A reason

I told my mind-
Give me a reason.
A reason to dance under the open skies;
A reason to sing tuneless on the streets;
A reason to wake up every morning ;
A reason to smile amidst the mist;
A reason to try;
A reason to believe;
A reason to love;
And a reason to live.

It scoffed.
Told me-
Look in the mirror you fool.
It is there you will find your reason;
Your reason to live.

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The Bohemian Girl

‘A person who acts and lives free of regard for conventional rules and practices’- this is the dictionary meaning of the word ‘bohemian.’ The first time I heard this word was when I had got a friend home with me. This particular girl had tattoos all over her and piercings in the weirdest of weird places and she wore hot pants. Her appearance was enough to freak my grandma. As for her behavior, she never came and touched my granny’s feet nor did she award any special courtesy to her. She simply came in and said hello. That was the extent to her hospitality. When asked which college she studied in and what she studied, she replied saying that she had given up studies. ‘Really…but how is that possible? Didn’t your parents say anything?’- was the question asked by my star struck granny. ‘No my mother made an initial fuss and then she gave in. You see I paint and I sell my painting and send home money and I also support myself. So it’s not a huge issue. I never wanted to study anyway and people go to college so that they can earn money in the future right? I am earning without studying. So I guess it’s alright.’ My granny looked as if she would explode any moment. She couldn’t believe her ears and the audacity of the 19 year old infuriated her. She fired her next question- ‘what about your father? What does he have to say about this?’

‘Well I don’t want to talk about my father.’ I could see my granny readying her next question to fire to this weird creature but before she could do anything that would hurt either of them, I interrupted and took her to my room. We spend the night painting and chatting about our dreams. We had met at an art exhibition and she had observed me studying her painting and had asked me what I felt about it. I gave her my interpretation and it was apparently pretty close to what she had thought of while painting. Since then we had met a couple of other times in other art exhibitions and over the course of 3 months, our friendship had grown fueled by our common appreciation of art and music.

When she left the next morning, my granny attacked me with questions about who she was and how I had met her. I told her and she looked dubious. What she said then was what lead to this write-up. She said, “What a girl…completely bohemian. What is happening with her father? Why doesn’t she want to talk about her own father? There is something fishy there. How many lovers must she been having. You stay away from her. These kind of people are dangerous. They are never happy themselves and don’t let other people be happy also.”

This got me thinking. We don’t stop even once before criticizing people different from us. What we don’t know scares us- the unexpected scares us. What is out of the ordinary freaks us out because that’s out of our comfort zone. We don’t even try to understand it, we just judge without knowing facts.

I have never seen that girl happier than when she is painting; a sort of celestial glow comes to her face. She is one person who makes the most of everyday and lives life king size. Yet she is called depressed by a woman who has known her only 9 hours. She has a steady boyfriend for the last one year and yet she is accused of having multiple lovers. Her father left her mother when she was six years old. But there is something ‘fishy’ about not wanting to talk about him.

How quick we are to judge people and form our opinions about them. One glance and we claim to know or guess their whole life story based on what we have seen thus far. Yes she is not the conventional girl. But she has the courage to live life on her own terms- a courage which I would trade anything to acquire.

Different people are different: some wear dreadlocks, some have tattoos, some have piercings, some are homosexuals, some are bisexuals, some have been in steady relationships for a very long time, some have family problems which make them less trusting than others, some are awkward in company, some are fat, some are skinny, some are giants and some are midgets.  But at the end of the day, they are all human.

We tend to define boundaries as to how a person could be, how they should behave and what is expected of them. We don’t stop to think for a second why the girl is awkward in public- maybe she was abused as a child or bullied in school. Why a person has trust issues- maybe they have seen too many relationships end badly in their life. Give a person a chance to show you what they really are before you jump to any conclusion.

Even when it comes to love- there are different kinds of the same. Some people have one night stands, some continue a relationship for months, some for years, some for a lifetime, some are in love with two people at the same time and some have three parties in a single relationship, sometimes love is destructive- you love a person so much that it destroys you and then there is the sacrificial love where one partner sacrifices everything that is dear to them for the sake of the other. These also exist. Just because you have not experienced it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Widen your horizons, open your mind to new ideas. You may not like it, it might not work for you but what is the harm in respecting it? Where is our tolerance, where is the understanding and empathizing side in us?

How will we ever drink more, much better tea if we don’t first empty the cup?

My three wives

I am a married woman with three wives and many more to come. These wives of mine give me a very hard time whenever I touch them or even hold them. On pressing their neck for too long, my fingers are blistered. They hurt me. I struggle with them every time I hold them. I press their necks harder and strum their body louder till they finally give in. Then when we become one, we create beauty.

In case you still haven’t understood, my wives are my three guitars in three different cities where I live- Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore. It was on a whim, as majority of the things in my life are, that I decided to learn music. I chose the guitar as it was deemed to be cool—not glamourous mind you (that would be the cello or the piano) –just cool. It was the summer of 2008 when my dad took me to a shady looking instrument shop and said, “today I am gifting you your life. Handle it with care.” I did not understand a word of what he had said to me. Nonetheless, I pretended to be wise and thanked him; promised to handle ‘my life’ with the utmost care.

My first love-turned-wife was a wood coloured gb&a with nylon strings and a great gloss finish. I loved the look of her. I had huge plans of taking her to school and flaunting her beauty in front of my peers; carrying her on my back as if I knew everything about her. It would surely make people jealous. My musical education started soon after this and I had high hopes from my first class. I had expected that I would pick up hotel California within days of joining these classes because after all it is supposed to be a classic, is it not? What kind of a guitarist would I be if I didn’t know how to play Hotel California?

This hope was busted in my first class when my teacher gave me something called ‘finger building exercise’. Basically these build strength in ones fingers and ensure that a first timer is actually able to produce a clear note from the guitar. They were excruciatingly painful. The speed, the right amount of pressure on the fret board, the strumming- all had to be mastered. That took time and immense patience. Now I understood what the line ‘played it till my fingers bled’ meant.

Not a very patient person by nature, there were many instances where I almost threw my newlywed wife out of the balcony or smashed her on the floor. But my dad kept urging me to go on. A tabla player, he knew exactly how I was feeling. The thought that he had gone through the same torture, was soothing. On one of my reluctant practice sessions, I managed to get one single note right. I will never forget how I felt that day. I was literally on Cloud 9.

Slowly and not so steadily, I finally mastered those exercises. It took me 4 months. Then came playing nursery rhymes on the guitar which was a little humiliating for a 8th grader. Telling my classmates that I was learning London Bridge was a sure shot ticket to getting raged and being laughed at.

There were six months to go before I got my first chord song—Zombie by cranberries. I can’t explain the joy I felt when I got that sheet of music in my hands. I picked it up within days and played it everywhere— to every family get together, every school function, to my sister, to my maid, to the dog, to reluctant neighbours, even to the milkman—I had it all covered.

By the time I learnt the basic chords, I thought I knew everything that there was to know about my now not-so-newlywed wife. Then, to burst my bubble came my first guitar exam. It was an eye opener. I knew nothing at all. I had not even gone to the stage where I could write the A, B, C’s of music. I still had to perfect writing A. That was surely a disappointment.

Over a period of 5 years of cribbing that I wanted to divorce her and yet for some unknown reason, forcing myself to be with her, I fell in love. Within those 5 years I grew with her. She got to know me and vice versa. Now I knew what she felt like. She got familiar with my touch, my moods, and my every emotion, I could channel through her.

I used to cuddle with her when I was sad, sing with her when I was happy and strum her hard when I was angry. I slowly found myself content with just being with her in my room; holding her and delicately strumming her with no particular tune in mind. We made music together and laughed together when I played a note that was oddly out of place in a scale.

Change-

Summer of 2013 I graduated from high school and came to Kolkata for college. Here in this city, I got myself a new wife from one of the most famous music stores in the city—Braganza and Sons. These people knew their music. I got to this shop and asked to buy a guitar. The man across the counter- Braganza uncle, as I would later come to call him, asked me what kind of guitar I wanted.

I had no clue, yet again. I told him what I had back home and confessed that I was feeling guilty of betraying my first wife. He smiled and said, “I know how you feel. First love is special but you have to make room for others or you would never know how special the first one is.” Saying this he handed me a black Granada. She was a looker. She fitted my arms perfectly and our pitch matched beautifully. Over a year and a half, I have come to know her. In the beginning she was difficult; she was different like my environment. But thank god she was consistent. This time the fighting was less, atleast.

My third wife resides in Bangalore. She is a black gb&a with a slightly low pitch. I have a weird relationship with her. We rarely meet but the funny thing is, each time we meet as strangers to each other. Each time I go back home, I am a different person and it takes her time to understand me but when she does, all is well.

Today I sit writing this piece at 1:30 am for just one reason- the reason might seem odd to you- but these three understand me like no other. They are not mere instruments for me; they are entities whom I communicate with. I don’t have to tell them how I feel. They know. It is so true when they say that music heals. I can say it with confidence because I have felt it. I promise to never let them go.

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Late night swim– relaxing or not?

I wish i could say that a late night swim is relaxing…but i will say something quite on the contrary. When i was doing my laps, a man deliberately kept coming in my way (he did it 5 times and yes i counted). When i would stop and look at him, he would give me a sheepish smile and would keep standing there, not bothering to move his huge self. Meanwhile, his wife, who was waiting for him on one of those pool chairs, kept smiling at him although she saw exactly what was happening.

What did I do? On his sixth attempt to interrupt me, he got a real bad kick on his face. I drew blood and call me a sadist, but I have never been so proud of myself before. What surprised me the most about that incident was the wife’s behaviour. I wanted to hold her by the shoulders, shake her and ask her why she kept numb when she could see her man behaving like an animal right in front of her.

We as women blame rape, harassment, molestation completely on the man but what we forget is that the man was raised by a woman. If mothers don’t teach their sons how to treat a fellow female, if wives don’t stop their husbands from treating another woman as a piece of meat, who will?

This is my humble request to all women reading this- SPEAK UP…your silence is capable of causing havoc in another woman’s life. You, like your male counterparts, have a choice. For God’s sake and for your own-exercise it. You are no different from men- you have the same 2 legs, 2 hands, a mouth, a voice and a brain to think- so please use it or else it will rot.

One more thing. If anyone asks me what I was wearing in the pool because, they think, it could be a probable cause for the man’s behaviour- I am well capable of punching you to death.

eve teasing

Aleph

“The Aleph was about two or three centimeters in diameter, but all of cosmic space was there, with no diminution in size. Each thing was infinite, because I could clearly see it from every point in the universe.”
– Jorge Luis Borges, ‘The Aleph’

This is my attempt at reproducing the cover of “Aleph” by Paulo Coelho. Done with a mix of wax and oil pastels on paper.

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The Lady

There she was in my dream,
A canvas- a canvas done by me,
She was as ‘normal’ as any of mine can be.

Her auburn hair in a severe bun,
The black button up,
a- turtle neck,
a dog’s leash lovingly pressing
her delicate neck.
Yet she smiled- smiled through all that pain.

The old and the wise had once told me-
leave the eyes for the last,
The window to the soul,
Delicate creatures they are,
Tread lightly around them
For they- those unexplained beauties,
can well show you heaven in hell.

Kohl lined they were,
A strange hazel hue in them,
Big and bold- fearless they were
Stood out in her cold face.
Glowing like the star just before death

But wait- the emotions,
The emotions in their depths.
Something bordering between
Stubborn bliss and cynical defiance,
they haunt my dreams.
What is it about them?
I understand not.

My own creation so painfully crass.
What is she?
Why is she what she is?
I long for the day
I can conceive her with the stroke of a brush.
I long for the day
I can give her a house, a frame,
I long for that day,
I do.

I drew her hours after I had written the poem. She still haunts my dreams.
I drew her hours after I had written the poem. She still haunts my dreams.

The muse to her man

Only 19 I was when I met you;

That fateful day in spring;

When brother Andre unknowingly;

Seized my heart from me and gave you.

That day I lost all that was dear-

My sanity, my pride, my family

And most of all myself.

Yes, I lost myself to you.

Shy, petite, obedient, I was.

You charmed me by your darkness.

Your handsome face was my mirror;

And you were my God.

Ill-reputed you were;

They named you a lothario,

A womanizer, a vagabond,

The moody prince of Paris.

Yet I ignored all;

I heard not the pleas of my loved ones.

They cried out-

Dear Jeannette, to your doom you go.

But me,

I, who was in love;

Heard not the cries of sanity.

Followed my childish heart,

And came to you faithfully.

Forever yours.

Promises you made me;

Said you’d give me your name,

Your love, yourself.

Dear Modi, where did they go?

When my Jeanne was born,

All she had was an unknown father.

An alcoholic,

An artist living in denial of the world.

Yet I loved you despite all.

Sat through all your dark moods;

All your whimsical acts I bore;

All your violent rages I took to my skin.

Yes I loved you.

I was your ‘jeannette’,

Your wife, your muse.

Despite all, possess you I could not.

After all you were the artist and I your muse.

When all friends deserted you,

I was there was I not?

When the world spit on you,

You found comfort in the warmth of my bosom did you not?

Oh my Modi, my sweet love,

The web of sensual darkness

That you wove around me was now my home,

My reason to live.

And when you left this cruel world,

I left with you.

I was yours till my last moments.

Your ‘Jeanette’,

Your unacknowledged wife,

Your muse.