may the 4th be with you

Resident Jedi Obi- Wan Kenobi wishes you all a happy Star Wars Day! Here he is in his warcraft, hatch down, taking a break from hurtling through the cosmos at warp speed. May the Force be with you! #maythefourthbewithyou #forceforgood

weekly earworm- Ishq De Fanniyar

Absolutely love the ups and the downs in the song; this is the female version. Below is the equally good male version. Are you the sort of person who imagines themselves in a gorgeous slow- mo video when listening to a song? I am, especially on long commutes. This though is the sort of song you secretly hope is the background track to your actual life.

अक्सर तुम शाम को घर आ कर पूछते

अक्सर तुम शाम को घर आ कर पूछते
आज क्या क्या किया??
मैं अचकचा जाती
सोचने पर भी जवाब न खोज पाती
कि मैंने दिन भर क्या किया 
आखिर वक्त ख़्वाब की तरह कहाँ बीत गया..
और हार कर कहती ‘कुछ नही’
तुम रहस्यमयी ढंग से मुस्कुरा देते!!

उस दिन मेरा मुरझाया ‘कुछ नही’ सुन कर
तुमने मेरा हाथ अपने हाथ मे लेकर कहा
सुनो ये ‘कुछ नही’ करना भी हर किसी के बस का नहीं है
सूर्य की पहली किरण संग उठना
मेरी चाय में ताज़गी 
और बच्चों के दूध में तंदुरुस्ती मिलाना
टिफिन में खुशियाँ भरना
उन्हें स्कूल रवाना करना
फिर मेरा नाश्ता
मुझे दफ्तर विदा करना
काम वाली बाई से लेकर
बच्चों के आने के वक्त तक
खाना कपड़े सफाई 
फिर साँझ के आग्रह
रात के मसौदे..
और इत्ते सब के बीच से भी थोड़ा वक्त
बाहर के काम के लिए भी चुरा लेना
कहो तो इतना ‘कुछ नही’ कैसे कर लेती हो

मैं मुग्ध सुन रही थी
तुम कहते जा रहे थे

तुम्हारा ‘कुछ नही’ ही इस घर के प्राण हैं
ऋणी हैं हम तुम्हारे इस ‘कुछ नही’ के
तुम ‘कुछ नही’ करती हो तभी हम ‘बहुत कुछ’ कर पाते हैं
तुम्हारा ‘कुछ नही’
हमारी निश्चिंतता है 
हमारा आश्रय है
हमारी महत्वाकांक्षा है..
तुम्हारे ‘कुछ नही’ से ही ये मकां घर बनता है
तुम्हारे ‘कुछ नही’ से ही इस घर के सारे सुख हैं
वैभव है..

मैं चकित सुनती रही 
तुम्हारा एक एक अक्षर स्पृहणीय था 
तुमने मेरे समर्पण को मान दिया
मेरे ‘कुछ नही’ को सम्मान दिया

अब ‘कुछ नही’ करने में मुझे कोई गुरेज़ नही
बस तुम प्रीत से मेरा मोल लगाते रहना
मान से मेरा श्रृंगार किया करना.

निधि सक्सेना

‘Tea For Five’ watercolor print by Etsy shop Alicia’s Infinity.

I borrow Nidhi Saxena’s words to help me say to my husband what I’ve been struggling to tell him all these years. He has never- not once- judged me for my unproductive phases, or for the irrational terror and paralysis and stuck-ness that come with depression. Evening after evening after evening, he’s returned home to gently ask how my day was and what I did. As I’ve struggled to articulate how little I accomplished, how terribly worthless I feel, how wracked I am with guilt for burdening him with my existence, how underserving I feel of his kindness and his sweetness, he’s enveloped me in a silent bear hug that says more than words ever can.

He’s never waited for a reply. He’s always asked, but he’s never let me get the words out. I set great store by words and believe that once uttered or written, they are like incantations- they become the truth, turn things real. He’s never let me give words to my feelings of worthlessness. For that, I am thankful every day.

To anyone who loves or lives with a partner suffering from a mental illness or an episode of depression, this is the most compassionate thing you can do. Remind them that their worth isn’t contingent on their productivity. Remind them that they are loved unconditionally.

Also, to the women whose invisible labour- emotional or otherwise- goes unacknowleged- I see you. You are worthy, and you are important.

we are all rich in chances and beginnings

Things are continually beginning again; they’re never really resolved, you know. They are only resolved temporarily. We live in a society that peddles solutions, whether it’s solutions to those extra pounds you’re carrying, or to your thinning hair, or to your loss of appetite, loss of love. We are always looking for solutions, but actually what we are engaged in is a process throughout life during which you never get it right. You have to keep being open, you have to keep moving forward. You have to keep finding out who you are and how you are changing, and only that makes life tolerable.

I know now, after fifty years, that the finding/losing, forgetting/remembering, leaving/returning, never stops. The whole of life is about another chance, and while we are alive, till the very end, there is always another chance.

Jeanette Winterson


Douglas Henshall as DI Jimmy Perez

Marinating in the post- binge annoyance and mild panic that happen when a beloved show ends (How ever will I fill my days?), I found Shetland on Netflix. Originally a BBC adaptation of Ann Cleeves’ atmospheric books, the show is thumbnailed on Netflix’s Crime lineup with a ruggedly handsome man straddling a suitably bleak landscape. One look at the preview and you’re in. 

The Shetland isles are a group of subarctic peaty landforms in the North Atlantic, geographically Scottish but moored culturally to a Viking past and firm in their Nordic allegiances in the present. From the show you wouldn’t know that the isles are known for such warm and fuzzy things as adorable miniature horses, nesting puffins and a knitting festival called Wool Week that announces new patterns every year. No. Any notions of sunny pastorality are put to rest by the inclement weather and the ocean slamming its high green cliffs in eternal anger as the protagonists reel from unspeakable crimes. The setting may be Scottish, but Shetland qualifies as Nordic noir. ‘Three factors underpin the success of Nordic crime fiction’, writes The Economist on the rise and continuing popularity of the Nordic detective novel, ‘language, heroes and setting.’ The language and the heroes mirror each other- emotionally spare, intolerant of verbiage or euphemism. I believe it’s the setting that merits close examination- not just in the sense of landscape but also the social anxieties that feed the dark underbelly of an affluent welfare state. With their thrust on  progressive and egalitarian values and futuristic, hyper- modern lifestyles, these prosperous countries are an interesting study in contrasts, boasting the world’s happiest schoolchildren on the one hand and soaring rates of suicide on the other. What happens when someone- a rebel, an outsider, a curious bystander- decides to look closely at these dissonances, ask too many questions? The murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall at the hands of Danish billionaire Peter Madsen could well be the plot of a TV drama were it not tragically real. 

And then sometimes you just want to watch a hot emotionally unavailable cop crack a murder at the risk of destroying everything he loves. 

Still, Shetland is no standard police procedural. The tedium of bureaucratic detail is never allowed to overwhelm the relationships. Shetland has a population of about 600 and everyone knows everyone, making community the beating heart of the show. DI Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall) is a grieving widower whose unsettlingly level gaze, clenched jaw and gruff generosity you want endlessly more of. Unlike the maladjusted walking implosions that anchor Nordic noir mysteries, Perez is deeply integrated with his community and radiates warmth and tender-heartedness in waves. He’s parenting the biological child of his wife and her ex- husband Duncan Hunter, a local businessman and well- known casanova who also happens to be his best friend. Some of the best scenes on the show feature domestic banter between Jimmy and Duncan as they struggle with their unusual situation. Their dynamic remains my favourite thing about the show. It’s a wonder more women aren’t dropping their pants around Jimmy Perez than they do. The only other crimesolver I’ve seen do this- be a massive softie, be willing to believe the best in people despite years of brokenness- is one legged military vet Cormoran Strike of Robert Galbraith’s (JK Rowling’s) Strike novels. Haven’t checked the nethernets but I’m pretty certain there’s a cult fanbase worshipping Henshall’s delivery of the word okay. In a linguistic inversion of the synonym, such as the Eskimos’ many words for snow, Perez’s okay could mean one of many things- agreement, confusion, solidarity, scepticism, negotiation, surrender. It is always said with poker -faced directness, and SV and I have great fun pausing and rewinding to catch the exact inflection so we can take a guess. 

Duncan Hunter (Mike Bonnar) and Jimmy Perez in one of their many standoffs

The show handles issues like rape, racism and xenophobia and the fraught coming out of gay young adults with insight and responsibility, steering clear of shoehorning any morality play or self- righteousness into its run time. My second favorite character on the show, DS Alison MacIntosh ‘Tosh’ (Alison O’Donnell), (a character not written by Cleeves, though she’s gone on record to say she wish she was) starts out mouthy and easily ruffled, prone to colloquial clapbacks. Perez is an excellent boss- exacting and accommodating at the right times- and models the ideal workplace, helping her grow in confidence and stature. Watch the show if only to see what a truly equal, compassionate workplace looks like. 

DI Perez and DS Tosh see right through yer bullshit yer wee shites

The title score is an achingly beautiful wail of bagpipes and other local instruments, one of the best I’ve heard on television. Fun fact- Scottish composer John Lunn’s also done the score for another beloved British drama- Downton Abbey. I’ve downloaded the Shetland title track (the extended version) on Apple Music and will play it in the car on long, hot rides through the city so I can pretend I’m somewhere cold and far away. 

‘The cold, dark climate, where doors are bolted and curtains drawn provides a perfect setting for crime writing’, says The Economist, explaining why the surreally beautiful, isolated Nordic landscape lends itself so well to crime. ‘The nights are long, the liquor hard, the people.. “brought up to hide their feelings” and hold on to their secrets. If you are driving through Norway at dusk and see a farmhouse with its lights on and its doors open, do not stop.. you are as likely to be greeted by a crime scene as a warm welcome.’ Watch Shetland for that horrible lurch in your stomach even as your eyes feast on its sweeping, spartan beauty. It’s going to be *insert Jimmy Perez inflection* okay. 

आओ! मगर ठहरो..

आ गए तुम!
द्वार खुला है
अंदर आ जाओ..

पर तनिक ठहरो 
ड्योढी पर पड़े पायदान पर
अपना अहं झाड़ आना..

मधुमालती लिपटी है मुंडेर से
अपनी नाराज़गी वहीँ उड़ेल आना..

तुलसी के क्यारे में
मन की चटकन चढ़ा आना..

अपनी व्यस्ततायें बाहर खूँटी पर ही टाँग आना
जूतों संग हर नकारात्मकता उतार आना..

बाहर किलोलते बच्चों से
थोड़ी शरारत माँग लाना..

वो गुलाब के गमले में मुस्कान लगी है
तोड़ कर पहन आना..

लाओ अपनी उलझने मुझे थमा दो
तुम्हारी थकान पर मनुहारों का पँखा झल दूँ..

देखो शाम बिछाई है मैंने
सूरज क्षितिज पर बाँधा है
लाली छिड़की है नभ पर..

प्रेम और विश्वास की मद्धम आंच पर चाय चढ़ाई है
घूँट घूँट पीना..

सुनो, इतना मुश्किल भी नहीं हैं जीना..

– निधि सक्सेना

weekly earworm- Babul

You can trust Bhasin to give Punjabi wedding folk the one thing it lacks as a form- raw emotion. Sung by the women mostly to the beat of a dhol (that in my village is nothing more than a spoon striking the weatherbeaten bottom of an old brass pot) in a community setting, these songs sacrifice emotion to the needs of the hour- delight and diversion, thus leaching them of any melancholy. Bhasin gently extracts the song from its celebratory context and returns it to its deeply personal roots.