Sakha

* Draupadi’s thoughts after collapsing on the final journey. *

 

It’s cold here. Yet I feel warmth as you call my name. Perhaps this is what death is like. One no longer feels cold, pain, discomfort. Just blankness with you as a light.

I can see you beckoning me, the same way as you would when I was a young, shy girl, unaware of where life would take me.  We would sit under the frangipani, as you narrated some obscure mystery of the scriptures or a fact of everyday life, and then watched, in amusement, as my face changed shades in thought.

There was so much noise, and now finally there is quiet. It is perhaps true what they spoke of me- Draupadi is immoral, unchaste, with five husbands, how can she not be?-yes, it is. I say so because in the face of death, I do not remember any of my five lords, not even Arjuna, to gain whose affections I struggled a lifetime. In truth I had expected this- each of them was a warrior, king, husband, father, but not my love. I had almost definitely thought that I would remember the only other man I ever loved-Karna. What could not happen on Earth might perhaps be fulfilled in another realm. Yet it is curious, for it is not him I remember.

It is you.

Perhaps it is foolish of me to say I remember. I have never forgotten you. How can one forget that which is in everything? You were my earliest memory, a flash of brilliant blue as I stepped through the fire, holding my brother’s hand. You are my last prayer as I seek an answer to the eternal question. I wish for you and you alone.

I can see you walking towards me, gliding almost; you assume your most human form for me once again. My Sakha, the first man I loved, my friend, my guide, my best support and worst critic. Distantly my human mind remembers the news of your death, the poise I maintained in court, while my husbands collapsed in distress. A cry of raw pain was all I permitted myself in private.  A part of me knew that it would soon be time for me. And all the grief would end.

You stroke my head gently as I kneel before you, feeling like a child. I have not felt so pure in a long time.

“You’ve done your part, Krishnaa. Now rest” You say.

My smile can bedazzle the heavens.

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From the pen of an “Upper-Caste” woman

My thoughts on caste

The Blue Dipper

They teach you in middle school that traditionally, there were four broad divisions in Indian society, based on different occupations, created to preserve the social order. They also teach you which box you are supposed to tick on various kinds of forms. I have always known which “category” I belong to. But having grown up in the 21st century, where I change my mind every two days about what career I wish to pursue, I’ve never paid much attention to what that one word- General- means. Like many others of my generation, I thought the only thing it meant was I’d have to do extra well in board exams and admission entrances, while some other people could get away with scoring significantly lower. I didn’t quite resent “them”, those who seemed somewhat unfairly favoured, but I remember feeling proud that I got by on sheer merit, and I also…

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Debt

Love leaves scars, far less visible,

far more cunning, snaked around your soul,

maggots of grey tissue,

Love leaves marks you can’t explain.

I’ve always felt, I owe love its due,

Not just love, but more there is

To pay- surely it couldn’t come as cheap?

I’m scared of running up debts, I’m careful

To give more than I receive. I thought, I was

steering clear of burdens I cannot repay,

Now I’m not so sure.

Letters to no one

Ms./Mrs. Random Old Lady

 The footpath near St. James School

Calcutta 

Kolkata

I don’t know if you still live at this address. I don’t know your name. I think you might have died. You were quite old then, and it’s been almost eight years since that day I met you. I remember being sad. Before I met you. After I met you. There are flavours to sadness just like there are in coffee- there’s latte sadness, for the time when,say, you lose one of your favourite pair of earrings, and then there is a double ristretto,  a dark,brooding mess, when you feel everything that you have is slipping away. My sadness that day was somewhere in between, when I casually walked out of the house, hoping no one would see that, in reality, I was storming out.

I remember walking aimlessly, the only direction in my mind: Away. Away from death, away from morbidity, away from the endless discussions centred around a few lines of a medical diagnosis. Now, I can’t even remember who it is that was ill. So many have passed, they’re all blurred in my head. I only know that they loved me, and I must have loved them as well.

So I walked. Past giggling school students, teashop owners, women with vegetable-laden shopping bags- their damp blouses letting the light brown of their skin peek out in places. I moved as if in a dream, contemplating life and death until that great equalizer, hunger, played its drums in my stomach. Descending from plane infinity to ground zero, I stopped at a tea stall, gazing at people who seemed far too happy, especially through the mist in my eyes.

Perhaps, I noticed you because you were staring at me. Rather, not at me, but at the biscuit in my hand. I’m writing to you today because I don’t want you to keep thinking I bought you the biscuits because I cared, or anything like that. I was just a self-obsessed teenager wanting something to come and set her world right again. Even when I sat down next to you, I was jealous of you. Jealous of how cheaply your happiness could be bought. Ten rupees. Why couldn’t I have it too?

Well, I did get some of it. When you patted my head and smiled, still lost in your own little world where dinner would be biscuits. But I was greedy, I wanted all of it. I wanted to push away all the sadness. Even for a little while. I went home soon after that and told them all about it. Told them how happy it made you ,and how happy it made me. The thing about happiness, I think, is that when you see people happy,you desperately want to be a part of it, at least for a while. Just for a while, no one spoke of death and darkness and doctors. They spoke of biscuits, and kindness, and gifts.

Now I’m older, and when I look back, I’m not so sure. Of you, your happiness, my happiness. I only hope you’ve moved to a better address. Because I do care, a little bit.

*Published on The Scribbled Stories*

 

 

To my love, who smells of sea-salt

You came to me amidst
the sudden fog of clarity
that accompanies realization,
A conversation
drunk on starlight.

You came to me silently
with measured steps,testing
the storm you were facing,
a hurricane racing
down a blind alley.

You came to me like a twig,
The first in nesting season,
Whispers of reason,
To build again,
And now I need none.

Full Stop.

Until a few years ago, I used to be very judgemental towards suicide. I think most of us are, at some point. No, I’m not insinuating a lack of sympathy for the victims- all I’m saying is that we tend to think, “I could never do that! It’s cowardly, escapist, not a solution”. Well, the “I could never do that” part is true for quite a number of people, because they’re made that way. It is equally true that some people are not made that way. As with most things, I stopped sneering at suicide the day it hit me that I wanted to end my own life- I hate judging myself, don’t you?

What I’m trying to focus on is the interpretation of events in light of the recent suicide of a student in my country. This isn’t the first time such a thing has happened. I’m still struggling to fully understand the intricate dynamics of caste issues in India- it is evident that there is a problem, a serious one at that, one that has existed for generations and needs to be acknowledged and dealt with. It is very important to impartially examine the circumstances of this death and charge the real culprits who instigated such an occurrence. However, what I’m somewhat apprehensive about is the way the incident is being tinged with the caste flavour, in an unhealthy way.

It seems that the agenda is dominated by what caste the deceased belonged to, rather than the fact that a promising young student was compelled to take his own life. Would we not have risen in protest had the victim not belonged to a socially disadvantaged group? A young mind and spirit has been lost forever, one of the thousands who are supposed to nurture India.  Forgive me for the use of the adjective ‘beautiful’ but there is no other way to describe Rohit’s last words, where it is made amply clear that this is beyond religion, caste and region. This is about us as individuals, rational, thinking minds, who dream of stardust and the Universe. This is about people who still believe in the goodness of human effort, and are trying their best not to lose faith in a civilization that has let them down far too often. It is about those who are trying to convince others not to divide themselves over boundaries created by some men. And those who have admitted defeat and joined forces with the blindness, in a bid to survive.

To those who will tell me that I really don’t understand, maybe I don’t. But then,  perhaps you don’t either. The discrimination you go through every moment is ugly, and I stand with you against it. But I implore you to realize that for every day that you hold on to an “us against them” attitude, there will be more deaths. On both ‘sides’. On only one side. Humanity.

 

 

 

 

Rant

You frustrate me. You take me to breathtaking cliffs of joy and then leave me there- you know I don’t know how to climb down; you know I’ll have to jump.  I keep trying to hold on to the best in myself, to rise above pettiness- you drag me down to the infernal depths of jealousy and anger and possessiveness. I used to be just fine before I met you- beautiful, in fact, in my emptiness. My void was my sense of purpose- it drove me. You weigh me down like a rich dessert, so delectable to taste, yet a plateful of gluttony, no less.

They say so many things of love, the way it uplifts and shows you the heavens- they say nothing of how it strips you bare, and lashes your skin with the air of indifference, and clings to you like a shadow, reminding you that you’re not alone. You’re never alone any more, you see? Do you see what that means? Cast your romanticism aside. It is the most frightening thing you will ever face. The inability to see yourself on your own. Run from love, my friends, as fast as you can. It snatches the solace of your solitude for all of eternity.