It’s only at the break of dawn that I sleep these days,
There’s meditative silence resonating peace all around,
A stream of moonlight peeks through the open window,
Maybe it’s just the incandescent bulb flickering in my neighborhood,
I finally let my tired hair fall on my shoulder,
To be caressed by my childlike fingers
I run through my fingers through my shoulder length hair,
To disentangle hair and calm down my mind lost in regrets and guilts,
I roll over his side to whisper the thoughts running through my mind,
Is the time of seriousness over and only pretension will work now?
He rolls over to face me and says “No”.
The last conversation of the day echoes in my mind,
Forcing me to recontemplate and rephrase my thoughts,
Winter is ready to step in,
And it steps in discreetly like a cat on a lookout for shelter,
The rashes of summer heat have magically vanished,
As if they never existed,
My body and mind are exultant,
Steadily sleep envelops my mind and eyes shut the door to reality,
Leaving my body wandering in the land of dreams.
I can be serious, really serious, so serious that people around me can take me as an insane person with a feverish passion for everything dark and sombre. So I try to cool my fever and check on my sensitivity every now and then.
I keep them under check by writing, writing anything that troubles me and my mind, anything that makes my day lovely, anything that make me calmer than before. Alternatively, I find my own peaceful and silent zone where I can reflect and remain temporarily disconnected from people and nerve-wrecking media.
Maybe I am running away from my past, maybe I am an escapist (as mostly accused), maybe I need time to heal, maybe I just want to forget my social and economic connections and just sleep away blissfully in the lap of nature, or whatever. The days when I spent hours without randomly checking on my thoughts in front of the sea were the most memorable days of my life. Away from the worries of earning my daily bread and butter, away from the dark emotions and energies, away from the constant game of intimidation and control, among others, those days instilled pure joy and happiness. I would just feel the air in my face and feel the cold water healing my exhausted feet, and collect shells of all shapes strewn like coins on the smooth surface of the sea sand.
But, on a second thought, it seems to me that even darker days have been an integral part of my memorable days. I love nights, for the silence, and a soothing play of light and music. I love the way moon looks at the earth, isn’t is lovely? This is also the time when I look forward to reflecting on my nightmares and dreams, whether it’s related to fear or profound intimacy. I remember them next day as vividly as any real situation in daily life. I can never forget one of the nightmares that disturbed my inner consciousness so immensely that I kept brooding over every scene for God knows how many days. Frankly, I have lost the count of days. In fact, I still think about them. In this particular dream I found myself stranded on the footsteps leading to a well. I find myself struggling really hard over the only footstep that eventually remains and other structures leading to exit are demolished like a pack fo cards. I saw myself in such a precarious situation that nothing except drowning seemed like a solution. It reminded of the character Ophelia, painted and written by innumerable artists and writers.
It’s then I knew I fear, fear something, in fact many things. Maybe I fear of being chased and punished in the name of culture and religion. So deep is this fear that every dream has entrance but no exit. I take my dreams and nightmares seriously as they make me comprehend my inner self and yearnings, especially for freedom and invisibility.
Right now… I am struggling with the overwhelming feeling of “loss”, in all forms. A feeling that surges in our hearts and minds when we decide to walk alone. And, walking alone on a yet-to-be-determined road can be a very lonely journey my dear folks who are right now trying hard to find their way out of intimidation and suppression.
With the passage of time, I have realized there’s no linear solution for a problem. The solution differs from person to person and yet all ultimately aim to achieve freedom from manipulation, fear, exploitation, slavery, suffocation and so on. We have to keep fighting and banging our heads till we achieve freedom that empowers us and enables us to love ourselves. May be this struggle might end up in poverty and other struggles for which we need immense courage, who knows…
Sometimes I re-educate my mind flipping from one thought to another to just calm down like a peaceful sea and just destroy the inherited knowledge to learn to appreciate whatever comes to me and wherever I end up.
It was Arun’s story that fascinated me and increased my curiosity to know more about him. I had never known Arun and maybe not even meet him ever, yet whatever I came to know about him and his adventurous life made me rethink about my own undisclosed dreams that are waiting to be realized for long.
One fine afternoon during the ongoing lockdown period, my husband received a call from his friend Sunni all over from Qatar. Unlike other days, Sunni sounded much more disturbed and impatient. Instead of asking about his whereabouts, he implored my husband to try contacting Arun. Apparently, Arun was somewhere in Varanasi and was suffering from high fever. On an usual day, none of these details would have given us a fright. Afterall, anyone with a spiritual bent of mind yearns to spend time at the banks of the river Ganges and get away from the hue and cry of the city city. Even I dream of spending a month or two among sadhus and lose track of time, forget now, then and after. But, alas, this has remained just a wish, calling me day after day. And, it was also okay to have fever while traveling. People usually suffer from fever during a long and tough journey. However, we had received this piece of news when fever had become a symptom of the incurable and life threatening covid and travelers were caught offguard due to the lockdown undertaken to control the unimaginable pandemic.
My husband promised Sunni to figure out a solution and way to get in touch with Arun. Upon being questioned, he told me that Arun is a close friend of Sunni and they have been inseparable since childhood. Raised in the lap of nature of Kerala, Arun started exhibiting proclivity toward spirituality and enlightenment at an early age. Meanwhile, he also fell in love with the English literature. He was a frequent traveller to Varanasi and did not mind the company of sadhus who had bequeathed wealth and left their families. Arun’s world was beyond the understanding of those around him. While he was during his one of these spiritual trips, the entire country was locked down to control the spread of this less understood disease. Like others, even Arun had never imagined that the country will remain locked up for so long. With everything, including transportation, coming to a standstill, Arun joined a troop of sadhus. Interestingly, he was living the real moments of his life.
When Sunni tried getting in touch with Arun, he was unable to get the right information about Arun from the sadhus due to his poor understanding of the language Hindi. He panicked and hence called my husband. As we reside in Delhi, which is closer to Varanasi, he expected us to be in a better position to assist Arun. My husband immediately called up people putting up in Varanasi.
After a number of phone calls, his friends got in touch with the sadhus and eventually Arun. They sounded surprised and shared cheerfully that Arun is with sadhus. And, they are taking good care of Arun. They are cooking food and giving him medicines on time. Upon hearing this wonderful and humane news, my dream to relinquish everything got strengthened. In the noise of social media and newsrooms, this incident rekindled my faith in humanity and kindness. Beyond all wars and pandemics, there’s something called humanness that we steadily and unconsciously losing from ourselves.
The Hindi literature has always been the primary source to comprehend the magnitude of the sociopolitical problems of the Indian society, whether it is the deep rooted patriarchy, subjugation of the commons using religion and other divisive rituals, inner conflicts of an individual or any other rural and urban pertinent topics of discussion and contemplation that remain ignored by other populist mediums. Beyond the noise of social media and newsrooms, the stories, playwrights and novels written in Hindi effortlessly portray the sensitive and heart-rending conflicts. They allow readers to look into the lives of the characters that are relatable and thereafter enable them to reflect upon their own lives.
One of such Hindi authors who has always amazed his readers by his detailed description and deep analysis of the people around him is Munshi Premchand. His intense, realistic and thought-provoking stories are quite similar to those written by Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy. My father often hails him as the Shakespeare of India and I cannot agree more on this. His timeless stories are devoid of any preaching and concentrate more upon presenting the daily encounters as they would have occurred. The warmth, sensitivity and pain described in his stories assist readers in experiencing a range of cathartic emotions that have steadily diminished around us. They assist us in getting into the shoes of the character as wonderfully accomplished in the stories of Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy. I had the opportunity to read Prem Chand’s short story “Aaga Peechha” . Even though the story was penned down by the author a long time back, it still stands relevant for the society.
Like his other women-centric stories, even “Aaga Peechha” is about those women who, despite deprivation and other odds, accept their lives and strengthen their values and principles to face any humiliation and ostracization. It’s about women who not just mirror all feminine qualities, but also strong moral values. It’s also about women who are the ideal examples of both inner and outer beauty, who through their strong character build up a strong family, man and society. They might fascinate those around them like a colorful flower swaying with the breeze, but are as determined and steadfast as a mountain in the times of stormy nights.
The story revolves around a young and dynamic girl raised by a prostitute. The story describes the emotional turmoil of the girl due to the stigma attached to her being a daughter of a prostitute. Despite being extremely talented and mature for her age, she is time after time reminded of her social status by others. And, she finally realizes that any personal merit or socioeconomic achievement will never enable her to detach herself from this social stigma. As a consequence, she develops distrust and hopelessness toward social institutions, including marriage, until she meets a fellow classmate who looks at her beyond her body and admires her for her merit and achievements. The story unfolds in a beautiful manner wherein the emotional upheavals of both the girl and the boy has been beautifully portrayed. Such relationships despite being intense and beautiful have to witness innumerable emotional social conflicts.
By the time characters build up their confidence and determination to give a proper conclusion t such relationships, they are consistently weakened by the rigid rules and certain dogmas attached to certain communities and profession, such as prostitution. When they succeed in overcoming all dogmas and restraints, they encounter innumerable indescribable inner conflicts. The story makes readers think and contemplate over human psychology and social strictures that fail people in realizing their dreams and forming relationships that can exist only in an ideal world. It needs courage to overcome both inner and outer conflicts to live up to our ideals and principles.
With the exodus of people to the Middle East countries in search of greener pastures for earning a better livelihood, the entire village was steadily transforming from once picturesque village lined with lush green trees into a concrete jungle now only lined with gated residences deliberately adorned with exotic tiles and nonessential embellishments. These multistoried houses stood like sentinels devoid of any emotions, as if competing with others and looking condescendingly at those determined to not change rather stay relevant by staying grounded. However, the number of such houses was rapidly declining with time.
One of such houses belonged to a retired school teacher. The retired Maths teacher lived in his simple house along with his wife, a few cats with black and white spots, birds that enjoyed chirping happily day in and day out, frogs, among others. Unlike other houses in the neighbourhood, this house was surrounded by a dense vegetation of wild plants. The house was simple yet unique as these trees and plants shadowed it from everyone. The teacher was raised on the socialist values and principles and hence enjoyed growing his own plants. The tall coconut and jackfruit trees guarded the house from those evil-eyed sentinels around. Whenever his neighbours returned from Dubai, Qatar, Australia and other places, they would condescendingly advise him to chope off jackfruit trees as their fallen dried leaves posed a maintenance issue for them. People complained that they were tired of sweeping these leaves every morning and night. Despite innumerable complaints, the teacher was determined to never cut his trees. As a result, some embarrassed him, some ostracized him and some rebuked him. At the end, they collectively complained the local authority about the problems posed by the jackfruit trees. The local authority members came the very next day to the teacher’s house and tried intimidating him by threatening him of legal action. Interestingly, the teacher even then stood to his own grounds.
He was adamant to not live life on terms of others and was prepared to face any consequence. This matter remained the talk of the village. When the entire country was locked down due to coronavirus, the villagers were not able to purchase vegetables transported from other states. The villagers had never imagined that they would have to live to see such scary and unimaginable times. They were forced to survive on essentials like rice and pulses. With not a single vegetable dish on their table, like earlier times, they tried all means within their reach to add ome greens in their diet. They were forced to stare at their stupid box for the next update on the never-ending lockdown despite having money to purchase things. But the lockdown continued and shops as usual remained shut without any further details. Meanwhile, the teacher hardly felt the pinch of lockdown. He used jackfruits and hardly ventured out of his house. The neighbors out of desperation called upon him to share some of his jackfruits and coconuts. They sincerely thanked him for not succumbing to their rebukes and threats to cut jackfruit trees.
My dream to live in between trees and mountains has become more passionate with time. Frankly, I can now see my dream more vividly than before. But, we are always caught between the reality and the unquestionably accepted lifestyle.
In this entire race to live as per the parameters defined by a few, the hope to experience the life in the truest way has failed to exist. Or, it has been deliberately erased from the definition of dream. The concept of dream has been unilaterally defined as material possession. The more, the better.
There are still innumerable things that I still think to be indispensable to my life, but, in truth, are mere modern tools calculatively created and designed to keep us enslaved to a popularly accepted and exalted lifestyle. Rather than freeing us, this commonly accepted lifestyle has substantially atrophied our spiritual and emotional growth.
The addictiveness of technology and increased consumerism have turned us into machines deriding creative and critical thinking. My goal to free myself from such attachments might sound tough, but is required to experience certain yet to be felt sensations. This includes the experience of simple living and indulgence in the simplicities of daily life.
It’s easy to pretend nothing happened,
When frankly so many things happened,
Our pretentious conversations founded on lies and deliberately selected memories are like a TV show talk,
Ridiculous and misrepresentation of the truth,
You pick the best memories but discreetly throw away the rotten ones stinking of treachery,
Now untraceable in the soil, none believes them, rather strike them off as mere illusions lurking in my differently wired mind,
I have spent innumerable years digging that land where those memories remain hidden from the human eye,
The wound inflicted years back has steadily desecrated those memories into mere dust,
And the dust files away or slips away every time I try holding them in my hands,
Leaving behind mere sensation and no evidence of pain
Her beauty was above all,
Creases of uncomfortableness lined her face like the pink streaks in the sky,
Her unbrushed golden hair flew like a tree in wind,
Her trembling lips eager to sing were too shy to open up,
But they bloomed like deep red rose petals with dew drops resting on their silky skin
She ambled with a straight back,
And ran like a child holding her skirt in the field,
Her eyes flaming like a fire held more secrets than the old mansion where she lived
Sometimes she played with grass by unconsciously entwining it around her finger,
Sometimes she loved collecting pebbles strewn at the sea bank,
Sometimes she strolled like a sea bird and left the imprint of her feet on the slippery sand
Dressed in red, she often looked out of her window to watch the sea,
Sometimes tranquil, sometimes playful, just like the sea floating within her bosom,
She liked watching the sun drowning willingly in the sea waves expressing joyously their affection,
Affected by her magnetic beauty they rushed to embrace her in their arms, or touch her feet sinked in sand grains.