SOULTales - Character Strengths, Stories & Vocabulary

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Love of my Life

   I was introduced to the love of my life way back when I was a young, enthusiastic teacher at a special school. But we rarely met, perhaps once in a while when I chose to, but what with a million things to do and learn and also being deeply involved in teaching special children, I hardly noticed him. Little did I realise he would show up later in my life the way he did!

   I got married and believed I had chosen the right guy, well...I also believed terrorism was what you saw in movies and child abuse was something that happened in very depraved societies and not in mine...
...but, to continue on my marriage, something was missing. I felt a void within me, an emotional chasm, and I felt very incomplete.

   Meanwhile I started a family and within a span of 4 and half years I had two children! I struggled with my inner emotional void and external world of mundane chores. I felt so tied down, I wanted wings to fly, to dance and swirl and soar in the clouds. At that moment of despair, I had an epiphany when I realised to my greatest joy that I could have a different partner...

   I hunted out the love of my life. I searched for him high and low. I combed every possible virtual beach...yes, Thank God for technology, he reentered my life, to stay...

   But, I must confess here, he is dominating, I cannot underestimate the power he has over me. He has transformed me, he has taken me out of the lowest of lows...seeks me out with the right words. He really knows how to clean those cobwebs in my mind....

   Let me introduce you to my love, the love of my life...I am even at this very moment in a deeply engaged and satisfying relationship with Storytelling and every one of the stories I chose to involve myself with is my partner.  I allow every story to lead me, through many processes of change and that is my deeply engaged journey of growth...

   What I really like is that I can choose to play with my partner the way I want, keep him...(perhaps even her), or leave him as I will.

I am not sure if I will ever be ready to part with my beloved...but I know for sure that I float in the air now....I dance in the clouds....

(A personal Story that I wrote following a workshop done by a dear Storyteller...hope I have fulfilled the norms...I also told this at the BSS meetup and happy to have pushed myself a bit more....

I am allowing myself to push limits!)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

My Grandmother's hands

Here is a story I crafted for one of my storytelling was well appreciated by the audience...

Soft and sooo fair; that was my grandmother’s hands. I could see her blue veins crisscrossing under her thin, translucent, stretched skin, it reminded me of baby rivulets gurgling through some snowy mountains…

She was a very fair woman…and She told me  (actually my sister and I ) that when she got married at the age of 13 to my Grandfather who was 17 years old…everyone teased her by saying, he was as dark as kan mai (Kaajal) that it would rub off on her fair, snowy skin! Really they were such a contrast; Black and White!

But I am telling you about her Hands, and those hands are what I cherish …
Images of her sitting legs stretched, a she watched TV and tied the Jasmine flowers into strings…

Images of her as she sat on the floor and made Thiri with soft white, natural cotton, and milk…

Images of her as she made us all sit in a row…for Diwali…everyone in order of Seniority starting with my Grandfather, right upto my brother….with my father getting preferential treatment by sitting on the Mannai ( low stool)…and she with her cupped hands full of Til Oil…patting it on our heads…Splotch…splotch....splotch

Images of her as she scooped Curd Rice…from her Silver plate ( Actually the plate my Grandfather ate from …but she used to rinse it once and eat from the same)…juicy…buttermilk…running down her wrist…as she slurped them with her tongue…not to miss the Home made avakkai, that she could never pass …or Maavadu…or Magani kizhangu..

Those hands belonged to a lady with a really Gassy sense of Humor…literally. It was my grandmother who would regale us with jokes about Farting…(no I am not joking!)…and also one of my earliest memories of her is her telling us a story of this little bird…who ate and Drank sooo much..he had to stuff Straw up his arse! Or even the story of a thief who climbed a tree and couldn’t hold back so he pissed from there…and a passerby thought the tree was blessing him!

Lying down next to her every night…it was like sleeping next to Kumba Karna…for she had a huge tummy..and she would mostly lie on her back…So I would either wrap my leg over her girth…and try to literally sleep over her…or I would pull at her hands…and tuck it under my I dozed off…

But her hands were soft and so craggy at the same time…the veins popping up like mini mountains…on a smooth…soft terrain…..splotched and marked with islands of red; the pink freckles on her fair skin…her arms…so podgy…and cushiony…and warm…

The last 3 years of her life, around the time I got married, she suffered a stroke…Her left side couldn’t move..but the doctor told her…she must try and use her hands as much as possible….

Her hands would tremble as she lifted the spoon from the bowl…and the food spilled over her lips…as she couldn’t coordinate her hand and mouth….
Eating with her fingers became impossible…as she could not make her fingers listen to her….

My beautiful Grandmother…could not use her beautiful hands….
 We had all gone out one day and only my brother was at home that night…As I entered the door…I knew something was wrong looking at his face
so…I ran to my grandmothers room…and saw her lying there….on the bed …on her side…

I lifted her Hand and pressed it to my cheek…my Grandmother’s hands…with blue veins that criss-crossed under her translucent skin…was…cold…absolutely cold. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Are You on that Train?

Are you on that train?
Rushing by.
Moving so fast 
I can scarcely see.

The sounds and sights
Wooshing by
I look on
A silent spectator.

I strain and stretch
To catch glimpses
Of you 
As it flashes by.

I wave, I smile
I sigh, I cry
I am here
but you go there.

I know my thoughts
But know not yours
Where is the time?
to stop and share 

I too move on
On wheels 
That seem so slow
Almost surreal.

Memories and moments
roll by me
As I pick and choose some
to cherish and see

We know not 
where we meet

If we will 
It may not be here...or there
Or it could well be nowhere

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Who is spiritual?

Funny question to ask...but if you know my path you will understand my question.

My grandmother and grandfather were deeply religious and ritualistic, as is norm in a typical Brahmin family; and Iyengar to boot, they think they are the true blue Vaishnavaites...royalty even!
My father and mother very theistic with an unquestionable, unshakable faith in the Lord.
So growing up I was comfortable following their system, but in a half hearted lacklustre way. The obedient clasping hands in the temples or reciting shlokas when asked or prompted. Yet deep within me I was not sure why I was doing it.
So I was quite happy to marry an agnostic. (That is perhaps the only point of difference with my partner that I do not mind! But that is another story.)

Now having tossed and turned in this ocean of Samsara, I am keenly questioning this word spirituality or spiritualism.
Right from the start I dismissed rituals as a fun aspect of the spirituality that I was a seeker of...
But who then is a spiritual person?

Is it the one who visits temples daily?
Or the one who prays daily?
What about those who share life's philosophies through their discourses...are they spiritual beings??

 It slowly dawned on me that being spiritual is not what you or I know from the cliched definitions,or stereotypes that we are used to...
A spiritual person who is truly in touch with divinity, are those who are truly in touch with themselves, and that self is without an ego...
A human being who can interact with everyone with the same sense of self, without allowing the narrow definitions of Ego to influence his/ her interactions with others; that is a truly spiritual person...
A human being who can speak to the sweeper with the same concern as they would speak to the CEO of a large the one who is spiritual
A human being who can present themselves with minimal expectations and needs
It doesn't matter whether they pray or not, whether they believe in God or not...this person is connected to divinity...a spiritual person.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Marriage Musings

Life was going pretty smoothly, cruising along, when I was thrown a curve ball. Husband posted to Delhi and I am staying back to look after kids, career and interests....

This is something I wanted..aka..not exactly what I wanted...but..the universe chooses to give you what you want, but you cannot control How you get it. (If you have read Monkey's Paw by WW. Jacobs, you will get the flow of my thoughts and feelings).

Last month or a month before that I was telling my Husband; I wished to experience staying alone, being responsible for myself and not happily passing the buck /cup of responsibility to an ever obliging spouse.

The Universe decided to do as I said! 

I envisioned alone in a beautiful cottage perhaps on a hill station, working for myself and being completely in charge of myself and my life. (yes, too many movies and books, my imagination is more than a bit over board on such things)

Reality is: Government quarters, 2 kids, a car and a maid. Responsibility is now managing all our emotions, managing the physical needs, shopping for groceries, uninspired cooking, lackadaisical cleaning and of course pursuing a job. Plus trying not to fall into a boring routine, having exciting options lined up for the Sunday and trying to do it with a smile. 

Marriage has now taken on a new meaning for me.

It is time to read Philosophy....and here is what I came across;

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness,

 And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

 Love one another but make not a bond of love: 

Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. 

Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. 

Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.

 Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,

 Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music

 Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping. 

For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together, yet not too near together: 

For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

 And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.” 

How profound these words sound to me and wish I had practiced it from much before. So this Cypress tree has to learn to grow outside the shadow of the Oak.... we are Indian I should perhaps say: 
Let the GulMohur tree grow outside the shadow of the Peepal tree

Om Shanthi. Shanthi. Shantihi....

PS: Please note the choice of trees...I do see myself as the Flame of the Forest and my Husband as the Bodhi Tree
....the rest I leave to your imagination


Friday, July 4, 2014

Hans Christian Anderson

My daughter picked up a beautiful book from our library (Thinkbox Library at Vignana Nagar). It is a collection of fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson. At a time when Grimm's fairytales was popular, H.C.Anderson wrote original fairy tales. This book especially is gorgeous, with a foreword and snippets of personal anecdotes and encounters from his life preceding every tale; it is a must read.

It is called Tales of Hans Christian Anderson, translated and Introduced by Naomi Lewis and illustrated by Joel Stewart. The illustrations are exquisite!

I have also narrated an unusual story written by him called as the "The lost Collar" which is a delight to tell and of course there are many memorable ones, such as the Little Match girl, The Ugly Duckling and others.
Here is a link to his website.

Enjoy exploring, imaging, and fantasising...Humans have a special gift!


Friday, June 6, 2014

Boys are very empathetic...

Talking about boys and empathy may seem like an Oximoron(!), but trust me when I say that the species is not a lost cause in this front...
Let me explain.

Boys are empathetic towards different things that's all. It does not appear the same way as it looks like for girls. They show care and concern for their toys, they nurture their many hobbies and many more...

I am not joking or making fun, I genuinely believe their empathy looks very different:))

But a very important requirement for this is positive attachment with the Mother!! Then a sure fire empathetic boy is going to make many women happy:)) Perhaps with a great potential to be an Internationally renowned Therapist!!

Talking about boys, I had a great time with my son one hot hot afternoon in Chennai. We were forced to walk down Santhome main road, after our auto broke down, in order to reach my sister's house. The topic under scrutiny was marriage as we had just drowned in a celebration for a close family member. As this was an arranged marriage, he wanted to know how and why this happened.

 But what I find most significant is his question to me....( He starts off as if he wants to know how his sister is going to go through the process...but as you can see its about him!!)
"Who do you want U to marry?", says He
"That's upto her" says Me

"But you know she will always come to you (to help her make decisions), you know that" says He
 " Ok, I agree, hmmm...let me see. I would ask her choose someone who makes her laugh, who is her best friend perhaps and who makes her happy" (I really had no answers but was just shooting straight from the hip!) says Me

"So who do you think I should marry" says He
"The same rules apply to you too" says Me

Even Quicker
"Marriage and Friends look very different" says He
"!!!!" (I have nothing to say)

So here I thought I was making a profound impact on my son and building his thinking and understanding of marriage, but I guess he understands much more through what he observes. Rather than just take my cliched words at face value, he chooses to interpret things more practically or is that pragmatically?!!

BTW my son is all of 11 years old!


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What do you think?

In the end, just three things matter -
How well we have lived
How well we have loved
How well we have learned to let go
Jack Kornfield

What do you think?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The UberMall versus the CornerGrocer

This post sounds like a Boxing match between two teams, or perhaps WWF wrestling contestants. If there was a match the UberMall could win for sheer glamour factor, but I will hand over my personal  prize to CornerGrocer!

The other day I was to make Sabudana Vadi and as I had no sabudana at home and I could not delay getting it, for you know how you need to soak it over night, I walked down to a local Mall to get it.
In spite of walking through the aisles and searching for it, I could not find it. The place somehow looked as if it badly needed some cleaning and the staff were busy watching a cricket match, quite impervious to us customers. I know that this was not their usual operational style and was a little puzzled, only to realise that the owner was not sitting at his usual place that day.

I had to buy the Sabudana, so I walked to another local grocer shop just a few metres away and asked for Sabudana. I was greeted with a bombastic smile and a spiel that blasted my ears for 2 minutes. He extolled the goodness of his sabudana, that it was different and better, and that I had to just try it and see. Then he weighed it carefully in front of my eyes and double checked because I asked him whether the weight was accurate. Wrapped the sabudana in newspaper and gave it to me with the change.

So tell me where should I go now? Who is the winner in your eyes. By all standards, hands down, the CornerGrocer!

This is not the first time I have felt this, many times when I dont feel like going into the big shops and I step into a smaller grocer shop, the difference in attitude and customer relations hits me. They make you feel wanted, they ask for your opinion and give theirs freely. Never have I stepped out of such places without a smile and perhaps an extra item in my bag which is different and unique that I have not tried before.

I agree the variety in a Ubermall is mind blowing, but the warmth and connectedness in the small grocer's shop is so very charming. Hopefully this tribe will not fade like our beloved tigers, unable to face the cut throat sharky competition of the Uber Malls.

(Plus wrapping stuff in newspaper is so much more eco friendly, why is it disappearing??)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Are you looking for Happiness?

How simple this sounds!

If you wish to be happier, be humble says Gary Zukav, (yes, he is the one who wrote the best seller, "Dancing Wu Li Masters", a book that interprets Quantum Physics in all its metaphysical ways!!)

I came across this book DWLM ( Hmmm...I am a true Indian with a penchant for acronyms), when I was studying and then later once more on my husbands book shelf.

It is a tough read, as the technical aspects of Quantum physics went way over my head, and so I cannot imagine the same person has authored such an article or has gone on to form an organisation that goes by the name : Seat of the Soul Institute.

But you must read this article: is it possible to practice, Humbleness, Forgiveness, Love and Clarity?

I understand what he says but becoming such a transcendental soul is soooo difficult.

Tell me what you think

Sunday, March 9, 2014

February Tales

February has been a month of Tales.

The most wonderful of them all was "The Kite Flyer of Beijing", created by John McCormick and his sons William and Connor. There is another story here...!

I was to tell a story at the Chennai Storytelling Festival and decided it would be this beautiful story about an old Chinese man and his reluctance to let go of his life, he then takes the form of a kite and finally decides to go...
It came to me at a time when I was looking for solace after my mother's death. Yet there was a clause that asked me to contact the author if I wanted to use the story in any way. I did (after some prodding from a friend) and the rest is his-story!!
John not only gave me permission but also wrote about our email exchanges in his column on Huffington Post. Truly a Grace from above...
You can read it here:

He also blogged about it on his website:

I have more tales to tell for February is the month of Love and the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia during this month when maidens and men were encouraged to look for partners.
At BSS (Bangalore Storytelling Society), our monthly meet up was all about sharing the mushy and non-mushy tales of love.
We had a story about obsessive love and the stalker's perspective of his love.
Story of a Beautiful Cockroach (Martina the Beautiful Cockroach)
Story of the False Collar by Hans Christian Anderson
some Khalil Gibran (love without Gibran?...never!)
and more folklore from Punjab, famous land of love stories right from Heer-Rhanja to Sohni-Mahiwal.

As one storyteller pointed out Obsession and Detachment are two sides of the spectrum, Love falls in the middle...Wah Wah..subbah nallah!!

Happy Telling Folks

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Book Club at Streisand's Art

When we undertake an activity for the sheer pleasure of engagement, then the results we get are un-measurable.
With those profound words, I take you to view some pictures;

The Book Club I facilitate at Think Box library, is always looking for things to do differently.
Last year we visited a Printing Press and had a collection of articles/ drawings by the club members published into a book.

This year I really wanted to showcase how illustration and visual images,,can inspire story creation and vice-versa. The options were to interview illustrators, that is, have someone talk about book illustrations or to take them to an Art Gallery to just experience Art in its real sense. This could inspire the children we thought (Bhakti Shah of Think Box is a great support and in fact drives many of these activities).

Mails flew back and forth as we tried to find an Art Gallery for kids, that would support us, as we were looking at taking 11 really enthusiastic children on a trip to view a Art Gallery/Shop...the Paintings/ Art work had to survive that, and of course the management must be supportive of such lateral thinking.

Did we find one?!!

Cruising down 100 feet road I just parked my car and entered an Art Shop/ Gallery which really looked vibrant from outside. Streisands Art it said. I was hesitant to ask permission. The Shop was a visual treat, at first glance i could see that. Every inch covered with paintings, mostly oil. 

Then came Leda !!

A Volunteer at Streisand, she was a delight and went on to explain how Streisands supports such activities and awareness building with children, was also a platform for upcoming artists, and was  providing art at an affordable price. She also explained their social angle, where they provide training and personal development for underprivileged through their foundation.

11 excited children visited Streisands on February 17th. It appeared as if they were in a magic cave, they oohed and aahed over the paintings. Some realistic, some abstract. Yet what was fascinating to watch was that the children had great questions to ask, right from how do you conserve to what is the cost of the paintings!

Leda was simply superb, as she clearly explained different styles, modern, impressionist, real, contemporary, and abstract. She showed a reproduction of  Van Gogh's sunflower; had children touch and feel the texture of the paintings, some smooth, some rough, depending on how the paint had been used. She showed a reproduction of Raja Ravi Varma's painting, and many more. 

(The Streisands Art catalogue can be viewed here. Streisand is on 100 feet road, just opposite Sony Shop)

The Book Club Members just soaked it up. I followed this up by asking them to choose a painting and reproduce it, as well as they could. The task remaining for them is to come back for next month's book club with a Story or some thoughts about the picture they had chosen.

Absolutely fantastic experience!!
Waiting to read their stories...

Monday, February 10, 2014

January Tales

January arrived on a Jet plane and took off on a rocket! Where did it go?

Celebrating the birth of the constitution and the countries pride at being by, of and for the is a tale that appeared in Open Sesame edition of DH in 2004.

I found it simply hilarious and so very well written. I was in fact looking for quirky stories around the Freedom struggle and this is what I got


Deccan Herald, Friday, October 01, 2004

The diary of Gandhi's goat

KAVITHA MANDANA takes you through the pages of a very special historic diary!

History has been unfair to me, and it’s time I take my rightful place in the story of our freedom struggle. I come from an illustrious family. It was my grandmother whom Kasturba Gandhi picked to provide goat’s milk for Gandhiji when he fell seriously ill at Bombay in 1918. Gandhiji had refused cow’s milk because cows were ill-treated in the process of milk-extraction. So it was goat’s milk that brought the Father of the Nation, back from the brink of death. Isn’t it then appropriate that a grateful nation write a few chapters about OUR role in the Independence Struggle?! I mean, this is totally unfair. There was Napoleon’s horse, Marengo. He was the horse that Napoleon rode in his final DEFEAT at Waterloo! And still there are books written about this ‘fabulous, white, Arab stallion’.(True, Marengo was ridden by Napoleon through a number of victories too.)

And then there’s Alexander’s horse Bucephalus that irritates me. The silly creature was petrified of his own shadow!!! And he still managed to get written about. The horse was so unstable, that King Phillip lost his temper with the person who’d gifted it to him. The king’s son, 12-year-old Alexander had watched his father ride, and realized the horse had been startled by his own shadow. So he rode it so the horse’s shadow fell behind him. Alexander named this horse Bucepalus-it means ‘bull faced’. And this brave warrior rode the ‘scared-of-his-own-shadow’ horse for thousands of mile across Asia. The part that makes me positively sick is that when Bucephalus died, Alexander wept! He was buried somewhere in what is now Pakistan and a town was named Bucepala, (today called Jhelum) after him.

Well, if travelling thousands of miles with a world leader gets you written about - I’ve earned my right to fame. It was I who accompanied Gandhiji from Bombay as he sailed to London for the 2nd Round Table Conference in 1931. Sarojini Naidu and a whole entourage of Gandhi’s followers were there. But I must be the only goat in history, who traveled months, from a warm country like India to cold London. And don’t for a moment think that we lived a life of luxury. Gandhiji insisted that only the worst facilities would do! We lived on the lowest deck of the S.S. Rajputana. Gandhiji was furious with those of his group who’d carried too much of luggage and had it sent it back to India when we reached Aden, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf!

I remember times when, I Gandhiji’s goat, was treated like royalty. There was one trip to Kashmir. We were the guests of the Royal Family. And the young Karan Singh insisted the warden of the family’s forests pick wild tulasi for me! It was one of the most delicious meals I’d ever been served. But on the S.S Rajputana, I was sick. A ship, tossed by a violent sea, is no place for a goat!

We stopped at Egypt, and it was here that I was rudely insulted. Gandhiji’s trip to the Round Table Conference was to discuss India’s independence. So the world’s press covered the journey. A goat in such illustrious company seemed to excite journalists and my photograph appeared in newspapers across the world. So when we did dock at Egypt, I was outraged when local dignitaries came aboard to pay their respects to Gandhiji - carrying a large bowl of goat’s milk!!! Did they think I wasn’t doing my job? Or that Egyptian goats produced better milk? The world KNEW that Gandhiji was with his goat! Out of loyalty to me, I expected Gandhiji to refuse the offering, but he didn’t. In fact, he spent a lot of time with the Egyptians, discussing freedom. And even tried a sip or two of their milk!

In London, things got worse. A London autumn is pure torture to an Indian goat. And while all other Indian delegates to the Conference stayed at fancy, well-heated hotels, Gandhiji, naturally picked the worst accommodation. He chose to stay at London’s East End, the poorest quarter, 8 kms away from St. James Palace where the Conference was to be. I shivered through those cold days at Kingsley Hall on Powis Road, vowing to tell my daughters that serving Gandhiji was all very fine, but not in London! Maybe it was time for goats from our family to return to the hills of India.

From Gandhiji’s point of view, the Conference was a failure. The British wanted to break up India into separate Hindu, Muslim and Dalit electorates. Just a continuation of their old policy to divide and rule. But unfortunately, I could only think of returning to warm India. I had seen enough pictures of myself in the papers. The hay available in London tasted of soot. And I longed for some wild tulasi from Kashmir’s Dachigam forest!

Once we set sail back to India, my spirits rose. I had got used to the pitching and rolling of the ship. My only worry was the Egyptians. I had gone through too much to deal with another insult on the way back. Luckily for me, When the S.S Rajputana docked at Suez, the Egyptian authorities, under pressure from the British, banned anybody from meeting Gandhiji! So no milk of an Egyptian goat was allowed in my presence!!!


What a blast

I am sure you would have enjoyed it. So do send me your thoughts and leave your comments here on the blog.

This anecdote is great to Tell as a storyteller too.

~"Meaning is in every moment of Living"~

Here I am telling this anecdote at our monthly meeting of Bangalore Storytelling Society Meetup on January 26th 2014 at Atta Galatta; a wonderful space which is available to us every month.