Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.
This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose…
…Describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty – describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember. If your everyday life seems poor, don’t blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is not poverty and no poor, indifferent place. And even if you found yourself in some prison, whose walls let in none of the world’s sounds – wouldn’t you still have your childhood, that jewel beyond all price, that treasure house of memories? Turn your attentions to it. Try to raise up the sunken feelings of this enormous past; your personality will grow stronger, your solitude will expand and become a place where you can live in the twilight, where the noise of other people passes by, far in the distance. – And if out of this turning-within, out of this immersion in your own world, poems come, then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good or not. Nor will you try to interest magazines in these works: for you will see them as your dear natural possession, a piece of your life, a voice from it. A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity. That is the only way one can judge it.
― Rainer Maria Rilke
Sometimes I think of kheer, the rice pudding and its coconut richness melting in my mouth at Kothri
Sometimes I think of a yellow saree clad woman with a toothless smile
Sometimes I think of a pond in a barren land
Sometimes I think of home.
Sometimes I think of what home is
In this homeless land without no hope
Sometimes I think of what hope is
And I wonder if humans need tangibility
I wonder if definitions define us
If our scope is limited to the science and fiction of mind,
If we will ever move beyond
On nights like these I think of my mother’s flu inflected voice croaking through the phone
And I sit inside and hear the yelps of my intoxicated peers
I wonder how two worlds can coexist
If a person is capable of holding more than one land within his soul
I wonder if home means more than India and my mother’s scent to me
I wonder if America will ever mean more than just identity to me.
On nights like these I wonder if I will ever discover home
And I realize some questions are best understood lived.
I am living home, in this homeless country,
With a soul in this godless place
I am living in two worlds at once
And neither at the same time
I wonder if I will ever be the same again.
Stand at your window. Nonchalantly notice the greenness of the tree leaves and observe your windowsill. Let your eyes wander till they settle on a speckled red flower. Observe its yellow markings and lose yourself in marvel. Feel the stillness surrounding the trees surround you and hold it in your hands. Look at it- its overwhelming presence, its nauseating fear, its piercing clarity- feel the gentle thud of your heartbeat pounding against your chest in synchronicity with the trees’ movements. Realize that the trees breathe too. Feel connected.
Hold a rabbit in your hand. Feel its heartbeat running a million miles a minute, notice the gaping terror in its eyes, feel its pulsating clock reverberating with the rush of your veins and realize you hold life.
Fight with your mother. Know that the fear in her eyes brings tears in yours and turn away. Become numb, stoic and insensitive. Clench your insides and draw yourself into a shell. Bend over and internally release the silent conflicts. Let them play havoc in your heart. Feel the anger shaking within making no effort to release without.
Hug a lover. Feel the invitation of his heart stretch itself wide enough to make room for you and feel welcomed. Feel the throbbing vulnerability of his being as he kisses you. Feel loved.
Lie awake at night. Watch your heart, twisted, clenched, and dirty, suspended in mid air and hear its blaring conflict. Ponder over your miseries and your need for fervid self annihilation and know that you are gloriously, infuriatingly and inevitably human.
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain. I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see beauty, even when it’s not pretty, every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon.
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
–Oriah Mountain Dreamer
And out again I curve and flow
To join the brimming river
For many men come and many men go
But I go on forever
But this curving and flowing tires me
Leaves my legs and breasts sore
Many men enter and many men see
Though none show love to this whore
My body twists and turns
Struggling to join the river
Night after night my heart churns
Will I get to see him ever?
The speed quickens, my mind struggles
As I try to keep my pace
My legs twisting in these endless juggles
Will I ever get to see his face?
Once upon a time,
Was a story I well remember
Passion was love, beauty was fine
And two hearts dreamt of forever
She was the lyric and he was the song
In the endless chasm of space
Ardor was unbridled in a land of no wrong
Yet, she struggled to keep her pace
Through the many penetrations of chance
She tried to join the river
Hoping for that one last song, that one last chance
And she resumed dreaming of forever
And then she arose to bubble forth
As she glimpsed his face and smiled
Picking her clothes from Fate’s mighty wrath
Ready to flow yet another mile
This was something I wrote for my poem writing auditions. The first stanza is from Alfred Tennyson’s poem, “The Brook”
I’m sitting in the balcony, legs stretched out over the parapet with a book in my hand. I gaze absent mindedly at the view outside. Hmm. It’s rather scenic.
It has started to rain. From a slight drizzle it has picked up speed and is going into a full blown torrent mode.
There is a knock on the door. My brother barges in with his dirty shoes and football with my parents at his heels. I return to my spot and resume my gazing.
The rain has slowed down now. I can hear sparrows chirping in the trees. In the distance, I can see smoke spiraling out of the kitchen window. It rides along with the smell of the wet earth and reaches my nostrils. Mmm…I can smell something tangy and delicious.
Far away, I can see the rolling green hills disappearing behind moisture laden clouds. My attention is diverted back to the lunchroom where I hear the clinking of several plates. There is soft music playing downstairs. A car horn is sounded by a frantic driver somewhere.
I see a stone pathway winding away to some road. I wonder where it leads.
It has stopped raining now.
All men, tall or short, arrogant or unassuming, friendly or cold, have one characteristic in common: when they come to the club, they are afraid. The more experienced amongst them hide their fear by talking loudly, the more inhibited hide their feelings and start drinking to see if they can drive the fear away. But I am convinced that, with a few very rare exceptions- the ‘special clients’ to whom Milan has not yet introduced me- they are all afraid.
Afraid of what? I’m the one who should be shaking, I’m the one who leaves the club and goes off to a strange hotel, and I’m not the one with the superior physical strength or the weapons. Men are very strange, and I don’t just mean the ones who come to Copacabana, but all the men I’ve ever met. They can beat you up, shout at you, threaten you, and yet they’re scared to death of women really. Perhaps not the woman they married, but there’s always one woman who frightens them and forces them to submit to their caprices. Even if it’s their own mother.
– From Paulo Coelho’s Eleven Minutes- a book chronicling the adventures of a prostitute in search of love, adventure and happiness.
I hear the soft lullabies of the angels ushering me deeper into your unending abyss as I fall, tumbling through this wondrous maze. The stars lose their sparkle to the earth, blending their glitter with the dust and your soul with mine. I dream of the honey dewed nights and the ruby filled morns. I lose myself in you on this quest of seeking. I know not of what I seek, I know not of what I yearn.
And often I find myself groping for answers. I feel this need…this want, to understand, to know. In the cold breeze I hear your whispers echoing words that seem from a different era, another age. “I love you. I can’t explain it, name it or guarantee it. I only ask you to feel it and try and accept it however and whatever it might be.”
And I dream once again. I gaze into your eyes, losing myself in you. I see the wonder, the awe blinking from those orbs and I realize…I see the untainted, untarnished child in you. I find beauty untouched. I notice sheer wonder and inquiry. I sense the newborn in you, raw and fresh. I feel the astonishment, the shock too as I look into you. I feel your enigma. I see you.
I see you rising with a halo over your head. Your smile radiates sunshine all over; your footsteps creating patterns as you walk. I trace your impressions on a cloud, never getting my fingers too close. I am scared to touch you, afraid you might not be real. What if you disappear?
So I hold on to your whispers, wishing for their immortality as I stare at the impressions on the cloud. Logic tells me to move on, life tells me to let go. Your groans tell me to seek a more fulfilling venture, a new chance.
So I try, but each time, I fail. Because I can’t. Or rather, I won’t. This is my love. I can’t explain it, name it or guarantee it. I only ask you to feel it and try and accept it however and whatever it might be.
As I walk down the station, I can’t help but notice the bullock straining under the weight of the blocks of ice as its master delivers a slab to the wailing fisherwomen. The cats which have been gorging on the morsels of tuna and Bombay duck in the dark alleys beyond the field of human vision salivate as another batch of fresh salmon makes its way into the bustling market.
I smile at the coconut man who smiles in return as he passes me a tender coconut drink on a hot day. With grateful eyes, I lap up its sweet white contents as I quench my thirst. I love the animals that squeal and chirp at the oil seller’s store. I love the parrot with his humorous anecdotes, swishing his broken green tail in the customers’ face as the tiny squirrel darts its way through the mounds of dried coconuts to its master. I love the ruckus created by their dog that wanders off on its own never too far, crossing roads and bringing back bits of news from the streets as soon as he sees the boys returning from school.
In the evenings, I love sitting by the sea watching the dark pall of twilight fall over the city that never sleeps. The twinkling lights of the advertisement hoardings and the cacophony of the horns with the occasional band baaja never fail to make me marvel at the undying spirit of the people.
Clutching a mug of hot chocolate, I gaze in amazement at the sparkling stars as they shine their way through the night. They possess an indescribable beauty about them. A beauty beyond words, a beauty I can’t yet fathom. Till this day, I wonder at their mystifying magic that keeps me encapsulated. I love falling asleep to the soft melodies of my favorite songs as I snuggle under the covers of my warm fluffy bed.
My heart races at the thrill of seeing the gold rays of the sun piercing their way through the lavender sky in the morning. My daily routine somehow always seems to be interrupted by the chirping of the mynahs and the smell of simmering coffee. The silvery sheen of the dragonfly wings create rainbow patterns in the sunlight as I watch thousands of them buzzing over the newly blossomed gulmohars.
A good laugh on my way to college is always provided by the urchins along the station who sit with their mats spread out over the cobbled pavements; a perfect picture of pity. Their pleading eyes and despairing demeanor soon vanish as they whisk into thin air when the heels of the occasional policeman make their appearance.
I continue my walk to the whistling trains, with a satisfied smile on my face as I go over another day with its picturesque stories and hidden magic. ‘Cause I know that in the mundane humdrum of my daily life, I’ve managed to find that extra in the ordinary.