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


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.