Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda


Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

—from Extravagaria (translated by Alastair Reid, pp. 27-29, 1974)

Reflections


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.

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Shades Of The Sea


Recently I had the opportunity to go on a Photowalk with some really talented photographers one fine Sunday afternoon on the streets of Mumbai. Equipped with nothing but an iPhone, I tried my hands at street photography and turns out, I was pretty impressed with the results. I also learnt several lessons along the way.

1) Look. Notice. See. Watch every corner of the streetside unfold into photographic beauty as you peer at every pebble and sand grain through the lens of your camera. Beauty can be found anywhere. All you need to do is look.

2) Wait till your subject gets busy and resumes his/her own work before clicking his/her picture.

3) If a Mumbai fisherman tells you not to click a picture of his colorful boats, you DO NOT click a picture of his colorful boats.

Enjoy and comment below!

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The fault in our wars


The fault with radical activism of any sort is that it is radical. It is fierce; it is aggressive and highly critical. Its proponents are a bulldozer, squashing you with their countless terminologies and dismissing you at the slightest hint of ignorance. It is the language of war and subdued violence, erupting like a volcano at the slightest provocation. While the use of activism to bring about social change and justice is validated, the use of aggression to make marginalized voices heard is not. Agreed, that people of queer identities or color face discrimination on a micro level—as an Indian studying in one of the finest liberal arts schools in the United States, I can safely say that the college itself is not so liberal. Despite its open dialogs and safe spaces of discussion about race, color, sexual identities, it displays ignorance at the most fundamental level. Racism, a vehemently opposed concept here, doesn’t cease to exist as my fellow classmates hesitate; trying to place my accent and nationality before answering my simple questions.  I have been the third wheel way too often during group conversations with my American friends—people forgetting to ask for my opinion on current topics or seemingly forgetting that I exist in the group eating dinner together. My conversations with the Indian diaspora in America consist of the latest Bollywood movie and reminiscences of the ways in which Indian food is more flavorful than that of America, as if the beginning and end of my knowledge spans only India. While writing and speaking about these issues deeply upsets me, I also realize that this is not a reason to lash out in anger at anyone who says, “Oh, are you from India? I know all about it, I have seen Slumdog Millionare!” or “How do you speak such good English?”

The reason why contemporary activism fails to make an impact on most occasions is because it polarizes, it strengthens the other as the activist struggling to be heard uses passion fueled hate. As an informed and educated citizen of this world, it becomes my duty as much as my audience’s to recognize the ignorance that exists in both parties. If their knowledge of India does not go beyond Slumdog Millionare, my knowledge of America does not go beyond popular TV shows such as Friends and How I Met Your Mother (this was only until I became a student in the United States). If my impatience stems from their blatant ignorance, their discrimination might stem from misinformation via film and other popular media. In order to truly connect and harmonize both worlds, I need an activism that uses the language of love and connection. One that does not divide, but one that joins. One that does not polarize but one that recognizes the other as an extension of oneself. One that does not vehemently dismiss but one that includes and gently educates. The idea of the other being separate from ourselves arises mainly from the Western individualistic society where the “I” is placed above everything and everyone else; it chooses to defend at the first signs of attack. This is where the socialistic model of society from the East can be useful.

Using this socialistic model, which stresses on the importance of connections and strength of interpersonal relations, we realize that at the end of the day we are all humans, all frail creatures looking for the same thing- love. Whether it is the queer Black activist in Boston or the white American heterosexual in New York,  both are searching for the same thing- ears that listen and hearts that understand. The term “open dialog” will only live up to its meaning when both come together from a space of curiosity, of wanting to learn and educate themselves and the other on the peculiarities of their own human existence. The “safe spaces” will only begin to take shape when there is patience, kindness and empathy in the hearts of those who watch Slumdog Millionare and Friends. When we begin to recognize that connections and the frailties that bind us, our polarities cease to exist, the You versus I and the Them versus Us crumble, giving way to We. Thus, the next time someone misreads your identity, take a step back and a deep breath; realize: I am just another You.

 

At Sea: Growing up, Seeking Home


” I have been learning the language of analysis, criticism, and theory, unraveling this incongruent world concept-by-concept, word-by-word.”

Luna Beller-Tadiar

http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2014/05/sea-growing-seeking-home/

One of the most lyrical and beautifully written pieces I have read in a long time. It resonated with me on a deep deep level. Articulates my thoughts brilliantly. I encourage you all to give it a read.

 

The quiet places in your mind

Quote


 “There are quiet places also in the mind,” he said, meditatively. “But we build bandstand and factories on them. Deliberately—to put a stop to the quietness. We don’t like the quietness. All the thoughts, all the preoccupation in my head—round and round continually.” He made a circular motion with his hands. “And the jazz bands, the music hall songs, the boys shouting the news. What’s it all for? To put an end to the quiet, to break it up and disperse it, to pretend at any cost it isn’t there. Ah, but it is, it is there, in spite of everything, at the back of everything. Lying awake at night, sometimes—not restlessly, but serenely, waiting for sleep—the quiet re-establishes itself, piece by piece; all the broken bits, all the fragments of it we’ve been so busily dispersing all day long. It re-establishes itself, an inward quiet, like this outward quiet of grass and trees. It fills one, it grows –a crystal quiet, a growing expanding crystal. It grows, it becomes more perfect; it is beautiful and terrifying, yes, terrifying, as well as beautiful. For one’s alone in the crystal and there’s no support from outside, there’s nothing external and important, nothing external and trivial to pull oneself up by or to stand up, superiorly, contemptuously, so that one can look down. There’s nothing to laugh at or feel enthusiastic about. But the quiet grows and grows. Beautifully and unbearably. And at last you are conscious of something approaching; it is almost a faint sound of footsteps. Something inexpressibly lovely and wonderful advances through the crystal, nearer, nearer. And oh, inexpressibly terrifying. For if it were to touch you, if it were to seize and engulf you, you’d die; all the regular habitual, daily part of you would die. There would be and end of bandstands and whizzing factories, and one would have to begin living arduously in the quiet, arduously n some strange unheard-of manner. Nearer, nearer come the steps; but one can’t face the advancing thing. One daren’t. It’s too terrifying; it’s too painful to die. Quickly, before it is too late, start the factory wheels, bang the drum, blow up the saxophone. Think of the women you’d like to sleep with, the schemes for making money, the gossip about your friends, the last outrage of the politicians. Anything for a diversion. Break the silence, smash the crystal to pieces. There, it lies in bits; it is easily broken, hard to build up and easy to break. And the steps? Ah, those have taken themselves off, double quick. Double quick, they were gone at the flawing of the crystal. And by this time the lovely and terrifying thing is three infinities away, at least. And you lie tranquilly on your bed, thinking of what you’d do if you had ten thousand pounds and of all the fornications you’ll never commit.” – Aldous Huxley

I am keeping my cup full


cup full

 

Meditation is hard. It is not about sitting down as a way of de stressing. It does things, it changes your life. It makes you take actions that mark the death of the regular habitual part of you. For instance, you begin to notice the noise that you surround yourself with- your phone, your laptop, your social media, specially Facebook; you notice the effort attention seeking demands- constantly being under pressure of having to look good, having to impress, having to better yourself and being under the radar at all times. Attention seeking doesn’t signify a bloated ego nor does it denote a crime committed solely by movie stars and the media. It is human and it is what each of us do, on a daily basis- going through multiple romantic partners as we seek validation from one to the next, taking up multiple projects to decorate our resumes, constantly pleasing others to fit into their model of perfection, and always needing to be perfect, right, attractive and successful. While all of this sounds familiar and not necessarily bad, the effects that attention seeking has on our psyche are downright violent and toxic.

Attention seeking becomes like a pleasure inducing drug we all chase, going after the next big dose when the small dose ceases to please us. We are all drunk on the idea that attention and only attention can heal us. Only that final seal of approval from the girl/boy will make us complete, only having that PhD will make us good human beings. I talk about meditation often these days because of the ways it is gradually but noticeably starting to impact my life. It makes me realize the need to support the growing quiet in myself. I recently had to let go of an amazing service project I was appointed leader of to spend more time with myself. I had to cut down on the number of classes I wanted to take to focus only the ones I really wanted to study. I had to say no to myself over and over again when the desire to talk to an ex arose only to save myself from the additional pain and toxicity the interaction would bring. I had to stand up for myself during a heated interaction with my roommate. I had to acknowledge how mentally violent I was being with myself while I kept running from one thing on my to do list to another. I had to stop talking to a friend only when I needed attention. While all of this sounds impressive, it was no mean task. It took a lot of reflection, tears and letting go. It took a lot of painful nights. Starting to let go of the need for attention and validation has certainly not made others happy in my life, but has given me more peace. It has allowed me to make mistakes; it has given me the liberty to be imperfect. It has made me feel more comfortable in my shoes and above all, it has given me space to breathe.

It’s self-full to put yourself first, to be as good as possible, to take care of you, to keep you whole and healthy. You want your cup to be full. ‘My cup runneth over.’ What comes out of the cup is for y’all. What’s in the cup is mine.- Iyanla Vanzant

The violence of strength


I want to emphasize on the violence involved in the warrior approach that most survivor tales take on, after the death of a loved one, loss, or a break up. There is often implied aggression in the survivor tales we see being portrayed time and again in the movies, songs and other popular media. In a sort of Bildungsroman, the protagonist must go through the break up/loss to come out with a cleaner character, he/she needs to take on an approach of that of a warrior where he/she is taking charge and control of his/her life. It is because our society discourages failure. The helplessness we so often seek to combat catches up with us in the end. The aggression or the hatred stemming from the break up is often channelized into a hardened personality, one that of a “tough” individual who goes about life in an almost superhero way. The portrayal of these characters, specially females, overly aggressive “radical” feminists shows the assertion of anger at a very core level; an escapist attitude from the ultimate helplessness that we all want to avoid. We don’t like being helpless, we want to be bigger than our problems, we want to tackle life, and we want to be in charge. All this war terminology creates an armor that not only hardens, but also defeats the individual. At a core level, our soul is being crushed.

The true essence of the soul is not that of enmity, struggle or combat, but that of a relaxed surrender to the realization that we are all powerless in this grand orchestra of life. It is due to my continued practice of meditation that disallows any hardening; I have come to realize that struggle is not the way to achieve personal growth and change. That we do not own the powers to overcome every situation, that things happen in their own time, that love does not disappear easily despite a bad break up, and that we will make mistakes repeatedly. The marginalization of failure, of reality is one problem that must not be undermined. You are very likely to wake up with an aching heart or worse still, a sleepless night tomorrow. You will probably be quicker in doling out “I love yous” to your lovers than to your parents. You might skip a day in your exercise regime. Life is not always rosy and successful. We are creatures of comfort and ease and are highly unlikely to go through a character arc overnight. Sitting with failure is hard, when all you want to do is to rip out someone’s head or maybe even yours. It is harder to admit that you are powerless. But it is only through surrender to this failure that we learn to recognize the true strength in ourselves and emerge as the compassionate, loving, softhearted beings that we really are.

New beginnings


Being alone has a very negative connotation to it. Till recently, I viewed being alone as something lonely, something scary. I was out alone in the world, with no one to turn to, with no one to guide me. What I didn’t realize what that for the first time in my life, I had no one making decisions for me. I was free to craft my own circumstances, my own life, and my own identity. I could be whoever and whatever I wanted to be. This got me thinking and I realized we fear change, we fear this aloneness, when our supports are withdrawn. We feel crippled. We no longer have our supports enslaving us; we are free. We resist freedom not enslavement. Enslavement is comfortable, it is something we know. It has the scent of familiarity.

I was talking to a friend about the difficult and challenging experience of living abroad and he told me, “I understand you’re lonely there. I wouldn’t be able to live there. I surrounded by people here, yet I feel lonely. I guess I am addicted to the loneliness among people I know.” This showed me we are weak, vulnerable creatures willing to cling to the first semblance of enslavement because the new scares us. It holds no promises. It shines in the bleak horizon of uncertainty. We fear the new, we fear new creation. We had rather cling to the old than build something new.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

– Marianne Williamson

new-beginning

We


Identity.

Id-entity?

I’d entity?

I had an entity?

I have an entity.

I.

You.

We.

Let’s put a sex on this I. She.

Let’s put a name on her. Rachel.

Let’s put an age on Rachel. 20.

Let’s put a nationality on 20 year old Rachel. American.

Let’s give 20 year old Rachel from America a race. White.

Voila! You have a person with an identity!

Sex, name, age, nationality, race.

I bet you have many other labels too.

We hold on to these labels: he, she, they as if they will somehow define us.

We hold debates, write angry poems, and hold protests on capitalism, nationalism, colonialism and a million other isms as if they will somehow make the pain of our human existence more interesting than “theirs”.

We. I know you don’t like this word.

It makes you uncomfortable; I can see you squirming in your seat already.

It scares you; I can see you forming arguments in your head already.

It makes you afraid, it dissolves the line between you and I, him and her, black and white, Asian and American and makes us.

Tell me friend, are your labels the same ones that weigh down your brain with their countless terminologies and divisions as you struggle to sleep at night?

Do they make you different from that Asian guy in your class when you both reach out for the glass of vodka trying to forget these same definitions?

What makes your need for validation different from those heterosexuals as you both grind against a stranger in drunker stupor?

What makes you different from me when you say water and I say water in different accents when we both sound the same underwater?

We.

I know you’re still afraid of that word.

I know you’re not willing to let go.

I know you’re still clinging to those three words you have been taught- I love you.

I know that you’re terrified that if you let you and I drop, only one word remains.

Love.

And we certainly cannot have that.