About binusivan

Writer - stories and poems. Traveller - treks and road trips. Destination - mountains.

In the shadows

There are days when
darkness does not scare me
And then there are days when
I shy away from the light.
And my truth stays hidden.
At times a total renegade
to my own cause
I search for my reality
in another’s eyes…
only to see blurred, murky
Pools of reflections
Posing as my reality.
But the truth stays hidden.
It’s true…
the beasts dwell within.
My waning and forming
Forming and reforming
My light like the moon’s
Lies safe in the shadows.

I am not done with this one yet, but felt like sharing it nonetheless.

Look forward to reading your thoughts on it.

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Poem Excerpt

Am slowly limping back into social media. My novel’s final draft is almost done, and I now realise that it is not the final draft. I want to make a few more changes… Aaargh. To paraphrase Deepak from Masaan, “yeh drafts kahe katam nahi hote bey?” (Why doesn’t re-writing come to an end man?)

So, to not hate myself or my book (yes that’s possible when you live with it 24/7) I am blogging and posting again…

Thank you for reading.

Much love

BS

Melancholia

I have been busy focusing on completing what I hope is the final draft of my first novel. This basically means that I have let the blog slide. Apologies.

This is a poem I had written recently, and was featured in the latest (25th) issue of Dubai Poetics. (https://dubaipoetics.com/edition-xxv)

Melancholia

By Binu Sivan

(Click on name link for all the poems written by me that Dubai Poetics has kindly featured.)

A half-remembered tune melts into me
I rise up trying to meet it… grab it
make it fully mine.
But the very acting of reaching
rips the melody out of my mind.
Just the ghost of it stays behind
to tease me with its unformed lines.

Haunted by a feeling, almost physical,
I hang on to sanity by slender threads.
There is a foreboding in my chest
vague in detail, yet precise in visceral sentiments.

Like waking from a nightmare,
heart pounding, drenched in sweat,
half-remembering the details.
But the very act of waking,
pulls the veils over the specifics
as they brush by teasing… warning
all in the same heartbeat.

If only I could capture the wretched poignancy,
the bleak terrain of my mind
and put it on paper.
Songs seem to be able to do it.
Other poets do it with ease. But I struggle.
The very act of putting pen to paper
robs the emotion of its very feeling.
‘It’s alright,’ I tell myself.
All I need is a good night’s sleep.
Not too long to sunrise, now.
I will bid the dark goodbye.

TEACH HER A LESSON

 

D

From hero to villain.

 

I am trying to get my head around what is unfolding in Kerala. To boil it down to its bare essentials.

A leading actress and actor had a fallout. There are many theories, reasons and notions floating around. Some say that she had rejected his advances and he was miffed. Others say that it has something to do with some real estate dealings. Yet others say that she had revealed his philandering ways to his first wife, resulting in them getting divorced. A rift in the perfect façade – the ideal marriage, in which he was the provider and she had to sit at home taking care of the child, as per his  wishes. The charade was over! Was the charade over? No. The charade was just beginning. The year was 2013.

The charade was over! Was the charade over? No. The charade was just beginning. The year was 2013.

In the intervening four years, the actress loses one acting offer after another. The industry buzz says that he is responsible but nobody comes right out to point a finger at him. The divorced wife, herself an acclaimed actress never speaks about the divorce. She, however, returns to acting with a bang. He initially denies his relationship with yet another actress, but eventually, marries her. He states that he decided to marry her, because he wanted to protect the besmirched name of the woman who was linked to him by the gossip rags. Oh, the patriarchy! He has everything going for him. His daughter opts to stay with him. His career climbs even greater heights. He is newly remarried.

Yet his mind and heart are still stuck in 2013. He had it all. Public sympathy and a new love. Yet deep in the crevasses of his mind the darkness spread. He is consumed and burning with a rage and hatred that dominates every other emotion, accomplishment and joy in his life. For four fucking long years. He plots with a conman driver on how to get back at the woman who was, in his mind, solely responsible for the break-up of his first marriage.

I know. I know. You are thinking… ‘But dude, he is the one who cheated! And, didn’t it all work out well for him? He is after all now married to the woman he loves!’ But what chance do common sense and logic have, when anger, ego, arrogance and power have set roots in our heart and mind.

We have all committed some stupid act or the other; said something regrettable in the heat of the moment at some point in time in our lives. People have even committed murder in the heat of the moment. But when you are plotting for four long years to teach a woman a lesson… to teach her exactly what her place in the world is, then that is not an act committed in the heat of the moment. It is a planned act of depravity.

Teach that bitch a lesson. Haven’t we all heard variations of that sentence in our own lives? Addressed to ourselves or to another woman in our presence. Aukad mein rah. Know thy place woman.

How dare you tell the world that I am a cheat? How dare you reveal my feet of clay? How dare you believe that you can make a career in the same industry as me without my say so? How dare you think you can continue to live your own life, get married, and hopefully be happy in and with it, after crossing swords with me? How dare you?

Teach her a lesson. Silence her. Shut her up. Oh, you don’t need a gag for that. She will bind herself in knots and ties, and maybe even hang herself with the same rope. Shame is the greatest silencer… the strongest gag.

Hurt her.  Molest her. Harm her. Click. Click. Click. Add fear. We will show your shame… your body… your tears to the world. Talk and we will hurt you again… and again… and again. Know this. Know this well. This is a contract. We are here to hurt you.

This is a story that has been written and re-written for so many years. The characters are different, the details are different. But the ending is always the same. Silence. The silence of shame. Or the silence of death. How is this man any different from the animals who threw acid at the women who rejected them? How is he any different from the men who stabbed the women who turned them down or antagonised them in some way or the other.

But not this time. He may not be any different from those animals. But she was different from the popular, widely accepted image of the female victim that our ‘traditional culture’ is comfortable with. She spoke. She stood tall and spoke. About the abduction. About the molestation. About the photographs. She spoke. She refused to own the shame that was not hers. She refused to own a fear that had been our cross to bear for centuries, our yoke to shoulder forever. And then, most wonderfully, she continued with her life.

Four fucking long years! He plotted and waited!  The hero reduced to ashes. Even the villains shine brighter. The tables have turned. The mighty have fallen. And I wonder. Why?

When a man had it all – fame, name, love and wealth. Why did he throw it all away? Why did he toss it all away? For a grudge that should have In reality meant nothing at all! Did his sense of entitlement blow everything else out of his mind? Did the power fed to him over the years blunt his sense of right and wrong?

I know why.

He didn’t expect to be caught. He didn’t expect her to speak. As simple as that.

 

The River’s Love Song

This is a poem I wrote recently when I wanted to take a break from struggling with my first novel. It will be published soon in the 16th edition of Dubai Poetics out by April end. Do let me know your thoughts. 🙂

From Jalori to Manali (37)

‘My poems are born of you,’

the river whispered to the mountains.

As the wind carried the river’s gentle sighs,

high up to the land of clouds and veils

nestled in the skies,

the mountains trembled.

It had felt the young love of his beloved

as she skipped, laughed and tripped along with him.

Majestic he had stood, watching her antics,

she had murmured her delight and thundered in pleasure.

But… his silence engorged her senses.

Nothing else could she bear.

Yet, she wanted, just for once, to be held

and loved with words she could hear.

Flowing away, with time, she left her mountain behind.

Meandering amidst valleys, she heard

voices other than her lover’s silence.

Thrilled, she gurgled with delight and rushed on.

She was loved, adored, worshipped, and more.
Dhyey Ahalpara

Yet, greater as her name grew,

farther as her fame spread.

she missed the silent communion

that had created her.

She wished she could turn her waves around

force the currents back to the source.

Sometimes she raged.

Sometimes she sluggishly moved on.

Did he hear her cries and sighs?

Did her love know that she was done with life?

She moved on… tired and dirty,

loved and worshipped.

Stillness replacing energy.

And then with her baggage of offerings,

bodies, debris, and silt,

she gave up the last of her freshness –

her very essence –

to the vast blue

that matched her beloved

in hue.

As the clouds burst above him,

drenching him with her love,

he realized that she had given up her life

to once again fall in his arms and lie.

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Pambatt – Honouring The Goddess

Remember the Pambattu story I had promised? No! Can’t blame you. It has been some time coming. I did not forget it though; I was waiting to get some more input before I put it out there J

Sarpa_Kavu_By_Manojk.JPGDisclaimer: Image for illustrative purpose only. Image Courtesy: Manoj K.  (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sarpa_Kavu_By_Manojk.JPG)

If you have grown up in Kerala or spent your summer vacation in Kerala like I used to, you will know that monsoons are serious business there. It’s the norm for the locals to crib about a poor monsoon, even as you tried to hang on to that umbrella that was being buffeted by gale force wind and rain. My grandfather was no exception. He’d look out at the sheet of water falling from the skies and mutter about how we need more rain. He had no clue that we kids were praying to the rain gods to make the rain go away as we desperately wanted to play in the yard.

Due to the rain, quite often afternoons were spent indoors reading one of those old James Hardly Chase novels that my grandfather had stored (hidden?) in the big chest, or snoozing. One such afternoon, I remember a cacophony of bird noises waking me up. The birds were definitely sounding distressed. My grandparents, cousin brother and I went out to the veranda abutting the kitchen. The noise was coming from the trees near the shed where the wood (veraggu) for our old-fashioned stove was kept. The birds were gathered on one of the lowest branches of the tree and they were screeching away at something on the ground. My grandfather was the first one to spot it. An adult viper happily feasting on a fallen egg.

In itself the event, while a part of the natural world, was disturbing enough. But I was even more frazzled by it because Velliachan (my grandfather), my cousin and I were headed to my grandfather’s maternal family shrine – The Pambattu – the next day. This is akin to the kula devatha (family deity) of North India. For those not familiar with Malayalam or Tamil – Pambu means snake, and our family deity was a snake goddess. I have mixed feelings about snakes. Given that most Hindus are taught to revere nature and all creatures associated with our Gods, I could not bring myself to outright hate them. Yet they were not on my favourite animals list. Partly because they don’t look cute and cuddly, or regal and beautiful, but mainly because of the venom angle. I was, and still am, petrified of snakes. However, it was that time of the year and I had to go and pay my respects. That night it rained.

Early next morning, the three of us stepped out. We soon left the cluster of homes (mostly, in the 70s and 80s, peopled by relatives near and far) and started walking through paddy fields. I think they were paddy fields. I am not an expert. All I know is that it was green, the grass grew tall (almost to one’s knees), and the earth was wet and slushy. My young mind (I am not sure how old I was but I must have been 13 or 14 I think), was stuck on the word – ewwwwww…. ew ew ew. It was at this point that my younger cousin brother kindly decided to enlighten me. He said, “Chechi (elder sister), sometimes they have spotted snakes in these thodis (fields)”

I could have killed him then and there, but every minute spent murdering him would be a minute longer for all those snakes hiding in the field to take a shot at me. So I speed walked as fast as I could out of that slushy field even as hot tears trickled down my cheeks.

Once we cleared the fields, we were in a lush area where the oldest houses of the Karuthodiyil Tharavadu (my grandfather’s tharavadu (clan)) were. One look at them and you will begin to believe in ghosts. My grandfather and pesky cousin caught up with me. He was looking slightly chastened.

Velliachan then told me about the house I was staring at. He said it was over 100 years old. It looked it. We walked a little bit down the road, but now it was just lush greenery around us. Then we stopped. To our right stood an entrance. No gate. Just a wall of black rocks covered by the undergrowth. Inside stood the temple. It felt and looked ancient. These temples or kaavu (abode) are not the tall, decorated and colourful creations of Tamil Nadu. There were three small wooden structures of the same blackish stone standing in a clearing surrounded by trees and shrubs. The largest one stood just a little bit taller than me. To enter it you would have to stoop. Everything, including the stone oil lamps and tiny sculptures of what looked like chubby snakes, had turned black with time and oil. These three structures were devoted to Siva, Ganapathy and Mahalakshmi.

Apparently, during the festival season, this place is bursting at the seams with worshippers. But on that particular day, even the priest was missing. Opposite the main temple, there was a natural arch made by the drooping branches of the trees. The branches of the trees blocked what little sunlight could filter in through the monsoon clouds. To my overactive and totally stressed out imagination, every branch and leaf and creeper looked like a snake. We had to walk through that arch to reach the inner kaavu – the sarpa kaavu – where the prayers and offerings to the snake gods and goddesses are made… no surprises there. The way my day was turning out to be, I wouldn’t be surprised if a snake came up to me and said hi. The short tree arched path led to a stone platform, also darkened by age and all those oil lamps. An array of snake sculptures rested on the platform. We prayed to them. I mostly begged to be spared.

Due to the missing priest, we didn’t have to hang around for long in the kaavu and we were soon out of the temple. Walking back, Velliachan decided to drop in at the ‘ghost’ house and pay his respects to an elderly relative. She too looked ancient. But her mind was tuned into young kids. Within 5 minutes, my cousin and I were tucking into banana chips and red squares of halwa. She walked us around the backyard – the view over the green hills of Malappuram with coconut trees swaying tall over green woods and fields was stunning. From the backyard, we could see the entrance of the kaavu.

When she heard that we had just been there, Muthashi* shook her head sadly and said, “In our days, the kaavu never looked this deserted. It was always lit by oil lamps and shone like a jewel.” My cousin and I looked at the dark stones, and maybe our disbelief showed on our face. “There is a reason why it was always lit,” Muthashi continued.

Long ago, Muthashi said, the woods surrounding the temple were denser. There were fewer people and more snakes – both venomous and otherwise. The jyotsan (astrologer) was a man of great standing in the community – someone to whom even the tharavadu heads would pay attention to. People turned to the jyotsan for advice on everything from planting the next crop to fixing a marriage or figuring out why something went wrong. What he said was considered the ultimate truth and no one questioned his knowledge or authority. When one of Muthashi’s forefather noticed that there were more frequent sightings of snakes in the area, he had asked the jyotsan for advice. The astrologer was convinced that the sightings were divine and the tharavadu head should build a temple in the area to honour the snake goddess.

Back in those days, poojas were held regularly, pambattam (snake dance performances) were held often, and neivedyam (sweet prasad and milk) was offered to the snakes every year. People could witness the snakes drinking the milk! Worshippers would often come to the kaavu to pray for the fulfillment of their wishes and would donate nilavilakku (tall lamps) or make special offerings to show their gratitude.

The kaavu was in those days an integral part of the tharavadu’s daily life and worshippers came on a daily basis. But after many decades, during Muthashi’s grandparent’s time, things fell into disrepair. The celebrations and rituals had got diluted over the generations. While still a part of everybody’s life, it was no longer the center of the community. The man who was the head of the tharavadu at that time was for some reason not very particular about following all the rituals. He was warned by the elders, jyotsans and the priests. But the warnings fell on deaf ears. Soon the temple was being neglected. Poojas became rare.

Then in the middle of the wet season, on a dark, stormy night (but of course!), the temple caught fire. No one could explain it. How could a stone structure catch fire during the rainy season! But there it was. A fire that gutted the temple and the trees surrounding the kaavu. Many tried to douse the fire, but it could not be put out. The fire engulfed and destroyed most of what was in the compound except for the small structures honouring the gods and goddesses. Finally, it died down on its own.

However, it was not the fire that scared the people and the tharavadu head out of their wits. It was the lady, who looked beautiful and strangely powerful who was spotted leaning by the main temple structure even as everything else around it went up in flames, who scared the living daylights out of them. According to some, she looked angry and according to others, she had a mocking expression on her face. Some saw her during the fire itself, others claimed to see her leaning on the temple after the fire died out.

The people were worried and consulted the jyotsan, who wasted no time in frightening the people further by saying that the gods were angry, and the only way to appease them was to return the temple to its old glory. Whatever it be, since then the tharavadu has continued to uphold the old traditions and rituals like before. No one wanted to risk upsetting the goddess again; because while no one could agree on the other details, everybody was certain of one thing – that beautiful woman was no human.

Black Dog

This is another post that was written a few years back. Finally, ready to share. Depression, not the clinical variety that needs medical treatment, but the kind that most human beings encounter at one time or the other, catches most of us unawares, mid-step as we go about our chores. The warnings would have been there for a few days, weeks or sometimes even months, but we don’t pay attention. The usual litany of excuses – too busy, not me, it’s just exhaustion.

For most of us, the depression stays like an unwelcome guest for a few days and goes away. And we celebrate. Only to realize down the road that it has returned. It is a part of life. If it is really bad, we should get proper medical help. If not, daily walks, and a talk or two or ten with a friend, and a steady dose of kindness to your own self should usually work. Ugly sobbing alone in the bathroom also helps.

I tend to get the blues and blahs once in a while… usually as I near my birthday and I realize that JK Rowling, Hugh Jackman and Clint Eastwood still don’t know who I am.

Some years back, I wrote this piece. An exercise in studying my own self. There is a more detailed entry in my journal of my feelings, but honestly, it is bloody boring. This is the edited version.

As usual – thanks for reading.

 

2010

And the slide begins.

It is not that I am unawares. I can first sense it and then almost see it. The abyss. But it doesn’t scare me… yet. Instead, it woos me, like something thick, gooey and sweet that will engulf me and obliterate everything else. And I look forward to that… to that wiping out of all that is beautiful and messy in my life. To the pinpoint focus on the darkness that will spread.

Maybe this time I will emerge with a clean slate, a clear head, a heart that feels joy without wondering why. An unquestioned happiness, a fully enjoyed moment. Maybe on the other side, these await me. But first I need to embrace my dark love.

The blues, I can scoop it up with a spoon. I don’t want to burden anyone else with this pain. It’s so light that it sets my heart fluttering. Yet, it’s so heavy that it weighs me down. I am unable to fight gravity. Even getting out of the bed is a Herculean effort.

I tell myself – get up. You have things to do. That book to write. The child to be reared. The clothes to be folded. I load the washing machine. It takes all my will to not let the Ariel box slip from my fingers to the ground. I debate with myself – do I have the energy to pour the softener? Once I begin, I find that I don’t have the energy to stop.

My dark black dog is actually a wolf. Dogs can be tamed. The beast that conquers me is feral, wild, invincible, and invisible.

I can beat it. I can. I have before. Many times. And yet it doesn’t go away… doesn’t accept defeat. I fight on. But there are days when I am flagging. Too tired to fight. I want to curl up and give up. I tell myself – stop being a drama queen. Don’t indulge in self-pitying scenes. Get up. Shake it off. Get up. Move on.

I know I will survive this. I am a survivor. I don’t look it, but I am. Tomorrow the sun will shine again. But today… overworked, unfulfilled, jobless, dying dreams – the trees that dot my landscape are unappetizing.