Wednesday, July 3, 2019

It's The Spirit of The Enterprise

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Why do we romanticize hunters, and not butchers, nor taxidermists?
Fishermen too, especially the loners who catch the biggest fish?
What is it that our primitive brains recognize as skill and courage
That a butcher cannot deliver?
I guess it's akin to the adulation we profess for a Prithviraj or a Lochinvar
As opposed to a pimp, no matter how vast his brothel

Robber barons, for all their wealth, are seldom invited to share their wisdom
In public places and in places of learning or worship
They need extreme machinations to get their word out if they ever do
Over time, I guess, they realize no one cares actually what they think or feel
People instinctually guess their motives are simple and primitive
And so must be their minds, so why bother seeking them out for their knowledge

It is a rare human being who perhaps started out a Cain
Sees within himself his brother and knows he is his brother's keeper
He plunges into the deepest darkest water of his subconscious
A minesweeper and sweeps away everything that prevents him
From being a wholesome person, an Akbar when he found the Buddha
And finds there's room at the table for a prodigal son

Sunday, June 23, 2019

THE BLACK PILL or The GNAB GIB theory #Love, Mom #1

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That's existential darkness coalescing into a single point of stillness, The Black Pill

This started out as a letter to my favorite millennials

*{Uh-oh, somebody beat me to the title BLACK PILL, and it's bleak. This is a message of hope. I hope my concept of THE BLACK PILL gains traction over the incel version, which is a bleak version of the RED PILL. 
Or I'll think of something unique to name this concept. Would totally appreciate a little help from you. I'm a little stuck on this one, so I'm having trouble renaming it. 
The GNAB GIB theory is my best so far.}


Since 50% of America's youth is labeled "depressed" researchers got into the nitty-gritty of it wondering how that happened right under their noses.

One of the findings is that natural feelings of existential angst, loss of childhood freedoms and comforting beliefs, a growing awareness of what's wrong with the world ......  all have become labeled as depression.

The bigger discovery is that pessimism and resultant depression are superpowers. Highly intelligent people can see problems a mile and a half away, so they worry and get upset. They are a gift to society and industry because they are forewarned by their natural ability to see problems. Those who are proactive prevent disasters and find workarounds.

Millennials are super smart, creatures of a world the older generation does not fully understand. Don't worry about trying to be happy all of the time. Own that shit, make it your b*+(h, use it to uncover problematic issues, solve problems. Happiness is overrated and underreported. If seeing a firefly or eating ice cream makes you happy, you can be happy any day. If you are waiting to be happy after you've walked on water you're likely going to be unhappy for a while, and even when you feel happiness the euphoria will last 15 minutes and fade over the next 6 months. Choose more things, simple, free stuff, to find joy in.

Here's my solution to owning the darkness generated by life. Know that everything is energy. Swallow the energy of it all. Once you allow your personal energy to work on it, solutions that are suited to you materialize out of nowhere.

Yes, I know, it feels like you have an ocean full of dark energy to swallow.

Remember the Big Bang theory. Make that work for you in reverse. Let the darkness shrink back to a single point of darkness. Swallow that with your morning coffee. Go enjoy your day. You'll digest that energy instead of having the energy feel like a load of lead bricks you have to carry around through life.


Friday, June 7, 2019


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The candle maker in Shakespeare's time sure did a lot of business with the theaters I suppose
The lights that shone onto the stage were exclusively from candles, and perhaps mirrors and lenses
One could say the same about lighthouses back then

Shine a light on theatrics, be a beacon that shows the way to a safe harbor
Be the warm glow that tells it like it is

                                                                                                - SDG

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Thursday, June 6, 2019


Whispers from the all-seeing heart chakra are symbols at best
In the cacophony of auditory signals
The Voice of Reason is the most annoying thing
Most cloying thing
You'll ever hear
Until you learn to see it's musicality
It's awful simplicity
Like a tuning fork responding to another
You'll begin to hum its tune

                                                                - SDG

Hello World

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The Idiot Savant within us is a curious facet of our personalities
It is one-half brilliant, the other half is flawed or, at best, unfinished

Like nesting dolls, you could have a veneer of sophistication several layers deep
And a really rough-hewn center of "Idunnoknownothin'" barely kneaded putty
Or, vice versa

It could be a harlequin patterned mosaic of smart and dumb
You step on a different tile every time you encounter it

You might get the lion and the lamb
Masquerading as an eight-legged gene-edited oddity from the future
Or a mythic beast long extinct from the very distant past

You could very well be interacting with a spin-top spinning at top speed
Atop the carapace of a slow-moving terrapin

Who knows what the Idiot-Savant really started out as
Perhaps a gentle obedient child, or the infamously colicky baby

Our nervous systems can only handle so much
Don't let first impressions fool you

Embrace your inner Idiot-Savant and let it go out and say hello to the world
The world will adjust

                                                                                      - SDG


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Kryptonite is their middle man
On their way to decorating their trophy wall

Know thyself
Know your Kryptonite

Spartan Superperson
You're a long way from Athens

Pass the baton
It's okay to trust

You're in safe hands

                                                                         - SDG

Tuesday, June 4, 2019


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Moving dots on a piece of glass
Have made contact with the chemicals in the brain
Nothing is at it seems
Much is lost in translation
Most of all humanity



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There's one bit of life advice my father gave me that I thought was merely a piece of scientific trivia
I was looking in the mirror and fixing the parting in my hair
He said, "You don't look exactly like your image, you know that?
The lateral inversion changes your face
The light falls on you from different angles
The colors you wear affect your image
You have no idea how different you are from the image you see right now
I can see that, you too need to remember that."

Light, refraction, parallax, reflection, optical illusions, the many versions of change blindness
All had held immense fascination for me as external events
Little did I realize all of that happens on the inside too

Seeing clearly truly is an inside job

Monday, June 3, 2019

Brownie Points

Image result for lakshmi vishnu parvati shiva sarasawti brahma

The man-woman dynamic is a huge part of the glue that holds societies together
You get that one wrong, institutions thousands of years old fall apart
Families don't stand a chance when that apple cart is upset
Children, women, men, everybody suffers for no fault of their own
Too many rom-coms have given the modern age a warped view of how stuff works
The religious texts have also misled the masses
What we see is but a sliver of what we need to know as the children of our parents
Few weave in and out of the archetypes effortlessly
While integrating the ardhanareshwari within and without
Fewer realize it is possible to inhabit them all simultaneously
And integrate their shadows as well
For the gods and the demons dwell in us

                                                                                                                            - SDG

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I am driving west ♫on a dark desert highway♫
In my rearview mirror, I catch a fleeting reflection
Of a single point of light atop the ribbon of a road
The edges of which converge beneath a rising full moon
I flip a coin to decide if I take this exit or the next
My eyes are tired, ♫my soul so weary♫
I find a motel, flip the lights out
And rest my cheek on ♫the flip side of the pillow♫
The air conditioner hums a lullaby
The desert has consumed me
Somewhere out there on the flip side of the moon
Lies a still, dark, sea of tranquility, a desert like this one
Perhaps a weary soul sleeps there too
A moon cricket outside his window, his alarm clock set to 6 am
When my moon and his cease to exist

                                                                                    - SDG

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In the still waters of the pool in my mindscape
A swan glides aimlessly
She is disturbed
She is quiet
She is unruffled
She is sad
She can see her feet paddling
But her reflection is absconding
"What fresh hell is this?"
She asks herself
Out of the water emerges
A scattered splintered mosaic
Bobbing uncomfortably at her feet
Her reflection
Trying to be herself
Still shattered beyond recognition
Someone had taken a rock to the mirror
As people often do without reflecting
On the consequences of their actions
Or perhaps because the destruction of something shiny
Satisfies them beyond belief
But now her reflection speaks in whispers
"Hello, stranger. how are you?"
Silent no more, her reflection has stories to share
Of the deep waters beneath her
Of mermaids, sharks, starfish, anemones, and fishermen
And the deep sea divers who helped her up to the surface

Sunday, June 2, 2019


Image result for prehistoric black panther

It's June
The monsoon has dumped half a river on the jungle
Rivulets trickle prettily down mossy embankments
The canopy is rich with fresh foliage
The vines are taut and plump with sap
The forest floor damp and slightly cool in the morning air
The sickly sweet stench of burgeoning summer fruit hangs in the air
The seeming stillness of the forest is punctuated by the flight of flies
The squawking of parrots, the rustle of creatures of the night
Coming home to roost

High above on a wide strong branch, I spy a black panther with her eyes shut
Not a twitch, not a sound, and not quite camouflaged in her emerald halo
A coiled bolt of black lightning, a resting bowstring ready to snap
I imagine her eyes of cold yellow fire burning brightly in her face like night
Hypnotizing in the constancy of a gaze I wouldn't dare to meet
The sheathed fangs and claws, the pink tongue, the jaws of doom
This is not your average house cat, though she looks like one
Mine barely ever catches a mouse, this one's devoured buck and bison
I wouldn't say,"Here, kitty, kitty" even under my breath around here
My place is at my desk by my window, my kitty sitting by my side
As I sip coffee and take in the news

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Grey rock
Boring common pebble
Edges weathered to a smooth finish
Unremarkable in every way
One might imagine it would make a good blank slate
And be completely mistaken


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Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Shadow Play

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Devi with the four arms
Why do I love you and fear you in equal parts?
Who are you?
I see you love flowers
And jewelry and music
Those weapons, and tigers, and lions too
Who are you?
Lady of the brightest light
Lady of the darkest night
Who are you?
You've looked into my soul and gently sealed
The split between the shadow and the self seamlessly
I look to you and see who I might be

                                                                              - SDG

Friday, May 24, 2019


Blurring lines on an antiquated map
Maps of the mind, of mindsets
Maps of languages and trade routes
National borders going in and out of style
Mood swings of the geo-political timeline
Of recorded history

Why do we never learn our lessons
Lessons found in every history book
Footprints on the sands of time
Show loud and clear
What we deny we empower
The guillotine awaits the tyrant

                                                        - SDG

Thursday, May 23, 2019


A heart riddled with holes is a strange sight
I stare
I have never seen anything this broken 
This functional

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Movie Memories

Oh the stars in my eyes, the music on my brain, the life force toying with my soul 

Strings of colored lights up in the tree
Come down to make a canopy
The fresh mountain air by Nakki lake
The warmth of hot samosas under my nose
"Chalte chalte yunhi koi mil gaya tha ..." floating around on a lilting breeze
So sweet, so soft, like a plate of cool crisp dessert
Completely appropriate in a dhaba on a cool winter's night
We had just watched the movie in the theater across the street
One of the first movies in my memory 
All I could recall of the experience was a lady in a gorgeous orange and gold chudidar suit singing 
And me saying to my mother,"Mummy, kuch samajh mein nahin aa raha hai"
Mummy saying gently,"Koi baat nahin. Aaraam se baitho."

Oh the stars in my eyes, the music on my brain, the life force toying with my soul  

I hear I was smitten by a movie the year before 
But I don't remember that
I'm just regurgitating family folklore 
I'm told I came home from the cinema 
And announced to the clan I was Maria
Picked up my dad's guitar and pretended to play it
Making up songs as I went
I guess I was humored because I knew all the lyrics
From every song in the movie by the time I was seven 
The hills are alive ... Edelweiss ... So long, farewell ... and all the rest of them

Oh the stars in my eyes, the music on my brain, the life force toying with my soul   

The haitus between the memories of 1970 and 1976  
Probably reflects the fact that I wasn't one of Kaka's biggest fans 
The next 70mm forgetmenot scene in my mind is of Jai playing a soulful tune on a harmonica
Gabbar was the screen personification of the dacoits of Bhind-Morena we heard about every day
Living just a few hundred miles away in Hoshangabad that was too close for comfort
The music! It brought such adrenalin into our dreary lives
I remember my parents driving into town late one night for paan and returning with a 45rpm
"Mehbooba Mehbooba!" RD Burman at his best
Such a departure from the tame music of the past

Oh the stars in my eyes, the music on my brain, the life force toying with my soul    

Phir kya kehene, the decade of Big B came along
And nothing was ever the same again
Kya dialog
Kya dialog delivery
Kya naach
Kya gaanaa
Nothing was ever the same again
Indian cinema had found its voice 

Oh the stars in my eyes, the music on my brain, the life force toying with my soul  

Then the road split two ways
Art movies and the not so watchable Dada Kondke types
A Noorie then, a Qayamat Se Qayamt Tak came along every five years
And just when you thought it couldn't get any worse it did
To Bappi Lahiri's music
And other competitors'

Oh the stars in my eyes, the music on my brain, the life force toying with my soul   

Just when I gave up on Bollywood, along came Saregamapa
An Aishwarya and the other beauty queens and Manish Malhotra and Sanjay Leela Bhansali
A world that had been waiting to emerge showed up in technicolor and in perfect pitch
Our jaws dropped collectively
I couldn't get enough of the movies, the cinematography, the songs, Shreya's voice
Anurag Kashyap's style, and Gulzar sahib's new lyrics
The tapori of yore had rubbed off on him too
"Beedi jalayi le ....."

Oh the stars in my eyes, the music on my brain, the life force toying with my soul     

Then CGI happened, and I'm not watching those god awful crowd scenes
It gives the question "Kitne aadmi the?" a whole new look
I'll wait for a movie to come along that puts the stars back into my eyes
The music on my brain
And the life force compels me to drop everything and pay attention to the silver screen


Monday, May 13, 2019

The Zamindar's wife all of twenty-three
Married for five years now to the oldest son of a middling estate somewhat past its prime
She was expecting their first baby and feeling very large
And cumbersome

The Zamindar, his wife, and the Zamindar's brother
Waited in the drawing room for the Ranisaheba to emerge
From her living quarters, ready to go to the movies with her family
A matinee

Ranisaheba now widowed and mainly uninvolved in the daily workings of her estate
Had taken to social work and gin rummy, a common combination of pastimes
Among the ladies of her generation in her neck of the woods, if they were born into wealth
Or had married it

"It's too hot!" said the Zamindar's wife, fanning herself with a magazine
"Especially for a whale as large as myself. I should be swimming in the ocean,"
She declared, with a faraway look in her eye, a look her husband never understood
Or dared to address

Her devar chuckled and said,"Boudi, you are such an imaginative creature
You should write! I'm sure you'll tell your kids the best stories ever
The kind Darwan used to tell us when we were kids. He spun them fresh
As he drawled in Bundeli"

The Zamindar nodded and shook his head in the same gesture
A 'yea and a nay nod' peculiar to our part of the globe
That no other nation on this large blue planet has mastered or has fathomed

"Fatso, make me a cup of tea," said the Zamindar pointing at his wife with his chin
A rather unremarkable unimpressive chin, superseded by thin lips and a Brylcreemed mustache
His wife started to wiggle her very pregnant body to the edge of her seat in an attempt
To get out of it

The Zamindar's voice droned in her direction, in an Ox-Bridge Indian accent
"You have gotten so lazy, you haven't made me breakfast in months
My mother made my scrambled eggs this morning because the cook didn't show up
At least make me tea."

The Zamindar's brother blanched a little as he spoke
"Dada, every time Boudi goes into the kitchen these days
She runs out the backdoor and throws up behind the hedge
Don't you know???

Boudi, relax, I'll make us tea. Ramu left for Begusarai early this morning
To attend his sister's husband's funeral. The poor man died of cholera
I told Ramu he will be quarantined for three weeks when he returns
Jamini cooked lunch today"

With that he sped toward the inner rooms to get to the rasoi a hallway and a verandah away
The Zamindar's wife finally spoke,"No wonder the jhol was so good today, I overate
Not the oily mess Ramu prepares. Poor man, I hope his sister will be okay
Perhaps we should employ her

Let me talk to Ma,"said the Zamindar's wife, and her husband rose from his chair, glaring
"I say what happens here! My mother is a nobody!! I own the estate!"
His wife cringed as he spoke and for the next fifteen minutes couldn't bring herself to look away from
The tiny black stain on the rug

The Zamindar's brother returned with a tray laden with goodies, a teapot, and four teacups
Precariously balanced nesting awkwardly due to the delicate handles that protruded
Finely crafted, but not designed to fit well together. He put the tray down on the ottoman
And his mother called out to them

"Sorry darlings. Let's go. I was on the phone forever with Brigadier Jaslok's wife
She is new here and we were just chatting and I couldn't be rude. We can go now"
"There's tea Ma", said her son, triumphantly. "I made it."
She smiled

"I should've made cha," said her daughter-in-law. "I am so sorry I am so sick"
"You're not sick! You are the brightest light in the family. You are a mother.
You are the only person in the family who is doing something about the next generation"
Her devar snuck a look at his older brother

Ranisaheba laughed so hard the teacup clattered dangerously on the saucer in her bejeweled hand
"Ashima, never forget, you are a mother. You are the bringer of life," she said to her daughter-in-law
The Zamindar looked reasonably chastized, a tiny bit remorseful, and plenty aggrandized
A baby on the way is a joy already

A few weeks passed and the newborn was here with a loud healthy cry that gladdened the hearts
Of all who heard him. The place without the pitter-patter of little feet had grown too serious
In its demeanour and decorum, and decor, a lot of people thought, especially Ranisaheba
Now that was about to change

She held her little grandson and cooed sweet nothings in his ear, as did his father, and his mother
As they passed their little bundle of joy around for introductions
His kaka was away, and when he returned in a week, he ran to the nursery to say hello to his nephew
"Look at you!"

He said,"You got your grandfather's nose, and your mother's eyes, and my mother's eyebrows
You're so funny, I can look just at you and see my whole family in your one little face. You are a Family album. Here, go back to your mumma, she misses you already. I hope someday I'll have kids
Half as cute as you"

Boudi smiled as she understood why her devar saw so much in her. He saw the world in everybody
"It's a certain kind of human being who sees the best and the most expansive version of another
They don't ridicule or minimize or restrict another, they see them in their every avatar
And they see them with eyes filled with love

No wonder he saw in me a mother, a writer, a bright light, a whale, a someone who throws up behind hedges And none of that was incongruous to him. He valued my feminine fragility and my intellect.
And then there are those who can see nothing good in anybody. All they see are slaves and masters"
And there began a search within her for herself

A quest for the inner being that the sages had named Prakriti, Saraswati, Lakshmi to name a few
This inner being, the Ashima  beyond the Ashima everybody saw and some loved tenderly
Her mother, her dida, her nanny, her brother, her puppy knew that Ashima
The Ashima that blossomed or withered amongst microtransactions

                                                                                                        ~ Sonali

Thursday, March 21, 2019

In praise of oxymorons

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When the eulogy has died upon the lips of the weary
When the tears have watered the gravestone and failed to wet it
When the spirit has dimmed to its last scintilla
An invisible light, an oxymoron, comes along to light the way

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Saas Bahu

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Meri bahu aaj jadli subeh uthi thi
Dekho kitni achchi hai
Usne pranayam kiya 
Aahaa, aastha channel pe bhajan sunti hai

               Meri bahu jhadoo nahin deti hai
               Kahan se biha ke le aave isko
               Dekha, jaan ki dhamki di maine usko
               Ab woh pehele jaise jawan nahin lagti hai

Dekho meri bahu ko, khana already banaa liya usne
Kahin se kisi bade murshad ya pandit ki spirit usme aa gayi
Jaan ki dhamki dene ke baad bhi usko takleef nahin hui
Meri bahu dekho kitni pyaari hai

               Meri bahu vrat nahi rakhti hai
               Machli maas roz woh bangalan ya christchaon jaise
               Kahan se biha ke le aave isko
               Jaan ki dhamki di maine

Amma, yeh silsila khatam kabi hoga?
Audience uth ke chali gayi
                                                                       ~  Sonali  

Friday, March 15, 2019

An Invincible Summer

Death decay regeneration
Is the organic process that contains the seeds of
Beautiful beginnings

A life examined and honored
Offers one jewels of understanding nothing else can
An understanding that transcends peace

What are wisdom and peace and time worth
Unless they lead to pragmatic and lasting progress?
What is autumn unless is leads to spring?

I willing die to the old self  and outmoded beliefs
Steeped in my faith in the cycles of life
I rise, a baby bud on a tree, a phoenix from the ashes, and begin anew

                                                                                                                      ~  Sonali

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


Monarchs Like to Hibernate in the Same Trees Every Year

What constitutes a movement
Is it the turning of galaxies
The turning of colors in autumn
The way a shapeshifter changes directions
A demagogue tweaking a single word
Just so

Is it the polar and grizzly hybrid at the melting poles
Is it the flight of the monarchs
Would you call the guillotine and the Guttenberg movements
Is it a movement if you move from tribalism to collectivism
Is it the subtle shift of the "I" at the center of your universe
To "We"

                                                                              ~  Sonali

Tuesday, March 12, 2019


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The mother has been giving birth
And nurturing us for millennia
What if we let her rest and recover?
Watch what wildflowers bloom
What trees sprout from long-dormant seeds
What fowl and fauna return to cavort
In the new landscape
                                                          ~   Sonali

Monday, March 11, 2019

metaphorically speaking

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I saw a compilation of deadly similies by high schoolers and was inspired to write. I hope I am doing a good job here.

She was a sparkling aqueduct to his parched desert soul

She was two roasted cornish hens to his hungry eyes

Betwixt the camel and her, she was the prettier one

Their date was sweet as the Medjool dates from Costco

                              Peace became her like moonlight becomes the moon reverse-engineered
                              Her smile was 1000 mg of store-brand paracetamol for his feverish imagination

                              It helped, but not a whole lot, because his imagination was worse than her bite

                              And every dog has its day, she said, unwittingly

And fleas, she forgot the fleas, fleas with so little blood

It wouldn't clog the foot of a flea, and you wouldn't know you'd killed it

Who wags the dog, you or I, in a room you can't even swing a cat in?

The tail end of this fable is a tattered tale told in tongues that wag not the dog


  ...  more as I can think them up. Please add to this poem in the comments.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Shedding Exteriors


            Sunday afternoon, the boys had their LEGOs all over the floor, well camouflaged in the busy rug, weakening her resolve to get up and do the dishes. The storm had passed. The clearing clouds let a bright four o’clock light through to light up what was left of the day, not too little of it since it was the middle of August.
           Z had been haunted by this image of herself as mermaid for many months now, a tail instead of legs, and a voice that was only meant for singing. Speech and self-expression had been denied to her, as were walking, dancing, frolicking, on two legs. She had assumed it came from being such a fairytale enthusiast, and now, as she looked at the diffused light through the window, she thought she saw it bouncing gently off her iridescent tail, green, blue, gold, bronze, like a peacock’s feather, a slightly aged and dusty feather. “It wasn’t so bad ten years ago”, she thought to herself.

Snap! Crackle! Pop! The mermaid’s tail like an old resin prop split apart and fell away as Z sat across the oversized armchair the children called ‘The Thinking Chair’, her head on one armrest, her legs dangling over the other. It stank so bad, the disintegrating fake tail, of stale stagnant sea puddles and of rotting sea life. She hadn’t known this could happen, a falling away of what she had believed was an appendage, and so she hadn’t thought it would happen now, so it was a bit of a surprise. But happen it did. Just like that. Over. Done with.
           A lot of things she hadn’t thought about or considered came rushing to her, a decade worth of thinking was waiting to be done. All in all, there had been a barter of Time for Experience and it wasn’t so bad. Spiritual muscle and mental floss and emotional yoga had their rewards and their price. She still saw the glass half full and that was enough she was told over and over until she completely believed that maxim.
           Now she had legs, and like Sisyphus she accepted her Fate decreeing she must pay for her sins and proceeded to roll that rock uphill again, not quite sure what her sins might’ve been. Indecision was one for sure, Pride another, but other than that she was at sea. “Must’ve been in a past life or something this awful thing I’ve done so I must pay and not count the cost. Anyways I have my legs back. My voice will return someday or perhaps in the next life I’ll earn that back. This is blessing enough for now. How many people have what I’ve been given?”
           Like Sisyphus she kept going and the day got darker.


            Z was worn down by the demands of the daily grind. “Why is a woman’s work never done?” She had been too tired to eat and so she just went to sleep. “It is beautifully exhausting though. The exhaustion puts an end to the running away from reality. ♫‘Can’t run from myself; there’s nowhere to hide’♫,” she hummed to herself softly.

            Z fell asleep and dreamt she was a forest sprite ♫dancing in the dark♫ in the night in a forest under a verdant green canopy on a mossy knobbly forest floor. Tired, she lay down and fell asleep and dreamt in the dream in her dream that she was plucking berries – not quite cherries and not quite grapes. The juice was all flavors so well mixed it satisfied the palette, hunger, and thirst alike. Visions of sugar plums, nutmeg, tomalitos, Turkish delight, almond, candied apple, quince, cinnamon, all danced in her head. “Nope, this is ‘God’s Plenty’, not just a certain species of a particular genus of a specific class of fruit.”

            She awoke hours later, the fragrance of the berries lingering about her person. ”How likely is it that my teeth are stained with berry juice?” She got up to brush her teeth. ”No evidence of the berries here,” she thought as she looked in the mirror. The minty taste of toothpaste collided with the flavors of the cornucopia of flavors and sweet scents lingering in her memory from the night before. “As weird as it sounds, a dream within a dream, it is still dear to my heart. I’m happy I tasted those berries.” 


            “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child a long, long way from home,” Z hummed as she remembered her Ma crying to this song.

            It had become her lot in life to be motherless a long way from home and she had accepted that as best as she could. Her inspiration, among others, had been Sammy Squitten, a squirrel she had read about, whose mother had abandoned him, and who was subsequently raised by a family who had snuck him into a suckling litter their housecat had just given birth to, and who had had the good fortune to be accepted wholeheartedly by mama cat. That’s a mother’s love, you’ll recognize if you’ve ever been lucky enough to have that in your life, or at least to have witnessed it.

            This squirrel found himself a good place in the pecking order in the litter. Must’ve been some kid. He wrestled and outran many of his siblings and earned the sobriquet “Squitten”, and his real name was Sammy.

            Spring came along and all the creatures were “twitter-pated” as they say in the movie “Bambi”, or “Bamba” if Z’s little son is to be believed. Well, he calls Cinderella “the Blue Jedi” because that’s the only way at all he’ll ask Z to play the movie for him.
           Sammy was out in the yard and there was a whole new set of rules to learn. Guess what, Sammy trounced them all, sometimes for no reason at all. There’s something about having to fend for oneself that makes everything a little clearer, just like idealism makes everything clearer. As long as you are dragged along and pushed around, and all is done for you and thought out for you, you learn little that is good for you.

            That time had arrived in Z’s life. She hoped that a lifelong fascination with stories, many of which eulogized the heroics of the downtrodden, the motherless and such like would be fuel for her journey toward personhood. If Romulus and Remus founded Rome; if Hercules, half a mortal, was accepted as an immortal upon completion of his labors…. was it too much too hope for complete personhood?

            Sammy Squitten did not fritter away his strength nor would she. He was every bit the cat his mother had always believed he was on the inside. So what if he looked like a squirrel on the exterior. It's what's on the inside that counts. His mother's love and devotion had helped him let his inner cat out and he had ruled his world. After all, a mother’s love had filled her life too even when she hadn’t known it.


            Z was in a tearing hurry to get to Adit's school. There would be a concert for parents, a Christmas Special, at ten. As she bundled up Anuj in jacket, cap, and mittens and put him in his car seat her husband got into his car to go to work. Before he drove away he rolled down his window and said to her, ”Remember, nobody knows who you are. When you go there tell them my name and they’ll let you in. Sit at the back so if Anuj misbehaves you can leave the room quietly.” She nodded her acquiescence and got into her car.

            Ten minutes later she was walking through the double doors of the school gymnasium and since half the bleachers were still folded up they had to sit in the only two seats vacant in this portion of the arena, which happened to be in the second row, right behind the staff, and pray Anuj would behave. He could wiggle a lot if asked to stay seated for longer than thirty minutes.

            Adit had a solo that he nailed, perfect pitch, perfect style, perfect enunciation, a music buff’s delight, as always. The music had little Anuj entranced for a long time so he was still. But about an hour ten into the concert the real little Anuj started to emerge from his public persona outer shell fa├žade thingy and he began to wiggle in his seat. He began to become a distraction for the children, especially the littler children, seated behind him. Z yanked at his jacket a time or two hoping he’d understand but he refused to. Z ended up saying to him, “You’d stop fidgeting if you paid attention,” in a cross voice. To which he said,” I’m tired, okay. My butt’s tired, OKAY.”

            Not certain how that went down with his future teachers Z tried to ignore the rebuttal hoping most people hadn’t heard, but based on the tittering and admiring sidelong glances aimed at Anuj that little speech had made a mark upon the crowd around them. “So be it,” rationalized Z. The teachers have all worked with children for years. There’s nothing they haven’t heard by now.”

 After the show several parents and two teachers walked up to Z and congratulated her on having these amazingly talented children. A fellow-parent walked up to her and said in hushed tones, ”I’ve been watching your little son the whole year at these concerts. You know what, you should encourage him to study law. He will have a very wealthy and an early retirement”, and he giggled as he walked away. “You must be so proud. You are such a lucky mom,” was the general refrain, with the one dissonant, “Isn’t it such a pity that when your son started to sing the microphone was chirping?” Z had a smile and a nod for every one of the comments, equal face time for each well-wisher, in a studied effort to align herself with no faction in a heavily divided society. Her attempts at making friends across all factions had fallen in a sorry heap and turned to dust a long time ago. Most people wanted you to pledge your allegiance to their little gang and prove your loyalty via an initiation rite which always included sticking it to someone nice and unsuspecting from a rival group and then prostrating before the leader of their pack in a show of undying devotion. Z had faced the facts. She was no good at playing the socio-political game. And she hated playing mascot. And that was exactly what most people wanted her to be, an exotic mascot. It is hell inside those sweaty mascot suits. You feel nowhere near human. Soon people start to treat you as sub-human. It stinks.

The rest of the day was uneventful but fun for this little group of cartoon and music aficionados. The Animaniacs were on T.V. half the day, celebrating winter break around the nation. The three popped some corn and sat down to savor the humor of Pinky and the Brain, Loud Kiddington, Father Time, Yakko, Wakko and Dot. The catchphrase for the day was “O for the love of Al Gore”.

Paul Potts was on the entertainment news. It was good to see him doing well, raw talent, lots of humility, a beautiful soul.

Nightfall comes early this time of the year. Z had all her Christmas lights on at five. It pleased the children to go around the house switching them on, watching each strand light up. Dinner consisted of reheated spaghetti and meatballs. They settled down to read. It was always Adit who got to read first since he was easier to keep in one place. Z had brought him a book from the library on artifacts of the Western World, 17th and 18th centuries. It had the most beautiful pictures in it. Adit, always one to dream about being The Happiest Millionaire loved the plush stuff. Until he came upon the picture of a golden carriage and read the fine print that gave away the dark secret that it was gold leaf over wood.
“What did you expect? How would horses drag a carriage made of real gold?”
But to one so young the magic was already lost. 

Anuj had taught himself to read by the age of three so Z kind of slacked when it came to his reading time. She’d stuck a Kipper book under his nose and he was in Kipper-world for a while. Time for bed.

Winter break went by smoothly. Santa Claus had been a darling. No coal. Lots of toys.

Z was on her way to pick up Adit from school, Anuj buckled up in his car seat at the back, singing the Power Rangers theme song, followed by the Blue’s Clue’s song and they went past the exact same neighborhoods as always. Once again, a very surprising once again, there was an encore of a brief show of sparkles falling from the air onto one particular house with a red brick exterior,  just as they drove past it. It used to send her into shock at first but over the years she had gotten used to it. 

Spring concert came along. The children sang ♫This little light of mine♫ and Z had found her anthem. Suddenly she realized she had been hiding her light under a bushel, under a jack-o-lantern really. The pumpkin was rotting. It was melting, creeping downward, exposing the light within with no mask before it. “Blimey!!! I didn’t see that coming. You live and you learn. And it took Dumb and Dumber to make that happen. It was stupid. It was infinitely embarrassing but it worked! “

Summer rolled around. It was time to pull up stakes, move to another state. She checked to see if there were men falling from trees in this neck of the woods. It looked more normal than the older zip code. People here were smooth. They didn’t let on what they were thinking as easily. The Pussycat Dolls had a hit song that summer that spoke of someone wishing his girlfriend was hotter or something that made her laugh and the children cringe. But when her back was turned they listened. Wonder what else they hid from their mother.

Adit missed his friends and learned to IM. Life was changing fast, new place, new people, new attitudes, new problems. Only Z was so stuck in her ways she had not noticed.

One Sunday morning right after they had moved she saw black velvet, soft, comforting, warm velvet with a million little sparkles on it flash before her eyes and it was gone. The next Sunday she was reading in bed this early summer morning while the rest of them slept soundly, and she felt cool shaved ice cascade over her in a mini avalanche covering her completely. She instinctively flailed her arms in large arcs around her creating an air pocket so as to survive the burial in snow long enough to finagle a way out, or be rescued hopefully. The shaved ice cocoon soon fell away to give the world back its human named Z still alive and kicking.

That mental landscape of hers was the most varied thing in the world! The grotesque humor in all of this would not make itself self-evident for a very, very long while. Almost too long!


           Z had had the good fortune of being blessed with good health and wealth and legendary amounts of energy that made it look like everything had been handed to her on a platter. A naturally sunny demeanor furthered that impression in the minds of people who have closed their hearts because it hurts too much to feel, and those who have sold their souls to the devil in exchange for a heart that rejoices at the plight of another, and that pretty much describes anyone over eighteen. So she went through life being told how enviably lucky she was, that in life she had what most people could only dream of and that she ought to not hide her troubles if she had any because privacy is a stupid modern invention.
            This barrage of “You’re so lucky”, had first begun the first year of college, the first year she had lived without her mother, the first time she had left the confines of her home, the first time she had seen the possibility of life and lost it before she was sure she had seen it.
            Since so many grownups were telling her the exact same thing in unison, they must be right, she erroneously presumed and tried to live life like a “lucky person” might live it, flying by the proverbial seat of her pants, and coming off as obnoxious to those closest to, and the “blindest” to her sadness, and strangely jealous of her seeming self-assuredness. They spared no occasion to tell her she was fat, ugly and very, very lucky, and lazy, and incompetent. Each time she felt like a little of her blood had evaporated and had been replaced by a debilitating poison.
            There was that time when Z was home for spring break. It had been an emotional roller-coaster going home to find once again that Ma was gone forever. Luckily this vacation was just one week long and she had scores of friends to meet and cousins too. One day an old friend of her father’s along with his wife came to visit from out of town. They had never seen Z before. They had been friends with Ma and Daddy when they were newly married. As they walked in the lady’s eyes lit up with recognition though, and she said, ”You are pretty like your mother. And you are a very lucky girl to have had her company for eighteen years. And you are very lucky to have a father who is sending you to college. College was the happiest time of my life and I’m sure it is for you too.”
            An involuntary scream came from her soul, “ If this is happiness I’ll die of it very soon.” 
            Once again in her adult life she was being told by a gaggle of grownups speaking as the local hive mind “You are so lucky. Believe me, you are. I am just like a mother to you and you like my daughter. I would not lie to my daughter. There is no happiness in this world, just death, disease, and strife. You see how lucky you are? Do your job, keep your mouth shut and don’t ever, ever again say you’ve been misled. Look at me. I’ve always been unhappy. If I had what you have I’d be so grateful to those who helped me get here in life. "
          Z responded, "I have had my share of bad luck too. Look at all the times I have been betrayed by those who professed to love me or should’ve loved me. I experienced Ma’s death as an abandonment of me for years. I was hurt by every one of you right after she died. As recently as yesterday I had a dagger in my heart getting betrayed by an old, old friend. How can women be so mean?”
          The hive mind said, “All over the world women lead other women to the wrong side of the road. Mothers hold their daughters down for circumcisions. Why are you so shocked?”
          Z said,“Someday I’m going to write about this business of hurting people for pleasure and what damage it does to the innocent and to everybody who does nothing about it. I’ll write it in fables so kids can read it.”
            Choto Pishi said,“Never do that. Writers are losers. You’ll always be poor. Look at my neighbor. He got three hundred and twenty-six dollars for his book.”
            Z countered,“He might get luckier next time. Look at Deepak Chopra. His ’Way of the Wizard’ is a coming of age guide for boys. I’ll try to put something together for girls.”
            Choto Pishi,“How stupid are you? Anybody can write what he writes. I can write much better than that quack.”
            Z,“He’s helped millions heal. I’m writing. I’d be happy to just leave behind a memoir for my children.”
Choto Pishi“Don’t. You’ll give kids ideas. They’ll learn how to be bad and hurt people.”
            Z,“Those who do those things already know how to play the game. It’s the stupid ones who play the victim that need the educating.”
            Choto Pishi,“You’ll be doing something very bad.”
            Z,“I doubt it. If only someone had cared enough to tell me the truth about my life when I was younger I would not have suffered to the point of falling so sick I thought I’d in a year or two. A friend is on the same track as me and she only just had a baby. I have to tell her how to break this cycle.”
            Choto Pishi,“Let her die. How do you care?’
            Z,“What do you mean by ‘Let her die????’
            Choto Pishi,“It is her fate. Let her handle it. If she dies she dies.”
            Z,“I will not watch that silently. I will do what I can to help or I can’t live with myself.”
            Choto Pishi,“You’re stupid. You’’ll be the bad guy for helping her. Wait and see.”
            Z,“Helping someone heal is a good thing to do.”
Choto Pishi,“You remember, when you were young I helped you. You lucky girl, I helped you.”
            Z,“Yes, you did. You took what little hope I had left and killed it. So I’ve had the unusual unblessing of living without hope.”
           Choto Pishi, “What do you mean?”
           The vampire paled at what she knew was coming. She had known all along what she was doing. Then she went for the kill. She said things no woman should say to another, no human being should say to another, but we’re forgetting here that she is really a vampire in human garb. She had regained her composure some and continued, “Did I tell you, last week, the Bharathanatyam teacher, my neighbor, the one who looks, used to look just like you, committed suicide.”
            Z,“Oh my God. Why? She has two children, eight and ten. I clearly remember meeting her.”
            Choto Pishi,"She hanged herself in the garage after her husband left home. The children found her there when they came home from school.”
            Z,“How could she do such a thing? She had just opened this dance school in her basement and it had started to grow. What happened?”
            Choto Pishi,“I don’t know. At the funeral, I heard she stole thirty thousand dollars from her husband’s bank account and sent it to her sister and mother in Chennai.”
            Z,“Why did she do that?”
            Choto Pishi,“Her sister is widowed and has two children. Her mother is sick. Her husband sent them two thousand five hundred but that barely lasted a few months. So she did this behind his back.”
            Z,“She’s earning too. It might have been her money.”
            Choto Pishi,“She’s just a teacher. How much could she have made in two years?”
            Z,“When it comes to family emergencies, there ought not to be a "my money" and "your money" issue. She had every right to help her sister at a time like this, especially when she and her husband have been blessed with so much material wealth. It is horrible for the children to have to live with this for the rest of their lives. Why don’t people think before they make irrevocable decisions?”
            Choto Pishi,“The latest trend in society is, husbands and boyfriends are killing their wives and girlfriends. Have you been watching the news? Saw Lacy’s story?”
            Z,“Yes I did. It shook me to the core.”
            Choto Pishi,“Why don’t you do one thing, since it is beginning to look like your marriage is going through a rough patch, take a few dollars out of the bank every now and then and hide them somewhere in the house in case you need to run away.”
            Z,“I think I know what you are doing here. You are mentally breaking me down. All my life, even when I was three or four or sixteen, you hated my guts and hurt me any way you could. Now that you are doing the same to my children I remember it all. I remember all the ugliness of our time together right after Ma passed away, and all the meanness before and since. From today on you will only speak to me or mine when I speak to you first.”
            Just as she hung up she felt a huge wave of shame come over her. 
            Z had been so stunned she hung up without the slightest protest. Now she was burning in a fire of extreme humiliation at having been so stupid and spineless so as to not have done something this simple many, many years ago. “The victim is usually the culprit in such cases”, she sternly told herself. “Not too late I hope, to grow a spine. And I hope I never forget to trust my gut and to act on my instincts. Words are for fools. I might as well put up a chart of repeating patterns in my life and look at it every day. Lucky, you’ve been plain stupid. When Kurukshetra comes to you, you do what you need to do. The battlefield is not going away. Get in the chariot and get the job done.”
            She felt a gentle calmness but that evanesced in substantial quantities as soon as she realized she was losing a large portion of her family and her daily gupshup club by being “truthful”. But what was done was done. “Jeez, I hope they have a twelve-step program for overcoming addiction to one's family,” she asked herself in mock jest.
            It was mid-morning. She sat down with a tankard of tea and allowed herself an hour of reflection. She noticed her hands no longer clenched in discomfort. Her face softened and stopped hurting. She felt like some shellac had sloughed off her whole person. “Why do I feel so different? Almost good??” she asked herself.
            She was not aware yet that the body knows what the mind is too stupid to understand. She was shedding exteriors.


               "In a world full of Kardashians, be an Audrey!" Z had heard somewhere and it had stuck to her brain like a limpet to a rock. You just had to hand it to the Kardashians though. Even if you never watched telly, you knew who they were and what they were up to. You knew who had broken the internet, so to speak, with a wildly protruding behind. You knew Bruce of your childhood memories was her daddy now in drag, and you were discomfited by that knowledge like you had lost a part of your own childhood. You felt a kinship with the sisters and their mom in that loss, you mourned with them. It was the passing of an era, and you knew the world would never be the same again. 
               Audrey was another fixture in the memories of the past. She was Eliza singing "All I want is room somewhere ......  loverly, loverly ....." and "Moon River". She missed Ma so. This was one of Ma's favorite songs and she sang it beautifully. And there was "Strawberries, cherries, and an angel's kiss in spring ..." Z drifted off into slumberland, her eyes too heavy now to stay awake ...
               Somewhere beneath an azure sky on a warm summer's day in December, Z took a deep breath and plunged into a salty pool by the sea and swam out to the corals and fish, comfortable as a mermaid among the sea kin, unafraid of great depths and of the vast unknown.