I can’t get enough of bookmarks. It does not mean that I have a collection of unique bookmarks. No. It is that I never let an opportunity pass by to pick up one. And bookmarks are not just neat, long pieces specifically designed to rest between a read and an unread page, they could be anything – an old receipt from dry cleaner’s, a used up grocery list, an outdated boarding pass or a baggage tag with priority written over it. Once inserted, they stay as a reminder where the words paused hoping to resume.
Books are my lifelines. And bookmarks are my peaceful respite. The spaces in between my thinking. Some use highlighters to mark the text they love, hate or wish to ponder upon. I use a bookmark instead. I believe in reading the entire context once again that made me ruminate. And sometimes it is the bookmark that carries the weight of its memories. A list of items that were bought on a certain day of a certain year with the name of a server or an attendant, marking my presence in the co-ordinate of time and space with a complete stranger, helping me get things, I wanted, needed. Or it could be a ticket stub of a movie that I disliked and sat through with great difficulty. Or a flight where I met someone interesting, got their visiting card and promised to write but never bothered to even send a hello. My bookmarks have a story of their own and till date, I don’t remember discarding any of them – only moving them around or to the end of the book because I am done with the book but not with the bookmark. Not yet.
The other day, when I was checking out books from the library, the librarian courteously asked – “Would you like a bookmark”?
“Yes,” I said, almost impatiently and picked up another sleek, rectangle.
So how does one speak of love? Where does it appear? How many layers does it cross before it settles in the moment, you endure for years?
Love is.. like breath, connecting moments – it is as definite as the next step knowing that the ground will be always there to hold your weight.
It is the sharing of towels, the sinking mattresses, the snoring that makes you understand the worth of dawn. It is the art of getting old, fighting for book shelves and closet space, hating the look in the mirror but tolerating the feel of each other’s presence. It is friction – like rubbing new tires on road – waiting to settle to that shortest window of breathtaking performance. Of body and mind.
It is to miss each other’s standards – to settle for less and drift apart to realize that it was not foolish to save every little thing – the letters, the flowers, the yearbook picture. It is to miss another with a difficulty of living in one’s disabled body yet blasting off when a toothpaste is left open.
It is to scroll through life, if it’d be different with anyone else and then fervently making love to the same person.
Love is.. that response, you wait all your life to hear loud and clear but let it pass with a silent acknowledgement.
It is a beautiful crisp morning after a long, dry spell of summer. I hold my teacup and brush the patio sofa to watch the beginning of the last dance of nature. Leaves have turned inside out, the dryness has imparted a special glow to them. They will depart soon and rest on the ground. Something else will take their place. It seems like a regular process, what we call circle of life but is it so simple to wave adieu?
I sip the chai, the insides feel covered in a blanket of a warm liquid. The sun slants its rays on my face, illuminating a part of it like a half-moon making me ruminate over life and death; brightness fighting the darkness and illusion masking the reality. I have searched for so many answers sitting here and today everything seems settled, in a steady state as if I no longer have the yearning to know why am I here. The only thing that matters is that I am here, alive in a body, dreaming and holding wonder in the corner of my eyes watching the splendor that is scattered all around me.
One day, I will fall as one of the leaves, buried in dirt, decomposed to nourish the life that has just sprouted. So, do I ever disappear from the cosmos? Perhaps, not. My memories may be erased, my life may remain as a record locked in dusted files, but my existence never ceases. It only changes forms, like different colors of the same rainbow, or pixels on a TV screen fading into a big picture.
With some reluctance, I peep within, once again – to sweep the cobwebs of fear, to untangle knotted relationships and hold hands with the wind to guide me with its graceful randomness. Ahead lies the evening of my life; of aging and many ailments. Of many, cold, lonely nights and few shinning days. Perhaps there is glory even in that. After all, we cannot understand love without pain; we cannot nurture compassion unless we are exhausted of violence.
I close my eyes to bid farewell to the dear ones who departed sometime back, I fill my heart with gratitude to welcome the new additions. The circle of life radiates the constant message of change. Nothing lasts forever. This is my hour, this is my blip. Let me shine as bright as I can.
Orange. Burnt. Brown. Shriveled. And exquisite. It is that time of the year when a bright sun sparkles the gold in fallen leaves and bids farewell before the ambience turns grey. Everything is evolving – the wind, the skies and the trees. The shake of nature spills in plants, half-decayed flowers and bronze-colored grass like jewels on a slim mannequin whispering to the thin air around. I see the lukewarm light bouncing on rooftops; flowing to the glass windows and making its way through the curtains; forming sleek rectangles on my living room floor sending a divine message. Life is unfolding.
Outside, I watch the sky – a million sequins of light stay stitched on the perfumed blue. The jet streams begin with a thick, distinct set of clouds and trail into infinity as if defining our lives progressing on the fabric of time. Nothing begins or ends – nature recycles constantly with the mantra of impermanence knitted into every molecule of its offshoot. Somewhere beneath my thoughts, dusk tip-toes in far-flung ken. In a few minutes, the sky transforms again and the night starts its shift transporting the departed souls to another mysterious realm. I gather the leaves in my eyes and inhale their spicy scent as they await their departure. Transformation begins.
The sentiment of leaves I leave behind echo with our existence. We enter this world alone; we die alone and in between, we become a part of a tree. A tree of relationships, love, loss, beauty and decay. The trajectory of life takes us from inexperience to wisdom – from upright,green saplings to frail, rust colored petals. The petals fall to nourish the earth and while they exit, they color it with all their might. They know that tomorrow will be different without them yet spectacular and unique as today – no matter who takes their place. They stand true and beautiful in death as they had, when alive. Seasons change. Life goes on and they let go.
I draw in the lesson; fill my eyes with their flickering yet majestic presence and say goodbye under my breath. Transcendence brews.
How should I begin? Dear, dearest? You have been a part of me and I have been an atom of your vast fabric. Even after living in another great country of America for so many years, my allegiance to you has been unequivocal. But, today after finding out about the recent tragedy of at least twenty-two children dead in one of your eastern states of Bihar, I am hoping that I can still find reasons to love you unconditionally as I always have.
I have grown up with your limitations; I have learned from the adversity that comes with it. I have learned the significance of a bucket of clean water and I have cherished the availability of twenty-hour electricity after coming to United States. I have felt fortunate that I hail from the land of largest democracy where most religions, cultures, cuisines coexist. I have considered it to be my strength that I bow whenever I pass a church, mosque or a temple emphatically in spite of being a Hindu and that I have learned about all the major religions and their customs as a part of my school curriculum. I think other countries can learn from that. And supporting so many ideas, thoughts, dogmas and gaps between them brings challenges of its own and you are fighting a battle that is long, tiring and often seems unending.
When the newspaper say that Delhi is a rape capital, I feel ashamed for I started my life in that glorious, historic city after my graduation. I have wandered in its nooks and corners which are no longer safe even in broad daylight. When the TV channels show nothing but corruption busts day after day, hour after hour, I find my devotion for you lessening. When innocent, poor kids who come to school in the hope of finding meals and some education – they are greeted by empty sheds and poisonous food instead of teachers. I feel hurt. You are not just all this. You are much more. But for the same reason, as all around the world today, you are finding yourself amidst the greatest obstacles of poverty, over population and greed resulting in corruption of body and soul.
I wonder if it all started for me, because I left. I left in the hope of better life style, better opportunities and much more for myself. I did not think about you. I did not think if staying back was something I should have done. Then, even if I had complained of your deficiencies, I’d be working towards to alleviate them. I’d not be lowering my head, thousands of miles away but doing something about it. However, on the flip side, had I not come here, I’d not have realized many virtues of living – being compassionate for the most of all. I believe it my combined presence there and here that has given me a better understanding of you and what it means to be patriotic. Yet I feel torn today. I often catch myself thinking of your plight and if I should have stayed back to make a difference to at least one life. I would never know.
In the meantime, I can pray for the lost souls and grieving families; I can hope for your glory to come back someday and I can wish that you stay close to my heart as you always have.
On a recent road trip, I realized that there is something esoteric about traveling through small towns, single lanes and sparse traffic signals. A grove of a few trees; an outdated, twisted bill board sign appeared now and then in the desert county of Texas. A tall water tank standing as a solitary watchman amongst a small cluster of houses was all there was. Life looked simple and uninterrupted like a long summer afternoon.
I stopped by a bucolic gas station attached to a convenience store managed by an old couple. They looked busy arranging the shelves, working the register and handing over outdoor restroom keys to travelers like me. I lingered around to observe them while trying to shop. Content without any technology besides a simple cell phone by their side, they called each other often during the ten-minute interval, whispered a few taunts and stayed close under the light hum of country music and smiling silence.
I walked out with a few plastic bags and an overpowering thought. If technology were to die tomorrow, you and I will evaporate as we would not know how to cope with its absence but this old couple will survive blissfully without a single dent on their existence. Their idea of life will remain the same – opening a beer can and sit outside on a plastic arm-chair watching the automobiles buzz by or stare at the television of sky or simply bury their heads into making their living by selling gas, chips and helping people with maps and bathroom urges.
Their lifestyle refreshed me. It reminded me why I take road trips; why I choose to see rural places; why I feel connected to a simpler form of life than the modern, cluttered existence and why I feel so inspired after a vision of happiness in an unexpected place such as this.
It was the day after February 4th. The heavy snowfall from last night was reduced to a faint echo but heaps of white cotton candy were stuck on streets, trees and railings like precocious lovers. There were no bird songs, or a dash of color piercing the air, but the day went down in my memory for its spectacular simplicity of little details sprinkled all over.
A light winter’s minstrel greeted me, when I stepped out with bolted coat, wool stuffed ears and fingers deep-seated within over-sized pockets warming up to my body heat. However, my lingering eyes collected the splendor of monochromatic scenery – wanting to dig the foamy coverings on wooden benches and tracing the tracks of a vehicle far ahead in the mist. The leaves on trees shook slightly, shedding their frozen tears and the asphalt suffocated under the large cushions of snow with footprint scars all over. Everyone looked up, searching and waiting for solace of a mellow, lemon sunshine that seemed light years away.
Under this ceiling of gray, nebulous sky, I walked, hummed and shivered in pieces as my feet sunk and rose in the sand of snow creating a dull, crunching sound of powdered glass. The gelid morning made me hungry for a bonfire, the spicy smell of wood and its rich, warm cinders; the arid, dark lines against the white created a mesh of stinging images; the brisk wind whistled by again sending a message of its powerful, invisible presence – all of them simultaneously energizing and ebbing my mind of something deeper and meaningful.
A slight drizzle started by the time my marathon was about to be over. I longed for the whistle of a tea kettle in my apartment as I let out the smoke and breathed in electricity of whimsical wind – treading faster under a hood that collected a few drops over the tip of my nose, almost solidifying it. It was quite a vision to see the travelers on the road sharing the same longing of warmth – hastening on their way to escape the grim fury of this day.
When I reached my home, I stood still for a moment, letting my mind and body thaw to the colorful surroundings. I started the kettle and pulled the curtains away. The flames on the stove danced and my gaze carved its way beyond the window where dim light lurched on the frosted trees that embraced each other over the snow-clad street as if preserving their heat and comforting each other with crash courses on survival.
As mouthfuls of tea warmed my bones and guts – the jeweled branches, the misty skies and the blanketed roads drowned in the magical hibernation and the depraved and conservative season of winter carried all of us in its lap to a day closer towards a ripe, colorful harbinger of spring.
A random act of kindness – a virtue that unknowingly spills out of us, or at times for us through others. And the arbitrary nature of such actions define who we are and what is it that we truly believe in. While there are many such episodes, I am reminded of a small act of thoughtfulness during one of my husband’s travels.
Due to frequent traveler’s miles, he was upgraded to business class on an international flight to India. After pushing his luggage in the spacious overhead bins, he pulled out his lunch box that his wife had prepared that morning. He stroked it devotedly before placing it in front of him thinking of her effort of getting up early to cook in case he was unable to get something to eat. He has been a vegetarian throughout his life and it often posed a threat of not finding food to his liking in long flights such as these. As a rule of thumb, she prepared meals for all his flights. He was recently diagnosed as diabetic and the food came in handy whenever he was stranded due to uncountable issues related to delays, technical difficulties, weather and everything you can imagine related to a flight.
After a few hours, he woke up as the lunch carts rolled by and whispering menus came at close quarters. As his blurry sight caught up with the variety of fellow travelers, his gaze settled on an old south Indian couple, past the aisle. They smiled as their eyes met. A few moments later, while he was mentioning his choice of meal to the hostess, he caught them anxiously talking to the attendant in broken English, enquiring about their special meals.
“Sorry sir, but we do not have vegetarian meals ordered for you on this flight” the attendant replied in patient but stern voice.
“No meat, no egg, no fish.” They kept repeating, nodding their desperate heads.
“What if I remove the meat from the sandwich and pasta?” The host suggested in a rational tone, expecting them to say yes.
“No, not same. Cannot eat that.” The older man’s helpless tone made the attendant raise his brow in impatience.
“Sorry sir, then I don’t have anything for you; should I get some chips – you should eat something; it is a very long flight.
The couple looked at each other and stayed silent nodding in affirmation for the packets of chips.
Watching their conversation from his seat, he finally intervened.
“The couple is vegetarian, they cannot consume the food which is touched by meat before – it is against their religious beliefs.” He patted the host in an understanding way and suggested him to move forward. “Let me see if I can help them.”
He looked at their faces – part tired, part hungry and part unsure as how they’d go along in a long journey without substantial food.
He lifted his lunch box and offered it to them.
“I am a vegetarian,” he said slowly for them to comprehend. “My wife made this wheat bread and spicy cauliflower this morning. It should be sufficient for you.”
“What about you?” the old man stood up in gratitude.
“I ordered vegetarian meal, but if you had it you may not like it – my home cooked food is more to your taste.” He smiled signalling them to start. The couple looked at each other and accepted his tiffin – holding it like a treasure of jewels – inspecting it carefully.
From the corner of his eyes, while eating the airline food, he watched them devour the food and a small tear of happiness held their reflection throughout his journey.
“It is true,” he whispered to himself – “we are compassionate and kind by design.”
There isn’t much I remember about being thirteen, except a body that was bouncing off my clothes marked with breaking skin disease and a bald head. With nothing to etch my name upon, I studied hard and hesitated to see the mirror in between for my reflection was anything but a sign of boilerplate accommodation in the universe. It was as intimidating as a wrong preposition glued to a sentence, with nowhere else to go. I kept topping the table and avoiding the mirror in the eyes of others. I continued walking and stumbling in the fog of life hoping for things to get better.
At the age of twenty-two, I learned how to apply mascara. It changed the way my eyes flashed, with a playful soul in the center sending out vibrations of love and longing. It was around the same time when I started my first job and spent most of my morning in front of the mirror. Boys were interested in me. I was happy. I was blending in, earning a living and thinking that I can read people. I spent time on myself. I read, I traveled. I became sophisticated – covering my mouth every time I wanted to laugh forcing it to giggles and smiles. Life appeared free and magical yet I had no idea where I was going or even moving.
I was a mother of two at thirty-three, settled in life with car keys in one hand and spatula in another. Mornings, afternoons, evenings got sucked into domesticity and nights became non-existent. I dropped on the couch while watching movies and stayed alert in my dreams. I learned to like myself in sweat pants, overgrown clothes and a constant absence of style. Sweat became my eternal perfume. I was exhausted beyond words, I could not read people anymore, I could not blend in for there was no time and I stayed at home taking care of everything but me. Yet I was satisfied – I laughed aloud and cried hard. The mirror collected dust and the reflection became hazy. I didn’t care if I was moving or not. When I saw myself everyday in the eyes of ones who loved me; I knew I was at the right place at the right time.
Language evolves. The meaning of a word can shift over time as we use it differently — think of “cool,” “heavy,” or even “literally.”
Today, give a word an evolutionary push: give a common word a new meaning, explain it to us, and use it in the title of your post.
At this early in the morning, when my 2-bit CPU alias brain isn’t loaded with coffee, it is hard to get those neurons untangled. By afternoon, when the instructions will properly make way to a printer AKA my five senses – that has been non-functional for hours, I’d have abandoned the daily prompt. So here it is: I choose salad.
The thesaurus lists the literal of salad as:
Since this morning, deprived of coffee or anything that could get me high (my pseudonym for creative), I have decided to use the word salad for living entities or non living things that are easy to digest but lack substance. A suggested, simple usage could be : he is a total salad, or this gadget is nothing but salad. The idea is not to offend anyone openly after referring them to as healthy or a wise choice of food, but making a mental note about their tastelessness. With all the diversity, sexism lingering around, one has to be careful with the lingo. Even gadgets these days have feelings AKA Siri.
Lately, verbiage has turned tricky with so many words flooding from other major languages into English. Moreover, the abbreviated but empty world of text, caricatured emotions and misunderstood convenience has turned English into a complete salad. I yearn for the main course.
OK, it is time to get some coffee before more such words come out.
Claim: I am a vegetarian Hindu female who enjoys salad and is truly a salad when it comes to a lot of things – my 2-bit brain waiting to be upgraded to 16-bit being first on the list.