Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Reflections : A-Z ... mindspaces ... cities ... n ... suchlike ...

 



This year I did the Challenge for an entirely different set of reasons. Partly out of force of habit. Partly as therapy, or at least, the hope of therapy.  I thought the discipline, the routine, the research, would help me climb out of this mindscape of despondency.  I didn't do the theme reveal because obviously I didn't have a theme. I didn't sign up on the master list, because I didn't really think I'd be able to handle new visitors. I wasn't ambitious with return visits or commenting. Quite clear about it being a very different, pared down sort of participation. Considering all that, I've done okay - I managed to finish even though I forgot the order of the alphabet and most of my entries got posted in the nick of time before the date flipped. So yes, I've survived. 


But the news back home got progressively horrifying with each day and the month ended with another bit of terrible news, the very traumatic and untimely death of a very dear family member in India. This year is turning out a worse nightmare than the last, I didn't think that was possible even. At times posting for the A-Z was the only thing keeping me sane, at times it was a chore, at yet another it felt like a thanksgiving for the grace that's come my way in these hard, never-ending pandemic weeks and months. Indeed, I am very aware of the blessings, as much as I'm aware of the grief, both collective and personal. 


My heartfelt thanks to Elephant's Child, Joanne, Hilary, Kristin, Alex, Denise and Yamini for sticking around through April and throughout this pandemic insanity. Your friendship and support, online and off, means a lot. And thank you to A-Zers AlanaLisa, Frederique, Deborah, Gail, Jemima and co-hosts John Holton & J Lenni Dorner for dropping by and commenting.  Also to the entire A-Z team for the monumental work they do.  


So. Have I enjoyed the A-Z? Have I written myself into a better place? I can't honestly say I have. But that's my issue, nothing to do with the A-Z. It reminds me of a favourite poem by Cavafy  - The City, which basically says once your life's ruined, you can't escape it by going someplace else. Today it feels true for mindspaces as well.  I'm still freaked out about problems which have no solutions, except for time. Today, everything's at a standstill and chaotic, not in a good place. Tomorrow, who knows? I might do better.  Correction, I will do better!



 






Friday, 30 April 2021

Z is for ... Zigzag

 




You’re zigzag lightning behind shut eyelids

even when fatigue knocks all time sideways

you’re the shape of sheets scrunched up on the bed

the meaning in a sudden turn of phrase

as it comes to mind and then to the lips.

You’re a storm sweeping in from the north west,

and a threadbare cushion carelessly left

on the sofa, flat against the armrest.

You’re in the contact list, the recent logs,

in a thousand texts and captioned photos

in printed words, images framed in scallops,

wreathed in the past - sheer tissues of long ago

vague tangible online and off, in routine

everyday and everynight and in between.







A-Z Challenge 2021  


Thursday, 29 April 2021

Y is for ... You

 




Some days when the sun’s high and a single bee

buzzes against the glass before it zooms

off chasing the real thing and I’m half asleep

over the screen, wrapped snug in the gentle heat

of the afternoon, it vaguely feels to me

you’re there in the house, just in some other room.

Some days when the sky’s a haze and doves in pairs

sit pecking the concrete on the window sill

the TV’s on mute and I’m just half a mind -

other half’s gone rushing off after a rhyme,

the doorbell rings, some footstep’s on the stairs

and I think for a sec you’ll answer it still.

But then the bell goes again, a strident tone,

I get back up with a lag. And I’m alone.






A-Z Challenge 2021  


Wednesday, 28 April 2021

X is for... Xennials

 


Xennials are a demographic - a microgeneration on the cusp of  Gen X (born 1965-80) and the Millennials (born 1981 - 96).  Researchers and popular media use the classification for people born between 1977 to 1983. They are old enough to have an internet-free childhood, but have spent their work lives online. 


It's a segmentation that was coined by two media people for the online magazine Good in 2014, in an attempt to figure out the perks and downsides of generational identity of those people who didn't fit in with the Gen X or the Millennials.  Read the original here. The major characteristic of the Xennials (pronounced Zen-ee-uh-ls) according to them is that they are a bridge between the disaffection of Gen X and the blithe optimism of the Millennials. In many ways, they have got the best of both the cohorts. 


Note that these demographic segmentations - the Boomers, X, Xennials or Millennials are 

a) based on the Western society, more specifically US society

b) useful and fun but should be used as guidelines only

There is clearly something useful to be gained in such classifications of generations, to have a handle on the social context and the collective, socio-cultural experiences they have been shaped by. But it is problematic also if carried too far -  obviously incorrect to treat an entire cohort as a monolith with the same life/cultural experiences. 


Indian ad/media-persons use a slightly different classification of the generations, tweaked to suit the desi market/society. Read about that here.









A-Z Challenge 2021    

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

W is for ... Water

 


I just needed to sort myself out, so I thought I'll have a look through the albums of pre-pandemic times and sit quietly - do something without words. So I made this video themed around water. The sound and sight of which calms me.  I hope you'll enjoy watching - 





A-Z Challenge 2021    


Monday, 26 April 2021

V is for ...Verse... Verily ... n ... Volunteers ...

 


Bohurupe sommukhe chhari kotha khnujichho Ishwar?

Jibe prem kore jei jon shei jon sebichhe Ishwar.

                                                                                      ~ Vivekananda

 

In front (of you) in various forms, why do you leave these to search for the Almighty elsewhere? The one who shows love to all creatures, it is he who serves God.

 

“Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Matthew, 25:40

 

The news out of India has been horrifying and beyond distressing in the last few days. Close friends, family members, friends’ friends and relatives – so many people I know are down with the virus. Kolkata has a positivity rate of 55%, West Bengal, my home state, is at 25% overall, up from 4% at the beginning of the month. I'm sitting here with my heart permanently thudding in my mouth, checking on people frequently, wishing I could tear myself away from the threads and feeds and 24/7 news headlines, yet glued to them. My feeds are choked with private individuals’, activists’ and journalists’ posts sharing helplines and urgent appeals from all over the country, trying to connect corona patients with the medical resources they need. No words for the eye searing images, everybody has seen them - as relentless as the virus.

 

The causes of this catastrophic second wave, this wholly preventable suffering and loss of life, the gross negligence and mismanagement, the sheer incompetence, the mind numbing governmental indifference – I’m not even going there, that’ll explode whatever is left of my brain. It boils down to monumental arrogance and vanity – at the very top sits a clueless megalomaniac and his blind Islamophobic fans who have led India down this path, deaf to all voices of reason, systematically breaking the spine of every democratic institution, curtailing freedoms, ramming bills and laws through, heedless of their relevance to the public good or their public acceptance. But like I said, I don’t want to be talking about this toxic man and this agenda of hate and discrimination.

 

What I want to tell you about is the Parsi community in India. They are originally Zoroastrians from Persia, who migrated to the subcontinent after the Muslim conquest to escape religious persecution. They number 69,000 in India, against a total population of 1.3 billion people, talk about minority! - I mean, it doesn’t even show up as a percentage, they are so minuscule. 


But their contribution to modern India far exceeds their weight in the population. Parsis in India are synonymous with charity and philanthropy, prominent Parsi families have contributed to the building of Bombay in the 18th century – landmark buildings and institutions in the city still bear their names. The community has produced industrialists such as Jamshetji Tata (called the ‘father of the Indian industry’), Neville and Nusli Wadia, Adi Godrej; prominent politicians of the Indian independence movement such as Pherozeshah Mehta, Dadabhai Nauroji and Bhikaji Cama; nuclear physicist Homi J Bhabha (‘father of the Indian nuclear programme.’)  They’ve given us several distinguished military officers including defence Chiefs of Staff, an Attorney General and a Chief Justice of India, heaps of educators, sportspersons, film and theatre artistes, authors, poets, singers, and professionals in other creative arts.

 

Serum Institute of India is the largest producer of vaccines in the world. It has shot to prominence right now because of the pandemic, but it’s been quietly producing vaccines against polio and measles and such like and supplying them to African and Asian countries for more than half a century now. Unglamorous but essential. It is playing a leading role in the production of the Astra Zeneca vaccine, not just for India but also the world over. Guess who set it up? Yup, a Parsi – Cyrus Poonawala. Godrej is producing the refrigeration equipment, Tata vehicles provide the transportation for the vials, which are again manufactured in a Parsi owned facility.  For an undemanding minority community which is not exactly a vote bank  that's a lot of weight they're pulling. 


But it's not just the Parsis. Elsewhere I read another post which commented on the frequency of Muslim names occurring on the lists of citizen helpline groups in cities all over India. This is despite the toxic Islamophobia of the leaders at the centre which demonised an Islamic gathering as a super spreader event exactly one year ago, yet lets the Kumbha Mela of the Hindus go ahead plonk in the middle of the pandemic. Despite the hatred and discrimination that is the driving force behind laws like the Citizenship Amendment Act. 


In another article journalists share the information that the Sikhs, another minority community, have organised an oxygen 'langar' in a Sikh temple -  a communal oxygen bank where anyone in need can go and hook up to a cylinder. Sikhs are big time volunteers even at normal unpandemic times, their temples or Gurudwaras all invariably run these communal kitchens on a massive scale where anyone, regardless of their faith, can go get a hearty, vegetarian meal.  The holiest Sikh spiritual site, the Harmandir Sahib Golden Temple in Amritsar, runs a langar that feeds 50,000 people on an ordinary day. That can spike to 100,000 during a festival.  The biggest, holiest Hindu temples, on the other hand, do not permit non-Hindus to enter the temple precincts. 


From where I am standing, it looks like the Indian pandemic response, in the total abdication of all central government responsibility, is driven largely by ordinary citizen volunteers. And the minority communities seem to have a disproportionately large share in that effort. For all the vociferous and aggressive chants glorifying Hinduism, it seems to me the minorities, the non-Hindus adhere to Vivekananda's teachings far more closely. 




A-Z Challenge 2021  





 


Saturday, 24 April 2021

U is for ... Unusual... n ... Unprecedented ...

 



Something strange has happened – it’s vaguely shocking and at the same time it’s making me smile too. Sitting here wondering -  does one swallow a challenge unmake? Can one can aim to be a survivor if…one has kind of swallowed up a day and a letter? Because that’s what’s happened here – I have somehow gone from R to T without pause or stumble. I mean, this could be serious. I've forgotten my alphabetical order, no kidding -  either the pandemic has unhinged me or… 

 

And I had such sumptuous plans for S too, given that it is one of the most frequently used letters. From Snell's Law to sericulture, from Shakespeare to spectroscopy, from schools to schooners - there are a gazillion subjects to talk about. At first I thought okay, let's just scribble something for the S post and sneak it in backdated somehow. Then I thought - nah, it is what it is. Embrace the error and be sincere. Honesty is the best and the easiest policy. Stay calm and carry on.  


The packers are scheduled to come in on Saturday, that is later today, I guess that adds to the general confusion and shambolic state of brain and mind as well. Every relocation is the same and also unique in its own way, but this one's a little unusual. This is the relocation to end all relocations, we're headed back to India this time.  After twenty five years in the Middle East. India has changed, so have I changed since ye olde motherland and I lived together at close quarters for any significant length of time. Then there is the pandemic which throws its very own spanner into the works - I'll probably land up at the peak of the second, more deadly surge.  Not so super timing. That too adds another layer of uncertainty


Underlying the whole move is the reason for it - which is no more valid. I am going back to an unoccupied, empty parental home. Best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley. Well, this one of mine has gang spectacularly agley. I don't know how to define the emotions - don't quite know which words to pin where. Sadness, melancholy, regret, apprehension - none of them fit properly. 


I have moved house many times - across cities, across countries, across continents. I've lived a surface-rooted life all my years, the average stint in any one home has been a little over two years.  So I detach easy from places and houses once the decision is made. An easy, uncomplicated transplant. Not this time though. Not one of my protocols feels like it is working. But Och! I backward cast my e'e on prospects drear/An' forward tho' I canna see, I guess an' fear. I thought I knew exactly how to handle relocations, how and what to feel and what to do about them. But this time I don't. This time it feels different, the entire template, the process, its demands on me. It feels like...yeah, you know what? - exactly as if a letter has been strangely dropped out of the alphabet, a frequently used consonant has suddenly gone missing, and no-one knows quite how to find it and insert it back in its correct position. It's unprecedented.  And somewhat unsettling.











A-Z Challenge 2021 


Thursday, 22 April 2021

T is for ... Today ... n ... Ton

 



Today it is time for a ton of photos... some really old...and some not so old.. all of them taken when I was present  and mindful, in the moment... the lens makes you focus on more than just the picture...


Flowers gifted by a friend.  They brightened my
mood up amidst all the terrible news from home.



Tall grasses...always an incentive to stop and click






Tiny cat by the pool. Everyday tranquillity.






Stained glass in a 7th century Abbey.  It is 
its own tribute to the artists of the past.





Riverine transport...






Sunset over Tubli Bay.






Tanoura performance...taken the very
last time.




Supermoon of twenty eighteen.







Selfie at the Bahrain Fort...a tourist attraction.  The fort, 
not the selfie. :)







The burning tip of the wick. Diwali lamp from
a lifetime ago.





Towers...not a fan generally, but okay when
they are softened by their reflections.








And that is twelve, that should make a ton!






Wednesday, 21 April 2021

R is for ... Road ...


 

In case you are here for the WEP post, btw that’s about retelling, repurposing and Rex, click this link. Otherwise, carry on…


All roads lead to Rome...everyone's heard that. But do they really? Did the Ancient Romans actually build the first roads? You might be surprised by the truth.


There is no clear consensus about how the first roads came to be – some think humans followed animal trails, others argue against it, because animals rarely follow fixed trails. Anyways, what's by and large accepted is that by 10,000 BCE humans were using pathways/trails, essentially dirt tracks. A tad bit before the Romans built the Appian Way...


Remember that the domestication of animals like donkeys, horses and cattle to support agriculture but also for road transportation, happened before the first paved roads were constructed. At first, the 'construction' efforts would be to fell trees and clear boulders from the pathways. The first efforts at transportation would be on animal backs or human heads. But then the wheel was invented around 5000 BCE, initially for pottery and transitioned to road transport soon after. This changed road construction forever, as wheeled vehicles wear out the road surface and therefore spurred the need for paved roads. By 3000 BCE, the simple two-wheel cart makes an appearance in Mesopotamia.


The earliest real roads were stone paved and built in Mesopotamia around 4000 BCE in the city of Ur. Log built roads are also found in England dated to around the same time. A timber trackway crossing was discovered near London in 2009 and found to be nearly 6000 years old. Brick built roads appeared in the Indus Valley Civilisation around 4000 BCE. And one of the oldest constructed roads is in Egypt, built sometime between 2600 BCE and 2200 BCE.  In 1995 BCE, a road edged with pavements was constructed in Anatolia in Turkey. Most of these were constructed to facilitate trade between settlements.


Colonnaded street from Roman times. Jerash, Jordan.


So...what about the Ancient Greeks? Didn't they build roads? They certainly did, they did not lack the engineering skills, but their roads were more rudimentary and the networks shorter and less sophisticated than say, the Romans. The roads did not support the transport of heavy cargo or traffic. Why? Because for them sea transport was a far more sensible and easier option - they had many natural harbours, placid waters, great ship building skills. By contrast the inland geography was broken up by formidable mountains, making road engineering a challenge. Then their politics were not very conducive either - the city-states were more often at loggerheads with each other than at trade and cooperation to muster enough resources to build any long roads. 


This is found in many other instances also. In ancient times, rivers and seas formed the preferred transport route as the cost of road construction coupled with the poorer load bearing capacity of animals made land transport less convenient and more expensive. 


Transnational/transregional road construction rose on the back of powerful dynasties and empires with the need for communications underpinning them. The Achaemenid empire of Persia produced a major road network that linked  a huge tract of land from modern day Turkey to India and Afghanistan. This included the rebuilding of an ancient highway as the Royal Road built by Darius I in 500 BCE that connected Sardis to his capital Susa which remained in use for centuries after. 


The Romans were indefatigable road builders. From the 3rd century onwards they built straight stone paved roads all over Europe, Middle East and North Africa. At its peak the Empire had a road network of nearly 80,000 km. Twenty nine arterial roads connected Rome to the corners of the Empire, including the Appian Way. 


Chandragupta Maurya built a major highway called the Uttarpath in the Indian subcontinent in the 3rd century, which then was improved upon by Ashoka, his descendant, and by subsequent rulers, the last being the British. It originally stretched from the mouth of the Ganges to the North West border of the empire. It is known today as the Grand Trunk Road and is one of the longest roads in use in Asia. 

In the 8th century, a large network of roads was built by the Arabs. The most sophisticated roads were constructed in Baghdad and surfaced with tar obtained from the local oil fields. The technology existed to derive tar from petroleum.


There are several other example such as the Qin dynasty in China and the Incas in S America, where roads were built to hold the empire together and came to facilitate trade, cultural exchange and on the flip side, disease. Some of these roads survived for centuries, such as the trade routes for silk and amber. Others are still in use today. 


Dirt road to Namanga, Kenya. 


From ancient times till the 19th century, road transport meant animal drawn carts/chariots. With the invention of cars end 19th, road engineering transformed once again in the following century. Today we have a far more complex road system - 6-8 lane highways, multilevel flyovers, hybrid road and rail bridges, causeways and the likes, with even more complex vehicular traffic. But it all started with that dirt track, still in use in places. 





A-Z Challenge 2021    

Write... Edit... Publish... April 2021 : Freedom Morning

 


Keeping to the broad idea of 'fractured' for Write...Edit...Publish... Lite still. Another old hat of mine (from 2012!) repurposed for the prompt -  tad over word count this time, sorry.


Not Exactly a Fairy Tale


Cindy came into the room limping a little, her feet were killing her.  This particular pair of evening shoes was wickedly uncomfortable, she really didn’t know why Rex insisted on her wearing them on every possible occasion.  She didn’t know why she continued to pander to his wishes in this either.   She sank down thankfully, glad to take the weight off her feet. 

 

Mannie was still waiting up, bleary-eyed. She moved in to help, but Cindy was irritated beyond measure just now by her subservience, by her toeing the line unquestioning, much as she, Cindy herself, was used to do.  That’s all they did, each woman of them, from top down to the last poor female chit in the staff.

 

“No, leave it,” she said, rather roughly, ”Go to bed now.  Leave me alone.”

 

“Yes, ma’am,” Mannie looked like a whipped puppy,” Are you sure, ma’am?”

 

“Yeah, yeah, sure. Go get some sleep, you do look you could use it,” and when the girl still hesitated, ”Don’t stand there, my dear.  I’ll be fine.”

 

“Good night, ma’am.”

 

“Good night.”

 

God, she was exhausted.  And angry with a vague rage.  She wiggled her toes, folded her legs to tuck her knees under her chin and massaged her instep with the tips of her fingers.  Her feet were still lovely, beautifully shapely and small, though not as narrow as they once were, the long toes with their delicate whorls of fine skin on the knuckled joints still ridiculously pretty.  She wished she had asked Mannie to run a footbath, a good soaking would do the trick.  Splash away her blue funk.   She got a basin, filled it with hot water and a dollop of shampoo, she couldn’t find the gel she wanted, who cared what went into the water so long it was hot? She brought it back and wriggled out of her dress. Leaving it pooled in a minimalistic mass of silver lace on the floor, she curled back into the sofa with her feet immersed in the foamy hot water. 

 

How had she landed up at that gala this evening? Wearing those uncomfortable old shoes that sparkled coldly and beautifully, and pinched her now coarsened feet; that Rex was so insistent that she wear everywhere, as though she still needed to prove anything.   Why did she go to the gala even? When all she had wanted to do was to spend the evening in with her children, play at a board game, get some vastly greasy, sinful meal eaten together off trays, huddled in the boudoir while watching trashy telly.  But no, she had dressed up in that silver lace, done up her hair and looked mind bogglingly elegant. 

 

Rex had said in his typical mild voice, "You look your usual beautiful self, my dear.  I hope you’re wearing the Timmy Woo shoes?  They are just made for that shade of silver grey.” And soured her pleasure in the dress. 

 

But she hadn’t protested.  Or to coin a bad pun, hadn’t put her foot down.  She had set aside the exquisite grey and emerald suede statement shoes she had had custom made and worn those cruel old heels again and gone tripping out on his arm and stood and danced and made small talk as though her feet were resting on fleecy clouds.  It was beyond stupid.  She couldn’t imagine the conversation even in her head.  It’s been 15 years, my feet are 15 years older, have you noticed? I have had three babies, life threatening illness, minor and major surgery, chin hair, moles, wrinkles.  I don’t want to wear Timmy Whoever shoes, I’ve evolved beyond them. Jeez, whoever heard of a marriage becoming stifled because of a pair of shoes? It was insane!

 

Cindy sighed and got up.  Best go to bed, otherwise she would fall asleep here.  She changed into an ancient nightdress, the fabric worn and softened with many washes.  She slipped under the covers, but still couldn’t sleep for the wound up thoughts in her head kept going round like clockwork mice.  Except for his blind spot about this shoe business, Rex was otherwise such a good egg.  He’d been a caring husband and father, within his constraints.   He loved her passionately still.  She couldn’t imagine her life without him, what trajectory it would have followed had he not sought her out the way he had, had she not been out that evening at that specific dance, or not worn that specific pair of shoes.  How tiresomely random it all was; and how tenacious habits became; and how impossible to go on for 15 years wearing the same inflexible shoes grown uncomfortable over time. Old shoes that didn’t wear down to accommodate ageing feet.

 

Rex came and climbed into bed just as she was drifting off, but he touched his lips to her forehead and she bobbed up, instantly awake and fully lucid, picking up the threads of her anger from where she had left off. 

 

“Rex?”

 

“Yes, my dear?”

 

“I hate those shoes! I just hate them, I always have.  I’m not going to wear them one more time. Not one more time!”

 

He remained quiet for a long moment before speaking, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

“Well, what’s there to tell? It’s bloody crazy to make those shoes in the first place, or hasn’t that occurred to you? My feet were dead sore the first time I wore them too.”

 

“No need to get excited. Chuck them if you don’t want them.  I wouldn’t want you to wear anything you aren’t comfortable with, you know.”

 

“Really?! You mean that?!”

 

“Yeah, of course. They’re only shoes, not your wedding vows.”

 

How strange! It was suddenly done, in the wee hours, just like that.  She had broken the spell of the shoes, though now she was no longer sure that there had been any spell at all.  All these years. Putting up with so much discomfort, and all for nothing.  She got out of the covers and walked to the closet.  The shoes twinkled up at her, as dainty as they were on that far off day when she had first slipped her feet into them.  She took them out and holding one in each hand, moved to the window.  The summer darkness was balmy and a million stars winked at her.  She threw out the shoes one after the other – each curved a high arc in the air and fell on the paving far below.  A satisfying tinkle of glass shattering wafted up into the room. Cindy stood for a few moments breathing in the summer fragrances.

 

“Come to bed now, Cinderella. It’s almost morning.”

 

She turned then and ran across the room and leapt into bed beside her king, as light of foot and heart as she had been once upon a time.

 


WC - 1140

FCA


Read the other entries here - 

 





Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Q is for ... Quadrangle




A rather famous quadrangle was on the TV news the other day, but of course there are perfectly obscure ones all around. My school had one where the entire senior school assembled every morning and belted out hymns and such like. I've also lived in several gated compounds where the buildings were constructed around a central open space. A quad or a courtyard is a feature in many different types of buildings. It transcends cultural and geographical borders, and has a history that goes back pretty deep into the past. 

Wikala al Bazaraa. Merchant Inn. Cairo. 

The evidence of the first courtyard houses is found in the Jordan Valley in the Yarmoukian Culture dating back to Neolithic times around 6400-6000 BCE.  That is more than 8000 years ago! The houses were constructed around courtyards  ranging from 250 to 700 sq m, that's large! and buildings on this scale are unique and haven't been found in other cultures of that time.  


It is theorised that the courtyard evolved from the nomadic practice of pitching tents around a central open area where animals were herded and community activities were carried out.  It is easy to imagine cooking, eating and relaxing around fires going on in such spaces. When the transition was made to a settled lifestyle, the open area morphed into the courtyard. 


In the Middle East, where the first courtyard houses were built, the courtyard has evolved to occupy a very important place in Islamic architecture. Not just in residences, where they provide transition and privacy, separating the more private women's quarters from the rest of the house and the street entrance from the sitting rooms. Most mosques and other public buildings also are usually built with a central open courtyard with a fountain.  

Courtyard and fountain of the Alabaster Mosque, Cairo.

Ancient Roman architecture also featured courtyard houses - buildings built around a central atria. These would often have a garden and a pool to collect rainwater. Courtyards are also found in Ancient China, Inca, and Ancient India. They have remained a popular design feature of single family homes right up to the 19th century and even now many low rise homes have one or more courtyards. Only as skyscrapers have been constructed has the courtyard receded, for obvious reasons. But then, residential multistory buildings often come to be grouped around a quad. The open space that was meant for a single family use has morphed into a communal, more public garden. Just like it used to be perhaps when humans had a nomadic lifestyle all those millennia ago.


Beit Sheikh Isa ibn Ali. 19th century courtyard house. Bahrain.






A-Z Challenge 2021   

Monday, 19 April 2021

P is for ... Pared down ... n ... Personal...



Usually, my posts here have nothing to do with my life offline. That’s a parallel universe, never-the-twain-shall-meet-type-parallel. And my posts have nothing much to do with prose either – it’s mostly poetry, and it’s rarely true, all a tissue of lies fiction, have I told you? :)  A super prominent author said that writing is just sitting at the typewriter and bleeding. I don’t know about novels, or even other poets, but my writing has nothing to do with bleeding. It’s written from an unemotional place, it has to be, otherwise I find I have no word control.

 

But all that’s gone for a toss in the pandemic year. It’s made the parallel converge, the public and the personal tangle up, emotions bleeding into lines spontaneously. I have really written it as it comes, ignored the ‘cooling’ rule and sometimes haven’t bothered to proofread or be particular about how the entry sounds or feels. It’s been a rough year, difficult to process, too much has happened in too short a time. It’s realigned some priorities, I don’t know if that’s temporary or permanent, and I’m not overly perturbed by that. Some things are a function of time, I will find out soon enough. Things fall apart, yes,  but they also fall into place if I stop panicking and flailing about, freaking out trying to micromanage every detail. The last year has shown me that beyond any doubt.


It's not just me though. My entire cohort has had it rough in the past year. I phoned a friend the other day after months and months, I hadn't felt mentally put together enough to call her before, just managed with an occasional word on FB. Marking my presence but really quite absent. Anyways, we caught up properly and I got to know of the losses she has had to cope with. Not an elder generation, but peers and even younger family members, horrifying, untimely, traumatic. Perspective! - is easily lost but mustn't be. 


I'm using this A-Z, my own pared down, themeless random, write-it-as-it-comes, read-when-able version, to regain some of that perspective. To find my way back to some sort of peace. Each day I push the shadow of the pandemic off by a sliver. Reach behind my recent memories and dredge up the ones from an earlier, less stressful, happier time. I open long ago albums, some from decades before I was born even, and the monochrome photographs with their fussy scalloped borders soothe away the roughness, a grain at a time. Every day I think of one positive about my parents. I make it a point to reiterate to myself that the manner of death is less significant than the manner of the life that's been lived. They lived long and happy, and were separated for less than a year in the end. There's a lot to celebrate, a lot to be grateful for. That's what is paramount. 




A-Z Challenge 2021