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.



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

quiet flows the Hudson



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

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!


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





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

and then there’s sunny reds
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
Just us, the sea and me
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.
Goa’s Pride : Mario and a dedicated museum to him…we enjoyed every minute there.
Despite an aging knee, guess who rode to the Mario Place!
I can ride fast too
a typical scene from a typical Goan village
Beauties, lavender or purple, by any name, enticing and refreshing
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!
Tread softly they say, these are my dreams i say


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.


Come January

Vagabonded in New York 

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)

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.

Team Himalayan

Come May – Germany / East Europe

The Vagabond had rested for the month of April.

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.




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.


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!

Night Purrs


The Quiet of the Night


Night Life







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


The Perils of Communication

‘Hello! howz u gorgeous?’

‘Gud, rmmbr my msg – r dnnr- the pics? So tht’s de latest, in hngo’er state lol ’

‘Ya, I saw. Lovly n all. Wassup?  ’

‘Uh, since last nite? Nthng yaar, tryin to catch sum sleeeeep- zzzzz. CYL. TTYL.’


And so on and so forth- a minute to minute catching up, sometimes less, sometimes with   longer gaps. But what’s there to catch up with- we are in constant communication. There’s not much curiosity left, is there? What are we talking about anymore, where are we headed, what’s happening to us? These are some of the questions that assail me time and again, and I’m afraid of cutting myself off at the same time. I’ll miss out…but what is it exactly that I’ll miss out on? Unclear. The sad happy jokes? The woman-centric video-clips? And not just those, all the information-laden articles, and the wisdom being passed around every morning via a Good Morning! And a Rumi or a Shakespeare quote from the greats promptly accompanies the cheerful greeting. I like, and I smile back. And there are more wise folk out there, so often, the quotation is a simplistic one by an Anon. person. I like and I smile back with equal zeal.

And just by the way, I woke up at 6, had a cup of tea and made awesomely soft idlis with onion-tomato chutney. Served it up with a flourish, and then….but really now, do you need to know all this stuff about my daily routine? Nah. I suppose not. But I insist on telling you, coz I have this aching need to constantly share. Again, is it my need, or is it something I caught, you know, like a virus out there? Everyone’s sharing, be it on FB (‘I feel so tired today’- c’mon guys, some empathy please, or at least ask why), ‘The Metro sucks, and it hasn’t rained today’….yea, right, it sucks and it hasn’t rained, we all know it. It’s out there, all of it, and a lot of it sucks. One feels obliged to check the Like box, especially if it’s someone you want to have on your side to check your boxes too, haah!

Hang on, let me just put up a photograph of the road I traversed this morning, strewn with potholes and make a noteworthy statement of the rather ailing state of our state….it does make good copy.

Otherwise, honestly, there’s enough of enough that is quite all right. I love looking at photographs of scenaries and birds, trees and flowers, and see people enjoying their holidays, Oh I do. However, I don’t particularly like watching people in front of buildings, and in poor light especially. I enjoy poetry and writing, but not when it’s abysmally written, hankering for praise, accompanied by – well, let’s not go there shall we, not right now!


Surely should an anxiety get hold of me first thing in the morning –

“Shucks, I missed a wonderful quote today- how will I pass my day wisely now!” it would be frightfully wrong, would it not? This being besieged by a feeling of guilt and remorse, not okay. I haven’t wished back, what would my friends think of me?


So what’s it that drives us to constant communion? What’s this madness that has us in its hold? Why the need to be in the know of every movement of our friends, or non-friends and belong to a myriad groups that chatter incessantly. When there’s a quiet in-between this mindless chuckling, there’s a void felt- one is compelled to shake the mobile’s face – there’s something amiss, or we put it on and off, like a sparkling diamond, to verify that its shine is intact, and not fading with the passage of the hours. One wakes up to this faithful companion, having charged it to life, and then before shutting our eyes at night, we feel this craving to put in a last word- out there, so as to sleep in peace. But do we? In our sleep-state we are overcome by a myriad communications, said-unsaid. We are living in times that are overwrought with words, images, both moving and still. Can one safely conclude that we are over-communicating, over-reaching and over-dipping ourselves in the mire of ‘too much of a good thing’?


Benefits : we can be in touch with those far away from us, like our kids, our aging parents; we get to read some surprising thoughts & essays (seldom, but it is known to have happened), we are able to efficiently organize Ladies’ Night, and ensure that we don’t have to write the same message over and over; so far so good.

What else is good? Ah yes, the instant selfies and photographing…priceless.


Disadvantages : fewer surprises, less interesting stuff to share and an overriding need to outdo – be it in flavour, be it in humour, especially when it comes to reacting to whatever it is- fastest finger shows off a faster mind. And the emoticons- O lord, save my soul! I sit guilty of over-and mis-use of some very strange expressions and drawings. Many of us are. It replaces the word, and it sounds out the exclamation we would otherwise have used our vocal chords for. Wow! How does it get better than that!

It does, believe you me, it does. Not using them constantly will make them more meaningful and precious perhaps. I am yet to learn how not to. I am yet to understand how I got here, overzealously communicating day and night with people all over the world. I know I would save a few hours, were I to desist, and put them to far better use. Now what might that be, I do wonder, because, believe you me, I have this itch where I am fretting about how quickly I can finish this post, stick it on to my Blog, and share it via Facebook and Whatsapp and ….O all right, just these two for now. I’ve got to communicate my thoughts, and right about NOW! O the delicious tremor that seizes me as I imagine my world of people reading me and smiling, and shrugging their shoulders, saying, so what’s new? They will continue to ‘talk’ at a speed that both defies and defines time.


Is this going to change over the coming years? Are we going to embrace quietude and sometimes just go off the grid and become incommunicado? Do we really need to shed tears, or hair, or moods upon a screen- big or small? There are as many answers to these questions as there are people. Yet I have a sinking feeling that loneliness is on the rise, and the perils of communication are encouraging it, feeding it and permitting its dissemination like toxic weeds that grow unabated unless uprooted as quickly as they sprout.

Just saying :

  • Parthenium entered India with imported food grains in the mid-1950s. It is said to be one of the world’s seven most devastating and hazardous weeds and grows undeterred and wild left unchecked.
  • Facebook entered the world in 2004 and its invasion has transformed our world irretrievably.
  • Whatsapp was actively created in 2009, but it is in 2013 that it became really popular and had about 200 million active users and 50 staff members.


Some significant members of the Social Media Society : 


  • There’s Snapchat- microblogging, Twitter (instant gratification via handles- what you write is instantly swallowed by the world and gregariously opined about), Instagram (more photographs anyone- photo-blog away!), Youtube (show off your own videos, – you name it, and watch short or long movies!), Pinterest (visual pinning of pictures/videos and follow others’ Pins), Tumblr (posts are living documents) etc. ….and social media is kept alive in its myriad forms by we the People.