The Quarry – a SafeHouse

 

Return my love, he pleads.

Tis dark and damp, a Safe House.IMG_20171227_154445

O that summon again-

Perfumed mask, unholy armpits,

Bohemian stubble, vagrant deviant,

Heavens explode,

Drizzling light into this chasm.

Must I stumble, forage,

Somehow graze?

This is my safe house,

This sombre quarry.

A stone heart embittered,

Fears love, its myriad forms.

A Safe house, pity disarmed.

Where it rests sans hope,

No notion of a future,

No past, no forecast.

Let me be, I barely am.

Leeching blood, quarried.

Leaven me when a fossil,

A Specimen, a study docile,

A prize unearthed.

 

 

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My review of Janice Pariat’s The Nine-Chambered Heart

qsnsplujdq-1511768338How do you read a book that leaves you gasping, having stolen your identity? What do you do when you take on all nine chambers as if they were always in your heart, were you?

This book by Pariat, had me in its grip from its very first chapter. I was completely taken.

When you begin the book, you wonder, and you read, and then you wonder some more, till you are wonderstruck at the author’s craft. She steals into your mind’s crevices, as she creates a complex character out of you, by cleverly using the second person narrative. How does one escape that, and yet keep your distance from such like? You can’t, and you won’t  because you are then curious to follow through, to the very end, of each Chamber as she draws you in, mystically.

The language employed is as simple as it is splendid.

Each chapter is linked, inextricably, to the next, but you don’t quite know where, coz it will suddenly refer to the past, and pow, you realize that you have shed the earlier skin, and adopted a new life, a quasi new identity! She seals you into the skin of the character, who is : mysterious, annoying, lovable, loving, adventurous, and almost wholly removed from the play at work, ever so often. She is as carnal, as she is spiritual- this nameless person at the center of the novel.

Pariat’s strengths lie in constantly surprising you, and inevitably draw you into the mind of this lover of feline creatures. You travel different lands with her, and yet you have no name, because we are all her.

I applaud Pariat’s novel, which had me in its hold in its infancy, in a manner of speaking,….every Chapter, let me tell you, has a leading name. Now you might wonder if the name is You, the reader, or the name of the new Lover. Go figure!

 

 

Letter to Myself On the Edge of the Precipice

Dear Me,

Does it bother you that you are galloping ahead, in real, physical years? Is the speed just right, or are you blown away? Do you feel intimidated by the fact that you can’t hold on, just a little bit longer to your fading youthfulness, because youth is long gone? Do you wish you didn’t have to stop pretending?

Well guess what, you’re at the threshold of the middle ages and perhaps a little further along.

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Listen up, this is not the gauntlet you think it is. Just ease in, gradually. It’s not going to destroy what you’ve been living and working at. Growing older doesn’t mean giving in, or giving up, it simply means viewing things with a wider lens. You’ve been around, looking after the family and their needs concertedly. Now, zoom in to yours. Well, guess what, you can be your life’s central character and start focusing on your desires and needs and whatever else you had put on hold for later, Later’s arrived.

So whatever you had envisaged gets put on the front burner. Go on, set it alight.

Dance, sing, write, play, move, and shake, whatever. But of course, you’re not quite as light on your feet as you used to be. You’re heavier. You’re not as energetic as you used to be, as a result of the time of life you are at. That’s interesting, because I reckon, you might be lighter inside of you, what with so many responsibilities gliding off your back. Yet you say, you’re heavier. Well, you’ll just have to live with it, won’t you! Guess what, there’s no time like the Now, especially when you know you can’t turn back the clock. Love this new, fuller you. It’s bounty, the reward of abundance. So was it a fair exchange- getting heavier without, in exchange for a lighter mind within?

Finding yourself will be a benefit that comes along at this stage too. Did you know that? Does it excite you, or, does it frighten you, this facing yourself? It can get ugly, but only so much. What’s the point if you can’t summon the courage to befriend yourself in a new light; you might unearth some chinks and cracks that enhance, not mar. Novelty much.

So far you had been busy living others’ lives. Yes, I get that it was deeply satisfying and all that, after all it is your family, your kids and your duty. The duty is now shifting, quietly, and the focus is now You. The greatest duty of all- rediscovering your Self. You can do it while fulfilling all that you had mapped out for your twilight years, you know all the plans for when your kids will have grown up and found their calling. Now’s the time, live yours. No more faffing about, just succumb to this spell that’s beckoning.

Haven’t you been writing private journals for the longest time- deep thoughts and musings- all that you conceal from the world out there? Well now is the time to enliven that process. Relook at the past, as one looks at a life lived; cull from it that which you need, the rest, you erase; there’s no need for clutter. Become your own living journal, and position all the missing pieces of the puzzle that you are bound to discover, together. The outline becomes clearer, and an image begins to form, trust me, I’ve been there endless times, in my head. It won’t be a spitting image of yourself though, not the one you’ve known at least. Be ready to fall in love, again.

Guess what, this  puzzle could be confusing and complex yet the intrigue of it will keep you busy for the longest time, one day at a time.

What do you mean you are too old to get out there and do what you thought you should have achieved earlier, far earlier? That’s such bull-crap! Yes, people say age is only a number, but it’s not, it’s more than a number- it’s experience and much collated and processed wisdom. You’ve brought that along from all these years you’ve lived. Age is the kind of affluence you can’t count, so no, it’s not just a number; it’s fortune multiplied. You can do it, whatever it is you thought you should’ve accomplished earlier.

Go for it, don’t allow anything to deter you, especially not the mind that tries to control, and influence and negate when you’re on the edge of the precipice that’s your launching pad. Guess what, you’re actually pretty close to that edge right now, so run, take flight.

Good luck mate!

I Want to Be That Person

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I want to be that Person who

Is affected not,

By gale nor storm, thrills nor curse;

Aggrieved not by mislaid treasures,

Or an empty bag, devoid of coins.

I want to be that Soul,

Who sees wealth as but a means,

To see Peru or

The Great Barrier Reef,

To travel distant lands unseen.

Oh I so want to claim that Being,

Every merchant’s dream:

Gullible, wide-eyed, foolish,

Reasons not, easy to sway,

Quick to purchase, and cherish,

Most wares on display.

 

Knows she is not unique, 

Yet bearer of a force,

 Isolated from the feeble, 

That none can annul. 

 

That Presence who,

Is both ready, and startled,

When hurt, weeps-vulnerable, exposed,

Yet is neither defenseless nor weak.

And is so much more.

That whole person within,

Is who I seek. 

GOA, a pictorial sojourn

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The glorious view of the sea-line from the skies above, and the verdant hillocks that awaited us visitors

 

Just three days, three gorgeous days in South Goa, and I carry back a whole year’s supply of mirth. The ambience gets on to your skin, in preparation for a relaxed spa-like vacation coming up, in the warmest and most playful way possible. There’s no place like Goa to unwind they say, and it’s true to the hilt.  There’s that something in the air, as the monsoons trail along, playing hide and seek with your senses. The tall palms swaying head downward, bushes bursting with petrichor, and innumerable waterways wearing a luxuriant look, glamorous after dry Gurgaon, embrace your every pore, even before you land. The drive to your hotel courses through languorous countryside bathed in warm sunlight, that seems to belong to Goa alone. We stayed in the Benaulim area, and for the length of our stay drifted along alleyways and gulleys, like two impoverished souls, soaking it all in. Some of what our beings absorbed is right here, in  a feeble attempt to capture its blossoms, its seafarer robes, its very essence, as we strolled and biked around like two Junkie hipsters, high on Goa!

 

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Not without my bike and mate
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Serenity mirrored
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Silhouetted against the dying light, but the beginning of a mystical evening, as the sea-soaked air lulls ever so gently
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Dead to the world outside, soaked in brine, that’s how we are in Goa
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Lavender blooms magically appear every once in a while

 

 

 

 

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Red-flagged. It hurt to see them everywhere preventing us from diving into the water, so we park and gaze interminably, and with a lustful longing, even as the midday sun tells us to duck for cover

The Road less Travelled, a rear seat view

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and then there’s sunny reds
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It’s the time of the day when Fishermen rock on, wielding fishing nets to manage their livelihood. I prayed to ride this boat soon some day, without the monsoons coming in my way
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Just us, the sea and me
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A Church rears its head as we ride thru’ villages, and reminds us that prayer is serious business never on holiday, and i close my eyes in reverence.
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Goa’s Pride : Mario and a dedicated museum to him…we enjoyed every minute there.
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Despite an aging knee, guess who rode to the Mario Place!
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I can ride fast too
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a typical scene from a typical Goan village
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Beauties, lavender or purple, by any name, enticing and refreshing
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Now to get a swimming pool where you lay yourself on your back floating till sundown, with a view like this that meets your gaze, only in Goa i promise you!
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Tread softly they say, these are my dreams i say

 

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My Goa…this is how i envision it when back home, like a painting- tall swaying palms, thinly concealing Goan houses, the thick aroma of curries invading your palate as you drive by

Redefining Travel- Knee by vagabond Knee

 

So I turned fifty and don’t ask me when. It was not without difficulty, because I’m just that kind of person who will not age. The signs have been coming at me, starting with knee ache, but, grace be upon me, only one of the two worthies; less than perfect digestion on over-eating- binge eating as it is fashionably called, way too much wine I am told, rising levels of impatience and the beginnings of spiritual leanings being the order of the day, most days, especially when the spirit is tried and tested, which no longer is as seldom as it used to be.

Be that as it may, the current year has been a good year, as it has been a year of tests and tribulations. International travel was thrown in for good measure, and I’ve had to pack those bags and run, from one airport to another. Then I’ve climbed the mountains, not once but twice over, and been over my head with creative themes, and such like. Overall, it could be called an unforgettable year of travelling; of being the bohemian I was born to be, of vagabonding around the globe; me and my ever-zealous, overfull bags. I flew by some atrociously zany airlines (Kuwait), and by some fairly decent ones (Emirates); I climbed in and out of trains (Shatabdi, Delhi-Doon express), catching them by a hair’s breadth, and drove in many an ill-equipped transporter vehicle across hills and dales, clutching at my belly for dear life lest I failed to contain bread pakoras eaten in utter gluttony along the mountain trail.

Did I enjoy every ride undertaken? Oh yes, I did, mostly during these escapades, if I may call them such; a little less after the vagrant gypsy in me had rested and caught a breath.

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Come January

Vagabonded in New York 

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Blown away at Central Park

Visiting my daughter for her graduation was a great idea. Just the young lady and her not-so-young-anymore-but-refuses-to let-go mother, painting the town red. It was an enthralling thought, and I fell for it, hook line and sinker. After all, it’s only a twenty hour trip with my legs dangling for a fair portion of the journey 🙂

We did paint NYC in various hues in fact, but at a certain cost. New York has deep subways, and most from the pre-war era it would seem. So climbing up and down those stairwells certainly took a toll on my post-fifty knees. We were out and about every single day because for some reason, the daughter felt these were to be counted among my last few active years, and she must have me see it all, within a span of ten days. So we scoured, raced, gamboled, ambled (Central Park), went for a Broadway Show. We hit China or Korea town for a meal we had to wait for an hour to savour. We walked as one does when one doesn’t actually drive, and we talked, and lost track of the miles we covered. As we lumbered toward my last day, climbing up a rickety staircase, up to her 4th floor apartment had become an excruciating daily misadventure. I was satiated, and done with NYC for the next decade or so. My knees had suffered and shouted for respite. It all went unheeded. But I continued brave and unabated, lest my daughter feel guilty for giving me such a ‘good time’. She left before me to come to India to attend her cousin’s wedding, leaving me stranded with two very unwieldy suitcases, full to the brim of all the shopping at IKEA (yea, that too). Even the ordered cab played truant, and cancelled on me just as I had trundled my way down with those two heavies. I was done, and in tears. The ordeal had not bowed out just yet.

I ordered another who struggled to find the daughter’s apartment block, and the heavens began to pour on New York City. I stood on the pavement, flapping my arms like a mad woman with swollen knees, hailing down every passing car in desperate hope of being swooped up. Dame Luck had kicked me in that one knee, the bad one.

Finally my new cabbie waved me down from the other end of the road- Falling over my feet, with my two heavies and a backpack, soaked to the skin, I climbed in, both grateful and disgruntled. He smiled warmly at me, unaware of what seethed within me. He had not emerged from his car to help. Relieved to be under cover, and dry seats, I let him be. He then played the most divine Spanish songs from his country, the Dominican Republic, and very quickly my soul was reinstated in its rightful place, now speeding toward the airport, as I closed my eyes and allowed my feet to tap to the rhythm of a different land. On my return home, I was welcomed with cold and hot packs to relieve my body of its physical trauma.

 

Come February – MYSORE (band, bajaa, baraat)

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blessing joyfully

The wedding of a sister’s daughter, how could I not participate with complete fanfare! Dared I complain and faff around? No! So I’m the only aunt, and within a week of the return from New York, I’m in business. I’m still in great pain, but by now skilled enough to conceal it, by hobbling, but only just.

A daily rise to the commotions and activities of a marriage…ah, smile, don’t worry, be happy. Don’t worry be happy. Keep up the momentum and only let go when you’re done. I maintain it, my sustenance being all the joy and mirth flying around. The niece’s beautiful and serene stance has me in its hold. She is on call every minute of the day, and plays her part to the hilt, without flinching (why would she!) in utter merriment, marrying, as she was, her childhood sweetheart. I admire her more and more. She is my inspiration. I put aside all the pain for another day.

At the end of the day, it was a fabulous event indeed, and everyone around seemed pain-free. I had to work double shift, and participated with more gusto than i can recall doing anything else at all.

Who does not don a pair of high heels at such events? I know no one. – I did too, and danced under the influence of many a thundering shot of Tequila, and became Auntyji who performed without missing a beat, along with other aunties. Needless to say, the following morning I was in numbing pain, all worth it I told myself. The marriage of two lovelies was performed, and I smiled and waved and blessed their union with all the love in my heart.

On our return to our Gurgaon home, I slowed down considerably, and allowed the healing process to begin. And as soon as the knees and feet were able to, they took off to the mountains of Kumaon.

 

Come March (Knee-ling before Shiva’s Abode)

Himalayan Writer’s Retreat – Sona Pani

A five-day writer’s retreat is all my soul needed, and ascertained the healing of my body. The hills were beckoning. In my mind’s eye all I imagined was the sublime beauty of the snow clad Himalayan views. And so it was, pretty and oh-so-sublime. However, along with the view, were hills to be ascended, and climbed down from, all part of the beauty package. The forgotten pain and swelling crept up rapidly, as I cruised up and downhill, with courage as my armour (to borrow a poetic phrase). The agony returned, with an unknown ecstasy- and sleeping with both as bedfellas, now that is worthy of a mention.  As we shared the same space, we befriended one another and a bond was formed. I was over fifty and my knees had reminded me that a difference had to be accepted and to marry them all. Not every older person has a bad arthritic knee. They may have sore elbows, or bad digestion, or double chins, or a belly that says, go slow on them carbs/alcohol, nifty calves, bags under the eyes (I have that too) etc. I had been gifted a mean knee.

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Team Himalayan

Come May – Germany / East Europe

The Vagabond had rested for the month of April.

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with dear friend Neerja in Frankfurt

May brought great European joys on the plains. Boats and buses allowed this bohemian freedom from pain and while I walked up to fifteen kilometers a day, my body kept up with external joys, internalizing all the pleasures of tourism, in the ways of the world, with beauty and gastronomic delights being the order the day.

By early June, I told myself, pain was now a thing of the past, and I could live out the rest of my days in great sportsman spirit.

Inshallah!

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Come June (Rocket-Celery-Tomatoes: death by overdose)

Daily swims and eating healthy food in the plains of Gurgaon

 

Come July

Yet another trek to the mountains, for another writing retreat. Swollen knees after a riotous night of drunken dancing, oops, I meant, overdriven, overly enthused writing within a matter of two and a half days. A major unburdening onto paper, and verbiage of the author-speak sort.

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Come August (Summer Girl Scout)

Camping in Spain, in the desert clime of the south. Rising heat, swirling dust devils and crawling in and out of a tiny tent sounded the death knell on my not-so-healthy knee. I returned home after long and excruciating walks in the Madrid and Dubai airports. My homecoming was short of joyous, as I began the process of healing my knee all over again. Sitting now with a cold pack on my left knee, I’m just getting over an allergic sore throat, a sad lower back and an ugly knee. But the vagabond in me is alive and kicking, because she is not ever going to be trapped by an aging body. The Bohemian spirit survives every onslaught of every trip, be it on the plains, or the hills. What I do believe is that I need to outsmart an age and an era which says, slow down, I need to believe I am smarter than my body, and its deep-seated beliefs. Am I my body or is my body – me? I say, in this installment : hail the never-say-die spirited ladies in my league!

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Night Purrs

 

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The Quiet of the Night

 

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Night Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

September, October, November, December to follow in my next Kneeful travelogue assortment .