Friday, July 29, 2011

Well being

I stayed up all night last week finishing up work. After some 10-12 hours of writing, I would lie down for a couple of hours before I woke up and sat at the laptop again. It was so physically gruelling. But every morning, around 6 or so, it would rain. I would open the windows of my room wide and listen to the rhythm. It usually sounds like a steady, light clinging of a coin-chain. The potted plants by the grate are in blue and brown clay pots. They'd shuffle to the wind like little, leafy toddlers.

There are times when writing is so rigorous that I wonder if I will ever get a weekend to relax. But those few moments in the morning were such beautiful post-its of leisure. Until a complete weekend comes, I'll take what I can get.

Around 4 a.m. today, I finished a large chunk of an assignment. After the laptop had flickered and shut down, I got p and looked out. It was so quiet and dark outside. It was quiet and dark outside my room too. I suddenly felt empty.  Also a little sad. When I get up from my work with the vigor of a task well done, there's no-one around.

I tried sleeping but couldn't. So I read Diane von Furstenberg's interview in an earlier issue of Vogue. Then at sunrise I woke up, feeling peckish.

Last night, the cook had made some tasty soy cutlets. (I love, love, love soya - especially cutlets.) These were a little chewy and mixed well with tiny shreds of garlic and ginger and some kind of coarse, spicy powder. There's a great tenacity with which soya holds flavor. These cutlets were moist, tender and very juicy. They were nice and thick so I decided to make myself a burger.

Mom had got some wholewheat, rye burger buns last week. I have to say, I don't like bread too much. But these were quite rustic and home-y. I slathered these buns with mayonnaise, spread out a salad leaf (it looked really romantic on the bun too; like a lover with his arms spread wide to embrace his love), put on the soy mince patty, toasted the whole burger on a pan and slid it on a plate. (I like that part of cooking the best - when food gets transferred from pan to plate.)

To wash it off, I had some Pear and Raspberry cordial (it's a Waitrose product and it is lip-smacking - tart, cool, snappy, wonderful.)

I got my breakfast back to my room. The sky had started singing again. Rain fell. I ate.

Really. I could live like this forever.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Golden flight

There she sits in a gilded cage
With the trap door a little broken
She sits in silence, all hush and quiet
But the face that's turned away has spoken

It rains blue roses all night long
Yet she does not fly free
A newborn day comes with fresh, mint scent
And she decides to be

Inside her cage, by that door
She lives through a million springs
And sometimes coos for the little freedom
That comes to those with gilded wings.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Rainy noon

A really scattered Sunday. There is a lot to finish by tomorrow and I've just been chatting away with friends. Spoke on the phone for nearly three hours today. I think that's almost as much as how much time I've spent on the phone in the last six months.

Then, exhausted, I tried to take a nap, tried to figure out all the projects I have to work on. Got very tense. I sat by the window sill and saw a guave tree sway in the wind. There was a tiny, perfect little guava swinging from the branches - a little, green knot of joy. Then the grey sky acted like a sieve. It got all porous and sweet, cool rain came falling down.

It was all good again.


Pithuo

One's heritage often imparts certain tools that equip one for a particular path in life. It could be business acumen or strong legs. It could be predisposition to the arts or a keen sense of adventure. For me, I think, it's taste for mustard. I love mustard, especially mustard oil. The sharp, heavy smell of mustard oil is what I can battle armies for.

If my childhood could be bottled as perfume, I'm pretty sure the scent would be mustard. (I understand it wouldn't have many takers. That's perfectly fine with me. Like I said, when it comes to mustard, I don't like competition.)

As kids, we used to be massaged with mustard oil - our bodies, hair, armpits, cuticles, etc. A thick coat of that oil, with its distinct scent, would get soaked into our pores. My brother and cousins hated it. I couldn't get enough.

After a vigorous massage, we had to rest or play on the floor for a half-hour and then, go for a cold water bath. Without being boastful, my brother, my cousins, I - whoever had this mustard oil treatment - grew up having gleaming skin and shiny hair. This was the case until we learnt to resist wisdom or just got lazy or had 'better' things to do. Then, of course, the regime stopped and urban life took over. But my cousins, two very beautiful girls, continued this treatment well into their adult years. Both of them have skin tone that has the sheen of ground pearls mixed with milk and moonlight. And their waist-length hair is strong, rich, black and smooth. I'm not one for a whole lot of beauty treatments - but I swear by mustard oil. If I ever got conscious of looking young, that is what I would go for. It guarantees unlined skin.

But beauty aside, mustard oil is fantastic in food - which is where my interests lie, in any case. A lot of people can't stand the smell. In fact, it is quite hard to digest too. But that smell will get me out of the grave; and the taste - I think the taste has nestled somewhere cosily in my DNA and should I have babies, this love will get transmitted to them.

There is an Oriya dish called 'Pithuo' that combines mustard oil and mustard paste. It takes an iron stomach to digest it but it makes any meal memorable. It is such a distinctive, beautiful tasty treat and I can have a heap of it with steaming hot rice! (Rice - now, that's another poetic fixation.)

Now, before I write about 'Pithuo', I must say that this is how it is made in my home. I don't know if it is an authentic Oriya recipe or not. Since my absolute love for mustard is known to mum, she could very well be tweaking it to suit my palate. But overall, the highlight of this dish is mustard, sweet mustard.

Pithuo is a kind of vegetable cutlet that is rolled in rice flour and fried. You grate some veggies or chop them up really fine after par boiling them. Usually, nothing leafy because it is hard to bind those - but carrots, onions, peas, and beans are the staple. You could add baby corn, zucchini, etc. but don't ruin it by getting HyperCity pretentious. It is best to stick to simple vegetables that give you a crunch. On the side, you mash up some potatoes with salt, pepper, chilli powder, mustard paste (the more pungent the better) and mustard oil. After the potatoes are mashed properly - they needn't be very smooth (a few lumps spell character) - add the vegetables and mix them up really nice.

Then you take a little bit and roll it into cutlets. Coat them in the rice four and shallow fry them in mustard oil.

I generally eat them with hot rice. Only rice, though. No dal or sabzi or anything else. These cutlets are so flavorful and rich with taste and texture that their perfect accompaniment can only be something that is bland. You cannot have any other item that masks the taste of mustard here. It's philistine. Seriously, to have it along with daal or a curry is like getting the finest oysters and dousing them in ketchup. If the taste is something you can't handle, just stay away. Because unless you are getting a scalp-searing heaty kick, the pithuo is just another vegetable cutlet with a variation.

So, here's what I do. I take some really hot rice (the vapours from the dish should be clouding up mirrors) and create a clearing in the centre of the plate. I put a couple of pithuos on that. Then I cover that up with some more rice. Finally, on top the mound, I drizzle a little mustard oil to which a pinch of salt has been added. That golden yellow mixing with the snowy whiteness looks so gentle and quiet. It totally camouflages the scandalous pungency of what is to follow.

But for me, food has got to be wicked. I can't help it. I'm bound by heritage.


Friday, July 22, 2011

It's basic

As a freelance writer, I spend close to 12 hours a day working. Mostly, it is actually writing or researching. Then there is some amount of meetings and discussions on what to write, how to write, devising content related strategies, etc. There is a lot of getting into someone's head and figuring out what they want. There is speculation on what is going to drive people to someone's website or write persuasive marketing collaterals or a powerful concept note. I love all that juggling. However, sometimes I do lose the plot.

Early this morning, I finished reading 'Life of Pi' by Yann Martel. It's the story of a boy, Pi, who survives a shipwreck. His survival involves spending nearly a year on the Pacific on a lifeboat with a royal Bengal tiger.

I read that book and remembered that anything creative or inspired makes you feel a particular way - it makes you want to be a better person. It makes you want to live a better life. It makes you want to soak in the goodness of that moment and share that feeling freely and willingly.

Early this morning I was reminded of why I love writing in the first place.

If you haven't already, do read 'Life of Pi'. It will remind you of what is important.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A thought

In religious hierarchy, generally paganism is seen to be inferior to, well, non-paganism. (I don't know the term for the opposite.) So, if one is monotheistic, believing in one God that somehow can't be seen, touched, or heard, then that is more evolved than a value system where you pay obeisance to a rock, stream or flower.

But why?

If you can actually perceive a god all around you - or even a different god in each and every element - if every little thing fills you with wonder, joy and piety, aren't you there? ('There' being the place that religion was supposed to take you to.)

Wasn't that the whole point?


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rainy mornings

I love waking up to the sound of the rain. It feels like a different, watery form of sunrise. The air is cool, clear, fresh. Somewhere up above, I imagine the best in the universe got concentrated, condensed and nurtured in a large silk pouch. Then these formed perfect jewels of beauty and tenderness. When the time is right, all those jewells, all that goodness, comes pouring down and then falls away.

And I step out into a world that is whole, new, changed.

May you often wake up to rain.

How it began...

A grain of sand in a grey sky's eye
And clouds rub it off quickly
The large grey eye then waters down
And flows into a salty sea.
This ocean in its vastness now,
Is our emblem of hope since years
And it's forgotten that this flame of will
Was really born of tears.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Guess what just happened?

I woke up early, around 5 a.m. and wrote out a sample test article for a website. I had been delaying it for so long - what with the nausea, queasiness and old-fashioned procrastination. But I woke up, heard the rain falling steadily (always my song of hope and joy), sat at my computer and worked steadily.

It took a solid two hours to tackle that and I sent it off. What followed was an exquisite lightness, an airy sense of joy. What followed was also a gnawing hunger. My cook was awake by then so I asked for some tea and crisp toast with butter and mayonnaise. I munched on that watching the beautiful grey sky - luscious and juicy like the flesh of lychee - and its sweet pin-sharp drizzles of silver rain. Thick green leaves shook about and somewhere, in the rain, birds chirped noisily.

I am now sated with food and well-being. It's time to take a short nap before I get dressed and go to Andheri to meet my friends.

Good morning, world!

Movie Scene - 2

This is from the movie, 'Walk the Line'. It's a story about the singer, Johny Cash.

In this particular scene, Johny is estranged from his family. He has left his wife and has become an alocoholic. He has a rocky relationship with another singer (Reese Witherspoon) but can't seem to get his life in order. Record labels that were earlier lining to sign him up start avoiding him. Johny has decided to get away from it all and has bought a house up in the mountains. It's a very beautiful place and he has invited his girlfriend to see it. When she visits him, she realizes that he is living a wasteful life he can't afford. He can't afford the house or the dogs and he definitely can't afford to be drinking that excessively. They have a fight and I think they break up.

She goes to her car and brings out a box of stuff that belong to him. She had meant to give it as a gift. But she more or less throws it at his face with a "Hell with you!" kind of goodbye.

Johny Cash watches her leave. The sun is setting and it's wintertime. That scene visually depicts hopelessness and gloom in a very dreamy way. Cash really wants to do something about his situation and wants to get his girl back but he looks like he doesn't stand a chance anymore. Then he goes through his box and this is where we come to my favorite moment.

He picks out a photograph of him performing at a concert in the past. At this point, there's a tight close-up of Cash's face. He looks lost. And then the camera moves to the photo he is holding. And we see a young, vibrant Cash singing into a mike. And there's an applause in the background. Cash is imagining his time on stage. This moment marks the moment when things actually took a turn for the better in the movie.

It's a very well composed scene. With just a few elements you get the sense that fame and the lure of applause is such a hook for an artist. He will change his life - not always maybe for love, but almost always for appreciation.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Movie scene -1

I am really unwell today. The twitch in my left eye is much worse than before and some nerve is feeling stretched. There's a tremendous bodyache and my right tooth is paining badly. My throat is sore, my nose is stuffy and small knots of pain seem to lodged around my eyebrows and the base of my neck. There is a general expression of gloom. The recent blasts and then anger at Mumbai, the city and what it stands for, its steady into decline because its part of Maharashtra, the intolerance in the world at general, etc. - all that is doesn't sit easily with me either. All in all, everything is feeling heavy and sodden.

To perk myself up, I thought I would make a list of movie scenes that really meant something to me over the years. (I will post a scene as and when I get the energy. Right now, I feel like I won't stay alive long enough to finish the post.)

From Qayamat se Qayamat Tak:

The last scene. Just before Aamir dies, he softly kisses Juhi on the lips (she's already dead) and slumps down next to her. In the background, the sun sets over some sparse, sandy landscape and the song, "Papa Kehte Hai..." plays sadly. The contrast of the words, "Papa kehte hain badaa naam karega, beta hamara aisa kaam karega..." and Aamir dying for love...the irony is very touching. I remember thinking that if you find the love you can give up your life for, what can be a bigger accomplishment than that? Maybe his father never saw it that way. But life finds you in ways your parents or you never expect.

Why I go back to the film time and time again, especially that scene, is because I grew up in Bandra. Aamir and Salman were practically boys of the neighborhood. When 'Maine Pyar Kiya' released and Salman owned the public, my school (it was a girl's school) became sharply divided into two groups. There were some of us who listened to QSQT songs on repeat and there were those who wore the famed 'Friends' cap or carried notebooks with the Salman-Bhagyashree duo in a heart-shaped cutout.

At the time, I was for Aamir Khan. He had died for love. Not like this other stylish dude who enlisted services of pigeons, etc. to get the work done. Also, Aamir's home at the time was closer to my house than Salman's. Then Shah Rukh Khan came into the movies and over time, moved into the neighborhood as well. After each of their earlier films, I had seen Aamir in a smallish car driving to Khar gym for tennis. I had seen Salman Khan in an open jeep at Turner Road to get kulfis. But Shah Rukh - him I had spotted in a fiery red Pajero zooming off at Carter Road. One of my pals swooned and had said, "Wow! This guy's gonna be around for a long time!" I had snorted and said, "We'll see."

Over time, I started disliking Aamir. I thought the guy just can't get over anything. It's like you make a comment about him in 1995, then he will pass a barb at you in 2010. Too calculating for my taste. I dislike that so much that I don't even like watching any of the films he produces, let alone acts in. (And frankly I was not blown over with Taare Zameen Par. It was good but that's it.)

But whenever I see that scene in QSQT, I remember something. There's a saying in Oriya that translates to mean that if a plant is tulsi, it will start giving off the fragrance even when it has only two leaves.

Aamir's debut was with 'Qayamat se...', Salman's was with 'Maine Pyaar Kiya', and Shah Rukh's was with 'Deewana'. Qayamat is so much more subtle, soft, sad and lingering than his peers' more colorful, bombastic films. I think this preference of these 3 gentlemen carries forward until this date - to the movies they produce or act in. Shah Rukh will do a Don and Salman will produce a Dabanng but Aamir will make a Dhobhi Ghaat.

It sometimes looks as if Aamir sealed his fate with cinema with that tender kiss in his debut film's last scene. He was to be the harbinger of the quiet lingering moments. Let the others make the noise.

(For the record, though, I don't like him still.)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

It's a cliche for a reason

The Bombay spirit.

It's a cliche because it has become a desensitized phrase make us Mumbai people look like roaches. Oh look! They'll survive everything. Yet...

Today, there were blasts at Dadar, Opera House, Zaveri Bazaar. At the time of the blasts, I was close to Dadar with a friend. We'd spent a splendid day in town, collected our freelance moolah (always a day of joy) and then spontaneously decided to do a few things. We tried out a new restaurant near Phoenix Mills called China Land. My vegetable wonton soup was quite nice but the starters, Peppery Tofu, was brilliant. It was soft and smoky with some really interestic flavors. I think smoked garlic with coarsely crushed peppercorn.

After that, we caught 'Delhi Belly' at PVR. We then we walked through Worli village to get to Worli Seaface and saw this beautiful little garden we had noticed before. We sat by the sea, our back to the splendid sea-link and talked for hours. Then we got close to Dadar, got into a small Udipi and got our snacky fix. Medu wada doused in sambar and really good chutney and two cups of kadak chai.

Suddenly the murmur around us got thicker with names like Opera House being bandied about. "Arrey, it was here in Dadar also", someone else said. I felt some kind of alarm build up in my stomach. I had a sense of what they were talking about. That's why I craned to look out the window. I was hoping, sorely hoping, they'd be talking about incessant rain somewhere and trains running late. But it was drizzling lightly.

So I turned to the man next to me and asked him to confirm what I was saying. My friend had this expression in her eyes that suggested it has happened again. The man told me about the blasts.

Within 30 minutes, we were in a bus going to Bandra. My friend would take the train to Mira Road. I would take the bus to Vashi. In the restaurant and in the buses, people were freely offering phones to strangers to make a call. My Reliance Network was surprisingly working. (It doesn't when I have to return an important call to a client but well...) In the bus, men promptly stand up and vacate the Ladies Seat they inappropriately occupy. The conductor continues to crib about no-one giving him any change. And then the bus takes a route quite close to the kabootar khana area in Dadar. That area is cordoned off because blasts have taken place there. Poeple have spilt blood there. People have died there.

But in the lane right next to it - not in a suburb far away, not 25 days later - right next to the affected area within 30 minutes of the blast, people have gathered around showrooms with TV screens watching the news. Some people are snacking in restaurants there. A vada pav stall does brisk business while giving spicy tidbits, I imagine, of how loud the blast was, whether he had an inkling about it, etc. The traffic was under control. In the bus, calls were being received from frantic family and friends. The response was, "Yes. I was there or I wasn't there exactly and Don't worry, re. I'll reach home aaraam se."

And my friend and I did reach home. Aaraam se. Taking in the liquid streams of traffic against the pale purple nightsky. Talking to the person next to us, maybe. Sharing news of the earlier blasts maybe. Giving confusing information about ways to get home to people unfamiliar with the city. Quarelling with a co-passenger maybe. Asking the conductor a hundred times if he knew exactly who this large tote bag belonged to. Humming a song. Looking out dreamily at a beautiful night. Planning dinner over phone. And yes - more so than anything else - planning the tomorrow.

This is why I screw up my pedestal several notches higher than before and place my city there. Yet again. It's because this - this casualness, this innocence of continuity, this flair for being bizarre while also being busy and also being afraid and also being angry, this messiness - this is what Bombay was, Mumbai is, and (whatever it may be called in the future) will remain. A million news features and dejected comments and wry humour about the city's spirit will not diminish it ever.

We do all this, not because this is Mumbai. But because that is life. And you can kill people. But life? It's a pretty big thing to get down.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Lessons from Palolem


This is Palolem. It is a crescent shaped beach and so pretty that it could be a pearl that got loose from an angel's embroidered wing. This time in Goa, my friends and I decided to take a day off to go to a different beach from the close to our hotel. Somewhere distant. So, we woke up early, ate a quick brekker and set off. Then we walked through little strips of road that knitted paddy fields, hailed a bus and set off for Palolem.

Palolem is deep in the south of Goa. From where we were (Benaulim), we had to change two buses to get to the beach (one to Madgaon and another to Palolem from the bus depot there). It was a long sheery ride. We went up a road that swirled around a green, green mountain. It was like tracing along the ribbon of candy color that rolls about a lollipop. On the way, the bus would be hailed by large crowds of school-children. They'd hop off somewhere between a purple house with yellow windows and a red hut with blue walls. There were all these souvenir-type things that made us chuckle. (Beauty can crack you up too. Not everything is poetry.)

We saw mountain streams dribbling over little ponds, rain come and go, the bus get full and empty, yet the world staying calm and grey.



Then we reached Palolem and the waves there were bigger and had quite a roar. The sea wastempting as sin. I, however, had decided to skip wearing a costume that day because I'd woken up feeling feverish and thought I'd done enough frollicking in the water the previous 2 days. (Or so I thought.)


But 12: 15 I spotted the sea. 12:16 I was deep in it. Walking as far as I could go in, turn my back to a huge wave and then, as it lifted me up, start swimming. Sometimes, two or three waves would come in quick succession. That's when I would quickly start floating on my back.



Now, floating on one's back is exquisite to begin with. But when you feel the heft of a wave rising under you and you are upturned looking at dark clouds gather atop a faraway island and feel the tickle of raindrops on your salty lips - it is exceptional to the point of heartburst.

Since I was swimming in my tee and shorts, I got soaked to a degree that hasn't happened since childhood. And I can't imagine how right that felt. It felt correct to be this joyous, wet, and free.

In yoga, we are taught to visualize ourselves as a drop of water that merges with the ocean. In the ocean, we learn what a cakewalk that is.

I think we are meant for this kind of surrender and this kind of freedom.

Nothing less and nothing else.



Monday, July 11, 2011

Goshiness

I have finally summoned up enough strength to get through a wad of work for today. I'm done. Complete. Clean. Finished. Slate is clean.

Tomorrow I have to trudge up to my father's office for some work. It will be fun I think but only if I can have a delicious langorous morning after having a heavy, sweet sleep. Unlikely because I intend to do some luscious reading - the kind of reading where I don't even blink. I am reading 'Life of Pi' by Yann Martel and that book is so dense with soul!

I think some people are like butterflies. Or rather they communicate the way a butterfly lightly flits about you. Similarly, their words have meaning hovering around them. Like a sweet little mote on a beam of soft lavender light. Maybe the way, if you have shampooed your hair before you sleep, the next morning you get a lungful of the fresh juicy scent in your nose when you wake up. As I was saying, some people are gentle with their words and meanings. Like they spray a word with what they intend to say and let it float on to you. Unlike others. There are some who sew on meanings to their words - with those thick, big needles you sew shoes with. Why do I bring this up? I spoke to someone today who wouldn't give me her name. She said she had gotten my number from a common friend whose name she wouldn't disclose either. And then I gave up because her voice was sweet. She spoke so nicely. We talked about coffee and her preferences in tea and music. (I think it's a nice name for a soap - tea and music. I don't want it to be the name of a cafe or lounge. I want it to be something that gets on you and then in you and then, lost.) Afterwards, she said goodbye and hung up. I have a feeling I know her. I have a feeling she wants me to trace her and call her back. She didn't say anything outright. But everything she said lingers.

I would like to go swimming again. In the sea. The sea is such a massive crazy pet!  My senses just get an amusement ride thrill just talking about it.

Okay. I am tired now. Maybe I'll sleep well.

Fever, yoga, reading, a little of this and a little of that...

I have been really unwell the last few days. High fever, a very sore body, thumping headache and, since misery loves loves loves company, there's a toothache doing the salsa with a sore throat as well. (How do they manage, you ask? Well, illnesses have a way of getting around.)


Now, just a few days ago I had started yoga. And this time I was determined to do yoga regularly to get fit and burn off my karmic deposits. (No, that’s not what they are calling body fat nowadays.) I wanted to settle at least that part of my karmic cycle that has kept me tied to the drama of anger. I have tried to figure out why I have so much anger inside of me when, frankly, I have around 2,800 things to be grateful for every single day of my life. And this is a list I can make up right from stuff at the top of my head.

I have tried to get to the bottom of this for a while now. A friend's sister is a hypnotherapist. Nearly a year ago, I had visited her on account of some issues that I was really tired of - like getting short with people, taking so many things personally, getting defensive about Mumbai. (It sounds crazy, I know. But that was when I had started feeling sick in my stomach. I could calmly respond to someone who accused me of being an escapist from my marriage but if he/ she made a comment on how dirty Mumbai was - man! the heights to which my hackles got raised!) Then, it reached a point where I sensed a lot of people distancing themselves from me. No-one was telling me anything but there wasn't the warmth I had felt earlier. I almost didn't notice it until one day - I did. I was with a friend and I saw a tight smile, a formal shrug and a quick, "See you later." So, I asked her what the problem was - right out - and she said, "This is the problem! You are always so aggressive and you are always so moody and you are always so opinionated! I can't handle it!"

All that was news to me. So, of course, I told her that she was a coward and constantly whining about stuff and what kind of an imbecile expects a human-being to be in one constant mood? Well, that was that. She cried, I felt horrible and we didn't communicate for a while.

On closer quarters, though, I saw that same pattern with my family. I noticed that my father wouldn't say something to me because he didn't want a heated argument, a cousin wouldn't call me up because he didn't know what mood he'd find me in, a niece would be iffy about sharing her essay because she thought I'd rip it apart (she got that impression from the others). My friends from 10 years ago went their ways without even saying goodbye. Colleagues at work started agreeing with my opinions rather quickly, without even venturing to offer their own. (Can't say I complained about that.) But as soon as I took stock of the situation, I realized that there was a problem and I wasn't very sure how to tackle it.

My friend's sister, E, helped me tremendously. She's much younger than me and ordinarily, I wouldn't have consulted her at all. I had some reservations about hypnotherapy as well. But at the time I thought - why the heck not? I was at that stage when I had done a lot of introspecting. I have usually kept a diary and I kept poring over entries to figure out what was going on. I sensed that there was a pattern here. And as a sociology student - this much I know: where there's a pattern, you look beyond incidents to figure out the reasons. Actually, even law has much the same approach. (Okay, more pedagogical analogies for another post.)

My session with E was a BIG eye-opener. As I spoke to her, some instances came to mind - those I had pushed to the back of my head because I was so busy focusing on 'main' issues such as temper. For example, I knew that I always got defensive about Mumbai. But while talking to E, I recalled instances when I have defended Delhi vehemently. I used to hate it when people called Delhi 'the rape capital' or its people loud and uncouth. Then, I noticed that there were times I went hoarse praising Pune. When people would call Pune a mousehole, I would defy them to find the kind of evolved lifestyle you find there. I have almost shouted myself out saying stuff that LA is far better than Boston. Who cares about a few universities around stupid green areas when there's far more life and action to be had elsewhere. I was indifferent about Bangalore or Ahmedabad or Kolkata or New York. You like it? You don't like it? Oh well.

That's when it hit me. I only got defensive about places I had lived in. There was something so primitive and ferocious about my territorial allegiance that it was scary. I would have definitely missed this aspect if E hadn't helped me with it. This also overlapped other areas. I could have a problem with you but if someone spoke against you in front of me, that person had had it! Somewhere, I felt the need to be a protector. I had to protect what was 'under attack'.

Then we came to the part of why this was so and what to be done about it. Both areas would take a certain about of effort and honesty which I can't summon just yet (given that I have fever, etc.)

However, E got married and moved to another city and my work of getting anger in check got waylaid. For a while it was okay, I was calm, and then it acted up again. The last straw was when I threw a glass of water on someone's face because I lost my cool. No. The last straw was when she didn't react. It was when she didn't hit back or retaliate or do anything. The last straw was when she walked away, saying nothing.

I can't explain the feelings that followed. Of course, what I did was wrong and there was an apology. But these things - they break you. In a good way. I think when I saw, in one interaction, the lows to which I had sunk and the highs which the other person upheld, it was clear. Clear like when you wipe a muddy window with a wet cloth and through that gleaming swipe, you see a waterfall. I had made a choice and she had made a choice and we both will live out the consequences of our choices.

It is odd that I felt no shame, remorse or self-loathing. Usually, all outbursts are loyally followed by this trinity. None of them are useful. I just felt that the worst has happened. It will only get better from here as soon as I decided the path. I don't care with the reasons for the temper now. My soul has truly just had it with the drama.

Many moons ago, I had read a book, 'You can heal your life' by Louise L. Hay. I read it around the time I was skeptical of self-help books and all that. However, my friend, J, (www.teerathyatra.com) had told me that this book linked diseases to a thought pattern and I was intrigued.

I strongly, earnestly recommend this book to anyone out there who wants a good read. Yes, it is one of those 'Secret' type books that speak of affirmations and law of attraction, etc. But it had been written at a time when only nut-eating, weed-smoking junkies in California believed that stuff. Louise L. Hay, perhaps, has the sweetest, most tender style of penning advice. If she were a neighbor, I would visit her everyday with treats from bakery. If she were on radio, I'd listen to her every day. She just has a way about her. Even if you don't believe in 'that sorta stuff', read her. If you have ever been in a position where you've asked yourself, "What the hell is wrong with me?" and honestly wanted an answer, read her. You will be so surprised at what you find. (Or you could meet E. It's been a while since we've been in touch but if you write to me, I could send you her contact details. She may suggest this book, too, by the way.)

So, in any case, Louise writes about certain ways of releasing a thought process and getting over things. Around the time I read her, I had started learning yoga. The two just seemed to click with me.

I'll make another strong recommendation here and then move on to the rest of my post. Please learn yoga. If you have learnt it, do it. If you're not interested, just be around people who do it. You will benefit. It is my personal opinion that you can have the most chiseled, perfectly toned body with a proper yoga routine. I believe that because I have seen that. You can have it in just as much time as you spend in a gym, if not sooner, and you can have it for life. I'm not in any shape or form to actually be the poster-girl for this sort of thing but I know of men who have six-packs and do the mayurasana like poetry. I know of women who do 30 minutes of asanas with 20 minutes of meditation and they could light up a room with the glow of their skin.

But I'll tell you why I do yoga. I do it because through my body, I realize that I was much more than it. I have to admit I am not big with the pranayams and kriyas. But I try to do a few asanas as regularly as I can. Any angry person is a stiff person with a disposition to joint problems. There are a lot of blockages that occur in the body because of what one has thought and believed over a period of time. Since I find it difficult to change my thought process internally (through awareness, meditation, etc.), approaching a mental change from ‘outside-in’ is what helps me. That means being more centred in what I practice and being more simple in what I consume. Also, I had read a book on Hatha Yoga that spoke of the link between karma and yoga. (Karma, in my mind, is an axiom. I just believe that it exists. Have been ridiculed a fair bit on this but…what can I say? That is something I have full faith in.) According to this book, when you are mindful of going through the motions of Suryanamaskar, it is not just about saluting the sun. With every motion, you are actually working off a portion of your karmic debt. That I found really interesting.

This insight particularly resonated with me. Through my session with E and learnings from Louise L. Hay, I realize that my anger issue is old and deep. It’s got to be grinded out of my psyche peacefully, firmly and consistently. I was anyway doing yoga. So why not do it with this orientation in mind? It’s far more interesting than getting a toned back! (Although I would love a toned back.)
Then, after one day of yoga, I fell ill. Very ill. That night, I felt so desolate that I cried through different thickets of self-pity. I really felt bad for myself, mainly, because just the night before I had made grand resolutions of taking charge of my life, etc. Now, taking charge of one’s life means not having anyone to blame when you are ill and aching. That is not the time for the Universe to tell you to just ‘suck it up!’ but it says that anyway. It’s hard.

The next morning I woke up even more unwell than before but I decided to do yoga anyway. I hated every single minute of preparing for it. From opening the terrace to unfolding the mat to joining my hands and starting the Suryanamaskars. Then, as I quieted down and started doing my rounds, it started to rain. When rain falls on a grey and misty world, you catch your breath. Because the beauty is so fragile and fleeting. It looks as if a child is weeping and smiling quietly in her sleep because of what she sees in a dream. It was lovely. I finished yoga in more peace than I have felt in a long, long time. I almost felt like the Universe was moved by what I’d done.

This is why I feel hopeful, at times. I feel that no matter how bad or deep my problem, there is more help around than I can imagine.

Makes me weep. Makes me smile.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Story of my name and the picture that tells that story

My name is Mukta.

My father was abroad, in flight, on the way to India, when my mother delivered me in Cuttack. I was conceived on ship, somewhere near Bulgaria, I think. From the time my mother had conceived me, both my parents were certain they'd have a girl. My mother attributes the certainty to her gut. My father attributes the certainty to my mother.

The sea and the beginning of my life is closely interlinked. Several times, I feel that there was an osmosis that happened between the swells of waves and my mothers womb. And when that happened, I passed through.

Niether of my parents really had any idea on what they should name their first-born. They had left it to my grandparents who toured the entire mythological planet to apparently come up with the most tongue-twisting monikers.

But then, one day, my mother went into labour. Then, one day, my father was travelling home. They hadn't spoken to each other then. But independent of consultation, they both thought of the name, "Mukta".

My father thought "Mukta" should mean 'free' and 'unfettered'.

My mother meant 'Mukta' to mean pearl, since that's how she had seen my genesis.

I grew up thinking that my name reconciled odd contradictions. A pearl, if anything, is never free. Always in an oyster. Then strung on a bead. Yet, cultivated in the massive permissiveness of the ocean.

Growing up, my name has always fascinated me. Sometimes, I wonder if I have ever taken on the attributes of 'Mukta' - my mother's 'Mukta', or my father's 'Mukta'.

In Goa, this time, a friend clicked me walking into the sea. I'm wearing white and am looking lost. I still remember the first time I stepped into the vastness of waters with my father. I was wearing white then too. It was a full moon night and I believed that if I followed the shining moonlight on the waves, I could reach the sky. Then I stepped into the water. That's when I believed, very strongly believed, that I could give up a million skies to live in the deep liquid song that serenaded a crudely formed, frivolous world. Of course, this articulation is from adulthood. But it germinates from a childhood authenticity.

I knew then, as I know now - that with the sea, by its side, in it, around it - I'll have my gentle shackles. I'll also have my perfect freedom.

I am, I think, my mother's Mukta, my father's Mukta, and the sort of 'Mukta' the sea brings up with it from time to time. And somewhere swimming amongst all of this, is the Mukta that is me.


This is the picture.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Friends are looking...

1. Friend 1 is soon shifting to Pune. Got a cushy job in a company around the Hinjewadi area and is looking for a place close to office. If anyone knows of a place to rent out in that area, please let me know.

2. Friend 2 has got a job around Hiranandani, Powai and is looking for a PG Accomodation in and around Hiranandani or Chandivalli. If you need a flatmate or know of a good PG acco, do mail me.

Both are women - clean and responsible.

Do email me at: mukta.raut@gmail.com.

Thanks so much.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Monday beginnings

My Monday begins when I want it to. When I have nosedived into a fresh, new book and read a few pages of it sipping tea. When I have scribbled a couple of lines sitting on the terrace, taking in muddy grey-blue-yellow skies. Monday begins when the weekend langor stops letting out the slow weepy wail, "Just a little bit longer." After I have limbered up with a few yoga stretches - the kind of stretches that ease away Sunday evening indulgences. After I have listened to every chirp of a bird, looked at every flirty copper-pod on a tree and felt, "Yes. I've got stuff to do."

My Monday begins when I want it to.