Life on the Tracks: My Personal Essay Published at ‘Cafe Dissensus’

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This is a personal narrative born out of a series of dream sequences of a night journey by train. The dream probably has its origins in the past decade of my life in suburban Kolkata when I used to commute by local trains on a regular basis. The narrative structure of the piece is inspired by Dennis Silk’s essay ‘The Marionette Theater’, where an action performed in repetition is depicted with emphasis on every part of the movement. So happy and honored that this short piece is published by ‘Cafe Dissensus Everyday’, the blog of the online magazine ‘Cafe Dissensus’. Also, the piece is now a chapter of my book-length collection of essays.

Do have a look at the piece here and leave the footprints of your mind on the page:

http://cafedissensusblog.com/2014/05/28/life-on-the-tracks/

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A very old, nameless poem

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Artist: Michel Le Roux. Title: Passion & Poesie (Passion and Poetry). Image source: http://www.adelecampbell.com

Note for the readers: This poem is one of my more premature piece, when I was just starting to nurture my passion for poetry and to express subtle thoughts poetically. Keeping this in mind, readers please consider any flaws or looseness in structure, form, imagery and metaphors. I have tried to better these aspects with time, with writing more, and moreover, with reading more and more of the works of great poets of all times.

From dawn to dusk’s inevitable abode
Habitual ramblings of my pedestrian soul,
Faceless structures intrude the journey.
Sometimes, a drop or two of wild desire oozes out.
Many a times a game of chess between passion and pain
Quivers the floor of sensibilities.

From the strained womb of eternity
Emerges each day, a new-born day,
And it seems, as if in its sparkling splendor
The darkness of the bygone days
Is a thing–not to utter, or even remember.
But then, every now and then,
My pigeon lusts are choked by its barren sterility…

And I being the sterile land that it renders
Shell myself in stony suppression.
And miles away do I leave the tumultuous sea of throbbing pulsation.

Your enormous nights and my awakened soul become
Far-off strangers, long departed.
The scarlet flame of your kiss falls headlong.

And now, those forsaken dreams will form a new cosmos,
Those have been fed with despaired blood and forbidden sweat.
Your milky dreams will lick my blood-red sighs
Lick the forsaken salt of my sweat,
To form a new heaven, with your past and captive kisses…
With an abysmal thirst that never fades out.
Come, will you, to explore it all?

Liebster Award Nomination

Thank you, Pritha Lal, for nominating my website for the Liebster Blog Award!

I am deeply moved and touched by this feeling of a community fostered by fellow bloggers/authors like you. It is great to know that we appreciate each other’s work, and support each other through gestures like this.

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The Rules 

1. Link back and thank the blogger who nominated you in your post.

2.  List 11 facts about yourself.

3.  Answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger who nominated you.

4.  Pick 5 – 10 new bloggers (must have less than 300 followers) to nominate and ask them 11 new questions. Do not re-nominate the blogger that nominated you.

5.  Go to each new blogger’s site and inform them of their nomination.To learn more about the Liebster Award, check out this post in Pritha’s blog:

http://norhymeoreason.wordpress.com/2014/05/13/pritha-lal-mom-blogger-poet-author/

 

 

11 random facts about myself

 

  1. I used to hate a glass of milk with Bournvita for breakfast when I was a child. Am in LOVE with it now. Reverse aging, I guess  🙂
  2. I am crazily in love with ashen clouds and rain, but have almost forgotten the ethereal charm of monsoon since the day I left my hometown for the US.
  3. Motherhood for the first time was a conscious choice and for the second time (only twenty three months apart), was an accident. I had doubts about raising two kids of almost the same age, but almost four years after my younger daughter is born, I am happy that I took the plunge!
  4. Reading and watching movies were two dangerous addictions of mine till 2009, after that, online social networking has been added to the list. Had made Orkut my home in 2008 and now have migrated to Facebook  😛
  5. I am a night owl ever since I can remember, though I have never been a fan of late night parties and disks. I keep my nights to myself, reading, scribbling—anything that bares open my soul.
  6. I am a staunch believer of the saying: “What goes around, comes around.” Life is a full circle and I believe in the intrinsic value of good Karma.
  7. Lately, I have been almost obsessing about after-life, and am reading every available book, article and resource on the subject. This is a current development after my mother’s sudden death. I never realized I was so close to her when she was alive. I can do anything on earth to speak to her for one last time.
  8. I still don’t know how to swim and drive, but I want my daughters to learn these two skills in the right time.
  9. I have loved watching fairy tale romances on screen, but have never believed in that in real life. I have loved and lost a number of times before getting married to my husband, and even after nine years of an apparently smooth, compatible married life, do not believe in the concept of a soul mate. There will be differences, there will be arguments, there will be imperfections always in a relationship and you will have to constantly work to make the best out of everything.
  10. I am all done with self-sacrifice. I have done that a lot in various phases of my life and understood that it is a meaningless practice. I do not want to die a martyr for anyone or anything in the world. I am a lot happier now that I have developed streaks of narcissism in my thirties. Wish I would have understood it much earlier in my life.
  11.  I want to visit all the glorious historical, natural, geological wonders of my country, India before I die. I have a tremendous sense of redemption living far away and also a degree of alienation towards my roots apparently, but deep down, I carry it with me, wherever I go.

Questions in Pritha’s blog, which I am answering, to keep the chain alive: 

1. Name three secrets that you never told anyone. 

(1)   I read Maitrayee Devi’s celebrated Bengali novel ‘Na Hanyate’ when I was in grade 9, tucked carefully with high school textbooks. I imagined I had a lover like Mircha Euclid, the hero of the novel who would woo me and then we would be separated, in a predictable turn of events, only to meet years after, to rediscover the inextinguishable flame in our hearts.

(2)   I have never cooked anything in my life with any success before getting married. Once I attempted to make an egg poach without either water or oil and you can imagine what the results were. However, I have currently taken an avid interest in the pursuit, because I have understood that it is a creative art like writing, painting and music. Like all arts, it has taught me that practice leads to perfection.

(3)   My husband had lifted me up in his arms for a single day in his life. It was the day when I first arrived our home in Buffalo, NY after four months of tying the wedlock. He also did all the welcoming rituals for me, the new bride after I stepped my feet for the first time in the living room. He copied the idea from ‘Chalte Chalte’, the Hindi movie starring Shahrukh Khan and Rani Mukherjee. It was the first and last time since our lives have been inspired by a scene from a commercial Hindi movie.

2. If you won the lottery, what would be the first thing you would do?  

My plans will depend on how much money I will win. If it is a lump sum amount, I would want to buy a sprawling house beneath a majestic mountain, anywhere in the world, or a beachside condo with half of the money won. With the other half, I would want to invest on good education for my daughters and also donate to a reputable trust/foundation or non-profit organization working for the rights and empowerment of the girl child.

3. Looking over the last ten years, what is one goal you have achieved and one that you have not achieved?   

Ten years before, I had graduated from a coursework in Journalism and discovered my true calling—writing. Ten years down the line, I am still trudging the road; and I know and happily accept that writing is only the journey, not the destination. I welcome the journey with open arms, and believe that in this ordeal,  there nothing like ‘achieving something in ten years’ and ‘not reaching the goal in five years’. The journey is more subtle and organic in nature. I am happy that I have been able to complete two book length manuscripts very recently, one a memoir and the other, a compilation of poetry. In the coming years, I would look forward to writing more and being published more often, so that I can reach out to more readers and make a tiny impact on their minds with my words.

4. What are your plans for retirement? And will you travel, if so where and why? 

I do not have any, because I am both a student and self-employed for a long time now. Will think about it if I ever get into a full time job. Don’t know what my husband’s plan would be then, but knowing his kind, I guess he would like to travel to some niche destinations, either in the US or in India, or both (depending on the circumstances).

5. Favourite drink on a Friday night? 

I am not much of a fan of any drink, very occasionally maybe a few sips of martini or pina colada. I love my favorite mango, vanilla or strawberry ice cream scoops  with a nice movie, lazing on the couch on a Friday night.

6. What do you think the secret is to a good marriage or relationship with a significant other is?   

To love an imperfect partner perfectly, and unconditionally. The acceptance that not any of us is perfect is important, and expecting too much is not practical. Also, never take each other for granted, for all the love in the world that you may be feeling for each other. 

7. Name three words that describe your personality.  

Short tempered, yet forgiving, choosy, loyal and forgetful. 

8. Home-cooked meal or take-out?  

Take out Thai, Chinese or Indian food.

9. When was the last time you blogged and what was the topic?  

I try to post as randomly as possible. My blog page is only four months old and has only 31 posts as of now, but I try not to go for numbers, but the quality of the posts. I am trying to do some translation of the Bengali poems and songs of the bard Rabindranath Tagore, and my last post was my first attempt at that. Though I know quite a number of exponents are doing the same, but I am trying to do it in my own way as a humble tribute to my mother who had first taught me to fall in love with his poems and songs.

10. What do you think the key is to happiness?  

Live and let live, enjoy the simple pleasures of life by loving your own self and loving those who matter to you.

11. Who is your favorite poet and why? 

I have been inspired by the romantic poets in English since the days I started studying English literature, specially John Keats and his fabulous odes. Later, John Donne, Robert Browning’s love poems, specially ‘The Last Ride Together’ had a lasting impact on my mind. Today, after a decade, I am more in love with the fiery, robust poems of Maya Angelou. I am awed by the surrealist poems and the love poems of Pablo Neruda. In Bengali, I feel there is a treasure trove of poetry starting from Tagore to Shakti Chattopadhyay, Sunil Gangopadhyay and Joy Goswami. Each of them inspires me with rich, vivid imagery and the magic of their words which are timeless and universal.

I loved the thoughtful questions in Pritha’s blog, so I decided to stick with them. If you don’t feel like answering one or some of the questions, you are always welcome to come up with your own ones. I am adding three more questions  and answers to the list:

12. What is your favorite genre of writing? Any favorite author?

My first love–poetry, fiction and last of all, creative nonfiction, as I have developed a taste towards that genre much later in life. Tons of favorite authors have inspired me from time to time, so it is very difficult to choose any particular favorite. Short stories have always been my favorite and O Henry tops the list of my favorite short story writers. Besides, I have been deeply inspired by the works of Indian writers in English, including Salman Rushdie, V.S. Naipaul, Amit Chowdury, Amitabha Ghosh, Jhumpa Lahiri.

13. Are you afraid of death?

Used to be, pretty much, had been consumed by the fear of losing touch with all the beautiful things in this planet, but recently, studying a few books about the existence of our soul changed some of my perceptions regarding death. These include Dr. Eben Alexander’s ‘Proof of Heaven’ and Anita Moorjani’s ‘Dying to be Me’.

14. What would be your last wish before you die?

To see the glitter of life in my two daughter’s eyes, to know that I would be alive within them after I cross over. Nothing else would matter any more.

My Liebster Nominations 

Rhiti Bose’s blog: http://rhitibose.wordpress.com/ 

Rudrodip Majumdar’s blog: http://sehgalsahabunplugged.wordpress.com/ 

Rama Sonti’s blog: http://ramaadilse.blogspot.in/ 

Joyce Yarrow’s blog: http://joyceyarrow.blogspot.com/ 

Nalini Priyadarshini’s blog: http://www.twilightmusing.blogspot.in/ 

Reena Prasad’s blog: http://harivarasanam.wordpress.com/ 

Damyanti’s blog: http://damyantiwrites.wordpress.com/

 

‘Tobu, Mone Rekho (And Still, Remember Me)’

 

My mother has passed over to another domain, the ever elusive domain of death, and the much talked about, yet unsettling, mysterious domain of the after-life nine months back. I flew back to India to see if I could at all save her fledgling life, lying in deep coma in a small, almost unknown hospital in the outskirts of Kolkata. All I could see after I reached in the wee hours of the night was her corpse lying over heaps of ice, waiting for me to see her for one last time before being cremated. This was a sudden, unexpected blow to me and I have written about the experience at length in my full-length memoir, after the closure had come to a full circle. I have been witnessing the event of death in my family ever since I was five years old, the austerity, the sudden cessation and the rituals that have been a part of it, but this event has actually been the dawning of an entirely new realization, a new epiphany for me. As much as I have written about my mother in poetry and prose following her sudden death, all of it has stemmed from the fact that she had been and will be a secret, silent anchor, plaguing me with the burden of grief and loss with her death, yet showering my path with light, meaning and bliss.

On that note, I would love to share a small homage to the loving memory of my mother on the International Mother’s day. Since all her life, she has been a keen devotee of the songs, poems and literary works of Rabindranath Tagore, since she has transferred this unquestioned devotion to me in my childhood, I had to come back to none other than the bard himself to reiterate my thoughts on what our relationship had been about, and how the memory of her love would keep me going for the rest of my life.

তবু মনে রেখো যদি দূরে যাই চলে।
যদি পুরাতন প্রেম ঢাকা পড়ে যায় নবপ্রেমজালে।
যদি থাকি কাছাকাছি,
দেখিতে না পাও ছায়ার মতন আছি না আছি–
তবু মনে রেখো।
যদি জল আসে আঁখিপাতে,
এক দিন যদি খেলা থেমে যায় মধুরাতে,
তবু মনে রেখো।
এক দিন যদি বাধা পড়ে কাজে শারদ প্রাতে– মনে রেখো।
যদি পড়িয়া মনে
ছলোছলো জল নাই দেখা দেয় নয়নকোণে–
তবু মনে রেখো। (The lyrics in original Bengali, courtesy: Geetabitan.com)

There have been several translations of this song that speaks of physical separation, the pain and the inevitability of death, and the spiritual proximity of love, the gift of memory and reminiscence that transcends the physical spheres. I have been inspired by all these translations, but was tempted to write down my own version, which goes like this:

And, still remember me, if I go far, far away, remember me.
Even if the trappings of a new love shroud old ties of love and attachment, remember me.
If I remain close, yet distant from you, lonely and unrecognizable,
Like a shadow, remember me; still, remember me.
If tears drench your eyelashes, remember me.
One day, if the journey of this life ends at the stroke of night, still remember me.
One day, if my absence interrupts your chores on an autumn morning, remember me.
If, recalling my memory, tears do not moist the corner of your eyes,
Still remember me.

‘Sneher folgudhara’ (coining your own expressions in Bengali), the never-ending cascade of love that will bind us, forever, even after the body turns to ashes, and returns to the earth after death. Love–Your daughter, Papai, who will always remain a daughter, carry your bloodline forward and pass on your legacy of words, thoughts and unconditional love to my daughters, irrespective of your physical absence.

My favorite rendition of the song by Kanika Bandyopadhyay:

The bard singing the song himself (a rare treasure):

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Rest in peace forever, my beloved Ma. Only know that the candle of your love will forever be lit in my heart, Amen!

The Scarlet Rain: Celebrating Womanhood

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‘Femininity’. Image courtesy: Yogayomu.com

Feeling so happy, fulfilled and empowered from within, having completed my first poetry compilation of 60 pages, ‘All My Plain, Earthen Songs’. In this compilation, I attempt to present the image of the body in its various forms and manifestations, being a metaphor for both life and death. The poems in the collection are poems of the body, bruises and blood, words coming out of the strained ribs of our Mother Earth, words giving expression to the hollowness and inviting quiet of cities, landscapes and terrains in our dreams and waking. The poems also speak about the phenomenon of death, and the quiet, voiceless cessation that comes along with it. 

‘The Scarlet Rain’ is a poem which is a part of of this recently finished poetry compilation. It celebrates a woman’s body, the first shock of knowing about our menstrual cycle when we are very young, and the gradual surrendering and discovery of our body, our sexuality. It has been recently published by B’Khush.com in their section B’Creative, showcasing poetry and short stories written by women across the globe. To know more about my monthly column at B’Khush, and to read the entire poem, do visit:

http://bcreative.bkhush.com/dev/content/scattered-pearls-scarlet-rain

Lullabies and Birth Pangs: Journey of the Womb

 

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This piece happens to be the first full-length personal essay/narrative that I had written, in the form of a diary or journal entry during my first pregnancy. Today, five years after my elder daughter Srobona (Mithi) is there in our lives, I continue to revel in the countless joys, glories, the small milestones of victory and failure of our lives together, holding on to this precious bond called ‘Motherhood’.

This piece marks the beginning of my journey as a mother, and is also the stepping stone to other longer/shorter personal narratives in which I have celebrated this journey marked with awe, admiration and self-exploration. This piece is my humble tribute to God’s amazing gift—motherhood. 

It is my pleasure to include this personal essay in my recently completed memoir, where it resides along with other long-form, mid-range and short narrative nonfiction pieces in the section/volume ‘On Being A Mother’. 

It is also a pleasure to share this personal journey of mine recently published at B’Khush.com. To read the full essay, please go to:

http://www.bkhush.com/dev/content/scattered-pearls-journey-womb