Happy Birthday, Subho!!

For peace in the land, the sender will remain anonymous.

*****

Dear Subho,

I know how you feel about getting things, even if it is an SMS asking after your welfare, so you must be super thrilled to get this - a letter on your birthday - for your blog!! Let me begin by wishing you a very happy 20th birthday (I ex-ed out the numbers on the letter I got before showing to others, so when it was being typed up, it became XX, changed to 20 for stylistic consistency). Age is not just a number, but a many-tongued jealous lover. You learn to live with it. The creaking joints and unidentifiable, uncontrollable aches and twitches, they’ve all been worth it. You might revel in your confusion, even thrust it upon others, but you know you did right. You loved, shared, dreamt, and created what you needed to, some of it prickly, yes, but sleep well you do.

Blend Of Tea Second Anniversary Birthday Cake - Black Forest from Vacs
Nivasini and Blend Of Tea are projects of Nivedita's and mine that were set up on our respective birthdays - a week apart. This gives us good reason to celebrate, up close, loud and in public.
From that hair that won’t listen to your appendix scar that you have so many different (a new one each telling) stories about, I love every bit of you. Especially the silly emotional part of you. Do you remember how much you laughed when the cops at the protests came at you with their canes raised and then cried as the batons came down? Or how you carried the receipt for your daughter’s autopsy report till it became dust in your wallet. Or the whimpering blob of jelly you were in the labor room when your second son was born? Or how you went about encouraging prisoners when you yourself didn't know where you were headed in the hall of justice? Or the way you tear up when listening to the national anthem? You still need to learn to love though. And watch out for open sewers when walking. You enjoy rubbing people the wrong way just to make sure they are human. You set high standards for others, just so that you can take it easy, and then get mad because they don’t let you take it easy. From supporting piracy to fighting for privacy, you do what your heart tells you is correct.

What I admire most about you is how you bend over backwards for stuff that doesn’t bother anyone else. You reach out to people, checking on them, truly caring for their wellbeing, and then get offended when they finally ask – so why did you call? You stay up late to help the kids plan elaborate pranks on the neighbors. Then when they get into trouble, you leave town for the weekend. You love good conversations as long as they are about you. The only thing you love more is a monolog – by you and about you. If there is one thing that I worry about, it is that you have never felt apologetic for your values or morals. If I were you, I would have deleted my Facebook account by now.


SoCh4. Nov 1, 2014. Our Sacred Space.

Depending on who you are, start at the appropriate paragraph.

Short version of TL;DR: Been busy. Another edition of SoCh and starting several new initiatives, striving to be the best of all I was intended to be. Do join us on Nov 1 at 5 pm at Our Sacred Space, Secunderabad.

TL; DR: One sparkling evening!! Launch of Neesah, an eclectic arts magazine, launches of two books, one by my Mom, launch of a program on increasing awareness of the importance of menstrual flow in the context of social health, a participatory dance dialog on the shanti mantra by all attendees, and of course SoCh-4. The books are crazy good, as is the magazine and the health intervention initiative. We think the “take-aways” will be seen as thoughtful as will the refreshments. Try not to miss the shanti mantra. Working on putting together this SoCh has been the reward and the speakers and their work will leave you utterly, utterly changed. We would like to start early, so do help out by being on time.
Launch of Neesah, an Eclectic Arts magazine from Hyderabad

Now for those of us who are here for the usual trash.

Like all things in the universe, this blog and its owner, ying and yang, have their ups and downs. One of the here now gone tomorrow areas has to do with the early readership and nature of this blog. It was entirely a documentation of personal journeys to start with, as individuals, as creative artists, as aspiring apprentices. So it was for a long time.

Till about 2012. Couple of things happened. First there was the Hyderabad Bloggers Meet. The people who met went on to find and refine their own projects like Nivasini Publishers, Raed Leaf Poetry, Writers Carnival, BlendOfTea, and yes, SoCh, etc. All of these, naturally, became part of this blog. Then, the second thing that happened, there was the focus on search and content marketing that saw the readership multiply a few hundredfold, a lot of it from high quality, commenting and returning readers. On stuff that had almost no emotional relevance to my life or what was going on around me.

Three Little Big Mistakes

Over the last year, Mom and Dad have been winding up their 50-year-old sansar in Kolkata so that they can come and stay with us. It is a big deal for us, since we have wanted this to happen for the last many years. It is not easy to turn your back on the material-social life you build up and it is not easy to say goodbye to the people and places that becomes natural extensions of your being. My brother and I and our families have been trying to make it easier through discussions, holidays together, and by pitching in with the packing and sorting.

On one such visit, just a few months back, I was rummaging through old books and papers that were slowly turning into dust. They lay in ancient trunks tucked away behind other ancient trunks and cartons under my parents’ bed. I found a large plastic folder, inside which were things that I had put together as a teenager one time when we were moving house. It contained things – mainly documents and pieces of writing - that I thought were important at that point of my life. Over the next few hours, the papers made me smile. For many reasons. I smiled because what seemed important then and what seems important now are at such great variance. I smiled at the illusion of permanence that seems so real at all times. And I smiled as I realized how little mistakes often lead to big things. Here are three little big mistakes that I am learning from and what they mean to me.


Honoring your parents


This sounds obvious, and I will have to get personal in order to put it in perspective. I know that my disclosures are safe with you. If you do choose to dishonor my confidence, I will accept that your need to violate my trust was greater than my conviction.

We live in times when it is not just fashionable to blame all the troubles in your life on your parents, but also terribly convenient. Modern science tells us that almost everything that could possibly go wrong with this complex organism called me can be tracked back to parenting. We have parenting classes, parenting blogs, and self-help groups for those scarred beyond repair by the lives of their parents. I have spent many years of my adult life believing that I would have had a “better shot” at life if only parents had been, for the lack of a better word, more “parently.” I have always been open about this feeling, and that has made life more complicated, since at a conscious level people do not always understand that love and hate are really the same deluded belief.

Of course, we are shaped largely by the actions of our parents. Moreover, it is possible to believe and wish that they could have done better. The truth is that if they could have, they would have. For some time, I justified their not “having done better” by telling myself that they didn’t because they couldn’t and they couldn’t because I was not important enough for them. It was only after I became a parent myself that I saw the fallacy of my thinking. Nobody plays to lose.

Guest Post: My Mother

When my friend and guide, Yogini shared her thoughts on the passing away of her mother last year, I was amazed at the insights she put together into old age, relationships, death and dying. I knew that I needed to host her experience on this blog. I continued to pester her till she finally sent me this - a poignant tribute to her mother and the lessons learned from spending the final days of life together. Over to Yogini.

*****

My mother lived part of her life in Africa and part in India. She was married at age 16 and the only thing her people exclaimed to her father was ‘where did you give your daughter in marriage!'

Hearing this, my mother determined that she would never let her father’s name down. Her married life started from being this princess in her house to doing every household work including fieldwork, milking buffaloes and making food for 40 people and taking care of in-laws with a terrifying father- in-law, garden work, and fetching water from the wells that were far off. She did all this with an aim to please everyone.

The mental agony of being treated like a child-bearing factory and to put up with a nasty tempered husband, not to mention the sarcasm and taunts of the other co-sisters who had three or four children while she had 13 of which 9 remained alive - it was not something that any of us today can either endure or want under any circumstances.

I do not remember my mother ever complaining about her life. I do not remember anyone mentioning that she shouted or screamed or cried and never heard anyone saying bad things about her. I was too young when all this happened and by the time, I was 18 she was already 54. While I write this, it occurs to me that even when I turned 22 I was unaware of my mother’s age. I lived with her at that time but was not present to my mother’s feelings, likes, or dislikes.

That I May Not So Much Seek

A few years back, we went through a particularly testing time of our lives. I had quit my job because I was unable to agree with my role of “optimizing” productivity and cost. My entire life’s savings and investments had been wiped out following a personal crisis. I did not have any marketable skills and I am not too clever at, well, anything. We chose to simplify our lives and work towards setting up a revenue stream from the only thing I knew to do – write. My wife, who, along with me, was then recovering from a deep personal loss, began to look for work. However, in the time that was going to happen, we were at home, with a good deal of spare time (even the most wicked writers do not write all day long or do they?), and heads and hearts full of dreams.


The dominant emotion we experienced during those many months was that of need – need for sustenance, for validation, for belonging. As we explored these feelings, we realized that we were not alone in our need. All around us, need was crying out. We also began to see that while a great part of this need was real, it tended to obscure the riches that we were blessed with. We had our health and faculties intact, we had a roof over our head, and food to keep us alive. We also had unbounded faith in the innate goodness of human beings in spite of having been bombarded by "takers."

Over the next several months, we explored the art of giving. Giving of our possessions, giving of our time and attention, and giving of our physical presence. We opened our doors to anyone who needed us – from the neighborhood kids to idealists doing incredible work with little or no support. We worked at no charge for organizations and individuals who wanted to make a difference to the world. We ran errands for the sick and the elderly. And we did this not so much as to test the law of cause and effect as to express our belief in abundance, to share what really belongs to us all – our humanity.

In the process, we learned a few things about giving. Here are some of them.

Another Such Victory



Is there any God greater than time?
At his altar loved ones wait in a line.
No bond undying, though it hurts to think so
Wonder where whose pyre must glow.

The carnival ends. The lights go out.
Fog rushes in, floods the emptying ground.
Empty of exchanges. Love, acclaim, censure.
No one knows where whose pyre must glow.



Surajit Dasgupta (July 31, 2013)
Translated by Subhorup Dasgupta

Consort Of Voices

Voice at first assembly: Superhero do not. Me do. Me tire. Often and easily. Rules forming systems. Discard not infringe. Many I know, love, and admire who persist. Then those who will not care. Respect to them all. The dark stillness of the heart knows the rising. Knows that rising and falling are one, inseparable, vital. Standing silent. Returning. A shipwreck. A fire. Diving straight back. Knowing. Understanding. Reach out. On good days, you hear music. The senses filter all else out. The analytical mind wonders where you lost it. As do the cursed. Superhero.

Voice in the air: Gladness and pain – looking out at the forest of desire and wishing for what was true, even a while back, but is not any longer. Blackness, fear, despair, hope. Accepting nothing suggested, knowing all knowledge to be misconceived, I never was just as I always am. Courage and grace superhero stuff. Whitman stuff. Nietzsche stuff.  I do not need to be known. Or to be understood. Does not mean I do not care. It only means I tire.

Voice at third assembly: The Bible that the daughter reads, the psalm the son sings and wonders, is this about me? Strange how coming of age means different things “in” different ages. To the flamboyant and frivolous and persisting, respect again. I am content with my pulp fiction and The Bad Plus. Is jazz discourse? Discourse leads to nothing. Nothing is as desirable. The fortunate few. Do not form systems. Look up, look up, look up. No conversation please. The word. Meaningless. I am everything. Ever was and ever will be. Not Buddha do. Not superhero do.


Disclaimer: This post is about representation, language, and spaces. My heroes include S. Dasgupta, Superman, S. Buddha, Beatrix Kiddo, Zarathustra, and the body electric. If anything in this post is perceived as offensive to any of them, please talk to my Dad.
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