Thursday, August 27, 2009

What’s the four-letter word that impacts us the most?

I am sure; the answer to my question would differ from person to person. Needless to say, depending on the frame of your mind or the emotion consuming you at a given point, your response might fluctuate. I know mine does. It could be love, hate, glee, loss, gain etc. This week’s blog post is a journey through the four-letter word that shook up my world last week: loss. Again, loss can be emotional or materialistic or physical or just about anything that creates that black hole of deprivation. In my case, it was the death of a very close family member.

Irreplaceable. Unattainable. Unmatchable. Such was my mausi’s (My mom’s only sister’s) allure. She might not have been the world’s most loved person (ONLY because love is relative and biased and mood-dependent), but she definitely was the most adulated female. I do not exaggerate when I say women envied her beauty and emulated her; men were enamored by her elegance and hospitality. The common thing I heard from everyone last week was, “She was born a princess and lived and died like a queen.” So much so that her funeral was attended by as many people as a regular Indian wedding.

This past one week has been one of introspection. I am still trying to understand the “Battle with loss of loss.” Why do we humans remember some losses more than others? Think of anyone you’ve lost (I sincerely wish there is someone out there who hasn’t lost anyone dear to their heart, ever, but let’s get real!). Out of all the people who have passed away, how many of them do you remember clearly? Each moment spent with them. Or at least a few cherished memories? I, for one, have lost quite a few dear ones. But what pains me most is that my brain can only hang on to a few reminiscences of those gone. Everything else seems to get replaced with illusions manifested by desires. Sometimes, you can’t explain why you remember some people or instances more than the others. For instance, I vividly remember my dada (My father’s dad). He died when I was five, but I have memorized (unintentionally) every single incident associated with him. His last words. His last few actions. If I were an artist, I could sketch his tranquil face in a few seconds.

My dada, during his last days would write a request, for me, on a piece of paper. He would want me to sing this particular “bhajan” (religious song) to him. It was our little connective tissue. Every evening, in the hospital, I would hum for him, and he would shed tears of appreciation—his unique way of applauding my performance since he’d lost his voice. My mausi was the first woman from my parents’ generation to read Pabulum, my first book of poetry; get it autographed from me; and discuss every poem in it with me. I still remember that she’d cooked my favorite pasta entrĂ©e and delved into the journey of the book less than a year ago.

I have dug through every layer of unseen emotion to figure out why is it that I remember my dada or my mausi. Is it because we humans tend to gravitate towards people who showered that special love on us in their dying moments? Or the last time we interacted with them. I can’t speak for everyone, but I think in my quest for finding closure, I chanced upon my answer. My last communication with both my dada and mausi was when they made my ordinary moments extraordinary. Even if subconsciously, don't we humans seek that experience?

More until next time.

Copyright © 08.27.2009

"Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live”- Norman Cousins

Friday, August 14, 2009

Americanized Phraseology

Have you ever wondered about how, with time and place, ones usage of words and expressions transform? I didn’t until I became the butt of familial jokes. J My brother teases me when I say, “You might want to do this” or “If I were you, I wouldn’t eat that.” He pokes fun at the formalization and Americanization of my speech. My brother-in-law cracks up every time I say “No thanks; I am good.” He retorts back with, “I know you are good and not bad, but do you want more XYZ?”

I didn’t realize how and when “Dude” and “Jerk” slipped into my verbal-world and replaced “Guys” and “Idiot” until my niece, Sana, pointed out (when she was barely six then and was visiting us in New York), “Hey, why are you speaking American to the taxi driver?”J I was baffled. Even a kid was cognizant that English spoken in Singapore (where she lives) was altered in its American form.  Thanks to Disney and other channels (And my tendency to teach her wrong things. Don’t judge; that’s what aunts are for!), Sana says, “Talk to the Hand,” in a really colloquial way!

Separate story: I am working on this particular piece, which is centered on Pune, India in the 1990s—the time when I was in college. Anyways, I ended up using the phrase “She was weirded out” in one of the scenes/moments. On reading the piece, my editor raised an eyebrow: “Really? People in Pune said ‘weirded out’ in the 90s?” Of course, I used the line because I personally use the word, “weird,”a lot, now. But was the expression valid a decade ago? Hmmm. The query got me thinking. I remember repeating “sick” and “scary” but not “weird.”  I thought hard and conceded that my editor was right. We didn’t use the American lingo then because the world wasn’t as global. Come to think of it, every metro in the 90s had its own, unique, specific slang.

What’s interesting to me is how with time, the geographic boundaries have become irrelevant (Well, almost). American English has permeated cultures. I hear my friends in India use words like “Dude,” “Dawg”, and “ ‘Sup.” My ten-year old niece, Diya and her friend, Mehek (Both of them live in Singapore) have started a blog (Yup. Talk about the technologically-savvy generation), and their blog is called I don’t want to ruin the surprise by sharing too much but check it out when you have a moment. I mean, the blog, true to its name, delves into the pre-teen generation’s disparate use of jargons. Their blog focuses on the chosen word, “weird.” The writings sound like a conversation I overhear, on the subway, amongst adolescents. A snippet of the blog: “HE IS THE WIERDEST WIERDO IN THE HISTORY OF WIERDNESS !!!!!” COOL !!!!!!!!!!!!!"

More until next time.



Copyright © 08.14.2009

“We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language” – Oscar Wilde

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Today, Thursday, August 6th, I will be reading some of my new work at Kiva Cafe, in Tribeca, along with three other poets. I am excited, and I hope you'll be able to join me. It's an intimate (rather small) cafe, so if you decide to indulge me with your presence, you might want to get there early to grab a seat. The readings start at 8p.m. I am on second on the list and should be done by 8:30p.m. or so. There is no cover charge, and the cafe serves reasonably priced food and drinks!

kiva cafe
139 Reade Street
New York, NY 10013

Call: 212-587-1198