Friday, 23 December 2016

Winter Morning (1)

As I stood at the sidewalk waiting for a cab to get to work this foggy morning, he trotted up from nowhere and stopped right next to me staring philosophically ahead. I could picture an image of two old souls, in a parallel universe somewhere, sharing a cigarette over a quiet encounter, the kind that is acknowledged without any words. My reverie was cut short by a slightly noisy arrival of the cab. There was some confusion on his part as he sheepishly gave me the way to get in, suddenly being aware that the cab had stopped for me. As I was being driven away, I stole a glance at him from the rear window and smiled back at him wagging his tail. The spell was broken.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

I can sense its sting through my tears. I can discern its overcast piercing through my laughter. I am mildly conscious of its weight as I strain to smile. I can taste it's remnants as I swallow the lump in my throat as I try to focus on work. I grapple with its tenacious embrace as I try hard to finish a lonely meal. I bear with its raw nip as it trickles down to form a tight little knot in my stomach when I shower. I can hear its glaringly pounding sound shrouded in absolute silence when I pick up my brush. I can smell it’s acrimony on a damp pillow. Yes I have learnt to live with it.

I am thankful to those imperceptible little restroom trips ‘when something gets stuck in my eye’ or to the all-knowing pillow that has survived all the clenching and clasping. I also find newer and supposedly healthier ways to deal with it. Gritting my teeth as I push myself to do that extra rep in the gym or closing my eyes for a moment before I pick up my brush and let it merge and flow with the paint on its tip. I no longer fight it. It’s no more my aim to deny its presence, to run away from it, to be ashamed of it.

In fact I have let it spill out of some deep crevice in some remote corner on my being into my everyday life. And with that I have found freedom. I have come face to face with what I was scared of facing. I have allowed myself to weigh firsthand its intensity and potential to hurt me as I peel its numerous raw layers one at a time. Its no longer a nameless, faceless monster struggling to be let loose and threatening to play havoc with my sanity.  

While I have no wish to put it up for display, I do not attempt to hide it as well just because there is some sort of  guilt and shame associated with it. I have been urged to ignore it, deny it, be ashamed of it and wish it away without an iota of healing or worst still hide it with a (fake?)smile. Its overt display of happiness that finds easy quick hi fives from society because happiness is an approved measure of success. Anybody who does less than that is considered worthy of sympathy and thus warranting self righteous and half assed efforts by relative strangers to lift that person to a delusive level that matches their approval. Maybe that's the reason for many a fake smiles and happy selfies because we just don't want to be looked down upon with pity 'Smile, you look pretty when you smile'. Its like you have been contracted to provide an aesthetic entertainment, a contract I don't remember signing. Do I owe it to the world that I look all pretty and sunshine 24/7? Or 'chin up girl'.Well why is okay for people to give unsolicited advice to others on their body postures? You might want to give yourself a pat on your back for getting somebody to smile but how genuine is that smile, do you even care? In the process you have done more damage than good because you have succeeded in denying the person his/her autonomy on her facial muscles she uses to deal with her/his pain and reducing that person's worth to a society's pet trained to perform tricks on demand. I have a planned my trick in advance for all the smile bullies. Keeping a half eaten oreo in my mouth all the time. Or you ask me to smile and I ask you to get rich in return.

Yes happiness is a goal for many but doesn't the goal post move every time you reach it. For a whole lot of us happiness is not the goal but to soak in a variety of experience. To find peace in the present. For some putting out a smiling face while going through a tumultuous experience inside maybe be akin to being brave but for many of us its not important. We do not even wish for titles like, 'brave', 'strong', 'positive' to match up to new age teaching despite many such posts doing the rounds.

As I sometimes focus on my breath I can feel it easing out my system into the thin air.I admit that sometimes I let it drag and hold me to the bed longer than necessary but then a deep breath is all I need to be out in the sun with the whiff of fresh air searing the crude pangs anew. I know you are fading away but I also know you may return with a fuller force but I am not scared. I know you, I experience you, I live you. You are not a nameless, faceless monster under my bed.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

My life in a nutshell

Life is a tug of war between acute cravings to remain buried in a fetal position under ponderous layers of blanket tucked away smugly in its much affirmed impregnability and between a fathomless longing to lie sprawled under an open sky with arms spread out wide and far just as a near perfect refection of the wild blue yonder that you try to capture and release at the same time. And in between them lies a pile of unpaid bills and a trail of half done chores.


Sometime around while my cold fingers were dragging the cursor to the 'post' button to publish the above string of seemingly erratic words, somewhere in a quaint little town in Eastern India an erudite soul was pouring over enchanting pictures of various stages of a caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly. Here is  what Manjari Chakravarti writes about the process:

"Was reading about caterpillars being completely liquified inside their cocoon before being refashioned into a moth or butterfly, a process that is as inconceivable as something seen in a hallucination, as far from probability as it can get.
So, was thinking, could this be what we see as death? What if death is only that process of liquefaction from which we emerge as something else ( although of course we retain none of the original soup once we've kicked the bucket, unlike the caterpillar). 
This is of course some form of wishful ranting. 
But, the butterfly remembers behaviours it had learned as a caterpillar. (Insert italics here.)
Once, a movie on tv opened with the scene of a field, some blue sky, and I said " oh, that's Cornwall". About twenty minutes into the film, it transpired that the scene was indeed set in Cornwall.
There are some forests I miss, a certain kind of forests, a certain light, a kind of dark sky. Pretty sure they're memories of some pre-liquefaction period."

An internet connection albeit a lousy one is perhaps also a contrivance to form deeper bonds where you are beckoned to have a peek into each other's ostensibly inaccessible yet fascinating dwellings. When I read her post the very same day my own post seemed to unfold an added suggestion. The very same day we both had mused over two different acts both of which elucidate a common precept. The precept was absent from my sphere of observation till I read her post.

Here is my conversation with M

Me:These are signs I think. The parts not only complete the whole but also are a replica of its larger design. We can connect the dots if we are sensitive to the signs.

M: Yes G...

Me: At times I write something to put into words something that nags me and when I read it again after a couple of days it comes across as something totally different...I mean I never had though it could mean that too!

M: Because we are changing all the time, our perceptions change, even of ourselves.

Me:Or do we get a glimpse of our subconscious sending a deeper message?

M: Hmmmm.......could be!

M: Like my current post. I didn't think about birth and death while writing it

M: Hey!!Sounds like a cocoon n butterfly to me
grin emoticon
Me: I wasn't even thinking of all this while writing

M: Telling you must go abroad Apply! Apply! Apply! Go! Scoot! Fly!Run!

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Love, marriage, etc.

Though I am well aware (or that’s what I would like to think) of where the proverbial shoe pinches, I would prefer to dodge the hat of an agony aunt when it comes to all affairs love and marriage. The point being…this blogpost must be saved from the dangers of being dumped under ‘the advice on love and marriage.’ Since I am not selling either the idea of love or the institution of marriage (or even abstinence from them) I would prefer my disclaimer ‘THIS IS NOT A POST ON ADVICE ON LOVE AND MARRIAGE’ to scream out at you than hide it behind the chagrin of fine print. It’s imperative to be repetitive and explicit here because those perched on moral high horse may raise an eye brow or two on my credibility to advice on the said topic and those sitting on the fence may unsuccessfully look for sane advice in the post. I would like to believe that I have managed to kill the qualms of the former and hopes of the latter with the same stone. Even if after reading the disclaimer there still lurks a slightest urge to grab a tiny piece of advice from me it must be nipped in the bud right away. Not only is it inflammable, following it is bound to either yank you out of your comfort zone or open up a can of worms, both highly disagreeable and baleful situations according to our societal norms. 

The blogpost is simply a spinoff of a complex experiment conducted in the premise of an idle head that tries hard to stay put on my strapped shoulders. It so happened that when somebody accidently triggered a raw nerve it lead to a chain reaction of sorts that attempts to untangle love from marriage, de-construct and dissect them and then observe them separately as well as in combination, their dependency on either, their survival without the other and their attributes in their pure form. Here are the approximated findings that sprang straight out of my crazy laboratory that thrives in the recesses of my head concealed under a generous growth of frizzies. 

When I view the four lettered word (that does not start with a fantastic F) from under my cerebral microscope I was disappointed to find that everything clever had been already written, said, sung, played out, enacted and felt a zillion times. While I could have cried for being robbed off of a eureka moment I let my mind wander from the sunny terrains of love to the dark crannies of hate. Though it’s not imperative to examine hate to comprehend what love is, I thought it would help to some extend as they are the considered to be on the opposite ends of the spectrum. It would be relevant to mention that whenever in the past I had expressed my hate for a particular low life scum I was reminded by a hapless listener that hate is a negative emotion that only affects me and not him/her (I refuse to divulge the gender of the low life). So going by it it’s safe to assume that love is an intrinsic and a positive emotion that helps you and not necessarily the person you love. So while the focus of your love is the person you love but the affect it has on is only you like a malfunctioned gun that backfires. It’s your business. I am not saying that love is not reciprocated, it can be but that’s not a pre requisite. Nobody is obliged to love you back. When it’s reciprocated it’s just an aftereffect albeit a pleasant one I must add. However I wouldn't be too quick to label it love if it depends solely on this aftereffect. Love doesn't have conditions.It doesn't matter if the person you love doesn't love you back. You still love him/her. I verified the above hypothesis with my love for singing. It doesn't lessen my love for the activity even when it doesn't love me back which is more apparent to the poor listener than me.

No matter how tall the claims for love are or how genuine the accounts of it sound it remains to be checked if it’s truly love or one of its glittering but cheap impersonators called infatuation. How do you find out? The litmus test of love is that its effect is always positive and it never harms. Remember love in its pure form is unconditional and harmless. It would not harm anybody. I mean anybody. It cannot be a reason for harming you, the person you love or anybody else who manages to sneak into the picture or even steals the complete picture. If it’s harming you or someone you need to rethink if its love or some vague idea of it you are stubbornly clutching on to to avoid uncomfortable questions or inconvenient situations. It should not be a fa├žade to hide your own insecurities or a defence mechanism to boo away your own demons. It’s definitely not something to fill in your loneliness with. It is deep affection for someone without expecting anything in return. Remember love does not undermine your dignity, freedom and self-respect whether you are the giver or at the receiving end.

When it comes to marriage love is only one of the ingredients in the complex concoction. Respect, space, healthy boundaries and empathy surge up to claim their rightful place. Marriage is not an intrinsic feeling but an institution and a man made one at that. In our endeavour to knit social, legal, religious and emotional strands into a single establishment what we have assembled is a Gordian knot of sorts. It requires constant nurturing since it’s cultivated and not innate. It makes it hard to escape ego as the participants are constantly judged from social, religious, legal and emotional platforms. Ego is nothing but feeding on to an enlarged sense of self worth that thrives on the approval on your marital protocol from these sources outside of the marriage. These social and religious institutions like you to play out to their tunes for their sanction.

 Marriage is also a spiritual workshop for participants to learn empathy, balance, boundaries, respect, and love not just for the partner but also for themselves. It’s an interesting balancing act where the partners try out various permutations of ego and self respect. The ideal is where there is no ego between the partners but respect for themselves and each other. Less than ideal is when one of the partners clings on to ego and the other gives up on self respect to create some sort of balance. If you feel this imbalance in your marriage you need to ask yourself are you the one with the ego or the one with no self respect. The combination that is doomed is the one where both cling on to the ego. It’s an important lesson to distinguish self-respect from ego. Unlike love, marriage is always a two way street for it to work. Since its success depends on two people it also teaches people to honour themselves by walking out of it if the respect, love, space is not reciprocated. Whether we stay in marriage or walk out it teaches us soul lessons important for our growth.

So how do we know if the marriage is working? By looking within and bypassing an urge to collect a report card from the social dictators. Ask yourself the reason for staying in marriage. Does love, respect, personal growth, peace, contentment figure in affirmative in your answer? You would want it no other way than to stay in your marriage because it empowers you, fills your life with light and positivity. However if your reasons for staying married is because you are scared to fall into the cruel stereotype of a social pariah( the most common being the crazy cat lady) or some fear of the unknown or because you are fighting a losing battle with your own demons then all the facebook likes on your anniversary pictures can become that invisible guide that drives your decisions.

So somebody asked if lack of respect should be reason to walk out of marriage where there is love? I would say that first it needs to be examined if it indeed is love because remember love does not harm or undermine somebody. Love is a feeling not an enactment. The feeling manifests in acts of caring for the object of our affection.The acts of caring can vary according to people and situations. So we can still love a person when the situation changes.Only its manifestation will change. It can manifest into a silent prayer that stays with you like a delicate fragrance. So if you love your partner but want to exit marriage for reasons other than love who says you can't or don't love him/her? Marriage and love are not mutually inclusive. While marriage solicits love, love can thrive without marriage. Love does not need to be proclaimed, sanctioned,photographed, displayed, justified, explained or approved. Love can also be a subtle semblance, basal and unembellished with no strings or frills attached.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

A Quiet Diwali

Four of us with our collective loss, twelve lamps, a quiet dinner comprising of a folksy menu and a monophonic prayer that’s sacrosanct yet serene. The celebration of Diwali in my family now is a reticent affair, an aberration from the usually clamorous fiesta in form of  uproarious banter supplemented with more than a generous dose of firecrackers, sweets, rituals, games, booze and other adornments and embellishments that amalgamates the festival of light.

However Diwali had not always been such a vanilla affair for us and had the usual sprinkling of sweets, dry fruits and firecrackers and a lot more starting from my daunted and mostly unsuccessful bids to not come in the way of the whopping spring cleaning operation while contriving my way into myriad shopping trips for new clothes and gifts. The winter air replete with anticipation of imminent gaiety rang with a few stray fire crackers as a prelude to the grand finale. The people who were considered important enough received tacky ‘happy diwali’ cards made on relatively precious plain white sheets of paper. Not so important people got the ones scribbled on ruled paper torn from the notebooks. Lamps were bought few days before so that they could be washed to a squeaky perfection and small cotton balls were rolled into willowy wicks. The D day started with wearing of new clothes, a comparative study of fire crackers before pooling them to be used at the much awaited night and sometimes a cramped attempt at a grubby rangoli amidst disagreements that went beyond bickering to jostling of elbows and bumping of tiny heads. A trip to the gurdwara, a family prayer, much rehearsed greetings, lighting the lamps and placing them at the darkest of the corners all fitted in seamlessly to complete the jubilant delineation.

However over a period of time it diluted to a simple prayer and a dinner. The most pertinent reason is that I grew up. I became aware of child labour in firework factories. It’s distressing for me to realize that I had derived juvenile pleasure albiet unknowingly out of the fire crackers made by those tiny vulnerable hands in threadbare conditions. I no longer wish to patronize such boorishness. I have grown out of my apathetic leanings to the ominous air of thick dark smog and the roads littered with used fire crackers bearing a testimony to a night of complete heedlessness, a nightmare for innocent animals and dainty birds. My heart goes out to all the elders and those who are ailing and afflicted. The bazaars are no longer safe to shop during festivals and sweets are precarious for a variety of reasons so that leaves us with lamps, prayers and rangoli. Extended family has all spread across the globe so family gatherings are as sparse as the hair on my grandfather’s head.

Though our house didn’t ring with raucous laughter or echoed with ceaseless greetings there was a snug ambience of ingenuous complacency. Apart from the family prayer the unsaid affirmation between all of us was apparent, the promise of togetherness through thick and thin. As we sat in the coziness of our home the deafening sound of fire crackers seemed to fade into oblivion and what remained was an almost faultless love and an imperceptible bond you develop with people who have shared intricate experiences and memories that braid a part of your soul together so much so that the memories become our collective joy or pain and can be felt in togetherness even when no words are uttered and in spite of some glaring disagreements and difference of opinions.

My six hour bus journey to reach had been more tiring and uncomfortable than the usual with an unsparing smattering of smelly farts, cramped seating and pushy co passengers but I have resolved to spend all the occasions, little or big with family. There might or might not be any fun and games but there will be always the silent wordless prayer and gratitude for each other. My emotional taste buds are getting tired of masala of daily life with its tendency to deviate towards high strung drama and these occasions have proved time and again to be remedial and beneficial for palate cleaning and grounding.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Why I write or make art

Wonder why I write. And I think I know. I had an inner voice that was my best guide before reason and emotions kicked in. The inner voice was first callously squashed and smothered between the tug of war that pits watertight reason against sweeping emotions and then was unrelentingly squeezed and shoved somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind, attenuated by delusive defense mechanisms. By the time it was clipped and cramped to that little obscure voice in the head that I hear scantly on balmy blithe days(over a hot cup of tea), it covertly swerved itself into an ephemeral snitch looking for wily escapes. Sentience and experience has counseled me that escape it will so it better be through some creative avocation than volatile, high strung, outbreak which it scouts as frantic last ditch effort. It is these temperamental outbreaks that threaten to annihilate the trifle leftovers of peace in life that I cherish the most.

But I do not immediately see the writing on the wall. One of reasons is the motley of mollifying colored glasses through which I view my world with rose coloured bright hue at one end of the scale, vapid beige somewhere around the middle and jaundiced yellow at the other end. Throw in the dippy, fruity and nutty neons too. Also my inner voice fancies parking itself somewhere between the lines and prefers to remain cryptic in case I throw reason and  staggering emotions in its way again and again. Its makes it an exacting process for me peel the layers of my own charade that I had put together to hedge my own peace of mind so much so that now I have to rummage through the memory box to find the key to the very peace. What a catch 22 situation.

So while I am finding myself through my art and writing when it brings 'me too' moments its quite a catalyst for me to create more art or write more blog posts. I had seen through my blog settings that it has regular viewers from places like Turkey and Russia. So if you are reading my post do drop in a hello.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

A Rant

You may consider this a sequel to my post 'Confessions of a half baked artist'. The previous post was written in times when I was souring the crest of sanguineness. However my disposition to ebb into transversely terrain encroaches a whopping part of my headspace too. I may not want to embrace this blenching melancholia but it does have a penchant to engulf me in its dark, gloomy spell. I'll quit thrusting this pliabilty in some inky little cranny in the recesses of my mind and keep assiduous tabs on it  to not pop out like a jack in the box at the moments most unmediated and unprompted. What I would like to do is to acknowledge this dark side of me so please take it with a pinch of salt.(read no preaching).

Art has been a mood enhancing life preserving drug for me even before I could spell it. I'm not getting into how adept I am as an artist. I may be clumsy or dexterous as an artist but that's not what I want to delve into. What I want to do is to decrypt my process of creating an art work. All that I need is thick grainy paper, sparkling luminous pigments, motley of perky brushes and a little inspiration for me to vamoose from astringent reality and dissolve into the  process when your brain, heart, mind, soul and hand are in sublime consanguinity to orchestrate a divine symphony of strokes or lines and it becomes a spiritual process akin to any religious ritual. Well not times its eraser and cutters and working afresh to your own satisfaction. So far so good. Apart from the above mentioned supplies what is needed in dollops is time.

People who do not even have a penchant for art hang up prints of a masters in their living room and admire their skill and dedication to art but for them the flaky artist painting in next room is just indulging in a vain hobby. So anybody and everybody has a claim to an artist's time because after all its just a whimsical avocation which unlike a job has no guarantee of a pay check.

However people approve of only certain kind of work
A. A job that brings in a regular pay check...never mind you they will not get a penny from from it but that they approve of you working only for a paycheck.
B.  Domestic chores...If you are an artist you must finish those upto the satisfaction of others and then do whatever you can with forsaken time. How can you think of outsourcing work(with your own money) when all you do is paint. The least you can do is cook from scratch everyday.
C. Attending humdrum social/religious gatherings and indulge in small talk. If you have job you may be excused from that  but hey there is no pressing deadline for you to paint right now. What will the people say when you don't attend the neighbor's cousin's wedding.
D. Tending to unexpected guests. If you have a job you may be absolved but how can you tell the guests that you do not have time for them because you are in middle of a trifling painting?

Agreed money has to be made and chores have to be done. But how much is the limit and more importantly who pegs the limit. If you are thrusting your tenets, time limits and way of life on artists will there be any artists? You may ask me do take a job and paint in the residual time. But will there be any  time? So should I forsake art and take up a job because then I don't have to be apologetic of cooking a healthy two course dinner instead of three?

And no the society is not despotic. They are not yanking away your collection of brushes or shredding apart your canvas. All they ask of you is to rack up your insignificant and trivial little hobby when it suits them. So all they ask of you is to harmonize, accommodate, conform and adapt. What it all means to an artist is to go by the book, not to create waves to rock the boat, toe the line, follow the beaten path or atleast don't stray too far from it lest the leash snaps, give up the urge to explore. Chores are not to be planned according to artists time but art has to practiced when the chores are done.So no I don't want to paint spasmodically. Either art has me whole-hog(I do not mean I wont do chores but not according to others. In my own way and in my own time) or not at all . So yeah I would give up art. No not happily and certainly not as a sacrifice. Or I would go and park myself in a place that is secluded where there are no door bells.

It'll make me sad but then its only one emotion that I'll have to deal with and not keep untangling a mess of emotions, perceptions, viewpoints, convictions and other erosive and piercing hysteria everyday. For me its not just getting a monetary return but its a constant struggle to balance my love for art with people's expectations from me and their hobby to put me in mould they could show off. It sound quite nice to say, I don't care about other people's expectations from me but what about having to constantly defend your choices, to justify yourself for deviating from the wonted rituality, dealing with guilt that close ones throw at perceived neglect. Doesn't it leave you tired to pick up a painbrush and paint without a headache.

Its nice to hear about an artist, read about his struggle but when you have a one as a close friend, relative or a neighbor what do you think of her?