Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Loneliness

Loneliness, where are you coming from?
You seem like the only companion
Who is around me right now
To listen
To watch
To respond
And share
Never too busy for me, are you?
You follow me like a shadow
Ready to show up
The moment the rest have deserted
How long have I known you?
Do I even remember life without you?

Yes, there have been moments
When I've met myself
And you were nowhere to be seen
I wonder where that girl is now
I'd like her to meet you
Maybe she doesn't know you yet
Maybe she'll say hello the next time
Or maybe she doesn't need to
She seems to have friends already
Or friendship

I've the latter
But often not the former
They are all too busy, most times,
To respond, to listen, to converse
To sit back and share life as it happens
Sometimes I reach out, and that works
But most times I'm disappointed
Waiting
Tired
Dejected
Then I slowly walk back to you

For you see, loneliness, you're the only friend
That I can truly claim to have.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

This day

Why should I look a certain way?
Not wear what I goddamn please?
It's a good day to remind myself
I wasn't born to appease

Not born to fit roles
Pre-defined for me
Nor be this 'good girl'
For the world to see

I'll be uncouth and rough
In the company of raucous friends
Stretch your lines
To see where it ends

Yet I walk cautious
In a public place
Elbows jutting out
Define my space

But now I choose to expand
And claim what was mine
Be it space, voice, or consent
I won't burn to shine

Don't try to contain or define
Who I am or could be
Water, fire, earth or sky
The choice is upto me

On Women's Day (may we never need one)
08 March, 2017

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Write

'Write something', she says,
That insistent voice inside me,
Holds me to ransom for days,
Doesn't let me be.

'Write something, anything,
So long as it's something true.
Please ignore that WhatsApp ping,
Where you seek something new.'

'Write of the sun and moonshine,
Of days dark and ablaze,
Of feeling blue or fine,
Sudden clarity and stubborn haze.'

'Write to share, to vent, to whine,
About matters big and small.
Write to spread some sunshine,
Caught by few, though meant for all'

'Write', she says, 'for heaven's sake'
'Do you want me to just give up on you?
My niggling finger if you do not take,
I'll vanish without a clue.'

So here I am, dear friends,
Putting pen to paper,
Lest my restlessness ends,
And that voice turns to vapour.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Desire

Desire, thy tentacles are vicious
Slowly crawling up to my heart
A red-hot bullet piercing my chest
Staying buried there
As regret
With the passage of time.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

What colour is nostalgia?


Stealthily creeps the feeling
of having been somewhere
With someone
(Not always a literal place)
Of having travelled a distance
Many miles
Or perhaps a few significant steps
Maybe crossed a chasm, together
Now each battling her own chasm
Comes, unannounced, the thrill
of belonging to a community
A kafila, even if for a while
The camaraderie jumps out from
email threads long archived
Smiles back from chats long forgotten
And laughingly pulls you back in time.
It takes a while to regain your present self
The self that has its arms outstretched
towards the past, frozen in a high-five
but finds its feet in today
Rooted, grounded, unable to move.
Unlike time.

What colour is nostalgia?
That it drapes you in
Drenches you in
Paints the moment with a hue
that’s happy and sad at once
What shades would you draw from it?
What patterns can you discern?
It’s light in some places, dense in others
But a uniform colour of reminiscence
That leaves you here and there at the same time.

So many people have crossed your path
So many whose stories you’ve partaken in
Some Shift+Delete-d with good reason
But existing still on the fringes of your memory
Waiting to be discovered, lurking
(The mind’s no computer; the keys don’t work the same way)
So many others you might have held on to
In intent or stray desire
Too many strands to be holding at once
Each vibrant and colourful
Deserving of rightful attention
If only there were 10 of you
10 lifetimes
24 X 10 hours
Somewhere the roads diverged
without a chance of a hasty bye
Why would you close that
which might bump into you at the next turn?
Lesser still those whom you want to re-meet

The phone tells me I’m a call away
from hearing familiar voices
FB tells me it takes a second
to ‘Like’ someone, again
Befriend, reconnect, ‘follow’
But the mind?
The mind takes its own time to build bridges
Over stagnating water of old expectations
now discarded, lying around
To reconcile the idea of a person
Frozen in time long ago
With who he has become now

What flavor is nostalgia?
That it stays on your tongue for so long
Salty, bitter-sweet, sour too
Lingering long after the memory is gone
What dish would you whip up with it?
Whose taste would endure
Aroma remain intact
Nay, it will vanish like vapour
into thin air
Leaving you with naught
Save the fragrance on your hands

Have you tried plucking an enchanting flower
only to see it wilt in your hands?
Realized it was best left untouched
on the plant, in the garden?
So it is with remembrance
People, places, events
They are a world unto themselves
Sitting smug in their intended spaces
Smiling smug, their unmoved faces
At your retrieval attempts
Parallel Universes, these
Proceed with their routine as you live out yours
Dip in and out at will

Sepia, the colour of nostalgia
Sealed in dusty photo-frames
Playing as movies in your head
Kept shining with every replay.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The forgotten song


As we grow older (and not necessarily 'old' :)), we keep forgetting what we knew as children. At least I seem to. Back then, I knew from my heart that solitude kept me happy. Solitude of the kinds where I'd be my own friend and have fun conversations all day. In fact, I was often happier with own my commentary of wit and humour than spending time with many others! My own pure inner voice became synonymous with God. Chatting with God, walking with him...all emerged out of a deep faith and need for comfort, and I daresay realization that he was my best friend. He breathed within me. The Universe, his pure intent. Ah, what a lovely thought! (lovely is the new 'nice'?)

So yes, I forgot this as I grew up. I had to keep reminding myself of this. Cries of help from deep within for merry company, turned into loneliness when I didn't always have that. Still does. So when and how did I forget what I knew so well? I've even written poems on this (must.find.the.solitude.one!), so convinced was I about this way of being. Like the rumbling depths of a latent volcano, I still have this buried inside me. I'm trying to unearth it from under the layers of negative thoughts and life experiences that have made me forget my essential truth. That as within, so without. Joy within, joy without. You can't fill this well from the outside. It's a spring that has to be dug out from within, and it will come gushing out merrily. I'm returning to my truth; the child within is guiding me to the light.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Soul force

I have always wondered how fast personal change is possible, and been apprehensive about the idea of expecting too much in too little. I meant time, but I forgot what intensity could do. When you have been through an experience that packs hours and hours of electrifying stimulation coupled with brilliant people to keep you company, change isn't far off. More on this later.

SAYC to me, before I actually got there, was an opportunity to meet people from 7 different countries, attend interesting workshops, and basically have a good time. What I was definitely not expecting was a dip into a sparkling pool of ideas, bathing in warm goodness, and emerging dripping with a glowing sense of possibility. A somewhat rejuvenated, refreshed, and recharged me. In small, subtle ways; in big, spectacular surges. At a point when I had been through weeks of considering joining different organizations and being unsure about my own dreams, SAYC has given me new flight. And this time round, the flight is not just of idle ideas - it's rooted in certain deep realizations and finds its wings in some liberating beliefs.

At every such event, I experiment with different behaviours, set myself some personal challenges, and prepare to be a sponge ready to absorb and learn. The sponge came back this time so full and bursting with insights that I still haven't fully absorbed and internalized all of it. It will take a few more days of silence, stillness, and solitude to take it all in. I will attempt to articulate my biggest learnings - some new, but many old that were reinforced many times over. A few common themes jumped out at me, and I promptly put them away in my jhola for later rumination.

Walk the talk

If there's one thing that differentiates great people from the trying-to-be-great, it's this. From multiple speeches, conversations with speakers, and quiet observations - I'm thoroughly convinced there is nothing more important than congruence in belief, thought, word, and action. Why is a statement on peace by Sri Sri far more valued than if you or I were to make that same statement? (and in one specific instance, I remember making it too!) Am I coming from the same space of peace and well-being that he is? Have I put in as many years chasing my conviction as Anna Hazare has? Why do some leaders, or even ordinary people, get far more respect than others who keep trying to do similar good work?

During one of our family-time discussions (we were divided into smaller groups; I was the family leader of a lovely one) it came up that there were people around who called themselves climate champions but did not switch off lights and water taps after them even when repeatedly reminded to do so. That sparked off a discussion on how this becomes the most important quality - walking the talk - in anyone wanting to create change in the world. Would you believe in me if I spoke of peace but was forever at loggerheads with my family, friends, or conflicted within? First the roots, then the wings.

Small IS beautiful

In terms of numbers, SAYC had 'just' 70 people, but I can't even begin to describe what these 70 people are capable of doing and already working towards, in their own small ways. Like our shayar Saurabh recently said on FB, 'We are like the scattered rays of a single sun trying to enlighten different parts of the society.' The families were small, as were the steps they committed to taking towards Peace - Within, With Others, and With the Environment. But small beginnings create big waves. The Ripple Effect. :)

I haven't read up on E.F. Schumacher's theory, but I do believe that starting small, and the smallest unit being the self, is the way to go. It extends to the other units or organizations one is a part of - family, housing society, school, college, company, club...can I start change at this level before thinking of big things? Anyone who protests, 'I alone can't make a difference, so I won't even try.' is only making an excuse for inaction. Be it for sustainable living, peace, ecology, or any other worthy cause, small is the way to go, for a world that is absurdly obsessed with the big in everything.

The sum of parts is greater than the whole

There are millions of people working at the grassroots working in their own, unique ways towards a better world. What happens when these parts are brought together? The energy generated is dazzling, the assurance and courage one takes back is exhilarating. These things can't be quantified. But even if I take quantifiable work or projects, the power of collaboration is phenomenal. In my 6 days worth of interactions with delegates and speakers at SAYC, I found resources to plug into my school modules on Ecology, Process Thinking, Climate Change; one of the speakers even offered to incubate my idea! Some of the peace initiative ideas generated are already seeing support even from non-participants, and I can't wait to begin working on a cross-border, youth-driven peace initiative. Often, the deep, intangible gains from coming together are felt only in the strength they leave you with, and in the power of what you collectively create.

Confusion is an inseparable part of growing up, as is resolving it

Beyond all the larger-cause discussions, the personal questions were familiar - Should I do an MBA or take up a job? How do I please my parents while pursuing my passion? Can the social cause and personal stakes go together? Am I the only one who cares about this? What do I do with my life?!

It is natural to have confusion, and wise to make peace with it while one is still seeking. There were many experienced, learned people there to provide answers, but the ones whom I found profound where the ones who merely pointed at a direction and suggested ways of addressing the questions. We all have to find our own answers, discover our own truth. My answers, just like my life circumstances, will be different from yours. I cannot but live by it. Prolonged confusion is a terribly energy sapper, and so beyond seeking responses and assurances outside, one has to confront one's own truth. It lies deep within. People will help uncover it, but are you willing to face it?

The power of possibilities

If you're armed with cynicism as your only contribution, I have no qualms saying goodbye. Healthy criticism is one thing and enthu-deflating cynicism is quite another. In our brilliant speaker Ranjan Mallik's terminology, I would rather be a 'fool' than a conformist non-fool. The usual way of being is killing the planet, pitting us against one another. It is possibilities that have challenged and changed the status quo, and I hope all participants go back powered with that sense just as I do.

'If you judge people, you have no time to love them'

This quote by Mother Teresa has become my reality. One of the ground rules laid down in my family time was of not judging people when they were sharing something, especially since we had a person each from Afghanistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, who would have different realities than Indians at many levels. One of my internal resolves was to practice every rule that I lay down, and I took this one pretty seriously given that I was the facilitator for all the family discussions.

The first tiny challenge came up when Nupur, a sweet family member from Dehradun, said in her intro, ' I don't like rains.' As someone who dissolves into nothingness at the onset of monsoons, my first reaction was to exclaim 'What?! How can you not like rains?! You must be nuts!' But I stopped myself, smiled at her, and said, 'I'm glad you're being honest even at the expense of going against popular opinion. That's what we're getting at here.' This was trivial; there were much more serious differences amongst people. But the moment I listened to someone, I visualised the stubborn, conditioned filter called judgement slowly dissolving away, and almost simultaneously, love seeped in. It felt liberating. This isn't easy to keep doing; I reckon judging has become an automated, subconscious process for all of us, segregating people into 'us' and 'them' on any and every count. But it is more than worth the effort, and I have begun pursuing this ideal.

Connections make the world go round

What some call (and study as) 'social capital' was so beautifully demonstrated at the conference. Abhishek used to say in his pre-SAYC introductions - 'Who knows, some day a few of these participants will head governments in their countries, and when they look each other in the eye, they will see not the head of another state, but a long-lost friend they once had a great time in a conference with...and then imagine how the negotiations would proceed.' The thought gives me goosebumps, coz I can see it happening for real someday.

When you get to know someone at a human level, the labels dissolve, and what remains is just that - another human you have bonded with. So many participants went back moved, at having found deep connections in people from across borders. Ayesha was an adorable, chatty girl, not just a Pakistani. Lima was an articulate, budding leader, not just an Afghani. Anirudra (whom we nicknamed 'Colgate' for his ever-present smile) was my family member, not just a Nepali, as was Bhagya ('Jerry')from Sri Lanka. I found someone who said I reminded him of his sister, and another whom I have been really missing. What would one not give to have such amazing, pure, heart-felt connections that you know you can cherish for a lifetime and fall back on anytime?

The white dove

Peace with others (to me) is having a passionate, heated, almost belligerent, argument about Narendra Modi over breakfast table with a gang you've stayed up all night with, then running for an idli and coming back to a laughing table, joining them in laughing, and going back arm-in-arm like comrades fighting for a common cause.

Peace is smiling every time I think of the collective chorus of youth from Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and other nations alike shouting for peace, for one South Asia.

Peace is not trying to dissolve differences, but accepting, embracing, and celebrating them, like we did.

Peace is what happened over that unforgettable week at SAYC, and what is throbbing as soul force inside every cell of my being.

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This work by Akanksha Thakore Srikrishnan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License