Is it time yet to contemplate life after COVID-19?

Time refuses to answer, and so I plough on, silencing my mental arbitrator with a hastily drawn protocol of hows and whys that will, inevitably, surface through my new formless orifice.

And, it is already inevitable. Just like that.

In the weeks that the virus has snaked itself around the world, growing tentacles that spread from the wet markets of Wuhan to countries that were, perhaps, contemplating how to fortify their borders against immigrants, refugees and the prospect of a world war.

Life will never be the same again.

It will refuse to blow the bugle of normalcy that was once a given. Normalcy will shift into gears that are in the process of getting engineered even as I key in my words for the new formless orifice to regurgitate. It will stand askew to give our species a new anthem to start life on the trail of the virus that will stand forever like the sword of Damocles on our existence. Even after virologists announce its death!

Will we survive it? Will we finally say all’s well that ends well and get on with our lives that have been pushed into a limbo of surreal apocalypse stories, once fictionalized in books and silver screen?

Perhaps, we will learn to see crepuscular rays in the dark of the night; perhaps, we will find the proverbial golden pot at the centre of the rainbow.

May be we will understand that days and nights are not governed by the sun but installed into our psyche by ancestors who knew that we will all, one day, lie prone in our existential beds and find cobbled paths that lead us to the beginning of the universe.

We will hold all our knowledge in collectively supplicated hands and wonder what pushed us to craft modernization out of our civilization.

What clock ticked to the beats of our hearts to set limits and time frames to our emotions and attachments?

What cradle roused us from our divine meditation with the universe and pushed us into a contemplative mode to build a world that had engines whizzing, motors rushing, concretes spiraling, blades soaring…

What algebraic equation transitioned comfort as necessity and classified the populace on a status hierarchy chart, ensuring that the have-nots stayed confined in their cage.

What idol pushed us to lock horns with faiths that differed from ours in sequencing the inception of life on this planet as we know it?

What statecraft mobbed us into thinking that liberal opinions can combust in the face of hard-liners who wield the sword of power?

But then, will all this matter at all?

Will we know ourselves or have we already begun to metamorphose? Without any premise, practice or persuasion we have moved into a new phase, a blindingly unimaginable zone. Perhaps we will move back as easily?

I hope not.

Let this pandemic, which has, for the first time ever, pulled the world to a stop with one overpowering thought, give us back our lives, unstructured by status symbols, unburdened by routines, undeterred by faith mongering, unchallenged by government agencies, unlimited by emotional expressions… Vindicated by death!




Hmm…another year

I cant seem to recall when was the last time I dilly-dallied on the threshold of resolutions and came up with some very poignant ones to see me through the New Year; but that I used to do, once upon a time, is a certainty. Have outgrown that mushy stuff…sacrificed all those sweet innocent New Year gimmicks at the altar of maturity – nay cynicism; I might indulge in the oh so blissful must-make-more-money-this-year thought frames, but beyond that there is no philosophical strain of thought over the year changing to another. I might keep cussing the year for all the negative vibes and mishaps on the way – all through the year – and compare it with a few stray perfectly great ones, but I rarely seem to experience the tangible changes in the air as it comes to a close. What I do love to do, though, is trace back the year that has drained itself out; go over those events/situations/moments that seem to crop up like fresh shoots on dead roots. The silent bed of memory field  does get ruffled as the last day of the year closes its doors to make way for the new one.     

Romancing the pavement

The wind accompanying the faint drizzle must have brought it to the safe side of the road. It lay there for a second: dazed and confused. The next it was cavorting the pavement, lustily,  flush from the first drops of rain… Romping along the footpath, rising to its beat, twisting and turning to the music of the rain. 

Before the drizzle turned into a trickle and floored it completely, this weathered sheet of newspaper romanced the raised pavement in complete abandon. It caressed its rough edges, spread itself invitingly, rolled, puckered and floated away. The sudden release from a bin of misery gave it wings to soar and find love on the path that had been trodden by thousands – none of them with love or affection.  

Watching this capsule of romance from my car window brought to mind Scarlet O’Hara’s redeeming quip in Gone With The Wind – you know what real freedom is only when you have lost your reputation completely. Well, that was my interpretation; the actual quote is “Until you’ve lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was or what freedom really is.”

Is this what they mean when they say ‘life goes on…’?

Life goes on…?

Does it really?

But where does it go? ‘On’, I mean…

Could it be a softer tone for the impending ‘life goes off’ that is implied in the ‘life goes on’  verbal support people in the counselling zone are wont to give?

As I continue with this soliloquy, I cannot but help wonder when I started doubting the ‘life goes on’ parameter set by those who believe they are privy to the balancing act on the life and death scale.

LIFE DOES NOT GO ON – full stop!

It just stops. Freezes its act and lets the horizon play a slow motion clipping to bring home some unpalatable truths that have a quiver of ‘on’ antonyms to share. And there you sit, if you are lucky that is; or kneel or prostrate, hoping divine intervention would bend the gods of the ‘on’ world to give you a slice of their ‘on’ fruit. Possibly from the forbidden Eve tree. You sit/kneel/prostrate there, uncertain… Should I take a bite? Should I wait for the lords above to turn the ‘off’ to an on…?

But again, who wants a ‘life goes on’ when the ‘on’ is pegged on to a drab life that was even otherwise waiting for an ‘off’.

Life, I know, isn’t about ‘on’ and ‘off’, although those two prepositions describe life better than any other word, with onomatopoeia for effect! But well, again!! Whoever wants a life-describing ‘on’ or an ‘off’ when the ongoing in-between is much more complex than a soulless ‘on’ or a soul-searching ‘off’!


Reality pause

Take me home...

Reality is surreal. It knows just when to camouflage its sharp claws and blend with the golden sands, the waving coconut palms, the sedate sky… Probably taking a bow to let its schizophrenic conjoined twin earn some brownie points for the temporary truce.

I had a taste of its surreal nature recently.

I was there, in the un-reality zone of my life for a month, blissfully indifferent to things that make reality such a hounding ogre. Obviously my  reality has learnt a thing or two about holidays over the years and knows better than to tag along. It took heed and stayed put right here in Muscat while  I blithely dipped my gnarly feet in the soft sand and bathed in salty waters, gulping my favorite bubbly as if my throat was suffering from some perpetually-parched syndrome.

I merged with the horizon as the sunset gave a dramatic performance, teasing me to demonstrate temporary insanity and applaud for a curtain-call. I rolled on the shrub-carpeted hill-tops, spreading my arms on its fuzzy floor. I held time in my hand and let it know who is the boss; gave every minute full 60 seconds to take me yonder, to the place where reality is barred…

Now, as I hyperventilate between this-time-last-month mode and the very inflexible reality, I wish there was a vent that would allow me to come up for a ‘surreal’ breather.

I have a scoop

Time: around 6 pm

Date: 25 September

Place: Centrepoint, Al Khuwair

Nothing significant about the date, time or the venue, but on that day, around that time at Centrepoint, something tugged my journalism roots. Read that as someone – some people, actually. Standing there, gawkily (when you are five foot nothing, gawkily is the only way you can stand), my eyes strayed on to a couple of Western-looking faces that somehow didnt seem to belong in that ambience. No, not because they looked Western, content, perhaps. They had the typical Arabic scarves (google tells me they are called shemagh scarves) casually thrown around their shoulders as they floated (yes, floated explains their frisky pace better) around the aisles of clothes hanger racks.

I was browsing through the piled up pants, picking the ones dropped down by careless shoppers with a why-the-heck-do-they-drop-it mutter under my breath and well hoping I would find the darned size in that black pant, which I had got in for exchange after being berated by my sons for not yet realising that they were BIG and needed a 30″ waist. It was getting late and I was out the whole day. Not shopping, general work that is.

Come to the point, Suzy!

This should be enough hint to realise that journalism is effectively on the way out (of my life, I mean). Have forgotten the importane of the ‘lead’ and all the 6 W’s and 1 H. (Read that as 5 W’s. The last W is for – Woohoo you have gone cuckoo).

Now about those shemagh draped boys… 

I saw them again. From close quarters. There were 2 of them with a couple of middle-aged men. The boys looked very familiar. And as I kept staring at them (They were oblivious of my stares. Diminutive folks have that advantage of blending into everything, even the clothes rack) I saw another familiar face. It was of a slim girl with short cropped hair. When I say familiar, understand it as familiarity of the celebrity (media) kind.

And thats when my jaw dropped to the cold floor and it hit me that I was staring at the American hikers who were released during the weekend from Iran after long imprisonment on charges of spying. And that that girl was Sarah Shourd. I read later that she is engaged to Shane Bauer, one of the just released hikers.

I simply kept staring, wondering what I’d do if it was back in those days when I wore a reporter’s tag. I made my partner stare at them too. ‘Be more discreet,’ I told him though. Open staring is only for diminutive folks like me.

Would I have walked up to them and asked them for a quote or two? Not sure, considering how the media worked in a closed-box ambience those days. But if I were one today, yes, of course. English print media has finally come of age and theres ample evidence in my daily paper.

Do I miss being a reporter? Again, not sure. Age has ‘almost’ done me in. But I would be lying if I said I dont miss the energy, the constant chatter, the palpitations of nearing deadlines… Miss it all the time.

I can see myself calling up the editor and screaming ‘I have got a scoop’, may be even shouting ‘stop press’ – have always wanted to do that – and then rushing back to office and keying in an exclusive front-page story – ‘American hikers on a shopping spree’!

Thank god for imagination!


God bless Bullet

I keyed the title around 2.30 this noon, after my little one almost broke down seeing Bullet’s scary state. She and her brothers had just returned sweaty and tired from the school and finding Bullet still in his wrinkled, shivery state with eyes sealed and little paws almost stiffened, had them worried… “I am scared for Bullet,” she had mumbled as she left for school in the morning and it was evident that that fear was still very raw.

Bullet, our pet hamster , has been having the heebie-jeebies since last week. It started with cloudy eyes, which led to shivery body and very weak movements . He stopped eating and drinking and that’s when the eldest of my brood started whining about Bullet’s deteriorating health with a running commentary on the hamster’s every visible woe; contemplating the next move to turn it healthy. A couple of days ago, following public demand, he was taken to a vet, who, perhaps, thought hamsters are not worthy of his/her attention and got the receptionist to dish out eyedrops for RO4.

How that eyedrop was supposed to heal our Bullet’s shivery body, runny nose and loss of appetite… well, despite our lack of medical expertise, we were certain that we were taken for gullibles by that pet doctor. Our only option was to google hamster treatment and well, there was hope. We have now been spoon-feeding it warm milk, keeping it generally warm and yes, keeping positive thoughts. Prayers too…

Bullet gets some tender loving care

And now to the good news. At around 6.20 pm today, Bullet’s partner, Becky, gave birth to 6 little baby hammies. In less than a month since she joined Bullet, she gave him six darling beauties. Will that be reason enough for Bullet to find strength and regain his healthy body…? We sure hope.

But for the moment, my brood of three  is completely smitten by the new guests. They can’t stop gawking at the new mother and her babies.

Now for Bullet to complete the family. God bless him, please.


dreams are made of fog and foliage

It was June 1995. Muscat was blistering with temperatures hovering around 50. Not that I remember accurately, but then June and peak temperatures have always been the best of partners. 

I’d heard about Salalah and its Eden-like features and well, wanting a slice of that bounty was but natural for any Muscat resident like me. That it would come in the guise of an invitation from the then Directorate General of Tourism at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, to be a part of the media contingent, hardly crossed my mind. And well was I in cloud nine – literally, once we entered the Dhofar region. That was my very first tryst with clouds. The low hanging monsoon clouds.

16 years down the lane, memories of those foggy roads, eerie daytime darkness on the roads with almost nil visibility, camel caravans, water falls… are still as vivid as they were on the days they were created. That I have very few pictures to look back upon, thanks but no thanks to the little slip in a pool with the camera in hand, is another blog story altogether. That was also the time – unbelievable but true – when I had to rely on the fax machine to send my handwritten stories to the office back in Muscat. 

Pan to 2011 and Salalah was on our Eid platter. The green blanketed plains and the fog laden mountains held us in its grip for two days, recreating the magic, only nature can weave. It held us spellbound, as we strained to figure the outlines of mountains in the horizon with fog giving it an ethereal halo; the smell of green foliage adding to the heady effect.

                                                                               the khareef water path…

It was the last note of 2011 Khareef and despite the clouds playing peek-a-boo with the sun, the weather was far from chilly.

smoking mountains

                                                                                        somewhere in time…                                           
For all the fog that hung low on the mountains and the lush green carpet spread around, it was pretty humid. Strange considering the dewy trail on the flowering shrubs and the droplets on the car windscreen.  Sweat streamed down our backs and made some of us breathless on foot tracks  that led to the little water pool below, a couple of kilometers from the Taqah landmark. But we hardly noticed or felt any discomfort.

melting roads and vapor trails

 Looking at these pics now, there is a sense of longing… For a whiff of the fog and the fresh smell of flowering shrubs. The pictures below tell the tale…                                

   webbed in green                                                         in the garden of my dreams 
take me yonder, to my childhood
does time really stand still?   

Unfinished Drafts

a day ago it was a gaping crater; today it is a serene line. hardly a whimper

Saw the above in a saved draft folder dated May 31, 2011.  And well, that got me thinking – when you are alone and staring at your comp, thinking comes easy; loud self berating easier still.

Now what the heck was I thinking when I wrote that? Was the reference to the the crater indicative of the spot where once my little grey matter resided?

Duh… am clueless. Whatever it was, it must have warranted enough thought for me to start those opening lines and then realise the crater hadnt really turned into a line, before surrendering to the quagmire pull of that crater.

But a serene line ? And an audible whimper too…? Without a full stop and no elipsis!!

How a crater can turn into a line, leave alone one that is serene, is beyond the capabilities of this crater-riddled mind, and yet I wade through unfinished drafts, seeking to find some semblance in my thinking in the recent past and now. 

Should I blame this also on age, as I have been wont to doing post the 40 landmark? I can see no other reason for insinuating the involvement of auditory process in the ‘crater’ that turns into a serene line before receding without a whimper…

Me and my unfinished drafts…

Gawd, we have a whole life together in the abyss of age and sinking thoughts.

Humble pie?

I am not in the right frame of mind or mood to talk about my escapades in the kitchen or the recent experiment with apples as I pound my keyboard, but i have to put this out of my way to let my thoughts stray on to other more pressing tasks. For I get into this dogged ‘unfinished’ mental frame when things are not done away with after they are entertained even momentarily in the have-to-do zone. So well…

Confessions first: I am no expert at baking. Even cooking for that matter. But am game for experiments of the kitchen kind. And a sad face, post the presentation of the dish, earns an easy ‘Tasty mama.’ …That after a dramatic sulk to their initial ‘ok’ answer. Have learnt it from the trio that rule the household.

Apple Pie:

Yes you read that right. Apple Pie! I baked an apple pie! Yay!

(Did you  notice that it rhymed?)

pretty in a flour skirt

A couple of apples from the fridge, a puff pastry sheet and there we were – me, my eldest Dezrel and youngest Desiree. The eldest got on to the task of peeling and slicing the apple. Baby doll toiled over the Al Karama pastry sheet, rolling it to the shape of my shallow glass bowl. And in between the preheating and melting of butter, I took constant peeks at my computer screen where the recipe stayed awake for me to practice my patented trial and error program.

 If the accompanying pics don’t tell you anything… don’t blame me. I have very few words to supplement. All that I can add here is that I liberally buttered the apple pieces, went several dashes with cinnamon powder and gave in to my sweet tooth with the sugar portion. The finished pic should say something. To me that’s an achievement. A stupendous one at that. Can’t really forget how my jaw dropped in awe when, years ago, a Dutch colleague brought in apple pie that she’d baked the previous day. I went ‘You really did this’, ‘You really did this’, ‘You really did this’, ‘You really did this’… until she gave me a ‘cut-the-crap’ look.

peeled and sliced they await a buttery affair

lingering along the warm buttery trail


sigh, this is heaven


am a frowning, grumpy pie. sniff

no dirge at this bake


lie to me, tell me how pretty i look...

That should give you an idea. About my admiration for all things that had ‘baked’ tag on it. Now I have managed to shift that awe and admiration to things that are beyond my control (read that as all things electronic/electrical/IT).

Am enjoying this… All the baking that’s happening, post my freelancer tag.

 Anyone for this humble pie?