Categories
Stories

Dawn in Calicut

By Krishna Sruthi Srivalsan

The call for fajr from the local mosque
Pierces the stillness of early morning,
The sruthi box in the puja room stirs awake.

It is dawn in Calicut. The house is quiet, except for the muffled sound of water from the washroom, where my aunt does her ablutions before prayer. She shuffles her way into the puja room and hurriedly shuts the door, careful not to let even a slice of light escape the room and disturb the rest of us. For the next hour, she will be in deep meditation.

Across my bed, I see Amaama. Wisps of white hair framing her toothless mouth, she seems peaceful. Sleep didn’t come to me easy the previous night. A long journey back home and the sudden shock of seeing my grandma succumb to inevitable illness, leaving both her mind and body fragile, have rattled me. I watch her, drifting away in the land of nod.

As the sun peeks out reluctantly from the rain clouds, she wakes up. She looks at me, a question mark on her face. “Do you remember me, Amaama?” I ask. She nods, but when I ask her to tell me my name, she mumbles. I realise that I have become unrecognisable to her. Even after watching her struggle with her memory for the past two years, this upsets me.

My aunt makes idlies for breakfast. I offer to feed Amaama idlies and sugar. It is the food of infants, but it seems like she is a helpless child all over again. After an hour, she quips in a plaintive tone, “I haven’t eaten anything.” We make her a cup of Horlicks and she smacks her lips appreciatively while sipping on the sweetness of the malt.

I spend the day sitting near her bed, reading, in an effort to forget the maze of memories that cloud my mind. I also feel vaguely guilty, though I can’t really tell why. Should I have called her more often when I was away? Should I have been more affectionate to her when she could remember? Could I have been a better grandchild? The regrets pile on, one after the other, and then I understand that the root cause of my guilt is the startling realisation that I never got to know Amaama as a person. All my life, she has been Amaama. What was she like as a child? What was she like as a young woman? What made her happy? Did she have any regrets? I will be in Calicut for the next two weeks and I determine to make use of that time to understand more. I speak to my aunts, pore through old photographs, try talking to Amaama herself.

                                               *

A little girl in pigtails and pinafore
Finds the greatest joy
In knitting needles and yarn.

My grandmother, Saraswathi Menon, was born in 1932. Her ancestral house is in a village called Kalapatti, in the district of Palakkad, in the foothills of the Western Ghats of southern India. Sarasu, as she is known to her family, was the fifth of seven children. Her father was an inspector in the public works department of the Indian Railways. The family moved between Tuticorin and Sucheendram, two towns on the tip of the Bay of Bengal, and Sarasu grew up in relative affluence. The first brush with hardship must have come at the age of eight, when she lost her mother, who at that time was hardly thirty-three.

Sarasu’s paternal aunt helped raise her, and she moved back to her hometown in Kerala with her younger siblings. As a teenager, she developed a lifelong interest in embroidery and knitting, spending all her time with her knitting needles and balls of yarn. She did not pursue studies after her high school matriculation exams; she did not pass the English examination and did not want to place a burden on the family’s dwindling finances by making another effort.

A memory of Amaama urging me to study flashes across my mind. At that point, she had self-deprecatingly joked that she had no buddhi and that’s why she didn’t study further. I think back and often marvel at how Amaama still aced the many challenges that life presented her, despite this lack of formal higher education. To think of the person she could have become with the right opportunities…

Barely out of her teens, Sarasu returned to Tamil Nadu, as a newly married bride. This time, she found herself in Trichy. I look at Amaama sitting in her bed, propped up by pillows, listening to a version of the Ramayana rendered by Kavalam Sreekumar. I try to jog her memory, and surprisingly, she offers a story of her Trichy days. Her eyes well up as she mentions hopping onto rickety buses that took her to the Rockfort temple and the Sriranganathan temple on an island in river Cauvery. She smiles as she remembers an old lady who taught her how to make murukku and other delectable goodies that she treated her daughters to after a long day at school. She remembers getting married to my Thatha, and accompanying him to the various towns that his job as a sales engineer demanded.

I try to ask more questions, but Sarasu’s spark has disappeared now, and Amaama cannot remember anything else. She can remember events that occurred more than thirty years ago, but she cannot remember what she ate this morning — how treacherous is this mind!

As Kavalam Sreekumar sings in the background, my aunt quietly tells me of Sarasu’s first born child — it was not my aunt, as I had always thought. Sarasu’s first born was a boy; they named him Ravi but they lost him to smallpox at the age of two. This news startles me again — how had Amaama coped with the loss of her only son all those years ago? He would have been the brother my mother never had. How little do we really know of those close to us!

Life blessed Amaama and Thatha with four other children, all of them girls. My aunt talks about the ridicule and pity heaped on her parents, Amaama in particular – “Four girls! No sons! How will you raise four girls?” They raised them with love, making numerous sacrifices, instilling in them courage, confidence, compassion, and a sense of fierce dignity, a determinedness to be independent. It is a testament to Amaama’s sacrifices that all her daughters, and by extension, us — my cousins and I — have reached so far.

                                                        *

Coffee stains on the table
A jumbled-up algebra problem
Anger turns into a ghost of regret.

The day has come to an end. I have learnt new things about Amaama’s life, and I can now see a glimpse of Sarasu, behind the shadow of Amaama. My mother lights the lamp and takes it to the entrance of the house, chanting “Deepam, Deepam!” It is auspicious to keep a lit lamp at the door front at twilight. The air is alive with the buzz of mosquitoes. Amaama is awake. I venture to sing an old bhajan which she used to love. She smiles, she seems to recognise the song, but she still cannot recognise me. Memories spring up from the cobwebs of my mind.

It is supposed to be a holiday for Amaama. Two months in Dubai with her youngest daughter, my mother. I am in grade 10, at the peak of schoolgirl rebellion. A few weeks before the all-important board examinations begin, we have study leave. With my parents away at work, I find myself alone with Amaama.

One morning, I am working on algebra, timing myself to see how quickly I could finish a sum. I hear a cup of coffee being knocked over in the kitchen, but I pretend not to hear. Amaama calls out for me, but I ignore her. When she calls me a third time, I can no longer ignore her, so I stomp into the kitchen, sulking. Not saying a word, I mop up the coffee stains, and slam the microwave to warm another cup of coffee from the flask.

Amaama has not spoken a word about my unreasonable behaviour. I know I have reacted badly, behaving like a spoilt child, but a false sense of pride keeps me from apologising. I hand her a second cup of coffee and try to study for the rest of the day. It is a completely useless day; my anger has now turned to regret and guilt.

When my parents return from work, I observe Amaama speak with them. Will she snitch on me, complain about the brat they raised? She remains quiet, does not say a word about me; instead, she asks them about their day and tells them about gifts she wants to take back from Dubai. I feel uncomfortable. I would have felt better if she had reprimanded me instead.

That night, I toss and turn in bed. Amaama and I share a room, and I hear her sob quietly into her pillow. Guilt engulfs me. I reach out to hug her and I begin to cry too. Amaama turns over and asks what is upsetting me. Exams, I mumble, not wanting to apologise. She hugs me tight and says “What is there to worry? You’re such a midukki kutty. God is always with you!” I sob into the softness of her sari and she says, “I was wondering why my midukki kutty doesn’t like me anymore!” I reply in my garbled Malayalam that I would always love her, but I still did not apologise.

Forgiveness has always been Amaama’s best friend.

                                                        *

Barefoot pilgrims walk to Pandharpur
Saffron flags fluttering in the wind
“Vitthal! Vitthal!” The palkhi bearers chant.

It is pilgrimage season in Maharashtra. Visiting my aunts in Mumbai after ages, we arrange for a trip to Shirdi. A road trip will take us at least six hours. Amaama cannot sit in a car for that long. We decide that the Shirdi trip can wait, but Amaama insists that we do not cancel on account of her. “I’ll stay alone. Will keep myself busy with TV and my books. And anyway, Padma will come for a few hours in the afternoon, so I won’t be lonely”, she says. I wonder what sort of conversation our Marathi speaking helper will have with Amaama whose vocabulary in Hindi (leave alone Marathi) does not extend beyond Kaise Ho! I tell my parents and aunts to go ahead, and I offer to stay with Amaama. “Nothing doing, you have to go see the Baba at Shirdi!” Amaama insists. I slowly understand where my mother gets her stubbornness from.

We set out at dawn the next day and reach Shirdi a little ahead of noon. We spend the next few hours in the temple town, offering our prayers, and soaking in the meditative stillness of the masjid where Baba lived — it is a salve to a weary heart. Before dusk sets, we leave Shirdi. We whizz past fields of sugarcane and cotton, growing in abundance, on the rich black soil of these lands, stopping for a quick cup of tea at Igatpuri. There is a thick shroud of mist, and my mind keeps wandering back to Amaama. What could she be doing, all alone in that flat?

We reach home an hour before midnight. The Matunga neighbourhood is quiet. Amaama is in her chair by the puja room, reading Narayaneeyam. “Did you get scared, Amaama?”, I ask. She shrugs away the question and asks me back, “What is there to get scared of when I have God by my side?” Faith has always been Amaama’s best friend.

*

The Nilambur river quietly chugs along
Through hills and fields and forests
And merges into nothingness at Beypore.
                                                    

It has now been three years since Amaama finally succumbed. Watching her struggle through ill health, losing control of her mind and memory, has been an excruciating journey for all of us. Ironically, death seemed to free her, release her from the terrible pain she endured for a few years. When I miss her a little too much, I turn to my phone which had faithfully captured a Boomerang video of her making a dosa when she was in better health. It reminds me of better days in the past when she would make bite sized unniappams, as dainty as the dimples on a toddler’s fist. Sometimes the grief of losing her is too much to bear. I think of a story I read as a child — something about a magic pot which kept cooking porridge for a hungry family. The family gobbled up the porridge, but the pot simply would not stop. It kept cooking porridge, till the porridge overflowed and flooded the entire city! Sometimes, my grief is like that. But then, I look at the photo of Amaama by my bookshelf. A sparkle in her eyes, and a half smile on her lips, she looks the picture of equanimity.

Many dawns have now passed by in that house in Calicut. Sometimes, during the monsoon season, I gaze at the grove of coconut trees outside. The wind rustles the coconut palms and the foliage sways, like dervishes drunk on divine nectar. Sometimes, a bubble of calm quietens an intense battle in my head. Sometimes, instead of holding onto an angry thought, I just let go, like the Nilambur river. In those times, I feel as if Amaama is watching me, from somewhere, where she is reunited with her beloved Krishna, where she can forever listen to the lilting melody from his flute, where she can watch him play by the Yamuna river. In those times, I feel as if her prayers and love have formed a protective shield, an invisible amulet protecting me from all perils. Love has always been Amaama’s best friend.

Glossary

Fajr – The first of five Islamic prayers, also known as the dawn prayer

Sruthi box – An instrument used in Indian classical singing to help tune the voice

Puja room – A shrine room for worship, religious rituals, prayers, and meditation in a Hindu household

Amaama – Malayalam word for grandmother

Idlies – Steamed rice dumplings, traditionally eaten as a breakfast dish in south India

Buddhi – Malayalam word for intelligence

Murukku – Savoury crunchy snack made from rice flour and lentils

Thatha – Tamil word for grandfather

Deeepam, deepam – The word “deepam” means lamp in Malayalam. In Kerala, at dusk, women carry lit lamps to the entrance of the house, chanting “deepam, deepam” in order to invite light and auspiciousness into their homes.

Midukki kutty – Malayalam term for smart girl

Vitthal – Form of the Hindu god Vishnu or Krishna, as he is known in the state of Maharashtra

Palkhi – Marathi word for palanquin. In this context, the verse refers to a yearly pilgrimage where devotees carry the sandals or padukas of the saint Dnyaneshwar from his shrine at Aalandi to the famous Vitthal temple at Pandharpur. The barefoot pilgrims carry the padukas in a wooden palkhi and the journey takes around 21 days by foot.

Shirdi – A town in Maharashtra, which is the home of Shirdi Sai Baba, a revered fakir or saint

Kaise ho! – Hindi phrase for “How are you?”

Narayaneeyam – An epic poem, comprising of 1,035 verses, narrating the life of Lord Krishna. The poem was composed in the 16th century by Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri, a renowned Sanskrit poet hailing from Kerala.

Unniappam – Sweet dumplings made with rice, banana, jaggery and coconut


Krishna Sruthi Srivalsan is a chartered accountant by profession and is passionate about  books, writing, travel, and celebrating diversities, not in any particular order. She firmly believes that human beings should not strive to “fit in” when they are designed to “stand out”. She reads on a variety of subjects and genres and hopes to publish a novel someday.

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
Stories

Ketchup

By Rakhi Pande

The Lucknow Residency

The month of May in 1984. Schools closed, scorching summer heat and best of all, the trip to Lucknow, where the family of five went every summer vacation, without question. Riha, all of seven years old, was ecstatic to have reached her grandparents’ house after the two-day long train journey. The house appeared to be as large as a palace to her. Much bigger than their two-bedroom house in Bombay.

That, however, paled in comparison to this –- the most perfect of all homes to Riha’s young eyes. The aangan* in the centre –- bigger than their private terrace –- with rooms all around, a green garden patch with the open water tank, dank, green water whose depth could not be fathomed by her and which, through an unerring child’s instinct, she kept at a safe distance. The steep, curving staircase with treacherous and oddly angled steps leading up to the roof which secretly scared her; which she was vaguely aware she took much longer to ascend than her cousins who lived here. But once conquered, you were on a long roof with a view of the neighbourhood – and the room on the roof. (This was the best of all houses!) Surely haunted, but only after dark as per her childish logic.

Many years later, when she visited the same house in her mid-twenties, in what was to be her last visit to it – she saw the house just as it was – crumbling and old, destined to be pulled down and replaced by a taller, sleeker rectangular block, having permanently divided the family over its sale proceeds. The staircase which had intimidated her as a child was just ordinary. Mixed feelings and some regret – perhaps she would have preferred those childhood memories to the reality of this crumbling, derelict version.

But this story is about one of the magical days from all the summers spent in that city and of only one of those many mornings. A morning from a riotous summer for Riha along with her two siblings, and five cousins that lived here in the hauntingly enchanted city of Lucknow of the eighties as viewed from the vinyl covered cycle rickshaw seat. The driver laboured over the pedals in a mesmeric rhythm, navigating impossibly narrow streets, cows, street dogs, people, the occasional cars, tempos and handcarts and the noise that was always a part of the city – the shouts, honking, bleating of goats, mingling with the call of the azaan*.

Riha was a happy, confident and an attractive child and though she would vehemently deny it later; citing ‘middle child’ as her defence; perhaps a little pampered by her aunts and uncles here. She woke early with anticipation for the promised outing – utterly excited that they were having an Enid Blyton style morning ‘picnic’, complete with a wicker basket full of buttered buns, the sweet milk bread which she loved and a rajai* and a bedsheet to spread on the grass. They had to go very early, to avoid the dreaded loo* and the heat, which didn’t bother her, but which was just a convenient excuse for her elder cousins and aunts to not play catch or hide and seek with her during the afternoon.

That morning they were approaching the gates of ‘The Residency’, in quite a grand procession of two cycle rickshaws hired in addition to the spotlessly clean and sparkling white Ambassador belonging to her ‘Advocate’ grandfather. Riha was sure they would be the very first visitors here as she had awoken at an impossibly early hour, so she was surprised to see a few people already there –- walking about with dogs on leashes.

They walked quite far from the entrance, on wide green rolling lawns, way past the museum and dungeon, quite close to another set of ruins –- just walls with no roofs bordering unkempt taller grasses. The bedsheet was rolled out, basket deployed and after a while as it got sunnier and sunnier, without quite knowing how, Riha had soon wandered into the semi-walled ruins to explore the ground for unusual stones and wild flowers, her younger brother Aahan trailing behind her as usual.

She smiled at the other girl she saw there, enchanted by her blonde hair – “Hi! Are you here for a picnic too?” she asked, arrested by the lovely crisp white lacy and ruffled “birthday dress” the other girl wore. Only birthday dresses were so beautiful! Riha looked down at her own blue cotton dress, which she had worn a lot many times.

“You’re so lucky your mother let you wear your party dress!” Riha said. The other girl looked down at her dress and that’s when Riha noticed the ketchup patch all down the front of the lovely white dress. Exactly where she had once stained her dress while eating pakodas* with ketchup when her impish younger brother had jolted her arm. She felt immediately concerned and sorry for her –- she knew her mother would be upset and if her mother was anything like hers, there would have been good chances of receiving a stinging slap for messing up her party dress like this.

“Is that your brother?” the girl asked.

Riha nodded. “My brother is here too.” Riha moved closer but could not spot the other boy –- hoping he could be a playmate for her brother. He must’ve wandered off.

“Who’re you talking to?” said Aahan. Riha rolled her eyes knowing her brother was annoying her as usual.

“How rude, Aahan!” She looked at the girl, sharing the – ‘younger brothers!’ look. “Sorry about him… I’m Riha, what’s your name and why don’t you come and play with us?” she invited, frowning at Aahan.

“I’m Mary. Look,” she pointed across the greens, “My mother is calling us –- I have to go.”

Riha could not quite spot which of the women in the far distance Mary was indicating, but she was not happy at the thought of losing a newfound playmate.

“I’ll walk with you till you find your mother and we could ask her permission to play with us – we are a big group here,” she confidently proclaimed.

“Okay, I’ll ask her, maybe we can meet near the museum after some time,” smiled Mary.

“Okay, bye!” shouted Riha, happily.

Riha looked around for Aahan but he must have run off earlier. As she left the ruins, she saw her aunt halfway there, calling her to come quickly away from the dangerous ruins.

“They’re not dangerous at all!” scoffed Riha.

“Who were you talking to?” her mother asked. “Aahan said you were trying to scare him by pretending to talk to someone.”

Riha plonked herself down on the sun-soaked sheet and glared at Aahan. Why were younger brothers such pests? Describing the encounter, she couldn’t resist remarking how the other girl had been allowed to wear such a nice dress to a park. “But didn’t you say she’d spilled ketchup on it?” retorted her mom.

With the elders finding it too hot, it was time to leave but Riha insisted on stopping by the museum to say goodbye to Mary and dragged the whole family there. After waiting for a while it was clear no one was coming there and Riha was reluctantly made to leave, with promises of one more picnic there for sure. 

Now, years later, sitting on the sagging charpai*, under the bright stars that evening in that old house, the moment triggered a memory of the picnic to the Residency. In her teens she had been quite intrigued by the history of the place and read about the slaughter of the British families including women, children and babies there during the siege of 1857. She remembered quite vividly that evening years ago, cuddling on her grandmother’s roomy lap on the same charpai. 

Naniji* had surprised her by asking for a detailed account of the girl she had met. In Riha’s world, that morning was already firmly in the past. Her grandmother was quite interested in the ketchup stain too. Later, she had noticed the elders having a discussion in whispers and looking at her.

Annoyingly, Aahan was allowed to hover around them or perhaps they hadn’t noticed. He had then galloped up to her and shouted in glee, “See, I told you, you met a ghost! That was not ketchup, it was blood!”

.

Glossary:

*Aangan = an inner open courtyard

*Aazan = Islamic call to prayer

*Rajai = block printed comforter/ duvet

*Loo = hot and dry summer wind

*Charpai = traditional Indian woven bed

*Nani – Maternal grandmother, ‘ji’ a respectful suffix

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Rakhi Pande heads the English department at a British curriculum school in Dubai, UAE. She segued into this profession after quitting her erstwhile post as General Manager in the field of brand management in India. Having spent her formative years in Mumbai she has spent a decade in each profession before exploring greener pastures abroad. An avid reader and award-winning educator, while dabbling with blogging and other creative pursuits, she tries to write whenever time permits. Hopefully, there’s a book in her.

www.linkedin.com/in/rakhi-pande-362a387

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL. 

Categories
Musings

Hope never dies; not even during the times of Corona

By Rituparna Mahapatra

This feels so dystopian. The world today. The television streaming clippings of people, suddenly thrown out of work and asked to leave, to go back to wherever; just leave. Isolation is the keyword, it seems. Lock yourself in your homes, if you don’t have a home somewhere; in a drain pipe, a hole, a box anywhere. Just leave they have been told. They have been let down by the cities of their dreams, the people they worked for, the world collectively. Can we do anything about it? Nothing! And we hang our heads in shame, in our living rooms.

Panic grips as I learn, in Italy the death toll has crossed ten thousand. I don’t want to know, but the WhatsApp forwards, don’t let me be. I have heard great leaders speak that they have everything under control, the fear on their faces, still visible. I don’t believe them. I look for the latest data on a live update on the virus, my finger going touching the names of the places, I had dreams of visiting.

I live in one of the most affluent cities in the world, we have been blessed with abundance. Food, water, electricity, shelter. our city is being sanitized I hear, and I feel protected. But then fear is not far behind, every time I get to know someone, who is not supposed to have stepped out of the home; is irresponsible.

The truth is, none of us is safe anymore, anywhere. Dubai, New Delhi, New York, Madrid, Rome, Paris; all of them vulnerable, and heartachingly weak in the face of this Pandemic. I try and think of something cheerful and look at a picture of our friends on my phone at the last house party.  So, we decide to meet online, the familiar faces smiling back to me from a computer screen. We laugh, chat and raise a toast. It feels like ‘almost normal’.  It will be a while till we get to hug them touch them, till then these smiling faces are good enough. I am thankful for them. This will be over soon. This surreal life that we are living in.

Our kids are attending school from their bedrooms, sometimes huddled in their beds; their identities shrunk to initials. Their beloved teachers are just faces attempting to cheer them up while teaching. They struggle to focus on solving that equation, while the pet dog lying at their feet is vying for attention. Dogs and cats are immune to the virus, I am told. You can hug them as much as you can. That for me seems to be the only silver lining.

I share pictures of my cooking with my friends, a beautiful watermelon and feta cheese salad, tossed with balsamic vinegar. I have stocked up well to cook exotic meals so that my family is not bored. I have planned our meals for days in advance, every meal promises to be a surprise, to bring a twinkle in the eye. While I bask and revel in my culinary and ‘disaster management skills’; a friend shares a picture of an old lady walking alone towards home thousands of miles away, since transport has been shut for the Pandemic. More pictures come in of people swarming, towards a place. A place that will be safe for them. Does such a place exist? What do these people know of social distancing? Social distancing is a privilege, for them.  I cringe, my stomach churns and I feel terribly uneasy. The privileges I have are the reason, I am devasted by them.

This — I am told is grief. Oh, is it?  If this is grief, then it’s good. I am relieved. My greatest fear was that one day I will be sanitized to all these happenings around me. The face of that old woman is going to haunt me. I feel guilty of being blessed with an abundance of food, of shelter, of feeling happy, after chatting with my friends. Since, when has this crept into our lives? Since when has ‘feeling happy’ become loaded with so much of heaviness and helplessness. This is becoming too much, these ramblings in my mind. These are calamities I can do nothing about. I still have to cook, sing, paint, write; do things that make me happy and keep me sane.

Suffering has always been there in this world; even before I was. Every time someone laughed, there has been at least one person somewhere in utter sadness. I grieve for all things lost, for everything that shouldn’t have happened. I have tremendous respect for the health workers, the cleaners, the researchers looking for an antidote. Each one of them, who have risked their lives for mine. And I am not going to just clap, I will do more, I promise.  While most of the things look grim; I have hope. Hope for humanity to bounce back. This is a time for great learning, at every moment. We will do our bit in our way when we are ready.

The world has shrunk, we all have come together. There is no superior nation, no superior power anymore. We all have been battered equally; we stand broken. And we will come out of it collectively, till then we have to hold on to each other. Cherish every happy occasion and shed a tear for every death, in every corner of the earth. Because that is the balance, the fulcrum on which this world will keep going. My family back home, are making bread at home to distribute to the stray dogs. They are making sure that the wages are paid to the employees. These small things; are hope personified. I am sure there are many like this amongst us. We just have to find ways. There is a way. There always is. I smile; this time without feeling guilty. I sigh and cup my face with my hands. Someone shrieks, “no don’t touch your face”. I dash towards the rest room, wash my hands, reach out for the sanitizer bottle, and say a prayer!

Rituparna Mahapatra, is writer based in Dubai. She taught English literature at Sambalpur University, Orissa and Delhi University. She worked briefly with Britannica India, and has contributed to many leading newspapers both regional and national. Currently she is editor-at-large UAE, of Kitaab.org; and teaches creative writing in English.

Categories
Poetry

Saturday Morning Musings

By Sheldon John Dias

Gazing into a mirror on a Saturday morning…

As I gaze into the crystal flattened and stretched

I search for meanings – of life and of memories etched.

Who am I?

Where am I?

Why am I?

Here?

I ask myself these questions till I faintly hear :

You are chaos

You are the cosmos

You are light and darkness

Shining brightly through prisms of uncut gems.

Alive in a spectrum of life and death and then life again.

You are the elaichi in kadak chai

The icing on macaroons and

Pani in the hands of the puchkawala.

You are the dal in the khichdi and

every grain of atta in your paratha.

You are the pandal blocking the road on Durga Puja.

You are the magician at the end of his Act saying, “ Ta da”.

You are a drop of rain. You are the ocean.

You are the sun and moon and stars altogether.

You are the highways and by-ways

And dead ends of a one- way street to bedlam.

You are the question and the answer.

You are the lie and the truth.

You are no one and everyone.

You are a mystery of this universe

but not a mystery to you!

Sheldon John Dias is an Educational Supervisor and a teacher of English and Drama at GEMS Modern Academy, Dubai. He has also served on several examination boards and panels. He is passionate about theatre and elocution and is currently working on his first book