Monday, 18 March 2019

A-Z Challenge 2019 : Theme Reveal

Hello A-Zers, Bloggers, Netizens! Lend me for a few seconds. Today is the pre-bash of the main event starting April, the A-Z Theme Reveal. And I am here to tell you what you can expect here on M-i-V all of next month as I participate in this marathon blog event. A-Z celebrates its tenth year in April...what? you don't know what the A-Z Blog Challenge is? shhh...shhh...don't say that too loudly, go here and find out. 

As I was saying, A-Z completes a decade next month, and first off, thanks and credit are due where they are - no mean feat to co-ordinate a blogfest this large and keep it going year after year.  I love that they actively seek feedback and build it in and keep the event fun and challenging. So kudos and thank yous to the A-Z team for the hard work they do. Here's to the next ten. 

As anyone visiting here will know, I am from West Bengal, which is on the eastern shores of India. I was born there, but was swiftly carted out to another part of the country and then outside it. So that I have spent less than a couple terms of my school life at my birthplace. I speak and read and write Bengali fluently but I have never sat an exam in the language, never had to prove any degree of proficiency in it. I didn't spend childhood nights learning the abstruse conjoint consonant clusters used in Bengali or its complicated grammar rules. 

I learnt to read Bengali because I needed to do so to get at the stories. I learnt to write it because I had to write to my grandmother back home who didn't read any other language.  I never got to know Bengal through its formal school curricula in strict classrooms, parsing Tagore's writing, memorising the names of kings and dynasties, regurgitating dates and battles, nope, not me. I went back to live in Bengal only as a working adult.

So when I got to know Bengal it was softly, softly, through her stories - in books, in films, in theatre and ballads; through the small, delicate folds of family histories. I got to know her out in her small towns and paddy fields and tea gardens and forests and mountains and beaches, out on assignments for a job, or back on home leave. I learnt her history through her architecture and her literature, her geography through her roads and rivers and railways, her cultural riches through her festivals and poetry and songs. Growing up, I spent all my summer holidays in Calcutta, always an outsider, angsty and inadequate because I didn't know all the nuances inside out and back to front, always scared of putting my foot in it every time I opened my mouth, being the butt of 'westerner' and 'westernised' jokes. It has taken me the longest time to realise that this too is a gift - being a stranger in one's own land. Being an outsider everywhere I go. It's a perspective few get to have. And bonus! - it breeds its own heady adventure. 

If you haven't guessed it yet, my theme for this year's A-Z is...tadaa...

~ Bengaliana ~

As with my previous series, I will section things off for ease of consumption, start and stop where you like, as you like. Read as deep or as light as you prefer. There will be a smorgasbord of Bengali music, architecture, personalities, culture and landmark events to choose from.

Come with me once again, as you have in the past two years, this time to my verdant birthplace. Come with me, to a land whose history goes back deep into antiquity to a time when time itself had no measure. Come with me, as I explore my heritage of literature and handicrafts and history from the outside in and inside out. 

Come with me, to the broad sweep of rivers, to the narrow, unpaved pathways lurking round every corner, serene and fragrant with the smells of ripening mangoes and jack-fruit. To cities which are teeming with millions, yet if you happen upon some difficulty, there will be ten strange hands proffered immediately for help. Come with me to a land that is defined by its waters and has in turn given its name to the oceans. Come with me on this addictive adventure that is Bengal...

Posted for the A-Z Theme Reveal 2019 

Sunday, 10 March 2019


Time is just a heartbeat and crumbling bread,
stop the clocks in their tracks inside your head.
It thins out like coffee smoke as it sits,
there’ll be time if you don’t think too much of it.
Stop the ticks and tocks, turn the lock on countdowns,
shut them up and pack them off out of town
beyond red lines and deadlines and remits -
there’ll be time if you don’t think too much on it.
Time is the weight of a feather and of lead
and pink champagne! - don’t let it get to your head,
it’s a busy port, quiet crossroads, and transit,
there’s enough, just don’t think too much on it.

This is sort of like a mongrel that can't let go its own tail, I can tell you I'd be better off working out some sort of a draft for my A-Z posts instead of writing poetry on time management. But...things happen when they happen...what can one do?

Monday, 4 March 2019


Maybe you’re no longer interested,
reading tea leaves, smoke signals in exhausts,
blind, groping roads and high ropeways to lost,
there’s nothing above the clouds once they’re crested.
Stand by, stand firm on this patch you’ve wrested -
there will be time later to count the costs,
the stuff to keep apart, the stuff to be tossed,
the decades, like matryoshka dolls, are nested.

I'm back and in all the hullabaloo of travelling I'd forgotten about the A-Z, the sign up opened on the 1st. It's a landmark year,  ten years for a blog event is quite epic by any standard. Have to record my admiration and appreciation for the team. Signed up  but not even halfway there - so far,2019 hasn't been one serene retreat let's say. Am beginning to panic. Just a little. But that's all part of the A-Z. Who else will be there I wonder?

Sunday, 24 February 2019

News from Nowhere V

You know, news, like a bullet, ricochets
and reaches me with a lag when it’s spent;
I believe it’s really not that different
for you. For those who stay still at one place.
Some edge, angle’s lost due to the delays
though if I so choose, it can be real time -
know them at their freshest – blast, rape, war crime;
the leaf skeletons of petty prejudice
showcased, as though nothing was amiss.
But I avoid the WiFis in cafés.
Better by far, my love, out in the desert
where the dust is timeless, and the moon phase
the sole cycle eternal, nothing to raise
except small pegs and tents, no red alert. 

This concludes the series of experimental love sonnets I've been writing/posting this month to celebrate everyday loving as opposed to drama queen loving. Love is a tidal wave in the sea, sure, but it is also the ordinary water from the faucet.  I see the sea once or twice a week, dip my toes in sometimes, infrequently, but those faucets I use everyday. Couldn't do without them in fact. The sea is good to have, but I've lived inland too, without it.

I'm travelling this week, back in Kolkata again, so will catch up with you when I get back. Meanwhile, stay well.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Write...Edit...Publish...: Welcome to 2019 and another year of fun Challenges!

Welcome to the first Write...Edit...Publish... Challenge of 2019! 

The prompt for this Challenge has been picked as winner from among a host of  IWSG member generated ideas. The winning prompt is from long time WEP/IWSG member Toi Thomas. Nifty!

I'm coming in with something I've never tried at WEP before - a photo essay. Last summer I took a trip to UK, and finally learnt to use my camera phone. I have used a 28-day period  for my entry - based on the holiday and the pre-holiday prep and excitement mode, from 7th July to 3rd August 2018.  I hope you'll enjoy it.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

News from Nowhere IV

You know, I left my raincoat on the hook
because I wouldn’t need it on the road –
three hundred suns per year, promises made good,
and at a pinch the sheet wrapped like a cloak.
Does it hang there still? Do you sometimes look
in passing in its pockets for a note?
a memory? - perhaps remnants of some mute,
faded smells of rain and cigarette smoke.

It drizzled here today but it was brief.
I went walking without a waterproof –
the rain was like your fingers on my face.
But all rain feels the same in every place,
wherever I go, however far I move –
some strange fluttering bliss akin to grief.

Well, V-Day has come and gone, and as in most other years, I'm continuing with my own version of love poems to mark the month. Because love is kind of an everyday thing around here, in addition to being a many splendoured thing of course.  Love is the dressing in life's salad bowl, it holds the salad together, makes the greens glisten and adds the zing, but you don't really talk about it much. It's made everyday without a fixed recipe, which was really a list of ingredients scribbled down somewhere on the stub of a ticket or something. Gone missing for years now, but it doesn't matter because it's a conditioned reflex anyways, if you know what I mean. 

On a more sombre note, the news out of India was terrible on the 14th, 44 jawans killed in the most atrocious and audacious suicide bomb attack in Kashmir. Or maybe not so audacious, given that we never seem to learn anything from our mistakes. Not one single thing! Terrorists can storm our parliament, besiege an entire Indian city, massacre security personnel at our border posts at will, kill dozens of them on the most heavily guarded road. Just like that. It turns my brain inside out to even think of it. 

Respect and thoughts for the soldiers and their families. 

Thursday, 14 February 2019

News from Nowhere III

You know, I stop sometimes at an unknown town
and every market place and every street,
the parking lots, the concrete ramps sloping down,
the face of every stranger I chance to meet,

the sudden lunge of a voice by a window,
the rising noise of an approaching bus,
its windshield gleaming, mirror worked leaf shadows –
they are all you, all of it's about us.

The lampposts blink in the dark – power’s out,
the stars too blink and gulp in unison,
a blind busker tap-taps to the roundabout.

And even though I’m far from the river mouth,
I’m still with you, and still with our horizons,
however far east or west, north or south.

As in most other years, I'm doing my own version of love poems to mark the month, though I'm not a big believer in V-day.  But I'm perfectly fine with anyone celebrating V-day, love and let love is the general policy around here. And who wants to argue about getting more chocolate, right? It's all good, whichever way it's celebrated. Love can run deep in an aquifer, or it can be a gushing hot spring, or a steady-serene, glassy surfaced lake. If you want to splash out, splash out, and if you want to be free, be free. 

To paraphrase another great - there are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the beloved. Just keep the knees flexible. 

Happy Valentine's.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

News from nowhere II

You know, it is my job to love the road
as much as loving you. As what’s called home,
wherever that may be – without postcodes
or doorsills, bricks and mortar, steel and chrome,
walls that can hem things in. This elbow room
for neuroses, identity’s fuzzy cloud,
no pillow-talk, sheets of dusty perfume,
solitude, waxing and waning in the crowd.

Years of tarmac taken up to realise,
to give up the yearnings for residual,
to straddle two halves of the same whole.
Home’s the fringe of your lashes, pensive eyes,
patient lids. Home's also this burning fuel.
The slope, the bank, the turn, and the rare pothole.

As in most other years, I'm doing my own version of love poems to mark the month, though I'm not a big believer in V-day. Because love is the biggest deal of all but it is all in the day's work, month in and month out. It is the only work with any kind of job satisfaction guaranteed imo. You don't have to count the miles, you don't have to count the eggs, never mind the chickens, before or after they hatch. Everything, every little thing, counts, and nothing has to be counted. How super awesome is that?

And yeah, I'm getting there, I'm getting there, at my own pace, just like you. Sooner or later, the job will get done. And it just might not be over even then. How awesome too, is that?

Sunday, 3 February 2019

News from nowhere

You know, I can’t say exactly where I am
but here the skies at night are bright with stars,
the earth is deep and cold against my scars
and though I’ve lost the map, I’m far from home –
the tents glow in the dark like low burning flames
flickering small in alabaster lamps.
You can call it a milestone, this lonely camp
or just another pit stop on the way,
a different northern route to get back someday
and I’ll go back to you, from where I came.
Everything will have utterly changed meanwhile
and yet everything will still be the same –
faded handprints on our walls and doorframes.
My feet on the flagstones. The thrill of your smile.

Well, I'm so glad January is over, it's been rough. Not just for me personally, but also for a lot of people I know, online and off. Relieved to get through without any major damage. 

As in most other years, I'll be doing my own version of love poems to mark the month, though I'm not a big believer in V-day. Love is kind of an everyday thing around here, if you know what I mean. Like a low grade fever. You're not in bed flailing around focussed on being delirious and blind, being plied assiduously with chicken soup and ginger tea. Nope. Just that your eyes are glittery and/or swimmy, your pulse is a tad faster, your entire perspective a bit heightened. But you're going about filing documents and filling up the fuel tanks just as usual. 

It's a nonstop party inside even when the mask looks stern and the hands are smeared with some nameless gunk.  Because the heart is nearly always festooned with tinsel and with those fairy lights which won't stop twinkling. It too, is like a candle behind impassive, translucent stone, for the want of a better analogy.  The glow of love and gratitude and amazement doesn't always show up from outside, but I assure you, it's always there.

Happy February!

Sunday, 27 January 2019

On being sent a photo of a Nepali woman baking clay pots

Clay’s useful only when it’s hollowed out,
fired in unbearable kilns and hardened;
the base level, the shape even throughout,
but it’s fragile still, it'll crack in the end.
The potter breaks, though later than the pot,
and once they’ve broken - difficult to mend -
they could be stuck back, sure, but you cannot
unsee the cracks, the fault lines that’ve opened.

Slowly getting back on track, onward with the teeny-tiny and long titles. Or maybe I should have just called it 'Crackpot' :) 

Will be round to catch up on the reading soon.  Can't believe January's nearly over! Hope 2019 is treating you well.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Empty Waters

The airport is already swankier. Clicketty-click polished granite floors where the carpeting does not deaden footsteps, the concourse wider, an enlarged duty-free, shops glittering with souvenirs – costume jewellery, camels, miniature coffee pots. Sleek kiosks of global brands. Rows of backlit signages, lights reflected off all surfaces like some kind of weird visual echo chamber.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Shaken, not stirred

Over familiar, she leans close, and whispers
as the steam rises from my cup,
‘You babble a lot about death and winters
but sometimes you’re forced to shut up.’

Early morning in the park the crowd is thin
just she and I at my old bench,
the clank of garbage vats, the year’s beginning
with the same noise and urban stench.

‘You can write it lofty when it is just you,’
she smirks, though her lips remain grim,
‘all immortal bravado- what will you do
when it’s not you but it is him?’

The coffee goes cold, and the day, between us.
Overhead a birdsong shrills, a branch shivers.

A rocky start to my 2019 - first a medical emergency in India with my mum on Christmas Day for which I had to travel back, then upon return, another visit to the ER here in Bahrain on account of my husband- scared totally witless! 

Both parties out of hospitals now and recovering at home. Truly grateful for the outcomes and the timely interventions, prayers and support from friends and wider family. 

Hope to be a little more regular with blogging and online life once the offline one teeters back to (the new) normal.  The cup may have gone cold for the moment, but thankfully, I'm being allowed the option of reheating. Staying positive and writing it as it comes, when I can.