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.


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


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


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


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


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…


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1. Rock

What stands by you,

When your face is pummeled


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


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.


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.