Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Hataash (Despair)

हताश हम तभी हुए 
जब गणित ने हमारे साथ 
लुक्का-चुप्पी खेली 
समाज हमें कभी हताश 
ना कर पाई
बस बर्दाश्त की सीमा 
पार करते गए  
बेशर्मी में भी है दम 
राह चलते ज़िन्दगी ने सिखाया 
दीवानगी और जुनून से 
इश्क़ कर डाला 

आपकी शायरी का क्या कहना
लव्ज़ों की बौछार  
हमें प्रेरित करने की महज़ 
एक नाकाम कोशिश 
इस कान से सुने 
और  उस कान से निकाला हमने
हताश होना हमने सीखा ही नहीं
मेरे मौला ने मेरे समय पर 
पाबंदी जो लगाई 
रहने दीजिये अपने सलाह मशवरे
बेड़ियों सी महसूस होती हैं 
यू मेरा हक़ छीनने न दूँगी मैं 
आप माने या ना माने 
जननी तो मैं हूँ ही 
लेकिन जनि हूँ ख़ुदा कि बंधी मैं भी 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


My dearest Zoo-zoobi,

Hi! As I sit here waiting for the clock to strike the midnight hour and usher in the teens for you, I am in flashback mode. The moment I first set eyes on you, is still a fresh memory despite the blurry vision (minus my spectacles). Despite being a new born, you made a strong claim to your space in the world and to your independence. I was reminded of Kahlil Gibran's poem on children and of the Constitution of India, even though I was groggy from the anaesthesia. 

It has not been an easy ride for you, in many ways, more so the last couple of years. I cannot promise that it will be smooth sailing here onwards, but it will surely be as wondrous a journey as it has been heretofore. Just make sure you deal with the crests and the troughs that you will ride, without being affected by either. It's all mind over matter in the end baby. 

Happy Birthday my's to the teens and to our battles! Just know this, I have been there and done that so I possess the unfair advantage! Loving Mommy advice - Learn when to back off honey. Hahahahaahhaaa...I love you. And I have a little gift for you. When Papa was preparing to come to Nigeria for the first time, your Muthachan sent him a letter which was all about you. Papa shared it with me when he got it; he was overwhelmed and had tears in his eyes. The letter has an universal quality about it and Papa had given me permission to put it on my blog. I was waiting for you to turn thirteen to put it up. I have typed it in and have also put up a few pics of Muthachan and you. This was published in one of the Raksha Concert Souvenirs.  

Muthachan was extremely fond of you as you well know and will know more when you read the letter. I hope it will also give you an insight into the person he was and that you will get to know the true essence of him. I am sure had he been around, he would have dragged Ammooma along and landed in Lagos to usher in your teens. Just as I am sure that both your Ajja and he are sending you blessings from wherever they are. You were very precious to Muthachan and there have been instances when I have known for sure that he is watching over you. 

Never mind whatever else I may say, I am truly blessed and thankful that your soul chose me to be your Mom. Thank you for being my rock during the times of crisis. You do have those sparks of wisdom and maturity far beyond your years and the old men up there must surely be beaming with pride! If only they knew...

Love, kisses and hugs. And a big God Bless.
- "The Mother"

Here's Muthachan for you...

My dear Parag,

As the date of your leaving the shores of India draws near, I am troubled with the thought that fate may deprive me of the chance of seeing you again! Nigeria is far, faraway. It is not even Bombay or Kharaghpur, which heaven knows was far enough for someone for whom anything beyond Panampilly Nagar is far! But, who knows in a vaporized condition, I might find the entire world more accessible! But then I shall be a non-participating audience!

It is comforting to plan, meanwhile, for Muthu’s and Aarzoo’s visit; the thought of which is immensely exciting. We will make most of their time in Cochin. With Aarzoo around there won’t be any need to plan and, any case her mother will probably have to be whizzing around at great speed and we could have Aarzoo all to ourselves! When, and if I live to see Aarzoo after Nigeria, she will be a grown up girl, possibly a little shy, in Montessori or, LKG or, UKG and, of course, progressively more enchanting!

I hope you will fill her ears with the best classical music you can lay your hands on, Indian, Carnatic and Western. Let her speech aspire to music and her movements to dance. Speak sofly so that her speech will be modulated and she will know the power of the whisper. Give her children’s edition of Ramayana, Mahabharata, Iliad and Odyssey and the entire Greek classical lore to read in translation. English is a beautiful language and she has a right by inheritance to Bengali. Give her some Sanskrit too, for it is a storehouse of infinite wisdom. Not too much, for you don’t want her to be an antiquarian; just enough so she too can stand filled with wonder before the edifice of a tradition of such unmatched splendour. Malayalam is a harsh language not given to much refinement and invariably spoken in high decibels! But it would be a pity to miss it out altogether for it has much to offer but you may have to sacrifice its study for the sake of a more selective choice. If she is a “language girl” she will learn as she goes along anyway. You don’t have to thrust it on her.

Science will take an increasing role in the lives of those who belong to her generation. And, if she is to steer her course through this life she will need an ample measure of it – Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology and Physics, and all the baby sciences that these mother sciences have produced. Teach her to distinguish between religion and spirituality. Let her know what religion is all about but practice spirituality. It belongs to the realm of science and is the only opening to, of self-knowledge. It will bring grace, depth and quality to her life and it is never too early to begin the great exploration.

Let the temple of her body grow in health and strength. It does not call for more than Milk, fruit, vegetables, plenty of sunshine and exercise – swimming, cycling, tennis and gymnastic exercise, which enhance the control of the body. Let her learn to value her body for it in her care for a lifetime and, we all have an obligation to make the most of what is given to us even without our seeking.
She will need to sleep a lot so she can grow well and bed time must be considered sacred and, set aside only as a special treat, when some great artiste is coming home to sing  or play a musical instrument, or you are taking her out to listen to a concert of some truly great musician. Brook no departure and don’ let her cajole you into yielding! Your own lives will have to be seriously disciplined to ensure that she sees always before her eyes brilliant examples of the lifestyle you impose on her.

I wish I could list the books she must read but that will take all of a lifetime and in any case what can I recommend her at 75! By the time she begins serious reading everything but everything will be recast for the new generation. New stories, new poems, new myths and legends, new music, new science and even newer superstitions! All we can say teach her to distinguish the trivial from what has permanent value. There is no easy way to distinguish this wither, no magic formula to tell one from the other.

If I omitted to mention laughter and humour it was only to give them the prominence they deserve. Let your home be full of ringing laughter and bright shining eyes. Sulk is sin; fear it like the plague. Even if a sorrowing visage is in fashion, don’t keep with the trend. Teach her to value the “now” for that is all she has. The past is mere memory and the future mere imagination. Count any day as lost if you have not laughed. Don’t brook any sorrow in your life or in the lives of others; treat it as a kind of illness. Religions wear the clothes of sorrow and almost worship it as something essentially good. If you follow a faith in order to be miserable there are clear there are cheaper and easier methods to accomplish unhappiness. Take your morning papers seriously that is all that it calls for. Remember in spite of Bush and the Iraq war, in spite of Advani and Naidu, in spite of Lalu all our other calamities, in spite of the disability, illness, deaths by starvation, and thirst, ugliness and despair there are also wonderful people, and skies and flowers still smile, and there are kittens, puppies and babies – what more can you ask for.

As I sit here banging on this machine, from the ground floor of this nine-storied building, I hear the voice of children screaming with delight. This sound travels up the stairway and I keep the door ajar so that I don’t miss it. It fills me with a great surge of joy and I am reconciled to life and death. If this will carry on after I have left the world what is there to grieve about.

I started with the simple intention of saying bye bye and to say have a wonderful time and send you love. You don’t need all this but I wrote it on an impulse! God bless.

Love and many hugs from Baba.

Tell Muthu I love her and this un-revised, unedited letter is also for her together with an equal measure of hugs and kisses. Baba

Friday, November 14, 2014


Abhasa Jewellery is a very special range for me. Handcrafted Jewellery, created by my friend Ujju (Ujwala Adivrekar-Iyer) in Dubai.

I was delighted to catch her at one of her exhibitions and see her collection in their splendid glory. To my mind, nothing can ever match the joy and love that she brings to her relationships or the power of her creative self. Standing there, looking at the pieces, holding them, trying them on and feeling them come alive in my hands in a sense, I was inspired by her creations and wrote these lines......

The Artist at the Numaish Exhibition, Dubai

Ujju this is for you.......a tribute to your creations. They did speak to me.....


Beads of myriad hue
Enmeshed with metals bold
The softer whispers
Powered with embellishment
Speaking in hushed tones
Urging you
To step out 
And Supreme in Shakti

A slice of life in a miniature
That hangs as a pendant
For you to make 
A statement 
Or ponder upon
If you so wish

Fear not,
For in the colours that
You lay
Upon yourself
May bring to you
The true self
The hues, tempered or loud
May yet share a secret
Never heard!!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Window

On my bed
I gaze out the window
Square with venetian blinds,
Giving a glimpse
Of the sky and the clouds
Playing catch
The trees swaying
Beckon as did my playmates
It feels like
Playing peek-a-boo
With the world outside

The vehicles
With their occupants
Ply by
In a hurry
Oblivious to lives
Hanging by the thread
And hooked to
Machines and tubes
Pressure and Pulse Monitors
To stay alive!

Life has its way
Of teaching
And testing
Dare I look within
I will find
Myself reflected
On the other side
Of the window....
Plying by

Friday, October 3, 2014

Dead Sea and its Tantalizing Spell

The Dead Sea. For me, the name first cropped up either during a quiz or in Geography lessons in school. At the time, it was just another point in the map; it's location and features, something to be crammed about and memorized for tests and exams. Yet it was the first place on earth to intrigue me and have me piqued enough to scurry to the well stocked Library in KVCLRI and bury myself into the tomes of the Encyclopedia Britannica to read up about it. There have been other places since, but the Dead Sea was the first.

Growing up alone, it was easy for me to turn adventurer/explorer/discoverer in my head at any point I wanted. So I traveled, all over the word and into space even, when fancy took me. I was dragged to quite a few nooks and corners of our country thanks to my father's transfers. I took it for granted that this is what life would be in the future as well and that I would travel its length and breadth many times over. However, travelling abroad was a remote possibility to the nth degree, to my mind, impossible even given the times.  

Travel to the Land of the Dead Sea? Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be possible in the physical realm. Yet there I was, looking at it from the balcony of the hotel at first and then standing on its shores, white sand on my feet, powered sunglasses on, protecting my eyes from the reflected glare of the Jordanian sun. There were warnings all around about not ingesting the water or letting it get into your eyes. Many had trudged into the waters and were floating in it. Having your picture taken reading a book or the newspaper, is a favourite with most tourists to this destination. As is the mud bath, of course.

As the sun began to set, I took a little walk in the palladium overlooking the beach. Just across the still waters, one could see the lights of Jerusalem, glittering in the distance. The sea looked opaque, almost still.......tranquil, yet alluring. Almost as if it was speaking to me and urging me to submerge myself in its vast expanse. Looking around, I felt a sense of peace and oneness with my surroundings. I was overwhelmed with emotion. Had never felt anything like it before.

What was the point of being a tourist if I did not take pictures!! Took a few with my cellphone and each picture inspired a few lines. Have been meaning to blog it for quite some time now. Here they are.......

Nothing can quite capture the beauty of the Dead Geography textbooks did not do it any justice.

As the sun sets, there is a hush despite the people milling absolute stillness in the air, as though afraid to wake some special being

It drew me close as if about to share a secret.....

The canvas was spell-binding and tugged at me without any qualms

And suddenly it was like a huge cataract had settled over its gleaming eye!! It was quite clear it would not divulge any secrets.....and yet it held me, close....

And those gleaming lights....they laugh at my naivete!!

For some reason thought of Rumi and Gibran here and asked, "Shall I run into that alley and hide? Or shall I laugh right back?"

And decided that, I shall walk through the bright lights to what my destiny holds.....laughing all the way!!

The lights in the distance, they beckoned. And seduced by the starlight, I went back but it did not even whisper!! Not a whiff, just eerie stillness of the night...

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Khuda Kahan Hai (Where is God?) - The Quest

Having had more than my fair share of failed relationships, I used every excuse in the book to say no, when the question of me getting married came up. But Baba was unrelenting, more so after Papa succumbed to cancer. The fact that Parag was an atheist was another excuse in my armour but Baba would have none of it. Having come from a multi-cultural, multi-religious background, I remained a nomad in my quest for answers and understanding of spirituality. My little sister Tulsi, all of 20 or 21 at the time, pronounced me agnostic! And here I fancied myself as the eternal Sadhak......

I argued long and hard till I was blue in the face. I did not want our children to go through ambiguity in that sphere of life. Be that as it may, my Baba counter argued saying that,”He is a good man and for now his way of life is his spirituality. He is also very intelligent and so he will eventually find his way to the quest.” I did not buy into it but nevertheless got married; because I wanted to and not because of the pressure I was under. I must confess though that I do blame Baba for my woes on days that Parag and I fight!!

But on a serious note, at some level this no religion, no faith, no prayers, only rationale bit, worried me, as the family grew. I always second guessed this aspect of our parenting style. I kept trying to understand Baba’s words and look for answers myself. And there it was, a simple forward from my dear friend Mini Naidoo, an artist and sadhak herself. She sent me a lovely story about three greats of Urdu literature – Ghalib, Iqbal and Faraz – and in a clean sweep, very vintage Mini-like, she set aside my misgivings and drove home the message that Baba had tried hard to make me understand.

Here is the story, in her words:

These three poets are legendary in Urdu literature as also their following couplets. The poets Ghalib (1797-1869), Iqbal (1877-1938) and Faraz (1931-2008) present their views on the universality of God in the couplets. It was not a feud. At best you can call it a poetic difference of opinion by intellectual and witty minds, spread across centuries.

Ghalib started it: In the 19th century, it was a bold statement. But then Ghalib was never known for meekness or following the crowd.

“Zahid, sharaab peene de masjid mein baith kar
Ya wo jagah bataa, jahaan Khuda nahin”

[Let me drink in a mosque; or tell me the place where there is no God.']

Allama Iqbal was not convinced and decided to reply about half a century later. So in the late 19th-early 20th century, his poetic reply to Ghalib

“Masjid Khuda ka ghar hai, peene ki jagah nahin
Kaafir ke dil mein jaa, wahaan khuda nahin”

[Mosque is the abode of God, not a place to drink. Go to the heart of a non-believer because there God is not.]

Faraz had the last word. (Later half of 20th century).

“Kaafir ke dil se aaya hoon, main ye dekh kar Faraz,
Khuda maujood hai wahaan, par usey pata nahin”

[I have returned from the heart of the disbeliever and I have observed:
God is present in his heart too, but he just doesn’t know it. (he is ignorant/sleeping].


Thank you Mini. Loads of love coming your way.....

Friday, August 8, 2014

Overcoming fear

I still remember the paranoia in the girl’s eyes when I took her swimming that year. She just refused to get into the water no matter the cajoling in combination with the threats of dire consequences made by Hitler Mom. She was six and the story was the same every summer since we had moved to Bangalore.

The club in the complex, we lived in, had a lovely pool and had facilities for coaching in the summer. I would register her for lessons and she would parrot every excuse in the book, to not attend classes. When she did attend class, she would have the coaches tearing their hair out; she would dig her heels in and refuse to get into the water. Given the large number of children they had to coach, they invariably ignored her and gave me "the look". I was at my wit’s end. Swimming was a skill I wanted her to master for the joy of weaving through water is quite unparalleled. Life is going to take her through the rough and tumble and swimming would be one of the greatest stress busters with zero need for the chemical anti-depressants.

The situation took a 180 degree turn when we landed in Nigeria and were introduced to Coach Tough!! She agreed to take her under her wing and coach her. The initial days were tough and the story seemed to repeat itself. But Coach Tough did justice to her name. And then there came a time when she swam the entire length of an Olympic sized pool, determination writ large on her face, never once flinching when she crossed into the deep end. Watching a nine year old overcoming her fear and being confident of her strength was overwhelming to say the least. My Mommy heart cannot thank Coach Tough enough.

Post her triumph over her fear, Aarzoo Elizabeth Kaveri Sen, aged 9,that year, wrote this piece......and made me proud and confident that she has it in her to turn the lemons into lemonade!! Here it is unedited; and I better duck for cover before Ms. Intensely Private bares her teeth and claws at me for sharing this.

Photo: Coach Tough and her wards

Our Friend Water

To all the people who are scared of swimming, deep waters, going to the beach or for who are afraid of water. Here is a story about me being afraid of swimming. I always would feel scared of going to the pool. I had these bad thoughts that would scare me like drowning, getting hurt, etc. No matter how much my coaches, my parents and relatives tried, nothing worked. I started having even more of these scary thoughts after my coaches said they were going to push me in the pool. I didn’t like the coaches. When my dad started working in Lagos, Nigeria, my Mom made me sign up for swimming lessons in Lagos with Coach Tough. When I went to sign up, I saw her and we spoke. I told her my problem and she told me not to worry etc. The club has two pools. One was 10 ft and the other was 9 ft. But they started from 3 ft and the other started from 3.5 ft. Day by day, when I learnt swimming, I realized I had overcome my fear. But still I was a little scared of the deep end, but I overcame that. My Mom always said, “You will never drown. Water is our friend.” Then she explained buoyancy etc. This was because of my Coach Tuff I overcame my fear. I love her v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v. much!!! She won a lot of awards in International Swimming competitions. She had swum for Nigeria. Everybody should know that water is our friend. You will never drown. ( I don’t know, depends!)