Poet, Author, Editor, Creative Writing Consultant

Saturday, July 31, 2010

No Letting Go of the Past

There are some topics that may be debatable, some issues that may be open to discussion. But something like ‘Do all relationships come with a past or the past, well, that’s a given in any language. Soch lo. Soch lo? Nothing to think about here. It is like saying, does breath come with life, soch lo.

If you have a life, then you have a past, and if you have a past, it will come into the relationship. Each individual in that relationship will bring his or her baggage. The past may have been great, rocking, bitter, sweet, gooey, gritty, serious, ridiculous, yucky, mucky, sucky, kinky whatever! Too many ‘ky’ words there, but they hold the key to what happens in the present relationship. 

So this girl, Namita,  may tell off her present heart-throb, “You know, Rahul never behaved like this. He never forgot like you do, Sunil. He always bought flowers for me on my birthday.” Rahul of course is her ex, whom she broke up with, a thing of the past, should have been shattered and shuttered out of her life, but she won’t forget that easy. And she won’t let poor present day hero, no longer the hero, our dear Sunil boy, forget him too. If Sunil’s beaky nose has suddenly reddened to the nth degree, it is because Namita is making him burn.

You may say, this happens in urban metros. What about the innocents of the village? Young Amar of Bilaspur gaon may have left his love for his chammakh-chhalo Sarika at the behest of his powerful grandfather who gets him married off to the moneylender’s daughter, Rupaiya. If he sits and howls at the moon every night even as Rupaiya cooks bajrey ki roti for him and ladles it with the butter of her love for him, it is because of his past. He cannot let go of Sarika that easy.

Mr. and Mrs. Godbole look like any other couple, quiet acceptance a regular feature on both their faces. Mr. Godbole will never reveal to his wife why he does not allow her to bring jasmine flowers into the house or wear them in her hair. But when she sees him turn his face away with sadness every time he passes a jasmine flower-seller, she can guess. Mrs. Godbole will never tell him of how she had wild sex with the neighbourhood boy for one year before he went away. She will not let Mr. Godbole know that she married him on the rebound. But her abandonment in bed will surprise and delight him. And also raise some questions in his mind which he will quell. He will wonder at how this placid woman hides a tigress under it all. And Mrs. Godbole will think of her wild young nights and feel alive only in bed.

Individuals are a sum total of their life experiences, and this becomes all the more evident in intimate relationships. The past is a part of the person and cannot be shed like a snake sheds his skin. We are humans, not snakes. We bear the marks of previous experiences, proudly or with sorrow, but the marks are there. And they affect our present relationships. Just like whatever relationship we are experiencing now, will cast its shadow on any other we may have in the future. Even if we remain in the current relationship, its own past will be present, journeying with us as we move forward with each other.

Read the annals of history and read the stories written over time. Hear the poetry sung by the balladeers and the modern heart-bleeders.  If we pay attention to the tales of loving and living, we will know that from the moment we begin to breathe, from that moment, our past becomes a part of our present. All relationships have the past featuring as a background actor.

Shochein kya ab, yaaron? Janntey hain hum.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Soft Encounter: Creativity writing workshop


The weather was very hot, it seems all weekends this month are hotter than the rest of the days of the week. I was less apprehensive this time, yet wanted the workshop to go well.

There were two more students today, so I have a class of 17, one a young girl who is an Economics student  at Stephen’s and another is a cardiologist who may be in his forties.  Today, the CD did not work and I was thankful that I had taken my pen drive as a back- up. Always have a back-up. The air conditioning went for a while and the generator came on. The fan above me rotated at a very high speed and that was the only speed at which the fan worked. We could not communicate over the din. I gave up and made them do a writing exercise while we waited for the mains to return.

The retired gentleman was more interactive today and also got up to change the fan regulator cover from one point to the other in the hope that the fan speed could be regulated, he had seen the electrician do that in one of the other lectures.  This did not help. We had to wait for the mains to return and give us back the silent airconditioning . However, I was very happy to see him interacting and contributing and he looked more relaxed and happy.

The process was again pretty smooth. Among the things which came up was whether we had a Pegasus in Indian mythology and one girl said that there was a flying horse that emerged from the ‘samudra manthan’  (sea- churning) that had occurred between the gods and the demons, and she would find out if it had had wings.

One of the participants mentioned how he wrote while a boring lecture was going on as part of his work schedule and managed to make one of the ladies present into one of the characters of his story. We had been talking about how to take out time for writing.

Another young girl talked of how she liked a story because it outlined race and gender differences in a particular country as being different from that in another, and we discussed this. There was also a story we did on how a gentleman lies to a very young girl and we discussed whether the girl was too mature for her age, whether it was okay for the man to put in reference to the chaos theory in the middle of a very personal incident, whether the story worked on the whole or not. We also worked on ‘impermanence’ and how it may be brought into a story.

What I noticed that there was a preponderance of yellow t -shirts and one of the girls wore yellow capris , another carried a yellow flask and someone else had a yellow file. The general colour in prominence was yellow which someone said was a symbol of energy. It was very much present in the room. We had fun, and one character of our emerging story, brought forward to participate from our earlier imaginings, was a gentleman who wore yellow pants! As usual the lecture overshot the scheduled time but no one was cribbing.

The older gentleman came up to me at the end and told me that he had enjoyed the class. Another young girl wanted to get a list of the books which I had given to the organizer for photocopying and she made my day by saying she loved the class and I had such a ‘vibrant’ personality.

I carry that compliment with me for it is very uplifting for my spirits. It energizes me. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

SOFT ENCOUNTERS: Writing Workshop


The first day is full of excitement and apprehension. It is a hot day but I wear a new cotton sari, a beautiful purple print with a thin gold border, the kind I love to wear, crisp and fresh and cracking to go. Like me, not purple, no gold border, but crisp and cracking to go.

 I look out of the car window and I find an advertisement that says , “Blunt and Sharp” and I think yes, that is how writings have to be, blunt and sharp. And then I think of these words that are ‘janus words’, words with multiple meanings and contrary meanings. Obviously my mind is on overdrive, getting geared up for what is coming.

The place is easy to find since I had asked for directions. I sign in the guest book at the gate and look around me. The place is beautiful, with trees and gravel and it is open and inviting. It is a sprawling complex. I am greeted by the organizer of the workshop and I feel instantly at home.
I walk with him a little distance to the classroom in one corner of the complex, after passing well laid out lawns and trees that shade the hot sunlight. The classroom is air-conditioned, which is a blessing. My CD works in their in house computer and that’s good too, first time technology goof ups may sometimes happen.

 15 eager faces turn to me. They are aged from 16 to 60, some are students, some housewives, some professionals, a couple of them retired. The binding interest is the need to be creative and to express that creativity through words.

 This first class is a workshop on Creativity. We talk of unblocking, stepping out of comfort zones, and I tell them why I believe that writers stand at a threshold, looking in and looking out, tapping inner resources and outer interactions for their writings. Both are essential, a writer is not a hermit, though he may choose to be one as he sits to write. We talked of how important it is to dream but also have the discipline to realize the dreams.

The responses to some of the images and exercises I worked with were phenomenal in their variety and the imagination was easily exercised during the presentation. The three hours with a ten minute break went quickly by, in fact we did continue a half hour beyond the allotted time till one of the girls had to leave to be with her eighteen month old daughter.

I am on a complete high, the high that comes from work well done and the connectivity made and sustained. I am now excited and confident about the next class. The students are responsive and engaged.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tough encounter: Unexpected Deaths

Some things happen and there is no explanation at all.

Our dog, Leo, a Golden Retriever, had come to us in 2004 as a small ball of white fluff. I was resentful of his coming because I was dealing with my daughter’s 12th standard blues. If you do not know of such blues, be a parent and find out. He just seemed like an unwanted and uncalled for responsibility. Not long before I fell in love with him.

Love conquers all, and a dog’s love, well, he was beautiful, soulful, licky-waggy, the works. And jumpy and fun. He was the one who greeted you and was all over you, totally expressive about how much he missed you while you went shopping or dining or movie-ing or travelling without him. He moved up and down the room around you at the time for his walk, came and thumped his tail and wanted ‘out’ with you. When you sobbed in a quiet corner, he put his head in your lap and shed his doggy tears with you, licked your face and said he was yours forever and that should matter.

But he did not remain forever. In our hearts yes, but physically he left us on the 18th of June this year. Such an unexpected death, he had not been eating too well, and the vet, whom we had full faith in, gave some antibiotics, saying it may be stomach infection. We thought it was the heat, he was being fussy, gave him more frequent baths etc. My daughter arrived from Mumbai and noticed his darker stools and urine. She read up on it and told the vet to check for liver problem. Turned out he had jaundice. By now Leo had begun vomiting everyday, whatever he ate. The vet gave him antibiotics and put him on a drip. It was too late, Leo was not taking in anything but these injections. This was just for two days before Leo, our sweet lovable and trusting six year old doggy, left us. He had begun to vomit blood. My daughter and husband sat up the two nights with him, massaging him to sleep. But on the 17th night, my daughter, unable to sleep, and she was there with us in the bedroom for Leo slept in our room, woke both of us and pointed out his heavy breathing. We called the vet and tried to follow his late minute instructions but it was too late. He died of internal haemorrhage caused by the liver failure.
He was loving and full of energy. He was big, blond, beautiful. He was regal and sphinx like. He had the eyes of an Egyptian dancer, kohl rimmed. He was gentle and soft and all the kids of the colony loved him, he was one dog they were not scared of.

Leo, we love you. We miss your running circles around us and your gentle licks of love. May you rest in peace.

Lesson: For all of us with loved ones, please keep a watch on anything that is abnormal, not eating well is one of the first signs of sickness.