Category Archives: Personal Reflections

A Muse By My iPod

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Source: eideard.com

Source: eideard.com

The dark clouds stealthily started to gather bit by bit, inching their way across the vast backdrop of the evening sky that contained only a tinge of the fading crimson from the setting sun. It seemed like the drop of watercolor that accidentally slips off the painter’s brush and dissolves into the blurry water. The drop had already lost most of its intensity by now. The chilly breeze ran about in child-like delight announcing the arrival of the rains to the thirsty earth that had endured the intensity of the sun all day long. I sat in my luxurious balcony perched on the twenty-fifth floor across the beach, with my pen and paper, pretending to play the quintessential writer, and searching the sky, the setting sun, the clouds, the earth and the chilly breeze for my muse to reveal itself from behind these. But my presence seemed inconsequential to the rest of the cosmic plot that unveiled itself with mesmerizing precision, almost as though someone had been softly announcing the cues from behind an invisible drape. I continued to relentlessly elbow my way through the wide yonder looking for my place in the serene landscape.

It occurred to me just then how much the concept of love resembles the skies above me. I have heard people often declare what love means to them. It dawned on me that just like the vast limitless sky love is infinite and immeasurable, and what meets our eyes is simply an evidence of our restricted vision and our perennial need to define everything. There still exist depths of unstirred silence behind and beyond what our limited vision discerns. Just like love, the sky too dons different shades on different days each as much real or surreal as the other. While the warmth of the sun radiates in crystal blue on certain days, the pensive clouds give the sky a chimerical dreamlike appearance on other days. On some days, the colour of my tinted shades adds vibrant hues to my perception just as much as the presence or the absence of a person affects it. Then there are days when the city’s high-rises obscure the glorious firmament and distract my attention away from an unobstructed view. I know now that the sky is ‘love’ and ‘love’ is just like the sky – devoid of any single definition. It is simply a matter of belief and perception.

My gaze now returned to the earth which, like my heart, held in its bosom the warmth to nurture and create life after the skies had kissed it with rain and sun. But as my mind carelessly wandered about, my muse yet refused to appear before me this evening. By now, the sky had turned into a giant black hole within which sparkled a zillion fireflies! The clouds had melted into rains that tapped softly upon the earth bringing me a fresh scent of wet mud that lingered on in the darkness of the night. In some stretches of space within the compound walls, closer to the ground, the scent of wet mud blended with the fragrance of some wild flowers and leaves creating an untraceable soothing scent that appeared and disappeared as passers-by went past. Disappointed yet rejuvenated, I retired within the four walls of my room where my iPod lay. The soft yielding wires of my headphones had managed to entangle themselves for the hundredth time during the day.

My old discoloured iPod, on several inspiring evenings and sleepless nights, has gently walked me through or even rescued me from slipping into the black hole that exists within me; this black hole has no fireflies in it. The music that plays is the resonance of my own choices and inputs into it, so much like the mechanics of my own mind. From time to time the iPod needs to be recharged too. And when its wires get tangled and messed up as my own life often does, I am required to patiently untangle those knots one by one each time. I plug in the earphones now and pick up the pen as soon as this uncanny similarity strikes my eyes. It seems as though my muse has not stood me up this evening after all. It paid me a visit, just when I had stopped looking for it, just where I had least expected it to be. The soft tapping of the raindrops continued outside my window as the forces continued with their business. As for me, it was time to pick up my pen once again and put it to good use.

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2014

Layers

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The scales I bore
to wade through
the deep dark waters
with time
started to peel,
the feathers I wore
to vanish
into the vast night sky
one day seemed
ruffled and torn,
my limbs too
that I had carried
to reach out to another
someday
now seemed worn and weak,
my skin
once as bright as moonlight
turned wan and wrinkled.
Yet as I lay
in unstirred silence
still and restful
under the star-filled sky
my mind wandered light
far and beyond
in complete wonder and glee
as never before!

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2014

Soulful Celebration: Dedicated To My Dear Friend, Amrit Barman. Rest in Peace.

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Source: Madhurima; View from Amber Park

Source: Madhurima; View from Amber Park

as the bougainvillea danced carelessly in the breeze
dislodged and lured away
for the first time
from its abode and attachment,
how inappropriate the name ‘bougainvillea’ felt
for a flower this playful and humble and carefree

of course the violet beauty
seemed oblivious and least intrigued
by this insignificant detail
as it continued its soulful dance
and why wouldn’t it—
it was free at last!

as it waltzed with the breeze
completely in love and admiration
higher and higher it ascended into the blue sky –
moving in quick concentric circles
all at once it swung into a graceful swirl
like the sacred smoke of an incense stick

it was free at last
thus its celebration justified
free from its bondage with the earth
free from having to selflessly appease
the butterflies and the bees
free to sing its own song at long last

my eyes followed it as it moved higher up
into the vast blue unknown
and then like magic
it disappeared
as if the violet petals
had burst into thin dust.

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2014; book Goddess & Whore.

Ceiling Of Solitude

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Source: cliphut.wordpress.com

Source: cliphut.wordpress.com


Like a single strand of hair
the frail fracture runs
across the bare ceiling
over my pillow space,
those black twisty cuts
have thickened with time
revealing at last
its lonely weathered face,
it has carried
the unbearable weight
of the rickety ol’ fan
that has turned each blade
in monotonous reflex
bowing to orders
like its enslaved clan,
I see cobwebs
stealthily spread
their tangled tentacles
o’er the sprawling white
that stares steadily at me
as I stare back
mocking each other
and seeking solace
in the still stifling night.

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

The Corset Strings

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Source: Google Images

Source: Google Images

The corset I wear
torments my frame
forcing me inwards
as I crumble
drained
into a heap
day after day
‘n’ withdraw deep
into my rib cage
where quietly rests
my aching heart.
Those unforgiving fingers
to which
in complete faith
I’ve surrendered
the strings
of my baroque corset
that mother wove
so they could fix my robe
firm and taut,
they quietly continue
to tighten their grip
o’er my chest, my waist
and even my neck.
I gaze in pain
into my mirror like before
just this time
I can see me in it no more.
I resolve never again to stare
at the old reflection
within that betrayer—
nor do I want
to fight those hands
and their diabolical plot,
instead I wait
long suffering
through every twisting force
on my soft pale skin
so I’m rid of the corset
and the oppressed frame.

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Autobiography Of A Writer’s Notebook

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“Look closely this time into the white spaces of my pages and you might perhaps get a glimpse of that destiny that had been gifted to me by a force that invariably fails to be explicit and unambiguous, leaving every precious detail of life indefinable just so the likes of me can learn to discover ourselves. My pages were bound to preserve the honest musings of a dreamer or poet, though none of this I would have known if it wasn’t for that dark-eyed gentleman who bought me. He was a well-known writer, I am told, though rumour had it that as a boy he had dreamt of being an adventurous sailor, just that his father had imagined a much quieter life for his son. And hence, he and I met…

You see, had this writer not torched my heart with stories of insane murders and deceit that made me cringe within, I would have perhaps remained oblivious of what I so desired to fill my pages with – poetry. And so I loathe that man just as much as I owe this revelation to him too, as it was on that terrifying and fateful day that I remembered the destiny once read out to me and inscribed on every inch of whiteness that seemed blank to most of you. All this while, the imperceptible had waited in silence for the obvious to happen. And my pages were forced to overwrite their desire with someone else’s bruised sense of purpose. I was writing a destiny that wasn’t mine. I was made into a thriller novel that barely resonated with what I was meant to be. Like a million others around me including my offender, I too was living another man’s dream. The single consolation that I now zealously held on to was that I had discovered, at least, what I was born to do; was that a blessing anymore or a curse instead?

I quietly wait now with pages filled with lines that speak of intrigue and lust, violence and mistrust. I get the impression, that is what appeals to men most…and I wonder why. I survive the wait and the weight of those words forced upon me as the lines of poetry and love groan unheard underneath the facade that is meant only for sale. Until one miraculous night, the enchanting moonlight spills on my ruffled pages and washes off every vulgar word written with dishonesty. I feel light once again after a very long time. Those words of love and nature rise and fill every space with their beauty and joy! I am no longer a ‘thriller novel for sale’ that looks like every other book on the shelf but a ‘book of poetry’ for the dreamer instead. These days, I only wait for the moonlight to melt away my miseries so I can come alive for a short while…”

“…As the feather gracefully descended
back to the moist earth

the breeze softly whispered to it –
i’m carrying you to a poet’s study
for her muse should write your destiny.”

(**this concluding stanza has been borrowed from Goddess &Whore)

Now available on Amazon, Flipkart, BOOKadda!

Now available on Amazon, Flipkart, BOOKadda!

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Press Release: Goddess & Whore, Now Available Worldwide

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Goddess & Whore: Now available on BOOKadda, Flipkart, Amazon, Kindle, and in selected bookstores across India!

Goddess & Whore: Now available on BOOKadda, Flipkart, Amazon, Kindle and in selected bookstores across India!

October 2013, Singapore.

Goddess & Whore – a collection of modern poems – reaches bookstores worldwide this festive season.

Goddess & Whore – a collection of modern poems – weaves into a vivid narrative of a woman’s journey as she steps out of her various social identities and abuses to discover the true meaning to her existence. What begins as a nagging sense of disquiet and discontent evolves into a quest for inner peace. She draws inspiration from nature and begins to disentangle herself from all those relationships and resentments that she once carried, and only then does she discover her real indestructible self and makes the crossover that signifies the transformation of a being.

The poems celebrate the joys of womanhood and the beauty of nature even as they address certain social issues like the position of women, the rejection of the girl child, the violence against women, the traditions of fasting, and dated customs and rituals; and all these concerns culminate into a single question – ultimately what matters?

“The book aspires to convey the simple desire of a woman to be accepted for who she is, along with her dreams and aspirations, follies and foibles. She doesn’t wish to be glorified as a goddess nor be despised as a whore. At a broader level, this sentiment holds true for all human beings, whether man or woman,” explains Madhurima. “The book is available on Flipkart, BOOKadda, Amazon, Kindle and also in selected bookstores across India.”

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Blacks Amidst Blue

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Source: hdwallpapers4free.com

Source: hdwallpapers4free.com

I looked intently from behind my veil
for a face that would read my eyes,
but all I saw was a flock of crows
that teased my drape with their vicious cries.
I wondered if it was the veil
or the screeching crows that caused more stir,
a stray thought chivvied that rummaged my all
and ere long robbed me of every hope.
I sat still as that was all
I was ever wont to do,
the sky was filled with screams of crows
I watched in gloom the blacks ‘midst the blue.
Tattered and soiled yet my veil remains
my old ally, my guise, my hide, my sole refuge —
it saved me from the spite they felt
when they learnt it was a girl.
Their regret and fear form my prison walls
unyielding, rigid, lifeless and cold,
the sky would make a warmer drape,
your assuring eyes would’ve harboured hope.
For long I wait to rid myself
of the curtain that thwarts my view,
to watch it torn down with deep disdain
and pour back my breath into the vast open blue.
A strange disquiet pervades my soul,
tears of anguish threaten to spill,
for one last time I close my eyes
and explode in flames to question the skies…

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

My Goodness…My Goddess!

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Source: Madhurima (2010); getting a tattoo made of the Goddess Durga

Source: Madhurima (2010); getting a tattoo made of Goddess Durga

Source: Madhurima (2010); That's me with my goddess!

Source: Madhurima (2010); That’s me with my goddess!

The most potent concoction of fragrances that contains a zillion memories of my treasured past is the scent that fills the air in India during the start of the autumn season announcing the festival of Goddess Durga (better known as Durga Puja). The air, just rightly nippy, smells of fresh earth and paddy fields, flowers, incense sticks and camphor almost as though nature has performed its own celestial ritual of cleansing the space inside and outside all of us. Petite white flowers called the Shiuli with their sleek and slender crimson stalks and delicate lingering fragrance bloom in several parts of the country setting the stage for Goddess Durga to return home to visit her parents and family. We are her family. Like most children hers too latch on to their mother, and her four children – Lakshmi (Goddess of true wealth), Saraswati (Goddess of knowledge and arts), Ganesh (God of fortune) and her youngest son Kartik (God of valor and bravery) accompany her on her annual sojourn to her parents’ abode. Like a dutiful and beautiful wife and mother she embarks on her vacation home with her gorgeous children in tow where we welcome her with open arms.

For people of Bengal, who hail from the eastern part of India, this time of the year marks a special significance as they prepare for this festival, irrespective of which part of the country or world they live in. However, I must confess to being perennially struck down by nostalgia and thus highly unsuccessful in finding or replicating that spirit and space around me since I have moved out of India. I haven’t the slightest doubt that this is solely a matter of my own deficiencies and inabilities, but I am still to find those soul-quenching beats of the drum (dhaak) that I had heard in my childhood with my grandparents beside me. It was an explosion of energy that created a vibrato within my ribcage as every molecule and heartbeat in me resonated with that breathtaking rhythm. It was an overwhelming feeling, I recall distinctly. Since my grandfather always insisted on reaching the venue early during the evening prayers so he could hear the dhaak, I had the luxury of tagging along with him. The rest of the family joined the two of us much later after getting appropriately decked-up for the evening’s function that followed. During the prayers that my grandfather and I attended every Saptami (the seventh day of the festival) and Ashtami (the eight day) evenings the air smelt of incense sticks and fruits and flowers. The space smelled sacred.

In those days too, there used to be the ceremonial ‘dhunuchi’ dance on the eighth day of the festival (quite a stunt really!) where men and women carrying an earthenware filled with a layer of smouldering coconut husk sprinkled with incense and camphor, danced to the frenzying beats of the dhaak as they offered their prayers before the majestic idol through their dance. I have always wanted to perform that dance but my courage has always failed me at the eleventh hour. Perhaps one day I will. It was after this prayer that the crowd would begin to thicken and the air would start to smell of perfume and flowers, as the pandal (marquee) would fill up with gorgeously dressed men and women and their jubilant laughter and music. Where there are Bengalis, there must be music, arts, good non-vegetarian delicacies and of course sweets! And so these pandals were outlined by several food stalls that sold mouth-watering cuisine prepared by some of the most talented culinary-craftsmen!

Every stall was engulfed by a distinct aroma that would entice passers-by seducing and pulling them closer and closer till they succumbed completely to its hypnotic effect. Right from egg-roles, mutton roles, the inimitable moglai parotas, kebabs and cutlets, biriyani, luchi-aloor dum, delectable Bengali desserts, to tea, coffee, ice cream, mineral water and Coca-Cola…they had it all! The rankings of these stalls would soon spread through word-of-mouth by their boisterous clientele. Some stalls even ran out of food if we reached late! And there I’d be, in my gorgeous new clothes, running around with my friends far away from the jurisdiction of my parents who were only approached for money. Grandma had her own food stall that would be robbed of every morsel of grub even before we got there for a second or third helping. Grandpa played the quintessential consumer with utmost passion and humour.

On some afternoons there would be fun competitions like quiz contests, singing contests, drawing contests, among others. The most interesting among these was the ‘shankha-dhwani pratiyogita’ that tested the longest one could blow the conch shell without pausing for a breath. It was a test of one’s lung-power. The year I participated in that contest, I must have been in my eighth grade in school. Grandma would train me every afternoon and teach me the tricks and the science of the trade; she always taught me to be sincere and to honour every challenge that was tossed at me. I remember how I was introduced to the lady who had won year after year in that contest. I defeated her that year. I played the conch for over a minute, breaking even the record set in the past years!

Another specialty of these afternoons was the ‘bhog’ (a special menu of food that is cooked fresh by dedicated volunteers and cooks for offering to the Goddess) that was served to all of us on plates made of dried palm-leaves. Somehow the concept of catered food and packaged plates containing a formula-44 menu that I could easily purchase at just any restaurant seems like a disturbing and a much altered variant of the ‘bhog’. The concept of self-service rather than having volunteers running around to serve the hungry devotees seems like an unfortunate inference of ‘convenience’. In my younger days some of us eagerly volunteered to serve the piping hot khichudi or pulao that had been offered to the deity on that day. We learnt to put our own hunger aside to first feed the elderly and the children.

By the time I moved to college, we were in Baroda (a beautiful city in the western part of India) where these nine days of the Navratri festival were celebrated in a completely different style though it carried the same spirit as that of the Durga Puja! People danced in thousands, in concentric circles, to the beats of Gujarati folk music that mainly sang praises to the Lord Krishna or Goddess Durga. As though in a trance this huge wave of men and women dressed in colourful ghagra cholis and other traditional Guajarati dresses undulated in rhythmic grace for most part of the night. I would join my friends at the Garba grounds after marking my attendance at the Durga Puja pandal.

But beneath all the celebrations what few noticed was my growing faith in Goddess Durga. Every time I stood before the beautiful idol of the Goddess I felt humbled and overwhelmed as I would be consumed by a deep sense of calmness and assurance. Even today, from time to time, I have found strength and courage in those eyes. I have always known how much grit and determination lay within a woman’s heart – as a mother, as a daughter or even as a wife – and I have turned to that strength from time to time to fuel my own mind with that powerfulness and energy. However, I have never prescribed to the idea of glorifying a living woman as a goddess since I believe that the goodness and goddess resides within every human being, be it a girl or a boy. I have often found the crowds overlooking the finer (and more real) facets and honest desires of the human heart every time they have focussed their energies on putting one on a pedestal where one can be tagged as ‘selfless hence divine’.

The concept of God is personal and can be practised in a million ways but to derive a shallow corollary from that seems utterly convenience-based and therefore totally unacceptable. Goddess Durga always reminds me of the power of good over evil. I have seen a glimpse of Durga in several people beyond their basic identities and differences. During this festive season, I pray sincerely that we all imbibe the capability to notice the divinity in every human being and also respect the free human spirit, instead of being overwhelmed by the external façade.

Jai Mata Di! Joi Maa Durga!

Source: 8tracks.com

Source: 8tracks.com

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Goddess & Whore: Cover Launch!

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Goddess & Whore, to be available in bookstores soon!

Goddess & Whore, to be available in bookstores soon!

5 October, 2013. As we enter an auspicious time of the year, when we celebrate the goodness and godliness in every human being, I use this opportunity to share with all of you the title and cover of my upcoming book, ‘GODDESS & WHORE’. The book is scheduled to reach bookstores, in and outside India, very soon. I sincerely (and selfishly) seek all your good wishes and blessings that should help me retain my insanity and utmost sincerity towards life and my craft. The cover/artwork of the book has been consciously kept bold, festive and unapologetic – characteristics that resonate with the very essence of the book’s content and intent too. This book marks the beginning of a journey that should most definitely contain several lessons through which I shall get to know myself better, as a person and as a writer. Do bear with me, be with me and guide me through this journey…

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Life, With A Pinch Of Sugar Instead

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I have always felt that my keen passion for food has turned me into an intemperate glutton as also a complete epicure with an almost accurate power of detecting the individual condiments and spices concealed within a dish, that product of smooth and selfless blending of varying flavours only to create a greater magic, like all other things in life. It is as though the well-seasoned and prudently cooked fare speaks to me as I bite into that succulent piece bursting with juices; the luscious gravy beckons at me even as I cautiously savour a spoonful of the delectable fluid dodging that threatening little circle of smoke over it only to experience the explosion of flavours and textures of intelligently pounded and roasted spices; and I close my eyes so nothing around me can distract me from this gratifying experience. As those textures and flavours melt into my mouth I am able to track every one of those otherwise untraceable ingredients for its subtle aroma or for a tell-tale tang for people like me to notice. You see, it prefers to reveal itself only to those who care to seek it and value it. And I am only reminded of the flawless resemblance that all this bears to life and our own varying abilities to understand it.

While most people obsess over the obvious use of salt in moderating the taste in a cooked meal, which isn’t entirely fallacious, I feel that it is actually the slight drizzle of sugar into the simmering gravy that lends that extra zing and even astuteness to the taste and character of the dish that can no longer now be simply tagged as ‘salty’ or ‘sweet’. Be it the mild bitterness in taste or the burnt golden tinge of the caramelized sugar or its discreet presence only to soften the harsher lines of salt, sugar has always been a more assuring accomplice in this game of blending the obvious.

As an agent of delicious deception that leaves those who gobble and guzzle in pure delight incapable of simplistically describing the final dish as entirely salty or sweet, sugar has taught me great qualities of subtlety and discretion besides the power of sweetness. After all, too much of it will risk having it exposed! It has revealed to me the element of obscurity where neither life nor any person can be defined by a single façade. It has also trained me to observe the beauty within the intricacies that I slowly unravel with every bite and every sip…

Even at a young age I was able to tell whether it was the cinnamon that lent that tangy taste or if it was the coriander powder or the bay leaf or even the extra pinch of turmeric powder that lent character to a dish. And it would not be fully inaccurate either to attribute that uncanny ability to my love for eating. You might even think it is the presence of the ‘Bengali’ in my DNA that plays this trick and results in a loyalty for sugar, and there is a slight chance you may be correct too, but I would still like to believe that it is my sincere love for the undiscovered that attracts me towards these subtle complexities in flavours that make a dish more desirable and appealing.

In fact I have always believed that just like a gentleman is judged by his shoes, a character is judged by the food it consumes. Believe it or not, the kind of food we enjoy says a lot about the person we are. Conversely, it is our temperament, moods and beliefs that quietly govern the kind of spices or food we eat. As for me, I have always enjoyed that beauty within the mystery of life that reveals itself only to those who fearlessly delve into it, ready to surrender themselves to the infinite possibilities, only to discover more.

These condiments are no different from the paints on a canvas that mingle and merge with each other blurring the sharp lines and edges. It’s the way a good make-up blends along the right contours. Hence, for me that touch of sugar that lends softness to the overwhelming presence of certain spices and flavours has always been the supreme deciding factor about the ultimate appeal of a fare to our palate, and it is this soulful experience that allows me a glimpse of the condiments used. Every time I roll a portion of a culinary delight on my tongue, I am able to get a whiff of each distinct aroma of every spice. It is like a gift that comes with a few kilos of extra weight, of course…but I seldom regret that since my Bengali roots seem to bail me out on that front as well with a crafty and specious justification!

It was this love for food that drew me towards cooking, though I solely operate within the closed walls of my kitchen. I took to cooking not by choice but by necessity since the taste of my mother’s and grandmother’s cooking had zealously clung on to my mind and my tongue, and so to try and replicate it in order to sustain myself was the most obvious way to go about it. Though even today I find my cooking miles away from what the other two ladies in my life prepare, thankfully my gift to track that taste and tell the difference between their artistry and that of the likes of me still remains untouched.

It was my mother who taught me the use of sugar in the most unimaginable options like lentils, pulses, vegetables and of course curry! But you would never be able to tell, except for grandma, ma and me who can often trace the absence of this selfless sweetener by the sharp solitary taste of salt. The only time when sugar is not used is while seasoning or marinating poultry perhaps! I imagine this is because sugar refuses to stay in places where its presence is too obviously revealed. Instead, used in the right place and in the right quantity it melts, just like magic dust, irrevocably into the background only to exist as a lingering possibility that soothes the senses. And only one person could validate its existence with complete certainty – the one who cooked it. As for me, I choose to appear conveniently forgetful when a grumpy conventional foodie confronts me with the usual absurd loyalty to salt and a disdain for sugar in every-day meals.

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Ma, Me And My Report-Card

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Come result day and we find most students and their parents hyperventilating over that detail that seems to miraculously assure them of the approaching boom or doom in the child’s career and life. Seeing the Gen Z parents’ mounting involvement and obsession with their child’s academic life and their relentless struggle to control the same gives me the creeps and makes me feel rather lucky for having a set of carefree parents who unwittingly gave me space to discover myself. I also suffer occasional pangs of guilt for criticising and irritating such wonderful parents with my unending needs as a child and as an adolescent, though I must also add here that very few of those demands have been entertained or even considered. And I am grateful for that! I may safely confess today that due to the easy-going approach of my parents the commonly dreaded report card days that unfailingly appeared at regular intervals were among the best days of my school life!

A report card day meant a half-day from school. And what could be more fun than that for someone who harboured deep disdain for uninspiring regulations, and who was already averse and allergic to the overuse of the ‘competition’ drug. Well, in my case, there was actually another factor that made the awe-inspiring day more fun: my mother. And in a short while I shall tell you just how so. Well you see, my fondest recollection of the result day begins in Pune where I studied in a typical ICSE convent school known for its austere staff, snooty students and unbending discipline.

In spite of the look of consternation and alarm on my teacher’s otherwise cheerful countenance while doling out my not-so-unacceptable result on those fateful days, I would wait with feverish excitement every time the day approached. Memories of my teacher’s angst and the precious contents of the important document she handed over to me in the presence of my parents would fade from my memory soon after, but what time and tide have not been able to erode till date is my happiness surrounding this momentous event. In fact this feeling of unfettered happiness has strengthened with every passing year and I look back on this day with still greater fondness and longing than ever before.

Each report card day, it was delightfully entertaining to see my classmates sitting in pin-drop silence in the classroom nervously waiting for the peon, who looked like one of Dickens’ slimy characters, to come and announce their name and escort them to the hall downstairs where our class teacher would be waiting with the respective parent/parents to discuss the child’s results. As our names were called out, we had to pack our bags and leave for the day. I would easily be among the very few chirpy ones who could barely sit still, as I kept shuffling restlessly in excited anticipation and shamelessly cheering up even the top rankers. I remember how high-spirited I would be on a report card day since it meant an undisturbed date to a rarely visited place with my beautiful mother.

In those days a visit to the M.G. Road, an area known for its style quotient due to a cosmopolitan population and a substantial Parsi presence (which meant better bakeries, cafes, etc.), was much coveted due to the young crowd and the shopping arcades (though the concept of malls was alien to us then). And that part of the town being quite far away from where we lived then wasn’t somehow frequented by us. My school happened to be along the parameters of that area and so it was only logical that my mother and I made a quick trip to the Camp area on every report card day!

As soon as my name was announced, I would trot down those thick wooden stairs sliding my hand along the smooth wooden banister. Trotting and sliding were strictly prohibited in school but no one cared to check on a half-day. In fact, had it not been for that silly rule that the grim-faced prefect kept chanting every morning – ‘no hands on the banister!’ – I would never have learnt that wonderful word ‘banister’ that added an extra shine and weightiness to that old wooden staircase. As I entered the hall, there she’d be sitting in her signature chiffon sari, with a big bindi on her forehead, her long dark hair neatly tied and her sunglasses resting on her head. As soon as she’d notice me she would smile and give me her characteristic wide-eyed trying-to-be-strict look that meant to convey, “Sweetheart, you seem to have been up to some mischief in school again.” I could barely contain my excitement after seeing her, and neither could she.

My teachers seemed to like her for her poise and grace. I have somehow always suspected that it was her charming personality that guarded me from teachers pounding at me. Well, in the ICSE school that I studied in, most teachers were well groomed and smartly dressed but rather conventional in their outlook. Almost all of them showed a clear bias for the more obedient and studious among us and had little patience with the naughtier ones whom they categorised into ‘no good’ students and often chastised and compared them, with a hopeless grimace on their well made-up faces, to their ‘brilliant and more disciplined’ counterparts. How well this attitude helped in shaping and developing the young minds is anybody’s guess. Of course there were a few wonderful teachers whom we adored and who were instrumental in creating a great liking for the subjects they taught besides commanding deep respect for themselves.

My report card would be duly handed over to my mother with the same remark on every R-Day as I showed no sign of transforming into a model student from the little brat that I was, and consistently failed to exhibit even a remote sense of remorse, turning a deaf ear to all their reprimands and threats.

“She is naughty and restless, makes silly mistakes, and needs to concentrate on her work.”

After receiving that customary warning, I’d set off with my lovely mother on our date with my head held high and a wide grin on my happy face while she held my hand and my schoolbag for me. Neither my father nor my sister could wrestle for mother’s attention on that day.

On certain days she would smile and tell me that grandma too had come along. And my excitement would double! Grandma’s presence meant lunch at the famous Chinese Room. We would walk along the sidewalks under the crisp morning sun down the bustling streets lined with shops selling their colourful wares. Some small outlets sold hair clips and hair bands and other knick-knacks. These were the ones that interested us more than the larger stores and we would invariably end up spending hours here sifting through their stuff and picking up those that caught our fancy. And at each shop I too would get to pick up a little something for myself.

Then we would stop at a well-known Parsi bakery for some sandwiches and milkshake. This was the time when ma would gently tell me, “You could do so much better with your grades if you would concentrate a little more on your studies. It is only because you are so capable of doing better that I feel sad listening to your teachers complain.”

There was no scolding, no warning of dire consequences. I don’t think I even realised then that those grades had anything to do with my life ahead. I just knew that some subjects were boring, and I was entitled to my opinion though not always in a good way. Yet, it was that gentle advice from my mother that I remember more than the scolding and reproaches from others. Ma never yelled at me. She would only explain to me or tear up herself. The latter part of her emotional expression I understood much later in life.

In the evenings daddy would pick us up in his car and we would go home, happy and contented. Of course, I also got to hear the usual ‘you are ruining your life!’ from my father. But what I see of parents today, even that small reproach seems to me so much more acceptable. He would scold me a bit and then life would move on as though nothing had happened. Discussions at the dinner table would once again revolve around how we had spent the day or who had parked his scooter in our car park. On certain report card days we would all meet at grandma’s house for a special hand-cooked dinner by her. Father would never be able to scold me in front of my protective grandparents (grandpa especially) though few knew of the little words of advice at opportune moments I would get from grandma who always wanted me to be a little more disciplined and sincere about my studies.

Thankfully the pleasures of a half-day did not disappear even in high school. By then I had moved from an ICSE all-girls’ school to a co-ed environment. There too I had found like-minded crazy friends who knew how to appreciate and enjoy a half-day phenomenon, perhaps more. On certain report card days we had to be literally kicked out of the school premises since we would sit there with the group and enjoy the quiet link-ups and attention and tease each other over an unimaginable variety of topics. Some of us would walk down home together, and our memories about our results would have faded by then after our animated jabbering.

Of course we knew of the impending grumbles and admonishments that awaited us after our daddies returned home from work, but strangely those weren’t an earth-shattering thing for us. We had each other and our perpetually distracted minds that had lots of gossip-and-giggle topics, all ready to overshadow other details that made us unhappy. And that was a massive assurance for a youngster of that age. I remember how we planned a party on every result day. In fact parents today would probably faint on being informed that we partied the most on our pre-board-exam days. And trust me, we partied hard!

To be fair to my folks, I have been notorious among friends and family (who would willingly vouch for me) for being unruffled by these grades. My definition of studying was a little different from what the system demanded though I declare with utmost certainty that there will be quite a few students who would not mind my style of learning. According to me, subjects had to seem interesting for me to be curious enough to delve into them. Only curiosity could fuel learning. I loved History, English and Economics/ Social Studies as these subjects were taught by some of the most amazing teachers and they enlightened me on various interesting aspects of human behavior.

History taught me about mutinies and conquests, Economics taught me the rational mindset of a typical consumer, while Literature taught me the irrational and unedited sides of that same rational and rebellious human being. On most of the days I enjoyed learning in the classroom about things I didn’t know. And just when my concentration would begin to fade there would be those naughty students in class who would make funny noises to distract all of us. And so after a few hearty chuckles, there I’d be back again to absorb more information!

At home, I discussed History, Geography and Politics with my grandfather who was a radio journalist of his times. He made me write letters to the Editor each time I felt strongly for a social cause. I discussed spirituality and human values with my grandmother. Ma read out wonderful stories and poetry to my sister and me and introduced us to Tagore’s work. Father taught us the tougher qualities like discipline and hard work that came very slowly to me. I even loved the way some of my teachers explained their subjects to me. But the ticking clock and the threatening marks of red-ink hovering around my consciousness, like a hungry eagle that circles over its prey, made me forget everything I loved to learn, though I must mention that in spite of my bohemian grades I had stronger views and opinions on various issues than most students around me.

Unfortunately, even in those days, we lived in a world that relied on and valued over-simplistic judgments. That single number derived by some seemingly-irritated-with-life sleep-starved underpaid teacher at the end of the year would bear stupendous significance that threatened to ruin us forever if we didn’t bow down to it. Teachers formed biases over students based on these numbers, and so did our friends and relatives. I have seen several feisty and spirited children suffer ignominy for failing to adapt to that kind of a system. I have heard of cousins and friends badgered by ‘self attested well-wishers’ and driven to exasperation by their severely affected parents.

Also, there were those terrifying exams that surfaced as a party-pooper from time to time that drained me of every intent to prove how much I had learnt vis-à-vis how much the system or teacher was actually qualified to evaluate that unquantifiable detail. I realised that my ability to cram up dates or even shoot words by the minute, as the clock ticked away uncaringly, was zilch. Every atom of my body cringed from the prospect of mugging up chemical equations and historical timelines that made little sense to me. By the time I reached high school I had only managed to hold on to my love for English.

On the eve of my final high school exam I was advised not to use any ‘big word’ or ‘complicated sentence’ since the unknown face correcting my paper might not comprehend its meaning and award me a neat zero. I ask now, whose grade would that be? But the more disturbing question that stirs me is – who suffers ultimately? And the answer is always – the student.

During my childhood it was primarily a question of controlling a handful of children who simply refused to fit into the substandard settings of the examination and grading systems. Sure, our parents did grumble occasionally and our teachers complained and punished us. We would gaze at them with a rehearsed guilty look as our peers sniggered from their corners, and then we would return to fighting over who was at the bat and who was bowling. That was it; no more no less. The problem that students suffer today is much more complex and tragic since clearly it no longer seems like their life alone but also that of their parents that seems to crumble and collapse at the slightest disruption.

Children today seem to be sandwiched between an uncertain education system that is somewhat dangling in midair and their obsessing parents who seek refuge behind their alleged ‘good intention’. Terms like ‘fierce competition’, ‘family pressure’, ‘extra classes’, ‘quota system’ and so on are used generously by parents to explain the despicable levels of their selfish involvement in their children’s lives. Parents these days seem to be just a few yards short of attending classes and taking exams on behalf of their wards. Results have become a matter of pride and honour rather than just a number that may or may not reflect the child’s caliber and, sadly, life no longer resumes normalcy after this flawed and hyped verdict is announced.

Looking back, I feel humbled and blessed for having such wonderfully unworried parents who unconsciously knew the things that mattered. They didn’t have the time or the means to obsess over my sister or me. There were no special talent classes that we were sent to at the cost of the simple luxury and pleasure of playing with our friends until we had to be physically removed from the playground. We did not have nannies pretending to fuss over us. We had to be on our own. We knew we had to wait at a friend’s place till our parents got back from the market.

For us life and its inherent element of normalcy mattered more than some result that was churned out of nowhere. We needed to be happy and we also needed to be kind to others, and these had always been of paramount importance to my parents. Mess with these parts and you would be firmly pulled up. I was allowed to enjoy my mischief, my childhood and even my youth as I bunked a few classes, drove around the city in my two-wheeler on rainy afternoons, or dated young men. I knew I could always talk to my parents about these things without feeling guilty or embarrassed. I was allowed to be myself and so I was gradually able to discover myself since I had never been pinned down by grades. I was taught to celebrate my triumphs and defeats in the right spirit and without guilt.

I loved public speaking and won most of the competitions in my school life. With time I realised that I enjoyed studying subjects like English Literature, Sociology, Psychology. Chemical equations or monetary policies did not seem to appeal to me as much, and so I decided to take my next step based simply on that honest inclination that I felt at that point in my life. Every decision I have taken has always been based purely on my interest in that area or person rather than a fruitful motive backed by an unrealistic faith in an over-simplistic assessment or my ability to predict the future. Looking back today, it seems as though every decision that was candidly taken by me stemmed from an unconscious inherent knowledge of who I was or aspired to be. It even led me to those amazing teachers and colleagues who deeply influenced and empowered me at different stages of my life.

My heart goes out to those millions of perfectly capable adults who are stuck in a profession they do not enjoy. They never found the time to ask themselves what they really wanted, they often lament. I have succumbed to that invisible pressure at times and appeared for entrance exams on subjects that did not remotely interest me only so I could have a ‘secure’ (whatever that meant) and lucrative career. But life has been kind to me, and every time I have taken a decision with dishonest intentions I have faced a rejection. I shudder to think what might have happened if I had managed to make it to an MBA or Economics school.

What is a secure life anyway? I am tempted to end this post with what my professor at the journalism school says each time I enquire if his life is ‘all settled’. He only replies –“For god’s sake, Maddy! You should know me better by now! The day life does settle for me, I shall die of boredom.”

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

You and I, Seasoned With Poetry ‘n’ Fairytale

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I have come to believe that this magic potion called life that we unmindfully gorge on day after day and even occasionally gag on, is actually seasoned thoroughly with two unobtrusive ingredients that lend that untraceable yet captivating flavour to the main component, as they slowly sink into it layer by layer. These are a drizzle of fantasy and a dash of poetry that define and dictate the true essence of what we consume unmindfully that, in turn, decides who we become ultimately. And yet most of us, being who we are, seldom notice or even realize their presence and the power that this seasoning duo possesses. Instead, we attribute every other quality to only those condiments that meet the eye.

What we are able to conjecture are perhaps the more widely approved colours and textures that are tossed into the simmering cauldron to replicate that familiar taste that reassures us of our deceptive yet intoxicating sense of power instead of challenging our opinions of what we defend as the well-defined. Of course, those ingredients too are necessary to shield us from the unapologetic harsh reality that we bite into, as often we seem to have lost the capacity for accepting what stands unaltered. These condiments know the art of appeasing us so we may never know what lies beyond them.

How many of us are truly aware of who we are, or what we consume. And yet what we gobble up day after day, unwillingly or willingly, unwittingly or intentionally, decides what we shape up to even as we continue to define what we are tucking into. Not that I give credence only to what meets the eye- the stark reality- nor do I have a blind faith in the unreal imaginary world of fantasy, simply because I have little faith left in my ability to tell the difference. For me everything is real just as long as I care to believe in it. And yet, there must be events or circumstances that remind us of the existence of a world of reality that may not yet be within the realms of our familiar beliefs or conventional understanding. But such a world exists and so it must be real. Else, nothing is… nothing ever was. Though at times the latter seems like a probable option too, perhaps a harsher ‘reality’.

Flavours of poetry and fairytales, on the other hand, while defying the contradicting notions of ‘reality’ and defending fluid designs of possibility, add richness, zest, and a delectable array of magnificent hues and splendid aromas to the fare. They connect the impossible with the possible within the human mind, defining best the seasons within the human heart and often leaving it altered for life with a sense of wonderment towards life. They create a connect between us and life by blurring out the differences with their soothing touch so we are able to rise above what we cannot change and obtain the gift of being reverential as we notice life through all its shades.

It is that potion of poetry and fairytale in us that connects us to nature and life, lends us a pair of eyes that can see beauty and celebrate joy, and a heart that can weep in melancholy, pathos, love and happiness. It reminds us of our wanderer soul that can let go of all its possessions and rise above them to feel true liberation.

Our physical form too thrives on rhythm. The heart throbs in poetic beat while the mind drifts into the unfamiliar obscure realm beyond the familiar. We survive on hope and love that seem not unlike words taken from a fairytale. Notice an infant and you would have a chance of knowing what this means. You can mesmerize a young child with a wonderful story that happened behind those gigantic fluffy clouds, or even sing her to sleep with a soothing rhyme. It is in these acts alone that an infant feels reassured and at peace. And that is our first proof!

We have all, unknowingly or knowingly, fed on these two elements and thus they remain, even today, an integral part of our being. So even as people argue relentlessly about how poetry and fairytales are only for some people and not for the masses, I steadfastly hold on to the opinion that these two elements are actually an intrinsic part of the human consciousness. Literature and Science have, in fact, derived these flavours from the human mind and so they continue to stimulate and inspire the human intellect and have the power to resonate in every corner of our being even today. Poetry and fairytales are for everybody everywhere and for all times. If there is hope there is a fairytale too; if there is joy in beauty then there has to be poetry there as well!

There is much poetry and fairytale in our hearts and dreams even today. We might have only forgotten the art of noticing and exulting in their quiet presence due to the overwhelming presence of other much weightier matters. But we seem to have forgotten so many things that we would do well to recollect and rejuvenate… and remind ourselves that poetry and fairytale continue to remain an inseparable part of life and nature and the very essence of our existence. But as they say, good seasoning works its way through best when it is kept in the warmth!

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Patriotism Version 20.13

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Source: Google Images

Source: Google Images

Like an uncanny construal of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland the world seems like an absurd farcical place to me. Everything and everyone seems to be neatly sorted out as ‘mine’ and ‘yours’, and as we cling on to what we believe we own we turn more distrustful of others’ intent as our mind refuses to accept anything beyond what is tagged as ‘ours’. We have begun to shrink as human beings to an unbelievably petty size.

I suddenly find myself in a situation where most people look so pitifully small that I can barely pass through their tiny doors that have been fashioned to shut out their self-absorbed niggling minds. A few walls I manage to break as I attempt to squirm into the shrinking space, while for others I am unable to manoeuver my way through their rigid partitions that refuse to bend or budge. Every brick on every wall has the name of its owner inscribed on it, and that is all that seems to matter.

I walk through the walled world troubled by these attenuating minds and wondering if some words have turned obsolete or even lethal in the modern context. It is, perhaps, time for certain words to redeem their worth and re-establish themselves in a new light. One such word is ‘patriotism’ that means ‘cultural attachment or devotion to one’s motherland’. There used to be an era when this word seemed less lame and unconvincing when it was used less in a divisive context and more for the purpose of liberating a nation from her oppressors. But soon enough this word joined others of its ilk with extremist sentiments that seemed to overwhelm our senses and tickle our emotions generously, making us perfect pawns for a conniving political ploy to serve the self-interests of a handful of power hungry people. Thus started the steep decline of the word…

Even today, in the name of ‘patriotism’ and other nationalistic sentiments people are violated, unending stretches of land and nature are torn asunder with barbed wires, and we hold on to and viciously guard the tiny patch of land that has been thrown to us. Countries and even states are falling apart due to linguistic differences and other parochial considerations of a small community. At any point, on any piece of land, we are either ‘locals’ or ‘outsiders’, and despicable acts resulting from this intolerant narrow mindset are shamelessly justified in the name of religion or nationalistic sentiments. We seem to have lost out to the power hungry. Perhaps, to truly free a country from hatred and violence we need to free the concept of patriotism from political agendas. Or maybe, what we need to do is to rid ourselves of these misleading concepts that only create animosity and draw a divide between people and communities. The more the walls, the more the wars!

Besides, in today’s global world where most of us stay away from our birthplace to pursue our occupations, and a nation thrives on the tax and services of several non-residents and foreign nationals, such words seem redundant. In fact this senseless obsession with one’s state and country has become a reason for looking at other natives or even fellow residents with suspicion and aggression. What we need now is a handful of new words (since clearly, we can’t do without that dope) that teach us ‘acceptance’ and ‘mutual respect’ regardless of differences! We need to take the concept of ‘unity in diversity’ to an entirely new level as we must also count ourselves first as citizens of a global village. Just like a Mac software we should now discard or at least update such time-specific jargons to their latest versions.

I remember the pride my grandfather felt every time he narrated bits about India’s struggle for freedom that he had witnessed as a child. His words dripped with a deep sense of patriotism. It always made me wonder at how nationalistic sentiments accentuated a discrepant part of our personality. There would be excitement, pride, even anger and bigotry in his tone and words. He told me about Tagore’s efforts to stop the partition of Bengal and promote universal brotherhood, and also about his renunciation of his Knighthood after the barbaric killing of his countrymen at Jallianwala Bagh. But as Tagore pleaded against the idea of splitting his nation and his people, in another part of India, Nehru and Gandhi discussed the proposition of forming a separate nation for Muslims. How could such great leaders take a distressing decision of such historical magnitude whose repercussions the world suffers even today?

I am yet to understand how a day like August 15 is celebrated without a twitch of remorse for those millions of innocent lives that were rendered homeless and who lost their families even as India and the newly formed Pakistan proudly rejoiced in their political independence. Many Muslim families, who had called India their home for several generations and had, perhaps, even fought for the freedom struggle, had suddenly been robbed of their motherland, while several Hindu families had found themselves overnight in a newborn Pakistan! They either had to change their religion to show their loyalty to this new nation or move to the other side of the border. Under such insubstantial requirements, how does one install faith in concepts like ‘motherland’ and ‘patriotism’ that may change overnight? Hence my suspicions for such nationalistic sentiments, as an unfortunate descendant of this political heritage and as a witness of the Gujarat riots, are perhaps justified.

Yes, I might have had the privilege to be born into free India and to enjoy the fruits of this hard won freedom, but like many others of my generation I long for a world that is free from war and violence. History bears witness to our insatiable need for conquest and plunder that have wiped off races and civilisations from the face of the earth! Therefore I question every sentiment or alleged devotion to a principle or ideal that goes against humanitarian values, and wonder how such ‘lofty’ sentiments and ideals can possibly justify resentment and violence against other living beings and nations. How can a concept that places sacrileges before sacrifice ever bring peace? Are we not liable for humanity first?

Thankfully, history has also shown us great leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi, to name a few, who have endured great agonies only to win freedom and dignity for their country and their people. Yet, they stand as people who are known essentially for their sense of compassion; they would inevitably stand up for the oppressed irrespective of their colour or creed.

These are men and women of great power who never felt the need for using brutal force. Their unbending strength lay in their deep sense of humanity and justice and their level of tolerance and compassion that rose above the narrow walls of patriotism and even lent the word a greater benchmark for their successors to follow. They stood up against oppressors for the allegiance they felt towards every human being who deserved dignity and respect. Yet, sadly, it is the diminution of the word ‘patriotism’ that lives on instead of the strength of the human heart that brought it to life and then rose far above it. It was the respect for life and not the love for their land to the exclusion of all else that made these men and women attain great stature as world leaders.

And yet, we foolishly assume conquest just as a child plays with sticks and imagines himself to be a warrior. Just that, unlike children, we are eluded by the farce. We refuse to acknowledge the absolute insignificance of our mortal existence before the unyielding magnitude of Nature, and even the human mind, that we keep battling to conquer with guns and swords. Perhaps we should give every person in the world a tiny space to dig a well and call it his own little country where no light or person can reach. Should we continue at this rate, such a day shouldn’t be very far off.

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

That Bizarre Thing Called ‘Reason’

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Source: Google Images

Source: Google Images

I bet every penny in my pocket that most of us, at some point in our lives, have been impulsively drawn towards things and moments that might have seemed of little value to the ‘reason-able’ mind or even on the ‘normality’ index that is drawn up by the most mediocre of all laws – the law of averages. It simply means that one needs to be at an average level to be ‘normal’. We have often quietly watched our minds wander about in the obscure wilderness of the lesser-acknowledged world that doesn’t promise anything in return but only an honest experience, even if it may be as short-lived as a moment.

We are sometimes irresistibly drawn towards the unaccepted and the unacknowledged terrain, in our unguarded candid moments, perhaps for the unadulterated rectitude these experiences make possible. Yet, most of us have mastered the art of kicking such unattributed inclinations under the carpet even if their secret scent may linger on our fingers for the rest of our lives. The weight of reason impudently tramples over the delicate and exquisite pleasures of an unadulterated moment, and the matter rests there most of the time for most of us.

We seem to have forgotten who we most instinctively are, who we were born to be, or who we so ardently want to be. What matters to us instead is who others want us to be, and what would be the most reasonable thing to do. We know exactly when we are caught in this slippery scheme of things when we explain ourselves with a ‘because’. At such times, the meek rationale-addict within me prods me with the questions, ‘Where will this take you?’ or ‘What will you get out of this, anyway?’ Questions that have haunted and disturbed me, and whose answers have eluded me on several occasions before being kicked in their butts and tossed back into oblivion once again. These questions have slowly spread their venomous tentacles inside the human mind only to surface as the powerful dictators of the human will.

Seriously, why must everything have a reason? Reason breeds comparison and judgment, and I have never seen much good come out of these two vices.

Well, in my case, this inclination towards having my heart wander has perhaps seemed a trifle illogical to others, but thankfully the tendency continues to thrive, much to the chagrin of well-wishers. I have grown attached to and even attracted to people and moments that have, in fact, held better reasons for me to do just the reverse! Perhaps it is my maverick heart that would never kneel before this bizarre thing called ‘reason’. Ask my heart why it loves the colour blue and it will almost always reply – ‘simply!’ My heart keeps tormenting me, even today, with its outrageously wilful ways that I cannot explain or suppress; you see, once again, for no reason at all. And without a single plausible explanation in its favour, my heart (or wherever that logic-less world within me resides) still seems to be getting its way with me effortlessly and shamelessly without a hint of remorse.

Ever since I learnt that I could make my own choices (though I fail to recall where or how I got that impression) I have been plagued with the perpetually unrequited need for sounding and acting sensible where practically everything is governed by an obvious and almost unassuming rationale. There always has to be a reason for doing or not doing something. I eat because I need nourishment. I sleep because I need rest. I went to college because otherwise I would die penniless. And many other things that I simply have to do because that is what everyone does. This indefatigable list manifests consternation and contempt for my life and me, managing to mock me in my face each time I decide to humour the logic-obsessed world around me. Being myself and owing no explanation to anyone, I know, comes most naturally to me. But that comes at a cost, though much smaller than what I would have to pay otherwise, I realised with age.

I have sensed soft murmurs from behind closed doors, tagging me as a girl ‘getting-out-of-hand’ in college, and a disrespectful youth for weighing respect against actions irrespective of one’s age or assigned/assumed status. Some have revelled in the thought that I lack a mature mind simply because I decided to remain my playful and candid self even as I quietly noticed every person’s vulnerabilities and strengths. And thus I have realised that ‘reason’ often leads us to misleading conclusions and deceptive proofs for inferences. But it has mattered little to me. It has mattered little to those I hold very close to me. That is why perhaps I dare to talk about it without a pang of guilt or embarrassment (wow, reason again!).

It is reason that tempts us to judge a person. It is reason that fogs our deepest desires and steers us away from who we were born to be, though thankfully for a little while, as life steadfastly and invariably shows up as the strongest antidote to this human invention of reason. Reason restricts and restrains a creative mind. Ever seen a child imagining his pencil to be a rocket? That child contains the potential to invent one too! But before she does it, we slap ‘reason’ right into her face and she relentlessly strives to be good in every subject that is thrown at her.

But there are occasions where the reason for a ‘reason’ seems quite unconvincing. Like: she is my closest friend BECAUSE she understands me; I married him BECAUSE our thinking matched. We even pray or meditate BECAUSE we have a need for peace within. It is not a question of right and wrong. It is simply an observation that every little detail in life runs on a REASON. We seem to need a reason for everything. So much so that, I am told, we are all here for a reason! Why would life be chasing an element that is purely defined by our addiction to assurance? Every choice seeks a reason for comfort and solace when solace merely awaits the mind that can act beyond reason or a motive.

But there are times when it does seem as if nature too revolves around reason. Why else should a flower attract bees with its sweet nectar if it weren’t for scattering its pollen? Hmm…now that makes me suspicious of my own understanding and practice. Perhaps among the few things that don’t seem to have any reason is this post of mine since surely it is no surprise to anyone that I haven’t the faintest clue as to why I wish to bring out and validate this absurd notion that has stalked me all my life.

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013