Thursday, December 24, 2009

home no more

little cottage on the hill
lime washed walls, timber frame
holds a million memories

only memories.
father’s gone to sleep
beside mother under stars.
children have flown away.

the pine tree is cut down
the poinsettia too,
red geranium, gladioli and dahlia
they all died, one by one.

and though it’s christmas time
we’re not going home
there’ll be no christmas tree
for home is home no more.

when spring comes
wild daisies may bloom again
but we won’t be going home
home is home no more.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

mother's revenge

i broke your heart
i made you cry.

was that why
you didn’t say goodbye
before leaving?

if buckets of tears
could compensate—
but it’s too late.

and now i walk
the path you walked.

if you had wanted revenge
just to let me know
how it hurts
you have it.

it’s my turn to cry, mother.

Friday, October 16, 2009

roadside roses

roses, lovely roses—
pink like babies’ cheeks
yellow like morning sunbeam
dark red like lovers’ heart blood;

five rupees a piece—
beauty for money
joy you can buy
on the roadside.

grubby tattered children
worn out women with rough hands
peddle roses, lovely roses.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

rolling stone

a rolling stone, i
gather no moss,
only coloured gravel —
some drab, some dark, and
few bright gems.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Remembering my mother

My mother passed on many years ago. She left in the wee hours of 19th. August, while i was on way to see her. The combination of bad road, vehicle breakdown and our Mizo custom worked together to deny me the sight of her body. Perhaps because of this, i can never picture her as ‘dead’.

And she is very much alive in my mind. She lived just for 54 years, and had to bear much physical suffering and heartaches. My biggest regret is that i didn’t do more for her, didn’t try harder to ease her pains.

My mother has given me a heritage beyond evaluation. I still miss her acutely, but rejoice that she was there to bring me up.

Some old pics here: 1) Parents, kid sis & me (big girl)
2) My mum with my baby

Sunday, August 9, 2009

co commuter

every work-day morning
she’s there
in the eight thirty three local
ladies’ first class compartment

sometimes we sit side by side
chugging along together
but our lives never touch—
not even by a glance
or a flicker of a smile

she slumps down on a seat
eyes closed
wakes up just as we pull in
at dahisar station

we get down together
cross the subway
then she turns right
and i turn left
never acknowledging
each other’s existence.

what else?
this is mumbai yaar.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Working from home?

(Why i took up a job again)

Working from home sure got advantages, at least in theory. You can keep your own time. No hassle of dressing and going out. No worry about traffic snarls and jams. No boss breathing down your neck.

I had been working at home for years. Now the kids are grown i thought i’d start working from home. What’s the difference, you might ask. Well, a woman working at home is called a housewife or, ‘home maker’ by some folks who feel bad to call a spade a spade. In other words, when the home is your work, you’re working at home. But when you’re working from home, you could be a doctor, architect, whatever.

Having had enough of housewifery or homemakery, i dub myself Freelance Writer and start tapping on the keyboard whenever i can. Today, the family’s all gone out and i have the house and the PC all to myself. Great!

But soon as i sit down, there comes a loud cry from the washing machine. Someone had loaded laundry and left. The machine, (bought at a discount sale) often gives these distress calls when left alone with the washing. I rush to help.

Then the phone rings. “Mamma, i left a number on a piece of paper somewhere on the dining table. Please find it and call me,” said my daughter.

After doing that, i just manage to type a couple of sentences when the phone rings again. It’s my husband this time. “There’s a file called ‘corrections’. Find it and mail it to me. It may be on the desk top or in E drive or....” I search all over, among lots of folders and files. I find it at last and mail it.

Another call. It’s now my son’s turn. “What was the name of that Titan in Greek myth who gave fire to humans?”
“I don’t remember.”
“The gods punished him for it. They tied him to a rock and....”
“I need it for my debate. Please find the name and call me back.”

No question of I-search on a slow dialup connection with constant worry about phone bills. So i think hard, and remember we had a book of Greek myths somewhere. I try the bookcase where books are shoved in and piled up anyhow. Searching for a book in our bookshelf is like the proverbial search for a needle in a haystack. I proceed to turn the cabinet inside out. I find it after a long search and call up my son.

The doorbell rings now. The moment i open, a sales girl rattles off “Madam, beauty care instruments for ladies, for removing unwanted hair...” demonstrating a battery run razor.
“I don’t use such things”, i tell her.
“Just try it, madam; for shaving eyebrow.”
“My eyebrow doesn’t need shaving.”
“Or armpit.”
“I don’t want to shave my armpit, thank you.”
“Or you can give it as present to someone.”
After about twenty minutes of point counter point, i buy the razor i’m never going to use.

Just as she leaves, there comes a signal from the washing machine; washing done. I lug the clothes up the stairs to the terrace and hang them one by one. So many small pieces—socks, hankies, etc. It takes a long time.

The moment i sit down again, the doorbell clangs once more. A young man flashes his card saying “I’m from the gas agency, i’ve come to check...”
“No need. They’re all right.”
“Better check, madam, there’s danger of cylinder burst”, he insists.
He manages to scare me enough to let him step into my kitchen. He lights a match and holds it under the stove knobs, smells the pipe, peers at the regulator, and so on. Then he takes out a new tube, a cleaning kit and other knick-knacks and tries to sell them. But i had no money, having given all the cash at hand to the sale girl.

He leaves reluctantly. I go back to typing.
The phone. “How do you pronounce c-h-a-r-a-d-e?” my daughter asks. I tell her how i pronounce it.
“See the pronouncing dictionary. I’m arguing with my friends.”
Once more, i turn the bookcase inside out. I pull out Daniel Jones after a patient search, and call back my daughter.

I sit down before the comp again, now wondering what on earth i was trying to put down. I sit staring at the screen, but all ideas have flown away. And it’s getting late. Time to start cooking.

Working from home is not working out for me.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A break and a haircut

Those are pics from a campus where we spent a few days in Bangalore last week. Must be familiar to many.
Rather frayed by the stress and strain of daily work, hubby and i were glad to get a chance for a short break. We didn’t go to some exotic resort or tourist destination. We just headed for Bangalore, where our family of four lived together for two years after staying apart for many years. Perhaps because of this, i sort of consider the city as ‘home’ though we don’t own an inch of a place there.

Actually, the break came because we had a small work to be done. Then we thought we’d stretch it to a few days for rest and meeting friends. Both our bosses granted us leave, so we took the 24 hours train ride. It’s quite a treat for the eye and mind to look out the window and watch the scenery. For this purpose, i deliberately desisted from packing books except the Bibles and Daily Bread. Hubby did take a book and slept for hours with it on his chest!

Landing in B’lore was a bit of a desolate feeling as our children had left town and gone far away. We put up at a guesthouse to avoid disturbing relatives and friends, though some of them were quite open to accommodate us. They called us for meals all the same. The five day stay was a happy, refreshing time of catching up with dear ones, of relaxing, meditating, conversing and taking long walks.

One family member had reminded me to have a haircut in Bangalore. (Why in Bangalore, is a long story). So i went to the Chinese parlour. Just before my turn, a white haired lady of about 80 had her haircut, short and neat. I asked the hairdresser to cut mine too like hers. She couldn’t quite believe me.
“Are you serious? Do you really want it like that?” she asked.
“Of course,” I replied. “And please make it as short as you can, because it’ll be a long time before i come back for the next cut.”

When i went back to work after returning, my colleagues’ re-actions to my haircut were interesting. Pradeep said, “Your new hairstyle looks nice.” Sharmila remarked, “It’s a bit too short. It doesn’t look good.” And when Priya saw me, she exclaimed “Oh, my goodness!!”

Sunday, June 28, 2009


The news of Michael Jackson’s death did not affect me much. Of course it’s sad he died, it’s sad when anyone dies. Well he was great, i suppose. He had it, he definitely had it. World famous. An icon. A king in his own right. They said he had it all—talent, grace, professionalism and dedication. A great success since childhood and into middle age. No one could undermine that. He had taken the world by storm. In his heyday, the late nineties, it was almost impossible to watch a news channel without seeing him. He was omnipresent in the media world.

But i just wasn’t one of his fans. When i first heard him singing ‘Bad’—here i’m not denying his skill—it just irritated me. I simply didn’t like his voice or his stuff, never really watched him dance. Perhaps that’s why i didn’t feel anything as such when he died, for all his name, fame and following.

On the same day that the king of pop died, an 84 year old woman died quietly of cancer in a corner of Mumbai. This death affects me more, much more. She’s neither my relative nor my friend. I had not talked to her even once, though i once saw her at a function.

Neera Desai, whom my boss affectionately calls ‘Neeraben’ was a person who did her bit to uplift the downtrodden and underprivileged. She was a pioneer of women’s studies in India. She had set up the country’s first research centre for women’s studies at SNDT Women’s University and wrote several books on women’s issues. She was especially concerned about dalit and tribal women.

I’m going to miss ND more than MJ, although he and i share the same initials!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

flute player

at the station
sweltering heat
milling crowd
engines roaring
loudspeakers blaring.

a soft sweet sound
bringing to mind
cool mountain breezes
green pine forests
rippling brooks
youthful dreams.

i searched
wading in the crowd
and found him
stark blind
gray haired
creased care worn face
a rupee coin in a bowl
making music
on a flute

tears stung my eyes.
does one who gives such delight
get so little?

i gave him a note
and listened on
dreaming of
grassy hillsides
singing winds
dancing streams
and happier times.

Monday, June 1, 2009

at andheri

shoulder to shoulder
bumper to bumper
bodies jammed
inch crawl
slug rush
rush rush slug
the train! the train!

masses of flesh
wriggle squirm
hurry burry
hurry scurry
scurry scurry
oh the train!

masses masses
no faces
yeh hai mumbai
meri jaan!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

life journey

our life’s journey
is a forward move
never we retrace our steps
never we visit
the same place twice.

though the path may wind
even to loops
within view of where we’ve been
we don’t set foot again
where we did before.

we move on, move on
not pausing, not relenting,

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Ah, books!

I belong to the generation that grew up before TVs were quite accessible in our country. Those days, we got most of our info-tainment from reading. There were occasional excursions to the cinema hall too, but these were very rare treats. So the great rage was comic books and novels, circulated widely among friends and strangers.

Nothing could compare to the pleasure of reading ‘School girl’, ‘Western’ and ‘Classic’ comics on the way back from school. Parents frowned upon reading anything other than school lessons, so it had to be done when they couldn’t see you. Novels had to be hidden under pillows and read on the sly. Oh, the half guilty thrill one got out of Ivanhoe and The Black Arrow at age 14! Such magical experiences!

When my daughter was six and in class one, she asked, “After finishing school, do we have to go to college?”

“What else do you want to do?” i counter questioned.

“Stay home and read stories,” she replied.

I do connect with the sentiment.

Once you enter adulthood with all its responsibilities, finding time to read becomes harder than ever. Several weeks ago, after dithering a long time, i picked up Shantaram. I’ve reached only half of it till now.

When it takes so long to read it, how much time and energy it would take to write! No wonder the author spent thirteen long years at it.

My little book has come out at last. It has only 189 pages with the photos and all. But it took me nearly a year to finish. It often felt like hard work as i tapped on the keyboard at midnight, bleary eyed, after a full day at office. And i’m glad, so glad, that it’s ready for reading now.

It’s published by GLS Publishing, Udyog Bhavan, 250-D, Worli Colony, Mumbai 400 030, india. They can be contacted by e-mail: or by phone: 022 2493 0116/6662 7243.
Here’s it’s cover picture.

Friday, April 17, 2009

My funny friends

La tops the list, easily. When computers started becoming popular in our Northeast region, she took to it with gusto. Later, when i got my own machine, La would e-mail me frequently. But, believe it or not, that also increased the frequency of phone calls! “Check your mail, i just sent you one,” she’d say over the phone. And then in a long conversation, narrate all that she wrote.

La’s response to most suggestions is ‘Why not?’ “Come, let’s go swimming,” she invited me one day. “No, you’ll float like a fairy and i’ll sink like a stone,” i replied. “Why not?” she quipped.

And when her husband bought a new car, she kept the older car. “Next time you come to Shillong, i’ll take you out in the car. I’ve learned to drive,” she promised. But added, “i can drive only forward, i haven’t learnt to go backward yet.” She daily drives to work moving only forward.

Pooja is another one. She gave us direction to the new office in Dahisar when we were shifting from Andheri. She drew on a paper as she explained. “Get down at Dahisar station, come out on the west, cross to the east through the subway, walk towards the left and at the forking take the right,” she told us. “And keep going, keep going (jaate raho, jaate raho). When you see a restaurant on the right, ask for Patel Apartment. They’ll show you the direction. Aur jaate raho, jaate raho…”

By this time we were quite put off. We had been told the office was close to the station and this endless jaate raho was becoming discouraging. “It sounds very far!” some of us exclaimed. “Not far, only five minutes,” she assured us. And then continued, “After some time, you will see a bank. Ask around there, and they’ll say ‘aur aage jaao.’ Go on, jaate raho, jaate raho….”

When would we ever reach? The walk felt like at least half an hour from her description. But it’s actually about eight minutes at a normal stride.

Of late, the office computers have been having problems. Pooja thinks she can coax her machine to behave by sweet-talking it. She would press the start button, do a namaste to the monitor calling it sweet names like “mere bhaya, mere lal.” It works sometimes!

Manik, another colleague, is a shy, quiet guy. But i’ve learnt about his secret passion: living creatures, especially those that home in water. The other day he showed me pictures of his new beautiful acquisition—a dragon fish from china. What i find funny about this friend is, he always refers to each fish as ‘he’, never ‘it’. Can’t blame him, though, the creatures are so close to his heart.

I too confided to him that i christened my computers. Now, some people think that funny! The moral: When you think others funny, remember that others may think you funny too!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Who is Dr. Lizette D'Souza?

‘Who is Dr. Lizette D’Souza?’ is one of the questions on Wiki Answers. Well, she is a scientist working in NIO (National Institute of Oceanography), Dona Paula, Goa. She heads the Bio-organic Chemistry group that conducts research on drug development. A colleague and i went to interview her on 25th March.

Despite our former President Dr. Kalam’s reputation, i always pictured scientists as made mostly of brain cells. Reading stories (mostly fictional) of crazy science professors conducting weird experiments doesn’t help in dispelling the image either. So it was with some awe and apprehension that i went to meet Dr. Lizette. But after spending a couple of hours with her, that idea has taken an about turn.

Though she certainly is brainy and has scientific achievements to her credit, she is very human. Like any of us, she has her struggles. Career, home, and other responsibilities bug her too. She daily travels 30 Kms to work and back. She had to bring up two daughters. She managed without a full time maid.

How did she overcome the great challenges? She has a truly supportive husband. He too was a scientist working in the same Institute. But when their children were born, he resigned and started his own business near home, so he could be close to the children. He’s a great cook too. He encouraged his wife to continue with her work. A great man, don’t you think?

Because in our country, it’s the woman who’s always expected to make sacrifices. To leave her job. To see to the home. Do all the house chores. It would seem that a majority of men think that their wives live to serve them. Not the other way round. But there are rare, refreshing exceptions. It’s good to see some husbands (mine included), working to bring out the best in their wives.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

the hills are calling

it’s spring
the hills are calling;
tender new leaves on trees
peach blossom
plum flowers
they are calling, calling.

it’s spring
the sky is blue
winter clouds have sailed away
the breeze soothes, not bite,
they are calling, calling.

it’s spring
sparrows are nesting
the cuckoo calls
from his green hiding place
wind music in pine woods
they are calling, calling.

it’s spring
my heart flies to the hills
on wind’s wing
it dances
to pine music
cuckoo’s song
for the hills are calling, calling.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Prescriptive note

Poetry should be lean,
rippling with muscle;
not flabby, or squelchy like
gutter mud.
Poetry should be clean,
hard and bright, like
polished diamond;
shaped of sifted words,
purged of dross, like
refined gold.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A memorable trip

These days i’m sooo longing to see Mizoram again. It’s been a long while since i last went there, back in May, 2004. I was on a visit after having lived outside for many years. That day we were travelling in a Sumo from Lunglei to Aizawl. The jeep which usually takes eight passengers had only five. It wasn’t a lucky day for the young man who owned the vehicle he drove.

Zartea, the owner driver, greeted us all cheerfully. One unusual thing about him was that he neither smoked nor chewed beetle nut-and-leaves, both common habits among drivers.

And when we stopped for tea and snacks around noon at Serchhip, he insisted on paying for all. “All the bills are on me,” he announced. We protested and tried to pay, but the stall owner wouldn’t take our money as Zartea had told her he was going to pay for all his passengers. When we asked him why, he laughingly replied that since we were so few he wanted to treat us well.

In the evening, when we reached Zemabawk, some policemen stopped our vehicle and asked the non-Mizo passengers where they were going. One of them said he was getting down at Bawngkawn. The other one kept silent. The police must have assumed both were getting down together. We moved on.

A little later, a shop keeper told us that there was a riot in the town and we had better hide the non-Mizo guy who was in the front seat. A local girl had been murdered and the suspect was a man from Bihar. Angry miscreants had beaten up some outsiders. All of us became greatly concerned for our co-passenger’s safety. We were nervous and everyone became quiet, including the driver who had been chatting and joking most of the way.

Inside Aizawl, shops were closed and traffic was thin. Police vehicles were patrolling the streets. We asked a policeman whether they could conduct the non-Mizo passenger to Kulikawn, his destination. They agreed and took him in their jeep. Then the joking and laughing re-started.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Happy 2009!

Happy New Year to you all!

Whew! The last few months have been quite crazy. Work, housework, and trying to finish the first draft of a small book. It’s a spiritual biography of a guy from Rajasthan. Done at last! I can get some sleep now, yipee! Couldn’t celebrate Christmas or New Year, i was working away like a clock. Even forgot our wedding anniversary! The children remembered, thankfully. Wonder how people manage to write huge books, when a little one takes so much effort.

And then hubby had to have angioplasty. There were two blocks in his heart. He’s okay now, though he has to take heaps of medicines and we have to watch his diet. It was such comfort having caring friends and family rally round. Can’t imagine how we’d have managed without. They were God’s angels sent to help us.

Our book My Mother, My Strength, published by Rupa, was released in Hyderabad in December. (I couldn’t go). It’s a collection of women writers from different parts of India writing about their mothers. They invited me to contribute as a Mizo writer. Do pick it up if you happen to see it.

By the way, are computer viruses multiplied ten thousand times these days? Our office has been blighted for a couple of months. Our triband connection kept conking out too. Then hubby’s laptop got very sick. It had 400 viruses.

What about New Year resolutions? I haven’t made any, am still working on last year’s.

Hope you all have a cheery, blogy, virus free year.