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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“Do you believe in true love?”

Do we exist in a landfill of relationship debris or is there some magic left?

Binu SivanThis last weekend, I met a young friend – someone who had got engaged a month or so back. This is the sensible generation or maybe they are just scared. They are looking at a longish engagement. I asked her, “Why?”

She said, “We need to be sure.” I almost laughed out. You are never sure. Nearly 14 years after getting married, I am still not sure. It doesn’t matter how long you are engaged. Your husband or wife will turn out to be a different person to the one you were engaged to.

As I mulled over her answer, she asked – “Do you believe in true love?”

Now, why the hell would she ask me that!

The first unthinking words almost out of my mouth were – No! I don’t. I think it is all a lie. There is no such thing as true love. Just look at the disillusionment that you find in almost all the relationships around you! We are surrounded by a landfill of relationship debris.

Even as I thought these words I knew I was missing the point; because despite the disillusionment and the neglect there was something else.

Despite my desire to be untouchable in matters of the heart (a direct result of believing that I am as cool as Clint Eastwood in his cowboy avatar), the fact of the matter is that I do believe in love. Not the Valentine’s Day shit with its cards, candlelight dinners, and roses. I don’t even believe in the we-will-grow-old-together kind of romance. Tomorrow and old age are not guaranteed.

I thought about how in today’s world a growing cobweb of disillusionment and neglect anchor and hold up the photo frames of our relationships. Relationships and marriages, in particular, seem to be made up of what is missing – small acts and gestures that we forget to, or are too lazy or angry to do for each other.

Every expert on relationships has been crying himself or herself hoarse trying to tell us that we got to work at love. ‘Falling in love’ does not guarantee ‘staying in love’. You got to work at it to keep it alive. There is no happily ever after. At best you have a “we like each other enough to want to grow old together” ever after.

So is that all there is to love?

I am not an ace at this. I never was. Time, drudgery, disillusionment, neglect, taking and being taken for granted have taken their toll. Yet I am not just a victim. I am a killer too. Love doesn’t die at the hands of infidelity and violence alone. Its butchers are many.

Like pretty much most young women who get married, I believed in true love or rather the mirage of true love as spoon fed to us by our film industry. My ever after. My one and only. A few heartbreaks and disappointments later (both parties at fault) I revisited my notions of love.

Was love the intense feeling that swept over me as they placed my new-born daughter on my chest and I knew in my bones that I’d kill for this little one’s safety? I have never felt anything close to that for anyone else.

I am married to a guy who is in finance. He loves math. I love words. He watches Bloomberg and cricket for entertainment. I watch travel shows on NG and Discovery and love to read. More than a decade of marriage hasn’t blurred these differences in our case. In fact, we can still only manage a polite curiosity in the other’s interest.

In the initial years of our marriage, he got me watches (expensive, branded ones) for three of my birthdays. The third time I got a watch, I sat him down, showed him my watch-less wrist and told him in clear terms, “I don’t like to wear watches!”

To his credit, he has been learning and has stopped getting me watches.

We live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. A combination of health issues and sheer frustration at juggling a highly demanding job and a growing child made me walk away from regular employment. Now I am a stay-at-home-mom and a freelance writer working on my first novel. A move I could not have made unless my watch-buying, math, and cricket-loving husband had not agreed to finance our lives.

So is this love?

Love.  In my mind, it is a gentle, soothing breeze… something that underlies and supports, and is supported and nurtured in turn by consideration, kindness, generosity and passion. A breeze that wipes away our tiredness and soothes our tired eyes and heart. A breeze that brings with it anew a slow bubbling hope. A breeze that needs a soul to brush against, slowly raising its shrouds… awakening it to the joy, peace, angst and pain that is the accompaniment to love.

A breeze that blows against a rock face or wall will not raise any shrouds. It will just be a weak wind that falters and fades away. Love is like that. One day you are the breeze, the next day… hopefully, your partner. But if you, or he or she, are the rock all the time, then eventually the breeze will die.

When young, due to my movie and Mills and Boons fueled notions of love and romance, I believed true love can be achieved only with one person. Now I know better. You can fall in love deeply many times over. You can be in love with more than one person at the same time. Love can evolve into like, hate and indifference. You can fall out of love with a person and yet love that person.

The magic of love can touch you at any time, across the labyrinth of space, age, societal mores, and even reality. You can be in love in your mind and the world would have no inkling. You can even be in love with an imaginary personification of all that you desire. This love of the imaginary person (that you are yet to meet or may never meet) is like an underground spring that waters your soul and keeps you alive.

You could be in love with a woman’s never-say-die spirit, a man’s kindness, that woman’s smile, that stranger’s eyes… you know that nothing will ever come out of it. For a few weeks or maybe just for a few days, they will add an extra spring to your step, a smile to your lips, an ache to your heart, and a song to your heart. You are not going to disrupt the status quo of your life for this smile or eyes. But just for that magical little while, love and romance brush by you again and you are alive. Just an intense crush, but for those few hours, days and weeks, this imaginary love-story in your mind is stronger than any relationship that actually exists in your ‘real’ life.

And then one day you wake up, freed from the bondages of this crush… you are out of love.

So what the hell is love? To be honest I still don’t know. I am constantly redefining it.

Do I believe in true love? I don’t even know what the hell true love is! But I can tell you this – I am a romantic.

The word romance conjures up different images for most of us – usually dictated by our age and experiences. In our teen years, it is a red heart-shaped balloon and a misspelt love note. In our 20s a public declaration of everlasting love on Facebook and Instagram. In our 30s, a partner who is willing to wake up to take care of that baby who is hell bent on driving you to an early grave.

But now I am in my 40s, and for me romance has broken the limiting walls of relationships. Let me explain…

I had always liked to think of myself as a realist – someone who sees the world for what it is and accepts it. But the truth of the matter is that I am not a realist. I don’t see the world for what it is. For me the world we see is an opaque veil, that conceals the truths that I instinctively believe in, and even know to exist. Even my personal religion and concept of God is based on this.

I believe without proof. Yet I also believe in the theory of evolution and have a deep respect for science and the fantastic mind-bending journey it, and we are on. Maybe because of this respect (and not despite it) I also believe in things I cannot see.

So how can I not be a romantic!?

Not just a believer in romance in its most commonly understood sense… but also the romance of life itself. When I smile instinctively at another person during my walks and they smile back at me, when my daughter walks into my room early in the morning and cuddles up with me, when I watch two young lovers trying to maintain decorum and distance as they walk together, jostling against each other with every step… I am more in love than I have ever been. Not with another person. But just in love.

When I read the wistful, elegiac words of poets like Rumi, Parveen Shakir, Keats, and Ghalib, I cannot help but wonder… How can this feeling, this aching yearning for another even arise in our hearts, if there was no romance!? How can it exist if there was no quest for that one love? How can someone write words that reach out across centuries and lands and grab my heart with such intensity and force? Am I not falling in love all over again when I read them?

Then there are things in this world that make me believe in a love that feels deeper and truer. When I am walking along a deserted beach, when I am watching a full moon shine brightly on snow-capped mountains at 2am, I sense something rare and fragile to my touch, just out of my reach… brushing delicately against my fingertips. It teases me into being more aware. An almost ephemeral awareness, it is by its very nature of being elusive that much more valuable and worthy of being pursued.

Right now, as I learn to live consciously and intentionally, taking steps towards certain dreams, instead of just waiting for them, my notions of love and romance are abstract.

I believe in the romance of the moment. It is a fleeting moment – sometimes submerged in the minutiae of life, buried amidst the debris of our busyness and distractedness. But that one fleeting moment can keep that flame of magic and life burning. And it is not necessarily a moment with your partner or spouse. It is the kind of romance where you are in a moment, either with your spouse or a friend (whatever be their gender) or your pet or a stranger, and you are with that person fully. It is the kind of romance that inspires you even when you are alone.

Right now, love is this very moment.

My newly engaged friend stared dazed at me as I went through my disjointed spiel. “So does this mean you believe in true love?”

“Yeah, yeah I believe in true love.” She will have to figure this out in her own way and time anyway.

 

 

Another Poem

IMG_7221Wake up!

WAKE UP!

Do this

Do that

Comb your hair

Learn to tie your shoe laces

Do your homework

Chew with your mouth closed

Talk softly

Don’t scream

Run

Run carefully

Don’t trip

Don’t lie

Study well

Write neatly

Tell them I am busy

Keep your room clean

Don’t overeat

Eat your veggies

Don’t eat your hair!

Be tough

Be kind

Read more

Go to bed.

But have I ever

Have I truly ever

Told you the stuff

The important stuff

The truly important ones…

Daydream a bit

Lie back and watch the clouds

Count the stars

Smell…

The rain in the air…

The rich wetness of the earth…

Be proud of your body

Learn to listen to your body

Lick the ice cream bowl clean

With your fingers

And your tongue

Do something silly

Every once in a while

Run for joy

Don’t be afraid to love

With a pure vulnerable heart

It will hurt

But it will hurt more

If you don’t

Have loads of friends

Who you can laugh and

Have fun with

But have at least one

That you can cry

And be miserable with

Be brave

Be strong

Read more

And then some more

Write your thoughts down

Smile at the world

Trust your instincts

Daydream a bit more.

MIA – The Empathetic Indian

 

Image

Image Courtesy http://www.indiatvnews.com

In Jaipur a father stood on the side of a highway with heavy traffic and begged for someone to stop and help his injured wife and 8 month old daughter, while having to console his young son. Someone had the time to take a picture and upload it. No one had the time to stop and help them. Not for 40 minutes. By the time a toll booth worker noticed the accident and informed the cops and they arrived, the mother and daughter were dead.

We should be shocked and disgusted. But India being India… we are so damn good at rolling with the bloody knocks! When we heard about how the Delhi rape victim and her friend had to lie surrounded by the general public and even cops for about 20 minutes before they were moved to a hospital, we wince and shake our heads and wonder ‘kaise log hain!’ – ‘What kind of people are these!’

All these months later we assuage our collective guilt by giving posthumous awards to the girl and her family, occasionally holding a placard and a candle asking for justice for the girl and death sentence for the monsters who can hurt another human being in this way. But not one of us has ever stopped to wonder – What is my hand in this? How am I responsible? Did I by turning a blind eye for decades, by mutely witnessing crime and bovine-ly accepting every bull shit that has been meted out to us as a community, help create a world where the monsters and demons that walk amongst us think they can get away with murder? You and I know the answers to these questions. We just don’t want to face the horrible truth that is screaming out silently to us.

There is a myth that has been doing the rounds for ever about India – that we are a country peopled by emotional people who know how to love. Love my foot! Love is more than just romancing the man or woman in your life. Love is being able to feel empathy and concern for the world around us. Love is being unable to drive by when you see a father begging for help for his injured family. Love is being able to reach out to a stranger in dire need of our help. 

I know what you are thinking – It is not safe? Who wants the headache of having to deal with the cops (incidentally this is no longer as much of a problem as before), the hospital? Will the blood stains come off our car seats? We will get delayed in reaching the airport or work or where ever it is that we are headed!

Maybe the all-important question we need to ask is – What if this was me and my family? What if this happened to someone I love? What if it was my child lying there?

I would hope to dear God that my family, loved ones and I would have better luck than the luckless family in Jaipur.