Stories

Stories,
We spend our lives telling them
Once upon a time
About you, about him
About her, about people
About this, and that

Stories,
We look for them
They make our lives interesting
Events, accidents, memories, 
We want to bash into one

Stories,
We want to recite them
Again and again
To our children,
To our grandchildren
Till they remember them
And they recite them
To their children and grandchildren

Stories,
They are so good
We wish they never end
So gripping
You want to hear 
A little bit more

Stories,
Some bring laughter
Some tears
Anger. Lust. Greed. Rush.
They are so powerful

But isn't that what a great story does?
They make us feel
Make us believe
What we stand for
What we fight for
What we live for
What we lived for..
Once upon a time,

Stories,
Are like diamonds
Precious and pure,
They really are with us forever

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vlumi/21917338780/

The moon and you

Often it is much easier said than done
To accept the changes around you
Accept them graciously as a part of fun
For life which hates being a dead heartbeat

Meet new crossroads and fresh intersections
Pause for a while, think, re-evaluate, decide
Choose between the paths new and old ones
With the fear of guilt that cloud the dark gray sky above

The flickering quivering lights on the street
Make you wonder if this is a signal or a sign
To add the ups and downs to a live heartbeat
And then you question since when you adopted superstitions

You are running out this invaluable time
Dawn is so close, make up your mind quick
Wasting this moment, nothing is a bigger crime
A position where no regret can be afforded

You see far, try to envision what it will be like
A small source of illumination is all you see
But the same on the counterpart, you lose your psyche
It seems *exactly* the same, what will you do now?

Nothing seems the same, nothing at all, none
Even the stars have lost their shine
And one by one, the journey its companions
But this delta is the only motivation long lost

Just to keep your heart reassured, you want that one thing
Which tells you things haven’t changed, it’s just an illusion
And that’s when you looked up in the sky, to gaze
At the moon which was, has been and will be the only constant

Picture: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vlumi/21763773181/in/photostream/


A home in Osaka

I got an email stating that my flight from Osaka to Fukuoka got cancelled 15 minutes before I was about to check out from the hotel. I rescheduled it to the next day, but this also meant I had to now extend my stay in Osaka. I booked a hotel on agoda.com and set out to check-in there.

Since it was a "cheap" hotel, I almost had reached the outskirts of the city. After asking for the location atleast five times, I managed to see the building (rather, a bungalow). An old lady opened the door, and let me in. She asked me to remove my shoes outside and gave me a clean set of slippers to use inside the house. Yes, it was a house, belonging to the old lady, where she rented out rooms to guests to make money. She started looking for my booking in her spreadsheet. It wasn't there!

I had made the booking only an hour ago, and her spreadsheet had not been updated. The real trouble began now - she did not speak English, none at all. Her only words were "No English. Chinese? Nihongo?". I nod. She opened up her messaging service and called her daughter, she didn't answer. She called her son, he didn't answer. Apparently they knew English. I tried translate on Google to tell her that I made the payment an hour ago, ask your son to update the sheet. She couldn't understand the translate. After calling a lot of people, who did their best by using Google Translate, nobody reached a conclusion. Her son had to update the spreadsheet, which he didn't and now he wasn't available.

Finally after a struggle of lots of translations and nobody understanding anything, her son called, and updated the spreadsheet about an hour and half post my arrival. She got really apologetic, folded her hands, and apologized a lot in Chinese/Japanese or whatever it was. She gave me keys to my room and showed me around to make me comfortable.

I was bored in the evening. I thought I'd sit with her for a while in the living room. She was watching some Japanese TV channel who were broadcasting how shrines are made. She noticed my anklet and asked me about it. I translated silver in Japanese and she understood. Then we started talking cultures. I showed her pictures from India, how women dress up. It was crazy dumb charades. We both used sign language as the only means of communication. I showed her our festivals in pictures and some vegetarian food! She couldn't believe the variety we can have for vegetarians!

It was her turn next. She was from Taiwan, she told me. She googled for pictures and showed me some shrines and how things are done. Then she showed me pictures of her family and asked me about mine. I showed her my sketches and she recognized Dalai Lama, Micheal Jackson and a few others. She kissed my hands as a sign of appreciation. We added each other on Facebook, and she wrote "Thank You in Chinese" on my wall. Further she gave me this beautiful keyring. Further when she learnt my family is back in India, she asked me to call her mama! :)



She kissed my eyes and said "Beautiful". I was touched. I went back to my room. I was shaken with the amount of love she showered on me. I opened my bag, found my notebook and my pencil and started sketching her!



When I gave her the completed sketch, she went to her attic, got a glass frame, and hanged the picture framed on her wall. It was just so amazing to see it up there! She wouldn't stop chanting a lot of words in Chinese! She kept thanking me and hugging me, and then I went back to sleep in a while.

Next morning when I was about to leave, she hugged me many times again. I had some plastic covers in my hand, she ran inside to get me a bag to keep them in. I politely refused, knowing I can't give it back to her again. She hugged me again. She said the three magical words: "I love you". And hugged me even more. As dramatic as this seems, the moment got emotional. When I bent to tie my shoe laces, she held my hand, sat down and started tying them herself. When I pulled myself back, she pointed at herself and said, "mama". And tied them into a neat bow. She hugged me an I love you again and we bid goodbye.

She came till the train station to see me off, and showed me the figure "3500" on my hand. That was the amount I paid for the room. She crossed it and wrote "2500". We hugged again, and I left. I guess I have a home in Osaka!

Here is what she wrote as a comment by sharing my profile picture to her friends:

TLDR? Check out the Instagram Story here.

It comes at a cost

They wake up cursing their mother's voice
He snoozes his alarm till he no longer has the time to bathe

They get served hot piping breakfast and milk
He gulps the piece of stale bread down his throat

They meet with their friends to travel together
He waits for the timezone to allow him to call his

They gossip about their office politics
Here he is, trying to appear less foreign

As they open their lunchbox, the aroma lingers
He counts his money to decide if he wants to eat

They surprise their girlfriends with river boat cruises
He stands by the coast wishing for his girl to hold his hand

They have dinner together, staring into each other's eyes
He sends her a picture of the food he cooked himself

They give goodnight kisses pressing their lips against each other
He tells her he misses her over the messenger

And then they said to him
You live a life many dream of

The joy in kvetching!

There's a poetry from where the thoughts below arise from. This was written by Michelangelo, one of the greatest painters in the history of mankind and also a wonderful poet. He says this to Giovanni da Pistoia while he was painting the renowned Chapel of Sistine, the official residence of the Pope in the Vatican City.


I've already grown a goiter from this torture,
hunched up here like a cat in Lombardy
(or anywhere else where the stagnant water's poison).
My stomach's squashed under my chin,
my beard's pointing at heaven,
my brain's crushed in a casket,
my breast twists like a harpy's.
My brush,above me all the time,
 dribbles paint so my face makes a fine floor for droppings!
My haunches are grinding into my guts,
my poor ass strains to work as a counterweight,
every gesture I make is blind and aimless.
My skin hangs loose below me,
 my spine's all knotted from folding over itself.
I'm bent taut as a Syrian bow.
Because I'm stuck like this,
my thoughts are crazy, perfidious tripe:
anyone shoots badly through a crooked blowpipe.
My painting is dead.Defend it for me, Giovanni,
 protect my honor.
I am not in the right place—I am not a painter.


 What? Did he just call himself - "I am not a painter?" Was this a form of forced humility. It could surely be a desperate attempt from Michelangelo to keep the modesty in himself alive.
But I doubt that. He is just doing what we humans love to do - complain. Now most of what Michelangelo describes is physical pain he has while painting a ceiling, maybe a very natural trait to complain physical pain. After all, who likes to withstand body aches? But then why the "I am not a painter" in the end? The very fact he says it, means something deeper than what it appears to be.

Your best friend calls you to tell you how big a mess he is in. How his life is fucked up, and how low times are. And what do you feel like saying? "So you think you've had a bad day, huh? Listen to this.."
and you go on telling how a bigger mess you are currently in.

Who said you're probably not enjoying what you are doing? Who says you are complaining out of dissatisfaction or boredom?

Kvetching, has always been seen as the sign of the weak. Mum used to say, "Now don't complain about it." But as I have come to realize, we all need our share of complaining. Perhaps our finest friends are very used to us complaining, they share that joy of kvetching with us too! The trade continues, each of us bothering the other with our so-called sorrows even when we are at the peak. And I guess no one else perhaps will understand this feeling as much as them, for others it'll be just show off.
Imagine for instance, Sachin Tendulkar stands up and says 'I am such a bad cricketer'. What will you say? Mock him maybe. But if he does really have a bad day at practice, doesn't he need an outlet - to complain?

The point being, there is a certain joy in kvetching, a satisfaction of some sort when we complain. It may not be to let down things happening around us, or to be a medium of pure gloat, it really is sympathy. Sympathizing with ourselves, to feel sorry about the state we are in, try provide a rationale to it and move on (maybe?).

I like to believe in the joy of kvetching.

Am I next?

Its not today for the first time that this feeling crept in. And for all I know its definitely not the last that I imagined myself getting raped, against my will, forcefully and cruelly.

It has always been in my memory that news snippets describing brutal have appeared on every news channel. Only initially was it surprising that rape news made it to the top news of the day almost daily. Then it became routine. Somewhere the security and comfort around me asked my sane mind to ignore them, like just not heed any news item describing a woman harassment case. Yet in those days, I have distinct memories of asking papa to change the channel for the disturbances it caused in my head.

And then slowly, without any conscious knowledge, I started getting nightmares. Nightmares where I pictured all these said descriptions graphically in my sleep getting abused sexually. Suddenly, sex for a teenage girl wasn't a fantasy anymore. Men who gave me vicious stares on my way home would be the antagonists of my little movie. Where of course, their harmless looks took the form of a wicked reality. Before I could even forget the course of events happening in my dreams, I would be fed with newspaper articles the following day. These thoughts were becoming like haunted ghosts, except that I was a living proof of the form in which ghosts existed.

Suddenly feeling safe became a priority. Suddenly the feeling of having people around always started mattering. Suddenly I felt like I needed more hugs more often or hear the words, "I will be there for you". Suddenly I was dreaming less about my backpacking trips alone but rather with a group of travel enthusiasts. For a long time I told myself that travel is more enjoyable when with friends. I remember traveling in the rickshaw with a friend, and then hugging on tightly just because I saw a Crime Patrol poster on a bus advertising rape statistics. I don't think I felt so insecure mentally ever.

The nightmares were an on-and-off business. Little incidents like a man pinching my butt on the station bridge or a man trying to grope me triggered them occasionally. I would weep in silence as those thoughts troubled me. I think I should have spoken about them to someone right at its inception. I tried finding solace as I wrote short poems like Worries of a Woman. 

Now that I think 50 shades of Grey is not at all an arousing book or porn is just not exciting as it should be. It is all scary. Anurag Kashyap's movies, documentaries on women harassment and news snippets buzzed around. I can associate only pain with anything remotely sexual. 

The Nirbhaya documentary sure points out the cheap mentality of men out there. It sure voices the opinion of liberal women and men fighting for justice. Kirron Kher's argument in the court is definitely worth clapping for. But, do they make me feel safe? No. Sure I felt like slapping those lawyers hard on their faces as they compared women to flowers and gems. I felt angered as the convict spoke so calmly without regret or shame in his eye. But that rage melted away in seconds of its genesis, giving birth to fear and crippling me with endless questions about my existence. If a man's company couldn't save Jyoti, how can I expect it to save me in my situation? What is safety? What am I really seeking here? Even I don't know.

While on one hand I want to change the world at a top-notch tech firm with latest advancements in technology, the thought of "Am I really contributing?" arises. While I have several opportunities to travel and sing and enjoy merrily, my safety is my concern. It is a shame that an educated, well-protect happy girl like me has to go through this. It is annoying that men who were sentenced to death are still breathing. It is also fearful that while I took 20 minutes penning my thoughts down, somewhere another girl realized the nightmare for real.

This post will be archived somewhere, unknown, will float around for a while and just like how this news will die down, no one will ever know how scary this night has been for me. No one will really wonder how many other women thought, "Am I next?"


Rumbling and Moaning



Rumbling and moaning each part of her body pained
Hands weary of the vessels she scraped
Feet rugged skin blue cold, even as she whimpered
The noises only squelched the energy already drained

Deep sunk into her hard coiled mattress
She felt the burden of the earth rest on her shoulder
She perhaps needed another arm to rest hers
To provide her slender figure with warm buttress

While her kernel coalesced to desperate rest
Her mind was free to wander on its way
Nonchalant of the worries to come the next day
The inner most self was at its happiest best

She dreamt about the things her body would crave
Her skin could already feel the orange sun's warmth
As her eye painted a serenity descended from heaven
There stood victorious over melancholy, her spirits brave

The unwavering force of her head stretched leaps and bounds
Until the chirping birds ignited the dawn
The physical self summoned her unrestricted soul
Rumbling and moaning into her body, her spirits drowned