Parvati fasted for 100 years to be accepted by Lord Shiva. Sita sat through the agnipariksha as part of Ram’s experiment. Lakshmi is forever offering Vishnu a foot rub as he reclines on the Seshnaag. Radha weeps all night because Krishna is being a heartless rogue once again. The goddesses are tired of their secondary roles today and have decided to rewrite their stories. So while Shiva sits there and smokes his chillum on a lazy Sunday morning, Kaali is out for blood and she is roaring hungry.
Make it a nude painting and there will be enough people who will find it beautiful… and just as many who will find it ugly.
It was bare when it came into the world,
and it will be clothed by shame till the day I die.
When the rain drenches it, it wants to dance.
When a cold breeze kisses it, it wants to hide.
When it makes love with another, it can find its way into heaven
or just as easily into an MMS scandal.
When it loses a limb in an accident, it learns to live without it.
When it loses its dignity in a dark alley, it forgets how to live.
In a doctor’s hand, it’s only a mass of haemoglobin, bones and tissue.
On life support, it’s only a beep.
In the end, your body and my body are not so different, are they?
But till the last breath we take, my body and yours will keep our differences alive.
People always wondered what he saw in her. He, the rugged, spoilt brat who loved his Tommy Hilfigers and Davidoff cigarettes. She, the illiterate girl from Nepal, with eyes slanted like the hills of her village and sold to a brothel for Rs 3,000. He met her one summer night in a tiny room that started and ended with a bed. He had gone there with a friend to see another world so different from his own. Though he went looking for a cheap thrill, he ended up finding the love of his life. Three months later, he bribed several pimps and local gang lords to smuggle her out. Of course, his family didn’t want him anymore. Of course, he could not keep his favourite car. But he had her and she had him…and what they didn’t have… somehow didn’t matter anymore. Their story sounds like a fairy tale, but fortunately it did happen and I know someone who knows them.
People will always wonder what he saw in her. Maybe, he met a woman who touched his heart as beautifully as she touched his body. Maybe it doesn’t matter that they do not have anything in common. It’s enough that he can tell her about the countries he has been to and she can tell him about her village… and together they will make their own common memories. Let’s hope they make a son. And let’s hope he has his father’s eyes. Eyes that will make a woman feel good about herself.
They were women who loved rice and didn’t know wheat. They were women who only knew how to greet their food with joy and not fear. When they were hungry, they coaxed fat juicy roots from the earth. When they were thirsty, they plucked out tender coconut from the sky. Their bodies gleamed with oil and their hands smelled of turmeric. The sun loved their skin and baked it deep brown, and the sea loved their hair and left its waves there. The songs that these women sang had travelled through many centuries to settle on their tongues. And those tongues knew how to speak to elephants and trees with the same affection.
Sometimes when I eat more rice than what the beauty magazines recommend, these women come in my dreams and tell me that it’s okay to feed my heart and my body till they are both happy. They tell me that they feel sad that I don’t know their songs, but they are happy that I cook fish in an earthen pot. These heavy, dark, spirited women from God’s Own Country live in my eyes and my hair and my skin. They define the abundant flesh on my bones. They are my roots and I am their wings. They fly wherever I do. And I guess, I shall always come back home to them.
I don’t know a single English song. Yes, not even one. I cannot recognise the voice of the Beatles if I heard them on the radio. I wouldn’t recognise Air Supply if I bumped into them on the road. I do not know why the world can’t get enough of Lady Gaga, or Adele or Coldplay. I don’t know what made Madonna worthy of blind worship for my generation. I am a stranger to the entire galaxy of pop, rock, jazz, and rap gods.
Though I have read the lyrics of Bob Dylan and heard him a few times, thanks to my friend Shomi Mukherjee, who introduced me to the legend, I cannot sing along with Dylan. Neither can I hum along when many of my friends play English songs in their car or home. I cannot join in the joy that I see on their faces when they sing together and make their own music and strum an imaginary guitar and laugh at the sheer thrill of it all when the song comes to an end. I have been told that I have missed much in life. I have deprived myself of some spellbinding stuff. I admit I have. But when Kishore Kumar sings Hum bewafa hargiz na thay… in my ears at night, he brings tears to my eyes. And I forget what I have missed… and I treasure what I have gained.
A conch shell that I picked up in Kanyakumari 10 years ago has been sitting on my bathroom windowsill. I had bought it from a shop near the beach, where it sat with hundreds of other shells. I bought it so it would bring back beautiful memories of that vacation every time I looked at it. It did bring back memories, but, as the years went by, the little details faded away and the vacation became a beautiful blur. I guess, the shell too forgot the song of the ocean that it had once known. The other day, my Bengali cook Triloka blew into it, and it made a beautiful long call like conch shells do in village temples at dawn. Now I ask Triloka to blow into the shell every morning. For a fleeting moment every day, that shell finds it lost song again.
We all do, don’t we?