Saturday, June 30, 2018

About Me

A staunch feminist...
An eternal optimist...
A doting single-mother...
An avid reader...
That's me.

Hi, I am Swagata. Welcome to my blog.

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I am a contributing writer at Women's Web. To check my profile on Women's Web, click here.

I am a blogger at Momspresso. To check my profile on Momspresso, click here.

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The Mighty Emperor

"A true hero isn't measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart." - Hercules

Pataliputra, 260 BCE
Emperor Ashoka in pacing restlessly inside his royal chamber in Magadha. It's past midnight. All the inhabitants of the royal palace are sleeping in their respective rooms. Only some palace guards are awake at this hour. But the Emperor is unable to sleep. He is having sleepless nights for the past couple of months. Instead what he is having is fitful slumber, interrupted by lurid nightmares. Nightmares filled with wails of people, blood and skeletons of the dead. In the recent war with Kalinga, a hundred and fifty thousand had been killed, though the Emperor had emerged victorious.

Slowly, a pale streak of orange colour lights the eastern horizon. The chirping of birds in the royal garden heralds the advent of another new day. The Emperor comes out of his chamber to take a stroll in the royal garden, unaccompanied by any royal guards, in a bid to calm down the raging thoughts in his restless mind. At this early hour, the fragrance of flowers waft in the cool morning breeze. But the Emperor suddenly smells the putrid smell of rotten corpses instead of the fragrance of the flowers. And he starts to retch. His tongue feels parched and he starts to run away towards the palace in search of drinking water when he accidentally hears the conversation between a palace guard and a young maid, who assists the royal cook in the kitchen. The maid, who happens to be a widow, has lost her husband recently. Her husband was a lower ranking soldier in the Magadha army, who lost his life fighting in the Kalinga war. She was distraught since her husband's death. Now she is telling the palace-guard how she has found peace after her meeting with some Buddhist monk named Upagupta. The Emperor was intrigued.

Monsoon has arrived in Magadha. During the rainy season, the monks are required to take up a fixed abode and depend for their subsistence on the neighbouring households. Upagupta is staying in the outskirts of Pataliputra during this rainy season.

The Emperor has heard a lot about Upagupta. So today he has come to pay a visit to him. Upagupta in his shaven head and yellow robe looks divine. The Emperor bows his head in obeisance.
Under the influence of Upagupta, the Emperor accepts the Buddhist creed, the faith in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha.

Later, Ashoka went on to become one of the greatest Emperors of India. He is remembered till date not for his conquest, but for his efforts for the well-being of his subjects. H.G.Wells wrote of Ashoka in his book 'The Outline of History' : "Amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history, their majesties and graciousness and serenities and royal highnesses and the like, the name of Ashoka shines, and shines, almost alone, a star." Truly, a true hero isn't measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.

Write Tribe Festival Of Words June 2018
For day seven, I chose the following quote prompt:
Day 7 – Jun 30
“A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.” – Hercules

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Letter to The Person who have been an Inspiration Behind My Writing

Dear once-used-to-be-mine husband,

You may be surprised to know that if there is one person, who have inspired my writing career, then it's you. You may be perplexed to read the preceding sentence. But it's completely true. Why? Let me tell you a story at first which I read somewhere recently.

"The eminent American writer Ernest Hemmingway was once asked by a novice, 'Tell me, Sir, tell me where I should travel and what I should see and experience so that I can become a great writer like you.'

Hemmingway replied in his typical casual manner. 'Start with yourself, young man. Take a length of a rope and go into your backyard and try and hang yourself. Assuming that you don't succeed and you survive, sit down and write about it.'

This is because to be a writer, you must write about what is closest and most familiar to you. It is only then that you will be able to write with passion, incisiveness and conviction."

And so, I started writing about the most familiar things. When I write about pain, I recall the pain that you inflicted on me. When I write about love, I recall your love for me. I was a naive girl cocooned in my own little world before I got married to you. You made me to experience the magic of love, the joy of motherhood, the pain of separation, the depression associated with parting with a partner. I never knew that I can write. I never imagined that one day people will appreciate me for a faculty of mine which was even unknown to me: my writing.

You taught me a lot of things. Today I want to thank you for one more thing for which I never got the opportunity to thank you in person - for bringing out the writer in me. I started writing only after separation. If you were beside for for the rest of my life, I might have remained that naive girl for an entire you.

Once-yours-and-only-yours wife.

Write Tribe Festival Of Words June 2018
For day six, I chose the following creative writing prompt:
Day 6 – Jun 29
Write a letter to a person who supported your writing career, whether that be a friend, a family member, a teacher (even one that supported you at a very young age before you knew that it would blossom into a writing career), an author you’ve never met but have been inspired…

Climbing Up The Stairs

Endless steps
Tiring ascent,
I am climbing up the stairs.

Surprises await for me
In every bend of the staircase,
Though I expect them to be sweet,
They don't always turn out to be so.

More and more -
I encounter them
In my upward ascent.

I become overwhelmed,
Ecstatic in joy.
When I look downward
The height makes me giddy.

In my giddiness,
I look for the embrace
Of the familiar arms,
But I found none.

Suddenly the temperature drops
And the chill makes me shiver.
I am all alone -
Alone and lonely.
But I don't know
How to descend down the stairs.

For day five, I chose the following image prompt:
Day 5 – Jun 28

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Honeymooning Couple

"Leaning into the afternoons I cast my sad nets
Towards your oceanic eyes.

There in the highest blaze my solitude lengthens and flames,
its arms turning like a drowning man's.

I send out red signals across your absent eyes
that move like the sea near a lighthouse."
----- Pablo Neruda

Sun. Sea. Sand. And Romance. Romance was in the spangled sands of the beach. Romance was in the waves of the sea that touched the sea-shore gently. As gentle as your fingers fondling with my body. It was our honeymoon afterall. Like all newly wed couple, we were like two intoxicated lovers lost in each other in that small sea-side town. Fingers entwined. The diamond ring in your ring-finger happily proclaiming your 'just married' status. The bright red sindoor in the parting of my hair coyly displaying my 'just married' status. Sankha and Pala adorning both my arms. Both of us standing in a lone beach under an overcast sky. Your promise to be with me through all the ups and downs of this life and through seven consecutive lives. 

However, promises are just like that house made of sand on the sea-beach. A wave comes and the house crumbles down. You failed to deliver your promise. I failed to live upto your expectation. Our house of sand failed to sustain for even seven years, leave alone seven lifetimes. 

You loved sea. So did I. I don't know whether you still visit seasides. I rarely do these days. Seas make me remember you. Our honeymoon. Our failed marriage. Time goes on flowing like sands in between fingers. We grow in wisdom. But the sea is still young. Madly, foolishly in love with the sea-shore. The waves still touch the sea-shore gently.

"Leaning into the afternoons I fling my sad nets
to the sea that beats on your marine eyes.

The birds of night peck at the first stars
that flash like my soul when I love you

The night gallops on its shadowy mare
shedding blue tassels over the land."

Write Tribe Festival Of Words June 2018
For day four, I chose the following image prompt:
Day 4 – Jun 27

Monday, June 25, 2018

Romancing the Sea

Leaving my shoes on the shore,
I have come to embrace the waves,
The crests and troughs of which
Resemble life itself.
The seamless span of water
Surrounds me
Before I start my journey
To another seamless world.
Today I have come to the ocean
To drown every pain,

Every suffering,
In its bottomless depth.
Water, water everywhere-
They choke my senses,
But before that
I catch a glimpse of the moon
Hanging over the blue ocean.
I'll never see the moon again
Kissing the ocean-
And I start flailing my limbs
Against the mighty tides,
For I have to return to the shore
Where I have left my shoes.

For day three, I chose the following image prompt:

Day 3 – Jun 26

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Love Thy Job and You'll Be Happy Forever

"In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and - snap! - the job's a game!" 
- Mary Poppins

There goes a Chinese proverb:
"If you want happiness for an hour - take a nap. If you want happiness for a day - go fishing. If you want happiness for a month - get married. If you want happiness for a year - inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime - help others."
One of my mentors once slightly twisted this proverb and told, "If you want happiness for a lifetime - love your job." Indeed, we all have to be involved with our job since we start our career until retirement. Some jobs don't even have retirement, like the job of a homemaker. Hence, if we fail to love our job, our entire life will be devoid of any fun. So we need to find out that fun element in our job.

I have been in a government job since long. My job entails routine work and leaves very little space for innovation. But I get to interact with a lot of people on a daily basis because of my job - people who belong to different social strata. Now if I focus on the mundane aspect of my job, I'll soon lose interest. Instead, if I take it as an opportunity to meet varied kind of people throughout my career, I'll be able to sustain my motivation for long. Similarly, doing household chores like cooking, cleaning etc might seem boring apparently. But if you add a bit of the spice of innovation, you'll be able to thoroughly enjoy even these chores. For example, one can try different recipes apart from the regular everyday menu, especially during weekends. Thanks to the internet, learning and sharing recipes have never been so easy.

Another point to note here is that every kind of job contributes to someone's well-being. A teacher teaching students, a doctor curing patients or a homemaker looking after her family members are contributing to the well-being of other people. Even the job which doesn't seem to be of any importance apparently, also holds value. We may look down upon the sweeper who cleans our streets regularly, but then someone has to do the job.

The Bhagavad Gita tells us to do our allotted work. We should never refrain from carrying on our share of work. The trick here is to find the fun element in every job we do. Carrying on with the job will then be a cakewalk.

For day two, I chose the following quote prompt:
Day 2 – Jun 25 – “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and—snap!—the job’s a game!” – Mary Poppins

Life Lessons from the Past

"The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it." 
- The Lion King

Yes, the past can hurt so much. And who can understand this fact better than me. The trauma of going through a broken marriage has taught me how difficult it can be to forget a painful past. So finally, after all the struggles to forget that episode of my life, I have given up. Now I have decided to learn from my past, instead of running from it.

"My room is like a bit of June,
Warm and close-curtained fold on fold,

But somewhere, like a homeless child,
My heart is crying in the cold."

---- Sara Teasdale
And now I have decided never to let my heart cry again. Now I know what I want from my life, from my relationships. I do not let my love to be the one-way traffic anymore. I look for reciprocity in all my relationships. For now I know that it takes the sincere efforts of both the persons involved to make a relationship thrive.

Another important lesson that I've learnt from my past is to never keep the key to my happiness in another person's pocket. There is an infinite fountain of joy within each of us. In our quest to find happiness from another people, we often tend to forget our true inner self. Now I have learnt to look inwards for happiness.

After learning all the lessons that my past has taught me, I am in a relationship with myself currently. Like all 'normal' relationships, this relationship too has it's own share of ups and downs. There are times when I feel upbeat about myself and the world around me, work hard on my professional commitments, try to squeeze as much time as possible for my son, read a lot of books and laugh with gay abandon. Then there are the dreaded times when a cloud of despair cover my conscience. This phase comes suddenly, like that uninvited guest in your house. During these times when I feel very low, I find solace in my spirituality and my writing. I am a changed person now. My past has taught me to love myself first before I can claim love back from the earth.

For day one, I chose the following quote prompt:
Day 1 – Jun 24 – “The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.” – The Lion King

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Letter to a Son

Dearest soon-to-be-six Mainak,

Do you know why I named you 'Mainak' in the first place? 'Mainak' is the name of a mountain in our epic Ramayana. When you were born, your mother wished for you that you will outgrow all others in stature just like a mountain does. None will equal you. Everybody will have to tilt their head to look at you- you who will outshine all others. Do you know the fact that according to the mythology 'Mainak parvat' could fly also? I wish the same for you- one day you'll surely fly high.

Your birthday falls in the month of Shravana according to the Bengali calendar. A light drizzle was coming down on the parched earth on the day you were born. Inside the OT, your mother was shedding tears of joy on your arrival.

In these six years, if I have taught you the alphabets, then you have also taught me what it means to love unconditionally. I never knew how much love my heart can hold until I saw your cute baby face for the first time. I never imagined how much love I am capable of giving to another person until you called me 'Maa'. I know that I am not a perfect mother. I never was. Rather my role in your life can aptly be summarized as a 'part-time mother'. When you needed me the most, I was not by your side. You have often complained to me that unlike your friends mothers, your mother never visit your school to pick you up. You are too little to understand why your mother cannot do as much as your friends mothers do or why she cannot visit your school often or why she has to go to the office everyday. But I do hope that one day when you'll grow up a bit more, you'll understand and forgive your mother for all her faults.

In these six years of loving each other and caring for each other, its not only me who have made the transition from being a woman to being a mother. You have also become more of a father to me than a son. In days when I come late from office and you become anxious, in rainy days when you wonder whether your mother has taken the umbrella with her or not, in days when you make my room tidy and arrange my books neatly in their proper place when I am off to my office, I find you resemble my father. For you care for me in the same way.

One day you'll learn to fly by yourself and leave this nest to fly high in the sky. But no matter how far you spread your wings, your mother will always be there for you. Your mother will always protect you under her wings whenever your wings will get tired of flying. Till that day comes, let me hug you a little more tighter today. Let me love you a little more today. Let me cuddle you and buy birthday gifts for you today. Tomorrow I don't know whether I'll get the chance.

Here's wishing all the good things in the world for you on your birthday as you cut the cake and snub off the candles.

With lots of love and love and only love,
Your Maa.

This post was published first in Momspresso. Click here to read.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Hazards of Friendship with Persons of Opposite Sex

I was devastated. I had lost track of my life. I was entangled in the legal proceedings of a bitter divorce case. I, who was the last person on earth to believe that my relationship can end on such a bitter note, was witnessing my own marriage to crumble like a house of cards. Probably I was a fool - a fool living in a fool's paradise who hoped against hope that the house of cards can survive every storm. Back then, I had become an embittered individual who was afraid to even to talk to friends, who all seemed happy and content with their lives.

At this junction of my life, I met him. Or rather, I became his friend because we never actually 'met'. It was a virtual friendship which is in vogue these days. I normally never accept friend requests from random strangers in Facebook. So this friendship blossomed in Goodreads. I am a born bibliophile and what can be a better place for me to spend my precious time than Goodreads. I was and am an active user of Goodreads. Very few persons in my friend circle use Goodreads, or read book to be precise. So  in Goodreads, I connect with some like-minded strangers who actually love to read just like me. He was one of them.

To read the full story, click here.

Header image is a still from the movie Qarib Qarib Singlle

This post titled When I Discovered The Hazards Of Online 'Fraandship' With Strangers Of The Opposite Sex  has been published on Women’s Web as a Featured Post. Featured Posts are a careful selection of highly relevant and interesting posts picked by the editors of Women's Web each day.

© 2018. Swagata Tarafdar. All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 10, 2018


After you're done with your make-up,
Wear your smile today.
A smile that doesn't fail to reach your eyes,
And make them shine brighter
Than your exquisite diamond studs.

After you're done with draping your silk saree,
Wear your smile today.
A smile that makes you look resplendent,
A smile that is more flamboyant
Than your Kanjeevaram saree.

Smile and thank Almighty
For all the blessings
That He has strewn along your path,
And be blissful for receiving
This marvellous gift called 'Life'.

And when life doesn't give you any reason to smile-
Laugh hard.
A laughter that makes your stomach ache
And your eyes teary.

Life may not be a bed of roses,
For every rose comes with its own share of thorns,
But whatever you come across- roses or thorns,
Do not forget to wear your smile today.

This post is written in line with  Prompt: Nothing you wear is more important than your smile. Do you agree? #Smile

This post has been published at Women's Web. Click here to read.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

In The Battle of Life

As far as the eyes can behold,
Not a single tree comes in view.
A tree which can provide shelter.
The earth beneath my feet is parched,
Bereft of any vegetation.
Under the scorching midday sun,
I stand alone-
I have lost direction 
In the labyrinthine maze of life.
I turn my face away from the world,
Like Arjuna in the battleground of Kurukshetra.
And I turn to thee, O Krishna,
You are the beacon of light,
Which my tired soul trails.

© 2018. Swagata Tarafdar. All rights reserved.