Tuesday, April 30, 2013

THE AWFUL SIMPLICITY OF TEN

This was selected by The Margaret Reid Poetry Prize for their "Highly Commended Poems" section.
This was my first attempt at haiku so I'm just a little extra kicked about that.

THE 

AWFUL SIMPLICITY 

OF 

TEN








ONE

A single petal
Rose red velvet scent supine
Snow white pillowcase


TWO

Carmine awakened
Surprised by the wind warmly
Gathered up in musk


THREE

Venturesome brightness
Pearl and obsidian eyes 
Peals of laughter twinkling


FOUR

Sugar rush times two
Rush slow down run mosey sleep
Dream learn together


FIVE

Copy model rebel
Coalesce disperse return
To love and home 


SIX

Roots adventitious
And tap recall recursive 
Journey seed to seed


SEVEN

Generations weave
A quilt of traditions real
Unreal bittersweet

EIGHT

Life ebbs flows begins
Ends endlessly organic
Builds tribes and nations


NINE

Nine lives of each act
Of random kindness also
Of evil design


TEN

River wends its way
Through destiny doership
Drenched in rose and musk

                                                                                                   

                                                                                                    ~ Sonali



Vintage Ecclesiastical Design 894 Embroidery Design
http://www.windstarembroidery.com/Details.cfm?ProdID=5321



Monday, April 29, 2013

MERMAID


https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/45/30/fc/4530fcaa71b13c7dbd0d37bfdffc0ab4.jpg

GANGA

In a little house nestled in a leafy suburb just outside of Omaha, Nebraska lived a young family of four, Raj and Seema, and their two little boys, Adit and Anuj. Raj and Seema were both quite comfortable with their lives, hopeful for the future, grateful for the present, and ambivalent about their past as many thirty-somethings are, both doing their best to measure up to the demands life placed on them. Raj worked long hours, Seema did too, he at a really nice office complex downtown, she at home. 


It had been just another weekday, the family had had their dinner, Dad in front of the TV in the living room, Mom and the kids at the kitchen table, as was their custom, and now they were all asleep. It was a warm summer’s night. In fact the night was almost all gone. It was close to morning.

Seema, always an early riser, woke up in the dark before dawn. She loved the pristine freshness and promise of each newborn day. The infant day is a gift, and you can more or less decide what to do with it, or at least make up your mind about how you will greet the day. As her Ma had always taught by example, she started the day with a little uncomplicated untraditional aside to God to help her get through the day with the best results possible. Somewhere in there, unbeknownst to her, there had been an alignment with the wisdom of choosing to love, unconditionally, every one, irrespective of circumstance.

Not quite sure if she was asleep or awake she found herself dressed in a cotton sari holding a tray with a little oil lamp and a few flowers and other offerings, walking in bare feet through the dark, the ground beneath her feet gravely, then sandy. She was shocked to see another human being out so early, when owls still hooted and no one stirred but her, walking the narrow path, toward her.

By force of habit, upon seeing one draped in a traditional white dhoti and shawl, she raised her hands, tray in hand, in an attempted gesture of a Namaste, a greeting that roughly translates to ‘I bow to you. The light within me honors the light within you’ if you look it up in encyclopedias.



“Namaste,” said the gentleman. Her eyes now getting used to the low light could discern someone who looked like he had in the recent days shorn his hair to almost nothing. She wondered if he was in mourning. He was vaguely familiar but she couldn’t tell where she had seen him before. She thought she must’ve seen him many, many years ago if she ever had because he bore an uncanny resemblance to this fuzzy mental image she had of a face forgotten over the years. 

She stood stock still and had no idea she was blocking his path. Perhaps he was blocking her path, but being quite unsure of her own place in the world she was always the one who got out of the way apologizing profusely and she started to do so again and moved off the narrow path to let him pass.

He almost walked on by but turned around and asked, ”What brings you here every morning?”

“I tend to a tulsi (a sacred plant) by the river,” she said, just a trifle surprised by the question.

“What brings you here every morning?” she asked, as she heard herself speaking without thinking.

“I come here every morning to take a dip in the healing waters of the Ganga of my love. It heals the wounds the world inflicts each day and I’m ready for a new day.”

“Oh,” she said, looking at the lamp and at the large flickering shadows behind them both. A line of light on the horizon began to creep upward and she was really glad for that. “Namaste,” she said again and went on her way.

She woke up with a faint memory of having had an unusual dream and went about her day as usual.


via www.flickr.com

GOOD NIGHT MOON

A month later, late one night, Seema was barely asleep, and it wasn’t quite sleep but exhaustion that had taken over, when
somewhere between the ragged shores of faltering awareness and of stupor swam a mermaid in the cold waters of Seema’s subconscious mind. The mermaid had been in the deep, deep waters for days too many to count. She had no clue if there were people on the riverbank, what day of the week it was, or if it were morning or evening. She could see it was dark. Bored, she darted about aimlessly.

Suddenly, she found she was much closer to the surface than she had imagined when she had looked up for no particular reason. Like gold dust in a pan, sparkles shot about in the dark waters. She was mesmerized by the patches of light that danced up there and made a sequined quilt of the surface. She had gazed upon the star spangled sky sometimes and loved it. This was intriguing. Up, up, up to the surface she rose strongly. The circles of darkness grew bigger, around them the rings of light brighter. When she broke surface she saw as far as the eyes could see a million diyas (little clay lamps that are lit for the festival of lights) bobbing gently in the slowly flowing river.


“Wow! I wish I had known sooner. I almost completely missed it. I think I’ll just stay here and pretend I’m a diya on the water too. When this vision of beauty is taken away I won’t lament its loss. I’ll lose myself in its beauty forever never to be found again.”

The mermaid sat at the bottom of the stairs going into the water, half-submerged. Her eyes grew heavy-lidded and she slept half-sitting leaning against a balustrade. Down, down, down the steep steps of the riverbank in the dark before dawn walked a lonely figure in white garb, dark shawl, his head bent in deep thought, measured tread, sadness, light, and finality his aura.

“I have to go now,” he said, turning away to return by the way he came, and disappeared into the darkness.

The mermaid stirred thinking she had heard some one say something to her but there was nobody around. It was really, really dark, but for the few diyas that floated about still aglow. As her eyes grew used to seeing in the dark, a small shiny object a few feet from her on the step at the water’s edge caught her eye. She leaned across to get a closer look. It was a golden key barely reflecting light from a passing diya. She instinctively reached for it but caught herself mid-motion and decided what was not hers she might as well leave alone. If the real owner did not find it first it might delight a little child for a while until perhaps he would be chided for playing finders keepers. Thunder rolled in the distance and by and by gentle rain began to fall putting out the remaining diyas. Dawn would break through the clouds and mermaids don’t wish to be discovered so this one was back in the water in one gentle splash, down, down, down to her home deeply rested from her sojourn into the airy world. She swam round and round in quick bursts expending excess energy.

via wall.alphacoders.com
SEEDS
Several weeks had passed, the mermaid lay sprawled on a rock on the riverbed. Sunlight at high noon filtered through the water and colored her world a speckled translucent celadon. She pondered, as she sat, on human despair. She thought about how it made its entrance into a human life, what it did while it remained there, and then went away. “Despair does strange things to people,” she thought. “One must invent an antidote to despair. And patent it too. Then maybe not. What if it has dangerous side effects.”

After a while she stopped thinking altogether, tired of the mental calesthenics involved in musing upon such age-old questions. Her mind in a state between sleeping and waking, her senses dulled, she lay motionless except for the soft rise and fall of her steady breathing. She nodded off for a few minutes and was awakened by the gentlest feeling of something small and faintly warm alight on her belly and slip away to the earth below. She sat up and sure enough there lay about her about a handful of beads – teardrop-shaped clear smooth beads the size of sunflower seeds reflecting the underwater glow. She didn’t know what to make of them. They looked harmless enough so she gathered them up. She peered at them closely and saw to her shock and amazement her name etched on every single one of them. She decided to swim to the surface and try and solve the mystery of these beads.

She swam up and yet again the light surprised her making her blink rapidly. Then she saw she was in the midst of some water lilies. Two water birds she had startled flew up flapping their wings noisily, and she thought she saw a small turtle dive back into the water. She unclenched her fists and raised her cupped hands to look at the beads but they were gone!!! The surprise! The horror!

“I know I did not drop a single one of them so what became of them? Did they vaporize upon seeing the light? Did they turn into lotuses? And also into birds and turtles? What happened to them?”

This detective was most distraught.

“What agony must one endure to shed tears such as those? What must such agony do to one? Why does such agony rear its ugly head? Does agony as powerful as that have no end? May the gods have mercy on one so despairing. May there be some good that comes from such struggle. May you find the will to go on for life surely has better days waiting for you.”

The mystery wouldn’t let her rest and wouldn’t let her unravel it yet. But unravel itself it did. Slowly surely calmly a knowing suffused her being. Those beads had been tears of despair that had turned into seeds of hope. They were bewitched though and needed to be plunged to the depths of a riverbed for a mermaid to bring them back up to warmth and light for them to turn into seeds of pure joy.

The mermaid felt so much more at peace knowing human despair was not without purpose, not always, anyhow. “This bodes well,” she thought and busied herself with humdrum everyday things.
        
image via scarletcarpet.blogspot.com (Pirates of the Carribean)
Ardhaangini
Seema woke up, feeling unsettled upon finding herself in the dark in her bedroom, she who had been until a second ago gently bathed in the ethereal glow of an underwater world. She got up as noiselessly as she could and walked softly tiptoeing to the next room and turned on a lamp. The images in her dream were much too beautiful to forget. She wished she was a painter. But she wasn’t one so she scribbled quickly a description of the mermaid she had seen in her dream. It brought such peace to her to be able to do that. She had seen the mermaid twice before, in the deep of REM sleep, and as she began to write, the stories from her dreams came back to her clear and sweet as a song. The feeling of peace was so profound, and it surprised her so, she forgot to breathe for a moment. She had no idea blessings such as these existed. She exulted in the sweetness of the visions and then decided she needed her rest and went back to bed.

Morning came along and turned to night, as it does each day, and Seema hoped she would see the mermaid again, but she didn’t. Many days came and went while the mermaid took a sabbatical.

Seema had been troubled many days in a row now but she could not identify the source of her anxiety. On the surface all looked well. The children were well, prosperity seemed to be seeking them out, she had her days packed with things she loved to do. And yet beneath the calm there was a sadness that was beyond sadness. Seema kept that hidden from view behind a cheery smile. Talking to Raj would be no help at all. He never really knew what not to say so she had learned in the first few weeks of marriage to expect no compassion and no companionship whatsoever from him. It was not his fault really. That was just the way he was.

After a fitful hour or two of tossing and turning late one night she fell asleep. She fell into a dreamlike semi-wakefulness perhaps because this wasn’t exactly a dream. It was too real. Yet it wasn’t anywhere near realistic in a three dimensional sort of way. The emotions and words were very real. The place was not in the vicinity of her home, not by a thousand miles. And there was a mermaid on the premises, so how real could that be? But nonetheless it was all very engaging so Seema walked closer to the river’s edge to get a better look at the mermaid. She looked familiar. She sat on a rock in the middle of the river, floodlights throwing an amber glow on the scene. She sat alone. She wore a dainty pale pink flowing lehenga, sequined and long, that very nearly concealed the telltale mermaid tail. And if Seema wasn’t so into fairytales she might have missed that little, barely perceptible detail. But mermaids don’t fool someone so familiar with mermaids.

Nothing happened. The mermaid did not, or could not see Seema. She sat quietly playing with her tresses dark and wavy and long, in that typical mermaid hairstyle of free-flowing abandon. The air was still. Seema noticed movement in the distance, way higher than where she was standing, across the stream. A gentleman was making his way down the steps. Seema wondered who he was. He did not seem to notice her. Perhaps he could not see her either. He walked toward the mermaid and started to speak. Seema was listening in English while he spoke in Hindi so she completely missed the first few lines of what he said. She was also trying very hard to figure out who he was by listening to their conversation. Now she was listening in Hindi still ruing the fact she had missed the first few seconds of his speech and did not fully tune in well into it.

“I meant the world to you just yesterday and now I mean nothing to you? I have repaid my debt to you, interest and all, and I have nothing left. What could you possibly want from me? “

Seema was beginning to see this was a romantic interest. He was Eric in this version of ‘The Little Mermaid’, overwrought, and puzzled. Seema wondered what the mermaid would say. But he did not wait for her to answer. He said, now speaking in English, ”You are throwing away our last chance at happiness.” He said that accusingly.

The mermaid turned, now facing Seema, her back to him, stony, insensitive, yet very lost, she asked him very quietly,”Do you know the difference between right and wrong? Please accept the fact that this is my penance.” And she started to cry without moving.

He left without another word. She sat unmoving, crying.

Seema could see far, far away, since perhaps this really was a dream, snow on the ground, a window with a grille, a fire in the fireplace, a lambskin rug on the floor, and she turned and walked away turning her gaze to the immediate, the uneven ground underfoot, a cold realization chilling her assailable human heart that perhaps a human and a mermaid were always meant to say goodbye.

It is one of the riddles of the human condition that people are frequently incapable of recognizing their own stories when at first they see them.


via www.indiaartvillage.com
LOST & FOUND
Summer had given way to fall. Late one afternoon Seema was sitting by the window, watching cars go by. She almost shot out of her skin as she heard a loud splash, and absorbed the acute sensation of panic in the air as she thought she saw some one drowning. In a flash she turned into a mermaid and caught the descent of a human struggling in the water. She used all her might to drag him to the shore and realized there were many people there. Hoping someone would see him fast so she would not have to call out to them she stayed above water moving around trying to draw attention without giving away the fact she was a mermaid.


“Surely there must be a family who very much wants to see him healthy and happy. He needs help now,” she agonized. The mermaid’s angst was quickly relieved as she saw three seconds later five men rushing down the riverbank and attended to the man who had been drowning. They resuscitated him reasonably quickly. He sat up with some help and spoke to the men.

Seema was not sure what had happened in those five seconds while she had believed she was a mermaid but did shake herself out of that feeling, her knees shaking from the abating adrenalin rush, and feeling rather loopy went to get herself a cup of tea. The evening gave way to nightfall.

Thanksgiving break was next week and Seema was glad for it. Life had been hectic for a while. Navratri (a nine day festival in the months of September–October) and Diwali (the hindu festival of lights) had kept her occupied with social engagements and it had been fun. She drifted off to sleep counting sheep. She was dreaming again, of far away places, again. It was perhaps escapism. She had so badly wanted to experience just once again in her lifetime a real, full-blown, Indian festival replete with the noise and confusion as she had many years ago on her last trip to Kolkata.

At this hour in her dreamscape it was one of those days of the year when a visit to the temple was seemly, so the family of four, Seema, her husband, and the two little children, had headed that way. The crowds were increasing. They parked a few streets away and walked. At the second entrance, where the crowds were somewhat thinner, they turned to go into the temple, leaving the river bank behind them. Seema stopped inches away from stepping on a shiny object. Perhaps some one had lost jewelry she thought, then realized it was a key, perhaps ornamental, a charm, or perhaps functional, made of gold, seemingly. It looked precious enough either way that whosoever had lost it might want it back. As she bent down to pick it up the rest of them walked on and she was fifteen paces behind them now and would never catch up through the throngs. She called out to them, they turned and waved. She decided to take a little detour through the temple office, deposit this object at Lost and Found, and proceed to darshan (viewing of the temple deity), hoping they’d wait for her.

Lost and Found was locked and barred. She’d leave it with Panditji (the priest) she decided. She walked through the labyrinthine lower floors of the temple and made her way upstairs. She managed to find her family as they waited their turn. The altar was very small. They’d have a second or two to gaze upon the deity. The forward flowing crowds would then gently disgorge them out of the sanctum sanctorum.

They walked in single file, children in the middle, Seema at the rear, hoping to stop an extra second for a proper vision of the Devi (goddess), but that was not about to happen. Seema had hoped to quickly pass on the golden key to Panditji telling him it was for Lost and Found, but that moment had passed her by and she, in the hope that he would find it, was extending her arm to place it on the corner of the marble pedestal where he usually placed the aarti (sacramental fire and offerings) after all was done. Scarcely had metal touched stone when a voice called out to her from behind two or three people, but she couldn’t see the man at all, “That’s mine. I’ll take it. What does it do?”

That was not exactly the question she had expected to hear from the owner of the key, but there was no time to stand around asking counter questions. Seema heard herself say, ”It unlocks the place in your heart from where love flows.”

Aghast at what she’d done she blushed deeply feeling very foolish and yet triumphant like she’d done something right, she scurried out the doorway and did not look back. Nothing was adding up, logically speaking, but the microcosm within of the Universe without had shifted slightly, for the better, in that moment, and she felt light, felt like she walked on air, and felt profoundly good.

Running low on supplies of trust from years of being lied to she hoped that man had not been just another liar, thug, opportunist, baddie who had seen something of value and pinched it. And she hadn’t even seen him.

“Not right under the Devi’s nose. Not when he seemed so sure of himself. Not when he seemed to be reacting rather than carefully carrying out a heist. It probably did belong to him. And why O why O why did that completely nonsensical sentence leave my mouth? I hope it made sense to him. I hope it isn’t just a key to a trunk or something. Or he has to be rolling with laughter right about now thinking I’m nuts. Whatever, that’s his problem not mine. The words left my lips before I could think.”

This was a very cold Sunday morning in late December, a little snow remained on the sidewalk. Seema was up earlier than the rest and happy to have some time to enjoy her morning cup of tea, and to have the computer to herself. Christmas had been wonderful, with Santa bringing lots of new toys for the children, and a nice evening out with friends. The new year was about to commence, now just hours away, and an anticipation that precedes all new beginnings filled the air. Memories of her mermaid dreams had begun to dull and fray replaced by newer memories and new year resolutions and such. Seema sat down at the desk, on an otherwise unremarkable day, to explore this new thing in her life called the Internet. She found an email waiting for her. It described a time and a place exactly as she had seen in her dream. Her hands shaking she decided to call her aunt in Kolkata to wish her a happy new year as it was nearly midnight in India. Woven into the fabric of that conversation was a little detail, the neighbor’s second son had returned from England after ten years to settle down in Kolkata. Suddenly it all fell into place. She hadn’t realized this was her own story, a fantastical story, she a mermaid in it, in a land far far away where people came and went in disguises, time and space could be transcended, and dopplegangers were just as real as the person next to you. Seema was so shocked she couldn’t think. When she found her sense of humor again she decided this odd little thing in her life was a bad case of “fairytalia” because, realistically speaking, it would be quite a surprise if he even knew her name. Time would convince her otherwise.

via annyas.com

NEGATIVE IMAGE

Previously published in The Writing Disorder




Before digital photography
You couldn’t have a photograph
Unless there was a negative first

The light and shade were reversed
That which was really black was white
And vice versa

In the excavation of the authentic Self
Comes a point in the inner journey
When the exact same thing happens

Your roadmap warps
Then the road goes topsy-turvy
You are lost in a land of opposites

Your best years become your worst
Your worst tormentors your best teachers
It is all about bringing about balance

Via a newfound vision of things
Where nothing is perfect
And we’re all too human and the better for it

                                                                                       ~ Sonali

Sunday, April 28, 2013




MERMAID
Chapter 2
GOOD NIGHT MOON

A month later, late one night, Seema was barely asleep, and it wasn’t quite sleep but exhaustion that had taken over, when somewhere between the ragged shores of faltering awareness and stupor swam a mermaid in the cold waters of  Seema’s subconscious mind. The mermaid had been in the deep, deep waters for days too many to count. She had no clue if there were people on the riverbank, what day of the week it was, or if it were morning or evening. She could see it was dark. Bored, she darted about aimlessly.
Suddenly, she found she was much closer to the surface than she had thought when she looked up for no particular reason. Like gold dust in a pan, sparkles shot about in the dark waters. She was mesmerized by the patches of light that danced up there and made a sequined quilt of the surface. She had gazed upon the star spangled sky sometimes and loved it. This was intriguing. Up, up, up to the surface she rose strongly. The circles of darkness grew bigger, around them the rings of light brighter. When she broke surface she saw as far as the eyes could see a million diyas (little clay lamps that are lit for the festival of lights) bobbing gently in the slowly flowing river.
“Wow! I wish I had known sooner. I almost completely missed it. I think I’ll just stay here and pretend I’m a diya on the water too. When this vision of beauty is taken away I won’t lament its loss. I’ll lose myself in its beauty forever never to be found again.”  
The mermaid sat at the bottom of the stairs going into the water, half-submerged. Her eyes grew heavy-lidded and she slept half-sitting leaning against a balustrade. Down, down, down the steep steps of the riverbank in the dark before dawn walked a lonely figure in white garb, dark shawl, his head bent in deep thought, measured tread, sadness, light, and finality his aura.
“I have to go now,” he said, turning away to return by the way he came, and disappeared into the darkness.
The mermaid stirred thinking she had heard some one say something to her but there was nobody around. It was really, really dark, but for the few diyas that floated about still aglow. As her eyes grew used to seeing in the dark, a small shiny object a few feet from her on the step at the water’s edge caught her eye. She leaned across to get a closer look. It was a golden key barely reflecting light from a passing diya. She instinctively reached for it but caught herself mid-motion and decided what was not hers she might as well leave alone. If the real owner did not find it first it might delight a little child for a while until perhaps he would be chided for playing finders keepers. Thunder rolled in the distance and by and by gentle rain began to fall putting out the remaining diyas. Dawn would break through the clouds and mermaids don’t wish to be discovered so this one was back in the water in one gentle splash, down, down, down to her home deeply rested from her sojourn into the airy world. She swam round and round in quick bursts expending excess energy.
American ♫ Desi Girl ♫

Chapter 9

I’m Melting! I’m Melting!
- A Melting Pot Intervention

Things were getting crazy around the house. Papa would be gone six weeks straight building weatherproof homes in the Florida Keys that he was getting very famous for. The incoming wealth was a good fringe benefit but the family paid a huge price having him gone for days like this. The old patriarch Dadaji (not everybody’s grandfather but somehow that’s what everybody called him) was visiting from the old country. He had come for a bypass surgery, his arteries very fragile with medication and four strokes. With him came his son who helped him and took care of him as needed. The grandson who came with them was the same age as A and got along very well with the children and adapted to their ways in a day, and said “Birdie Num Num” at odd moments. An older grandson, a sophomore at a fancy university in California was also visiting. He helped a lot with the driving and running errands or Mama would’ve never been able to get everybody where they needed to be on time. Not with the LP having intensive training through summer.

A friend had just dropped her off and Mama was just giving dinner finishing touches. She’d outdone herself with a new heart healthy recipe for navratan curry.

The LP walked up to Mama and gave her a big hug and a “Mama I love you.” Ravenous after a day at camp she opened the fridge and rummaged in it and poked her head out, “There’s nothing to eat.”
“I just cooked navratan curry and rice. You’ll love it. It’s flavorful and not too rich or spicy. And do you know what navratan means? It means nine jewels. You make this curry with an elegant sauce and nine different vegetables.”
“The LP stirred the pot trying to identify each ingredient and said, “Eeww, pineapple. Not in a curry Mama.”
“Just try it.”
“No offence Mama but I’m an American. I like real American food. I don’t eat this stuff. I do love the two minute masala noodles you cook. Did you make any today?”
“Look in the fridge again,” said Mama offended.
“There’s yesterday’s spaghetti, salsa and cheese, old wontons, stale jerk chicken and some rotten parfait. I told you there’s nothing to eat.”
“Wash your hands and sit with Dadaji and eat.”

The LP took a small serving of curry and rice and sat down at the table. She took two bites of her dinner and said, “It is delicious. But I really can’t eat it now. It’s time for American Idol. I’ll eat at nine.”
B took the cue from her and said, “It’s delicious but I don’t want to eat it.”
“The boys are watching football,” said Mama as the LP walked away.
“That was a recording. Perdue won,” she replied.

Mama was getting quite upset at having slaved for hours only to have to throw it all away.

Dadaji munched slowly. He wore dentures. Mama made one last attempt to salvage her self image as chef and made the mistake of asking him if he liked the curry. It was healthy too.

Dadaji thought for a few minutes and said, “Beta angrez doodh se malaai aur malaai se makkhan tak jaante hain. Ghee kaise banti hai unhein pataa hi nahin. Kaun kehta hai bhartiya sabhyata paashchatya sabhyata se peeche hai? (The British/ White people know how to extract cream from milk and then make butter from cream. They don’t know how clarified butter is made. Who says Indian civilization lags behind western civilization?) ”

There was nothing left to say so she said nothing.

She ate, put the leftovers away and went to the basement to check on the kids. Their big cousin bro had finagled a way of getting some dinner into them - fried chicken from the grocer down the street. Of course the baby green beans and corn bread were in the trash already but never mind. They didn’t know the value of a dollar yet, or the value of a good looking artery.

The phone rang. It was the meddlesome aunt from Dadaji’s hometown enquiring if he was well looked after. Then she said it was such a shame A and B lost both parents so young. Theirs seemed to be a cursed family, four people dying much before their time in three years, leaving behind young defenseless children. “But look at the bright side, you have two sons now. Who knows if you could ever have had any more of your own, and even if you did they’d probably be all girls,” she said and drove Mama over the edge.
“I am very proud of my daughter. And all the girls in the family,” she said.
“But be careful. My husband’s first cousin’s son who went to vilaayat (abroad) to study just came back with a husband. They live shamelessly as husband and wife. You need to give your sons all kinds of education. In the west you have all sorts of problems.”
“They are wonderful children and I will accept them as they are. This has nothing to do with the east or the west. It just is so.”
“How’s your weight problem? Getting fatter with age? You must be on the verge of the change now, hanh?”

Mama said she had to go and hung up. You can only put up with so much in a day.

The LP had finished eating and washed her hands and now sat down next to Mama and said, “I need to learn Ruski or I can’t skate anymore.”
“What do you mean?”
“My coach said if you can’t speak Ruski you can’t expect to skate.”
“Whatever did he say that for? Did he say that to just you or every body else as well?”
“He said that to the assistant coach.”
“Oh, okay”, said Mama, getting the picture. “Don’t worry about it. You never did learn any Hindi in your two years at Baal Vihaar. Don’t worry about Ruski now. You’ll be fine. Just do a good job at camp every day and don’t eavesdrop on your teachers.”

Mama had seen an incident or two between the head coach and assistant coach. The older was newly arrived from a very prestigious skating school behind what used to be the iron curtain. Glasnost had passed him by while he honed the skills of many a medalist, a dedicated teacher who lived, breathed, ate, and slept skating. You felt a certain awe in his presence, the kind you feel in the vicinity of greatness. The younger was from the same town, a new fangled, widely traveled, well assimilated sort who twenty-five years ago might’ve been labeled a product of Coca Cola City. When they clashed they started out in their native language and needing support from others nearby the younger would hopelessly break into English, or so it seemed. The last time she had seen them arguing it had ended with the younger saying, “Why don’t you elevate the urinals also? That way they can always be on their toes,” and walking off in a huff slamming the door behind him.

While Mama and the LP sat on the gossip bench, the boys huddled together talking and she heard a little snippet of their conversation. Big cousin bro from California said growing up in Cerritos was difficult because he was brown. He’d like to lighten his line. Fortunately nobody asked him what that meant.

The LP asked,” May I please go back to Baal Vihaar. I could try to learn Hindi again? I’m older and smarter now.”
“Why this sudden interest in languages princess?”
“Because E always says something to me in Hindi every time she walks past me.”
“What does she say?”
“I don’t know.”
“Ask her to say it in English.”
“Well, she did say something in English today but I don’t know what it means.”
“And what was that she said?”
“She said when I grow up she’ll watch me getting knocked up and then begging for more.”
“WHAT??”

There was shock and awe in the room. Mama seldom raised her soft voice so this merited attention.

“Where is John Galt when you really need him?” thought Mama to herself. Her head was spinning.
“What does knocked up mean?” asked the LP and didn’t press for an answer when she looked again at Mama’s face. Nobody else supplied the answer either.

Mama thought about speaking with E’s mother about this but later decided to not do so. The apple does not roll too far from the tree usually. E’s mother was quite a piece of work and not infirm of purpose. E was pretty but looked like she could eat you alive and completely digest you in a few minutes like a shark could, and was three whole years older than the LP. Mama knew she would have to watch this carefully because the girls would very likely end up on the same team the whole year and would train and travel together.

“What else has she said to you?” asked Mama curious if the LP might have misheard E.
“She said I was born unlucky and it shows on my face. That is why I always get silver and never gold. She said she was born lucky and would one day be weighed in gold, she’d be that rich. But I’d always be poor. And she laughs and laughs and laughs at me like I’m the funniest person in the world. She laughs at me when I mess up and when I don’t. Some laugh at me with her but now most have stopped because she does similar things to them too. But I am the most funniest to her. I can handle it when I’m on the ice because then there’s just the ice and me, but when I step off the ice it starts to hurt sometimes.”
“Poor baby you. Tell me everything you can remember so I have a clear and complete image of what you are dealing with.”
“She said I was a mixed breed so no one would ever like me. She was loved by every body because her family was pure bred.”

Mama was getting grave. “Tell me everything you can remember. I know it is tempting to just forget, but unless we remember we cannot understand.”
“That is about the kind of thing she says to me every day. And she says we’re best friends and sisters and we must always hang out together. She always says bad things about every body and everything to me and tells every one I said it. And then she says something in Hindi that I can’t remember. And yes, she told Y on the boys’ team that I like him but I don’t. She actually told the whole camp that, teachers, counselors, all, and sometimes Y acts a little strange around me and I don’t like it. He’s fifteen. Does knocked up mean beat up?”
“No it does not. I’ll explain tomorrow. Now get to sleep.”

Mama had heard enough. It was after ten in the night so it would have to wait until morning.

Head coach called and asked for Papa. Mama told him he was away on a business trip so he asked her for a number to call him at. She asked to know what the matter was, wondering if it was a serious matter, with him calling after ten thirty in the night. He said he thought he might need to speak with the man of the house since they would have to make a financial decision about the upcoming year. Mama about exploded internally but didn’t show it. She said she’d come in in the morning and take care of it.

Bright and early she woke up inspired to recalibrate a few brains around her. She decided Coach’s would have to be the first. “Who does that Svengali think he is? America loves Smirnoff. Wake up and smell the coffee. In America we are all equal in the eyes of the law and in my eyes too. And should be in yours too.”

She couldn’t possibly do this to Dadaji, not with his bypass barely on the mend. And if you could for a moment ignore the fact Coach was white he was a great stand-in for Dadaji, looked just like him, was about the same age, was as lovable and as insufferable as he was, and about as much a misogynist. She had it all planned out. Mama had a vision of herself in a Bugs Bunny suit. As she walked into his office she could almost see him tiptoeing in brown shoes saying, “Shhhh. Be vewy, vewy quiet. We’re hunting Elmers.”

Allusions:
“I’m melting! I’m melting” — quote from “Wizard Of Oz”
Unless we remember we cannot understand. – E M Forster quote
John Galt — character in Ayn Rand’s book “Atlas Shrugged”
Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd —- cartoons

http://www.lifeskate.com/.a/6a00e54f7ecf2c8833012875634e42970c-800wi

American ♫ Desi Girl ♫

Chapter 7 

Fondue

“Mama, do we live in a melting pot?”
“Sorta. America has been called a melting pot sometimes because it has been settled by people who came from all corners of the world and settled here. Even as far back as the 1700 s more than a dozen different languages were spoken in New York alone. About a hundred and fifty are spoken today. The oranges we’re eating could’ve been planted by someone speaking one language, picked by one speaking another, driven on a truck by a driver speaking a different language, put on shelves by one speaking another language.”
“And then we all speak English.”
“Yes we do, or how would we communicate? We can’t function if we can’t communicate?”
“So we all melted into one language?”
“Not entirely. There’s degrees of melting. That is why some people prefer to call America a salad bowl. Each ingredient in the salad is a different shape, color, texture, flavor, and contributes to the whole to make it better.”
“How do you see America, as a melting pot, or a salad bowl?’
“To tell you the truth I’ve decided against simple metaphors now that I’m old and gray. I like to see it as a country, my country, which it is. I accept its history, geography, current affairs and future prospects whatever they might be. I’ve learned to look past distinctions of race and size and class and gender. Cut any one of us and we bleed, so why bother with the pigeonholes. Just so long as we mean well, do our best, and do what’s right we’re American. In a world so connected we have to stop this ‘us and them’ business and remember we share oceans, the atmosphere, and a global economy.”
“Why did you stop thinking about the melting pot and the salad bowl when you did?”
“One day, without warning, my beloved melting pot morphed into a pressure cooker. I panicked. And with those fears and tears and chills and sweats came this realization. We’re people, plain and simple.”

http://www.surlatable.com/images/customers/c1079/PRO-693713/PRO-693713_detail/zoom_variation_Default_view_1_1278x1278.jpg

AMERICAN DESI GIRL

Chapter 6


Splitting Heirs

The SUBOURBON MEMSAHIBS meet once a month at the clubhouse to have lunch together and indulge in some gupshup, gossip, one-upmanship, and some genuine goodwill and camaraderie. Mama got strung along this once by her batik-making friend, a beautiful soul who loved her bourbon. And Mama didn’t say no because she actually liked the idea of a Mothers’ Morning Out.

In the room the women come and go speaking of Bill, Hill and Gore.

Everybody settled down at the tables and countertops and the buzz of a lively beehive was heard, along with the tinkling of cutlery among the porcelain, the swoosh of skirts that trail along the floor, the jingle of arms that are braceleted, laughter, talk, and banter.

In the room the women come and go speaking of Bill, Hill and Gore.

By and by the talk at Mama’s table turned to current events. The lady on the left had some issues to vent. She said, ”Misunderestimated? What does that mean?”
“Perhaps it was a mistake. Perhaps it was new coinage?”
“What sort of mistake?”
“Sometimes people mix up their words, by mistake or on purpose, and it turns out to be a funny or witty word or phrase. It keeps the language fresh. What would we ever do without ‘fantabulous’, or ‘ginormous’, or ‘bootylicious’, or ‘hungalumpcious’?”said Mama, her voice dropping through the last three syllables.
“He said that too?”
“No, no, no,” giggled Mama, imagining the consequences of such an eventuality.

In the room the women come and go speaking of Bill, Hill and Gore.

“I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter,” thought Mama to herself. “Would it have been worth while, to have bitten off the matter with a smile, to have squeezed the universe into a ball to roll it toward some overwhelming question, instead of splitting hairs?”

Allusions:
Splitting Heirs —- movie
T S Eliot — references and quotes from “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock”

https://cdn0.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/MNjclQ6I9snCKhf3gS4qOToiSx8=/0x95:1125x728/1600x900/cdn0.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/46199524/Screen_Shot_2015-04-23_at_1.46.58_PM.0.0.png



AMERICAN DESI GIRL

Chapter 5


Historicity

“Are your chores done?”
“Yes ma’am.”
“Okay, I’m ready to help you with your history lesson.”
“And Mama, just so you know I did my chores to make the money to buy the green coat we saw at the mall. You know the one, the one you wouldn’t buy for me.”
“You’ve three coats in the closet that you’ll outgrow having worn maybe twice. Show some restraint. And how will you ever save any money for your car if you spend every penny you earn on things you don’t really need?”
“And why do I have to study?”
“Because you must.”
“Why do I need to know what a bunch of dead people did hundreds of years ago?”

Mama was getting very testy with the LP’s newfound sense of rebellion and the sassiness that came with it. It was time to explain a few things to the child.

“Because it is important to know how the chain of events unfolded.”
“How do I care?”
“Because you are because of them. The world is because of their world, and the future will be because of them and us.”
“But they are dead and in the future there will be flying cars. Besides, my favorite T.V. show is starting in five minutes. ”
“There will be reruns.”
“So?”
“Don’t raise the level of discourtesy in this household.”
“Don’t what??”
“Oh shut up. Just listen. You need to know the history of the world and its people. So it says in this textbook. So let’s get started. ”
“Why?”
“So that when you grow up you do not run around like a headless chicken trying to reinvent the wheel and rediscover fire in every area of your life. And just as important as knowing history is taking an interest in the daily news. Today’s news is tomorrow’s history. Try to see in your mind’s eye the continuum of history.”

They sat down at the table an eager teacher and glum brat. The LP was looking down and her gaze fell upon the book cover. It had pictures on it. There was one of an exquisite marble statue. It said “circa 3000 B. C.”

“That was more than two thousand years ago. How could they do that so long ago?” she thought amazed.

She opened the book to see photographs of Jericho, of Mohenjodaro, of Giza and of what are believed to be the sunken cities of Alexandria and Atlantis. “Whoa, folks were smart back then. Maybe the ancient Peruvians did have flying cars. Maybe.”

Hercules via www.flickr.com


American ♫ Desi Girl ♫


Chapter 8 

The Interpreter of Melodies

It had been several years since Mama had been able to go whole hog with celebrating Diwali. They had all been just too busy or too tired. This year she had made up her mind to celebrate it just the way she had seen it done in Jaipur at Dadima’s. She had even grown marigolds in the vegetable patch in anticipation of this day. Mango leaves were now available at the local Indian grocery stores, so she could make swags with mango leaves and the marigolds she decided. She’d try her hand at rangoli. Having played with sidewalk chalk in her childhood for hours on end she knew she could create something pretty. She spent hours planning it all.

The LP was back from school admiring questioning tinkering with the décor and getting in Mama’s way but that was the whole idea to begin with, to pass on a tradition, so Mama did not exactly mind. The significance of each color and symbol was fascinating for the LP who had just discovered that flags and coats of arms had meanings beyond the obvious, just having studied those in school.

Mama had, in her growing years, been very afraid of making displays of the swastika or the Om or anything obviously Indian, in an effort to fit in. Over the years society had become more accepting of diversity. She, having seen yoga centers pop up in every strip mall in town and regretting never having learned to sit in the lotus position while the bones had been tender enough the ligaments limber enough, decided it was okay to paint tiny swastikas in turmeric on the lintel. Until of course the offspring came up with the usual, “Mama!” accompanied by the rolling of the eyes and the shaking of the head and so on.

Mama had thought about this for a while now preparing the decorations and holiday treats for a week and had internally come to an understanding of this whole business of signs and symbols and celebration and diversity. Especially since she had seen at the local temple the mandap had been decorated with a string of miniature disco ball look-alike silver Christmas ornaments. It looked very pretty. It did look out of place. But no one seemed to care. This probably would not have happened at Dadima’s, but here in Fairview it was perfectly okay.

She had then got to thinking about cultural notions like “it’s raining today” or “let’s all open our presents and see what we got” or “you’ve got yourself a serious tan”. They often meant opposite things in Jaipur and in Fairview. And that was okay. Likewise, swastikas, a holy symbol to more than a billion people worldwide today had meant quite the opposite to more than a billion people for a number of years. The swastika had been around for millennia in various parts of the world. Its place in peoples’ hearts and minds had changed over time.

Allusions:
“The Interpreter Of Maladies” — short story by Jhumpa Lahiri

rangoli via Google

AWAKENING


AWAKENING

Morning blossoms orange and gold
At the edge of a deep blue sky
The corpus sings every corpuscle singing
Sweeter than the birds in the sky
Gold dust escapes from every cell
Like light from a lantern in the dark

Awake but not moving
Afraid to disturb
Or surprise

Fear muzzles me
Stills me
Dampens the fire in my soul
But not forever
I have light
To find my way
In the world

                                                                                                          ~  Sonali


Spruce-knob-morning-sky ForestWander.jpg via commons.wikimedia.org 



Saturday, April 27, 2013

NEELKANTH

Neelkanth
Is raat ki siyaahi mein na koi chiraag na dastak
Na ek timtimata tara hai
Is vish ko pee so jaaoon toh kya bura hai
{The blackness of this night is so profound
Not a ray of light dilutes its darkness
Not a sound softens the silence
Not a star signifies hope
What if I were to swallow this blackness whole
And lay me down to sleep?} 
Shounak Creations & AJ via ૐ The Shiva Tribe ૐ

PARIS


An attempt at fusing myth, history, observation, and poetic form.




PARIS
Yet again burns a funeral pyre
An end of corpus and mind and judgment
The end of decisions miracles and mistakes alike
Blood dries wounds hurt no more and won’t again
There, Nostradamus couldn’t have said it better himself
Daughter of Cebren flung herself too late into the fire to no avail

                        -  SDG
painting byPierre-Jacques Volaire

Thursday, April 25, 2013

STAR GIRL


              An homage to some amazing women, who were amazing through everything, at all junctures in their lives, whether they were being celebrated, or being burned at the stake.


"night window" by indigodeep
 We’ve waited for the first snow of the season

For a while now, especially my little son

I peek from the picture window

To look for signs of a wintry mix








I look out again
                                                                                                          
The weatherman was dead wrong

The sky is so beautiful it makes me smile

Ouch! I need lip balm



Winter sky clearer than ever

Orion strides confident

Sirius at his heel













At my feet

Incongruous on a woebegone Sunday night

Blooms a flirty blood red Amaryllis

In a pot of blue and white chinoiserie

Amaryllis Red Lion | Amaryllis Bulbs for Sale | COLORBLENDSwww.colorblends.com
















♫Starry starry night♫

I wish I may I wish I might wish upon a star tonight

Or on the geometry of lilies

That look so like stars come down from the firmament

Mandalas on my freshly mopped floor

Om Hrim

Star of David

Najmat Dawuud






Lily in a pot
via minstrelbook.com

Lily Potter

Born in Aquarius

In the sixties

With startling green eyes

Whose love rendered the Avada Kedavra useless


Against Harry


A lily white

Pure and bright

Star of Bethlehem

Grows next to the red one

In her own pot of clay

Sweet-smelling

Sweet





Sweet baby Jehanne

"Joan of Arc" by Gaston Save
Fleur-de-lys

Martyred at scarcely nineteen

Ended a war of a hundred years

You live forever in our hearts














My eyes are drawn toward

The picture frame on the shelf 
http://www.growingwithplants.com/2010/07/lilies.html

Compelled by the star shapes

Of yellow trumpet lilies

Seven on a stalk

Proclaiming their brassiness

On a ♫golden afternoon♫




I get up to feed the fish

The sea cucumber the sea urchin and the starfish                                                                                     
                                                                              
But it’s only the aforementioned star shape I see with new eyes

Stargazer that I am tonight

Starfish - Image: 9287161www.dreamstime.com 
There’s something different about him tonight

Aha!!!! Pentagram not hexagram

And if he should lose a limb he’ll grow another, the smart one

Also Vitruvian Man the symmetrical one

Starfish, reflections of celestial stars on the ocean floor                                               



On the refrigerator door is a calendar

With golden pentacles I’ve given my son

On days he’s done his chores

Seals of approval that’ll earn him cash

And a work ethic and some righteous amour-propre I hope

Solomon was given both knowledge and wisdom I’m reminded

And wish the same for my cherub


Okay so it’s getting cloudy now
                                                   
Can’t see Cetus nor Andromeda

Not Perseus neither

It’ll snow

Or sleet or rain we’ll see
                                                                   
                                                              








Sundarban-peperonity.com
And my lilies will wilt with the heater on

I’ll water them well poor dears

                                                                                     And let them pretend it’s the Sundarbans in here

And I’ll be happy for ♫ the bare necessities

The simple bare necessities ♫

And Raksha Baloo Bagheera

        And Kaa?


The googly-eyed one who hissed “Trusssssssssst in me”?

Should I? Trust? Him? 



Ha! I won the staring contest.




Images of a littoral mangrove
Blue Denim Cloth Background
Flood my imagination

Edenlike in their beauty

I have the distinct sensation

Of shedding exteriors





A clay mold splits open

I step out Woman

Red haired in a blue denim dress

My baby boy on my hip


THE END

A THOUSAND PARDONS FOR I KNOW NOT WHO I AM



They say Radha was born blind with two lotuses for eyes
And was healed when Krishna looked in her cradle
And she saw for the first time everything she ever wanted to see

This story is so sweet I am compelled to imagine
What the baby girl might have thought of it

Perhaps she thought because as you know she didn’t really know
That she was made of a thousand lotuses that brimmed with life
And brimmed with nectar and brimmed with light

                                                                          ~ Sonali