Month: August 2014

December 15

I recall them as
Good old times
when we danced
all the way from the church
to the garden beyond
when it was only a crashed wedding
remember?
the crazy country music
and shoe-taps,
the fountain that oozed chocolate
and you jumped in
while we laughed
you thought you were funny,
when you really looked pathetic.
Remember all the colors
of happiness?
the blues and greens
and yellows and rainbows
and umbrellas and balloons
when it wasn’t even raining?
and how they made the bonfire later
so we could pretend
it was a beach
when it really was
a freezing winter night.
they lost jackets
my dress malfunctioned
so I shivered the whole time
and you–
you kept smiling
As you always do.

Never talked

’cause it didn’t matter.

When the sun

set low

and the clouds

sailed slow,

the winds that carried 

with them–old leaves and

twigs away,

brown, stiff and cackling.

They spoke the language

that I never could.

So it didn’t matter

whether you could hear me

or the weather.

We were,

as it reflected

trying to speak the same 

language.

You knew

and understood

and it didn’t matter.

 

She wondered

On an empty, cloudless summer night

Why was it happening now

Just when she had

Decided to forget.

The children’s book read

A silly old story

Which had neither been silly

Nor old

When it was her.

The movie she last watched

When it rained

They grew up together

until it faded away

And now this book

That she had fallen in love with.

A Sigh.

Pause.

Were they signs?

She tried to waiver

Saying, the timing was horrible

But when truth 

Keeps hitting you

in face, she had heard

You needed to listen.

 

servants of the goddess – Book Review

Imagine being dedicated to a temple at the age of 6 years and wearing a beaded necklace for the rest of your life. Imagine being paraded in a procession of singing men and women on a high slab with nothing on your body except Neem leaves as soon as you hit puberty and being ‘deflowered’ when you don’t even know the reality of what just happened to41BBnHtsPmL._SL500_AA300_ you. Imagine being a mother of two at the age of fifteen (or even less). Imagine never being able to marry because ‘you’re attached to the temple for the holy duty you have been assigned’. Imagine a life of forced a sex worker, of poverty, of never being able to provide for your kids. And imagine all this while being (called) an ‘untouchable’.

 

Servants of the goddess is Catherine Rubin Kermorgant’s debut book which came out in February 2014, describes the lives and sufferings of modern devadasis in a small village in India.

Kermorgant after researching at Paris about the life of Devadasis, sets out for a small village Kalyana in India in order to learn more about truths and myths regarding the Devadasi system in India after which she is planning to make a film (documentary) sponsored by BBC. Soon (along with her interpreter Vani) Catherine learns about the heart wrenching tales of Devadasis, their stories of being dedicated by their families against their will or simply when they did not even have any knowledge of why they were being ‘beaded’ at a certain age.

Etymologically, deva-dasis are courtesans or dancing girls attached to temples, however the public more or less calls them prostitutes as they are bound by this profession to grand such favors to the visitors to the temple (or anyone else for that matter) in return for money. And hence it becomes a thread of survival for them. These Devadasis are mostly untouchables dedicated to the temple at very young age (mostly before puberty) by their family and live their whole life providing sexual services in the name of religion.

The more Catherine comes closer to Devadasis of Kalyana, the more she realizes the misery of these women: poverty, kids at a very young age, never being able to marry—they can take a ‘Jhoolva husband’ who may or may not decide to leave them after actually getting married—rather, earning money to support their whole family—even bearing the responsibility of marrying off their brothers. Hence, it hardly comes as a surprise to Catherine when she learns that Devadasis mostly die young—in their fifties at maximum—by either committing suicide or living their latter part of lives as alcoholics or falling in severe depression.

The book is divided into three parts: the first part discloses Catherine’s field research where she develops life long bonds of friendship and love with the devadasis of Kalyana, reassuring them that she would tell share story to the world of their oppression and destitution. The second part of the book portrays her journey back to Kalyana along with her film team and the Co-director Dillip—a pretentious high caste Brahman Hindu who is of opinion that Devadasi system is more of an old Indian cultural tradition than exploitation of poor women and is thus adamant on emphasizing upon the pros of the system such as financial stability etc.—all set to document the lives of young Devadasis in the hope that it might bring a positive change in their lives by being noticed internationally.

The second part of the book pours light on the caste and class differences where Catherine experiences firsthand the treatment of low caste—untouchables—by the high caste film crew. It is almost astonishing for the author to witness such cruel treatment of one human being by another just because one was born in a less fortunate household than the other.

The last part of the book I think is basically why Catherine decided to write a book in the first place. Although the devadasis had been filmed for weeks in their village and made to tell their woeful stories in front of strangers for all they knew, Catherine’s Co-director Dillip was resolute on showing Devadasis in the light of nothing but a glamorous culture of Hindu religion.

Whether Catherine wins her battle of truthfully depicting the lives of Devadasis or Dillip succeeds in manipulating the Producer in changing the whole story of the film, one has to read the book to know the full story. The author has nevertheless kept the reader fascinated and captivated throughout the book—one laughs when the girls of goddess laugh, and cries at the injustices that engulf their daily lives.

 

PS: Special thanks to Goodreads for sending me a copy of Servants of the goddess and Catherine Rubin Kermorgant who sent a lovely handwritten note along with the book.

 

 

False hope

False pretenses

Of moving away

When you existed right here,

long distances

Or the time, does it matter?

Old photographs when we were a team

It didn’t matter whether lost or won

I don’t even remember.

Yes, though I remember candies and school uniforms

And sunny days and dry nights

Windy and dusty,

Always the same, that they made me forget the how the time flew.

Remember peeking from windows?

Or running after children in the evenings

While birds would chirp and trees would swing,

Until they lost their home, their only safe haven?

But then it was only chaos and abyss

Until I tried to figure out what missed

Winters and rain

Would come as they did

You were forgotten and not yet

‘Cause you had your part

to play years later

when we were to be

fresh and new with perspective.

Hurt gone, injuries healed, wounds filled,

But you had to come

to melt a heart and dig the wounds anew.

Defeated

I’ve never been good with words. I always have to struggle with them. Think of a perfect word before uttering it. I marvel at people who are good with words. All these writers baffle me. They always remind me flowing rivers, never submitting to obstacles that come in their way, taking away everything that comes in their way, molding it as it comes.

And yet I choose to write. It’s probably because I have always been the one with overwhelming emotions. Emotions that are hard to control, emotions that are so overpowering sometimes that if I don’t get them out, I feel they would burst out of me. Anger, love, possessiveness, grief, disgust, joy—and yet I’ve learnt all these years never to express my emotions at full. People are never honest at receiving them. And my honesty has never benefited me, which is why I have learned the hard way and I’ve chosen to write. Thus my writings are mostly about situations which are trying to portray an emotion—or at least I try to depict them that way.

As humans we are always trying to find easy solutions to our problems. We take shortcuts, fail, take another wrong cut until we finally find a safe route, a route in the right direction. It wasn’t until very late when I found out that I could maneuver my way to writing when I couldn’t cope with my emotions. And it was even later when I could muster courage to show people what I had written. Until then I was an anonymous nameless person who would write on old papers, hidden diaries and anonymous blogs. I remember the time I had to deliberate for days before I gathered courage to show my writings to my friends and ask for their opinion. Gladly, they liked them which paved a way for my publishing a blog (this time with my name). Later, I began voicing my opinion through my writings whenever I felt angry or happy or filled with disgust. But I always kept underestimating myself even when I was offered editorial posts for my college club magazines and journals. Because I was never at par with how I felt and how it came in writing.

I’ve never been proud of myself, for I know there are times (almost always) when I begin writing inspired by emotions and then put the full stop at the end of the last word, I am looking at something which did not expect it would come out to be. It shatters me every time when I disappoint myself, promising I would try to do better so that I keep going. Other times I leave things in between.   

It’s like trying to defeat an opponent for a long time, but the opponent wins each time. And guess what? You’re your only opponent.   

 

 

 

 

Her Story

The fountain pen dropped. With it spread all of its black ink on the floor that she had filled only minutes before. Perhaps its nib had broken too. It had been a gift from an old friend, a mentor, on her twelfth birthday who told her that she would do wonders with this pen.

Only this would have been a dream unfulfilled. Someone else’s.

Only she had been trapped—tricked into believing that she could write.

Though there were times that she had actually written—letters to people, to God, had been published in children magazines and won contests, but it had never mattered to her. For her, only one story mattered. The one she was born with. The one that she carried wherever she went.

She did not even look down at the white floor which had now been stained. Another friend lost, she thought. Another dream shattered.

Her gaze drifted from the notebook to the sky outside the window which showed a streak of white light.

The sun would be out soon. It was 5 am.

Another night of insomnia gone. Another day looking forward to be lived. It had been two years precisely, she recalled. Two years since the nights veiled her, the days depressed her. Two years since her first rejection. ‘No ma’am, we’re looking for something more solid, something more interesting to grab attention.’ She couldn’t tell him but that’s what my life has offered me all those years.

She had remained silent.

She had waited.

No shortcuts. No references. She had walked the long way. Actually she had preferred the pain. The fruit you eat after a hard labor is always sweeter. She remembered his mentor’s words. But the fruit didn’t seem to be coming.

5: 10 am. The sky was almost blue. Clear. Crystal. The two-day continuous rain had washed away all the dirt, drained all the filth with it. But she was not impressed. It had brought back all the colors too. The greens of leaves, the browns of trunks, the gray of the winding road below. The rains had stopped making sense for her.

Why did the heavens cry? She knew it was never meant for her. But she had yet to find out.  

The first time she had entered the office with her blue notebook, the man hadn’t even looked up at her. He didn’t have time for amateurs.

Then came another rejection and then another.

A woman asked her if she had been published before. She gave her the references. But the woman with the parrot nose and hawk eyes said, You don’t understand dear. Not these little articles in tabloids and magazines. A Solid hardcopy. Yes dear, that’s what I’m talking about. It had been a voice firmly practiced. Gentle but firm. Gentle but lacking the kindness of a humane tone.

 She began detesting the word ‘solid’. Solid plots, solid copies, solid writings, solid publications—but her life had never been considered solid for once.

5: 23 am. The ink had dried by now. There were no signs of rain today. But it had left its signs nevertheless; the cool air hitting her face, the umbrellas still hanging in people’s balconies, the muddy trails in park’s neighborhood and the bugs that had come out of nowhere—the weather had surely changed.

Her story was still unfinished. All her interviewers had wanted a drama, a twist and a climax. But her story had been even and unwavering. Not exactly happy or happening—it had been woeful—but unflattering. Maybe, she thought, maybe it was time to add a climax.  

She picked up the fountain pen with the broken nib from the floor seeped with ink.

Maybe this time, they will have a story with a climax and an ending.     

The clock read 5:29 am in the morning.