The Collaboration

musings

Eternal-flame-at-the-Kigali-Genocide-Memorial-Center-800-x-450

I. The aspiring writer

She toiled away at writing, without being inspired

To be a published author was what her heart desired

Words she could arrange, but she had no story to tell

Without a strong story, all ideas fell

Down the route of wishful thinking 

She despaired, she saw her dream sinking..

Her life was too mundane, too ordinary

To be an inspiration for a capital story

Nor was she blessed with fertile imagination-

All this hampered her creative expression

**

II. The Woman with a Past

She looked around furtively, out of habit old

Walked with her collar turned up, though it was not cold

Then reminded herself that there was little to fear

The danger of genocide no longer lurked near

Nor was she in fear of displacement now

She was as safe here as her skin color would allow

Having escaped death, lived life in countries seven

Each worse than the other, by the time she was ten

Being a refugee in the United States was being kissed by fate

She was grateful, she knew she was fortunate..

Yet who knew here, who could understand

The pain of being driven away from your land

Especially from Rwanda, a country obscure

That she was a Tutsi mattered here no more

She was a freshman in an Ivy League university

She was grateful to her sponsors for this opportunity

Yet there was that constant, queasy pain

Lodged in the deepest recesses of her brain

**

III. The Meeting

She switched up her routine looking for inspiration

Hoping people-watching at the park would fire her imagination

Instead,  every day a striking young woman intrigued her

She walked with small quick steps, as if in fear

She longed to make an acquaintance of her, and one day

The perfect opportunity for small talk came her way

She learnt more about this young woman, and wondered

Where she was from, what had happened to her..

One day she asked after much deliberation

About her past, and received a reply after initial hesitation

She had heard vaguely about Rwandan genocide

She realized the young woman had scars inside..

**

IV. The Collaboration

An unlikely friendship blossomed between the two

For the first time, she opened up about her trauma too

One day she confided that she longed to tell her story

To purge herself, to dig up from her memory all details gory

She had found herself unable to write about it all these years

Trying to do so only exacerbated her fears..

Our aspiring writer realized this might well be

The Eureka moment for her, if she could write this story

Soon it was decided our young refugee’s gruesome tale

Would be authored by the older woman, this time she wouldn’t fail

**

V. Success and Healing

The book was completed in two months, and became

Wildly popular, both of them acquired fame

The young woman spoke to varied audiences about this,

And in the process received a satisfying catharsis…

Our writer was approached promptly

To write yet another biography

Thus they found success, she found healing too

It was time to forgive and begin life anew..

Image: Eternal Flame at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center

https://thisisafrica.me/rwandan-genocide-memorials-help/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change

musings

“Change is the only constant in life.”

Heraclitus

I convinced myself not to jump in

Careless folks almost never win

I talked myself out of every opportunity

That presented itself, full of uncertainty

I told myself since I was in a safe place

Any change could imperil my comfortable space

**

Thus I went from day to day

In a controlled, comfortable, boring way

Yet the yearning to achieve something more

Rankled in me, leaving me discontent to the core

That comfort zone of mine had become a bubble

Imprisoning me, I should have sensed impending trouble

**

Things stagnated, then began to deteriorate

As change in my life was not allowed to circulate

Now from the other side clearly I see

How fear had held me back constantly

I clung desperately to the crumbling status quo

I was irrationally petrified of letting go

Just when I was on the verge of being able to take no more

A new opportunity knocked at my door…

**

This is real life, the opportunity clearly golden was not

Yet it had a silver lining, prompting some thought

Of leaving my current situation to embrace

The challenges of inhabiting a different space

After sleepless nights and intense vacillation

I took a leap of faith, into the new situation

It was a difficult task to let go of fear

To leave behind everything I had held dear

**

I have no spectacular success story to narrate

Yet I feel much more in control of my fate

When finally change I embraced

I realized my hidden fear I had faced

I must say that by placing my trust in Providence

I actually regained my lost confidence!

Creative void

musings

I feel in my bones, I feel in the air

A creative void, I am quite aware

New ideas have been prevented

From germinating, from being presented

To the surface of my conscious mind

Life’s endless details rob me of time to find

Space to think, space to daydream

Mundane tasks occupy all my time, it seems

No wonder I forget that I am alive

To get back in the groove I need my drive…

*

So I sit here trying to pen down some lines

Despite a paucity of ideas in my mind

I hope this is a warm-up, soon I would see

Creative juices course through my veins freely

I am waiting for things to work in reverse fashion

Where ideas create time for me to chase my passion

*

As I write, I can sense a transformation

Coming over me, I can feel a sensation

Of time slowing down, a wave of relaxation

Washing over me, relieving my vexation

Over not indulging in endeavors creative

I smile to myself, I am beginning to live

Again- the world is brighter, the way

It is supposed to be each day…

*

This verse is a rambling of a bored mind

Yet is is significant for me, it has helped me find

A way to break the void within me

A way to tap into a well of creativity…

Thou shalt not compare on Facebook

musings

In my life I think I need

A new serenity prayer indeed-

I need serenity, courage, wisdom- all three

To set my soul from bondage free

An unhealthy sense of competition I’ve acquired

In the vicious circle of comparison I am mired

To everyone else around me, myself I compare

At their achievements on social media I stare

Then wallow in self-pity because my life, you know

Has nothing interesting going on, worth a show….

**

As I scroll through instagram feeds and facebook timelines,

There comes a point when despondency fills my mind

Protective instincts kick in to prevent further distress

I shun social media, stop tracking others’ progress

Freeing up more time, to do things that are worthwhile

But….

When I do something interesting, I post it under my profile

Of course then I check out every notification as well

And I am back in my self-created hell

Of comparing others’ highlights to my

Behind-the scenes life- believe me, I try

To avoid these comparisons, but stop short

Of deleting social media accounts- I cannot

Be a recluse in the virtual world, that scares me

So I continue to go through cycles of misery….

**

I think a new commandment needs addition

To the Ten Commandments for the millennial edition

“Thou shalt not compare yourself to others on the internet”

Maybe that will have, at least on me, the desired effect…

Men and #Me Too

musings

I read this article in the most widely read medical journal in the world this week, and could not help pen this down. The narrator is every woman in the workforce.

For years, I suffered with a face that was brave

My reputation, my sanity, my career- I had to save

All inappropriate comments, innuendoes, I took in my stride

Facing harassment, my true emotions I did hide

For the cost of speaking up was too high to ignore

It could have sent my career crashing to the floor..

In a world where women mentors were few

I sought mentorship where available, it’s true

I was driven by a desire for advancement in my career

Yet each step forward I took with fear…

**

Fast forward to the present, it is 2018

A new movement the world has now seen

With #Me Too, I have found the courage to break

The barriers of silence, not worrying what is at stake

The movement has made millions of women at the workplace

Feel empowered to address the harassment they face

**

Ah..I must be delusional if I think at the workplace men

Would suddenly change their behavior towards women-

In a patriarchal society, used to masculinistic hegemony

They have turned back on women with their misogyny…

Claiming that mentoring women is difficult in this climate

False allegations of sexual misconduct against them can be made!

**

Disheartening this is- mentorship is invaluable

This reluctance of male mentors can cause harm incalculable

To the careers of young women with grit and ambition

The last thing we want is to see an attrition

In the numbers of women in the elite workforce

My sincere hope is that things will change their course

True gender equality is still years away

Yet with # Me Too, we have come a long way…

Maidservant

musings

DSC_0805 (2).JPG

Lucky I must say I have been

Women like me go through the world unseen

As human beings with dreams and desires

At least I had food- something to which millions aspire

My employer was generous, she often gave me

Leftovers for lunch, discarded clothes and jewelry

Extra sweetmeats (she was conscious of gaining weight)

Extra rupees on Diwali, thus there was always food on the plate

For my whole family- she did let me use

The fan in summer, she did excuse

Me from work when I was really ill

(She deducted a portion from my pay still)

Gave me medicine, though my son would state

They were always past the expiry date

In the unpredictable universe in which I reside

Having an employer like her was a matter of pride..

*

Other problems in life I did not let bother me

For the poor of the world, life is never easy

So the drunken beatings I took in my stride

Thanked the Lord when husband spared my hide

Was grateful my children were going to school

Education would be their most powerful tool

*

Then my employer moved out of town, and I had to

Search for another one, I was afraid, it’s true

Horror stories from friends I had heard

Entering a new home felt quite weird

My potential new employer, to my utter surprise

Asked me to sit on her cream couch, but I was wise

That must be a trap, so I squatted on the floor

She asked me to sit on the couch again- I bolted for the door

Well, almost, I was so afraid, I had never heard such a thing

(New-fangled ideas these America-returned people bring)

Anyway the job was offered to me after questions few

She seemed interested in my family, that was unusual too

To my joy, she asked to get to work right away

(An extra day’s earnings do go a long way)

I thought she was unhinged when she stood beside me

In the kitchen as I chopped vegetables,  boiling tea

Which she poured in two cups that were identical-

Why was she trying to do this, I thought, I was not an equal!

Suddenly I was scared for my life, who knew

If Madam was a madwoman, she lived by herself too…

*

I might have quit but my intuition seemed to tell me

Nothing was wrong, besides, I was desperate for money

As time passed by, I gradually came to realize

She actually cared about me as a human being, to my surprise

She noticed my bruises, though I never really opened my mouth

Gave me resources if I was endangered, or if things went south

Taught me how to save, helped me open a bank account

Where unknown to my husband, I regularly invested small amounts

For the first time I felt my life was worthy of something

My self-confidence blossomed, I grew my wings..

*

That was ten years ago, now my children are grown

My girl starts college today, I can support her education on my own

I run a small business, a tiny fruit and vegetable stand

My children after school sometimes lend me a hand 

I am widowed now,  his life was claimed by the liquor

I had a tough time as he had grown sicker

Yet I was self-sufficient, as Madam had taught me

How to best manage my precious money

Of course I am no longer in her employ

(She now lives elsewhere with her husband and little boy)

*

Before I met Madam, what respect was, I did not know

But when I found it, it made my self-worth grow

The work was no different, nor was the pay

Yet something changed completely that first day…

Now I have been emancipated from servitude

All thanks to Madam’s benevolent attitude!

Power corrupts

musings

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
― Abraham Lincoln

DSC_0961

Driven by ambition and a desire to succeed

I scaled the heights at a dizzying speed

Working hard, making moves that were right

I rose to a position of power without much fight

I had principles then, my intention it was not

To compromise on them, I never had such a thought

*

At this new and powerful position that I had acquired

Enticements came my way, I received much more than I desired

I don’t know but somewhere along the way

My morals loosened, how that happened, I cannot say

From the gate that was narrow I  did deviate

Stumbled on the broad road and wide gate..

*

Power corrupts, and power absolute

Corrupts absolutely, said someone astute

I was at the pinnacle, and I was corrupted

I misused my power, uninterrupted

My subordinates feared me, for no one

Dared defy the powerful one

They knew their employment was at stake

Displeasing me once was all it would take…

*

Little did I know that drunk on power

I was mapping my destruction, every hour

My castle collapsed with a bang, and I

Lost everything I had under the sky

The power that had taken my scruples away

Was thrown back in my face, I had nothing to say

Disgraced, humiliated, I turned back and ran

To pick up the pieces, for I was a broken man

*

Sometimes I think about the days gone by

And wish I had never climbed that high

Power I was given, yet weak was I, to fall prey

To its corrupting influence, now there’s no way

That I would leave my scruples, my lesson is learnt

By taking the wide  path, I have been burnt…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comfortable in my skin

musings

You all proclaim this mantra repeatedly

Be comfortable in your skin, be carefree

Accept your body as you are

Disregard critics, and you will go far..

*

As a woman trying to find my place

In a world that still judges me by my face

And other physical attributes I care not to mention

Being comfortable in my body is a tough decision

*

What’s more, honestly, judgment is a two-way street

I have to remind myself whenever I repeat

That criticism of others which I dislike leveled at me

I try hard, yet physical attributes are what I see

*

There are days when my weight, height, color, all disappear

Beneath the exhilaration of an achievement in my career

Yet when I am downcast, my thoughts invariably

Turn towards all that is physically “not right” with me

*

All successful women in media portrayed

Are tall, slim, well-dressed- the impression thus made

Is that beauty and success are synonymous

Looking impeccable is necessary, not just a plus

*

I am still trying but the negative reinforcement

Significant barriers does present

In unconditional acceptance of myself, I must say

Maybe with grey hair I shall develop this skill one day…

Women, forgotten

musings

I’ve had the idea for this poem for quite some time now. I always wanted to give a voice to the abandoned women of Indian mythology and history.

urmila

(1) Urmila, wife of Lakshman (brother of Rama)

You went away, following your brother in exile

You left me, expecting me to bear my burdens with a smile

The world celebrated your unparalleled devotion

To your brother, but who understood my emotions….

Left alone to my devices for fourteen long years

To care for your family, fighting back my tears

Where my existence to you irrevocably was tied

I slumbered through those years, so you could walk with pride

Knowing that you had protected, night and day

Without sleep ever getting in your way

Your brother and sister-in-law, so he could

Establish the victory over evil, of good

Not that I would not have done as I was told-

Yet know that I placed my life on hold

Waiting for you- as your “ardhangini”

I should have been with you through your journey…

**

buddha

(2) Yasodhara, wife of Siddhartha (Gautam Buddha)

My lord, the “Enlightened One”, you are well-venerated

Your life and teachings are worldwide celebrated

For an ordinary  married life steeped in domesticity

I know you never quite had proclivity…

Towards higher things in life you were inclined

May be that is why it did not cross your mind

The grief I would go through when you left me

In the haze of early motherhood, so you could be free

Abandoned I was, for no fault of my own

With our son in my arms, left alone

To raise him without a father- I did try

Each time, to give him a satisfactory reply

When he questioned why his father, unlike others,

Was not beside him and his mother..

When you gained enlightenment, I sent him to you

From a woman of the world, I became an ascetic too

Your responsibilities towards the good of the world, I know

Were greater than those towards us, and so

I buried the pain of abandonment deep inside

As I raised our wonderful son with pride

**

Throughout millennia, in this society patriarchal

Where great men have, in legend, become immortal

Countless women have sacrificed their souls for their men

Carrying, silently, wordlessly, their burdens

I wonder if history had been different

If only these women, instead of being diffident

Had protested against the unfair decisions 

To accept which they were forced into submission…

(Image sources: 1. https://www.awaaznation.com/social-issues/urmila-hidden-warrior-great-indian-epic 2. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/529735974904082965/)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bookish travel

musings
We are sensitized by the books we read. And the more books we read, and the deeper their lessons sink into us, the more pairs of glasses we have. And those glasses enable us to see things we would have otherwise missed.
— Alain de Botton

As a voracious reader, one day I felt uninspired

By my reading list- the writing for which taste I had acquired

Appeared too repetitive, too insipid, too familiar

I desired something different, something peculiar..

*

A quick Google search enlightened me

The way to overcome my ennui

Was to find books from all over the world

When I started doing so, a new world unfurled

Before me- without leaving my home I found

I was traveling, albeit mentally, all around

*

Through countries diverse I traveled vicariously

Back and forth in time, guided by visual imagery

From far-flung islands to countries I had seen

In colorful translations and in English pristine

I went on reading “the world”, nation by nation

With each new one grew my fascination..

*

The more diverse my repertoire of books became

The more I realized how people were the same

Throughout the world- common themes I found

Stories set in the backdrop of war abound-

Through cultural differences, local customs and such

The bonds of friendship and love remain untouched

Good writing, irrespective of where it originates

Is one that with diverse readers resonates

*

One hundred and ninety-six nations there are

I have covered fifty in books, I have to go far..

That Simple Life

musings

A simpleton was I, my dreams limited in extent

My life was peaceful, in relative ignorance spent

Politics was something  for important men

Who deliberated in meetings, using paper and pen

For all that I knew, their promises were meant to be,

Mostly false, never to be taken seriously

Even when policies changed, seldom it was so

That anything would be expected to interrupt the flow

Of life in a nondescript town such as this one

We enjoyed uneventful days under the sun…

**

The winds of change were blowing, before I knew

They picked up speed in our direction too

A civil war whose origins I’ve never understood

Destroyed us more than a tsunami could

Mass shooting, looting, arson, curfew

Entered our town and our lives too…

**

We were simple folks, had never thought

Of leaving the land on which war was being fought

Yet living under terror, losing family and friends

Hoping against hope for the violence to end-

Reluctantly we came to the inevitable conclusion

That leaving the country was the only solution

**

If only it were that simple….a shudder runs through me

As I recall each hurdle we faced to leave our country

Fake papers, bribes, arduous travel in disguise

Journeying through the night, hiding at sunrise

Braving hunger and illness, solely propelled

By the urge for survival, those monsters we quelled..

**

Now I am settled in a new land, and have heard

Similar stories from people from some other parts of the world

We have been uprooted for no faults of our own

For our losses, we cannot help but mourn

Yet we are grateful just because we are alive

Of course that trumps inability to survive…

**

I know time cannot be turned back, but I

Shall long for that simple life till I die

Before I knew how politics would change my life

Before I knew my land would be torn by strife…