Collective Grief

When was the last time we as humankind

Were in our collective grief so aligned?

*

We all have grieved, we all have mourned

Individually, in clusters, we have borne

The weight of our grief alone, many times in the past

But there wasn’t a blanket of grief so vast

As to engulf each one of us in its fold

The pandemic has inflicted miseries untold

While some have lost more, others less

We all have incurred losses in the process

Of navigating through this pandemic

The loss of normalcy is a damage systemic

None of us has unscathed remained

We’re grappling with varying degrees of pain

*

On our collective grief I reflect

With the audacity of hope I expect

This would be the bond that would unite

All of humankind, enable us to continue our fight

Through this crisis that appears endless

We shall heal through a collective spiritual process

When were we united in such solidarity with each other

As we are now, we shall find a way out of this crisis together

Grudge

That thing I hold inside of me

Against a (?real) (?imaginary) adversary

The thing that my mind cannot process

Festers like a putrefying abscess

Or like a low grade tumor that continues

To enlarge, a wound that continues to ooze

Spreading evil humors throughout me

Threatening my peace of mind, my sanity

The resentment that has become embedded in to

My corpuscles, my marrow, my veins it courses through

I cannot purge myself clean unless I tear apart

My very being, my body, mind and heart

*

That grudge, that anger, that resentment

Misplaced, misdirected, harmful in intent

Aimed at someone else but with direction reversed

To devastate me, to keep me in discomfort immersed..

As I approached the breaking point, not knowing what to do

One day I just let it go, without even thinking it through

Like a discarded cloak, I just threw my grudge away

My spiritual healing began that day

I forgave the one against who all these years

I had held a grudge, out of irrational fear

Of getting hurt myself if I did forgive

Clearly with a misconception I did live..

“When will you settle down?”

In Indian society, this is the question everyone seems to have for young adults, particularly women, and it usually refers to marriage. As intrusive as it is, it is a common question and I have a tongue-in-cheek reply…

What do you mean by “settling down”, tell me

I am educated, have a career and live independently

If settling down means planting my roots here

I’ll do that after I’m done exploring the world, have no fear

I see, maybe you are concerned about my loneliness

So you think I should settle down, or settle for less?

I have enough social interactions to keep loneliness at bay

And who said marriage drives loneliness away?

So you are concerned about my aging biological clock

This is something about which we don’t need to talk

How did you assume that I want to be

A mother soon, without knowing me

I am not against societal institutions as such

But making them my life goals right now does not interest me much

It may surprise you, but I feel settled right now

When desired change appears in my life, its entry I shall allow

Most likely I shall “settle down” per your definition narrow

If and when that happens, your curiosity would let you know

Let me however reiterate that my happiness

Is not contingent on “settling down”, nor is my life’s success

It’s Complicated…

(My relationship with my birth country)

Relationships can be complicated, I’m aware

The most complicated relationship I have, I must declare

Is with my birth country, my motherland

It has taken me a while to understand..

My love for India should unconditional be

At least that’s what I would like, but unfortunately

As an outsider, my perception has morphed, I would say

I can see things that I did not see yesterday

Then I realize I am judging through a foreign lens

I feel like a traitor, but in my defense

I can separate fact from misconception

Unlike a true foreigner’s perception

That could be biased, past the stereotypes I can see

And recognize the actual ills that plague my birth country

Let me say it hurts deeply to recognize

Anything that tarnishes the image of India in my eyes

I am tempted to “rectify” the issue immediately

To suit my westernized sensibility

Then I remind myself of all the complexities that make

India so unique, and lasting change does take

A change in the zeitgeist, when ideas and resources converge

In a land where the past, present and future seamlessly merge..

I feel a twinge of sadness for what as a flaw I perceive

But refrain from trying to voice what I believe

Going down my chain of thoughts, I am reminded once again

That what you love deeply causes you the most pain…

I remind myself that I love India not because

I am oblivious of its shortcomings, but in-spite of its flaws

Separated in time…

It is extremely hard to be away from your family in another time zone when they are unwell…

How was your night, I do not know

For me the afternoon hours pass slow

I wait impatiently for your dawn to break

I check time obsessively trying hard to shake

The all-pervading anxiety as I try to maintain

A regular evening schedule, suppressing the pain

Borne out of anger and helplessness

I cannot be with you in this time of distress

I fervently pray that you wake up feeling well

Physically though in another time zone I dwell

Right now the time difference unbearable appears

Without constant communication, the worst I fear

I know I must not interrupt your sleep at any cost

For recuperation, hours of sleep must not be lost

*

I check WhatsApp, it seems you are awake now

With nervous anticipation, I now allow

Myself to make a call, hope you answer right away

Give me positive news, my anxiety allay

What do I fill with food?

Something feels empty, what is it and where?

Is there a hole, a void in my heart of which I am unaware

I feel lonely, cooped up in my home alone

Trying to find something uplifting on my smartphone

There is a pit in my stomach, a craving I cannot name

It feels like an addiction, smells faintly of shame

I do not have vices, the kind people talk about

I do not smoke or use drugs, alcohol I can do without

But I need something to fill that void

Something innocuous, anything in shades of grey I avoid

Where is my succor, in the pantry maybe

Or the freezer, my feet without realizing take me

To the haven of food, to fill that hollow feeling

I stuff myself mindlessly until I am reeling

From the effects of eating too much too fast

The emptiness is obliterated, but the effect would not last…

*

Later I reflect on my behavior, and I am ashamed again

For my sin of gluttony, I endure privately my pain

I realize with food I am trying to mistakenly fill

A hole in my heart, that remains empty still…

Memories…

I shall remember for years to come

How you shaped me, how I did become

The grown-up person that I am today

All words of encouragement and criticism tucked away

In various recesses of my brain from where

They get retrieved without my being aware

Help me navigate through life in your measured tone

I think I rarely take a decision all alone

The silver-haired wisdom you imparted to me

Is my friend, philosopher and guide constantly

**

I have a lifetime of memories for reminiscence

Many of them evoke emotions intense

My embarrassment at your superlative praise

Your reproaches at my defiant adolescent ways

All those times you knew me better than I knew

Myself-all those times that I argued with you

Because I was an adult or I wanted to pretend

(Perhaps defiance alone was what I did intend)

Memories that seemed too many to store

Suddenly became finite, there shall be no more

Memories to make with you, I know

Let me inhale them all, deep and slow

The best laid (pandemic) plans

If there is something I have learnt

In the last two years after being burnt

Multiple times for my planning overzealous

Is not to make plans, best not to discuss

What we would do in six months or a year

Many times the plans for the next week are unclear

Depending on which way the pandemic pendulum swings

Unexpected change of plans the curve of an outbreak brings

Plans for social gatherings and travel can change within days

Our lives are ruled by the virus, this is one of the ways

*

Pre-pandemic a lot of time I would spend

In making plans elaborate, only a few in the end

Would materialize, but now it appears to me

That they were daydreams more than plans actually

The roller-coaster ride of the pandemic has now

Cured me of that habit, I do not allow

Myself to get carried away and plan far ahead

I make immediately actionable plans instead

I am more spontaneous, less time I idle away

Disappointment thus I can keep at bay

*

From a compulsive planner to someone

Who now finds spontaneous planning fun-

I have changed, expectations right now I have none

Who knows if I would revert back when the pandemic is done?

A dose of creativity for depression

When you deal with illness and death every day

Imperceptibly, somewhere along the way

Melancholy makes its way into your world view

Sadness tints with darkness every hue

Those around you notice it much before you do

Your pessimist perception has become reality for you

You go on, engulfed in subliminal depression

Until your life at home gets affected by your profession

One day you are jolted by a wake-up call

Your negative attitude could lead to your downfall…

*

It takes effort to channel positivity

When the worst of life you constantly see

You have to reframe failure and success

Have a memory selective, forget what causes distress

Or transform emotions that cause discomfort

Into artistic expression of some sort

You could literally paint your blues away

Or emote through poetry that can hearts sway

Or create music that captures despondence

And morphs it into sweetness intense

Or dance with abandon to exorcise

All negative thoughts, let positivity rise

Let your melancholic hues get incorporated

In creative effort, let your mind get liberated

From the pessimism that clouds over you

With a clean slate, start afresh, start anew..

*

To heal through creativity

Is the new guiding principle for me

My child is sick…

The number of children hospitalized with Covid-19 is soaring nationwide, especially as the highly transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus spreads across the country, and children under 5 are not eligible for the vaccine yet. This variant on the other hand, may cause a milder illness like the cold in an adult fully vaccinated and boosted. This poem attempts to give a voice to the feelings of a parent whose child is sick with COVID.

I wear my heart on my sleeve

Words cannot express the way I grieve

To see you sick, to see you succumb

To this illness makes me go numb

Knowing that I have been spared, but you

Are going through this, what would I not do

For the powers above to make your disease

Afflict me, and you from its clutches release

The unfairness of the situation is brought in sharp relief

The adults got protection but in the mistaken belief

Of children being more resilient to illness, we decided we could

Lower our guard while our children would

Be exposed without any protection for now

While waiting for vaccine approval, we did allow

The section of our society most vulnerable

To the whims of adults, the ones unable

To voice an opinion- to go to school maskless, thinking they would be fine

So was my child until he got the illness, now for intervention divine

I wait, to make him recover quickly

While feelings of guilt gnaw at me

This was the situation, and nothing I could do

I protected myself with an extra shot, but I couldn’t protect you…

*

Parenting a sick child is hard no matter what

Knowing you evaded the illness that your child caught

Is hearbreaking, and I fervently pray

For you to get back to your old self today..

Camus’ summer

Amid chaos the world has descended into

Amid the vagaries of the pandemic that we cannot get through

In the midst of losses, sorrows and angst everywhere

In trying to protect things about which we care

Finding happiness seems an unachievable goal

In tumultuous times, restless remains the soul

Where do I look for happiness, I need a small slice

A single positive note, a tiny ray of hope would suffice..

**

The world outside was beyond my comprehension

Therefore I decided to turn my attention

To what I could try to understand, and control

I tuned into the depths of my mind and soul

To search in the hidden crevices present

A way to calm my simmering discontent

Through trial and error, I did discover

The art of meditation, and its power

To unlock the key to happiness

Something I hadn’t believed before, I confess

Twenty minutes of stillness with eyes closed every day

Had the power to transform me, my outlook sway

From one of abject pessimism to one of optimism calm

For my grieving, aching body and soul, this was a balm

I found myself less affected by outside events

The pendulum swings in mood I could better prevent

*

To quote Camus, in the midst of a winter I discovered

Through meditation, within me, an invincible summer

Quiet at work?

She worked quietly and efficiently

Assumed her work was there for everyone to see

And admire, she put in hours beyond required

She had a reputation of being a hard-worker acquired

She did not talk much about her accomplishments though

Small talk would interfere with efficiency and make her slow

So she believed, besides she operated with the conviction

That actions spoke louder than words, impeccable work made the distinction

**

She had assumed she would in her career make strides

Because of her dedication, eventually, so she let it slide

When others (men) more vociferous in their opinions

(Without doing as much) were given the power to make decisions

And she, the quiet one, was sidelined

At every opportunity for promotion she was left behind

Slowly she noticed that she would receive

Time-intensive projects that were less important perceived

While the plum assignments that more impactful seemed

Would go to her colleagues who were more competent deemed

She also realized the ideas she had shared informally

Were stolen by others who claimed their authenticity

What was happening took her a while to realize

She understood that she needed to be more worldly-wise

**

I wish I could say she turned around and achieved

Everything she deserved, but despite the reality she perceived

She found it difficult to transform herself into someone

Who could toot her own horn, be afraid of none

She has grown smarter, and no longer accepts

Having work dumped on her, in this respect

She has made some strides, but still struggles to be heard

In a room full of assertive folks, who still have the final word

*

Actions speak, but words do too

Women need to speak up more at work, it’s true..

Is this social conditioning that lets women be

On the sidelines, not front and center for the world to see?

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