Chapter fourteen from 'The Legs of the Tortoise' written by Maggi Lidchi-Grassi; published by Writer's Workshop.
Fifteenth day of the War of Kurukshetra; a glimpse of an epic commonly known as Mahabharata today.
(Through the eyes of Arjuna)

We had not long to wait for Ashwatthama's answer. We were moving out in our formations when the animals started breaking line. There was a restlessness in all of us. At first I thought it was the nerves of utter weariness or just the turmoil that Kuta warfare brings about. Gold and ivory goads kept flashing in the sun; gajarohas had to use their toe spurs to keep the elephants from veering. Birds of prey began to pass us on the left. The sacrificial fire had gone out this morning, but there was no need of omens to tell me that the world had gone awry. Even Krishna (who volunteered as Arjuna's charioteer) had his work cut to keep the horses' heads turned to the enemy. A pack of jackals ran past us. Our fighting in the night had deprived them of their prey. Krishna used his whip. They ran away. I wondered whether it was a dream such as may rise when you have had no sleep.

"Krishna, I feel that I am dreaming, that we are in a nightmare." He did not turn is head. He did not answer. The feeling of the nightmare grew. There was a numbness in my fingers which I had never felt when I held Gandiva (Arjuna's bow) There was loathing of the jackals and the rats that scampered past. I shall wake up, I thought, and find myself inside my tent with Krishna laughing at my side. I willed myself to wake but only made the dream grow worse. A dimness fell upon the air, twilight at midday. Sahadeva had not warned of an eclipse. The sky darkened into blackness. This was the worst omen of all. I searched for a shloka for averting evil. I could remember nothing. Krishna turned his head at last and the grimness of his face froze me completely.

"Unless the men can understand . . ." His words were carried off by whistling winds that blew dust in my eyes. His face had told me nothing would avail.

I shouted, "What is happening?" The chariot rocked and lurched. I grabbed the standard mast, I who had no use for it in Indra's chariot. "The earth is trembling," I shouted. Just then  it heaved as though an elephant rose under it, and I fell sprawling. All around us horses bolted, scraping past us or colliding to fall with broken legs. Dreadful cries came from their lacerated chests. Wheel hubs spun off and axles snapped, as chariots hurled into each other. Krishna gave our horses their heads so that the stream of elephants would not trample us. There was no choice. We raced along like waves borne by the tide. The animals and elements had taken over. There was no room for mind and reason. We galloped into darkness with the howling of the wind and of the men, rising together. Was the sun, at last, protesting? Above the howling Krishna shouted. I could not hear him and holding to the standard mast I leaned as far forward as he leant back. He shouted once again and louder but still I could not hear. The earth had turned into a stormy sea. My stomach rose and settled, rose and settled. I saw the word that Krishna's lips were forming:

"Narayanastra, Naraaaayanastra." Krishna's face had told me that no one knew the mantras nor the counter-astra, so I saved my breath; there was little enough of it. I tried to climb up beside Krishna. The elephant that moved the earth fell to its knees and we keeled over. My head had hit the chariot hood against the crest of gold. And if it had not stopped me I would have fallen out just as our horses ran into another cloud of darkness. "Hold faaaaast," I heard from Krishna. And then with joltings and with grinding and with crashing the horses slowed but swerved and turned around, a tide drawn by a crazy moon. They galloped back faster than they had galloped forward. The rivers had begun to turn in their directions.

Krishna looked behind us and as he did I felt great heat as though the sun itself shrouded in black had come towards us. I turned my head and saw a glow.
"Surrender. We must surrender to the astra." Krishna made me take the reins. "When I say so, stop the horses." He jumped onto my seat and blew his Panchajanya (Krishna's conch). Over and over again he blew it until it split the darkness. The heat was growing fiercer and when I looked I saw that there were discs like many golden chakras slowly spinning at us, slowly, slowly spinning.

"Surrender. Surrender. Throw down your arms. Offer yourselves to Vishnu. Prostrate before him," Krishna's voice became enormous. The word spread quickly. Every tongue beat words against its palate.

"Offer no resistance !"
"Throw your arms down !"
"Surrender !"
"Surrender !" Nakula behind us jumped down from his chariot and stretched full length upon the ground. Horses swerved to right and left of him. Seeing this Satyaki did the same, his head protected by his hands.
"Take your hands away !" bellowed Krishna. "Surrender everything. Be fearless. Do not protect yourselves. Vishnu's astra is our blessing."
"Open your hearts to it. Surrender fear." I could hear the voice of Sahadeva.
"Surrender ! Surrender !"
Krishna pushed me off the chariot and as I fell I saw the discs accelerating, you could hear their whisper slicing the commotion. Where the men tried to escape they dipped and made great screaming torches of them. They passed over the bodies of the prone. These entities like golden locusts covered the horizon. They came dipping, dipping, soundlessly and now the cry went up from ten thousand throats:
"Lay down your arms! Surrender! It is Lord Vishnu. It is the Lord himself." The voices became glad, hope stole into us, a joyful chorus murmured mantras of surrender:
Om Namo Bhagvate Naraayanaaya . . .
Om Namo Bhagvate Naraayanaaya . . .
"I bow down to you, my Lord;
I bow down to you, my Lord."

Soon our whole remaining army lay prone upon the earth, arms stretched before, palms joined, chanting praises of Lord Vishnu's lotus feet and hands. His thousand faces slowly lifted and spun into the sky. As they passed over us we felt no fire, only a soothing warmth, a gentle breeze, both at a time; a blessing that stole the stiffness from our souls and bodies.

We learnt that day what no weapons teacher tells you. The ultimate weapon is surrender. It is love.

Only Krishna stood upon the battlefield, his hands shading his eyes. He looked to where a flight of discs began to dip and blaze. There was a lone and wildly dancing figure waving arms and shouting. It was Bheema. Krishna started running and without thinking I ran too.
"I will not bow to you," Bheema shouted at the discs and shook his fists. I began to feel the heat again. Bheema glowed and bellowed. I jumped on him and threw him down. He was burning like a furnace. Still he shouted, "I put my foot upon your head, Ashwatthama ! I put my foot . . ." I ground his head down. He spat out grit, "I put my foot . . ." I sat upon his head. His mouth was open like that of a hippopotamus and full of sand. In desperation I stuck my foot in it and felt his teeth.

Krishna shouted, "Eldest needs you." I felt the muscles tense and then go limp. "Chant Lord Vishnu's mantra." I looked up at the sky. The discs were hovering, poised. I surrendered Bheema, I surrendered everything.

Om Namo Bhagvate Naraayanaaya . . .
Om Namo Bhagvate Naraayanaaya . . .

There was fragrance in the air that wiped out the stench of fifteen days of death. Death showed its secret face to us. It glowed with love. We saw a promise of creation. This thing (Narayanastra- A celestial weapon invocated from the Kaurava's side by Ashwatthama towards the Pandavas) that had been sent to shrivel us gave life, new faith, new hope. From the corner of my eye I saw the metal of the chariots curled like withered leaves. I looked down at my arms but they were whole.

Narayana is life. Narayana is life disguised in astras. He is the only healer. Everything is Narayana. Bow down to Narayana. I felt a heaving. Bheema must be weeping. I took my weight off him. He laughed with wonder.

I had seen Krishna once again. I stretched myself in full prostration to him. The mind was stilled, the heart was glowing. That evening when the mind came back I mused:
"You spoke of action once as though it were the greatest good. Today surrender saved us. Had we surrendered long ago would there have been no war?"
"No. You saw it for yourself. Because Greatfather's formidable surrender was to a dying dharma."

"What of Eldest's surrender at the dice game?"
"Surrender to a dying dharma only feeds a dying dharma. It is not surrender to the Absolute." And then he looked at me and closed his eyes and smiled.

"Discrimination. I said discrimination, Arjuna. That is the most important thing. It is the only thing."
I have often thought of Krishna's words and what they meant and how our conversation ended in the first starlight. I knew discrimination was a thing I did not have.
"That is one reason, Krishna, for us to stay together always. You are my discrimination."
Men cannot live in truth for very long. Our sense of wonder fades like stars and moon by day. The knowledge that I did not have discrimination, brought me closer to its edge than I had ever been before. Discrimination is an astra that surrenders doubt; it is the arrow's head that sunders darkness. "Krishna, when this dark war is over . . . that has brought me so much light, you must let me be your charioteer. I do not want to part from you."
"We still have time together," Krishna said, "before the Lord of Time may scatter us across this earth."
"Your words are like a knife," I said.

"That is because, as you have truly confessed, you have not discrimination." When Krishna saw he could not make me smile he sat up sharply and took me by the shoulders half rocking, half shaking me in that way he had. He said, "To be without discrimination is one thing, to be without a memory as well is worse. How many times have I told you who we are. We are Nara and Narayana; we are the indissoluble." It was true that he had told me. We were sitting on a carpet woven of silk and silver threads. I still remember its design of trees and deer and birds, just discernible in the starlight, "We came to do something together and we are doing it. The rest is like this," he pointed to the silver thread. "It is not essential. Yes, I am your discrimination. You are my chakra. I told you on the first day of the war. There is no difference, there is no space between us." He brought his thumb and forefinger together tight to show me and placed them beneath my eyes, then he shook me gently once again. "Never forget it. If you took away all the rest, this still would be. I know what we are here for. You forget. Forgetting is the suffering. Ignorance is pain."

"Krishna, in all my life . . ." I did not know what I would say. "In all my life, with all the battering of this war, in spite of all the burning astras and fighting all night long, here alone I have felt the promise of my life and its fulfillment."

In my mind I lived out several lives with Krishna. In one we were in Dwarka swimming in the sea and gathering great pink shells and in the evening we would sit reminiscing on the terrace of his marble palace with cups of wine. In another, we returned to Indraprastha and built it up again. The wild horses came to us from the forest when we cleared it. With its acacia trees we wrought our chariots. Our gold-smiths thickly crusted them with designs that Maya gave them. Maya! Maya and the Mayasabha. And now we stood within its radiance which sparked eternity in us. Nowhere in my mind did I return to Hastina.
"Make me one present, Krishna. Give me the gift of not forgetting I have seen the Lord." Krishna considered me.

"We are poised upon the cusp of a yuga that does forget, the Kali Yuga." His eyes shifted from mine and looked into that future. "Now we forget and know we have forgotten, but our children's children will not know they have forgotten. They will not believe. They will lose the mantras that call the gods; they will say there are no gods. The Yavanas will come and try to prove it. We have lost the age of sharing with the being in all things. The Kshatriyas have destroyed it with their sole belief in power. The universe is the breath of Brahma and he is breathing out. Change cannot be avoided, nothing can be dodged. But it will lead to something else." I sensed the shadow of destruction; Krishna dispelled it : "We are here and I promise you many days together. I also promise you . . . now listen carefully, Arjuna, I promise you that any time you need me, call and I shall come. We shall hear each other's call." 

I promise you that any time you need me, call and I shall come. We shall hear each other's call.

You are great!

"You are awesome!"
"You are so nice"
"You are this and you are that"
And everything sweet and good...

Whenever I have people around me telling me all things nice, it makes me feel nothing but sad and alone.
And I get that a LOT!

The thing is, I know I am. And I am because I want to be! And when I say even you can be what you admire so much about me, I sense a retraction, like no- I wouldn't want to be that! And then goes the me in me- Why would you then throw empty meaningless words at me? For me? No thanks. I don't need them. I'd rather have you talk about what you truly feel and not "try" to be anything but what you are.

So then, how do we work?
Do we not praise or appreciate each other? (I do have a resistance against "praise" - empty words that are said for formality and come from no real substance)

Though I do love it when I meet people genuine, people passionate with who I can have a decent conversation about things that do matter- to them, to me. And not about all things we have no control of.

I see this is not really going anywhere and it's the most vague thing I've written here but that's how it goes. Rainbow.

Tell Me Your Dreams

If you were to die today,
Live your life would you in what way?

If you were to die now,
Change your life would you know how?

If you were to die tomorrow,
Burn away would you your sorrow?

What do you really truly wish to do?
Tell me. We'll make it true.

What makes you feel good?
Tell me. Give me some thought for food.

Is there something you've always wanted to be?
Tell me. What dare stops you from thee?

Come on! Quick!
Pick yourself up slick!

The time is now.
I'll show you how!

Tell me all-
I won't let you fall.

No matter how this may seem,
This is indeed my dream.

Help me help you.
I'll be your friend all the way through.

I await in readiness.
All you gotta show is willingness.

Hop in. Feel free-
Tell me.


Do you do your best in each moment in the process creating attachment? Or do you keep away? In both cases knowing full well that in the end we are all going to leave?

Leave with having done something
Rather than nothing
Make a difference
Fulfill your destiny

That worn out bunch of tissues

Lost deep in thought walking along the path
I stop short of a bunch of tissues white
I look closely and see a blossom
I look around for the source but find none do I
And I pick it up with all the glee, passing my thanks to dearest Uni.

"You found that on the road, didn't you?" says he.
I nod with a giggle and ask- Pick it up then why didn't he?
"I didn't have the time to stop."
And I see that it was meant for me.

I sit and meditate on its form so free
And see its side run-down brutally.
My heart must look like thee, says a voice in me
I pause and ponder the faceless plea
And avert my eyes from the truth that I see.

Those Moments

Suffocating apologetic murmurs
Killing me with their meaningless blumbers
Feel like screaming and breaking off
Running to a spot and do some real work.
Engaging work.
The blabbers evade a stand
Instead leech on other plans grand
Stop talking. Start living.
Every time in this waste of substance
Why do I get a headache in their careless stance?
Perhaps the spirit tries to break free.
I want to make something beautiful
Something useful.
We need the driver to wake up!

For the time being though,
A sweet tinkling saves me from the mess
A silent presence that never fails to remind me who I am
And grateful I am to the whole Universe,
To anyone and everyone for this blessing
A blessing she is indeed.

For Her

An old man, travelling a lonely highway,
Came at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm deep and wide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
For the sullen stream had no fears for him.
But he turned when he reached the other side,
And builded a bridge to span the tide.
"Old man," cried a fellow pilgrim near,
"You are wasting your strength with building here.
Your journey will end with the ending day,
And you never again will pass this way.
You have crossed the chasm deep and wide.
Why build you a bridge at eventide?"
And the builder raised his old grey head:
"Good friend, on the path I have come," he said,
"There followeth after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This stream which has been as naught to me,
To that fair-haired boy may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim."
"Good friend, I am building this bridge for him."

An anonymous poem from Good as Gold

The Dream

A letter of love from a story of love.
One that the whole wide world comes together to celebrate
One in which rejoices the whole creation.
A book in the making since 22 years,
Shaping up into a film,
A story of a 100 years.

Dearest Jumpie!

I hear your voice on the phone for the first time,
I hear a kid on the other end.
Felt good.
There was nothing to worry about.

All gaily and gaiety I set off to meet you,
Feeling safe that I was gonna be fine.
Open-minded like never before,
Out of relief too,
I look around for you,
Wondering each moment whether you could see me,
Wondering how I must look.
I knew-
I hadn't really bothered to guard myself. 
There was nothing to it after all.

Like a breeze moving through the mob, eyes searching for the purple sweatshirt,
I halt at the end and you are nowhere to be seen.
Tring tring!
Picking up your call, I turn a 360 degree to spot you and yet didn't see you.
I secretly wondered if you were spying on me.
You come like a gale from the quietest corner.
I see you.
Pure Energy.
I rush to meet you halfway.
Finally! After all these years!
Gotta tell you-
You looked great!
A fresh spring from the mountains, chirping around singing the merry cheery song of life!
Felt good.
Very good.

You are all shy and uncomfortable,
I am all out there and most comfortable.
Like never before with anyone.
It still surprises me but I see.
To assuage the awkwardity apparent in your self, we walk-
A bit here and a bit there while I chat away about things so normally and fluently as if we met every day.
Each day.
It didn't really strike me that it was a moment - a first of a kind - the first time we really met.
It all felt so unreal, yet so natural.
And I keep saying that to you.
Again and again.
As if trying to hold some piece of reality, some part of me back.
But I couldn't.
Rather didn't feel the need to.

After walking like two bubbles of energy all around the airport,
Attracting surprised happy glances our way, we finally drop anchor at a bench.
And out pours another endless blabber from my end-
Showing off all my work - personal and professional - without any shame or restraint.
So full of myself was I that I barely pause to even take in the precious nature of those unique moments.
Now I see how you were doing just that - watching me intently, with all the glee?!
So, while you sit there quietly listening, observing and drinking in the special moments,
I am busy baring it all to you-
my adventures, my experiences, my thoughts, my this, my that, my one, my all;
my my!
All this while, twas as if I'd gotten a lease of life and it felt natural opening up to you.
As if I was just meeting myself.

At least, you kept check of reality-
And suggest food to quieten the grumbling tummies!
And then I remember-
Yikes! 'Twas your birthday that day and like an idiot I wish you finally.
Your wrist hurt.
Reminds me of that fateful accident.
How did I forget all of it? What was I thinking? Rather not thinking?
I was dreaming, still showing off my best side to you.
There was nothing to hide. Not from you.

We get up and make a move for the beach after a momentary discussion-
Rather curses thrown at the Costas and Malls from my end.
Felt good that you too shared a view for more open areas and wasn't a fan of the closed glass boxes either.
Felt natural that we should be so similar in spite of so very many apparent differences.
And I barely pause to even notice or drink in the magic of those rare moments of such impossible synchronicity.

At the beach. Juhu beach.
All the while I discuss all the sorts of places I'd have rather shown you, my favorite being Kanheri but couldn't- Lest you missed your flight.
Secretly I didn't really think it was a big deal.
If by any chance you did miss it, 'twud just mean I could show off more of my self to you-
My favorite spots around the city.
I felt quite alright,
while you silently and very sneakily continued to watch my antics.

Gola time!
You order for orange while I settle for lemon.
Gobbling em away like gleeful kids we go off towards the shore-
To keep away from the stinky drain.
So lost or consumed are we with the Gola-
Or each other?
That the poor fellow had to come all the way asking us to pay for it!
You said you thought you had paid but well I didn't remember either.
So you too were transported and floating in the dream eh?
You paid. Confusedly. Hesitatingly. According to you-Again.
Imagination can play such tricks on the mind!
But that moment didn't register anyway.
It didn't matter.

And we are back to finishing the task we'd started.
Finishing the gola.
Aaaaand I burst out laughing!
Your batteesee had gone all orange!!!
See! Even the gola wishes to leave a trace on you!
I can't help but laugh at how hard you try to hide your oranged teeth-
That were peeping out every time you couldn't help but smile!
You looked like a total kid I tell you!
With the gola ordeal finally over and your teeth gifted with the shade of orange, we make off for a walk.
In the scorching heat.
On the scorching sand.
With you looking away now and again to spit out the orangy that made your teeth its home.

And comes along a wandering dog.
Following you around.
I see you flinching away.
I chuckle wondering if you were scared of dogs.
I ask.
You talk about how for you guys-
Who guys?
You say us all.
But us who?
You finally say Muslims.
And I make a mental note of how you weren't comfortable being confined by the religion you were born with- And I wonder if that is the actual reason for you to adopt a name more Universal while dropping the trace of the confines away..?
Well, at least it showed you yearned for a more Universal identity as it also showed how you even felt a certain sense of responsibility toward your roots.
Just like me.

You say you guys had to bathe five to six times if you touched a dog (especially the nose eh?)
I quietly smile recalling many other such moments of superstition my mom kept passing now and again.
And like I always ask her, I ask you for the reason-
You say you didn't know and that your mom had told you so.
Bingo! Why then should you not touch dogs?
And I see you pondering-
Wondering over the reason with squinted eyebrows just like a child and come up with a-
Maybe it's cos of bacteria and germs transfer? -reason.
And I smile.
You had a reasoning power. What's more? You used it. Immediately. On the spot. In the moment.
But I tell you instead- You should ask your mom about it.
All the while, the dog continues to follow you. Us?
Surely there was some magic that attracted the dog?
Magic in you? In me? In us?
I wonder.

We walk on and on and on and turn around to get back.
A ball comes our way-
The kids were playing cricket.
And for the first time I get a glimpse of your soccer skills-
when you give that golu a smooth kick towards the kids.
Graceful Ease.
The kids look grateful,
And we walk on.

With no topic to talk over I suddenly notice how you were carrying the heavy Heavy HEAVY bag with two laptops on your shoulder!
How gallantly you still walked as if 'twas a piece of cake!
Erect and casual.
Just like a prince.
But I could see the strain of the weight and the heat of the sweatshirt you wore, boring down on you.
I pause and ask you to remove the sweatshirt since it was too hot.
Just as a child would ask another with no hidden intention except for another's comfort.
You are doubtful and processing and wondering as to whether you should or shouldn't.
I saw us as two children playing as naturally as if we were childhood friends.
After some deliberation, you do decide to get rid of it eventually.
I was surprised. You listened. Made me feel good.
It felt natural as if it was the most obvious thing to do.
No playing games.
Only a spontaneous play of moment to moment action.

That bag was sooo heavy for whatever little time I held it
You were carrying stones or what?
And in a swoosh you introduce your black shirt to the environment.
Hello black shirt!
Deja vu- I saw this already, didn't I?
And I feel bad that I made you walk so much so long in so much heat,
When you had just come from a cold place, so unaccustomed to this sultry weather.
How insensitive of me!
That was the moment that it struck me - what was this? A dream?
It all felt so natural yet so unreal.
This has got to be the best version of me I had ever met!
Hello awesoMe!

And we make off for the restaurant with its own treasure in store.
We enter and the fellow guides us to the empty seats and relieving ourselves of the weight of the bags,
We heave a sigh of relief-
While our pupils get busy adjusting to the warm glow after coming right from the burning scorch of the sun.
That's when I realise just how tired I had gotten, what with the moon affecting me too.
I wondered as to how much I blabbered and hopped, skipped and jumped around that all I wanted to do now was just sit slumping like that on that seat.
Across from you?
I lost my appetite too. Completely. Exhausted.
And it struck me how tired in fact you might have gotten!
With no sleep for over a day, adjusting to the changed hot climate and carrying the heavy weight around. Phew! And yet you showed no signs of tire!
Seeing you so jolly, even I forgot how tired I felt.

And on and on and on I go browding wordlessly.
I just couldn't stop myself from owning every moment could I?
All the while, so very patiently and smilingly you just let me be!
Finally you break the spell and catch me unawares making me conscious of the browdy moves.
That did it.
I came back to Earth.
Seeing you asking me every moment for that one shot, watching so attentively,
With wide open eager eyes, all excited and sparkling,
I felt I was starting to lose myself.
I was safe no more.
The euphoria I so naturally owned up until then showed signs of draining beyond danger levels.
I felt vulnerable.
That's when I realised it was actually the first time that we sat face to face!
That is it then eh?
All this while, walking at the airport, chatting away at the bench, in the rickshaw, at the beach we didn't really face each other did we?

And then I see that kid behind you watching you so intently as if you were some celebrity!
There's gotta be something in you!
First, the dog and now the kid!
You are magic. It is indeed you.
Anyway I point him out to you and you turn around in a confident swoop and give a browdy Hi5 to him,
All-smiling. Just like a big star!
That kid looked stumped I tell you!
But you two shared a moment of open-hearted glee, so free!
And I was losing myself.
To you.
To your charm.
To your simple natural way with things.
I felt unsafe.
I start getting my guard back on.
And As I gradually gathered my self, a self I so confidently gave away;
You continued to charm me off my feet with your dreams, your wishes, your thoughts, your confidence, your belief and most of all your unashamed honesty about your innocent feelings.

That moment?
When you wholeheartedly with full eye contact say Shukriya to the waiter?
For the water he got you?
Filling that simple word with deep heartfelt meaning?
I lost myself to you.
To that powerful Shukriya.
Who wouldn't?
I wonder how many have lost themselves to your easy natural way with things.
My sure guess is each and every one who has ever been touched by your magical presence!
I feel glad that such a purely joyful entity such as you should have ever even contacted me in the first place let alone befriended me!
I'm very very very grateful to the Universe, to Krishna for bringing your precious self into my life!
For how much ever long it is meant to be.

After that it's all a blur to me cos I couldn't handle what was going on inside of me.
I felt happy that I could feel such feelings that I'd never thought I was capable of feeling.
I also feared.
For me.
For losing it completely.

After that moment, every time I looked at you, I saw no kid.
I saw a man.
A man like I've never seen nor met before.
If perhaps Krishna was here on Earth...
It's all in the name isn't it?

I couldn't face you after that cos I was scared.
I didn't trust myself as much as I trusted you though.
I didn't want to ruin that day- A dream come true!
That day that reality became real.
That day that I finally felt whole, rainbowical, with the last of emotions bubbling inside of me.
That day was the final piece that fell in place for the beginning of a new me-
A rainbowical magical me:
Ready to dazzle without any fear or restraint as you'd shown me I could.
I had faced myself.
I felt free!
All thanks to thee!!!

And I slip into sober thoughts, avoiding eye contact.
With sad depressed talks.
I couldn't face you!
And you continue to attempt to catch my attention.
I see that,
But I didn't trust myself you see!
And up comes the shield of the sad me.
To avoid looking at you directly.

I see you relaxed. Confident. Just like I was in the morning?
I see me shy. Uncertain. Just like you were in the morning?

The time was nearing for us to part.
And I was filled with inexplicable sadness.
I blabber on and on about how I'd show you around various different places when you came next to the city all the while hoping that you'd stay for longer.
I didn't notice all this then.
It was all still a dream for me.
Only now do I see the real reality of that dream manifested.
Only now I am beginning to grasp those treasured moments and understanding where they came from and what they were actually made up of.

We sit at the departure gate.
I felt so much to just embrace you but I couldn't find the guts or the space in me to do so.
I continue to look away for fear of you looking through me.
For fear of giving myself away.
A self I hadn't yet reconciled to.
I felt sad. Very much.
I could feel the sadness pouring out of me and I didn't want it to affect you.
Affect the joyful moments spent together!
So I continue to distract myself with more mindless blabber.
While even then you are your joyful self- playing around, observing and conversing!

I remember that moment when you were trying to push the cool air with your palms towards me.
It felt good.
I didn't have the guts to acknowledge it.
I ignored it and silently smiled to myself.

I remember that moment you sat with your palm resting on your chest as if feeling the beats of your heart.
I felt tempted to place my palm over yours.
Surprise me for sure that did!
I resisted.
It was inappropriate.
Not yet.

I remember that moment in the rickshaw on the way to the airport when something got in your eye and you were struggling to get it out.
I froze.
I felt like checking your eye, lifting your eyelash to see if there was anything-
Just like a doc would- Just like a kid would- Just like anybody would-
And maybe blow soft breezes to make the dirt fly away but I didn't.
I didn't think I could bear touching you.
Yes, I was scared.
I didn't trust this woman I met for the first time in me.
So I kept distance.
Holding her in.
Besides, it was cliche.
Gotta be unique eh?
So I offer water with a suggestion of splashing your lashes in it from your palms while my mind was conjuring all sorts of imaginations whirling through me.
I continue to look away.
That has got to be the most difficult time I had that day.
If I told you what was going on in my mind then, I wonder what you'd think of me?
Told you? I can't even begin to explain to myself about it let alone anyone else, least of all you.
But you know what's awesome?
I am not ashamed of it 'cause I know it is but natural that I should feel that way.
But I didn't want to let go then.
Not yet.
Rest assured, I felt good about the knowledge of the woman blossoming in me.
All because of you.
All for you.

I come home.
And I realise that if ever there was anyone I'd willingly love to give all of myself to; wholeheartedly?
It's got to be you.

You said later you didn't know why but you missed my eyes.
But I missed your whole being!
Your sheer magical presence!
I felt so present in your presence and so very inexplicably alive!
So much so that I felt as if the whole world was my family.
Since then, I see myself meet each, any and every one with full glee, all free.
Oh how could I tell you?
I really really really felt so free with you!
Like never before with anyone.

That was my dream.
Being free.
And you made it come true!
No wonder then that it all felt like a dream.
It is a dream indeed.
A dream-
Really Reality Real!
Aren't you?

Wondering on,

Building Freedom

When we first came with Krishna he had been bitter at the desolation of the ruined city; trees grew through palace roofs and burst the walls. The ruins had been full of creepers that spiraled up to suck the life from man-made things. With help from Daruka, and with Bheema and his teams wielding jungle in a single summer, we levelled land so that the sun looked on it for the first time in a cycle of a hundred years.

To build something wholly new is to reach towards the All-Creator. We had the sense of that with Krishna there beside us. And in the end we were more happy in the making of our city than if we had been given ten Hastinapuras ready-made. We knew then, as we felled timber and hewed stone, that there was something dark and rotten in Hastina. We did not try to copy it. Krishna inspired artisans from Dwaraka to build a city that was full of light. No one should feel fear in it.

"Renewal," he said, "was to omit that which no longer served." The day we laid the cornerstone for my Yuddhashala had been the happiest day of my life. Nakula and Sahadeva built the stables. And the forest horses, knowing that a home awaited, came to us, one by one at first, and then in tens; then in their many hundreds. Had they heard what Krishna said of freedom? They learned to draw the chariots as though born to it. And the chariots made from the wood of our acacia trees and designed by Maya, were more glorious than any we had seen. Soon we had twice as many wheels as Hastina ever had.

When I set foot in Hastina's crystal palace the thousand pillars bulged with evil. Each pillar held a different menace. Its light was dimmed by man himself. It was not that we had built Indraprastha higher than Hastina but the sky was freer here. The clouds sailed its heavens joyously and today they moved like dancers on light feet and showered benedictions on us. Indraprastha could be soiled by nobody and nothing. It had been built on Krishna's courage, and faith and indomitable will. There was no place for intrigue and suspicion, there were no poisonings in it. 

Excerpt from The Legs of the Tortoise by Maggi Lidchi Grassi

I wish for Architecture to make people feel beautiful.
To shine a light on their own light.
To let their light, light up the space.

I wish for architecture to give you the courage to shine!
To express yourself. To be yourself:
Not to hide anymore.
And neither fear being watched.

To show you your true friends that you so conveniently ignore;
Even though you are surrounded by them so freely.

I wish to make such spaces that challenge even them-
The winds and the rains and make them wonder:
'I never knew I could do this too!'
And the beings that pass through the spaces would pause
And join in the play too!

To make spaces that explore the idea of endless possibilities-
And make room for free expression; 
while allowing a conversation with the Universe, with Self.

Going beyond the horizon.
Giving the present of presence.
Can I be all about this in essence?

Plant Life

I shoot through the darkness of crumbly chocolaty dense cover-
The cover that had kept me hidden for a really long time...
And there! I felt the first rays of the Sun bathing me like I were his kid!
I tried looking around!
But everything was quiet..
Everyone around was pensive and tense.

I wished to screech out of happiness!!! Breathing my first breath!
As I began to do exactly that..“Shushhh!”
I wonder where'd that come from?
I look up and get a big glare from a biggy who supposedly was my community!
And I went Shush...

Gradually over time I was told that the funny unmoving brown-green creatures were my community-
And that if I wished to survive, I’d better listen to them.
But how could I in my little voice explain to them the impossibility of holding the sheer joy!!! 

Of the caresses of the wind!
The pit-pat-patter of the occasional rains!
The twinkle of the stars with the Moonglow cooling us all after a long day of swaying!
The incessant chirping of other funny small little creatures that surprisingly moved through air with such agility that I wished I could get a chance to learn from them!
Probably they are the gifted ones!
But never mind- I’ll surely learn the trick from them soon ;)

Most of all,
I was looking forward to my first encounter with those gentle magical beings who moved around places and sang such melodies that just warmed the heart!
Ok. HOLD ON! You must b wondering how do I know about them if I haven’t seen them yet aye?
Hmm, that is a question that puzzles me too but I have this strange vivid memory of their presence and I know they must exist somewhere out there!
That is something I look forward to every dawn that I open my teeny-weeny eyes just in the hope that “YESSS! Today’s the day!” and pass the day at my spot enjoying all the delights while straining my little body as far as it can go to catch just a glimpse of them only to again wake up next dawn to be energized with the same exhilarating thought that someday I shall see my best friend!
“Oops!” I hope no one’s heard me!
I look around surreptitiously to make sure there aren’t more angry upset glances in my direction.

Oh yes! I have to tell you about this strange fear that my "community" seems to b having of these beings.
Me being really curious about their existence, stretched out to the left and happened to ask him whether he had ever heard of such beings or better even seen them?
He looked dumbstruck as if I had asked him the secret of life! Duh
Well then I stretched to my right and considering that she looked like she'd been here a long time-
Thanks to the wide range of cobwebs adorning her body; you see I couldn't go up to her and ask her how long she'd been here eh? I did that once with the one on the faaaar left and I had to shrink to as low as I could, seeing the piercing stare I received in return!
Funny! I'd proudly announce my age to anyone who bothered to ask! Ain't it an achievement?
I thought she might have some answers.
She put on a whole mysterious look-
She was laughing her ass out just a moment ago!
And bending over me like a sweet-already-bent-over granny, gave me the "I-know-Everything" look only to shoo me away with a smooth shift over to "You-are-too-young-to-understand" look.
I'm sure she thought she put up a great act worth an Oscar!
But, that didn't help me at all except that I realized that the "community" knew about them but liked to put them as far away as possible.
If only they told me!
Well it doesn't matter- I know it in my heart that they are the most wonderful beings somewhere out there!

Next morning brought rivers down from the blue up there-
Seems like the air just decided to become water today!
Well I really enjoyed the surprise until the "Crack!"
The next moment I regain my senses, I thought I was sent back under cover! 
Oh no! Please let me out! Don’t punish me! Just 'cause I asked a genuine question???
But oh! I could lift myself though..
Phew! You guys aren’t that bad after all! Thanks gracious! Love you guys!
So slowly and slowly I tried lifting myself to my original posture but somehow I knew something was amiss.
I had gone shorter! 
How was it possible? I was always told that it was the law of the universe that I was supposed to grow and grow and grow until I touched the skies!
Funny that the skies decided to come down instead!
I recall that the water force was strong and that the “Oscar” lady tried to protect me from the force by hovering above me to drain the load away.
But little does she wish to accept that her engines are going loose and one of them decided to escape on this fateful day and land right on me
THAT was the Crack! 

Well it doesn’t hurt really and I’ve not really changed in case you are wondering that I myself went crack!
I’m not going to go away that easily now that I have finally found you! 
Oh shit! Did I leak the secret?! Damn! But u still don’t know how it all happened eh? All in good time...All in good time
Well so as I said, I knew something was just not right.
I grew shorter!!! 
I started imagining all sorts of things, the best of which was that I was special and that normal things just didn’t work with me!
The thought of that made me feel good. Real GOOD!
But I had to figure out where exactly was the glitch?
I feel it…My mid-left side decided to buckle under the weight.
No wonder that got me shorter! Whew!

Another good thing was that no one really noticed the change.
So it’s like a BIG secret that I keep to myself that I shall reveal to only those that I choose to!
Isn't that Awesome!?

But, this did weigh down on me and the already-inquisitive-enough-me started asking more and more questions as I felt more and more that I was different.

An Angel Visits

It was the day of Ekadashi so my mom and me had kept a fast. Now, my reason for the fast came from the wish to calm my long-troubled tummy ahem.

So well, in the evening, mom, me and my new neighbor Neetu go to the temple.
Somehow I’m feeling really happy (Guess it’s thanks to the overflow of realisations dawning on me)
I go around saying hello to each god and just take in the feeling of joy on seeing Krishy! Ha!
Done with that we sit at the steps and I aimlessly look around while mom and Neetu talk away the society woes.

Aaand I spot this strange man with a turban standing at the bottom with his back to the temple and shortly after he comes from within the temple and halts in front of us.
He stretches his arm forward and gives my mom a portion of the prashad (some yum sweet) and Neetu spontaneously stretches her arm forward too (I thought he intended to give only to one of us) and he gives her a portion too. I look away trying to give him space to not necessarily give it to me but he extends his hand and gives a portion to me too!
This is the whackiest part: He makes ready to leave just before saying “All the best” (he looked at me when he said that!!!) and I promptly replied with a cheery “Thank you”!
'Twas a strange encounter in  many ways-
First, cos he was a stranger (Come on!);
Second, I saw him just a while ago down there- How did he manage to finish the round of prayers so quick and come to us with the prashad?
Third, It wasn’t the prashad offered at the temple (which we had gotten anyway) instead 'twas some sweet called “milk cake” according to my mom.
Fourth, the very strange thing he said- “All the best” for what? I wonder…

Anyway, as he left, Neetu was suspicious about eating it- She said we musn’t eat anything a stranger gives to us but my mom said 'twas a temple where we received it and one can’t disrespect prashad… 
While my ears were with them, my eyes followed him down the steps where he gave a portion to some other ladies too and I saw him pop the remaining into his mouth! Tada! I exclaimed he ate it too! Now 'twudnt be risky to eat it eh?
My mind was already racing at the coming together of these strange events on an auspicious day! And I  decided 'twas God who came and gave prashad and wished me best personally!

Krishy! Was it you or one of your angels? And all the best for what? Something comes to my mind but can I trust that? Is it my mind trying to force things I want, to fit in here or is there something I’m missing?
Oh and while we were sitting Neetu and I had been discussing that we should include a visit to the temple in the morning walk we have been planning since ages but haven’t managed to make it..

Phew! Let’s see eh? But I believe 'twas you or one of your other angels!!!
Thank you Krishy soooo much!!!

PS: And indeed I know what it meant but that's a secret until my life is spent :-P

The Lady in the Sky

I saw a Lady in the Sky
With a river of hair flowing by
In a gentle stance so shy
That she managed not even a- Hi !

O why o why?
Would she not even try?
I don't mean to pry-
But what's the meaning of this sly?

Up in the sky did she fly
and caught my attention so high
Almost as if I'd heard a cry
Seems strangely strange aye?

So, whether you are a gal or a guy,
This is a story you've got to buy.
Believe you me- This ain't a lie.
Says who? Says I.

In the arms of drifting fluffs did she lie
Teasing away at the limits o the eye
And she gave a look so wry-
I knew the time to depart was nigh.

Along the shores of that river awhile, did my boat ply
I could only hope it never ran dry
And I saw her knot her hair into a tie-
That's when I heard her goodbye, a bye without a hi.

I look back now with a sigh-
And smile knowing well, up again will she fly!
So, If you see a lady in the sky-
Don't forget to tell her my Hi !

And whether you are a gal or a guy,
This is a story you've got to buy.
Believe you me- This ain't a lie!
Says who? Says I.

Ask Away My Friend!

There is a way.. A requestful wishful way;
Of asking the Universe for something, Anything.
Mistake it not for your servant- To be commanded or demanded of;
Treat it as a friend- To be loved, respected and conversed with.
You do not own the Universe- Neither does the Universe own you.
So keep your vanity aside-
Open-heartedly and humbly your wishes you may confide.
Ask. And ask away.
Say what you've got to say.
'Cause you see- There is no other way!

The Domain of Inbetween

It is the season
Of digging into the Earth
Sowing seeds, houses.
The seed that decides
Resides out of sight, below the Earth pondering-
What it is to bask
In the sun, to feel the breeze
The sky’s curvature
Exposed to all eyes,
The insider’s intense gaze
To be and not flinch.

No storm can uproot
Submerged formations of stone sprouting foundations.
Lightning cracks the sky
Foundation breaks surface
The plinth sets the stage
A site for healing
Rift between earth and sky
The stage is empty.

To descend with grace
Is the way of all raindrops
Till they fall on stage
Only to scatter-
What are explosions but flowers
Blossoming quickly
Will the floor recall
When dispossessed of its sky
How rains celebrate?

To ascend with grace
Is the way of all columns,
To build is to grow.
Defoliated trees
Memories of branches, leaves
Some beyond recall.
Who can tell how deep,
Columns plunge into the earth
To withstand the sky.
To be a column
Is to cultivate patience!
While staking shadows.

Beams are but columns
Dreaming branches, reaching out
To other branches.
When columns and beams
Dream together, leaving earth
Soaring as an arch-
To think is to fly
Transcending beams and columns
With stones and stillness.

Did you not wonder
With such flights into the sky
Would the stones return?

Stones in full flight freeze
Relish anti-gravity
Leaf and butterfly.
When stones taste the sky
They return home to earth
For a little while
Arches recall
Arrival and departure
In a single sweep
Tracing lips that frame
Mouth open in disbelief
At such momentum.

What can they enclose
When Walls proceed beyond plinth
To watch a tree grow.
Walls know how to wait;
Dwelling is a lingering
Waiting to return.
Trees know how to spread
Branches, branching into tongues
As so many leaves
Chanting earthian hymns
That ascend as sky descends
In consummation.

The bird that alights
Fans out its structural wings,
The feathers are still.
Like a self styled sky
Simulating horizons,
The roof reposes;
The house reconciles
Roots that clutch, wings that soar
Between earth and sky.

What is it to roof?
What can house that which houses,
That which embraces.
Resting on shadows
On wings of cantilevers
On a grounded pledge;
No gaze can trespass
Where earth and sky intersect
The roofs cutting edge;
The line of cease fire
Is the distant horizon
Where all roofs spring from.

Does the view not change
With the way arches perform
On that which is seen?
What does the arch frame-
The view within or without?
The shade or the sun?
Healing distances
Is the way of leaping stones,
Rainbows across time.
Will the dew linger
When the leaf begins to turn
And the sun returns?

To linger, to dwell
In the neighbourhood of death
Where all life takes place.
The snails epitaph
Is the form he leaves behind,
Shell is memory.
And then who can tell
Between the snail and the shell
Dweller and dwelling.
To be in that space
To be in the treasury
Of all that happened.

Sleepwalkers beware
Dwelling is all pervasive
Dweller all aware
Where to change levels
Is an act of commitment
Unleashing stairways
That defy railings.
House is never logical
Logic dwells in it.
Do not take chances
Where right angles fear to tread
Through squeezed doors and stairs.

All places take place
Or are places arrived at
When you least expect.
Angels do not dwell
-Where everything has its place
Where does the wind go?
And where do shadows?
All angles are full of them
Dreaming of nightfall.

Where do trees belong-
In blind darkness of deep soil?
With sun-blinded leaves?
Could the earth fortell,
Could the cast sky imagine
Where all paths converge
There the house presides!
The hill circumambulates,
Flowers spiral open
To a redefined sky that locates its bearings
Where the house resides.

Where does it begin?
When does it stop becoming?
Will it ever be?
The dream of the house
Is to entice the dreamer
To linger awhile
That which was within
Is no longer a secret
But an oasis.
To see is to touch
But to be touched is to see
For the very first time.

Glass cut and stacked in strata
Opaques to reveal
The yearning of all
That is invisible
To become visible.
What was transparent
Is as translucent as mist
That fills the valleys.
Ancient light filters
Into rooms behind glass veils
Moonlight on water.

House is the mirror
Full of everything it sees
The forest outside.
Inside the forest
You come upon a clearing
Courtyard among the trees.

Courtyard is silence.
To talk about the courtyard
Is to break the spell.

When the center recedes
Leaving its absence behind
With its own heartbeat
The house remains poised
In between two outsides
Where leaves hold their breath.
Some places become
Sites of possibilities
Where trees yearn to be.

Diagonal slashes
The rectangle into two
Triangles open.
The pathway turns to
Subterranian chambers
Underneath gardens.
Roots metamorphose
Into fertile grounds that sprout
Grass and domes of glass
Ringed with wine bottles
Intoxicated with light
Sunflowers celebrate.

Form follows fiction,
Stepping across the threshold
The sceptic believes
The visual logic
Of virtual reality
Is it as you see?
Where does the house dwell?
The domain of inbetween
Where we always are.

To blend with the earth
To stand out against the sky
To transcend seasons.
To be is to dwell
To preside and to reside

To speak of the house
Is to wipe the mouth with words
So that it may speak.

H Masud Taj

‘It took the architecture of Nari Gandhi to braid the three strands of architecture, poetry and calligraphy into “The Domain of Inbetween” and for that I remain thankful.’

And I remain thankful to you for these precious pearls of inspiring imagination!

No Regrets

It is 7th June, 2012.
I am at Borivali railway station waiting for a train to get back home.
While I wait at the 4th platform,
A train glides in at the 3rd.
And I see the clouds lashing out their weapon with sudden fury- Rains. Very Heavy.
That created some sparks in the electrical lines supporting the Trainy at 3rd.
3 times.
3 different spots.
Short circuit.
Rainy bashes Trainy! Ha!
While fellow beings on my platform were smiling and teasing the passengers in that train,
I felt a bit concerned like other silent few perhaps.
That train refused to move and the passengers were stranded (For how long- I know not).

Then comes gliding in 'our' train.
We get in.
The rains haven't had their fill it seems.
Except that this time 'twas our turn.
All the ladies rushed out as if there was a ticking bomb in the coach.
The hysteria spread and in no time the train was empty.
All those who were comfortably watching just a few moments ago went all hysterical when the same thing came upon them.

Now this is the most important part of the story.
I found myself extremely calm with the exception of a quickening of the beats of the heart which also surprises me.
My only concern was hoping that their silliness wouldn't end up actually killing someone.
Thankfully no.

I found myself thinking that if this was my last moment here on Earth, am I happy with the way I've lived?
Proof? I didn't feel the need to contact anyone or try to reach out to someone for whatever reason.
I knew I had given my honest best to everyone, each moment, all the time.
And there was no one to really catch up with or nothing to even regret.
Most of all, I have been true to my self each moment, if nothing else.
I am free!

Rest assured (This is becoming my favorite tagline now)
I must tell you I found myself chuckling with a knowing smile recalling the dialogue from my favorite scene from Big Fish-
"This isn't how I die?!"
I couldn’t find the clip anywhere, so here it is for you from me:

As sudden as the rain came, so sudden did it leave, exposing us to the glare of the sun.
And of course I didn’t die.
Our train says b-bye to the one at 3rd and glides away from its nemesis.

Coming home, I tell my parents about my awesome experience!
My dad quietly acknowledges it and doesn’t really say anything(I wonder what he had to say)
My mom as you might have guessed says that one shouldn’t talk about death like this and recalls and shares her sister's story who left Earth as a child very unexpectedly. I see where she comes from. 

But, I truly believe that this is the most important topic on Earth that you have got to reconcile to.
It is the only thing that can teach you how to truly live.
And I’m here to help :)

As insensitive as it may appear to you,
I wish to thank all those awesome souls who’ve left Earth ‘prematurely’ (though I’m sure knowingly) who have taught me how to live.
I dedicate this post to you- Taksheel, Jai, Dipen, Mahendra Masa.
You have lived a loving fulfilling life and have inspired me to do the same.
I’m sure you are having all sorts of adventures out there somewhere, following your dreams and I am very happy for you J Sending heartfelt gratitudal vibes to ye all.

I’d like to leave you with these lines from The Rose and the Yew Tree, A novel by Mary Westmacott a.k.a. Agatha Christie:

‘You’re going by Time. But Time doesn’t mean anything at all. Five minutes and a thousand years are equally significant.’ She quoted softly, ‘The moment of the Rose and the moment of the Yew Tree are of equal duration . . .’

All said, I really do wish for this movie - 'Death Makes Life Possible' to see the light of day.
I have pledged $2 here and hope you can contribute in your way too!

I welcome you to comment or share your views on the matter.
And any day, any time, any place, I'd be more than happy to hear your story!

Rowing on enthusiastically,
Greetings from Captain Thunderbolt,
See ye at the sea!