Mango Smells Like Paradise

I always look forward to summer with an anticipatory glee. The season has a way of channeling my inner child. Indian summers are particularly cruel and looking at it through the eyes of a child is the only way I can come up with in order to enjoy it. The relentless sun, the motionless breeze, the persistent sweating, the unwanted tanning; this season is highly ruthless to us. But I still manage to think that there is a certain grace in which the sun brightens everything around me. The buildings, roads, trees, cars; everything is radiant and so jubilant.

I have a slightly heightened sense of smell. I rely heavily on scents to connect to memories of events and people.The thought of summer too brings in my mind a variety of scents I have cataloged over the years; the earthy smell of the freshly mowed grass, the sour scent of the pickles my mother laid out in the sun to dry or the fragrance of amaltas hanging heavy in the still air. Sadly Mumbai’s air does not leave much room for summery scents. The air here is an eclectic blend of sweat, smoke and dead fish. However thankfully, one of my warmest summer memories still stays alive in the sweet, heavenly aroma of mangoes.

No Indian summer can be complete without gorging on this gorgeous king of fruits. We wait all year to sink our teeth in its golden, luscious flesh. Come May and my Facebook wall is flooded with friends happily announcing about eating the season’s first mango.For three months or so, mango rules the kitchen and menus of all Indian households. Desserts are not a cause of worry anymore. We just make the best of the limited time we get with our favorite fruit. Perhaps I love smelling mangoes more than I like eating them. I especially love going to buy fruits in summer and simply smell all the different kinds of mangoes laid out in display. It just makes me so giddy. The exotic, sweet, fruity smell a ripe mango emanates is one of my favorite things about summer. And the memories of many a balmy nights spent with my family and friends, huddled around a plate of mango slices will delight my heart all my life.

A Swedish proverb goes, “a life without love is like a year without summer.”  And a summer without mangoes is unimaginable. In India, summer is already preparing to depart. It has begun to rain and I am enjoying the soothing, earthy smell the first bout of showers have brought. Thankfully, the season of mangoes will linger for a few more weeks. I better hurry to the fruit store!

Written in response to Daily Prompt – Seasonal Scents

 

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To Sleep or Not to Sleep

As much as I love to sleep, I like to evade it as much as possible each night. It is the most curious phenomenon; I actually fight it till the very last ounce of my senses surrender. A little self introspection has led me to believe that as bedtime arrives, I go into utter panic that my day is nearing its end. I then scramble to salvage the last few remaining moments of my day to make it count more. TV shows pending to be watched, books waiting to be finished, room forgotten to be cleaned, poems neglected to be penned, they all suddenly clamor for my attention.

I don’t have a fixed nighttime ritual. However my agenda to avoid sleep for as long as possible is set in stone. I have never been the one to go to bed early. Even as a child, I found it hard to sleep at the stipulated bed time. I find nighttime very peaceful and calming. It is as beautiful as it is stark. I love it so much that I pen poems in it’s honour. It is the time when you retire to your abode and are in the company of only those people you want. I especially like to read or write something at this time if I am not too tired. If I am, then I simple catch up on the TV shows I keep downloading (these days I am alternating between Hannibal and Fargo). These days, the FIFA World Cup also keeps me up till late. If not anything, then there is always the shimmering screen of my smart phone enticing me into betraying slumber. This is also an exceptionally good time for some pondering and reflection; be it the purpose of my life, planning the next day or scheming world domination.

After my body starts giving up, I tear myself from my TV/computer/phone/book and drag myself to my bed. Despite my determination to avoid sleep, I always find myself grateful for the warm comfort of my bed. I switch off the light and grudgingly shut my eyes. The next few moments are quite fascinating as I await my mind to fall asleep and join my body. Sometime I think that I am in a Kafka novel; my mind conjures distorted images and dialogues with a fluidity I am not otherwise capable of. In due course my mind shuts down too and everything is finally still.

While I battle to stay awake, I am often reminded of Dylan Thomas and his finest poem (villanelle to be precise) “Do no go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” I know that the great poem talks about fighting death but in my opinion those lines are equally fitting in this situation. If only were there a poem for the dark circles I get the next day.

Written in response to Daily Prompt – Sleepy Time

Dear Future Muse

Dear Brooding,

No female lover of literature can hate you, can she? You have redeemed countless flawed men and made inner angst desirable. While dishing out fictional men, you are the secret ingredient that makes them delectable. I would call you a trope but it is hard to miss the fact that you work your magic every time. Heathcliffe, Mr. Darcy, Hamlet, Mr. Rochester, Jay Gatsby; can you sense the pattern in my list of favorite literary men?

As ubiquitous you are in literature, you are rare to find in real life. May I ask why you have kept yourself confined within the warm cocoon of the pages of classics? While I am unsure about my personal ability to deal with the intensity of such a man, it sure would be fun to meet a real life Byronic hero.I am sure every woman would want to uncover the mystery behind those aching yet smoldering eyes. I don’t know what you are afraid of. I can assure you that you are as fashionable a trait outside the novels as you are inside them.

Before you get excited and prepare to present yourself to us, I would like to remind you that you are not very appealing when you work alone. So, please bring your friends – enigma, wealth, intelligence and passion with you. Otherwise, there is no point. 

I hope you consider my request and don’t make me wait too long. I am in dire need of a muse, you see and time is running out.

Yours,

Desperate for a Muse

No prizes for guessing. My word was “Brooding”. Picked up from The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing.

Written in response to a prompt on Writing 101 – To Whom It May Concern. The challenge is to pick up the nearest book and flip to page 29. What jumps out at you? Start there, and try a twist: write in the form of a letter.

 

 

 

I Carry My Home in My Heart

Home – the word summons many images and sounds accumulated over the course of my life; a kaleidoscope of assorted apartments, streets, scents and people. A life of frequent transfers has made the idea of home a situational one; always moving, always adapting. For me, it has never been a specific physical entity; never bound by walls or a roof. The reason for this is simple. The thought of home is supposed to indicate constancy. It is meant to make a person feel rooted; to reassure them that no matter where they go, there is always a haven to return to. I haven’t had such luxury. Therefore, understandably, my interpretation of home is slightly different. It is simply the place where my parents are.

Years and years of relocating has made me exceptionally close to my family. Amidst the haze of changing addresses, schools and friends, my parents and my sister have been the only factor that has suggested stability. I speak from immense experience when I say that family is the only thing that you have in the end. Friends have come and gone but my best friend has always remained in the form of my mother. I may have studied under various teachers but my father still remains my greatest one; still teaching me patiently. And I doubt if I will find anyone else who can match the the histrionics my sister displays while laughing at my jokes.

Sadly I don’t have many objects that have remained with me since I was a child. Books, gadgets, clothes are in abundance but they don’t inspire nostalgia. If I leave on an adventure for a year, I will carry things that serve materialistic and practical purposes. But I will carry the thoughts and memories of my family as a reminder of home. I will bear the image of my parent’s smiling faces while bidding me goodbye at the airport; faces lined with pride, concern and unconditional love. My sister’s excited shrieks on fulfilling my life long dream to travel will stay with me wherever I go; unless they sneak in anything else in my luggage to remind me of home. After all, they will be the ones doing all my packing.

Written in response to Daily Prompt – An Ounce of Home

Being Jane Austen

I admit, it is a daunting task to decide which famous person I want to be for a day. Having being preceded by countless generations of inventors, thinkers, artists and leaders, there is just a surfeit of personalities to choose from. The world we live in today is the culmination of the achievements of these famous people and I, like any other well aware human being have an array of favorite personalities I would want to be. However, I would like to take a moment and consider the time we live in now and what being famous entails. In my opinion, fame should be related with real achievement and endurance; two attributes which present themselves only after some time has passed.

I am a bit of an old soul and have always nursed a wish to travel back in time. It would be fascinating to see the conditions we have evolved from. Perhaps this is why I love to read. In the absence of a time machine, a book is the next best thing which can make one explore our past. Literature is the reason why I am well acquainted with Victorian London or the Jazz Age. Though, there are countless accomplished authors who made this possible, the personality of one stands out for me.

My first tryst with Austen happened when I was 15. Emma was the first novel I read and since then, it has remained on my list of top 5 favorite books. I slowly devoured all her works and was truly starstruck. The most remarkable quality of her work is that a reader wants to revisit them time and again, despite reading it from cover to cover. I did the same when I was in my early twenties. I was a bit more mature and was able to sense the biting social commentary beyond the gentle comedy and romance. This is when I started thinking how hard it must have been for Austen to establish herself as a writer during that era. A woman showing a male dominated society the mirror, I would definitely travel in time to do that.

Whenever I read her novels, more than once I find my mind straying to the fact that she never married. She never experienced enduring love, except for her doomed romance with Tom Lefroy. Yet, she wrote about love and romance with such fervor that I want to bow to her imagination. Writing should be self exploratory. But when a story teller gives you an accomplished work which is not drawn from their experience, they are truly worth their salt.

I find Austen intriguing because so little is known about her private life. She lived a simple life, in a close knit family. She received only one marriage proposal in her entire life, which she turned down. She never moved in the same circles as other writers of her time. Most of her fame was achieved after her death as her novels were published anonymously while she lived. However, she remained utterly dedicated to her craft throughout her short life. Her life was as charmed as it was nondescript.  I wonder if she knew about how accomplished she would go on to be. I wonder if she realized that she was setting impossible standards for men for centuries to come; that her novels would see millions of women through lonely evenings.

I wish I could live her life for a day; be bound by social conventions and gently breaking them at the same time, be a quiet iconoclast. Above all, I would love to be known as the woman who gave Mr. Darcy to the world.

Written in response to Daily Prompt – Instant Celebrity

An Open Letter to my Day

I have been tasked to describe you today. To be precise, I have to describe what I do in the expanse of the twenty four hours you bring me on such a regular basis. In the simplest sense, you are merely a means of measuring time, aren’t you? But you do a lot more. You govern the world’s routine; we wake up at your behest and sleep at your command. You are the pervasive reminder that we are getting older, that time is slipping away. In a way, you are the executioner of nature’s greatest will.But, you are also my constant companion; my inadvertent confidante and harbinger of new hope.

Invariably, I wake up groaning at your arrival.I don’t know if you have realized it yet, but the moment I sense your coming, I start fantasizing about the time when you will leave me so that I can retreat in the comfort of my bed. But the ticking clock forces me to drag myself out of my bed’s warm embrace. You know that mornings have always been unpopular with me. A leisurely pace is the best I can muster at this time of the day. Yet, you keep prodding me with your ticking clock to hurry up and face the world.

Well, once I am out of the house and have some degree of alertness, my adventure with you actually begins. I get out of my building to hail a rickshaw to get to work. Thanks to the location of my building, I don’t usually face problems in getting any. Normally, a bunch of rickshaws swarm at me the moment I wave. I get amused and laugh again at our private joke. Do you remember it? The one where I wish that the these swarming rickshaws could be replaced by swarming eligible suitors or swarming high paying jobs. I know I know, I am too funny. As the rickshaw driver starts to drive, I plug in my ear phones and listen to the the music of my choice blended with the cacophony of Mumbai’s streets.

I reach office in half an hour and then my computer takes me over. The next nine odd hours always surprise me in their shaping. At times they leave me highly fulfilled. At other times, they simply frustrate me. Switching on my computer, meeting with my team, discussion with my manager, calls with the client, lunch at the cafeteria; this is what happens everyday but the outcome differs. To the unassuming eye, these nine hours would be the crux of my existence. But you know me better than that. This is not how you set your tone.

You make sure that there are moments of simple pleasures stashed between the hours of frenzied activities. A kiss from my mom before I leave for work, a cheery good morning from a friend on the phone, boss’s encouraging nod on doing a good job, being reminded that someone is thinking of you and smiling; you do know how to get me going. You lend a patient ear to all my thoughts and plans for myself. At least once a day, you catch me pondering over the purpose of my life. You don’t miss my rueful look when I see homeless people sleeping on the road. And you join me in rolling eyes when you see me arguing with some idiot. Above all, you graciously keep adding items to the never ending list of things I want to do. Be it learning haiku or visiting Peru, you never ask if I am ever going to do these things. You let me be with my own whims.

You stay with me when I return home and chatter with my parents. You know I like to watch TV until late, after my family has retired for the night. You also know, that TV is not what I am interested in. I just like those few moments of peace, the pleasure of my own company. After my eyes refuse to stay open, you send me off to my dreams and leave me there, only to return with new promises in a few hours.

Written in response to a prompt on Daily prompt – Rare Medium

 

 

When I was Twelve

My twelfth year was arguably among the best years of my life. Life was all about the little pleasures. I lived in Mumbai back then. It was 1999 and my father was due to be transferred to another city the next year. However, in all my childhood innocence, I had managed to convince myself that we would be living there forever and our lives would never change.

The Mumbai I remember from 1999 is wildly different from how the rest of the world saw it. The city had not become harsh to me yet. I lived with my parents and my twin sister in a spacious two bedroom flat. It was on the seventh floor. We lived in a large colony with five wings. Each wing had eight floors and each floor had two flats each. All the wings were arranged to form a circle with a vast garden at the center. Our flat overlooked the garden. I absolutely adored our flat, our home for the past five years. To this day, thinking about that flat brings nothing but warm memories, full of mirth and contentment. My favorite part of the house were the large French windows in all the rooms. Now that I think about it, that flat is the source of my predilection for houses with large windows. I always equate large windows with happiness. A long, hilly stretch of road enveloped all the wings of the building. This was not a public road. It was well within the gates. Probably the most functional feature of the building, this is where I learnt to ride my bicycle. Teenage kids drove their parent’s cars for the first time here. Be it long walks, parking vehicles or playing hopscotch, that road was a part of everyone’s lives.

Although I lived in Mumbai, I had not embodied its urgency yet. It did not reflect in my personality. It was merely another piece of information about me. My life was in the building I lived in. My building could well be uprooted and taken to another city, I would not have cared. To this day, I have not been able to count the number of friends I had there. In retrospect, it was a strange thing to have; a plethora of friends at an age where the relationship itself is a mystery. There is no denying that twelve was an awkward age. I was not a child, neither was I an adolescent. Surprisingly, I was not puzzled by the things changing within me. Even at that age, I was exhibiting signs of the calm, uncomplaining person that I am today. I somehow sensed that this is how nature works. I was a tad puzzled by the changing behavior of my peers. I am not going to lie, girls were beginning to get insufferable. I somehow did not feel any solidarity for them. I did not notice many changes in boys around me though. They seemed to go on with their lives, playing cricket and hitting each other. From where I saw it, the transition seemed to be easier for them.

That year was the last year of my life where I spent majority of my time outdoors. My love for reading had already sowed it seeds but a desire for social life had swayed me from it for some time. I, along with my sister and friends spent most of our time playing. We never wanted to come home. Our parents could spot us playing from our window and would yell at us to come back home. But we kept playing, tactfully averting our eyes and ears. It was the last year of scraped knees, childish tiffs and innocent jokes. Had I known this then, I would have played some more.

One day in April 2000, my father called from his office. He told my mother that the transfer order had arrived and we were supposed to move to Piravom, a small town in Kerala. This seemed drastic to everyone. Moving from the biggest city in India to a relatively obscure one; it is still one of the most contrasting things to have happened to me. I was inconsolable. I also knew that I had no choice. My parents were sad at leaving too but not as sad as my sister and I. Well acquainted with the mercilessness of the city, they on some level were looking forward to a quiet life.

So one morning in May 2000, two months before I turned thirteen, I bade adieu to that building. My friends were there to see me off, hugging me, saying tearful goodbyes, promising to keep in touch. I was slightly jealous. I could not bear the fact that someone else would now occupy my lovely home with large windows. My friends would find a replacement of me. Their lives would go on while I would have to start from scratch. I had not yet realized that this was actually a gift. I did not know that some day, I would be stronger because of it. After all, I was only twelve.

Written in response to a prompt on Writing 101 – Size Matters