The Shopkeeper

Deep within the labyrinthine streets of  Matrah souq lay a seemingly tiny alcove that sheltered a window to the cosmos. As the late afternoon sun began to dip, its amber shades seeping down to the edges of the rugged mountain peaks that cradle the dusty valley, a lone crystal dangling off the shop’s headboard trapped the setting light and shimmered blue, revealing ancient carvings on the door that seem to predate language. Save for this sole opportune moment, the shop rarely drew attention to itself.

There were no women swooning over embroidered pashmina stoles, no wily hawkers justifying their indulgent prices to guileless victims, in fact nothing in this shop was for sale. It bore no name for all identities are dropped like a cloak upon entering. In the cacophonous din of the bazaar, this shop was an oasis of tranquility. It presented itself to those who came seeking for it. Others passed by with just a glance, as if it were a mirage that sought to elude.

Freya Walih was hunched over a copper dial on her workshop table, tinkering with delicate levers when a waft of cool air filled the damp interiors. Pulling her shawl closer to her body, Freya looked up to find a wiry, young man cautiously entering the sanctum. Dressed in a faded, green, cotton tunic that dangled off his shoulders like a shroud and khakhi pants that seemed as weathered as the lines on his forehead, his eyes shone bright against his sallow complexion. To Freya, the customer’s appearance lent an obvious clue to his salvation.

“Three crystals should do the trick, his personality though may be beyond saving,” she chuckled under her breath. As she was completing her mental monologue, the man stopped in his tracks, a bit stunned.

“Ah, most who enter don’t expect the shop to be so big.” She croaked.

It wasn’t just the grandeur but the sheer impossibility of the space to contain so much. Ornate wooden clocks of multiple shapes and sizes containing tickers crusted with twinkling gems, decked every inch of the interior. The web of time-keepers stretched up so high, the ceiling seemed like a distant night sky, bejeweled with cosmic lights.

“How is it so bright here?” the customer’s voice trailed off as he looked for a source of light

“Is that what you’ve come to waste my time with or do you have more urgent business?” Freya snapped back.

The man gulped and in a hoarse voice went, “My…..my…wife left me….. ”

“Good for her!” said Freya revealing teeth the shade of burnt turmeric.

“Wh…what? She took my heart and didn’t care to….,” He was interrupted by the shrill ringing of his mobile phone. Fumbling the customer reached into his pocket and tried to shut it down.

Pointing to a sign above her head that read “PHONES OFF”, Freya Walih raised her eyebrows and said “ Your wife take away your ability to read too?”

Blushing the man opened his mouth to stutter an apology but Freya had already picked up his right hand and was counting his pulse. Jettisoning the limb, she waddled to the back of her workshop where there stood a large copper urn, wide enough to fit a tall, prostrating man and filled to the brim with a liquid so dark it mirrored the ceiling above, glimmering with a million stars. Or perhaps the ceiling reflected the urn. Freya dipped her wrinkled hands, spotted with scars from an eon of battles and scooped up three multicolored crystals.

Placing these down delicately on her table, she stood for a while, staring at the wall of clocks to her left, her fingers conducting a silent orchestra as her eyes darted from edge to edge.

“Aha! Found the damned thing, it’ll be just right. Bring me that stick,” she beckoned to the long bamboo pole propped against the shop door. Beguiling her podgy appearance, Freya hooked a heavy cuckoo clock off the wall with the dexterity of an athlete and placed it next to the crystals on the table. Pole thrown aside, she unscrewed the back of the clock revealing a network of ridged levers. Knocking each one gently with her knuckles, her left ear turned towards the clock, she listened for a sign. Wherever she found a pulsating beat, Freya took one of the crystals and wedged them into that lever.

“What’s your name?” Freya asked holding up a knife

The customer who had been standing close, craning his neck over the counter, stepped back on seeing the knife. With his palms partially open and raised to his chest he cautiously said “Ashir Jones?”

“Ha, ha, I’ve better things to do with this knife than slit you open.”

Freya began etching his name onto the interior of the clock, “ This clock now beats to your rhythm. The crystals I picked for you, they’ve plugged some very..haha.very crucial gaps. YOU,only YOU control your timeline now.”

The clock shut, was back up on the wall as quickly as it had been brought down.

“From this moment on, your destined past, present and future, have dissolved, poof, like this, ” Freya clicked her fingers, a gleeful flame dancing in her eyes.

“How do you do that? how… are you able to influence… time?”

Freya held her belly with both hands and giggled “Oh I’m not influencing Time! I’m just opening you up to it. You think, time is a straight line drawn by some silly kid, stringing people along to their uneventful ends. Oh no, no ,no, no.”

Freya paced up and down shaking her head, her arms up and fingers rolled into fists emphatically punching the air “Time doesn’t move in just one direction, it can move anywhere. Time is the space, the bowl, that holds us all. Until now you were experiencing Time through a peephole. I’ve just opened the door.” She paused, stretched her arms out on the desk and said ,”Each moment holds a million possibilities, son. When you veer off your centre,” she tapped his chest gently, ‘you lose the ability to embrace all that this moment has to offer. The crystals are the spark that fuel your furnace.”

“I don’t think I understand   …..”

“Hmm, you don’t need to. Just choose wisely.” Freya pulled the lad closer, clutching him by his collar and whispered “Listen to your ticker and choose.”

He paused for a while attempting to process what had happened and said ,”What should I pay you?”

Freya waved her hands shooing him away, “Come back in 40 days and tell me how you’re doing.”

“Alrite, I , I definitely will. Thank you, so much.”

The customer stumbled out of the store still perplexed by the events that unfolded in the Shop but he was already, to his disbelief, beginning to feel lighter.

With the stillness of her sanctum returned, interrupted only by ticking clocks, Freya took a long look at the shimmering surface of he urn and smiled. As she walked back to her desk, Freya heard the door open again. Expecting it to be Ashir she said, “ Go away, there’s only so much of you I can handle.”

“ That is true, I can be a lot to handle,” boomed a baritone.

Freya turned around to find a statuesque, dark haired, olive skinned man in a well -fitted grey tuxedo standing at the door. In the beam of sunlight that had managed to sneak in, Freya thought she caught a faint smirk on the man’s face.

“Dastan, as always conspicuous in your inappropriate attire and uninvited appearances.”

“Freya Walih.”

Dastan stretched out her name and strode towards her with long measured steps,” It took me a while to find you this time around. I thought mountains never suited you well…”

“To what do I owe this inconvenience?” quizzed Freya while she quietly grabbed the bamboo pole she had flung by her desk.

Lighting a cigarette and blowing wispy ringlets toward Freya, Dastan quipped “ Oh, where shall we begin? The usual suspects, your insubordination, meddlesome interferences, disregard for the laws of Time…”

“You mean your silly laws. Don’t drag Time into this. She is glorious in her call for freedom.”

Crushing the cigarette butt with his boot, Dastan sniggered, “What you call freedom is chaos, I keep these fools with underused brains from annihilation.”

Freya clicked her teeth and with one hand on her hip said, “I’ve noticed you always rear your horns around election season. Are you upset that your destined clients didn’t make the cut?”

“Enough of your frivolity. After a point, choice has no place in this game. You have to face the consequences of your actions.”

“Well, I agree and one pays the consequence by choosing a new course, of their liking.”

Throwing his hands up, Dastan said “Huh, so they can make more mistakes. These humans have the rare gift of corrupting intelligence. How can we trust them to do what is right? We must decide the course for them.”

“Ahh after all the centuries I’ve finally figured out what riles you up. You’re a couch potato! You’d rather watch daytime television than clean up after humans’ mess. Which begs the question, how did you entertain yourself before internet streaming came along?”

“ You’re making a mockery of this?”

“Well I don’ take myself too seriously.”

“It shows, you’ve really let yourself go since I last saw you”

“And you’re just the same, frozen, like your heart.. Don’t you think humans deserve a guiding hand when they falter? You’d rather they follow your orders?

“Time demands control, it’s destiny. You, however, go about unraveling my work like a cat playing with yarn”

“Time is an exuberant accident, Dastan. No one knows how or where it began, but it exists and it’s glorious. All humans must do is live it consciously.”

“Is that what you and your urn talk about when you’ve finished brainwashing your sheep for the day?”

Freya leaned on her bamboo pole and sighed,”You never understood that our choices are driven by our tendencies… where people choose to shoot the arrow of Time, is driven by what they think they deserve. That’s the irony of Free Will. I can’t change that, but every choice they make is also a chance to overcome their limitations.”

“ There you go again with your pedantic monologues. I control the flow of Time because I care.”

“No, Dastan. You impose because you can’t stand the loss of your importance. It takes courage to let go. You. Are. A. Coward.”

Dastan, who had seated himself comfortably on a chair right under a grandfather clock, now felt a twinge in his heart. He clicked open his cigarette lighter and sensed the surge of rage rising up until it exploded out of the lighter in a sabre of fire. Blazing sword in hand, Dastan lunged forward to cut through the urn, but Freya moved swiftly across the room and intercepted his fiery blade with her bamboo pole. Sculpted by the iron fists of Freya’s will, the bamboo wasn’t one to succumb to the ravages of fire. Instead, it bore the steely strength of the rarest of metals.

As the conjurers’ weapons clashed, the air around them sizzled and cracked. Freya clenched her jaws as she tried to withhold the fury of Dastan and managed to exert enough force to push him off a few metres. He stumbled away but came back with greater strength. Their duel rippled through the shop, knocking over clocks and tools, sending splinters flying across like shooting stars. Clouded by debris, the distant glow of the ceiling grew faint and in the dull darkness the embers from Dastan’s sword glowed like the belly of a violent volcano.

The devastation extended beyond the four walls of the Shop. With each chip broken off a clock, the owners whose names stood inscribed felt a jolt. An electric current ripped through their bodies and with each shock, Freya felt a stab searing through her heart. Crumbling clocks lay all around and Freya’s heart bore witness to the destruction. Pained, she lay on the floor. With the last vestiges of her strength she crawled close to her urn.

At the other end of the shop, Dastan stood panting, his eyes still spitting fury and his blade spewing flickering venom. “Pathetic, your meddlesome nature only makes you weak. Look at you. From now on, I shall not be undermined again.”

He charged towards the urn, with Freya curled up in front of it. Her neck barely off the floor she saw the demon unleash its wrath. With one hand on her urn and the other on her upright bamboo, Freya tapped the pole twice on the floor. The space in front of her split open to reveal a void that sucked the charging bull into its abyss and disappeared. In the blink of an eye Dastan and his menace were gone.

Freya sat in the silent aftermath, taking in the scene around her. Majestic time-pieces lay scattered in mounds of debris, dust motes fluttered nonchalantly and the darkness had not yet lifted. The walls, however remained strong and true, like Freya’s heart. Through this all, the waters of the urn stood untouched, like the placid surface of a frozen mountain lake, reflecting the deep wisdom of the beyond. Freya got up and stood next to her beloved urn. “ We have a lot of work to do,” she smiled.

Calling it a night, she dusted off her fallen shawl and wrapped it around her. Locking the Shop, she stepped out into the welcoming embrace of the cool night. Inside the solitary sanctum, a blue flame erupted from the calm surface of the urn.

Always

Our love was to be misconstrued,

Too Difficult for the world to comprehend,

That two souls consumed with passion,

Don’t always find a home,

In the solace of the other’s arms.

Some kinds of love,

Exist in that nebulous space,

Where galaxies explode and stars collide,

Where ancient worlds give way to the new,

Neither in the dark nor in the light,

But somewhere on a spectrum of luscious grey.

His love was jaw-droppingly,

Achingly,

Beautiful.

Like the gentle glow of the rising sun,

Like the delicate shimmer of a starry sky.

His love didn’t grow of ego,

Not nourished by conquests,

Or the narcotic power of display.

His was a silent nourishment,

Brewed with grace and resilience.

His love was expansive,

Glorious like the sun

In his amber glow,

I bloomed,

As he embraced my delicate

Fragrance,

Treading the lands in his majestic purple coat

His love did not posses,

But set me free,

And so it goes that

Although miles apart,

He holds in his palm,

My pulsing female heart.

Listen

Bap bap bap da,
Pumping rhythm of my heart.
Ebbs and valleys,
Canyons and cliffs,
Blood coursing through,
The topography of veins.

Bap Bap Bap da
Bulging arteries,
Fueled by desire,
Draw deep red,
Filling with colour,
Pale landscapes of cells.

Bap Bap Bap Da,
Microscopic endeavours
Of thumping life,
Relish the vicious churning,
Blotches of pain,
Splashes of delight.

Bap Bap Bap Da,
Deafening beats?
A soothing balm?
Step close to hear,
An ancient paen,
The aching music of my soul,

Zentangle Zone

Thanks to an opportune and thoroughly blissful trip to Nepal a few months back, I now am collaborating with a beautiful boutique designer to launch my own brand of stationary. Here’s a sneak peek into some of the designs we’ll be using as part of the “Anoma Collection”

 

Cafe By The Sea

Let’s catch up you and I,
Over spiced tea for two,
We’ll dip our dreams in rainbow dye,
And devour petite macaroons.
 
We’ll pick a charming cafe,
That one by the sea,
With the cozy terraced sit -out,
Where our hearts once roamed free. 
 
You’ll ask me how I’m doing,
How it feels to be newly- wed.
I’ll smile and let the silence seep,
So you may draw out the unsaid.
 
You’ll say I look different,
And I’ll pretend to enquire,
Knowing that wicks change,
Once you put out the fire.
 
Sugar cubes will gleam like ingots
As you twirl them to a song,
You’ll conjure our next adventure,
 I’ll giggle and wonder along.
 
You’ll speak of life’s monotony,
And I’ll colourfully disagree,
We’ll tug and tease and pull with words,
We’ll laugh at our naivety.
 
You’ll stretch your feet on a nearby chair,
While I tap my heels on the floor.
We’ll gaze into the cerulean,
And just be us once more.

 

amalfiviews_hotelpasitea

 

Scribbles, Doodles and Sounds

As I sit here in my living room, watching pregnant clouds being scraped by distant mountain peaks, I’m reminded of a day in Scotland, when I was drenched to my bones by an errant passing cumulonimbus. It was symbolic for I was returning from  a meditative hour by a secret pond and had stumbled on a few realisations. Nothing profound, on the contrary they were revelations quite simple and obvious. Just that they had been shrouded in anxiety and needed the gentle hand of mother nature to be pulled out. Lying on my couch today, I’m prompted to look for the journal entry of that lovely walk to the pond. Diary found, I flip through the pages urgently trying to locate the necessary parchment. I rarely date my entries, partly because I’m lazy, partly because I don’t write chronologically or regularly but mostly because time is irrelevant. Once words are brought into creation, they remain there for eternity, where time loses meaning.

Anyway I finally find the page. It’s tainted with my characteristic colorful inking, an-attempt-to-be -artistic doodling and barely legible writing. However, the top half of this page was also  written in reverse, or in mirror-writing, as if aptly to reflect the state of mind then. Reverse writing something I indulge in from time to time, just to amuse myself and to flex the visual cortex. I discovered a few years back that I could write backwards, so I’ve since then been working to move it from caveman scribbles to a more legible running hand. All you have to do to decode it, is show my writing to a mirror or to the selfie-mode of your smartphone. It’s proved very entertaining for coded journal entries and the occasional unrequited love letters 😉

If you feel curious enough, try it out on a mirror or phone. If not I’ve written the “straight” form below the image.

FullSizeRender (3)

Today I stepped out for a walk and by the end my soul had expanded a few inches. There’s no better cure I’ve found for my agitated mind, than an immediate long saunter. It must be aimless for it to be effective. No time restrictions either, just the mindful act of placing one foot ahead of the other, letting go of control over pacing while non-judgementally observing what comes up in the mind. Conscious walking supported by conscious watching and slowly the restlessness settles, the tightness in my chest relaxes and what remains is insight. Today walking lead me to a magical pond and these floating words….

Here’s an audio capture of the sounds at the pond. If you listen closely enough the pond might even speak to you.

Songs of Myself

Yesterday we were completely snowed in!!!  A perfect day for doing things I love. Obviously, I called up my friend for all weathers- Sharanya , picked up my guitar and had mad fun recording a duet! It’s a beautiful composition from the movie Lootera. We tried our best and would love your feedback:)

Manmarziyaan from Lootera. .

The one pager

Wonder where this story will go….

The door rattled as the wind gushed in through gaps, knocking over the mud pot and strewing lavender buds all over the floor. Sitara swiftly grabbed her broom and swept up the pale purple dust. Her forehead scrunched, pondering this unnecessary delay, Sitara clutched her sari’s patterned end and hurried to the kitchen to resume grating the last batch of coconuts. The soft glow of the early morning sun streamed in through the windows of the stone-hut, lighting up dust particles and lending golden halos to the only pieces of furniture-a wooden cot, a low table and shelf lined with sparkling curios. Amber beams bounced off the crystal wind-chime casting circles of burgundy and pale blue over the white-washed walls.

Sitara peeked out of her kitchen window as she mixed the coconut shavings with jaggery. The valley was still asleep, covered in a blanket of dewy mist, oblivious to the echoing calls of rising birds. The Djinn had advised that she make her offering at the temple before the sun reached up high in the sky. It was a long trek, so she had to leave now. Sitara deftly wrapped the flax-coloured, sweet mixture in an old newspaper and carefully placed it in an embroidered pouch dangling from her waist.

Her house locked, Sitara began walking up the rusty trail to the highway, her sinewy fingers clutching the chain around her neck. A coin-sized turquoise stone embraced by a thin strip of ornate silver hung unassumingly, from a black thread. An old mendicant, one of many travellers that paid homage to Sitara’s hill-side antique shop, had given it to her in exchange for money. She had negotiated the price well but had not bargained for the changes in her life that followed. Three purposeful gentle strokes and the Djinn could be summoned, she accidentally discovered. As smoke and fire he appeared, just as last night, and crackled “From the ancient flames that forged new worlds, I am the Djinn of Agni.”

Sitara reached the highway to discover it was cordoned off. A bus was balancing perilously at the edge of the cliff and village-folk were using ropes to pull the vehicle and its frightened passengers to safety. It would be hours before the road opened up. She would now have to walk the serpentine, secluded path through the woods. This was not a good omen.

Because I want to fly with angels…

It’s a stormy day, so obviously I’m extremely happy and reminiscing old times and old songs.  This tune is a classic and is so apt because  storms remind me of all things beautiful and natural….and make me want to fly with angels, among clouds, past the sparkling lightening and the resounding thunder and see all of nature explode in rapturous applause.

Okay, maybe that was a bit much.

I didnt do any of that, but took out my guitar and sang “Pari Hoon Main( I’m an angel)” with a few mistakes 😛

For your pleasure and perhaps amusement-

https://soundcloud.com/madhumitas/pari-hoon-main

Dream a little dream of the Moon

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It was as if a dream. The one I often have, where I’m chasing the moon, but the closer I get the farther it moves and when I finally manage to grasp, it melts away into nothingness. That night, however, I was awake and I caught the moon.

My newly acquainted friends and I were on an island off the coast of Glasgow, with only ponies and goats for company. Words were used sparingly. It had been our abode for five weeks but tonight was going to be our last on this idyllic isle. The rustic boathouse complete with books, a kitchen and a visitor’s centre was our chosen place of solace. The sun was setting, sending refracted beams of auburn piercing through the windows, flames crackled in the fireplace and hot, spiced tea was brewed. Chancing on the opportunity, Duda whipped out his guitar and the boathouse filled with the acoustic Brazilian melodies his fingers deftly strummed. They moved so fast that player and medium were now a blur. The strings disappeared and he conjured music from thin air. The magic worked its charm on us and before long we joined in. Cups, glasses, cans, biscuit-boxes, table-tops, spoons, vocal chords, salt shakers, all turned into instruments of this orchestra. No words were spoken, we had created our own language. Wave after wave the beats came soaring in on melodies, all rhythmically attuned. I could hear myself sing but it was not me, I knew not where it came from, it just flowed. Suddenly, the pounding in my head shifted to my heart and my whole being erupted in emotions. My body began to tremble and I had to step out.

That’s when I saw it, the big, spherical, luminescent disc in the sky. Time had ceased inside the boathouse and I had not noticed the night hanging tight around us. Hiding behind a curtain of glistening beads, the moon looked on, benevolently. I reached out to touch and felt the beads drip down my arm. It had begun to rain.

I sat under the extended roof of the boathouse and watched the moon, my eyes fixed on the ethereal satellite. I sat there asking, questioning, searching, as it seemed to have answers buried deep in its craters. The moon always does that to me, and this one was particularly large, particularly close and particularly present. My fixation was enhanced. As I sat there observing, basking in its glow, the moon’s light grew soft and encompassed me. Immediately, my questioning stopped, my breath calmed and I became open to receiving the light. Swiftly, I was on the moon, literally and figuratively, I felt it all around me, I could hear it whisper secrets and I listened. For so long I had tried to grasp, to clutch and this rainy night had taught me to let go so that I could receive. Moonlight had merged with me and I felt a chord connect me to the moon. I knew it would follow wherever I went and with a spring in my step I stood up.

Under a lunar spotlight, I walked to the jetty and felt the glowing orb walk with me. Extending out into the bay, the jetty floated on phosphorescent water. With each step of mine, the jetty bounced and a carpet of stars came alive beneath my feet, shimmering in the quiet night. Sitting on the edge, I dipped my leg and watched fireworks explode around my toes. The wind brought traces of music from the boathouse that faintly reminiscent of a lost time. The brutal cold of the water diminished in the warm light of my astral friend. Six-feet long,monster jelly-fish, swum in the water, leaving trails of florescent green. Pale, glutinous blobs, the jelly fish floated by, expressionless, like Rowling’s Dementors. “How do they see?” I wondered. Perhaps they don’t, they only feel. What about me? Do I feel? Or am I numbed by the frantic pace of existence? Not here, not on this island, where time had stopped but my heart exploded in a plume of deep-seated passions.
I watched the town lights flicker in the distance. Civilization demanded attention, charging towards me like an angry mob carrying torches. I would be one of those lights tomorrow. Or would I? The bay was not just a physical separation from the world. Maybe this island and her stellar companions have changed me forever. Only time, captured in the phases of the moon, would tell. For that I will have to listen.

All the lights, the lunar, the phosphorescent, the lamps, merged before my eyes and flew right threw me. Everything fell silent, the music stopped, the wind grew quiet. Stillness pervaded, except for the gentle rocking of the jetty, that comforted me like a mother’s soothing lullaby. Tiredness overtook me and I somnambulated to my room. As I went to bed I saw the moon peeking in through my window and I smiled. That night I had no dreams.