The End?

End of hope…beginning of reality.

End of dreams…beginning of work.

End of fantasy…beginning of creation.

End of seeking…beginning of awareness.

End of ideals…beginning of truth.

End of rhetoric…beginning of toil.

End of love…beginning of compassion.

End of violence…beginning of forgiveness.

End of ‘I’…end of all.

The End?

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Village in our hearts!

The longing that keeps us restless,

Is a longing for a village.

This longing is taking us

To places far away.

What does this village

Look like in our hearts?

The village that we seek

Here, there and everywhere;

How does it smell?

How does it feel?

How does it move?

How does it stand still?

How does it hold me?

How does it hold you?

How does it respond?

When you say ‘I belong to you’?

What do you say?

When the village whispers back,

‘I belong to you too’.?

Great-Grandmother!

I met her when I was five,

It was hard to tell her age

She looked ancient then.

When she died

I was 25 and married.

They told me she was 82

At the time of her death!

When I was five,

She was already a great-grandmother

To many children of her children.

She was not a widow then

Yet draped herself in White

Of soft tender cotton.

It smelled of home and spices

And wild plum pickle in jaggery.

She had skin that was dark,

Wrinkled and loose,

Tender like a young coconut,

and smelled of betel leaf and tobacco.

She never wore a blouse,

Her breasts were big and long,

A whole lot to be held within

The confines of a bra or blouse!

I had eyes only for her boobs

They marveled me so much.

I watched her bent to pick up

A fallen towel from the floor

And wonder how her nipples

Almost touched her toes.

Nipples that had fed

Fifteen children.

Two of them she buried,

Only after a few feeds.

I peeped often from behind a pillar

As she sat near the bath area.

She poured water over her

From a bucket she pulled

Out of the deep well.

The soft white cotton clinging

Wet to her body’s enormous folds.

Her breasts covered her knees.

Once I asked her,

Baudo dida why don’t you swing

Your breasts over your shoulders?

May be you can clean you belly and chest

With soap then.”

And all the women in the large house

Laughed out in giggles.

 

 

Leaves that fall!

I don’t know what is courage,

But I know of leaves

That wait it out,

On the branches of trees,

Shivering in the raging storms.

Green bright new births,

In the still of summer.

Dripping with droplets,

In the wet rainy days.

Longing for companions,

In the bare winter chill.

Overshadowed by blossoms

Of flaming reds and soft violets,

In the bursting colors of spring.

Twirling like a ballerina in a tutu,

Gracefully in the dance of fall.

Does the falling of a leaf,

Make its life on the tree worthless?

She held it!

She held it for her son,

So that he could learn,

To pee into the pot

Without getting himself wet.

She held it for her lover,

So that she could guide

For pleasure, for babies,

His and her.

She held it for the old

And feeble of health,

With no control left,

So that they may pee

Into the pot.

How about both? Oh dearest!

He touched her breasts

And whispered

He likes them

And can’t figure out

If to nibble at them

As fruits

In his breakfast bowl

Or smell them

As flowers

In a wild forest.

She held his face

In her warm palms

She kissed his forehead

And then brushed his nose

With her dry parted lips

She gulped her heart

Back into her chest

Her eyelids

Closing in on her

She whispered back

Into his ears,

‘How about both?

Oh dearest!’.

Please forgive me for my art!

As I sit to write these words that I am going to write now, I am trembling within me, for the vulnerability that I am being inspired to express. I am also fearful of rolling eyes and raised eyebrows and pressed lips of judgement. I quiver with shyness as I express the feelings so intimate to my body, mind and heart. I blush to let the world know that I am a human being with breasts that tingle, a lower abdomen that feels fuzzy and warm with erotic thoughts, a vagina that has its own monologue, heart and life, a heart that tightens to be released in a lovers embrace, lips that quiver to behold another warm pair.

Why do I feel this kind of tentativeness?

Well I am a woman, I am a single mother, I am vulnerable, I live in a world with perverted and emotionally dysfunctional men, and self-righteous and asexual women, I live in a world where fear of sexual exploitation abuse and rape lurks in corners for women and children, I live in a world that is violent and intolerant to explicit sexual expression in literature, poetry, art, cinema.

I live in a world where the men, women love and get related to, want their women to be passive in beds and never demand IT of them. I live in a world of gay men and women, hiding in closets and pretending to be straight, out of fear of being ‘found out’. I live in a world where men are children, who were abused by their fathers, brothers, uncles and live with numbness in their genitals and feel inadequate for ‘loss of manhood’.  I live in a world of men who were smothered by their mothers, and thus lost their sense of masculinity and developed hatred or fear towards their feminine selves. I live in a world where daughters were not loved purely by their fathers and sons who were asked to behave by their fathers.

I write this to awaken the God and Goddess within me to cleanse me of all fears, so that my poetry is elevated to divine pedestal, so that I be not dammed by the bigots that walk this planet of ours, so that my children be spared the shame of being their mother’s innocent babies.

I pray to be the divine Radhika to the erotic Krishna that sits in my spirit playing His divine flute.

Will the world forgive me then for wanting to write erotic poetry?

 

 

A man I loved!

When I close my eyes

I see him,

Facing the river

Hose pipe in hand,

Loving his garden

Of lemon grass

And sweet frangipani.

Blue shirt of

Air Force colour,

Loosely worn

Over Navy blue jeans.

I see him

With my eyes closed,

His salt and pepper hair

His grey Calculus moustache.

The scent of his perfume

That he wore,

As I liked it on him.

With the kind summer breeze

It reaches me,

And I weep for him.

The murky world of Indian journalism

The murky world of Indian journalism is out for all to see. I am amused if not surprised at the fellow journalists who worked with Tarun Tejpal in Indian Express and India Today and Outlook, now venting their anger at him by providing inside information on his ‘shady’ ways, for stories about his rise and fall. The huge story about him in Pune Mirror’s, 24th November 2013 Edition, I find to be more of a gossip piece than anything else. I am also wondering how these gossip pieces never came out when Tarun was unmasking murky deals of Indian democracy? I will tell you why, the counterparts are now feeling happy that the phenomenal man has fallen and their inability to rise vindicated. At that time they were jealous and in awe of him. I am neither on his side nor on the side of other journalists. I will tell you why.

Many years ago as an intern in Delhi edition of an English Daily that is predominantly Kolkata based, I was privy to the world of men of journalism. Men who came in all shapes, sizes, dialects, educational background, appetite for alcohol,  leching and ambition for power. I was working as a cub-copy-editor in the Newsroom. And due to the newspaper’s financial handicap at paying well, reporters and sub-editors mostly used this place as a training school for journalism. The turnover was high and talent was young. Mostly young men and women from good colleges and high ideals, wanting to make the pen mightier than the sword joined the work force. I was one of them. But I soon found that it was dominated by pot-bellied, pan chewing, chaste Hindi speaking, men, who repeatedly came drunk to work for night duties. Patriarchal men, who gossiped openly about which woman journalist was sleeping with the editor to rise up the ladder, were sitting in position of News editors, Deputy news editors and copy chiefs. It was a world were English-speaking journalists from top colleges of New Delhi, were scoffed at for their language skills. The women who smoked and used cuss words abundantly, were considered hard and one among the boys. I wondered often did these women take to smoking and swearing just to protect themselves from the sneers of the masculine with bloated egos?

I was soon moved to the national desk from the obscure business desk, to work along with other hard-working, willing to prove and learn young interns. I was told it was because I was good at my work and edited well and gave catchy headlines. I knew better of course. The national desk also handled the front page and all top stories of the day. And the national desk staffers also got to be on election and budget duties. I was good, of that I have no doubts. I once made the mistake of editing the anchor piece of the Resident Editor’s column and got away with it. Only the chief sub told me to “never do it again.”:) But the truth also was that the senior chiefs on night duties, whose work was supervising and signing off the late editions were always too inebriated, after having partied on free booze at press conferences during the day, to which they had no business going to. They could not stand steady on their two feet and hold the pen to sign off the page. In the pasting room we had men working alongside us young women till the late hours of 2 am sometimes. We had to stayed alert to the smell of local (desi) alcohol from the press room workers who worked side by side with us as we made the pages and there was no respite from the white-collar editors who were equally drunk on imported booze.

The senior editors often put that friendly hand on the back to smile and imply, “I am the father figure.” Call me thick skin or a woman of the world, I knew what was going on. I have traveled home at 3 am in the night after night duty in the office jeep, with other men, some reeking of alcohol. It is crazy but I personally never felt unsafe or threatened. I always felt a strange sense of safety within myself. May be I am made that way. My ex-husband, then a colleague, fellow journalist and boyfriend,  called me ‘a man trapped in a woman’s body’. He was wiser than me to have left mainstream journalism to join environmental activism. I did not have a boyfriend to lean on.

Once we were all invited to a wedding of a colleague. When such invitations came, the entire staff took turns to drop by at the wedding in office jeeps to wish the couple. We went quickly, had food, wished the couple and quickly came back to do our pages. On one such trip, during the one hour that we were at the wedding party, were there was free booze, one of our colleagues and senior got so drunk, that the driver and another colleague had to lift him by hand and feet and lunge him into the boot of the jeep. He slept all the way back and then at office too.

Sexist jokes on women were common laughing themes. Jokes like, “Taposhi, are you coming or going?” And if the woman journalist was smart and intelligent, then she was gossiped about, as being the Managing Editor’s pet. If the red light outside his office was switched on, everyone passing the corridor would make snide remarks, “The boss has the pet in.”

And the women in this field, well I am sorry to say, but were equally opportunistic and bitchy about female colleagues. I have never seen another band of women who can be so cruel, competitive to the core, nasty and lacking in empathy in this profession, than I have in any other.

Women threw their weight around for being the boss’s favorite or for being ‘good’ with connections in politics or in the business world. As much as the men did. The men hated the women colleagues for being better at their work or for bagging better assignments.

It was a world from The Great Gatsby, murky, dark and demonic. Nothing moralistic and of higher principles.

The scene changed a lot with the launching of NDTV by Pronoy Roy. Many of my younger colleagues left for NDTV and did well for themselves. Many moved to other TV channels later.

I moved far away from all this to work as a staffer for Minhaaz Merchant’s magazine Business Barons. I worked from home very early in my career. I did many good interviews and stories for that magazine and was happy in a way to be away from the dirty world of real journalism. I met many industrialists and policy makers and visionaries, including Brij Mohan Munjal of Hero Group, Dr Manmohan Singh, Bill Gates and many others.  I had my days of so-called “glory of having met VVIPs”. As a corporate journalist, I found the people in corporate world more respectable and descent than in journalism. Then I lost my job as I was unable to churn out more corporate stories as I didn’t have the drive or belly of a journalist, who could fetch sponsorship with feel-good stories of corporate house for the magazine I was working for, as deep down I was also a leftist, but didn’t have the nose for dirt and scams as they say. And I had ran out of interviewing all Delhi Corporate biggies. Can’t do the same feel-good success stories over and over again can you? So I moved on to other things.

I watched the rise of Tarun Tejpal and Tehelka as an outsider. His sting operation with hidden cameras, I always found unethical. Today I watch his fall. I have known some of these honchos of journalism closely as an observer when I was in that world. I am wondering why is every one calling this a FALL…I always felt the world of modern Indian journalism was already FALLEN. I always felt constricted and unhappy to be in that world.

I am happy to be out in the world were I am making some real difference to the lives of men, women and children and not feeding my own inflated ego of being the change maker or the men/women who claim to have the power to shake and shape democracies.