Wednesday, February 22, 2023

If I Had Three Lives - Sarah Russell

 If I had three lives, I'd marry you in two.

And the other?  That life over there 
at Starbucks, sitting alone, writing -- a memoir, 
maybe a novel or this poem.  No kids, probably, 
a small apartment with a view of the river, 
and books -- lots of books and time to read.  
Friends to laugh with; a man sometimes, 
for a weekend, to remember what skin feels like 
when it's alive.  I'm thinner in that life, vegan, 
practice yoga.  I go to art films, farmers markets, 
drink martinis in swingy skirts and big jewelry.  
I vacation on the Maine coast and wear a flannel shirt
weekend guy left behind, loving the smell of sweat 
and aftershave more than I do him.  I walk the beach 
at sunrise, find perfect shell spirals and study pockmarks 
water makes in sand.  And I wonder sometimes 
if I'll ever find you.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Death, be not proud - John Donne

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Night has a Thousand Eyes - Francis William Bourdillon

The Night has a Thousand Eyes by Francis William Bourdillon

 The night has a thousand eyes,
 And the day but one;
 Yet the light of the bright world dies
 With the dying sun.

 The mind has a thousand eyes,
 And the heart but one:
 Yet the light of a whole life dies
 When love is done.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Stag's Leap - By Sharon Olds

The Stag's Leap is a story told in verses, traveling through phases of catharsis.
I have never been a big fan of poems, a verse here a verse there was fine anything more most often was tedious. The Stag's leap has sure been an exception.
It sure helped that there was a story being told, with some very nice lines that tug at heart, make one for a moment wish 'if i could write like that'.
Sharon Olds
The content apart what I loved most in the book was the attitude and the persona of the author shown out clear. Any relationship broken at best of times comes with a fair amount of pain and most times bitterness and anger and not to forget sadness, regret and the like coupled with the mind incessantly throwing up 'what ifs'. Here is a relationship that lasted three decades and from the sound of it,a brilliant one it was. At the end when the parting happened to record it in verses the different stages sadness, longing,the love and through it not be bitter and angry to acknowledge and state since she is the writer and his story is untold, she tries to speak for both to some extent is truly outstanding.
What stood out for me was the narrative sans venom and acrimony which is by far common place in broken relationships. I could hear myself say, if I could feel this way when I part ways (in any relationship), I would be pleased. The spirit of looking ahead and moving ahead stands out with out a doubt
A book sure worth a read, highly recommend it even to folks who have always felt 'I don't like poetry, I cant read a book of poetry' this books is a lot more, it is a story of a relationship, it is a story of two lovely human beings.

By the way the book won the : T.S.Elliot prize for poetry 2012 & the Pulitzer prize for poetry 2013

A few lines from the book

'....... everyone dies. sometimes a beloved dies and some times love.' - from 'French bra'
'.... Maybe I'm half over who he was, but not who I thought he was....' from 'bruise ghazal'
'... And love said, to me, what if I, myself asked you to love him less.....' from Red Sea'
'..... I think he loved being loved...' from 'I'd ask him for it'
'.... we have always been going back, since birth, back toward not being alive...' from 'the shore'
'.... let's part equals, as we were in every bed, pure equals of the earth' - from 'poem of thanks'
'... And it came to me, for moments at a time, moment after moment, to be glad for him that he is with the one he feels was meant for him...' - from 'September 2001,new York city'
'.... We made with each other, a moving like a kind of music :duet ;then solo, solo. we fulfilled something in each other.................... I did not leave him, he did not leave me, i freed him, he freed me.' - from 'what left?'

Links to buy the book if you so want to
paper back edition on flipkart
On Amazon - Kindle India
paper back on Amazon india

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gender Dynamics

The case stated at the two ends of the spectrum are, women have gotten assertive given their new found economic strength, they treat men shabbily. The other end being men are being boorish, don't give women their due, today she is at equal footing and then why is she still expected to carry out chores which have traditionally been on her plate, whence she is doing as much if not more than the man is.

The other point of discussion that keeps cropping up is the comparison of India with the western world. If they can, why can’t we? Are they not better off? Why is the Indian man being defensive and in a state of denial when compared to his western counterpart?

Let’s get the easier piece out of the way. Comparison beyond a point is meaningless. If we know where we want to be, where the rest are should not matter to us. Where it could add value is to set benchmarks and aspirations. The challenge is, a large part of our perception about the western world is formed from popular entertainment and brief cursory peeks into their world. This can result in flawed views of their world. Another divide is the urban and non urban, just as much as our social values/norms and acceptance of deviations from them are a lot higher in urban India, so is the case with the western world. They too have the divide leading to different levels of acceptances to deviations and levels of freedom to operate purely based on individual choices. Hence when making comparisons we might want to keep this factor in mind. The challenge of society readjusting to an assertive woman who demands equality and the right to make the choices she deems fit is by far faced world over. Each society is at a different stage and the degree of acceptance of the woman being an equal varies, not just in between Countries/culture but within these geographical confines, in terms of urban and non-urban. Socioeconomic parameters and structures play a significant role.

Are man and woman equal? See no reason why not. They are different and have carried out for a long while distinctly different functions. They are not the same is obvious, but does not make them unequal. Are they equals in today's world? No they are not; I doubt any sane person would even try to debate that. Where lies the rub then, it is in the degrees. It is by and large the man's attitude - 'it used to be a lot worse, count your blessings....’ or ‘I have given up so much of my power, yet you’re not happy'. Power shift is at all times a messy affair, the one in decline trying to hold hard - for remember though in a decline, it remains the more powerful and hence is likely to resist. On the other hand the emerging force will do its best to unseat. Given this nature there is bound to be chaos.

Society is at all times in a flux; it is in a transition given the dynamic nature of life. The woman is finding her place and today is beginning to find the strength to assert and hold her ground. From an Urban India perspective, I would call this the first generation of working women. For many of us in their late 30s, if one looked back at our childhood a working woman was the exception not the rule. Today in urban India it is a lot different, a large number of women do go out and work and make enough monies to support them-selves. Slowly but surely a small percentage of them are finding their way to positions of power. Many of them are in a position of financial independence with which come, the freedom to be able to make choices. Does not mean that the deep set social conditioning vanishes, for the few who are able to transcend that conditioning they find that they are in a position to make choices.

My sympathies are for this generation at large, men and women. I as a 'man' grew up in a time where clearly the 'man' called the shots. The social landscape I grew up in told me this. If I the man told so, the woman would do it. The man put the money on the table so he pretty much set the rules. If he did not beat his wife up, it was his benevolence. Most of us grew up watching Daddy ask for tea and Mommy making it. Father just sat at the table mother brought the food. Division of labour one could argue, but the point remains I grew up watching the man order and the woman listen. Depending on various parameters the ordering might have varied from autocratic and harsh, to an order sugar coated as request. Without dwelling on the reasoning or being judgmental, suffices to say that it was the social norm of the day.

Today now when I am grown up and it is time for me taking over the baton, ain’t I likely to replicate the old order, and more so given it is an order convenient and kind to me. But hey here is where I am in for a shock, the order is changing (Like in 'Who moved my cheese' Hem and Haw did not see this coming - and some of us are still in an empty cheese station howling and ranting). Today the woman is in the process of finding power, given her financial independence and the belief that she can look after herself (at least in many parts of urban India) and does not have to take all that is dished out to her. Now here lies the crux the issue, the shifting power and two entities finding themselves in places they are not used to being in. It will take the man a while to realize that the order he grew in, no more exists and that he has to move on and live in a new order (like the mice and men in "Who moved my cheese (pdf)" - the men take a lot longer to learn then the mice) and in this period of learning, he is lashing out hard and making it difficult for himself as much as for her. He needs to realize the old order had inherent flaws; it treated the woman as being subjugated to the man which is not tenable in today's world. As for the woman who has this new found power in hand, she is not sure how best to use it. Given the generations of oppression she is likely to be hitting really hard at every small and big issue, though understandable it does a fair share of damage. This phase brings with it, its own sets of challenges. Compromises don't come easy with both sides hardening up. Many more small fights are fought with same uncompromising fervour of the large. From the man's point of view the woman has a lot to celebrate. From the woman's point of view the man has a lot of growing up to do, lot of insecurities to shed, and lots more work to share in areas he will never have dreamt off. The woman has many a rightful grudge. If the man entered the kitchen it was like he lifted the Himalayas, where as he was just sharing work load. A man looks after the baby, and 'Awwww he is babysitting so sweet of him', heard of a retort from a not so pleased wife ‘He is parenting his child not babysitting' so no big deal. These are milder anecdotes. Many of the stories, many of us have heard cease being anecdotes and are nightmares.

Changes in society takes time coming, in individuals it could be faster, generally an intellectual acceptance to the need for change will be the first step, once that is made one needs to undo the deep set conditioning of the mind, an act easier said than done. Hence the dichotomy we see in people. In principle I would accept many things. But my actions are not driven only by my intellectual understanding but also by the conditioning of the mind. No wonder it is so common to see a person you think is strong and will have the strength to stand up for herself and make the choices she deems fit, falter time and again. So many times we see them not making the choices they want to in-spite of being convinced it is the right thing to do. Leaves us wondering 'she is confident, can look after herself and yet takes the shit she does'. This plausibly comes from the deep social conditioning, reaffirmed over generations until now, stating her place in society based on the old order. Same would apply to the man, where in theory he sounds perfect, and liberal, believes all are equal yet his actions might not match up.

We say the urban western world is way ahead of us, they are possibly in the second or third generation where the working woman has been the norm and hence they have learnt a lot more (They too continue to face challenges). Can we not learn faster? For that there has to be a primary acceptance that women are equals and hence any act that serves the purpose, needs to be seen as a correction and not an act of charity or concession. The systems / laws of the land need to reflect this consistently. Social norms and values will follow. In time the man will, or rather one hopes he will find the confidence to be himself and let got the old crutches of power that help him oppress. The woman in time would learn to wield that new found power better. Yet lot would depend on how well the man readjusts to the new order and in the interim we are going to see gory stories strung out to justify extreme reactions on both ends of the spectrum.

This upheaval is not true only for gender; probably the mechanisms remain same for all social inequalities old and new.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Every Crest Has A Trough

Every crest has a trough
Every high a low
Every rise a fall
Life does ebb and flow
So is the rule of life

A straight line, sans the highs and lows
Wouldn't life be a boring ride?
Aren't we better, with twists and turns that life begets?

Does one not need to experience darkness to appreciate light?
Does not the vanquished understand victory better than the victor?
Does failure not teach more than success?

Life seen through a looking-glass is a full of warts and all
Every trouble, a magnified
Fly up, look down from a thirty thousand feet above
If you have reasons to smile, what more could you ask of

As for me, it is a smile that spans from ear to ear
More blessings to count than curses to mourn