Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Our Winged Housemates (Flashback)

The pigeons always chose our place to call their home. Always. Don't really know why. But apart from the poop fest, we really appreciate their company. Unlike squirrels who consciously plot your murder while they nest in your house (read dropping pebbles on my head while I would sleep), pigeons are more amicable. The grey variety that we see usually is called  Columba livia and are considered a pest for their adopting the rapid breeding program and their fondness for pooping.

We have all our windows and balconies colonized now. And its all the same family. The original pair decided to nest on my window. But these little rebels decided to not conform to the traditional nest building traditions. Why gather stuff when you have it all in you. So instead of making the usual thing with dried grass and stuff, they went neo urban and ultra modern by deciding to make a poop fortification. Trust me, it is exactly that.  A poop fort. And I have seen nothing quite like it before.
One very beautiful thing about these pigeons is that they mate for life and are very affectionate partners. Its a joy to see them engage with each other. Their love making has a very elaborate foreplay and their parenting responsibilities are pretty much equally distributed. It is another matter that they have no sense of family planning whatsoever and that the female nesting on my window has laid thirteen batches of eggs since last year. Even she seems a bit tired now. I am sure that they could talk human, they would ask us to foster for them. 

Our current delight is this pairs daughter who has just found her mate. We are sure of that because they are here all the time and we have been watching them ever so closely. She has built her nest on the window just opposite to her parents. Her husband doesn't seem to mind his in laws. Honestly, they make for such a wonderful couple. You'd think me mad but I am serious. Their affection and excitement about their new life together is so adorable. Eversince since she has laid her first batch of eggs, the entire family has been over the moon. Both ours and theirs. The would be grandparents have given their babymaking a break. Surprisingly, their daughter has turned out to be remarkably traditional in her tastes and preferences. Contrary to her parents, she has built a very traditional and elaborate non poop nest. Since she is a first time mum, she is crazy protective and nervous about her eggs and doesn't leave them alone at all. Her very caring mate feeds her, grooms her, cleans the place and stands guard all the time. The would be grandparents also assist and chit chat all the time. Sometimes they knock on our window and ask us to join them. We then go sit with them for a while then. Most of our interaction is through a kitchen window. Sometimes they come come inside too. Never for food though. Just like hanging around and stuff. And no matter how much my mother fusses over the mess they make, she will be the one who is the most excited when new kids come. 

The poop fort loving rebel would be grands... looking after their dear daughter.

The adorable husband on guard,

\Our dearest beautiful would be mum! (she is slowly fattening up)
There is something so beautiful, feminine and graceful about mothers. :) All kinds of them. 


The young pair.. the one on the right staring at the cam is the female, She always looks at me like that. As if I am a talking pumpkin or something.

Literally never leaving the eggs alone

                  That is how they usually sit.. :)
Little wonderful things happen around us all the time. Usually it is them which make all the difference between living life and merely existing. I am glad they find our place safe and warm enough to call home. :)

Published article on Water Harvesting

Wrote this article for the magazine, Rural Connect. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Coo chi Coo chi Coo.....

I am sure that those of you who watch Indian television have come across this ultra sleazy ad by Parachute Body Lotion. A woman is sitting in a cafe with a friend and cannot contain her excitement and happiness that she is at pinnacle of female achievement. Her husband is giving her attention all of a sudden. Physical attention. All hail her body lotion. Her friend obviously comments enviously, "Lucky ya!"

So this lady has a perfect white, spotless, scarless hourglass figure. Matching the shape of the lotion's bottle. Adding to her merit, she is "happily" engaged in the housework. Perfect. But that's not it. She uses this magical lotion which makes her skin so unbelievably soft that her husband cannot keep her hands off her. Dream come true. He keeps touching her in a lustful manner and says this- "Coo chi coo chi coo" is a way that will burn your nerves. The ad then shows the husband in a series of stop motion slowly getting attracted to his wife.

So besides that fact that this ad is a complete visual delight (sarcasm intended), it choses to promote the most archaic concept of womanhood. Not that it is not prevalent in our society. Our matrimonials still shamelessly publish ads for "Fair and slim" brides. But actively encouraging that image is appalling. So the realm of a woman's achievement ideally contains in her becoming the perfect wife. She should live up to the absurd standards of beauty, and probably kill herself if she is not able to. She should be the perfect housemaid, who cheerfully does all the housework. And above all she should do everything in her power to make sure that she doesn't lose her all supreme husband's attentions. Including wearing her outfit in a way that gives her husband maximum access to her skin.

What is more disturbing is the fact, that we have a censor which choses to shorten kisses in a Hollywood film for weird reasons but the Advertising Standards body has had absolutely no issues with these kinds of ads. Even among the audience, there has been almost no response. This is our biggest failure as a society. We accept these things. And when we accept. we encourage. This is not the only one of its kind. There are many other cosmetic ads which promote such misogyny. There are fairness creams, lotions and what not. There was also a beer shampoo ad I remember where men were being ridiculed about choosing "feminine" shampoos. I am ashamed that I live in a society and in a world that is okay with this. I am choosing to boycott all products which promote such notions. And if you respect yourself and the women in your life, you should too.

And for my future husband..whoever it is going to be. Dearest, if you ever say something like "Coo chi coo chi coo" to me....I WILL CUT YOU UP.

Friday, October 30, 2015


Blood and Bone
Breathe alone
The scars on your skin
And everything else
You lie about
Stories woven of Stardust
Until nothing remains but rust
And I cut my hand on the edge
Many million nights
And bleed till I fall asleep

Vast ruins of soul
Stagnant lake
Abandoned and crumbling
Beneath the weight of rancour
Tear on cheek, book in hand
A lamp above 
In the light of which
You slowly traced
The strand which pulled
The warp and weft of what was left

You love to play
You love to be blunt
Pretend to care
But you love to hunt
Free the bird
Shoot it down
Watch it die
Let it burn
Return home, call friends over
Discuss compassion and tender meat

Fire in the forest
Ashes and smoke
Afternoon rains
A blistering soak
Twist my nerves
To see if I scream
Pinch my heart
Drag me out of this dream
Kill the beast
Get drenched in her blood


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Realizations (Notes to self) - Part 2

1. Ask yourself two questions and write down their answers.
  Q.a What do you want in life?
  Q.b What do you want from life?
Remember that these are two entirely different things. One depends on your own actions and one on the chance of your circumstances. Understand that answering these two questions clearly will help you see a lot of things in a broader perspective. Frame this and put it on a wall you see everyday or keep it in your wallet or pocket diary. When you have the slightest doubt about your smallest action, read your answer again and keep this little dilemma in the larger picture. It will help you decide where to go. Also allow the answers to change with your emotional and mental evolution.

2. There are times when you will feel utterly wronged. Times when you will not believe how someone could actually bring themselves to do what they did to you. It can make a mess of your mental health. And sometimes brooding over this becomes obsessive and addictive. The bitterness will dissolve itself into your blood and keep circulating through your entire being over and over again. Its venom you fill yourself with and the only thing its going to damage is you. You have three options in this case. Chose the one you are capable of. If you can write it down, scream it out, weep it away, talk it out, then do it. It may last for days, but do it. Take a break from everything, you don't have to carry the world on your shoulders. You don't owe anyone that. Just let it out until its gone completely. Do whatever you feel it will take to wash it away. Just don't resort to temporary relief providers, which kill the symptom and that too only temporarily. You will find yourself in a much bigger and impossible to get out of mess.
The other way is revenge. Give it back to the person. They deserve it. You will forgive them and they will forgive themselves.
Another very rare and hard to practice option is forgiveness without bitterness and revenge. This takes the longest time to come but stays forever. Its not an epiphany.. just gradual healing over a period of time which starts after you quit scraping the wound. It begins when you realize that you were made for better things, when you realize how much that experience has taught you, when you realize that what you have at present is so beautiful that you should not spend another momont in sorrow and agony.

3. Nurture yourself. Every single moment. For a while, stop looking at what the people around you are doing and concentrate completely on yourself. Disregarding the parameters set outside by your peer groups, colleagues, relative and everyone else..set your standards for yourself. Utilize each moment to do any and everything that makes you grow, that makes you happy. It should be such that when you go to sleep at night, you have something to your credit. Something..anything. Realize that this day in your life isn't coming back. Its going away forever. Give a worthy welcome and bid it a worthy farewell. And then tell me if you don't totally start falling in love with yourself. :)

4. Forgive yourself.

5. Always divide your long term goals into short term plans or you will tend to underestimate the distance.

6. Practice kindness everyday. In any form possible. Doesn't matter how big or small. Its the emotionally enriching and rewarding experience. And also, if you look close enough you will find endless opportunities to be kind.


7. Don't punish anyone else for anyone else's wrongdoings. Don't take out your anger, bitterness or revenge on the wrong people. You kill their hope and light. Its a great crime.

8. Don't limit your imaginations by the limits of other's imaginations, suppositions and opinions. Never be afraid to think, to create, to discover, to rediscover and to try. Your fears are your own contructs. They reside nowhere else but in your head.

9. If you are a woman. Punch the man in the gut or below when he says "Are you on your period?"

10. Move on and let people move on.

11. Never ever give in to emotional blackmailing (any blackmailing actually). Its emotional abuse and manipulation. No matter what happens, make yourself understand that you are making the decision for the right reason and you are not responsible for the actions of someone who stoops to that level. You owe no one but yourself.

12. Stop trying to change the things you have little or no power over. You are wasting your energy, your time and your life.

13. Don't deceive people about how you feel for them. Good or bad, love or hatred. Don't. You are trapping yourself and them in an illusion which is bound to break sooner or later.

14. Stop evaluating yourself by other people's standards. And stop defining yourself by what you have achieved or what you want to achieve. You are much more than that. You are the smile that comes on your face, you are the hug you give, you are the warmth you exude, you are the trust you build, you are the books you read,the songs you listen to, you are jokes that you find funny, the poetry you read, the places you love to go to, the people you bond with. You are also your anger, your selfishness, your greed and lust, your vanity and self obsession, your envy and indifference, your care and thoughtfulness, your illusions and disillusions, your dreams and despairs, your faith and betrayals, your truths and lies, your words spoken and unspoken.. you are all this and more. Not what you say, what you feel, what you do, what you think.. you are all this combined and much more.

15. As far as it is possible for you, avoid judging others. You literally have no idea.

16. In the hope of living a better tomorrow, don't forget to live a better today. It was a tomorrow you hoped to live once.

17. Its never ever too late to begin again.

18. Take some time out to stand and stare. Do something that keeps alive the child in you. Go sit on a swing, buy yourself candies, get a colouring book, buy balloons on your ways back from work, sing Happy Birthday to people when you call to wish them. Try and remember the birthdays and special days of your loved ones, do special things for them, sometimes randomly, without reason or occasions, do that to yourself too. Break out into a crazy jig, hug tightly, draw stick figures..anything.. just don't let the mundane engulf you.

19. Make amends if and when you can.

20. Don't let yourself go.  

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The desire to see a Pakistani film.

If you are an Indian and you are reading this, chances are that you don't have an idea about the film I am talking about. To me its more disheartening than one would tend to think. The neighbor country produces a masterpiece based on the life and works of a literary icon whose works are deeply appreciated and discussed in both countries and we have absolutely no knowledge or clue about the same. I don't know who is to be held responsible here but I am very truly deeply disappointed.

To me, Saadat Hasan Manto is much more than an iconic literary figure. He is an idea, a spirit, a fire that burnt the curtains of falsehood with which the society tried to hide its dirty truths. To me, Manto was not an Indian or a Pakistani. He was the person who saw the truth as it unfolded in front of his eyes, who was shaken to core by the cruelty, ruthlessness, misery, greed and hypocrisy of the people, who saw that the ugly truth lied much beyond religion and how partition provided the perfect opportunity to people to unleash the beast within.

I came across Sarmad Sultan Khoosat's works some months back through the wonderful medium of Zindagi channel which airs Pakistani soaps in India. I was impressed both by his direction and his acting and decided to explore his body of work. That is when I came across Manto (The Film). It was still in the making at that point of time. Needless to say, that because I have been an ardent admirer of Manto and his work, I became considerably excited and keen to watch the movie. At that point of time, it didn't even occur to me that the film is a Pakistani work. I had watched some amazing Pakistani movies like Bol and Khuda kay Liye and I believed that the sensible people in Indian cinema would realize the worth of this work and distribute it in India as well.

When the trailer was released, a couple of weeks back, I was over the moon. It was better than my best expectations. But then it also struck me that there has been absolutely no mention of this film on the Indian side and almost no one is even aware of its existence. I waited in vain, hoping that someone would announce that India is also going to have the good fortune of watching this beautiful work but it didn't happen. Everyday I see rave reviews of the film, everyday my Pakistani friends share their wonderful experience of having watched this film and everyday I burn in envy and disappointment. I don't know if its a conscious decision or just plain ignorance and I don't know on whose part but its shameful that the two countries have still not gathered the maturity to realize that art should not be contained by borders. After all, Manto's own works have been about the the communities and countries, about the misery of cleaving a nation and the suffering that ensued. Shouldn't this film be a landmark, and a tribute to him also in the sense that it should be an effort to bring the two nations and communities closer. All odds can be overcome if the people have will to do so. Had Manto been alive today, he would have surely loved this film and been proud of the work but would have also been disappointed that times since his have hardly changed and that this work did not reach India for whatever reason.

I will admit that a couple of years back I was fed on the media constructed perception that Pakistan is backward nation and its people are mostly radical and fundamentalist in their attitudes. I am sure that people in Pakistan too had a similar image about us. It began to gradually change after I met the wonderful Pakistani author, Jamil Ahmad at the Jaipur Literature Festival and read his work. After his sad demise, I came in touch with his amazingly warm family and then over the last two years I made acquaintance with many more people from Pakistan and was way beyond surprised at they were all so amazing, warm and friendly. And how they were no different from us. How inspite of being two different nationalities, we are essentially the same people. Its high time we realize it. Let politics play its games. But let us recognize that our ties are to deep to severed by a line drawn on the map by a very bothered Englishman. Let us respect both our individuality and our commonness and let not art become the victim of biases and misunderstandings. Please.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Realizations (Notes to Self)

- Emotional evolution is as beautiful as it is ruthless. It will drag you away from the illusions you have been clinging to, it will let you burn in the inferno of retrospection and then it will hold you up to let you see the site of disaster you were residing in. From this vantage point you will see the whole picture clearly. You will see how hopeless and vast this wreck was and how it has been stagnating the blood in your veins. Gradually you will begin to realize the magnitude of the decay you have been holding in the cage of your ribs. How tiredness. hurt and disappointment have seeped into the marrow of your brittle bones. And you have been wondering all this while why every part of you aches like your soul has been beaten out of you! The bright wallpapers of your delusions will begin to peel away one by one, until your truth falls naked on the floor. Look what you have done to it. Look what you have allowed the world to do to you. Look at your bare skin and listen to your scars. But amidst this carnage, be surprised to see that your fire is burning still, fighting the ceaseless waves of despair, refusing to die down. Let this fire burn brighter and allow yourself to be reduced to ashes. Resurrection begins only when the destruction is complete. You will rise with the courage to turn around and walk away. 

- Sometimes people will learn their lessons at the cost of you. They will cut you in places from where you will bleed white. They will use you as the young doctors use cadavers to learn so that they don't make those mistakes on living human beings. If that has been the case, your bitterness will be immense. But if it has genuinely made them a better person, then for your own sake, its best to forgive them. Life is shameless and opportunistic. It will sprout at the slightest chance and heal with the feeblest will. But it is also imperative to remove this person and the remnants of their memories from your system. No matter how deep the attachment has been, respect yourself, close the door, lock it and throw the key away. 

- Self pity is one of the most destructive forces you harbor within you. Its the demon you really have to get rid of. 

- Being afraid or conscious of judgement can amount to self imposed emotional and intellectual captivity. You don't owe your existence to the world and you must never feel guilty about your choices and preferences. What you like to wear, how you keep your hair, where you like to go, how you like to grow, what you prefer to eat, what you prefer to watch or what you chose to believe in should be a matter of solely your own choice and no one else. Shouldn't matter what people think of it, even the people you hold dear. If they can't accept you without customizing you, then you must give them the freedom to leave and find someone more suited to their requirements. If you are pleasing someone at the cost of subduing your own desires then you are betraying both yourself and them. 

- Humble down and pride up. Evaluate yourself realistically. Our judgement about our own self is usually clouded with biases. Accept both genuine criticism and appreciation humbly and never cease to develop yourself. No matter where you are in life there will always be a chance to go higher and the threat to fall deeper. You are usually not as good or bad as you think. :)

-  Maintain balance in your interactions with the world. Never cease to appreciate the good in people and never cease to encourage them. Make sure you have a firm and sound support system and make sure that you are worthy and efficient gear of the support systems that you are a part of. 

- Share your worries, fears, hurts and disappointments with the people who love you as much as your share your hope and happiness. Don't doubt their capacity to understand or fear that your issues will be a burden on them. The only thing it will do is strengthen your relationship with them and help in the process of your recovery. However don't let venting become an addiction and don't scream for help before trying your own strength to fight the situation. 

- There should be no shame in being vulnerable. It is one of the primary requisites of being alive. Only those who have blood can bleed. 

- No experience will ever leave without a lesson. Never without making you little older, a littler wiser.

- Time changes the significance of everything, even time itself. Accept it. 

- Make yourself worthy of the relationships you commit to. Don't take the people in your life or your own self for granted. Build your relationships on mutually acceptable terms. Learn to respect the people in your life and make respect a necessary condition for every relationship. 

- If you feel sorry about it, then apologize. There is no other way. If someone apologizes to you, then forgive them for both their sake and yours. If they don't, then forgive them for your own sake. 

- Don't be afraid to grow out of your skin. 

- There are two ways of reacting to hurt. Either you stop it right there and refuse to be the conductor that passes on the damage or you decide to perpetuate it by inflicting hurt on whoever comes in your way. Its entirely your choice. 

- Be grateful for every single positive aspect, person, or thing in your life. Gratitude nurtures positivity and positivity nurtures gratitude. Once the cycle becomes self sustaining, it leaves little place for negativity to creep in. 

- Fight for it only if it is worth fighting for and not because someone expects you to fight. 

- Kindness is your strength, not your weakness. Its a choice, not an obligation. And the first person you should be kind yourself.

artwork by ikebana-lena