Sunday, May 12, 2019



It is very satisfying especially as you grow older to receive greetings and wishes from your children on some special days during the year – birthdays and special days (now earmarked as Father’s Day and Mother’s Day clubbed along with the many other special days). It is as if we need something to celebrate everyday and that is good, for they help us push away the looming reality of loneliness as we age, more so during this passage of evolution, where relationships lie scattered over large distances  and when closeness is not within arm’s reach and a hug is hard to come by. No one is to blame for that is what we have chosen.

I remember that I never wished my mother a ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ when she was alive as I don’t remember such a day being celebrated two decades ago. Maybe I was not aware and it never entered my mind that any day other than her birthday is to be celebrated (we do it for everyone in the family). But looking back I now realize that there was no need for that as she stayed with me till she passed away. As such every day was Mother’s Day. For her everyday must have been a celebration, for what could be better than having your close ones physically close also.

Every year on this day I am reminded, though it does not mean I do not remember. And this year especially so when I realize that it is the centenary of her birth. She did live a long life and passed away at the age of eighty-two soon after the earthquake hit Gujarat in January 2001. She passed away in the May of that year after suffering a stroke and being bedridden for two months. She did not suffer much and we are thankful for that.

It is always our tendency to eulogize about people who are not with us anymore. I do not intend to do that for it would instill a sense of hypocrisy in my sincere efforts to paint her as the person she really was. It is only when we accept a person with all their weaknesses apart from extolling all the good things they possess, that we really love them. My mother also had her faults and this sometimes blinded her vis-à-vis relationships. I was predominant in her affections which sometimes clouded her reasoning where others were concerned. She was very forward looking and accepted many things which her generation could not, but still there was that part of her which refused to yield to perceived threats to her authority and possessiveness where I was concerned. This is only to highlight that she was very much human. But what stood out was her strength of character and her compassion.

In my first book ‘I am just An Ordinary Man’ there is a passage that highlights what she meant to me. I thought it fit to reproduce it here –

My father was with me for the first thirteen years of my life, my mother stayed for thirty-eight years more, till she passed away at the age of eighty-one. My two daughters literally grew up on her lap. As I said earlier, my brother and sister were much older and she felt more comfortable staying with me and see my children grow.
When my father died, she was left with the responsibility of bringing me up and looking after my grandmother. I remember that day when he died, she held me close to her as if to say I am there to take care of you. And she did, selflessly. Though she did not have much of an education, she was very intelligent and a strong-willed woman. Even that day in the midst of all her sorrow, she was clear as to what she wanted to do. She decided that she would move to Madras and set up house so that I may complete my schooling there.

Not that my mother was without her faults; she was very possessive. I guess this happens when all the attention is focused on one child. Even though that was not the case, still I was the one she concentrated on, as both my brother and my sister were married of early. She always wanted to have the primacy in the house; after all it was her son’s place. My wife being a very quiet and a well-mannered person there was not much of a problem. But my mother would withdraw into herself sometimes and made sure that we knew she was feeling hurt and ignored. Despite these minor frictions she did love my wife and never failed to praise her in front of others’.

Few years ago, I read a book ‘Being Mortal’ by Atul Gawande, a review of which I have posted on my blog post dated 15th June 2015. This book disturbs you. It lays bare the reality of aging and increasing dependence. In the chapter ‘Dependence’ Gawande says “It is not death that the very old tell me they fear. It is what happens short of death – losing their hearing, their memory, their best friends, their way of life.” He says we do not think about the eventuality that most of us will spend significant periods of our lives too reduced and debilitated to live independently. As a result, most of us are unprepared for it. With the changes in the family structure gravitating towards splinter groups the isolation and dependence of the aged have become acute. 

You may wonder what this has to do with my celebrating ‘Mother’s Day’ and why I should write all this. How does one wish a mother who is no longer with us on the physical plane? I remember her and have internalized her memory and I am happy I could be there when she left. In this context I reproduce another passage from my review of the book ‘Being Mortal’ –

In the beginning of the book he talks about his grandfather who lived till the age of a hundred and ten years and ultimately passed away surrounded by a large family in the midst of the people he loved and in his home. He says “My father’s father had the kind of traditional old age that from a Western perspective, seems idyllic” He continues 

“But in my grandfather’s world, how he wanted to live was his choice, and the family’s role was to make it possible”.

Yes, now as we look around us, this seems idyllic even in the Indian context. A visit to an old age home will only open our eyes to the many parents who have in the twilight of their lives are in a home away from Home. Despite all the facilities available now (not all are fortunate to end up in such facilities) there is still that tinge of sadness and loneliness which they carry with them till the end.

This post of mine is not only a celebration of a special day for parents who are long gone and those still there but a long way from their near and dear ones, but a way of reaching out to those who at some time will have to wake up to the reality of becoming an island as they age.

Can we do something about this?  

Friday, January 25, 2019



This is a book that will not sell. Not much of a marketing pitch to start with. But I am a wiser man now, after having written and published three books, and not really succeeding in convincing my friends and others to buy and read them. I am awake to the reality that there will not be many takers for this genre. Poetry? So why did I go through with it. Well, I wanted to see them in print and having decided that I was not going to incur any expenditure for the publishing I opted to have them published through the self-publishing platform Xpress of Notion Press (the publisher for my three previous books). What if I do not have an ISBN for the book (maybe later I shall have it done on my own) or the book not being made available on online store like Amazon etc, it will be still available in paperback from the publisher for purchase and I still get to order my author copies at the subsidized price. And of course, friends and others who are genuinely interested can order them from Notion Press at the link which is at the end of this post. This has been a thoroughly satisfying experience – going through the process of designing the interiors and the cover, of course Notion Press does suggest Templates that we can use, but the entire process of selecting the Font and Font size as well as ensuring that the layout comes out properly is our responsibility. Thanks to my daughter who gave me a painting of hers to use as the cover. In the final analysis, I am satisfied – a job well is done.
In all my three books ‘I am just An Ordinary Man’, ‘Darkness and Beyond’ and ‘Autumn Leaves’ that preceded this collection of poems, it was an exploration of life, be it my very own or the lives of others that I undertook, to arrive at an understanding and accepting the reality of existence. But in a way the themes for these books were based on the diaries that I had kept and the jottings mainly in verses made over a period of more than four decades. In a sense this collection or rather a selection of what I still like to refer as prose-poetry is a means of recapturing the different phases of my growing up and thought processes. That is why I refer to this collection as ‘A Journey in Verse’.

Somewhere I hear a clock chime,
Marking the passage of fleeting time,
Somewhere I hear the motor whirr,
Slowly from my slumber I now stir.

On this grey and gloomy morning,
Like many other mornings I have known,
I see the faces of the dead walking,
This city’s streets up and down.

‘Ghosts’ was my first attempt at writing. I wrote about the city that I had explored over the last six months, during what I now call as a self-imposed sabbatical. I explored every nook and corner – from the multi-storied affluence and the pulsating rhythms of daily existence to the life on the pavements, the stench of the gutters, and the streets with looming dark shadows; life sustained by the hope that there will be a next meal, that there will be a shelter when the rains come, a fight for survival and a hope, that there will be a better tomorrow.

Ominous patterns,
A dreary grey smoke,
Weaves across a vacant sky,
Whilst a stifled city struggles,
And groans to stay alive. ……..

In the background there lurked something unseen: observing, but not intervening, leaving the happenings to play out as per the script.

There the ghost it starts its dance,
Freed of fetters and a lively trance,
Leaves no footprints on the sands.

‘Ominous Patterns’ which forms a part of ‘Ghosts’ is a snapshot of Bombay with its various shades of grey that never ever left my system, though now I can say that with the passage of time, the ghosts have been exorcized.

On a cold December night at Ellora, as I gazed at the Kailasa temple silhouetted against a star filled sky and the surrounding stillness, I found myself. A feeling of oneness with the world and joy was predominant. Even now when I try to recollect and revive that state once again, it does not happen. It was something mystical.  Not that I did some great writing, I have always kept it to myself and enjoyed reading it again and again. It has been something very personal. There have been other moments that have overwhelmed and drowned me in ‘Rapture’.

Sometimes when to these heights I soar,
I feel this fever more and more,
And in delirium I do rant,
All this fervor’s magical chant.

I love everything on earth,
That has given rise to beauty’s birth,
Every joy, pity and pain,
In my heart a passion gains.

In my rapture I had seen,
All that love that never had been,
Now once again I spread my wings,
As my heart in fervor sings.

There have been infatuations and experiences that pushed me into despair along the way, and I have emerged with a clearer insight of myself and my relationship with the external world.  ‘Rebecca’ symbolizes all that and more. As I stood gazing at the statue in Salarjung Museum in Hyderabad, the floodgates opened and all that had lain hidden for a long time, flowed out. The veil that had hidden many a mystery seemed finally to lift. I guess it was easier that way, from the first stirrings of infatuation to love, to an obsession, to unrequited love and finally to say,

Leave me, let me be,
Content in my fantasy.

‘Oh, I was young then!’ is an acceptance of growing old though reluctantly –

The forebodings,
Of approaching emptiness,
Follows me like an apparition.

‘Moments of Happiness’, portrays the temporality of happiness -

These are certain moments and they pass me by,
They remain etched in my memory, as I try
To understand what is my quest,
To perpetuate these moments, try my best.

‘Stillness’ explores all those moments which stand frozen in time - those moments of joy, ecstasy, of alienation. It is a snapshot of all those pictures, While I seek the stillness therein -

When will these moments ever last?
Is it when I find,
The silence in my heart,
And in the stillness of my mind?

‘Illusions’ defines the ultimate purpose in life as I have understood it–

Life is just a river that flows,
On its way it winds and grows,
To settle down in tranquillity,
To finally merge with the sea”.

I wrote, sometimes in spurts, sometimes in rhyme. Since all the writing was done after what I would call ‘my awakening’, a good portion of them have been recollections. I have rearranged them in five parts – Ghosts, Rapture, Rebecca, Fragments and Secrets of the Soul to reflect the various stages of my journey and that is why I call it A Journey in Verse. It took me a long time to write down my thoughts, in bits and pieces, and it has been one long journey, but the secrets that I seek to understand never really end.

I stand absolved,
Of all the guilt and shame, that eroded,
The entrails of my conscience,
As I shake the shackles from my ankles,
Break away from the bonds
That held me down.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019


MILK TEETH by Amrita Mahale
Matunga the year is 1997, a muggy evening in late April.
The milky clouds of the past weeks had curdled into thick cheese, blotting out the evening sun, raising hopes for a spell of unseasonal rain. The air felt slightly stale. Being outside was like taking an evening local train cramped up against a mouth breather.
When I started reading Amrita Mahale’s book ‘Milk Teeth’, a wave of nostalgia swept me back to a monsoon day in 1973.  I remember that I used to keep awake after a late-night bout of asthma, sometimes till the morning dawned with the clanging of the milk bottles, and Bombay slowly woke as I slowly moved towards my bed. The mornings in Bombay were always grey and by 7 am the road was already populated with people, office goers, and the frenzy increased as the peak hour approached. Another passage from the book –
A light sleeper at best, Mumbai opened its eyes by 5 a.m. to the arrival of milk trucks on the streets. Local trains started to ply around the same time, carrying fisherwomen, flower sellers, and sleepy revellers up and down the arteries of the metropolis. And along these arteries, Mumbai awoke in slow waves, the farthest suburbs stirring first, readying themselves for the long battle that was the day ahead.
At times there was nothing to say about Mumbai. More often than not, work had become one routine story braided into another, this meeting and that scheme, delays and excuses.

To me it is still Bombay, and so will it be remembered by people of my generation. It is a relationship, an intimacy that is shared by everyone who has lived there. You may choose to hate it, but you will still love it with all its shades of grey. My time, of course, goes back more than a decade before the author was born, but it is the skill with she has been able to capture the passing years. Matunga of 1967 had yet to give way to vertical growth but with the growing population the movement to the suburbs had already begun and I did stay in one such suburb Chembur. Her description of Matunga, King Circle, the South Indian restaurants and the most important of all – the Irani Café famous for its plate of pastries and the distinctive Chai, where one could spend time meeting up with friends, evoked memories of evenings of many a summer and monsoon spent there. Thanks to her brilliance as a writer she has brought to life ‘Bombay’ (Bombay became Mumbai after 1995).
The story itself is simple, at the same time her probing of the psyche of the main characters makes the reader identify and empathize with them. there is no melodrama and she has maintained her integrity as a writer throughout.
In the beginning, I was intrigued by the title of the book Milk Teeth. The first inkling of what the author was trying to convey comes out through the following passage –
So for most practical purposes, the communal violence that started after the Babri Masjid fell came to an end after the blasts, but the spell of peace that followed felt like hate was only shedding its milk teeth.
For me, I have understood it on a broader canvas – the shedding of one’s frailties and emerging as a stronger individual who has accepted his/her perceived aberrations and moved on towards living and finding authenticity in life.  The character of Kartik has been handled with great sensitivity and is perhaps the highlight of the book, a brilliant individual struggling with his own ghosts. The most telling passage in the book is towards the end, where the author leaves her mark as a powerful interpreter of human emotions through metaphorical images -
The receding wave reveals the debris the sea had kept hidden. Scattered on the rocks under our feet are plastic bottles, snack wrappers, a soiled diaper. Refuse that the water had obscured like love does. The walls, Kartik called this spot. The name sounds familiar, but I am not sure where I have heard it. In a magazine, perhaps? I feel the unpleasant tug of a sour memory. Ananya comes to mind, but why? The walls. The walls. In the distance, large oil tankers stand still. Closer, fishing boats bob up and down, anchored but still moving. It’s ten past six, sunset is at least ten minutes away. The Walls. Oh.
Kartik has changed his mind. ‘Ira,’ he begins, ‘I am sorry.’
To talk more about the book or the storyline will be unfair to the author. I leave it to whoever reads this review to buy and read the book in its entirety.
With her first book, Amrita has shown her talent as a writer who I am sure will find her own place on the Indian literary scene. Wishing her all the best.