Punctuate Life

Pause Breathe Relax


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The Dilemma

Who am I?

I don’t seem to know anymore!

I wake up in the morning

And stare blankly at the door.

Trapped in a body wracked with limitation,

Every breath is an act of suffocation.

Am I the sum total of my successes,

Or the product of my failures?

 

Everything is a lie and illusion is rampant,

It is taken to be real and there lies the delusion.

The truth is hard to swallow,

The pain too much to bear,

This separation between body and soul,

As the body stumbles and the soul soars,

This I’m sure I did not ask for!

 

To be of this world and not to be,

To belong and not fit in,

To be torn between the dream and the awakening,

Is a dilemma that I dread facing.

 

Disconnected from the love of the source,

A whirlwind of activity and emotions I force,

I trip and fumble trying to find

Something that will satisfy this deep thirst in my soul.

What is it that seeks to be birthed?

A tiny voice inside me speaks,

Which I try to drown in the quagmire that is my mind.

Feebly it cries – Happiness lies in the ‘IS’,

In the ‘Now’

In the everlasting that is there forever more.

 


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Short Story 2 – Now Hair Now Gone

 

It just had to go. It was thin and long and not even one bit shiny. It was old fashioned and so tough to maintain. Plus it fell in clumps and threatened to all but disappear. She had it all through middle school and high school and the first year of college and that was a long time. Could she do it? She’d been threatening to ever since she could remember but always nothing happened and now when she started her mom would just shrug it off, her dad would feign shock and her brother would say- you don’t have the guts! Pah! Everybody thought she was a baby. Can’t they just quit telling me how to live, how to dress, what to do with my hair, she thought.

So one fine morning she took off with a friend, her long black hair tied back in a ponytail cascading behind her and reaching down to her hips. It swayed and bounced with her all the way to the beauty salon. When Priya entered, she caught a glimpse of her face in the mirror. Her brow was furrowed and her jaws clenched tight. Many older women were getting trims. The stylist’s scissors were clipping away furiously and wisps of hair fell lifelessly to the ground. She turned to the girls and raised her thinly plucked eyebrows as if to ask what they wanted.

“Haircut,” they both said in a chorus.

“ Wait 10 minutes,” she said in broken English.

The girls nodded and moved to a corner and watched while the stylist finished blow-drying and styling a mop of hair. The longer Priya waited the more unsure she was. She turned to her friend Gita.

“Am I doing the right thing?”

Gita gave her a wistful look and said what she had said a hundred times before, “ I don’t know Priya. I hope your folks take it well.”

Priya closed her eyes and thought of her mom. She had spent years oiling, massaging, combing, braiding, washing, drying and most of all loving her daughter’s hair.

“I never had long hair Priya,” she used to say to her, “and I always wanted my daughter’s hair to be long and beautiful.”

Priya swallowed hard but the lump in her throat stayed put. She opened her eyes. The lady with a mop of hair was gone. A young girl was sweeping away the hair around the swivel chair. The stylist emerged from behind a purple curtain and motioned for Priya to sit on the chair. Priya turned to Gita.

“You go first,” she said.

Gita moved towards the chair and sat down slowly and turned it around to face the stylist. The stylist ran her long fingers, tips painted bright pink, through Gita’s hair.

“U- cut please,” Gita said. The stylist nodded. Priya stared at the scissors and the hair flying all around. Before long she was done and Priya crawled into the chair and sat looking at herself in the mirror.

“What you like?,” asked the stylist after a long silence. “Trim?”

Priya woke up from her trance and said, “No. I’d like you to cut it.”

The lady beside her with short henna streaked hair, sat up in her chair.

“Long hair is so lovely. You can do so many things with it. Braid it, put it up, let it down…”

Oh please! Don’t start –Priya wanted to say. What did she know about having long hair for years. The same look through all of your teenage years. So boring. That’s what long hair was. Plain boring. Not one bit stylish.

“How much?,” asked the stylist, holding Priya’s limp hair in her left hand.

“Shoulder length.”

A wave of pain passed over Gita’s face. The henna lady clicked her tongue. The stylist clicked her shears ominously and lifted a bunch of hair. Priya was finding it hard to breathe. Oh just get it over with.

The scissors snipped away and Priya was aware of the hair being severed off from her head and falling to the ground. But she dared not look down. Suddenly this didn’t feel good at all. She always thought she wanted to cut her hair but now as they fell down all around her she was filled with a sense of grief. The stylist worked in bunches and finished cutting all of her hair to shoulder length. As if that wasn’t enough Priya wanted a step cut and also a fringe. The scissor- happy stylist cut away. Priya looked at herself. She didn’t look the same anymore. A tuft of hair hung over her forehead. The rest fell over her shoulders. Did she look good? Well, she had to get used to the ‘new look’. The young girl with the broom appeared. Priya held her hand up.

“I’ll take it.”

The girl frowned and disappeared behind the purple curtain.

Priya took a newspaper from a magazine rack in the corner and picked up her hair. There was a lot of it! If only it looked this thick when it was on her head. She carefully placed all the hair in the middle of a sheet and rolled it up.

“What’s that for?,” asked Gita who was obviously puzzled.

“That’s for my mother.”

“Huh?”

“She told me that if I should ever cut my hair, she wanted to keep it.”


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Divine Protection is Yours

I had to write this with all the fear mongering going on in the world. An older version of me would have lapped it all up and doled it out by the bushels.  I know fear like a bosom buddy that back-stabbed me and left me hanging off a cliff for years. So I went to the other extreme. Call me crazy if you like but I’d rather believe I have angels around me, saints hovering over me and God protecting me with a shield of armor than get paralyzed with fear. And I’m glad to report that it works!

I remember seeing this short video on television a long time ago and it really impacted me. It goes like this. A girl lives on the edge of a forest with her grandmother. To get to her school, she has to walk through the jungle. The jungle is a scary place where she sees poisonous snakes and senses wild animals lurking in the bushes. The poor girl is so scared that she tells her grandmother that she would not go to school. Her grandmother tells her not to be afraid and to call on her brother Ram. The girl is confused because  she is quite certain that she is the only child. Her grandma however, insists that she has a brother who lives in the jungle. So the next day the girl goes into the jungle and calls out to her brother in full faith.

Sure enough a young boy slightly older than her appears, holds her hand and walks her to school. Now, the teacher comes to know about this and wants to meet her brother. The girl goes to the jungle with her entire class and calls her brother but he doesn’t show up. The girl bursts into tears when the teacher berates her in front of all the kids and calls her a liar. Her brother Ram then appears before the whole class to convince them that the girl did receive divine protection.

Ok that’s just a story you might say. But I have read accounts of people in dangerous situations being protected by something I can only call divine. Peace Pilgrim for instance, was a woman walking all alone, along the length and breadth of America, spreading her message of peace. She did not fear strangers and used to sleep under the stars without any apprehension. In her autobiography she mentions this truck driver who approached her as she was walking on the highway. He offered his truck as a place to tuck in for the night. She gratefully accepted his invitation, even though he was a complete stranger. She then got comfortable inside the truck and fell asleep. Now the truck driver had less than honorable intentions. When she woke up in the morning, he was staring at her in awe. He then told her that every time he approached her with the intent of harming her, some unseen force stopped him. He was visibly shaken by the whole experience and apologized to her. Peace Pilgrim had unwavering faith in God’s love and protection at all times. She also believed that it was available to everyone.

I know I’ve talked about my fear of driving before so I won’t go into it now. Suffice to say that I went from being drowned with images of dying in a car crash to calling all the angels and Gods to protect me as I drive. Speaking of car crashes, I’ve heard some miraculous stories. The car would be smashed beyond recognition or redemption and the people inside would just walk out without a scratch. How can you explain this? Divine protection and your guardian angels embracing you? I think so!

You hear all sorts of horrid things in the news and sometimes you wonder if you can ever be safe again. After the Sandy Hook tragedy I dreaded sending my kids to school. I knew I would sit at home and go insane with worry. They had a cop stationed near the main entrance to the school for a few weeks. Then the cop was gone. I just imagine all of heaven right there by the front door of every school, protecting my children, your children, the children of the world. I do wish you would join me in kicking fear out of your life and embracing divine protection – for it is your birth right!


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Short Story 1 – Ghosts from the Past

“Daddyma,  do  you  know  of  any  ghosts?”  asked  Nina

Nina’s  grandma  propped  herself  on  her  cottony  white  pillow  and  turned  around  to  look  at  Nina.

“Have  met  a  couple  of  them  in  my days,” she  said  rolling  her  eyes.

“Really?”

Nina   sat  up  excitedly,   her  eyes  wide.  She  cuddled  up  next  to  her  daddyma.

“Tell   me! Tell  me!” Nina  pressed.

Daddyma  cleared  her  throat.

“When  your  father  was  around  10,  that’s  your  age,  every  summer  we  used  to  drive  down  from  Bombay  to  Madras…”

“Was  grandpa  also  there  then?”  Nina  interrupted.

“Yes  dear.  Your  grandpa  passed  away  when  your  Papa  was  in  college.  This  happened  a  number  of  years  before  that.  Now  where  was  I?”

“You  used  to  drive  down  from  Bombay  to  Madras.  Every summer.”

“Yes.  Yes.  Your  papa,  Grandpa,  the  driver,  the  nanny  and  I .  It  was  a  long  drive,  nearly  three  to  four  days  and   we  had  to  stop  at  this  motel  for the  night.”

“That’s  where  you  met  the  ghost?”

“Yes  sweetie.”

“It  haunted  your  room?”

“Not  exactly.  Grandpa  and  I  didn’t  sleep  in  our  room.  I  spotted  a   cockroach  under  the  bed  and  you  know  how  terrified  I’m  of  those creatures.”

Nina  giggled.

Daddyma  shuddered  and  then  continued, “I  insisted  that  we  sleep  in  the  hallway.  So  we  pulled  out  all  the  bedding  and  camped  outside  our  room.”

“All  of  you  fit  there?  Must  have  been  a  big  place”

“No, no, no.  Only  grandpa  and  I  slept  there.  Your  papa  and  the  nanny  were  in  a  different  room  and  the  driver  slept  in  the  car.  I  couldn’t  get  any sleep  wondering  if  there  were  cockroaches  crawling  around  in  the  hallway.  That’s  when  I  heard  it.”

“What?  The  ghost?” asked  Nina,  her  grip  on  her  grandma’s  hand  tightened.

“Hmm.  But  I  didn’t  know  it  was  a  ghost.  I  heard  footsteps  coming  up  the  wooden  stairs  and  thought  it  was  some  other  guest  at  the  motel.  Then my  toes  felt  wet.  I  opened  my  eyes  and  I  saw  a  man  standing  over  me,  clad  in  a  swimsuit,  his  wet  towel  hanging  from  his  arm  and  the  water  was dripping   on  my  feet.  I  jumped  up  to  my  feet  wondering  what  it  was  he  wanted  with  us.”

“ ‘I  think  you’re  occupying  my  room,’ he said  in  a  heavy  British  accent.”

“ ‘I  think  you’re  mistaken.  This  room  was  vacant  when  we  moved  in.  Perhaps,  it’s  another  room  you  are  looking  for.’  I  offered.”

“ ‘Is  this  room  number  301?,’ he  said  gruffly”

“ ‘Yes,’ I  said.”

“ ‘Then  it’s  my  room,’  he  growled.”

“ ‘I  think  there  has  been  some  mix- up  mister…?’”

“ ‘Harris.  George  Harris.’”

“ ‘Mrs. Menon,’ I  said  and  stuck  out  my  hand.”

“Mr. Harris  shirked  away  and  said  menacingly, ‘ I  don’t  shake  hands  with  dirty  Indians’.”

“My  blood  boiled  and  if  he  weren’t  taller  than  I  and  not  half  as  well  built  I  would  have  punched  him  in  the  face.”

“Daddyma!”  said  Nina  disbelievingly.  She  couldn’t  imagine  her  frail  little  grandma  smacking  an  Englishman.

“ Anyway,  he  kept  insisting  that  it  was  his  room  and  I  insisted  that  it  was  not  and  told  him  to  take  it  up  with  the  manager- if  he  was  awake.  I then  heard  him  muttering  and  thumping  his  way  down  the  steps.  That  was  the  last  I  saw  of  him.”

“How  did  you  know  he  was  a  ghost?” asked  Nina.

“ The  next  morning  we  asked  the  manager  about  it   and  he  said  there  was  no  one  by  that  name staying  at  the  motel.  Grandpa  said  I  must  have dreamt  about  it  but  I  was  pretty  sure  I  didn’t.  I  asked  the  staff  to  look  up  their  guest  books  and  later  that  day  they  found  his  name  in  a  very  old guest book.  He  stayed  there  during  the  Indian  freedom  struggle  and  was  shot  by  an  Indian  in  room  number  301.”