Posts by hitherkusum

As a writer, I strive hard to not deviate from the path of presenting discriminations, prejudices and real-life experiences, which often take backseat, especially in today’s assembly-line production system of the publishing industry. Moreover, I strongly believe that a writer owes responsibility towards the society and its people; hence, s/he must use words for bringing forth some of the thought-provoking realities and experiences of the society, which cannot be ruled out and demand immediate attention. Stories, particularly those based on real-life experiences, can assist a society in critically engaging with culture and religion of the present time and can enable its readers in transforming themselves into catalysts of changes. In South Asian countries, writers, especially native writers, have and are playing a crucial role as pressure groups, who through their writings have drawn attention of readers located worldwide to till now deliberately ignored issues and debates. Hence, as a reader and writer, who grew up in one of the tribal-majority areas, I have been immensely inspired by the writings of our native writers. Simple, yet deeply contemplative, stories of Mahasweta Devi, Sadat Hasan Manto, Amrita Pritam, Mahadevi Verma etc have assisted me in intricately examining our society and its divisive forces. Moreover, writings pertaining to some of the new issues related to ‘identity politics’ have drawn my attention too. At the same time, I also grew up reading popular pulp fictions and fascinating stories related to ‘magical realism’, as it transported me into an almost unimaginable realm of the Universe. As a child, I earnestly believed in fairies, mermaids, knolls and dwarfs; but as an adult, lost in the ups and downs of a metropolitan life, I yearn for these endearing characters more than ever. Also, I have been immensely inspired by Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, Kamala Das, Pablo Neruda, Orhan Pamuk, etc. Like any other writer, I am not just smitten by words but also by theater and cinema. From the direction of cinema, Piero Paolo Passolini and his works have given a new meaning to my works. Well, the crux is that I love reading and I am literally married to words. Among many things, I love leafing through books and magazines, fragrance of an old novel, big and bold letters of a story, sketching the characters in my mind while reading, books of all sizes and shapes disarranged in a row etc. And, I believe we can never satisfy our ever-dissatisfied souls; therefore, the only right way to control its restlessness is by keep on writing – good, bad, short, long – till the end. Hither Kusum

Arun – A Short story

Arun

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. 

A Review of the Hindi Story Aaga Peecha by Premchand

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.

Munshi Premchand

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.

Women presented in Premchand’s stories are strong and inspiring

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.

The Jackfruit Tree – A Short Story

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. 

Experiencing new sensations

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Untraceable Memories Slipping Away Like Dust

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

 

 

 

 

Sometimes tranquil, sometimes playful

I

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

II

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

III

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

IV

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Understanding Desperate Times by Reading David Copperfield

What is it that makes a person throw all worries away and so desperate to walk miles and miles to reach their destination in tragic times. Is it the hope of retreating to a place that a person imagines to be his or her “home”? Is it because the person, left penniless and hopeless by the bad times, is completely convinced to find there people with whom they share the bond of trust and unconditional affection? That’s the place and those are the people they trust will protect them from all pecuniary difficulties and help them in weathering all seasonal changes.

We can excercise certain control over the trajectory of our life, but at the end, unfortunately, it can transform unimaginably due to some unforseen hardships and events. Some hardships are of our own making and some are unannounced and uninvited reprimandations of the nature, such as epidemics and disaster.  During such life-changing events, we get surrounded by conditions, situations and folks beyond our imagination. And, then we are thrown to informidable challenges and excruciatingly painful encumbrances capable of damaging our present and the future.

When flanked with cold and evil people during unfortunate times, our life can digress to a never chosen and imagined path. This can turn one’s world totally upside down, regrettably desolate and dystopian.  I was forced to reflect upon such a sensitive and heart-rending topic because of the coronavirus pandemic that has ruthlessly forced the blue collared and have nots to abandon cities and go back to their villages by any means within their reach. And, how the classic novel “David Copperfield” played a pivotal role in helping me fully comprehend the emotions and insecurities that drive people to walk despite all odds and fears.

Better to die with families' — no food or money, Delhi migrants ...

When David, the protagonist of the above-mentioned novel, decides to run away from his present life, bereft of learning and well being, he  encounters hunger, fear, threat, and all kinds of feelings and despair moments beyond his imagination. Despite all odds, he remains as determined as a mountain to reach aunt Betsy’s place. The young David was thrown into a world that was so unsuitable and detrimental to his  future that he knew that the only way he can salvage his life is by reaching aunt Betsy’s place.

David Copperfield (Charles Dickens collection) eBook: Dickens ...

He is robbed of his savings and bags and thereafter is forced by the circumstances to sell his  coat and waist coat to survive his long journey to a place that he imagined to be his real home. He experiences hunger, fear and other other overwhelming emotions. He is troubled by trampers and tinkers on his way at night. He is forced to sleep on the roadside. He recounts his feeling of embarrassment and fear of death experienced during the lonely, scary and exhaustive journey to a place that was still only in his imagination. Despite losing everything, and braving all dust and rain, he is finally able reach the place that would change his life for good.

David Copperfield | Summary, Analysis, Adaptations, & Facts ...

The terrifying and harrowing experience penned down by the author Charles Dickens can make anyone think and reflect about untoward circumstances that can force people of all ages to take tough decisions for their good. If you try connecting the dots, then you will understand why migrants and laborers were forced during the lockdown to take drastic measures like walking or cycling back to their home, despite not having enough food and money to survive the long journey usually undertaken by train or bus.

It’s their hopelessness that drove them to undertake such a drastic stand. The migrants have highlighted the fragility of their trust in the government and city people whom they helped in building their cities. It’s their trust in people back home who will take care of their both material and emotional needs in such a tragic time. If we put ourselves in their shoes, then we will become capable enough to understand their pain and emotions. When David is harassed by the trampers and tinkers at nights and when he cries to bargain his waist coat for money than anything else like flute, etc., it’s then we can understand that desperate times force people to take desperate measures.

 

 

 

 

Sight of My True Self

Is renunciation the only way to happiness? 

Renunciation of wealth, 

Renunciation of desire, 

Renunciation of ego

II

Surviving amidst emotions of all hues, 

Creating a facade to live up to the game, 

Accepting the unequal system, 

Nursing the wounded heart thrashed multitude times, 

Protecting cherished dreams from evil eyed folks, 

So, am I really happy? 

III

Tears often tumble down my boat-shaped eyes, 

Down my cheeks, 

To rest like a droplet of dew on my hand. 

Sometimes I hold them like the holy water in my folded palms, 

Look into the water that refutes to be still. 

To enjoy the sight of my true self. 

III

It’s funny, but true, 

Rainy and cloudy days make me look lovely, 

Walking in heavy rains makes me happier, 

Hiding under the bamboo shade and laughing over the broken umbrella lightens my heart, 

IV

Resting my head on pillows piled upon each other, 

I gaze aimlessly, 

I search deeply, 

I ruminate effortlessly, 

My eyes like a window swinging to and fro shut 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Searching the lost pearls and diamonds

I

Some memories are like a paper boat,

Floating effortlessly in a puddle,

And some like a full bloomed sun that invigorates one’s day,

Which one you want to hold on to and which you want to let go is a difficult choice to make.

II

Getting sunburnt in the tranquil alleys,

Riding my favourite bicycle and singing away my woes,

Searching pearls among multihued flowers and diamonds among rocks discreetly watching over the city,

Memories of all hues call me like a forlorn lover,

III

I soak my naked feet into the cold water of the past,

To feel the sensations that still enliven me,

I splash the water on my sagging face searching my past,

To reflect the same joy and pain that tore my heart,

I drench in the rain of all emotions to hide underneath the canopy of love and friendship,

To reminisce the days that slipped away too soon leaving behind a translucent image.

 

 

 

 

Strange Times…. Fantasies and Dreadful Thoughts

Time is flying away too fast, or on the contrary, it stands still like never before. I look for answers, only to hear nothing in response, absolutely nothing. Days now pass away in search for a “ray of hope”, which remains far beyond my reach. Bombarded with essential and non-essential information on the virus, I now know everything, thanks to the fourth estate that continues to make a scapegoat out of the common masses and divide citizens on man-made classifications, but only the exact time period when this pandemic should get over. I search for peace in between the chaos by disconnecting from the lonely and scared souls, least someone infects me with the fear far more deadlier than the virus. To beat all blues and dreadful thoughts, we make love at home, an unforgettable love. These fantasises help me in overcoming all fears and morbid feelings.

The 12 Most Romantic Lovers Depicted In Art

In the pitch dark room, with nowhere else to go  but just remain like choiceless prsioners within the four walls, we make love to forget and forgive. We give wings to our fantasies to recuperate from the threat lingering like the invisible shadow of death. We passionately kiss each other and embrace ourselves in each other’s arms to pen a beautiful story in such strange times. We wake up after a refreshing love making and whisper “I love you!” , least anyone else can hear, with so many people passing their time by remaining locked in their homes. My eyes twinkle again and heart starts to beat effortlessly again; it’s a nice sensation.  I turn towards him to caress his hair and bare arms. With a twinkle in my eyes, I emphasize, “Let’s make the fullest of this time.” Maybe rekindle the love that was disspiating away, or pen a new love story set in such a weird and grotesque context.

This pandemic is an unimaginable and inexpressible experience; it’s a test of human endurance and our believe in hope. I feel exhausted, both mentally and physically, by the news announcements and commentaries screeching unstoppably around me. I prefer retreating into my room to pen my emotions or sleep away  in peace. In my writing room, I feel more relaxed and human. I keep writing down my emotions and thoughts that surge with the passage of every day. Despite all relentless efforts, there’s no respite from this pandemic. We are creating history, a history build on human animosity, political rivalry, ruthless competitiveness and unbearable narcissism. The pandemic has been an enlightening experience for many, those who never looked beyond money, who were too occupied in building their mansion, who felt invincible, and the list goes on. I can see hope quite lucidly when I write and discreetly pray for this strange time to end.