Lead Kindly Light…

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When Maya Angelou died, J.K.Rowling apparently quoted her,” If you are always trying to be normal, how will you ever know how amazing you can be? Amazing Maya..”

That reminded me of a beautiful quote by Marianne Williamson which I happily googled:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world… ”

I reflect on the truth of that saying. ” Do not hide your light under the bushel,” the nun in the Missionary Convent taught us. At the tender age I first heard that, I imagined someone hiding a light under a dark hideout, afraid of its light. Today, after seeing a world which forces many of us into being “normal”, and “hiding the light under the bushel”, threatening us by drivel of “acceptance”, ” tradition”, ” cool quotient,” the truth of it hits me- straight between the eyes. One was born unique, and one has to be true to the light within. Hiding my light is of no use to anyone, let alone me. Fair enough.

*********

Why is there such fear of light , metaphorically speaking, in this world? On this Halloween eve, it bemuses me to ponder thus. I also happened to read an interesting article on the Earl of Rochester, John Wilmot, a libertine poet and exceptional person (depicted by Johnny Depp in the film by the same name), who literally destroyed the unique sundial in a fit of wanton abandon. He also wrote satirical poetry, philandered a lot, tried to act cool and died in pain. But, the enigma still exists- was he a person of light, too deeply entrapped by his own darkness?

Soon came another article on the wives and girl friends of pop icons and rock and roll stars- their pains and frustrations and mostly lonely but glamorous existences. The dark side of genius, ego, ever self seeking, made mince meat of many women, who were used and discarded enroute the path of greatness.

Issues

” You look wonderful tonight,” suddenly makes me wonder on light and dark patterns of human existence.

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In “The Power of Myth”,Jospeh Campbell says, ” Our life evokes our character. You find out more about yourself as you go on.That’s why it’s good to be able to put yourself in situations that will evoke your higher nature rather than your lower. “Lead us not into temptation.”

Mmmm, from Biblical quotes, to Maya Angelou, to Earl of Rochester, rock stars and Campbell..it is all about choosing- light or dark; within or without.

Lead Kindly Light..amidst the encircling gloom….

Love is..Love is not

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Love is :

Not a  Psychopath’s game

Of who wins, who loses.

Who watches, who is tracked

Who bleeds, who holds

The blade.

Who made who cry

Who gave more darkness

Who pushed the other deeper-

Who hurt the most

Who manipulated whom better?

Who betrayed, who left

Who stabbed behind the back

Who ditched, who stepped away

Who ran off, who chose another

Who forgot  that it had been love

Once upon a time.

Now turned dark and black

And evil.

Control and manipulation

Belong

To text books of hatred.

Pardon me, it has no place

In Love’s pages.

Pleasure of giving pain

Is a cause for good money

In a psychologist’s

Armchair.

Parental drivers, driving parents

Sadists, masochists and all their ilk

Are free to gather en masse

Outside love’s triumphant fort-

But, there is no place inside

Love’s home,

For these wretched folk.

Love is energy, laughter

Sharing, pride in each other

Triumph in one another, being there

Every step, every fall-

Delighting in victory, supporting in

Defeat.

Love is flying together

Reaching for excellence

Love is God

And does not make you cry:

For this God is not

A frowning, cruel father figure

But a loving, compassionate

Best friend.

******

The Axe Of The WordSmith

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“A book should serve as an axe for the frozen sea within us”..that was Kafka, surprisingly passionate, overwhelmingly intense, none of the analytical detachment and clinical apathy of interpretation usually seen in his words.

What would such an ice axe do, I imagined. I saw an axe raised, coming down heavily on steelish blue ice bergs and cracking the surface open – and water, angry and freed, ebullient, rising up in ecstasy.

Such a rise I saw in Alice Walker’s Colour Purple and Toni Morrison’s Beloved; two iconic classics that crack open the ice in the hearts of a benumbed humanity, by pointing out the horrendous pathos of what one part of humanity suffered during the days of slavery and soon after.

Sethe, Paul D,  Celie, Shug Avery and the other unnamed men and creatures…ah, these characters are caught in lyrical poetry (in Beloved) and in an uneducated woman’s words (in Colour Purple) easily moving a reader to tears and a rough shakeup of the complacence that crowds her in. There is only one human story, the world wide, I realised- and I know it in my blood, like any other human being.

In an interview with the brilliant author Khaled Hosseini , when asked about the popularity of his novels, he said that he was surprised and baffled- for he wrote stories straight from the heart and did not bother about the tag of “sentimentalism”, oft attached to such writing. He also reflected poignantly that  perhaps readers across the globe could relate to these human stories, because they were about emotions.

That brought me back to the ice-axe. A brother losing a sister, a friend losing a boyhood pal, a man discovering a woman’s love, the agony over a lost country…were these not themes (often seen in Hosseini’s works) that I had grown up with, in vernacular masterpieces? Did not the readers respond passionately to these simple themes and love them with abandon?

Book lovers, like Tolstoy’s opening sentence in Anna Karenina about happy families, are alike..and  book lovers, like Tolstoy’s quote about unhappy families, are different too in their own ways.

Closing the Colour Purple, and opening it again to catch a whiff of the book’s smell- as if trying to inhale Celie and Shug back into my own psyche with their tears and laughter, I thought of how I was alike and different, from other clan members.

Too much cleverness leaves me cold- I hated Ian McEwan’s Amsterdam. Death, death, death..please, I know I will die too, someday.I like my cleverness short and precise: as in a bumbling Father Brown discovering the psychology of the Hammer of God, or the imagination of Conan Doyle that made a woman scream “the speckled band, the band..” in throes of her death. Thank you.

Well at great risk of being labelled a show-off( huh, so you think you are the only one who reads? nahhhhh) , and with heart felt humility (apparently the word means walking the sacred earth), I like my reading simple, down to earth and touching my heart. The rule follows for movies, screen plays, plays, art work and life in general.

When Lalitambika Antarjanam writes about the beauty of the bride’s feet in AgniSakshi, “akin to lotus buds”, and the young protagonist becomes a life long fan of Devaki, one can actualy visualise the loveliness of the woman. When M.T.Vasudevan Nair writes about  Draupadi’s special fragrance- the enchantment of blue lotus,leaving  Bhima intoxicated beyond his own understanding and makes him her most ardent lover,  the reader sighs deeply. When Changampuzha writes a poem wondering on who would buy the queen of the garden today, he is also pointing at the prostitution forced on a young flower seller..and his words acquire an intensity and heavy sweetness that makes one mesmerised for a moment. (Nidrayennodu yatrayum cholli nirdayam vittu pokayal..since the sleep left me merciless to my own bereft self..)

The axe, the axe…sometimes it comes from the vernacular,  sometimes from a simple translated Chinese poetry, a sliver of an article from a travelogue across the Patagonia, yet a line from an ordinary novel, making one sit on  desert sand, parched for a glass of water..as another master story teller weaves his magic…

What a gift it is, this gift of story telling. Whether it comes in any guise- angel, devil, banshee or villainess..blue or aquamarine, cobalt tinted or a sultry peacock shade…I am game for cracking the ice open and rediscovering the great, one, human story within me- reflecting all what is outside.

In their own way, every story teller, shows us the way to ourselves.

In gratitude.

Untraveled Tales

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I have a ‘Rough Guide Special’ on Women travelling in front of me. It had come caked in alluring book dust, dug from the pile of old books for sale in an exhibition, but it arrived like a perfect guest to my homestead.

I have this habit of literally burying my nose deep into newsprint, to inhale the book soul’s journey- a habit that gives me psychic vibes and allergy simultaneously; and creates much laughter in my kids. I have deduced many a book’s travel in its past- by smelling it out like a Rottweiler. I have also earned the wry looks of many a silverfish, disturbed from cosy existences during the recover-a book-back experiments.

(Ahh…this one went from loving hands to commercial hands , back to child like hands and there is a mango pickle smell and a faded flower kept in between two sad pages..one fold here, as if someone dropped off to sleep after reading the line on unrequited love ..so maybe a woman’s hands and…sneeeeze!!!)

The pages beckon me, to roam across countries starting from A-Australia, to B, Burkino Fasa, to C and D and E and F,.. G -Ghana, skipping in between distractions at H-Honduras, M-Morocco, S-Senegal..U-Ukraine, a detour to V-Vietnam and to Z-Zimbabwe..totally counting the dots turns out to be 61 countries straddling the globe..To add to the feast, after the pithy travelogues , there are literary references..like in Columbia, they give you references to Marquez and Charlotte Mendez’s passionate ‘Condor and Humming bird’.

It is like sitting in the rain and enjoying the sun at the same time.Great for an arm chair traveller who moves with the wind and dust of her imagination; and is slightly worried about an aging knee bone.

Strangely, all that energetic travel descriptions made me think of that beautiful book “The diving bell and the butterfly”. Wriiten by the bedridden, body shackled Jean Dominique Bauby, the editor of the French Elle who suffered from the rare”locked in syndrome”, who dictated his book by blinking his left eyelid.

The’ butterfly ‘symbolised his joyous spirit, which recollected the pleasure of swallowing a warm yellow yolk of a perfectly done egg…and the diving bell denoted his feeling less, stiff body that was like a lead coffin.

Blessed are those who can travel far and wide and enjoy the sunset in Samoa and a night out in Nicaragua. Equally blessed are the ones, who like a favorite character in a vernacular film, said, ‘My world starts and ends with the sun and the river in my little village.”

Blessed are those who are the in- between travelers, like many of us. People who get to move about here and there, catching the sparks of a vital life in another culture and return home reassured, that all is well in ours too.

Blessed are those like Jean Bauby, who even when they are denied the powers of movement,travel relentlessly through their imaginations, picking out baubles of sparkling memoirs for us..to entertain and enlighten..so much so that, one stops while eating an egg and pauses..taking a sweet, fulfilling taste of the pleasure he mentions..

Maybe, it is ok to eat an egg in one’s old kitchen after all! Can be as pleasing to the omniscient Spirit, as chewing a fruit in Zanzibar…

Definitions

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1. Rock

What stands by you,

When your face is pummeled

Red.

And offers a warm, wet wipe and whispers

” Brave heart, keep going.”

And when you laugh, jaw aching,

Gives a kiss by the side of the mouth

That is still bleeding, drop by drop.

2. Faith

An energy which encompasses

Pointing way ahead-

Kind, loving, compassionate

Saying, enjoy the moments

Because, HE is in the moments

Now.

3. Brother

At midnight, I ring him

I need help.

The heart that reaches out

Is strong as steel.

My sister, he says,

I am here.

Take rest now.

4. Love

Where did we last part, dear?

You took a long time arriving.

But I am very glad you finally did.

Your love will never have

A shining blade, ready to plunge

When my eyes are closed,

Would it , now?

See, my weapons are down;

I do not check my back anymore,

When I embrace-

I do it without fear.

He laughs,

Met shape changers

Along the way, did you

My dear?

******

My Daughter’s Query

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” Mother, what does love mean?”

Beautiful eyes stare at me-

Budding rose flower, hopeful.

I tell her what I know:

Having fallen in and out of love

Many times, in this lifetime.

“Honey,

Love does not cut off your wings,

It does not lay a trap for you

In words or deeds.

If you are caged, it unlocks it

Quietly, and points out the infinite skies

For your soul to take flight in.

Love is never threatened

By your beauty or wisdom.

Will not take pleasure to see you bleed

Will prevent tears from flowing,

Will stand up for you, not ever

Pull you down, claiming to love you.

Love is will never ask you to hide

Your precious gifts, your words

Your being, away from the light.

Love will never lie, never go far

Never leave you bereft of support.

Love will always find a way

To be with you, to offer a helping hand

In victory, to push you further up;

In failure, to pull you out of pain.

Love will never compare you

With others, in qualities you lack.

Love accepts you as you are

Colour and build and beauty ignored

For what you are- and thrilling in your touch

Lets you spread your fragrance

Within its nurturing garden.”

” All of these, mother?Tall order!

I see bits and pieces , here and there!”

She protests, with a laugh!

I stare at my life’s cupboard

At the stacks of holes in love’s clothes

Patched, tattered, pressed quiet and silent

Flimsy, easily broken, dusty with disuse

And  continue with a smile:

” And that- is the final sign,

Of what love is not.

Love will not let you shiver, in its gaping holes

Of desolation.

It will be as complete as you.”

****************

******

Loving You

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1. The topic is love, today.

And I want to write about you,

Only you, why you, what you,

While you, when you, for you,

Of you, To you..

To tell the words and sentences

Of this world,

That love has no twists and no turns

No grammar, no games

No nouns and pronouns

It is a verb, it is a noun

It is not past, not future

It is the present

Not afraid of falsehoods

Not scared by scars

By failures, by shortcomings

It is the simple truth

I found finally-

And which has found me.

2. The topic is love, today

His voice, a warm chocolate

In a shivering, cold day.

His hand extended, pulling me up

From where I lie, bruised and hurt.

And dusting me up, hugging me

Asks me, when I would be flying again.

3. The topic is love, today.

Today and everyday

When my ink runs low,

Replenish with the endless

Flow of your being.

******

The Cauldron Boils Over

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For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?

Verily when good is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves,

and when it thirsts it drinks even of dead waters. (Khalil Gibran, The Prophet, On Good and Evil)

I have been forced to brood on the nature of evil and cruelty after a series of news paper reports came out recently.

Airhostess abuses maid servant.

Qualified doctor, public representative’s wife, brutally murders maid servant.

 Clubbed with other stories of heinous evil, these provoked shuddering reflections on the nature of evil that I had encountered in my own journey so far.

I thank God for the kind hand that has kept me safe and sane and able to jot these down.

When I heard about an ancestor who specialised in banging his daughter’s head on the sharp edge of a grain box, because she had not prepared his dinner in time; I thought it was a made up story.

” How can someone tolerate that evil?” I remember asking, until the narrator, turned her eyes and looked at the woman sitting by her side.

In a shock of realisation, I understood and asked the lady, ” You? You were the daughter? My God!”

Later, in class, when the  teacher waxed eloquent on a great poet ,my best friend and my namesake whispered to me about his cruelties to his family.

” He forsake his wife and children and would wander about seeking inspiration. Great poet he might have been, but good husband and father, he never was. Once when he returned from his six month sojourn, he saw his seven year old son sitting in his favourite easy chair. He pulled him out and thrashed him so badly that he started bleeding. I read a memoir by the son- on the great poet of whom he was terrified all his life…”

Evil, I understood then, can also have the face of genius.

The stories of Nazi Holocaust, or the evils of the Pol Pot regime, the slavery stories, the brutal war games or the murderous riots when human beings turn beasts- all are very real.

The veneer of sophistication that covers the human face often covers a venal expression. The greatest of tests come when power is given to human beings to lord it over others.A handsome Smeagol can turn  into a despicable Gollum, if the Deadly Ring of Power, happens to become His Precious.

In a famous scientific study called the Milgram Experiment conducted by Prof Stanley Milgram of Yale University, the tendency of  “normal people ” to obey authority figures and abuse hapless innocents was showcased. Once a person perceived that he/she was just an ” instrument”, obeying a higher authority, he/she tended to shift blame from their own selves.

This study can be read along with the Dementors and Death Eaters of many mythical series, the ganglords of evil who obey a “Higher Power” to whom they owe allegiance.

But as we see in daily life, it does not take a Voldemort or Sauron to inspire evil.

The person who suffers deeply often perpetrates deep suffering on others. It is almost a cycle of evil. The person is herself abused, feels no control over his /her life, feels an exaggerated sense of inferiority and of being slighted by significant others, and so waits for an opportunity to wreak all that aggression on a hapless victim. Explanations of brutal rapes, beatings, child abuse, marital abuse, subordinate abuse have often included this logic.

As the witches of Macbeth chanted,

 Double, double toil and trouble; 

Fire burn, and caldron bubble. 

On reflection, I have found that in my most helpless conditions, I have been most angry with my beloved ones. “Displacement “, psychology calls it wisely. One tends to make scapegoats of others since one cannot handle the real issue on its face.So the abused subordinate will abuse his wife, she will abuse the maid servant, the maid servant will abuse the cat and so on and so forth..It reminds one of the nursery rhyme “The Farmer in the dell”.

I am pretty sure that the best of goodness and worst of evil is very much within every human soul. It just depends on the environmental triggers as to which comes out. It also depends a lot on what is considered “acceptable” and “unacceptable behaviour.”

Besides, if a poor maid servant from Manipur or West Bengal gets abused within the four confines of her Delhi home, which neighbour would care  to take a peep?

So the perceived danger associated with continuing a loathsome behaviour also plays a role in perpetuating evil.

****

Lessons in psychology have taught me much about parental drivers, conditioning, reinforcement, prejudices, negative self-talk, internalisations, insecurities and all such jargon.Lessons in life have taught me some pungent truths.

Cruelty happens subtly, invidiously. Children can be the most vulnerable victims. If you tell a child that she/he is not good enough/beautiful enough/smart enough, it can be a mad ram inside the head for ages to come. Until, one day, with good souls around, one truly looks at the mirror and realises that the perpetrator had been a liar. One is good enough, beautiful enough, smart enough. Enough unto the day, the beauty thereof.

It is extremely important to protect children from negative insinuations and degrading talk. Perhaps they do not hear it from the close family, but we should protect them enough  so that others’ evil attempts to poke a hole into that fragile self confidence, is never successful.

Almost as a serendipitous event, I read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye recently. This book, about the systematic destruction of a child’s psyche, told in the context of racial/feminine/power equations/sixties America, brought tears to my eyes. There was so much one could empathise with- some experiences are universal.

Morrison writes about how she was shocked into writing that novel, when a school mate wanted ” blue eyes ” , in the hope that it would get her acceptance, by making her beautiful. The prose is fire, scalding one’s fingers as one reads, and I again realised how good literature redeems; by making one go deep into one’s own experiences and cleanse the dirty remnants of one’s own prejudices.

Beauty is not equivalent to virtue, the author writes. She adds that it has taken 25 years for her novel to get truly accepted. It had been trivialised when it was originally published.

Cruelty and evil can have very handsome faces. Even pretty ones for that matter.  Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds , as Shakespeare so wisely wrote.So we need not fall in for the designer brand versions of Ugliness being equated to Badness. If something inside you still resists, read Conan Doyle’s ” The Yellow Face.” All that is not pleasing to the eye, need not be that of evil.  And in a like manner, there is nothing more pervasive than the myth, that all that is beautiful is good.

*******

As human beings, I guess being aware of our own propensities to abusive behaviour, is the first step towards the magic of protection.  We tend to be evil when we thoughtlessly speak, brag, disregard, turn a blind eye to suffering, and smooth a clean white sheet over the bloodied mess of our inner lives. And spray a perfume over the noxious fumes rising from within. “All the perfumes of Arabia…”

I have reached a stage in my life where I have started being very aware of abusive behaviour, the start of the first rung of evil in a relationship- between friends, siblings, parents, work place relations.

Instinct and experience warns a person of what to watch out for within herself/others.

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Tell me why evil is always on call?

The Law of Return  much quoted in many books of spirituality, speaks of ” What you sow, that you reap.”

May we sow good thoughts, good imagination, kind behaviour, empowering words and noble deeds in our daily lives.

Our world, both inner and outer, can do with  lot more of decent, good human beings who are respectful, tolerant and kind. We can do with far more introspection on whether our life patterns hold a lesson for us and less on envying the great lives that others apparently seem to have.

And yes, I think I have had enough of newspapers for a while.

*****

Following A Goddess

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My grand mother, who died when my mother was but nineteen, and my youngest aunt a mere three,  was named after the  Goddess of Learning. Her name “Sarda” is also that of  the ancient writing script used for Sanskrit and Kashmiri. Till today, my maternal anscestral home is called, ‘Sarada Mandiram’ aka “The abode of Sarada.”

There are no pictures or photographs  left behind of this Grihlakshmy, (Goddess of the House like Vesta or Hestia in other cultures:) for her grand children or great grand children to know her.

She remains, captured however (as per my mother’s version) in my  young nephew’s smile, my cousin sister’s beautiful tresses, my daughter’s eyes et al. I am very sure, that she would continue in the future bloodlines too, when something of charm or beauty shows up suddenly, gracefully, without much hue or cry.

Almost like a mystery, the stories surround the enigma of a beautiful woman who “was adored by anyone who met her, due to her generously giving heart.” No being, animal or human, went hungry if  they ever passed by my grand mother’s kitchen door.

” She could toss a few curry leaves and a  mere touch of her hand would make the dishes so tasty,” reminisces my mother, her eyes clouded with tears.

I get to hear snippets from my aunts and uncles, their memories now mostly faded, still remembering warmth, and long,black hair cascading like a river with no grey strands ever….so lyrical that I start doubting the authenticity of it all.

” Were you happy all the time? She could not have been a paragon of virtue,” I argue, my cynical temper often aroused when I hear about angelic perfection, near or far.

” She used to be furious at times. Then I wouldn’t go near her. Especially when she was struggling with her umpteen pregnancies and child births,” my mother lets out , a sigh at a time.

Then as my mother feeds me spinach with coconut topping and curry leaves sauteed , a dish she learnt from my grandma, she tells me the tale of her parents’ marriage.

An attractive young woman , single daughter to adoring parents, who lost nine children before they had a living, healthy child. The beauty, the property – the proposals that poured in for her hand. And the tragedy of a predetermined horoscope- the fate of Chova dosham- a Manglik, so to say,..she was supposed to cause early death to her husband.

” My grandfather almost gave up hope about amma’s marriage. Such a lovely daughter, but no man daring to step across the Yama’s line of caution,” my mother whispers. (She and her grandfather had a loving relationship. Till date she swears that he was reborn into her family.  Whenever I make her smile, I am the reincarnation. When I pick up fights with her, she is absolutely sure that he is someone else. That is another story altogether.)

” And how did my grandfather come into the scene?” I ask, very interested now. Some topics are eternally fascinating.

” They say, he was almost an outsider, though his family lived very close. A rebel, tall at six feet and more, a good artist, keen on science and business alike…my father,” she pauses dramatically.

I sigh again as the devil flashes his fangs at me, provoking me.

” Amma, stop being melodramatic. He had his vices, of course. But he was handsome, I presume,” I aim at the target straight away.

” Ohhhh, yes! So one day, even as his mother threatened to hang herself from the front yard for daring to dream of Sarada, he walked away laughing and entered our ancestral home.” Amma’s voice is full of thrill now.

I see a tall young man, laconic, cool, literally asking his protective female clan members to go to hell. He walks to the forbidden house, and confronts my  great grandfather.

” Why did you come, Govinda?” my great grandfather asks. He can hear the screams and curses rising in undulating tones from across the front yard.

” I thought it was worth dying for Sarada,” says my Grandfather. ” I want to marry her.”

Thus a man married a woman.

They had seven children,losing one early. One girl grew up to be my indefatigible mother.

I do not ask the other parts of the story. The happiness, the tragedies, the loss of a merchandise filled boat over the sudden tempest, the sudden poverty….so many family lores stay quiet now, lying like a calm dog at the feet of a kind, beautiful, unseen grandmother.

” Do I have anything of her in me?” I ask finally, slowly, very slowly.

My mother smiles suddenly. Her beautiful face, lights up.

” What do you think?” she asks in return.

”  You tell me that I am your grand father. Am I also your mother?” I grin openly.

” Maybe , she lives in your heart, whenever you ask her to come in,” says my mother mysteriously.

Sarada, Goddess of Learning, Giving, Kindness…..do visit my heart more often.

I have your sudden temper, my grandfather’s obstinacy, go-to-hell stubbornness. All the vices, than the sweet niceties.

There can be too much darkness inside this abode at times.

Make it your Mandiram- your temple.

Let me see you, please.

****

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon…Barking Dogs, Coiling Serpents

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The first time I heard the phrase,  ” a serpent in the bosom”, my imagination hissed and spit savagely at me. A curling , black, nagini, coiled around the heart reared its flashing fangs at my petrified self. Slowly I shook my head to clear away the image, of what stood for ” someone hitherto trusted turning into an enemy “.

Perhaps many of us can relate to such snakes and traps..unwittingly we often offer our affections and trust, where they are not due, where they are often misused, and stored away for an opportune moment to strike us back.

” Biting the hand that feeds one, ”  ” Taking the snake coiled around the fence and putting on one’s shoulder,” et al are sage advices from the vernacular tongue, warning against being too naive in offering trust, love and friendship.

The randomly quoted incidents are very true and anything similar to any character/persona is very intentional.

– She was my friend. The school had many pillars and  all of us loved playing hide and seek. Half an hour into the game, from behind the pillar, I hear a voice sniping viciously, ” Gawwwddd, I cannot tolerate her at all! Such a sample!” The voice was very familiar and all the attributes she was mentioning  were more familiar…I took a peep, and there she was in all her glory..” killing me softly with her words.” I came from behind the pillar and she blanched…very white.

” Were you speaking about me?” I asked, not smiling.

She kept quiet, obviously caught off guard.

I took a good look at serpent sample one.

” Watch from behind the pillars- for the truth has many faces,” I told my ten year old self.

– The Professor, I thought, was a fair man. I ran to him with my doubts in Mathematics, and he was always ready to help. There was no reason to suspect that he had anything but affection for me.

I was late for his class, and reached just to hear him laugh about me to an acquaintance:

” She got poor marks, eh?  She is all speech and no matter!”

He turned and saw me standing all white faced. He regained his composure and asked me to take my seat.

” All apparent well wishers need not be wishing you well…beware.” 

**

Harpies are mythological characters who literally drop their waste on nourishing food. I have encountered many harpies who drop their shit on ideas, loving suggestions, energetic attempts at something new.They can come in many guises- of near and dear ones, young and old, looking absolutely normal as your own self.But try to create something in their presence and hell breaks out…fumes and smoke spreading all over.

The Harpies denounce you, your motivations, your ideas, your happiness because they think you do not deserve all that joy and happiness. Or maybe because they are jealous. Or they do not think it right. Or another hundred twisted reasons, filtered through their own prejudices, influenced by their nature and nurture. But one common characteristic of Harpy influence? They drain you of love, life, health and laughter. They will prevent you actively and subtly from being creative, whole, healthy and happy. They will do their best to torpedo your loving relationships. They hate you. End of class.

Tired often of people who turned untrustworthy, jealous, and petty without obvious reasons, I queried once to a learned person:

” Why do some people read so much into innocent words and deeds and take umbrage? Why do people imagine humiliation when none was intended?”

” People who suffer from jaundiced vision can only see a yellow world,” he laughed.

” So does that mean, we stop trusting? We stop creating?” I asked, fuming.

” It means you should learn to look at the picture of  Goddess Durga closely,” said he, smiling beatifically at me.

” Huh?!”

” Why does the Goddess have so many weapons on her tender body? Armed to the teeth, so to say? She is also Saraswathy in her alter ego- the queen of Shastras- logic, reason, wisdom..?”

I blinked.

” When shaastra aka logic  fails, shastra aka weapons may come to use,” he laughed.

” I should fight, you mean?”

” For what you believe to be right. For what you believe to be your right. Learn to stand up for yourself. Stop taking nonsense- from any one,” he concluded with a laugh and offered me sweets.

*****

Nowadays, when I encounter harpies, I adopt the following self-caring techniques.

  1. I step from behind the pillar.
  2. I stop wishing them well. I do not wish them bad, nevertheless. I turn detached and indifferent.
  3. If they try to slither their way back into my life energy, I cut them down with a symbolic cleaver called ” Get Lost “.

As that saying goes, “Above all, to thine own self be true- thou cannot then be false to any man,” or woman!!

P.S. Who said some good  snarling ain’t fun at times?