Gallery  —  Posted: July 18, 2014 in Words In Progress

Music For All Ages

Posted: March 16, 2012 in Words In Progress

I can’t quite explain it. Like I keep saying you had to be there. Coming from a wordsmith, when I say I’m speechless, you can take my word for it.

I got downtown around 2 PM. There were people everywhere. Old-timers, toddlers, teenagers, generation now, everybody in Tampa was there. And everybody who wasn’t missed out on a day that will make the history books. But, there’s always next year. Thank God.

The weather reeked of Floridian goodness – calm air, bright sun and the sweet notes of feedback from the sound check drew me in like anti-gravity. The Gasparilla Music Festival had arrived.

I’d invited the only person I knew who’d appreciate artists we’d never heard before. I stood at the center of Curtis Hixon Park looking around in wide-eyed wonder at the land where Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley and Janis Joplin had performed before. Icons whose I’ve listened to on repeat, whose documentaries I’ve sought out and watched, whose era I wish I’d lived in. But this was the best I could’ve asked for and Tampa did a damn good job of exceeding my expectations.

Three massive stages, one historic venue, a dozen local food vendors with delectable vegetarian options, and a diverse crowd with one thing in common, music. The first ones to take the main stage when I arrived, the Lee Boys were the reason I knew I made the right choice when I bought those tickets. Undoubtedly, one of the most memorable performances of the day, I’ve never seen old school hard rock with such a strong blues flavor brew so well together. For a moment when I closed my eyes to shut the sun out, I could’ve sworn I’d been transported back in time and The Doors were at a distance not far away.

Soon after, Alvin ‘Youngblood’ Hart. I’d read on the poster that they had won the Grammy’s a while ago, but I’ve stopped watching award ceremonies since music stopped being about tunes and took the well-trodden path of sound. But this group was all about the audience – in tune, in sync, in every way possible. The crowd was still small and I was up front by the speakers giving my ears the treat they’d long deserved. My restless camera kept jumping out of its case and into my hand. Considering how close to the stage I was, I have to say my camera has an IQ of 183. I took some brilliant photographs.

Toward the latter half of the day, Deer Deer Tick drew in an elaborate crowd. Though they started off looking rather good with a tight sound check, it seemed the herbs took over the performance and left them a little off balance. The fact that one of their leads looked eerily like Bob Dylan didn’t hurt. My friend said I was acting like a real girl, gawking and the guy and taking a million pictures. In all honesty, if I never get to see Dylan live at least I’ll have his doppelganger to hold onto.

Walking through the park to keep warm in a night that turned chilly just as it was burning up, we stumbled upon the Distinguished Men of Brass. Entertainers true to their form, this troupe brought their marching band sound to the forefront; it was the only time in the day I saw the amphitheater packed and people climbing in over the sides of the wall. They danced, they hollered, they played and they performed. By the end of their show, the audience was up on their feet, moving and clapping. To say the least, they received a standing ovation.

Not all the bands matched up. But those that did made the Gasparilla Music Festival an unbelievable event that will transcend history. And I’ll be there to write about it. For years to come.

Ladies and gentlemen, the show has just begun.

Ever since I can remember, I always knew I was out of place in the land I was born of. Yet, I never failed to notice a growing sense of pride, appreciation and wanting to belong in a country that time and again never ceases to amaze me and in an instant disowns me like I never belonged to begin with.

This piece was intended to be written a long time ago when I returned to Tampa after visiting India in 2010. When time didn’t permit, my thoughts took a backseat, but when I sat down to write today, I was surprised and saddened just a tad, if you will, at the intensity with which I remembered the relief that swept over me every time I reminded myself that I was only visiting and that three weeks was ample time for me to get back to the life that I had chosen over the birthplace that has now become a holiday destination.

When I landed in India in the heat of August 2010, the excitement was uncontainable. All I could think of was my house, my dogs, my Mum and the hot cup of tea I knew she would have ready every morning before I woke up. Soon enough though I realized that what was once my city, my nook, my niche was no longer really a reality. The landscape had changed so much. People, all of a sudden, had lives that prevented them from making the effort to do anything outside of routine. Friends now needed schedules and even when you met their time constraints, didn’t quite see the value in making an effort to grab a cup of coffee. The best friend, of course, who you had duly informed of your arrival seemed to have time for all else, but the quintessential, quite obviously, no longer best friend.

Money had, in fact, become a deciding factor in the things you did and the things you could do. A new class had risen its glorious head and had rained its wrath upon every memory of fun I had weighing down heavily in my head. In this old town with its new attitude, you didn’t go where you wanted to, you went where everybody else went and eventually, by some hypnotic slight of hand succumbed to the notion that that’s where you were headed to begin with. It was unfortunate to see so many take to this new mantra; I was somehow under the illusion that we had left such trivial non-ideals in the 10th grade. Clearly, I was mistaken.

There are, of course, some things that never change. The select few who you’re rarely in touch with, but who remain a part of your life for the rest of your life and will move mountains to spend a few hours with you  that make up for four years of time gone by. The family, who despite your individuality that drives them to discomfort, will still light up at the sight of your physical presence and welcome you with open arms. The air that no matter how many years later never flinches when you take it in.

Back to square one. The questions, the expectations and the advice. The consistent pressure of ‘don’t come back.’ Agree and there’s the instant counter-attack of having become American.

What I used to refer to as my house was in fact, now, my parents’ house. No doubt, I’m the only person who feels that way. But how not when everything seems to have changed so much; the United States was no longer the foreign land. Needless to say, my emotions about mine and my own are heavily conflicted. I would never give up the expression on my Mum’s face for an easier, less thought-provoking trip, but my mind can’t help but wander back to the days that were and are never to be again.

Clearly, life has changed. And with life’s changes, so have I and so have the people around me. This, of course, is true of any of life’s turns and no matter how long or how much I speak of it, there’s really no stopping change.

The tone of this blog in itself defies Chapter 1. My intentions when I began this blog were to tell a story, to take people through my memory on a journey of a journey. Not to philosophize. But putting thoughts down is my only resolve when I find them scattered and tangled within the world that lives inside my head.

One thing I have realized is that the cliche “home is where the heart is” is as true as they come. Today, my heart lives in Tampa and like I cried for Chennai when I left four years ago, one day I will cry for Tampa too. But as time passes, I will make another my home and give another my heart and then, Tampa too will become a ‘once upon a time’ story like so many other long, long agos that have made up this awkward existence I call my life.


Posted: April 14, 2011 in Words In Progress

It seems like your memory has lost its mind

Being there for you is like a one-way street with a big, red stop sign at the end

No way in, no way out

With you, I feel like I fit, but no matter how hard I may try I still seem to stand out

Nothing I do will ever make you happy

Trying is bleeding me dry and sucking every morsel of soul that lies within my heart

I bludgeon myself trying to understand what I think I’m misunderstanding

You’ve become a part of my self, my flesh, my blood

And yet, I find no belonging within you, near you

Just around you, always

Trying in a worthless effort that holds no meaning to you

And no end to me

Standing beside you, holding your hand

Picking you up even when you’re not on the ground

Thinking of you even when you’re not around

Am I really misunderstanding or am I the one that’s misunderstood

This perilous path has no end

An unforgiving drowning of my every will

That wills me to do more

Were you ever really there?

Are you ever really here?

Is this just a test of time that I am predestined to fail?

The questions, of course, will never end

The answers, no doubt, will never be mine

I walk through this with my head held high

Believing like every other addict that I can let go whenever I decide

Knowing truthfully, only to myself, that the pain, in the end

Is the only real thing that I can trust, is the only real thing that will calm my mind.

Keeping Company

Posted: January 19, 2011 in Words In Progress

I’ve always preferred to be by myself, never really possessed the knack of making friends, even worse at keeping the ones I make. Not for the lack of opportunity though. More for the lack of skill. I’ve never really been able to wrap my head around the idea of people. And those that have made an entry have always made a faster exit. So really, no mystery there.

But this doesn’t mean I don’t have friends. I do, I have a ton of them. Just not the type you’d expect. They aren’t friends you’d see me walking down the street or catching a movie with, which in my relative reality are two usually easy recreational activities that I find practically impossible to do. No, my friends keep me a different kind of company. Company that is exclusive, constant and never ungrateful.

The gang that I’d been hanging out with recently are a group of 6 – Steve, Jeff, Patrick, Jane, Sally and Susan. Hilarious and British to say the least, this bunch has been giving me some of the best laughs I’ve ever had. At the end of a tough day, when a ridiculous amount of s**t has decided to unload itself onto to my modestly small head, there’s no doubt that I’ll sleep the night away with a smile on my face after a half hour’s conversation with these guys.

I’d have to be rather shallow and quite the hypocrite, however, if all I entertained were friends who amused me. Which is where Olivia and Elliott step in. Though we don’t meet quite as often as I’d like to, some weekends we spend entire days talking about horrifying tales of rape and murder in and around New York. The extensive experience that these two have had in the area of heinous crimes is incredible. Sometimes, I have to turn away from them just to avoid feeling like I was there when it happened. But I admire their perseverance. No matter how many stories they tell and how many such cases they come across, they never let up.

My best friend however, is, as can only be expected, the grump. He’s in pain and he’s an even bigger pain, all at the same time. He has an incredibly dry wit and an immense amount of cruel intended to result in good. When I get the message that he’s coming to town, it simply makes my day. Well, in all honesty, we have a love hate relationship. I love the way he hates the world. Of all my friends, he’s the one I relate to the most. As nasty as he can be, I wouldn’t trust anybody’s advice over his. “Everybody lies, you idiot,” he says to me every time we meet. Nobody calls a spade the way he does. More often than not, I feel sad for him. It must be difficult being so bitter all the time. As long as he’s not complaining, I really couldn’t care less.

Friends come and go. The sooner they get here, the faster they leave. Some of them come back every season, some of them don’t make it very far. But to all of them from whom I’ve learned, with whom I’ve laughed and with whom I’ve cringed and hurt time and again, I’m grateful for the lonely, worthless days that you’ve made worthwhile. Most importantly, I’m grateful to the Internet.


Posted: January 18, 2011 in Words In Progress

My stupid head. Keep thoughts to yourself. Don’t share. Don’t tell. Don’t pun. Don’t spin. Don’t think. Don’t think twice. Don’t sing. Don’t smile. Don’t sigh. Don’t remember. Don’t wonder why. Don’t ask why. Please stop speaking.

Everyday, every hour, every second, every minute. Who, why, when, what? Who are you to ask all of these questions? Why can’t you just accept things the way the are instead of analyzing everything my eyes see? When did it become okay to question the norm and not be called crazy? What are you thinking…change the world, really? Don’t you ever go to sleep.

Sleep and there you are. Waiting for me in the distance, that evil grin on fluid visage. Waiting for me, beckoning me, sweet slumber kisses from your lips take me on a journey that wakes me sometimes in sadness, others in anger and more often than not, drizzling in a sickly sweat that keeps me questioning the thin line between reality and the sandman’s kingdom. Why won’t you ever leave me alone?

Just when I’ve convinced myself that the world is always right and I’m forever wrong. Just when I’ve begun to accept conformity as my new watchword. Just when I’ve decided to give up the fight for difference and live the happy life being like everybody else, there you are, with that blessed grin plastered all over your face again.

Why the consistent conversations? Why do you use the cavern where you lay as a battleground? Why do all your exalted speeches resonate within me? Don’t raise your voice just because I pretend not to listen. You know I hear every word you say. I have no choice. One by one, like red, hot bricks being laid to pave a village road, you burn a piece of yourselves into me. Except you’re the brick that will never come apart, never fall away, never worn from being tread on.

You are the one thing I wish to run the farthest from yet, you are my most prized possession.