The Path I Built

 

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The Path I Built…

In my search for light
that will illuminate my life,
also give me peace and quiet,
with a purpose that overrides strife,
I dreamt of a garden path
flowing over a stream of views
I have channeled lifelong,
out of many an uphill walk
at varied jobs,
in quest for the meaning
of my birth.

Little did I envision then,
the path I dreamt of
was the most arduous yet,
as it was guarded
by zealous gardeners
who only grew flowers
they could sell well,
whereas I nurtured my garden
with all good intent
to nourish and keep people
inherently well.

After many a crushing defeat
to walk the beaten commercial path,
when I was almost ready to give up,
I decided to build my very own path
which would take people
over a stream of thoughts and words
to a well manicured garden
where they could rest
their wearied minds,
recoup their inherent strength
to face the dilemmas of life.

PS: I just clicked these photos over my morning walk and I scribbled these lines sitting by the lake here with the chilly wind blowing on my face…Sharing it right away as I love spontaneity…Will edit it later at home to add to my collection.
😊This is how I write poems…I’m most inspired by nature.

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My Life’s Vision…

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My Life’s Vision…

To create a picturesque,
meaningful
and fragrant garden
of thoughts and words
in my lifetime,
that will give wings to dreams
in the youth, that find solace
on branches of my views
even after my death:
To build a tomb
over green thoughts
of integrity
and strong character
for themselves,
in my name.

PS: 😊These were my thoughts, as I composed this photo frame, over a morning walk at the Lodhi Garden, Delhi, in the drizzle. A Vision is only as good as the Mission you execute it with the right Values.
With my varied corporate experiences, you’d expect me to have my own Vision, Mission, Values, Statement…wouldn’t you! 😃

 

 

Durga Puja: An Excerpt From My Novel ‘Across Borders’

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Wishing you all a Shubho Mahalaya today with an excerpt from my novel ‘Across Borders’ launched in Calcutta on Mahalaya (Oct 2013).

 

Chapter 3 – ‘The Home That Adopted Me’ (Page 71-74)

Every year during the Durga Puja, Ronjit uncle gave all

women of the extended-family a sari each. I wore mine with

a flourish, for the anjali or collective offering of flower and

prayers conducted by the priest on each of the five days.

With my ardour for dancing, I started the dhunuchi dance, in

offering to the deity. Taking the earthen pot with burning

incense by the handle, I brandished it gracefully. I danced

with agility in front of the goddess Durga and her four children

– Kartik, Ganesh, Lakshmi and Saraswati, to the beats of

the dhak, the traditional drums. My dance recital was well

appreciated by all and even today it is customary for the

students of the school to perform a collective dhunuchi dance

during Durga Puja. The temple where the Puja was

conducted was initially built of mud about two hundred years

back by our ancestors. It is currently a concrete building in

the central porch of the family’s homes alongside the river.

One year when I did not show up for the arati on Ashtami,

the second and important day of the Durga Puja, Ronjit uncle

stormed at his wife Mrinalini, “Where is Maya? Why is she

not dancing?”

“She cannot dance today,” Mrinalini crisply replied, close to

his ears.

“But, why not” Ronjit uncle retorted impatiently, “she is here

somewhere, I just saw her. So why can’t she dance?”

“Maya is here, but cannot come to the temple,” Mrinalini

replied firmly looking into her husband’s eyes, imploring him

to understand. But when there was no sign of his

comprehension, she added briskly “she is menstruating and

cannot come into the temple for the Puja.”

“What nonsense,” Ronjit uncle shot back at his wife, enraged.

“Ma” he said, in reference to Goddess Durga, “is a woman,

isn’t she? Then why follow these stupid customs restricting

her daughters to her presence? You people make a mockery

of womanhood and what Ma represents.”

I was summoned immediately. Mrinalini knew better than to

refute her husband’s wishes. In minutes, draped in the silk

sari Ronjit uncle had given me, I was at the temple dhunuchi

in hand. As I danced to the sounds of the dhaks that evening,

I mentally offered my arati to Ronjit uncle for his

broadmindedness and respect for women, for attempting to

liberate us from traditions imposed on us down the ages.

That morning he possibly also faced the reality that the little

girl he had brought with him five years back had come of

age and was now a woman. Ronjit uncle celebrated Durga

Puja fervently and lavishly, as he was in reality celebrating

Womanhood – the source of life, perhaps in memory of his

own mother who had died at childbirth. He lived his life trying

to fulfil his dream of the emancipation of women, especially

rural woman, starting at home with his own family.

This forward-thinking by a male was remarkable, considering

the position of women then, especially in rural India and

Pakistan. This was when a woman after childbirth was kept

in an outhouse, unable to participate in any activity in the

household. She was not allowed into the kitchen, let alone

cook during her menstrual cycle. A woman, according to

Ronjit uncle, should not have to feel restricted in any way by

her birth. I was to never forget his lessons on the equality of

women, without her needing to act like a man to prove it.

Not only did I live my own life by these doctrines, I would

also bring up my two daughters to think of themselves no

less than any son I might have ever had. One day by my

own initiation, my daughter would light her father’s funeralpyre

at a public crematorium. I would not permit my son-in-law

to do so, merely for being born male, while my daughters

and I stayed home.

Every year at Durga Puja, the new idol was worshipped

wearing Ma Durga’s personal set of real gold jewellery. She

and her children were adorned in them on Shasthi, the first

day of the puja. These were removed and safely put away in

a trunk before the immersion on Dashami, the last of the

five-day Puja, to be used the following year. Ma Durga was

draped in a new, red Benarasi sari every year, which was

then given to any woman in the family who was getting married

the following year, to wear at her wedding. The new bride

wore Ma Durga’s sari, like a daughter would wear her

mother’s on her wedding day. This was in order to invoke

the revered mother’s blessing to bestow on her strength and

good luck. Ronjit uncle had immense faith in the strength of

Ma Durga. He wished upon every woman to find that same

strength and power within herself, with the belief that all

women have an inherent potency, especially in times of crisis.

This was the axiom by which I would lead my life.

For us, it was not merely the celebration of Durga Puja and

womanhood, but of religious harmony during religious

turbulent times. We did not think of the Puja only on religious

lines, but as a coming together of all religions and cultures.

Many Muslims and Christians, both students and teachers

of the school as well as guests, attended the celebrations,

even if they did not take part in the prayers and rituals.

Everyone who attended was served a meal, which had been

consecrated as an offering to the Goddess. Though there

were special cooks to prepare the meals on all five days, we

students served. It was a fulfilling experience, as we

participated wholeheartedly in the festival. It brought

everyone together and was an opportunity to connect. In

my case also, with my estranged father and his second wife,

who came over a few times. Baba even offered to buy me a

sari once, wanting to take me to the local market, but I firmly

declined. I was not about to let him buy off his guilt on a

whim.

 

The Telegraph’s review of Across Borders is in the link: https://www.telegraphindia.com/1130913/jsp/t2/story_17343876.jsp#.UjKlDBA9X2o

 

Sharing the Mahalaya – Birendra Krishna Bhadra (Full) chants in the link :  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGClESAGmew

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PS: I took the photos last Pujo in Calcutta .

The significance of Mahalaya: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/why-is-everyone-wishing-the-world-shubho-mahalaya-today-durga-puja-navratri/1/496660.html

 

Passing the Baton

On Passing The Baton Of “Borders” On To Stronger Hands 😊: When I wrote my novel Across Borders, other than women’s empowerment, the other compelling thought I wrote it with was the wish for more information, empathy and understanding across borders, especially for refugess – whom we perceive as threatening our existence, thereby promoting and enhancing harmony across borders. How easy it is to judge with no mental effort to understand.
Of course my roots and what my father and mother personally faced coming from East Pakistan in their youth made these thoughts take root early in life.
But fiction, especially literary fiction – and there was no other way I could conceive to tell my tale – does not have much reach in our country. So in spite of some of the best publishers liking, also considering and deliberating my novels manuscript, it did not cross the border of commercial viability put up by their marketing teams for them to sign me up. But I wasn’t perturbed or discouraged, as I had done the most sincere job I had ever done in my 16-18 year career and later the book was much appreciated inspite of a smaller publisher taking it on. What saddened me however, was that all the powerful messages I had endeavoured to reach out to the world with could not go further, as it might have with a more reputed publisher even after all the single-minded effort I personally put into its every stage, unlike any debut author I’ve known and the resultant push the media gave my book through a long list of coverages.
But now, with my husband Bishwanath Ghosh’s account in his latest book  “Gazing at Neighbours: Travels on the line that partitioned India” with his two decades of journalistic writing experience and our societies faith in the media-written word, and of course the clout of of his publisher, my cross-border seeds of thought are going to spread far and wide by the bird on the cover of his book. 😊
He had also taken over the baton of my passion to justify and explain Calcuttas underdeveloped stance, since my constant need for it, in my corporate working years, via his book ‘Longing Belonging – An outsider at home in Calcutta.’
As I keep saying, life has a way of coming full circle. When you set out on a path you will never know the forces that will come into play to strengthen your legs and take over your baton to pass on to much stronger hands in order to reach the end of the race you had started.
In school, I was always compelled to participate in the inter house relay races on sports day, by our house captains or moderators. I was often the one who ended the race, so I understand very well how crucial the last racers strength and maturity is to finishing the race well and winning it.
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An Adventure Of My Soul: ‘Entwined Lives’

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My views on writing precisely: “I have never claimed to create anything out of nothing; I have always needed an incident or a character as a starting point, but I have exercised imagination, invention and a sense of the dramatic to make it something of my own” — Somerset Maugham, in ‘A Writer’s Notebook.’

In the writing of my upcoming novel, Entwined Lives, I read and reread almost all of Maugham’s novels back to back and I only read him for the close to three years it took me to write this novel.
My characters, plots and subplots are all inspired by real people and incidents, but my detailed handling of their psyche is inspired by Maugham’s. The novel of his I was most inspired to base the mental workings of mine by are Mrs Craddock, Liza of Lambeth, and varied characters from ‘Razors Edge’, ‘Of Human Bondage’ and ‘Moon and Sixpence’
So though my novels plot, location and characters are contemporary, they have received historical and classical treatment. 🤗
I have immensely enjoyed, though often to the point of exasperatedly frustrating insanity, from creeping around the minds and under the skin of my characters, living as them, I do hope you enjoy living the lives of my characters, in reading my novel “Entwined Lives.” It truly has been an adventure on my soul. 😃
— Shuvashree Chowdhury Ghosh

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On writing Literary Fiction and Poetry

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Literary fiction writing: I’ve always been someone who looks deep into something or someone. That’s because I realised from a young age that there’s always more than what meets the eye. Also I don’t like to interview people or write about what they tell me consciously. I love reading people’s silences, and interpreting what they don’t, or can’t tell.
This is why, I choose to be a literary fiction writer. And not merely to satisfy a need to prove my intellectual capacity as you might imagine. 🤓 😊

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Writing poetry: Thankfully my attention was drawn to the need for ‘pathos’ in poetry, over beautiful words and sentences, very early on in my poetry writing, by a very mature friend.
He had read my earliest poems on my blog and then after connecting with me online, had come over to meet me when he was in Chennai.
We met across my office, for lunch, sometime in 2008. It so turned out, to my utterly amused surprise, that he was not only a distinguished looking elderly gentleman, but was at the time, CEO of a reputed, gigantic MNC. As I’d not taken my writing, let alone poetry writing, as anything more than a passing fancy.
We kept in touch, and by now gaining much confidence on my poetic skills, from someone of his stature apreciating them, I used to forward my latest poems to him. He was based in Mumbai then. It was when I forwarded to him two poems on Ooty and Coonoor that I had just written, and he promtly replied, “they are beautiful, but there’s no pathos in them…” that I was taken aback, disappointedly so. As in my view, they were my best poems till then, but the only ones I’d merely vividly described the Nilgiris with no added thoughts. I left those two poems the way they are, as I prefer not to tweak a piece of writing superfluously, if it’s not how I initially perceived it. But since then, I’m conscientious about even the tiniest poem I write.
In life, God blesses you in so many ways, by connecting you with people who build your confidence, teach you – how to go about walking a path he’s chosen for you. 😊

 

For The City Of Chennai.

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I’ve lived in Chennai for over eleven years now. And have always been given to understand, even before I moved here – through my regular work trips, that the city though economically progressive, tends to cling to conservative traditions.
My bold view of the city and its people as sketched in my new novel Entwined Lives, is exactly the way I saw it, only after I got married to a journalist and moved here. Yet I was apprehensive about having chosen Chennai as the novel’s location, to tell such a woman empowered tale. This was especially so after Chennai based authors, that I met at a book fest, who had no clue I had written 3 chapters of a novel based in Chennai, cribbed about how difficult it is to sell Chennai in literature. They even depicted the same by showing me that their books on Chennai had not been stocked at the fest even though they were panelists along with husband, at a discussion on Indian cities. I was obviously deeply shaken at this learning and contemplated reworking my new novel and shifting it’s location to another city. But then, that wouldn’t be me, would it! 😊 I am not one who will run away from a challenge, sacrifice my integrity, at the cost of success. But more than that, a fierce loyalty for the city that I now called home overtook me. I decided right then, that I would not only continue with the novel located in Chennai, I would make the city the primary character. Thus I depicted Chennai the way I’ve seen it in the last decade, so full of life.
Yet I continued to be worried about how the shy, reserved people of the city would take this bold depiction, especially of women, by a woman.

But this fear was till I had the opportunity to read my bold poetry to 5 of the best colleges of the city last December, at the Prakriti international poetry festival. A very senior poet from Mumbai, to get a feel of Chennai’s pulse, asked the auditorium full of students – which kind of poetry they would like and to our amazement, the shy looking, soft spoken, polite, conservatively dressed students chanted – ‘Romantic’ to the discomfort of their teachers. Though I had decided on reading poems on social issues, I happily regaled them, especially a ladies college, with a series of softly romantic poems which they blushed right through.
In one of the co-ed colleges, they kept asking so many questions on love relationships, inferred from my poems, that in openly answering them along with a young male poet, I had a good mind to request guest lectureship on the subject.
Thus equipped with all the love that I received from the youth, also the seniors and veterans via my Madras Players poetry event, in return for the love I distributed like word candies, I am confident Chennai will accept my white or bitter chocolate of thoughts in my bold novel graciously. I’ve dedicated my novel – “For the city of Chennai” 😊

PS – The details of the Prakriti poetry festival are in the link:https://shuvashreeghosh.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/international-poetry-festival-in-chennai-with-prakriti-foundation/

Photos of these events are on my facebook timeline under featured albums.

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Blurb/Storyline: Entwined Lives is the story of two attractive, independent women, Sujata Anand and Aparna Nikhil, and of their lives in fateful conjunction with each other, from loving the same man Anand, a Chennai based media baron. Sujata is married to him after college, whereas Aparna returns from Mumbai to work for Anand, from a marriage gone horribly wrong due to her husband Nikhil’s alcoholism that eventually turns fatal. She briskly works her way up, to the position of editor of the newly launched Friday supplement – a lifestyle magazine. But has Aparna earned her promotion, or is it a privileged benediction of her boyfriend? Sujata is miffed and nurturing a romantic liaison with the much older Shekhar, sets up an event management, followed by an executive search firm.
The novel perceptively charts the loves, heartbreaks, and ambitious lives, of Sujata, Aparna, Anand, and Shekhar. This is, through a trajectory of societal issues – male and increasing female alcoholism, unrecognized emotional and physical abuse, extramarital romance or sex as fallout, sexual harassment; not the least perilous – social media hoaxes, frauds, and internet financial crimes. It is an intriguing kaleidoscope of life in urban India, which holds your sight in curiosity, on what are the options these characters will exercise in the end?