Listen…the music is all around us

music

Music and cacophony… are they really so different from one another?

Is cacophony really an absence of music or is it our constant inability to comprehend the music that is all around us?

Music is everywhere…

The birds chirping, the breeze rustling the leaves of the trees outside,

The sound of the rain pouring all its passion on the dry earth,

It is the very harmony that binds the world together, which keeps it from falling apart,

Look at a child: he is so in peace

He is always happy and sleepy, always in tune with the music that plays around him,

He responds to the cooing noises that his family makes, the lullaby that his mother sings,

But as he grows up, he just keeps moving away from that feeling, that sense of oblivion.

His world becomes infected with noise and cacophony,

And he just stops hearing the music.

And the people who can still hear it

Well, they are the ones whom this world calls crazy.

How do we forget something that is so natural, so innate to us?

How can we let our souls be so blackened and polluted that we can no longer even hear the pure strains of the music around us?

So, just forget everything for a second, close your eyes and listen carefully

You can still listen to it: the music

The music that is all around is.

 

Rain on me…

RAIN

Why do I love rains so much? Is it because of the fragrance of the wet earth when the rain first falls on the dry parched earth which is my favorite smell in the world? Is it because of the pitter patter sounds that the rain makes when it falls on the roof which is one of my favorite sounds? Or is it the feeling of cool and chill in this extreme and nasty heat? I think it’s a little bit of all these reasons.

As I wait in my office ready to go home but unable to go out in this heavy rain and thunder, I sit beside the window and watch the sudden flashes of lightning along with the intermittent sounds of the fierce rain drops hitting the window panes. It is a lovely sight and sound. And I am taken back to the beautiful memories associated with rain. So here are my favorite moments:

Making paper boats and floating them in the water accumulated from the rains was a favorite childhood pastime. I often innovated on the many number of boats that I could make. I even made the boats out of papers of different colors. I may be a grown up now but still I long to do the same. Wonder what my boss will think if I start tearing pages from the diary and start making paper boats.

My first year in university, I remember going to the Central Library, which was a different building altogether and located quite far from my Dept building, not bothering to carry an umbrella. And then it just started pouring all of a sudden. Without caring about catching fever, my friends and I ran all the way to our building. The exuberance of youth is indeed a heady thing.

What is rain without a little romance? That first kiss with my boyfriend on a lush green field in the rains is one of the best moments in my life. It was so full of wild attraction and tender loving all at the same time. When I visualize it in my mind, it seems to be a scene straight out of a rom-com. People change and grow apart but the memories remain forever.

And then there is food. I am reminded of all the different varieties of delicious fries that I have enjoyed while staring at the rain. Ever since my childhood and it continues till now, whenever it rains, I love having potato and brinjal fries with a little salt and pepper sprinkled on top of them.

Oh the thought of food inspires me to just get out of my office, go home and cook some for myself right now. So, I am off to my home. Cheers and a happy rainy season…

Writing 101: Day20 – My Most Prized Possession: The Blessed Ring of Luck

Material things have never the motivating factors in my life. Sure, I love having a car and owning a house but somehow they were never the reasons behind any of the important decisions that I have made in my life till now. So understandably, my most prized possession is something that may not be of great monetary value but holds immeasurable value to me emotionally. It is a ring.

This ring is a golden ring with a big stone embedded in it. It was presented to me by my parents on the occasion of my eighteenth birthday, the day I officially became an adult. It marks the end of an era in my life and the beginning of a new one. It symbolizes my transition from a dreamy and sometimes lazy child to the slightly jaded and equally lazy adult that I have become. I always wear the ring. It is my good luck charm. And in a weird way, I feel that it also holds my parents’ blessings. I have been on my own for the last decade and this ring has always made me feel that my parents are there for me.

You might ask why I consider it to be my good luck charm. Well consider this. It was the placement season during my MBA and it was the first Group Discussion that I was appearing for, to get a job. Suddenly, I realized that the ring was not on my finger. I tried to go back to my hostel to get it. But there was no time. The previous group had already finished their Group Discussion and we were being called in. I have always been a good enough speaker but that day somehow, my words just would not come out. Now you might present with the very valid argument that since I was so obsessed with the ring and considered myself at a disadvantage without its presence, hence I mentally accepted defeat and hence my bad performance. But a warrior never leaves for battle without his favorite sword and the ring is a weapon for me. Without it I am incomplete and not able to deliver my hundred percent. Call me superstitious but I just cannot function to the best of my ability without it.

The ring is not just a good luck charm, it is also a symbol of my independence while at the same time reminding me of my origin. Making my own way in the world away from my parents, the ring keeps me rooted to the values that my parents have instilled in me. It gives me the courage to follow my dreams and beliefs and be who I really am. It is like to magic ring of the Green Lantern which gives me the power to fight against everything that comes in my way of achieving my dreams. And just like the ring needs to be recharged from time to time by the Green Lantern, so I have to visit my parents to get myself and my ring recharged.

Also, when it comes to this ring, I like to believe that what goes around comes around. I have lost it a couple of times but always managed to get it back. I remember when I was in college, there was an occasion when I could not find it. I searched everywhere in my hostel room, asked my roommates if they had seen it and practically done everything to recover it. But, I just could not remember where I had kept it. I assumed it had fallen off somewhere. I was very depressed and called up my Dad. He said he would get me a new one but to me my ring was irreplaceable. Anyways, I was sleeping at night when I dreamt that the ring was under my bed. I immediately woke up and started searching for it much to the chagrin of my roommates who were awakened by the ruckus that I was creating in the middle of the night. Finally, I checked inside my bucket which I kept under the bed. In the bucket was a soap case and the ring was embedded in the soap. I was so relieved that I almost cried.

There are other things also that I value a lot, like the dictionary which never left my study table no matter where I went. It had belonged to my father once and when my sister needed a dictionary, I gave it away to her. But, the ring I cannot think of giving away ever. Such is my attachment to it. It is indeed my most prized possession.

Writing 101: Day17 – Up, up and away: My fear

Sounds of laughter and fragrances of different food items somehow get through the haze of fear. I clutch the railing of the small box tightly. My knuckles turn almost white. The motor turns on with a growl and I close my eyes tightly. As if that would somehow negate the reality!

And then up goes the box and with it me and my friend Deb. Deb’s voice reaches my ear “Ayyeeee Dipsss…its awesome, ain’t it?” I look at her and try to utter something but only manage a weird sound. “Oh Gawd, don’t tell me you are scared”, she drawls.

Too ashamed to admit my fear, I keep quiet and try not to look down. Suddenly the box starts moving down with a whoosh. It seems like everything that I have eaten in the fair is churning in my stomach. My box comes down and I feel like jumping out of it onto the ground. But, my pride is at stake here. I continue to cling onto the seat and endure the horrendous ride.

Finally after about fifteen times of eye-shutting, stomach churning and Deb’s happy squeals, it stops. I rush out of the box as soon as possible. I make a promise to myself. I am never getting up on that darned ferris wheel thing again. No Sir, not even if my life depended on it.

Writing 101: Day 14 – A Letter to Codes..

I was reading Dan Brown’s “Digital Fortress” and the word that struck me was “code” So here goes my letter.

Dear Codes,

Why are there so many of you? Codes of dressing, codes of conduct, moral codes, the list is just endless. You want to command me about how to dress, how to walk, how to behave, even what to say and when.

I still remember as a kid the first time I was told about you. “Don’t jump around like a monkey. You can’t do everything that your brothers do. It is the social code”, I was told.  “Why?”, I retorted. “Because you are a girl”, came the reply.

Then I started growing up. I was told that you dictate that I have to sit with my legs together because I am a girl. I have to wear clothes that will cover my whole body because I am a girl. I have to talk decently and not shout at the top of my voice even when I am ecstatic, because I am a girl.

But wait, you are not content by just dictating how I behave and what I wear. You want to dictate even my choice of career. I should ideally study in a college close to home because I am a girl. I should not choose a career in sales or civil engineering because I am a girl. I should get married by the age of 25 and bear children because I am a girl. I have to follow you in everything I do because I am a girl.

Who are you to tell me all these things? Who are you to define me? Who are you to dictate the terms of my existence? You have tried to stop me in every step of the way. But have you been able to stop me from being myself? You can be Agent Smith all dressed in black and looking grim, but I am also Neo. I have dodged all your bullets till now and will keep on doing the same in future.

So, dear Codes, I would advise you to go fly a kite, or anything else that you want to do.

Yours sincerely,

A girl.

 

Writing 101: Day11 – Home is where the heart is

Home- It is amazing how one word can embody so many feelings- comfort, security, warmth, love and belonging. I have called many places home in my lifetime. So let me rewind and go back to the age of twelve and take you all for a visit to that place which I called home then. Actually, it is not one place but two.

The first was the place where I spent my weekdays. My Dad was an officer in law enforcement, which in India, is a transferable job. So, my weekdays, after I enrolled in school, were spent in our original house in the small town of Bandel, where I also used to go to school. It is a big house with two floors and six rooms, three on each floor. There is also a huge garden in front of the house, with mango tree, guava tree, a huge pine tree and numerous flower shrubs. It may be a huge house but also has always been a very full one. There was my Thammi (Grandmother), my Pisimoni (aunt), Chotto (youngest aunt), my Kaku (Uncle) and me, all staying under the same roof. My aunts and uncle are a lot younger to my Dad, who is the eldest child and after my Dadu (Grand dad) passed away, he took up the responsibility of bringing up his siblings. My aunts were more like my elder sisters and I was a spoilt brat since they used to pamper me to death. My most favorite childhood memories include sitting on the terrace and singing with Chotto, eating the tasty food prepared by Thammi and posing as a model for Kaku who was an amateur photographer.

The second place was the Government quarter where my Dad was posted at the time. At the time I was twelve, he was posted in a small town in Bengal called Bhadreswar. The building was almost fifty years old and had that smell that you typically associate with old places. The three rooms were also quite big and there was a huge balcony. Every Friday, my Dad would pick me up after school and we used to go to his quarter. The moment we reached I used to be enveloped by the small chubby arms of my little brother. He used to wait the entire week for me to come. I really do not know how it feels like to have a soul mate but I used to feel and still feel that my brother and I are part of the same soul. We used to spend the entire weekend playing outside under the huge mango trees, looking at strangers from the balcony and eating the tasty food prepared by my Mom.

I cannot complain. I have been indeed very lucky to have two places which I could call home. A home is a home not just because you rest your body there but also because of the people you share it with. Both my homes were and will remain special to me for all the wonderful memories of the places as well as the wonderful people in them.

Writing 101: Day10 – Food for the Soul: Happy Durga Puja and a happier me

Waking up to the sweet scent of autumn in the air, the chanting and devotional songs in respect of Mother Durga playing softly on the playground of my locality and the happiness of the entire family getting together for the meal after the Puja (worship), some of my happiest childhood memories are linked to this day every year, the Ashtami (eighth day) of Durga Puja (worship of Mother Durga).

For my friends across the world, Mother Durga is the Goddess of Shakti or strength. I know it is incredible for a lot of you to believe that we worship a woman as an embodiment of strength, especially when you come across the terrible news of how women are sometimes treated in this part of the world, but it is true. She has ten hands with different weapons in each one and is the destroyer and slayer of the very evil Asura. Every year she bids farewell to her husband, Shiva and her heavenly abode to visit her children on earth (that is, us) accompanied by her real children. Though the premise is a religious one, Durga Puja in Bengal and in fact all over the world where there are Bengalis, has surpassed the religious realm and has become a celebration of fashion, the Bengali culture and most importantly, Bengali food. People belonging to all religions, caste and creed take part in this wonderful celebration which is the celebration of life itself.

Goddess Durga in her earthly avatar

Goddess Durga in her earthly avatar

Ashtami, the eighth day of this wonderful celebration, is the day when the main worship happens. All of us do not drink water or have any food till we take part in the ritual chanting (Pushpanjali) in the morning. As a kid, my siblings, my cousins and me used to wake up early on the morning of Ashtami, take a bath, and donning new clothes, we would rush to the pandals (temporary place of worship built every year) to offer our prayers and take part in the chanting. Ravenous after all the efforts of worship, we used to race back to our home and the fragrance of the food prepared by my mother would welcome us.

Every year the menu was the same. Actually, it still is. On Ashtami, we are supposed to have only vegetarian food. So, it would have to be “Khichdi” (a mixture of rice and lentils cooked with generous amounts of spices), fries of different vegetables and” labra” (a curry cooked with different vegetables like pumpkin, potato and lots of spices). As the eldest among my siblings and cousins, it was my duty to set the plates on the table. We used to wait with the plates and glasses all arranged and Mom, Pisimoni (aunt) and Thammi (Grandmother) used to bring out the steaming bowls of “khichdi”, “labra”, the “Beguni” (brinjal fries) and “aloo bhaja”(potato fries). As soon as the khichdi was put on my plates, I used to put generous amounts of butter on top and watch as the butter melted and seeped into the entire food. And then, I used to take a spoonful and relish as it spread warmth in my mouth, stomach and entire body. Oh, it was heavenly. Actually, the warmth is quite literal since there were times when I used to burn my mouth by eating the hot food, against the advice of Mom. When you have such food in front of you, how can you wait for such a mundane thing like cooling it down?

Plate of khichdi with labra and chatni

Plate of khichdi with labra and chatni

After that there was the “chatni” (literally meaning relish, a sweet and sticky flavorful dish). Chatnis can be made of many things but my Mom used to make her special one with “khejur” (dates) and “aam sotto” (dried mango). It was finger-licking good. Oh did I forget to mention that we mostly use our hands and not spoons to eat the traditional home-made food here in India?

And at the very end, there was the dessert. There were warm “rasgullas” (balls made of Indian cotton cheese and dough dipped in sugary syrup). The rasgullas used to be soft like sponge and just melted in the mouth.

 

Rasgulla in an earthen pot

Rasgulla in an earthen pot

This menu is actually quite simple when you compare it to other Bengali festive meals, especially considering there is no non-vegetarian items involved like “maach” (fish) or “mangsho”(chicken). But, this meal is my most favorite because somehow nothing tastes better than the Ashtami “khichdi”. Maybe it was because of the company of all my siblings and cousins at the table, maybe it was the fact that we used to have the food after a long time of restraining ourselves from having any food or water, maybe it was the festive air with the songs that were playing at the local “pandal” drifting in through the windows or maybe it was the food itself cooked with so much love by my Mom. I am really not sure what made it so special but I suspect it was a little bit of everything.

And even today when I try to remember my favorite meal, I can visualize and smell those fragrant steaming dishes of food amidst the friendly teasing and bickering of my siblings. And I cannot wait for the next Durga Puja when I get to enjoy the same meal again. Cheers!!