Why? (Or, Why is It That I Have to Let You Judge Me)

Why? O Why?
When I am not a super-human
Why do I have to act one
Everywhere, for everyone? 
I have to pretend 
That I am invulnerable 
That I don't break...
I don't suffocate... 
That I have to swing
Between being a spineless creature 
And a human of substance 

Why? O Why? 
I have to be a protean?
Adroit at everything I do
That if I fail, I am useless
And if I win, I am a hero 
Held aloft on display 
Why my love has to pass your tests?
If I don't show, I am selfish, 
If I show, I must be tamed 

Why? O Why? 
Can't I be just your level, 
I must be either better or worse? 
Why is it that I have to 
Let you judge me 
And not judge you at all…

Pic Credits: "Frieda and Diego" by Frieda Kahlo. Note how Frieda's self portrait is deliberately kept puny in comparison to Diego's

{ This poem is by a guest poet who wants to contribute by the name of "Marooned". }

5 Interesting Things to Do in Trivandrum

Vivekananda Rock Memorial Photo by Premnath ThirumalaisamyCC BY 2.0 

Trivandrum (Or Thiruvananthapuram (Thiruvaṉantapuram, Malayalam: തിരുവനന്തപുരം), the capital city of the coastal state of Kerala on India’s south-western coastline, is bountiful in numerous tourist activities. Picnics, races, trekking, reading, dreaming- you will be in delightful confusion in picking out what to indulge in! 

Located within the spice bowl of India, Trivandrum is a land of aromatic herbs with healing powers, rivers, beaches, mouth-watering cuisines, gardens and whatnot. Its location makes it loaded with various activities for entertainment and edification. 

Top 5 Things to Do:

Selecting the best activities won’t be an easy selection for the excited traveler, as is so often the case! Listed below are the best of the lot, chosen solely for your enjoyment and merriment: 

1. Healing Ayurveda

The ancient healing science of Ayurveda is not only for the sick and afflicted, but serves to de-stress and rejuvenate any regular person you pick out from the crowd. Explore the various ayurvedic clinics and centers for a refreshing and soothing experience. Ayushmanbhava Ayurvedic Center provides both short and long term treatments and programs which have promising and lasting results. 

2. Aqua Leisure in Rivers and Beaches

Indulge in a boosting shot of adrenaline and endorphins as they course and throb through your veins in various water sports and activities. Beaches are in plenty and you can enjoy long walks or ride speed boats according to your taste. Kayaking can be both an exciting and refreshing sport, and quiet gentle boat rides will lull your senses to relaxation. 

3. Search Your Soul

Trivandrum is infused with spiritual history as evident from the impressive ancient constructions and mighty temples and tall churches. Survey the timeline of the art of building and creating massive structures, all made for the wandering and hungering human soul. Seek comfort in the solitude and devotion that exude from these spiritual sanctuaries. Whether you happen to be a believer or non-believer, it is undoubtedly a sight to behold devotees immersed in devotion and soulful trances. 

4. Sightseeing, Shopping and Spice

Whether you embark on your own or book a tour through KTDC (Kerala Tourism Development Corporation), there is plenty to see and enjoy inside the city. You can drive to Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of mainland India, and watch in awe at the long stretch of sand and sea. You can also book a short tour of the city in small groups and take time to investigate interesting corners that appeal to your curiosity. Do make sure to explore spice gardens and get your hands on the organic produce of the state. Reasonably priced and free of adulterants, it is a great way for pampering yourself to various oils, spices, soaps and eatables. Plan a trip to Neyyar Dam to get even closer to nature and take time to treat yourself to the magnificent sights of the Western Ghats. From Agastya Mala, you will feel like you have travelled to a land between parallel time zones as the clouds and sky seem to merge together in a cerulean canvas. 

5. Be Fighting Fit

If you possess interest or have experience in martial arts, this is a big plus of Trivandrum. Kalarippayat, one of the most highly developed arts of self-defense with spectacular demonstrations, can be learnt if you happen to have some extra days planned into your trip. CVN Kalari Sangham offers lessons and trainings to willing and dedicated participants and regular classes are held on all days of the week except for Sundays. 

More to Do, More to See: 

Make it a priority to try out the various cuisines, especially the delectable Kerala Thali, or “plate of Kerala”, which consists of multiple curries and sauces served with steamed rice. Trivandrum Zoo is a good educational treat if you have kids on your trip as it is well-maintained and clean. Be sure to get your hands on some handicrafts and locally made artifacts as they can be appealing as well as interesting. Coffee is a much-favored beverage and there are many cafeterias and coffee houses where you can enjoy freshly brewed coffee as well as spiced teas. 

This is a guest blog by Rohit takes pleasure in gifting the world with wonders and awareness about many fascinating nooks of India and captivates his readers with his journeys to the different corners of this peninsular nation. He blogs regularly at http://www.transindiatravels.com/.

साँवले होठों वाली: सोचा, कोई गीत लिखूँ

आशा तकिये में छिप रोती
ढूंढ रहे सब सीप में मोती 
इस दौर भाग में 
एक नवल प्रीत लिखूँ 
सोचा, कोई गीत लिखूँ

होड़ है, शोर है
जोड़ है, तोड़ है 
गुणा-भाग में 
खोया एक राग लिखूँ 
मुस्काता एक बाग लिखूँ

पर कलम बेचारा, क्या बतलाता
जो भी लिखता, व्यर्थ ही पाता 
धुएें के बाजार में 
अनसुनी एक गुहार लिखूँ 
कैसे कहो फूहार लिखूँ

माटी है, ये बोल नहीं
हाँ, बातों का मोल नहीं 
ऐसे कोलाहल में 
सरहद है बेहाल लिखूँ 
या विधवा का श्रृंगार लिखूँ

सोचा था एक ख्वाब लिखूँ 
साकी और शराब लिखूँ
क्या हार लिखूँ , क्या जीत लिखूँ 
उचित नहीं मैं गीत लिखूँ 
उचित नहीं मैं गीत लिखूँ

["सोचा, कोई गीत लिखूँ" लामया द्वारा लिखी "साँवले होठों वाली" संग्रह की कविता है. और पढ़ने के लिए देखें saanwale hothon wali ]

Picture Credits: Self Portrait, Oscar Kokoscha, Oil with hand

The Boy Who Conquered

[ A story by Amrita Brahmo ]
Long ago, and far away, there was a land blessed with a strange and magical power. No one quite knew how, but any child born in that realm was gifted with the ability to live up to his or her name. Now you might think this was mere coincidence, and believe me, so did people for a long time. Then someone did the math and deduced that there was indeed a reason as to why all the young men named after the Fire-God were setting haystacks ablaze with their slightest tantrums. Anyway, such were the ways of the land and people took great care to choose a perfect name for their young ones, one that would seal their destiny for the years to come.

Time passed by until on the first day of winter, with the first snowflake, a baby boy was born in the family of a modest school teacher, and the entire village came to partake of their joy and to witness the ceremony of name-giving. Amidst the crowd, the teacher’s wife held up her little baby in the air as he shrieked, protesting against the cold blast, and pronounced his name “Arihant!” There was a murmur for no one quite knew what the name meant. It was the first of its kind and they stood in awe as the teacher told them what it meant- “One who has vanquished his enemies”
The years passed by and the little boy grew up under his family’s stern but loving eye. He went to school like others of his age, but his heart lay in other things, finding shapes in the clouds, building artifacts from clay and making up elaborate stories to amuse his younger siblings. The bane of his existence, in his ten year old mind, was his name. Each time someone asked him that question, he suppressed a grimace thinking of the inevitable awe that would follow. He often thought of asking his parents why.
I don’t want to kill enemies, I don’t want to conquer anyone. I’d rather make friends and make people happy, don’t you get it?
But being a polite boy, he never voiced it out loud.
One day he was sitting by the river bank, throwing stones into the water, watching as they created ripples in his reflection. Suddenly he heard a plop and saw that an old man was trying to recover his little metal pot which had just fallen into the river. In a jiffy, he waded into the stream, his wiry body underwater for a few seconds before he resurfaced with the pot and handed it over to the man with a “Pranam”.
“May God bless you, my son. What is your name?” The old man asked.
“My name is Arihant, Dadaji” The boy replied, using the form of address for grandfather. He didn’t quite mind telling this man his name, maybe because he didn’t pause in awe, he just smiled.
“And Arihant, do you know what it means?” He asked.
The boy crinkled his eyebrows for a second, ” It means one who has conquered his enemies” , he recited listlessly.
“Yes that is what they say it means. But do you know what it means?”
By now the boy was confused. “What does it mean then? I don’t know. I always thought…”
“You always thought the enemy would just be someone who attacks you with sword and spear. Someone whose blood you need to spill. Okay tell me, if you are very hungry and have only one mango and a boy your age suddenly snatches it from you ,what would you do?”
“Hit him hard!” Arihant said, a flash of outrage making way to his face at the imagined scenario
“Okay, but then, suppose he hasn’t eaten for days. Suppose he has to bring back food for family too. What then?”
“I’d not get angry, I’d let him have it.” Arihant mused
“So who was your enemy in this case? What was driving you to do something bad, an eye for an eye?” The old man smiled peacefully.
“Anger.” the boy uttered with a wide eyed look. “My enemy is not a person. It can be a thing. An emotion. Something truly bad.”
“Yes. And your destiny is to be the conqueror of your enemies, my son. Do you see now?”
The old man quenched his thirst and walked away.
Ten year old Arihant walked back to his village with his head held high, ready to embrace the power of his name.
[This post is authored by 'Amrita Brahmo', originally published at mysoulcompany ]
[Picture Credit: Caravaggio, Amor Victorious, Renaissance, Baroque]

The Zen Master and a Little Girl

Life, birth, death are the constituent questions of philosophy. The complexity of these subjects is overwhelming and hence the explanations seldom have continuity. I came across this anecdote about a Zen master (a Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism emphasizing the value of meditation and intuition rather than ritual worship or study of scriptures) Seung Sahn Soen-sa, which channels the knowledge into a childlike simplicity. Soen-sa recounts his conversation with Gita, the seven-year-old daughter of one of his students at the Cambridge Zen Center, after the death of the center’s beloved cat, cleverly named Katz. (“Katsu!” is a shout that is described in Chán and Zen Buddhism encounter-stories, to expose the enlightened state (Japanese: satori) of the Zen-master, and/or to induce initial enlightenment experience in a student). Katz had died after a long illness and was given a traditional Buddhist burial, but the little girl remained troubled by his death. One day, she came to the him for an explanation. 

“What happened to Katzie? Where did he go?”
Soen-sa said, “Where do you come from?”
“From my mother’s belly.”
“Where does your mother come from?” Gita was silent.
Soen-sa said, “Everything in the world comes from the same one thing. It is like in a cookie factory. Many different kinds of cookies are made — lions, tigers, elephants, houses, people. They all have different shapes and different names, but they are all made from the same dough and they all taste the same. So all the different things that you see - a cat, a person, a tree, the sun, this floor - all these things are really the same.”
“What are they?”
“People give them many different names. But in themselves, they have no names. When you are thinking, all things have different names and different shapes. But when you are not thinking, all things are the same. There are no words for them. People make the words. A cat doesn’t say, ‘I am a cat.’ People say, ‘This is a cat.’ The sun doesn’t say, ‘My name is sun.’ People say, ‘This is the sun.’
So when someone asks you, ‘What is this?’, how should you answer?”
“I shouldn’t use words.”
Soen-sa said, “Very good! You shouldn’t use words. So if someone asks you, ‘What is Buddha?’, what would be a good answer?”
Gita was silent.
Soen-sa said, “Now you ask me.”
“What is Buddha?”
Soen-sa hit the floor.
Gita laughed.
Soen-sa said, “Now I ask you: What is Buddha?”
Gita hit the floor.
“What is God?”
Gita hit the floor.
“What is your mother?”
Gita hit the floor.
“What are you?”
Gita hit the floor.
“Very good! This is what all things in the world are made of. You and Buddha and God and your mother and the whole world are the same.”
Gita smiled.
Soen-sa said, “Do you have any more questions?”
“You still haven’t told me where Katz went.”
Soen-sa leaned over, looked into her eyes, and said, “You already understand.”
Gita said, “Oh!” and hit the floor very hard. Then she laughed.
Soen-sa ends the anecdote with an exchange intended to be funny, but in fact a tragic testament to contemporary Western education being a force of industrialized specialization, deliberately fragmenting the unity of all things and de-conditioning our inner wholeness:
As she was opening the door, she turned to Soen-sa and said, “But I’m not going to answer that way when I’m in school. I’m going to give regular answers!” Soen-sa laughed.

One may disagree with the explanation and have so many cross questions but there is no doubt about the strength of the single fabric answer which even a child can understand.

[This anecdote appeared originally in brainpickings ]
[Picture Credit: Octavio Ocampo, The Buddha, Surrealism]

Things That Make Your Day: Dear Daddy

'Women empowerment' and 'Open Letters' are probably two of the most abused phrases around us. Every one talks about the first and writes the second, to further a third -hidden agenda. What is different about this video is it has no masquerades. It is actually an advertisement (By CARE Norway) and easily one of the most powerful adverts to come out in the recent times. What makes it extremely powerful, is the transcript-an 'Open letter', that an anonymous girl writes to her father. The letter, a mini autobiography, leaves a message... and a mirror with our faces

Dear Daddy,
I just wanted to thank you for looking after me so well, even though I am not yet born. I know you already try harder than Superman, and you might even let mommy eat sushi. But I need to ask you a favor. Warning. It’s about boys because you see, I will be born a girl, which means that by the time I’m 14, the boys in my class will have called me a whore, a bitch, a cunt and many other things. It’s just for fun of course, something boys do. So you won’t worry and I understand that. Perhaps you did the same when you were young, trying to impress some of the other boys.

I’m sure you didn’t mean anything by it. Still, some of the people won’t get the joke and funnily enough it isn’t any of the girls, it’s some of the boys. So by the time I turn 16 a couple of the boys will have snuck their hands down my pants when I am so drunk I can’t even stand straight. And although I say “no” they just laugh, it’s funny, right? If you saw me daddy you would be so ashamed because I am wasted. 

No wonder I am raped when I am 21, 21 and on my way home in a taxi driven by the son of a guy you went swimming with every Wednesday. The guy who always told insulting jokes but they were of course only jokes so you laughed. Had you known that his son would end up raping me you would have told him to get a grip. But how could you know, he was just a boy, telling weird jokes and in any case it wasn’t your business. You were just being nice. But his son, raised on these jokes becomes my business.

Then finally I meet Mr. Perfect and you are so happy for me Daddy because he really adores me. And he’s smart with a great job and all through the winter he goes cross country skiing three times a week just like you. But one day he stops being Mr. Perfect and I don’t know why. Wait. Am I overreacting? One thing I do know, I am not the victim type. I am raised to be a strong and independent woman. But one night it is just all too much for him with work, and the in-laws and the wedding coming up, so he calls me a whore, just like you called a girl in middle school a whore once.

Then another day he hits me. I mean I’m way out of line, I can really be a bitch sometimes. We’re still the world’s greatest couple and I’m so confused, because I love him and I hate him and I’m not sure if I really did do something wrong and then one day he almost kills me. It all goes black, even though I have a Ph.D., a fantastic job, I’m loved by my friends and family, I am well brought up and nobody saw this coming.

Dear Daddy, this is the favor I want to ask:

One thing always leads to another so please stop it before it gets the chance to begin. Don’t let my brothers call girls whores because they’re not. And one day some little boy might think it is true. Don’t accept insulting jokes from weird guys by the pool or even friends because behind every joke there is always some truth.

Dear Daddy, I know you will protect me from lions, tigers, guns, cars and even sushi without even thinking about the danger to your own life.

But Dear Daddy, I will be born a girl. Please do everything you can so that, that won’t stay the greatest danger of all.
Credits: #DearDaddy Campaign, CARE Norway. 

Po'Lie'tics - Promising Growth at the Pace of a Sloth

This is published in association with A Voice for the Everyman by Q

‘I give you - a free and prosperous nation’
Screamed the khadi clad hero
But if we were to believe him,
Our bank accounts would just read - zero

It is amazing that there is more 
than one idiot making the same promises
But everything he gives us is returned
to him with interest, Oh blazes!

He is a wonderful accountant, 
He writes budgets that serve your every whim
Less than ten percent of the total 
expenditure is for us,- the rest is for him

But no income tax officer can trap him,
for he is absolutely prolific
And that is democracy for you; 
Every man has his right to steal, Terrific!

He is never honest, I’d rather 
trust a cunning and scheming magician
Lie, but do it with guile, 
you are a qualified professional politician

He eliminates his enemies easily
With an iron hand, his rogues prevail
That is the irony of democracy;
Huh! you chose one to no avail

They keep making us vote for them, 
we fail to call their - bullshit
And we are proud to live in the 
greatest democracy, that’s the beauty of it

Picture Credits: Garangatua's Meal, Gustave Dore, Symbolism

साँवले होठों वाली: ऐसे रब को क्या रोना है

जाने कहाँ चला आया  
सिरहाने हूँ सन्नाटे के 
कल तो खेला गाया 
चोगा पहने, चौबारे में  
माँ ने रोट पकाया था 
मैने पेट भर खाया था 
दुआ भी कर सोया था  
थोड़े खिलोने थे, 
पर ना रोया था ...

ये कहर फिर क्यूँ आया ?
क्यूँ ऊपर वाला गुस्साया ?
जन्नत से बारुदें बरसीं 
जीने को फिर ज़ानें तरसी 
अब हर लम्हा डरता हूँ 
घुट घुट कर मरता हूँ 
अपनों को तरसा हूँ 
अब हर लम्हा डरता हूँ 

कहती थी दादी मुझसे 
अच्छे को अच्छा होता 
रब को प्यारा बच्चा होता 
फिर क्यूँ मुझको चोटें आई ?
सुना नहीं जो आवाज लगाई 
दादी की भी बात न मानी 
बर्बादी करने की ठानी 

ज़िसके रहते भी बस खोना है 
ऐसे रब को क्या रोना है 
ज़िसके रहते भी बस खोना है 
ऐसे रब को क्या रोना है 

["ऐसे रब को क्या रोना है " लामया द्वारा लिखी "साँवले होठों वाली" संग्रह की कविता है. और पढ़ने के लिए देखें saanwale hothon wali ]
Picture Credits: War, Marc Chagall, 1966, Symbolic Surrealism

I'll Write a Song for Them

I'll write a song for them
A song about you.
And the passage to 'Us'
Like the interstice between
The dreams and the dread
From which the yarns
Of passion are made
In the desolate moments
When the morning was far
When the twilight waited
For a moon or a star
A song for those moments
To the music of dawn...
I'll write a song for them 

I'll write a song for them
About the river you are,
The meadow I am.
How you dissect and nourish
Me, all at once!
On a boulder of basalt,
A tender sapling
That breaks it open,
Yet makes it alive.
Between friction and spirit
Only love can survive,
For a poem the wind
Will write on the water...
I'll write a song for them

I'll write a song for them
For a promise of life
Green, and so merry.
With tulips so slender,
And lilies so white.
On a porch in the sun
When I seem all so lost;
While all I am thinking
Is nothing, but you.
A noon spent swirling
Like sugar in tea.
A story of finches
That flew in the morn.
A story for finches
That came back to home...
I'll write a song for them...

Picture: Water Lilies, Claude Monet

अकेली रात काली क्यों होती है?

अकेली रात काली क्यों होती है?
अँधेरे में इतना कालापन किसने डाला?
सजा मिलने पे चमड़ी
काली क्यों हो जाती है?
या चमड़ी काली होने पे सजा?
जादू बुरा हुआ
तो काला हो गया!
जुबान बुरी हुई
तो काली हो गयी
ये काले को अंक लगाया
तो कलंक कैसे लग गया?
वो जो फन काढ़े काला नाग बैठा है
वो हमसे-तुमसे विषैला है क्या?

सुनने में ये बकवास सवाल
कुछ पुराने बही-खातें खोल दें
कहीं सफ़ेद दाढ़ी वाला
गोरा हमारा ईश्वर
खुद को काला बोल दे
वो जो सफेदी नापने
वाला फीता है 
कहीं धुंधला हो जाये
गोरी राधा का मोहन
कोई सांवला हो जाये

इसी डर से कुछ चीज़ों को

हम काला कहते हैं

Pic Credits: "Negro", Pencil, Charles Wilbert White

Summer Rain

By the tracks with the violet blooms
By a brook with the scattered moon

In the groves of those misty pines
We’ll swing from the serpent vines

Under realm of a drunken night
On the sands both grey and white

I shall search in your oyster eyes
For the foams of the Venus to rise

Through the mast of that fading ship
With my songs on your tulip lips

Seeking shells from a silent shore
We will sail to the land of lore

Whence heart meets the sea and sky
We’ll jump with the birds and fly

Will you listen to the cobalt sea?
Will you run to the rainbow tree?

Will you jump on the passion train?
Will you walk in the summer rain?

Picture Credits: Rain in Oak Forest, Ivan Shishkin, Realism

Poems Are Our Honesty That We Can Sing

Poems are our honesty that we can sing. 
Poetry, or for that case all forms of creation, are one of the ways, human meets the superhuman.
They are not written. 
They happen. 

Just like a childbirth, there is a moment of singularity when you conceive a verse. 
Then you nurture it in your soul.
It grows with you, and then one day it takes a form… written or spoken. 
Once it has a form, it is free and so are you. 
It is painful. 
Like all forms of creation, it begins with a chaos and ends in light. 
Just like a childbirth. 
This is why in the Hindustani tehzeeb of Shayari, the poets plead you to listen to them by saying “Arz kiya hai”.
That is all that a poet really wants. 
To be heard.

Nothing makes one a poet. 
Just like clouds have rain, everyone has a poem, waiting to precipitate. 
But it is elusive...
Finding that poem, is finding rain in the cloud. No one can.
We have to become the poem. 
There is either rain or the cloud. 
It needs an ascension, for the clouds to become water and poets to become poems. 
A jolt, a thrust, a toss into the open skies.
It is in those ramblings, we meet our song.
Some of us have the words to express them and some have none. 
But all of us are poets nonetheless. 
Poems are My honesty that You can sing. 

Picture Courtesy : Egon Schiele , Self portrait with black clay pot, 1911, Expressionism

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