Friday, December 11, 2015


What is normal?
We strive for it all our lives and stray from it when it’s there. Like a wave it comes and goes and we desire and deter its oscillating presence in our lives as a constant.
It’s our desires we run after, desire to move forward, to take great leaps, to climb higher, to return to earth, to find satisfaction and a full circle back, our desire to be normal. It’s a continuous motion as the proverbial wheel of time.
With normal we define boredom, so we strive for change and excitement. Sometimes it’s our own doing or nature takes charge and throws the curve ball in our direction changing our normal to an undesirable state. As if getting stuck with lemons which we can either let turn sour, wither and rot relying on the so called destiny, or we can find a way to make orange juice. It’s all in our hands, as Lawrence of Arabia declared, “Nothing is written.”
Nothing happens for a reason. It just happens and when it happens, we aspire to change, so we can find for normalcy.
Life takes its turns with bends, curves, hills and U-turns. Like a garden it flourishes or dies, grows new and deeper roots, blooms and sheds, living by the seasons. Normal is what we see and define with our own sense of what we think is normal. A flower blooming in fall and trees shedding leaves in spring may not be normal for us, but this is how we choose to define it.  Change hemispheres and perspective, suddenly normal seasons become different. It’s how we interpret and define normal, what we as individual being part of a society define normal.
Normal is what it is, in the eye of its beholder and somewhat skewed by the society that eye belongs to. We are all born normal, only depends from what perspective one identifies it to call it otherwise. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015


Love is…
Not saying “I Love You”
or showering them with hugs and kisses galore

Love is…
showing you care by being a part of their life
expressing your concern when they hurt
sharing in their joy when good things happen

Love is…
calling on the land line just to hear their voice (static free)
swaddling them into a tight squeeze when you meet after a long gap
blinking tears wedged in your eyes every time they say goodbye

Love is…
listening… to their dreams, desires, nothingness
encouraging their aspirations
standing by them regardless of your opinions
consoling their heartbreaks or disappointments

Love is…
not saying, “I Love You”
but genuinely loving and it will naturally shine J


Saturday, October 24, 2015

Time Warp

Since the change, it’s been a feeling of being in a time warp, just like driving through a school zone suddenly decelerating to 20 mph during drop off and pickup times. From behind my wheel, I look to my right and my left at other drivers as if they were distant stars from a star trek episode, racing with me at warp speed. But that is an illusion as we all drift through in slow motion, impatiently gliding forward, intent on accelerating as soon as the road sign indicates, until the next school zone hits us, and the time warp wraps us in again.

Similarly, life here moves along at steady pace with daily, mundane routines of outdoors and the indoors, until suddenly, just like the drivers on these massive highways, the velocity of my life picks up and I find myself swerving around the labyrinths as visitors weave in and out, or I maneuver between vacations, entertaining, or putting out fires in the maintenance of the house. Fleetingly this stage subsides, spiraling down like the complicated off ramps onto the stop and go service roads with their U-turns and cross roads, before it comes to a halt and the time warp begins.

So is it this place with its shifty soil, too porous to hold anything with might? Its skeletons of houses and construction cranes dotting the skyline that is fast pacing the road to evolution, including the heat of the housing market with its surging prices igniting them into a hot air balloon? Then there is the gun toting, entitlement culture that adds fear to migrants, may they be from within the country or perhaps it’s the belief system that puts any non-believer on the defensive. Can one really put down roots here and be held firm in this culture?

There’s yes, the beautiful sunsets with magnificent, pinkish hues that splash against the clear blue sky, the performance of the black, parking lot birds lined up on transmission lines and suddenly pirouetting in flocks into a ballet as if to celebrate the closure of a beautiful day. The short uncomfortable months palatable in exchange of more temperate climate throughout the year adds to its allure. The coolness of the morning like a baby’s fresh breath, the serenade of the mocking birds, and the fragrances of the magnolias all add substance to each chapter of my new life here.

It may be this place or just the phase. Life is an evolution, a discovery as its new chapters unfold. Tomorrow it may not be this place or yet another phase in my chapters, my story will continue to move forward gathering memories, hording only the beautiful ones. It’s not the place or the phase but the cliché – a journey. It’s the experiences we learn from, the sounds and smells we pick up along the away, the new friendships and relationships we secure.

The view from within the time warp looking out is just as compelling as the view from outside looking in. Life suddenly gets a new perspective, from which we can take stock and move on, whether it's this place or beyond.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Feeling (for) Blue

My dog is my companion, the constant who is with me while the rest of the household scurries about with their lives. He listens to my useless, baby talk blabber without judgement, takes me on walks every day, keeps me grounded and disciplined. Together we traverse the neighborhood soaking in the coolness of summer mornings and warmth of winters’ afternoon sun. On these walks we encounter wildlife in their habitat, listen to the incessant chatter of birds, stop to smell the proverbial roses (and sometimes real ones too), or admire a neighbor’s garden. Our paths vary daily, based on what Jazz’s nose picks up in the air – to pay our respects to an unfortunate squirrel that came to an untimely demise crossing the road, or to follow the track of a neighborhood bunny, or to just follow the scents of other dogs. Our steps are determined, yet leisurely as we admire the beauty of the blue above and greenery scattered around the concrete and brick. Our mission is to seek out hidden sounds of nature while trying to drown out the rude noises of aircrafts, cars, lawnmowers and the like.

The routines of twice daily walks are refreshing welcome to my otherwise fluid days. His stubbornness, the prance in his step, the unsuccessful chases of small creatures, all these I will miss. You see, my dog, this beautiful creature who is my best friend, who gives me unconditional love, tolerates me without any judgement, my constant companion, has cancer. Surgery has bought him time, but not long enough.

After he is gone, what will I jump out of bed early for every morning or be dragged away from my screens for his daily walks, who will sit on my lap or paw me to demand love, how will I stay disciplined? Who will make me feel needed? Cuddle time, baby talk, being silly, rough housing, unsure whether to laugh or be angry at a naughty behavior, all these things will fade away from my life after he is gone. How can I keep him with me forever?

So I heard on the radio this morning – I can clone my dog! Yes, I can keep him with me for always. Isn't that just dandy? I can have my cake and eat it too. Jazz can live with me forever. Except, it won’t be him but one that looks and behaves exactly like him. The clone may even get cancer like him, but it won’t be my Jazz.

I love my dog, there’s no doubt about it. But isn’t an important part of love, letting go? Jazz, my handsome, stubborn, sweet, regal, blue beagle will always be one of a kind, and even though he will not be with me for much longer, he will forever be in my heart. No cloned version can replace my Jazz!


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

There Is No Soul

My exit from the womb into a new world I morph
into a life incomplete




My mission to reunite with each molecule that were once me

But all parts of the body must be ready for the other, all atoms must jump in one direction for desire to be

such is life's great meaning
its purpose in being.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Farm Memories...

The days were long, yet fleeting, hot but refreshing, they were lonely, yet unpredictable.  Mansi sat under the old peepal, on the lone swing.  She tried to make the air around her move as heat hung over like a pall.  A hot breeze brushed her face and moved on. She sat in a lull, feeling her sweat trickling down her temples, into rivulets down her spine, or choosing to remain speckled on her upper lips.  She listened to the dull silence of the afternoon. Her grandfather’s snores bellowed from his room into the garden, competing with the tired roar of the cooler from the side of the house. An occasional bird flittered in the branches above her before landing lazily in its nest.

Mansi waited for the household to stir from their siestas as she incessantly eyed the needles on her tiny wristwatch tick away, a dot at a time. Her uncle’s dog, Sheba, a lean German shepherd, lay curled up by the tree trunk on the hard concrete of the circular patio. Mansi jumped off the swing out from the shade into the sun and sauntered toward the cowshed. Her rubber slippers crunched on the gravely path until they met the soft ground littered with hay and mud.

She swung open the small gate and made her way into the newborns’ pen. Big brown eyes looked up at her with interest, as the two calves sat in their nooks. Mansi kneeled next to one of them, and ran a hand over its soft hide, letting the calf nuzzle her arm. The second stared at them and let out a loud moo. Mansi laughed and offered an arm to be nuzzled by it as well. She talked to the calves, telling them stories of the other animals at the farm, asking them if they missed the cool shades of their mother. She watched them swat away flies with their small tails, as if waving brush strokes in the air for a magnificent, unseen art. They batted their gorgeous, long lashes to blink away bugs and Mansi mocked them.
The gate behind her creaked and as she turned, she saw the farm hands coming in from their break. They picked up buckets from the shelves and walked into the sheds where the cows and buffalos stood, lined up. Mansi got up and followed one of the workers. He helped her get set up beside one cow, took her fingers to place around the udders and guided her to gently milk, each squirt at a time.
Quarter a bucket-full later, Mansi abandoned the task and returned to the Peepal. She found her grandparents comfortably seated on lounge chairs, refreshed from their naps. On a small table next to them lay a tray decorated with teacups filled to the rim with hot, creamy tea, a tall glass of cold milk pinked with rose syrup, and a plate full of glucose and crackerjack biscuits. Mansi ran up to the empty chair, picked up her glass and gulped down the thick, creamy milk. Resting the empty glass back on the tray, triumphantly, she smiled, pink moustache and all. Her grandmother handed her a handkerchief and Mansi wiped the cream off her lips. Pearly whites sparkled as she displayed a big smile of satisfaction. A breeze began its hesitant journey, offering refreshment, fluttering the leaves above them. Birds chirped their way into the sky to celebrate the breeze.
Mansi walked over to the chicken coop behind the house and watched them strut about as they pecked on seeds on the ground. She walked over to the gardener who handed her a bouquet of roses he had designed, its perfumes leaving a path from the garden to the house. As the sun’s rays weakened their intensity, she changed and dashed to the swimming pool. With a rush of energy and thrill marching in her veins, she climbed the step ladder to the top of the water tank next to the deep end. From its precipice she leapt straight down into the sparkling clarity below, sinking to the blue bottom where her feet found ground. In a single motion she launched herself up, effervescent gurgles sounding in her ears, vision of serenity in front of her goggled eyes, softness of the fluid on her skin, until her head popped back above the surface into the heat and mechanical sounds.
As an adult now, surrounded by mechanical sounds night and day, Mansi travels back to the farm days in her memories to find her quietude. Her ears search for the chirps and twitters amidst the rumble of airplanes overhead, her eyes admire the redness of the roses blooming in the planter outside her house, its fragrance faint but in attendance.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Last Breath

Like dust, a soft layer of white
Spatters the ground
Its frosty mist frigid and fresh
Mocking bird mocks its muted moan
With copycat songs, chirpy or a drone
Blue Jay interjects with its harsh conjecture
Of wintery splendor concluded 

Like gold, a soft stream of yellow 
Splashes the ground
Its fiery veneer tender and sheen
Mocking bird mocks its glistening luster
With copycat songs, ballad or a whistle
Blue Jay interjects with its severe inference
Of springtide prelude commencing 

Haze of mist takes to air
Earth’s last wintery breath sizzles to sky
A sigh reveals yellow green grass
Buds shoot up, push their way for resurrection
Transformation now looming
Soon all colors will be blooming

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Child Bride 1916 - Conclusion

Out on the platform Jeevani found herself standing next to the tall man who was the groom.  Her head ached from all the crying and the commotion around her.  She did not even try to look at his face.  Just as her mother had drilled into her, Jeevani kept her head lowered without making a sound.  Back at the house another ceremony awaited the new bride.  It was past midnight by the time each visitor had seen the bride’s face and paid the bride viewing price as was custom.
Finally, the time came for Janki, no longer Jeevani, to meet her husband.  She was left alone in a room decorated with flowers where she sat in the middle of the bed.  Her mother had tried to explain about this moment, her voice echoing in Janki’s ears, sit quietly with your head covered keeping the chunni hanging down low enough to cover your face.  Keep your head bent and fix your gaze on to your feet.  Act reticent and humble.
Janki suddenly felt a cool breeze, even though it was stifling hot in the room under her heavy adornments.  Ram Lal entered the room without a sound, closing the door behind him.  Janki’s heart skipped a beat as she heard him walk toward her.  The bed creaked under his weight when he sat down on the edge.  Janki could not stop shaking.  Ram Lal put a hand on her shoulder to steady her and articulated his first words.  His voice was kind. “There’s nothing to be afraid of.  I am your husband now and I will take care of you.”
Janki did not move but relaxed a little.  Ram Lal moved up closer and gently lifted the veil to see her face.
“Beautiful.  Just like my sister said you were.”
Janki kept her gaze focused down as he stroked her hand lightly with his forefinger.  She slowly raised her eyelids and for the first time looked at her husband.  His geometric features with a square face, a large triangular nose, and a flat chin gave him a stern look.  The thick, dark mustache extending out to his cheeks added nobility while the large, round eyes below his bushy eyebrows could be scary to a little girl.  He was a grown man, in his twenties, at least ten years older her.  Janki was shocked at first, but then remembering his kind voice and gentle manner, she relaxed.  She took comfort in the warmth of his eyes and the easy smile to match the gentle voice.
When the initial shock of discovering her husband’s presumed age wore off, Janki smiled in her timid way.  Ram Lal smiled back and continued to stare at her.  He was admiring this fair-skinned, shy girl who had just become his wife.  He admired her perfect round face with pronounced rotund cheeks and timid, genuine smile.  White, even teeth shone between thick, shapely lips for a fleeting moment until his hand moved from her slight chin to her arm and further down.  He noted the ampleness of the face did not reflect the slenderness of her undeveloped figure.  He admired the way her big brown eyes looked at him with the curiosity of a child and quickly looking down, as if remembering her manners.  She was so young and innocent, and so beautiful.
He helped her shed the heavy, golden load from her person, carefully wrapping the jewelry in a cloth.  Still wearing their silken garb, he held her.  His touch was gentle but curious and the sensation she felt was unlike any other.  He combed his fingers through the length of her hair, tickling the back of her neck, sparking a giggle out of her.  At this he left her and turned out the light.  In the dark, he gently pulled her down on the bed next to him.  With his strong arms encircled around her, she felt safe.  Her heavy eyelids could stay open no longer and Janki fell into a peaceful slumber.
 The END

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Child Bride 1916 - Part Four

Jeevani’s new home had a lot more people than she was used to.  It was a joint family of her husband, his parents, and his widowed sister.  A cousin and his family of three children also lived with them.  Jeevani had overheard Amma inquiring about this cousin.
Amma sat crossed legged on the manji bed one late afternoon unraveling yarn.  She rolled the wool into a neat ball while Jeevani held the yarn between her hands sitting beside her.
Biba, the town crier waddled in as the sun was hanging low overhead.  Grabbing the mooda, she forced her large behind onto the small seat.
“Biba, just the woman I wanted to see.”  Amma cried.
“So glad to be welcomed.”  She looked at Jeevani. “Look at her, so grown up.”
Amma leaned forward and asked, “Who is this cousin at Jeevani’s in-laws?”
“Who knows what the truth is?”  Biba dismissed at first.
Amma continued with her wool rolling, as a faint smile formed on her face.  She had planted the seed and everyone knew Biba wouldn’t stay quiet for long.
Jeevani had watched the game of words and silence over her stretched hands as the yarn slowly unraveled around her fingers.
“I heard…”  Biba’s voice dropped conspiratorially.
Jeevani leaned closer on the manji bed trying not to look too interested.
“This cousin was orphaned as an infant.  Ameerni fed him her own milk.”
Amma gasped, “How is that possible?  Was she flowing?”
“Your son-in-law was a month old.  This infant was three months.”  Biba shared.
Hai rabba.”  Amma stopped rolling.  “So where is he now?”
“Quetta.  Some uncle from his mother’s side took him when he was ten.”
Amma slowly nodded, “So that’s why the family is moving to Quetta.”  She looked at Jeevani and ran a hand on her head, “Taking my daughter far away from me.”
Jeevani recalled Amma’s face from that afternoon.  She remembered the wrinkles around those sad eyes, the crooked frown from a curve in one corner of her mouth and specks of white in the thick dark hair.  Renewed tears started their journey. 
Jeevani suddenly realized that she never learned the cousin’s name and will have to call him Pahji, elder brother.  Relaxing back she recalled her husband’s name that she had learned at the wedding ceremony.  Her mother had reminded her of the age-old custom of never letting his name escape her lips – Ram Lal.  She also understood now the reason for her own new name.  Ram was the name of the legendary warrior king who had defeated the powerful Ravan for abducting his wife, Sita in the great epic, Ramayan. Jeevani remembered now that Ram’s wife was also called Janaki.
According to tradition, her mother had explained that a woman starts a new life when she gets married.  It was natural for Ram Lal’s wife to be named Janaki but somewhere in the Punjabi dialect, an ‘a’ dropped off.  Jeevani Kapur became Janki Khatri.  In her corner in the train, Jeevani realized that not only was she losing her home, her town, her family and friends, she also had to lose the one thing she had that was her own – her name.  Her new life had to start from a clean slate.
The train screeched to a tired halt after a laborious trek through the mountains.  It pulled into Quetta station with a sigh and a shudder.  An explosion of movement erupted around her.  Women searched for their luggage or called for the coolie to lug the baggage out.  At some point a voice called out to Jeevani.  She stood up and, partially blinded by the veil, tried to keep up with her escort.
To Be Continued

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Child Bride 1916 - Part Three

Back in her corner in the slow moving train, Jeevani sniffled.  Holding back tears, she realized that Amma and Bauji will not be with her for guidance.  She will have to quench her thirst for knowledge from someone else.  Jeevani aspired to understand the local culture and was intrigued by the tribal people.  She later came to realize that she was not alone in this fascination.  It was the arrival of these tribes from enigmatic lands that made the city dwellers endure anything Mother Nature had in store.  The imminent scorching temperatures, the icy chills of the winter or even major disasters like strong earthquakes were forgotten in spring.  The season was a time to welcome the visitors, the blooms, the delicacies, and other items from lands beyond the boundaries.  It was a festive time.
Jeevani for now was less cheerful than the season and was unable to appreciate the beauty outside.  She tried to absorb her new land through the long veil of her red silk chunni laden with gold zari border.  The gold jewelry adorned her person with a thick, collar necklace and a long kundan set hanging down to her chest.  Thick gold bangles covered her wrists, silver anklets and toe rings shone from her feet, and a small gold and ruby tikka hung down her forehead matching the dot on her nose ring.  She felt the burden, the gold weighing her down as much as the heaviness she felt in her heart.  She had left the only home and family she had ever known.  She missed her parents.
Jeevani recalled the countless shopping trips to the bazaar over the three years of her engagement.  They were not as much fun since she could not play with her friends anymore and Amma made her try on countless outfits.  Her parents’ room shone with all the gold, clothes laden with zari or sequins laid out for the grooms’ family for viewing before the wedding.
Over the waiting years the two families met often as her new family lived only a few mohallas down.  During their visits Jeevani was sent indoors but she tried to peek through the small window of her parents’ room.  It was usually the two women – the mother, Ameerni Devi and the sister in the white garb, the other Jeevani.  Amma filled them on their future daughter-in-law’s progress plugging the gaps with exaggerations.  Little Jeevani hoped the groom would visit too, but he never did.  She did, however, hear the women talk about him sometimes.  She learned that he had left Khushab to study in Rawalpindi. In another meeting she heard that he was planning to move to Quetta to join his cousin in the construction business and the whole family was moving with him.
Jeevani, in her lonely corner of the train, recalled seeing this groom only once.  It was the previous day at the wedding ceremony, and that too with his face covered in garlands and hers veiled by the chunni.  He was a tall boy and when she heard him speak to his parents, he sounded like a man.
To be continued

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Child Bride 1916 - Part Two

Jeevani wondered what this new home would be like for her.
Bauji had set her down weeks before the wedding.  Sitting on her usual seat of honor, her father’s lap, Jeevani had listened.

Puttar, your new home is the capital of Balochistan.  See here on this map,” he traced his finger across the spread out sheet, “this province spreads out into Afghanistan and Iran.”

“O ma! It’s so big.  I’ll get lost there.”  She exclaimed.

Her father smiled as the map sat sprawled on his large desk in front of them.  He pointed to a spot on it, “Look here, this is the Bolan Pass.  In spring, after all the snow has melted away, visitors of different tribes herd their sheep and goats and come into Quetta through here.  To them there is no Afghanistan or India or Iran, just one big Balochi Land.”

Jeevani leaned over to take a closer look.

Bauji continued, “These tribal people don’t live in one place.  When the Pass is clear and safe, they trudge through the mountains.  It is very rugged there and these nomads carry handicrafts to trade like mirror-work embroidery, carpets…”

“Does Quetta have bazaars?  Like the one we do here?”  Jeevani jumped in with excitement.

“Just as colorful as we do, but they are more fun in spring.”  Her father responded.

“What happens in winter?”  Jeevani asked.

Her father looked up with a faraway gaze, “Beautiful.  Those copper red and russet rocks, the crests of the mountains powdered with snow.  I can never forget such a charming city.”  A shadow then crossed his face, “I also remember very well becoming stuck there for days after a blizzard.”

Jeevani shivered in her seat and huddled close to Bauji to rest her head on his chest.  She could hear the slow thump of his heart beneath the white cotton shirt.  She thought she felt a wet drop on her head, but it could not be raining indoors.

“Jeevani, dinner time,” Amma called out from the kitchen.  Jeevani tore away from her father’s story-time to help with dinner preparation.  She had to learn to make good food for her new family.  Amma advised her on the regional delicacies of Quetta made from sheep and goats.

“Amma, what are we making today?”  Jeevani skipped in.

Kababs and tomorrow will be mutton pulao.” 

“Yum, I love Kababs.”  Jeevani licked her lips.

“Your mother-in-law will teach you the more ethnic dishes,” Amma assured.

“What are those?”  Jeevani asked.

Sajji is the leg of lamb and landhi is a whole lamb dried in the shade and preserved for the winter.”  Amma explained.

“Amma, why can’t you come with me to Quetta?  I like to learn from you.”

Amma hugged her daughter, tears wedged in corners of her eyes, and said, “Ameerni will make a good teacher and mother.”

to be  continued...

Friday, January 23, 2015

Child Bride 1916 - part one

Jeevani was alone.  Her small, twelve year old body sat in her bridal corner, shedding silent tears under a long veil.  She whimpered, “Amma… Bauji…” as her body shook against the rocking motion of the noisy train.  A buzz of festivity surrounded her.  Women, old and young of the wedding party, sat huddled on seats or luggage, their bodies swaying in rhythm.  Their voices rose in unison above the train’s whistle with lyrics of traditional folk songs.  Beats from the duphlie drummed as the sole accompaniment to the singing.

Under the veil, tears strolled down Jeevani’s cheeks.  Behind closed eyelids, she saw Amma at the doorstep, anguish clearly painted on her face. She pictured Bauji as he stood without expression, his entire body leaning against the door for support.  This last image of her parents was what Jeevani carried with her for the journey to her new home in Quetta.  Between sobs she inhaled the clean and fresh desert air wafting in from the open windows.  Sensing a hint of an aromatic breeze she looked out into the wild landscape catching glimpses of red and yellow tulips.  Leaning back in her seat, she sighed as the train chugged up to the plateau. Her home in the flat, fertile land of Khushaab was trailing behind.  The train snaked through rough terrain toward the three craggy mountains that loomed over the rugged city of Quetta.  All the mountains formed a ring around it, like a Kuwatta protecting the valley city as a fort.

Jeevani wondered what this new home would be like for her. 

to be continued...


Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Nostalgia to me is sweet memories, all the good that has happened in years past. It is common knowledge, a variety of experiences exist.  But when looking back I see my past through a haze, as if a translucent cloth through which only the bright spots penetrate.  I see streaming from this misty veil the glimmering light of memories past and twinkles of sweet delights. Hidden in shadows all the dark moments remain, my memories will not awaken them.

With each passing year the haze becomes foggier. The spark of light begins to dim. I light lamps, ignite energies to keep the beautiful, fond memories intact. The exertion is long and hard, a great strain on my soul, but the endeavor is rewarding. Sweet memories past is all that continue to remain with me, as if each and every piece were real.

And this is how I choose to remember!