Category Archives: India

Principles Of Belonging and Mera Bharat now available on Kindle!

My two latest books Principles Of Belonging and Mera Bharat are now available as e-books on the Kindle platform through Amazon!

For those of you who have thrown out the old and welcomed the new, here is your chance to order my books!

Principles Of Belonging can be ordered here.

Mera Bharat can be ordered here.

Happy reading!

Principles Of Belonging and Mera Bharat books

Puja Nominated for Best of the Net

This year Durga Puja will begin October 9. Durga Puja is a festival that lasts a week. It is not a huge festival in many places in India, except in West Bengal. In West Bengal, it is a big and exciting time of the year. In 1994 I was privileged to experience Durga Puja in Kolkata (Calcutta).

I ended up writing a poem about it. But I wasn’t satisfied. In fact, I spent the next 17 years working on the poem. Rewriting and rewriting. Tweaking really, no major rewrites. Over and over. This was a poem I refused to give up on.

As if this week couldn’t get any better, I received and e-mail Tuesday morning (India Standard Time) from the publisher of Z-Composition Elizabeth Akin Stelling (@EAkinStelling), where the poem finally found a home.

“Puja” has been nominated for Best of the Net!

To quote Eminem, is this week “crazy insane or insane crazy?”

The poem will also be one of the poems in my forthcoming chapbook, “Mera Bharat”.

One of the reasons we moved here

I am a mountain person. Always have been. Always will be. Living in Washington DC for 15 years pretty much took its toll. The mountains are only 60 miles away from DC, but getting to them is a whole other issue. With the traffic, the family, the job, it makes it hard.

So moving to Kodaikanal was in part a response for the desire to live in mountains. Unfortunately, we live in a strange area of the Kodaikanl district — we have to take a taxi ride to see any mountains. We know we are in them — it is 7000 ft + high — and it feels like a mountain town, but the view isn’t there.

One hike we can go on is called Dolphin’s Nose — it is a rock overlooking a great view. My wife and I hiked down the steep trail — which is all rocks in some parts and all roots in others — a while back, but it was covered in clouds and so we never saw the gorgeous view. Yesterday however, with my parents in town for a two-week visit, I took the boys and my mom to Dolphin’s Nose. All I can say is, wow. If only pictures from an iPhone did anything breathtaking justice. Still, here is the Palini mountain range where we live.

Palini Mountain Range, Western Ghats, outside Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, India
Palani Mountain Range, Western Ghats, outside Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, India
Palini Mountain Range, Western Ghats, outside Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, India
Palani Mountain Range, Western Ghats, outside Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, India
"Dolphin's Nose" is the rock on the left. Palini Mountain Range, Western Ghats, outside Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, India
“Dolphin’s Nose” is the rock on the left. Palani Mountain Range, Western Ghats, outside Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, India
To get to Dolphin's Nose it is a steep walk down. Th is on the way back up.
To get to Dolphin’s Nose it is a steep walk down. This is on the way back up.
To get to Dolphin's Nose it is a steep walk down. Th is on the way back up.
To get to Dolphin’s Nose it is a steep walk down. This is on the way back up.

A Gaur walked into a yard…

almost sounds like the beginning of a joke, but not quite. It needs a monkey. “A gaur and a monkey walked into a yard,…”

Alas, it was just a Gaur. “Just.” But it was a bull. And the smallest bulls are the size of the biggest cows.

This guy was two or three feet away from me in the end, separated by an exterior wall (and window).

Bull Gaur -- taken with window and top of pole so you sort of see his size in scale.
Bull Gaur — taken with window and top of pole so you sort of see his size in scale.
Slowly turning to face me. He kept eating, but i got the sense he knew I was there.
Slowly turning to face me. He kept eating, but i got the sense he knew I was there.
Now he was a little too close. If it hadn't been for the wall/window, I could have reached out and pet it.
Now he was a little too close. If it hadn’t been for the wall/window, I could have reached out and pet it.

Vagina Party

I went to a vagina party Sunday night. A twist on “v-day celebrations,” it was a fundraiser for women’s issues in general, but more importantly, to help curb and destroy violence against women.

As I mentioned in a previous post, gang rape is up significantly. I saw on Twitter that — what? — a woman was kept for 40 days and raped by 41 men? Is that possible? It is, though I can’t say if it really happened. But more and more reports have been coming out. Sunday night I heard a staggering statistic — I was wearing only one of my hearing aids, so I don’t want to go spreading untruths if I heard the specifics wrong, but it was 1 in 7 women are…and 1 in 3 women are… — and these are only reported cases, of course. Who knows how many unreported cases there are.

Having just read The Tipping Point, the only thing I can think about is India has reached it. One Indian woman keeps tweeting with an #incessanthorror hashtag — and it is.

The night of the party my wife wasn’t feeling well, and I had purchased a “couples” ticket, so I tried to get my son to go with me. He declined. Apparently a vagina party doesn’t sound like much fun. And we didn’t know how appropriate it would be to have him there, but there were many kids attending. I would have liked him to have experienced Woman with a capital “W.”

Last week there was a soccer game, made up of boys only. After the game I was telling the losing team players that they had suffered from “best player syndrome;” the best player was down with a fever and so “of course they would lose.” It was all mental. A girl (who I don’t really know but have interacted a few times with — she seems extremely smart and will grow up to be a gorgeous woman) said a pretty intelligent something about why the team lost. One of the boys on the team said, “don’t listen to her, she doesn’t know anything.” She replied, “I know I’m not good at soccer but that doesn’t mean I don’t know anything.” My heart was crushed. It was awful to hear. I sort of scolded the boy and encouraged the girl. It’s typical at their age, sadly. And in the face of the recent violence against women, especially heartbreaking. I’ve said it before: women should be respected.

And so I wish my son, who was on the losing team, had come to the fundraiser. To see what the fuss was all about. I wish the boy who made that comment had also shown up. I hope the girl knows the strength of her gender. I hope when she grows up her inner and outer beauty remain unblemished.

A vagina party should not be necessary. But until it isn’t, I will continue to go to them.

A Look Back at the Last Four Years

First of all, titling my posts drive me crazy. I learned to title things as I did here, where words such as “at” and “the” are lower-case, but everything else is upper-case; however, I spent two years as the DC Poetry Examiner for Examiner.com, where the rule is only the first word is capitalized. It has made me a little crazy, I must say. I’m OCD like that. But I digress.

With Obama’s recent inauguration for a second term in office, I have been thinking a bit about my life in the last four years. It seems a bit interesting that Obama won his first term with messages of change and hope, because while politically for Obama I am not sure how much that message has made a difference, I realize that personally for me it has been spot on.

What has happened in the last four years?

  • The first African-American was elected to the U.S. Presidency. From an American history perspective, there may be nothing more significant; however, in present day America, I believe it may be more significant that he is really the first mixed-race President.
  • My family dealt with a cancer scare three years in a row, with three different people (including me) with different results.
  • My wife went from being a stay-at-home mom to working full-time at a dysfunctional workplace to quitting and going back to being at home.
  • My wife and I took the children to Kolkata, India for the first time to meet their extended family. We also went to Nepal — a first for all of us.
  • I went from having no social experience in the world of poetry to finding social media and having a whole lot more of a social experience in poetry than I ever thought possible. Thank you social media, thank you guys.
  • My family left the life it has known for fifteen years and moved to India. Life here is not without its issues, but it’s so much better.
  • I published my children’s adaptation of Beowulf as a children’s book, which I wrote for my son when he was seven.
  • I was elected to the Board of a publishing company, was considered to be Poet Laureate of my city, applied and was accepted as a member of my local arts and humanities commission.
  • An uncle by marriage passed away way too soon; I read his poetry and decided to edit it and publish it posthumously.
  • I founded an organization for poetry advocacy, which is having a hard time getting going, but it’s at least there, with a Board.
  • My wife has gone through a good amount of health issues herself that have never been solved, until perhaps now.
  • I was guest editor for an issue of MiPOesias, a poetry magazine — one of my favorites!

It seems to me my wife Ketaki and I have had our trials, we have had to hope — which includes cancer scares and getting published — and we had to be intentional and committed to change. Our lives did what Obama preached, for good or bad. And there was a lot of it.

Where are all the Indian poets?

I have been been spending quite some time now trying to build up my Twitter followers with Indian poets. I have a lot of Twitter friends, most of them poets, and with a handful of exceptions, all of them American. It took a couple years to build my poetry base on Twitter, but it was a steady increase. However, since moving to India, I have been trying to find the local poets; with no luck. None, There only seems to be one answer to my efforts: Indian poets do not use Twitter for poetry-related issues. They fall into one of three categories: They don’t have Twitter accounts, they do but never use them, or they use them but never discuss poetry.

I’m sorry, but I really do not care whether India is beating England in the ever-ongoing Cricket match.

Sigh.

So if you are Indian and a poet, and you are on Twitter, and you want to connect to discuss poetry-related issues, follow me. I promise I’ll follow you back.