When you follow your bliss, doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors and where there wouldn't be a door for anyone else -- Joseph Campbell.

Endless Summers?

Summer is quite possibly the most sought after season that nature could have provided us with, what with its promise of lush green grass, picnics in the park, open air jazz concerts and June bugs. Okay, so maybe the June bugs are a bit unnecessary, but I happen to be an avid worshiper of shiny. And at the same time, it is also perhaps the most elusive and short lived season ever thrown around for the sole purpose of tantalizing its followers.

"Come, play with me" it beckons. "We'll make wonderful memories together."

Bare faced lie.

I think as I get older, its texture becomes more and more slippery. Much like the fish people spend hours knee deep in murky water with squirmy bugs for. If summer were a vegetable, I think I'd spend endless hours grilling. I honestly yearn for days that try and break the 85 degree mark. It's really wishful thinking, because locked up in jolly old New England here, we really only are privy to two seasons. Cold and colder. Winter is a nine month long visitor, and I dread its arrival like the crotchety old aunt who comes visiting with knitting needles in tow, not to knit with, but to poke me in the eye. Needless to say, it very quickly outlives its welcome.

Have you ever noticed how summers in books seem to span the lengths of bibles? Epic summers, these characters have. Sometimes I wish I were Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, with an epic, adventure filled summer that ran on forever and ever. I certainly do have an epic summer tucked away with my name on it, but I think it carries the stories of my friends more than it does mine. But that's a post for later. I have no story. None. I wake up in the morning and I go to work, and when I come back home, I head out for long walks to try and savor every last bit of the warm weather that Connecticut is blessed with, and then I come back home to read and fall asleep. No story. No adventure. No magical lessons to be learned from Boo Radley or Atticus. Not even an annoying random neighbor to spare.

Why is it that a nine year old's summer filled almost 400 pages and my combined summers won't even fill one? I'm a little jealous.

Growing Up?

No, I'd like to shrink. Grow down, so to speak. Start my life in the mid-eighties and work my way down to being five when I was chasing little June bugs and fireflies through my yard and my playground, the chase based strictly on the "ooh! shiny!" concept. I chase after shiny object to this day. Sometimes I feel like I'm a magpie. A streak of sunshine, a sparkle of face glitter, a luminescent moon (try running after that one), a sequin on a friend's sweater - the possibilities are endless. And yet I can't stand diamonds. Go figure.

I was always aware of the fact that life in the post baccalaureate world wouldn't be without its, ahem, adventures, but somehow, I don't think I was really prepared to face it. I mean, besides for the children of the Sultan of Brunei, who can really stake a claim to financial freedom at 25? I have a 401 K plan going now and a couple of CD's here and there, but why can't life start at retirement and end at retirement? How about that RV traipsing through the sharp curves around California beaches or tunneling through a few Redwoods? Or camping in the lap of the Grand Canyon? Anyone see the sky walk there? (Cheesy website alert here). Oh, and let's not forget, it's made of glass, so it's very, VERY shiny. An eating tour of Rome. A wine tour on the French Riviera. I have very expensive tastes and not enough money to feed my dreams just yet.

So the other option, naturally, is to go back to being a kid and hanging from the branches of mango trees. Can I tell you how much fun is to be had dangling from the nook of two branches with a slingshot in hand? Can I tell you how many times I've been yelled at for relentlessly cracking windows? Even breaking them sometimes? Countless summers I've spent sleeping on cool cement floors, popping berries, tearing into sugar snap peas, skipping rope, chasing toads and chomping on sugar cane. It might be a third world country, but India is a wonderful place for a kid to grow up in. If you leave at the right time, your vision of home is never tainted and you're forever locked into R.K. Narayan's Malgudi Days.

I'm protesting. Lets all grow back down.

Story Beginnings

Where do stories begin, I wonder? I mean, geographically, where do stories really begin? At train stations, in the backseats of classic Oldsmobile's (I used to drive one of those not three years ago), in the poorly lit corners of the chic French bistro with the company of a plate laden with delectable petit fours. What causes pieces of fiction to be born? I've read some pretty horrible tales in my day, and they've left me wondering what on earth could have possessed the author to want to tell a story about a child who was too fat. Never mind the author - I wonder what would have possessed the publisher.

All good stories have adventure, I've been told. The classic journey - a perfect beginning, a ripple in the fabric, layers of conflict, a foray into the unknown, and irrevocable change. I spent the better part of my afternoon in Stamford, CT by the side of Long Island Sound throwing bread at infernally loud geese and swans. Did you know those geese are so fat from being fed every day that they no longer fly?

I've had snippets of adventure staring at my face all day today. Just snippets. I met two bikers from Albany who woke up this morning and decided they would get on their bikes with a map and head towards the ocean. They had found the Sound and by 4 pm had decided that they had waited entirely too long, so it was time to find the road again. Less than quarter of an hour later, I met a man walking two of his dogs along the "beach". A young man, possibly in his thirties, with five ear piercings, a nose piercing, a flame tattoo and two dogs walking on a beach, telling stories of all his travels from Albuquerque to Albany and every major city in between. He said he was a glass blower and took his trade with him wherever he went. "I just came back from New Orleans to stay with my mother and I don't know where I'm going next."

Now that's the beginning of a story if I ever heard one...


Have you ever felt like a ball of yarn? I feel like one today. Such a curious thing to compare myself to. A ball of yarn. A knot of fibers, spooled around its own center, waiting to be knitted into something useful. A sweater is better than a scarf is better than an idle piece of thread, I say. I remember as a kid, every time my grandmother would sit down to knit the newest crop of sweaters, I would inadvertently find a ball of yarn that wasn't part of the color scheme, and play with it for hours on end. Raveling and unraveling, practicing my knotting skills (or lack thereof), trying to find that hidden cork that held all that thread together. Did you ever wonder what lay at the heart of that great big ball of gray yarn?

I wanted to find out one day, so I did. I decided to pick up a ball that wasn't being used and began to take it apart, loop by loop. Oh, and I took it for a walk with me. Up the stairs and back down, through the kitchen, into the bedroom, and around my mother's pretty red high heels. The sound that followed from her throat (after her heels snagged in the yarn) wasn't exactly the sweetest that she could come up with. But imagine my surprise, when at trying to find the cork inside the ball, all I'd ended up with was a whole lot of... nothing.

That's just how I'd like to unravel - I'd like to slip outside the pet flap in my door (if I had a door like that), roll down the steps, on to the street, latch on to the bumper of a car due south by south-east and find myself in the heart of the Grand Canyon with a whole lot of nothing on my shoulders. Or my back.

I'd love to be a ball of yarn today.

Love Quest!

Have you ever felt as though you were stuck in a Jane Austen novel? You'd be hard pressed to find sprawling mansions nestled between never ending stretches of perfectly manicured gardens lately - unless you're connected to the Vanderbilts in Newport - or even little tea parties with scones and lemon cake under a lovely lavender umbrella by the river side, but the social expectations and pressures don't seem to melt away. Rather, they keep standing around like brick walls, waiting to block your every move at asserting your independence.

So maybe this post is a little personal (and maybe I’m a little bitter), but the title of this weblog does happen to be Epiphanies, which don’t necessarily have to be limited to the expression of itinerant creative thoughts. Every platform must be backed by a mission statement, but why bother being redundant, no? Yes.

It's been a year since I've graduated, and for an entire plethora of reasons, my plans to head to grad school as a freshly scrubbed graduate ended up buried deep, deep under the sea. It hasn't been all that bad, really. I've found there's a good reason students are advised to take blocks of time off and away from the very cushioned academic environment. Yes, students work part time. Some even full time. And they come from every possible social strata of life. But falling into academia is nothing if not cushioned. If you don't believe me, ask the thousands of graduates who walk right into the arms of the newest phenomenon called the quarter-life crisis.

Coming back to the thought at hand, it's good to take some time off, I've found. You get to meet family you haven't seen for a good four years, you get to travel, you get to meet old friends and hopefully, make some new ones. But most of all, you get to experiment and dabble and get your hands dirty with work you like or positively despise, and for the love of the maker, you get to discover who you really are. Twelve years of formal education and four years of higher education do not a self-aware individual make. You come to understand social settings differently, because now you're expected to be a productive, contributing member.

A significant portion of the contribution, I've learned is procreation. The promulgation of life. At least where I come from, it is. Never mind the trysts with destiny to discover the self. Never mind not rushing into a decision that, ideally, should last a lifetime. Let's just get hitched. All of us. Every single person entering into their mid twenties. I think that by Jane Austen's standards, the mid twenties would be horribly late. By all Indian standards, I've found that I'm well past my expiration date. I'm a crusty, bent out of shape 25 year old who hasn't snagged herself a man yet! (What if I wanted a woman, instead? I don't, but that's besides the point. What if???)

And yet, the feverish obsession with marriage seems to not be an exclusively Indian obsessions.
This is how some of my conversations look with some of my Western acquaintences.

Stranger: Are you married yet?

Neha: Yet? What do you mean yet?

Stranger: Well...it's been a year since you've graduated. I mean...when are you going to get married? At least find yourself a boyfriend.

Neha: Sure I will. I'll be the first one in line once they have boys at the local farmer's market. I hear their turnover is fabulous.

Stranger: You know, you really shouldn't play with your future. Don't you want to find your Prince Charming? What happens to you when you grow old? Don't you want someone to take care of you?

Neha (groaning, very overtly): Dude, I would, but the minute Prince Charming sets his eyes on my life, he heads for the hills in a hailstorm. He wants to save his own damn ass.

I kid you not, I've had these conversations, and many more with the standard, expected variations. I'm trying to realize why a woman who is more than capable of financially and intellectually supporting and sustaining herself, has deep interests in art, poetry, fine dining and wine, books and writing, and plenty of friends with whom to share these passions with, needs to be afraid of turning into an old maid with naught but a spinning wheel by the light of a fading candle to keep her company. I have visions of Rapunzel stuck up in a tower.

Have you ever noticed how girls are conditioned to search for "The One" from the word go? We have entire sections in libraries and book stores dedicated to fairytales and the search for true love. Little girls made to feel like little princesses. Little boys told to go clean the yard. Little girls handed make up before they hit the ripe old age of 10. Little boys told to go build a tree house. Harlequin romances, love songs, Shakespeare, Neruda, Barbara Cartland, the 15 year old boy next door professing his undying love to a beat up Camaro with rusted hubcaps, magic wands and fairy dust.

So really, the measure of my life is not a sum total of my accomplishments, but really an evaluation of how much I mean to the one person who can come rescue me from the depths of depravity my life seems to lie around in. I might be bitter, but not because I'm unhinged, foot loose and fancy free.

Train Whistles

Some people wake up to the sounds of cars and trucks speeding by behind the concrete barriers lining the highways. Some pull back crisp linen sheets and stretch leisurely to the singing of birds outside their window sills. I've even been told stories of people in villages waking before the first cock crow.

And some others, like myself, can never get the sound of train whistles out of their minds. I wonder at the sorts of memories the first stimulus of the day can trigger in peoples minds. The first sound of the morning, the first taste of coffee at 6 a.m., the first rustling of leaves in the fall, the first smell of winter at dawn. The first ray of sunshine nudges my eyes open, yet my wind doesn't wake up until I walk into Hartford and hear the first train whistle of the day.

In my mind, I see sleeping fields and mounds of hills, rising from their slumber at the first train whistle announcing its arrival into the day, shaking birds out of their nests, terrorizing little gophers out of their holes, forcing a sleepy train attendant out of his warm seat inside a glass cabin to alert all travelers not to miss possibly their only commute. I see a little train station perched on top of a brick pavement, so inconspicuous, you would never know it was there if you couldn't see the train huffing and puffing its way in.

I hear train whistles cutting across rows of cement and glass, and then, without any warning, I'm five and running along with train, trying to outdo it's speed, unmindful of my mother waiting at home, her heart leaping into her mouth at the thought of me kicking pebbles across train tracks. But how could I ever explain to her that the kid with the farthest shot got to pick his own sugarcane out of the fields across the tracks? Or the right aim with the slingshot could get me my own mango that I could lord over the dinner table?

How can I tell my mother now that the sounds of train whistles at 7 in the morning bring me back to city roads that smell like tar and hurt my feet when I try to run on them? Or that pebbles now get lodged in the heels of my shoes, and sometimes, they hit across my eyes. How do I tell her that I want train whistles to be just train whistles.