Thursday, November 24, 2011

I am grateful for. . .

Two days short of the third anniversary of the heinous terror attack on Mumbai, I want to express my gratitude for:


Life: So many people go to bed and sleep such a deep sleep that the screechiest of alarms cannot rouse them.


The well-being of my dear ones. The scourge of terrorism is an undeniable reality in our lives. So many people have been killed; so many more are grieving. No country is safe.


The courage of my fellow Mumbaikars who leave home every morning unaware about whether they will return. (Unfortunately, it is courage tempered with helplessness. "If we don't work, we can't survive in this city," said a hawker outside Leopold Cafe. "What's courage got to do with it?)


The bravery of Hemant Karkare, Vijay Salaskar, Ashok Kamte, Tukaram Omble, Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan and his fellow commandos of the National Security Guards, personnel from the Rapid Action Force, the Army and Marine Commandos. Had they not stood in the line of fire, the casualties would have been much higher.


The concern of Indian Hotels Company, the company that runs the Taj group of hotels. Despite being a victim on its home turf, the company empathised with the less fortunate and set up the Taj Public Service Welfare Trust to aid the victims of the 26/11/2008 terror attack and their relatives, and those affected by any manmade or natural disasters in the future. Read more about them HERE.


Members of our armed forces, the Coast Guard and, policeman, and commandos everywhere, who put their lives on the line every day to ensure our safety.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

I am grateful for. . .

The gift of my children for it helped me understand my parents' love.


The privilege of being able to witness and take delight in my children's growth milestones.


Friends with whom I can yap for hours at a time, with whom saying goodbyes takes forever because there is always something that must be said before we are willing to part.


Old photographs. They are always good for laughs. Incidentally, man is the only creature that can laugh or needs to.


The Internet. Manually exploring the world would have demanded many more lifetimes. And staying in touch with long-lost friends would have been well-nigh impossible.


The riot of colour and smell that is an Indian vegetable market. The sight is a visual reminder to me that God created a world of abundance.


For St Xavier's College, Bombay, my alma mater.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

I am grateful for. . .

My kids. No matter how badly the day has treated me, no matter how dishevelled my hair and rumpled my attire may be, they want to leap into my arms as soon as I show up at the door.


Friends to whom you need neither apologise nor make excuses if you have been Missing In Action for too long.


The music of the '70s and the '80s, which unfailingly takes me back to my childhood.


Libraries and websites offering links to books. I can neither buy nor store all the books that I would like to read.


The blue of the deep blue sea and the myriad hues of green that surround us everywhere. Both succeed in soothing me.


The smell of freshly baked bread.


The taste of cool water on a hot, sweltering summer's day. No cola or flavoured drink can quench a parched throat as well as water can.




Thursday, November 03, 2011

Who did I meet today?

Nine am on a trafficless road a few blocks away from my office building: I was ambling along slowly, marvelling over how desolate the road appeared. It seemed as if the world wasn't up yet? Was I early? I checked my watch. The dial indicated 9.05 am.


Where then were all the people? Did everyone have a day off? Was today a holiday that I had forgotten about? Or had aliens abducted all those who worked on this street?


I was walking along the pavement, pondering over these mysteries when a vagabond, hobo, bum, call him what you will, suddenly sprang up just a few inches in front of me. Shaggy and rough he was, with a beard that tapered as it reached the top of his scant belly.


He had seemed to materialise out of nowhere. In truth, he must have just sprung up from the platform of an adjoining shopfront where he must have been sitting.


He was so gaunt that I could have knocked him down with my elbow. And yet I stood there dazed, wondering what I was going to do if he attacked me. Where are the crowds when you need them?


He stared at me for the briefest of seconds and then his lips parted to reveal a set of off-white teeth.


And then he spoke. "Hello, girl, I am God."


With that, he sprinted away as fast as he could. Relieved, I laughed aloud and turned to look after him. I was still laughing when a middle-aged office-goer turned the corner and came face to face with me. My laughter must have sounded unreal to him because he turned to look at what had so amused me. There was no one there.


I turned away, as the strains of a Joan Osbourne classic drifted into memory. "What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us, Just a stranger on the bus, Trying to find his way home."


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Back after a long hiatus. Hopefully back for good

Writing is the hardest work in the world. It requires one to stare at a piece of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead, said a far wiser mind than mine.


When I just started on my freelance career, I would naively answer the question, "What do you do?" with one standard response — "I write." For my pains, I would be greeted with an incredulous stare once in a while, and derisive laughter more often. When the initial reaction subsided, which was very soon, I would be told, "Ha! I write too. Everybody writes. No big deal about it. It's the easiest thing in the world. Now what is it that you really do?"


So to rephrase the opening line, writing is the hardest work in the world. For a writer, that is. The others get along mighty fine, writing lists, notes, letters, emails, smses, accounts and a hundred other things without a care in the world. Only writers tear their hair out over what to write, which word to put first, which is the better word, struggling over the fumbling incompetence of the pen (or the keyboard) even as epics and magnum opuses inside our heads raise a noisy clamour, beating down upon the walls of our minds, shrieking to be let out.


If that isn't bad enough, one struggles with the mundaneness of life. Muses go underground and inspiration gently snores as we juggle the menace of writer's blocks with the need to cook meals, clean homes, nurture families and children, hold jobs, earn wages, commute in cattle-class conditions (this one especially if you live in Mumbai and need to take the train to get anywhere), keep up with friends, eat, sleep, pray.


Writing is a very fragile art. The creative spark will not stand and jostle with the rowdiness of the marketplace. Nor will it come with a flourish if you park yourself in front of a blank sheet of paper. It cannot be summoned. It comes unbidden, sometimes at odd hours and odd places. That is why they tell you to have a notebook handy. How many gems haven't I lost because I didn't write them down and trusted in my memory to retrieve them at will?


Great writers fight the ennui by giving in to their own individual quirks, to which they cling with pride. Edgar Allan Poe wrote with a cat on his shoulder. Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway and Nabokov wrote standing up. Colette picked the fleas of her cat and then wrote. Friedrich Von Schiller kept rotten apples under the cover of his desk. Then when he needed inspiration, all he had to do was open the lid, take a deep breath and voila! Inspiration came with a rush.


What do I have to offer in comparison? Just the desire to write longhand even though I have the computer’s word processor at my disposal. Pretty tame, I think.


My laziness and desire to procrastinate have served me right. From now on, I shall discipline myself to the rigours of the writer's life. I will cook and clean and put excitable children to bed and even as I do that, I will watch with bated breath for inspiration to strike. And I shall be prepared.


If you've been with me so far, I'd appreciate it if you would drop by occasionally and say some cheery words to me in the Comments section. The writing life imposes a solitude of sorts. One can get so lost amid the characters and world that are of one's own creation that it is a pleasure to know that one is not ranting in a wilderness.



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