August 15, 2012

Independence Day!

For many years now, most of them spent in India, this particular day held no importance to me. Which day you might ask. This day, the Fifteenth day of the Eighth month of any year since 1947. August 15, Indian Independence Day. 

If you have ever read post of mine, such as this one (Concept called Country), one might be forgiven for thinking that this is going to be a post deriding this day. However, this is nothing of that sort. 

This morning, when I reached out to turn the alarm off on my phone, and probably would have headed back to sleep, the date caught my eye. There was something in the formation of the numbers which caught my eye. Today, if I were in India, I would not have to wake up early and would have not given it a second thought. 

But, I did give it a second thought. And these are the things that came to my head

I did not have a choice to be born; neither did I get to choose my parents, nor my religion, nor the country. My birth was a fortunate accident. However, once born, I was handed a heritage that I did not get to choose, but have come to embrace. The more I interact with people around the world, the more I realize that whatever I am today, I am because I am an Indian. This could be a variety of things, from the comfort food, to the comfort music, to the fact that I still tear up when I hear MSS croon Nanati Baduku.

This could range from the mundane such as the kind of colors that one prefers their clothes, the amount of spice that one needs before the food is palatable, to the more spiritual like thoughts on what everything actually means. I realize that everything that I am, my country has played a role. It has had a very big influence the person I am today.

It is in the light of this admission that I wanted to touch what Independence Day has begun to mean to me. 

Today is a day I thank people, not the Gandhis or Nehrus, not the Boses or Tilaks. These people did play a big part no less, but then to me personally, a bigger part was played by the common man, the man who went through strife, the man who even when he did no have much clothes to wear, burnt those from Manchester (if he had them on himself). That man, who despite the fact he was tempted with food when hunger was the norm, chose to stay hungry in protest. The man who did not know what freedom actually meant, but was wiling to fight for it. The man who was ready to, and more often than not did, lay down his life in the pursuit of an ideal, which he hoped could change the way his life was played out for him. That ideal was freedom. I might have never seen this man, but I cannot ignore his sacrifices. I thank that faceless man on my Independence Day.

Today I thank the centuries that passed before me, which shaped the identity of every Indian. Be it the epics, the Vedas, the Hindu school of thought, be it the Quran, the Islamic belief system, be it the Bible, the Christian thought, be it the Granth Sahib, the Khalsa, be it Buddhism or the Bodhi Tree, be it the Jains and their naked deity, everything had a part to play. I might have been born Hindu, but by being Indian, I cannot ignore the scores of other religions that reside in me. I might choose not to believe in a God, but cannot ignore the fact that others do with fervor. The fact that i have the freedom to do that, without fear of oppression, or subjugation under a different god one that is not mine, I cannot ignore my Independence Day.

Today I might have savored a thousand different delicacies from different parts of the world, from the pastas and pizzas of Italy, to the sushi of Japan. But I shall have always have a special place in my heart for that simple curd rice, or for a well made dal makhni. The fact that I have the ability to decide what I want to eat and go out there and eat it, makes my every morsel a celebration of my freedom, a celebration of my Independence Day.

Today I pay homage to the Aryabhattas, to the scholars of yore, to  R K Narayans, to the Valmikis, to Vyaasas, to the Bharathis, to the Kabirs, and in fact to the British. I thank all those who used to write their thoughts for giving me a bedrock, a foundation upon which I spin my tales. I thank the British, for giving me a language to express myself in. Even though I will never forgive myself for not being able to write in my own native language, but I still have the freedom to express my views in speech or thought. My every word is a homage to that freedom, on my Independence Day

Today as I walk around in a foreign city, a different country, I am tempted to rech out and grab every Indian on the street and shake him out of a slumber. I wish to yell into people's ears, today I am free, as my country has been for 65 years. I am not perfect, but I am me and it feels damn good to be me. 

My country is but an extension of me. It is nowhere close to being perfect, but it is mine. As much as it is yours.

Even though my views on a country and what it should constitute have not changed, the last few years have shown me what is independence, what is freedom. Something about not being in India has made me value it more, treasure it more. Something about not being in India has made being Indian a matter of pride. 

It is to that pride I pay respects on my Independence Day.

October 21, 2011

I have not forgotten

The memory of a touch
A kiss and a hug

That were shared
And ones
That were not

Things go by
Times passes
Lives move on
Memories, they stay

Mine are absent
Despite the presence
Mine are present
Despite the absence

I promise, I remember
Those distant memories
Before I have had them
Before I will.

I promise to remember
Those distant memories
Ones that I have had
Before I remember.

I have not forgotten
What I don’t remember

October 20, 2011

Looking Glass

I stare long and hard
Into his eyes,
The eyes of one who looks like me
For something has set him free.

In the depth of his eyes,
I see a faint resemblance,
Resemblance of who I am
But far from who I could be.

In front of the looking glass,
I stand and stare,
There is something similar,
But I am looking at the difference.

It is obvious, I say
Despite the obvious
You are not I,
For I am not you.

He smiles at me,
With a grin,
His life is different,
As is he.

He took a path
One that was closed to me
A different man, a different place
Yet the same man, me.

Look deep into the mirror
Why do I see what can be
From this side of the mirror
Where I see what is?

In to the looking glass,
I look at lives,
Ones I did not live, I could not
For they are not mine.

I stand here, here and now,
And I am now sure,
I have this, here on this side
Of the looking glass.

October 2, 2011


I sit there,
With a thousand thoughts
That run through my head;
Seamless, one dovetailing into another.

Pic from here 
They scream into my head,
Asking for deliverance
“Let us out”, they shout
“Give us a voice”.

“We deserve to be heard
We are real, as real as you are
We are not to be held captive,
But to be let free on the world.”

They range from the mundane,
To the irrational.
From the deep
To the perverse.

They are formless,
Yet, they carry weight,
They belong to me,
Yet, they are not mine.

I open my mouth,
To lend them my voice,
Nothing comes out,
Nothing but silence. 

June 22, 2011


I am shrouded,
Some say in mystery,
Some say in suppression,
I say in belief.
Belief in something
That I can never understand,
That lies beyond me
Something I believe in.

My face is a key,
To my emotions,
To my expressions and
To my beliefs.
They are there,
Emotions expressions and belief,
I show them, in my voice
In my eyes, in my life.

I do not mind
The anonymity,
The exclusivity
Or the concealment.
I do not say
What you can bare
So please do not dare
To me what I can cover.

I remain shrouded,
Watching behind my veil,
Just as you watch
From behind yours.
My veil is real,
I am true,
Your veil is invisible
Are you?

Inspiration - Dhobi Ghat

April 22, 2010

Travels with Tasha

Not a soul in sight,
I walk on alone,
All my earthly belongings,
Packed in the suitcase
Trailing behind me.

I have eaten for today,
Food for free
From under the bridge,
Sandwiches and cookies,
A meal for a king,
Well, at least an dying old king.

It is getting colder, the night is here,
I am searching for warmth,
In a room or from people, I know not.

The police, they do not scare me,
Just be a toy soldier,
I have learnt,
"Yes Sir, No Sir, Sorry Sir",
Is all you have to say,
They are human after all,
They let you go in the end.

I wanted to travel,
See the world, with my pet, my dog,
My Tasha.
This shall one day be a book,
Not the full book, for Tasha is gone,
Just the first few chapters,
My travels with Tasha.

Who needs money, when you have a life,
Who needs a life, when you have no money?
A few hours here,
And a few there,
A social helper there,
A random kind stranger here.

Just for that one kind word,
I walk on alone
Not a soul in sight
And all my earthly belongings
Packing in the suitcase
Trailing behind me.


P.S. The words of the old woman outside the library tonight

March 25, 2010

Her tear

Clap, a streak,
Of white in complete black.
But for a second, she stays,
All illuminating streak
Purity, in all her energy,
Dissipated in a moment in
Her thousand arms,
She takes a path
From heaven above
To the earth below.

She seems to search
For something she lost
Each arm of hers
Searching in places unknown
For the love she lost.
“My love,
Banished from heaven,
For the sin of loving me.
Is he somewhere here,
Or is he there?
Oh, I have to go back
To my father in heaven,
Won’t you take me to him?”

Sooner than soon
She is gone,
Leaving her tears behind,
Her tears that will soothe
The very burns she caused
She burns the air
Around her, singeing
No mark left of her
To show that she was here.
Just the memory of her path
Of her pain
Infringed on his eye.
Just a memory of her tear
On the palm of his hand.

My lady with a saxophone

She stands there
A part of an ensemble,
A lot of four,
A violin and a keyboard
A drum set and a singer.
A saxophone,
Held up nervously,
Unsure fingers on unsure keys.
“My first concert,”
She thinks
With a wry smile
Lost to the audience.
The light does not dim,
For this is no theater,
There is no gentle applause
A prologue to the event.
Their stage is meager,
A roadside corner,
Their audience sparse,
Me and the walker-bys.
For a moment,
her worlds stops
As the sax moves to her lips,
In slow motion
Her movement
Like a guided waterfall. First a note – a drop
Followed by a trickle
Then a torrent,
I cannot see the notes,
Yet I am blinded by the music.
Soon she is done,
They pack and move.
I am left standing there
Still listening to
My lady with a sax.


March 1, 2010

The Snow and the Night

She calls out into the darkness,
There is no answer,
He remains silent.
She pleads with him,
Implores him to say a word,
He is still dark, still silent.
She covers everything in white,
To make him show himself,
A final bid in her efforts
For just a brief sighting of his face.
There is nothing to see,
No one is out there in the dark.
Her white turns to tears,
A stream that threaten
To overrun the world,

"Your silence melts me," she begs
"Show me yourself,
Just once, So I can go away,"
She pleads.

He then smiles,
A loud smile, so loud,
That it deafens her.
In that moment, her final moment
She hears him say
"I am everywhere,
You have come into me
And yet search for me?
You say you are lost,
But you are lost in me,
I am the night, the darkness,
I am everywhere."


Pic: courtesy

February 21, 2010

Silent Night

Standing on a barge,
The world dancing away to
Loud music below and
Louder people below.
Me, at the bow, alone
A beer in one hand,
A cigarette in the other.
We gently float down
The mighty Hoogly,
Creator, protector, destroyer.
Today she is meek,
As silent as the night I am in,
More silent than the moon above me.

The light from the Howrah
Plays gently on the waters,
As we move under the bridge,
Quiet she stands,
For the day is done
And all are home.
The barge turns
Towards Vidyasagar Setu
And she is quite too,
Silent witness to the deed.
I turn to the shore,
Once so closely tethered
By the might of a slight rope.
Now far away
From the barge, now ebbing along
With the ebbing waters.
The Hoogly is pure,
She is kind,
The barge is cruel, the beer warm.
A flick of my wrists,
The cigarette dies in the waters,
Followed by the empty beer bottle.
Kind as she is, Hoogly accepts all,
Everyone in her fold,
Everyone to the sea.
A moment's thought,
Fleeting, nevertheless,
Would she be kind,
To deliver me, to deliver to me
To accept me as she did my things?
Silent, she remains,
As silent as the night I am in,
More Silent than the moon above me.


P.S. I unearthed this piece from within my mailbox. Still in love with the river and the city.