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 person


The person is dead. She has built up walls to keep away people. She feels nothing, sees nothing. Occasionally she pretends to believe and see, but she finds it useless. So she retreats to her shell. It is warm and comfortable here. Nothing can touch her- no one can know her thoughts, no one can see her emotions. Sometimes she meets friends and goes out for parties and pretends to have fun. Deep down, she is lonely.

One day, someone comes along. He sits beside her beneath the stars and shows her the might of the sea. She sees the raging sea and for what feels after an eternity, she feels terror. Heart clenching, hair gripping terror. She gropes for an escape; she is unable to run away from this terror. Like a lightning bolt it strikes, and with one thunderous clash, her walls are shattered.

The person is in love. She feels things, she sees things. She feels a plethora of emotions- she feels alive. Her walls have been broken and she feels free. She is poetry- walking, breathing, dancing and loving. The person is very happy. She rejoices in the fragrance of the first blush and starts dreaming of eternity. Slowly she feels eternity slipping away. So she starts clinging. She transfers her hopes, dreams and fears onto him. Very gradually he becomes her hope, her dream and her worst fear.

He notices something is wrong. He cannot understand what has happened to her. All he knows is he is getting suffocated. So he starts moving away. But she simply cannot let that happen. She needs him for her eternity. She cries, she begs and she pleads. But he doesn’t budge. He knows he must go. Without a word, he disappears.

The person is enraged. She calls him names and destroys his memories. She drowns herself in remorse. She revels in her rage. She turns vile and mean. Her bloodshot eyes spit hatred. She loses sleep. She loses herself. The person is dead again.

After futile attempts and fruitless efforts, she begins to complain. She talks to people about how miserable she feels. People decide she cannot be sad for too long. They decide it is better for her to forget all about love. So they tell her to move on. She follows their advice, plastering smiles when her heart aches and losing herself in work when her eyes water. People are very impressed. They say her strength is commendable. The person hears this and feels very good and continues to pretend. It seems as though pretense is the way of the world.

She sees people getting up and going for work. She sees them making international phone calls and signing important documents. She sees them in absurdly tight and uncomfortable clothes. She wonders why they do so. They tell her it is to make an impression. Now the person finds this very absurd. But she doesn’t utter a word. Yet she sees hands typing away with dexterity at phones, eyes trained to avoid contact and heads filled with overflowing clutter. But the person’s eyes are not trained. She looks deep into their eyes and she sees boredom. She sees repression. And she sees fear.

So she talks to her parents and they say, “Work hard, mint money and then enjoy.” The person finds this even more absurd but again, she lets the opinions of others drown out her own voice and tries to show excitement at the ambitions others have and decide for her. But deep inside, she hates the world. She hates its people and their ways.  But she cannot show her resentment. Because the leaders say peace is the way of the world.

Sometimes her heart aches for love. She longs to be held. So she latches onto a stranger and makes mechanical love to him. She allows him to deduce her to a thing. She secretly wishes that he might look past her layers and love her. She doesn’t know the stranger wishes for that too. But the stranger is more adept at the ways of the world than her and he knows that he has to act grown up. He cannot show his emotions. He simply cannot be vulnerable. And when he sees the person breaking down and exposing her broken state, he gets angry. He very gets angry because he hates her for being weak. But deep down, he envies her. She can be something he would dare not. So he gives her a sermon on being strong and walks away.

The person is broken. On a rainy day she stands and watches him fade. She allows the rainwater to seep into her cracks. But she doesn’t want pain. It is too strong, too devastating for her. It is just too much. So she finds another stranger. And then another. By this time, she knows what to do. She parts ways with firm nonchalance and poise. She stops complaining about heartbreaks and stops dreaming about forever. Forever seems to be a faraway reality. Loneliness is the only reality she knows.

She moves along life until one day, she feels like writing. The words leap at her out of the page, constantly streaming across her eyes. The person knows only too well that she cannot let this voice subside. So she writes. She writes about love and hate, sorrow and loss, envy and lust. She starts complaining about the state of affairs again. She shows her hatred openly.

One dark night, she lets her monster surface. The monster claws in on her heart and shrivels her insides. It threatens to take over. Its flames rise slowly, licking her feet and torso. But she patiently waits. She resists the comfort of prayer and help. She lets it overwhelm her.  For the first time, she lets herself be utterly and terribly alone. In that one waking moment, she is surrounded by her hate, her lust, her envy, her greed and her revenge. She is surrounded by her demons. They take over, consuming her like a fire. And out of that fire, the person is born again.

A silent spectator


He was just like any other person I had met. I thought he had more to him – maybe his silences held some deep secrets, maybe his stoic countenance held some repressed emotions. The more I tried to dig, the more disappointed I got. It was then I realized that his silences held no hidden meaning, and his expressions were simple portrayals of his true nature. It was his nothingness, his ordinariness that made him extraordinary. His unwillingness to stand out made him special.

Sometimes in the evening, his friends immersed themselves in various sports, forgetting themselves and the world for a few hours. And in those few hours, he sat in the stands, taking it all in with a smile.

He rose in the early hours of dawn, saw the sunlight shining through the leaves and breathed in the fresh morning air. I could picture him sitting in meditation, basking in the glory of the ‘superiority’ he felt at rising before the world. As humanity made its first stirrings of the day, he sat watching his thoughts in silent harmony with nature.

He was like the characters in a R.K. Narayan novel – simple, with a pleasant disposition and a few wants. Often times, I try to picture him. What must he be like in person? And often times, the playground of life comes to my mind. I see people running about, going to office, attending college, doing their chores and buying big buildings. And in the background I see him, a silent spectator, viewing the world passing by.

Being human


I looked across the room and I saw your eyes wavering with some kind of unknown emotion. Or maybe it was an emotion I knew too well. You started speaking. You spoke about the way humans were, and the way they have always been. I saw my resolve reflected in your words. I started speaking up too. I told you how tired I was, how I was struggling with my ideas about the world too.
We spoke about the way people behaved, the way they talked and the way they thought. There was one thing that I admired the most in you. Your resolve held a more grounded tone than mine. It was a spot I desired to reach. A place of no ego, of no I.
As you spoke, I saw the effect of a few months of hardship reflected in your eyes. You spoke about the way your father died, about the way you brought up your little brother and learnt to survive on your own. I waited for the tears to come as you talked about the teacher that never returned to teach you as pieces of his body were found under a train.
But your eyes seemed to have a strength of their own. It wasn’t just your eyes; it was your heart too. It was, in fact, your whole being that had witnessed the ultimate fear- death- in its most brutal form. And yet, your words flowed, speaking about the glory of living life and as you put it, “enjoying all its colours.”
And I saw myself in you. We connected. We struck a chord. We talked and we shared. It was okay not to pretend anymore. Somehow, it was natural to want each other, to want to be loved and appreciated. Somehow, it was okay to feel human.
You reminded me that we needed each other.
You made me realize the very thing I was running from was something I needed to fill. I needed someone, and that was okay. It felt so easy to be with you, to talk to you.
And as you fell asleep that night, I saw your eyes shutting mine. I slept that night with a deeper sense of understanding and gratitude. I had you, and you had me.

Do you have the right answer?


I watch my mother giving me lessons about the great philosophies of life- love, hate and despair- as her face contorts into a medley of expressions, each gesture pronouncing the opposite of what her words say. I listen to my father decide what is and what isn’t the right career path for me as I see his regret of not being a doctor reflected in his eyes. I hear my grandmother decide what is and what isn’t the right way for our relatives (and the whole of humanity) to behave as she goes on and on, criticizing one thing after another.

It’s funny how we all are funnily the same.

We go about our ways, trying to show that our lives are prettier than they seem. We say we want love, but are scared of intimacy. We are scared of vulnerability – the very essence of love. We want the money and the grand five starred life, but we also want the security and the stability that comes with a three starred one.

Such words to some, no many, seem baseless and stupid. I know I am only 18 and am no great philosopher to be commenting on the ways of the world, but this is what I have seen and observed.

My parents think I am confused, impulsive and cranky. According to them, I do not have the slightest inkling of my “life’s path”. But as I go about my day, I see people talk and I see the same confusion, impulsiveness and crankiness reflected in their eyes. Some are afraid to show it, others pretend it doesn’t exist and a very select some dare to say, “I don’t know.”

This brings me back to my original question. Why are we taught to laugh when we want to cry and smile when we want to frown? Why must we pretend that our lives are better than what they truly are and our bank balances are larger than they seem? Why can’t we be content with being ourselves and say, “I am fine the way I am”?

Probably because we haven’t been taught how to fail. We have never been taught to be happy with the way we are. We have never been taught to love ourselves. And all our lives we hunt for that love, that “pursuit of happiness” that actually resides within us.

It’s funny how we all are funnily the same.

Take a walk tomorrow. Observe those who have a “hold” on life. See their actions, hear their thoughts. If they claim to have the answer to life, look out for their words. And if they don’t coincide, it’s probably because they don’t know the question itself.

Becoming Her


They say a picture speaks a thousand words.

At first sight she appears to be a shadow, a no-thing. But as I gaze further at her formless form, I notice the underlying layers. Layers that aren’t piled one on top of the other, but layers that are interspersed in the many hues of her enigma.

She stands with a shawl draped around her form, her dark hair flowing to her knees. She appears to be looking…away? Maybe yearning…wanting…but I can only guess.

The flames flicker around her, never getting too close. She remains shrouded in blackness as it dances around her, occasionally toying, almost playing with the flames.

In this blackness she dances; her eyes sing of capriciousness, one that I just notice. Her lips are bent, half curved into a…smile? I can only guess.

Her face lightens by the light she carries at her navel. Her bejeweled hair twinkles, gushing songs of an invitation as it cascades to her knees.

I can see a warmth… a redness developing in her cheeks. Is that a …blush? She opens her shawl just a bit. Not too much to reveal, but just enough to illuminate. She offers her illumination, smiling shyly, welcoming her stranger into her being.

Yet, she remains shrouded, never showing enough to reveal but enough to glimpse.

I stare at her form, hoping to discover more. But I am struck by disappointment. I manage to catch a mere glimpse of her as her smile changes, taking another form. It appears to be eerily…knowing?

I can only guess.

This is my love


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.

Life on Cloud 8


Great moments happen in the bathroom. We have seen this throughout history, be it ancient or contemporary. Archimedes had his moment in the bathtub. Had it not been for Jack Canfield’s eureka moment in the shower, we wouldn’t have the tasted the chicken soup he made for our souls. So it was only befitting when such a moment struck me in my moments of privacy.

People need something to remember me by. When I get all rich and famous, I won’t have time to answer to every gossip starved reporter’s questions. Then it struck me. Why not write an autobiography? I ruminated while I showered. If the adventures of my life are ever chronicled, I would like them to be recorded in my own words, not those of some senseless biographer’s.

My book would be called Life on Cloud 8. I have even thought of how certain pages of my autobiography would read. It would probably be something that went like this:

“I was born and brought up with books. Ever since I was a toddler, I was taught to preserve and value books. My father would bind them nice and tight, never letting a loose page go astray. From the great works of Osho to the spirited talks of Dale Carnegie, he had it all. Book after book was piled until it formed a great mountain, climbing higher and higher until it threatened to vanish beneath those laden clouds of his shirts and pants.

My grandmother possessed the art of storytelling. Her beautiful poetry wove magic as she recited verse after verse in her enchanting voice. I didn’t realize it back then; I was merely three. All I knew was that my grandma was someone special. And as I look back over the years, I realize that it was this gift of hers that I have inherited.

I laid my hands on the first book at the age of eight. Mind you, I had read books before, but all of them had to do with the solar system and the geography of the earth. But this one was different. It spoke of a court jester called Tenali Raman and his witty tales. I felt so good after reading it! It wasn’t like the comic books I had read. It had no cartoons and no illustrations. Reading it made me feel less childlike, more mature.

Then began the era of Harry Potter: the boy, who lived. And indeed he did live, right from my childhood through my adolescent years. “Promise me you will send me to Hogwarts once I turn eleven!” I would say, tugging at my father’s sleeve. I was in love and no amount of logic could coax me out of my magical fantasies. I wanted my own broomstick and my own Sorting hat. And my little brother was more than happy to encourage my desires as he stood brandishing his pen wand shouting spells at me.

Till then I had only been a silent reader, merely enjoying and reading the tales others had to tell. It wasn’t until the fifth grade that I discovered my passion for writing. I had written a short story titled Spooky Night for an essay assignment in school. I was nervously fiddling with my paper as I waited for the teacher to call out my name. “I like it, it’s funny,” said my partner. An appreciative nod from her was all it took for me to delve into the world of words. I went home and I wrote and wrote and wrote, about issues ranging from saving the environment to terrorism. My parents smiled appreciatively and encouraged me to read each poem that I had written.

Pottermania continued into my teens: the age of hormones and impulsiveness. I was suffering from heartbreak. Lonely and morose, I took solace in the world of words. They befriended me easily and comforted me in times of need. What I didn’t know was that while I was building a new world of my own, I was also building walls. Walls that fenced me from mental and emotional intimacy. Walls that kept me safe. I was so desperate for an escape that I didn’t realize when one by one, the words slipped away. I was in a blank space, stoic and emotionless with only the walls to keep me company.

And then I didn’t write for a year.

But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did.  I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

-Steve Jobs

It was during one of my little detours to the bookstore that I stumbled upon R. K. Narayan and his Malgudi days. In the dusty winding streets of Malgudi I found my innocence, my former childlike self. It was ironic that the same books that helped me grow up were the ones that wheedled me into childhood. I was in love once again. I marveled at the woody scent of the freshly printed pages and the way the words danced before my eyes, inviting me into a realm so unearthly that it seemed almost divine. I cherished it dearly, rejoicing in those moments of stillness and those moments of skin prickling illusion of proximity with the characters.

My readings helped me see things clearly now, with a fresh new perspective. So it wasn’t a surprise when one night I sat in front of the keyboard and pressed the ‘Publish’ button. It was my first piece of writing in nearly two years.

I had recommenced my journey into the world of words. It was my personal space, my safe haven. I came across many people on this blogging journey, young and old who shared and refuted my ideas. While some relished the art of baking, others cherished capturing moments in a frame. Each had contributed a part of themselves, however small, in their own special way to the world. I made friends, exchanged pleasantries and came across some really astounding people. They were all beautiful, lovely and generous. They all had something to say, something to give. It was this small commune of writers, of artists that ushered me into a realm of awe and gratitude. I enjoyed these interactions as much as, if not more than the act of writing itself.

Sometimes there would be instances when I would find all that I been looking for in a fellow blogger’s words…in his pictures, rekindling a long lost part of me. It was this mirroring…this connection… that made the world’s random turn of events less random.”

Playmate


The train rattled past the purple cabbage farms that lined the tracks as it made its way towards Sherganj. Between the towns of Sherganj and Mansard lay a small village called Pukri. Pukri was known for its purple cabbages. Apart from that, it was just like any other village. Small thatched roofs dotted its criss crossing dirt tracks. It didn’t have any roads. People traveled everywhere by foot. There was one trail in particular that wound around the Sewri creek and led into the woods. No one knew where the trail ended. No one had dared to find out.

Manu wondered what lay beyond the winding trail as he made his way to school. He had been told it led to a haunted mansion. He trudged along, thinking about the homework he had done last night. He hoped his teacher would like it.

                                                                     ***

“Care to explain what this is all about?” spat Ramprasad. Manu cowered behind his desk as he looked over the menacing form of his teacher. Ramprasad was a strict man who had little tolerance for children like Manu. His gaunt features turned gaunter as his paan stained lips stretched into a toothy grin. Manu hated that grin. It often spelt trouble. “Children in our days were obedient. When the elders said something had to be done, it had to be done. There were no questions or explanations. When we were told to work, we worked. When we were told to sleep, we slept. And when we were told to study, we studied,” said Ramprasad waggling a finger at Manu’s painting. “If I remember correctly, I told you to write an essay about the national bird, not paint it. Now what part of that did you not understand?” sneered Ramprasad. “Put out your hand!” he bellowed spraying red paan all over Manu’s face. Reluctantly, Manu raised a small hand and waited for the blows. They hurt more than they ever had. Ramprasad smacked the ruler on Manu’s knuckles till they turned red. “There. That should teach you not to disobey rules.”

Silently cursing his teacher, Manu walked home. “Stupid teacher,” he muttered. “He doesn’t know a thing about creativity.”

“I’m home!” announced Manu as he pushed open the door of his hut. “Go help your father in the shed!” came his mother’s reply. Sighing, Manu ran to the shed behind the house. The shed housed thirty buffaloes. To Manu, all of them looked the same. Big, fat and black. “Start on the cakes,” said his father emerging from within. The cakes were flat pancakes made of buffalo dung. They helped light the stove and when plastered to the walls, kept the hut cool in summers.

Manu made his way to the back and started rolling out small balls from the dung. “I should be out in the woods, having fun” he thought as he flattened them into pancakes. He collected a few pancakes and made his way to his fort. His ‘fort’ was an old run down cottage in the woods. It was hidden from view by the broad-leaved Palmyra trees that grew all around it. A flight of stairs led to the roof of the cottage.  Close to the cottage, was a small teepee like shack built of dung cakes.It was Manu’s favorite place. It was his safety spot. He would hide there for hours and hours when he sensed danger lurking around the fort.

“Yes! It’s complete!” yelled Manu as he placed two pancakes over the roof of the incomplete shack. But his joy was short-lived as he saw a foot flying towards his shack. Like a slow motion scene, he watched his safety shack crumble to dust. “I told you to make piles, not igloos!” yelled Manu’s father. “Do you even know the value of this dung? And you chose to waste it on this useless piece of architecture?” said his father twisting Manu’s ear. “Now go to your room and study!”

That night Manu lay on his bed thinking about the events of the day. Lifting himself up, he walked to his window and emptied his glass of milk outside till it formed a white puddle on the ground. It was only a few minutes before he heard a slurping sound.

“Tibbles,” Manu said climbing out of his window as he saw a kitten lapping greedily at the milk. He lowered himself and sat cross-legged beside Tibbles. Tibbles was the closest thing Manu had ever had. She was far better than the grown ups in his life. She did not complain, merely listened and licked her paws. Life was easy when you were a cat. No one complained if you left muddy footprints, no one cared if you failed your grade; no one bothered you if you did whatever you felt like.

Manu wished he could be more like Tibbles. She did not have to please anyone. Nor did she have to study. She did not care about grown ups and their stupid ways or about feeling lonely. Yes, Manu was heartbroken. He was lonely. He wished he had someone to play with. Someone who would be more like him. Someone who hated grown ups as much as he did. “I wish I had a playmate, you know,” he said scratching the back of Tibbles’ ears. But Tibbles did not respond. She had fallen asleep.

Sighing, Manu rubbed his eyes and he looked into the bushes. He was sure he had seen some movement. “Who is it?” he asked sleepily. The bushes parted and out stepped a boy.

“Shyam,” whispered the stranger.

To be continued…

Random words of kindness


Hello there  🙂

I can’t stop listening to Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s song, No Name. It is so beautiful. The sweetness and melody of the song sweep me off my feet into a land of fairy tales and princes. I dream of writing something that sincere and sweet. Something that would touch my heart and flow into words like honey.  Something, for some mysterious special.

I don’t know what to write about. I am just rambling away. It is a need to set my fingers to the keyboard that drives me to pen type these words. I know they make no sense; nevertheless, they are words that make me feel good, almost complete. I can’t come up with something earth shattering or gut wrenching right now, but this drive to write compels me to continue my mindless rant.

My cousin had a habit of playing make-believe with her toys. She would line her dolls and teddy bears up and conduct tea parties with them. She would then put them to bed and narrate stories of the great adventures that she was going to have. Memories and events like these, make me want to go back and grow up all over again. I hope that one day, when I am free of all societal aspirations and norms, I can visit that make-believe world again where life was simple. Drama at that time meant losing your favorite crayon and love meant the warmth of your mommy’s hug. Everything was less complicated and more fun.

I am often struck by certain words uttered to me. They have imprinted themselves in my memory and seem as fresh as yesterday. It was during one of my bored attempts at making friends on a site that I became pen pals with a Greek boy.  We exchanged pleasantries and when I expressed my concerns about not being able to fend for myself, he said,” When I went to study overseas, I was lost. For the first two days, I was roaming around the whole town. I hadn’t eaten and I was starving. By the third day, I was famished. I knew I needed to eat something. I was in a foreign land with foreign people, miles away from home and had no food or roof over my head. And for the first time, I felt free.”

People who frequent my blog would have known by now that I have trouble maintaining interpersonal relationships. It was during one of my encounters with strangers that I struck gold. An elderly gentleman and a beautiful grandfather of many once told me, “I understand. Hugs can express a lot of feeling but you must tell your parents that you love them. A simple I love you makes all the difference.” I was stunned on hearing these words. It was as if my own grandpa was guiding me through his sweet words from above.

A fellow blogger and acquaintance caught me by surprise when I discovered a truth about his life. He was the third and the only child in his family, the first two having died from premature death as babies. But his demeanor and words seemed to reveal nothing of the sort as he went about his life. He studied in one of the top institutions of the country. But neither his words nor actions revealed any of that pride. It summed up his life and character when he said,” Yeah I know. But I don’t feel the need to shout it out loud from the rooftops. “

Many strangers and friends come and go. But few like these manage to leave their footprints in my heart. Often times, I build walls and fences around my mind for fear of intrusion and intimacy. When I am afraid to let go of my inhibitions and fears, I recall six words once uttered by a close friend. “Trust life. It will take care.”

 

Have there been any words that have touched your heart?