Thursday, January 14, 2021

Happy New Year!

Dear Readers, 

Happy New Year!

I hope you've all been well and healthy.

My January turned joyous when I saw this animated illustration yesterday. It's been done by the amazingly talented @bohrasisters. 

I've been following them on Instagram for sometime. One of their recent animated illustrations reminded me of my grandfather. So, I sent them a message and we connected.

I wasn't sure why I reached out but I could see my memories reflected in their art. So, I shared a couple of my A to Z (April 2020) memoir posts with them.

Then magic happened.

They were as thrilled as I was to illustrate some of my memories. 

Here's the one that arrived yesterday:

It's a scene from the post that follows. You may have read it in April, but if you've not, then enjoy:) And even if you have, come along for another reminiscing...
This post is an amalgamation  of genres. Imagination has been allowed to fly to the land of  fantasy despite the lockdown. Names of  two main characters have been picked purposefully: one from a children's book and the other from Greek mythology. Their names may be imaginary, but all the characters in this tale are real. All events are real too, well mostly. 

Thank you and I hope you enjoy it.
(Picture: clicked in 2019, Jhinjhi Village, Uttarakhand, entroute Kuari Pass)

                                                                                                                        

Milk for Radishes

Surrounded by High Mountains of the Himalayas in the north and Shivalik Hills in the south, lay a valley called Doon. The green, green valley gurgled with gushing waters of River Ganga in the east and River Yamuna in the west.


Legend has it that a wise Wizard once lived in this land. The people of the valley called him Papadash the Perfect. No one knew where he had come from. Some say he hailed from a faraway Western Kingdom of the Northern Frontiers: the land of Perpetual Spring. But, everyone in the valley knew one thing for sure: the fact that Papadash the Perfect had magical powers. 


People of Doon, the Valley of Green, had heard stories about the wise Wizard's ability to talk to plants to help them grow. It was believed by the young and the old that he sang lullabies to the climbing vines so they could sleep peacefully at night. 


For it is common knowledge that only a well-rested vine can bear sweet grapes and this is the way of the world.


Also, in the Valley of Doon, not far from Papadash's Great Garden, there lived a little girl whose only dream was to be the Most Green Gardener of all times. 


Her name was Artemis.


The Moon had hung so low and so full on the night of her birth, that her mother decided to name her after the Goddess of Moon.


“We shall call her Artemis.” she told her husband.


Artemis grew up in a field of Wildflowers where her mother and father lived. They were the Beekeepers of the Valley.


“Half for us and half for the bees.” Her father would sing when they went collecting honey.


For it is common knowledge that Man was assigned by the gods of All Things Sweet as nature's Beekeeper, so the bees would never, ever go hungry and this is the way of the world.


 By the time Artemis was six years old, her dream to become the Most Green Gardener of all times had taken root in her heart. 

 

 “Why don't you work as an apprentice with Papadash?” suggested her mother who wanted to help her daughter but didn't know how.


Artemis's big brown eyes opened up like saucers. She dashed off before her mother could finish saying what she had to say.

 

Dragonfly’s wings, transparent and tender, rose up in protest. She had spent the entire summer teaching Artemis how to dance like a Dragonfly ballerina. In fact, Artemis had only recently mastered the art of hovering still in position 5 on the very tip of the guava tree branches. It was a secret the two friends shared. They were preparing a dance to surprise mother and father on Summer Solstice day. This apprenticeship would get in the way, thought dragonfly and decided to follow Artemis.

   

With her wild hair blowing in the breeze, her apple red cheeks flushed with excitement, Artemis reached the Big Metal Gate of the Great Garden where Papadash the Perfect lived. 


"Ah...Ah…hh..." Artemis huffed for breath as she stood face to face with the wise one, looking up into his gentle eyes, trying to get a few words out. 


"What is it child?" Papadash asked.


"I want to be your apprentice forever and ever and... I want to be the Most Green Gardener of all times and ...I want to most certainly I want to and ....you have to say yes... and I cannot go back now... And I want to and... please and..." Her words rattled off like a woodpecker's drumming: on and on with no gaps for gulps of air.

 

Dragonfly flew in. She hovered anxiously between Artemis and Papadash.


"Child." said Papadash softly and put both his hands on her shoulders to calm her down. "What took you so long? I've been waiting for you all these universes."


He smiled. His eyes twinkled. He patted Artemis's wild hair and took out a twig that had hopped on for a free ride.


Artemis's heart was singing like a lark. She was trying really hard not to jump up and down. Instead, she used the back of her hand to wipe off drops from the tip of her button nose. All that running had made her nose run too.


Before taking her hand to lead her down the crisscross bricks of the path that led to the Great Garden, Papadash bent down to pick up a bottle of milk that was lying by the Big Metal Gate and slid it inside the deep pockets of his robe. 


Blue Bird of Middle Himalayas, perched on Mulberry, watched as they reached the shade of her tree.  Papadash turned to Artemis and said, "Now, I know I said I've waited for you for many galaxies which is true, but this apprenticeship is very, very special. You have to accomplish a Task before you can be accepted. For this is the way of the World of the Wizards."


Artemis's eyes opened wider. She shook her head up and down to show the Wizard that she was listening.


"You can be my apprentice for ever and ever as long as you can spend One Day--Today, with me in the Great Garden without asking a single question."


"That's easy!” chimed Artemis, cheering up at the thought of such an ordinary Task.

 

Dragonfly, too, cheered up.

 

Papadash the Perfect nodded kindly and carried on walking holding her hand. He bowed his head low as he passed under the pink blooms of Bougainvillea. 


For it is common knowledge that all blooms and flowers are a gift from the gods of All Things Beautiful and bowing to show them respect is the way of the world. 


The first stop they made was by a short Pomegranate tree. 


Papadash picked up some mud, mixed it with water in his bowl of brass and turned it into a paste. Artemis watched silently.


He then took a big helping of the paste and applied it on the trunk of the tree like balm.


"You'll be fine young man. You'll survive. Those silly cats don't know how to climb. I'm sorry! Here... here." Papadash kept talking to the Pomegranate in his soothing voice while applying the paste.

 

“You can ask him, he won’t mind.” Whispered Dragonfly in Artemis’s ear softly.

 

“No, Dragonfly. I want to pass the test.” Artemis stated clearly to her friend.


Next, he took a long strip of cotton cloth and wrapped it around Pomegranate's trunk like a bandage. 


"There!" exclaimed Papadash, happy with his workmanship. "This will do."


A tiny whirlpool of questions was beginning to churn inside Artemis's tummy. Bandages for trees? But she reminded herself of the Task and kept quiet.


They bid Pomegranate goodbye and Papadash added, "Get well soon." before he turned towards the patch that was the Giant Bed for Radishes.


Artemis saw rows and rows of bright green leaves sitting up straight in the Giant Bed. 


"They like their Bed fluffy like you do." smiled Papadash. "So, I rake the soil and mulch and mulch. Air loves to tickle Earthworms you know. And when Earthworms are tickled happy, they make the Bed fluffy like clouds."


"How does he know about my bed?" wondered Artemis but bit her lips hard to stop the words from escaping her lips. This Task was making her tummy ache with all the questions that were piling up inside her belly.

 

“Go on….you know you want to ask him.” Encouraged Dragonfly.

 

Artemis ignored her and carried on.


Next, Papadash took out the bottle of milk he had been carrying in his robe and undid the lid. He bent down towards the Bed of Radishes and poured out a little bit.


"There...there...my babies...drink up the sweet milk. It's fresh from Cow. She knows you need it to make you sweet and ripe." whispered the wise Wizard to each Radish as he poured a little milk down into the soil.


It was getting too much for Artemis. She had never been silent for this long. And the whirlpool of questions was churning inside her like a hurricane now. If she kept quiet any longer, she'd burst open like a seedpod, she thought.


The wise Wizard uprooted a Radish. It shone smooth and white like the moon in the afternoon sun. He shook it a few times to get rid of the fluffy soil and gave it to Artemis to eat.


She was happy to take a bite for this would stop the question from escaping her lips. 


"Crunch...Crunch..." Artemis could not believe how sweet the Radish was.


She thanked Radish and the fluffy soil for giving her such a tasty treat. 


For it is common knowledge that all food is a gift from the gods of Soil and Earth and saying thank you to them is the way of the world.


By the time she had finished eating the Radish and saying her thank you, Dragonfly had filled her ears with more questions.

 

Artemis could hold back no more. She blurted, “How do you know Radishes like milk Papadash?”
    

But, before she could finish her question, she was back at the field of Wildflowers, under the guava tree where Dragonfly had taught her all the movements and poses.

 

 “No!” sobbed Artemis. “This cannot be.”


The Mountains High of the north and the Shivalik Hills of the south still recall tales of the wise Wizard who lived once upon a time in a Garden where Radish drank milk. The River Ganga and the River Yamuna babble about his magic that turned the whirlpool of questions inside Artemis into songs of belief, of magic and of the way of all the worlds across all galaxies and universes. The Wind carries tales of Dragonfly’s selfishness who wanted her friend to be only hers and how Artemis worked hard for a whole long year before she found the path that led her back to the Great Garden to ask Papadash once again if he’d take her as his apprentice.

 

For it is common knowledge that dreams are worth pursuing through disappointments and hardships and that is the way of all the dreamers of this world and beyond who are able to turn their dreams into reality.

 

************************
Papaji, my grandfather did indeed bandage his plants and feed milk to his radishes. He even soaked seeds in milk before planting them. Whenever we asked him, he'd say it makes his radishes sweet like milk. We often ate vegetables pulled straight out of the ground, unwashed. And if Mummy complained about hygiene, he would say: "A little dirt will make them stronger.

I continue the 'talking to our plants and trees' tradition in my garden in Doha. 

A note about the names:
Papaji's name was inspired by my daughter's favourite book character when she was a toddler. He's called Balderdash the Brilliant. Artemis was an easy choice. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

Of light, diyas, Diwali and celebrating life.

Photo credit: Sahitya

Dear Readers, 

I hope you've been well and healthy. 

As some of you may know the past fortnight has been all about Diwali; a festival of lights celebrated by --- and this is where I'm struggling (she admits after tapping the backspace button 5 times!)

So, who celebrates Diwali? Is it only Hindus? No, my Muslim and Christian and Atheist friends get as excited about this celebration of good over evil as much as I do. 

Is it just Indians? No, the same list of friends includes some whose connection to India is purely and only (unashamedly) gastronomical--alloo gobhi and gulab jamun.

I tapped the Backspace button so many times wile trying to complete the sentence that I decided it was better to explore the questions arising within and share them with you rather than forcefully plant a word that may limit the horizons of Diwali's celebratory aura.  Does assigning a festival to a group of people makes it divisive? Is there any need any more to attach festivals to regions and religions to celebrations? 

I grew up in secular India. The sweetness of Eid mingled with the joys of Diwali and colours of Holi and langars of Guru Purabs and twinkling lights of Christmas like Van Gogh's brush strokes. Everything mixed together and remained distinct at the same time. The end result was always memorable. We celebrated all the festivals on the calendar -- some more fervently than others, but the collective canvas was always vibrant and life affirming.

The common denominators were sweets and new clothes and holidays. It didn't really matter whether Krishna was being born or Christ or if the Moon was a crescent in the sky or Full or New. We were celebrating. Those three words were enough to bring the neighbours into our homes, us into theirs, families to meet and school friends to pack left over feasts in dabbas to take to school the next day to swap, bargain over or share.

Those three words didn't need any qualifiers like which God or Goddess was being thought of that day. The names of the festivals were important only to the grandmothers and banner makers. 

The celebrations were communal. All of us in the mohalla (neighbourhood) participated without invitations or inhibitions.  There were no T.V. ads to drool or fight over. No celebratory guidelines were issued by governments. We simply turned up with dreams of new things, hungry tummies and lots of noisy energy. And that was that.

Diwali of Doon, when I was a little girl, looked nothing like the showy, noisy, decadent, ridden with consumerism commotion of a tamasha everyone is compelled to be a part of and yet complain afterwards these days. Festivals have become giant conglomerates of more vs more, shiny vs shinier, louder vs deafening. Many magazine articles tell you how to 'cope' with the stresses of celebrating a festival, a holiday and how to destress afterwards.

Aren't holidays and stress supposed to be antonyms?  I may go so far and call them oxymoronic. How can stress sit next to a holiday/a festival on the same line unless we are going about this business of  celebrating  the wrong way!

Friends and family have complained of over-doing the party scene in the past years. I am guilty of getting into such a tizzy about cleaning my entire house in a day that I had to resort to a Panadol just before doing the Diwali puja this year. Why do we create mountains to climb over in order to feel like we've done a good job of celebrating? I'd love to know your thoughts.

Apart from the day long cleaning circus I planted myself in, Diwali was different this year, like everything else. Covid made sure the ex-pat Indian population couldn't travel back home to celebrate and that worked out well for the art initiative I've been a part of for the past 2 years.

Let me explain. Two years ago, I visited a facility where cancer warriors undergoing treatment stay. The facility houses blue collar workers who come to Doha from all over the world to work. They come alone and either live with their sponsor's family as their maids or drivers or in community housing provided by their employees and sponsors. Qatar Cancer Charity provides them with treatment free of charge and makes arrangement for some of the more vulnerable patients to stay in this facility so that it's easier for them to manage.

In 2018, around Diwali, I visited the facility for the first time to give some money in the spirit of giving. There I met Gary, the manager in charge, who shared his vision of using posters or art pieces to make the rooms more warm and vibrant for the patients.

"How about if the patients make that art?" I volunteered.

Gary didn't look convinced but he agreed and let me come in the following Thursday to dabble in art with 24 patients in a large activity room.

What started off as a 'one off' session has grown and blossomed into an initiative that keeps me busy and fulfilled. Many dear friends have joined in to help and support. The magic of art and the human spirit have shown me a new way to celebrate. And in this kind of celebration, trust me, there is no stress. On the contrary, my weekly visits destress me.

So, this year, we made diyas with clay and decorated them with colours. They turned out to be the most beautiful diyas I have ever seen. If you don't believe me, ask anyone who's bought them. They'll tell you:)

So many homes and hearts rejoiced in India, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Egypt this Diwali because kind souls bought diyas made in Doha by cancer warriors who fight not just the disease but the perpetual uncertainties limited finances bring.

This year, diyas made by Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and Muslims in a hospital far away from any of the countries the makers come from brought Diwali of forty years ago, from a gully in a mohalla in Dehradun to Doha and reminded me that it's the human spirit that wants to celebrate the miracle of life. Divisions of religion and countries blur into oblivion when the light of life shines. Life wants to live. There's no better place to witness this fact than in a place where disease stares at you with its painful and sometimes imminent stark reality. 

Life, every day and every minute of it, is a celebration of light. Why store it in a box of decorations to be stored away for  yet another year? 

Photo credit: Deepa

If I could capture the tears of joy, the smiles of satisfaction, the spring in steps, the blissful immersions in the making of art and the energy that fills the room (which looks like an art gallery now) and share it with you, I would. You wouldn't have to go spend a penny to 'celebrate' anything ever again. That's how intoxicating this joy is.

Brother David Steindl Rast in one of his YouTube videos talks about the difference between a journey and a pilgrimage.

"In a journey, you reach a goal, that is the essence of the journey." He states and carries on, "In a pilgrimage, every step is the goal: now, now, now. The essence of a pilgrimage is love because in love, with every step, you reach the goal." 

If celebrations became pilgrimages, not journeys, we'd stop exhausting ourselves to reach those goals. Instead, we'd be in blissful joy every step of the way. Don't you think?

For some of us, making diyas this year was a pilgrimage of sorts. Diwali became a pilgrimage in times of Covid.

You can watch the video here:

I'll leave you with a prayer. 

May we make pilgrimages out of our journeys every day and may all the celebrations light up the light that's inside of us. It needs no flame, no oxygen, no expenses at all. Just a smile. And even though smiles may be covered with masks (as they should these days), our eyes will convey our heart's songs to the ones near and far.

Happy Diwali my lovely ones.

Warmly and in gratitude for your presence on this page today,

Arti 
photo credit: Deepa


Thursday, October 29, 2020

Good news comes in twos

Dear Friends and Readers,

I hope you've been well and healthy. 

The year 2020 seems to have played a trick on us. Every time I write a blog post, it feels like I'm near April somewhere. How could I be looking at the beginning of November already? I'm not complaining. As a matter of fact, I'm here to share two tasty pieces of treat i.e. good news with you. But before I do, a little preamble to how the news came about.

As you may recall, this year's A to Z Blogging Challenge took me down memory lane where I met my grandparents: Beji and Papaji. Some of the posts I wrote introduced you to them and their love of land and food and their devotion to us, their grandchildren. I chose to call myself a princess in one post and Artemis in another. What they call pride/hubris in the real world is known as imagination in the land of stories, right? Those posts were received with so much love and appreciation that when a call for stories for an anthology of feel good stories rang out in these parts, I rewrote a post into a short story and sent it.

Guess what? It got picked! And the book was launched on the 28th of October 2020! Miracles do happen. I'm sharing all the links. I'm not getting paid or anything but half the money raised from the sale of the book will be used to support an animal charity called 'Prani, The Pet Sanctuary' in Bangalore. I think it's a win win. My dream of seeing my work in print is helping to support a charity. What more could I ask for? I'm happy:) 

You can read 'Kingdom of Kitchen' and 27 other stories in the collection.

Presenting: Tea With a Drop of Honey by the Hive


Please leave helpful reviews if you can.

Covidkaal (the Covid Times) brought out another passion of mine to the fore. It happened by chance. And once again, it's thanks to the A to Z Challenge of 2020 where I met a kind soul and my namesake, Arti of my space who introduced me to online open mic sessions. One thing led to another and I found myself reading out my stories on zoom calls and Insta live sessions in June and July. By the time August rolled in, I had even started 'performing' poetry! It felt like I was back in school, on stage, debating and reciting. The thrills and chills felt exactly like they'd done more than 3 decades ago.

Then, last week, someone I'd met online on one such session asked me to send him some of my work and informed me that he hosts Mirchi Scribbled, a poetry/spoken word/storytelling platform affiliated to a well known radio channel in India called Radio Mirchi. He liked the pieces I'd sent him.

Artemis was back -- she even did a little victory dance to celebrate:)

When a piece was picked and okayed, I took it with me on my morning walks, sat with it under our neem tree and let the words that were written on a laptop screen become one with me.

Then last Friday, the husband and I teamed up to shoot a video of my poetry recital. I wore a grey Coimbatore cotton saree with a gorgeous black and mustard border, my favourite Kali locket, a pair of jhumkas and a big red bindi. I was ready.

We should be done in an hour, tops. I figured. We'll eat lunch after.

Two and a half hours of forgetting a line, knocking the phone off its stand, forgetting to push the record button, loo breaks, umpteen emptying of full glasses of water in single gulps followed by more loo breaks later, we agreed to stop and send the best recording we'd managed thus far. Lunch couldn't wait any longer.

Thanks to Parth Vasani of Mirchi Scribbled who did a stellar editing job, our amateur attempts at recording look pretty neat.

Presenting, my debut performance:
So, that's all folks.

I know Covid Times have been tough but all this sequestering has been like a hatching for me. I'm the egg that's had enough time and warmth over the last six months to crack open tiny parts of my creative spirit from the safety of my nest and peek out a little.

Wishing you a wonderful Halloween if you celebrate and a magical weekend if you don't.

It's a very special full moon tonight. Do go out (if it's possible and if the skies are clear) and let the Moon bathe you in her moonlight.

I owe all the above to the world of blogging and to the A to Z Challenge this year. And to you my dear friends and readers.

Thank you.

Love and prayers,

Arti

Friday, August 28, 2020

Dubrovnik: A bird's-eye view

Dear Readers,

I hope you're all well and healthy.

Re-sharing an old post today.

A friend shared some photos of her trip to Croatia recently on her Instagram account. Her clicks put me in mind of the time we'd marvelled at Croatia's cerulean skies in 2017.

Here it is then--an old post with travel pictures.

The poetry in the end that I wrote three years ago put a smile on my face today:) It seems like the 2017 me knew I'd need to read these words today. This is time travel in a blogger's world. I sat down  with an agenda for the day: a tad worrisome: mired in a to-do list of sorts; but after reading the post, all I can do is smile. The birds in the garden who have been singing all morning are sounding clear and chirpy now. The fog has lifted. 

Wishing you all a sparkling day wherever you are.


Much love

Arti xx
My morning routine has adapted itself to the hot summer of Doha and the holy month of Ramadan. I don't have to drop my son off to school first thing in the morning, so I find myself in my garden at six: watering, pruning and clicking pictures (when I remember to bring the phone with me). By nine am, the mercury is shooting to reach above 44 degrees, so I cherish this short window of time in the morning when the grass feels cool.

Gardening duties over, I make  my way back to the kitchen. En route, I pinch a few tulsi leaves to boil with fennel seeds and grated ginger to prepare my chai. The husband is packed off with his sandwiches and the son is yet to wake up. I am left with the gift of twenty minutes--too short to sit and mediate or practise yoga or run a wash cycle, but long enough to meet my feathered friends. I cradle my garam, garam chai in my hands and go back out to sit under the fragrant blooms of frangipani and the shade of the mulberry leaves to have tea with the birds.

A mishmash of house sparrows, Spanish sparrows, mynahs, doves and even the odd bulbul play their orchestra of notes while hopping from a branch here, to a leaf there, then to the moist ground to pick juicy breakfast. I've often thought of buying some seeds, but the birds seem content with berries and worms. Sipping tea, while squatting on the grass, trying to be invisible so that I can be part of their world for just under twenty minutes or so is the most special part of my day.

The birds gather here everyday like it's the first day. Their songs herald every day with the same magic, no matter the news, the changing temperature or the moon cycles. I sit and look at them and sometimes my heart flies around with them--free and fabulous.

It's been over a month since I've  blogged. I've been busy doing nothing--yes, that's the best kind of busy. Cleaning, cooking, reading, yoga and walks in Aspire Park have kept me occupied. I've been in a questioning mood (more about it in a later post--maybe:)

Today, after a long while, I feel like I'd like to write and share again. Birds sing, hoot, squawk and squeak.  They hop, skitter, skip and then fly off. I sit and watch and wonder what they make of what they see. So intent are they on their business of being, that they don't seem to have the need to question anything. No purpose needed other than the joy of living. Oh! how blessed are these feathered friends who have no mind to calm, no hearts to open, no chakras to align, no breath to focus on--they know how to be.


Bird's-eye view -- a term used for when you look at something from above--physically removed, detached, like an observer. Maybe that's the secret of the birds' lightness--they observe from a distance, they don't mire themselves in situations and reactions. Maybe one doesn't have to fly to detach, maybe one can sit and close ones eyes and let go. Maybe. Let's see. It's early days, but the journey to be has begun. 
*****
April, this year, saw us exploring Croatia and one of my favourite walks was: walking the walls of Dubrovnik. I urge you to do it if you're able to. The views were stunning, of course, but the peace and quiet up here (at least when we were there) takes you back in time and space. You can be a bird, an ancient warrior fending your kingdom, a princess or a washerwoman waiting for her lover, or a mother carrying a camera:) Up here, your imagination and your eyes will keep you occupied for hours 

All these photos were taken from top of the walls that surround the Old City. 
Dubrovnik: A bird's-eye view




One never knows when ones seams  may come undone;)





And here's a view that's been painted by many artists:
Back down in the old city, who should I see? 
A bunch of birds--colourful, but not free.
Summer heat and political news makes me want to read poems like this one by Emily Dickinson:
Photo courtesy: Google Images.

This is my hope for you dear readers, and in this hope lies a prayer that I send out for me.
Have you noticed how the words our hearts seek
 are the ones our fingers type so our eyes may peek?


I wish you a summer such as this.

May you smell the flowers 
and always caress the grass

May books be read under trees 
laden with summer fruit or leaves fluttering in balmy breeze

May much-too-juicy mangoes quench your thirst for childhoods gone
and may those fleshy cherries make you cherish the lands to which you now belong

May lemonade infused with mint and thyme
fill you up with still and sparkling bubbles of tender travelled time

May jamuns and black berries colour you in their darkness so deep
that you may frolic in merry mischief of those once-upon-a-time afternoons 
when you hoodwinked sleep

May cold and creamy kulfi held with both hands on sticks
melt more rapidly than your greedy, clumsy licks.

May white kurtas and cream dupattas bear stains plenty
of tumbles and first kisses when lovers had wished for public parks to be empty

May ice-cream carts ring in all your summers from before
through gates and gullies and welcoming open doors
of orange bars and shared bites
and bursting into neighbours' houses to claim reclaimed kites

May you sing with birds and fly with them too
May you remember to wear sunscreen, shades, hat 
and let not your smile go askew

But, whenever you step out
remember:
May you be you this summer
May you always be you

May you always be you: 
the sum total of memories, dreams and dew
Enjoying every now and then --
your own personal bird's-eye view

*****

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Rejection: does it make you or break you?


Have you ever felt the insides of your gut churn so violently that you are sure the intestinal walls have convoluted into a vortex—a sinking, gutted, dark vortex that will only stop once it has buried you deep in the Earth’s core?

Saturday, 16th August 2020
It started last night.

24 hours later, and the whirlpool inside me rages and whirls and tornadoes round and round.

I want it to stop.

But then my heart which has been beating faster than it has ever beaten--even faster than that time my lips had touched his for the first time!

Okay, that happened a long time ago, but still--the dhak, dhak, dhak of my heartbeat drumming against my ear drums had erupted with the ferociousness of first love--after we’d kissed, however, the heart had found its usual rhythm again.


But this time it hasn’t stopped its somersaults since Friday night.

What’s happening to me?

All I did was: sent my story for a story-telling competition; got picked for a regional round; learnt my story by heart and performed it in front of a panel--zooming into my own eyes on my laptop screen. The little camera light on top kept blinking throughout -- reminding me that I was being watched and judged.

Now, I’m waiting for the results---anxiously, neurotically, obsessively. Not at all like my calm, cool as a cucumber veneer that the world sees. Not at all.

Inside, I'm this mixer-grinder: crushing hot, red chillies on and on; the sharp blades slicing through my invisible expectations: will I? won't I?

Outside, I am visiting a friend who’s had a knee surgery recently: even cracking a naughty joke to cheer him up.

Every opportunity I get, I check my Instagram feed--on the sly--hiding my newly developed obsession from my own judging eyes.

I search for the organiser's insta--refresh their page. No news.

Stop it Arti! I admonish myself. Show yourself the face you show the world--be the badass bindaas optimist you’ve always claimed to be.

Why? What’s the matter? It's not so easy when it hits home, is it? Why is this bothering me so much? I ask my sanity.

Is it the long, long lockdown? Has it turned me into a self-obsessed, inward looking narcissist? 

No matter how soundly my own logic supports common sense, my ears refuse to listen. I can’t help it.

Night falls. No results.

“It’s a tough call”, a WhatsApp message on the participants' group chat says. "You were all so good!" it says.

It doesn’t make a jot of a difference to my pummelling gut.

Others on the group are pouring their hearts out; making connections, sharing stories they wrote.

I’m feeling quietly confident about my story--despite the drumming in my ears--so, I play the mother (a role I love to play) and send out some congratulatory direct messages. It calms me down.

Secretly, I’m very, very hopeful about my own chances. Those fairy lights I so artistically put in my rattan pot should’ve done the trick. They did say make the background interesting.

My story spoke about how my life had unravelled when I was 19. A mother’s suicide, a father’s betrayal and step-motherly treatment were the plot points of my story.

I’ve only recently reconciled with my father. What if he objects to my story when I make it to the finals? Will we become estranged again? I weave webs of future possibilities entangled with past injustices.

Night falls. We’re told the results will be announced the next morning. I put my phone in the other room to help break this silly new habit of checking it every half an hour.

Sunday, 17th August 2020
It's 2:30 am. I can sense my phone is missing me. I get up and bring it back to my bedside table.
I toss and turn and try to get some sleep. I drift off for a bit.

I'm up before sunrise.

My gut is a pit--it’s churning.

My heart is a mess--it’s burning.

My mail inbox blinks with the address line. It’s from them. I open it.

The first line reads:‘Hope you’re well.’


The bile rises like Doha temperature in summer.


My saliva tastes like sour grapes.


My ricocheting heart frees itself from my rib cage and slides down the chair’s legs-- the chair I'm sitting on. It feels like fresh cement drying, heavily.

I wish I was Hailey of Modern Families who would say: "Don’t keep me in suspense! Tell me! Did I make it?" whenever one of her family read the first line of her college application reply: “We regret to inform you….”

Every molecule and every fibre of my being was expecting to read : "Congratulations!" not “Hope you’re well.” 

How can I be well after reading this??

Pray, do tell.

I type out: “Congratulations--All the best.” on the WhatsApp group chat.

One or two winners respond with: "We are all winners."

I smirk. Only a winner would write that.

More ‘congratulations’ float in--mostly typed out in pain (I think) by others like me whose stories and performances didn’t cut the mustard in the regional rounds.

A fog of self-doubt is threatening to settle around. I get up and fix myself a super strong cup of coffee--even through the fog I remember to add coconut oil--skin to fog mein bhi dihktee hai na—dhyaan to rakhna padega.

But instead of dissipating the fog, the coffee acts like an electric charge. Now all of me is reverberating like a phone on silent mode: buzzing aimlessly in all directions.

Yoga. I think. 

Yes, a good stretch and a few deep breaths will shake me out of this 'self-imposed-pity-party-monologue'.

I share the rejection with Giselle, my yoga teacher.

She smiles and I feel her love.

I’m in locust pose when my phone starts buzzing--silently. My bag dances on the floor. My phone never rings during yoga class.

I check. It’s Vidya. I’ll call her back, I think and resume the locust.

“I thought they were calling to say they’ve made a mistake.” Giselle whispers.

“You and I belong to the same galaxy--forever the optimists.” I tell her while transitioning from locust to downward dog.

“Why not?” She says.

I nod looking at my navel.

A head stand should help me change my perspective.

At least you made it to the regional round. 1500 applications. Imagine! How wonderful!

Dhadaaam! My pesky perspective is lying sprawled out on the mat with me.

“What happened Arti?” Giselle sounds worried.

I have never fallen off like that.

It's a Sunday of firsts, I amuse myself with that thought and reply,“I lost my focus.”  

“Get a hold of yourself woman--what’s gotten into you?” I tell myself cocooned in child pose.

Yoga is over. 

I start my car and drive off. I reach the barrier too soon. It refuses to lift. The security guard looks at me. He’s miffed. My usual over exaggerated waving hand to say bye is missing today. He signals me to reverse, a little more, a little more…enough distance later, the barrier relents and lifts to let me go.

Eureka!

Ping!

The light bulb comes on. 

Distance, woman--take a few steps back, back off a bit. Then try again.

The fog flops over and starts to settle down around the accelerator pedal of my car. A cautious driver, usually, I can’t wait to get home to face my rejection head on.

Park car. Lock car. Turn keys. Mask off. Sing Mahamrityunjaya mantra to ensure the hand-washing is taking its stipulated time. Dry hands. Run to the laptop. Start typing.
I can and I will.

Rejection may be plucking my heart strings and serenading songs of mein bechaaree –a duet with my bruised ego, but my spirit--the one that shines through me and blasts out to the world that it’s not over till the fat lady sings is making sure I write this story out--my story  out and send it as a wild card entry.

Perhaps rejection was the spice that was missing from my first entry.

Perhaps it’s time to pickle that rejection and turn it into a projection.

Feminism ka sirf gaana nahin gaana hai. Feminist ban kar dikhana hai.

Shakti and Kali didn’t sit and cry when things didn’t go their way. They picked a different weapon and carried on.

Agar dil tootega nahin to shaayree kaise niklegee? 

What better instrument to write with than a broken heart?

I write. I record. I send my wild card entry at literally the last minute.

Wednesday,19th August 2020
Another "Hope you're well." mail greeted me today.

But, this time it didn't sting as much.


************************

I've come to the conclusion that experiences such as the one I went through this past week are my 'quality checks' sent to me by the universe. Just when I was lulling myself into believing that I'm so cool about working for the joy of it, not needing any pats on backs, doing it all in Krishna's name, for it is the Spirit that guides me and She who does it all and I just get the credit. Why! I had been reading and understanding the Gita all through the lockdown. OMG! I am so sorted now. 

Dhadaam---just when that egoistic self-congratulatory voice makes a hammock out of you and swings on you--plays you like a spinning top--such occurrences blow in like  tornadoes. tip you out of that comfy hammock and say: 

the work is never done--keep going--keep going--keep going.

What are your thoughts about rejection? Is work enough? Or is acceptance part of the game?
Are we more in need of acceptance of others when we are insecure?
Or is it the essence of art?
jungle mein mor naachaa kisne dekha?

Does rejection rock the boat
or does it keep one afloat?

Does a story need a reader/listener to be called a story?
Or can it survive in isolation?
I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Rumi, adrak wali chai and stunning sunsets work in tandem to nudge me closer to my equilibrium. 
I can't thank them enough:)

Stay safe and well dear ones.
I'm so grateful that you take the time to read these posts.
Much love.
Arti 
xx