• 20
    Aug

     

    I’m in a sappy mood, so I’m just going to shout out a few hours in advance to my dearest friend from high school entering the thirties club!

    Saurabh, do you remember that long-ago birthday when we threw you a little post exam surprise party, and you never figured it out because you’d forgotten it was your birthday? That will always be how I think of you. I cannot believe it has been 15 years.

    15 years since we were made “partners” in school, since shared pencils and shared secrets, since tears after bad exam marks, since ICQ and MSN conversations after school, since that phone conversation that turned your ears red and made me swear never to reach out to you again, since (somehow) becoming friends again, since so many other teenaged tantrums, tears, confidings. I cannot believe we have been part of more than half of each other’s lives, swimming in and out of regular touch, but always present in a far corner, always (okay, almost always!) at easy reach when it mattered. 

    Thank you for a decade and a half of being there, of figuring it out, of honest conversations, of shared tears, of so much fun. For your openness to growing together, for trusting me enough to let me push you into conversations that you were initially uncomfortable with. For your rock-solid confidence in my heart, for your unflinching presence by my side. For being one of the running threads in my life, explaining me to myself, often without even trying.

    It periodically, regularly boggles my mind to think about how much we’ve been able to stay part of each other’s lives in these last 12 years of not even sharing a continent, about how time zones and crow-flying-miles have never gotten in the way of our remaining each other’s steadiest cheerleaders and soundest support systems. I cannot imagine having done this decade-and-a-half without you.

    Happy birthday, my friend. Here’s to many, many more. I love you!

    Corny photo from a time before Saurabh believed in smiling for the camera

    Throwback to a time before Saurabh believed in smiling for the camera

  • 15
    Aug

    So, while I was doing my morning chanting on this independence day, I had a thought: What would happen if we chose to celebrate this as “interdependence day”? No, really, it isn’t just a play on words. What would happen if Pakistan, Kashmir, and India decided to commemorate interdependence over the 14th and 15th of August (because let’s face it, none of us can fully know peace, security, or freedom until we all do — that’s just the reality of our history and our present)? What would that celebration even look like? It seems like such a faraway possibility, and yet, it seems so necessary, so urgent.

    Therefore commemorating this day by sharing an article I wrote for the “Common Threads” blog, recently started by the SGI quarterly, my favourite peace, culture, and education magazine. This was definitely among the most interesting pieces for me to write, not only because it helped me bring together many different experiences (all of them simultaneously personal, professional, and political), but also because it gave me a chance to talk about so many people very dear to me.

    I look forward to the day when changing the names in the story won’t feel like a necessary precaution for the individuals concerned, but for now, here are the stories: The Threads the Connect Us

  • 07
    Jul

    What do you do when your closest colleague, friend, co-dreamer, confidant, selfie stick, cheerleader, clown, photographer, devil’s advocate, little brother, caregiver, playmate, and so much more decides to move to the other side of the world for five years?11696451_564278270984_4766307721161216971_o

    You call him a mean-o. Maybe cry a little. Then take a lovely little holiday together. Make promises about Skype. Write a sappy message. Hug.

    And then you send him off in style, coffee mug in one hand, wine goblet in the other. And a note:

    “As you launch into your graduate school adventures, here are some essential supplies. A coffee mug for all your late night readings and predawn grading sessions. And a wine glass for the days when coffee just doesn’t cut it any longer (or when you want to feel like some kind of medieval king, drinking out of a ceramic goblet)

    Or:

    Look! I found a way to tag along! To be present when you celebrate an accomplishment or relax after a long day with a glass of wine. To hang around when you are so tired only a good cup of coffee will make you less grumpy. To show up in your kitchen every day, in moments of celebration and frustration alike, reminding you of a friendship that will always have your back.

    Or:

    I made you a mug and a goblet. Raise a toast to me already.”

    I love you, Vivek! Delhi won’t be the same without you!

  • 04
    Dec

    Returned from a whirlwind of a poetry reading trip in Chennai (6 readings in 28 hours!), one brief night at home, before heading into another beautiful whirlwind in Nepal tomorrow. My brain and body are so exhausted, but my heart is so alive.

    I’ve always felt these things are worth it, above all, for the people one meets and the relationships one builds. The greatest gift of this Chennai trip was a new writerly friendship with the wonderful Singaporean poet Alvin Pang (if youdon’t know his work, you really should!). I’ve never had quite such a wonderful reading, a real jugalbandi, a way of reading and listening where your own words come back to you through someone else’s. We did two sessions together, without repeating any poems, reading back and forth in response to each other, and were amazed constantly by how much our poems were saying to each other across time and space. I can’t begin to explain how special that was: how often do you discover another human being through a quiet, spontaneous, joyful conversation between your most private selves and your most important stories, told rapidly back and forth in a short space and time?

    I’m too tired to wax eloquent about it, and Alvin already did a beautiful job of that, so I’m just going to be lazy and share from his blog:

    I am reading with Delhi-based poet Aditi Rao, author of THE FINGERS REMEMBER. It is past 2.30pm; we were supposed to start at 2pm, but were held up by Chennai’s gnarled traffic. On the spot, we decide, because we have not had time to think about what we each want to read for 15mins, to make it something of a back-and-forth poetic dialogue instead. I start with a poem, which prompts Aditi to respond with a similar poem, and so on. Her work is very fine, boldly executed, unfazed but not belligerent in the face of irreconcilable tensions. It soon becomes evident that there are many remarkable correspondences in our poetry. Not necessarily a matter of style or treatment nor even tone, but certainly in theme, certain images. Finger memory. Burning flesh. At one point I recount the Biblical story of Lot’s wife and family, on which a poem of mine is based. She responds with a poem also based on Lot’s wife. We have not planned this. I suspect this sort of thing is possible with many other poets also, if one looks hard enough for some sort of semantic or thematic resonance, but this is unforced. We are not making this up. Or perhaps we are making it up, which is what makes it sing: we are actively listening to each other, calling and responding. We are having a conversation. I have often felt this is what good writing does. The poems have not been written for the occasion nor for each other, but they are chosen to suit, the way we sometimes bring up old stories in new company. We read poems we might not otherwise have selected; we are made to think a little differently about what we have written. There is the frisson of resonance, recombination. Fresh context suggests fresh meanings. This is why we read and re-read books. Another way in which the love we put into writing becomes the love it brings. This is how literature lives and lasts.

    Click on this link for more of this and other of Alvin’s beautiful blogging

    Thank you, Alvin, for 2 completely memorable sessions. Love your speaking and your listening, your warmth and your generosity. Looking forward to many more poetry encounters in the years to come!

    And thank you, Prakriti, for bringing us together 🙂

  • 21
    Feb

    IMG_2772

    When my mother and I moved to my grandfather’s house 2 years ago, there was a shriveled up tree in one corner that we were advised to cut down. It was a peach tree my grandfather had planted perhaps a decade earlier, but it had never borne flowers or fruit. It had gotten too little sun, its roots had been badly damaged by rats, and the nearby wall of a tank my grandfather had once built was keeping it from growing further.

    Neither Mum nor I had any experience gardening — this was the first time in our lives we had a garden — but for some reason, we believed in that little tree. For some reason, we were sure it was stronger than that. I kept telling Mum, “I don’t believe that life is that fragile.” So we refused to cut down the tree. Instead we broke the tank wall so as to free up space for the roots, got the garden treated for rodents, and pruned nearby trees to give it more sunshine. And then, we gave the little tree lots of love (for the only time in my life, I even prayed for a tree).

    Sure enough, the little tree grew big and strong. Within months of our decision not to cut the tree, we came out into the garden one day to see its first blossoms. That summer, we plucked and ate the most delicious homegrown peaches. In the monsoon, the tree shot up, doubled to over twice its size, like it had just been hungry to grow and was so excited to have this space now.

    Now 2 1/2 years later, it is among the first things to bloom in the garden, these gorgeous, delicate flowers heralding the arrival of Spring. In ways that these photos can express much better than words can, my grandfather’s garden will always be a reminder of springs following winters, of life outlasting death, of love begetting beauty, of the deep joy of belief.IMG_2779

    IMG_2773

    IMG_2780

Follow

Follow this blog

Get every new post delivered right to your inbox.

Email address