Living Free


Ever since a child, I was bound by people’s expectations of me, based on their deductions of my capability, be it my parents, teachers or colleagues: I was too quiet and timid to be a leader – my teachers thought, my parents considered I was too reserved and shy to go out and work, while my senior colleagues did not believe I could stand up and fight resistance as required in senior roles, perhaps due to the way I looked or due to lacking the perceptible aggression in my voice and body language. But I always waited for an opportunity to find the gates to these perceptions open, to run out and prove my worth, then return to prove them all wrong, and all this several times in life.

When I was about to start on my first novel, I had plenty of detractors – one of whom a close friend who actually said to me “you’re climbing the wrong tree.” But his words challenged me to cut him out as my friend, just as I did other negative influences, to complete what I set my mind to do.

So yes, I’ve often had to even fight with myself for the strength and conviction to break out of the gates of portrayals caging me…to be able to do what I wanted, but it’s all been well worth the run around in life, so that little can hold me back now.
It’s only when you are constantly bound in shackles by the perceptions the world has of you that you develop the strength, the ability to break free. So if you’ve wondered whether I was born free, grew up free…hell no, I was more leashed than most of you have been, but sure am living free now.  🙂


Yes, you can do it!!! You can surely climb over, just that you have to truly believe in yourself, as no one else might, and even if the rest of the world insists that you can’t.

What we think of ourselves creates our self esteem and confidence, which in turn will establish our reputation – if we have the patience and determination to persist in elevating our value in our own eyes.

“Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.:
“I desire so to conduct the affairs of this administration that if at the end, when I come to lay down the reins of power, I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside me.”
— Abraham Lincoln





Letting Go


Before me the river Ganges peacefully flows,

Its ripples rise and fall frothing over white cobbled stone;

But over boulders having no visible force – it caressingly glides,

Yet it gently flushes my heart of its obstinate toxic woes.

I sit for hours engrossed in the waters rhythmic flow

As if it is singing classical raga to the strums of the sitar:

With my back basking in the suns warm glow

I’m anointed by the cool breeze swathing the holy green flow.

As my soul seems liberated from debilitating worldly ties

I feel one with my creator, needing no identity I fear no rejection:

My sense of self consolidated, free of a lifelong urge for projection –

A palm-full of its own water I offer Ma Ganga thrice in obeisance.

Yet unable to leave I now slowly walk close to the water’s edge –

For a deep attachment I’ve developed for this holy current;

That’s a crutch to my soul, in filling the void in my heart I’ve created:

I still need a while to be free from craving worldly affections!  

PS: I took the pictures myself…the ones I’m in also I composed. 😊







Rumi Love Meditation: How I fell in love with Sufism


I fell in love with Sufism, at an ashram on the banks of the most sacred Hindu river – Ganges, at Rishikesh. As bizarre as it may seem, it is precisely what happened to me, over the span of just seven to ten days. This experience was almost like a calling from God and a test of my true spirituality – the ability to truly ‘Let Go’ of what I believe in or identify with as a Hindu by birth, even though I have grown up with Catholic values at a boarding school and then Protestant ones at a residential high school.

It’s like in the past fortnight, at the International Yoga festival I was attending in Rishikesh with over 1000 participants from 101 countries, I was mentally and spiritually sailing the universe focused on the universal values of love and service, deserting the illusions of ego to reach God, while anchored to my core inner self.  I have considered myself to be spiritually inclined – the realization dawning on me over the last ten years – simultaneous to my new journey as a fiction writer – novelist and poet. Thus I came to Rishikesh, with a mind and heart whose doors and windows were flung wide open, in the quest for greater spiritual awakening – not remotely religious.

The man who led my mind and heart literally by hand, to fall in love with Sufism – walked into the garden-lawn of the ashram, where on the evening before its commencement I had just arrived for my registration for the week long International Yoga Festival that I had reserved a seat for online. My first sight of Mert Guler, was him striding just behind me as I incidentally turned back – purposefully and with much élan, as if the moon had just floated into my view over the clouds, even as I was entering my room from the open balcony I had been standing in. I did not know his name, and would not for a couple of days yet, but one glance at his immense confidence, positive energy, and the aura he exuded – flashing the widest and most radiant smile I have ever seen, and I knew he was someone who had a very assured place under the sun. On his tall, lean, lithe frame, under a halo like crown of longish finely curled hair over his handsome face, Mert wore a white muslin kurta and pants. Close at his sandaled heels, strode in about eight strikingly pretty women. The sun was just setting over us nearing 6 pm then, but with Mert’s spontaneous Namaste to everyone around with a slight bow – the whole garden bordered by a series of tables manned by several men and women who knew him, lit up. The numerous desks were well manned to expedite the registration process. Mert Guler exuded so much positive energy that I kept looking at him in awe – wondering who he might be that he had a dedicated team of followers who walked literally at his feet and ensured their smiles matched his in exuberance.

Later that evening, on the way to dinner starting at 7.30 pm, the group breezed past me with Mert’s smile floating ahead of him – like the moon lighting the path of his followers. This time, I drew my roommate’s (we’d just about met) attention to the group and she agreed that there was a striking positive energy and aura about the man and his band of female followers who walked with similar speed, energy, the expanse of their smiles – to match his steps.

The next day after dinner, wherein we saw Mert again, on describing him to our third roommate, a Hindu – who came to the festival repeatedly, we learned his name and that he was a reputed yoga instructor from Turkey, Istanbul. She finished with – “He just makes you laugh all through his classes and does hoo-ha, hoo-ha only, for an hour or more…there’s no way I’m going to his class again…he’s so funny.”

Her statement, piqued my curiosity and led the 3 of us into further discussion on Mert wherein the other woman – a Christian, who had agreed that he had a positive and dynamic aura said – “His eyes look like he’s in a trance always, don’t they? He must surely be on some addictive substance to be high always, as it’s not uncommon among yogis to take drugs and the like. Moreover it looks like all his 8 women followers are in love with him and perhaps in a relationship with him too. Don’t they all look like they are?

“But how does it matter – if it makes them all happy?” I said and we both agreed. Then I added -“Moreover this angle makes it an interesting story for me to write about. There must be a reason why I’m bumping into this group several times ever since I arrived at about the time they did. I’m observing Mert like he was my latest character…And am very curious about what makes him tick. But much more, how all these women in a relationship with one man are so close-knit and always together, but then that’s how it is with the practice of having several wives.”

 “No, no, the women are all in his team and Mert has a girlfriend among that group. She had come last year too.” The repeat participant intervened convincingly, changing my perspective again.

“Did you notice them around the fruit-seller at the aarti-ghat this evening, there was one feeding him coconut water from her hand.” The other woman added. “She must be the girl friend.”

“Yes I noticed and I’m really more curious and looking forward to watch them at the next class.” I concluded this discussion, with a firm resolve to attend Mert’s class to figure out the dynamics myself.

At the class – that was full of bonhomie, positive energy, love and warmth for each of us participants – I found no chemistry/vibes amongst this group to suggest they had anything more than a common love for life, humanity, and love between them – and not a relationship of the earthy kind. After the ice breaker rounds and of immense laughter – the Sufi style of meditation that we learned of whirling around with hands skywards and head tilted, as Rumi the poet did in a marketplace for 26 hours, puts one in a relaxed, then happy, and trance like state. At the end of the class it was much more exhilarating than dancing and drinking for hours at a discotheque might be or from drugs. The motion of your body blanks your mind completely and you are in that state of meditative trance with no mental effort to tie your mind that’s like a monkey that tends to hop around and about the world even as you try to force it into a meditative state in the Buddhist style by concentrating on your breathing.

After the first class I felt compelled to return to the second one on the next day. The first was   called ‘Sufi Meditation’, and the second – ‘Rumi, Love, Meditation.’ In my view as I write this now, Sufi meditation is the most effective form of meditation there is for beginners.

At the festival, where we had yoga classes from 4 am to 9.30 pm interspersed with spiritual discourses by great spiritual leaders like Mooji – most of which I attended to enhance my thoughts as a poet and literary fiction writer, I learned and practices various forms of meditation. Yet it was Sufi meditation that I’m all set to be practicing henceforth – even ordering a skirt to make my whirling more effective, this after recording a number of Sufi music albums from the shop outside the ashram.

My newfound love for all things Sufi, was substantially enhanced after I watched and joined Mert playing Holi with his team with as much happiness and love, as while in Sufi meditation class. Mert applied purple and pink colour on everyone in his vision when we played Holi and this included me too. He and his team love life in all its facets and teach you to love it too.  At both his classes, the other enthusiastic participant as myself was a 28 year ‘Hare Krishna’ follower from Columbia, who is a civil engineer with a master’s degree who quit a safe and successful corporate life for a life of spirituality at 25 years.  My roommates and I think, we might see this young Hari Krishna follower who we became rather fond of and referred to as Krishna or Radhe-Radhe, join Mert’s group or take up Sufism by the next festival. He was as inspired by Mert – as I learned from my conversations with him as by ‘Hare Krishna.’

Let me end by admitting to you humbly, that for all my spiritual bent of mind, my two roommates who did not attend any of Mert’s classes, have throughout the week been teasing me of being in love with Mert Guler and not only his teachings. Well, and so be it 😊 …he is the conveyor of new love, life and positive energy. If an ardent, male Hare Krishna follower with shaved head in the pictures, is so besotted by him, why not me!

Mert Guler preaches love and in quoting him, “…wants everyone in life, to be more of each of the following – free, full of love, pleasant and joyful, compassionate; share more and be more understanding and above all smile much, much more.”

His purpose is to create a deep awareness in the physical, emotional, intellectual and internal development, to render people’s smiles hearty and to share smiles by duplicating to opening the way to harmony and unity with the universe, inspiring to bring good surprises to the world. He   strongly believes “that this inspiration will create a more livable world.”

Mert who is inspired by the Sufi poet Rumi who I love and Yoga – and is the author of the book – Smile with Love (Turkish): I’m awaiting its English Translation as I believe in the philosophy he preaches too and love is the core inspiration behind most of my writing – prose and poetry.











With Mert’s translator Hannan

PS: My pictures are at the beginning of the second day’s class with Mert.

By The Lake This Morning.



The birds chirped abundantly, and aloud

Around the soft ripples of the wood’s lake,

As I sat viewing, on its moss-green cascade –

The defined silhouettes of trees overhead.


A chilly breeze caressed my just-woken face,

As shadows of birds stroked water’s surface –

Swathed in soft sun’s rays entwined in haze,

Sending shivers up my spine – without bane.


Yellow-beaked white birds hopped moodily

On the grassy mud banks – as if an audience

Tap dancing in the gallery of a pool-stadium:

Where tender floating leaves danced a ballet.


With a bluebird flying overhead in red-yellow,  

Awakening, enticing the leaves rhythmic sense –  

As a band in a synchronized-swimming recital:

They provided a solitary, spiritual experience.




Photos Courtesy: Shuvashree Chowdhury

Chennai entraps me, and how!

Chennai entraps me, and how – literally and figuratively: The pictures are of my traditional breakfast at 8am today. It’s been a tradition I follow, to eat at a local restaurant like Sangeetha, Murugan or other, every time I leave Chennai for a while. As I miss the awesome sambhar and chutneys which are rather different here, even if the idli, vada and dosa are abundantly available everywhere in the country, if not the world. I do make idli and dosa at home too, but you cannot replicate the signature sambhars or chutneys of the Murugan’s or the other reputed chains.

Just after my solitary meal, as I walked out of the restaurant near home, I received a call from Indigo – that my 1855hr flight is cancelled due to bad weather in Bangalore – as contrived as it sounded, considering the sunny sky there – I verified on Google. But then, not so surprising after all – if you’re aware of the high profile Chennaite – Sasikala (ref  my previous post and the link below), who is on her way there today and perhaps reason why I am destined to leave Chennai only after the culmination of this political drama, that has kept me rooted here. But I’ve had a lot of this drama for now – so I’ve made fresh reservations even at 4 times the cost of my ticket today – to leave tomorrow for my spiritual break.

But I’m reminded now – of lunch a few days back with a top-ranking cop (IPS) friend and an industrialist, both long timers here and high-profile citizens. The discussion over cocktails at the hotels private lounge – was as expected – the very interesting current political debacle. I was, much to the two men’s surprise, able to match their discourse thought for thought. The cop, a few years older than me, even supported my views over our much older friend’s – on a number of instances – till he could not hold his curiosity and asked me: “How do you know so much about Tamil Nadu and the socio-economic-political situation?”

So I smiled and replied after justifying in a few brief sentences – ending with – “I am a keenly analytic observer of humanity – just completing a novel set in contemporary Chennai – but seeing me – who the hell wants to believe in its authenticity!”

Now you tell me – Do I need to dress, eat and speak a certain way to understand the local culture and people! Moreover, how do you know what I feed my minds eye with?
With my novel Across Borders too, many of my friends, even teachers had stated – “It’s just not you, Shree! How do you know so much about rural and traditional Bengali culture and life?”
It’s true, I didn’t study Bengali – let alone Tamil literature. Nor do I need to personally experience everything I write about – because I have a vividly active imagination over my keen observation.
Why must we judge a writer or creative process by the creators personality? Isn’t creativity about the ability to get outside your mind and heart and think from the perspective of others not like yourself? Why does everything I write about have to be my personal life and experience! I feel debilitatingly, creatively entrapped – by my personal and corporate experiences and resultant personality.


The Baton Of Power



I lived in her charismatic shadow all my life –

Guarding her halo of beauty, fame, and power;

I’ve bided my time to step on the political stage

Coaching myself under a pretentious cover.


The greenroom provided a great view of the drama,

Lending me ample light to nurture my own exposure –

As if my life’s film I was developing in the dark room,

I came to public light when her life’s show was over.


My dreams and ambitions I kept tightly wrapped

In a thick blanket – of a stoic, silent demeanor:

Even as I fanned my families lofty aspirations

With resolute determination sans a nervous tremor.


The loyal hearts of Tamil Nadu scorned at me

For scheming against their beloved CM – Amma Jayalalitha;

But they didn’t know I, Sasikala, was her shadow,

So someday my fame and face might precede her in posters.


People, why didn’t someone tell me – ambition, grit, willpower

Aren’t enough, in this murderous race for power:

If education, experience and wisdom are not your teachers –

A solid baton of trust is binding to run a race you’ve hankered.



Please refer to the links below for the socio-political context of my poem…




My Possessive Pride


It’s my culture, it’s my pride,

Don’t deny me my right –

To upkeep what for generations

Has been my birthright!

In my need to assert my identity

I must fight all conceivable might –

That in my sentiment does not alight.


What of the creatures I malign –

In my firm belief it is justly their plight!

For am I not rewarding them with a mate for

Their uncharacteristic defensive run,

Even if trampling my own kin, splashing blood!


Don’t I love creatures I garland and my kin, alike?

As I love ‘My’ wife – so what if I crush her profile;

‘My’ son – must he not follow in my chosen stride –

Failing which from my inheritance I will him deprive!

‘The’ daughter better not wed, hurting my pride

Or I would rather kill her if I must – before she is a bride.

‘My’ husband – all of his breathing time is all mine!

Then how can my pet dog crave beef or pork

Banned by my religion, or at least chicken

That’s his natural and instinctive preference:

For I his lord and master – am vegan, ain’t I?


So people, allow me to upkeep my pride,

Or I will scurry up a revolution:

It’s peaceful – so justified!

With which you will be forced

To bend to the Cause of my brittle pride –

Even if it turns violent overnight.

For which, my exemplary law abiding homeland –

What If the world with indignity renames – Volatile!


‘My’ God – don’t challenge my solemnity

Or devout behavior and pious style:

He’s apprised of my need to protect my pride

That you threaten to rob me of from time to time!

Ownership of those I love and worship –

Whether man or beast, is my birthright:

So don’t question my intentions – its sublime!


This poem, is inspired by my thoughts – in silently viewing the proceedings of the last week, here in Chennai, on the Jallikattu uprising: especially after the violence and lawlessness yersterday, that made the city risky for anyone and everyone on the roads…

The details are in the link:

For detailed understanding, you may watch the video in the link here:

Also for a better understanding of the concept of my poem, please read this article: