the mind garden

libraries. 

my favorite far off mystical land. among the shelves are lands anywhere you choose to venture off to. 

my school library was full of books from floor to ceiling. each book summoning me for a mental vacation. after school i would head over there before volleyball practice to finish up some homework. i always wish i had more time to take advantage of all the books. one of my favorites growing up was on my sixth grade summer reading list, “holes” i still remember how the book played out like a movie in my head as i read each word. when i was done, i felt as if i had watched an entire feature film. really the only source of entertainment we had in such a small town, the magic of the book. 

during my college weekends, i discovered the lafayette library. nestled in the green hills of the east bay this library had a california charm- a contemporary twist but still felt regal. i spent most of my weekends in there working through organic chemistry problems or reading for biology. i would be seated at the cherry wood desks with a green overhead reading light, other times i sat outside underneath the gazebo engulfed in english ivy, the veins leaving little gaps for the sun to shine through. 

at the college campus, my favorite part of the library were the little cubicles, particularly the hidden ones. a walk up the stairs and and through the rows of bookshelves and there was my spot. the single cubicle lit by a little reading light overlooking the campus the white buildings with the spanish clay tile roofs surrounded by the giant pine and spruce trees of northern california. i spent my evenings studying until my eyeballs hurt and occasionally got a chance to pick up a book that would take me on a little thought vacation away from school studies. 

the most sublime library i ever listed was the new york city public library. it was an out of a movie kind of experience. somewhere, where i’d like to think james joyce or edgar allan poe would be spilling their thoughts out onto paper on a snowy winter evening. the grand rose reading room, the large wooden desks lit by mini golden lamps, the handpainted murals above blessing my eyes when i needed a break in between words, and the large windows behind the hundreds of thousands of books where the clouds of november were rolling in for an excitingly frightening manhattan thunderstorm. 

the library,

the mind garden.

 

 

 

bruce and the spider

my childhood was full of bike riding, scraped knees, ninja turtle band-aids, playing video games with my brother, playing dress up, putting on plays for my parents, snow ball fights in the icy canadian winters, and of course pep talks from the best girl dad. 

my dad was my yoda. like most immigrant dads, he’d start his motivational speeches with “i walked five miles to school in the hot indian sun everyday” and then proceed to tell some beautiful story with a moral lesson nestled in there. he would love sharing his wisdom with my big brother and i. his favorite fable was “bruce and the spider”. if you haven’t heard the story, it goes like this…

robert bruce, the king of scotland went into hiding after losing  six battles. while in hiding, he noticed a spider try time and again to spin its web. every time the spider fell it got right back up to begin again. the seventh time the spiders efforts were successful, this motivated bruce to get back on his feet, he assembled his army and went back to win the battle

during my childhood i was too young to understand the moral of the story, so i always nodded my head and said “ok papa” whenever he tried to build me up. 

dad continued to share this story as i got older. when i understood the moral of the story, it really opened up my eyes. i learned what the spider and ultimately bruce learned, 

failure is a part of the process

we are so afraid to fail because we care so much about our public perception. more people would pursue a career they love if there was a pathway that guaranteed success. failure is looked down upon, unfortunately. 

did you get your dream job on first try? did you find love on the first date you’ve ever been on? did you fulfill your wildest dreams on the first try? most likely, no. for most of us it takes years of failure after failure to reach that one opportunity that changes our lives forever. 

success is all about who continues to climb when others have given up

while you’re climbing the ladder to success people will pull at your leg, light the ladder on fire, push your ladder off the top, etc. when you ladder falls, dust yourself off and start climbing again. there is beauty in the journey. 

your knuckles will get tired after knocking on doors for years, but sometimes you’ll decide to build your own door. but if you decide to do so, it’s not instant success. 

learn to love failure 

i must have submitted my poetry manuscript to 20-30 publishing companies, i got one reply and it was a lovely lady who said she loved my work but “it wasn’t for them at this time”. i was so ecstatic that i got a response, someone acknowledged my work! those submissions were all failures, but if i saw it as “wow, my poetry must suck” then i’d give up writing all together. there are so many writers who couldn’t get published through a traditional publisher, and self-published their work. in a way i guess, i built my own door rather than waiting on someone to open a door for me. 

writers who self-published: james joyce, t.s. eliot, stephen king, jk rowling, e.e. cummings, and many more.

failing up

failure is a staircase, each time we try hard at something and fail, we’re taking a step up. you are one step closer to the top, success. think of failure as practice and success a bonus. you are still doing what you love, which is going for it. in fact, all the people successful at what you’re trying to succeed in are real life examples that success will happen.

it’s just a matter of never giving up. 

 

 

 

 

the last day I saw you

it was the day, that day. the house still felt ice cold, as it had since i returned from the hospital at 4am. 

people collected, dressed in white head to toe. i stood before my mirror, rehearsing my eulogy one last time before i presented it to you. my face turned red, my heart dropped to the floor, and then the floor fell from beneath my feet when i read “rest in paradise, papa”. wait, my dad? my knees gave out as they had the day you departed your body. a knock on the bathroom door “we’re going to be late” it was mom. it was as if a 50 lb weight was chained to each leg. it was as if i was being dragged into a nightmare that I knew had no end.

it was as if darkness had reached up from below to grab my feet and drag me to the funeral home. 

as i approached the hall where dad rested, i sat outside on the bench as my ears bled to the sound of mom crying. i wish i could bring him back, just for you. i wish i could give you your best friend back. 

i took a deep breath, and closed by eyes before i stepped inside. i thought it was all a lie, that it couldn’t be you. but then, i saw you, it was as if you were taking one of your afternoon naps. so at peace. i kissed your forehead before i took my seat. 

i looked around, all your friends are here, your family….but, why aren’t you? 

you have been called home, and there is nothing i can do about it

 

mom and dad’s wedding. punjab, india.

 

 

a letter to women

“there is no ceiling, chase your dreams”, my eyes always lit up when my dad would say this.

he taught me that as a girl there was nothing i couldn’t accomplish and he would raise me the same as if i was a boy. in many cultures, boys are put on a pedestal and girls get second string. 

bande vargi sooch” (“think like a man”) he would say.

girls becoming women and are no less than boys becoming a man.

however, once i grew to be an adult, i came across some situations that demanded i return back into a box. i was told “do something within your reach”, and then i thought ” what is within my reach”. my father had told me anything is possible and nothing is impossible. so, what reach? 

let me give you the groundbreaking answer: there is no reach. 

i got a lot of negativity throughout my life about what i should and should not do. if i wasn’t mentally strong, i would’ve caved just so i could get people’s “acceptance”. 

the thing is, once we exit the womb society has its set of red pencils sharpened and ready, prepared to mark up our lives. you can either fuss about erasing the marks, follow the marked instructions, or just continue living your life and not allow society to put you in the marked area. 

the truth is: that timeline you’re under fire to follow, the milestones you’re stressing to meet is all made up of outside noise

you don’t have to, complete college by 22, get married by 30, have kids by 32, give up your career after kids, etc. etc. etc. 

i feel so fortunate that I had so many people to not only encourage me to reach for the stars, but push me every day to get there…

but for those of you who lack that token of encouragement, hear it from me…

you can do anything, and be anything. no matter what your age, no matter what your financial status, no matter your “family background” no matter how many red marks society has drawn over your endeavors.  

a side note, on “family background” — if you think you’re better than someone because of the number of zeros in your bank account, or that somehow you “deserve better” you are a part of the problem. that is what i call, the americanized version of the caste system. 

anyways, back to my point…

it’s 2021, so fully, unapologetically be yourself, reach for the stars, and shatter the glass ceiling society or any person may place over your head. 

empowered women, empower women

 

tent cities

he unclenched his fist/a few peanuts and raisins/that were his/three course meal/his chocolate brown eyes/peeked through the window/droplets of the November rain/dampening his raven hair/he zipped up the window/and buried his face in the pillow/his tummy grew hollow/as he rested/on the frigid concrete/beneath his bones/that he called/home — skid row, ‘a cognitive canvas’ pg. 163

last week, i was driving through west hollywood. miles and miles of palm trees swaying north to south, the mansions perched on the cliffs of the hollywood hills, the sun beaming, the sky blue. as if someone had turned up the saturation in a photograph, utterly perfect. it was a typical, out of the movies like january afternoon in the city of angels. then i took a left…

along both sides of the road, rows and rows of make shift homes made of tents, shopping carts, mattresses, sheets, and other items. 

as every angeleno, i had known about skid row and other homeless communities in los angeles. but this was new, along with the four others i drove past on my way to run errands. 

since the pandemic 567,715 people have become homeless in the nation (source: endhomelessness.org) with california holding the highest number out of all states. there are some amazing organizations like “Project RoomKey” who’ve provided hotel and motel rooms to the homeless during the pandemic, and as stated on their site are working to ensure that after the pandemic these individuals and families won’t be back on the streets. 

in addition, after having lost their jobs many families are short on food. having a space to socially distance during these unprecedented times is a privilege, having food and a job is a privilege. 

never forget to be grateful 

*

here are some sites where you can get more information/help those in need: 

midnightmission.org/covid-19

lahsa.org

on writing

it was a stormy october night, the wind blew the raindrops onto the window and the sky looked like melancholy but beautifully so, like a poem. so i wrote one.

my first ever.

the poem was on a paper towel with a lead pencil as i used whatever was in front of me. papa used to tell me about a poet who wrote down any idea that came to mind onto a wall with a rock. tip: as a writer, you must always carry pen and paper (i’d recommend a small pocket size notebook that can fit in your purse) because you bet that groundbreaking idea will flee faster than the speed of light. 

i loved how words could capture a feeling. although i was only 15 then, the magic of words really boggled my mind. within three stanzas i captured that stormy october night in our oregon apartment, and when i reread it i felt exactly as i did as if i were reliving that moment in time.

the poem was a time stamp, one that made you feel, and so palpable.

i instantly fell in love. 

in school plays, i would take my scripts and rewrite the dialogues, adding more feeling through carefully choosing the words, the placement of the commas, the ellipses, and the periods. dialogue is all about creating a feeling, as is poetry. something that resonates with the audience/reader, or the least makes them feel something.

writing has always been my medicine, more so…meditation. it is my mental escape, my safe place, my safe haven, or whatever you want to call it. 

it is truly mental magic!

in poetry, you can go anywhere and you can be anything…

you can have tea with plato, you can venture through elizabeth taylor’s closet, you can play holi with the children of india, you can swim through space, you can feel your morning coffee traveling down your esophagus, you can feel the california ocean engulfing your feet on a hot summer day, you can feel the pain of a homeless family on skid row, etc. 

the possibilities are endless, and the messages are powerful 

only when we feel do we have the need to act. a central theme in a lot of my writings is adversities and social issues. for centuries, writing has proven to be a great medium to bring awareness to social issues and poverty around the world.

as they say…

art imitates life

a tip to my fellow writers: keep a journal, write your pieces in there with a pen, even if you cross out an idea or word you may go back and like your initial thought better, so don’t close that door. once you’re ready to transfer your work onto actual manuscript form use a word processor. my advice is not to write directly into digital form. as they say “the first draft of anything is shit” so accept that your first draft won’t be your best and that is ok. if you write directly into digital form you won’t get past the first sentence. get a journal, and just. write. 

a tip to my fellow non writers: try your hand at writing. it doesn’t have to be emily dickinson or james joyce good. just get your thoughts out onto paper. these times are tough for everyone, and i’m sure there is a lot of mental clutter you can get out. it might just be your new form of meditation! 

 

happy writing! 

p.s. 

where all my thoughts reside before i type them into my manuscript. as you can see, a lot of crossed out phrases and words! writing a single poem is a process. 

 

 

 

 

her

at last you have won her over the years of admiring her and soaking her in in absolute awe and mustering up the courage to ask her to hold your hand forever in this roller coaster of a life but now that you have her never forget to eternally chase her inebriating mystic the very thing that drew your eyes to her when you first saw her in that little brick coffee shop behind her laptop and thick framed glasses lost in spilling her thoughts out onto paper

‘a cognitive canvas’ | pg. 39