Random musings of a wandering soul

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Unmyth

Unmyth
———–

Anointed, adjudged
From the time thoughts were born
Determined, Invincible
Protector, Nurturer
Strong

And so we did
Showed a face
With no tears
Nor a grimace
Pained?
Oh, but we’re used to it
Betrayed?
But that’s life
Tired?
There’s so much more to do
Attacked?
Ssshhh…lest more followed
Defeated?
Not us, never.

And we marched on
Screaming silently
Crying without tears
Holding everything in
Smiling in a straight line
Hearts wrenching inside
For we are the strong ones
The indomitables

Eyes moulded into steel
Souls into iron
Calluses fed our hands
Lead seeped into our feet
Before we knew
It was all a myth
Wrought to keep us chained
The strong woman
Who takes in all
Without even a whimper

But you know what?
Wars are not for us,
We don’t want to win
We just need to breathe
Unanoint, let us be
Real, Unmyth.

The Last Letter

Our family was never ‘photographic.’ Search high and low, far and wide, it is next to impossible to find pictures of us from childhood. Now that I think about it, we have seen more pictures of our mother as a kid than  those of the five of us put together. Did my parents have an aversion to studios, I wonder. Or maybe they just didn’t have the time, in between bringing up the brood.

There were letters galore, though. Staying in the small town of Alleppey, a grandmother in the nearby village of Kavalam and a set of grandparents in neighbouring village of Pulincunnu, the letters were mostly triangular. I do remember my father’s strong, slanted handwriting, those were official writings in blue black Chelpark ink, though. The blue inland letters were always feminine. The neat and tidy, tiny words from Kavalam and the large, rounded words, as perfect as her fluffy palappams, from Pulincunnu. Telephones were rare and letters were the only form of communication, unless someone visited. Yes, I was reared in pre historic times 🙂

We were forced into this habit as we grew up. As the eldest in both sides of the family, the onus of keeping this tripartite communication alive slowly fell on me. And it would be a lie if I told you I didn’t enjoy it. We were masters of space management, the two grandmothers and me. We would first take up all the space in the three ‘pages’ of the inland, then write on the margins , sometimes even in the space provided for the return address. Born story tellers, we were. My paternal grandmother would even add some sentences in English and would remind us from time to time with a twinkle in her eyes, “I was taught by European nuns, unlike the less fortunate you.”

Count of coconuts, accounts of activities in the yard, the state of mangoes that year, the feasts in the church, maids come and gone, family news of old retainers, births, weddings and deaths, visits from relatives – letters from the paternal side was more in the nature of a statement of account – what came in and what went out. The maternal ones were, well, more maternal in nature. Rounds of how each member of the family was faring, each of us kids asked for by name, news of cows giving birth along the women in the family who followed suit, chickens and ducklings hatched and snatched by eagles and crows, the letters were more about what grew and did not. As holidays neared, we would wait eagerly to know who would be coming when to take us home. For, home was never the house we stayed in ten months round the year. Home was always where the heart was – split between two villages.

When did we as siblings start writing to each other? The first ones would definitely have been from me, the first one to leave the pack to far away Ernakulam. Who did what in the hostel, which audit I was on, which clients provided the best food for free, there was nothing that the family did not know of. And in return, I continued to get news of what was happening back in the two villages, the parents had shifted back to Kavalam by then. The triangle turned into a square as another corner was added. One of the sisters got married off to the till then uncharetered territory of northern Kerala.

It was three years after her marriage that we lost one of us. There were hardly any pictures to remember her by, not that any of us needed it. Bonds of heart are far stronger than the most beautiful of pictures, we have realised since then, as we lost our mother a few years later. There are moments though, when we long for a touch, a word or two in their voices, something, anything, that was tangible. Not to remember them,   just to feel their presence, even if it was for a few ephemeral moments.

There are some books that are my favourites. They have a strange habit of disappearing at frequent and infrequent intervals. And they reappear months , sometimes years later, right in time when I need them. Only when I need them. It was a prayer book this time, an unusual one. The one that was my solace in my years of questioning God, those years of searching for the meaning of everything. Had it gone missing, or was it that I’d forgotten about it? I don’t remember. But it was definitely one of those days, when the yearning was too strong, the longing too difficult to get over, that it resurfaced. Surprising me. With a letter, the last one she’d written to me. Maybe the last one she’d written to anyone.

It’s 21 years today, since the then 21 year old wrote it.

What would we remember each other by, I wonder. Facebook posts, Instagram pictures, long forgotten Tweets? And I shudder.

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Zen and the Art of Pillion Riding

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Dreams come true, always. The best part is, sometimes it happens even if you are not longing  for it. In the small town that I grew up in, it was only a brother’s bike that a girl could hop on. Or a husband’s. In either case, the girl sat demurely, with both legs on one side, wearing a salwar or saree. Not much fun. We got to see the adventurous ones only on movie screens. Was it Priya Raman or Amala that ignited a spark, I don’t remember. Anyway, the dream was short lived and life went on to other dreams.

Many years later, I asked a colleague of mine for a lift. There is a smile on my face as I remember his answer, ” I’m on a bike, are you sure?” “The boring auditor on my bike?” he might have wondered. The crazy and often unpredictable twists and turns of life gave a poetic answer to that question, for I landed a permanent position on his bike and in his heart. The rides were short lived as we moved on to dignified seats in a red Maruti 800.

Ten years and eight four wheelers later, there was a sigh, ” I want to buy a super bike.” The answer was a surprise, he says, “What’s stopping you?”

Riding together is like living together. It takes time, to find the rhythm. First came the cult one, the Yamaha MT – 01. The macho, muscled one. A killer in looks and power, his first love and mine too. For a sedentary pack of lazybones that I was, the speedster Suzuki GSXR was beyond reach. That was for the boy that lived on inside the man’s heart. To race , on road and on tracks. Life then moved on to adventure and touring. We had ‘Triumph’-ed. The Tiger Explorer XC

Geared up, the test ride if one could say so was to home base. Bangalore to Kochi and back, in the heat of summer. We don’t take things halfway, you see.

That was more than two years ago. A few brief rides in between, it was as if life and its routine hassles had taken over. Some incidents and certain people shake you out of your reverie, reminds you that you may not have all the time in the world, for all the things you wanted to do in life. And thus started the best phase, and it goes on.

It’s the rhythm. Each bike, every rider, has one. Takes time , effort and an open mind for the pillion rider to find it. Especially for one like me, who doesn’t even ride a bicycle. Most of us girls when young, have this romantic notion of a fast paced bike, you hugging the rider tight, a beatific smile on your faces, and your long and silky hair waving along in the wind. Reality check. Life is harsh. The first shock, “Can you move a little away?” “How dare he? Where is all the love? The romance?” I was livid. It took a few hours of ride in the scorching sun for realisation to dawn. The heavy leather that covers your entire body, add the protective stuff over almost every joint, the balaclava and the helmet and then an equally heavy body on your back? Even the hulk would balk.

The first lesson – space. As in life, we need our own. Not to separate, but to enjoy the brief moments of connect. Over time you realize, as in a good marriage, an overdose of proximity can be suffocating on a ride as well. The brief touch on your knee that asks without words, “are you alright?” It says a lot, much more than a thousand and one meaningless utterings of love. Khalil Gibran must have been a rider, I’m sure. What he said of marriage , is exactly what a rider would say,

” But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.”

The seasons. They change, from mile to mile.

The Sun. He is gentle in the mornings, warming your face and waking you up. As the day goes on, it gets harsh, burns you down, scorches your throat, sucks the life giving water out of you. Short breaks, splashes of water on your face and down your throat, you are ready again. To face whatever comes along. Together.

The rains. You can either get wet or dance in it. Wasn’t it Bob Marley who said something to that effect?  Another wise one. It was on the ride back from Goa. Two and half hours of it. Glorious rain, in all forms. First, a drizzle. Then the tantalising one, on and off, a gentle downpour now, disappearing after a few minutes, only to come back then. The harsh one, from an impossible angle, like pin pricks on your body. The mighty one next. Along with the wind, threatening to topple you. Flooded roads, the gale forcing your whole body to a side, it’s a dangerous one. You can sense the rider struggling to keep his balance, slowing down to keep his rhythm, taking care his fellow rider is safe. Life. When it shakes you up, follow the lead. Move with him, this is not the time to go solo. As you ride out, you know that was one of the best phases. Wet to the core, yet lit with joy. The dance of a life time.

The wind. The life saver, the life giver. Can be a killer too, when it gets too hot to handle. Changing from moment to moment, it can soothe you, cajole you back into life or burn and scorch you. Doesn’t give you much choice, the only choice, go with it. Ride it out, without complaints. Because, the best is yet to be.

The curves. Season, you ask? Oh girl, you just have no clue, I say. Have you taken that bypass from Salem to Coimbatore? The one that goes over the highway? The sharp curve on that? That was my first one. Next best thing to being an eagle, its like soaring in the high skies. Wings steady and strong, floating in the wind. Some think they are dangerous, it’s all how you take it, is all I can say. Perfect moments of togetherness, two as one, just space and rhythm. It’s in you, to turn it into a graceful dance. Or not. The most dangerous moments, they can be the best of all. Be in sync and make it. Go alone and break it.

Many a ride and more curves later, I realize riding pillion is like Tao. Let go. Go with the flow. Follow the wind. Just be.

And, enjoy the curves. Better still, live for them!

Guardian Angel

alexisFriends are like books. Some are thrust on you, some come recommended, some you get to know through other books, sometimes you like what it looks like and take an effort to get to know what is inside. Then there are those rare ones, that seem to be just waiting for the right moment. It is as if you were destined to meet, you would not have heard about it ever, but the moment you lay your eyes on the jacket and read the blurb, you know your life is never going to be the same again. The connection is instant, and you treasure them for life. They inspire you, guide you and talk to you like no other can, the impact is beyond definition.

Solitude, when thrust upon you, transforms itself into loneliness. It was during one such period seven years ago that I turned to blogging. Confined to bed, lest my impatient daughter came out earlier than expected, the boredom was frustrating. Blogging was very new to me, and I could not understand why people would want to share their lives with total strangers. The first two posts were tentative, more like testing the water in an ice cold river with the tip of my toes. When you talk about something that you really love, words flow easily. If the person on the other side share that love, the connect is instant and the conversation turns into pure joy. The third post was straight from the heart, friends who know me well would know my obsession about ducks. Incidentally, wordpress statistics for the past two years say that most people who wandered in here was lured by ducks and ducklings. Anyway, let me not digress. So, imagine my pleasant surprise when someone whom I never knew before came in and started talking about my soul food and the nostalgia of my favorite haunts.

He went missing in the next couple of posts, but by then I was a die hard fan of his blog. The admiration for his writing turned into awe as I learned more about him as a person and a ‘survivor’ as he has named himself in his blog. Reading about people who have survived major accidents and setbacks in life always leave you with a pang in your heart. But as you  rush along with life’s strong and powerful currents, they are soon forgotten. This was someone different, he had to face a painful setback just when his dreams were coming true; and he refused to leave my mind.  A major factor could have been a selfish pride that someone as awesome as him considered what I wrote worth commenting on.

Books are one of the few obsessions I have sustained since childhood and for me the ultimate anyone can be is being an author and a successful one at that. The fact that my new friend was an accomplished author was an added thrill and there I was, dreaming about getting autographed copies of all his books that I was ready to go out and buy. It lasted till I read the list of his books – all Greek, Latin and even Arabic to the dummy that I was and still is. But then, it is not for nothing that Paulo Coelho said that the whole universe conspires when you really long for something. I jumped and grabbed at his offer to send me an autographed copy of his first non-technical book. The fact that it was about something and someone whom I knew about was the proverbial cherry on the topping.

The friendship grew as we hopped to and from our respective blogs. In true Kerala Nasraani style, we even found common relatives. His posts continued to inspire and awe me, and his sense of humor was inimitable. His comments on my posts were something that I looked forward to eagerly. Even after a couple of long breaks in between, the moment I came back, there he was, with his encouraging words. Common interests were varied, hilarious tales from college, kids and their wise words, reading, life, he even shared recipes, how could I not love him? His writings are thought provoking, the style is simple, down to earth and no nonsense  and he talks straight to your heart. You are never left wondering how he would be in real life, his words tell us what his soul is. My only gripe is, off late his posts are few and far in between.

Who is he and why am I writing about him, you ask? Well, I would let Reader’s Digest talk about the who part. As for the why, what I write about here is normally about people, incidents and places that have touched me to the core , changed me for the better, or has left a deep impression on me. When all these come together, how can I not share the joy with you all?

This is to send out a big thank you to someone who barely knew me and has turned out to be  a part of my life, who takes the time out to encourage and reach out , and most of all, believe in me and what I am capable of.

Dear Alexis, this is also a salute from my heart to the true survivor that you are , to the inspiration that you are to so many and to that never dying spirit that always strive to look at the bright side of things. If I can be even a quarter of the great human being that you are, I could say that I have lived a good life.

 

p.s. you can read more about him here

Wonderful Tonight

The family came in when we were half way through our dinner. Husband and wife in their late forties, a teenaged son and another son who was ready to get in to his teens. A weekday evening in Kochi, we were the only ones in the restaurant. Maybe that’s why I started watching them. A typical father and mother talking to their kids, discussing the routine things in life. Very much at ease with each other, they portrayed a typical couple probably after twenty years of their marriage. They sat looking through the menu, passing a comment here and there, admonishing the lively younger one now and then.

The band – a lone guy strumming on his guitar – started playing. Maybe he didn’t feel too enthused with the crowd of just two tables that day. That is when my client suggested let us give some requests. Going over a few old time favorites, finally we selected this beautiful song. The waiter collected the strip of paper from us, the singer took a look at it and started strumming his guitar and I was watching the family. Suddenly their eyes sparkled, they looked at each other and their eyes conveyed a myriad of emotions in a second and they turned their chairs towards the singer and sat engrossed. Slowly I could see their hands entwining each other. The elder son had seen that paper going from our table and gave me a wink when he caught my eye. He knew this song was a special one in his parent’s lives. It was as if the sun had risen in full at their table and took them a long way back . It was wonderful to watch a small spark kindling something much bigger in an instant. The romantic in me chose to believe that we made their night that day.

And here I dedicate this evergreen number to all friends of mine – the romantics, the not so romantics, even the unromantics. You guys out there, serenade us with our favorite songs, all we need is some tender loving care, a walk by the moonlight, a dinner by the light of some candles, a few stars out in the sky… Happy Weekend everyone!

>When is enough, enough?

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[Caution :- A long post]

He was suave, flamboyant and known as a ladies man. She was mature, studious and considered to be level headed. They were classmates and acquaintances in the first three years of their engineering and got close to each other in the last year. Both of them landed in Bangalore after getting placed to two well known IT companies. Considered poles apart, when they decided to get married, most of their friends tried to dissuade them. Needless to say, they went right ahead with their plans since their respective families had no problems.

I was the elder sister she had never had, she used to say. We were hostel mates and I knew what was happening in her life from day to day and was privy to the gradual change in their realtionship from being friends to much more than that. We used to keep in touch on and off after they moved to Bangalore and hadn’t met for the last 4-5 years. After being here for more than 5 months we finally met last week.

The first thought that came to my mind when I met her was, “She seems to be so releived than happy to see me.” The story slowly started unfolding.

“There were subtle hints here and there right from the beginning. Certain phone calls which he used to take in another room, some missed calls late in the night. I was so hell bent on proving everyone wrong who said we won’t survive a year that I just ignored all these signs. But for these signs everything was alright between us. Then came our first daughter. I had gone home after my delivery and I could sense a change in his attitude towards me. There was nothing to which I could actually put my fingers on, but something was amiss. After coming back, we were having dinner one day when he got an SMS and I knew this was it. After he went to sleep that day, I went through his phone and my knees just gave way. There were some explicit messages from his best friend’s wife. They were having a rough patch in their life and my husband seemed to have been filling the empty space in the other woman’s life. I just could not believe that this girl who had poured her heart out to me was having an affair with my husband.”

“Why didn’t you confront him then and there?”, I asked.

“Whenever I have confronted him on anything, it has always turned out to be a major fight ending in listing out what is wrong with me and how he made a mistake marrying me.”
I just could not believe my ears. This was a couple everyone considered ideal. Both of them well settled in their careers, two beautiful and smart daughters, is this what was happening inside their closed doors?

She continued with her story, “I checked the messages which were going up and down for a few days. Then I asked him. He didn’t say anything for a day. He then said it was an old friend of his and it was nothing. I knew he was lying but wanted to believe that it was not so. Next day I called up the number and one hello from her and I knew he had lied. As soon as I confronted him, he apologized for causing me so much pain and like a fool I thought that was the end of it.”

I still could not believe this was the same girl whom I knew years back, who used to be so strong willed and not willing to compromise on anything that was against her beliefs. In her own words, “I loved him so much and I was so desperate to make my marriage work. I just could not accept the fact that my husband loved someone else. Somehow, I used to feel that all this happened because I had failed him some way. Moreover, he was a very good father to his daughter and she was also very attached to him. Anyway, one day I just told him that I cannot accept the fact that he had someone else in his life. His answer stumped me- “Why are you so worried? I am not going to leave you and marry anyone else. I love you just the same and you are the most important person in my life.” Like a fool, I did not argue any further. Somehow, days went by, I used to get upset whenever I thought about it and sit by myself and cry.”

A few months after this, she got selected for a six month assignment in the US. She did not discuss this with her husband, just informed him that she will be out of the country for the next few months and that her mother would be there to take care of their daughter. He didn’t say anything. The day she landed and called him, he again started to blame her for everything and even said he could not put up with her mother. The verbal trauma went on for two months, finally she could not take it any more and she came back.

Things were kind of calm for some time after that and they had a second daughter. This time she didn’t go home after the delivery. A few months later she again sensed something amiss. One day she got to see a few mails of his by chance, he had forgotten to log off. She saw a mail which he had sent to the same female telling her how the day spent with her was one of the best days in his life, how much he misses her etc. What shocked her even more was another mail to a friend of hers whom she thought was very close to her. She had discussed almost everything in her life including her husband’s affair with her. And now she sees some mails going up and down between them. She was shocked beyond words. That was not the end of her shocks for the day – the same evening she got a call from her brother. A massive heart attack had snatched away her till then hale and hearty father.

The next few months passed in a numb state. When I met her, she still hadn’t got over her father’s sudden death. I asked her, “So what happens now?”

“Chechi*, after my father’s death, I sat and thought a lot. Finally I have decided that I do not have to take it. But for these mails and messages, I don’t have much to complain in my marraige. He loves me, depends on me for everything and will never leave us. But then, is that enough? What if I had done the same things to him? Would he still have continued to love me? I don’t think so. I have decided to give my life one final chance. This time I am letting it go. The next time something like this happens, he is out of my life. I will never poison my kid’s mind against him since they adore him, but I have had enough. I am so glad I met you today. What would you have done in my place?”

What answer do I give this girl who was so full of life, brought up as the darling of her three brothers? But I knew I did not even have to think before replying to her question. However someone might profess to love you, if he or she does not care about hurting you, the answer will always be a no. Beacuse it is never love, just a convenient way of living. There might be people who are happy with that, but not this girl. She would be crippled for life, she was half way there anyway. Yes, it might be unfair to her daughters but then it is more unfair to bring them up in a place where the trust is lost between their parents. I don’t know whether anything that he does can make up for the pain that he has caused her. She will never look at anyone with the same innocent eyes.

For her sake, I keep hoping she does not have to take that final step. It is so obvious that she loves him so much that the mere thought of leaving him almost shatters her.

Why do people hurt the very same ones that they love? What exactly is this thing we call love? Is it really death do us part in spite of anything that happens? Why does someone risk some very precious things for momentary pleasure? What makes a husband or wife seek something out of their marriage? Where do kids stand in this equation? When is enough, enough?

* Chechi – Elder sister