Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Write Tribe Anthology Book 1

Friends delighted to present to you all The Write Tribe Anthology Book 1, a compilation of 36 posts from 36 wonderful enthusiastic bloggers....so proud to be part of this!! Many thanks to Vidya for all her efforts into the editing, proof reading and churning out this fabulous book...don't you just love the cover, so classy, so vintage :) makes me feel like a seasoned writer hehe :)....Thanks to Vaisakh the happy helper and most importantly dear Corinne who brought all these bloggers under one roof 'The Write Tribe' providing us much love, shelter and care and prompting each of us to get creative and write our best! 

Do download the book here, also available under 'My downloads' at the top right side bar. There is something in this that I'm sure each of you will enjoy - short stories, poetry, 55 fiction, personal stories and experiences, parenting wisdom, haiku, anecdotes, humor and more....Love you my fellow Write tribers....this is just the beginning!!!


Monday, December 23, 2013

'You'

Hand in hand we walk
Just like it were yesterday
and I'm filled with gratitude
for 'you' in my life...
My friend, my confidant
Love of my life, partner in crime

I look back at our journey...
our differences, our individualities
those distances, those fights...
We don't appreciate these much
But they are truly a blessing in disguise!

For despite the odds, we fell in love
In love with each's true selves
Our souls connected, recognized
accepted, understood, embraced, loved.

'You' are always there in my gratitude prayers
You complete me...
bring out the best in me...
Light up my soul...

:) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

Written for Write Tribe's 100 words on Saturday. The prompt ' A blessing in disguise' was provided by the lovely Shilpa Garg - our in-house drabble queen!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Part 10 - He'll always remain your Pa

Contd from Part 9 - Dreams

"I could carry you 100 times over" I heard him say to Ma, his breath enveloping hers as he carried her gently in his arms like a new born up those steps into her new home. It is so effortless, their love, I could endlessly gaze at them, their warmth touching my heart. Ma still touches him now and then assuring herself this is all real, not a dream, not a ghost, very real!

I was packing my bags as he came to my room. We shared a cordial relationship, comfortable but still awkward. So I wasn't expecting such a tender and compassionate hug from him. "Thank you" he said, his arms still around me.

The first time I saw him he was sitting in the yellow light, the letter in his trembling hand, rocking in his chair, his tears rolling down his face unashamedly. He didn't move. didn't speak, didn't make an effort to wipe his salty face. I didn't judge him, reading that letter had me shaken too...

Dear S.S
This perhaps is my 31st letter you, each one of the earlier ones torn and thrown in the dustbin. I don't know where to begin. Should I ask for forgiveness first or should I just confess and pray that you understand. It is not easy living with this guilt...sometimes when she looked at me I feared she knew the truth. I was ashamed of myself, ashamed of calling myself a friend, a husband. But I was a good father...I was proud to be his Pa...until today. Until today...when he came to know the truth and left home...bringing me back to the bitter reality that I was not his father. You were! I was just living a make-believe dream. All this...this family...he...belonged to you. 
Remember how I had always yearned for a family...though your family had taken me in, giving me all that they gave you, never differentiating between us, it still hurt whenever I saw you sitting on your father's lap, eating out of your mother's hand...it reminded me I was an orphan...it reminded me I was born alone...
You were not there when he was born, when his cries filled the hospital room with joy, when my little finger was between his tiny hands as he slept and his grip became a little tighter as he sneezed his tiny sneeze for the first time. You were not there when he crawled down from his cot on his own, when he wobbled and fell trying to walk. You were not there when he said "Pa" for the first time, his voice golden, the word so pure so magical. You were not there...I was! 
And then suddenly after five years you appeared...I did genuinely search for you initially...after all Kiran was yours, only yours...you didn't even know about Karan...and then your letters came and I did want to tell her. I so wanted you two to be together...but I feared...I feared that...I feared losing my son. I feared...

I saw him reading the letter again. I saw him nodding his head vigorously the tears still flowing. I was standing in the shadow of the door so he couldn't see me. But he knew someone was there, "Anuj?" his voice shaky, distant. "He is no more..." was my meek reply. I stepped into the yellow light, "I am his son...yours....Karan".

I still think how easily Pa was forgiven by the ones to whom he had done the most wrong. But I can also see how much they are in love and nothing else matters to them. The past is forgotten, forgiven...they just live in the now, in each others arms. I bid them farewell and they wave their goodbyes from their free hand, the other one entwined with each others. I still remember their last words..."Come back soon" hers and "He'll always remain your Pa" his.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Part 9 - Dreams

Contd from Part 8 - Clearing doubts

Dreamily you look into my eyes
I see what you see
I promise, taking your hand
This touch, my word, sacred!

We dream together
of a life, a home
A place ours to be free
to be us, to be in love...

You whisper in my ear
I play with your loose black curl
Our faces burning blush
Our eyes locked in reverie

'Wait for me' I say
and I know you will
In my heart I carry you
this distance making our love stronger...

I had formed an imagery of the faceless one in my head reading this poem amongst such many...a strong exterior with a delicate heart I believed him to have..and I believed that this dream my parents had seen about a few decades back would soon become a reality.

I had called in ahead to book a room at the Kiran villas and true to their word they had a young lad waiting at their base to carry my bag. The caretaker, also the cook, had warned me that the villa is at a higher level and can be only be reached by steps. It was only when the 100 odds steps stared at me from above overpowering my small stance I realized I should have taken his warning seriously.

Reaching my room I breathed a sigh of relief and at the same time an exhilarating squeal. In the lap of nature, the surrounding mist cradling me, the sky almost in my reach. This moment...one of the most precious ones in my life.

Tea with freshly baked bread and cookies were sent up to my room along with a note..

"We treat our guests as family. Please feel at home. Warm regards - S.S"

My heart skipped a beat...the time is near. I beamed " Can I meet him, the owner?" The young lad who had brought in the note apologized saying he will probably not be back till midnight.

I quickly scurried in my bag and took out the diary and from it the letter. The letter that quietly lay between the pages of sweet odes and yearnings....the letter Pa had written to his friend but did not carry the courage or perhaps the intention to post...the letter which revealed his reasons...

"Please give this to him as soon as he comes. This is extremely urgent...understand?" I spoke a bit strongly, emphasizing on each word and handed the letter to him.

(to be contd.)

Day 7 prompt was Dreams!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Part 8 - Clearing doubts


"There is nothing more fearful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills" - Buddha

Doubt...all along this seed of doubt was the reason for such complexities. Wish my (real) father had not doubted Ma's love for him and had gone up to her seeking an explanation. He would have realized why she got married, he would have realized my being....and Life as we know today could be so different. 

Pa...his reasons difficult to understand...or not...I would be lying if his confession found in that letter... hidden away in the diary, didn't bother me...his reasons from keeping the truth from his dear friend, from Ma, from me...love...love was the reason he gave...his justification.

But one can't understand human behavior really...why people think or react the way they do?

All these thoughts lingered on my mind as I sat in the backseat of the cab, enjoying the view the pine trees offered. The diary perched on my side, it had played it's role and was now waiting to re-unite with its owner. Ma has no idea what I'd been upto for the last 40 hours...

Leaving from the Golden temple, it just clicked...the next step. I ran through the letters again and went straight to the sender's address. It was Simran I met there. An old petite figure full of life...My aunt, Ma's best friend, his sister. Such a warm and jovial personality, she made me comfortable and I let down my inhibitions and heard my parent's love story as it happened. I also got the sense that she somewhere hadn't approved of the relationship and I soon understood why. My father was a Sikh! The S.S. initials stood for Suraj Singh. My Ma's family a devote Hindu one...Even after years the 1984 Sikh riots had left its bitter after taste in homes...homes which otherwise celebrated each festival together, be it Baisakhi or Holi, but would not let an inter-religion marriage take place...Doubt...the seeds of doubt planted years ago still had their roots in the present society.

I begged her to tell me where my father was. She tearfully told me she hadn't seen him in years. For one year she had tried to nurse him back to get on with his life, she had tried hard to make him forget his love. Tired one day she had yelled at him, angry at seeing his brother in such a state was difficult. It took a lot of energy to keep smiling, encouraging and talking to almost a dead man. A mummy. "People laugh at us" she had said mockingly cried that day, "A brother lying dead all day leaving his mess to be cleaned up by his sister. A sister he should have gotten married by now...the village speaks such ill...but nothing matters to you." And that night he had just disappeared.

I was dismayed at hearing this. "But surely buaji, there must be some way to find him" I pleaded. She racked her brains and finally had given me a cue my heart told to follow. "I think he might have gone to Dalhousie, one of his army friend stays there. He had no where else to go" she had finally said.

It was not much of an effort to find a one Mr. Suraj Singh in Dalhousie...a one with an army background. The cabby was instructed not to stop, not to slow down....we were now just a few hours away from the 'Kiran villas'...I couldn't help smiling at the name of the homestay...he had never stopped loving Ma clearly...her name being the name of his villa.

(to be contd.)

Day 6 prompt was People!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Part 7 - Acceptance and forgiveness

Contd from Part 6 - My father's letters

I felt let down by a man I loved the most, my idol....my heart still couldn't believe what my mind was suggesting! "You seem quiet there Son, everything alright?" A tense shrug was all I could muster in response, the diary still on my mind. I already felt a certain kind of connection with him...the faceless one...

Rajjo Maasi and Ma were busy chatting, catching up while I was gazing at the rural idylls as the lush acres of greenery were staring back me, welcoming me to their land...my land. They seemed to be speaking to me coaxing me to let go....assuring me that I will find what I seek. The chaotic half an hour drive from the station that reminded of the narrow lanes of Chandni-chowk and made me feel right at home, the colorful turbans bouncing in every direction I saw, the cheerful voice of my mother reminiscing her childhood days - "see that lane Karan, that is where...", distracted me from the conflicts streaming in my mind. It was a travel through time for Ma...she had resisted to come back to Amritsar after marriage for many a reasons...but right now, this place, is where I'd like her to be...forever...if her kid-like expressions, her infectious smile and her twinkling eyes is what this place brought out in her.

In the evening we decided to visit the Golden temple one of the holiest places of Sikh worship in the world. I wasn't excited to go there at first...I needed some time alone...time alone with him...his diary. But Ma's expectant eyes melted me and I'm so glad that I accompanied them. As I stood facing the shimmering golden structure magically floating atop the placid lake, something in me stirred. The temple's golden rays reflected on the lake and entered straight into my heart. I sat on the cool marble surveying the many believers who were taking a dip in the sacred waters to cleanse their souls. Such is the way to love too I thought, taking the plunge, with undeterred faith and belief, no matter how cold the water is.



















The soulful reciting of the Guru Granth Sahib reverberated the surroundings connecting humanity... connecting me with my fathers...both of them...wherever they might be. I had never been a religious person...and I had lost complete faith when my life was upturned in a second three years back. But as I sat there soaking in the spiritual air I felt light...I accepted... I forgave...I felt a sense of gratitude... I had two fathers!

I requested Ma if I could stay back the night here...I had befriended a Sardarji who was a volunteer at the temple and was kind enough to let me join him in sweeping of the area at night. He told me this was service of the highest order and the early sunrise would be a divine blessing.

I stayed...



















What I experienced was something words can't express...I left there after eating at Guruji ka langar...both my stomach and my soul filled with love.

(to be contd.)

Day 5 prompt was Travel!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Part 6 - My father's letters

Contd from Part 5 - Moving

I felt like throwing up and rushed outside, the book still in hand. My racing heart matched the beats of rattling of the train against the iron tracks. I took a deep breath and steadied myself, seeking some peace in the beautiful landscape whisking past me. I opened the book again...carefully eyeing it this time....yes it was a diary...no it wasn't Pa's...

I squinted and started to read the first letter....it was dated 1992. I was about 5 years old then...it was definitely from him! It simply said

"Anuj, I'm back...but broken and battered. 
I need you mate. 
Are you still in Delhi? Hoping you'll call me as soon as you get this. - S.S."

Ma had told me that they had searched for weeks for him...If Pa has this letter then why...?

I quickly turned to the next letter...

"You must be out friend...for the past one week I've been glued to my bed. I feel my legs will not be able to carry me....such is the heaviness in my heart. 
Kiran...I saw her the other day. I saw her son, his eyes as beautiful as hers. 
Why didn't you stop this...you said you'll take care of her while I'm away...how could she move on like that?
I couldn't face the humiliation Anuj. I couldn't face that she was someone else's...I ran...never looked back. I don't think I can look back... - S.S"

I wanted to scream. I wanted to question Pa. I wanted to know the meaning of this. With nervous hands I turned the page...

"No response from you. But writing to you eases my pain...
Love is a strange word, a different world...The once happy memories are turning sour.
I have started to question my love. Did she love me at all?
You remember this photo...you had clicked her and given it to me as I was leaving. Her smile, her eyes...sometimes I think the only reason I survived the atrocities at the border was because of this photo. I used to look at her...countless moonless nights spent like this...the bombs, the gunshots magically turned into a beautiful melody...her face the music my soul needed.
And now I can't ever bare to look at her. Trusting you with her photo and my diary - S.S.
P.S. I miss you my friend"

The letters were a haze now as I wiped a tear from my shirt sleeve. How could things go so wrong when two people are so in love? Why didn't a friend answer a friend in such dire need?

The train came to a halt. A tea vendor got in....several glass tea cups kept in a metal stand...his hand tinkling the cups rhythmically...his voice...a sing-song boyish voice repeating..."chai garam....chai garam", brought me back to present! I noticed we had reached Phagwara junction...I went back inside...Ma was perched on the berth. I wanted to hug her. I wanted to give back her lost years, her lost love. We were in this together now. We both have been lied to.

(to be contd.)

Day 4 prompt was Music!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Part 5 - Moving

Contd from Part 4 - Some answers

The last two days were a whirlwind, packing, discarding, planning, and again packing. I looked around the empty house, the one bedroom and kitchen seemed so spacious now. My steps felt heavy as I moved to pack the last of the boxes, only Pa's cupboard was remaining. Ma had gone to say her last goodbyes to the neighborhood. She had said it would be too difficult for her to see his belongings and had asked me to do it. "How is it any easy for me?" I mumbled and opened his cupboard.

The first thing I noticed was Ma's photograph clipped to a hook on the back wall of the cupboard. Her kohl eyes bent down with her red bindi directed at me, her lips hinting at a shy smile. How very romantic of Pa I thought but...wasn't he just a keeper, a protector of his best friend's love? That's what Ma had told me, her exact words being "Anuj suggested we got married to save me from the humiliation. We had no choice. I always had deep respect for your Pa, and yes perhaps a kind of love too developed between us....but he never said much...you know how he kept all his thoughts and feelings to self!"

I took the photograph and kept it in my pocket. The rest of Pa's belongings were not much. Few clothes, on office folder with all his documents, a telephone book, his T.T. racket among other things. I quickly kept all of it in one box and was about to tape it when I saw something peek out of the last shelf. I bent down to recover a book, leather bound, the pages strung together with string. A diary? But Pa was never quite the writer, and as far as I knew he disliked to keep a journal or a record of any activity. But what did I know? It seemed I never knew my parents really! "Beta done? The taxi is here" I heard Ma shout from downstairs.  I quickly slid the book in my bag and sealed the box, "Coming Ma!"

The train hooted and chuffed and slowly started moving....it all seemed surreal, leaving behind the city that I had grew up in. "It's for the better!" Ma said, I really wanted to believe her. I smiled meekly. "Moving forward, moving away, hopefully moving in the right direction!" I kept repeating this in my head. "Ah I almost forgot, look Ma what I found" I reached for my pocket and showed her her picture. "Where did you get this?" she seemed astonished, not really happy. Her expressions confused me. "Where else Ma, in Pa's cupboard of course. That's a silly question!" I teased. "Well, I remember exactly when this was clicked. And it's strange that Anuj had this! When he, your father, was leaving for the army he had requested a photo of mine and Anuj clicked this and gave it to him. Anyway, forget it!" she shrugged and closed her eyes, soon to be fast asleep.

I was getting fidgety. I always carried a novel or a magazine while travelling but in the rush I had forgotten to purchase one. It was then that I took out Pa's diary. I didn't want to read it in front of Ma. She wouldn't have approved of it. But she was still deep in her slumber and I was curious. What I saw completely baffled me! They were a series of letter and notes strung together to form this book or journal, or whatever one might call it. The handwriting had a certain resemblance from somewhere but it certainly was not Pa's writing. It struck me like a lightning. Was this...could this be from my father...my birth father?

(to be contd.)



Monday, December 9, 2013

Part 4 - Some answers

Contd from Part 3 - Memories

I woke up to the sound of the wonderful sizzle. I checked the time...It's only 8:00 am, what's cooking so early I wondered. I couldn't control my gastronomical urge and sniffing like a dog I approached Ma in the kitchen. With a little of the yellow batter smeared on her black saree, a laddle in hand and a smile on her lips, I found her cooking my all-time favourite pakoras. The usual onion, potato and chilli, cut in desired length, well coated with the besan batter were waiting to be placed in the simmering oil. I licked my lips and clasped my hands in delight, when I spotted the unusual brinjal too waiting its turn. I was about to question Ma when she asked me to make tea, after all pakoras without chai is like a romantic dinner date without the soft music and candle lights!

"You know your father loved his pakoras too, especially the brinjal ones. I think I'm making these after almost an eternity" she said with a forlorn look. "But Pa hated..." I bit my tongue holding back my words, realizing that she was talking about my birth father. She had started this conversation on her own! I held my breath, not letting her sense my anticipation. I quietly kept stirring the tea eager to know more yet fearing to know the truth.

"We first met when I was all but 14. He was my best friend's brother. It was an instant mutual attraction for both of us but it took almost a month to just say a coy hello. For weeks it was just our eyes that spoke" Her face so ethereal when she spoke these words, love that had been buried for all these years was being dusted off. "You can meet her...Simran...my once friend...his only sister..in Amritsar" My jaw dropped were we going to my father's land! Would I find my answers there?

"Ma if you loved him so much why didn't you wait for him? I read that letter you gave me...why didn't you wait for your love to come back?" This question had been bothering me for so long. I just had to know. "Anuj was your father's childhood buddy. Only he knew about our relationship and no one else. He lied for us, spied for us, got into trouble because of us and also was the one who gut us out of troubles. When your father left for the army neither of us knew that our lives were going to change forever. Neither of us knew that you little one were already in my womb"

(to be contd.)



Sunday, December 8, 2013

Part 3 - Memories

Prologue here

Part 1 - The search

Part 2 - The Truth stings

Part 3 (contd)

She was unpacking my suitcase when I entered with the tea and her favourite anise flavoured cookies. Although, as taught all through my growing up years, my clothes were neatly folded and stacked in the suitcase, I still saw her taking out each item re-folding it and keeping it in the cupboard. I had always found her obsessive compulsive behaviour to be freakish and would easily get irritated, but today I stood there amused realizing that I had actually missed this about her. "Why are you up Ma? You know you have been advised as much as rest as possible." The concern in my voice made her look up.
"I feel so alive today Karan...so full of life. I think seeing you has refreshed me." She had covered the five step distance between us while speaking and already the cookie had been lifted to her mouth. I could sense her spirits were up today.

"I want to move out of the house. The past two months I have been mourning Anuj's death and now with my health dwindling I don't think I can hang around like this...here...waiting for..." Innocent to where this conversation was heading I excitedly proposed to take her to the market...street shopping, enjoying the lip smacking chaat at Bittoo Tikki Wala, a session of gossip with Mrs. Rao...I presumed, moving out of the house, was synonym with these activities for Ma. "No Karan, I mean shift out...I was thinking of staying with Rajjo di" Rajjo di was Ma' elder sister, my beloved aunt..."but she lives in Amritsar!!" I shouted aloud perplexed. 

I was not happy, how could we leave this house, our house, my house - so many memories. Of growing up, memories of Pa! Unlike the common perception that sons are more close to their mothers, I was a daddy's son. The Sunday gully cricket, the silent long walks, the indoor ping-pong atop our dining table, sitting idly in the winter sun eating peanuts, the serious conversations on women and politics...all these memories were a part of this place...leaving would mean leaving a part of me here...But of course for Ma this house spelt memories of lost love, death of her husband and her only son deserting her...Life had again presented a situation where I had to bow down.

We did go shopping that day. I saw Ma's eyes gleam as she checked out the shimmering sarees and the colourful bangles. But she didn't buy anything for herself and despite my reservations got me a leather jacket instead. A dark brown leather jacket very much like the one Pa had. Maybe that's why her eyes had lingered on this jacket hanging amidst the more fancier ones. I remember how Pa used to never leave home without this jacket in winters. I remember how Ma gently touched his shoulder and wished him a good day as he left for his work on the construction site. I remember how when he got back and removed his jacket, I would immediately put it on breathing in his smell, catching a whiff of the cement, the dust, the sweat, the hard work, imagining myself to grow up one day and become just like him.

(to be contd.)

I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 8th – 14th December 2013
Day 1 prompt is Memories!

Oh I'm so excited linking this to the Write Tribe Festival of Words - 2. This is going to be helluva 7 days with reading excellent posts, commenting, sharing and connecting. Two of my dear tribers, Jairam and Sid are onto writing their novellas. I'm also attempting the same. :) :) Fingers crossed! And while Suzy is taking us through her personal journeys in the next few days, Rekha's cute stories down the memory lane left me smiling from ear to ear. Now I'm off to reading some other posts...Thank you Corinne for this amazing experience! Write Tribe rocks!!


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Part 2 - The truth stings

Prologue here

Part 1 - The search

Part 2 (contd)

I don't know how long I stood there, pacing and smoking in the balcony. The rings of smoke merging with the mist in the air to form grey clouds over my head. I couldn't think clearly. I focused on the neighborhood. Few lights propped up in the dark, suggesting a wife was already up to take care of the daily chores or perhaps an enthusiastic child was strapping his pads to rush to a cricket practice. These individuals stories, their lives laid out with such verisimilitude, but it's all a big fat lie! One day, like mine, their worlds will come crashing down quavering their faith and they will realize how God plays us all like puppets.

I still remember that fateful day in my life, how it had turned from being one of the happiest to one of the bitterest days ever! I had rushed home earlier than usual, elated to share the big news of my very first job. Working part time all through my graduation in a call center, the company had offered to place me as a team head in Pune. Though I was torn at the thought of leaving my parents alone, I knew I couldn't refuse such an opportunity. I had skipped upstairs to our one bed room apartment clueless of what was about to hit me! The agitated voice of my Father had stopped me in tracks. He was a man of few and straight and very polite words, my father. To hear him like that, loud and gruff and shaky was enough to caution me that something was terribly wrong. "Why now? Why tell him now?" he had argued. "Anuj, every time you have found a reason not to tell him. He his neither young nor naive now. It hurts me too darling, but it's time!", surprisingly it was my mother who was the calm one. Her voice seemed to control whatever the situation was. And then the bomb dropped. "After all these years...how can I...what should I...how can I tell him I'm not his real father!"

I still hear his words sometimes at night, in hushed whispers, the pain in his voice clear now which was then overshadowed by my anger. I hadn't given them the chance to explain and had stormed out, very much like my real father had done sixteen years ago. How could I even try to accept this truth, that the man I've loved, known, respected as my father is not actually him. And now he is gone, I broke his heart and it broke him completely. I didn't even get a chance to say that no matter what he will always remain my Pa. I didn't even get the chance to give him a hug. His hugs were special, that made one feel that you are good as long as he is beside you. And now he is gone.

The rustling sound of a paper brought me out of my hagridden state. I nodded to Mrs. Rao in the balcony opposite ours who was settling down with her morning tea and newspaper. Her knowing smile would soon be followed by a question for which I didn't have the patience. I quickly moved inside and put two cups of water to boil. Ma liked her tea sweet. I put in three heaped spoons of sugar and saw them dissolve in the gurgling water. I wished all this negativity in my heart could dissolve like that. But to reach forward I know I have to look back for the answers. And that was going to be painful, both for Ma and me.

(to be contd.)


Monday, December 2, 2013

Part 1 - The search

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 44; the forty-fourth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.  













Read prologue here
                                                                      
I looked at the photo and then at the frail face. Her eyes had little light left, her face ashen. She held me hand in hers...the warmth, the touch still the best feeling in the world. A mother's touch! A tear slipped away and before I could brush it away it fell on her hand and she murmured "Don't do this to yourself son. I know what you're thinking...don't feel guilty. Don't blame yourself!"

I made chicken soup for her that night, like she had made me each time I was even a little feverish. I was a brat then with the most kind and loving parents anyone could have. I was truly blessed! I know that now...I should have realized this then and not rushed out of the house abandoning them that day! Looking back I'd do things differently....but this is no time to regret for the lost years. I want to live each moment with her...for her...making her each wish come true.

She drank the soup till the last drop and looked at me lovingly. "That was so good" she beamed like a child. My eyes again lingered on that photograph. "Is that..." I asked and she nodded. "You both look like you were in love...then why?" my voice shivered. It was more anger than hurt. "He never knew about you..." she reached over to the side stool and I watched her frantically searching for something...her words still ringing in my ear...So he never knew...does that make all of this ok? I wanted to shout at the unfairness of it all!

She handed me a letter...the sides of it yellowed and creases on the folds making it difficult to read. " Your father was a war hero son. When he came back he just assumed that I had moved on. Not giving me a chance to explain. Anuj and I looked for him for several weeks but it was all in vain". I could see she was overwhelmed by these memories of the past. I hushed her and said we would talk about this later...and gently rocked her to sleep.

Another uthceare moment...it was still a few hours before twilight. I had fallen asleep reading the letter and clearly woke up because of it too! My search for answers was about to begin. I looked at the horizon blankly hoping for the sun to rise soon, giving me strength and renewed hope to begin this journey.

(to be contd.)
The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. Participation Count: 02
Credits Image - Love in the air by Anand Courtesy - Apple Blossom's Photography via www.blogaton.in
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A very last minute decision to take part in the Blog-a-ton, an attempt to have 100 bloggers together on a single day! So cool no? So anyway I had a story in mind but due to lack of time (I already exceeded four minutes past midnight) I thought it would be great if I could club it with any of my previous works. And it gelled quite well with a story I had done a few months back - The incomplete letter. I don't know what's next but will try and churn out a readable drama for you guys!! :) :)

Have you heard the word 'uhtceare', meaning 'lying awake before dawn and worrying' It's a noun and I first read about it in an article by Mark Forsyth. Have I used it correctly? Mark Forsyth, a writer, journalist and a blogger, has written a book of hours - The Horologicon, where he uses the most extraordinary and unused words in the English dictionary and presents it to its readers in a way they can relate - by the hour of the day! Damn interesting...can't wait to read this! What do you think?

Oh and also linking this to dear Write Tribe!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Man in the Universe

So, you think you know it all?
Then you haven't looked around,
So much to learn from Nature
- it's beauty that surrounds

Air, Fire, Water & Earth
different elements but one in spirit!
They teach man the 'Power of Union'
Coexist, embrace harmony, together man knows no limits!

Fruits & flowers we pluck, uprooting them
Our benefits they serve - of food, worship, mere decore...
They teach man value of service, despite death!
Find joy in being selfless & make love not war!

The mighty Sun, the illustrious giver,
humbly sets each night for the rising Moon
Together they teach man of humility, of letting go of the disastrous ego...
However big, you need to step back at times, for a greater boon!

So, you still think you know it all?
Then you forget and ignore that you are just a ' Man in the Universe'
Learning is immense, hidden in each second, each moment!
Open up your self & in nature let your being immerse!

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What would I do without the Write Tribe prompt's I wonder!! So, you think you know it all - this cue has been provided by Jairam Mohan, one of my favorite bloggers whose fiction and mythological related posts are brilliant, effortless and definitely keep you coming back for more!




Monday, November 18, 2013

I've been busy lately...

I'm so excited to share with you all what I've been upto for the last few weeks...My friends and now my few blogger friends have come to know the passion I have for dancing. I have always wanted to take my passion a few steps ahead and do something more...Apart from training professionally in Jazz and Modern, for a very brief period of 4 months I taught few kids Hip-Hop, Jazz and freestyle....well another post another day I might tell you what happened to that...

So, I am pursuing an online course at Coursera. We are into the 4th week now and this course has let me explore and open up to the world in an entirely new way. It's like I have a new pair of eyes!

Creating Site-Specific Dance and Performance Works is a free online class taught by Stephan Koplowitz of California Institute of the Arts

Creating Site-Specific Dance and Performance Works means what it actually suggests....Creating a piece of choreography NOT inside the four walls of a class or on a stage but to go out, explore the world, let the architecture, history, community, social relevance of a 'site' inspire you to create a site-specific work. 

I have always believed that Dance is Universal language and I have wanted for long to use it as a tool to spread awareness about important social factors inflicting our society and in my own way create a better world by spreading joy and happiness through 'movement'. 

I didn't know how and where to start. I've had plenty of ideas and my diary has seen several 'plans' and outlines of opening a Dance NGO etc etc but the implementation never happened. What stopped me? Too much thinking, to much detailing and then a point somewhere which made me go " I'm not ready yet". Lack of confidence, inexperience, not enough expertise pulled me backwards. And then I stumbled upon this course and I said "Why not!!"

The past 4 weeks had made me go out of my comfort zone, out my home, with a camera and note-pad in hand to lands where I would not have thought I'd go and do a twirl, a twist or a split!!

The Course structure is such that every week we have a series of online video lectures post which we are asked to do an assignment. This assignment is anonymously evaluated by three peers who are also taking this course. I'm privileged to be in a class where I share the space with Choreographers, Dancers, Actors, Theatre personalities, Art students, Dance educators, Media & digital arts executives etc from well all over the world - Greece, Taiwan, Istanbul, Brazil, Italy, Russia, Spain, India, New York, Boston, Mexico...whoosh...you name it and it's there on the Google maps! So so much talent and so much diversity!

I thought of sharing my assignment 2 here for (a) a general record, (b) to invite feedback from friends and peers (since the assignment evaluation was anonymous we are not able to follow through the entire project of the peers), and (c) as a reminder to keep going...to not only complete the course successfully but to actually this time execute it to finality!

So here goes mu assignment (as it is!)....and fyi the score/evaluation has already been completed for this assignment. 

And a very very special mention to my Mommy, my husband and my friends from my dance school - Shivani, Sheena and Manas...Thank you and love you all!!

Assignment # 2 - Creating Site - Specific Dance and Performance Works

Part 1

My idea of creating a Site-specific work is to primarily bring about a change for the betterment of our society. This piece will focus on the importance of Education as a tool to educate and empower one and all. Illiteracy is a major problem that plagues the Indian society. Despite the government spending huge amounts on education, 100% literacy still remains elusive and a distant dream. In India today, 4% of our children never start school. 58% don’t complete primary schools. And 90% don’t complete school.
The site selected for this particular piece is primarily a school, which is a temple of knowledge.
Some of the filters that helped me approach and select this particular site are:
  • Physical Site - I intend to choreograph a promenade performance here which will use various corners of the school – stairs, classroom and the open field/playground each signifying and furthering the cause of education. Inside the classroom, I would like to play with various inventories available - 2 entrances, set of windows on top, one huge window, benches, chairs, blackboard, whiteboard, table, bags, duster etc. If you see the photographs below the classroom setting has not been changed here. But for my performance I would be using only 7 benches and chairs along with one teachers table.. 
There are two entrances to the class and on the other end is a very well lit window. I want to use the window as a representation that education ‘lights up lives’, that education transforms lives and leads one to enlightenment.
  • Current Use and Community – The particular school chosen is Fr. Agnel School, Noida whose vision is to “provide Excellent Education as per the principles of equality, love and brotherhood matching it with the best practices of education and student development” They also run a charitable institution called ‘The Father Agnel Ashram’ which provide shelter, education and skill training to the poor, orphaned and destitute children. I want to work with this community particularly and choreograph the finale of the performance with them in the open field.
Once the original work is choreographed in this school, I want to place this piece in different sites of "education learning'. This could range from private institutions, government schools, NGOs working for education for girls, orphans, street children and in rural India, community schools etc. I am very much inspired by the work of Martha Bower/Dance Theatre and Etcetera and Anna Halprin both of whom focus on community largely and envision to create a better world through Arts/Dance. Though I have no prior experience in creating such works, I aim to start a similar Dance based revolution in India which will promote important social causes through Dance.
Part 2
Since I aim to do a promenade performance, the audience structure varies as the choreography moves to different locations in the School. The below sketch gives a fair idea of the audience structure and where they will be placed as the choreography enfolds. I have divided the piece into 3 parts and the audience would be required to walk from one place to another.

Part 1 - The site focused is the stairs which lead to the classroom. The audience is standing on either side of the stairs.
Part 2 - The classroom setting will have 7 benches and chairs along with the teachers table as shown in the sketch. The audience will either be seated or standing around the space to view the performance. There are two entrances which can also be a gateway for the audience to view the performance from outside.
Part 3 - The audience will be seated on a raised stage in an open space where they can view the dancers in front in the open green play field.

The number of audience would vary from 20-30. Though the last stage happening in the open field can incorporate a larger number of audience, the number has been restricted due to the limitation of space available in the classroom.

The piece will not be ticketed as it's main aim is to promote a cause. Although, we could look at the options of fund raising/ donation at a later stage. The performance could run at regular intervals of time making it open for a wider audience. So once the final piece (part 3) is being performed (by the community students), the part 1 of the choreography would be started for the next audience members group.

Part 3

I sought the help of my friends to give a better illustration of the visuals of the site.

1. The below picture depicts the stairs leading to the classroom, the window, railings and stairs provide good inventory for a choreography. The audience would be placed on either side of the stairs.

image

2. The below pictures are of the classroom where part 2 of the choreography will unfold. Benches, blackboard, books, tables, windows etc will be used to enhance the site-specificity. The class setting will be changed to only have 7 benches as in the sketch below and the audience will be seated or standing around the area.

image

3. The below photos show the play-field where the performance will take place in an open field and the finale will be danced by the community students. The audience will be seated on the concrete raised platform in the background of the school building.

image

4. Audience Design and staging plan

image


Glossary:

Site - Specific Dance - Work inspired by the elements of site itself where the artistic decisions are made in dialogue with the site. 

Promenade Performance - A site - specific performance where the audience walks to specific locations within the site as the performance unfolds.

Site Inventory - Otherwise known as "casing the joint", this is a process of taking stock of what is found in a site: counting elements (windows, lights, poles), measuring distances between points, or the act of noticing simply what is there without any preconceived ideas or agendas.

So friends what do you think? I really hope I'm able to take forth my ideas and put them into actual practice and execution! Fingers crossed! 



Friday, November 15, 2013

Love Life in all its Hues

"Hey don't you feel guilty in any way. This is my choice and I don't regret my decision a bit!" It was for the hundredth time that I had said this to her, but she still remained unconvinced. She doesn't realize how happy and satisfied I feel doing this.  She has been the one that held my hand and taught me how to walk, not just my first steps, but she has been there at every step of my life, helping me unravel the many mysteries of so called 'life'. Our love goes beyond the one that siblings share. She is my mother, my friend, my guide, my God. So when my wife warned "it's either her or your family" or my office management laid out the resignation papers in front of me, I didn't take a second to make the decision.
It's true that "When you love you wish to do things for. You wish to sacrifice for. You wish to serve". These past three years I have lived by this quote. Making sure that each living day is a joyous one for her. That is the only prayer that I have.

I still remember that night when I got the terrible news that my elder sister had met with a horrible accident. The 2 hour drive to the city hospital where she had been admitted is still a haze...the road ahead misty because of the tears running down, the noise of honking cars a murmur as I was cursing the drunk driver who had run over my sister's car. The doctor announced that due to severe spinal cord injury Shree had to be kept under monitoring for a few weeks, before giving the final prognosis. For the first three days, she was in the ICU in a medically-induced coma. When she finally opened her eyes, I couldn't face her. What do I say to her? I for no reason felt that I had betrayed her...for not being there with her that night. I felt guilty...for being the one able to stand instead of being the one lying on the bed. 

That horrible night Shree was driving back from a dance recital of one of her students. She had been teaching Bharatnatyam for the last 9 years to a group of children from her colony. It is proud moment for any teacher when their students outshine them. She was very happy that one of her students was getting a scholarship from the Cultural Resources and Training, Ministry of Culture and it was from that functioning that she was returning. She had pursued me to come but I had excused myself on the pretext of work...

"I can feel the sunshine on my face Ashwin, but I'm unable to catch the sun ray's through my hands. I can't move Sonny", these were the first word she uttered when she woke up. I could see the colour disappearing from her eyes as the reality dawned on her. I slowly walked to her bedside and kissed her forehead. "It'll be okay, Akka", I could feel the hollowness of my words but she cheered up nonetheless. She was like that...like sunshine...her smile lit up the room and I had a new hope in my heart...I prayed that this gloominess would end. The next day however the doctor confirmed our worst fears. Shree would never walk again. Due to the spinal cord injury, she was announced as a C5-C6-C7 quadraplegic, the term seemed to make no sense to me except that my sister was now paralyzed from her chest down and would be in a wheelchair forever. She could still use her hands, although they were severely contracted.

Shree had been dancing for long as I remember. As a kid she had won many competitions both inter-school and inter-state. Grace, beauty, Rhythm, Poise, all these words were second names to her. I always thought and believed that she was born to dance. And now all my beliefs and my life's learnings were being questioned. I am sure these thoughts were troubling Akka too but she didn't express any such emotion. The way she held herself, the way she inquired with the doctor the Do's and Don'ts gave me courage.

"Ashwin, remember that year when I had gone to the Jaisalmer Desert Festival to perform. I was to dance amidst the golden sands of the Thar desert. I was so enchanted by the idea, so very eager to perform but that day we experienced a terrible sand storm. The organizing committee had to pack up everything in just a few seconds. We all were huddled up in one tent. It had gone absolutely dark by 4:00 pm. No one knew that we would survive or not. But we did, Sonny. We did! The storm settled and the next morning as the Sun rose, the sand dunes stood glittering like diamonds. The landscape was not recognizable. The sand dunes had shifted, re-positioned themselves. But they were the same and in fact looked stronger than ever after the ordeal" I silently kept looking at Akka,taking in her words. "What I'm saying is Sonny, this too shall pass. I know it will."

I always knew Akka was strong. After our parents died, she took it upon her to provide me with everything and all our neighbours and near family praised the way she had taken the entire episode in her stride. But wasn't this different? She had lost her limbs but yet she didn't break down. I felt so proud. Akka do you realize that I have stayed with you for selfish reasons. That my decision to stay with you and serve you is purely because I know you are a higher being. That sacrificing the phony life that I had...was nothing compared to the love that I have for you. That these past 3 years have been a blessing to me. Your actions, your fight, your will to live providing me with enriching lessons.

Today, Shree has her own dance school. She has students coming to learn from her from all over the world. She sits in her power wheelchair and dances with her hands and face. Grace, beauty, Rhythm, Poise, all these words are still second names to her. Sure, Life has changed but she hasn't.


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The above is a piece of fiction where I have used Hemingway's quote "When you love you wish to do things for. You wish to sacrifice for. You wish to serve" from 'A Farewell to Arms' - A challenge posted by Write Tribe. Seems off late the writer in me gets inspired only by the many wonderful prompts at Write Tribe!! :) :)

As I was researching 'Quadriplegia' I came across many inspiring stories. I want to salute all these fighters who have won against all odds and have such an amazing will to live. Do check out the below links.
The story of Vivian, a 24 old bright chap who has found new meaning in Painting
The story of (Super)Dan Harvey as told by his best friend
A husband-wife duo who blog at Love Like This Life, who are happily married, wheelchair and all.
Graham Streets, the founder of Mad Spaz Club, whose tagline reads 'Where all the cool wheelchair people hangout'

Thank you all for inspiring!!

I also came across a news article in TOI, where a quadriplegic girl was denied a university seat because she could not climb the stairs. This raged me and again I felt ashamed to be living in this country which fails to treat its citizens equally. There are few foundation in India which are doing a great job to spread awareness on this issue. NINA Foundation  is one such institution.
Remember the movie, Guzaarish, the first movie in India which broached the taboo topics of quadriplegia and euthanasia. Although I loved Hrithik's acting I did not like the message the movie sent out to its viewers. Dr. Ketna Mehta who runs the NINA Foundation holds similar views and shared her thoughts here.

Do you have any such inspiring stories to share? A person who despite their disability/medical condition has always remained positive and has inspired you? Have you loved someone that being with them is the only thing that matters and serving them is your highest reward?

Do share your stories and always remember that Life is what you make of it, so makeitbeaYOUtiful!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Living with "A"

All things bright and beautiful,
I see too, as you
I feel too, maybe more than you!
But at my inabilities 
you laugh, mocking me
Belittling me...


I scurry to this corner
Hide behind my friends
They don't stare
Nor mind my slur...
Here, I turn the pages of my life
at my own pace!



Vidya Sury 28.10 (7)
Linking this to Write Tribe's 55 on Friday. The beautiful picture prompt is by Vidya.
























Autism, a mental development disorder, is characterized by problems in social skills, communication skills (both verbal and nonverbal) and shows very restricted interests and repetitive behavior of the individual. Usually diagnosed before 3 years of age, Autism occurs in as many as one child per 150 children. Though the severity and spread in India is almost at par with the rest of the world, the Government of India only recognized this as a disorder/disability in 2001. Before this, schools catering solely to autistic persons were not able to receive funding from the government. Persons with autism were also not eligible for concessions and benefits offered by the government unless they were diagnosed as mentally retarded, which most autistic people are not!!

Though late, the recognition and increasing awareness about Autism in India is a hopeful beginning for the better lives of these special people. However, much remains to be achieved in terms of correct and timely diagnosis, education/schooling of autistic children, acceptance in society, funding and proper implementation of grants/concessions by the govt etc.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for us to deal with Autism in India? Have you any personal experiences that you would like to share here with us?

Some important non profit organizations working towards this cause are listed here, please read and spread awareness!
http://www.autism-india.org/index.html
http://www.saiautismcenter.org/current/index.htm
http://www.aba-india.org/index.html


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Dance for a cause

Dance speaks a language universal
Self expressions: Love, Hate, Joy, Angst...
Leave impressions: Spirit, Soul...
Breaking inhibitions,
Binding unlike worlds.
Dance for a cause,
Hope and Peace.
Bring in
Change.

Can Dance bring about a change for the better in the world?

I believe it can!

For me, dance is not just for recreation or entertainment or pleasure. It is more than that. It has helped me develop into a better human being, evolve as a more empathetic person, made me more aware and observant of my surroundings and yes it has empowered me. And for most of the Dancers that I know, this holds true. It uplifts our mood and makes us happy. It gives us confidence and wings to fly.

When we are in that space, where is the place for negativity, hatred, arguments?
When we are in that space we envision a perfect society which upholds humanity as its only religion. We are all equal. We are all beautiful.

This feeling should not be contained. What we envision during our meditation should transcend to societies.

A message which is visual has more power. This is given. A child's first lessons are visual, that stay in his/her conscience forever. Right? So why not use the power of visualization to convey a message, to reform our society, to restore our faith in humanity?

Mallika Sarabhai, a dancer, choreographer and activist, has been using dance and performance arts to send a message. She has locked horns with the government on several occasions to give Arts its due. She beautifully explains here the Power of Art.

Long due, but our mainstream media is finally understanding this. I was pleased to see Zee TV come up with the fantastic idea to Dance it out for a Cause. Dance India Dance is one of the most popular and loved shows not just across India but across the globe too. Running into it's fourth season this year, they aim to convey a message - When Dance can be the answer to your problems, then why resort to violence? Why get angry, when you can Dance it out? Why get depressed, when you can Dance it out?




Isn't the thought and concept great!! And I got a taste of it all at the Dance India Dance IndiBlogger Meet this Wednesday! We got to shake a leg with the sauve Feroz Khan and the mast Mudassar Khan, for a cause that is close to our hearts. The stage saw brilliant bloggers donning their thinking caps and coming of their cocoons to simply Dance it Out for Education, Child Marriage, Value for Soldiers, Safer Delhi streets for Women, Girl Education, Female Foeticide and last but not the least Victims of Corporate Life.

Here's a peek into the power-packed evening...

Empowerment Walk on the song Aashayein
Signature move #Education #Empowerment
Value for Soldiers
Safer streets for Women - The Winners
Dance India Dance
Check out this link and register for which cause will you Dance it Out?  For more details hop on to their FB page.

I'll dance it out for Education  
Start from the root, nourish the shoot 
Teach young and old to worship 
not idols, superstitions 
but you...me, as one 
Love equally 
distinguish 
not, spread
Joy!

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A Nonet is a nine line poem, with the first line having 9 syllables. The second line containing 8 syllables, decreasing down to one syllable in the last line. The Nonet tutorial at Write Tribe was provided by the beautiful Preetilatha Sarkar of My White Window. She has a flair for words and has the ability to make you fall in love with words like 'Meraki'....'Saudade'...you aren't intrigued yet? Go peep through her window....now!

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