I write so I can breathe. I am constantly evolving, mindless at times, frustrating even perhaps but heck, I wouldn't change the smell of freedom that comes with writing.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Forgotten Things - Fun and Laughter

Earth is a great, big funhouse without the fun. - Jeff Berner

When was the last time, you really let out that laughter out freely? Hush! Don’t laugh like that. It is not lady-like (especially for the women)! How can you laugh like that? That is the problem. Somewhere, in the utter seriousness of the immense burden of responsibilities, we have forgotten to laugh. Where can we ever hope to achieve that amazing flow of positive feeling that a good laugh can bring to us? Mark it; I am not speaking of the sadistic, ironical, smirk of a laugh here. I am speaking of what arises from deep within, that fabulous full-throated adrenalin pumping laugh. It is pretty obvious, a good laugh has become a rare commodity, seldom reaching our ears; leave alone the deep confines of our souls.

We left it behind somewhere, in the empty corridors of our school building, in the open lawns and sidewalks of the college campus where chilly mornings were spent sipping lemon tea, hot piping samosas dipped in sweet and sour chutney. Buried, it has settled deeper in the recesses of our beings, in the daily fast-paced humdrum of lackluster lives. If your child looks at you with disbelief because you are narrating something you did way back what was fun, it is because they have probably not seen you have that kind of fun.

Go on, try tearing off sheets of white paper, make those paper-boats, get those kites out flying in the air, run after the ones that cut loose, put your face to the breeze, collect marble, play with them and take your kid star-gazing. There is no teacher in the world that can teach you to laugh again like a child. A pup or a dog is a close second. Grab that ice-cream and allow your child to give you that messy hug and kiss. Tickle. Be tickled.

Have fun! Life is short. Shorter than you imagined. Make the most of it. Begin to laugh again. Start with yourself. Entertain. Laugh at the craziness your life is and hit that humour button more often. Make someone smile. Join your kids in having plain fun. Get off that couch, hold your kid’s hand instead of the television remote and make every day count.

Splash colour to your life. It is worth every breath. Life is meant to be lived. Never turn your back on life. Life is beautiful. It is not there to scare you, it's there to excite you.

Dare. People may think you are nuts. But, you know better. And hey, if you are having fun and it’s just the way you want it to be, why be scared of being nuts?

Copyright Sandy@2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Stuff that Seems Insignificant

Let’s get this straight…those seemingly insignificant things are not as small as you think they are. Ever received flowers out of the blue? If you have smiled, you know what I am talking about. Let me get down to the more basic stuff. Ever smiled and greeted someone cheerfully when they least expected it and see that astonished look of pleasant surprise on their face? You got it! Bingo!

Truth is, those really insignificant things are in fact absolutely what they are not – insignificant. They mean the world to someone who is having a bad day or hasn’t had attention a long time. Why are we such sullen people? Whatever happened to the sloppy kiss you could land with your sticky candy sweetened lips on your mother’s cheek? When was the last time you hugged someone just because? Thank you. Sorry. Excuse me. Please…all forgotten old school words that carried so much of substantial wisdom in them.

My list of things that are big but perhaps may seem inconsequential…here, let me spill it over…

A shared cup of coffee in absolute silence.

A hug.

A walk in the rain.

Watching the stars at night and talking about which is which.

Singing a song together.

Dancing to an off key tune hummed spontaneously.

Making paper-boats and stamping on puddles with a child.

Knowing just when to shut up.

Knowing just when to give a kick in the butt and then smiling because all is well with the world again.

A favourite song coming up on the radio suddenly.

Puppy eyes of a child melting my heart.

Babies. Gurgles. Babies gurgles.

Leaving a thank you note.

Being told I made a difference even if there is no award or recognition beyond that.

Life’s laughter, tears, feel good factors.

Pain. Befriended.

Love. Endless.

Call a friend ‘Ass’ and getting a smile in return.

Gotcha!

Copyright Sandy@2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Full Circle

Nothing frightens us than the unknown and that which lies beyond that unknown. Over the years, I have found life to somehow come full circle. I am not referring to a particular incident in my life. It is more the entire cycle of this one life. Everything makes its way to us. Destruction always needs to be approached positively. The dance of life is the destruction of evil, of negated things and then that makes way for better things that can be created. Life comes full circle no doubt but when it does, has it brought you to that point again whether you take a wiser perspective of it or remain the same is the question.

I was going back some years…it is the time I spent in Mumbai in 2005. I cannot begin to gather the little treasured gifts of some friendships that began then. Each person I interacted with, met, spoke to (or avoided) had some impact on me. I remember a friendship that started with someone asking me if I had heard ‘Have I told You Lately’ by Rod Steward and @Strangers in the Night’ by Frank Sinatra. Oh yes, I do believe, every person we meet comes to us with a reason, for a season or a purpose and sometimes they are simply there forever. I am rambling…actually; I am trying to keep it as vague as possible. I am smiling. One sometimes does feel the sun set without seeing it, longing for answers that really haven’t found their way quite into one’s head yet but you know they are hovering somewhere close by. Only, we are deliberately blinded by other reasons to not see them. Life comes full circle when you allow those questions to be answered. You cannot run and hide forever. Someday, you have to embrace what your soul has been rambling to you all along. Full Circle then.

There is an unsaid law of nature. The law of Karma. What goes around comes around. That is probably the closest one can come to begin to explain what full circle really means. All those rights and all those wrongs will catch up with you eventually. What you have taken all along, you will need to return, maybe not in the same quantities, but return you will need to. What you have given will come back to you, good, bad, ugly. So, it is really your call what you wish to give out. Remember, one fine day, when you are fun and fabulous at fifty, that dreaded nemesis of bad Karma might just lurk around your neighbourhood again. Be kind to yourself and be kind to those around you. Make someone’s day. Someone, somewhere, might be thinking and doing exactly that. Eventually, your turn will come. You would want to be prepared for that.

Peace Out!

Copyright Sandy@2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

That First Time

There are so many ‘that first times’ in our lives; a number of them, things that we still are passionate about.

Photography. Cooking. Driving. Writing. These are things that are still with me. Where did these start from? I smile when I remember. It is always such a pleasure to be able to do something that you are passionate about. Stop for a minute, pause. Do you remember that first time you did something that you felt truly passionate about? Do you still do it? Are you still passionate about it now?

My first camera, purchased out of saved pocket-money. It was a beautiful black and white Agfa camera – Click III; a beautiful piece of art for me. I saved up months and months and bought it for my eleventh birthday with all of the two hundred and fifty precious bucks! Such an expensive passion at that time! I had to scrimp and save for the rolls thereafter. I would save for months before I could give the film to a studio to be processed for prints. A number of childhood memories froze in time through that camera. Eventually, I moved from the rather expensive twelve exposures to a Kodak 24 exposures, two Olympus, a Canon Ixus digital to my current Canon super 450D. I have always had to save up months, sometimes years for this. It has always been worth it.

As for the magic of de-stressing I derive out of cooking…sigh! Nothing dissipates anger like a good go at cooking. There is something interesting I was made to realize a couple of weeks ago. As a student, I wasn’t particularly an avid science student. It all seemed worse than tackling Greek and Latin (no, I did not learn that literally); physics and chemistry especially. Cooking is all about flavours, mixing and testing and trying out things until you create magic out of the elements. That is chemistry. Cooking is a chemical reaction. It is a process of applying, mixing things at a certain temperature, understanding the importance of timing and getting it right. Yet, that is not what cooking is all about for me although it is nice to think along those lines and believe something did come out of those painful Chemistry classes. Cooking is something that brings together good feelings. I love a house full of people to cook for. I live alone, but I love a full house of people to feed. There are few things that bring me the kind of joy that cooking for people I care about does.

My memories of my first go at cooking goes back to when I was all of a little less than seven. I suppose, faded as the memory is, I cannot forget my first teacher, my beloved Biji. She taught me to make samosas, sooji halwa, puri and potato curry and rice. I think the most difficult thing for me, at that point to learn was dal. Imagine! She would tell me, it’s the simplest and I would tell her, no, it’s the toughest. Anything that involved the use of a noisy whistling pressure cooker was a fright. It was. Then.

I learned to cook mostly by watching and allowing my nose to learn the aromas, what’s just right and how that should smell like. I learned a lot from my aunt later when I was in college but through the years, I watched and I learned. Arati, Madhu, Sushmita Di, Rakhi…all of you, Susheel (those omlettes) Prashant, Dad, Duloo Uncle…I have had the best times of my life in and around the kitchen with a bunch of friends who I dearly love.

Cooking is a sensual thing. Yeah, I know what everyone is thinking. What I mean is, it is the absolute use of one’s senses. You figure out when to add what by the aroma and not really by the time indicated in the recipe book. I have had serious disasters averted (and not averted), based on my adhering to absolute directions laid out in those cookbooks. For me, cookbooks are guides. You have got to go beyond that. You have to figure the feel of it, the taste of it, the sight of it, the way it makes you feel, and the absolutely fabulous aromas that waft the house. It doesn’t mean I do not burn stuff in the kitchen, including yours truly, but the kitchen is a retreat for me; calming, exciting, happy. Very happy.

Happy am I to be stirring…or steering. I love the feel of freedom that driving brings to me. I would love to take a road trip once a month if I had the opportunity to do so…I will get there. It is on my bucket list and because it is there, it shall happen. The first feel of four wheels came way later than that of two wheels. I loved my bike. Bikes are special for me. They hold memories that I can snuggle up to for comfort. My brother taught me how to cycle. I am ever grateful to him for that. Thank you Rohit (I love you)! It was crucial to learn how to ride a cycle because I wanted to learn how to ride a bike…and then I did. Between the patient instructions of clutch releases, gear changing, braking on an Ind Suzuki, there was a lot of shared memories with my Dad. (Thank you Dad! I love you!) Every Sunday morning, while the small town of Dimapur barely rose, he and I would start on our bike rides, my lessons. We would drive out, across the border, beyond Khatkhati through the lush green landscape of Nagaland and Assam, riding, with the feel of the wind on my face, happy, on roads that were good and bad in patches, between the invariable cattle that tend to stroll on them as well. We would then, after miles of riding, stop by at one of Dad’s friend’s farm, have a cup of tea, sometimes a meal and then return home. A bike is good until you get a flat tyre. I learned a lesson one of those days…I was thirteen and I was taught what one should do if one gets a flat tyre on a bike. I also learned that you always carry a safety pin with you and a bit of soap.

When the lessons shifted years later to a four wheeler, it was on trips to Transport Nagar in Jammu. My Aunt and cousin were the students and all I was allowed was to drive the white Maruti Van to Transport Nagar. A reverse on the driveway and smashing into a pot did nothing for my confidence two weeks later but I think I owe my driving today to the faith Arati put in me in Vizag when she handed me her car keys to drive her car from the Railway station after she had driven like a maniac there to catch a train to Delhi. I remember driving back to NCB, slowly, barely making it past the second gear and managing a third gear once the confidence grew. Now I drive, given (and not) a choice, almost everywhere in India once I land. I hate to fly or take a train to a place I can drive to. How can one ever see one’s own country any other way, feel and experience the beauty of it all? I love to stop by, at wayside places, sip a cup of chai, talk to the people who live there, share a bit of my life and take in a bit of theirs. I am always amazed and awed. I love the spontaneity of road trips. I have a sense of the land and I find my way. As much as I can bond in a kitchen, road trips are a trip, and that’s something else. There is a different bonding there.

I have no sense of where I go with my writings though. I can start with something and have no idea I am getting somewhere. Where my thoughts start, my journey begins, where I stop, my journey pauses for a bit before it begins again. I have no major recollection of writing when I was a small child. I loved reading. Yet, I remember that first attempt at writing for the school magazine. It was a three stanza poem which took a lot of effort to write. At that point, poetry wasn’t poetry if it didn’t rhyme. I know better now. I have to (am reminding myself) dig out that poem – I have it in one of the boxes back home. I also remember another poem ‘Fame’ I wrote when I was thirteen. I did not submit that one for publishing. I was too shy. I did post it much later on one of my blogs, mostly unedited, with very few grammatical corrections. I loved to weave tales. Most of the essays I wrote in school were extensions of the books I read and had some air of mystery to it. The story “Once Upon a Star” was originally written when I was thirteen. I am sentimental about these two works because it always reminds me of where it all started. I will share it…

I write, so I can breathe. My relationship with writing is intimate. A lot of the pain and terrors and disappointments I have experienced in life have found an outlet in my writings, stories and poetry alike. It helped. It also helped me to connect with those who felt the same. There is no solace on earth more significant than knowing there is someone who understands what you are saying and has, for a point of time the thought…Gosh, this is me! I reflect, I pause, smile, sigh, laugh, cry, shudder, feel the terror and pain and I let it all flow out. You cannot handle pain and solitude unless you befriend it. That happens when the fears, the emotional entrapment, the guilt and the countless ‘what if’s’ unleashes itself and one dares to take that one word by the hand and lead it all the way to whatever emerges thereafter as a piece.

‘Some desire is necessary to keep life in motion’. Mine is photography, cooking, driving and writing.

What’s yours?

Copyright Sandy@2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Well, the Fireflies

Well...it seems the word firefly is a single word with no hyphen...will get to edit that in my previous post. Like I said, I am a firefly. There really is no mystery to it. The only story attached to it is one of a time when I threw a tantrum and actually got away with what I wanted. Of course, it helps when your Biji (grandmother) feels you are the star in her eyes and we get, like I said, away with it.

Truth, (I know I will be the butt of a lot of leg-pulling, but nevertheless)...it's been a lifetime of names. My first name, originally, meant a firefly. Jugnu. My aunts from my Mom's side still end up calling me that. Of course, it did not last long, at least not officially. Luckily, at that point, one didn't have to run around to courts for affidavits to change a child's name. Things aren't half as sinple or charming as they used to be. Circa 1973, a Dharmendra-Hema starrer with some fabulous music by S D Burman and lyrics by Anand Bakshi....ring a bell? The movie was Jugnu. It became a box office superhit and I became the butt of teasing as little as I was all of  two and a half years old when I started school. Some movies go unnoticed. Well, this one didn't. Even two years later, when I started school, people still remembered the film. Who wouldn't? At that point Vampire Dharam (remember the ever constant dialogue ~ Kuttey Kaminey, main tera khoon pee jaaonga...) was an extremely handsome man and his Hema one of the most sought after stars. And great songs dont exactly make you forget a film, especially a classic super hit cult film at that!

Getting back to the point, I obviously threw up a particularly noisy tantrum (I am told) which consisted of me refusing to attend school. My Biji's pre-selected name which wasn't really in use, officially came into being. Written across the white report cards, in Chelpark Royal Blue Ink was the name Sandhya Suri. I am smiling. Perhaps, because it was one tantrum I got away with. Battle won. I try to think back if I have thrown too many tantrums in my life...yes, I have. Have I gotten away with it? Not. Mostly not. Sigh! All Megs needs to do is look at me with her deep pools of puppy eyes and I melt. Daughters. Heartaches and heartbreaks. All worth every twist in you heart as you watch them grow.

Okay, fireflies...you recall those vibrant Asia dragonflies I used to collect? Fireflies likewise were collected. Fotunately, all of them survived. I would collect them and then release them all together so they formed stars that blinked and spread across the dark shadows...a universe of my own. I kind of lived in my own universe mostly I suppose. I delighted in my imaginary dialogues and shared secrets. At least they kept my secrets and brought me so much joy.

So, there never really was anything quite out-of-the-ordinary story about fireflies. Except, they make me smile, they make me feel I have a secret. I am reminded that once, a long time ago, I was, in name, one of them. I smile again. Little things. Big things may give you a kick fora while. Eventually, it is the little things that make you smile.

Really smile.

Copyright Sandy@2011

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Feathers and Fire-flies

We have so many memories of childhood that never quite comes to the front until someone mentions something, some catch word or phrase you haven’t heard for years, or some clip from a film or real time event that takes you down those alleys of absolute delights in the smallest of things. Here I am, back today, on a rainy, stunningly grey Saturday (which I totally fall for), sipping on…nay not a coffee this time but a fresh summer fruits smoothie and thinking back summers, many summers, where life was simpler, joys were reliant of little things, reputation and awe depended on lesser complicated things than our current life-size egos.

NDTV was broadcasting Nita Ambani in a classroom, distributing white feathers to small kids. That is where the trigger of feathers came by…all of a sudden, her (highly) annoying tone, probably appropriate to a children’s cartoon mom character, not that I am here to criticize her voice especially when mine sounds just as if not more awful most times (uh)…her voice (let me be kinder), not quite one I enjoyed, obliterated into the background as the spirit within me took me to the time I was in school, perhaps in fifth or sixth grade, maybe seventh. But, the exact grade isn’t as important. Not as important as it used to be to collect feathers.

We were feather collectors in school. A beautiful baby blue competed with shocking pink, purple, white, the grey ones being the least valuable of all. I recall it used to find its rest in one’s personal journal, snuggled between pages of unwritten pages and pages on which ink had wept stories and life as it was. At that particular point, we never quite figured out how, but it always was a belief that if we kept the feathers between pages, some feathers gave birth to baby feathers. Tiny, soft, conjoined to the mother feather. It was a prized possession. If you had too many of one colour, a barter system existed to exchange it with colours you did not have.

As children, we really are at our simplest happiest best. Feathers! That’s a cause for delight! Now, sometimes the best of something fails to delight. What is that attributed to? Do we degenerate our innocence to become prejudiced, selfish, to our own basic simplistic needs? Why does it become such a crime to be kind? To smile? To not be jealous? To say ‘Thank you’, ‘Please’, ‘Sorry’, ‘Excuse me’?

I know I got off topic…but then, this is a ramble of thoughts any ways and I am happy enough to go wherever it takes me. It really was a realization today of how much of stuff goes unappreciated and how much we all long for appreciation, of little things and how only where the impact is of monetary value or individual partiality it exists. Sigh…that is another topic altogether and I am not inclined to talk about it by way of blogging…perhaps a live one to one conversation with a friend will bear more insight to why things happen the way it does.

This morning, when the rain had abated enough for me to sit in my car, through the glass, I saw a tiny insect. This is a special species, holding countless memories of times when I was small, unafraid and pretty much game for anything. These days, I contemplate. So, this particular species seems to be some cousin of the dragon fly I think. The Asia dragonfly, or rather damsel-fly…yes, such a name exists. I did a Google search a while ago to discover which of those I had seen this morning…

The point, getting back to the one I saw, reminded me of a time when I collected them, in an upturned glass, delighting in its vibrant colours. Of course, to my horror, I realized I wasn’t exactly being nice to them…especially when one in captivity died of suffocation. My collection and delight came to a realization that not everything that tends to delight you means comfort for the subject of your delight. Lesson learned. Yes, and forgotten, time and again. Go figure.

Seeing the vivid vibrant green, took me to a simpler time…a floral frock, hair in two plaits, shoulder length, in untidy tousled plaints…how does one manage that in plaits? Never quite figured that out yet.

Well, gotta rush…posting this…there wasn’t a point in all of this except a rainy September afternoon, sipping flavours of summer fruits that temporarily substituted the countless coffee mugs I had in training this morning.

So, where do the fire-flies fit in? I am a fire-fly. I smile as I write this and those who know my childhood from way back, before I was taller than two feet half would know where this comes from…or perhaps not. Fire-flies…they will come...in a later post. (wink)

Rock on!


Copyright Sandy@2011