The Motivational Speaker

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Growing up in a world competitive

Not enough slack she ever did give

Herself, because her mantra throughout

Was that patting herself on the back she could do without

So she achieved new targets, never stopped to rest

Reaching for a goal higher instead

**

As time went by without realizing she

Developed what appeared to be perpetual anxiety

Because she constantly hungered to achieve

More, satisfaction she could not receive

She constantly felt she was not doing enough

Of herself she was a judge tough

**

Life never fails to give us opportunities

To understand, and rectify our follies

This had to happen to her sooner or later

It happened when she became a mother

Initially she was, as expected, quite anxious

With her perfectionist attitude, she tended to fuss

More than the average mother would do

But as she in her role as a mother grew

She had to revise her expectations too

Balancing her home and career together

Constantly trying to achieve more would never

Work- that she realized as time went by

Her expectations dropped down from the sky

As she became more comfortable in her skin

She felt much better, her anxiety caved in

**

You might wonder if this attitude was sustained

Yes it was, her understanding of life did not go in vain

She has actually become a motivational speaker

(Public speaking had always come naturally to her)

She helps people leave self-criticism behind

And acquire a happier state of mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That day, before sunrise

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He got out of bed, that day before sunrise

Sleep had evaded him, that was not a surprise

He felt anxious and excited in equal measure

Those very last moments he would always treasure

He was leaving home today, his flight was soon due

To travel to a foreign land, explore vistas new

As the sun made its appearance over the horizon

His plane took off, while tears clouded his vision..

**

Few years later he awoke, that day before sunrise

Now settled in the new land, to its ways wise

Again to catch a flight, this time homeward bound

To get married, a suitable bride had been found

Again anxious and eager, he knew not what was in store

The only difference being in the confidence he now wore

The sanguine sunrise that appeared as his plane took flight

Lifted his spirits, he felt his future would be bright.

**

Few years went by, and that day before sunrise

He woke up to his wife’s panicked cries

Her water had broken, and in a rush they drove

To the hospital; by sunrise they were in love

With the most perfect little bundle of joy 

Together they celebrated the birth of their little boy

**

Decades went by,  that day before sunrise

He and his wife woke up, and with misty eyes

Prepared to say goodbye, a final one

To the land that had given them a warm welcome

Had let them thrive, raise a family, prosper

Yet the thought had come to them in a whisper

Now that their son had settled and they had retired

It was time to attend to their souls’ desires

So they boarded the flight back to motherland

When the sun rose up in sky, they sat holding hands

As the flight took off, their memories they gathered

Of all the joyous moments, all the storms they had weathered

 

Suddenly he was reminded of that day before sunrise

When he had woken up with the stars in his eyes

To start a journey into the unknown that had at last

Come full circle- he thought, staring at the sky vast

He had planted stems here, but his roots were there

His weary soul needed home after being everywhere..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ghats of Varanasi

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Swathed in  deep orange light, just before dawn

On the ghats of Varanasi she sat alone

Played her sitar in precious solitude

While the rest of the world she could still exclude

A plaintive melody reflective of her mental state

A mournful plea to the injustice of her fate

At these hallowed ghats she had cremated

Her husband not long ago, now she waited

For life to provide her a direction, otherwise

She would wait here, where her cries

Could be drowned in the cacophony of sounds

She felt nothing but despair all around

Her baby lay sleeping in a bundle beside her

Oblivious to the music, to the flow of the river..

 

Soon the sun promised to come up and the place

Filled up with people occupying any available space

She continued to play her sitar, this time with a goal

Of attracting attention of any generous soul

Who would drop some coins impressed by her recital

This was all her shell-shocked mind could do for survival..

 

Day after day she continued, she made just enough

To keep herself and the baby fed, but the sailing was rough

Until one day as she sat playing, seemingly immersed

Completely in music, oblivious of the universe

When a passer-by stopped to listen in keen attention

She stopped, and looked up with deep apprehension

An elderly man looked at her with eyes kind

Her rendition of Raag Bhairavi had blown his mind

He offered her a position to teach classical music

To young children- at first she was afraid she was being tricked

But something in his voice told her he was genuine

Besides, she had nothing to lose, she could only win

Shaken from her torpor, she accepted the offer

It turned out to be the best thing that happened to her-

In teaching young kids how to play the instrument

She overcame her grief,  became truly self-sufficient

As she raised her child, she taught him music too

In doing all of this, her resilience shone through.

 

Today she sits in the front row of the audience

It’s her son’s first solo performance

As she waits for him to begin in nervous anticipation

Her thoughts return to the day of her emancipation

Her eyes fill up with tears of gratitude

The ghats have magical powers-it’s her certitude..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Magic of Folk Tales

“The Dreamer awakes
The shadow goes by
The tale I have told you,
That tale is a lie.
But listen to me,
Bright maiden, proud youth
The tale is a lie;
What it tells is the truth.”
Traditional folktale ending

Reading mature novels with complex plots

One after another, satisfied I was not

Though the stories were real, the characters believable

I think I was missing the simplicity of fables-

Except that fables and folk tales of all kinds

Are not written to appeal to an adult mind

So into the children’s section of the library

I went in search of village belles and fairies

A book of Celtic folk tales was my first find

As I read through the pages, it did remind

Me of the myriad  folk tales of my childhood 

Full of morals that I had only half understood..

 

I went back  to the days when my companions literary

Were counselors of kings full of wisdom extraordinary

Their wit and presence of mind made for excellent

Stories to read, narrate or enact for amusement

Each story had a lesson in living embedded

Reality of life was through a fictitious tale threaded

 

 

Many Indian folk tales featured strong women

Standing up for themselves in a society dominated by men

 

In the era before Christ were some of them penned

In today’s world, their teachings are still relevant

 

I was not by any means confined, I must tell you

To Indian folktales, I read tales from other lands too

Some of my favorites featured a fool named Ivan

Who slept above the stove, in a Russian tradition

He always had brothers, wiser in people’s eyes

Yet when there was a crisis, Ivan the fool would rise

Since he paid no heed to the norms of society

Without any fear, he would fight the mighty

And emerge with a princess and a kingdom

He was simple with a good heart, so he always won

 

Trolls, gnomes and spirits from Scandinavia

Warmed my heart, taught me some trivia

About life in the Arctic climates that I 

Had no other reference to go by

 

Tales of the Iroquois and the Tainos

Taught me about people I did not even know

Bamboo trees, dragons and other fire-spewing creatures

Were of folk tales from the Far East, prominent features.

 

I could go on and on, pouring into this verse

My fascination for folk tales, for good or for worse

Instead my six year old I shall entertain

With folk tales from a lesser known terrain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia)

Kniphofia /nɪpˈhfiə/, also called  red hot poker, is a genus of flowering plants in the family Asphodelaceae, first described as a genus in 1794. It is native to Africa.  All plants produce spikes of upright, brightly colored flowers well above the foliage, in shades of red, orange and yellow, often bicoloured.“- Wikipedia

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As I strolled through the stretches one day

Of a botanical garden, I found suddenly on my way

That unique flower with its orange and red

Spiked flowers almost towering over my head

And I was reminded of how years ago

We had seen these flowers in a horticulture show

You were in second grade, if my memory serves me right

Fascinated more by the name than the sight

“Red hot poker” was a beautiful flower, you proclaimed

We snapped a photograph, and of course you named

It your favorite flower, and wrote its name meticulously

For your homework; you spelt out “Kniphofia” carefully 

You were so excited, but even then I was apprehensive

I wished you had liked a more conventional alternative

I hate to remember maternal instinct was on target

You returned from school next day, quite upset

For writing something strange you were derided

No one could understand why you had decided

To name a flower that hardly looked like one

To be your favorite, they did not know, my son

Of this plant, in ignorance, they made fun

Of you- over the years, you displayed

Non-conformity to tradition in many different ways

Despite my misgivings, I tried to encourage you

To follow your heart, knowing that was the right thing to do..

**

Now you live far away and meet me

To my great chagrin, only infrequently

You are wildly successful in your profession

That is unconventional- you followed your passion

Seeing the red hot poker today sent me down memory lane

To that first instance when you had suffered pain

For being different in a society that conformity values

That gives you few options from which to choose

I am proud of who you are, and of course

With the flower for a picture I pose

And send it to you instantly, subtexting “Remember?”

You promptly reply, exclaiming “Red Hot Poker!”

And then, “It’s still my favorite, and I know, yours too”

I smile to myself, yes, that is true

If not for this flower I might not have realized

My son’s true potential, I might not have advised

Him to stick to his ideas that were different

This flower made me a better parent..

The Magic of the Holidays

Holiday lights twinkled all around
Powdery snow was sprinkled all over the ground
The stores were lit brightly, music wafted through the doors
She waited for the holidays to take their course
Knowing that the gaiety pervading the air
Was not something that she could share
Somehow life had taken a turn so destructive
Leaving her homeless, unemployed, unproductive
And all alone, within a span of few days
For the broke and the lonely, difficult were holidays..

She stood in queue at the shelter awaiting her turn
For some food provided by a good samaritan
Before her was a woman who seemed paralyzed
Unable to put food on her plate, she stood, as if mesmerized
She nudged her and broke her out of her reverie
Then they sat at the table together silently
She stole glances at the other woman , who appeared
Roughly her age, but her face seemed aged by tears
Her eyes were indescribably sad, she thought
She debated whether to talk to her or not
Eventually, propelled by the holiday spirit probably
She said hello, introducing herself politely
After an initial flicker of hesitation the other woman
Replied in a timid voice, that of a woman
Who had, by life’s vagaries, been badly shaken
Soon they were talking long after dinner was done
Her horrific story she recounted without emotion
Maybe the holidays worked their charm somehow
They felt better than their circumstances would allow
And slept in the shelter soundly that night
The demons of their pasts did not give them fright

Over the next month both of them were there
For each other as they navigated their way everywhere
Looking for food, lodging and employment
They helped each other deal with the resentment
That they had towards life, healing they found
In their friendship they found comfort profound
They struggled some more, but in the end
Broken pieces of life were on the mend
Work they found, basic needs were met
To lead normal lives, both had to sweat

Twenty years later with families of their own
They still think about that night each felt alone
What happened thereafter they gladly give credit
To the magic of the holidays, that had made them sit
Next to each other for dinner that fateful night
That led to everything turning out right
And over the holidays you would hear them say
“We promise you good things are coming your way!”

The Writer

dsc07049In a world that often did not make sense

In a society plagued by pomp and pretense

She felt like an outsider, never could blend in

Always blurting the blunt truth, she could not win

Friends around her, so she became a recluse

The more she withdrew, the stronger was her excuse

To keep away from  company unless required

A distant, cold aura she gradually acquired

**

Away from the chatter of human interaction

Thoughts in her mind began to take action

Shaping themselves into words she penned down

Furiously, her forehead wrinkled in a frown

She created a protagonist no different from her

In being direct and truthful, they were similar

Her character walked through her life unconcerned

About others’ opinions, living life on her terms

She made the phrase “calling a spade a spade”

Seem almost glamorous, as her escapades made

For a very interesting reading, I would say

This lead character was quirky in an endearing way.

**

I’m not alone in my opinion, let me make that clear

When her book was published, it became that year

The book to lead all major lists- critics raved

About the quirky way in which the heroine behaved

The author became a celebrity overnight

This time she was able to say what she thought right

And no one objected, dazzled as they were

By her brilliant book and her character singular

People jostled for her attention, tried to befriend

Her now that she was famous, tried to extend

Their hospitality, which she graciously accepted

Marveling at the irony- she had not suspected

The quality that had alienated her from others 

Would be desirable in her fictitious character!

Publishers and readers were clamoring for more

Stories featuring the protagonist they now adored..

**

She continued to write, but would say this often

She still did not understand most women and men

Who, in their preferences, appeared quite capricious

Inexplicable to her, they liked a character fictitious

So she made her character the instrument 

To voice her thoughts and her sentiments

Her heroine her alter-ego became

She lived life vicariously under her character’s name!