When Poetry Heals

Six years! I can hardly believe it’s been six years since that fateful day. The doctor’s face is a blur. I just remember he had a beard. The clock was huge with a yellow and gold rim; the numbers large and the time was two forty a.m.. Of course that was not the time on the death certificate. But that was the time I knew my husband had gone. And as if it was because I could not cry, the heavens did it for me. It just poured. Suddenly and swiftly.

Healing after the death of a loved one is difficult and at times it seems almost impossible. Sometimes it seems that for every step you take forward, you slide two steps backward. There are days when you don’t want to live at all. You wish you were dead too. And then suddenly one day, you forget to be sad for a few minutes. Maybe you smile at that little baby who is looking at you. Or you just enjoy the wind on your face. And then you actually get up one morning in a good mood, ready to face the day. It doesn’t matter that the next whole week you are miserable. You have these sporadic days of happiness thrown in among the misery. And before you know it you start picking up the threads of your life again.

And sometimes, there are angels to help you heal: Family, friends; in  unexpected ways.  I have found healing in the poetry of my friends and there is one poem that I must share with you. This is a poem written by my dear friend, Jayesh Ramaiya. He and his wife Kalpana write absolutely awesome poems.  This particular one is my favourite and for some reason when I read it today, it soothed my soul .

कारवाँ के साथ कुछ गुब्बारे जुड़ जाते है

बदलती हर राह पर वे साथ ही मूड जाते है

खुश मिजाज है वे अपनी ही धून में चलते है

गांठ मत ढीली करना वह शोख कंही उड़ जाते है
कारवाँ के साथ कुछ गुब्बारे जुड़ जाते है


यादों के खंजर सीने में चुभते है

साथ बिताये हुवे पल आँसुओंमे भीगते है

जहाँ जा रहें है वे साथ ले जाते नहीं

चाहे जितना बुलाओ लौटकर आते नहीं
कारवाँ के साथ कुछ गुब्बारे जुड़ जाते है


अगले पड़ाव पर नये गुब्बारे मिल जायेंगे

फिर नये नये रंग हम सबको लुभायेंगे

जुड़ जायेगी नये मोतियों की लड़ियाँ

फिर नये शायराना गीत हम गाते है
कारवाँ के साथ कुछ गुब्बारे जुड़ जाते है


अब साथ रहेने की कसमें जाग जाती है

क्षितिज में एक तसबीर उभर आती है

फिर दूर कोई गुब्बारा नज़र आता है

और नये रास्ते हमे बुलाते है
कारवाँ के साथ कुछ गुब्बारे जुड़ जाते है

– जयकल्प –



No Books!


This post is written in response to a prompt on Friday Reflections on  Write Tribe

The prompt was “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

No Books!?!

“Get up”  My mother in law shook me awake. It was the day after my wedding. I sat up sleepily and looked around the tiny room that was now my home.  Somehow my mother in law had made space for all seventeen of us (My  brother in law and his wife, my sisters in law and their husbands and all their kids and of course hubby, ma in law and me!).

“Go and have a bath and get ready before anybody else gets up,” she said. “And wear something nice. You are a new bride!”

“Yes” I thought to myself with a shake of my head as I bathed in the minuscule bathroom that had just a curtain to screen it from the kitchen. “A new bride who spend her first night sleeping between her husband and mother in law”.

This was not how I had imagined my wedding night at all. I suppose I had all the Bollywood  movie images of flower decked beds and total privacy, certainly not crammed in a room with fifteen other people.  But I really didn’t mind as this was the family I had chosen for my own and in any case we were off for our honey moon in a couple of days once all the traditional visiting back and forth was over.

Soon everyone was awake, and the work got distributed. Some of my sisters in law saw to the lunch preparations while others looked after the kids. The men generally sat around reading the paper or watching TV or drinking beer. (After all it was a wedding)

When I asked to be given some work to do, ma in law said, “Just relax today. You have your whole life to work. This is one day, when you are allowed not to work in your sasural. Take full advantage of it.”

‘Not bad!”  I thought and looked around for hubby. But he was in the midst of a very vociferous argument with his brothers. So I looked around for my first love, books. And my heart broke! There were no books to be found anywhere! Not a single book in that house!

Suddenly that room which till now had seemed so warm and full of love, turned stifling! Why, oh why, had I not thought of packing some books in the overnight case I had sent on earlier that week!  Thank God we had to go to my parent’s house for dinner that night. It meant I could pick up some books and get them back with me. But what was I to do till then?

Hubby must have sensed something because he came over and asked, “What’s wrong?”

“There are no books! I need to go out now and buy some books!”

Before he could answer, my eldest sister in law replied, “Don’t be silly. You can’t go out of the house by yourself like that! You are a new bride!”

I looked at hubby in despair, but he just turned and walked away.

I sat back in my chair, feeling really miserable. The size of the house had not got me down, neither had the fact that I had to spend my wedding night amidst the entire clan.  No I was able to deal with all of that. But this, this was something I couldn’t imagine.  I couldn’t remember a time without books. I read a book a day at times.  I had laughed through them, cried through them, fallen in love with both the heroes and heroines and started writing because of them.  Books for me were as essential as breathing! And here I was, stuck in a house with not a single book!

Suddenly a bundle was thrust into my lap. “My wedding gift to you!”  whispered hubby  and I saw a dozen books by all my favourite authors.  He had managed to slip out to buy me my beloved books ! Not caring who was watching I flung my arms around him and hugged him as tightly as I could. I had never loved him more than at that moment!



Courage to be me #1 Mamma Mia


As women, we are always taught to compromise, to give in, to adjust. And we do that so well. We give in to our parents, we give in to our husbands, we give in to our kids. We compromise and adjust so well, that at times we forget who we were to begin with.

And that has been happening with me too. But recently I’ve started becoming aware of the fact that the life I’ve been living has to a large extent been to please others, or at least to make sure that others were not uncomfortable around me, even it meant masking who I really am. A lot of the time I did this just to keep the peace or because I was too tired to fight anymore.

But now there seems to be a restlessness to find the real me again. I thought it would be easy. But old habits die hard and it’s not easy to rock the boat.  In this series of posts I will be writing about my attempts in my journey to try and be myself again. It called “The courage to be me” and the first in the post is “Mamma Mia” which talks about how as mothers we allow our kids to dictate our lives.

Mamma Mia!

A couple of months ago, I watched the movie Mamma Mia for the first time.  I was alone at home with a bottle of beer for company. It was one of those occasions when I was completely at ease with myself and my aloneness. What a perfect night to watch a movie like Mamma Mia!

And I loved it! I hooted, and yelled and drooled and sighed all through it!

I could so relate to the kind of friendship that Donna (Meryl  Streep) has with her friends Rosie and Tanya (Julie Walters and Christine Baranski). Today when I meet my gang of girls, the conversation flows pretty much in the same way. We all let our hair down and the talk does get centered around our sex life or the lack of it.  That is part and parcel of being friends for ever so long. You are so comfortable talking about stuff like this with them.

And the songs! Abba! Oh I grew up on them! They were around when I had my first crush; they were around when I fell in love; they were playing the night Jerry and I first kissed!  I learnt to dance to their numbers and I’ve sung their songs to my kids when they were babes. So when Pierce Brosnan  aka Sam Carmichael sings to Donna, I almost swooned!

That night I was not a mother. I was just a woman. Just me! Just Sunita!

A couple of weeks ago, they aired the movie once more, and I was prepared to enjoy it all over again. Only this time my daughter was at home and she said, “What a crappy movie! How can you enjoy this stuff!” And instinctively I started wondering if I was wrong and if the movie was indeed not as good as I thought it was. I started questioning my judgement.

This is something I have noticed myself doing a lot as I’ve started getting older. I’ve started losing faith in myself. I’ve started relying more and more on the judgement of my daughters. I want to be like them. I want to like what they like. Maybe it has something to do with the oft heard exclamation, “Mom! Don’t embarrass me!”

How many of us do this? As mothers we give in to our kids in so many ways. We give up cooking dishes that we like if our kids don’t like them. As our kids grow older, we give into their ideas of how the house should be done up and even what we should wear. (Mom! Are you really going to wear that!)

I actually started telling her what I liked about the movie and then… Pierce Brosnan started singing SOS. (Yes, he actually sings the song himself) And the utter sexiness of the man and his voice was too much! How could anything like that ever be crap! If it was, it was crap I loved! I suddenly realised I didn’t have to justify my likes or dislikes to anybody, certainly not to my children!

I was an adult and had my own life which was made up of so many experiences of which they had no idea at all. And they have no right to judge me or to shame me on trivial things like this.  More importantly, “I” do not need to be ashamed of my choices. If I choose to salivate over Pierce Brosnan singing Abba songs, that is my choice. It doesn’t affect anyone else in the least bit. I don’t need to be ashamed of it.

If I want to eat lady fingers or pineapple raita, I will make it once in a while. If the kids don’t like it, it’s okay. (I will deliberately not hear that, “why did you make pineapple raita? You know I don’t like it!”) They can eat the other stuff that is there. If I want pink curtains in my room, I will have them. If you don’t like them, don’t enter my room. I have decided that I am no longer living my life to please others. It’s my life, not theirs!

Strangely, life has actually become easier after this. The other day my daughter started to say something about a book I was reading and then said, “But I suppose you like to read different stuff. So it’s okay”   Yes. It takes a bit getting used to but it is definitely worth taking the courage to be myself!

Fred, the teddy bear.

This post is written in response to a prompt on Friday Reflections on  Write Tribe

The prompt was What if toys had feelings! I so enjoyed writing this one.

Fred, The Teddy Bear

20130919_165527She walked past me in the store. Then she doubled back and her face split into the most beautiful smile I had ever seen. She stood with her head on one side pondering, then picked me up, hugged me and gave me a quick kiss on my nose. “You will be perfect” she said and walked to the checkout counter.

She sat me next to her in the auto-rickshaw; she, a fifty year old or so woman, looking as pleased as punch and I, a giant sized pink teddy bear, trying not to look too anxious. Who had she bought me for? I wondered. Perhaps a grandchild. I wondered how old he or she was. To tell the truth, though this was what I was created for, I was quite nervous.

I remember the day I had been created. That night, before we could be packed off to the various stores, the Toy Fairy appeared to us and this is what she told us, “Teddy bears, remember you are special. You are created to give love. You are meant to give comfort and soothe souls. Every child needs that kind of unconditional love. Remember that. So go, there is a child out there waiting for you.”

And now that I was finally to start on my mission, I wondered, would I be capable of it? What if I failed? But of course I couldn’t voice these fears, and so I sat as straight as I could in the auto, preparing to do my best.

Once we entered the house, she sat me down on a chair and told me to wait till she put away the groceries. “Do people talk to teddy bears?” I wondered. Soon enough she came and stood in front of me and said, “We have to find a name for you, you know.”

“Wouldn’t that be the job of the kid I belonged to?” But of course she couldn’t hear me.

“Hmm I know! Fred! Yes, you look just like a Fred. I know you are pink, but I always thought teddy bears are male, you know. They are always so sturdy and comforting. They remind me of my Daddy, when I was a little girl. He never said much, but I could always run to him for a comforting hug when I was scared or sad. And one can do the same to a teddy bear no?”

It made me puff out my chest ever so slightly at that! I couldn’t wait to meet the kid I was to be assigned to, when I realised that the woman was still talking.

“You know Fred. I bought you for me. That’s right. Now don’t look so surprised. I’ve always wanted a teddy bear of my own and no one has ever bought one that was exclusively mine. As a kid I had to share my toys with my sisters and now that there is no one to share things with, I thought it was a good time to get myself a teddy bear. And so here you are!”

And that is how my life with her began.

Christie, that was her name, seemed to be one of those ever cheerful people. She chatted cheerfully with her friends and family on the phone. She greeted her neighbours cheerfully and besides occasionally patting my head she generally ignored my existence. I recalled what the Toy Fairy had said and I wondered if there had been some mistake. I was supposed to be there for a kid, why was I here? Whose soul needed to be soothed here?

Then one day, Christie put on some music and started dancing. She whirled around the room and laughed. She suddenly lifted me up and twirled me around with her, laughing even more delightedly. “Oh Fred! Isn’t that wonderful! Doesn’t the music just call you to dance? It doesn’t matter if you are alone! You can still dance! And now it’s even better because I have you to dance with!”

And though she laughed, I could see the hint of tears and the sadness that hid behind her words.

A few weeks later, it was raining heavily and Christie stood by the window looking at the rain, with a cup of tea in her hand. She was strangely silent. I was so used to her talking to herself or me all the time or singing tunelessly to herself that my teddy bear heart went on high alert. Something was wrong. Here was a soul that needed soothing, child or not. I had some work to do. But what?

Suddenly, Christie went to the cupboard and took out an old sweat shirt and held it to her face. She stood for a moment of two, inhaling its scent before bursting into tears. I just looked on, helplessly. Then she came and picked me up and said, “Do you know Fred, how long it has been since I have hugged someone? Really, really hugged someone. Not just those social hugs you give but a real loving hug.” She just sat there for some time hugging me with all the sadness in her heart, while all I could do was send her as much love as I could.

After a while, she sighed and got up, “That made me feel better.” she said. “That’s why I knew it was a good idea getting a teddy bear.
A couple of months later, I heard her laughing in the building compound. She was talking to the children who lived in the building.

“Aunty, for whom did you buy the balloon? There are no kids in your house.”

“I bought it for me, beta.”

“But you are not a child. You will play with the balloon?”

“Yes, why not?”

“Because you are so old!”20140304_152023

Her laughter rang out louder than ever, “Arrey beta, you must never grow so old that you lose the child in you. You won’t understand that now, but there is always a part of your heart that remains a child forever.”

And it was then that I realised that I was in the right place, because age doesn’t matter. You can always count on a teddy bear to soothe your soul, whether you are five or fifty!