Saturday, August 27, 2016

"Hold Fast to Dreams...."

Indian Bloggers

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She stared at the pages of her diary. For the past fifteen days, this diary had been her sole companion. Something had happened to her lately. Nobody knew what. She woke up one morning without any memories. She knew not her name, and who she was. 

In the facility where the doctors were trying to treat her, people came and went. They would come with photographs and other trinkets with which they tried to goad her out of this oblivion. First ones to approach were a child accompanied with his father. The man claimed to be her husband. And the child's little hands craved for her motherly touch. She felt a pang in her heart as she reached out hesitantly to the boy and hugged her to comfort him. But in her heart was just a torment. Who was she? "You are my wife", the man had replied. "Mom", the boy had cried.

Later came an old couple. They were her parents. They embraced her with a touch that gave her some relief. They brought with them stuff that had been dear to her when she had not forgotten anything. Stuff like books, paintings and her favorite food. Her gaze remained vacant as she held each of those things in her hand. "You are our daughter", the couple had pleaded before they left the room.

Some came who were about her age, though she had no idea how old she was. They were a jovial lot, her colleagues. They brought memories from the school she worked in. They humored her with silly jokes. They told her that her students missed her a lot. "You are a teacher, you ought to come back soon", they advised.

A woman simply clad in black and pink dress came and recited her favorite poem to her - Dreams written by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Before leaving the room, her friend tried to remind her that she had had many dreams she wanted to pursue. "One was to write a book, remember?" and saying that she dropped the diary in her hand.

She stared at her diary again. She took a pen and started writing something.

On the first page she wrote - Wife
On the next she wrote - Mother
On the next - Daughter
Then, Teacher.
Then, Dreamer.

Then in capitals, she wrote - WHO AM I?

and she closed the diary shut.

‘This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

Also Linking to IndiSpire #132 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Brick Wall that disappeared......

Indian Bloggers

When I was little, I used to have a dream. It was recurrent. In the dream, I would be walking on an unknown path and in front of me stood a red brick wall. It was shaded with beautiful trees. It would beckon me with its mysterious beauty. I would try to reach it but before I could cover the entire distance between me and the wall, the dream would end, and I would wake up. I don't remember when I stopped having this dream. I did not discuss it with anyone since I believed that if I do that, I would stop having the dream. It was as if I wanted to face that wall in its alluring charm again and again and again. 

I never tried to read into the dream too. My dad had a book about dreams and their meanings which I would stealthily read every time I had some weird dream. But for this one, I did not want to. I wanted no interpretation of that path I was taking, of that wall that seemed to stand in between, and the color red. Now, after all these years, I could interpret it in many ways. Perhaps, my dreamy heart wanted to venture into the unknown horizon and live the adventures it had to offer. Perhaps, the wall stood for the many hurdles I would face in my journey which I would have to overcome. Perhaps the color red signified danger or rashness or aggression or passion. 

The path never appeared  uninviting. I never sensed an unease during or after the dream. I wanted that brick wall to appear right in front of my eyes so that I could cross it and see what lay on the other side.

I never met that brick wall. Or may be I didn't seek hard enough. In some shady nook, in some fanciful corner, it might still exist, waiting for me to reach it, touch it, cross it. 

तुम्हे शिकायत है कि राह में दीवारें बहुत हैं 
मुझे दुःख  इस बात कि चलने की कोशिश ही न की 

(You crib that there are many walls in the way
I regret that I never tried to walk....)

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Linking to #MondayMusings on Everyday Gyaan

Saturday, August 20, 2016


For this post, I have written on Write Tribe's #FridayReflections prompt Chaos — how do you feel about it?  I have done a Free Write as suggested by Suzy Que in a previous post.

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Lot of prompts have been doing a round lately, and some of them have been really good. But for one reason or the other, I have not been able to write- have been either exhausted or busy. This time, the Write Tribe prompt on chaos set me to work...What is it that attracts me so much to the word? I don't know. When I think of chaos, I think also of creation. That's how it has been, right? Out of chaos has come our universe. The universe that we are trying to kill by our prejudices, by our recklessness, by our un-satiating desires. Oceans are dying thanks to the chaos caused by our senseless use of plastic. We try to keep everything clean only by shoving away all that is dirty here and there. But we pretend. We pretend to worry. We make and watch videos. We write and read articles. We like and share posts. We crib and complain over the chaos that is ruining us. But we don't accept that we ourselves are the cause of it all. Rational beings chaotically charged!

So are our thoughts. Where is the order inside our brains? Thoughts seem to burst rather than sprout. We act rashly. We give vent to our anger. We become intolerant because we think the entire world is against us, and hell-bent on hurting us. But we end up hurting only our peace and dignity. Waves of wild anger rise high and wreck our lives. What is left is only chaos. How will we stand again? We need to calm down. We need to stop hurling abuse on others. We need to become receptive. We need to open the gates of our hearts.

Gates - refugees are looking for open gates these days. Fleeing from the chaos caused by atrocity and injustice, they are fleeing to safer places. Many make it, many don't. There are kids who die. Alan Kurdi dies. Omran's picture is trending these days. I writhe in pain at the anguish in those little eyes. My heart bleeds at the sight of Alan's listless body. We are all responsible for their fate. How will we ever be forgiven? Who will grant us forgiveness? How will kids like Omran ever recover from the trauma that has devastated their houses, desecrated the innocence of their childhood, ripped apart their families? Who will bring peace to them? 

Little ones are supposed to smile. They are meant to be bundles of happiness. They are dying - the tiny seeds which were meant to bloom in a well-tended garden - a garden which has been uprooted. I wish some gentle breeze carries them to a meadow of love where springs of love flow. I wish they can smile again.

Smile - it is so essential. It is the thing that can counter chaos. A true, well-meaning smile. Not a sly one. Not a fake one. A smile that is as pure as the laughter of a child who is popping bubbles. A smile that is as chaste as the smile of a baby cooing in response to her mother's songs. 

Why have we forgotten that smile?

Why have we become so tumultuous and explosive?

Why are we ready to burst? 

Why do we love to bring chaos in other's lives when we hate to have it in our own?

My mind is in disarray.

Chaos takes over. 

I can write no more.

Linking to Write Tribe's #FridayReflections

Friday, August 12, 2016

Book Review - The Story of a Suicide by Sriram Ayer

In 2012, I sat in front of my TV anxiously awaiting the judgement that would be meted out to Dharun Ravi, an Indian immigrant student at Rutgers University, New Jersey. He had through a webcam witnessed his room-mate Tyler Clementi's private moments with his boy-friend and later on had invited other friends and Twitter followers to witness the same through his web-cam. (The second part however never happened.) The entire incident resulted in Tyler Clementi's suicide.

As I sat watching the trial on my TV, I was at loggerheads as to where my sympathy should lie. I saw Tyler's mom waiting for a fair judgement. Her son would never return. Her loss was irreparable. On the other hand was this boy whose immaturity had landed him and his family in such a terrible situation. Dharun's mother sat in a corner weeping silently, praying for minimum punishment possible for her son. Dharun was charged on account of invasion of privacy. His crime was not categorized under 'hate crime' or 'discrimination' since nowhere did he show bias towards Clementi's being gay.

The case reflected how a foolish use of technology had ruined so many lives. It highlighted how important it was for us as parents, and for the society as a whole to act responsibly. If only, kids like Dharun knew that they had no right to invade the privacy of others. If only, kids like him realized that whatever they do could have serious consequences. And also, if only kids like Clementi had the love and unconditional support of their friends and family. If only kids like him knew that they would be accepted and loved for who they were.

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The Story of a Suicide

I began my post with the case of Dharun and Clementi because when I read The Story of  a Suicide by Sriram Ayer, I was reminded strongly of that tragedy. But the book however has more issues to deal with then just this. The key players of the story are Hari, Mani, Sam, Aditya, Priya, Charu and Alex. Hari's parents, 'He', and the twitter friends are important too in the role they play in the development of the plot.  The title of the novel is well-chosen. This is the narrative of not a man or a woman committing suicide. It is the story of suicide itself - how it happens, what factors or forces are responsible for shaping it up. It is not as if an individual decided to end his/her life and went about doing it. There are circumstances that make it happen. The novel is an exploration of those determinants at work.

I am going to divide my post according to the themes I felt are crucial in understanding the story as a whole. Then, I will conclude showing how each theme intertwines in the plot to bring about a completion in the narrative.


The narrative of the novel hinges on the thread of insubordination. There are different levels of disobedience that are examined in the story. To begin at the beginning is Sam and his relationship with Priya. As becomes evident quite early, Sam is driven into technology so much that he can see nothing else around himself. His inattentive involvement with Priya ends their relationship. Tweets are more important than a meaningful conversation. But when Priya calls it off, Sam's ego is hurt, really hurt. If we begin to feel that he might really be in love, Charu enters and Sam is floored by her beauty and confidence. But Charu is a very different woman. It is never clear how committed she is with Sam. There are points of confusion, moments when she wants to fully surrender to Sam, and then when she completely cuts him off. Sam is a typical male in this regard. The conversations he has with Aditya, and the tweets he makes about women, reveal how he objectifies the female body. The disregard he meets at the hands of Charu and the rejection from Priya are way too much for him to handle.

Then, there is the failed disobedience of Hari with 'He'. The way 'He' traumatizes Hari as a child and the inability of Hari to oppose it is very poignantly handled in the novel.

Mani's failed attempt to commit suicide as he is unable to cope with the pressure of studies is another example of insubordination - his refusal to accept the standards set by society due to his 'inabilities'.

These three are different kinds of non-compliant behaviors at work in the novel.

Abuse and Negligence

In the stories of Hari and Mani are hidden the accounts of countless kids and teenagers who suffer due to parental negligence and social expectations. The pressure to stay within the bounds of conformity are too much to handle. The inability to see that abuse is lurking right under their nose is the cause of much misfortune. Hari is unable to overcome the childhood trauma even when it is not physically present. The scars left on his soul are sore wounds that refuse to heal. For Mani, it is the expectations society has from toppers that intimidates him and threatens to undo him. Both the boys find in each other a possibility of a relationship that will be based on trust and understanding. But past blemishes are not so easy to rid of, and so their relationship too walks on a tightrope.

An intruder called 'Technology'

It may well be argued whether it is technology or its senseless use that is the cause of all the trouble. I feel, that it is both. Technology has entered so much into our lives, it seems to have invaded our sanity too. The addictive spell of technology and the rashness of youth is not so great a combination. The urge to post our 'status', to lure of remaining 'anonymous', the ignorance of thinking that with anonymity we can also wash our hands off our mistakes, to live more in the 'virtual' rather than the 'real' world around us - all this remains central to the plot.

At the same time however, we can not overlook the larger patriarchal forces at work. The hegemonic ideas we conform to, the disciplines we consider 'normal' and 'normative' and the standards we maintain to 'judge' and 'punish' people go a long way in determining why we act the way we do.

Conclusion - Punishment and Patriarchy

 The 'disobedient' women in the novel, the docile child, the failed student, the enraged boyfriend, the unhappy parents - they all work in a given social set-up. They have become what they are in a society that has certain rules of decorum, certain definitions of respectability, certain stereotypes based on which men and women are expected to behave. Although homosexuality is not directly attacked in the story, the fact that it remains closeted in the novel speaks volumes about the homophobia at work. The tragic end of the novel is shaped by forces which were working on getting some other results, but which may very well have brought about a similar fate if homosexuality was directly targeted. As Gayle Rubin has rightly said, " The suppression of the homosexual component of human sexuality, and by corollary, the oppression of homosexuals, is .... a product of the same system whose rules and relations oppress women." The bonding between Sam and Aditya, the fetishizing of the body of the woman in the conversations they have, and the 'desire' to 'correct' the 'aberrant' behavior of the beloved are instances which reveal a sadist misogyny at work. When Charu writes the FB post where she boldly uses words that would be taboo in a polite society, she is breaking the rules of patriarchy that does not expect a woman to have a voice. The "homosocial" (borrowed from Eve Sedgewick's book Between Men ) planning of Sam and his friends is very much in keeping with the ideology of patriarchy that sits on dominance, discipline and punishment. The 'dominant' absolute male considers it his right to punish the intractable 'body' of the woman. She will remain an object of desire, a spectacle, and also a subject of punishment. 

This same 'patriarchy' maintains a structure and places individuals accordingly. In such a set-up, it leaves no room for what it considers 'deviant' and hence there is no place for the 'third sex'. This provokes an 'indifferent' mentality towards homosexuality. It cannot be 'recognized' because no-body in the patriarchal set-up will acknowledge it. Hari's parents are the representatives of this very ideological positioning in the society. The dream sequence that Hari's father, Mr. Hegde has reveals that he is somehow aware of his son's 'different' leanings. The author insinuates that even through the account of Haridas, the labourer, who is revered in the theater but condemned outside. It is through the imagery of 'dance' that Mr. Hegde feels that his son's life is in 'danger'. The dream reflects the opposing forces Mr. Hegde is caught in between. There are 'beasts' out there who will kill his son, he screams. But what or who those beasts are is something he does not ponder over, or may be he does not want to.

He, like most of the heterosexual, hegemonic, homophobic society, refuses to acknowledge its presence. And for that reason, even in the book, the theme of homosexuality rests on the hinges of the narrative. It is there, very much there for us to probe, to understand, if only we are sensitive enough to give it its deserved space.

Abuse becomes the tool of 'discipline' and 'punishment'.

The illustrations of the book are hazy yet powerful. They reflect the confusion and chaos of a society that wears the pretense of politeness. Like the dream sequences in the story, they are at times blunt and catch you off-guard. They tease us out of our oblivion. They mock, they prick, they interrogate. 

Time to interrogate

Each chapter of the novel has a set of questions for the reader to brood over. These questions are exercises of introspection and analysis. They are meant not just for those who suffer a heart-break, or are abused. They are also meant for the supposed power-holders of the society - those who wish to judge, discipline and punish others. The relevance of this kind of interrogation is crucial since the way we handle the incidents in our life can make or break us. These questions are meant to evoke a response that can help us handle rejections, promote and practice compassion, and develop an understanding for those who are 'different' from us, but still as human as we are.

The havoc that is wrecked in the novel happens much with the aid of social media and the brutally indifferent use of technology. Thus it is imperative for the care-givers, the parents, the teachers and the guardians of our society to teach well the kids and the youngsters on how to use it to achieve harmony and not create chaos. 

Following are some important points I feel we need to go over: 

1) We need to understand and respect everyone's right to privacy.
2) We need to realize that whatever we do has consequences. Responsibility for an act, done anonymously or otherwise, can never be done away with. 
3) We need to teach the kids from an early age that the desire to possess can only bring about ruin. Freedom, and space in a relationship are the foundation of healthy relationships. 
4) If someone says No, we need to respect that decision.
5) We should assert our refusal powerfully if our dignity is threatened. To hide the matter, no matter how much we are afraid, can only bring more abuse. We have to speak up before it is too late.
6) As friends, we need to pay attention to each other when we are low. A confident and caring person is all we need in times of crisis.
 7) Virtual life, no matter how addictive, remains just that. It can never replace the authentic, committed relationships we can actually have if only we are willing. What is not out there is just a chimera. It can create illusions, and hallucinations, and can take you away from the real world. It can ruin you. 
8) Conversations - talking and listening - can really help someone in need.. We ought to pay attention to signs and words. Don't overlook just because you don't like it. Our likes and dislikes are less important that a life in pain. That life can be saved if we are vigilant.
9) Accept who you are, even when you are different from others. Be proud of yourself. 

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This post is written in response to Indiblogger IndiChange Topic - Review the book The Story of a Suicide by Sriram Ayer

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale

Indian Bloggers

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Last night, I finished reading Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale. After I put down the novel, I wondered what it was that glued me to war novels so much. What was it that made me want to read and re-read novels that talked of pain and misery and atrocity and injustice and what not? It wasn't that the pain I lived through with the characters made me happy. Then, what was it? In Hannah's novel, I seemed to find the answer - 

It was the beginning and end of everything, the foundation and the ceiling and the air in between. It didn't matter that she was broken and ugly and sick. He loved her and she loved him. All her life she had waited - longed for - people to love her, but now she saw what really mattered. She had known love, been blessed by it. (The Nightingale, P-428)

The Nightingale is a novel not just about war. It is also about two sisters, Isabelle and Vianne, trying to find peace, trying to stitch back their lives together - lives that have been ripped apart by the monstrosity of hostility. It is a tale that affirms life. It is a saga that testifies to the values we stand by - values which exist on both sides. 

 Isabelle and Vianne are different personalities. The way they respond to situations reflect their demeanor. It is also a cause of misunderstanding between the two. Isabelle seems too volatile to Vianne, and Vianne is too lukewarm for Isabelle. It is the war that brings out a different side of each of them.  Dire times test them in excruciating ways. One longs for love, the other for peace. They both 'participate' in the war in different ways - one by helping save the Allied soldiers, and the other by rescuing the Jewish children. For them, war is a reality they live with every single day. As Vianne rightly says, "We did what we had to during the war, and when it was over, we picked up the pieces and started our lives over." Women suffer the loss of friends, of family, of dignity and respect.  They 'wait' for all of this to get over so that they can start afresh. Vianne wonders whether she should forget everything, as if it was possible. But Antoine, her husband, reminds her that it is only in "remembering" that they will be able to renew life. 

Hannah explores the grounds of morality on which we judge people and ourselves through the characters of Herr Beck and Vianne. When the 'good' captain billets at Vianne's house, what begins is a shaky interrogation of what constitutes 'right' and 'wrong'. Everything is not black and white. Even the meting out of justice, as becomes evident with Beck's departure and Herr Richter's arrival. Who do we kill, and why? Who do we let live, and why? The book seeks to elicit a response from the reader.

In the end is the beginning. I will not reveal what,since I do not want to spoil it for those who have not read the book. But the beginning rests on the edifice of pain and loss and suffering. It seems to tell you to live, to love, to smile while you have time. It seems to tell you to remember too since forgetting is not the right way. In remembering, we realize what matters truly. The Nightingale will always sing a song where ever there is love. 

There are a few lines that have etched in my mind permanently. I do not know why. They keep coming back to me. They may not affect you the way they did me but still I will share them here as I end this post.

She was the first woman to queue up outside the shop this morning, and because of that, she got her full ration of butter. One hundred grams for the month. Two-thirds of a cup.
A treasure. (P- 105)

Linking to #MondayMusings on Everyday Gyaan

Saturday, August 6, 2016


When my son's first grade was over, he brought home lot of material - like worksheets completed in school, journals written in the classroom, craft-work etc.... I always like to go through all that he has done, like most mothers. And more so, because it gives me a peek into his mind. 

The journals that his teacher made the kids write was all about the things that happened everyday. So, it was more like a diary. The best part about reading a kid's diary is that there is no beating about the bush. They write their mind, literally. There is no 'construction' of the 'self' for the reader. They are autobiographies in their purest form. There is no embellishment of any sort. There are words that convey what happened, and there are pictures scribbled with the best possible effort. 

One such entry in the journal was 'Mother'. They had to write some things/facts about their mothers. It surprised me that he observed me so closely. He was correct on most of the things - like what I like to do, where I like to go etc. But the thing that struck me the most, the thing that touched me and tickled me to the core was the answer to the question - What do you like the most about your mom?

My son's answer was brief and straight - My mom never breaks a promise.

I cannot utter in words what this made me feel. I have told him time and again that a promise to yourself, or to your friend is something you ought to keep. There have been times when he saw that despite difficulties, I kept my word. He would ask me why and I would reply 'because I had promised'. I feel proud that he is imbibing that positive trait from me. A few words came to my mind and I write them here:

To be a true friend
Be true to your word
To be a good person
Be true to your word
A promise you make
Defines not who you are
But a promise you keep
Speaks volumes about you

Sometime back, I wrote a poem with my son in mind. You can read it here - Darkness Scares me Not, It Stares at my Greatness - We all are great if we choose to.... 

To read previous posts written for #BarAthon, see below:

Friday, August 5, 2016


"How are you Sonia?" Papa's tone was so confident when he asked this question. As if he already knew the answer. Mum had been a little shaky at first but she believed in Papa's decisions with the simple sincerity of a wife. 

"I am fine Papa" was Sonia's reply to both of them. 

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"I knew it", came the assured response from the other side. After a brief conversation Sonia hung up the phone. 

Papa had chosen the best match for her. He made sure that the boy was not just good-looking, something she too had wanted and also got. Papa saw the salary, the background, the home, the locality....everything. Like most fathers, he wanted his daughter to get the best. 

Like most fathers, her father-in-law had acted in the best interest of his son too. He had chosen for his son a beautiful, confident but obedient bride from a similar background. He too bragged about his wise decision.

Only Sonia and her husband knew the truth. She found it out when she discovered his picture with his boy-friend. He had lost courage before his overpowering father. She wanted to help him. The few days they had been together, she had fallen in love with him. He was gentle unlike most men she had known in her life. That he would reciprocate her feelings was just wishful thinking

Still she wanted to help - help him and herself. But she didn't know how......

Linking to Blog-a-rhythm's Day 6 of the #BarAthon #Blogging Challenge 

Thursday, August 4, 2016


Soumya looked at them again. Then, she picked them up, and caressed them. The gentle grey and the soft pink colors played in her eyes, and perhaps in her memory too. She was in that room, but only physically. Her mind was transported somewhere else along with her heart. She was of slim built. Her hands were long, and her fingers thin and lean. In those slender but long hands, the tiny shoes looked even tinier. She hugged them, once again. Then, she lifted her head as if she was woken from a trance. She looked around. The room was scattered with clothes. Her four year old daughter was busy playing with some trinkets she had just taken out from the closet.

"Devika, can you come here, my dear?" She called out to her daughter.

The little girl took some sprightly steps towards her and landed in her lap.

"Look at these shoes. These were your first walking shoes. You took your first little steps wearing them."

Devika looked at them. "Pretty", she said. Then, she held the tiny shoes in her hand for a moment. Something else caught her attention the next minute. " lost dollie....", she loosened her mom's grip dropping the shoes from her hands, and jumped away.

With a sigh, Soumya picked up the shoes.

They don't mean anything to her at this age. And why will they? I am the one whose mind is filled with memories of those days. The many moments I have spent with her, the times I have fallen with her, the instants I have cried with her, feeling the pain of the cuts and scrapes on her knees and hands. It is me who is more attached to these tiny shoes. They are not just shoes for me. They are part of my motherhood. But to her, they are just shoes that don't fit anymore......... Baby shoes, how I had searched for the best I could afford for her, going from one shop to another....... Baby shoes are so pricey. The cuter they look....... the pricier they get....But I stole a deal that day, thank my lucky stars.....

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She touched the shoes one more time. Even though her daughter had used them so often, they were in the best condition. Unspoiled, un-torn, and beautiful.

They can be really useful for someone....another little girl like mine....someone's little princess.....They might brighten her eyes as she will look at these little beauties....hmm....I will miss them.....but.....that's not important.....Some other mom like might be able to smile as she watches her angel walk in these gems....

Her hands hesitated. Her heart ached. She put them in a bag and dropped them in the box labelled DONATION.

Linking to Blog-a-rhythm's  Day 5 of the #BarAThon #blogging challenge

Greed or Sacrifice....?

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Race for sovereignty
He who is caught red-handed
Wins the race, but loses -
Loses hand to gain the land
Crushes might with mind
Thirst for the crown it is -
Or a mark of bravery?
Wisdom or foolery?

Or manifestation of ultimate sacrifice?

The prompt 'caught red-handed' has its probable origins in a Celtic legend. It had nothing to do with being caught in the act. It was used just literally - with blood on the hand. A king (some say he was Niall of the Nine Hostages, but it is debated) wanted to choose his heir. But he was unable to decide between his two sons. A race was held. Whoever touched the shore of Ulster would be crowned. The prince who was lagging behind, cut his hand and threw it on the shore before his brother could reach the finish line and hence was declared the king. 

The story made me think about sacrifice as well as greed. The prince who cut his hand must have been motivated by some strong urge or emotion. What was that emotion? Was it the love for his kingdom? Was it his princely duty? Or was it an overpowering desire? Who knows? 

Linking to Blog-a-Rhythm's Day 4 of #BarAthon Blogging Challenge

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Frangible Sculptures

Indian Bloggers

Holding on to their fragile lives
They ran, they stumbled
Etched in stone forever
Hot lava turning cold
Life's warmth sucked away
But not the hope
Still they are there
Still Clinging to their fragile lives 
Young and Old
Master and Slave
Mother and Child
Father and Son
Pregnant then
Plastered now
Brought back to 'life'
Shatterable Life
Frangible Sculptures
Frozen in time....

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The devastation of the city of Pompeii in Italy due to the eruption of the deadly volcano, Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD, left behind a strange spectacle. Those who see it are filled with an awe, an angst, an unspeakable feeling. I have not visited the place but seen the pictures which stunned me. This poem is my response to the fatal result of that disaster.

Linking to Blog-a-rhythm's Day 3 of #BarAthon Challenge

Monday, August 1, 2016

Begin with a Clean Slate

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For today's prompt, I remembered the Zen story of the overflowing cup. Many of you might be familiar with it. For those who are not, let me narrate it in my own words....

Once upon a time, a learned man went to a well-known Zen master to gain knowledge. The Zen master welcomed him. The man was very knowledgeable and wanted to seek enlightenment from the wise teacher. The man spoke many things to the master about what he knew. The master heard him quietly. Then, he offered him tea. The master started pouring the tea. The man watched with much astonishment that the master was continuing to overfill the cup, and when the tea started spilling from the cup, he urged the master to stop. He could make no sense of what the teacher was doing. He asked him in exasperation, to which the teacher replied," Just like this cup, you are overflowing too - with your own thoughts and opinions. If you need Zen, you need to empty up first."

This story tells us by way of a very simple example the mistakes we commit when we seek knowledge and wisdom. We often perceive ourselves as wise. We look at things subjectively but presume that we are fair and objective. Our quest is limited because we do not open our minds completely. Our prejudices, preconceived notions of what is or ought to be often limit us. 

Confucius has rightly said that "Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance." In order to know more, you need to first accept that your knowledge is not absolute. In order to know what you don't know, you have to begin with a clean slate. Previously held thoughts and ideas can create hurdles in the path to enlightenment much like the way it happens in the above story. To be able to explore, you need to expand your horizon. You need to retrace your steps with every new bit of wisdom you gain. To experience the vastness of the ocean, you need to abandon your pond. To embrace the immensity of the sky, you need to open your doors and windows and venture out. Like a child, you need to crawl, then wobble, then walk, then climb, then fall, then learn, then climb again. 

De-clutter the mind first. Only then can a fresh space be created. 

Stranger Than Fiction

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"If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this : In love, we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are."

So begins the best-seller The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. The book is a fictional rendering of World War II and the German occupation of France by the Nazis. It tells the story of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, who have natures completely opposite to each other. The novel deals with issues of heroism, bravery, patriotism, treachery, the necessity of survival, and the irony of the morality we live by. This post, however, is not about the novel. This post is about that recurrent figure Isabelle relates to in the novel. That figure is straight from real life. That figure is a part of that shameful history we all inherit. That figure is of the British nurse Edith Cavell, whose life was much stranger than fiction.

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Hundred years ago, and this is not a tale, a nurse by the name of Edith Cavell in German-occupied Brussels, was executed by the German firing squad. The date was October 12, 1915. Her only crime was her compassionate humanity. She had aided soldiers from both sides during the First World War. It is said that she saved more than 200 Allied soldiers and sent them back to their country. The Germans considered this treason which was punishable by death. 

There was no alternative punishment for this crime as per German law. No other country could come to the rescue of the nurse who had saved so many lives. Edith, in her last moments, said that for her "...patriotism was not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone." She also wanted to be remembered forever as a "nurse" who had done her "duty", and not as a martyr. But her execution enraged the Allies. Edith was a woman who wanted to spread the message of only love and humanity. Her death was a blow to humanity itself. The Americans joined the war too. 

Did Edith know no fear? She said that she had seen "death so often" that it doesn't feel "strange or fearful" to her. 

Isablle in The Nightingale, does feel fear. She wants to be "brave" like "Edith Cavell risking her life" but she is "scared". 

In case you are thinking that Isabelle's character is modeled after Edith, I must tell you one more thing. During the Second World War, another woman, as brave as Edith, would emerge. Her name was Adrienne de Jongh and she played a prominent part in aiding Allied soldiers against the Nazis. Isabelle's character is close to de Jongh. 

Life is a twisted tale. Much twisted than fiction. Much stranger than fiction.

Linking to Day 1 of the #BarAThon Challenge by Blog-A-Rhythm