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October 28, 2008 at 9:42 am (Dominic Alapat, Poetry)

 

And the roof, which is really

not there open to the sky

with blue clouds. The walls,

painted green a ghost in

nobody’s halls of time.

Nobody lives here.

This sunk ship, this bleeding

heart, these broken walls

that open nowhere, home.

 

– Dominic Alapat 

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What?

October 25, 2008 at 3:32 am (Dominic Alapat, Poetry)

 

And what do you call

this strange moment

in my midst, which is

not mine. Or I only half-

belong to it. I belong,

nobody is mine.

What a sad story

this moment has

brought, a

reminder of limitation,

agony, death.

 

– Dominic Alapat

 

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Body

October 20, 2008 at 4:16 am (Dominic Alapat, Poetry)

 

And my skin, all sound.

A drum on which the world beats.

I am an instrument from

the land of no recall.

I am all skin, skin.

The world beats, I sing.

Voices, gestures, ghosts

parade here in my skin.

The world beats, I sink,

wind out of my lungs,

a human doll, talking

in nobody’s toyhouse.

 

– Dominic Alapat 

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An Interview with an Addict

October 11, 2008 at 1:55 am (Mary McQueary)

  

When was the first time you tried it?

I’m not exactly sure, but I had a regular habit by the time I was 20.

 

That’s a year younger than the drinking age

Yes, the first time I tried it I was at least 17. 

 

How long have you been without?

This time, three years. 

 

Have you gone without before?

Yes, when I was pregnant, I thought it best to go without; I wasn’t sure what effects it might have on a fetus. I’ve stopped and started a few times now.

 

What happens to make you want to do it again?

Peer pressure, I suppose.

 

Peer pressure from whom?

Everyone – society, complete strangers, friends, even some of my family members have voiced their opinion about it.

 

Your family thinks you should?

Some do, some don’t. They are loving and accepting no matter if I do or don’t. This time I think my mother will be disappointed. Whenever I admit I’m feeling ready to start up again she’ll  remind me of what happened in Chicago.

 

What happened in Chicago?

We met two women who admired me. But they thought I was using. Which I wasn’t. So to me it doesn’t validate not using.

 

You’ve warned your daughter against it, doesn’t that make you a hypocrite if you do?

In a way it does, and it doesn’t. I believe though that one shouldn’t if they don’t have a need to.

 

And you feel you have a need?

Yes. I’ve been feeling the pressure and want to stop the negativity I feel within me and around me.

 

Have you told your husband you were going to again?

Yes, he was shocked. I’d been talking smack about it for a while trying to convince myself I didn’t need it. I think I had him convinced I’d never do it again.

 

What is going through your mind right now?

What the negatives are if I do it. Wondering if I want to put up with needing a fix every other week.

 

Don’t do it.

Is there anything anyone can say to stop you from doing it again?

Not really, for I’ve heard all the arguments. Usually the people that are against it have never tried it or been in a position to even think about wanting to try it. To those that judge I ask, ‘What would you do if you were me?’ A lot of times, they don’t have an answer to that.

 

What does it feel like when you do it?

It tingles your head inside and out. I do it for the maximum time I can, 45 minutes.  

 

Do you do anything special during the 45 minutes?

I get into the tub and either read or just think, and drink lots of ice cold water. 

 

After the initial 45 minutes, what?

Then its time for the rush, when you get to see the results. It’s usually a shock no matter how often you do it, but this time around, it’ll be a big shock because it’s been so long since I did it last. It’ll be dramatic!

 

(Later)

I see that you went ahead and did it. How do you feel? Was it worth it?

Yes. I thought maybe I would feel like I compromised but I don’t. At least not at the moment. It’s only been a couple of hours and I’m still feeling the endorphin rush. Part of me was relieved when immediately things were set back to positive, both inside my head and in the world around me. There’s nothing like the salve of a compliment to heal a bruised ego.

 

Postscript:

Drug of choice was Miss Clairol, Nice n’ Easy, natural light neutral brown #116.

 

– Mary McQueary

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A Tenet of Hinduism that Bajrang Dal has No Right to Subvert

October 6, 2008 at 3:05 pm (Personal Essay, Santosh Ojha)

 

Baba, my mother’s father, was a frail, short person. He spent most of his life in a village in Bihar. He was a Sanskrit teacher in a school. He was also a purohit for weddings and upanayan-sanskar ceremonies. He lived most of his later years as a widower.

 

Baba was born at the turn of the 20th century. His father was a pandit of modest means who earned his livelihood by conducting pujas and ceremonies for his yajmaans in the nearby areas. The bubonic plague which swept parts of UP and Bihar in the early 1900s left Baba an orphan, barely 12 years old. Babas elder sister, who lost her husband in the plague, took him around nearby villages, introducing him to the yajmaans of her father and requesting them to continue the pandit-yajmaan relationship with Baba so that he could support the rest of the family in those difficult years.

 

Later, Baba’s love for learning took him to Kolkata where he studied Sanskrit. In those days, there were no Hindi translations available for Sanskrit works. Baba taught himself Bengali to read Bengali translations of Sanskrit texts. He completed successive courses in Sanskrit – Prathama, Madhyama and Shastri – leading to the master’s degree Sahityacharya.

 

Then Baba got married. He had five children – three sons (they went on to earn their graduations in Sanskrit) and two daughters. The eldest of all his children is mai, my mother. Baba took up a Sanskrit teacher’s job in a school nearby and continued to teach, perform pujas and read.

 

I used to visit Baba along with my parents every year during the summer holidays. My childhood memories of Baba are that of a serious man, living a spartan life without much interest in the world, except for spiritualism and ayurveda. He was always clad in a dhoti, a kurta and the sacred thread. And when the occasion demanded, Baba was the only person I have seen wearing a khadaoon.

 

His wore his trademark brown-framed spectacles with thick bifocal lenses on his nose, sometimes held together by a string. His austere room at the entrance of the house had nothing more than a khatia, a steel trunk, a shelf full of ayurvedic medicines and racks of books. A few special books were wrapped with red cotton cloth.

 

Baba would not only read his books many times over, he would also add his comments in the margins of the pages. Baba marked his multiple commentaries on different readings of a book by using different colored ball pens.

           

Now when I close my eyes and try to find Baba, I see him lying on his khatia, holding a book in his hands.

 

Baba was a renowned person in that region, a Sanskrit scholar of note. In the evenings, his friends would arrive and discuss various metaphysical matters with him till dawn. I was a child. I could not follow the discussions, but they all sounded very serious and erudite.

 

Sometimes, I would accompany Baba to the wedding ceremonies he used to preside over. He knew all the shlokas by heart

 

Baba’s colloquial Hindi was a curious mix of Sanskrit and Bhojpuri, leaning more towards the former.

 

I vividly remember an incident when someone had come to consult Baba regarding some ailment. Baba admonished the man for neglecting his health by saying, “Prakriti key niyam ke atikraman hoi, ta kasht na hoi?” (If you break the laws of nature, wouldn’t you suffer?) And then Baba handed his patient a few herbs with elaborate instructions on diet and lifestyle.

 

So, that was Baba for me – a highly learned scholar, a stern upholder of Brahminical traditions and values; a pandit, much respected by his peers.

 

In 1980, I paid a visit to Baba during a weekend. I was studying engineering at the Banaras Hindu University, just a few hours away from my nanihal. During that visit, I asked Baba whether it was possible for any singular characteristic to capture the essence of the multifaceted, multilayered and multidenominational Hindu system of faith. His immediate answer was – “Jo hinsa ko dooshit samajhta hai, woh Hindu hai.” (He who considers violence repugnant is a Hindu.) I had to go through a lot in my own life to realize much later why it took Baba a lifetime of reading, reflection and application to let a vast, ancient and profound body of religious knowledge lead  him to an espousal of non-violence in thoughts, words and deeds.

             

That was my last meeting with Baba.

 

– Santosh Ojha

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Mahim Retibunder

October 2, 2008 at 11:35 am (Dominic Alapat, Poetry)

 

From these steps the light

envelops all, the buildings

dark and looming on the other side,

the boats; there is chatter on the sands

where groups of people sit.

Beggars, drug addicts, holy men

have gathered on the beach; some are praying.

Fires are lit at places, the flashing golden light

lighting up faces along the sandy strip.

The night is thick over the buildings,

stretching in a curve along the beach.

In some houses, the lights have been switched off.

The beach hums with the muffled voices of its

visitors, its rag-tag bunch of life nested as though

washed in by the sea everyday. We walk and

watch fingers roll over prayer beads, chillums

raised to the night.

 

– Dominic Alapat   

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