Friday, December 18, 2015

Hello From the Other Side: America Diaries

17th December 2015 | Columbus | Ohio

My good people,

It's been a good 133 days since I relocated for my Masters to the United States. One hundred and thirty three days. It has taken me as long to get back to writing here as well. There are those loose, shaggy scribbles in a little poetry book that takes the beating of my ambivalent being that I can't quite share here for it's not the most understood pieces I have ever written, even to myself. I'll get there in a bit and resume that side of writing but tonight, for some strange reason, I thought I'd tell you about the little things of my life here. The little things because they are always the most important.

This country is beautiful in many ways. I have a great bunch of department friends who have been nothing short of lovely and helpful. I'm biting into this new dessert of independence and as incredible as it is, sometimes I take a step back and stare at the sweet cake for a while because too much of it makes me delirious in confusing ways. This tryst with earning one's own bread, making one's own bed, home, academics and thoughts is overwhelming. I'm making friends across different age-groups and it's absolutely engaging to see how differently they think, design, draw and formulate their thoughts. It's interesting to see their priorities, their opinions and their life goals. For someone in her mid-twenties, it pushes me a step back to rehearse and look through my own life, shuffle through my memories and throw away unnecessary ones and concentrating on my life ahead. I have been advised on how to network, the kind of boots to buy, to get home early and suggested the restaurants with good food. I have people who help me by telling me how many layers of clothes I should wear in the winter because well, coming from Madras, one is clearly incapable of making a rational choice in the face of the deadly cold.

There are the little intriguingly alluring things about my own self reflecting off of my ethnicity that I hadn't realised is beautiful until now. I had two cops asking me where my accent is from when I was making peace with a personal pizza place down my street. As stupid as it sounds, I didn't think I had an accent when I spoke English in India even as we could make out the state from which a person is from based on their 'accent'. Now, I represent a whole. My downstairs neighbour on the first night that we met on the porch of our apartment, cracked up at the way I pronounced some words (in a good way). He'd type a word on his phone and ask me to pronounce it. And then he'd laugh and I'd laugh at the way he'd laugh. That was a very good introductory night with no airs or complexities.

A lot of my American friends found it weird that you can make tea with ginger in it and asked me what it was called, the beverage itself. I would say it's tea and they'd go on to ask what chai is. It makes me grin when they say chai-tea, the redundancy tickling me and the great cultural and linguistic exchanges we have had over the last three months is nothing short of adorable, learning cultures off each other and rubbing off each other's minds with so many conversations. I sometimes hit the nearby bar that has a great number of same-sex couple turnout and I've had some very happy and freeing conversations with some of them. There are so many new sights, sounds and happenings! Some mornings, there is a bagpiper on my university grounds playing his music as I rush to my department. He just stands in the middle of the large central grounds called 'The Oval' and plays it in no rush, no hurry and in so much momentousness of an ordinary day. On that note, there is something very liberating about dancing to soul music between 1960-1973 at a bank-turned-club too. Dancing with a random stranger that night, it took me almost fifteen minutes to explain my name to him and you know what? They find the name and its meaning beautiful, fully. I can't remember the last time I felt a new sense of indulgence in my own name.

As much as the music, sounds and noises make my day, I am also making peace with my own silence and of late, Frederic Chopin has been my most musical and emotional aide. This composition in particular has pulled me through so many nights and I have been cramming my diary with so many thoughts that this new country offers, making so much art as the first Fall brushed by and now, I can't as easily sketch in the cold as my fingers get numb too quickly but I attempt still, as my lines fail to be straight. But since the wavering has a story in itself, I let it be and let myself go ahead with the colours and the imperfect lines. I'm consciously documenting my life here and it's simply amazing to see how different everything is and how it's just as similar too. People care, people love and people are nice. My building's janitor is a lovely lady with a timid smile and it takes me back to times in school where our 'ayahs' would smile at us with so much love and a sense of responsibility. My professors are a fun bunch and I even play soccer with one of them and some other new people of late; and most often, even if I'm probably the worst one on the field, I can't stop myself from smiling simply because this experience is exhilarating and joyful.

Does all this replace home and India? No. It doesn't. I miss being back home. I miss my parents, my marvelous mongrels on the road and the roadside tea shops. I miss that Cheta and his tea, the Marwari chaat shop and the fresh juice shop at Annanagar Roundabout. I miss Ayyapan temple and my charming grandparents, my best friends' houses I barge into after they tell me specifically not to come and their families. Oddly, I miss that hot humidity too. I miss how I knew people and dogs on every street, Bhai's grocery store and my college mates who are all now in different directions. There are nights here that runs on a thin line between being alone and being in solitude. But tonight is one of those nights I'm thankful for all the newness that has found home within me. I'm glad for the experiences that is chiseling me into a stronger, hopefully better and more evolved person. The word 'home' is going through some beautiful transitions and I can't wait to see its more morphed and understandable state soon.

A belated 'Hello America!'. Life is beautiful tonight with Chopin's nocturne in the background, yellow lights warming me up even as the temperature hits below zero outside.

Until next time!

My apartment currently :) 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Terribly Tiny Love Letters 09: Love Loaves

There is a lilting memory from my pauses at a bus stop.
The smell of bread loaves being baked travels through the air,
across and around where I stand.
I've never seen this place that bakes this best smelling sweet bread
and I know not the origins and the special ingredients.
I wonder if it tastes as good as it smells: like heaven,
I've never tried to follow the music of these loaves;
only content to take in the smell and imagine its taste
during an everyday interim.
Just like how I've had you in my heart and thoughts
all this while;
dreaming in real life and living there
while you, my love, loaf around
outside my reality.


Image Source:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Terribly Tiny Love Letters 08: A Nameless Stupor

When the window panes are raised and the doors are firmly shut,
when I’m locked away in this little world of mine
I shout out your name
because I’ve not said it aloud enough times.
I’ve not heard my own voice
say it such that I can hear it hanging
around me;
and so,
in the silence of a shut car,
I say your name that echoes in my ears
a time or two
to hear how it sounds coming from my lips
and aloud
in difference to
the thousand times in my mind.


Image credits: Madame De Papilon

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Power-Cut Epiphanies

   A couple of nights back, the power unexpectedly shut down at around 11.00 pm much to the exasperation of my parents and with an hour in passing, myself too. I am generally the sort of person who spends long hours on the terrace just staring at the moon, content in solitude and away from the blaring noise of the television; happy with a cup of tea and some music. Hence, the power cut didn't quite matter to me as much as it irritated my parents as they both had work the next day and this power-cut was cutting in on their beauty sleep. (I've no permanent day job, I'm a freelance artist and architect and I'm not bound by fixed working hours)

   Madras in June is no easy deal. It's hot, humid and gets you sweating even in the middle of the night. I had my parents join me on the terrace in sometime; my father circling around and looking at whether the power had come back on by peeping from the parapet, restlessly. (Appa, I know you're reading this. You got to slow down and sit down, really!) My mother on the other hand, conveniently sat down without any ado and I quickly settled down next to her. With some time in the passing, it was just me and my mother on the terrace as my father had gone back downstairs again. By then my phone had entirely run out of charge and resigned to the whims of the fellows at the Electricity Board, I spread out a scarf and we both laid down on the terrace, simply with nothing to do but stare at the sky.

    It was a full moon night and quite radiant all around. The light from the moon was good enough for us to see each other, the washing lines flying above our heads and the swaying tree tops. As it has been so with the weather in the last week or two, there were dense grey clouds hovering about, ready to drizzle away with the slightest coaxing.The clouds were different shades of grey and there was one even with a deep hint of red hue. The breeze was to a minimum and attended to our perspiration at its own pace.By then, we'd grown comfortable to being out there under the open skies and had begun to point out to the shapes of the clouds and what we thought we saw.Dogs, ghosts, a lady sitting... it was as if we'd unfurled our inner children from our hearts. You'd be surprised how clouds, the moon and the sky can shift the direction of a light conversation into the heavy thinking zone. Soon, we began speaking about lot of random things. Work, my future studies to come, life, her past, my present, the lives of my friends... and I realised how long it's been since we actually got to do that. It was truly brilliant to bask in the moonlight and have midnight conversations with my mother in an age where technology seems to eat up most of our time, with or without our own knowledge. We only ended up going downstairs after about two hours when it did, indeed start drizzling and I had to prod my mother to get up. (Let's go once it starts raining heavily, she said.) 

   In the meager hours we have outside of work, much of our time goes in watching television, the everyday serial and soap operas, text messages and Whatsapp groups, laptops and anything plugged to electricity. Some days, my father wouldn't have time because he'd be tending to the washing machine or my mom would be watching something online as she cooked away or I'd be glued to the laptop randomly browsing my time away. In a world this fast pacing, we've reached the stage where it takes something as external as the EB department to put us together with no other option than to talk, to interact and get back to the roots of what we are. I still remember those times when there were mandatory power cuts in Tamilnadu everyday. We had our work planned around it and in a way, I grew rather accustomed and appreciative of those two hours a day.We actually did things outside of technology. But I believe now, that we're back to square one. It's time to set the ball rolling one more time, with attempts from our side.

   This is no great flowery post with fancy words or any poetry but a simple reminder to all of you and myself that we need to keep technology at an arm's length from our personal lives. There is so much to talk about and love. When a phone is out of the picture, you wouldn't be thinking of how nice a shot of the moon would be as an Instagram post but rather be enjoying the beauty of the night itself. I urge you all to let go of your phones, IPads, televisions and computers for some time everyday and do other things you used to indulge in as a child... reading, painting or this real-life interaction called talking with others.

Get back to real social life, my friends.



Monday, June 29, 2015

Terribly Tiny Love Letters 07 | A Flaw SO Beautiful

Found the image on
I like those nights I make my tea perfectly.
I take a sip and realize that it's piping hot;
quite resonant
to a momentary scandal to my lips
when I drink from its deep end.
Like you and me.
Memories of you come rushing back
at the heat of that moment
and just so you know,
you come with all other things


Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Fucking Beautiful Woman

I'm a woman, a beautiful one.

I have no space for making mistakes.
Little peach flaws that fills the heart of a man are allowed but ugly and grossly growing up events that alter me aren't quite permitted under being beautiful.

I look beautiful if I laugh but chortling mirth isn't one of them. I look beautiful when I cry. Just glassy eyes full of tears stranded like a water droplet on a lotus leaf, waiting for me to close my eyes in a dramatic moment so that it may flow perfectly down in a single line across my immaculate cheek.
Wailing my gut out and wrenching the ache doesn't paint a pretty picture, as you know.

I look beautiful whether I just wake up from bed or whether I am going to a party. Sleep lines on my face from sleeping on my man as the general consensus go, is beautiful. Wrinkles of age, not so much.

I look beautiful whether I wear cotton panties or fancy lace ones.

I don't know if you know but no longer do mere breasts count for representing my gender. It has to be emphasized. They have to be big enough and beautiful enough or I am not woman enough.

I can't afford to 'walk like a man'.. well, because I am a woman. I can't exercise enough caution on my preferences because picky women aren't beautiful. That strand of hair that falls on my forehead needs to freeze in time till no one can see how not-so-beautiful it can get. There are no provisions for humidity, rain or a lazy day in the life of a woman.

It's beautiful when I see what my partner wants or if there are stealthy kisses abducted from me even as I am an unwilling party because He knows (best) that I love him. I'm not beautiful if I am vocal about my sexual needs. The minute sex pleasures me, I turn into a slut and we all know that that is not beautiful.

The society thinks I'm 'old enough to get married' but any knowledge I may possess on the subject of sex and reproduction is because I have a dirty mind that dwells on the carnal pleasures that shouldn't concern me. Oh, it won't be a beautiful thing to do, my dear!

I'm a beautiful woman. Intelligent, intellectual, sexual or slutty, well-read or wise, warm, funny or humourous: none of these score well in the books of the beautiful. I can't be lazy and unkempt on days of my choosing, eat like a glutton or drink like a sailor.

Because you see, I'm a woman. And I'm fucking beautiful.

Nothing less.
Nothing more either.

Image belongs to Hemalatha Venkatraman. Do not reproduce without permission 


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Calling Bluff

I see Him building his muscles instead of his conversations,
treading only along narcissistic monologues with a mirror.
I see Her pounding herself to suit her waist to being slim or curvy
or whatever is in vogue,
hoping that a thigh gap will
ironically seal the distance towards Her search.

In the end, neither eyes meet in an occupied glaze
and if only their gaze meets but for a second,
He dismisses Her for a desultory accumulation of layers
with nothing vulnerable underneath
and She goes in search of an intelligent man in spectacles,
wielding a book and a charming lilt in his words.

Source: Hemu's Art Blog
Image should not be reproduced without permission 


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Terribly Tiny Love Letters 05: Abandon

I had at a point grown into the opinion
that I lusted after you
I simply got reminded later on,
what this had initially been.
When I sat loosely next to you
allowing a slouch to live its lazy life in its acme,
letting my head rest on your shoulders
with no regard to the angle of my face
or the countenance's perception
to your eyes;
I let me eyelids droop for that one moment
trusting your presence next to me.
That's when I realised that that
what I really longed and long for
is someone to sit next to,
with abandon.

Source: Watermarked. Image from the internet 

Saturday, March 14, 2015


It has become necessary for you to climb the corporate ladder
and quit in time when there’s a safe stack of money ready to hold you if you fall;
when you begin to chase long lived dreams of staring at the stars in multiple countries
from under canvas tents, atop motorbikes and by campfires.
Should I throw away what I shouldn't have had in the first place
with the only means to chase my dreams being the ideal fall
of chasing sunsets and sunrises, meeting new people
and dining on different tables, settings with wine, tea and cheese?
Would the world say I followed my dream by deciding to throw away a luxurious life
that I never wanted
or that I settled for the penury that I deserve? 

Image copyrights in the picture itself. 


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Terribly Tiny Love Letters 04 : Chemistry

    Sometimes into the night, I wonder how I'd explain what we had in my mind. I can't talk about how you were an ocean to me because honestly, it's scary and I can't really swim that well. I realized you're not adorned poetry with difficult words that one has to look up in the dictionary; that by the time one figures out what it means, the moment is gone without any explanation. I don't think of massive forces or the macrocosm when I think of you, nor butterflies and flowers.

    What I'm reminded most when I think of you are those higher secondary school's chemistry equations. I wasn't a fan of the subject but this equation-solving was intriguing and enjoyable. There was always a sense of mystery, of many cryptic possibilities and an unrest you feel until the equation is finally balanced. The content you feel after solving one and the urge to start another. That how it felt like to love you.

Sated and insatiable at the same time.

Source: Wallpaper on Google Images 

~ Hemu 

(You can find the series that I've started, of 'Terribly Tiny Love Letters' on my Instagram page: