Stepping Up

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It was one of those turbulent days when you forget that rubbing your eyes this hard could possibly leave you with no lashes, when the comfort of your bed makes an unreasonable case escaping responsibility, when the present is hazed by a head full of voices of past mistakes and a heart curdling with the uncertainty of the future. In that moment, you look up and find the stillness and streaks of light you yearned for within you. You pick up the monster machine lying under your pillow and let some of this light in through its lens. This moment is crucial, for after that, you close your eyes for a minute, step up, and step out of bed.

To small victories, each day.

Swim

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“This summer I went swimming,
This summer I might have drowned
But I held my breath and I kicked my feet
And I moved my arms around…”

Loudon Wainwright III, Swimming Song 

Compromise

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Bugs,
I’ve let them colonise,
Harbour inside,
Create their own paradise.
Words,
I hear hollow advice,
They’re cold water,
To my wounds,
I taste the lies.
Mirrors
Bring to light
My spots and lines,
Cut, seep, squeeze out
Demons mine.
Darkness
Guzzles my mind
In one swig,
Clear and precise.
There’s no out,
Just in,
So I smile,
Learn to live
With these sighs.

The Tale of the Mistletoe

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“Oh, don’t ever harm Baldur!”

Beseeched Frigg to each n’ every one.

But overlooking the mistletoe

Brought death to her precious son.

She wept and howled, distraught,

Her tears forming white berries,

This loss even the Gods could feel.

So they brought Baldur back,

Put her out of her misery.

 

It’s an offering dropped from heaven,

Said the Greek and Roman.

For lovers to embrace,

And enemies to find peace.

Resilient like a warrior,

It feeds and heals,

Even when trees shed all their leaves.

 

Elks, chipmunks, robins,

Porcupines and bluebirds,

It brings all together,

And not once cleaves.

In life as in the legend,

Mending, thawing, binding,

Rounding very crease.

 

Travel Tale: Floating in the Poetic Dusk

A big ring adorned Mamta’s nose, silhouetting half her face as we huddled around a bonfire for warmth. And sitting there with the glorious Kumaon hills girdling us and Mamta reading one of her poems for me, I learned how nature and words soothe a crumbly spirit.

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It was only a day before that I had met Mamta for the first time when the hosts of my retreat centre introduced us. Our small chat had concluded with her beaming at me and exclaiming in broken Hindi, “Didi, I will come and see you at the inn tomorrow!” She wanted to know what a bunch of college girls from Delhi were doing in Kausani!

Which brings me to: What could I do here? In 3 days?

For starters, I could sit on these porches that always welcomed us with tea and viands. I could talk to these people who always regaled us with colourful stories. With them, I could drink these buttery noons and tangerine sunsets. Maybe along the way, I could pick up a few Kumaoni words, understand a new culture, unspool its richness and authenticity. But, who could’ve imagined that I would do just that and more, and that Mamta would help me with most of it!

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She joined our group for tea just like she had promised. A few moments later, we were scribbling Aipan designs on random scraps of paper—and in the next few—up on our feet, matching folk tunes with our own versions of Chholiya as the sun dived between the hills. Here, in an Indian village in the quiet vicinity of the Himalayas, the Italian saying of il piccolo mondo got a whole new meaning!

Within hours, I was sitting under the pin-pricked night sky, listening to Mamta’s voice as she read a poem from her notebook. And while her words warmed the December air, I took a closer look at the poetry of the land I was in. I could see and feel it in the Buransh (Rhododendron), in the chartreuse farmlands, and in this amazing rendezvous of nature, people, and history.  

That’s how I was always going to remember this village cradled in these verdant hills. As a place where I felt freer, happier, lighter—all at the same time. My souvenir: A friendship that began with a Kausani local asking me, “Tumar naam ki cha?”

Safe to fit in

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We were busy sitting straight

Colouring inside lines

Running relays

Getting caught up in grades

Letting sketchbooks fade

And losing ourselves thus

Never standing out

Never making a fuss.

 

Oh, why didn’t we want our quirks to be seen?

We never really liked filling trees with green!

Plans

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I have a map.

It’s vibrant,

Dotted and streaked

With bold, adventurous plans.

I have a boat.

It glides and nods,

Cuts through waves,

But takes me on a new path,

An unknown trail.

I have a compass.

It flits and flirts with the wind,

Wayward and difficult,

Points to directions I haven’t framed.

And there is no lighthouse to lead the way.

I have an anchor.

It’s been on the mast since I set sail.

I hop onto it to brave the weather, uncertain.

My map is a criss-cross of contrasting inks,

I’m questioning,

Re-thinking,

Scared.

But in for the ride,

However it fares.

I am navigating through life.

Photo by Oliver Cole via unsplash.com

This Chatty Bench

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Can you hear the lullaby

Or my mother’s touch feel.

Can you see the Alphabet

That I learned here to read.

Can you picture that first kiss,

Sense how it filled me with glee.

Can you listen the sweet warble

Of his first letter to me.

Can you tell the heartbreak

Didn’t fight shy of cutting deep.

Can you grasp the moments

Of which this bench holds memories.

Image courtesy of pixabay.com