Pragya Dubey

To all the letters to self Old and new

You knew you’ll never make the cut Despite being a treasure trove of all things that really matter

Every time you see reality panning out differently than the manuscript You only squirm a little in that tightly sealed envelope of yours

You probably find a wiggle room and try to push for the truth you stand for It must be devastating to never win

You must have a weave of your own voices Tired of being stifled all the time

Every word uttered must be a revelation A story veiled behind and buried under fascinating made-up ‘facts’

To all the letters to self Old and new

You are acknowledged for bearing with the endless saga of trust and betrayal Something we consciously partake in only to always remain oblivious of

You stand for a lost opportunity to understand the true self Since surfaces are dreary and only present with the idealized versions of self

You pass these tests of dignity with great aplomb Continuing with life, unburdened with the past happenstances

To all the letters to self Old and new, if only I could learn the art of this trade for accord and discord, alike!

#MindlessMusings

Photo by Sergey Nikolaev on Unsplash

Home, a word that stirs a smorgasbord of feelings. It is impossible to get nostalgic or think about a phase of my life without associating it with the place I called home during that time. I strongly believe that the homes I grew up in added so many dimensions to my personality. I have lived in multiple homes – with every home, my definition and understanding of what the word meant changed and evolved.

My earliest memories of childhood are always full of scenes from my home in a small town in Madhya Pradesh. That was the first place I called home! By then, my definition of 'home' was limited to a place synonymous with the safest haven one could have. Every morning smelt like the first rain of the season, courtesy my mom's routine of watering the plants early morning at six. My father had this huge circle of friends and our place was always bustling with people sharing meals and laughter. I also remember the first pangs of jealousy because after being the sole subject of mom and dad's affection and attention for five years, I was expected to share my spotlight with a little, chubby human.

The next home became special in the sense that I started bonding with that little, chubby human who soon became my favorite human and a confidante to turn to. Our garden was huge with two small cliffs. We were allowed to play near only one of the two cliffs because the other had snake burrows all over it. By this time, I was old enough to understand relationships and 'home' was no longer just a space that one inhabited. I started associating the feeling of home with the people I inhabited that space with – my parents and my brother!

Then came the third move! There was again a transition to new surroundings, new people, new school and a new 'space' that we were yet to call our own. This one became the hardest move for me and for many years I was uncomfortable in my own skin – it's not always easy to adjust to a bigger city, coming from a small town. Irrespective of how I felt amidst new people and the new surroundings, I felt at home with my family around. We came closer to the extended family but what still anchored me were the vestiges of memories that we made in the last two homes.

With stepping out of my home and away from the family for the first time in 23 years of my life, I knew what I classed as home would further change but I had kept my expectations at bay. I moved to a city for my first job, a different part of the country altogether with a lot of reservations about who will I share my space with, how well will I adapt to the changes and other, largely skeptical, thoughts that my mind never stopped churning. Thanks to the best flatmate possible, I was quick to have a 'home' in a new city. The shift in my definition happened when I realised that home turned into moments and places I belonged in, with the people who made that feeling of belongingness possible. I met some of the best possible people in this city and so many of them became family. In this phase of my life, the feeling called home became a deep longing for real and raw connections with people. Now when I think of that time, I brought no remnants that remind me of the physical home I had there but I earned so much more – people whom I call home now!

A few years later, new events transpired and I got married – a new home in its entirety! By this time, I was receptive enough to not hinge my feelings of belongingness to the idea of having my own physical space. With the new mindset, I swiftly found home in my new family – almost effortlessly. Now, it was more about the content feeling that I got by being with my growing family. As long as I had these old and new sets of families close to me, I felt at home.

The most recent move is our first home as a married entity. Being two travel freaks, we have spent much less time living in it than not living in it. The flat we possess is more of a sanctuary of stillness amid all the chaos that life brings with it. A new meaning got added to my ever-growing understanding of the word! It's now a blurred line between the self and the surroundings, where I can truly exist and feel that existence at the same time.

In 28 years of living in different homes, what I crave for are the memories I made in all those places. Memories, after all, are cued by the physical environments they were first lived in. A part of me has clung to the earliest notions of what made me feel at home and I often find myself sifting through the carousel of mental souvenirs from my time there.

Coming to the present day, 'home' has become a plethora of feelings, making it difficult to put a thumbtack on one. But it is surely that sense of belongingness and an abundance of overwhelming happiness that we earn by striking out the lines that we try to draw between who we are and where we are.

Photo by Quentin Lagache on Unsplash

There’s no doubt that the human race is heavily dependent on facial cues to communicate and understand feelings and emotions. Despite that, I can clearly remember the most profound moments of my life and associate those with a distinct kind of eye contact with someone. That plea of understanding I wished to communicate to mom on my first day of school to the look of longing when I was stepping out for my first job – these were all cursory eye locks that became momentous in so many ways and added another level of depth to those emotions.

With the world wrestling with a virus’ unapologetic grip, all of us are forced in a situation – irrespective of what we opine – where masks are a must at public places or when stepping out even for the most trivial errands! This directly makes our eyes the primary source of contact with anyone in the outside world.

Just last week, I had stepped out to a nearby pharmacy store. There was this elderly woman who had helped me get through my order and I wanted to genuinely convey my gratitude for her work. I smiled and said a thank you, but quickly realized that she hadn't noticed my smile and the other facial expressions to see the genuineness underneath my words. I exaggeratedly crinkled my eyes and after a few seconds, she did the same – a proof that both of us received the intended message with the intended feelings.

As we get a window to reflect, reimagine and reset our ways of living and the world around us, we also need to be conscious of our mode of communication. I recently read that we can make and recognize around 250,000 facial expressions and that the verbal component of a face-to-face conversation is less than 35 percent and that over 65 percent of communication is done non-verbally. Now, this 65 percent of nonverbal communication constitutes both, our body language and facial expressions.

Eyes have often been regarded as the “windows to the soul” and our dependency on these windows has just increased manifold. Is that a fleeting smile, a smirk, a grimace or a mocking smile under that mask? Well, who knows! The facial expressions, especially those of the lower mouth are key to revealing nuances of the words we speak. With that part of our mouth covered, the burden of communicating the right intent falls heavily on the eyes.

Since all of us are just beginning to adjust our social worlds, it's about time we learn to give people the benefit of doubt! You might experience flubbed interactions, fraught with misinterpretations – but, it's okay! Give it some time and don't hit the wall already since it's still the very beginning of many changes (and, challenges) that will soon ensue.

Needless to say, our eyes need extra care and attention as our worlds squeeze into the virtual box! Both, during and off work, our eyes take the center stage – be it the never-ending Zoom calls or our steadily increasing screen time.

Like the many opportunities presented to us by this situation, we might want to become more observant and considerate to the fellow occupants of our completely-exhausted mother earth! It's not like we need to train ourselves for a completely new skill – we, as humans, are completely adept to be receptive to someone's eye contact. We just need to dust off that dormant superpower to read and understand microexpressions and put it to good use. :)

(Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash)

A rosy picture from the outside, But nothing more than a bed of thorns.

A few moments of happiness, Amidst a downpour of gloomy moments.

It lures you with irresistible temptations. Before you realise, it turns out to be just another bait.

Constantly living on tenterhooks in anticipation of what would unfold next, It amazes you with something least expected.

The moment you gain confidence and a sense of control, It thrashes your poise and brings you downwind to where you started.

This ultimate driving and a binding force called 'life', Inveigles us with guile. Traps us till the last breath, And laughs deceptively on our inability to understand the very purpose of being.

It dawns on me – The quest for life, the pursuit of happiness, the endeavor to find peace, Lead to nothing but to reasons for further dissatisfaction, dismay and sorrow.

Why we live our present in oblivion, despite of having full control of it, And delve into our past to make futile attempts of mending what was.

As I made a silent promise to myself, Of living in the very moment I smile on my ephemeral promise, Because the very next moment, I find myself brooding over the same rhetorical mystery which pushes me deeper into the cobweb.

#MindlessMusings

Every Night Stroller's Dream

I, for one, am a huge fan of post-dinner walks.

Taking a long walk, breathing in clean air (whatever is left in our cities), soaking in the day's occurrences and briefly sulking for what could have been is my way of blowing off steam and going to bed with a clear mind.

It's that part of my day which is cathartic by all means – irrespective of who am I taking that walk with! It's that time of the day when the city is laid bare in front of my eyes. I finally get to see the 'human', softer side of the city – vulnerable and calm at the same time.

The night is much less profane than the day, giving our mind ample wriggle space to think about things that we truly hold close to us. The somewhat deserted roads, shadows of the street lights, the occasional howling of the dogs – all this and more, together, put up a landscape that makes you live in that moment. For a pensive walker like me, just the soft moonlight does the trick of transporting me to someplace where 'I' can 'be'.

In my 30-minute walking ritual, I live a fleeting but totally thrilling solitude.

Although I feel alive in the day, with all the agglomerative forces in full throttle and the complete chaos of coexistence, it's during these walks that I 'really' feel like 'living' and not just 'existing'. Another thing that I cherish about these walks is bickering and snickering with my husband. It's another thing that we spend almost all our time together, but there's something of an edge to our conversations while taking a stroll on our terrace.

During the lockdown, I have come to enjoy this time of my day even more. Those 30 minutes translate to a conglomeration of mirror moments – I assess what I see in the mirror and reflect on how can I make what I see look more soulful and course-correct if needed.

More or less, I like to think of these walks as a coping mechanism – a booster shot that lets me start my next day as a clean slate, without a piece of overwhelming baggage. It's difficult to decide though – whether I possess the time in that duration or the passing seconds possess me?

#MindlessMusings

A story within a story, further laying seeds for the next.

The deeper you go, a new one springs from a master story, narrating the bygone times and tales.

Where the past eddies around us, and the present becomes distant.

Once a cliffhanger, now meticulously adds to the eventuality.

A nexus between the manifestations of our mind and the memories we have lived, each leaves us with a lesson — bitter or sweet.

Each revisit unravels an aspect that we never fathomed or inadvertently overlooked.

Do the stories create us or do we create them?

Do the stories live in us or we live in them?

Do the stories make mortals, immortal?

While we rummage through the stories in the quest of serendipitously finding something, it might as well be life’s just another way of ensnaring us in its labyrinths!

#MindlessMusings

A story within a story, further laying seeds for the next.

The deeper you go, a new one springs from a master story, narrating the bygone times and tales.

Where the past eddies around us, and the present becomes distant.

Once a cliffhanger, now meticulously adds to the eventuality.

A nexus between the manifestations of our mind and the memories we have lived, each leaves us with a lesson — bitter or sweet.

Each revisit unravels an aspect that we never fathomed or inadvertently overlooked.

Do the stories create us or do we create them?

Do the stories live in us or we live in them?

Do the stories make mortals, immortal?

While we rummage through the stories in the quest of serendipitously finding something, it might as well be life’s just another way of ensnaring us in its labyrinths!

#MindlessMusings

Lost more than ever, In our attempts to not feel lost ever.

There are trends and fads. And then there is the fabled road less traveled that nags.

Trends look cliched, yet enticing. The unconventional looks promising but frightening.

Torn between following the heart and the urge to belong. The mind plays games and stretches till it can prolong.

Overcome by a fear to be left alone. We end up in a crowd with all our hopes forlorn.

It’s either here or there, But the yawning gap between the ‘being’ and the ‘want to be’ becomes a nightmare.

We start associating with things and people to set ourselves free, Only to later realise that disassociating was the key.

If at all we strive to find out more of who we are, The superficialities and pretenses will be freed at the earliest hour.

The tussle between what to do and how to be will cease to exist, And the true self will persist.

#MindlessMusings

After a long while, I had nowhere to be. I was free from the abiding clamor of my routine.

After a long while, I had no rush to reach conclusive decisions. I could hear my mind thinking.

After a long while, The deep-rooted longings were no more lurking on the fringes of my mind. I could foresee them taking formidable shapes in the plausible future.

After a long while, I wasn’t crying to take out my pent up frustration stemming from a myriad of reasons. I was crying my heart out because I could put a pin to what was in my heart.

After a long while, It wasn’t just about the next thing on my to-do and the ensuing chase. It was about what to do next that will satiate my heart.

After a long while, It wasn’t the pursuit of winning, no matter what. It was about realizing that the true victory lies in the gracious acceptance of my vulnerabilities.

After a long while, The ticking of a clock was more than an alarm of the passing time. The clock stood as a humble reminder of how much I had to feel grateful for each second.

After a long while, I wasn't just dwelling on my feelings, ranging on a spectrum of fear to anxiety. Hope had finally reared its head.

After a long while, The sharp vicissitudes of the world around were not driving me up the wall. Giving way to appreciating even the tiniest reasons for my happiness.

After a long while, I felt like my own self had taken over. After a really long while!

#MindlessMusings

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