Category Archives: Society and Practices

Goddess & Whore Listed Under ‘BEST FICTION BOOKS’

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Now available on Kindle too!

Now available on Kindle too!

‘Goddess & Whore’ has been listed under the ‘BEST FICTION BOOKS’ category on BookAdda. The book has also been showcased on BookAdda’s Home page, along with three other noted titles! …This might seem as a ‘no big deal’ to most reasonable people, but somehow I just can’t stop smiling at the thought!…cheers to all!

The book is now available on Amazon and Kindle too.

Link: http://www.bookadda.com

© 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

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

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

Psychedelic Desires: Ad For A Suitable Companion

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Source: angrylambie.buzznet.com

Source: angrylambie.buzznet.com

An educated, emancipated and feisty woman seeks a suitable companion who possesses qualities that rarely meet the naked eye and who values the same subtleties in others and in life. She eagerly looks for a friend who values the simplest things in life like the scent of wet mud, the quiet night sky, or the touch of cold breeze just before a heavy downpour. She seeks a comrade who can count on her on the gloomiest days and celebrate with her during moments of inspiring madness.

She seeks a friend who, just like his companion, is able to follow the simple expedient of preserving his dignity and propriety before he ventures to vindicate himself; one who has the strength to speak his mind, the patience to hold back his judgement, and the intelligence to tell the difference. She is in search of someone who has the compassion to understand, and the humility to feel gratitude; a person who shares a delightful sense of humour and a selective bad memory, qualities that neatly qualify as indispensable for a beautiful friendship.

Above all, she looks for a companion who has the eyes to look beyond the whiteness of the skin or the curves of the hips and thighs, whose smile does not rely on the size of his wallet, whose mind can soar above the clouds even on the cloudiest day, and who can laugh and love sans a single petty condition. She seeks a friend who can accept and rejoice in a companionship along with its differences; a person who can forgive and yet retain the ability to suffer remorse after hurting another. She seeks a person who notices the unbearable weight of a single teardrop or the unsettled glance of a pair of eyes that refuses to sleep.

She desires a knowledgeable mind that thrives on the perpetual hunger for greater wisdom and a thirst for the finer arts; one whose existence relies heavily on the power of spiritual wisdom and the exploration and appreciation of the unfathomable beauty of nature. She seeks a person who has an independent mind yet possesses the strength to confess his complete dependence on his companion out of love. She seeks a person who lends more air to her wings as she makes her flight, while he too possesses wings of his own and has a flight to make. But most importantly, she desires a companion who, just like her, is determined to work on a relationship with patience, compassion and hope, and give it everything it needs just like raising a young child.

Our girl promises the same commitments to her companion-to-be even as she also assures that a constant disregard for the other’s sense-of-pride could be a single unfortunate reason to dissolve everything that could have mattered, only for a handful of things that should not have mattered at all. This alliance will only survive until it is carefully carried with care and not unmindfully dragged by its hair.

Last but not the least, she is open to both men and women from any cultural background to contact her for this possibly lifelong alliance. Additional attributes and qualities like practical self-reliance and knowledge of music and poetry, love for food and travel, though not absolutely essential, will be preferred…rest all remains immaterial.

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

The God I Saw

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an infant i saw

under the staggering light

of the earthen lamp

on that still callous night…

when meaning had crept

out of every human heart

when hopelessness ‘n’ remorse

had ripped open every vulnerable part…
she had arrived
to save us all

and lead us
to a fresh new start

no weapon she bore

not a crown she wore

only a pure innocent heart…

patient ears to hear our woes

dark eyes that exuberated joy

her four little hands held aloft

a book

a flower

a flute

a toy…

yet familiar to me she seemed

while in blinding radiance she beamed

i recalled alas
that frail ‘n’ hungry cry

of a newborn girl

discarded and left to die…

(another poem from Madhurima’s book ‘Goddess & Whore‘)

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

What Grandma Knew Better

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In spite of my perpetual inclination towards the unbridled egalitarian human spirit, that invariably stereotypes me as a radical or even a painful rebel within an otherwise-perfectly-normal-and-peaceful-family, there rests a hidden world within me that brings out the apparent antithesis and a conflicting need within me. The latter world emerges out of the deep waters once the tides are low, at an innocuous hour when the sun is yet to rise and the entire cosmic space rests in unstirred silence and darkness. When I step into this world, individuality seems slightly overrated and even self-centered and lonely whereas the concept of conformism suddenly seems comforting even if it may be a little out of my comfort-zone as a giver every now and then.

This facet of my mind reminds me of my yearning for a family, it confesses to me the significance of those attributes of warmth and affection and bonhomie whose gravity soared above the realms of petty conveniences and practicality and whose impact could leave a heart altered and touched for life. Even today, when my mind is agitated by the silence within my self-drawn boundary that defines my own space, my mind wanders off into a remote yet apparently undesired possibility of a space filled with people and voices. That space around me that I so zealously guard from time to time from intruders seems no more than a barren land, unfriendly and forbidding. And I wait or even crave at times for someone to barge in with a booming voice and destroy my obsession for my sense of individuality and redeem my spirit of being an unguarded wanderer of the unknown.

In a world where most lives are gradually moving towards a more disciplined socialising pattern adorned by well-manicured protocols that I on a normal day would most naturally defend, the memory that comforts me most is of how I was always welcome at my grandparents’ house where I didn’t have to think of the convenient hours. I just knew I could go there anytime I liked and they would love me and be so happy to greet me! Grandma would pretend that her backache was gone so she could cook me my favourite bake! On the contrary, if I were to pick up the phone and call someone of my own generation I would have to think a zillion times about the hour and its appropriateness. To be fair to them I am, myself, duly guilty of the same practice most often when I prefer a prior heads up on how my following weekend would look like so I could plan my work around it. You see, it’s flawlessly convenient!

Any last minute variation to the revised almost accurate chronology that might involve more than five people on the surprise guest list would most invariably leave the likes of me hyperventilating inside, even more if it were on a weekday where the chances of winging it would be even lower for some unexplainable reason. Thankfully these freakishly scary mental images of being roped into impromptu action rarely spills onto the face, which by then carries the ‘what-a-pleasant-surprise!’ or ‘of-course-I’d-love-to-help!’ look in rehearsed reflex when inside it would feel like I had run out of oxygen or someone was plunging a knife into my hand.

Sometimes I wonder how the Smartphone generation got this way. On the contrary I grew up in a house thronging with guests and filled with laughter and parties. There were fewer bedrooms yet we never seemed to run out of space. Sometimes we even slept on the floor after we all had chatted for half the night over innumerable snacks and cups of coffee that mother quietly supplied from the kitchen. I don’t recall a single episode when my parents looked unhappy with visitors or uneasy for having to help people at an unearthly hour. Instead, our exams came and passed by like seasons, but that didn’t alter the pattern of guests at home – they were always welcome even if that meant that we had to quietly cancel our own plans. Declining a guest unless for an emergency was not an option. In those days, even the help at home wasn’t adequate nor were there enough machines to smoothen out the cleaning and laundry work. Yet, I am still to see my parents hit the panic button when the house is brimming with guests. It seems like such a pleasure to be visiting people like these.

Well, whom are we kidding here! Of course there were times when my parents and their parents too wished that they didn’t have to entertain those many guests at an uncomfortable time of the year! But they handled it differently. And guess what, they had their guests over anyway (most of the times)! How is that a smart choice? Well their loyalties and concern for one another wove them so close to each other that even during times of utter discontent my mother had a long list of people she knew she could trust with her eyes shut. Also, during times of celebration my parents knew they had so many loved ones who would be happy for us, who would bless us too. That is what that generation had earned! Loads of love, loyalty, companionship, good wishes and blessings! After all, this was what a family was meant to do, to flock together just like the birds, ants and elephants!

Instead it had started to seem too primitive or even obsolete a concept to many of us, by now, whose aspirations were driven primarily by convenience or a self-designed sense of individual space and justice. The head prevailed while the heart waited for a trial. Families slowly disintegrated into fragments where our only string of communication rested on the frail shoulders of the previous generation. Even today, the little that I know about my cousins and their lives is mostly through my mother. Sadly enough, even Facebook hasn’t played a vital role in establishing my loyal intent towards my family yet. We seem to have conveniently discarded things that haven’t suited us and tagged those as among the felonies of some manmade society while we have embraced ideologies that promote individuality to seem undeniably superior!

Most of us from this current generation tend to go incognito socially or explicitly announce our super busy schedules in advance so no social link starts to grow on us and weigh us down. We schedule dinners and lunches proudly as we conform to the practice where everyone is at the right place at the right time and there is also enough room and grub for everybody. Under such conditionality clause how easy is it to remain unpretentious? I have often felt a blatant disconnect between relatives and friends in such gatherings where only the unfaltering rapport among the previous generation has seemed assuring and comforting to me.

Today, even when my mind can relate to those of my generation and beyond, my heart yearns for that unconditional affection that I once received from the generations before mine. Sure, there were pitfalls then but it isn’t fully correct either to believe that we have got ourselves a fair deal – and that is the point here. I find myself a complete misfit as I crave for those family reunions that I grew up watching. I have decided to dismantle my panic button for good and step up for some traditional-style family time!

While I am no patron of social sanctions, I still wish we retained our abilities to distinguish between the attributes within a society that resonate with our human spirit of bonding and belonging as against those that we deceivingly device and construct only for the sake of it. I doubt if this is any less of an apocalypse for humankind and I won’t be surprised if our future generations called us primitive too for selfishly deconstructing a society that our forefathers once built. Perhaps this is where we stop and ponder…

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Are You Sanctioned Yet?

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece titled ‘Lust for Likes’ that spoke of our perpetual need for gratification through the verdict of the Collective, irrespective of the level of competence of the latter to pronounce a judgement. I am not sure how qualified I am to testify to the latter’s capabilities in this matter; however, I do believe that any independent opinion such as mine must count and so I must speak. In the earlier post I had mentioned how it was the number of votes in our favour, as evident, that mattered to us. The rest was amicably yet confidently damned.

Be it a piece of writing or an unadulterated opinion, both await response, if not recognition, from those around. Heavens forbid, if either should receive a not-so-positive acknowledgment (or no acknowledgement at all), then we are almost always convinced of our own incapability, instantly despising our sensibilities and expressions as we grapple helplessly in the dark for any scrap of consolation that would assure us that the ‘me’ wasn’t yet entirely worthless. We contain an inherent quality to doubt ourselves and an innate ability to trust the negative with regard to that self.

Just when I thought I had conveyed my remorse over our addiction to social attestations to our independent works and ideas, I noticed that the primary fault lay far deeper within a need with a pedigree that had been realised years and years ago when man had created the concept of social norms and behaviour for his immediate benefits then.

Here’s an oversimplified (almost stupid) outline of how I interpret the evolution of and the need for a society. When man decided to settle down and not wander about, he needed an assurance that things would be available and safe while he was stationed in his area of choice. But he eventually realised that nothing would come for free, and that he needed to be socially accepted first. He also figured that there was a possibility of conflicts if everybody had their way. So there needed to be a definite hierarchy and set of rules that favoured him and made his life unencumbered by stress and impediments. That is when the problem started.

In an attempt to straighten things out in his favor, he then created norms that reaffirmed and validated a defined set of right and wrong. In a jiffy, the inspiring intricacies of the otherwise free human mind and will were combed out following an oversimplified rationale and an even stunted intent. Since that moment we have only devised more and more ways to detain our minds and seize its spirit, threatening it from time to time in name of society.

With time these norms slowly became customs and traditions, and these customs that were initially designed to match our “requirements” slowly started dictating our mindsets. Over the years they established their unfaltering supremacy in our lives as a culture, and this we eventually came to regard as our cultural heritage. Before we knew, we had already fallen prey to the giant obsession for social acceptance.

We had to define and justify every relationship and every intention in a way that was expected of us by the society. Relationships needed validation; they often needed a sizeable justification too. Among these, a fair chunk of social sanctions were smartly weighed against a rational need and a thick smog of right and wrongs masked skillfully by a feel-good (and dangerously misleading) phrase – good intentions. This phrase has always made little sense to me.

Relationships too, just like schools and banks, were institutionalised, and that was all it took to get socially sanctioned. And just like the various kinds of bank accounts, there were different kinds of relationships too! And so they were legitimate (whatever that meant)! It was all good to keep us organised and safe within the parameters of law and order requirements, but I believe we took it way more seriously than that. Eventually, the legitimate became synonymous to the accepted that then became ‘right’. The others, that included moments of unadulterated yearnings and thoughts, roamed about like refugees and absconding convicts in the darkness of the night, since then. They refused to be tamed anyway.

Though even the sanctioned world too, just like the unsanctioned side, did bear the brunt of this obsession. I know a friend who had trouble finding a companion for himself after enduring two divorces in a row. The greatly glorified divorces had done an outstanding task in tagging him as the unworthy, or unreliable, or unlucky. His very own brother, on the other hand, who eventually decided to marry someone of his parents’ choice didn’t seem to bear that tag. Instead he became the ideal son. It didn’t matter if he had had an affair or a series of affairs before that choice. We only continued to see what was sanctioned.

Profound emotions like love and compassion too now waited in the same queue to be resized, sanctioned and stamped by innumerable rules like loyalty, duty, responsibility that waited to tickle our abused conscience and reaffirm our un-emancipated commitment towards making ourselves more mean-minded and shallow. Like a butcher we chopped and trimmed the very scope of those words into a handful of petty sanctioned relationships just the way we sliced the land into senseless bits. We took care of only what was ours, or so we thought it was.

In due time we seemed to forget those uninhibited emotions and the innumerable relations that slipped by into dark wilderness for having been unsanctioned or for having lived for a time span less worthy. Our minds had been manicured by then, and we all looked and felt and acted in the same way. We proudly called ourselves a society when instead we should have called ourselves a toy factory.

A levy and a sanction, which, I knew, were nomenclatures to defend the economic world, govern our social lives too, or at least, they still do in many parts of the world. These social sanctions only reduce us to mere commodities that are scanned at every station and then stamped in approval or disapproval. And most of us keep ourselves securely locked up so none of our insides spill out as we totter our way through each conveyor belt, keeping our anxious fingers crossed so that we are socially sanctioned just like the dirty luggage on the dusty conveyor belts at the airport or railway station. Any unrecognised luggage is treated like an explosive, a probable instrument for acts of terror …and will simply earn itself suspicious glances from those who have their head held high after being socially sanctioned.

This amalgamation of requirements that included a few lop-sided rules, among others, today seems sacrosanct and unbending in many parts of the world even now. As a result, we need social sanctions at every stage today in spite of being in a world of social networks! But must we always have everything defined within oversimplified closed quarters and parameters? Must we tag everything as right and wrong, good or bad? After all, how much right is right? Who decides? Why follow?

Must everything be weighed against self-appropriated consequences? Why can’t a thought, a moment, a relationship, an impulse count just as much, in its entirety, without having to scream out its meaning or significance? Why shouldn’t an indefinable relationship aspire to exist without any motive or definitive ending? Have we completely killed the wanderer in us? Are we willing to sacrifice our inherent free will of the wanderer? Or is it not the worst form of   sacrilege of the human soul?

A new life is now tagged as legitimate or illegitimate just like other contractual relationships that have been drafted and resized to fit the petty mindsets in the name of social security. And yet, how many of us feel socially secure today? I remember reading a book recently that said that earlier there used to be far greater humanitarian values where households would accept and take care of an orphan child who was unfed or homeless. It was only after certain religions disapproved of unsanctioned relationships and lives that people turned away from and refused to be associated with the allegedly ‘illegitimate’. ‘This is mine’, ‘that is yours’, ‘she has wronged’… these judgments have only torn us apart and given us a fake sense of power to criticise or condone one another. On the receiving end, those judgments have started to matter to us far more than they should have.

I shall refrain from commenting on the role of religion and let you make your own inferences and belief for now. I just know that religion has cost us several lives and the world’s history is a solid testimony to that. Be it the holiest city, Jerusalem or the Babri-Masjid area, these landmark sites in history have only tried to tell us about our futile attempts to own what belonged to all of us. It only tells us of our twisted and petty self-designed sanctions, be it religious or social or political. It only spells our incapability and stubborn efforts to conquer, capture and sanction a fragment of the free land or the free human spirit. Yet we refuse to learn.

The day we learn to set our minds and hearts free of all sanctions shall we redeem that lost wanderer’s soul within us that is capable of looking at itself as a part of a much larger creation. What a futile conquest it has been so far! I wish we had spent half that time to conquer our minds instead so we could defend that free world within and around us.

I don’t intend to overlook or deny the amount of progress individuals and developed societies have made where they are free to express themselves, define their sexual preferences, and occupy themselves with the work of their choice. It is only that I am unable to overlook that vast majority that refuses to evolve with the changing times, thus making the concept of a society seem so immaterial and inconsequential suddenly. They are the sorts who judge you for what you speak, what you wear, and who you talk to (with regard to your socially-assigned status, mind you). I have despised such people ever since I can remember and shall continue to do so.

Of course, I don’t count myself as the solitary reaper though I dare confess that the solitary confines of my workspace do lend me far more seriousness and gravity most of the times. I am also aware that any statement as this would only culminate into a longer list of people who despise me or de-recognize me (secretly or otherwise), as they have from time to time. But being perfectly aware of the unfortunate plight of our majority today, a fear like this seems no different than a self-inflicted wound, a self-assumed threat or even a form of blackmail to me.  According to me, sizing down an individual’s independence and choices is the worst form of abuse of the human spirit.

I have noticed the names and faces that appear and disappear each time I announce my perspective, and as much as I would secretly want to please each of them, I am constantly reminded of my loyalty to my own mind and its opinions first. My choice therefore is unanimous. And, I welcome everyone’s perspective with equal respect just as long as you can convince me that it is your independent mind that is talking to me.

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Nine To Five

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(another poem from Madhurima’s book ‘Goddess & Whore‘)

the tiny cloud
o’er my coffee mug
slowly fills
the air-con space
the rhyming clicks
on my black keyboard
begin to pick
their daily pace…
i take a sip
and retrieve my lip
the stain of red
still on the mug
i answer my phone
in rehearsed reflex
and feel a frown
upon my brow…
i haven’t much time
to fill my mind
with thoughts
of disappointment and fear
my coloured nails
in harmony click on
without a sign
of remorse or cheer…
i pull back my chair
that yields to my will
and stride down
the quiet corridor
my four-inch heels
confirm my being
announcing themselves
on the lacquered floor…
this is my world
from nine to five
when i decide
my destiny
no judging eye
can reach me here
no ladle nor knife
can make pieces of me…
I’ve seen
the raised eyebrow
the look you give
from time to time
but i choose this time
my book instead
and leave you to fuss
o’er my alleged crime…

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013