FAR AWAY

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It’s a beautiful day.

Clouds sail to and fro

Across a sunlit sky.

An occasional light shower

Reminds me of spring,

At the crossroads where

Newborn monsoon meets late summer.

It’s a beautiful day ;

But, with you so far away,

I hardly enjoy it, heedless of

Whether it’s late June or mid-May.

The roads and the trees seem to drown

In the sky’s glistening tears

And the half-hearted sunlight.

It’s a beautiful day ;

Yet, I find no delight

In watching the birds fly home

Across the fading daylight.

I wait for your call, all day,

As I prepare myself

To hang onto every word you say.

It’s a beautiful day ;

But, it grows more beautiful still,

Whenever I imagine you smile

On hearing my delighted squeal.

Words can’t describe how I feel,

On this beautiful day,

When you are so far away.

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DARK PLACES – THE MOVIE

I must really recommend the watching of the movie, Dark Places…it’s a dark book (and movie), with dark characters and hopeless and quite murky situations, but nobody could have done a better job of portraying Libby’s character than Charlize Theron. And Nicholas Hoult has done a good job of supporting her character. From where I stand, I don’t despise Libby (I could name a thousand people that I truly despise, right now, but not Libby). I pity her and feel a certain kind of love tinged with sorrow for her, because she deserved a better life – family, love, hobbies, a job may be, the satisfaction of earning her livelihood – all of which she entirely missed. And I can’t even imagine what she must have felt when she had to testify in court that it was her favourite brother who had slaughtered her family, the endless questions that must have plagued her over the years like ‘why did he kill them?’, ‘did he really kill them or was it someone else?’, ‘why didn’t he kill me?’, ‘why was I saved?’ and so on, and once the case was re-opened, these same doubts and so many more must have assailed her. If we are looking for a redeeming quality in Libby Day, we don’t have to look too far; it’s right there in front of our eyes – she realises that she was wrong to have falsely accused her brother of killing his own family, though she was too young and too frightened to have realised the truth, and she despises herself for it. How can I possibly hate somebody who hates herself and has realised her wrongs, somebody who achieved a kind of celebrity status for all the wrong reasons, who became a pawn in the hands of shrewd businessmen and hence, never had a decent chance of living the life of a decent, normal and happy person?
Therefore, if you haven’t read the book, do get hold of a copy; I can promise you an interesting read. Also, if you haven’t watched the movie already, please watch it; some of you, I hope, will thank me for recommending the book as well as the movie.

LOVESONG

Don’t know how long

I’ve been waiting

For you. I remember

Several occasions

When my need was

Stronger than ever;

But especially, I

Remember one July

Afternoon, wet and cold,

When I, a gawky kid,

Fifteen years old,

Turned homeward,

Deliberately forgetting

Raincoat and umbrella,

Just to enjoy the rain.

I left school,

Soaked through,

And into the rain

I walked, searching

High and low, for you.

Oh, but, where were you?

I braved the storm;

Cascades of water, too,

That blurred my vision;

Even waded upstream

Through waist-high water

That transformed

Roads into rivers.

Oblivious of open drains

Or gaping manholes,

I pursued my way,

Expecting, at every turn,

Your strong arms

Or your warm bosom-

Oh where were you, then?

And how old?-

Sixteen, I should guess.

I miss you, now,

As I missed you, when

I was gawky and fifteen,

Frightened and wet!

Yet I love you, if

For no other reason,

But that I survived

Three heart-breaks and

Now, you’re heart-broken.

THE PRISONER

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I’ve been sitting on the stile

Waiting for you for a while

Now, watching the dusk deepen.

I watch the cattle being led

Homeward, and the tired birds

Return to their nests. And

I hope you haven’t forgotten,

Though there are greener pastures,

Warmer climes, deeper waters

Where you live, plus the

Myriad pleasures hidden.

I might watch in vain and

Watch the shadows lengthen

And the stars dim; yet hope

That you haven’t forgotten

Everything – the magic of a moment –

Amidst fairer flowers and lovelier

Dreams, newer reality, stranger scenes,

Dearer friends or other things;

While I’m stuck here waiting

Forever a prisoner in your dream.

Heartbreak – 2

Ever since I lost him, I have never failed to remember him every single day. Like I said, I returned to normal, if this state could be called normal; I started talking again, then I resumed smiling, and finally I got back my laughter, too, but not without paying a price: hundreds and thousands of times, in the act of smiling, I’ve only been able to give a weak grimace, for even this simple act, reminds me of him. More importantly, for the rest of the first eighteen years of my life, I never again had the courage to make friends. So I remained aloof, and let everybody around me think that I was an arrogant pest, and I didn’t feel like doing anything to dispel the illusion. For I still had my memories of him. I won’t deny that I tried falling in love, if only to drown my sorrow somewhere, a couple of times, but my heart wasn’t just into the thing. As I grew into a young girl, many of the other girls started going out with their boyfriends, boys who were students of his school (his school and mine were the two best schools in our city; both were convents, his was a “boys only” and mine was a girls’ school; and the liaison between the students of these two schools was an accepted thing, from before I was even born), and all their stories, only helped aggravate my pain and deepen the sense of loss. So I cocooned myself in loneliness, and while others fear it, I’ve had it as a comforter. It was not until I left home, to continue my studies in another place, that I again made friends. And in each of them, I tried to find some part of him, just to convince myself that those few months, so many years ago, hadn’t been just a drawn-out dream. Of course, I met with failure, because no two persons can be the same, as I came to realize later. But this realization didn’t help me much; I continued with my futile attempts, and with every failure, I grew more taciturn and determined. That was the start of the second phase of loss. I dived head-long into studies and hobbies, leaving hardly any time for anything else. I put a stop to outings, parties, picnics, romantic movies and books, even music; in short, everything… even to sports, after a few unwanted incidents, when, in every little instance of cheating, I only saw somebody trying to cheat me out of my happiness. So I reasoned with my blinded-by-loss self, that by giving up sports, I was robbing everybody around me of their opportunity to hurt me. Much later, because I started missing the activity of sports, I tried to compensate in other ways, by going in for action movies and suspense-thrillers. I also came to realize that my tears had dried themselves, somewhere along the way, and that no amount of hurt, could now wring tears from my eyes. From then on, I started writing: to give vent to the unshed tears, and to revive his memories, inside me, I started writing love-poems, prose, satire; anything that made me feel a bit better. Writing fast turned into a fever, and I would, more often than not, be found scribbling in note-books or sheets of stray paper, in-between lectures, during practicals, at dawn, in the middle of the night, or right through the long summer day or the bitterly cold winter night. My roommates soon got tired of that, and there were regular and bitter fights, and still I fought to write, because writing made me want to live again.

One other thing happened during this time. As is usual in our time, our entire batch of girls became very intimate with our male fellow-students. I had some few such friends of my own. But having been burnt once, I dreaded the fire. So whenever any of them tried to express an interest in me, I made sure that I drove him off, with my sardonic smile and my dry excuses, but, above all, using my arrogant exterior, which I diligently nurtured, so as to keep my vulnerable self safe. And so, the number of my friends dwindled some, but those that stayed, I was glad to notice, had accepted me as I was then. And I would absolutely agree with you, if any of you were to tell me, that not all men hurt, that they are often much more than nice, that it means the world to some of them if they can bring a smile to your face; but no reason was good enough to persuade me to try again, maybe because I wasn’t ready to test my fortune again.

Fast-forward some years, during which my life went through no discernible change. And I was 26 years old. My parents had been trying to find a good match for me for the past couple of years, but to no avail, as I wasn’t interested, and I had been showering them with all kinds of bizarre excuses for declining the proposals. Another lesser reason might have been that, this thing entailed making compromises. And I was not ready to do that. I was ready to be alone for the rest of my life, nursing my bruised soul, than make compromises to try to be happy. I had watched so many other women around me doing that, and I never did find out whether or how that made life better, because when I looked into their eyes, I could still read the pain there. Meanwhile, I was once again into romantic movies and books, I had resumed singing, but what was most interesting to me, I had started noticing people, looking into their faces long and hard, trying to see whether, in one of them, I wouldn’t suddenly discover him. Because I still hoped, and in all these years, I hadn’t been able to give up. So my vigils continued, more intense than before.

And, then, I saw him. A look-alike of A, who called himself Pari, an IITan, who had been to the University of Wharton, an immensely talented young-man, not much older than me, whose accomplishments were fit to drive anybody insane. He was a killer guy, I’ll give him that. And no wonder, I fell for him. He so reminded me of A, that unknown to myself, I attached myself to him. Quite prematurely, as it turned out to be, I started dreaming of a happy life, with a family of my own. I felt as if all my years of prayer, had not gone in vain; that there was hope for me yet. Of course, I had forgotten that I still had my unusual lack of good fortune to reckon on. It so happened, that, when I expressed my interest, it met with the most supreme kind of indifference that anyone can conceive. Not even an answer in the negative reached me, past that wall of indifference. And how I hated being spurned! No wonder, I took it uncommonly ill. But I am being only honest, when I say that I tried hard to not take it in that manner, or when I say that I still regret doing so. And so, that was the last lesson on relationships that I allowed life to teach me.

I never, ever, gave love another chance. I had been badly hurt. And I decided to end it forever- this vulnerability which was nothing more than a liability. And, worse still, was the realization, that this last loss had poisoned me: that I was no more in danger of falling into darkness once more, for I had well and truly escaped; but that, now, I was the darkness; that now, I had the power to wreak havoc; that, if I so wished, I could suck up all the happiness and light from the people around me, lock it up in a box and drown it in the darkness inside me, and lose the key somewhere. I was more afraid than I’d ever been before. I started going out, each time praying that I wouldn’t have somebody’s blood on me, or that I wouldn’t rip the smile off somebody’s face. For the entirety of the time that this lasted, I was in a fever of fear, feeling like a person who was being haunted by an evil spirit.

I still cannot imagine how I overcame this stage, and settled into a kind of normal pattern of things and events. I don’t mean to say that all is well now. Far from it. The darkness is still there inside, boiling; but reined in. So the poison hasn’t affected anyone else, yet. But if I had to make a guess about what it was, that brought a part of me back, bruised and half-alive, and at the same time helped stop the darkness from spreading and taking control outside, I would hazard saying that, it was the memory of a very short-lived happiness, an even shorter love-story, and a boy, whose image had been etched into my heart since for ever, from my childhood, eons ago.

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HEARTBREAK- 1

I was then but a child, around 8 years old, when I had my first heartbreak. At that tender age, I came to realize, deep within, that I was unusually unlucky, when it came to relationships and love. With time, of course, this absolute absence of good fortune began to show itself in other things, as well. But that is neither here nor there. What I realized, growing up, was that life is a battle, and that I was destined only to fight and fend for myself, with no other weapon, save determination. So I started metamorphosing into a bull, so to say, both inside and out: a bull that gores its way through, trampling all that comes in its way; and like a bull facing a storm, I began to dig my feet into the ground, facing the storms, as they came, with angry eyes, waiting and watching as they tried their best to put me down, once and for all before passing over.

So at the age of eight, I’d had my first of a series of heart-breaks. It must have been love, as deep a love as one stupid kid could have for another; why else would I still feel the pain of losing and have to live for ever in fear? I used to go for drawing classes to a house across the street. One day, it was announced that the classes would thereafter be held in the house of some fellow-student, whom I had never known until then. So, from then on, I started going to the new house, half-afraid and half-diffident, as I was the youngest and newest member there. The elders had their own group and their own pranks, while the younger ones, all except me, had their own share of the fun. As I was the loner, I became the subject of the pranks, played by both the groups, with the result that, more often than not, I would be teary-eyed and red as a carrot and as impatient to get back home, as anybody can be, by the time the teacher came in. The boy of the house, A, used to take an active part in causing me trouble. In fact, he simply loved to annoy and torment me. This continued for a while, and then, one day, I mustered up enough courage to put up a physical fight. I kicked and tore at their hair, and thrashed around, and for a few moments I was a raving fury. I hurt them enough to cause them to complain to the teacher about me. Of course, my parents heard of it, and I received not a few slaps, but all in all, I felt quite proud of myself, and safe, because I was sure that I would never be troubled again. And I was happy about one other thing- A, who was my age as well, started to admire me. His interest in me grew everyday. It was as if I could actually see it happening. So the classes continued, and the admiration in his eyes turned into friendship. That summer, we spent a lot of time together, and if anything, it strengthened our bond. I came to know that he could be really nice once he got to know people and that he had no fear other than that of strangers. He was beautiful as well, and I’m not ashamed to admit that that certainly increased my interest in him. Around that time, my kid brother started going to a preparatory school, which was at a stone’s throw from my friend’s house, and it was my pleasure to drop the little guy off to school every morning and bring him back at ten, a duty which I willingly took up, because my brother meant the world to me. He still does. So then, every morning, when I went to drop my brother off, or when I went to bring him back, I used to gambol around or talk to A, and he used to play with my brother as well and offer him chocolates, so much so that my brother began to adore him. And it was around then, that I realized how beautiful men really are, when they play with children or carry them around. Of course, it was more a realization of the soul, for which I have found the right words only now. This continued, for I know not how long, though I now feel that it didn’t last long enough, not more than some months at any rate. A- was my only friend, my best man, from childhood to the very end of my school-life, long after I had lost him.

When he wasn’t there anymore, the memory of his friendship was still there to guide me through many a rough patch. He went away as suddenly as he had come, for one evening, when I went for my drawing class, I found the house dark and locked up, and a note from the teacher, saying that that day there would be no class, and that from the next week, we would return to our earlier haunt. Soon as I had finished reading the note, my eyes were flooded with tears- I still don’t know why. He might have gone away with his family for a vacation, and one of these days, he would soon be back again- I tried to reason with myself, but still my tears wouldn’t stop, probably because, somewhere deep inside, I realized that my worst fear, of losing him, had come true. I have never, ever, been as afraid in my entire life – never as afraid to lose, as I then was. I came back home in a trance; for the rest of that week, I cried frequently and, apparently, without any reason; and next week when I went to class, I was thoroughly attentive to all that was being said, in the hope of learning something about his whereabouts. But nothing was said about him, and I was more than disappointed: I was afraid. And I couldn’t ask about him, for what would I have said, had anybody asked for a reason for my interest in him? Days passed, and weeks, and then, months, and still nothing was heard of him. I began to lose hope and at the same time started to pray more diligently, for who knows what; but all the while, I felt as if I was dying inside, that I was falling into the darkness of a chasm, from where there was no way out. Daily I felt more and more lost, I stopped playing or even going out, and then I stopped talking, even at home. My parents started getting worried, upon repeated reports from school, regarding the sudden change in my behaviour; and I saw all that, but failed to resurrect myself. Then my results for the class 3 finals came, and I was thrashed to nearly within an inch of my life by dad; but, after he had gone out, amidst all my tears and pain, I blurted out the reason to mom. I think she understood much more than she let on, and she started doing all that was in her power, to help me live again. I still often wonder what might have become of me, if I hadn’t had her.

It took me a long while to return to normal, though I am not really sure that I did, because for years afterwards, during my evening rambles, I used to stop in front of the house and search for any sign of his having returned. And even now, when I am past 30, and no more fit to behave like a young, sighing lover, I still do it. I have watched new people come to live in the house, I have watched them leave and others come and then leave, as well, while I have continued my vigils, but I’ve never thought of giving up, because in my clouded reason, I have somehow felt that, for as long as I continue to visit his place, he’ll be alive and well, maybe even happy, wherever he may be. Perhaps it’s nothing but some sort of superstition, but I can’t take chances – not when it comes to him.

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FOLLY

What is it

If not folly,

When, unthinking,

Without a preamble,

Soon as my eyes

Close, your lips-

Rose-hued,

Sculpted with care

Like Cupid’s bow,

Before my mind’s

Eye appear,

Like some sacred shrine?

When your fingers

Appear as petals

Of a dream-flower?

When your laughter,

Intoxicating, rings

In my ears,

Like the music of

The orbs? When

Even in lonesome

Memory, your voice

Sets my heart alight

With a soft glow?

For I know,

That you certainly

Don’t deserve me;

That you are pathetic,

Arrogant, heartless,

Filthy as hell, and

Slimy and cold

As well.

Still I foster,

Knowing full well

That it’s a disaster,

Dismal hopes of love –

In vain.

ON BULLYING

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Time and again I wish that I’d been an animal – any animal – instead of a human being. Life would not have been such a bad experience then, because I wouldn’t have had to feel so helpless upon hearing of the cruel things that people do to other people. There is so much cruelty in this world and so little love; yet, everywhere, love is the most talked about subject. Should I, then, believe that what we always preach and talk about, what we most dread losing, should not rule our actions? That love is important only with respect to ourselves, not with respect to others? That only the ones who have the means to make the weak suffer, can enjoy love and associated feelings as some kind of a prerogative?

I’ve been a victim of bullying myself, for years; so I know how painful it can be when you are at the receiving end of it. I’d been bullied in school when I was a kid and as a teenager in college. And the greatest lesson I learnt was that there’s no one beside you, no family, no friends who are willing to pluck the thorns out of your body.You are alone in your suffering and unless you fight back, nobody else is going to fight your battles for you. I will always remember with regret that whenever I complained to elders at home or in school, it was always I who got the scoldings and the beatings, accompanied by some ‘sound advice’ on learning to tolerate. I’ve even been called a liar; that I was a jealous attention-seeker who wanted to make her more intelligent and academically-advanced friends suffer. That really hurt me, because back then, I used to care about what people thought of me. During my long fight against being bullied, the one thing I missed most was a support-system. So when I got an opportunity to become a support-system to somebody else who was a victim of bullying, I didn’t let it go waste. I used both my voice and my hands to fight back, for my sake and for the sake of others, and I will always be glad of the fact that, though I bear the scars myself, I’ve been able to shield at least a few other children from being scarred. And I like to think of those scars as the necessary price that I gladly paid to save somebody else’s innocence, maybe even life. The people around me, who know me well, can count on me, because they know that I’m a fighter, if not a winner, and that if ever they are in need of support, I’m always there for them. Because all it needs to prevent bullying, more often than not, is raising your voice in support of the victim, because bullies are, after all, perverts who enjoy torturing lonely souls and fall back when strongly opposed – just like wild animals who are afraid of fire.

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ON HYPOCRISY

HYPOCRISY DESTROYS
HYPOCRISY DESTROYS

In a very recent issue of a popular magazine, I came across an article describing a rare but hilarious incident. A bride-to-be had refused to marry the would-be groom after he failed a basic maths test. It’s apparently a funny incident, but it couldn’t very well have felt like fun to the bride herself. She absolutely refused to have to do anything at all with somebody who couldn’t solve a sum that was easy enough for a child studying in Standard I.

This is not an uncommon problem in the country. While a majority of the women are well-qualified, a large portion of the male population has already started falling short of an equal level of qualification. As a result, a prospective bride’s dream of getting a perfect match for herself, has already suffered a huge set-back. In fact, a recent survey has stated that the present scenario is expected to worsen by 2025, resulting in at least a third of the women population having to compromise on the very important aspect of marriage – equality. As far as I can see, the situation is already bleak enough.

Why is the educational qualification of a prospective groom so important to women? Is it not enough that he has a job, can provide for the needs of his family and provide shelter? These are questions that need answering. The answer is no. It is not enough that a man has a job and can provide for his family. Just as every man dreams of certain qualities like beauty, good cooking skills, a well-paid job and so on in his wife, so does a woman. A woman’s dreams are no less important than those of a man. Dreams and the hope of realizing them are what keep us going; therefore, it is of the utmost importance that we strive to provide an environment that’s conducive to chasing dreams. The least a woman can expect from her husband is understanding and a stimulating conversation; how can her expectations be fulfilled if a man is only just qualified enough to retain a job? Education is the only thing that can improve a person’s ability to understand and relate to other people and keep jealousy, depression, inferiority complex as well as a sense of unfulfillment out of a life-long relationship. A marriage needs much more than just financial security; why else do so many of them end in divorce? The sense of being equals is what makes a bond strong, not the compromising on essentials. When a relationship starts with a compromise, it doesn’t promise much stability in any case. One compromise leads to another and before long, one partner starts feeling cheated. No wonder that person would want out of such an unfair situation.

Coming back to the incident of the groom who flunked in Maths, isn’t it surprising that the bride and her family had been kept in the dark regarding the educational qualification, rather the lack of it, of the groom? And this is just one of the many incidents of this kind. How can these people have such a mentality and how can they hope to get away with such fraudulent practices? Isn’t this proof enough of the hypocrisy that is practised by our society? That, while the groom and his family gets to choose a bride from the creme de la creme in any given situation, rejecting and indeed insulting, prospective brides and their families on such flimsy grounds as beauty, figure, colour of skin, size of dowry, superstition and so on, when in fact these women are well-qualified and often hold positions of responsibility, the same choice of being choosy while selecting a partner is not available to most women?

It is time that we started questioning whether some of these age-old superstitions and practices shouldn’t be changed. They do not belong in a modern society afterall. We are so proud of all the progress we have made over the years; is it not wrong then that our mindset hasn’t undergone much progress, so much so that we never think twice before acting like the hypocrites that we are? We expect others to be honest when we ourselves are still not ready for the truth. Are colour of skin, caste, physical beauty or the lack of it, size of dowry offered or whether it is offered at all and superstitious beliefs so much more important than a woman’s education or her inner beauty, that she has to face rejection time and again just because she falls short of the former? We harp on and on about self- respect and treating others with respect; what, then, happens to that sense of respect when we hanker after somebody else’s money? Where goes this respect when we treat perfectly capable women and their families with such disrespect? And do we still dare to wonder why our society and its values are deteriorating when the answer is just an introspection away?

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