Tag Archives: creative non-fiction

The A-J Handbook of an Alienist.

A is for Alienist. Here comes the Alienist. Watch her as she dusts her framed diploma and gathers her tales of woe for the day. She walks the murky path of troubled souls and collects a few trophies along the way. Ah, this will add a glitter to the halo she has installed around her forehead, so she can be seen from outer space, even. A is for Abuse, that the Alienist deals with and reinforces.

The thing about abuse is that you get used to it. You accept it as part of your life. It becomes an inherent part of your soul. You set up yourself for it. You are conditioned by it. Active abuse shows itself on you, your bearing, your words and thoughts. You are a victim. You look like a victim and soon behave like one.

B is for broken. The Alienist thrives on the broken. She hunts them down. She’s developed special skills in identifying them. The broken inhabit the hidden nooks and corners when they don’t want to be seen and under extra hyperactive behaviour, when they feel the eyes of others devour them. Smiles moulded from plastic freeze on their faces and their eyes are sunk into hollow depths of despair. A murderous glint appears when you spy the espying Alienist. You are one among the truly broken.

C is for Coventry. Have you heard of this quaint old English term- Being sent to Coventry? A group of popular, active, privileged people, who have their bearings about them, vote to send an unsuitable member of their company to Coventry, for being different, having problems, and being the proverbial wet blanket. So nobody speaks to you, for you are in Coventry, you are shunned and ostracized. The Alienist thrives on Coventry. Coventry provides her with a major chunk of bread and butter she needs to put on the table. Many decades of research and psychological studies later, the Alienist states that this practice is cruel and detrimental to the individual, but does nothing about it in real life.

D is for desperation that sets in when you realize nobody is listening. Not even the Alienist, who is paid to do so. You muster the courage to speak to the officious Alienist who is as prejudiced as your peers and tries to convince you that what you are feeling is wrong. Any pedestrian healer of souls would know that the first step to healing is acceptance, both by the healer and the broken. But no, the Alienist is infallible in her opinion. Her veil of prejudice already exists, firmly attached in place.

E is for the eagerness with which the Alienist, in the avatar of the healer, is eager to point out that the world is nice and there are nice people out there. E is also for the eagerness you show in escaping to another zone unsullied by the presence of the formidable Alienist. E is also symbolic of the stupid grin you plaster on your face in case you get caught.

F is for the final futility of seeking help. The broken are now shattered to smithereens and come to the conclusion, that there is no point in speaking up. There really isn’t. Nobody wants to look at your point of view. The Alienist who has the world in the palm of her hands is quick to point out the other perspectives which have obviously escaped you. Now you’d rather amuse yourself banging your head against the wall and see the patterns that emerge.

G is for Good Lord. For God’s sake! There are many pleas for help, some strident, some barely audible, some masked under the veil of silence, smiles and even dignity. Dear Alienist, get off your high horse and lend an ear. You might be the reason for someone to want to continue to live. Don’t be the one to push someone off the narrow ledge they are barely walking on. It’s murder. Believe me it isn’t very much different.

H is for the delirious happiness dispensed by the Alienist. After a few sessions with her, things are better now, at least the pretence continues. For you realize things were better before she curled her tentacles around you and now you can’t extricate yourself anymore. You know you were happy when you were depressed and now you are desperate to get away, who cares about happiness? You could have created a happy world in your mind, instead of being driven up the wall!

I is for you, yes, the hidden, ignored, much-maligned I in you. If you are different, admit it to the Alienist, at least you stand a chance of being a specimen under someone else’s microscope, at least someone unlike her is going to spend time on you, serves you right, plucking your wings away from your body, removing your limbs systematically, cutting you open and poking into your entrails before formally validating your thoughts by giving them a collective noun and a prescription that makes you feel relieved and hopeful as you down your meds, day in and day out. At least you’re not judged any more for being the way you are.

J is for Jolly good show and it’s Just another day in the illustrious life and career of the Alienist. She pins you to the rest of her collection and her saga continues…another day another time, another place… Well, I’m sure you’ve had enough of her. Me too. Not going to Continue.

Interlinked in stone


Suspended from the edge, a sinuous snake slithers, its movement frozen forever in stone  as it spreads its hood in anticipation.

Fanning five splendid and distinct heads, it gazes with interest at the far horizon.

A sentinel watching the changing landscape, its only armour is a necklace, hewn in stone. From one block of hard rock, are carved two links of stone that can never separate. Stone in stone, strength within strength, it watches, alive with expectation.

Poetry in stone or a carved mystery portending the future, its obscure message ignites the imagination. One can only stand under the hood, look up and marvel at the remnants of the past.

The temple studs the length of the river like a proud pendant dangling from an intricate necklace. The stone links, unlike a necklace, threaten to test the resilience of the snake. But it holds on, its strength magnified a thousandfold, over the years.

A little known monument, fame has evaded it, and the  years roll by, without a ripple.

Embedded in sand periodically, the temple is  unearthed again. Resurfacing for air,  never bending, never relenting, the snake holds its own in an ever-changing world.

Bequeathed to us by the past, through the centuries, it will be one of the many things we leave behind for a future of amazing discovery.

Maybe then, if we are lucky enough, stone shall speak in a human tongue, and we shall listen, entranced.


*Photograph of the Vaidyeshwara temple, at Talakadu, on the banks of the river Cauvery, near Mysore, in Karnataka, India. Hewn from a single rock, the interlinked chain garlands the five-headed snake.

The Things We Leave Behind

Love is gone…

“Now that the love is gone

What are we supposed to do
After all that we’ve been through
When everything that felt so right is wrong
Now that the love is gone?”

The lyrics seem like the celebration of a love gone wrong as David Guetta belts out this incredibly catchy song, singing with so much relish- “Love is gone”…

And I look at the text of the poem, ‘If thou must love me (sonnet 14),’ that I’m to discuss with my tenth grade students and wonder how in the whole wide world, do I make them understand, and relate to all that Elizabeth Barrett Browning conveys, in her sonnet.

If thou must love me, let it be for nought  
Except for love’s sake only.

Hmmmm. This should be easy. I can imagine the worldly-wise fifteen or sixteen year old students nod sagely and say, yes, cool, love for love’s sake, that’s righteous. This Browning woman really has her stuff clear and sorted out.

Do not say,  
“I love her for her smile—her look—her way  
Of speaking gently,

Yeah, all the right reasons- love her smile, alright, love her look, great perception, lady! Speaking gently, really, is that a sought after quality that appeals to anybody? At this moment I must go into great lengths to explain that soft spoken women are considered very attractive, you don’t always need to be brash and outspoken to be heard and their scornful looks of incredulity will soon make me shut up, I know. I sum up, I’m sure with references to lady-like behaviour and good manners and a few will understand (I hope) and nod in agreement while I’m sure many shall decry- Who behaves like this, in this day and time? So unnatural!

—for a trick of thought  
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day”—  

Really, Ma’am, how quaint, a sense of ease indeed! But the words – a trick of thought I’m sure will appeal to them. They are taken in by ideas of illusions, deception and other dark feelings.

For these things in themselves, Belovèd, may  
Be changed, or change for thee—and love, so wrought,  
May be unwrought so.

Oh, yes Ma’am, we understand these lines, people change and maybe this beautiful gorgeous well-mannered lady cannot keep smiling all the time. Another will pipe up- maybe she won’t speak so gently after they are married, ha ha. That fellow is in for it! Serves him right for being impressed by a smile and smooth talk! I can visualize the whole class at this point collapsing in convulsions of laughter and chaos shall prevail for a few minutes. I shall most unsuccessfully try to stifle my giggles that threaten to escape like bubbles from uncorked champagne and fail. After, wiping tears from my streaming eyes I shall ineffectually try to gain control over the class, with a thinly veiled threat of the suspension of the games period.

So, I shall call on the most eloquent student in the class to sum up and he shall, most eloquently say Ma’am, people change and if love has been ignited for such changeable reasons, like the weather, love also shall change, er… maybe like the reading on a barometer.

More giggles.

Neither love me for  
Thine own dear pity’s wiping my cheeks dry:
A creature might forget to weep, who bore  
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!  

Now this shall indeed prove a daunting task for me. In a society where helpless women are almost relics of the past and where women are moving from strength to strength, the idea of woman as a ‘creature’ is a little difficult to imagine. And love for such a pathetic hapless person is difficult to explain.
Maybe I should talk about those clingy insecure people that they know about, always seeking approval and need somebody or the other to bail them out of terrible situations.
Then the images of tiresome damsels in distress and brave men riding on white steeds being tireless Princes Charming going around saving these women will make sense in the context. I’m sure most boys are going to look incredibly disgusted with the idea of galloping on horses rescuing clueless females and the girls are going to take umbrage to the whole notion of being ‘rescued’. The very idea!
How in the whole wide world shall I get them to understand that some women needed to be rescued from their sorry lives and men felt good about themselves being traditional protectors and care-givers? I shall make references to the movies, of course, and that should spark their interest.
And to take the idea further, how will they understand that the woman drawing solace from the man, becomes stronger but this strength makes the man often feel redundant?
Of course, a few students who see this happen in their own family and friends’ circles will relate to it, but a majority who are isolated in their own world shall not even understand.

Can I draw on my own experiences to help them understand? How much of my personal life am I willing to reveal to a bunch of self -absorbed teenagers? Not much, I know. Good sense shall prevail and I shall most certainly decide against it. No point in becoming a mounted specimen in a jar.

I know I am going to lose their attention. The millennials are too self absorbed and lost in their own world to appreciate the finer nuances of poetry.

But love me for love’s sake, that evermore  
Thou mayst love on, through love’s eternity.

Eternity? What’s that? They shall snigger. I shall feel like such a fool when I ramble on about ever-lasting love and love for love’s sake. I shall be such a fraud if I say that love lasts forever. To be trapped in a love-less existence is hell. Does love even exist? Or is it a nightmare of our own device?
I admire Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s resilience in facing her tyrannical father, her love for Robert Browning, her voice that rings true when she demands to be loved, for all the right reasons. Such a feminist in the backdrop of the Victorian era!

But there is a niggling doubt at the back of my mind, does love even exist? And do I inflict my cold cynicism on young, impressionable minds?


So, David Guetta, in all his wisdom, makes more sense to me, at this point of time…

There is nothing left to prove
No use to deny this simple truth
Can’t find the reason to keep holding on
Now that the love is gone, love is gone…

Love is just a mounted specimen in a laboratory, the remnant of the nightmare of an earlier era.