The Touch of Ἀφροδίτη

Is it not a matter of pathetic humor ?
When you whine away as life flows by?
You dwell upon empty wit and worthless rumor,
As her majesty dances in the infinite existential sky!

The rhythm of the fountain and the smile of the child,
She remains hidden in these insignificant facets,
Perceived only by the carefree and wild,
The fool who is unafraid of life’s vain droplets.

Rare is the lover who is touched by her grace,
He neither holds nor lets go of each moment
Every apparent emotion pours through his face.
His being captured by her presence – a smile and a lament

For she is the Mother of contrasts, this Goddess
Wears both Helios and Artemis on her flowing hair
A smile most beautiful and a rage like Hades!
Yet betrays her stoic when beseeched with love, tender and care.

The wail of the lover

Many are the voices in which you speak,
The words sweet and soothing to my battered soul
Tis but with the knowledge that I’m weak
That you dance like the mad dervish who hath realized his goal

I can’t fathom your ways, which are sweet as they are cruel
You make me wait pining for your attention
Yet each moment of expectation is but delicious fuel
For my being that is tossed in exhiliration

Tell me my dearest, is it my fault that I can remember
Familiar scenes from a past existence though hazy and vague
Despite your efforts to keep me in deep slumber
How can I be a stranger to the acts of the playful rogue?

Millions of times have I cried out your name
Sometimes loud and most in silence
You fail to reveal yourself betraying your fame
Is it just? To wait till I’m cured of my ignorance dense?

Tell me my dearest, who else do I know in this world?
What else is worthy to think or do?
But to pine for your attention in the heart as the greedy yearn for gold
Enough of the wait, come and claim me as your own, why let me rue?

Thank you but I’m fine!

Thank you but I’m fine. The ocean looks nice and cool, but some other day surely. The surfers seem to be having fun riding some waves and toppling over many. But surely they are wiser by experience and not an amateur like me. Some other day surely.

Thank you but I’m fine. The sand castles look lovely but they might tumble down from the force of gushing waters or the kids’ play. The builders are joyously creating the huge entrance towers that alas, can disintegrate any moment. Some other day surely – when the kids are few and water less forceful.

Thank you but I’m fine. The guys are playing ball by the sea and their enthusiasm is contagious. But little do they realize one team must lose for the other to win. I’m better off by not losing than winning. Some other day surely when I’m much more confident of winning.

Thank you but I’m fine. The lovers are having a selfie moment with the picturesque sunset. Love is but an endless drama with more downs than ups. It is better to remain strangers than hate filled companions. Some other day surely when I find the right soul to have vodka by the sea.

Thank you but I’m fine. Surely someday the world will bend according to my lazy will and complacent heart. Someday surely.

Why each one of us should be a feminist at heart.

It would have been just another Sunday afternoon for Sharanya had it not been for the awkward matrimonial alliance meet. She hardly expected the probable groom’s family to be modern liberals given the fact they belonged to a dying-yet-limping-on hypocritical Tamil Brahmin community. This in no way implies other communities are forward or that Tam-Brahms  (as they like to call themselves) are regressive cave men. It just so happens I supposedly belong to this community that takes pride in outward rituals rather than imbibing the spirit of such KAmya KarmA.  It came as no surprise to Sharanya when the possible groom’s dad was boasting about the vegetarian fanaticism of his son who was a successful IT engineer in Germany. She had gotten used to these not so occasional boasts of

“Avan Teetotaler” “Non veg ellam sutthama sapda maatan” “He shuns mixed kitchens”.

But what took her by surprise was the following conversation.

Grooms Dad (GD): What do you plan to do after getting married?

Sharanya (SH): I would definitely work. I’m not the type who can sit back and lounge all day.

GD: That’s very nice. It would be boring to stay at home in Germany.

SH: I’m not sure if I would be able to progress in my career in consulting in Germany.

A bit of a background about Sharanya – Aspiring millennial, an MBA graduate from a premier institute, working for a prestigious consulting firm.

GD: Why? What do you mean? You can find a job that suits you in Germany.

SH: I don’t think I can make a career in consulting there.

GD (Now visibly surprised and irritated): Looking at Sharanya’s mom. I think she can get a consulting job there, we have to adjust initially illiya Maami?

These words hit a home run. Sharanya made up her mind not to entertain this guy anymore. She politely turned down this proposal.

Now lets rewind  a little bit and cut to the subtle aspect of chauvinism which is very easy to miss precisely because it is thought to be natural or okay.

The very first question which is countered by Indian girls looking for an arranged marriage match is what do they intend to do after they get married.

Why do I feel this is wrong? We still continue to  unconsciously ACCEPT that a woman is defined by her nuptial status. Even women think that it is so. In a society where gender roles are getting blurry, the least a human being can do is observe this change and respect this transition. It is not a fault if a woman wants to stay at home. It is her choice. The same treatment should be applied to women who want to work. I believe this is a very personal choice that is decided by the individual and NOT by family, society or other institutions. Asking such a question is an absurd and ridiculous violation of personal space. It is akin to asking a person if he would shave his head when he turns 40.

The other part of the story is the women’s response to such border-line offensive questions. Sharanya’s response is not having an assertive tone but almost an apologist one. She does not want to offend the old man by telling him she had outdone his son in academic qualification so it is quite obvious that she aspires to be a high ranking career woman in a corporate world. This unconscious conditioning of women towards such glaring violation of personal  space needs healing.

The next subtle form of chauvinism is the condescending tone “It is better to do something than staying at home – which is quite boring in Germany”.Every individual has a right to aspiration irrespective of gender. This aspiration is exemplified in actions, in this case Sharanya’s credentials in her academics and career. That is not to say a person’s historical credentials alone would justify her/his passion. It is an intangible that cannot be quantified in words. In this case, the guy’s ignorance of consulting business can be forgiven but he would be really stupid if he thought a person would forgo his/her career just to be with another person who in this case happens to be a complete stranger.

Something inside of me urged me to write this post ever since I listened to one friend who assumed her goals and ambitions were the fault that needed correction.This was an unpleasant and sorrowful experience – to listen to a highly motivated individual made to feel like shit precisely because she was ambitious.

It is because of such subtle thought patterns both in men as well as women that each of us have a  collective responsibility to ensure equality. It is an urgent need that all of us must become feminists. It is quite natural now, isn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The toil of Sisyphus

He climbed out of his makeshift bed, and with great difficulty rubbed his sleepy yet painful eyes. This was a routine he was more or less accustomed to. The thought of providing a cemented roof for his 5 year old and psychological security to his loving wife motivated his hands to splash cold water on his unrelenting eyes. It was 4 AM and he didn’t have the luxury of a relaxed morning routine to board the first bus to work. Hurriedly completing his morning drill, he steps out of his quarters only to find that the infamous desert winter had set in already. He covered his face with the tattered shawl, the only one which he could afford from his meager means of livelihood. Realizing that he was late by 5 minutes, he begins to jog to the bus stop which at 4.20 AM is a symbol of man’s steely will against the odds. Men and women, wearing shawls, torn pullovers and sweaters with gaping holes fighting everyday obstacles to work. Each had a story which revolved around debt, lack of education or escape from native tyranny. Fighting the winter chill, people board the first bus to the work site which is over-crowded almost as a rule than an exception. The hour long journey gives some of them an opportunity to catch up on lost sleep provided they could bear the cold winds blowing on their faces through the broken windows of the ride. Once they reach the destination, the migrant workers are welcomed with hot tea and bun which doubles up as the brunch for the day. Then begins the arduous part, lifting bricks, wood, cement and steel. Each worker is expected to put in 12 hours straight, often working against environmental and physiological impediments. The shift ends at the strike of electric horn which is made pleasant only because of what it implies – the end of the toil. Not long after the shift, the same bus arrives to carry the workers back to the city bus stop. He gets off the bus, wiping sweat from his brows. With almost a natural action he strides to the Indian tea stall at the end of the road. The hot tea was almost a constant companion through his journey in the alien land. Tea represented the experience of the peaceful scenes back home in his quiet village. He soothes his nerves with the cuppa and heads straight to his quarters. After a quick bath and a plain meal, he dropped into his makeshift bed. Happy and content that his month’s salary would contribute to the walls of his house in progress back home. This is the brief insight into the life of Sisyphus from Ramnad.

Faltering and falling into infinity

The evening prayer call floated through the starry sky and gently filled up the East park. She was sitting on one of her favorite benches right opposite to the central fountains observing the scenes around her. A family of four had just entered the park, and the youngest of the lot jumped into the grass lawns while teasing her elder brother to join her. Maybe it was the way in which she gestured to him that she was reminded of similar scenes on the beach back home. Her mother used to tell how she tugged her dad’s khakhi trousers in an effort to make it all “sandy”. She could faintly remember how she used all the might of her little fingers to clutch the crease of his pants while he carefully guarded the little one from getting hurt. A rush of emotions filled her head and she had to focus on the fountain to regain her balance. It was all ironical to her – the whole process of life. The more she held on to thoughts, people, places and love the more it eluded her grip slipping away into the far corners of the universe. The elder brother lifted the little one up and trudged far away from their parents. Then she began to ponder on the whims and wishes of her own which seemed to pull her away in different directions. Yet, she clutched on to each one of them in the hope of making peace and showing her affection. Far from it, she was affected by serious bruises and some unrelenting scars that are a constant reminder to her futile plans of clutching and wailing. At this exact moment, she could spot the little one escaping her brother’s clutches and her parents’ frantic bid to return to them. The cute one in pink frock, who a while back was uncomfortably wrapped in her brothers arms now broke free and ran to the central fountain. First in slow paces, and then picking up speed as the cool splash of the fountain neared. Her feet began to grow restless, and the next thing she could feel was the cool air blowing across her face as she dashed towards the fountain. In the sense, it didn’t seem like running away from people, their plans and egoistic battles but running towards the only constant trickle of the fountain at the center. As she sprinted across the lawns, she could almost hear her own folks cautioning her about the stumbles which lay ahead. But this time, the little girl on the beach had let go of everything and running to the waves – the symbol of constant cycles in her life. She was free.

An evening by the stream

As he walked on the stone pathway, he could feel a sense of anticipation and nervousness combined. It gave a very weird feeling and he wasn’t sure if there was an apt word to describe it. Poets have tried, and so have playwrights but they have been able to vaguely describe this feeling as “love”. Maybe, the smiling saint of Assisi described it better, he thought. Again, he wasn’t sure if all the saints felt this way. The slow gurgles and swishes of the stream flowing nearby brought him back to the present. Rather, he was always in the present which made it all the more beautiful. Her face. He could witness every feeling of exhilaration and joy contained in that lovely index of her heart. He could feel her presence in him all the while, but when he met her in person it was a different world altogether. Her face made him realize that it was possible for the sheer brilliance of the universe to be emanating from one source. Her. He pulled her close to verify the truth of his intuition. And Voila, he could see the whole expanse of space and galaxies, feel the presence of a million nay, a billion souls. As the eyes locked, words stopped and so did interpretations and expectations. There was no thought. Only feeling. When the two embraced it was difficult not to feel the overwhelming sense of peace and oneness that prevailed. It was almost as tangible as the sweet fragrance of dewy rose petals on a misty morning. For thousands of years, poets and playwrights have tried in vain to describe this love. Indeed, it is the fool who discusses and relates while the lover dies and only love prevails.