From a shadow's desk

Courtesy: Dvs (licensed under Creative Commons)
You go to the beach. So do I. Glad for the sunshine. Unlike you, I die everyday. Sometimes more than once a day. Rebirth isn't painful though. It's almost inconspicuous. Wherever you go, I follow. When you pause, I look up at you, wondering if you notice that I'm there. I marvel at the detailing in your face and wish I had that too. It's lonely out here on the ground. When you were a child, you'd talk to me, play with me. We were friends. What changed? Why has adulthood changed you so? Sometimes I wonder if I'll get to be a real person once you die. Yes, your death will be my liberation. But I can never transcend this lifetime until then -reborn though I am every time the sun peeps out. Sometimes I cross paths with my non-human cousins. The dark selves of trees and animals. And even inanimate objects. We exchange the strangest of stories. A tree's shadow told me of a child who outlined the entire shape and then coloured it with crayons, making her feel almost like a real tree. Almost as good and worthy. I wish that might happen to me too. A little colour would be nice. Do you know, sometimes when you sleep, I defy the laws of science and dance across the walls like a drunken loon. Once, you were about to wake up while I was doing that. I nearly died (for real I mean) that day. Imagine walking into the sun and finding no shadow self to tail you and keep you company. Imagine if I wasn't there. Maybe you'd notice me then.


Dave Nakayama (licensed under Creative Commons)

Macaroni never tasted this good when Agatha made it herself. The recipe was the same - no rocket science after all. But there had to be something that maami (that's what she called her nanny) did differently. Agatha thought about it as she savoured the rich smell and softness of the cheese. Perhaps it was voodoo. Maami looked quite formidable after all - her skin wrinkly and her eyes narrow, rather like a witch. Agatha giggled at the idea. Maybe maami muttered spells under her breath as the macaroni rotated in the oven. Or perhaps, there was a magic herb she added to the sauce. "There's nothing magical about it," Maami said, stirring ferociously in the chilly winter noon. "It's called rosemary and that's what adds the flavour to my macaroni." "What does it look like?" Agatha asked. "And does it have anything to do with roses or someone called Mary?" Maami laughed, the ladle pausing to shake along with her merriment. "Rosemary means 'dew of the sea' in Latin." She cocked her head to look at Agatha. "People used to believe it could ward off witches." The young girl gasped. "Did you just read my thoughts, maami?" "Why, what were you thinking?" Agatha considered. If maami already knew, this was just a trick question. She decided to go with the truth. Even if maami was a witch, she wouldn't hurt her, Agatha was certain. "I was wondering if you might be a witch." The soup had now reached a boil. "Well if I was, the rosemary wouldn't let me stay here, would it?" That did make sense. Satisfied, Agatha went back to her macaroni while Maami shook her bemused head.

Best two hours of 2013?

Anoushka Shankar: Wikimedia Commons
Often when I put pen to paper, it’s because I feel like visiting someplace new; or revisiting a particularly charming place. Today, I want to revisit the two hours I spent in Anoushka Shankar’s company, albeit two floors apart.

She sat there, graceful as a lotus, the sitar nestled in her able hands. And she might have been strumming the strings of our hearts, for all we knew. Because every sonorous twang felt like the resonance of a suppressed memory. When she played, I was no longer Ankita Shreeram, writer and resident of Bombay. I was just a throbbing being, kept alive and sculpted by the notes that danced around and into me. What is so intoxicating about losing all sense of identity? What is so right about not being who you are but just a bundle of uniquely-hued energy?

Her ‘voice of the moon’ might have made me cry but my soul was too busy celebrating. Perhaps it felt like it was finally receiving some attention – a rare treat – because all other times, I only fed my thoughts and my base senses.

To her right, there were the cross-legged, sedate shehnai (trumpet) and mridangam (South Indian percussion instrument) players. And to her left, was the Italian percussionist, the cello player with his hair tied back in a sleek bun and the slender African singer Ayana, whose luxurious voice made me weep to hear Norah Jones (sweet but not Ayana) in the original recordings. Western and Indian classical instruments came together in a joyous union that rode high upon choice Carnatic ragas.

Four days ago, it had been her father’s death anniversary. It had also been the date when the Delhi gang rape happened in 2012. “I poured all my darkness into this song – ‘In Jyoti’s name’,” Anoushka told us. It should have been ample warning of what was to come. But I was still deeply shaken and disturbed by the urgent, pained notes that ensued. It was just what it should have been but I couldn’t wait for it to stop.

But the other tracks from ‘Traces of you’ (her new album) – Metamorphosis and Lasya among them, helped me recover. But that would be unjust, because they did more than that. They inspired, soothed and uplifted. They made me feel truly blessed to be alive; to be there in that hall for those two glorious hours, and have the fortune of listening to such masterful melodies. This is living – my heart told me. And I believed it, choosing to forget for that moment the monotony that greets me every other day. But that’s not really true, is it? To breathe and to exist – in synchronicity with the Universe, is a blessing far too great to be clothed in the grey rags of monotony. Now when I revisit that beautiful place, I believe my heart’s whispers again. I believe that I am happy. And there was never any reason to be otherwise.

When the concert ended, with dazzling individual pieces by each of the supporting musicians, I was convinced that those had been the best two hours of 2013. But of course, it’s easy to be overwhelmed in the immediate aftermath of things. Now that the sheen has been dimmed by the unforgiving dust of time, I wonder if there might be other contenders for that title. It has been a pretty good year after all.