THE KALI PROJECT is published!

Dear readers,

It gives me great pleasure to announce that two of my poems titled ‘Women Who Read Break Families’ and ‘The Dance of Rebellion’ are part of the wonderful ‘The Kali Project’ by Indie Blue Publishing. The links for the book are given below. Please support this powerful work by Indian women poets.

CONGRATULATIONS THE WAIT IS OVER … The Kali Project is LIVE and print copies are for sale via Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Kali…/dp/1951724062/ref=sr_1_1… For the first time ever we have also made the publication available via an Indian distributor Pothi, enabling our Indian readers to purchase copies locally:https://store.pothi.com/…/candice-louisa-daquin-editor…/ Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Kali…/9781951724061… Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/…/the-kali…/1138632460… A hard cover […]

THE KALI PROJECT is published!

BEING THE WILDERNESS

Between everything that goes on in life, the wilderness teaches me more lessons than all my reading combined. Even in a metropolis, I am capable of finding my own wastelands. Unattended and forsaken, they don’t care about the haphazard fashion statements of the civilized world. On another thought, I like to identify myself with the wild. When I visit the pruned lawns of swanky localities, I smile at our planned existence. But when I cruise the wild lands, I gasp at their abandoned beauty. Its rawness pulls me in instantly.

But an urban sprawl has its own peculiarities, ones that you cannot dispense with easily. Spotting the airplane during my walk through the wild is an inevitable exercise. These man-made birds irked me quite a bit in the beginning, but as I got used to them, they became one with the other surroundings. Every time one of these cruises overheads, I am reminded of goodbyes, going away, leaving, abandoning. And that’s what the wilderness is too- abandoned. And that is also what makes it more intriguing, doesn’t it?

I always feel it’s easier to leave and abandon than to let go. Who is the loser? The one who leaves or the one who is left behind? Whatever answer you may come up with for that, there is no denying the fact that walking away is much simpler than letting go. You can even choose to walk away in your mind. Be there and still never be there. But to let go is tougher. You want to hold on to a blade of grass, a whispering leaf, brittle branches, forsaken plumes, dying suns. You wear them like oversized robes even as they turn into sun baked pieces of land. Alone is beautiful, but only when you look at it from a distance. And so, letting go becomes harder.

Coming back to the wilderness, there’s a reason why it resonates with me. The customs of the world that wish to tame me and turn me into trimmed verdant greens fail miserably. I don’t fit into their box like structures. And so, I become the wilderness which I’d rather be. Because, you know not, that a tangled, unpolished and solitary trail has perhaps the most astonishing view, one that is corrupted by your mowed lawns. The wind forgets to greet your metropolis, where carefully grown plots of seeds display impeccable etiquette. The windfalls in my way make me rather unruly. I’m aware of that. But I’d rather have my bristly hair blown by this wind than smoothen out each strand with the rich emollients you offer. Because for me, this wilderness is my soul. I have tried hard to become the Keukenhof, but that’s not me. It can never be.

For the love of the wild, I leave you with a beautiful poem titled Wilderness by Ian McCallum

It can also be read here.

Have we forgotten
that wilderness is not a place,
but a pattern of soul
where every tree, every bird and beast
is a soul maker?

Have we forgotten
that wilderness is not a place
but a moving feast of stars,
footprints, scales and beginnings?

Since when
did we become afraid of the night
and that only the bright stars count?
or that our moon is not a moon
unless it is full?

By whose command were the animals
through groping fingers,
one for each hand,
reduced to the big and little five?

Have we forgotten
that every creature is within us
carried by tides of earthly blood
and that we named them?

Have we forgotten
that wilderness is not a place
but a season …
and that we are in its
final hour?

KEEPING STILL

‘If we were not so single-minded

about keeping our lives moving,

and for once could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with death.’ (Pablo Neruda; Keeping Quiet)

I’ve allowed stillness to greet me, each day, for over a month now. At the end of every single day, I sit down by the huge bay window at the side of my bed and watch the ziziphus tree, right outside. Sometimes, I leave for an early morning walk and sit on a lone bench by the roadside watching the silhouette of trees against a colour changing skyline. It hasn’t been deliberate or on purpose. I was just tired of having turned into a human “doing” from a human “being”. I wanted to simply “be” for a day or two. But what started off as an odd one-day exercise became so precious to me that I began to feel incomplete without it.

Then I read Neruda, asking me to keep still to the count of twelve. So, I went back to the bay window and sat right there for twelve minutes precisely. I watched in silence; a foliage huddled together in absolute quietude. What a wonderful way to be. To understand each other’s silences and never feel the need to speak. To exist without caring for what would befall you. To stoically face not just the changing season but all else that you can or cannot control. Twelve minutes were all that I needed each day.

But Neruda probably meant twelve months. So, I decided to extend my stillness to twelve days at least. Sometimes in the company of the ziziphus and on other days, in the presence of the solitary bench.

Gradually, the twelve days got extended by another week. I wanted to save my counts for this still outing and naturally, I had to cut down on something. I couldn’t give up everything. Some of the “doing” is part of survival, isn’t it? So, I decided to give up on several conversations that I was having for no reason at all. Because the fact of the matter was that despite all the exchanges I was having, there was an inexplicable sadness that hung by an unseen thread. I often tried to pin that sadness to my targets, to not being able to write or to other people around me. Neruda told me that the sadness that engulfs me arises from my inability to understand myself and to instead have that one conversation with myself. Only and only silence can interrupt this sadness, he said.

Like any other habit, silence is infectious. It puts you in a zone where you no longer care for others to speak with you. (That should explain my absence from the online world too). You immerse yourself in its warm blanket, just like you soak up the sun. It swells up your soul, its honeycomb-yellow sprinkles like stardust in your insides. This is the closest I can get to explaining how it feels. I wish I could do it better.

Neruda says a lot more in his poem. About how “Keeping Quiet” can help save the earth too. I might explore that as well, for I do agree with his observation. But for now, I’m glad it’s simply come to my rescue.  

IWSG DECEMBER 2020- IS A SEASON YOUR REASON TO WRITE?

It’s already December and well, a year since I became a part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, spearheaded by the wonderful Alex J. Cavanugh. Thank you to my friend Susan Rouchard who introduced me to this wonderful writing space which is so supportive and non-judgemental of your writing journey. If any of you wish to be a part of this group please join here. They also have a Facebook group and you can check it out here.

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Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!


Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

The awesome co-hosts for the December 2 posting of the IWSG are Pat Garcia, Sylvia Ney, Liesbet @ Roaming About Cathrina Constantine, and Natalie Aguirre!

Do visit them and show some love!

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Before I answer this month’s question, I would like to mention a beautiful anthology that I finished reading recently. Titled ‘Tea with a Drop of Honey’, the anthology which is an offering of ‘The Hive’ is as dewy as its title. There are twenty-eight short stories that tug at your heartstrings, make you chuckle, fill you with hope, make you shed tears, time travel to a different era and are simply a slice of life. If you are looking for a great eclectic read this holiday season, I highly recommend this book to all my IWSG friends. Diverse themes and an even more diverse treatment of the same. It would be unfair to talk about a few stories only but I must to give you all a little sneak peek.

‘Much Ado About Nothing’ caught my attention with the title itself. Imagine a comical treatment of the becoming of Shakespeare’s most popular romantic tragedy ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and calling it… well, this one must be read for its plot and language both!

Some intriguing titles to get your attention include ‘The Adventures in the Quest for her Pot Bellied Seahorse’, ‘Kingdom of Kitchen’, ‘The Raipur Reading and Writing Club’, ‘My Big Fat Punjabi Divorce’ ‘The Pigeon Man Sings’, ‘The Heimlich Manoeuvre’, ‘The Murphy Conundrum’ and ‘Natyakari’. The stories as diverse as their titles.

The book is available on the following link.

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And now, for this month’s question.

 Are there months or times of the year that you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why?

I daresay that whenever the house is lonely and silent and everyone else has left for work, I am my most productive. With the pandemic this year, we can then well imagine how productive I’ve been! But on a more serious note I think I am least productive in winters. Somehow, the weather really pulls me down and I need the sun to feel alive. Likewise, sunny days and a blue sky inspire me tremendously. Can I say that a season is my reason to (not) write?

Do months or seasons affect your writing pace too? Do share your thoughts in the comments section.

Wish you all a happy, blissful December and may we all see a brighter 2021!

THE FEAR OF NOT WRITING

I’ve been trying to write something over the past few days. If I give the excuse that life happens, I think it would be just lame. So, let me put it like this. There is a succession of thoughts, a thread but it is so fluid that before I know it coalesces into several streams and just flows away. I had even reached out to the writing community on Twitter asking for ideas to get the writing mojo back. Of course, I received some wonderful, practicable suggestions. It got me thinking. Why do I fear not being able to write for a day or two days or a week? That’s not much time, right?

When I had started out on this journey, it was to loosen up. I would say there was no fear. As I navigated through this writing world, meeting others, getting sucked up into groups and activities of the community, it began to worry me. I soaked up suggestions and dictums and rules. Yes, there was a lot to learn. And learn we must. But at what cost?

From writing at my own pace to making a schedule and writing every day. People began to hound me with questions about writing a book. Next, they would probably be asking me if it was a best-seller!

I wanted to shout from the rooftop, “Hey! I don’t have a story.”

 It was nerve-racking. How far could I push myself? I felt conscience-stricken when I did not write. What had I bargained this for? As I looked around me, I realised that more and more writers were probably sailing in the same boat. The fear of not writing rules writers.

Much that many of us do profess it is for the love of writing that we write, I beg to differ. It is for the fear of not being able to write that a lot of us write. I sometimes console myself that it isn’t yet a vocation for me and I have an unfinished pile of work at my desk from my day job, but somewhere along I do think it is just another way to vindicate myself. I know I should be writing. Could you say that I have probably joined the ranks of the fearful.

They say fear can also give you courage. Quite paradoxical but I’ve seen that happen. I don’t know if my fear of not being able to write every single day will give me courage, and if yes, what sort…but I do wish to get rid of this fear. And I think the writing world by and large must get over the twitchiness that comes from not writing, the fear of losing, the fear of doors closing, the fear of being an outsider in the community, the fear of their writing being judged. Because when we set out, we had none of these standards to match. The arts should cease to be a race. The arts are meant to resuscitate. Not to extinguish.

If you do not think like any of what is written here, congratulations! You are writing for all the right reasons. And if you identify with any of the above, I hope our writing (yours and mine) can help deliver us from the fear of not writing!

WHAT KIND OF SILENCE DRAWS YOU INWARDS?

Free image pixabay

How much time do you spend in silence? I have always embraced silence more than loquacity or sound. Ironic? Yes, may be in a lot of ways because my love for the performing arts makes sure I am surrounded by creative sounds. But I prefer calling it creative energy instead. My mother was a music and classical dance connoisseur and performer. Naturally, the house was always buzzing with sounds of the sitar and the tabla, not to mention the dance classes and the continual tinkle of ghungroos. My own inclination towards theatre and dance ensured the house was always resonating. And yet, I discovered my silences in these sounds.

 When life happened and new spectacles unfolded themselves, I let go this paradox. Life embroils you in different ways. The humdrum is so overpowering that the only solace is in quietude. The passive state truly. Or, so you think. With writing taking over the part played by dramatics or dance previously, I indulged in the sound of words. What kind of sound do words make? I tried looking for an onomatopoeia for it. Well, I didn’t find one. So, I believed that words make this silent kind of noise. The kind that reverberates in the insides. Enough to keep you on edge.

With the internet and social media taking over our lives, I am inundated by the noise of words around me. Sometimes, when I read an ongoing debate/discussion on social media profiles I find bellowing, wailing words vying for attention. Oh, the noise they make.

Today when a friend quoted Rumi and wished for creative silences for artistic souls, I was left contemplating about creativity in silence and the silence in creativity and whether any of it actually exists. As I type this, I can hear my daughter practicing the aamad in the adjoining room and the tinkle of her ghungroos playing the background score for this piece of writing. I’m wondering if that is the silence I still crave for?

What kind of silence draws you inwards or what kind of silence unleashes your creative energy? The silent night or the honking cars? For we each have our own silences, don’t we?

I just finished reading Pebbles on Paper by Swati Khatri. A deep thinker has her own reflections about life. Swati’s collection of poetry and prose, is her own derivation of life. A lot like most of us. She talks about the past asking us how relevant it is; believes that life is not fair, not always of course but also that it is how it is and we might as well take it at face value rather than be unhappy about it; she also believes in dancing even when there is no music and doesn’t shy from talking about the emptiness of life. Parts of the book reminded me of the Chicken Soup series for there is something ‘On’ Winning, ‘On’ Participating, ‘On’ Listening. No anecdotes there, but plenty of similar musings. All in all, a quick read and feels very familiar.

You can follow Swati Khatri on www.swatikhatri.com

Or on Twitter at @swatikhatri_

The book is available on   https://www.amazon.in/dp/1649198264/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_AbbhFbXV8GT0H

WHICH OF THESE WILL LAST?

The Poets and Artists

IGNITE-from within the confines-‘ was an online art and poetry exhibition curated by Deepa Gopal. I was paired with artist Ahlam Abbas from Lebanon and I composed five poems for her transcendental art pieces. I present one of the poems titled WHICH OF THESE WILL LAST? which compares love in two conditions of the lockdown- being together 24/7 and love across screens.

Which of these will last? I ask

Love, cooped up in pigeonholes

spent in sweeping sprees

in baking and making spaghettis.

Couple games played past midnight

breathing down the other’s neck

each second in time.

Which of these will last? I ask

Love, across masked screens

brooding over lonely cups of coffee,

Holding the gaze to look at that face

on the other side of the touchscreen

facetiously holding back the desire to touch,

Missing the fine fragrance, the body odour

that lingers on after a long embrace.

Which of these will last? I ask

Pruned roses caged in homes

with walls closing in,

Conversations dying slow deaths

in TV screens,

Intertwined fingers attempting to speak

but smothered by love,

asphyxiated, with no space to breathe.

Which of these will last? I ask

Virtual hugs

from across the seas

sealed by closed boundaries,

Love seeks a place to bloom

beyond sturdy gorilla screens

shielding wobbly alliances

pretending to save,

Merely crying

‘no breakage, no breakage’.

Which of these will last? I ask

Which of these will last? I ask

@soniadogra

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This poem and all the other poems first appeared on the following link,

https://ignitefromwithintheconfines.blogspot.com/2020/10/poet-profile-sonia-dogra.html

I hope you find this endeavor interesting.

Thank you for stopping by!

IGNITE-from within the confines- (IWSG, November 2020)

Welcome back friends. It’s the first Wednesday of November and it’s the IWSG day. The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is a wonderful place to learn and grow together; to share and shed inhibitions and to seek support in your writing journey. If you wish to be a member of this amazing community of writers, join here.

The awesome co-hosts for the November 4 posting of the IWSG are Jemi Fraser, Kim Lajevardi, L.G Keltner, Tyrean Martinson, and Rachna Chhabria! Do visit them and show some love.

Before I move on to this month’s question, I would like to take you all to a unique collaboration of global poets and artists called IGNITE- from within the confines-

The collaboration/online exhibition which is curated by visual artist and poet Deepa Gopal (you can visit her here). Planned in the month of Sepetember, the exhibition brings together eight artists (with five artworks each) and eight poets (with five poems each), some of which are based on the artworks and others have been composed in confinement during the pandemic. Each artist is paired with a poet. I feel honoured to be paired with Ahlam Abbas. Ahlam is a mixed media artist whose “Ahlam Yoga” is a series that focusses on the spirituality of meditative transcendence in the current times.

The exhibition starts today, 4 November, 5.30 PM IST, when the inaugural address will be given by Ruby Bhrambhatt Jagrut (Visual Artist and Writer; Founder Trustee-Abir). It will run till 12 November, with a new artist and poet coming your way each day. If you are intrigued and would like to find out more about this unique collaboration please like/subscribe/visit the following links.

You can hear the diverse and unique voices in “IGNITE-from within the confines” from Nov 4-Nov 12, 2020 on the following links

Official blog: https://ignitefromwithintheconfines.blogspot.com/

Official Instagram: @ignite.fwtc.2020

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClJQhklsmPqHkaU6FmMmhEA?view_as=subscriber

And now for this month’s question,

Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” Flannery O’Conner said, “I write to discover what I know.” Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?

I have always believed in the slogan, ‘Art for art’s sake’. That’s how I started out too. Even today, I attribute aestheticism to my writing more than purpose. The idea has always been to express myself, to be able to share the thoughts I carry in the inside of me. Maybe that makes reason why I am inclined towards poetry. But over the past few years, I have also chosen to use my writing for a purpose. Not always, but sometimes…also inadvertently. I would like to think that there’s no one reason why a writer chooses to write. My reasons have varied with time and over circumstances, and I think it will continue thus.

What’s your reason to write what you do? Share in the comments below.

What kind of a writer are you? (IWSG- October)

Hola friends!

Happy IWSG day!

The purpose of this group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day.

The awesome co-hosts for the October 7 posting of the IWSG are Jemima Pett, Beth Camp, Beverly Stowe McClure, and Gwen Gardner!

Do visit them and show some love. The IWSG is a wonderful group for all the compulsive writers. If you wish to join please do so here

Visit the website here for some wonderful writing experience and learning.

And now for this month’s question.

When you think of the term working writer, what does that look like to you? What do you think it is supposed to look like? Do you see yourself as a working writer or aspiring or hobbyist, and if latter two, what does that look like?

Well, a working writer sounds great and it’s every writer’s dream, isn’t it? How I wish I could call myself one. But I do have another job which I find hard to give up. Maybe a few years down the line but I don’t see that happening at least for a while.

I started off as a hobbyist which was great. I could balance work and writing because I was doing it for fun. So, I didn’t quite bother about a writing routine or workshops or submissions. I wrote as and when I wanted to. I don’t know how and when this hobbyist turned into an aspiring writer, and there has been no looking back.

I’m doing a writing course with the job and I’m also doing random submissions along with nurturing the blog. I want to slow down but the moment I do it, I begin to feel upset about not writing enough. I’ve been thinking of reducing the outings on the blog because I never set out to be a full-time blogger. Do you think that would help? Maybe some of you from the group may have practical suggestions to give. They are all welcome.

Right now I’m doing a series on the blog called ‘The Little Girl’ series for children. It is part of ‘My Friend Alexa’ campaign by Blogchatter. For any of you interested, the first two chapters are available here and here.

I am also excited for an artist’s and poet’s collaboration that we are working towards in the month of October. Information will soon be on the blog. Do visit again if it interests you.

That’s all for today. Wish you all a happy IWSG day! Keep safe and keep writing.

Mountains & the Delhi Trees

I’ve been trying to get out early in the morning nowadays. The wee hours that I normally devoted to my writing are being spent roaming the streets of Delhi. Not that the city can boast of an early morning breeze but it’s enough that I can now afford to give the strident noise of the evening rush hours a clear miss.  

I’ve always enjoyed long walks, particularly in the hills. My love for the mountains has always been evident, and anyone who has been visiting the blog regularly would know how I always pine for them. My stay in Gangtok, in the lap of the Himalayas, was almost three-years long. The roads in the capital town were serpentine and steep. Walking on them was like riding on the back of a huge python. The low clouds would make the valley appear misty, especially because I chose to go out in the evenings.  

Another place where I spent a little less than a year was Wellington, Coonoor- a tiny, little town of sublime beauty tucked in the Nilgiris. Walks in Wellington were different from those in Gangtok. Covered by pines and the jacaranda trees, the roads would lovingly run into the arms of forests, as if besotted by them.

Pines always remind me of my own hill town, Shimla. Unlike Gangtok and Wellington, where I liked to venture out in the evenings, it was always an early morning walk in Shimla. I was lucky to stay closer to the lonely jungle roads that made me swoon over them. But that wasn’t always the case. There was also a time when Shimla hills made me feel sick and caged. I felt as if the mountains were always closing in on me. Maybe that’s how I got the claustrophobia.

My husband came visiting two months prior to our marriage and we decided to go for a stroll one evening. As we climbed a slope close to the house that overlooked a valley, the sky appeared drenched in an orange light as the sun went down behind the mountains on the other end. We turned to catch a glimpse of the setting sun, when he said to me, “Enjoy this. You are going to miss it.”

His words sounded almost sacrilegious. “Never!” I replied.

As I look back on that day, I think the mountains heard me and vowed to prove me wrong. For they ensured that I longed for their company after feasting on the plains of the subcontinent. The party was great but not great enough to hold me for long. Soon, I felt no more than being in a “rats’ alley/ Where the dead men lost their bones”. (T S Eliot)

I have been fortunate to visit my hometown once or twice a year to see my parents. The mountains don’t close in on me anymore. Instead my first impulse is to gulp down a fistful of air rushing down their slopes.

2020 hasn’t allowed me a visit home. The pain is piercing. And to my rescue come the morning walks along with the Delhi trees. No, I don’t see the mountains here but the relative quiet of an otherwise humdrum life is helpful. There are barely people on the roads just after sunrise and that is great by the standards of this city. I try moving through the lanes lined up with these trees─ a semblance of peace, quiet and maybe landscape in an otherwise disorderly world. I also take the liberty to remove the mask and take in my fistful of air.

It’s hard for me to tear myself apart from the sights of the mountains I behold in my heart. But for now, these Dilli trees are doing fine by me. They help me listen to the stillness I crave for. I think they will also help me sustain longer than I had hoped!

How about you? Are you lucky enough to be living in the lap of the natural world? Or, just like me, do you miss the company of nature? How do you make up for it?

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