Monthly Archives: May 2021

And talk…is cheap…

I’m right now in a working class town called Kalimpong in the eastern Indian State of West Bengal. Life was difficult here even before the pandemic. Daily water shortages are an inescapable fact of life. The roads suck. The transportation options aren’t great and locals make do with what’s available – they have to. The locals of Kalimpong work relentlessly just to keep one foot in front of the other. People take actions just to survive. It’s a hard life here. And surprisingly, most people don’t seem bitter about it. This is life, they appear to be taking it on the chin.

I, too, have had to adjust my level of comfort to what’s available. It’s been a learning experience, a refreshing experience in which anything extraneous was fast disposed of and I’m grateful for it. On the whole, the people are warm and friendly and I feel safe in any part of the extended city of Kalimpong.

Last month, the second wave of the pandemic struck and most everyone began wearing masks in public. Social distancing continues to be a challenge. There are a couple of local campaigns providing support and resources to local residents. People are doing the best they can to continue putting one foot in front of the other.

In the middle of the second wave, I’ve started to receive social media invites for “listening circles” from all over India. Invites from well-to-do, upper middle class Indians in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkatta and other Indian metros, invites from people who, from the safe comfort of zoom meetings, talk about their feelings of fear, helplessness and frustration with the government. They talk about how much the poor are struggling because of the pandemic and the lockdown. One particularly “evolved” “intellectual” draws a straight line between all the problems India is facing today and how one man (yes, one man) is responsible for everything that’s been going wrong for the past seven years. The same evolved individual says to echo chamber approval that India will have Nuremberg Style trials to bring to justice the Prime Minister and his cohorts. No one can be allowed to escape, he says. Yes, really. Should I laugh? Should I cry? I am firmly in an alternate reality in these listening circles.

And thus, the “listening” circles go on – there’s not much listening but a whole heck of a lot of venting and finger-pointing because their delicate middle class lives have been disrupted. It appears to me that India’s well fed middle class needs more mental health support through this pandemic than the poor who don’t know what the next hour brings. I’ve had to tell more than a couple of people who’ve invited me that I’m not interested in these events anymore. I neglect to tell them that if they really wanted to effect change in India, instead of listening circles, they’d be working in the trenches in difficult places like Kalimpong and places worse off, where locals don’t have the time or energy to indulge in talking about their precious feelings.

I don’t have the energy to point out to my “progressive”, “evolved” Indian friends on social media that India needs less of their self-indulgent, intellectual masturbation and more of effin action. There’s no point in my saying anything to these people – they’ll continue with their feel good listening and blaming sessions and when the pandemic is over, they’ll write award-winning books and make award-winning documentaries about the suffering of the average Indian.

In India, talk is cheap and life is cheaper.
Of course, if you’re the kind of Indian who’s lucky enough to be in a zoom or WhatsApp listening circle, everyone can surely feel your pain about all of this.

© 2021 Marlon de Souza

After lunch

Nap times after lunch are horrible
The pain, the longing, the memories
all when I’m half asleep
Like a dream but not quite…
Remembering that time you said you’d come over
but you didn’t
because you were preparing a big meal for the next day
I didn’t believe you, of course
and took you back again and again
until someone else took you away for good
Their good and mine.

I don’t miss you much
except when I’m trying to fall asleep
after lunch

© 2021 Marlon de Souza

Ode to imperfection

I sit down every morning here in Kalimpong and look at this tree through the cracked window pane. I call it my tree.

Its leaves are gone, there’s a sickness on its bark, all over, yet it continues to stand there, welcoming birds looking for a place to sit and chat and ponder on life for a while.

Ode to imperfection

It must be old, this tree, I don’t know how many years, but it’s probably been through a lot, seen a lot. Some might see imperfection when they look at this old, sick and still stubbornly standing tree. I see beauty, life as it is.

Some might hear the music I’ve composed, inspired by this tree, and find my musical skills wanting. Imperfect. Amateurish even. But that’s okay. There’s no need to seek approval, and no need to reject disdain. 

Because, like this tree, like my music, my life is imperfect. Sometimes two steps forward and three steps back. Sometimes only forward, sometimes only backward. Sometimes in circles and sometimes, stationary. That’s life, right? Who said there has to be a schedule and a checklist for how life should evolve. 

My friend the tree stands there every morning, every day. Rain or shine, it’s there to welcome me. Whether I wake up early or whether I wake up late, I sit by the cracked window pane with a cup of warm water in my hand. Neither of us feels the need to say much out loud. This, too is life, no? Some days we bloom, some days we are quiet, some days we remain in relative stillness, standing on a hill, overlooking the ground below, looking up to the sky above.

I’ll be leaving Kalimpong soon, continuing on the journey of life. I’m sure there’ll be other trees, other creatures, other beings I’ll meet. I’ll take my friend’s energy with me…an ode to imperfection…what more could I ask of life, what more could I ask of life.

© 2021 Marlon de Souza