Check it out at

I am eager to hear from you as usual.

Here’s a confession: I thought of this title and found it attractive; hence this blog entry! It can happen that way sometimes. One doesn’t always start with substance. Occasionally, form can come first.

The subject, as you’ve probably guessed, is menopaws. No, that’s not a typo. I think this is a more fun way to refer to it, don’t you? It was the title of a book on a friend’s bookshelf; a funny, illustrated book. It makes me think of a wild cat walking around casually enough on her paws, but ready to strike if need be.

Since about a year now, I feel rather hot… No, I am not referring to that kind of heat because I am not given to that kind of confession! I mean hot as in getting into the metro and feeling, oh I am so, so hot. It’s a good feeling, given that it’s so cold here half the year. Welcome, menopaws!

I’m positive about menopaws probably because I’ve never particularly valued my reproductive capacity, so the impending loss does not seem that bad. Interestingly, I also seem to be rather “fertile” in these middle-years. I am writing a lot of fiction and feel generally creative. Perhaps this is perfectly understandable, seen from the perspective of maintaining an overall balance of mind, body and spirit.

I am drawn to the archetype of the Crone, who I see as powerful. There’s this crone in me ready to break out, laughing gleefully, with perhaps just a hint of playful wickedness in her laugh!

Many societies have crone goddesses associated with birth, death, destruction and rebirth like the wild, Slavic goddess Baba Yaga, the Welsh goddess Cerridwen, and the Hindu goddess Kali. Hecate, an ancient Greek goddess, is said to walk about on dark nights, attended by a pack of hounds. She reigns over the moon, earth and the underworld. Ama No Uzumi (Japanese) is the Shinto ancestral Goddess of longevity, protection and psychic abilities, while Elli is the Nordic Goddess of old age, who defeated the almighty Thor. The list goes on.

The idea of an inner journey around the middle years is told over and over, practically in all cultures. The North American, aboriginal, medical wheel has four quadrants – North to East, East to South, South to West, West to North. The first quadrant takes a woman to her puberty, in the second she is maiden and mother, the third is a period of harvesting, ripening and maturity, and the last, which starts at menopaws, is a contemplation of the great mysteries of life. There is also a tradition here that the woman who’s going into menopaws initiates the woman who is going into puberty.

The ancient Hindu cycle of birth and childhood, the student years, the years as a householder and the final retirement to a forest to lead a more spirit-centered existence is not all that different from the above.

It’s a pity that modern societies do not mark rites of passage in any profound way. At most people celebrate birthdays. All the stages of life deserve their share of initiation, reflection and celebration. Imagine a concert with Crone Divas belting out variations of You Give Me Fever in a homage to menopaws!

Change, learning, transformation, breaking through, are part of the menopaws story, if we open ourselves to them. This is not to suggest that is an easy, painless process, but there could be a blossoming and becoming, if given a chance.

In the Western world (and among the middle-class in many countries), women now spend nearly a third of their life as crones. There’s also something called The Grandmother Hypothesis:

“Some evidence suggests that hunters contribute less than half the total food budget of most hunter-gatherer societies… so that foraging grandmothers can contribute substantially to the survival of grandchildren at times when mothers and fathers are unable to gather enough food…” (Wikipedia)

A utilitarian view, that! It made me think of all those African grannies looking after their grandkids and other kids in the community after their own children succumbed to HIV/AIDS or other deadly diseases. And there’s something to be said for grandparents just being around to offer love, support and stories. I enjoy being an aunt, and now some of my nieces have kids, turning me into a granny.

A women’s body temperature goes up and down all through her life, anyhow, in tune with the menstrual cycle. It goes up from 98.6 F to 98.9 F and beyond. I could not find statistics on exact temperature rise during the infamous hot flashes.

Anyhow, it’s hot, hot, hot! You guys are really missing out! (There may be some excitement to be had from andropaws if you were to acknowledge its existence.)

Meanwhile, the Earth’s temperature has alas risen by 0.75 C since the 19th century and expected to rise to 2.4-6.4 C by 2100 AD. (Ouch.)

As we approach Earth Day I am recommitting myself to small acts of kindness towards the planet and easing up on my aging, but fantastic body that continues to serve me so well. Care to join me?

Happy Earth Day! Happy Growing Older, but not Colder! (Remember Pink Floyd, The Wall?)

P.S. Ultimately, older people have lower body temperatures and less of a temperature range. Sigh. It just ain’t hot enough for me!

What are you up to this Spring? Is it inspiring or does it leave you indifferent?

Since eons, I have been enamoured with something I associate with this season – Shringar Ras – the sensuous mood in Indian art, and life. Shringar Ras is flirtation, playfulness, dalliance, adornment, artistry, refinement, exploration, enchantment; teasing, tasting, wooing, enjoying, indulging. There is love, romance and erotica involved, but Shringar Ras goes way beyond these, and is not directed towards an individual. It’s a mood that can inform your perception of the world and, like incense, permeate your daily life. What really pleases me about Shringar Ras is its inherent light hearted and light-headedness.

It all started, I think, while watching those “Mogul” romances on celluloid, as a child. Set in beautiful, marble palaces, with fountains and well laid out gardens, mosaics, flowers, pigeon messengers, and poisoned chalices, they depicted the lives of suave young men and beautiful women in swirling, silken skirts and diaphanous chunnis and scarves, who cast sideward glances from behind fans, screens and latticed windows. These images drove me into a dreamy, light-footed state where I felt myself floating above the pleasure palaces, not unlike a figure in a Chagall painting!

How gracefully they could sing and dance and move, those seductresses! My favourite is the actress Madhubala to whom Shringar Ras comes naturally, and Rekha too cultivates it with particular charm. I also found Shringar Ras in Ingrid Bergman. I take my many hats off to these enthralling ladies!

When one speaks of Shringar, can Krishna-Radha be far behind? Eternal lovers, both earthy and divine, they have given Indian music, dance, poetry and art an endlessly fascinating subject. Krishna, with his magic flute and peacock feather, his ability to dance with a 1000 gopis (milkmaids) at once, is a welcome addition to the Hindu pantheon. In fact, there’s evidence that subsequent poets in ancient India added human traits to this once remote God, possibly because they needed an icon around which they could weave the spell of Shringar Ras? The same goes for Radha, who only appears in later stories as a well-rounded nayika (heroine).

What’s wonderful about these ancient poems and paintings is that nature is fully integrated in them, and dark, billowing clouds, prancing peacocks, branches laden with blossoms, writhing snakes and curving rivulets are as lovingly portrayed as the human figures.

It has been a pleasure to develop a workshop around Shringar Ras, which I recently presented to a small but enthusiastic group, in Montreal. The format is half the time devoted to a presentation of the various facets of Shringar Ras through poetry, film clips and slides of miniature paintings. Voice work, music and perfumes have also been employed in the past. In the second half, the participants reflect on the role of Shringar Ras in their own lives and how they can enhance it. I have given other versions of this workshop in Toronto and Ottawa.

Having stayed with this theme over many years, I find that I have evolved with it and vice versa. For example, I can see a direct connection now between the idea of being embodied and fully there in the present moment (Buddhism) and connecting intimately to the world through our senses. I can also see clearly the role of breathing, physical flexibility and good health and posture (yoga) as central to the experience of Shringar Ras. Would a wilting flower attract a bee? Could a forgetful lover ever arouse true passion in his beloved? Could an absence of relaxation allow a real appreciation of the colour of the sky?

With Spring here in some parts of the world, or round the corner (a longish one for us Canadians!), nature is springing to its senses and so should we humans, which is to say: be present, be sensitive, get out of your cocoon and look around you with keen eyes, ears, nose, tongue and touch.

Here’s my little contribution to the wakeful appreciation of Spring! It’s a paragraph from my poem “Seasons”, which was published in Indian Voices, An anthology of prose and poetry by emerging Indian writers around the world.

The poem is a humble tribute to Kalidasa, an eminent, ancient Indian poet-playwright, whose words are infused with Shringar Ras:

The sun peeps
through billowing clouds
sending showers; secret epistles
To buds slowly awakening
under dwindling snows
As girls reach for swishy skirts
And men tilt their hats, rakishly

Earth turns to meet the thaw

I would love to hear a story from your childhood.

I wrote one called Munni, which means little girl in Hindi, and it is now online at the Maple Tree Literary Supplement. (How much more Canadian can a name get?!)

This is how it starts:

There are no photographs of Munni, only her image, branded in my memory…
Read on

By the way, my friend Claudia made me aware of this magazine. She has published there too.
Enjoy the story!

Tell me about your experiences and memories of snow!

Today was one of those blessed winter days. Snow outlined the dark branches of bare trees, covered park benches, coated cars, lined slanting roofs and sprinkled prettily on the conifers, making them look like yummy-green, ice-cream cones. Mellow sunlight illuminated the pristine, white winterscape, with not a breath of wind to make things unpleasant, even though it was quite cold at -10 C.

It was a day to celebrate the white stuff – the fifth element – as described by Canadian author, Farley Mowat, in his compelling short text, “Snow.” Air, water, earth and fire do not cut it for Mowat. There is that important fifth element, not only on Earth; it is also “an immortal presence” in the Universe.

To Mowat snow is “the bleak reality of a stalled car and spinning wheels impinging on the neat time schedule of our self importance… the sweet gloss of memory in the failing eyes of the old as they recall the white days of childhood… the resignation of suburban housewives as they skin wet snowsuits from runny-nosed progeny… the invitation that glows ephemeral on a women’s lashes on a winter night… the gentility of utter silence in the muffled heart of a snow-clad forest.”

The text is part of one of his early short story collections called The Snow Walker, which was made into a film. Mowat wrote extensively about the people of the North – the Inuit – and their unique landscape. It can be found online at:

Another story I always think of at the onset of winter is Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. The Snow Queen is deadly, rather than ‘sympathetic,’ hence all the more fascinating:

“The flake of snow grew larger and larger; and at last it was like a young lady, dressed in the finest white gauze, made of a million little flakes like stars. She was so beautiful and delicate, but she was of ice, of dazzling, sparkling ice; yet she lived; her eyes gazed fixedly, like two stars; but there was neither quiet nor repose in them.”

And here’s a description of her palace:

“The walls of the palace were of driving snow, and the windows and doors of cutting winds. There were more than a hundred halls there, according as the snow was driven by the winds. The largest was many miles in extent; all were lighted up by the powerful Aurora Borealis, and all were so large, so empty, so icy cold, and so resplendent! Mirth never reigned there; there was never even a little bear-ball, with the storm for music, while the polar bears went on their hind legs and showed off their steps. Never a little tea party of white young lady foxes; vast, cold, and empty were the halls of the Snow Queen. The northern lights shone with such precision that one could tell exactly when they were at their highest or lowest degree of brightness.”


Inspired perhaps by the Snow Queen’s singular realm is an ice-hotel in Quebec:

Inside, I am sure it’s quite warm, for blocks of ice fitted together provide splendid insulation, as Mowat informs us in Snow.

Then there’s the telling song by Quebec singer Gilles Vigneault, Mon pays c’est hiver (My country is winter)!

Given melting mountain ice and dwindling glaciers in the Arctic and Antarctic, we can only admire, with poignant intensity, the power and majesty of the fifth element, displayed in this video clip:

Great, short video about how hypertext/ the net/ web 2.0 (social media) evolved and the wide-ranging implications of this.

Humans have created an array of religious and cultural celebrations to mark the seasons, tantalize our taste buds and enliven our days. October brought Halloween, November Diwali. We are heading pell-mell into Christmas, even as observant Jews light candles to commemorate Hanukkah.

What’s your take on festivals – do you celebrate them with enthusiasm or just ignore them? Do they mean anything to you? Do you feel they have become too loud, too commercial, etc? I am eager to hear from you!

Don’t miss the links at the end of this blog. The first features magical lanterns, described in the next paragraph. Link two shows facets of one of my favourite Indian festival’s – Navratri, where you can go for nine nights of communal dancing, wearing colourful clothes. Yeh! A Hindu festival, the Indian diaspora has taken it abroad. The third link goes to an article by a Zoroastrian-Canadian friend talking about how she negotiated and transmitted her religion and culture, growing up and raising a family, in Vancouver.

The Magic of the Lanterns takes place every autumn at the Chinese Garden in the Botanical Gardens in Montreal. It marks a Chinese festival dating back to the Han dynasty – 206 B.C.-220 A.D. The lanterns this year were gorgeous tableaus made out of nylon and other modern materials, depicting everyday life in 12th century China. In a post-modern, green twist, the Garden authorities claim that since 2008, a LED (light emitting diode) lighting system is used for this festival, in order to reduce energy use.

My own feelings about festivals underwent a sea change after immigrating to Canada in the 1990s. When I lived in India I took festivals for granted, participating in them mostly at the behest of my enthusiastic mother. After immigrating, I was free, free to continue celebrating, do less or nothing, or incorporate new ones.

Inspired by my wonderful, pagan, environmentalist friends, I started commemorating Solstice and Equinox as milestones on the seasonal calendar. When I lived in Toronto, I participated in communal rituals. Now I go for a “mindful” walk, look at the moon, light a candle or incense, walk through the apartment, perfuming it with sweet grass, a plant that is variously used by native Indians.

I embraced Halloween with great gusto, a time when the partition between the dead and the living thins. Pumpkins are carved and hang out on porches, grinning devilishly, ghosts and goblins come out to play and adults (finally) become more fun as they don masks and costumes to party! It is an opportunity to cross dress, just what a friend did at a Halloween Party I organized once. He was so well disguised as an old woman, complete with mask, wig, dress and falsetto voice, that I failed to recognize him for a few moments! (He happens to be an amateur actor.)

Another invitee came as a “table for two.” He had stuck his head through a square, flat piece of styrofoam, complete with a plastic tablecloth. On the surface he had stuck on plastic plates, saucers and paper napkins! His got the best costume prize.

I have retained Ganesh Puja, very important to my ethnic/ linguistic group, discovering that the pot-bellied, elephant-headed God, with his reputation for dispelling obstacles, is popular everywhere. Come Diwali I worship Laxmi, the Goddess not only of wealth, which is rather mundane, but also of abundance – a word with an exuberant, pagan quality. My mixed fortunes in Canada have made me incline towards her!

We attend certain Shambhala Buddhist ceremonies, time permitting, and attend family gatherings at Christmas. My life is rich in ritual. But why do I care? I deeply appreciate the theme of dispelling darkness to bring in light, that many festivals have. Others recognize the role of nature, draw on particular symbols, push me to pause and reflect even as I recreate a practice, feast, socialize and have fun. As a friend would put it: “What’s not to like?”

Magic Lanterns:



Check out my article about a sculpture exhibition:

Do you follow the work of certain film directors? Amidst the tsunami of cinema that comes to us, what makes us connect intimately to particular films? Why does the vision of a specific director move us deeply and haunt us long after we leave the theatre or switch off the DVD? Please tell me about your favourite directors and films.

I went on a bit of a film feast last month. I had bought a movie card for the local repertory cinema in October 2009, but had had no time to use it. As the expiry date drew near, I decided to get my money’s worth. And get my money’s worth I did, watching Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall flirt in The Big Sleep. (This was a very particular smart-mouth flirting style from 1940s Hollywood). As they stylishly traded ripostes, the murders kept comin’, and the strangely familiar world of deadly dames, sharp shooting private dicks and desperate characters with mysterious intent, unfolded amid pouring rain and beautifully lit urban nightscapes. Classic Film Noir wrapped itself around me like a boa constrictor!

I marvelled at the mastery, the sure touch, of director Howard Hawks who managed to pull in and entertain a sceptical viewer like myself, who is not even a Noir fan. (A friend had suggested the film.)

Next, feeling not unlike Alice in the proverbial Wonderland, I fell into the surreal universe of Joseph K., who wakes up one morning to find cops searching his room. They tell him he’s on trial, but he never finds out for what. Ouch! The Trial is a masterpiece – the legendary Orson Welles filming the work of the even more monumental Franz Kafka. The film, which is supposed to follow the (il)logic of a nightmare, has an incredibly claustrophobic quality. From the early, strangely angled shots inside Joseph K’s room and boarding house, “through a city composed of decaying industrial buildings, old factories, shady tenements, and empty streets,” through long corridors between bookcases stuffed with untidy files, ostentatious public buildings with weird goings on and quirkily furnished private mansions, the feeling of being confined and trapped never leaves you for a moment.

And that is the point. Kafka found social conventions (and not just the workings of bureaucracy) strange and baffling. In The Trial he created an ultimately incomprehensible world, which Welles rendered into harrowing flesh.

This is perhaps what makes for compelling cinema? It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again. Great directors seem to spin entire solar systems into being. They draw you in and hold you there, captive. They make you squirm, but you want to stay, to have that transformative and ultimately satisfying experience of transcending your own life and entering, really entering, someone else’s world.

I have admired directors ever since I first started to have a clue about what went into making movies. A director works with producers, scriptwriters, a camera crew, actors, set and costume designers, editors, music composers and a host of other professionals. What a circus! A great director orchestrates the talents and temperaments of all these diverse people to craft an unforgettable movie that bears his or her individual stamp. Some directors mastered more than one of these difficult skills. Satyajit Ray for instance wrote the original stories and screenplays, composed music, designed the sets, costumes and even the publicity posters, for his films. Whew!

I was a journalist in Bombay in my early 20s when a good friend got involved with movie making. I remember her telling me about the sheer excitement and thrilling intensity of it all. And how, late at night, after the film crew wrapped up an exhausting shoot, they would go out drinking, still talking about the movie.

It is fitting that my story ends with a film called Great Directors. Angela Ismailos’ documentary by that name, which features nine directors, was the last movie I saw. OK there was a less successful Greek film in between. It’s good to see less-good films; makes you really appreciate the others!

Ismailos chose those particular directors because they were true to their vision of filmmaking. Resisting commercialization, they made uncompromising films. She interviewed Bernardo Bertolucci, David Lynch, Liliana Cavani, Stephen Frears, Agnes Varda, Ken Loach, Todd Haynes, Catherine Breillat, Richard Linklater and John Sayles, over many days. This complex creation is about the motivations, identities, work, personalities, dilemmas and admirable courage of these directors. I did not know some of them at all, others I knew less well, but the movie was worth watching all the same. Ismailos manages to contextualize their work and even showcases some of their inspirations – Ingmar Bergman, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and others. All this in 90 minutes.

Vive le cinema, vive the magicians behind the movies!

Did you go to a cottage this summer? Hiking? Camping? Did you try to escape the heat, if you live in India? Perhaps you just enjoyed urban nature? Maybe you live in the country? Use that keyboard (!) to write a few words about your particular experience in the comment box below. Or send me photos.

What better time to recall summer getaways as Fall deepens outside the window. The leaves seemed to turn yellow overnight, last week, and that beautiful, muted, slanting light, that evokes all manner of nuanced feeling, and a certain tremulousness, permeated everything.

Among the pleasures of immigration to Canada from the tropics, are the all-too-short weekends I get to spend in Canadian Cottage Country.

This year I had the chance to revisit my friend Gillian, on Black Rock, a lovely, little island in the Peterborough area in Ontario. In the vast stretches that typify Canada, owning an island is less spectacular than it would be in other parts of the world, say for example in space-strapped Japan, though no less fortunate.

There were the usual delights of canoeing, dipping in the lake, leisurely meals enjoyed in tranquil, green, watery surroundings, and rambles around the island with Gill’s wonderful children – Ursula and Allias. We also witnessed spectacular meteor showers. Lying back in the open, under blankets, the four us watched in awe as shooting stars bloomed all over the star-spangled, night sky. The kids screamed in glee!

Later I read on the net: “The Perseids take place each August as the Earth passes through the debris of the comet Swift-Tuttle. The dust particles light up as they pass through the Earth’s atmosphere, burning up along the way.”

It was love at first sight for me. Way back in September 2001, I wrote this “ode” to Black Rock:

in the palm
of Stoney Lake

Encased in lush,
swirling waters
– a dazzling
turquoise tumescence

Ripening every summer
A fruit, we
have learnt to partake

Leaving you, in the wake
of a lazy weekend
abundant nectar
dribbling down our chins
made dour by city living


with the promise
of another summer’s seduction

Amid the pines
– an autumn-tipped seed
under the Junipers

Here are some photos of Black Rock from that time.

This year I also visited Petroglyphs Provincial Park. The main attraction here is a massive rock, covered with drawings reminiscent of cave paintings. It is thrilling to see the petroglyphs of turtles, snakes, birds, humans and symbolic shapes. Probably carved by Algonquian-speaking people, the drawings are thought to range in age from 600 to 1100 years. Known as The Teaching Rocks (Kinomagewapong), the site is sacred to First Nation’s people. It is a place where they journeyed to conduct ceremonies, pray, meditate and fast, over millennia. The Park is collaboratively managed with the Curve Lake First Nations People who live nearby. There’s a nice museum on-site called “The Learning Place,” which explains Native traditions.

Highly recommended.

Thanks Gillian for making it all possible.

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