The Belated Bloomsday Blog

Pre-Script: If you came over from my Instagram, my YouTube channel is here.

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Another Bloomsday gone. It has been three years since I announced the intention to revive my blog on Facebook. The aching sense of lack that drove me to that decision back then still exists. Of course a lot has happened since then. A lot has changed, a lot has been done. But sometimes, in the middle of the doings and keeping busy and ticking boxes, you ask yourself, what has really changed? Why are you here, anyway?

Leopold Bloom walked the streets on a meandering search for purpose. Sounds like a fairytale in the middle of this lockdown. Still, we’re all making our ways through our daily schedules through the meandering signposts that keep us reassured that we’re doing it right, that we’re doing something, at any rate. Online, offline, or inside our heads.

Perhaps it’s selfish to talk about personal ennui at a time like this. So let me ask instead, where do we go from here? Will we ever travel again? Embrace our friends? Somehow, I imagined a countdown, an end-time recollection. Instead we are here in limbo.

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Even on days like today, with the rain turning the windshield into a portal to a dream, what keeps me going is the thought that somewhere on this surface is someone who knows exactly what I mean when I speak of the irrelevance of everything in terms of infinity, and the certainty that we share a planet together. That’s why I ramble. To find them. And for them to find me. But mostly, I ramble to pour out the streaming incoherence of my mind. And sometimes I ramble because it is all I can do to drown out the silent hollow ache in my chest.

 I read a short story the other day. It was by E.L. Bangs in an anthology called Bikes in Space (Volume II).  Bangs imagines a post-crash world which has run out of fuels where mobility is no longer an assured right. Despite the difference in context, the idea of people spending their entire lives in one place because travel is impossible felt curiously analogous to our times. Of course we’ve already started to gradually move out of lockdown as I write this, but whoever thought the world could close away into little islands before this year?

All of us, in our homes, wondering if the world would ever open up like it used to be, or if we should settle into our little places, memories of the wider world shriveling into oblivion over years? Of course, oblivion isn’t really possible in the digital era, or so one hopes.

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I drafted this piece up to here before the 16th, in time for Bloomsday blog. But somehow I failed to put it up on time. Part of this is of course because I misplaced my dates- not the first time to happen in this lockdown. But I could have still put it up on the next day, when parts of the world were still on the day I had lost. I could have, but I couldn’t. For the last several days, I have been assailed by some sort of acute paralysis. I feel this physical abyss within which I can’t cover up unless I am immersed into another, someone else’s story. Distracting myself from myself seems to have become the goal. My brain wants to do certain things- stuff to write, some of which have already been drafted, stuff to sing- I have the lyrics arranged and the chords noted, there are things that I make me feel good- meditative dancing, for instance, but I can’t seem to move, for some reason, although I function perfectly outwards. So many things I want to do, but every time I conceive of doing them, there’s this hollow pit somewhere in the region of my heart that freezes me up, and I seek quick distractions. Sometimes it is overpowering enough to make me want to cry. Or sleep. Escape. And a part of this paralysis, I recognized this afternoon from a long ago memory is fear. The way you feel the evening before the examination when you know nothing of the syllabus. The way you dread the advancing hands of the clock.

By K Mitch Hodge on Unsplash.com

I am paralyzed with the fear of failing at life. I am afraid that all my chances are slipping out and I have no idea how to do the things that I want to do in order to succeed. I am afraid I will never be able to reach the next stage which comes as a reward for passing your examinations. And I desperately want to reach the next stage. I am afraid I am trapped in a box that I am never getting out of. I’ve always been scared shit of boxes. There’s only so much positive affirmations you can practice. You try to say the words and they disappear in that giant hollow pit inside you. And I realize I am waffling about invisible demons in my own little head in a world that for all purposes has gone bonkers.

I think I am sounding repetitive.

What I know that if tomorrow the world changes into what it used to be, the ache will remain. I wasn’t too fond of the world as it used to be.  The vague stasis and shapeless confusion have always been there. Lockdown has merely turned it into a more visible physicality.

But this is what I am saying here. I am acknowledging that I am afraid. I am acknowledging that I am anxious. I am acknowledging that I am sad. And in writing it out I feel a little lighter in my heart. I feel weighed down by an absence, but this too shall pass. As the Cap says- Whatever it takes.

By Tijs van Leur on Unsplash.com

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Longings


In the spirit of National Poetry Writing Month, I thought of doing a prose-poem for the blog. But before that, a small announcement. I have a song up on an episode of the London Theatre Podcast- episode titled –We Need to Talk –New Writing Showcase Part 1. It’s only 11 minutes long and you can listen to it on SpotifyiTunesSoundCloudPlayerFM or Podbean. Let me know what you think.

Longings

What does a love story look like? What shape is it? What are the ingredients you need to make one, and most important, where can you find them? I feel like there is space in me for a story, if I could only write one. Or does it get written for you? How does this work?

Does an island long for a ship? Do the walls of a little room long for rain to break in? Does a river raging in the rain forest feels incomplete for the space by your side? How does this work?

When you speak your words, and no one hears them, were you alive? If you spoke at all, and nobody else spoke your language, were you heard? Is it better to be heard and not heard, or to die of the weight of unspoken thoughts? Do you know how this works?

The flotsam drags me down as I search for a quiet hour. I only want a quiet trip away on a little boat. Beyond the waterfalls, there’s a cave, opening into a rainbow sea and quiet harbor. In the forest the silence buzzes in a choir of earth and life- water running, birds chirping, the wind rustling, insects droning, and your deep, slow breaths in the chill air, alone and in love with being alive, the beating heart teeming with the joy of the immense universe. Is that how it works? But does it really work if no one else knows how it works?

Must be nice, to be able to look into the water and forget the world. Perhaps we all look into the water now and then. Does the water never look back? What do you do, to make the water look back? 

Dusk lightings are the worst. Life streams around you in celebration of another day lived, as you trudge upstream, all spent. That curious half-light seems to whisper of magic, but you aren’t invited. The street lights stand like a banquet, in defiance of night. Little food stalls with the smell of fries, people who have dressed up for a little shopping stroll, voices in song but you are off-key again. All you can ask is why. Why do I go on? Am I going somewhere? When will I find out if this works at all?

I’m not a broken piece. I’m incomplete only because there’s so much more to see, so much more of me to become. On most days, it’s fun to find yourself. On bad days, you sit and toil and let the words come. As I am doing now. But sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be fun ‘becoming me’ with someone who spoke the language. Someone who fills up space. Someone who makes it work.  

Are you doing the #NaPoWriMo challenge? I am writing a poem every day and you can read them on Instagram and Facebook.

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A Certain Type of Sadness

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There’s a certain type of sadness you fear in those you love. A sadness you can’t name, can’t put your finger on, can’t even properly describe. It comes out in flickers of petty, domestic discontent. The tele-soaps have all got it wrong. All those grand conspiracies, lofty heartbreaks come with an end-goal. Unhappy homes are made of smaller stuff- things misplaced, little forgettings, rotten fruits in the refrigerator, an unclicked switch, a harmless question. Even a shared anecdote. For a while, I have been watching. Counting. What breaks the ceasefire? What disrupts the peace? It is, as the saying goes, always the little things. 

Truth is, nobody cares about the little things. The little things only reveal an absence. Most of human history isn’t about momentous matters, and thereby lies the discontent. There are no great goals for most of us, so we find our goals in others. A leader, a hero, a loved one. We are told to be a certain way, do certain things, love and live. Mostly, that keeps us distracted. Sometimes we love so well that it is all we do. And our loved ones become our momentous matters. And it is beautiful and glorious and blessed most of the times. But then the sadness that can’t be named creeps in and we complain without knowing why. We lash out. We bristle at contact. We are so, so weary. One expects life to be beautiful after all this time. We’ve done all we were told to do. We’ve played by the rules, paid our dues. We deserve our rewards, do we not? But nothing goes one’s way and it’s exhausting and pointless and drab. We despair, forget, laugh and repeat. And circles and circles and circles.

We all have our own realms of hell. Some of us are good at putting on masks. Some of us are falling apart. And some of us are walking on egg-shells, tip-toeing on glass, trying to hide from the sadness we can feel radiating from those we love. A certain type of sadness that weighs on your heart till you’re drowning in deep sea with a mountain round your neck. And all you’ve ever wanted is a little song and air to breathe so you could forget briefly your lack of a sky. But every time you inhale, you can feel your lungs shrink a little bit more, the sadness of others enveloping the space around your heart, sadness that drains into you like ink into a sponge, making you desperately wish for a little lonely room.

Then you wish you could have been a little indifferent. That you cared a little less. Or wear a wall of insulation. Brush off the petty hurts that happen every day. 

The peculiar sadness snakes around you, like a guilty worm boring away at your soul, and you wonder if you have failed at being someone’s momentous matter. And you wish, just this once that you could just be you. The sadness you cannot name breaks your heart.

There is a certain kind of sadness that you cannot name. A persistent longing for the unknown that won’t let you be. A certain strain of melancholia that you can’t put into words, shape into song or explain with a diagram. You pick the pen but it only makes lines and scrawls against the white- if there’s a language for that, it hasn’t yet been discovered. All you want is to be someone else at someplace else. Somewhere were magic happens. 

You are waiting for a door to open somewhere, like a magic wardrobe leading you to your own Narnia. And you don’t want to be the promised one. You don’t want to be warrior queen. All you want is a patch of green from your window that is utterly, completely attuned to your music. You want a world where there are music and lyrics for the song you haven’t been able to find yet. You want a pen that knows what you seek before you do- a story that is yours.

There’s a certain kind of sadness that we recognize in the stories we tell ourselves- born of a longing for the sky, and a love for the earth. And we can’t have both at the same time. Yet we want both at the same time. We want it all- sky and earth, moon and sun, sea and snow- never together, always calling. And this is all our glory. This is our inevitable tragedy. A certain sadness built of uncertain joys. 

By Grant Snider, from The Shape of Ideas

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Cooking for a Decade & More

“If it has passed from the high and beautiful to darkness and ruin, that was of old the fate of Arda Marred; that was of old the fate of Arda Marred…” J.R.R.Tolkien, The Silmarillion

I don’t believe we pass from necessarily from beauty to darkness, but something in that last sentence from The Silmarillion awakes a heartache within me for something I don’t even recall longing for.

It is in our nature to long for the past, not simply because things often appear golden in retrospect, but also because innocence has its own charm. The first time you read a new book is magic. You can return later and discover the things you missed of course, but that first magic is something else. When I read the first Harry Potter book for the very first time at fifteen, when I read The Sandman at thirty, I knew as the pages turned that something wondrous and enchanting and beautiful was drawing to a close, and it would never be the same again.

Others have their own magic. That first time you watch the coastline coming into view, the blues opening into expanse, the first time you see the rising sun kiss the snow… of course the sea is still eternal and changeless and magnificent every single time, and the mountains are glorious, filling you with gratitude just for being alive to see them, but that first overwhelming wonder doesn’t quite come back again.

The sea does not change. You do. You are not as naïve as you were at five, not as carefree as you were at fifteen. How could the joy be the same when you know everything changes? Find a story for the first time, a journey that is just beginning, and you are immersed in that magic. When you return to this world after the inevitable heartbreaks, the laughter makes you ache for what is never going to be the same again.

But these things happen. Years begin with new optimism, ending with weary compromises with a mundane reality. You grow old, gain some and lose some, driven by nostalgia and discontent and the inexplicable desire for something else, somewhere else. And one more page on the calendar is done with. We mourn the passing of the golden age, but we’re always also discovering ourselves anew in newer joys, experiences that changes us in subtle, invisible ways so that even if some miraculous time machine took you back to the past, you wouldn’t experience it the same way as you did before. 

Well, congratulations to me. I’ve finally found time to put up my new year’s post at the end of March. You know how it is, stuff got in the way and I was tired but better than never, right? But turns out, it’s also a new decade.

2010. How long back was that? What a stupid question, you’re thinking. Of course it was ten years ago. And how long is ten years, exactly? In 2010 I completed my Masters. In 2020 I might just manage to complete my PhD (fingers crossed). Also, in 2010, I was beginning to expand my social media circles. Blogs were big back then and for a while I followed the #FridayFlash prompts and this little superhero story I wrote back then is actually a good marker of the difference between 2010 Me and 2020 Me. Imagine mixing up DC and Marvel and being so casually dismissive about all these imaginary people that present-day-me will die for? I am so sorry, Iron Man. And I love you 3000.

Jokes apart, I think stories are a good measure of who we are, who we become. The stories we inhabit between one point of time to another in some ways help shape how we think and what we believe. For me at least, this is true. And sometimes, they give us the words to explain this path. Who we have been, who we could be, where we are running to.

For the longest time, I had been looking at 2010 as the end of a road, the end of a cycle of examination and stress and anxiety and disappointment that had begun as early as 2002 with the preparation for my Class 10 boards. I was looking forward to the freedom of not being a student anymore. An unexpected phone call changed all that in 2011, starting me on a new cycle of academic milestones on the road where I find myself proofreading my thesis on the Gormenghast novels today, just as another chance phone call led me to apply to the job I hold today. You know that famous line from Om Shanti Om right? In my case, it’s been more a case of the universe conspiring to push me into paths I hadn’t envisioned.   

But the question that was merely an airy fancy back in 2010 has become somewhat more urgent now- what next? And why? I have been running from this question all my life, giving myself external goals- the next exam, the next cricket match, the next world cup, the next book, the next holiday. I ducked behind classroom desks when this question reared its sleepy head- after graduation, masters, an MPhil, a PhD and so on. I thought I had worked out the answer at the onset of the last decade, but I was wrong. So what next? Do the Immortals ask themselves this question as they run, leaving a trail of history behind them? Or do they simply slink away into the corners of time, content to be living?

On certain rainy mornings when the world around seems transformed, when there are stories hidden beneath the everyday and the mundane and you are almost sure that you would be a different person in a different world if you could just find the portal, the longing  becomes unbearable. The longing seeps like rainwater through the gap between the door and the threshold, and the grey-lighted sky pours in through all you walls and shut curtains. Where do I go? –  You ask yourself. Where can I go so the rain in me can blossom into life? The dewy wind keeps calling.

“We all change, when you think about it. We’re all different people all through our lives.” And the night streams away, far beyond the iridescent mirror of the sky where the sunrise reflects itself. Morning rolls in with its quiet sounds- here a bird chirps, here a voice rings out sharp through the space of silence, snatches of passing ringtones, odd fragments of fleeting conversations, the ringing bell of a bicycle- a spring day awakes into being, the slightest chill of the air still clinging on, or is it me doing the clinging, holding on to light shawls and scarves like little warm pockets of comfort and safety? Summer arrives anyway. And just like that, a year is gone, and then a decade. We bubble, like stone soup, in the cauldron of the universe. Who knows what the end result will be, once the ingredients are all added?    

We are all running away, at varying speeds, from who we were, carrying bits and pieces of who we used to be, and running towards who we are going to become. Sometimes when I turn the pages of old diaries I don’t recognize the girl who wrote them. And yet, outwardly, I’m still me. Still asking, still searching. What next? Where next? And why? In the time and space given to me, what can I do that matters? Who am I? That’s a big enough question to ponder for the next decade, I think.

In crazy balance at the edge of Time

Our spent days turn to cloud behind today-

And all tomorrow is a prophet’s dream-

This moment only rages endlessly

And prime

Is always the long moment of decay.

               (‘Balance’, by Mervyn Peake, c.1939)

Quick 2019 review before you go. Wrote my first rap. Wrote my first Bengali song. Sure, I could do with better recording equipment, but still, I do what I can! Speaking of which, last month, my second original song got performed at the Vault festival in London. I couldn’t get there to do it myself (because I haven’t got my own TARDIS yet) and I have no receipt that it happened except an email and this poster, but hey, first international proxy gig, yeah?

What else? Wrote a bit of my thesis, completed another napowrimo and my first inktober. A few shocks. Ups and downs. I am grateful for everything anyway.

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Happy 2020 to you. I know it’s looking hard at the moment, but we will tide over it.

#poetry #rambling #whowebecome

The Stone Soup, or the Point of Everything

I write a poem. Scratch it out. I write it because I am angry. I scratch it out because it is futile. I see the fissure on the earth, but I don’t know the magic words to close it. Every word that is said, mine, yours, his, hers, theirs, ours seem to widen and widen the gap. I am angry because I don’t have the right words. I am angry because I don’t matter. I am angry because we seem to be all tumbling down together, clawing and lashing and bleeding to a point of no return.
An old acquaintance says we ought to listen. Learn why they hate. Try not to convert. Does it help? If I know I am right and they know they are right and if everybody is right and if we understand why they hate but if my words don’t reach far enough if my words don’t mean enough are not strong enough if their words only tell me I do not belong if I do not conform- what good does listening do?
Someone I really like says both sides- there should be both sides of the views. No more fake news or biased views, see it all for yourself. But people believe what they want to believe. They believe whatever gives them a reason for being. And what they don’t believe are lies.
Listen? No filter? I have seen that. Twitter trends. Hashtags. I have fought the good fight and exhausted myself. You never change anyone by reason or truth. No one’s ever changed you. I grew because I learned. I learned when I tried to answer questions. But even I have my fixed truths. Questions that cannot be asked. All I’ve ever wanted is to live my life in peace. All I’ve ever wanted is for the world to not burn while I live. All I’ve wanted is to believe in the peace. A good world. A kind world. And I know it comes with its shadow, I know we all remember the long nights in the caves while the wolves howled, the scream of the blood in the chase. We need to feel the night in our bones. Sports and adventure and the rhythm of the dance, the exploding heart as it revels in the madness of a wild, wild dream- isn’t all that enough?
I am not really angry. I thought history was something you read in the books. I imagined being brave, fighting enemies, winning battles. Now that the lines of past and present are blurring, now that we are history, you learn real battles are fought not on the front but inside the home, and you’re not sure you want to be history anymore. Give us today our daily bread and forgetfulness and the complacence of simpler times. I am not angry. I am in despair. I despair because how do you win a battle inside minds? How do you stop the world from imploding? And if you can’t heal, why even are you here, in this time? What am I doing? What should I do? And how? Is anyone listening?
We are all lost in the cosmos. We all want to be the centre of it, but it’s too vast, and our magic circles wear out. So we just lie to ourselves and shout at others. There has to be a better way than that, but what? We can’t keep slaying our dragons only for them to rise again. But how do we take our dragons home and love them?
I remember being a young sports fan- my head so filled with my team it had no space for anything else. I was nothing. I was no one. But my team winning made me everything. Then I found a book and a world. And I went inside that world and dreamt my own world and then from a tightly packed hope I was suddenly unrolling in a whole multiverse of possibilities.
That was a tangent. Good thing I am not writing a paper.
Billions of stars and you take one, midling sized. Corner of an average galaxy. One planet hanging like a pinprick in infinity. One life. Yours. A miracle. And like the wodwo in the forest you ask what you are and where you belong otherwise what sense does it make? I will punch a hole in the sky and see my bones crumble and bleed if that helps to create a pattern I can teach myself to read.
When you love a book for the first time you read it again and again and again till you wear it out and finally decide to search for new books. And if you can find nothing else you stop reading your old, worn out tattered book and turn it into your blood-soaked alter. The blood is from when you banged your head against the wall of space to keep the sky out. But you can hide behind your team to prove your own greatness and you will still be nothing and no one till you find your questions. So find your world. Find a multitude of new worlds. Afterwards you will still be nothing but at least you will know it and sometimes it will feel like hell and sometimes you will find a song and on most days all you will want is for the world to not burn while you live.
There are other things you will think of. Such as every kid should have books that speak of faraway worlds filled with strangers speaking strange languages that sound just like them. Teach them to colour and build and plant and write, but most importantly, teach them to think. How? Now when the air’s thick with the burnt out voices? Now when they’ve banned all the questions? And maybe someone else will think that too. Maybe if you dream hard and long enough you will be heard. Aren’t we all stardust floating in a nebula of preceding essence?
You will think of music that is not your type but sends your heart racing anyway, even if you don’t know what it is saying. You will think of circles and chains and the need to matter somehow because hate is exhausting and there is so much joy and beauty in the world.
There are stories that bring people together. Somebody made up some imaginary people and then a whole lot of different people in a whole lot of different places had their hearts broken because an imaginary person who was nothing and everything like them had their heart broken. These are the stories that teach you to hug the sky, feel the void fall through your heart and find your way back to the beginning and end. Isn’t that an amazing thought?
When I was younger one of my favourite stories was ‘The Stone Soup’. It was an amazing tale about this traveler on a cold night who managed to find food and warmth and friendship with nothing in his pocket but a piece of lucky stone. Someday I will learn to make my own. As Clara Oswald would say- the stone soup is not in the soup, it’s in the recipe.
Hello, I am me. I want to know why I am here. I am looking for my words.

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Quiet Defiance

Defiance. Such a loaded word. It looks angry. Do you think words have visual personality? I do. It’s why I never enjoyed text-speak, even back in the day when we all had those sturdy Nokia phones with the 1/abc keypads and pre-WhatsApp sms charges to contend with. I still occasionally get grief on this (thanks, Twitter), but I digress. When I look at the word ‘defiance’ I see a little word with an upturned face, lower lip curled in angry rejection of the status quo. See where the ‘f’ meets the ‘i’- like a pair of discontent angry eyes? I imagine rallies and placards and balled fists and raised voices, and perhaps defiance is all that, but sometimes defiance is something quieter, deeply personal and almost invisible.


The world pegs you into a certain hole- you tick off certain boxes in the right order, do the expected stuff and that’s that. And on the whole, you conform. You aren’t the rebellious type. Not yet. There are possibilities that make you go cold inside, like the lights going off in a festive house at the end of a party, but you’re not sure why you feel that way yet.
Things happen. You grow. You try doing the right things, shutting off certain parts of yourself. And then one day you are in a room full of familiar strangers and a whole airless space is growing around you and the earth is pulling at your feet and you don’t know why you should make the effort to move onward. You realize later that the airless space is a new universe that you must shape yourself, marking your own path upon the earth. It is an immense task, but you make small beginnings. It isn’t easy. There are no miracles but an endless loop of hope, anxiety, euphoria and misery. You keep doing it anyway. And as you do, the world that wants to peg you down keeps intruding, increasingly insistent. Quietly, quietly, you do the things that crush your soul but you keep telling yourself- That isn’t me. That’s not forever. I am more. I am so much more. Nobody sees it, but you are defiant even in conformity. You know what you will survive, and where you draw the lines. Shoddy ink sketches, tentative rhymes, a few airy tunes- your secret little defiance.


Am I the delusional mad woman for thinking life ought to mean something? Am I naïve for wanting to make a difference with what I know and can do? Am I too disrespectful for thinking that people- minds and hearts matter more than structures and that forms are useless if they don’t correspond to little joys? I don’t want to be the proclaimer of a grand, sweeping revolution. I only ask for a little heart in our mundane, day-to-day spaces.
I’ve looked the world in the mirror and found my future. What I could be, and what I won’t. What I love is me. What I hate is also me. Or what I could become in the years to come if I let go of my defiance. I choose to rebel- in every small way. I choose to live my passion, the boxes be damned.

Ruchira Rambles 🎲

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Reflections at the Beach

I

The water pours itself against the sand. Pour? All that energy, all that ephemeral, inexhaustible passion, all that momentary beauty- how do you find quite the right word for it? The water crashes against the sand in an endless exuberant dance, exuding something of the essence of life, stirring something like a vague residual memory in you. Look at the shapes as the froth breaks in and disappears into darkness. Look how it returns in a tremendous triumph. There is no endgame, because the sea knows it doesn’t need to win. It just is. The energy that moves the world.

II

I was part of the sea once, born of it as a single cell. Everything that I am now, every cell, whatever impulse that quickens life came from the sea, the original womb. And having evolved, I am so far from it. Does a protozoa have a soul? What is true? The evolving form or the eternal soul? When, in the long epochs of mutation and adaptation did consciousness enter the scenario? Why us? Why here? Why now? Is there a single overarching consciousness that we’re part of, all of us, including the protozoa? But may be the original cellular beings of the ocean did not need to know consciousness as a separate idea because they were immersed in it, part of it. We separate to question, to explore, to wonder… I am not making sense, because I don’t understand. All I have are questions.
I watch the froth break at the crest of rising water, growing, connecting and expanding into a single line of salt water wave- white threads of temporal life against the black void of Time. The froth splinters into fragments of momentary beauty, only to dissipate in the dark. Maybe that’s the point.

III

The Greeks believed there was a single ocean stream encircling the world’s margin. Oceanus, they named it/him. And here I am, watching its waters caress the sands of South-East Asian beach. Across myriad miles and currents, I might have touched its waters in the other end of the world, in another continent. The sea, crossing all divides, connecting us. Imagine that.

IV

~ I don’t wanna go. ~

The evening has dressed up. There are lights along the promenade, and the infinite expanse of grey-green water slowly losing its hues still invites. I watch from hotel room as chairs are set up, and people make their way towards the waves. But I am saying goodbye, and I don’t want to go. Yet the sea will be here when I am gone, and in a few hours, this will all be a dream.
At moments like these, all of life seems like a series of leave-taking from the one eternal, cosmic celebration- জগতের আনন্দযজ্ঞ, as Tagore would have called it. We are only allowed little fractions of it, glimpses and taste, and must then make our exits. The song goes on, but my lines are done, and I can’t turn time back to my moments in the sun. And you don’t really want to think these thoughts, but some lingering sorrow greater than you weighs upon your soul like an invisible weight- too light to feel, like the feather of Anubis, yet unshakable. Inexorable. And then you wonder what the point is in singing if all the greatest songs have been sung and heard. All the great songs that you’ll never be a part of. But are you not truly a part of them?

You felt the stirrings of your heart at their hour of glory, and wept at their passing. There will be new songs. Maybe you will write one. And then another. Ceaseless waves crashing and reforming into one eternal symphony.
The earth goes round and round,
The heart makes same old sounds
. (Lyrics from Original Song here)

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*The poem ‘Élan Vital’ was written for an anthology titled Ikigai: the reason for being edited by Janani & Anupama CN. You can find the book on Amazon and Flipkart.
*All photographs and poetry quoted in this piece are mine.

Back to School & Other Shenanigans


I don’t know if I’ve ever talked about this before, but it’s something I’ve often thought about. You know how we talk about going back to being a kid again with a sort of nostalgic yearning like it was some sort of golden era of perfection? When I look back on my childhood, I find a lot of joys, but also petty quarrels and feeling excluded, of never quite fitting in, of trying and failing to be cool enough. 

This morning, someone I follow on Twitter (Adrian Tchaikovsky, the author of Children of Time which is a great piece of science fiction that I cannot recommend enough) posted a photograph of the ‘Back to School’ section of a retail store, & there, amongst other school uniforms was a set of the standard Hogwarts black robes, complete with a Gryffindor scarf and a magic wand. As a good fangirl ought to, I shared the tweet, along with the comment- “Can I go back to school, please?” But as I typed those words, I asked myself if I really meant them, and I knew the answer before I actually did. I mean, it would be very cool to go back to Hogwarts but the condition to “going back” there is to have gone there in the first place, and no, I never got that owl on my eleventh birthday, so my only option is back to muggle school, which is, frankly, despite its good days, not compelling enough.

I might have missed school back in the early days of college, but mainly, I was missing my friends. For years now, I’ve had these recurring nightmares of going back to school and sitting for those exams all over again, and I assure you, no one could pay me enough to relive that again. And so, for a while, I’ve known that I wasn’t one of those people who longed after a bygone childhood. And I used to think it was because of all the math and chemistry I would have to do, but it’s not that. I mean, I enjoyed studying in college, but no thanks. And then I had about a couple of really good years as a research fellow, but not thanks to that either. And it’s not because of what I do in the present. Most mornings make me want to cry anyway which school, with all its pressures never did. I wasn’t one of those kids who hated going to school, you know? Except that one time in seventh grade when I didn’t study for my geography test but we’re not talking about that now.

But the reason I wouldn’t want to go back is because of who I am in the present, and how I think in the present. I don’t want to revert to a former version of me because despite the omnipresent existential anxiety and nearly debilitating depression on most days, I am grateful for my view of the world, and my purpose in it. I don’t see it very clearly yet, but I know I am getting there. I know I have changed within since the days I held 1st September Hogwarts opening day feasts at lunchbreak with my friends, and since the days I wrote parody plays that were a cross between  Shakespeare, Milton, Austen and Wilde (My! Weren’t we ambitious?) on the steps of the college auditorium with other friends, and while those days were fun, I don’t think we can laugh the same way again. I have read so much and seen so much and felt so much- how could anyone give all that up? I may have picked some bags along this road, and on most days they drag me down, but it’s a price I am willing to pay for the journey. Besides, the way to shedding a load must lie onward along the road, not beyond. And speaking as a freshly minted Whovian, I think that knowledge is the burden of the Time Lord, of knowing you could go back and change nothing, and also the impetus to keep going- lonely man/woman in their blue box in the sky with friends they’re bound to lose again and again- WHOA! This article was not supposed to be about Doctor Who at all, and I have no idea where that last bit came from or why, but since this blog is mostly an exercise in freewriting rambles, I’m keeping it in.

The things I have let go a little bit since school- insecurities, bigotry, pettiness. One hopes, anyway. Things I have picked up- stories. Lots and lots of stories. New favourites, new loves, new joys. New exhaustion, yes, plenty of it, but also new ideas, such as this blog. Cynicism and faith, depression and optimism altogether. Does that even make sense? I fear every day, every moment, watchful for new whims that could devastate my carefully wrapped equanimity, and I dream every day, reshaping every thought with my resilience, with my hope, with my unshakeable belief in the validity of passion and ecstasy.  I wouldn’t trade my experience for an easier past. The process of knowing myself a little bit more. The process of knowing that I don’t know at all. So what I want to know at this point is what new things can I learn? What new beginnings are there? What are my paths and choices? In a way, I’m still sort of in school, but it doesn’t require a uniform.

If anyone wants to gift me a Gryffindor scarf though, they’re very welcome. It will go very nicely with my House Brawl Hogwarts tee-shirt. And I know I said I didn’t want to go back in time, but I wouldn’t say no to my own TARDIS either.

So, what did you think? Are you still in school? Real, metaphorical? If not, would you go back? Let me know in the comments. Have a good school term, everybody.

Couple of things I’d like to share before I go:

I wrote a mushy little vampire fiction (no it’s not like Twilight) a few years ago which has finally found a home at SirenCalls. You can read it here.

I also wrote a 100 word piece for Seeds (click here). If you want to try your hand at this, fill up the form on their contact page and they will send you photograph for you to base your story on.

And finally. I tried my hand at rapping and here’s the result. What do you think?

Image credits: Pexels. Unsplash. Pixabay. The image of the girl on the boardwalks is by Keenan Constance on Pexels.

If you’re interested in my music or poetry or would like to keep up with me for some reason, you can check out my social media pages:

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Thanks for coming to read.

An Exercise in Self-Consolation

(I have been having a difficult time this last week, and I needed to vent. I’m only trying to sort out my head. If you came here from one of Instagram videos, the YouTube link is at the end of this post. Just scroll down.)

The monster never sleeps, never lets you out of your sight, lusting after your moments of quiet joy.  There is no hour of day that is safe from him, no place far enough. If I were to run to the farthest galaxy, the monster would still find a way to pounce upon my peace.

There’s a choice I’ve been sitting on for two years, hoping for someone or something else to act for me. In my dreams, packed bags gather dust at thresholds where the door no longer fits, and I am always too late or too early for trains, never quite going anywhere.

No one, I suppose, will make my choice for me. No one has been inside my head. No one has heard me stifle my screams in empty rooms. No one at all has seen me punch at invisible walls.

I try my best. I really do. I get up in the morning when I want to curl up into oblivion. I shower. I dress up. I make small talk, I even joke around. I remember to breathe. But an engine wears out sometimes, right? There are times when I cannot function, when I am choking and the monster still won’t let me be.

And I still can’t make my choice. 

The trouble with things going outwardly fine, and I suppose they are going fine if I were to put my life into excel sheets because that is the only kind of truth that seem to matter these days, is that nobody, freaking nobody will understand depression, trying to reason you out of your unreasonable sadness.

I am weary of reasons. I know all of them, have given them to myself ten thousand times and am thoroughly, heartily sick of the life path I am expected to follow, smiling and ticking boxes along the way.

I am angry and I don’t know what about.

All I want is for the world to make sense, and for living to make sense. To know that our efforts have purpose. To know that all of this does some good in the world. But it doesn’t. The thing about the monster is, he isn’t the kind you slay at the end of a quest. No, he just grows bigger and bigger while you keep toiling away, round and round, over and again, gaining nothing. He makes you run a race that takes you further away from your soul.

All the while, people say- But this is how the world runs. But this is how life is.

Why, I ask you? What is the freaking point of it? What higher goal? What do we create out of our toil? More toil?

Or, I don’t know. Everybody seem to be playing around. I must be mad.

 My only hope is that this must be leading somewhere, and the universe or whatever power there is will lead me eventually from the path that I know intuitively to be not mine, however long the route.   

Years ago, while browsing the shelves of my High School library, I quite by chance found a book- a collection of Italian fairytales. I think I’m the only one of my class who ever borrowed that book- at that age everyone (myself included) preferred Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys and Sweetvalley tales. But I picked it out, and although I don’t remember any of the stories today, at that time, I was fascinated by it.  So enamoured, in fact, that some years later during my MA 1st year, I told a classmate that may be, if I ever did a PhD, it would have something to do with the all the fairytales of the world. It wasn’t really a plan, more of an airy hypothesizing, something I saw myself doing in the far distant future. I hadn’t planned on jumping into research right after my MA, but one phone call from a senior I had only known because of an Orkut community and I was suddenly racking my head trying to come up with proposals to write for the three universities I had applied to for an MPhil course. I didn’t remember the fairy tales at all. Then three years later, as I was trying to come up with another proposal, my supervisor suggested I study Jung and fairytales. Funny part is, I actually resisted, because I didn’t see my outline yet. And then, through a series of other synchronicities as things began to slowly fall into place, I didn’t once recall that grand idle wish casually expressed on a metro ride about doing a PhD on fairytales. That memory came back yesterday out of the blue last week while I was ruminating on the other odd series of synchronicities of having found Doctor Who only because of Good Omens only because of Neil Gaiman only because someone who was a Facebook friend only because of a Percy Jackson fan page posting a glowing review of American Gods. That last sentence doesn’t need to make sense of it all, but the important part of it is, all of it led me to discover David Tenant dancing to ‘Sigh No More’ at the end of Much Ado About Nothing. Call me a dreaming fool, but I aspire to that degree of passion and joy in everything I do. 

And if all of these accidental chances have led me on before, then I trust the present is only another in the series to lead me into where I need to go.

It sounds silly, perhaps. Very clutching-at-straws. But on the days I cannot function, I cling onto that faith as a drowning sailor.

I hope everybody finds their faith, and in the end, everybody finds a world that is just a little bit more joyous and amazing and meaningful.

Above all, I don’t think a constant exercise in misery can be justified by existence alone. I need to live.

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Stories Old and New: The Lion King

In case anyone came over here from any of my Instagram videos, my YouTube channel is here. Once again, apologies for the side trip.

And so here we are again. Doing another review, the second on a row. I did one last month, which was more of a rambling love letter to all things Good Omens, that absolutely brilliant, brilliant show which you can read here. Today’s ramble is on the new Lion King live action movie, and it’s in response to casual request from my friend, Alexander Lehtinen. I mean, he said “detailed review” but I don’t know how much details I can offer seeing that I can offer no comparison with the original, but here goes.

In 1994 when The Lion King came out, my favourite Bengali children’s magazine ran a cover-story on it. I don’t remember what the article said, only that I was moved enough to tell my mother that I wanted to watch the movie. Compared to a lot of kids my age, I didn’t watch a lot of movies back then, and then usually those that my parents took me to watch on their own, so it must been quite an impressive review. My mom said yes, we would go watch the film, but for various reasons, 1994 was a very trying time for our family. The movie plan didn’t materialize and I didn’t ask again, without any strong feeling of regret or missing out anything special. I don’t recall any of my friends back then talking about watching it, and there was no social media to continuously entice one. But over the years images from the film I hadn’t watched lingered over my subconscious, through lunch boxes, school bags, exercise notebooks and those double pencil boxes with magnetic latches that were all the rage back then.

Then Facebook arrived and through a multitude of crossover memes that I didn’t fully understand, I picked up the names Simba, Mufasa and Scar. I even remember coming across a rather complicated family tree (with some vague parallel with the Noble and Ancient House of Black?) that probably wouldn’t make sense even now. At some point, I might have watched a film about Simba’s grown-up daughter and how heroes of old sometimes need to relearn their lessons and let go off the festering hurts of the past. (My biggest take-away from that film was of course the song ‘Upendi’ which I used in a little musical show that I was involved with a couple of years back. The performers wore lovely bright animal masks as they jigged, and the whole thing came off rather well. One glorious show on a fleeting winter evening!) Meanwhile, there were memes about Rafiki the mandrill throwing off a baby Simba from the top of a cliff (‘If George R.R. Martin directed Lion King’), a context I understood without having watched the original scene. That’s social media for you. I mean, I knew Iron Man was a billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, genius ages long before I had watched Avengers or Iron Man or any of it. Also, the fact that he had a Hulk as opposed to an army. Point is, I never got around to watching the original Lion King movie, and for many years I have had no particular will to catch up.

But then the trailer of the new live action adaptation dropped, and that sweeping shot of the savannah as Rafiki holds up a baby Simba hit me straight in the gut with the accumulated nostalgia of years that wasn’t even mine. And now, after all these years, I was suddenly determined to watch it.

So what did I think of the movie?

I went to watch The Lion King to rediscover the child. Did the adult intervene? Oh yes. For instance, that’s not how lion prides work, and can a lion cub really grow into a healthy fighting adult on a diet of worms? But when you reason like that, why would a tortoise race a rabbit, and whoever has heard of pigs building brick houses? And so with those irksome questions pushed away, I absolutely loved the movie. I don’t know how much of it was green screens, but I loved the panorama of the pride lands, with the light touching everywhere. Baby Simba was adorable. Every voice actor was perfect in their roles, although, I think my personal favourite was John Oliver as the rather hassled Zazu who gets bullied by Scar early on and then is given the run by the cubs and later bullied by the hyenas.  Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar is menacing and manipulative, Florence Kasumba (Shenzi) has the delicious lilt of someone who enjoys playing with food, James Earl Jones is dignified, warm and terrible in anger. Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as Timon and Pumba ae quite the double act. Donald Glover brings out the escapism, the repressed guilt, forced cheerfulness, royal authority and heartbreak and the child’s fears all with ease.And as expected, Beyonce isn’t here for anyone’s bullshit. Speaking of which, I was surprised by ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ turning out to be a duet because while it makes sense for both characters to be singing considering the context, I have only heard a solo version by Sir Elton John with slightly different lyrics and have no idea if the song in the original version is different.

Although a story like this always moves along expected lines, the film still manages to evoke warmth and fear and heartbreak in all the right places. Especially, the scene involving the cubs and the hyenas keeps on leaning at the edge of one’s seat, and the scene post-stampede is devastating. The ending, as expected satisfies, bringing the circle to a close.

To sum it up, good acting and music, backed up by good visuals and CGI, and on the whole a rather agreeable Sunday morning well spent.

I went to watch this film with an almost blank slate, no point of reference to previous actors and their interpretations of these characters. I’ve never watched a single clip from the old movie so didn’t know how the scenes played out. I did have a faint idea of the story that I had picked up in bits and pieces over the years- villainous uncle, exiled prince, return of the king… the usual tropes. But that was all. No details, no expectation, nothing. Here’s what I thought –on the whole quite correctly, s it turns out- I knew.  Scar kills Mufasa, Simba escapes, Nala finds him years later and he returns again to defeat the villain and rule his kingdom. A happy ending. Very fairy tale, very ‘expected’, one might say, but then I think the most enduring stories are. Things happen in an orderly fashion, and you know that for all the suffering now there will be an eventual, great triumph and a happily ever after, and your faith in the rightness of things is restored. Somewhere, there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice. And somewhere, the tea is getting cold.

No- wait… that’s Doctor Who.

Sorry.

But maybe that’s the point of good old simple stories. Somewhere, there’s a hero who faces their own fears, and puts the world in order again. And the circle of life is restored, because the child believes in it.

And perhaps there’s a kid somewhere discovering an old tale retold, marveling at the beauty of our forests and learning something about filling bigger footprints and of balance and protecting the world we love.

No harm in hope, eh? After all, that’s why we repeat old stories.

And speaking of hope, I wrote a new song that you can listen to here.

I also post poetry and other stuff on Instagram and Facebook (There’s also a short food post up there in a while, also requested by Alex although I have never done food review before) and you can follow me on Twitter.

See ya.