Thursday, 31 May 2012

The yip is silent.

I’m most disappointed. I quite liked pronouncing it wrong. It felt fun
coming out of my mouth, and sounded enthusiastic. YIP-si-LAN-ti!!
(See what I mean?) But alas, it’s not a yip. It’s an ip.

Never mind. There’s someone in the city of Ypsilanti who visits
my blog so I decided to google-visit them back.  I half expected
Ypsilanti to be a little hamlet in the mountains of Macedonia.
(Note to self: google Macedonia and see if it has mountains.)
But Ypsilanti’s in Michigan, USA. I was close though – it’s named
after a hero of the Greek War of Independence.

Ypsilanti sounds delightful to me (both phonetically and literally).
First of all, there are only about 20,000 people living in the city.
(I think there may be that many people living on my street!)
Secondly, if you get caught there with marijuana, the fine is only
five dollars. (Is this true??) Not that this matters to me. I don’t care
what you think you saw on Satyamev Jayate, I am Not That Kind Of Girl.*

You might think that my interest in Ypsilanti comes from
it having the last Hudson dealership(one of my relatives
has the most beautiful antique Hudson parked in his garage,
last rolled out at his even more beautiful and not-at-all-antique
daughter’s wedding). You might think that my interest in Ypsilanti
swells from the water-retention capacity of its famous brick
water tower – apparently nicknamed ‘The Brick Dick’ and
proud possessor of the title of World’s Most Phallic Building.
You might think my interest is piqued by all the artists and
musicians. Or that it peaks with the knowledge that those
two sweet demon-hunters Sam and Dean Winchester
spent a Christmas there.

But no. The most delightful discovery I made about Ypsilanti
is that this is where Domino’s Pizza was founded! My absolutely
most favourite pizza in the world! And winner of my
If-You-Could-Only-Eat-One-Thing-For-The-Rest-Of-Your-Life award.
Henceforth I shall yip (silently) in joy and camaraderie
for thirty minutes (or less) every time I have (and eat) my pizza.

* (any more).

Thursday, 24 May 2012

A note for visitors from Satyamev Jayate

I just discovered that the SJ website has given this blog as a reference for people wanting to learn more about the CSA (Child Sexual Abuse) issue. I'd like to say, "You've come to the right place!" but actually you haven't.

The right place is my other blog, Askios, and you can get there by clicking here.

Of course, you're also welcome to take a stroll through this blog, which is where I post my creative writing and artwork, but if you are looking for information related to Child Sexual Abuse, then Askios is where you want to be.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Satyamev Jayate.

It means 'truth stands invincible'. It's from the Upanishads. It's India's national motto. It's on all our currency notes. It's also the name of a new talk show hosted by Aamir Khan, that's creating waves all over India, and among Indians around the world.

I blogged about it recently (see Naked) and I also featured in a little clip as part of the show. I told you I'd share the link with you, so even though I'm not particularly happy with my segment which I thought was misleading, here it is:

Satyamev Jayate Episode 2

Click the link above, and when the Satyamev Jayate page comes up, select the language of your choice. The Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu versions are dubbed, the English, Marati and Bengali are subtitles on the original Hindi version. (If the link doesn't work for you, try searching for it on youtube, it's up there too).

I thought it was an excellent and much-needed show, with a message that needs to be shared with as many people as possible. I really hope you'll watch, and also share it on with more people.

P.S. Looking forward to your feedback and comments. (By the way, the box section "Made you hurt/smile/think/hope" is anonymous, so I do hope more of you will start clicking on that!)

Tuesday, 15 May 2012


And when the scented smoke rises,
what does it bring to you?

I call back a moment by a grave in a township by the sea
where they prayed to a different god,
where I first found the agarbatti.

With a painted hand she holds them into a kerosene fire
then blows the flame into a dull orange glow.
In a corner by a picture, by a finger-painted Om,
she fills the room with its perfect scent, and makes a temple of her new home.

He strikes a match, and starts to sing.
A raga fills and lifts itself into the air
to mate with a fragrance that waits silently there.

She covers her head and bows in prayer. Behind her it burns.
She turns. She turns. She folds the corner of her mat.
She blows a blessing on her baby's face and lifts him, laughing,
to the flower-filled air.

She wraps herself in white and turns
from the heavy fragrance that will haunt her forever,
as ashes fall softly to the floor.

We light the incense to meditate.
We light the incense and say, He is Great.
We light it to mourn and to celebrate.
We share it with the ones we love,
and with the ones we hate.


(written after Ayodhya)

I wrote this poem after the tragedy of Ayodhya - the destruction
of the Babri mosque, the riots and communal violence that followed.

Raju, my dhobi (laundryman) was from Ayodhya. He told me
that his hometown had been a place where Hindus and Muslims
lived together peacefully. When he fixed his daughter's
wedding plans, he went, as is the Indian custom, first
to the elders to get their blessings. The first person he went to
was Chacha, the eldest of them all. 'Chacha' is an Urdu word
for 'uncle', more specifically: father's younger brother.
Generally speaking, only Muslims have Chachas.
But Raju is a Hindu, and he has one.

Raju and I sat there that evening in Bahrain, surrounded
by fresh crisp linen, wondering how it was that such things
as division and hatred come to be.

And so to the poem, again, which wonders this too.

My associations with those fragrances are quite specific:
Amber is meditative. I first found it at Pondicherry,
a place for seekers. Sandalwood is sacred. Musk is
sensual and heady, much as our music can be. Jasmine
is pure and innocent. Frankincense is sometimes all
that lingers when the men take away a body for burial
or cremation. None of these fragrances belong exclusively
to Hindus or Muslims or any other form of spirituality.
But the smoke disappears into the air, the ashes are swept aside,
and so we hardly notice how much we share.

Monday, 14 May 2012

A something of dragonflies

A flock? A herd? A swarm? I stood among them, and they buzzed inches above and around me, each with their own little Pause button. It was unreal and magical to lift my head up to the sky and become part of this buzzing and moving, for suddenly that was all there was. For a moment, that was the whole world.

He stops, shocked -- recalls
a time when he breathed fire -- then
Dragonfly flies on.

 In Native American story, Dragonfly was once Dragon, before Coyote tricked him into losing his magic, by playing on his pride. Dragonfly symbolises a change, moving away from illusion toward reality. When Dragonfly comes to me, he's saying, "Something needs to change."

I first noticed the dragonflies seven years ago, which is when I wrote that haiku. At times, I look back on a flamboyant and somewhat delinquent past, and my present seems stodgy and dull in comparison:  middle-aged. And then I'm reassured when I remember that there's a reason why dragons are extinct - or more realistically, just a myth - and that the earth needs her dragonflies.

Monday, 7 May 2012


Next week, I am going to stand naked in front of the whole world.  That’s what it feels like, at any rate. An unpleasant cocktail has been buzzing in my head lately:  nervousness and terror, worry and panic, embarrassment and humiliation, shame and even some anger at the sympathetic responses I’m already anticipating. 

In spite of all this, I need to tell you now that when I stand naked next week, I want you to be watching.

Oh, put those erections down and turn those nipples off! I’m not talking about actual nudity. Next week, for a few minutes, I’ll be featuring in an hour-and-a-half long television talk show. I didn’t think it would be such a big deal for me, because I’ve often spoken about my childhood, both in person and in print. But this is a new talk show, hosted by one of India’s most popular and respected movie stars, Aamir Khan. It airs on the Star TV network, it gets broadcast simultaneously in eight languages, and is talked about on the news and in social media. The first episode aired yesterday and was a huge success, so I imagine even more people will tune in next week. The thought terrifies me.

I still want you to watch. Because even if my emotional cocktail turn out to be justified, this show, and all that it will carry in its one and a half hours, is too important. It needs to be seen, not just by all of India, but by the whole world.

And I think I just figured out why. That cocktail of feelings I listed – I just realized that this isn’t my first taste of it. I drank it all through childhood. And if I could survive that then, I can face this now.

All the other people with childhoods like mine need to know this:  we survived. We can face it and learn from it and grow beyond it.

And all the other children, the ones with childhoods as yet untouched, don’t need to know what we know.

So watch.

Satyamev Jayate (Truth Alone Triumphs) on Sunday, 13th May at 11 a.m. Indian Standard Time on the Star TV network (Star World, Star Plus, Star Utsav, Star Vijay, Star Pravah, Star Jalsha, ETV Telugu, Asianet and Doordarshan). If you can’t catch the show, you’ll also find it on Youtube and Facebook (and I’ll post the links here, as well).