Thursday, 3 April 2014

The Tamasha of Birth and Death


When your child is born.  

You go through it all. Your insides tearing, just like the screams renting the air. Apart. Some so strong they die the moment they take birth. In the throat itself. Shrouded in the silence of decorum you were taught to maintain. You try behave. Cooperate, as you get killed to be born in the form of your child. You heed the doctors, the nurses order you. Sit-up and spread, now push a universe out. Exposed but all sense of shame lost somewhere in the crowd of pain. Earth-shattering. Every vessel in your body threatening to explode. Exploding. The only truth? You, what’s inside of you … and the struggle. And then it comes, looking blood and sweat but with your nose, or maybe eyes too. An out of body experience for the pain leaves you. Suddenly. Your body is yours again. Cleaned and cherubic, wrapped in pastels, your baby comes into your arms.

And then the world takes over. Hospital or home. Your child no longer yours. The oldest around occupies the throne, orders the next in line. Instructions from Stone Age. Some wise, most otherwise! Don’t count the toes thus, stop the camera, you fool! Black dots on foreheads, black thread on the ankle.  Face North and recite a mantra. Sleep, don’t sleep. Don’t drink, why eat. Praising your child you evil mother? Pour kohl into those tiny eyes. Ugly. What do the doctors know? Honey, have you got honey? Bind them in wool in summers, as tightly in superstition too. Sense sits suspended. You can hear the commands and commandments. You can hear another scream rising. In a throat still swollen sore. Yet to recover from pain they too felt, once, when they delivered theirs. You wonder. Did they? Teeth gritted you curse, silently. Oh the shame! A newly made mother cursing. But you care not. You want to just be. With your child. After an eternity of wait. 

But the world creates a circus around you. Of dos and don’ts. Of grey hair versus young curls. Of utter obsoleteness donning jeans or progress even in salwar-kameez. The contrasts and contradictions, the fake ‘Oh so sweets’ and the frivolous banter. Hurt. Your child reduced to a weight-at-birth. Curiously asked. As if the .3 was your doing. Your child an object, to be done with as they please. Puppet bodies, both of you. Neither to be claimed as yours. Taken away from you when they fancy fun. Or you feed, and the world watches. And you, reduced too to a wounded bag. Blood. Bones. Breasts. Bull shit. You. The mother. The epicentre of the tamasha of birth.


And then when death visits. 

Its claws, long ones, you cannot escape. And neither the talons of those who come prey on your loss. You see the extra effort they touched up their eyes with. And time. To pick a pretty white for the occasion. You are crying inside, smiling in their face. Returning smile with a ‘What can we do?’ But longing. To be alone. Assess. Assimilate. Adapt to an Absence. They? To mark Attendance. To meet friends and family they come like white sheep. A flock. To sit back and study clothes and jewellery. Catch up on lost time. Gossip. Look forward to the meal. How oily! Tea anyone? You walk around empty, but offering full cups of tea. Sugar? I have diabetes you want to kill me? 

The ‘body’ arrives from the morgue. The calculated tears, and cries begin the show. Set dialogues spelling RIP. Another scream rising in your throat. But this no time to rage, for you still grieve. Wait. Eagerly. For it will be over soon and they will leave. To live their lives, maybe stop by at a drive-in and pick something special for the night on their way homes. And when it comes, the moment called space, those lists of rituals and lists of rites need your time, your attention and your heart, a bit of which expired that morn. In details you are lost. In arrangements for the rites of passage you cannot find yourself. You cannot. Meticulous precision of everything and everyone around the ‘body’. Daughters don’t touch. Keep off. Who are you to say? But no time to say this. Bathe and make ready for the final exit. This hand first that foot next. All female eyes watch the naked ‘body’. Who puts the coconut first? Or the final shawl? Politics! You, keep the child in. No, get him out. The elders war, some curse the bad tea, one eats biscuits in peace looking for the pista. The priest does his thing. And you wait. For your time to be with what may be nothing but a memory, already. Smoky. But at least alone, for then you can grieve. Away from the tamasha that death brings inside your home. Your head. Around a ‘body’.

Is there no escape? 

There is. Your voice. Through a swollen throat, or one saline with crying. And a palm up front saying ‘stop’. Show them the fatigue, and the guerilla fatigue. From under the hair matted with sweat. Post-delivery. Or post-death in the family. Say ‘shh’, politely. Then ‘Stop the show. Of meaninglessness.

No other way out. Your voice they should not own.

So, I say Stop! To escape.

The only way I know.

[Written for WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. The prompt for today was - Escape! - Describe your ultimate escape plan (and tell us what you’re escaping from)]

106 comments:

  1. That was a deep yet great post! Such contrasting views with a lot of observations thrown in.

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  2. Simple and joyful post to read. I loved the writing style you used. For a moment I was stunned that why are you talking about death just after birth. But now I know. Delightful post. :)

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    1. Thanks for reading, Aditya. Glad you liked it!

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  3. Insightful piece, Sakshi. Gives a clear image of typical 'right' and 'wrong' we are compelled to face in every indian family. Enjoyed it though.

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    1. Thank you, Meghana. Glad you enjoyed reading this.

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  4. Such a visceral post. Well done.

    (Even though I don't agree with your point about wanting to be left alone during grief. A mind suddenly vacummed clean by bereavement has to be filled with matter just as quickly - yes, even with talk of sugar in tea, if that is what is handy. Anything is better than the Fatigue of Hopelessness. It is, after all, the worst kind)

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    1. Thank you, Rickie. That means much. :)

      (The tea-drinkers are but the din, before the lull of lonliness/grief that will walk in when they exit. Will. The rituals keep you busy, so does the company. But matter leaves as quickly as it comes, right? And then the vacuum is left, to be dealt with. It is but a delay in 'coming to terms'. But you are right. We all deal differently with Hopelessless of the worst kind.)

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  5. Such wisdom, sagacity and truth! Very wise and not otherwise.

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    1. Thank you, Alka. You are one of the wisest ones around. Delighted to hear this for myself and from you. :)

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  6. Sakshi, I do not have words to express ... which, for a person like me is a rare thing. You spoke for everyone, there is such universality in this post. Loved it

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    1. You left poor ol' ME wordless in turn, Ritu ma'am. I will cling to your good words to push myself further towards where I want my writing to go. A long way off, still, but there is a bus stop there with a bus waiting for me. :)
      THANK YOU, for this and for the message, both!

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  7. beautiful piece yet heart rendering!
    Life and death is the tamasha of our planet and we are still apes in dealing with it..

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    1. :) Yes, we are. But I am sure apes deal with it better, Ruchira. Thank you for liking this piece. It was a one-go, no stop, barely re-done post.

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    1. Such few words but meaning the world to me. Thank you, Ananya.

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  9. A beautiful touching post. Sometimes, it feels like we never evolved!

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    1. Long way to go, Archana. I wonder if we will ever reach a point when we can say 'We are evolved'. The majority always resists evolution, for it beings with it a newness which makes us embrace a Tomorrow that our Yesterday warned us against. :)
      Thank you for reading. :)

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  10. Life and death, both eternal facts of life and very rightly described. We go through life in all its elements - sweet, sour, salt, spice and bitter. I could relate to the post very well. "And then death visits" - reminds me of my experiences with death, on which I wrote a guest blog on SJD. http://subhorup.blogspot.in/2014/02/politics-of-funeral.html

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    1. I'd love to read your views. Thank you for directing me to them, Anita. And many thanks for stopping by. :)

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  11. The only thing I have observed is this: The 'tamasha' that is poison to you, is life- giving to some. If it were not blaring into their ears, they would feel cheated. They WANT it... they crave it.... it makes them feel sated.

    Tamasha!

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    1. I agree. Makes me a murderer then to say 'shh, stop the balderdash'. For at that moment, they cannot breathe. And I don't mind.
      Thanks for reading, Dagny.

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  12. It touched me somewhere deep inside for the many wounds time has left on the pages of life. You said it. Only our voice can stop this show of meaninglessness.

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    1. Thanks for reading, Rekha and big thank you for the post you wrote in connection with this one. I felt very good that we have managed to share similar thoughts this way. More power to you!

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  13. That was such a beautiful and poignant expression.. you must already know this, but the intensity with which you have brought your views out on this is felt by all of us... its lovely the way you put to words what we all feel..

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    1. Good to know you connect - with the thoughts as well as the intensity with which they reached you. The Prompt prompted me to spit it out. I did not think much once I started typing. I am happy to have found not just audience but people agreeing with my thoughts here. Thanks a lot, Seeta.

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  14. birth and death tamasha happens if people are ignorant.wise people never create fuss over birth or death.its just human natural process which is routine and ordinary.one should think the quality of life that people are going to live after birth and kinda life that they have left as example for their future generations before death.a dead man is same as a dead cockroach,grieving for dead without leading quality life is ignorance.

    most of people spend their lives in this tamasha leaving quality life behind.i was 13 when my dad expired with cardiac arrest,i was the only guy who din't cry and i had regular smile on my face on that day too coz i was n't expecting much from my dad and i was ready to take up responsibilities and i din't want people sympathy over death coz its embarrassing. all those hundreds and thousands of people who cried over dead body disappeared soon after ritual and they never came back to find out how we are?its all about characterless people who involve in this tamasha.one can learn a lot when you live on your own and when you do things on your own.

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    1. Sorry to learn about your loss, Rohan and thank you for sharing such a personal detail here. Those hundreds and thousands disappear like wind once the 'what should be done' is over and their presence noted in the register of our memories. I agree with you - living on your own makes you understand the real meaning/lack of meaning that so many family-given rites and rituals carry. Living alone also means finding your own perspective. And that is good.
      Thanks a lot for reading, Rohan.

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    2. last thing i was expecting from anyone was saying SORRY for loss.we should never say this coz these are sympathy words that will embarrass a wise man.when someone says someone is dead,never say that you feel sorry about loss.words of manners and decorum in such cases won't make people comfortable and we should reply in normal way. i don't have anything like personal,whenever i write a comment and since its written by an individual called rohan,it means i have to write what i have learnt and what i have seen on my own.i have total transparency in my life and whenever i write something there is nothing like personal.

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  15. It's always a pleasure reading your words ... measured, deep and full of meaning ...

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  16. Say ‘shh’, politely. Then ‘Stop the show. Of meaninglessness.’... utterly beautiful Sakshi.

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  17. I can relate to this post entirely. Seen both within a short span of each other..
    Both Death and Birth are just the beginnings of a new journey.Both in different worlds though.

    Love the way you narrate the seemingly common things in a gripping way.

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    1. I saw both within a short span too, hence the linking up happened, I assume. Thanks for reading, Preethi.

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  18. Loved the way you captured both...n I guess it's true... through all the emotions that we go through at each event... great post

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    1. Thank you, Danny. Glad we connected.

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  19. You've portrayed the reality so brilliantly Sakshi !
    When my girls were born, I was torn into doing things which I didn't like. With the first child, I learnt and when the second child was born, I put a full-stop to many things and did what I felt was right. I trusted my instincts.
    Its always someone else, who tells us what to do. We never learnt to live for our own self. Its always "What will they say ?? What will they think ??"

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    1. SO good to know about the 'full stop'. Often we carry on with things we disagree with, but those which affect our very well-being need to be put aside. At least in motherhood they say we can really follow what our gut says, or our doctors. :D
      And then, keeping others happy and society running on it's 4 wheels. Right! We do become spokes in those very wheels.

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  20. A mother during childbirth, and family members at the time of death, are under so many real pressures that, even if they have the strength, they have neither the time nor the inclination to protest against the lousy behaviour of the people around.
    The people around know this, and use just these situations (birth, death) to reinforce their meaningless superstitions and customs.

    Unfortunately, even if one person puts "a palm up front saying ‘stop’" or says "‘shh’, politely, then ‘Stop the show. Of meaninglessness.’" the rest will gang up against that person and let the vultures have their way.

    This is probably the only subject about which I'm not too optimistic. "Fear of the unknown" is too strong in most people.

    Having said all this, I have not lose hope. Whenever possible, I resist the vultures, sometimes politely, sometimes impolitely. Whether or not they change, I make sure they don't make me change.

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    1. You are right. No time no inclination no intention of getting into small battles or bigger wars - in birth or in death. I like how you say with full honesty that people around us 'know this and use just these situations' to derive a role for themselves - however self-appointed or cruel.
      That ganging up is horrible. But if we tell ourselves who our inner circle of family/friends is, the rest can really go to the netherworld for branding us as rebels.
      I'm not optimistic. But keeping the maddening crowds with their even more maddening ideas at bay in times of need can help in feeling happy or healed, as the situation may be.
      Pro, reading you makes me fully confident that you 'resist the vultures'. You are not named what you are for no reason. :D
      Thank you for reading!

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  21. Beautiful post. There is so much dept in each line. I could picturise it all..

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    1. :) Thanks for reading, Nisha. Good to connect.

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  22. (just to let you know that I was here, and read this. Have no other words to offer, save the ones that you have written yourself)

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    1. (thank you for letting me know. Always good to know you stopped by. :))

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  23. A touching post Sakshi and like many others I am speechless. So many things I want to share but am in a loss of words!

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    1. Write them as a post, Sfurti. You express so well, would love to read. Take this as a trigger, just like I did the prompt. Go, do it!

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  24. I'm loss of words here. You have clearly written the agony of a mother and how people treat her in spite of all she went through. If I could I could add more but not , as your post does enough justice to every women who went through all these stuffs ....keep up writing more Sakshi !

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    1. Thank you, Uma. Good to see you on my blog. And very happy to know that one such as yourself connected with this post. Feel free to add, for I know the list is long and writing about it beautifully cathartic.

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  25. Extremely deep. Like always, thugs a cord somewhere within me.

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  26. The honesty of this post is so endearing. "And when it comes, the moment called space, those lists of rituals and lists of rites need your time, your attention and your heart, a bit of which expired that morn. In details you are lost." There is a heart touching quality in these lines.

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    1. Thank you, Jas. I love you as a writer and your words mean a lot!

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  27. I don't know why .. I have been thinking about the birth tamasha as you have mentioned since the last few days. May be it is because I read about a birthing experience of a plus size woman in the net.. I feel the whole situation of lying down half naked with the legs spread apart in front of inconsiderate strangers is very humiliating .. What I am worried about is if I voice it around I get the lecture of prioritizing, choosing humiliation or giving birth to a child and suddenly I feel vulnerable and alone ....
    A brilliant post.. direct dil se

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    1. Your doubts were mine, once. But at that moment, that is the least of your worries. Everything points to the baby coming. :) It is when the baby comes that tiny battles begin. And how you voice your concerns and how much you can take in return will be decided then and there. But, who am I to gyan you?
      Thanks a lot for reading.

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  28. Written from the gut with deep honesty. Yes, raise a hand or raise your voice, and let them leave you in peace. I know it can be done. I have done it myself.

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    1. Thanks for reading, Rachna. Good to know you have done it. I am not surprised. :)

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  29. So true.Very powerful write.
    Am sharing this on FB and Twitter. This needs to be read by as many as possible to bring an iota of sensitivity in the otherwise crude societal norms.

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    1. Let me know your FB ID, Magiceye. I can share some lovely pictures from Mumbai too. :D
      And thank you for spreading this. :)

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  30. As always brilliant ! Trademark Sakshi..A lot to read between the lines..

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    1. :) As always, kind kind Salesh. Thank you. I am happy. :)

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  31. You are a fabulous writer Sakshi. Your words create a visual story full of emotions and expressions!!
    Let your thoughts flow always. :)

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    1. Wow! thank you, Baldeep. I will let them flow, always. Good to connect here today!

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  32. A post that touches a raw nerve sakshi, wonderfully penned. I have lots to say on this, maybe a separate post.
    Hats off to you for choosing this topic.superbbb

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    1. I await your post, Gayu. Thank you for reading me today! :)

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  33. This post has so much depth...It makes me want to sit and ponder on everything that you have just written...Beautiful...

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  34. Your post reminds me of so much! Such a big tamasha, truly!

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  35. hi, I have nominated you for The Liebster Award…
    http://rediscoveryourdreams.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/the-liebster-award/

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  36. Have been through both. Every word resonates with truth. Touched.

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  37. Powerful. If only more people would really listen.......

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    1. :) Quite hopeless the situation, no? Thanks for reading, Dipali.

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  38. Wonderful...Loved it Sakshi...some lines made me feel like poetry. This needs a second read to get it completely. It is very hard to say that 'shh'...but if you can say, world is yours.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words about this piece. Yes, that 'shh' is very hard to say, but what freedom lies on the other side of it you will never know till you say it. And what happiness too.
      Thank you for stopping by here!

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  39. The post hit with a great Impact! Have been there and felt the same but I haven't hesitated to with 'shhh' which often comes with a nasty stare. At times it works, but more often people love the tamasha so much they take risk of a tantrum from me.

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    1. I like how you say it - that most people love the tamasha so much they are ready to run the risk of a tantrum with you. :D
      Thank you for reading, Farida.

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  40. Wow. You write really well. Sensitive topic, beautifully written....

    Do stop by my blog sometime :) !

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  41. I loved your staccato lines filled with angst.

    When our moments of bereavement or joy become more of a spectacle, we learn to latch on to the few sane voices and ignore the rest.

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    1. Thank you!
      I agree with you about ignoring the rest. And if it wasn't for those few and far between giving me company with their sanity. I wonder if I would have had the courage to say that 'shh' in so many instances. In numbers there is support, and comfort.

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  42. Hey it was beautifully written... touched every inch of my heart... what you say here is the absolute truth... it's time to let that voice out and be heard !!!

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    1. Thank you for liking it, Shruthi. And for stopping by.

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  43. This post has been selected for the Spicy Saturday Picks this week. Thank You for an amazing post! Cheers! Keep Blogging :)

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  44. Calculated words. Yes, true, the tamasha of life and death are powerful, with the subject being the object. We all want to put a stop on this, don't we? But the helplessness in those moments - Ah! we must feel handicapped.

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    1. Subject being the object, true. :)
      Thanks for reading, Diwakar.

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  45. I don't know whether I should call it an eye opener coz it's never with the drama unfurling itself. Sakshi, the way you pointed at helplessness at the face of the modern day Panchayat in so called modern family is simply revolting. Truly a tamasha in our society.

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    1. Thanks for reading, and sharing, Vishal.

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  46. Brilliant post, Sakshi! How I wish we could put up our hand to say 'stop!' and not give a damn about decorum to be maintained!

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  48. I am actually speechless Sakshi !! Brilliant would be an understatement !!

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    1. :) Thanks a lot, Jyotsna. Your comment made my day. :)

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  49. Dropped in from Poornima's blog. I really am at a loss of word to describe what I felt when I read this. It was like something piercing through my heart. Your words will stay with me for a long long time.

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    1. Thank you for liking this, Gauri. Those are very sweet words you put there. Many thanks! :)

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  50. Sakshi, you write beautifully and your words touch a deep chord in the readers' hearts. I loved this piece, it is so profound...a brilliant, sensitive and honest piece.

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    1. Taking a bow, Sulekkha. Many thanks for your kind words.

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  51. This was exceptional, Sakshi! Came here via Gauri's share on FB and I am not disappointed. Well done!

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    1. Thank you, Shailaja. I have to thank Gauri too for leading you here. Hope to see you more often! :)

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  52. Life always finds a way..and so does death :(

    The tamasha that takes place is sometimes more revolting than death itself.

    Very insightful writeup.

    Do drop by mine. I blog at www.scriptedinsanity.blogspot.in

    Cheers
    CRD

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    1. I will drop by. Thanks a lot, CRD! :)

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  53. Wow! I went through a roller-coaster of emotions while reading this.
    This post is beyond exceptional.

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