Writing an ‘aftermath’ poem

After painting the chair

It stood there simply
with its arching back and sinewy arms,
resting its four legs on
wrinkled and splattered sheets of newspaper
bearing what were now blotched accounts
of the ordinary lives of regular folks.

A container of black paint lay askew–
faint rivulets of color stains on it
where the pigment had bubbled over
reaching for a levelled ground.
Caked bristles of a paintbrush
rested on the rim–stiffening and drying out.

A new paint smell lingered in the air
faintly registered by a nose
now acclimated to its sombre presence,
leaching slowly
into the beads of sweat
rolling off my brow.

A curious silence pervaded
where for an hour
papers had rustled beneath my shifting weight
as I reached into the hidden crevasses of the chair,
the steady brushstroke sound wiping out
the grating blemishes smoothened out by gritty sandpaper.

I stood admiring my diligence in
staying out of bounds of the
intricate latticework of strings
that formed the back and seat of the chair–
this vestibule that had once borne the weight
of a Grandfather I had never known.

My hands still felt the tremors
of hypnotic repetition–
dip, squeeze, stroke
dip, squeeze, stroke–
the trance of steady movement
of being lost in the service of painting.

It was but yesterday
or many years back into childhood
that I am reminded of this moment–
the day I met afresh and
not just in my thoughts
the chair that Grandfather once sat upon.


*This is a poem I wrote recently in response to a writing prompt in a class that I am currently taking.

Condensed and Distilled

It is the last day of the year today and looking back and saying goodbye to 2014, I am attempting to recap it by revisiting some of my tweets from the year and finding a place for them here on my blog.
I signed up for Twitter earlier this year, a few months before I started this blog and in the process of experimenting and sharing bits of my writing there, I found myself developing an increasing appreciation for the succinctness that the medium imposes- a 140 character limit per tweet to put your point across.
I welcomed the challenge of writing within the confines of this framework and found that I quite liked the process of condensing and distilling my words to fit into a tweet or two.

In fond reminiscence, here are some themes that I explored and attempted to write pithy bits about:

Truth and the Intangibles

  • Truth-
    greatest when told to our own selves
    sacred when committed to silently
    irrevocable when affirmed by action
    irrefutable when risked all for.
  • Intangible –
    where thoughts linger
    where dreams take flight
    where the heart feels
    where the soul knows.
  • That moment in life when you learn to take yourself out of the equation and see the truth for what it is.
    That.
  • That moment of utter honest acceptance of life and relinquishing of all illusions of control. That realization of self-agency.
    That.

Silence

  • ‘Silence’ could mean any of these- an expression of solidarity, a call for action, a cry for help. Take your pick and if you care to act, do so.
  • Apathy, cowardice or inaction- is one necessarily worse than the other?
  • Whether we like it or not, our silence speaks for us. It is then, in our interest to ensure that it conveys what we want to express.

Love and Kinship

  • Love
    an ode to your highest ideal self
    a compassionate kinship to the ‘not so great’ parts of you,
    an overwhelming desire for your well being.
  • You –
    a beacon, a lighthouse
    forever present
    anchoring me
    to my deepest sense of self.
    Am I adrift
    or is it our lives that are
    floating by?
  • Who are we
    stripped away of all facades-
    the many layers of personas that we adorn?
    I am called by many names,
    prefixes and suffixes,
    each one clamoring to claim
    a bit of my soul-
    the core that remains
    rightfully mine
    and
    steadfastly yours.
  • Home
    is a heart – pure,
    free from malice, artifice or duplicity;
    where I feel understood and accepted.
    Home
    is that mutual regard
    where we rejoice in kinship
    surrounded by love and goodwill,
    laughter and joy.
    Home
    is where I found you.

Penitence

  • Understanding and empathy are fine sentiments but cannot match the searing compassion you feel when you live through another person’s pain.
  • Penitence
    is a vast ocean
    that I swam across
    yet never reached the shore
    because every step on land
    turned into depths of water,
    so immense.
  • Penitence
    is the pause –
    before laughter,
    before joy –
    asking of me
    if I dare tread
    that path
    strewn with pain-
    once yours
    and now mine.
  • Penitence
    is a burden gladly borne-
    lighter than banal apathy
    lighter than stoic indifference
    lighter than heaving egoism
    lighter than dreary inaction
    -painful,yet gladly borne.
  • Penitence-
    a quiet commitment to a sacred truth
    a steadfast devotion to a lost cause
    a sense of gratitude for seeming existence
    a willingness to accept responsibility
    an avowal to do right.

The above lines in their original tweet form are assimilated on a separate page here on the blog.
In the past, I have done a similar recap post about other tweets, it can be found here at #Life.

That was my roundup of some moments from the recent past, here’s to looking forward to the coming ‘todays’ and to living with ‘presence’ in the present.

Happy New Year to all!

Silence – not necessarily golden

This past Saturday, at the Aronoff Center for the Arts, I watched ‘Celebrated Silence’ – a play that dealt with the subject of groping, the trauma it unleashes on the person who is subjected to it and the complicit silence of society regarding this issue.

The story was conceived by Anisha Singh, a friend of mine, who was also one of the lead actors in the performance. The script was written by Prabir Das, who was the other lead actor. Music was provided by Amita Prakash and the play was directed by Daryl Harris.

Celebrated Silence’ depicts the journey of a woman named Anisha, who is on the verge of committing suicide, tormented by the instances of groping she has endured in her lifetime. We see a dark gloomy set on stage – stark in its bareness, save for the many nooses hanging – ominous and portent – a harbinger of pain, despair and inner turmoil. We see Anisha, in white clothes, contemplating putting the noose around her neck. We see Amita, dressed in all black, remaining still and lifeless, wheelchair bound. Seemingly playing the alter ego of Anisha, she remains mute except for intermittently bursting out into songs of despair, betrayal, loss and agony. What follows next are recurring encounters with the various men that violate or invalidate Anisha at various stages of her life.

The roles of the men in the play are all enacted by Prabir Das, who seems to adroitly change personas, much like the costumes that he changes. His bearing and demeanor, his voice and mannerisms undergo mesmerizing transformations. In addition to highlighting the acting prowess of this fine artist, this concept of having the same actor play these different roles also seems to drive home a metaphorical condemnation of a manhood that finds itself subjugated to the whims of its ‘organ’ and not functioning as an independent thinking humane being – as if the beast of manhood was the same, just manifested itself with different identities.

I was deeply touched by the powerful and emotional singing done by Amita Prakash. Set to the accompaniment of piano, the songs worked to universalize the journey of one girl/ woman and situate it in a broader historical context. She was apt as the torn, troubled yet strong and willful alter ego to Anisha.

Anisha Singh emphatically displayed the gamut of emotions in her role, ranging from the confusion and helplessness of a young girl to the anger and disappointment of a wife, the pleading innocence of a daughter and finally the frustration of trying to understand the mentality of her perpetrators.

Overall, it was an impressive performance by the cast of three members who carried the entire play on their shoulders. The mood was sombre, dark and intense with moments of sharp tension and conflict. The play succeeded in evoking empathy for Anisha’s journey and a sense of disgust at the violations committed by the various men. The audience which comprised of both men and women were provoked multiple times to break the silence surrounding this issue.We recognized by the end of the play that Anisha had reached the critical point of being able to dissociate her psyche and inner self from the acts of groping that had violated her.

In this process, we see the beginning of her recovery of self-agency and as an audience we are left wanting to see more of her journey forward. Maybe the depiction on stage of additional concrete steps taken by her towards overcoming this trauma could serve to further inspire and empower the audience whilst providing material for a second act or a sequel to the play.

In all, I commend All Shades Theater for bringing awareness to this important issue.

List making

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I have spent the last couple of days doing some crazy list making on the web. You see, I got this wild idea to try and document for posterity some of the books I have read in my lifetime.
So, with the aid of my borrowing record at the public library and a newly acquired Goodreads account I began to jog my memory for the most impactful books I have read.

Why do this- you may ask. Well, firstly I have never kept a reading log and now seeing my kids being encouraged to do so at school prompted me to try the same. Secondly, I wanted to examine my reading habits and thirdly, I wanted to make a list that my kids could use as a resource for their own reading journey.

The list is still a work in progress, but as I do this I am having fun seeing some patterns emerge, namely:

  • The ‘classics’ have shaped my reading preferences a lot- Dickens, the Brontë sisters, Jane Austen and the like in historical fiction have regaled me over and over.
  • I like my humor dry with a touch of snark – P.G. Wodehouse and Calvin and Hobbes style!
  • I do have a thing for completeness as in devouring an entire series or array of books offered by an author I happen to like- in childhood it was the Enid Blyton era- Famous Five, Secret Seven, Malory Towers and so on. Once I got started on comic-books such as Tintin and Amar Chitra Katha, I kept wanting more and more of the same. This was the case too with the Malcolm Gladwell phase and the Jhumpa Lahiri phase not too long ago.
  • Crime, mystery and adventure evidently intrigued me as a kid- the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes series speak on that account.
  • I sure had a lot of questions about life in the teenage years- some of which Ayn Rand answered, some Robert Pirsig, some the ‘Zen and the art of’ series- the rest I am still grappling with.
  • Design magazines and comic books made for a welcome visual relief from the heavy tomes of college and postgrad years.
  • Science fiction, fantasy, paranormal and horror are genres I have sadly never explored.
  • I like art in books- especially comic books and the genre of illustrated children’s books.I appreciate how it adds to the whole experience of enjoyment of the text.
  • And finally, the most striking observation I made- in the last decade I have somehow veered away from fiction and emphatically plunged into non-fiction.
    What’s up with that, I wonder- is it a natural progression of my proclivity towards questions about life, a shift in attitude or a reflection of increasing cynicism? I hope it is not the latter, I would prefer to believe that I now examine the realm of possibility in the poetry texts I read- a childhood love I am fondly revisiting.

That’s it for now. You can check out my ever-expanding bookshelves here, feel free to share your book recommendations!


Image courtesy of  Books  by Chris ( CC BY 2.0 )

Children’s picture books that evoke nostalgia- a few of my favorites

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Given that I am in a particularly nostalgic frame of mind these days ( for instance this recent post-link ), what better way to indulge this emotion than to do a round-up of some of my favorite picture books that in their own ways evoke this wistfulness….

Here are a few gems:


The Little House (public library)
By Virginia Lee Burton

This book published in 1942 tells the story of a little house in a rural area, that was pledged to never be sold and to be preserved and passed down to the generations coming thereafter.
The years pass, seasons change, the landscape of the surrounding countryside undergoes modernization, eventually transforming into a bustling city whilst the little house retains its old-worldliness, seemingly lost amidst the towering buildings surrounding it. Forlorn it remains, until the day that it is discovered by its rightful descendant and is then restored to its former glory.

I am drawn to this book because it evokes in me memories of holidays spent in our ancestral home in a small town in India, of that home being a rooted place in my recollection of an otherwise nomadic life and of the aching loss I feel, now that the house has met its fate in the inevitable urbanization of that area.

A heartwarming story relevant to today’s changing world, and detailed illustrations make ‘The Little House’ an engaging read.


The Relatives Came (public library)
Story by Cynthia Rylant , Illustrated by Stephen Gammell

A family visit over the summer- lots of hugs passed around, big families, simple pastimes, communal eating, makeshift beds on the living room floor, kids playing with cardboard boxes……all delightfully illustrated with colored pencils.
And finally, an end to the summer and time for the relatives to return to their home. The house suddenly seems large and empty but the hearts are assuredly comforted at the thought of the following summer when the relatives would come again.

This charming book harkens back fond memories of childhood visits and of a simple time wistfully gone.


The Paperboy (public library)
Story and Paintings by Dav Pilkey

The story begins with the early morning delivery of a stack of newspapers to the house of the little paperboy; and meanders languidly around his routine of waking up, fixing himself breakfast, folding up the newspapers for delivery and setting out on his paper route. Accompanied by his lovable dog, the little paperboy bikes on, delivering the papers on a route he seems to know by heart, enjoying his solitude and contemplation. The changing hues of the morning sky and the gradual rousing of life in the neighborhood  are beautifully captured by the illustrations in acrylics.

A simple story about a time that has passed and a once ubiquitous routine that has faded away.


The Hello, Goodbye Window (public library)
By Norton Juster and Chris Raschka

A story told in the voice of a little girl who gets dropped off at Nanna and Poppy’s home when her parents are at work; and a world viewed through the lens of a child’s eye and mind and literally through a window at the front of the house. A window of hellos and goodbyes, and observations of the charming details of everyday life.
The most remarkable thing  about this book are the illustrations which seem to be drawn as if in the hand of a child, the fuzzy details and scribbles highlighting the things which seem most remarkable from the child’s point of view.

A lovable account of a day in the life of a little girl.


Joseph Had a Little Overcoat (public library)
By Simms Taback

An overcoat that is refashioned and recycled into many forms, adopting many new lives, put to a great many uses, ending up as something far removed from its original entity. I love the twist/ moral at the end, which exhibits the crux of all creativity.
Beautiful artwork done using watercolor, Gouache, pencil, ink and collage injects vividness into a universal story.
This book reminds me of my childhood when every old thing in the house found a new use and hardly anything was thrown away. The sheet music to a song at the end – ‘I had a little overcoat’ (Hob Ich Mir a Mantl) is a wonderful bonus.


These were a select few of my family’s favorites- books that I have enjoyed reading myself as much as reading them to my kids. What are some of your fond memories/ nostalgic books?
Please share..

*Image courtesy of  I ❤ 2 read
for the love of reading….. 
by Kate Ter Haar ( CC BY 2.0 )