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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Makeup or no makeup

My father did not allow me to use makeup as a kid. Our Catholic school checked our nails to see if we wore polish; those who did were punished with a cane (happened once). Any sign of vanity was reproachable, including single ponies. Someone came up with a rule of two braids for a while (for medium to long hair).

I learned to use an eyeliner when I was in Standard VIII. Mostly because I got my glasses then, and an unfeeling uncle said, ' Poor thing, your pretty eyes will be hidden now.' (Thank you for boosting my self-esteem! )

Dad got me contact lenses in college. But gloss and liners were the only things I owned. Now I wear makeup when I want to. I go bare skin when I want to. I wear glasses with my makeup and like it. It is never the occasion. It is only an expression of how I am feeling.

It was surprising when a highly-educated male friend said one day: 'Why are you so decked up?', in a tone that implied I had murdered a particularly cute kitten. I wanted to say, 'Dude, it is not for you!'

Some women consider other women who wear makeup with suspicion. We are just artists who enjoy the process of enhancing our features. It has nothing to do with being interested in your men. There is no need to disparage the other coterie just because it is not your thing.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

একটি অকালের মৃত্যু

বন্ধুরা সব তাকে সুন্দরী বলত। 'তুই বলিউড যাস না কেন?' তাই অস্ট্রেলিয়া ছেড়ে চলে এসেছিল একদিন একরোখা মন নিয়ে। তন্বী শরীর, প্রাণবন্ত মেয়ে। ব্রেক পেয়েছিল এক বিখ্যাত তারকার ললিতা হিসেবে।

রূপালী পর্দায় দেখে সবার তাক লেগে গিয়েছিল- কে এই মেয়েটি? উচ্ছ্বসিত যৌবন, অলংকারহীন সৌন্দর্য। চোখ ফিরানো যায় না। বয়োবৃদ্ধ তারকার অভিজ্ঞ মাধুর্যও আজ তার কাছে ম্লান। সে সদ্যযৌবনপ্রাপ্তা, তার অহংকার হবারই কথা।

কিন্তু অহংকারে পেট ভরে না। সেক্স সাইরেন হিসেবে পরিচিত হলেও তাকে কেউ মুখ্য ভূমিকা দেবে সেই আশা বৃথা । কিন্তু সে তো 'অসম্ভব' মানে জানে না। তাই চেষ্টা চালিয়ে যায়। কখনো কখনো ক্লাবে গিয়ে পান করা অভ্যাসের মত দাড়িয়েছে। ভালো লাগে বুক-গলা জ্বালিয়ে সুরা পান করতে। জীবনের সব তিক্ততা যেন ফিকে পরে যায়, নরকবাসের যাতনাও হয়ে ওঠে সহ্যকর ।

সেই ফাঁকে একদিন, কে একটু ভালবাসার আশা দেখিয়েছিল। স্বপ্ন দেখেছিল সেও একটা ঘর বাঁধবে। একা একা  জীবন কাটতে চায় না। শুধুই  নিজেকে ভালবাসতে বাসতে  হাঁপিয়ে যায় প্রাণ। তাই একদিন সমস্ত সতর্কবার্তা উপেক্ষা করে তার সর্বস্য সমর্পণ করেছিল তার প্রণয়ীর কাছে। এ নেশা যেন আরও মারাত্মক। নিজেকে ভুলে থাকার এর চেয়ে সহজ উপায় আছে কি?

গর্ভবতী হয় সে।  ফিল্মের জন্যে এদিক ওদিক ছুটো ছুটি তখনো চলছে। কাস্টিং ডিরেক্টর বলে, 'ওজন কম করো, নাহলে সাইড রলেও কেউ নেবে না।' রেগে গিয়ে চর মেরে বসে। এত বড় আস্পর্ধা লোকটার! ফিরে এসে প্রণয়ীকে বলে- আর নয়, এবার বিয়ে করি চল।

প্রণয়ী বলে- বিয়ে? জীবনে তো কিছুই করি নি। এখনি বিয়ে কি করে করব? আর এই সন্তান যে আমার, তার প্রমাণ কি? শুনেছি তুমি নাকি অনেকের সঙ্গেই 'পার্টি' কর।

রাগে দুঃখে কাঁপতে থাকে শরীর। দৌড়ে বেরিয়ে আসে। ছুটতে ছুটতে ভাবে- আর তো যাবার জায়গা নেই। মা বাবার সঙ্গে ঝগড়া করে এসেছিল। এই শহরে তার কোন প্রকৃত বন্ধু নেই।

একবার সাহস করে বাবাকে ফোন করলে? ছোটবেলায় বাবাকে সব বলতে পারত। কিন্তু আজ কি করে বলবে যে তার মেয়ে হেরে গেছে? অন্য প্রান্তে বাজতে থাকে ফোনের হতাশ আর্তনাদ। এখন অস্ট্রেলিয়ায় কি সময় হবে? ঘুমোচ্ছে কি ওরা?

ঘুম। কি ঘুম পাছে তার ! মায়ের কোলে মাথা রেখে শুতে খুব ইচ্ছে করছে। মা রাগ করলেও বাকি দুনিয়ার প্রেমের ছলনার চেয়ে কম নিষ্ঠুর। একবার যদি মাকে দেখতে পেত! চোখের জলে দৃষ্টি ঘোলা হয়ে ওঠে, হেঁটে হেঁটে ফিরে যায় বাড়ি। তার অজান্তেই যেন তার শেষ আশ্রয়টুকু তাকে কাছে টেনে নিতে চায়।

জল, দড়ি, বিষ - কি দিয়ে শেষ করবে এই অভাগা জীবন? কি এসে যায় তাতে?

হাসপাতেলের শবঘরে রতিক্রিয়ারত পিয়ন ভাবে- ইস! সৌন্দর্যের কি অপচয়!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Olympic National Park

Lake Crescent and Marymere Falls

It was the middle of April, rain fell as we made our way to Marymere Falls. Fir, cedar and hemlock trees greeted us by the side of the dirt trail, a roundtrip of about 1.5 miles. Raindrops beaded on our foreheads and spray-painted a grin on my face.

First, we thought of taking shelter in the tunnel, but the winds gave us chills.  We decided to keep moving to stay warm. Puddles gathered on the path and we navigated those after performing a series of complex mathematical calculations. We were going to finish walking the trail even if it meant getting wet to the bone. But I also worried about the cameras. They might not have the constitution or the will.


Soon, the rain stopped but the sky was still cloudy. One might wonder if there is ever a sunny weekend in this place. I didn't mind really. I felt the need to experience the rainforests in their elements. 140-170 inches of precipitation annually, we were bound to chance upon a few inches. 

The last leg of the trail had a short, steep ascent before we were rewarded a full view of the falls. We kissed to congratulate ourselves. The little celebrations of life.




Mount Storm King

There is a Native American legend about the creation of Lake Crescent: Upset with the fights between the Klallam and the Quileute tribes, the mountain spirit hurled a gigantic boulder killing all the warriors. It was so huge that it dammed the river and the water backed up, forming the lake. Many geologists believe that there was a landslide that could account for the myth.




Domain Madeline

The host at our Bed and Breakfast in Port Angeles was gracious, and the suite exceeded all expectations. All our needs were anticipated and taken care of in advance; years of experience and thoughtfulness makes it possible. The blow dryer blew the bathroom fuse, but it was promptly attended to by the staff. In fact, we think we found ourselves a new haunt. The guest book had thank you notes from people who had been visiting for years. It was easy to understand why. A restful place where you can spend your days reading books from the private library or in the bedroom overlooking the Pacific Ocean.


We even caught a rainbow after a short shower on our first day. On a clear day, the coast of Canada was visible across the water. The proximity posed a new challenge - our cell phones caught signal from Canada and went on roaming mode. We soon discovered that we rather liked being inaccessible to the world. Just the two of us.

After the first day of hike, a hot shower, and some warm food later, we lit up the fireplace and fell asleep as soon as we slid under the comforter.

Hoh National Forest

On our second day of stay, we had the most delicious crab cakes for breakfast. The four-course breakfast was spoiling me. The new aquaponics greenhouse in the premises was opening for public the following weekend. The host talked passionately about micro-farming using a sustainable combination of fish cultivation and hydroponic gardening, the misuse of GMO and climate change.

We had planned to go to Hoh National Forest, a two hours drive from Port Angeles. We crossed Forks on our way. The town serves as a backdrop for the Twilight series and celebrates the birth week of Bella on the weekend closest to September 13 each year. There was no Edward or Jacob spotting, but I noticed a movie poster on a shop. 



There are the three trails near the visitor centre- Hall of Mosses, Spruce Nature Trail and the Hoh River Trail. Tapestries of moss drape the forest cathedrals. Lichens, sword ferns, shrubs and trees all grow in the primitive ocean forest in a cohesive community. The crickets and birds add to the symphony of the woods. If you listen hard enough, you can almost hear the trees talk. Everywhere you look, Mother Nature has carefully placed an artifact. You could lose yourself in the sights and sounds. Some primeval spirit took over my existence, and I walked through the forest led by it.

Hurricane Ridge was closed due to snow, and we lost track of time on our hikes, so we missed out on the beaches where starfish, sea urchins and anemones are plenty. But a beautiful place like this deserves more than a mere acquaintance. It deserves dedicated affection. We promised to be back soon.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

On Mother's Day

I am not a humbug. I can be easily read. And I have a hard time telling lies. My mom appreciates these the most in me. And though we have arguments because we both want to change the other, I can not bear the thought of one unhappy tear in her eyes. I love to make her laugh. Her laughter has a cleansing effect on my soul. It makes me think all is right with the world.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Night

The first time I read about the Holocaust, I was in school. An excerpt from 'The Diary of a Young Girl' by Anne Frank was prescribed for school text. By the time I was  15, I had read the book and was fascinated by how a girl about my age had been so hopeful in the hiding, even under the threat of obliteration. There are those who believe that the Holocaust did not happen; that it is a propaganda against the Nazis. Denial is killing them twice.

The more I read about the persecution of the Jews, the more I revere a race for having survived all odds. Their faith and their sense of community. When today becomes yesterday, and history is written, the survivors become the hero, and the persecutors are put to shame in a civilized world. Nothing can justify genocide- in Rwanda, in Bosnia or within the confines of the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. Humanity should never have to witness those chains of events again.

The book by Elie Wiesel has a body of about 112 pages. Written in Yiddish as 'And the World Remained Silent', it was translated into French first, then into English. I read the version that was translated by his wife, Marion Wiesel.

He begins with his childhood in Sighet, Transylvania and his inclination for religious studies- Talmud in the day and Kabbalah by the night, until the Spring of 1944. German soldiers with their steel helmets and their death head emblem marched on to Sighet- to confine the Jews to a sixteen square blocks of ghetto, and then to transport them in cattle cars to labor camps and concentration camps. On the day of the 'transport':
'The street resembled fairgrounds deserted in haste. There was a little of everything: suitcases, briefcases, bags, knives, dishes, banknotes, papers, faded portraits. All the things one planned to take along and finally left behind. They had ceased to matter.'

They were greeted by the smell of burning flesh when they arrived in Birkenau. All illusions left behind in the wagons they arrived in. The world  'chimney' was not an abstraction there. It floated in the air, mingled with the smoke.

'Men to the left! Women to the right!'
Eight words, spoken without emotion by a Schutzstaffel (SS) man, and it was the last time he saw his mother and youngest sister. Another of those countless separations that happened on a single night. A night so long that the survivors had forgotten whether it was one night or several such nights.

Every day was a struggle between faith and agony. Overcome by fatigue and hunger, even his dreams were reduced to that of an extra ration of bread. He felt different. He ceased to be human and became A-7713.
' My soul had been invaded- and devoured- by a black flame.'
There are several passages that I wish to read to you, share what I felt as I read them, but there is one, in particular, towards the end that appealed to me:

'Pressed tightly against one another, in an effort to resist the cold, our heads empty and heavy, our brains a whirlwind of decaying memories. Our minds numb with indifference. Here or elsewhere, what did it matter? Die today or tomorrow, or later? The night was growing longer, never-ending.
When at last a grayish light appeared on the horizon, it revealed a tangle of human shapes, heads sunk deeply between the shoulders, crouching, piled one on top of the other, like a cemetery covered with snow. In the early dawn light, I tried to distinguish between the living and those who were no more. But there was barely a difference. My gaze remained fixed on someone who, eyes wide open, stared into space. His colorless face was covered with a layer of frost and snow.'

Imagine being so exhausted that you want death just to be able to rest. The author survived and chose to be the voice of those who had been quietened. His survival meant something. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Tulips in the snow


Sometimes, a picture is a thousand words. It gave me great hopes see the bright red and yellow flowers blossom from the frozen earth. Made me think- if you have the potential, you will fight even the most unlikely and harshest conditions to grow. 

Human interest stories inspire me. It needn't be the biography of a President or a Nobel prize winner, but stories of regular folks who rise above the occasion and emerge as heroes. A situational hero is as good as any other.

The archetypes usually have inherent goodness; I don't believe that you need even that. You are what you do- and if you go beyond your self-imposed limitations or the benchmarks set by your immediate environment, you are a hero.

(I am looking for such stories; if you have one, email me at thevariegatedsky@gmail.com )

Sunday, March 15, 2015

An awkward age

My best friend from school shared some pictures she had from our school days, circa 2000, before our ICSE exams. It was an awkward age. I didn't know what to do with my eyebrows, tied my hair like a nun, and wore glasses that were most unflattering.

But I had good friends and hopes for a better tomorrow. I believed in myself.  I knew that life's battles are not always won by the prettiest or the smartest, but by those who never give up. NEVER GIVE UP.


Of people you miss, you miss their smiles the most. And the way they made you laugh...