Tomorrow

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When the sun sets, when the darkness arrives, Tomorrow becomes Light.

When the hearts break, when emotions fade, Tomorrow becomes Faith.

When the storm breaks, when winds turn unruly, Tomorrow becomes the Calm

And..

When love explodes, happiness arrives, Tomorrow becomes a Promise.

What’s your Tomorrow?

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The Perpetual Wait

Kindling Newness in Old

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“Once I had put enough distance between myself and where I grew up, I started to see its beauty. I started to see it the way outsiders do – maybe because I had become an outsider.”
― Taylor Jenkins Reid

I second Miss Reid on that. It wasn’t until the February of 2019, almost two months since I moved back to Cochin, that I realized what it was that had pulled me back here. Yes, ofcourse, there were those ‘very practical issues’ that I had drawn into my life that could have been solved best by moving back to the hometown. But those were not all. I mean, this was the place I literally ran away from.

I remember back in school, just as we were nearing our farewell, I had told all my friends that I was getting out of this place. Like, I was going to run away, as far as I could, from this sleepy little town that did nothing but whisper behind my back, remind me the boundaries I had to adhere to for the sin that was to be a woman (or a girl back then), and kept me locked up in an invisible prison from where no sound could escape. Although the college that I did end up in wasn’t one I could brag about either, the escape still seemed worth it. The escape to anonymity, freedom and choices.

Little did I know that I would bite my own tongue one day.

A little over a decade later, today marked the first week in my new home and first day at a new job, all in Cochin, the place I grew up. And I have much to talk. Not just about the warmth of nostalgia that nestles me these days and the comfort of familiarity that inspires security during the worst of my storms.

But also about the way this town has grown with me, from passing off as ‘almost a city’ to ‘almost a metro’. About the way the people have changed from ‘talking behind my back’ to ‘talking behind the backs of non-natives’. Also about the way it used to welcome strangers with a ‘snide’ to welcoming them with a ‘ very questionable smile’ now.

This town of mine is traditional and distrustful. It always has been. But I see now, that it is also forgiving and broad enough to give second chances. Now that’s something I never thought I would find here.

I was 6 when I first came to Cochin, and started school. There was a newness here then that had taken the little village girl in me by complete bewilderment – a charm that age and time did plenty to wear off. But two decades later, I find myself rediscovering my hometown, my new born city, in equal admiration. As if I am the villager again, the outsider.

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Thirteen Notes before Thirty

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This is not a birthday post. I still have six more months to go before hitting the 30 mark. Infact, this one is more about being 29 and the happy or sad revelations that came with it. And the six months post my last birthday have made me wonder if I had not spent too much time all these years trying to validate my truth instead of understanding what was.
So here’s a list of the thirteen most important realizations that drove themselves home this year.

(Disclaimer: These points were drawn out as a result of a soul searching exercise and hence cannot be generalized for all the ’89-borns out there. But Amen to all those who find it ringing a bell somewhere!)

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Seek always for the answer within

  1. All of us are our own unique combinations of rights and wrongs. Do not expect or invite anyone else to fit in your shoes, they’ll probably just make a mess trying.
  2. People change, much like you would have too, over the years. We are all aging, learning and adapting to become better versions of ourselves, everyday. So when that change happens and you find yourself in company of people who no longer share your vision for life, do not hesitate to rearrange your support system. They themselves might need to make space for others who can understand them much better than you could.
  3. Money is only as important as you let it be. Amassing it is never the end of the road. But nor is there a point in denouncing it all together if an empty wallet comes in the way of doing good to yourself and the world.
  4. It’s okay to take a break from trying to get everything right all the time. Sometimes you need to take a step back and reevaluate your priorities.
  5. Every single person who comes into your life carries with them a well of information and a view of the world that is anything but, the one from your  own window. Dipping into their stories is important, but be careful what you come back with.
  6. Believe in Karma, its real. It is impossible to leave this world without hurting at least one person, unintentionally or otherwise. But rectification is also possible, and it begins with accepting your weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
  7. And having said that, accept that it is not upto the world to treat you fairly. Sometimes you’re simply at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that sucks. Deal with it and move on.
  8. Being home is a feeling we chase after, but end up looking for in all the wrong places. Home will always be more of a ‘time of perfect harmony of emotions within you,’ one that inspires confidence and security, than it will ever be a place in this world.
  9. Trying to understand your parents as human beings, in all their complexities, is the biggest kindness you can do to them and yourself. All the happy childhood memories that you treasure today, even if they are only a handful, were the efforts of imperfect people trying to make a perfect life for you.
  10. Children are happy with little things. We are the ones who ruin them by teaching to strive for ‘bigger and better’. So it’s not really their fault if they ask you for more than what you can provide.
  11. Friends and siblings who have been around the longest and showed love and concern in any little way possible, don’t always do so because they think you’re right. Sometimes they just want to know you’re still there, living and battling life out the way you see fit.
  12. It’s pretty normal to dream of a life filled with fun, excitement and adventure everyday. And there is nothing wrong in chasing that dream either. But remember to structure a routine, a boring back-up, for the days when you want a little quiet and a lot of insight.
  13. And always remember to laugh at your own jokes, especially if you’re the only one who gets it!

Being 29 has been pretty challenging so far. It has already made me rewire my thoughts and perceptions, that too in life-changing proportions. And I look forward to the rest of it, in hopes that I am born again at 30.

Muse

Waiting for the next wave

 

Lessons from the Cradle

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To raise a child who is comfortable enough to leave you, means you’ve done your job. Children are not ours to keep, but to teach how to soar on their own.

 

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I came across these lines the other day while idly scrolling through my Facebook home page. It was a pretty bold statement to make and not that all would agree with. But there was an essence of truth in it that refused to be ignored. It stuck with me the whole day through.

Coincidentally, that day at the office cafeteria, I chanced upon a conversation from the adjacent table between three women, routinely cribbing about their mundane weekend activities revolving around their children’s summer camp schedules and the difficulties of intertwining them with their own weekend outing preferences. It occurred to me yet again, that at some level, all parents wish to see their children to grow up to be individuals capable of pursing their goals and dreams. And hence, make it a point to inculcate in them a habit of ‘Do what you what you Want.’ And I thought, are we really doing it the right way?

It’s one thing to reiterate to our children the importance of pursuing that which their heart calls for, and quite another to hand them opportunities sans the sense of responsibility that accompany them. Are we not then raising a generation of the Spoiled and Thankless for no fault of their own?

A throwback to my childhood, and I remember my mother, a single parent, battling each day to create a better life for me. Although too little and naive to fathom the depths of her struggles back then, I grew up to realize one very important fact of life. Real opportunities are made, not given. Nothing should be taken for granted, not the comforts nor the disappointments. She was never the one to spare a rod when time called for it, but also never the one to hold me back from dreaming, even though she knew how limited our means were back then. She would ask open ended questions about my plans for future and let me debate out my own answers. And everytime I told her about my ideal profession (which kept progressing from being an Air hostess to a Lawyer to a Journalist as I transitioned grades), she would remind me, “Pursue what you want, whatever you want, but remember, there is only so much I can do to support you. You’re going to have to walk the longer path yourself.” And That always kept me grounded.

I look around and see children demand their lives be a certain way and that their parents provide for it. And I see parents who feel guilty for not being able to send their children to those pricey math tuitions and fancy personality development sessions. I see children, not even in their teens, burn up in rage when denied the comforts they were hoping for and parents who break their backs to meet the ends while crushing their own dreams into a school bag.
And then when they come of age, these children drag through their adulthood, waiting. Waiting for things to get better, for the storm to settle before stepping out. They wait for the right people to come along and bring them happiness, like toys on Christmas. They wait for the world to present them with opportunities and wealth. They expect the right doors to be open always. They wait for a better life without taking an effort for one. And when that hope shatters, they cry foul and blame the unkind, non withstanding humanity for their failures. Eventually, some figure it out, but a great many spend a resentful life wishing away, for better times.

Exposing our children to hardships within a controlled environment is, what I believe, the need of the hour. The earlier a child understands, that life is as far as it can get from a bed of roses, the easier it will be for him/her to accept the unexpected blows and pitfalls, and survive them even. They must be taught to accept help when required with grace and gratitude, and to not throw tantrums when offered none. A realization that the safety net spread out by their parents or guardians can extend only thus far, will plant the courage to venture out of their comfort zones.

It is true. Children are not ours to keep. They are ours to teach and tend to during the initial phase of their lives. And in those few fleeting years, we need to paint the most realistic picture of this planet, that we can in their eyes. So when time comes for them to flap their wings into their own story, we can be rest assured, they are capable of fighting the battle and surviving.

My mother, she might not agree with all my life choices, but still fights for me where she can. And though she still worries for me from time to time when life throws one curve ball or the other, I am sure she understands that I am a survivor, just like her.

And I think of my son, turning 5 in a few months, and pray for the strength to be the mother who can fuel his dreams without tarnishing it’s value.

 

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It is easier to build strong children, than to repair broken men.

And When the Clouds turn Grey

Don’t wait for the last drop of rain to drench the earth;
It only takes a stubborn sun to paint a rainbow

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On days when the trek uphill feels too steep, or the swim across too suffocating; when winters run long and the spring eludes the horizon, nonchalantly spreading gloom over the hopes you cradled so tenderly.
Remember, that victory is nothing without the memories of struggle and the gratification in pain.

We often confuse happiness with the idea of happiness that we grew up to believe. Often times, we forget that happiness is that which is felt without reason or provocation. It is the release of the positivity born within. It may come in waves of energy or be felt in the unburdening of tearfully poignant memories. But it always has to come from within. And anything that comes from within, is unique, just like you are.

No two smiles can contain the same joy. Not a single hour can be recreated without losing it’s purpose. Not a drop of tear can replace the one’s you’ve shed. Why then should happiness be found in someone else’s definition?
Your story is unique, just like the people in your lives. And so are those moments that answer your deepest prayers, shed light on the most troublesome of your questions. And maybe, no one else is supposed to understand it.

So let those doubts rot in the darkness of its own making. Let it not see another day’s light. Maybe the world is kind to you, maybe it’s not. Maybe you realized that there are things that can’t be put in Black or White. And maybe, just maybe, that’s the way it is supposed to be.

Happiness is, afterall, just a thought, that ‘living’ is worth it.

A Time to Rend and a Time to Sew

I accept the Zahir, and will let it lead me into a state of either holiness or madness.
Paulo Coelho

Zahir, for me, is an emotion. Infact, I know no other term for it. I have felt the Zahir many a times, but always in fleeting moments. It is free and unbound. It never reveals itself with drums and cymbals, and almost always sneaks upon me when I am least prepared to receive it. But never, in any of those moments, has it failed to fill my living with hope and faith, and most importantly peace.

The Zahir is that which we were born to realize. The purpose in all the struggles. It is the reason for for all the unanswered questions. It is the voice that you hear when all hell breaks loose and the song that hits you in the middle of the day, taking you back in time or forward.  It is the promise of rain that hides behind the gloomy sky after a long summer. It is the hope of the Good to come after a battle.

I first felt the Zahir, or something akin to it, in my school library. That tiny room, that over the years witnessed dramatic changes as the school got more liberal with their funds, has seen me fall in love many times over, with books, with words, with stories and finally the writers. It was in that room that I first felt the urge to write a story, to be known as an author and share a piece of me in each word published. Love and passion, were not the only emotions that were kindled within those walls. The seeds of adventure and the courage to revolt share their origins there too. It was a relationship unlike any other I have ever had. I did not know it back then, but that was when my awakening had began, my Zahir had appeared.

But over the years, the Zahir has been quite elusive. It lingers lightly behind my beloved’s eyes, almost like a shadow of a light. It binds me unconditionally with my little boy’s smiles. It grips my heart in sudden excitement on rainy afternoons. It hums along softly to my favourite tunes, almost going unnoticed.

And tonight, my Zahir, has strummed some fond old memories into my heart. Memories of a life that was lived and that has to be released, for there is nothing left in those folds of time that can survive another day break. Nevertheless, memories that need to be held close, because they will always be a part of my tomorrow. Strange, that we never really fathom the significance of a moment until it’s played back in our heads in monochrome shades.

Tonight, the Zahir speaks to the girl waltzing through the shelves of her school library, in search of the pages that would take her on her next great adventure. It reminds her, that life is not about adhering to the norms and conventions, it is about finding the courage to write our own story, even if it means bending the rules. It reminds her that, lessons are hidden more often in mistakes than in achievements. It is forcing her to accept that, the heart is not always right in its impulses nor the mind in its reasons, but inadvertence to either is a crime greater than any.

I don’t know what the Zahir has in store for me, nor do I fully understand the force driving it. But I have no other choice but to trust it to lead me to that Secret Garden, hiding my elixir, my passage to salvation.. redemption.

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Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so slightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. Often the attachment is scarcely perceptible. 

 

The Soul

 

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The purpose in living can only be unfolded by discovering the mysteries of one’s soul. I have felt often that a person’s soul can be an entirely different personality, a different being, quite unaware of what it’s flesh is made up of. It could be living in a different dimension altogether, if you want to call it that. I would even call it unfair that every human being has to live most parts of his life unaware of the essence he carries within himself.

Volumes have been written about getting in touch with the soul and engaging it in a steady conversation, which over time could lead us towards that place of contentment. But all that is much easier said than done, isin’t it? As for me, I really cannot say I have connected to the life force inside me yet, but there have been times when certain voices have taken over primal instincts and left me confused as to the source of some major life altering decisions. Because, quite frankly, some of my decisions seem very alien to me at times.

Almost a year ago, my fingers were guided into typing this conversation out, that which I believe I had with the voice inside me. I had not paid much heed to it then, and this lay forgotten in the midst of my overwhelmingly increasing number of incomplete drafts. But in the light of recent events unfolding in my life ( read, major life altering events in personal and professional spheres), I feel the need to share it. And hence the dialogue below.

 

What was that again?

I said, you need to stop reminiscing and start living your life, for real.

Easy for you to say! You, who can live many lives in a single moment. You can be anywhere, living any life you chose. I.. I have the responsibility of steering this ship to safety, this life craft of yours.

Are you afraid of losing control of this vessel? Do you really think we would get lost?

It’s possible. Yes.

And why does that bother you?

Why shouldn’t it bother me? This life, this is all I have. No second chances. No fail safes. No resurrection from death. I would rather gather wisdom spread over time till my last breath, than foolishly seek a single moment of enlightenment.

There is nothing wrong in that. You have every right to wish for a stability and predictability in life. Even old souls sometimes wish for that. But..

But what?

But you know that there is a reason why I am here tonight talking to you. We don’t usually go around talking to people in their heads. And whenever we tried, almost always lost them to lunacy. But there comes times, when we realize that something important is about to happen, like it is in your life right now. 

Maybe that’s the problem. You should start talking to us lowlifes more. Life would have been so much less confusing then for most of us. But please go ahead. Do tell me why you are here.

I can sense it when you are going through a rough patch. Some are essential, some are avoidable. And still, some are very crucial. I can feel the intensity of your feelings and desires, the thirst for knowing that consumes you. I can sense the dissent among your senses and the bickering in your head. And I know the exact moment when you are capable of choosing faith in the unknown over safety in the known.

Well then you got here a bit too late I guess. That moment has passed. I made my choice and now it’s done. Why else do you think I am in this mess right now? You should have come much sooner. Your words mean nothing to me today.

Did I tell you that I am here tonight because this is your moment? No. This is not your moment. Neither was that which you now claim to be over. That was just a part of your story making you who you are, leading you up to your moment. And that moment is now almost upon you. I am here only to let you know so that this time you make no mistake.

What do you mean?

I mean that very soon you will find yourself at crossroads again, one of the biggest and most confusing one in your life. And then, I don’t want you to just give in to the easy way out because you think your actions in the past have already determined your fate. No. It doesn’t work that way. It’s true that some choices can leave more indents on your story than others, but no one decision can rob a man his freedom of choice. Use it without guilt. I am not saying that the road less traveled could be your natural choice. All I want to remind you is that, you still have the power to choose for yourself, however difficult or impossible it may seem.

I could never do that. I am not that reckless now. Honestly I think the spirit of adventure might have died a little in me. 

 

I pause here, because this is where I stopped writing that night. But as days and months went by, I have to say, something was indeed awakened. Over the past couple of months, I have made choices, some sensible but mostly irrational choices, that have indeed brought me to crossroads. I shudder to think that this was a premonition or in anyway a warning for the things to come. But the freedom to choose that I find myself wielding right now, is frankly quite scary.

Well, it’s good to be scared I suppose. It can only mean that I am still alive and I can still dream about a life where happiness or joy, does not ebb from containing myself within the choices I made in the past. And that, I believe, is better than living a life sans desires or dreams.

“The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Old Man’s Hour

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Tonight, the bells on my doorway, wish to tell you a story. Tonight, I am just the hand, they are the voices.

There once lived a man, an old man. A very sorry man.
He lived by the sea in an old and hauntingly empty house. The walls were mouldy where it did not hide behind the pictures of all the people he had once loved, and died. His two wives, both taken away from him so young. His only son, who lived with him for 30 years before sacrificing his life for war. His brother, whom he had seen only twice during their last 20 years. His 3 dogs.
Yes, it was a hauntingly empty house.

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Long time ago, he had been young, successful, dreamy and passionate about life. Now he just loitered around the house, trying hard not to knock things over and wondering why Death had so cruelly spared him. Wondering when this would finally come to an end and when he would join his loved ones in Heaven. Yes, he believed in Heaven and that he would meet them there.

Until one night the sky opened up in tears. That storm, born in the dark of the ocean, had crept up the land, tearing his roof apart and banging on his pellucid windows. He rejoiced, prayed for the wind to blow harder and hoped for the walls to come crashing down on him. He sat waiting for the final blow, when he would finally walk hand in hand with Death.

Thud. Thud.

Who could that be at this time, out there withstanding this storm?‘ he wondered as he ambled towards the door. When he opened them, a young, dishevelled man fell onto the floor. As he closed the doors shut as quickly as his shivery hands could, the man dragged himself across the room, towards the flickering candle by the chair, leaving a trail of mud and blood behind him. The sharp edge of a piece of wood, that had pierced his young heart, shone bright red in the light of the room. He was dying, the old man realized.

As the storm took strength outside, the two men awaited their doom, inside that old house. One lay on the floor, writhing in pain, his eyes trying to fill his body with the light of the dying candle. The other sat beside him, knowing fully well that there was nothing he could do to save the young man. There was no help coming for him. This would be his last night. The old man sat, wondering if he would have to watch another die so young.

“I am a sailor,” a voice croaked from the floor. “And I lost my ship tonight. She has kissed the ocean floor leaving nothing behind, save this part of her lodged in my heart.”

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“I have crossed many seas and lead incredible voyages,” he continued, defying his body’s will to depart. “I have chests full of treasures and riches in my home across the ocean. I have met great men and listened to inspiring stories. But I have never loved. And that scares me more than death tonight.”

“Never loved?” the old man asked wiping the blood off his bruises.

“As soon as I became a man I left my folks to conquer the world. I feared their love would anchor me down. And when beautiful women offered themselves to me, I set sail on dangerous expeditions, fearing their love would weaken me. I even feared the love from my kind seamen, for I believed they would one day ask it in return. I have feared love all my life. And now I fear dying without it. A lifetime of courage and bravery, yet not enough to face death.”

The man on the floor waited for the old man to speak, to comfort him with wisdom. He waited in vain. For the old man continued cleaning his wounds in unnerving silence. And after a few more flickers of the candle, the man closed his eyes and waited for the pain to end.

When he opened his eyes, light had filled the room. Outside the window, a sun was shining vehemently through the grey clouds leftover from the stormy night. He gently lifted his head and felt in wonderful surprise, the absence of pain. There was no piece of wood sticking out from his heart, no blood draining out his life, not even a scar across his chest where life had struck him last night. All that remained was a dull ache in his heart. It was a miracle, he was alive!

He looked around and found a piece of paper on the floor where the old man had sat wiping his blood. He read it.

Death has come for us, the both of us. But it shall leave with only me tonight.
I have traded an afterlife with my loved ones for your rebirth. There is nothing wrong in dying young, but a heart that has not loved cannot die in peace.

Do not be afraid. Love will hurt. It will break your heart and wound you more deeply than that log of wood. But it will also fill your heart with awe for the beauty in shipwrecks that you never knew existed. It is the only reason to survive. Love, as much as you can, as many times as your heart calls for it. With passion. With commitment. So that when Death comes back for you, and it will, you can look in its eyes and not be afraid. And that is the way to go.
I lived all these years wondering why fate had to be so cruel. I realize, I was only made to wait so that I could embrace Death with the same love that I had embraced Life with. I am happy to be the spare that saved your life.

I have loved all those who gave me a reason to live, happily. And now I love you for giving me the perfect reason to die. 

He looked up, folded the letter, placed it close to his heart, and set out to reclaim his life. As he walked away, he threw one last glance at the doors he had knocked in refuge. The old, hauntingly empty house, filled with love.

The night is quiet again. The voices take their leave and I return to the world of shipwrecks. 

 

An Evening by the Beach: Muscat Diaries

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We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch- we are going back from whence we came.
— JF Kennedy

It was too calm a beach for my liking. The wind was thin and the waves scarce. There were no high, roaring walls of water, crashing into the sea at a distance and rolling noisily onto the shore. The song of the ocean had been replaced by a soft, yet relentless, murmur. It was like walking into a group of old ladies at a funeral. Hushed voices. The ones that make you wonder if you were welcome to join the undertones or were required to leave without disturbing the solemnity.

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The sea was calm and clad in retro orange.

I chose to stay however, in hopes of catching the sunset. And it was a beautiful beach nonetheless. The Sultanate has some of the most stunning and secluded beaches that the peninsula has to offer.

The sky was orange, not bright, golden orange, but a dull, retro kind. There was too much dust in the air to actually see that setting sun take it’s final dip, but we got pretty close. Far away, where the skies met the waters, a few big boats scampered for the shore before the lights went out.

Sonny Boy was running about happily, always at a safe distance from the foamy edges of the tiny waves, digging his legs deep into pockets of black, wet sand, and exclaiming now and then when a Big-One approached. At least, for him, they were Big Ones.

As a child, my favorite beach activity was collecting sea shells. I would walk along the coast and pick up as many as my hands or tiny pockets could hold. I would attend to them like treasures and take them home in hopes of marrying them into a necklace. I never actually did it though.

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I call out to him.

Me: Come look at this shell I found.

Sonny Boy sprints over, takes a look at the brown and white shell in my hand and smiles politely. I can see he is not as fascinated by it as I was.

Sonny Boy: Look at that wave, Ma!

And off he goes. Kids these days! I am a little disappointed that he does not enjoy the shells. Maybe it’s a girl thing, I wonder. Or maybe he is too young, too naive to fathom the beauty hidden in the little, ordinary things.

Sonny Boy: Ma, they are going home, are they?

Me: Who?

Sonny Boy: The waves. Over there, look! Their house in the rocks.

I look up from my camera and follow his outstretched hand. At a distance, the shore had come to an abrupt end where big, black rocks, descended from the hills nearby, tapering towards the sea. Tiny wavelets came gushing silently into pockets of air between the rocks, without turning white. They came, one after the other, as if in a trance, gently knocking on the cave doors that would not be answered, and falling back into the ocean without further ado. It was quite meditative to watch.

Me: Yes, they are going home, aren’t they!

He was delighted at my response.

We spent some more time chasing crabs down the beach. They popped from time to time when the waves receded, scampering hurriedly for a brief distance before the next wave could carry them away. Some disappeared sideways into the white water while others burrowed their way into the safety of the wet sand.

The sun was now no where to be seen. The little orange that was left in the horizon was now rapidly turning black. As we walked away from the ocean, towards the familiarity of tar and concrete beneath our feet, he tugged on my t-shirt. I looked down and saw the twinkle of another question in his baby eyes.

Sonny Boy: Can we come to this beach again once we go back home?
(By home he meant back in India.)

Me: I don’t think so. This is Muscat, here where we are. And home is on the other side of this ocean. We have different beaches over there.

Sonny Boy: No. No. It’s the same beach. We can come back.

Reasoning with a boy his age can get a little too tedious. I chose not to indulge in another Let-me-explain-it-to-you session just then. Moreover, at that moment, I envied his innocence, that made believing in anything that he wanted, possible. I smiled and walked ahead.
Maybe it was knowing too much that had ruined all our happiness. Maybe, if I could unlearn a little, I could take this beach back home with me, along with the shells, crabs and the little wave houses.

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Sonny Boy, lost in his own ocean of thoughts.


Muscat Diaries- Anecdotes from my month-long holiday in Oman.

Sing a new song, Chiquitita!

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The bus missed her by just a few inches as it shrieked to halt. Yet, there she was standing, rigid as a mountain, as if she didn’t care. As if  she was used to playing games with death and winning. And when the doors hissed open, she climbed onboard, quickly scanned the seats before sinking next to me. Our reckless charioteer continued weaving us in and out the morning traffic.

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She was a chocolate-coloured, frail women in her late thirties (I am guessing), wearing a pair of thin, narrow-framed glasses, that looked like it was holding on to her low nose-bridge with great difficulty. There she was, just an ordinary face in the crowd, on that Sunday morning, sharing a journey towards the city with me and around ten other disgruntled folks. And if it wasn’t for the black scarf wrapped perfectly around her head, I probably would have missed her all together.

Yes, the thin, intricately laced bandanna told me a story that made her stand apart from the rest that morning. While the scarf in itself had the word Survivor written all over it, the transparent laces told me that she was one bold woman, unashamed of her bruises.

I come from a part of the world where women are encouraged to add layers of clothing so that they are not ridiculed, or misunderstood for trying to entice men, or to safeguard their assets from vile eyes and/or to simply appeal to the traditions of the land. We are encouraged to wear a brassiere at all times, a petticoat on top of that, then a blouse on top of that, and then a stole or shawl that covers all evidence of the landscape below. We are told most often to hide those parts of our body that are unnatural or that could make the general crowd uncomfortable. The worst of course, is that every fifth person on the street is a self-appointed moral police, licensed to reprimand or punish if these codes of dressings are not adhered to.

Hence I could understand if she wanted to wear a scarf simply because she did not want to draw too much attention or negative energy into her life. Yet, the way the soft cloth was draped, made me wonder if she had not done it out of habit. Clearly, not a lot of effort had gone into hiding the gleaming baldness underneath it. So what if there was hardly any evidence left of the rich locks that once sprang from there? She decided to not sport that ‘Wig of a thing’ and ruin what was natural and beautiful in its own way. Respect.

sisters

As our bus lunged forward, taking sharp turns and making sudden breaks, wearing out the unassuming pedestrians on its way, my co-passenger and I continued in silence. I plugged in on my earphones and started to scroll down my playlist. What do I listen to? I need a happy song to set the mood for the day. What do I play?

And then I hear a soft humming from the next seat. A sweet, melodious tune, vaguely familiar to my ears. Yes, she was indeed humming to herself, and enjoying it too the way her fingers tapped along. She was her own music. No earphones, no iPod. And I wasn’t the only one who had taken notice. The couple seated right across us had their eyes on her, and a weird expression on their faces. Amused? Surprised?

I wanted to check if her lips showed a hint of a smile as opposed to the stoic expression she had walked in with. But considering that she was sitting right next to me and facing the other way, any attempt to do so would look very much like I was staring. And I did not want to be the one that stared. Hence I left that to my imagination. And in my mind, I could clearly see a smile on her lips, unperturbed by the reckless driving that caught her out-of-pitch from time to time, the dark clouds hanging heavily in the sky blocking the morning sun or even by the lack of an orchestra or audience to her rendering.

Something flickered within me. Shame? Probably.

And as the buildings fell behind us and large drops of rain snaked down the window panes, I listened to Anni and Agnetha sing their hearts out.

“Chiquitita, you and I know
How the heartaches come and they go and the scars they’re leaving
You’ll be dancing once again and the pain will end
You will have no time for grieving
Chiquitita, you and I cry
But the sun is still in the sky and shining above you
Let me hear you sing once more like you did before
Sing a new song, Chiquitita”

anni agnetha


A shout out to all my sisters, my friends, who have gone through the pain and cruelty inflicted by Cancer and have survived: I am proud of you. I have deep respect for you.
And to the ones who are still fighting: I am there for you. Even if we may not know each other, know that you are always in my silent prayers. Know that you are not alone