship. In other words, make it a threesome. Sic!

So in all ways, bisexuals are damned! They are threatened by all. They know the agony and the ecstasy only too well to commit to either. And this has contributed largely to their sitting on the fence!

Evenso, bisexuals in India, say they they are sexually empowered human beings. How, may we ask can they claim such self-proclaimed honour? They say, a bisexual woman or man is comfortable with their own bodies - sexual and emotional bodies. They admit and accept they are different. They say that in them, the male and female energies, the purusha and prakriti, the yin and yang, flow without conflicting with each other. They are balanced and do not try to over rule each other. They proclaim, they are not afraid of loving. They are not intimidated when a man or woman approaches them with love or passionate desire. They are comfortable, open and responsive. They say they are empowered human beings because, although there may be a number of factors that contribute to the making of an empowered person, but one of the most crucial is being comfortable with ones own body, emotions, sexual self and emotional self. They argue, it is impossible to be empowered or even to claim that one is, if one is not at ease with oneself and one’s sexual being. Point to be noted! They claim that they can handle both. In a nutshell, they have a holistic attitude towards their bodies, physical and emotional.
It all begins at home, they say. A man or a woman empowered within exudes and projects a different self to the outside world. You cannot miss an empowered person. They are brave and fearless. Empowerment is often so dependent on what we think of ourselves – our emotional and sexual selves. A person, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or belonging to any existing and emerging sexuality can hardly be an empowered person, when down at the basics they are uncomfortable about who they are.

So in the light of the above what should be the space allotted to the bisexuals? These are the people who are in the areas of grey and feeling left out in the cold. Unless we only understand black and white, and do not want to challenge ourselves about our fixed thoughts and belief systems around our sisters and brothers, they will continue to blame us for not giving them their due place and denying them the human right to be different.
But tarry! What is our Bengali dada going to say to this? " No," he will say raising his already hyper and angry voice,

" Vhat! Who are you? Vhy are you sitting heaaar with your card?"

He will then put on his large black framed spectacle and peep at their placard with distaste staring out of his face
" Bisexual? Vhat is that? Aiy! You pick your bag and go…anywhere else! Not heaaar in our sonar Bangla. Ve do not have such shameless weemen and garls!. Bye! Bye! Meeees Bi!"

Psssst: I have asked them not to lose heart. Don’t give up the fight. Take on a strong voice to fight your cause. Someone who can put your plight on Television. And who may I ask that might be? Sagarika Ghosh of course! Sagarika who? Sagarika, the most revolutionary icon of Bengali mental brain and brawn – none other than the inspiring anchor person of India 360 showing on CNN-IBN at 8.30 primetime across India. And of course they must not forget me, their most active crusader. Together, we can make it happen. We can show him nicely, our custodian of Bengali cultural values, our well meaning but obsolete Bengali babu, our bhadrolok, how he has to change with times.
Join me in the fight for our rights. Write in to:
nationalconference_2006@yahoo.co.in Or just comment!

It Never Rains;It Pours

Freudian interpretation of dreams" I declared with some authority, " I would interpret this dream as the following… Ahem! Would you like to have it opened up for you?" I concluded.

Anusri stared at me doubtfully. " Okay, but don’t come up with your own theory" she look at me threateningly.

" Lie on the couch and let me sit behind you in typical style" I said taking a seat by the window.

I stared out of the window at the lovely green mountains that surrounded us in this hill station where we were on a week’s vacation.

Who is Anusri? You will remember, she is my office romance from my earlier piece "But Who Is Going To Be The Man?" She has been struggling with my advances towards her, loving and despising it all at the same time. And of late she’s done the worst – she’s started to work from home and so I don’t see her every day. We planned therefore to take a week off and hike up to Matheran, near Bombay. Just the two of us.

Presently she is going to share her dream with you and me.

" And…if you are ready…" I say

" Okay, I dreamt I was sleeping with someone, a woman. She was very dark and I was hugging her. We were in a room full of people including Nags from the office was there. I thought to myself…Oh, they are going to see me! I was afraid and shy. But I knew I liked this dark woman I was holding in my arms."

She turned around to face me " Okay! What is the meaning of that dream?"

"Simple! The black woman you are holding is the dark side of you. The side you do not want to acknowledge or see. Yet that is a side you love as well. Explains why you are holding on to her you see? The people you see around are the social faces you are ashamed to face as you willingly indulge in loving that side of yourself. You’ve been trying to hide the fact that you are not so main stream after all! These are your constructions. There is no Nags from the office etc."

Anusri flew at me. " You are so wicked! You’ve made that up, haven’t you?"

" No! Of course not! Why the hell should I want to make that up for you?"

" Because you imp," she said grabbing hold of my hair, " you’ll do anything to make me admit I have something going out for you!"

" Well don’t you? C’mon, you are really trying so hard to keep that side of you, who is capable of loving women, under cover. Admit it! You love me".

" No, I don’t. Or at least I am not aware of whether I do or I don’t."

" Oh! You are such a thinker".

If you have ever hiked up to Matheran in the rains (best time, by the way) you will know the beauty of that walk is something you can never forget in your life and it will haunt you till forever. We had arrived in Bombay early morning and taken a train at 4am to Neral from Dadar. It is one hour thirty minutes to Neral by local train. When you get down at Neral Station, you just have to start your walk. There are many ways to get to the top – hike the tough way or take a toy train. But Anusri and I love hiking and so our choice – take the road less traveled, the tarred but smooth road up to Matheran. We both knew that we would just have to walk up without halting at all. If we did we would never be able to walk with the same determination. Four and a half-hours! Non-stop! What determination it takes – the rain beating against us, drenched to the skin! Our feet slipping inside the keds….hard walk, hard work. When we reached the top, we were really exhausted. But exuberant!

Inside the Hill Top Hotel we had a lovely room overlooking the green hills and valleys. It is while we had our afternoon siesta that Anusri had this dream necessitating this Freudian interpretation of dreams. Away from our natural Delhi environment, Anusri was relaxed. Also there were a lot of people in Matheran last weekend. And that set the setting for the night.

Matheran does not have any discotheque but the Rain Dance just a little away from where we were staying was the most lively disco I had ever been to. Anu refused to dance in the rain but I dragged her to dance in the open-air dance floor, all so slippery and wet from the red mud and the downpour of screens of rain. We shook our tiredness away….having a few beers and rocking it till the early hours of the morning.

" You are going to give me pneumonia," she said as we walked back to the room. We were just about to turn the key of the door when I pulled her back in the open and this time without a word, I embraced her in my arms and kissed her for the first time, right here under the pouring rains and for some reason, she did not resist. Only after we sort of broke away from each other, she said, " How come you did not even ask my permission?" I moved close to her and together we turned the key to our room " Because, I realized, you like brute force"! She was going to react again but we were inside the room and already in bed with our wet clothes on.

" Let’s at least change," she said

" Yes", I said, my voice thick with emotion, " You help me do that and I will help you too " I said greedily kissing her body.

Have you ever made love in the rains or under a tin roof when the rain is pouring relentlessly down on it? It is called the dance of the wild horses – it is a passionate, steady pouring and you might have your music playing in your room but it is difficult to hear that sound over the thumping sound of the hoofs of the horses stamping on your roof. It is loud and clear like the fire in your eyes, and the blazing heat of your breath and the movements of your body. It binds you like two pythons would, if they were to get entangled with each other.

In Matheran, it never rains; it pours. All night long.

Ganga's Daughters

Kolkata is fiery red all over. Conches are sounding all over. Hindi filmy music mixes with Bengali new Poojo sangeet Radio Mirchi is buzzing with new excitement. There is jubilation in the air. - She is coming. Only for four days. She is coming home. The rains continue to lash the streets. The little ponds laugh. The greens cannot be hidden by the growing grey of the city. The idols of Durga are in their finishing touches period. From where I am, I am floating on the Ganga….

It has begun with a hair message. Warm hair oil is poured over my head and I feel the circular movement of gentle hands as they rub the oil into my scalp…slowly…round and round…turning my head this way and that…. a soft Rabindra sangeet playing in the background…..I breathe deeply…..and let go…floating inward….still conscious of the hands working around my head…behind my ears…and at the nape of my neck. Slowly I am fading out…..my breathing has become heavy …and slow…….soundless…..with gaps in between…..and moments I am not breathing at all…….yet I am alive……I know it despite my deeply relaxed state of being. Fresh mud from the banks of the Ganga river flowing through Hoogly, touching Kolkata, has been brought, to be laid on a new terrain, my body. I have asked for a mud bath..the grey-brown, ever so soft silt from Ganga’s river bed. Handfuls of it are being laid out on my ………face to be follow by my body. It is cool..smoothe..creamy. I guess my face, leaving my eyes, and lip are laden with soil. To enhance the breezy coolness, I can feel two slices of cucumber being laid out over my eyes. Now I cannot open them …my ears have become sharper. I can hear the sizzling sound from the kitchen as seasoning is being done to dhaal. The haunting aroma of paanch phoran fills the air and my olfactory glands take a deep doze of the fragrance of Bengal’s unique but simple five-spice seasoning. I can also hear the poojo songs on radio…the hands that are today’s guide to the celestrial are on my neck and my shoulders are now being turned to the banks of the river Ganga……slowly the silt spreads through my torso..the overwhelming feeling is that of a cold paste. How easy it is to feel cool in the middle of summer! My intestines are freezing as the mud spreads over my stomach.

My legs and thighs are in a let go….perhaps I will never walk again as they cannot be willed to move any more…I will only float like a plank of wood, without direction, on the body of Ganga……just float aimlessly…. The hands are rolling over my thighs and legs. Together with the coolness, I can simultaneously feel Ganga slowly but surely taking a firm grip of me, first my face and then the rest of the body as the mud dries over my body, slowly embracing my skin in its pores. No! It is not pissible to be away from Her too long….She has caught me today and will not let me go…..These hands are driving me closer to Her bosom…I don’t have to make any effort to come close to Her – She grips me to her bosom. I am in a let go…I cannot resist. My feet and toes are now covered by Her soil. There is a hand that is transporting me, transforming me……..the hands that now message my arms in a downward motion… …and before my fingers move into the soil, spreading themselves in the cool water of the earth of Bengal, I feel her lips touching the tips of my fingers….I feel the kiss of death….the kiss which will make me die to myself. In my head I hear my English School Headmistress, Miss Thomson read in her clear and British accent, " The Touch Of The Masters’ Hand" The story of the man who driven by poverty puts his guitar out to auction. But nobody buys it till he comes and tunes it. At the touch of the Master’s hand, the guitar fills the room with such melodious music that it is auctioned at a very high price.

The music in the room has changed and I can hear Beethovan as I am dying to myself….the Lady takes over what belongs to Her………I am powerless. I am Hers. She has gripped me now firmly. My fingers are firm and even the web between them are now cast in her soil. Gently, the cucumber slices are lifted and I open my eyes…….my vision is filled with Kolkata. My jaws have fallen slightly and the song on her lips is the song we sang together at midnight on the 10th of September, 2006 – the night of poems and song lyrics –

Mamma, when I look at the clear waters of my soul
I see your face
Mamma, when I hear the voices in my head
A thousand voices speak like you
Tell me mamma,
Is loving another woman, like loving myself


When Kolkata plays on her guitar, your ears can feel like they have got so finely tuned, like as if you’d smoked some pot…...gently strumming on her guitar, the strong embrace of the earth over me and around me….I drift off into a deep slumber……..Daughters of the soil, I see my mother merging into the beautiful idol of Durga, floating over the large breast of the Ganga.

I am Her.

Desire And Deviance

I saw her the moment I entered the room, sitting by herself, dressed in a red, low-necked tight mini dress. Her blonde-dyed hair fell partially over her shoulders. A few strands cover the large white beads she was wearing. Her hands and legs are crossed and she was carrying a small black evening bag. Her dainty feet were wearing white shoes. There was an empty chair beside her. She looked a bit lost.

I looked around the room hastily and my host saw me and came over.

" So nice, you could make it"

She went on to introduce me to a few people around. As I was making small talk with my new acquaintances, I darted my eyes frequently to the lady in red. I saw the Service boy approach her with a tray of wine-filled goblets. She took one with a colour-less drink. From where I stood, diagonally opposite her in the room, I could see she wore hardly any make up except for the dark shade of lipstick, which contrasted, with the colour of the wine she was sipping. The chair beside her was still empty. I began to stroll over to her side. She saw me approaching. At first she gave me a casual look. Then she looked again. Was she wondering if she knew me or was she just wondering why I was looking at her so constantly? The Service boy interjected our view of each other with a tray of wine. I picked up the same wine she was sipping. I was only a few feet away from her, when a young man in his late twenties suddenly came and sat on the chair beside her. She looked at him and he whispered something. They seemed to be quite comfortable with each other. She turned to me again as I was very close to her by now. I did not stop to look or smile at her. I sat on a chair behind her. She began to fidget around in her chair and quite unexpectedly, pretending to look behind her chair, she gave me a quick furtive look.

Who was she? Sitting behind, I could only see her back. Her hair covered some of her back but I could see the well – defined shoulder blades, as if they were holding her spinal column. Or better still, as if they were holding " Reiki" between them. She had a slim waist and she shifted often as if she was aware of the piercing looks from behind her. Momentarily, I looked away at the people filling the room. I recognized a few faces but was in no hurry to meet them. I was enjoying nursing my wine and playing with the globlet, tuning it in my fingers as if I was turning a thought in my mind. Maybe I was. I became aware of her again… she was looking at me, as I was looking away elsewhere. The man besides her was also curious. He looked behind to see what she was interested in. He did not think it was me. I shifted my glance elsewhere, too conscious to be under her direct observation. I crossed my legs and folded my arms over my solar plexus in order to protect myself from her direct looks. Something in me was moving at gut level and I skipped a couple of heartbeats as well. A couple was approaching them –

" Mr. and Mrs. Soni" They exclaimed " How nice to see you here"!

So she was married. He…was her husband. They stood up and began to talk with their acquaintance. I moved from behind her to a place a little away but from where I could see her face to face. So we kept this eye contact so to say, looking at each other, only when we were sure the other was not looking. When our glances fell on each other, it was very brief, never too long, nor too short…just that much! Just that right much!

The band had started playing their song and I saw her being lead by her husband to the dance floor. My host came over to me –

" Are you enjoying yourself? "

" Yes! " I said graciously.

" Want to meet someone"?

" I already have," I said in my mind, but audibly " Sure!"

" Meet Rahul" She said beckoning a tall, dark man in a grey suit. He looked like he had just come in from work.

" Rahul, this is Julia. You have been asking to meet her"

Rahul’s eyes lit up. " Yes, of course. I am delighted to meet you " he said with absolutely clear British accent. I approved of him, instantly.

" Will you dance with me"? Rahul asked.

We moved to the dance floor. I saw her there again and this time our eyes locked for a moment. She also looked Rahul up quickly. A fast number was playing and I lost myself to the music and my body began to answer to the need of the moment – I began to dance with Rahul. In between, I kept a watch on the lady with red and she kept an eye on me. Rahul had many questions – I had single syllable replies. Questions like when do I find the time to write? What inspires me? How does it all start in my head? Would I like to go back to advertising? And, I seemed a bit distracted…. Was something disturbing me? Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. No. I feared he would lose interest. But! The music changed and Rahul with I drew closer, our steps and bodies moving in slow and steady swaying motions. We also moved closer to the lady in red with her husband and then it really started to happen. We were both looking over the shoulders of the men we were dancing with and while I could see her husband was not inundating her with questions, Rahul was talking a lot. And making an effort to make me laugh. Which I did but everytime I laughed, I could see from the corner of my eyes that she was watching me more closely. I began to feel conscious. I was probably even blushing. And as luck would have it, within a few moments we were dancing almost brushing against each other. I gripped Rahul’s shoulder a little tighter as the moment of truth, so to say, stared me in the face. I looked away from her completely as I did not want to die if we were to touch each other, even vaguely. We were engaged in an act of desire and deviance from the existing circumstances in our lives. To distract myself from the moment, I began to talk to Rahul about whatever came to my mind. He, I suppose was aware there was something amiss. It was too much for me! So when I excused myself and went away to the cloakroom, he was not surprised at all.

But she followed me. As we approached the cloakroom, I proceeded out towards the doorway. She moved into the cloakroom. I returned and stood on the opposite side, wondering whether I should go in or not. There would be too many women inside. Or maybe not. Should I? Should I not? I decided I should and just as I opened the door to go in, she stood one foot away from me, trying to come out. Time stood still. If a Kirlian photograph had to be taken, our aura would have shown as merged. If an x-ray which measured the number of energy streams crossing each other between us, were taken, it would have shown only as a mass of energy, so dense that it could be seen as a solid bar only. Our heights were almost the same and therefore the curves on our torso, matched their opposites.

" Excuse me" she said softly.

I could not move. The moments were unending. Stretchiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing to eternity. I turned my head over my right shoulder and looked down and what happened after that was all in slow motion. She took a step on the side almost brushing my shoulder with hers, the front of her body almost scraping along mine as she moved to leave. I saw her drop her Business Card. As soon as I could, I picked it up from the floor. It was a simple card, which said – Ritu Soni. Writer. She had cancelled the home number and instead penned her Cell number. I hurried to the doorway. I was there just in time to see her husband drive in the Ford Icon. She opened the front door, and her body curved to make it accommodate inside the car. Her dress hitched up further to expose her biceps and as she bent to sit, her body exposed her cleavage slightly, just enough to stay with me for the rest of the night.
I turned the key to my own flat. It was 3am. I threw myself on the chair and pulled out the Business Card. I dialed the number. She picked up the call. And for the rest of the night, we kept the line engaged, speaking to each other with our breath.

Friday, July 21, 2006

But Who Is Going To Be The Man?

I am in great spirits these days! Guess what? Office romance – and now I am going to tell you her name but you must promise not to take that name too many times. It sounds best only when I call that name aloud and it resonates in my brain – it’s Anusri. Like it? But don’t you dare! She belongs to me.

Tell you why there is a song on my lips and a dance in my heart – dervish! Like a Sufi mystic in dancing in divine ecstasy. Anusri and I are meeting ever so often in the nearby Cafeteria because she has been thinking…just thinking about it…this whole stuff of our having a thing together! She is really confused and has finished biting all her nails and very often grabs my hand to start eating mine as well.

" Why are you so tense about it"? I ask

" I am not tense. You are!" She retorts " But tell me, how is it going to happen? I mean this whole thing….you know what I mean."

" No I don’t. I really don’t." I lie

" C’mon, Julia don’t act dumb. It’s hopeless!" She’s exasperated. She turns to the brownie lying on the paper napkin on the tray. Her eyes are swimming in water created by the tension build up inside. A blush on her cheeks, just a soft hue from the rose garden at President’s special garden. How can anyone be so beautiful, I wonder.

" You know," I whisper " You look so beautiful….."

No response. Then she looks me in the eye " Okay just tell me how it is going to happen. Who is going to be the man?"

I laugh aloud in spite of myself. " Shhhhhh" she warns " If you are going to behave like that we had better go back to office…."

I try to keep a straight face. " Anusri, you can see, there is no man here. So who is going to be the man? I don’t know. Since both of us are women!"

" That’s the fix. How is it going to happen?" She looks perplexed.

" Are you talking about sex? I don’t know! In all these years, many women have taken me to many "places"…."

" Listen, why can’t you be more mundane? Surely, one must accept roles!"

" Not necessarily. Think out of the box. We are two women and we are trying to negotiate a space for ourselves. Why must we follow stereotype?"

" You know, I can’t stand stereotype but I can’t imagine what it is going to be like either".

" Don’t! Leave it to me. I am experienced".

" But Julia, tell me is it really abnormal?"

" No, sweetheart, anything that happens to the human mind and body in moments of love, I don’t think to be abnormal. That’s really primitive to think like that…. Listen, you don’t have to do anything. Just forget about all this. "

" No, I am finding it difficult to work and there is the State Guide to be finished ASAP".

" Just let it go! Focus on SG". I suggest.

" Julia I like you and I am not sure what kind of liking this is…."

" I can tell you. Not the ordinary one. Or else why should you call me in the middle of the night and say you’ve forgotten why you’ve called." I gave an impish smile.

" The problem is you are too experienced and I am not."

" Better still! You are in experienced hands." I say profoundly. " Virgins are sick! And sloppy!"

She laughs and the stars in her eyes sparkle. I get caught in their glitter. Just for a short time, time stands still as we slap each other’s palms in girlish mirth. The moment suddenly turns magnetic, as our eyes lock quite closely, the energy of the moment just the right textures to make the first move. My mind frames the question my lips longed to utter, the most vital question - a request for permission every woman deserves to give before one can go any further with her –

" May I kiss you?"

Thursday, July 13, 2006

No water; No Moon

Relationships.

Who is the other? Or is it I forever relating with myself through others? Is there a purpose why we meet? Why the pull? What is unfinished karma? What is the clearing that takes place when there is someone with whom we are relating? There must be some reason why we have come together? And then we draw apart? What is completing a cycle? What is it that keeps us together? What is permanence? What is the alchemy of love?

I don’t know.

I am not visiting this lifetime to find answers. If there are questions, there will be answers to them. Often the question holds in itself the answer as well, like a seed holds in it the whole tree. My reason for this visit is clear to me – I have come to clear my Path. I need to be free of past baggage and so on hindsight I look at my life and know that I have been doing just that throughout. Sometimes with awareness, most times without. Only when I choose to look back I am aware of how I have been choosing every episode, person, circumstance to serve this purpose. I chose my parents. I am deeply proud of my mother for her spirit and my father for the art of renunciation. Together, the exact mix of being completely involved and being totally distanced at the same time came to me as genetic inheritance. I can’t be anything else.

So the road has been strewn with many lovers and many Masters. Unfinished karma from past lives. How can I see myself if I was not facing a mirror? Similarly, how can I see my own realities unless I am with lovers who reflect your own reality and Masters who put me on the Path again? This process gave rise to real aspirations. My Masters become my doorway. The relationships gave me reflections of myself but my Masters gave me the technique to look into myself, gradually distancing my Self from myself. As if the Self was separate from myself. It is the finest art I learnt to do in this lifetime. I had learnt from being a student of philosophy that the Self was different from myself. My Masters taught me how.

Distancing is such a wonderful art. It needs skills I could not have learnt in any classroom except the school of life. The first whiff came by, when I received a letter from my first love in school saying she was going to marry soon. But I thought " She said she wanted to spend her entire life with me! What happened?" Days were spent in early college when I pondered over declarations without explanations. I sat for long periods of time at Marine Drive in Bombay just looking out at the sea. Something about water - it washes out everything. I could be like a boatman sitting on his anchored boat on the banks – just sitting there watching! Watching! Watching! The waves cleared my cobwebs and I had the first experience of sitting in a large meadow in my mind, so far in a little chair that I thought if I really had to see myself in my mind, perhaps I would have to use binoculars! The first love remains with you for life. So does the first rejection. How you handle it makes or breaks your life. I had already started my journey to my Self.

He had to be a different kind of man and if he did not know the concept of space how was he ever going to address where I was already. He had all these and he had more! He had traveled through rejection not looking at the Arabian Sea. He had a Master already. We were by then identifiably soul mates. Our values were the same. We spoke the same language. It was bound to happen. But what was shocking to me - I was converting to his Master. I had no religion I could say I had allegiance to. I could not bear temples, God-men and temple pundits. They made me feel nauseous. I did not have a strand of religiosity in my body. I still don’t but this Master took me on a different journey – from reading of Buddha as a student of philosophy, he taught me the art of meditation as taught by Buddha. I could bear this, even love it. Buddha was an agnostic. So He was acceptable to me. He had a method to go beyond, pleasure and pain establishing the transitoriness of everything and changing realities. Nothing was forever. Change was the only permanent thing. Just a simple formula – be watchful. Meeting with this Master, made all relationships after that like water down a duck’s back. However, as long as I am in the body, I do not know how my desires will drive my body but I can surely say that all relationships are a fresh look at myself and all Masters are a door to the divine.

Where I stand today, I have focus and a friend, philosopher and guide whose drive and search is deeper than mine and she has taken it on herself to make me walk the Path with her. That is her only concern. I have finally come home after travelling over many roads, my feet tired and my soles torn. Yet I have not dropped my mother’s spirit of absolute involvement and my fathers armour of worldly distance and renunciation. I am in the body and weary of my long stay at the Master’s House, the office romances and Yogi, even Kolkata are a must to my life. They all reflect my own reality and without their presence I would never know my truth, my inner Self. Without a mirror it is impossible to see my real face.

No water; no moon.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Sons As Lovers

" I want you to be the mother of my children" Yogi said very meaningfully.

" Where did you get that cliched line from? It’s disgusting!" I retorted.

Yogi laughed " So you won’t fall for that line?"

" Of course I won’t but if you use such horrendous language again, I will most certainly fall out with you". I said with effect.

" What about living together?"

"Why aren’t we doing just that – you in my house twelve days, I, in yours the next seven and again, you in mine and then again I in yours…it’s unending!"

" Getting tired?" he asked

" Awfully! Can’t we just move into a space next to each other? Like you in your flat and I in mine, adjoining"?
" What a brilliant idea! Let’s go for it!"

It gave us space. We didn’t have to meet everyday and we didn’t have to mate ever so often. It was now a very comfortable togetherness. I need a lot of time and space to myself. Often it is so much that the other might begin to think, I have dropped out. Unless of course, they value their own aloneness.

Thankfully, Yogi is that kind of a man. Sometimes he prefers to work 48 hours at a stretch and then fade out for the next 36 hours. Now that we live next to each other, we are in our own spaces and meet occasionally. Then, it is really good. Separating has helped our relationship grow stronger because when we are not together, we are able to fill our cups with our own energies. It’s so necessary to brim over before we can give of ourselves. Now, when we meet, its real quality. We are there just for each other. Sharing has finally become such a profound experience.

No, Yogi is not one of those strong-bodied men, who tend to give you that feeling of power and strength you think you can depend on. At least that is the perception. So you surrender to him, as his muscles remind you of the men you read about in Mills & Boons. No, Yogi is slight bodied and tender. I love it when he nestles up to me, I can just hold him in my arms and his body moves and fits around my every emotion when I hold him close to me. No resistance at all. His body trusts me completely. It is such a lovely feeling, I can’t put it in words. We don’t even need to look at each other when we talk at these times – words are sounds, even noise, the real communication is happening at a very different level.

Yogi is so open, as most men in my life have been. When he and I met first at a common friend’s place, there was a click in the air. I swear! When we decided to see each other I thought that the inevitable was only around the corner and I couldn’t ever, ever open myself up to any lover without being honest about my choices. So one day, while we were walking in the rain, I said to him, " Yogi, I want you to know, I love women as well and if I come across one, even when we are together, I am not going to stop my heart if she is willing and ready. So think about it. You are free to make your choice especially since we haven’t risked our emotions and our bodies at deeper levels"

I was a bit shaky about his response. I loved him so. What if he decides not to? But! I would never be with a man or a woman without opening up first. I can’t live lies at such close quarters and I really don’t need to. I can risk everything to be my truth.

Yogi proved very accommodating and he was really happy I had been so honest. Our relation was pitched on really good grounds of mutual respect from then on and we were drawn even closer. So now when he asked me about this office romance, I was having, I was not afraid to tell.

Yes, there is a woman I am terribly attracted to in my office. She knows it. I have told her in so many words. We work sometimes sixteen hours together and there is no let up. You go home to sleep and bark at everyone around or if you are alone and all by yourself, you are exhausted when you arrive home. You simply open the refrigerator and just grab some milk and get under covers. Where is the time to socialize or meet friends or even meet Yogi? Things like this are bound to happen!

" So what about that office romance you are having?" he asked me two nights ago.

" Having?! It’s just chugging along as slow as slow can be. Nothing has happened really!"

" What! I don’t believe it." He said looking up at me through a really close hug " It’s been months! Nothing? Abolutely nothing?!"

" Cross my heart, nothing!" I said dryly

" So, is it off then?"

" Not really!"

" What is she saying?"

" The usual. Julia I really like your company. You make me laugh. But I am not like "that". I am heterosexual and all that kind of stuff"

" Fair enough! So what are you going to do? There is all this passion and stuff to cope with. Won’t it be better to leave the job?"

" How weird can you get! Can a larger picture be overcast by relatively small one? The lady in question might be on my mind but my job is larger than she can ever be."

" But sexual desires are like wild horses! They can drag you to places you never believed you could have gone."
" I know, Yogi but I haven’t been meditating for the last sixteen years all for nothing!"

" So are you saying, you are not going to ………?"

" Yup! I am saying I am not going to." I gathered Yogi up like a soft toy and gave him a tight squeeze. " We are going to be best friends. I am going to harness that wild horse and make him serve my interests. I might burn with passion and writhe for her in bed, but I am finally going to use all this energy that is coming up in me to fuel my creativity and increase our bonding as friends."

Yogi smiled and ruffled the top of my head. " You can also make love to me when the going gets tough!" he said with a naughty smile. " I am all yours"

" Tried. Tested. Failed! Never go out with a woman when you want a man, and never go out with a man if you are thinking of a woman. It just does not work for you. Besides, why should I mix up things? You are special in your own way and she is in her own way."

" Wonder why het women are so afraid of opening themselves up to other experiences?" Yogi said thoughtfully.
" Because they say they can’t feel that way with a woman." I replied

" Is it social conditioning?" he was curious

" A woman can conclude that if she is aware that she feels a block somewhere. But if she does not, then she is not even ready to look into it I suppose. I don’t really know Yogi, since it is not my experience".

The night was getting older. This was not meant to be a night for discussing women. Change the frame. Get to the here and now. So what the hell, Yogi is so smooth to touch, so gentle, I can reach unknown depths the moment I become aware of his skin on mine.

Unfinished karma, that woman on my mind. There’s no other way to explain why you may go to a certain place in complete innocence and return home with a woman on your mental screen.

At least let me not lose this moment with Yogi. I don’t want another unfinished karma because I was thinking of someone else.

The here-now is all I care for now.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Wasteful Abundance

Nobody needs to tell me why, when there is shortage, there is no wastage but I need to know why, when there is abundance there is so much waste.

In my recent travel to Joyrambati, birthplace of Sri Sarada, wife of Sri Ramakrishna, I was aghast to see the waste of food at the dining room both for lunch as well as dinner. People demanded extra helpings even before they finished what was on their plates and then wasted all the food because they either did not like the food or they were full.

Very strange indeed! At the time that Sri Sarada lived there after the passing away of Sri Ramakrishna, there were days she only had salt and rice to eat. Living in abject poverty she never complained about it.

There were many other things she did not complain about – as a feminist I have been thinking often about her life. Did she not feel any sense of rejection when her husband did not touch her like she should have been as a wife? Did she not feel desire as all women feel or have the right to feel? Did she not feel let down by her husband when he left nothing for her by way of pension after his passing away? Did she not feel burdened by constant kitchen work that she did even when she stayed at Dakshineshwar with him? Did she never raise her voice even to him?
At a workshop I conducted in Ranchi at the National Women’s Conference in ‘97, participants willingly got in touch with their bodies by touching themselves from head to foot in their mind’s eye. They had to, without using their hands, travel slowly and gradually over each and every part of their body resting for longer periods on parts they had reservations about, like breasts, pubes etc. The hour-long workshop was tough for a number of people as throughout they also had to keep their eyes closed. During the discussion after the hour, a woman from Ranchi said she felt very angry at having to touch herself – she had never even felt around herself during her bath in her whole life. Remember, she did know what she was going to have to do. I had explained it at the plenary session. She had come because she wanted to know her body. This was her subconscious desire. Her conscious mind revolted.

Even now, women may be far from their bodies, not even knowing that they are cutting it away from themselves as if to say it is something they are not supposed to relate to. So if one is refused conjugation, can a woman who does not even know her body, feel what she is missing? If a woman has never touched herself or ever played around, ever know what gives her pleasure, painful pleasure or plain pain? If she does not know her body, how is she going to negotiate her right to any and all physical pleasures that she can derive from either initiating the process on her own self or guiding her partner to giving it to her?

My niece in Kolkata is in her third year of Engineering and tells me a lot about her love life. She likes to have many boyfriends without committing to any. So all are kept waiting in the wings! I asked how does she negotiate? They propose she said. In my days "propose" was for marriage, not to go around, just see each other. We received letters telling us that he/she cared and would we like to go steady? Or at the School Social, the boy danced so close to the girl, she was in no doubt what he felt or wanted to do with her and the spinster teacher on duty burnt with vile anger at the sure audacity of the girl’s tolerance to such bashful closeness and fiery breath going down her back.
Things have changed it seems. I wonder if my niece lied when she said that she never has got kissed! How weird! I told her. She kept such a straight face I knew thankfully she was lying! On another occasion she explained in full what happens to a boy/man physically when he is ready for sex. How does she know? Her biology teacher explained everything to her and the whole class, she says. So I am convinced somehow. Why should she not keep a certain distance from me as well? Afterall, I am her mother’s sister! One must keep some space with aunts no matter how close you are to them.

My niece in Mumbai on the other hand is going places! She is awake for half the night I was told by the nosey in-house, house help, looking at all the porno sites while her parents snore! She has just finished school and will be in College this year doing her XI th . So what is she doing? Just curious I suppose! Checking out. Must know all before trying it out soon in college? I asked does she know about condoms? Safe sex and all that? " You are really ancient", she reprimanded me, " Aren’t you aware that condoms are not always required when you have sex? You could be just necking around. Besides, did Shabana and Nandita Das use condoms in Fire?"
Boy! Oh, boy! I just shut my mouth.

We live in a world of abundance. So why not waste a bit on real experiences. It’s always good in the long run.
Yet when I looked from the window of my small restroom at the Ashram at Joyrambati, at the lovely green fields dotted with patches of bamboo groves stretching over miles and as far as the eyes could see I wondered. Abundance in nature - why does it not seem wasteful, but just the way it should be? Does abundance become wasteful when it’s freedom to be limitless is curbed? Or does abundance become meaningless when it goes and hits the rural, local industry like I found out in Joyrambati – I went from shop to shop, asking for what I could buy that was locally produced. Everyone stared at me blankly. Finally, I bought some brown sesame seeds as against the white and black ones I am used to seeing in the city, and a kilo of freshly extracted mustard oil mixed with sesame oil, hoping to make some pickle with it. There is a flood of products that are from larger markets and distributors have done a good job of seeing to it that the local produce is so overshadowed, even innocent villagers forget what is the specialty of their own land. Shame on poor and shortsighted marketers!

So I have returned from rural Bengal always as usual with fond memories of its landscape. Yet there is a heavy heart when I think of the waste of food at the Ashram and the ruination of local industry by larger, more powerful players from outside.

Can someone tell me why waste is so much a part of abundance?

#10, Dover Lane

I’ve known Kolkata for a long time now. She is my kind of woman – Intelligent, sensuous, extremely physical yet at the same time lives in her head! The classical old, blends with the transition into the new and still very modern – all aspects combine to make her quite irresistible. She’s a product of the past like an old photograph you clicked thirty years ago. There is vibrancy in her, which shows in the way she walks and the way she talks, the things she does, or the discussions she enters into. She shares my love for Shakespeare. Sometimes we stand before a tall mirror enacting parts of his plays as if we were on stage. We share Wordswoth and do Lord Alfred Tennyson’s " Charge of The Light Brigade" together. She then reads to me with complete passion, the right intonation put in for effect, from Sarath Chandra Bondhopadhay, Tagore and Kabi Nasrul Islam. Even Samsur Rehman.

Yes, Kolkata and I share a great deal together. But! Kolkata can sit with you and hold an hour long discussion on Bertrand Russell and at the same time vanish in the middle of it all to put that exact amount of washing powder in the clothes the washer woman is about to begin to wash and come back to the discussion as if it were a part of the Bertrand Russell talks. Again she might surprise you by going into the kitchen with your poems, just to check on the cook and to add the seasoning in the food. This time she did the same and running into the kitchen she instructed the cook to prepare the masalas for an exotic fish dish she said she was about to cook up, to celebrate my visit to the city.

" Don’t be silly, Julia, you are not a vegetarian when you are with me"

"Oh yes, I am" I said, " devoutly so, except for my small vice – haven’t been able to give up on real meat - of either gender!"

She laughed from her heart " Thank God for that".

You guessed it! Kolkata is not her real name. It is something else but I call her that because he reminds me of Tagore’s Sonar Bangla, Satyajit Ray’s Apur Sangsar and Buddhadev’s Red Bengal and " who –can-be-next"’s New Bengal. But no! I can’t tell you her real name because I have crossed my heart not to disclose it.

Our friendship has been long and there is very little we don’t know about each other. We share similar tastes and when we are together, we even share each other’s clothes. Except for the sari, which I never wear. She looks ravishing in one and so graceful! But hey! Stop! There is something that tells you she is not bound by the yards of material around her – she is a free soul. She loves trinkets and she changes them to match whatever she is wearing. Fastidious! Then suddenly you will see her in faded blue jeans with a shirt covering her butts – what is it, you might think. How are you going to place her in your mind? What is her image? You are uncomfortable since everytime she changes it you have to change your perception of her. Very challenging indeed!

So, on the last day of my stay in Kolkata, we spent a day together cooking up brunch or lunch or whatever you might like to call it and talked of the Women’s Movement in India and the forthcoming National Women’s Conference going to happen in Kolkata between 9th – 12th September, 2006. We laughed at the idea at how the whole Salt Lake area where it is sited to take place, will become one big "Allirajyam"!

Kolkata and I have never expressed or even been faintly aware that in a moment of fleeting fancy, we might be attracted to each other – Never! Ever! So what was it that changed things for us this my last day at Kolkata – was it Elvis Presley singing " It’s now or never, come hold me tight, kiss me my darling, be mine tonight. Tomorrow will be too late, it’s now or never, my love won’t wait" Or was it that woman who had kept me awake for the entire month of May, raking my mind and body with red passion? Can’t say. I was in Red Bengal and Kolkata was glowing pink on her cheeks, a dark shade of lipstick on her lips, a very sensuous voice, her eyelids drooping, the ring of her laughter in the room, her languid looks traveled over my body – a hot summer afternoon, just the right temperature to match our inner climate, too magical and magnetic to resist, only a fleeting thought of the woman on my mind passed as we were transported to another space. Raw passion met deep sensuous petting as we bathed in tantric " bodymind" ritual, the boundaries between sex and spirituality blurring out, raw unadulterated sex that brought us close to the realms of the spiritual, and sensual spirituality giving way to sexual abandon.

By the time we emerged, Elvis had finished singing all his songs on that CD. Our lips locked in last minute soft kissing and then we separated, still lying on the bed and in typical Kolkata style broke into a song – "Picnic time for teddy bears, the teddy bears are going to have some fun today…."- Like as if we were in nursery school, screaming at the top of our lungs!

A hot, wet summer afternoon sucked us into a deep sensual, sexual experience and left us with no residue to hang on to – Clean. Accurately surgically cut to make for a chance event.

Just the way I like it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Hope You Remember Me

My study is full of scraps of paper, strewn all over the floor and rising to the ceiling. I have emptied out all the shelves and drawers in my mind; they are now lying all over the floor. I am looking for that one girl I knew in school thirty-five years ago. I am hoping to find that one piece of paper I have so carefully preserved, the love letter you wrote to me.

In my mind’s eye, I can see your hand written letter; no ctrl+alt+del can ever wipe away. At least not till my dying breath.

Technology has not moved. If it had then I could have just pressed the print button in my head and there! A smooth laser print out would eject out – the exact hand written love letter.

Wonder why you called me Julie?

My partner does not even know of you. So long ago, I can hardly remember to tell her –
In any case, why should I? Remembering you in this heap of paper strewn across my room is –

Angst, my bitter chocolate.

I have lived and loved many but my heart was always with you. Your breath forever is imprinted in my brain. Its haunting fragrance over the years has not dried out. Why should I even try to erase it, when it causes me to remember –

Angst, is my bitter chocolate.

The closest I came to being with you was twenty two years ago. Someone quite like you entered my life – just an acquaintance, a good friend. So close was I to the real you, I feared getting any closer might end, even overwrite, my treasured memories of you –

Angst, my bitter chocolate.

I have forbidden the maid to enter this room. For the last one month it has not been cleaned: I must find you first in these heaps of papers lying on the floor – No! No cleaning is required. I don’t want a blank screen. Among these papers I believe, lies one letter you wrote to me in indelible ink on lavender blue paper. It is stored in the deep recesses of my mind. If I can find that one letter in this heap of paper, I will be able to compare it with the writings in my mind. But irony, why and how shall I find your letter? Finding it would be my loss. Eternally looking for you causes me pain –

Angst, my bitter chocolate.

I saw you again in her the other day – just a carbon copy, ctrl-C if you like. Instantly I was drawn to her, like iron filings to a magnet. I could not keep my eyes off her…in seconds my mind made mental notes – the same grace, the same body shape, the same colour of skin, even the same fall of hair! Again and again I gazed at her. I noticed her long artist’s fingers resting against her cheek and I wondered, is she a painter or a writer? Or is she a scientist like you? I could not get away from thinking of her. Thoughts of her occupied my mind entirely and robbed me of my sleep. Yet, whenever I closed my eyes to rest them, my senses filled with emotions long forgotten –

My partner sleeps soundly but every time I think of her, she rolls over and cuddles me. I wonder – how does she know? Even in sleep she will not allow infidelity!

How can I tell her, it will always be so? In my mind I will always be yours. Maybe never in reality. For, I will never shatter what you bring out in me –

Angst, my bitter chocolate.

Hope You Remember Me - Part II

The phone is ringing incessantly. Strange! I know I always turn the ringer off whenever I am at home. So, how come it is ringing today.

I lift the receiver – no one there on the other end. I return to bed.

Again the phone rings. No, I am not going to pick it up this time. Just let it ring. Suddenly I remember…. It could be her! I dash but by then the phone has stopped ringing. I check the ringer. Yes, it is off! I stare down at the instrument. " C’mon, ring!" I say in my mind. I turn to go and there it rings again. I pick up the line and say, " I know who you are. It’s decided we are meeting tomorrow at break of dawn. Be there!"

She comes as promised. We stare at each other. Thirty-five years have passed. No photographs were exchanged. We probably could not have imagined how we looked after all these years. In the last one year we have only spoken over email – I in India, she in America. She’s been married for twenty-six years. Her eldest son is twenty-four. It’s a bold step she is taking to complete an unfinished cycle – both of us together must come a full circle after what we started thirty-five years ago in school.

Although we are now walking side by side, in my mind I am trying to visualize her as I remember her thirty-five years ago. We dare not look at each other… too many emotions lurk just behind our eyes. What if they spill over and we lose control?

The rustic hut we have booked in the God forsaken place is about to lose its virginity. We open the door aware we are adults and we don’t wish to waste any time – We have confirmed over email in the last one yar that this is what we want to do.

The door closes behind us. We are left with each other. No excuses! No nature to distract us – just she and I. Suddenly we are both scared. We both open our mouths to say something – both together! Then we stop.
" Let’s call for a cup of tea," I say breaking the electric atmosphere.

When she picks the cup to her lips to drink her tea, I wish I were the cup! I stare as she sips knowing all the time that she is aware and very conscious of me. My soul is standing at the very opening of my eyes – she can see everything!

I rise and look the other way. I know she has come and stood behind me. I look up at the skies " Oh God! Not any closer or I will die". I turn to face her. She wraps her arms around my neck. Our lips are so close to each other, you couldn’t have passed a pin between them! My eyes are closed so I don’t know how hers are…. There is a knock at the door.

Instantly we are apart. I breathe.

She has gone to open the door. I slip into the bathroom. I tear my clothes and stand naked under the shower for what seemed to be forever. I am now in control of my emotions. They have cooled under the flowing cold water. I wrap a towel around me and peep out. She is lying on the bed a white sheet covering her body. Her clothes are lying scattered on the sofa. I look at the contours of her body over the sheet. How well my palms knew them thirty-five years ago?

I go and sit next to her on the bed. She is looking at me steadily. I map her face with my finger and gently open her mouth with my thumb. My finger touches her tongue.

How can we express ourselves? There is such a cascade of emotions…both our eyes are wet.
I place my hand on her heart. Whose heart is beating faster I don’t know – hers or mine but this is not the moment I decide. We must start when the fever on our brows is cooler. For a long time we remain like that, our hearts beating as one. Then the fire mellows down. Over the white sheet, my hands travel…. Softly messaging her back, her lower back, my fingers work diligently at the nape of her neck. Relaxing her is relaxing myself.

I lower my body next to hers. We turn to face each other. Her golden hair suggestively covers her face partially – no, I want to see her face completely. For thirty-five years I have been looking for her face in this heap of papers lying strewn all across my study. Her eyes are the same as I remember – sparkling brown. She is in a state of let go…all I have to do is move closer to her. Instead, I draw her closer to me and lift her face one last time to my lips….

I feel someone shaking me. My eyes open. My partner is sitting up.
" Wake up" she says, " you are dreaming"
" Am I?" I ask myself " So real"?
" Wake up, you are dreaming" my partner says again.

The morning coffee is thick with the aroma of freshly brewed filter coffee. It is addictive. My partner and I sip our morning coffee together as we do everyday, savouring every moment of it. She clears her throat and puts down her coffee glass. " Who is Meenakshi?" he asks in a matter-of-fact way. " You have been calling her name the whole night."

Although I can feel going red behind the ears, I am calm.

" Isn’t that another name for goddess Durga?"

I turn to the Bhagavad Gita and begin to read from it as we always do straight after the morning coffee. Today we are at Chapter II; Verses 62 – 67

" The man dwelling on sense- objects
Develops attachment for them
From attachment springs up desire
And from unfulfilled desire ensues anger" – (62)


Then again….

" As the wind carrying away
A boat upon the waters, even so
Of the senses moving among sense objects,
The one to which the mind is joined
Takes away his discrimination" – (67)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Mass = LCD

Marketers have always been very smart indeed. Some brilliant guy introduced us to the concept of service based industry. This means that you might come out with the best product but if it is not backed by CS ( Customer Service) post and pre sales, you are going to fall from the customer’s eyes and you are going to lose business and hence market share. On the other hand if your product is backed by really strong CS, you’re going to be a be swinging high. So you can now rake in the bucks. Your market research can be limited to finding out what other service your customer wants, which in any case changes every 45 days or so – just keep giving them one at a time. Keep them hungry; keep them wanting. Give in slow doses. Customers will pay any price to satiate their desires. Just keep your fingers on the pulse of what is their new desire.

Every marketer knows Mass = LCD. There is no need to think too deeply on these matters. Look at the mobile industry! Move over Karl Marx! And I wish I had been more patient and waited and watched and not starved to buy all the books of Marx and Engels in high school and college.

All that was needed to create a class-less society was the mobile phone! Scavengers and masters alike, your sweeper and your paanwalla, your CEOs and COOs, your house help and you are all carrying a cell phone. You are finally one. No? What about the blackberry and the Nokia 3200/3270/1108/1100 – no difference at all? Doesn’t matter if you ask me. Product differentiation is done to rake in the bucks from all segments of the market.

If you really want to differentiate, it is " people differentiation" that matters. What’s that you ask? It is about class against mass. It’s about class that knows when to say no and also determines how much and no more. As against mass – give me more!

Mass mentality cannot be harnessed just as class cannot be cultivated. You have to be born into it. Let me explain with a simple test you can take. Visit www.littlemag.com If you are already a subscriber, breathe easy. You are not the herd. If you feel an urgent need to subscribe, breathe a sigh of relief. Thank the stars. Water always reaches its own level. However, if you are looking at the names and saying " How boring! Who are Satish Alekar, Tadeus Pfeifer, Ananya Jahanara Kabir and G√ľnter Grass? " Relax! You belong to the vast majority where Mass = LCD. You are the marketers’ delight. You are governed by Lowest Common Denominator.

Thanks to you, corporates are getting richer everyday.








13 June, 2006

Monday, June 12, 2006

Lying on Your Side of The Bed

Lying on your side of the bed

The night creeps upon me
Sleep cuddles me
I move to your side of the bed
Wakefulness battles with sleep
My eyes open and close
All night long
Lying on your side of the bed
Insecurity hounds me
Desperation for your arms
On your side of the bed
I am safe. Secure. Sound

Visions of Rejection

Shadow Self
Clouded
Wearing a veil
I cannot see your face
Hiding you emerge
Again and again
And make your presence felt
I try to catch you
But I am always left with myself
Who are you
Where do you come from
Since when are you following me?
What is it you want to say to me
I strain to hear….
All I can hear is my own voice
So I listen within
Shy. Uncertain. Revealing…. now hiding.
Unsure. Unreal. Deceptive
Shadow of my Self
Shadow of rejection

Witness

Standing outside myself is me
Like a Shadow
Watching every move
And moving alongside
Me, My Self
Sleeping, waking
Watchfulness
Always with me
Whither are you going my fair friend
Where is your Aloneness?
Where is your Self?
Your Shadow follows you
Whither are you going my fair friend
Alone, yet always followed?

Agony

Have you seen the dry thorny bush
Stretch over miles of dry desert sands
Across the face of the earth?
Have you stood on such a land
And looked to see
If the smallest vision of the oasis
Met your eyes?
Have you ever thrown your hands and arms
At the skies
And cried out to God to answer your prayers
As the parched dryness of your throat
Threatened your very existence on earth
And your brain struggled to melt
And pour out of your bloody nose?
Have you known the arid dryness of the soul
Waiting in tearing impatience
And wretched pain
To meet the oasis of love
This agony, this pain –
This!
This, the bitter night before dawn

Freedom

freedom come
freedom stay with me
nothing to hold on to
nothing holding me back
fly like an eagle in the endless sky
no past, no future worry on me
nothing to hold on to
nothing holding me back
freedom come freedom stay with me

Hair Allergy

Hair Allergy

Dear reader,
This is not a joke. It is as true as true can be. I do have an allergy to hair.

Exactly why I reached the ripe age of 18 without ever kissing a guy. You know why? Everytime it came close to it and the moment was only a centimeter away I would go " Atisshoo! Attishoo" And have to run miles away.
Why in the Sam Holy Hill did men have to have a moustache? Why a beard? Why, oh why, a stubble? - Did I hear you say, what about a clean-shaven man? Yes, what about him? Come real close and see for yourself. If by chance the stubble were to rub against the tip of your nose, I will bet all my fortune, that if you have an allergy to hair, you are going to go for a hell on a sneezing trip! Try it!

This is also why a good friend advised - turn to women. I debated with the thought in my head and thought it’s not really a bad idea. I mean at 18, you can’t really go on reading about kissing and still be a kissing-virgin.
The year was 1980 and the first International Women’s Meet had happened in Bombay. My friend, Cash, who had been participating, came back with excellent news!

" I have her for you. She is cute, petite, and very feminine and she has blue-green eyes. You are going to like her, I know."

I was excited – at last it was going to happen. The only hitch was that I would have to call her on my own, I mean make a blind date. Oh well for a kiss, seeming to be the most profound thing that could happen to two individuals at that age, any risk was worth it!

" Besides," my friend cheered me on, " she is a copywriter. You want to become one don't you?"
"Oh wow!" I thought, " This is it"!

I called a number. She picked it up and immediately she squealed " That’s the voice! That’s the voice! I have been dying to hear that voice. Just right for the Radio jingle."

We planned to meet that very Saturday. I didn’t know what she was talking about, this voice thing, I mean, but it was clear I was going to her house for you-know- what!

When I entered the house, she was in the bathroom. I went into her bedroom, - her "den" as she preferred to call it, and waited for her to come out. My eyes fell on Virginia Wolfe. I was just about to pull the book out of the shelf, when I felt the knob of the door turning – She was there! Wet from the bathroom with a towel around her. She was lovely! Tender light skin, sea-blue eyes and delicate boned jaws. Her hair wet from the shower thrown back from her wide forehead, I was enthralled as much as I was shocked! So fast?!?!?!? I thought to myself. She sat on the bed next to me and in a way of greeting me, she put her head forward and kissed my cheek " You are cute!" And there it was coming all over again. I tried to muffle the sneeze playing menacingly at my nose. But! - Atishoo! Atishoo! Atishoo! Atishoo!

Wet woman’s hair, thrown back from her face, slightly dripping with water on the towel covering her breast, raw emotions could be flowing…. Take a strand of that hair and roll it around your finger, as if to say you are rolling the idea around your head, the idea of unwrapping her towel from around her body; should you, should you not, now, or a little later…. Perhaps a little later! So you put your hand and hold her head from behind her ears, her wet hair resting in the insides of your palm, a deep sensual feeling warming up in your head, wet hair, on a woman’s head can be so mesmerizing….

But, why does it happen to me only? Why am I sneezing so badly?

" Here" she said, handing me some tissues " Looks like you’ve caught a sudden cold?"
Right at that moment, the doorbell rang and in came Rue.

"What an unexpected visit! Meet my new acquaintant, Julia" She said and whispered in my ear " Hope you are not dissappointed. I did not expect her at all"

"No, not at all", I said. " I am fine. I’ll leave right away and come back another day".
There it was, a good opportunity gone for a sneeze.

I graduated somehow quite late in life and was able to sleep with women only after I took a strong dose of Avil tablets! And that did me sleepy! So there were other problems to face – you know the sleeping right after stories! They hound you even if you are a woman and a powerful war can ensue in the bedroom over how they feel used. But who is to tell them that I am drugged and the effect of the drug can wear off any moment and I could be sneezing all over again. Who would not have loved to nestle on that lovely spread of locks on a white pillow? Who would not have loved to play with hair after passionate lovemaking! Who wouldn’t????
Years have passed on and much fortune lost on allergy tablets. The other day I was at a nightclub and I saw a lovely girl. I must confess even though I was old enough to be her mother, I really got the hots for her! So I asked her to dance with me to which she readily agreed. She was bright and intelligent, socially aware and very active with her films and what not. She had short crew-cut hair and a clean face – at least that is what I saw in the dim lights. Name? Tejal.

" I believe you’ve fallen in love with a girl old enough to be your daughter?" a good friend asked.

" Don’t be a goose! Don’t you know that as you grow older, your love grows younger? That’s what makes Salman Rushdie, V S Naipaul, Paul McCartney click! It’s common you know!’

"Well" she said a bit doubtfully, " In her case, you’ll have to see"

" Why is she going steady with someone"? I enquired a bit worried.

"Sort of! I don’t know if she is going steady with someone, but I know she is steadily trying to grow a beard"

" Atishoo"! You don’t say!"

"I do say! Don’t be so black and white! She’s exploring gender and sexuality - it’s many faces".

She handed me a box of tissue. " You’ll need lots of it I can see!"

Heartspeak

Heartspeak

Intensity is the fire that burns
From the wood of unspoken words and feelings
Arising in the heart
Powered by the inability
Of human language to describe them
I dare not say what I feel in my heart
For words can only spoil it
I dare not look at you too long
For my eyes will spell each word out loud
Deep in your eyes I have written those words
And now your heart wonders -
Unheard, your mind is held to my heart
Words, I fear will drive you away
Why must the heart find voice through words
Why must I give a language to the unspeakable
Words, I fear will drive you away
While unspoken, you are held by my heart

Thought

Thought-
You, in my thought
My thought in you
Are not ours
Thought –
Universal
Moving from mind to mind
A true gypsy…
Elusive, transitory
I try to hold on to
Thoughts of you
I cannot claim
Belong to me
They are like clouds floating
In the vast sky
Rising and dying in the same moment
Elusive, transitory
I try hard not to hold on to

O C B

Slaves of our bodies
Bound by insecurities
The taste of addiction
Written compulsively in our brains
Our lethal desires
Against ourselves and others
Run wild from love to love
Acid words, foul actions
We kill; We maim; We ruin for life
Our lethal weapon
Our need to destroy
Ourselves and - the other
Man
Begotten of man
Where is your love?

Deep Recession

Goodbye Sanity!
Your world is
Too harsh for me
Too many masks to wear
Too heavy to bear.

Hello Insanity!
At least in yours’
I can be sane.

A dark tunnel
Extends from my head
Passing through my spine
To the centre of the earth.

I am sinking
Just dropping
Like birds’ feather
The other end of which
Is tied to a heavy thought.

Darkness always
Reminds me of you
It is ephemeral
You can’t hold it for long
Like you can
Light, resting on an object.
Like you, darkness swallows me.

It is an abyss
Without a bottom
Yet I am relaxed
Just dropping –
No mass; no matter
No matter; no mind
No mind; no thought
Just drifting –

I have left my mind
At your doorstep
It belongs to you.

Here in this world
Ah, Bliss!

The Escapist

I have done it again!

My friendship with Smita is going through the toughest test ever – the crucial question is, is it warth holding on to this friendship of not. I rest within myself unrelenting to any pressure from within myself or from outside to cave in and apologize.

Apologize? Say sorry? What sorry? I am NOT sorry!

I am walking more briskly in the mornings these days and I can feel my heels dig into the ground and leave a mark on the sand everytime. There is a purpose in my every step. No! I don’t want to hear another point of view – my mind is closed.

Case closed! My anger empowers my conviction.

My crime? I have opened my big mouth again. And spoken my truth to Smita.

Smita is a Bharatnatyam dancer and choreographer. She conceptualizes her own dance theatres and is very gifted really. However, she is caught in a mess of her own making. She is trying to prove to herself, that she is not worth it, she does not deserve her laurels. She is hiding behind her 9 year old son, her husband, housework and all the paraphernalia a woman can so easily gather to prove that no, even if the world says she is the most wonderful dancer, she is not what they think.

However, she does try to put in 2 hours of dance every day in her home. Not without it’s problems though. Everytime, she begins, an incessant door bell rings

" Madamji, aapne yeh mangwaya" / " Madamji, aapne mujhe bulaya tha?" – This goes on and on. Inside, the cook asks " Madamji, daal me tamater daalu?"

Better stop the practice! Punctuated by interruptions she tries to go on.

Naturally, when three years ago, she complained for the ‘n’th time to me about how frustrated she felt about not proceeding with her dance, I was unsparing in my word delivery.

" What is the matter with you, Smita?" I had questioned. " What drives you to prove again and again, your need to fail in the world. Do you suffer from an inferiority complex or what? Why are you shying away from the world? You are so talented. Instead of using this talent to change lives in the world, you have chosen to hide in the kitchen and your home. Instead of dancing on stage to an audience, you seem to be engaged in doing the Bharatnatyam around your child, the three maids who come and go. What is the matter with you? Why are you beating yourself up in this manner? "

The words were pointed. They hit where they were meant to hit. We didn’t speak to each other for a long time.

Eventually, she began to work on her next production. The next three-year saw the birth of one of the best dance recitals I have seen in my life. It also brought her an award for best dance theatre performance.

It all boils down to one thing – your concept of yourself. I have met some of the most beautiful women in India, who have told me that deep inside, they feel they are really ugly. I have come across women who were not very privileged to have had higher education or even professional education, yet they saw themselves as greatly gifted and hence they excelled, leaving behind IIT and IIM grads. They believed in themselves. They got counted.

It begins with us individually. Many of us spend years in investing in ourselves, in order that we may be independent. Suddenly, after a marriage we seem to run out of fuel. Phoos! Flat tyre effect! We want to roll back into the roles we saw our mothers perform. In fact, if you remember, these were the very roles you rebelled against to become what you are today. Only to give up? You are unable to bear the market forces around you. You return to what your mother did in her days. However, in your new avatar – you have lots of excuses for doing what you are doing now.

This is a disturbing, growing trend. Therefore, when you have friends who break your self – made cocoon, you might prefer to drop their friendship than to turn around. Anyone powered with a high degree of self worth and self-love will never like to fade away into the woodworks!

When you are talented, educated and have taken trouble to invest in yourself, you need to be out there to make the difference. Being a role model to your children is passe’ – hang on to the bigger picture!

When you insist on remaining at home, you rob your house-help, your children’s caregiver their right to earn bigger bucks. Since you can afford it, you can choose house-help, which is more effective. Pay a higher wage, delegate and empower. Ask for regular reports and intervene whenever required. That way you give rise to a new generation of labour force in your home. Less dependent on you and one that can hold the fort while you take on the job you were meant to do.

More easily said than done.

This brings me back to where I started from – My friendship with Smita is again on the rocks. Ten days ago when she told me that she was planning to bring her ailing mother-in-law to Delhi for treatment that could last anywhere between six months to one year, I lost it.

" Again a speedbreaker? I thundered. " Are there no doctors in Kolkata? No special nursing homes? Can you not find and contribute financially towards some special help and caregiver for your MIL in Kolkata itself? Must you have to bear the burden on your shoulder only? Do you want another "baby" just as your son is grown up enough to look after himself to a certain extent? You want another excuse to stay home? And only the other day you told me that you were so moved by Medha Patkar’s fight for the displaced, you wanted to conceive a dance recital based on the theme of displacement – you want to put all that away and run between hospitals, ambulances, taking care of your MIL? Can her own daughter who lives alone in Kolkata not do that job? What? What pray?" And as the last parting shot I concluded " I don’t have anything more to say to you. You are the pits!"

That did it. My partner flew at me " You have no right to interfere in their private lives"

" Yes, I do," I spat out. " I am Smita’s only true friend. I might be politically incorrect in everything I have said, but for God’s sake, I don’t want to sit on the fence and I don’t want to be polite. I don’t need Smita’s friendship and I hope she does not need mine, except as a source of mutual support"

I left the room. Smita left our house, shaken and thoughtful.

I have not spoken to Smita since then. My partner called last night from an ashram in Rishikesh. She said Smita was coming to spend the weekend at the ashram with her family and then proceeding to Mussourie from there for a week long holiday.

" And what about her mother-in-law?" I asked
" She is not coming yet. It’s off for the moment".




June 09, 2006