People thought Salma could write well. So, everyone, asked her to write. Her brother-in-law in Brazil wanted her to write a script for his speech , another cousin of her husband’s wanted her to write ghost stories. Now, ghost stories is where Salma drew the line. She was terrified of unearthly beings.She had nightmares if she heard/ read ghost stories. She avoided watching movies with ghosts in them, except for funny ones like Ghostbusters or Casper. She had seen some really funny Bengali and Hindi movies too about ghosts. They were not so bad. But, ghost stories….she drew the line. She wrote a frigid email to the cousin saying she never wrote ghost stories! She was afraid she would get nightmares if she wrote one…
One day,Salma met a smart,funny and well-read woman,called Hemlata. Hemlata was about ten years older than her. That made Hem about fifty five.She had crisp,short curly hair. Salma met her when she went jogging everyday. She would go when there were no people around…around two in the afternoon. She used to jog along a lonely wooded path that passed near the University of Santa Cruz. Hem would jog with her. And then, they would sit and chat for half an hour and Salma would return home. Salma found talking to Hem relaxed her. Hem was surprisingly well read. One day, she asked Salma if she would be interested in writing the story of her life..Salma asked Hem ,” Why don’t you drop in for a cup of coffee to my place and we could talk it over.”
Hem replied, ” No. I can’t . I will meet you here everyday and tell you the story. I am sorry but I have certain commitments which make it difficult for me to visit you…”
Salma was alright with the arrangement. Hem began the story of her life.” I was born in a small district in Assam . I married at the age of twenty two. As Assam grew into a troubled state in India, my husband and I decided to migrate to USA. We moved to California when I was in my mid-twenties. I had started work as a journalist in India. I was quite well known as Hemlata Barua in India. I missed my work in USA. My husband worked in the banking sector. He was out the whole day. I decided to learn to fly a plane!”
Salma said,” Wow! So you can fly planes! That is unusual.”
” Yes. It took a long time but I learnt to fly. How I enjoyed flying! I could see the world under my feet stretched out like a map…I could see the clouds float at a distance…I could go anywhere…all I needed was a plane. I also felt empowered by the ability to control the plane…”
Salma looked at her watch and told Hemlata, ” We will continue tomorrow. I am getting late. My kids will be back home from school.”
Hemlata gave a smile and said, ” Goodbye then.”
The next day Hemlata met her and went on with her story. She flew with a passion as she had very few other hobbies other than reading. She learnt how to do loop de loops and even parachute . She had no children, no family in USA. So, she threw herself into her hobby. Then, one day, she wanted to fly over the Bermuda Triangle to see if she could resolve the mystery. Her husband was not very keen on it as he thought it could be risky.
Hemlata complied to him initially. Then, her husband went on a long tour to Switzerland. Hemlata went with him for a short while and returned to USA. She missed flying… Her husband would be out working the whole day and return late in the evening.
Hemlata spent a long time flying…Then , one day, while her husband was still in Switzerland, she decided to fly her plane over the Bermuda Triangle. Her husband was not there to stop her!
Hemlata flew on a clear day into the triangle.
Salma was amazed,” For real?” she asked Hem.” You have been into the Bermuda Triangle and live to tell the story? What happened?”
Hem smiled, ” So, you will write my story?”
“Sure. Would love to.”
Hem said,” Goodbye then.”
Salma said,” Will you tell me the rest tomorrow?”
Hem smiled. “Bye,” she said and they parted.
That evening Salma’s husband’s new boss came home to dinner.She was surprised hearing his name. It was Mr Debjyoti Barua. She said,” You share your surname with a friend. I made friends with this lady called Hemlata Barua while jogging. She is amazing…claims to have flown into the Bermuda Triangle!”
Mr Barua was looking pale.” Hemlata was my wife! She went missing two years ago when she flew into the Bermuda Triangle!”
It was Salma’s turn to look pale!
There was a major earthquake last week. These are two poems dedicated to these events that seem so meaningless to us and yet destroy centuries of man’s efforts in a few minutes…
(Dedicated to the Nepal quake)
The red dragonfly sits
And six white butterflies flit
Among the wild flowers.
The shadows of purple mountains tower
Over the little green valley.
The silver stream meanders over the rocky land.
It seems like part of the huge big map
That an unseen mind planned.
He said ,” Let it be.”
And it all sprang to existence.
What is it the hand
That rocks the created land
With earthquakes, floods and whipping sand?
Is it Him again at play
At the start of another cosmic day?
What would it be like if time stood still….
Embalmed in time?
If time were to stand still,
Life would be such a thrill.
Frozen in time ,
We would eternally relive
Moments of happiness and sunshine.
The air would be fresh,
The garden, very green.
Eternally,we’d have spring.
The birds would sing,
The butterflies carouse,
Heady with nectar and flower juice.
Years would pause
At the moment when our lives stood still
And our hearts leapt up to behold
The rainbow of all joy and hope.
Eternity would stretch to infinity.
But,would it be tangible?
Would it be real?
Could I touch you ?
Could I feel you?
Can eternity be embalmed in time?
A walk down an autumnal landscape
How nice it would be
If we took a walk by that stream
Down under the autumnal trees.
Red and yellow with splashes of green.
How nice if we went into that painting
And got trapped in time.
Time stopped for you and me.
And we got lost in that moment of eternity!
How nice it would be….
Only you and me
Lost in an eternal moment
Caught in the web of time.
And time would stand still.
……..Only for you and me…….
When I look out of my window, I see ripples of water in the little river / water reserve across the road. The river gives me a sense of tranquility.Here are a few lines to the river…
This river means life.
Every morning ,
I see it awake
Ripple with waves
Light up with the sun
Glitter and have fun
I see the birds that flit
I see turtles swim
And cranes wait for the fish.
I see trees
Smile back at me
From the waves.
I see the play of light.
I see the water reflect the sky.
At night, it deepens and quietly sighs.
At midnight, it sleeps dark and quiet
And awakens fresh again in the morning light.
The water and the sky
The waves caught a bit of the sky
And brought it close to me.
A little cloud,feathery white,
In a dancing spree
Was rippling in glee,
Laughing with me…
And a little further down ,I could see
The sun littering jewels ,
Dusting the pointed edges of the water
With pin pricks of crystal bright.
The other day,
I saw rubies and diamonds sprinkle the little lake.
Sunset on water turned gold
A fluid necklace of ages untold
Molten lava across the skies
Captured by the rising tides
The water all dressed up,
Waiting to meet the dark night…
The fiery lava turned the sky cinder,
The water darkened itself, a willing bride
Of the deepening skies
Drowning it’s senses in the colors of the night.
Hello! Here is wishing you all a wonderful start to a very happy week.
It will be new year for lot of people from India this week….
Step out of it
And look out beyond
Into this bright,wide world
Of happiness and light.
Look at the aura of the vibrant sun rise,
At the birds that fly so high,
At the colors of the sky,
At the beauty of the night.
Hear the hum of the fireflies,
The soft swish of waves ,
The rustling of the leaves,
And the murmur of the trees.
Feel the wind among the greens,
The fulfillment in the breeze.
Touch the water over the sand,
Race with the waves receding from the land.
Reach out to the skies
This world is mine.
Mine to hold,
Spring is here ! Looking back nostalgically, here are some verses I had written last spring sitting in my garden ,enjoying the sunny,breezy weather….
Song of Spring
Come let us celebrate spring !
Let us dance abandoned in the air
With wild flowers nodding everywhere
Hear the swishing of the breeze
The singing of the trees
The distant hum of bees
The whistling of the birds
The laughter of boys and girls
It’s heady….this spring
I hear the voices ring
And songs that words do sing
I see the sky
Clear and bright
I feel the sunshine
Warm with gold
These are stories of all ages
Singers have sung this song
Now it is my turn to sing
A resounding ode to spring
The madness of words engulfs my soul.
The sound of words,the music,the rhythm,
The nuances, the schisms…..
I dance like a wild woman
My hair flying wild.
I turn in circles.
I am in an open field……
Hear the wind.
Translate the sound.
The waves of the swishing grass.
The greenness of the ground.
All captured by words and sound.
The nimbus floating by
In an unending blue sky
Golden with the hues of sunlight.
I revel in words.
I dance to the sound.
Nothing more matters
As I turn around and around….
Intoxicated with the sound of words.
I am terrified of ghosts,perhaps, because I have an imagination. I have never seen one. I avoid reading about them too. When I was a kid and someone wanted to tell a ghost story,I would put my fingers into my ears and shout, drowning all sounds…let me assure you a most effective way of shutting out anything you do not want to hear. Of course,if my sons dared do that, they would be given much to think about.
When I moved to Singapore, I thought I had left all ghostly things behind as it was such a new country…
But I was wrong.
Singapore has it’s own romance with ghosts. In August,Taoists burn paper to appease hungry ghosts.When we were house hunting,our house agent informed us quite seriously that roads are not built straight so that ghosts don’t find their way to homes. The conclusion being, there are ghosts and ghosts do not take meandering pathways. I noticed houses at the end of a straight road were priced lower. And, now,there is this vast majority of literature about ghosts, poems and stories, written and printed locally. It has the nomenclature of dark literature. I have never dared to touch it for the fear of the unknown.
When my son went into training for National Service,(every child born here needs to serve the nation for two years before going to university)we found out that the academy was next to a graveyard. Many trainee national servicemen had evidently noticed paranormal activities,I had heard.Though, we were assured in a talk given to parents that there are no ghosts. My friend’s friend’s son had professed to see some such paranormal stuff.Of course, the unimaginative and prosaic could dismiss it as “hallucination due to exhaustion and fear”.
Then one weekend my son came home and told us a “ghost” story.
He used to wake up at 4 am and get ready for the day by 5 am. It was his task to see people were up. One night, he had a bad dream…he dreamt he woke up at six in the morning and their whole platoon was given a zillion push ups for it as a punishment. He woke up in cold sweat and stumbled across the dark room in search of the clock. Suddenly,one of the boys sat up on his bed, closed his eyes and started praying. He prayed and prayed with his eyes closed till my son returned to his bed and fell asleep, reassured that it was still night and he had had a nightmare. The other trainee continued to pray.
The next morning, the trainee ,who spent a large part of the night praying,went up to the instructors and said he had had a sighting. For some absurd reason, the instructor asked my son if he had been walking around the room at night. When my son,responded in the affirmative, the instructors shook their heads and we had a laugh.
The boy,who had the sighting, however, continued to assert it was a ghost and not his batchmate!
To be or not to be, that is the question…as the great bard would say…
I continue to fear the paranormal…have no desire to meet, to greet or to eat with them…with all due respect to beings of the other world, I rest my pen….forever hoping to maintain a distance from them.