Tag Archives: Rohini Sunderam

Will it won’t it?

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I don’t recall whether I entered Twelve Roses for Love for the cover of the month contest at All Author, or whether it was randomly selected. But one evening, in the midst of a Skype conversation with our daughter and while simultaneously checking email (yeah, I do that sometimes), I saw this email from All Author informing me that my book cover was up for the Cover of the Month contest for April.

“Oh, dear me,” I declared in a rather C-3PO-ish voice to myself, “I better do something about promoting this.”

First I sent out emails. Next I posted it on Facebook and Twitter. Then I sent it to family and friends’ WhatsApp groups. The votes started to come in.

When I first looked at the rank it was at #24. Hmmm not bad, I thought. Then obviously the votes started to come in. Now the excitement began.

Friends and even some folk I don’t know voted for the cover. It rose rapidly through the ranks. Then it got stalled at #9. But after a while there was another spurt and it shot up to #3.

My heart was beating and I got quite caught up in the thrill of the chase. The next time I looked it had gone to #2!!!

Wow wooooow! I thought. OMG as they say these days. I started thanking everyone. By then the better part of the day had been spent in checking the status and trying to bake my annual batch of hot cross buns 🙂 I was emotionally and physically still on a high, although my legs, by now were aching.

Last thing at night I looked again and it had dropped to #4!

Oh dear, I thought, this is nonsense. But I can’t stop myself! I looked again just now so it’s hopped up to #3 again

And the latest, as I go to “press”, is that it has fallen to #5.

Dear readers, can we boost this up further? If so please visit and vote…

https://allauthor.com/cover-of-the-month/11356/

An extra story

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On the advice of a fellow-author, publisher and friend, I decided to re-jig the contents of Twelve Roses For Love. This meant that the first story, the one about Saint Valentine, became part of my author’s notes. As a result I was one story short. So, the paperback version of Twelve Roses for Love has an extra story, for some reason that extra story hasn’t uploaded to the e-book version. I’m working on fixing that.

In the meantime, I think it only fair to share that extra story as a free read here. I’m hoping that when some of my followers read this one, they’ll realise that the stories contained in Twelve Roses aren’t your typical romances. There are a few that are, and as I have mentioned before, there’s one rather amusing and saucy story at the end of the book. For now, here’s your bonus story…

Dark Lipstick

Theresa still couldn’t believe she had put up with all that for so long. It had been an almost textbook case. How had she, of all people, allowed herself to become that person. She loved Jake. Correction, she told herself as she sat on the bed in the women’s shelter, she had once thought she loved Jake. 

He wasn’t your typically handsome guy that she’d met at the gym two years ago. But there was something about him. An almost shy lop-sided grin, dark brown hair that fell over one eye, which he constantly pushed back. They had dated. He’d told her he’d had anger-management issues and the gym was to help work these out. 

She understood. That’s kind of what she herself was working on. But hers were more a case of self-esteem. Feel good about your body and yourself, all the support groups had said. And it had worked. When she met Jake, she was trim, the curves were where they should be and she had muscles. 

“I’ll arm wrestle you,” she’d said to Jake who had an impressive set of biceps himself. Her smile always lit up her face and danced in her eyes. Who would have predicted that that would be her undoing! The friendly roughhousing in bed began to lead more and more often to Jake actually using his strength against her.

The first time he was all apologies. The classic, “I’m sorry babe, I didn’t mean it, it will never happen again.” Followed by flowers and chocolate. 

She’d worn dark lipstick to work and made some empty silly excuse about slipping in the bathroom. 

Later he was all sarcasm, laced with jealousy, for what she never knew. “You think you’re kick-ass tough? I’ll show you who’s tough.”

The dark lipstick was always handy, a great cover-up. But her eyes held the hurt she continued to hide. 

Then quite by accident he figured the button to push to hurt her the most was to undermine her hard-won self-esteem, “You don’t smile any more. It’s the only time you’re pretty.” 

Theresa looked at herself in the mirror then. It was true. Her face only lit up when she smiled. She wasn’t pretty. Her face was too long and her hair hung lank unless she washed it every day.  She bit her lip, the tears welling up as she repeated the mantras that were supposed to build her up, “You have to love yourself.” What the hell did that really mean? And what was there to love? A face too long. Arms too thin. And ever since she’d stopped going to the gym her muscles had gone slack sagging under the weight of her low spirits. 

With hindsight she saw that it wasn’t a case of anger management for him. He just enjoyed the power it gave him. Last week she learnt what it meant to love herself. Last week he had pushed that button way too far when he came to her in the kitchen and for no reason twisted her arm, his lop-sided grin twisted into a grimace, and his words twisted into an auger of hate, “You’re ugly bitch!” He’d yelled, “And I’m going to make you uglier so no one will ever look at you again!” He raised a broken bottle to strike her. 

In that moment Theresa knew what it meant to love herself. It burst with all the warmth of a heart full of deep, fathomless love. A love so pure it gave her the strength to wrench her arm out of his, raise her leg and land a full-bodied kick in his groin. As he doubled over, she grabbed the hot pan from off the stove and struck him in the face. He fell down and passed out. She felt for his pulse, knew he was still alive. Then she packed all the things that were hers and walked out. 

“No,” she said, “that’s enough!” She smiled grimly to herself. “Whatever it is long, thin, ugly, it is my face and I love it.” 

Dark Lipstick

A bloodied gash upon my lips

The purple wound should not be seen

Lest they should say, “I told you so,”

And love I thought I had, has been

A sorry, sordid, lost affair.

Dark lipstick covers all my dreams

How long will it conceal my plight?

Another love, another fight

Some other way to turn a trick,

Another reason… dark lipstick.

Until I learnt I can fight back

Not just with fists, or fire or might

But knowing I can change my tack

Knowing I can walk away

Knowing I can live again

For I have learnt to love again

Learnt to love myself again

No more bruises on my lips

Yet I still wear dark lipstick

Not as a mem’ry or charm that would

Fend them off, but now because

The mirror says, that I look good!

Twelve Roses for Love

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Twelve Roses for Love

 I think, JRR Tolkein put it better than anyone else, “I would rather share one lifetime with you than face all the ages of this world alone.” Love is a hundred different things and this little collection that I’ve put together explores twelve different ways in which love enters our lives, defines so many little aspects of it and will, I hope, give you insights into your own love. 

Many of the stories were previously written, Hearts for Valentine was written when my previous publisher, Robert Agar-Hutton, needed a blog post in time for Valentine’s Day. I thought of all the stories that are written about young love and so few about the love that you and I and many other couples experience. Of course, there was that initial thrill and aching depth that we all feel when we first fall in love. But, how many stories celebrate that everyday love that we know? The one that grows deeper with every passing year that we spend with our spouses. That’s how come and why I wrote that one. 

            When I put this collection together, although I wanted it to come out in time for Valentine’s Day, I also wanted to write about ‘LOVE’ as something bigger than romantic love. I wanted to explore the love between sisters, and the funny idea that perhaps inanimate objects could inspire love or maybe even love their human partners. Okay I had a bit of fun with that one, where an armchair looks back on the love he had for his mistress. The story was originally based on a prompt given for one of our Bahrain Writers’ Circle challenges. I must confess it’s a bit titillating! The collection also features four new stories that have not appeared anywhere else.

            Here’s a little excerpt that’s not on the Amazon ‘Look Inside’ feature. It’s a bit of a challenge to you as a reader to guess who the love interest is, in this one. 

FIRST IMPRESSION, FIRST LOVE

She lay there in all her innocent splendour. Virginal white not a single mark on her visage that suggested any other. Never had a bride been quite so innocent of everything. 

There was no suggestion that she had undergone a lifetime of pain. Of being crushed, beaten, and then beaten again. Every ounce of her strength had once been sapped. She had been ripped from limb to limb and then put together again. All those who had been part of her earlier life had been taken from her. And when she was bereft of all support, her captors had thrashed her until there was not a fibre in her being that could hold her upright. That’s when her spirit broke. She wept until she could weep no more. She was drained of all the tears that nature had once given her.

Feedback from a friend: Caught me out! My visualisation went from people trafficking to mannequin to waxwork before you sprung the surprise… 

Available here on Amazon.

Self-Publishing trials, horrors, and maybe success?

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Self-Publishing trials, horrors, and maybe success?

I was forced into it. 

My independent publisher in the UK (Ex-L-Ence Publishing) decided he needed to close down. What was I going to do? My childhood dream of becoming an ‘author’ was about to go up in proverbial fumes. ‘Oh that this too, too, solid, etc.’ except of course e-books aren’t really solid. You get the drift, basically ‘waaaah’.

            Followed by a deep breath. A long hard look in that reflective material called a mirror that just throws light rays back at you and usually does nothing to encourage contemplation other than, ‘oh dear, I need to go to the salon’. But in this instance, followed by a “No! I will, I shall, I must…”

            Thankfully, Robert Agar-Hutton the publisher, and another Ex-L-Ence author Bob Cubitt – so filled with the milk of human kindness his cup ran over- provided us abandoned authors with a self-publishing guide. 

            The opening lines were so comforting I almost fell asleep… admittedly it was 2 a.m. Trust me, when you think about approaching something as daunting as a dragon, and you read the lines, “If you are only going to publish an e-book, this isn’t difficult…” said dragon is rapidly transformed into a puppy. Bob’s step by step instructions, literally just five steps, encouraged me to take the leap and I went to Amazon’s Getting Started page. 

            All went well until I inserted the header. At first, I was ambitious. I wanted it to have my name on the even pages and the book’s title Twelve Roses For Love on the odd pages. I also made the mistake of adding the cover to the Word document. This screwed everything up as the header kept appearing on the cover page. Several sessions of frustration resulted in fist banging on the desk to taking a walk and yelling select expletives at MSWord, KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), and other inanimate objects that I sincerely believe regularly conspire to confound us. Eventually, I settled for a simple header and, tbh as they say these days, I don’t quite know what I did but the header issue was resolved. Sorry, but if you’re reading this in the hope that it’s a guide, then you are sadly mistaken. Also does anyone know how to delete a blank page in MSWord? The new version just will not let me do it.

            Here’s where young Glen Stansfield (yes, Glen, in my book you are young) provided some real-time excellent support and why I’ve acknowledged him in my paperback version. Great advice on what to do if I wanted to insert a little rose at the end of each story. Cheesy? A little! But, what the hey. Also instant advice on what to do if I wanted to upload a re-laid out version of the ‘book’ (it’s just 61 pages, so not sure if it’s a book or a pamphlet). 

            The cover. KDP does offer some cover templates but they just didn’t work for me. So, good old Canva. I love Canva. I mixed and matched a couple of free templates and created a cover, downloaded a jpg version and used that for the cover. Worked a dream on the Kindle version, but it needed a lot of adjusting and fiddling to get it right for the paperback. A few more headaches and hand-wringing and I decided to use one of their templates with the e-book jpg as an image for the front. What to do? Ce’s la vie! 

            Glory- be! Success. It was accepted. And I’ll only know if I have got the hang of it properly when I do it again. 

            If you’d like to check out and (maybe, pretty please) buy this little volume, click here.

A Prose Poem

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Bereft

Your leaving would take the middle out of my life. To say that I would miss you is like beggars’ alms, for they are a beggar’s words. I would be desperately alone and the world would not know it. I would laugh as I always have: too heartily. But, I would not cry. To think of life without you would be like drinking tea from a saucer, too hot and then too cold. It would be like climbing Mount Everest and not finding ice and snow there, yet having lost a limb to frostbite. To think of every day, crystallising without you is emptiness so vast I cannot comprehend it, like light not comprehending darkness. The very aliveness of the world, the very death in me, a zombie; gyrating from one true pure function to another; that would be me without you. 

The loneliness of the heart you have already known, but picture the strangeness of my soul without you.

Park Bench Stories

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It’s been a while since I had a story to post. This one’s a sequel. Something I haven’t done before. It was sparked by a Facebook post that popped up thanks to their algorithms that remind you of a post three or five or more years ago. This one was called The Park Bench, based on a prompt given by Shauna Nearing Løj. This story has been particularly popular and has twice been released in Spain, courtesy Gerry Wright.

Fast forward to two days ago when a friend from the Bahrain Writers’ Circle, Veronica Selvarajan, read the story and made the comment, “I am going to be wondering if she ever reciprocates….” Well, of course that possibility wouldn’t leave me alone untilI had written the sequel and decided if she’s ever going to reciprocate. Well, Veronica, Cynthia, Charlotte, Joy, Malini, Gerry, Ajoy, Pam, Aruna… and many others. I’ve become a romantic in my old age.

The Guy at the Park

by Rohini Sunderam

She’d never really forgotten him. The young man at the park bench who always asked her if she’d ‘found a young man’. There had been a marked electricity between them. It was palpable through book after book that she read almost every workday afternoon. All he ever did was chew a fresh blade of grass and look up at the sky. There was a quiet confidence in his cocky voice and silence. He lived in the moment. Enjoyed the breeze, the birds in the sky, the clouds, the trees. Over the years they had developed a silent, comfortable, companionship. It was a quiet hour every workday that she kept for herself, before she took the bus home. They had hardly ever even had a conversation. He had grown strong and grown up since that spring so many years ago when they first shared the park bench. She had never learnt his name, nor what he did for a living.

And yet, all these years later, she remembered the look on his face the day she told him she had ‘found a young man’. He wished her well. But his eyes went dull grey like an autumn sky suddenly robbed of the sun.  And something in his face crumpled. But he didn’t say anything to her when she broke it to him. She wondered, ‘was all that electricity just in my head?’ She’d risen from the bench and had disappeared from his life for twenty years in the big city.

Twenty years, she said to herself. Why did I put up with ‘my young man’ for that long! There’d been that early euphoria of being married, being in the financial centre of the country, of looking after a house. But she and Bill had never really had much in common. He constantly wanted to go to this party and that restaurant, spend a fun time with his friends, anything but come home to an evening of quietude, an hour of  reading or listening to music.

He’d come back from work and it was, ‘Right, where are we going tonight?’

Her responses, ‘but I’ve just cooked this lovely dinner, I thought we could enjoy it together,’ were usually overruled.

Occasionally he’d agree and then it was a sullen silence they shared, nothing calm and companionable like it was with the guy in the park. That was a magical hour; the park was a Tom Thomson painting, the colours fixed and immutable. Instead, the meal she had so carefully prepared was wolfed down without a word of thanks and then he’d want to go out for a nightcap. Being a lawyer meant he could afford all that as well as the house. After a few years he went out on his own. Leaving her to her still pool of solitude that bordered on loneliness and her books that transported her on their magic carpet pages to other possibilities.

The miscarriages hadn’t helped either. Her mother had assured her things would improve once a baby or two arrived. After the first two losses, when she felt her world had been wrenched from inside her, her soul and heart shattered into a myriad shards of glass that cut her every time she saw a couple with a baby in a pram, Bill had grown more distant. The doctors said she wasn’t likely to have any more. Bill’s night-time forays became more frequent. Then there was his affair. Secret and sly, sordid and so typically with his secretary. Sinning is hard only the first time, so it wasn’t long before there was another affair and another.  Finally, the divorce and when her mother died, she decided to move back to the small city. The house was hers and she could easily get a job, perhaps even her old job at the library.

It was a cloudy day in November when she thought of going to the park with her book. ‘For old times’ sake’ she said to herself, he’s probably not even there any more. The years had flown like the clouds overhead. She was as nervous as a teenager as she walked in her high boots and her camel trench coat down the path towards where she remembered the bench used to be. It was four o’clock, her usual time from force of habit.

There was a man on the bench. Sitting where he used to sit. He looked at her. Her face implacable she looked at him out of the corner of her eye. She made a small harrumphing sound as she settled in her corner of the bench. He turned and looked at her again. Then he looked away. She was sure it was the guy. The same sinewy arms. That firm jawline and clean-shaven face. His nut-brown hair was streaked with silver. A small smile twitched at the corner of her lips. Then she whispered, “Did you never find a young woman, then?”

His voice was hoarse, as he all but whispered back, “Don’t be silly, I don’t want a young woman…” and then almost inaudible but she caught the last few words, “I only ever wanted you.”

She bent down to pull up a blade of grass, then turned to look at him as twenty summers and winters, autumns and springs melted away like snow. “But you never said anything.”

“What could I say? We hardly knew each other. I still don’t even know your name, young lady!” He grinned and the old cocky look came bouncing into his face.

She smiled, a clean, honest, unguarded smile. “We can rectify that, it’s Louise.” The first fat raindrops began to fall, “what’s yours?”

He grabbed his jacket and flung on the hood, “Al, for Alistair. And we’d better find some shelter soon. Before the wind an’ the rain carry you away, eh?”

“We’d need quite a strong wind to carry me away,” She laughed.

“Oh, aye,” he said like an old friend. He put his strong arm around her waist and they hurried out of the park. She realised he was a good bit taller than he appeared when he was seated. She liked the way his pace matched hers. And then they dashed across the street to a café.

“This should be fine for now.” He said as he led her, still clutching her book and bag, to a table near the window.

For the first time, she was sitting across from him. He had grey-green eyes and that unstoppable slightly amused, cocky expression; crow’s-feet eyes probably developed over the years from staring at the sky. His hands were strong and slightly calloused. ‘What did he do for a living?’

The coffee arrived, hot and steaming with a doughnut on the side. She was grateful for the steam that arose between them. It allowed her to look at him more closely.

“So tell me about yourself,” he said after a long deep gulp of coffee and a swipe of his cuff across his mouth.

“But, I want to know about you,” she said fingering the edge of her book.

“We have enough time for that later. What happened to the ‘young man’ then?”

Between sips of coffee and the doughnuts that the café boasted were amongst the best in the country, she sketched a quick outline of her life. “Now, it’s your turn.” She said.

The cocky smile and the amused look in his eyes deepened. “I’m a plumber by day,” he said.

“And what do you do at night?”  A nervous tremor caught at her throat.

By now he was grinning, “I write.”

“What? Books? Articles? Stories?”

“What kind of books do you like to read?” He asked getting up.

“All kinds,” she replied, “but that doesn’t tell me what kind of books you write!”

“Doesn’t it?” He grinned again. “I really do have to rush now. I’ll see you at the park again, tomorrow?” And he was gone. Striding down the street in the opposite direction of her bus ride home.

‘What do you like to read?’ What kind of a mysterious response was that!

When she got home, she was still mulling over it as she opened her book where she’d left her bookmark. It was another tale of lost love and might-have-beens. Her favourite kind. ‘What do you like to read!’ No! It can’t be. A. Hunt. She’d always assumed it was a woman and there was nothing about the author’s life that suggested plumbing.

-end-

Bombay Monsoon

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Today, the skies in Bahrain are covered in grey bulbous clouds. They look pretty impressive but have only sent down a light, albeit steady, drip. The attempt is a reminder of my years in Bombay and a typical rip-roaring monsoon.

Bombay Monsoon

It was my first experience of that awe-inspiring force of nature – the Monsoon and its annual, passionate affair with the Arabian Sea.  Ms Monsoon flounced in on smoke-grey clouds shot with the gold and corals of a fast-fading sun. Even that celestial superstar turned and ran when Monsoon bore down on Bombay. 

I took one look at the clouds and decided, “I am not going to let those dull grey clouds get me down.”

Off to Colaba I went, walked into the first Monsoon-is-coming-wala shop and bought a red slick raincoat with bright red wellingtons to match. Red Riding Hood on a Bombay street! “Haha” I said, laughing at the storm. “Come down as hard as you like, I am ready to tackle you!” 

Monsoon let fly her tempestuous passion on the hitherto languid sea. Waves seethed in ecstasy frothing and pounding the seashore. Water rushed back up sewers, blew manhole covers and flooded the streets near Bombay Central, where I lived.

Up in Colaba, on higher ground I had no idea of this treachery of the water closer home.  I waited a big smile on my face, wondering why everyone looked so glum! This is magnificent, I thought and caught the big red BEST (Bombay Electric Supply and Transport) bus that would take me home. Three stops before mine, the bus driver refused to go any further.

“How will I get home?” I pleaded with him.

“Not my problem,” he replied.

By now the grey clouds had begun to intrude on my mood.  

There’s only that long that a red raincoat and red wellingtons can cheerily defy a Bombay monsoon. I was determined to continue smiling as I set out at as brisk a pace as wellingtons-squelching-against-a-pavement-flowing-with-rainwater will allow. 

The closer I got to home the deeper the water got.  Soon the water level rose hip high, the wellingtons weighed me down as they filled with water and the raincoat floated around my waist – a red stain in the murky water around me. I had to drag my feet, as by now the weight prevented me from taking the wellingtons off. 

When I finally reached home the ground floor of my building had water sloshing in through the door. I sat on the steps and dragged those wellingtons off tipping them over to empty them of the filth of the streets outside. I should have let them float away.

I kept them both. The red wellingtons stood for a whole year on a mat drying out and were eventually tossed. The red raincoat was worn only occasionally. Reminders that no one tackles a Bombay monsoon with rainwear created in the west. 

They were replaced by the only practical wear: rubber flip-flops and a black umbrella. 

And what did Monsoon say to me? ”I shall decide what you wear,” and the echo of her laughter rumbled as the grey clouds rolled. She was the only one who wore diamonds flashing in her hair, lighting the sky and chasing away the colour

Remembering

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poppyMy cousin Ajoy David’s old school-mate, Lt Col Rajendra Singh from the Scinde Horse of the Indian Army sent him an article about a battle in which my cousin’s father (my maternal uncle) at the time Lt. Noel David played a critical role. Militarily it was a daring plan and there are many references to it as the Battle for Srinagar. I was going to post it here today, but, it being the 11th of November, a day that celebrates “armistice”, which the dictionary defines as truce. Armistice. From French or modern Latin: “armistitium”;  arma, meaning arms and “stitium” meaning stoppage. A stoppage of the use of arms.

So I have decided not to talk about battle. But to talk about my uncle and his bravery. According to the account “Lt. David was tasked to advance on the move the route (sic). At 7.30 a.m. on 7 November, David left for the task with No.2 Troop (armoured cars) and No.5 Troop (a reinforced Rifle Troop under Dfr Jage Ram.) No.3 Troop reported contact with the enemy numbering more than 700-800 at Shalateng.” Although the force being commanded by my uncle Noel David was small and hugely outnumbered they were able to reach behind “enemy lines”. Needless to say they retook territory that had been lost. My uncle was awarded a Vir Chakra, one of the highest gallantry awards for acts of bravery on the battlefield. he was, I understand, barely 19 years old. As a side note to this, I need to add that Lt Col Rajendra Singh has an uncle, Col Sharak Dev Jamwal (Retd) of the 7th Light Cavalry is 90 years old. He is, to use Rajendra Singh’s words, “an unsung hero of the battle of Zojila.”

Bravery, I believe, comes in many forms. My uncle’s last and final act of bravery that I know of came many years later when in peace time he was on an army exercise and suffered a heart attack. They were in a remote part of UP (Uttar Pradesh, India) and the terrain was such that they couldn’t get an ambulance to the place. He was taken in a 3-Ton truck which, when it reached a particularly rough crossing broke down. They then had to wait for another truck and my uncle had to walk from one truck to another. This time he perhaps knew he wasn’t going to make it. He shook his commanding officer’s hand and said, “Break it to Olleena (his wife) gently.” He died at the young age of 37.

And so today I remember a brave man in battle and in life, my uncle Noel David.

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Oh Woman…Oh Man!

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This first appeared in Robin Barratt’s collection of prose and poetry titled What Women Really Want, it’s been re-published under the title The Challenges of Finding Love: and why men sometimes get it so wrong. I hope reading this inspires you to download the book. It’s enlightening, amusing, provocative, and even heartbreaking.

For now, enjoy this one.

What do women really want?

How does one answer a puzzle that’s supposedly haunted humanity from the dawn of time?

Looking back as I can, to more than sixty years of memories, loves unrequited and imagined, friends and their amours, apocryphal stories from legend, lore and gossip, I do believe that the answer to the question has not been found.
How can there be one answer to a myriad minds?

Look through the kaleidoscope of life. Turn the scope. What do you see?

The well-known tale of King Arthur, Sir Gawain and the old witch, who ostensibly solved the puzzle by saying a man should “give a woman her autonomy”.

Turn the kaleidoscope again and look at it in the mirror of today:

What’s that autonomy thing? When was it taken from Woman or a woman? And by whom?

Am I allowed to believe that most modern women – barring those who live in severely disenfranchised communities (and for them I feel we need to campaign) – are self-thinkers, self-determiners and strongly independent? It’s a feeling I get when I look around and see so many women in so many parts of the world – in top jobs, in construction, driving taxis, striding in high-heels and smart corporate style suits as they catch a bus or a train or glide through automatic doors prepared to smash glass ceilings.

Assuming that that is the demographic that we’re addressing, the answer is as multi-faceted as women.

I think we all, men and women, go through phases.

At some point – once we’ve moved away from the parental aegis – we rely on someone else. Or perhaps a group of ‘others’. Depending on our levels of self-esteem that reliance could range from self-affirmation through that individual, fitting in with a group we feel drawn to, sometimes subordinating our sense of self in order to find acceptance. And here is where a problem could begin.

If a woman subordinates her ‘self’ to such an extent that she loses focus of it, then she starts to have issues. Now I’m no psychologist but through observation of human nature and looking back, clinically at my own life and the lives of those to whom I have been close, I can state that this is the crux of the trouble.

Turn that kaleidoscope. We have another image.

Is it love when a woman is so ‘in love’ with a man that she thinks pleasing him in every way is her raison d’être? I’ve also seen men equally besotted.

Is it love when a woman leaves everything that she holds dear to be with one man?

Is it love that drives her or anyone – to pace the street on which the loved one lives? To forget all else and wait only for his call? To be blind to all else and deaf to all other sounds?

That is passion. And it has its place and time; its flaring moment – the firestorm on which many an epic has been written.

The good news is, that that’s a phase too.

Put the kaleidoscope away. Look at life in all its beautiful reality.

Most people outgrow this ‘desperately in love’ passionate phase and learn to start loving themselves. And that, as all the pundits and gurus, Cosmo type magazines and pop quizzes will tell you, is what you must do in order to truly love another person and realise ‘autonomy’.

Now to the issue of two people sharing a life together. If a man is looking to ‘please his woman’ through reading a book like this, my first suggestion is change your attitude. She’s not ‘your woman’. She’s a woman with whom you wish to spend the rest of your life. Stop possessing each other and start recognising each other as individuals.

Be honest, but not rude. Sometimes what you say mayn’t make her happy, but that isn’t the end of your life together. Share your concerns with her. She wants to be a partner. Don’t leave heavy decision-making to her alone either. As every self-help column and book states, discuss things together. Don’t make decisions that affect both of you without consulting each other. That goes for women and men.

And as for those joke questions that women are supposed to ask men to which they profess they’re so nervous they feel there’s no right answer: “Does this dress make me look fat?”

If it does make her look fatter tell her. But really look at her and be honest. If it’s a special evening help her with the decision-making earlier in the day so that you’re not going through wanting to say ‘yes’ just so that you leave the house on time.

And to women I’d say, stop asking men silly questions. If you want ‘autonomy’ start making decisions yourself. He looks at other women? Sure! You look at other guys, don’t you? You can agonize over this question or keep the following poem in mind:

Khalil Gibran On Marriage:

“You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.

You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.

Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.

But 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.”

Now, toss a coin. What do women really want? It depends on the day, the time of the year, and the time of her life.

Your guess is as good as mine.

— end —

Clap your hands and we are gone

Standard

Flipping through my “work” notes I came upon this poem. Procrastination hits my work assignments too, sometimes. Many were the mornings I’d play a game of solitaire on my computer or do the cryptic crossword to get the cogs in my brain moving. In Halifax a young friend, Crystal, taught me how to do the ‘Cryptoquote’ a good solid brain-teaser, perfect to start the creative juices flowing. And now what do I find among my notes…

We are stardust, we are ephemera
Is that why our lives are so shallow in every way?
Unconsidered, unthought out, unplanned
There was a time when spontaneity
sparkled, lit up our unplanned lives
Today it’s lost its sparkle
Today everything sparkles
Flat, planned permanence and stability
Rock-solidity are spurned
Labelled boring, dull, unexciting
So we chase another dream
And yet another
Flickering flames of fantasy
Chimera
Forever just there
Just out of reach.
And so we are forever running
Like Alice, twice as hard
Not realizing that Time and Space
Run with us
So we get nowhere
Our eyes always on tomorrow
We don’t see today
Nor realise that the here and now
Are a gift
That the ancients called
The present.