Monday, January 10, 2022

What has made you happy thus far in the New Year?

7 a.m. January 10th 2022

Holding a glass of warm water in my left hand, I open the front door with my right and step out onto the porch.

Winter wafts in like a friend who knows me well. Even before the door fully opens, a faint smell of wood fire, mixed with the sharp, soft rays of the morning sun, rushes in to embrace me. Winter's nippy kisses tingle my skin--clad in a cotton kurta and yoga pants. I'd slept in those last night. I shudder with delight. Winter is rare in Doha. I want to inhale it to my core. The bulbul mimics my joy and frolics noisily on the neem tree.

6 a.m. January 10th 2022

I turn off the alarm and promise to be up in 10 minutes. 

10 p.m. January 9th 2022

I set the alarm for 5 a.m. and then change it to 6 a.m. to be reasonable. I've just finished reading 'Kafka on the Shore' by Murakami; my first Murakami. Even though it took me four months to read the book, I've loved reading it. So, naturally, as soon as I put the book down, I  google Murakami's  'writing process'.  My phone screen informs me that when he's writing, this famous and successful author's day looks like this:

  • Wake up at 4 a.m.
  • Write for 5 to 6 hours.
  • Run a 10 K or swim 1,500 meters in the afternoon.
  • Read and listen to music.
  • Be in bed by 9 p.m.

He attributes his writing success to the 'routine' he follows. 

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Dear Readers,

It feels so good to be back here: writing and sharing after a gap of 4 months! As you may have gathered by now, I've been an absentee blogger and to some extent an absentee writer. Apart from a few Instagram posts and a couple of poems in Hindi, the last four months have been dedicated to dealing with surprises LIFE springs on us rather than documenting it in prose and paragraphs.

Last night, when I read about Murakami's routine, I thought I'd give it a try. 

'Sadhana' in Hindi means 'dedicated practice or learning'. Whether it's yoga, music, or passing an exams in school or college, a dedicated practice births results. I know that but when one falls off the wagon of one's practice, it can be a struggle to get a foot hold back on. At times like these, it's sensible to look to the masters and follow in their footsteps. 

I don't know what 2022 has in store for me but I do plan to visit my writing desk every morning. Why am I telling you this? Because, writing a promise down makes it real. And sharing it with you makes me accountable to myself. 

Adriene of Yoga with Adriene who I follow when I'm unable to join my yoga class, always says: "the hardest part is to arrive on the mat." And I agree.

Irrespective of lost time, the uncertainties and turmoil of the last quarter of 2021, I'm happy to be present at my writing desk today, typing out my first post of the year. 

Thus far, 2022 has been joyous in many ways:

The food, friends brought from their travels and shared with me, made me relive my childhood without the need to time travel! Thank you Vini for the rusks from Sunrise bakery of Dehradun and Anshu for the delicious gajak from Moradabad. Another dear friend sent home -made makki ki roti and sarson ka saag so I could enjoy Punjab in Doha this winter.

Long walks on sandy beaches, sunsets, one lone sunrise, reading 'The boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse' and finishing 'Kafka on the shore' have made me happy despite the pounds that I've piled on -- thanks mainly to binging on Downton Abbey and Ozark on Netflix and NOT moving much.

I have a long way to go before I can discipline my day as perfectly as Murakami but I've made a start.

I wish you all a very Happy and Healthy 2022.

I'd love to know what has made you happy, joyful, smile in the last 10 days of this brand new year?

Till we meet again, take good care of yourself.

Warmly,

Arti

Saturday, August 28, 2021

"2 + 2 = 5" a must watch film

Dear  Readers,

I hope you are all well and healthy.

This past fortnight, I've been a busy bee: participating in a poetry workshop, (more details in a later post) where one is expected to write a poem a day. Writing a poem is not an issue. It's the fact that as a poetry lover, I get stuck on the examples that are shared. I read and reread and then read the poem aloud and sometimes (as was the case on the day of e.e. Cummings, I got so sucked into the vortex of his words, that it took me two days to surface back up and realise I was lagging behind spectacularly! It didn't matter. The organisers are poets themselves. They understand our need to burrow deep every now and then.

As a means to dust off my stupor, I decided to watch a series on Netflix that came highly recommended by a friend. It's called: "How to become a Tyrant".

It is very well made. It's uncanny to watch history on screen while witnessing history repeat itself in real life. It's surreal.

Do watch it if you have the time or the inclination.

But, if you can't or won't. Then, I urge you to spend 6 minutes of your time to watch this gem from Iran. It says, with minimum production costs and time, everything that needs to be said. In my opinion, "2 =2 = 5" says it better than the Netflix series.

Personally and as a poet, this film also answers the question that often nags me (especially about political satires): "why write?" in the last 30 seconds. 

In less than 10 seconds, the last shot says it-- LOUD and CLEAR:

The pen/pencil is mighty. 

So, I reckon I will write for as long as I can.


Wishing you all a safe, peaceful and healthy weekend.

Till we meet again,

take good care of yourselves and if possible, practise freedom.

Arti 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Slaves can never be FREE

In my 2018 diary, I've copied Yamini's words and dated it June, 19th, 2021.

Wise words or phrases or chunks of text that inspire me, soothe me, intrigue me or the ones that leave me powerless to resist, I copy: giving due credit to the writer, of course. I take out my favourite pen of the moment and write them  out in old, unused notebooks. 

If you were to look at my writing desk, book shelves, cupboards, plant stands, you'd spot a notebook or two lying around with words from various bloggers, authors, poets, written in no particular order of date or genre. 

Yesterday, I was all set to share my latest spoken word piece on my blog but something was amiss. The news of Kabul had stripped me of the need to blow my own trumpet. 

Why do we bother to write? What's the use? Does poetry matter? All those grey doubts would've drowned my day had I not met two seven-year-olds.

A dear friend visited with her twins. I had planned to blog in the morning and keep the rest of the day open for my young guests. The twins love sorties and I adore reading to them. It's a win win. I was excited to show them my book. They chose the one they wanted me to sign. 

When it was time for them to leave, K said, "You know I'm going to write a book, too."

"Wow!" I enthused " What's it called?"

We were at the garden gate when this conversation started. The sun was beating down on us. Her mother had turned the car on. 

K shared the title and every detail of her story. The three of us stood perspiring in the hot and humid Doha afternoon. In all of ten minutes, K had described her characters and the initial plot with such vivid details and clarity that I could see her story like a film. Suddenly, she stopped. She'd spotted a gap in her plot. 

Unperturbed, she put her finger to her forehead and thought for a few seconds.

"I'll think about it." she announced confidently and strode towards her waiting mother.

"I love it K. When do you plan to get started?" I asked.

"Today, when we get home." She offered matter-of-factly.

She saved my day.

Why do we, as adults , put so many obstacles in the way of our creative energies? 

My guests left. I took a nap and attended a poetry zoom meeting. That's when I noticed the 2018 diary lying next to my laptop. I picked it up and there they were: Yamini's wise words:

"Deep within us is a region unaffected by the tumultuous uproar of our daily lives."

My day had been rescued after all.

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

Sharing my latest spoken word piece here. It's a commentary on personal freedom. 


Thank you for reading and for listening.

I wish you a peaceful day wherever you are.

 

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Real. Trust yourself. Persevere.

This sculpture is called Seattle Cloud Cover and the artist is Teresita Fernandez. 


"much like the sensation of walking on a moving escalator, the 'sculpture' is in fact a series of unfolding, continuously shifting views that are activated by your passage as you cross the walkway, propelled and animated by the rumbling energy of the trains below..."

******

I was 15 when I found out that Ruskin Bond's first novel, 'A room on the roof' was published when he was 17 years old. 

Being a true believer of dreams, I dreamt I'd be publishing my first book by the time I was 19. Life at home had been unusually challenging. So, I gave myself an extra 2 years to follow in the footsteps of my literary hero. 

The year I turned 19, my life became an upside-down pineapple cake, stuck to the sides of the baking tray. The only option for survival was to scrape out a living: one day, one nudge at a time. Every time the effort seemed unsurmountable,  the sweet and tangy promise of what lay at the bottom of the pan would entice me to carry on and I did. A few years of struggle later, I  managed to taste the spoils of a secure job, enough money to afford food and rent and even fell in love. It all happened at the same time. I got married, became a mother, moved cities and countries and somehow got lost in the mundane with such abandon and passion that my dream of writing and publishing lay forgotten like a recipe gone out of fashion and use.

'And all the seasons in between' was first published in May 2021: thanks to @Blogchatter's E-Book Carnival.

My dream became my reality more than three decades later.

Then more magic illuminated my world.

Ukiyoto Publishing, an international traditional publishing house, contacted me via Instagram and expressed their interest in my book. 

Anyone who knows me knows what this message must've meant to me. 

I replied enthusiastically. They needed a synopsis of the book, their next message said. I was about to get on a flight to Seattle, my first travel after 17 months, when I read that.

A few days later, I was reading a congratulatory mail from them informing me that they'd be going ahead with publishing my book!

So, my dear readers, all I'd like to share today (apart from the links to the book, of course) is that Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Real. Trust yourself. Persevere.

Magic happens.

I came across 'Seattle Cloud Cover' and the words (of the artist) on my recent visit. And even though the artist is referring to the landscape, it struck me that this sculpture was a metaphor for life. We move through our days with shifting views, circumstances and sometimes discover, re-discover our blurred truths, realise our old, forgotten dreams, dream up new ones and all this happens while the throttle of life rumbles on-- to its own rhythm. 

I'm sharing all the links for the book here. It's available in paperback, hardcover and on Kindle.  


If you've read it already (on Blogchatter) then, please leave your review on the sites above. Your reviews will help the book to be seen and picked by new readers.

For those who haven't read the early reviews of the book, you can read them here: 

Now that the trip to Seattle is over and the book is truly born, I hope to be more present on my blog. After all, this is where my writing journey re-started after a gap of two decades.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend.

Friday, June 25, 2021

A bowl of frangipani


Last week, for the first time, I attended a poetry workshop.

I've always dreamed of enrolling into an MFA programme, of living on campus once again and of soaking my days and nights in poetry, literature, reading, writing and reciting. Years of waiting for the right time when the children are old enough, when I have enough money, when I'm not working rolled on and on and brought me to Doha, Qatar.  I've lived here for over a decade. My children are adults now. They don't need me any more. I quit my job four years ago to pursue writing full time. And if I really wanted to, I'd be able to gather sufficient funds to pursue my so called dream. But. But. But.

Isn't assigning some life goals to dreams more attractive than putting them into plans? Plans are concrete. Dreams are fluid. Plans push you to do something about them. Dreams don't have any such requirements. Plans are realists. Dreams are romantic. 

There are many who plan and achieve and become successful. Then there are a few like me; the ones who let life's flow guide their plans. 

In my experience, at least, life's flow has a wonderful rhythm. Unknown to me, it syncs with my dreams and together they guide me into spaces where poetry lives, in pastures where words roam free, into orchards where all trees are ripe with fruit of ideas and creativity and suddenly, I am left executing plans that I never had the courage or the discipline to make.

That's what happened last fortnight. Sonia, a dear blogger friend, shared information about a poetry workshop on zoom.  I logged on. And promptly entered a live MFA class -- the kind I had imagined in my dreams:)

It was an hour long session.

One of the exercises involved looking at a picture of an urli (bowl) filled with frangipani blooms.

Below are some of the poems that came to the page that day.

I'd love to know which one holds your attention.


One:

In a bowl 
I know my limits

On a branch
I'm free

Two:

Refugees for a day
plucked from our birth-branches
You arrange us
so beautifully.

Three:
(Inspired by Rumi's words)

Reflected in the water
of this urli,
I see 
the East before my birth
the West after my demise
clearly.

Four:

Captured for a day,
you held us prisoners.

You called us beautiful.

You murdered us
for your pleasure.


The photo above was clicked in 2017. 

The photo below was made yesterday.

Wishing you all a fragrant weekend.

Stay safe.

See you soon.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Chaunsa is a mango, they say.

Dear Readers,

Hope you're all well and happy and healthy.

A short post today. Sharing an extract from my e-book to drum up more interest. Even though it's free to download, it still requires reading. 

So, here's a juicy piece to get you salivating for the book;)

Trust me, 4 minutes of your time is all it takes to savour the flavours of this chapter of my childhood memoir:


You can download the book here: And all the Seasons in between

Have a restful, beautiful Sunday.

Warmly,

Arti

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Sewing Symphonies with Threads of Love and Strength -- a book review for #blogchatterEbookCarnival

A collection of Poetry that attempts to connect the dots of life.


Title:
 Heartfelt Symphonies

Author: Chinmayee Gayatree Sahu

Format: PDF E-book

When a book cover matches the contents of the book as perfectly as this one, it makes me wonder what came first - the cover or the poetry? The cover art of 'Heartfelt Symphonies' is the perfect artful representation of the author, Chinmayee Sahu's poetry.  

'The poetry collection is a debut attempt by the author to showcase varied emotions that may capture the reader's attention to moments, memories, or musings in their own life." states the Author's Note at the beginning.

Arranged in four parts, namely, The Supreme Power, Nature, Fire and Life, the poetry flows from the divine to human love as effortlessly as the seeping pigments of the watercolours on the book's cover. Despite the distinctions, the flavours mingle together to create a melodious symphony.

The strength of Devi (Goddess representing the female form) and the fierceness of Shiva, the Adiyogi, set the stage as you step into Chinmayee's world. Her acknowledgments at the beginning of the book hint at the strength the author draws from her family. This first part confirms the source of her resolve and creativity: her belief in the Divine and her family.

As I moved from poem to poem, section to section, I had a sense that I was watching the poet threading her gentle needle of words through many pieces of fabric and patches of her life lived thus far and sewing them together into a tapestry that was HER--the divine and the human mixing in the knots and threads of hope and disappointment, hurt and betrayal, strength and doubt, sadness and joy. The thread, however, stays the same. It's love with a capital ell. And despite the heartache that is palpable in the longing in her lines of poetry, it's her resolve to carry on and to do so with grace and humility, in 'silence' more than in show, that shines through.

A romantic's heart that has felt the pain of human love and yet looks to the skies and the oceans to be one with the source is on show throughout this weaving. Its strength shimmers in its vulnerability. And that connects the reader to the poet for she has managed to write about ordinary, everyday emotions we have all felt at some point in our lives.

In her poem, 'Dried Petals', she says,

"the dried rose flower,
stands as a testimony,
of the promises that were,
made believing the dream,"

And then moves on to these lines a few pages later in 'Flying Puzzle':

"fragile, yet so soulful,
just like me,
isn’t the Dandelion, an intriguing puzzle?"

As I continued to read, one thing became clear. To the reader, the poet is not a puzzle. To me, as I base my idea of the author on this book, she's seeking the balance that seeker's seek--the one between living a life according to societal norms and expectations and looking towards a life of a lover, a sage, a hermit who wants nothing more than to become as light as a feather.

'Grow in Silence' brings the poet's vision into sharp focus for the reader when she says,

"To look deep within ourselves
Till we grow into our best selves
Away from the noise of comparison
To constantly strive & shine on life’s horizon!"

'My Red Lipstick' caught my attention. It's perhaps one of my favourites of this collection.

I'll refrain from sharing any more lines from the book for it's a much better experience to immerse in the book from start to finish. It's a total of 64 pages-- a good one to read over the weekend. And what's more? You can download it for FREE here : Heartfelt Symphonies

PS. This book is part of #BlogChatterEbook carnival in which my book, And all the Seasons in between  is also a part.