Category Archives: Fragments

Rue the Day

Placed several irons in the fire recently. I wonder if I am going to rue the day. Rue the day is a lovely turn of phrase isn’t it? Combining the poet’s sensibilities with the the comic’s flair for melodrama. Rue. The word reaches back to the Old English hreow, relative of the Old High German hriuwa — sorrow. In French, it’s a street or avenue. In the plant world, a medicinal herb, bittersweet and native to the Balkan peninsula. The Romans believed its aromatic leaves could sharpen vision, address hysteria, cure vertigo . See how these many disparate meanings meet and mingle? Making unto themselves a new kind of sense. For sorrow too is an avenue. Its bittersweetness and tears a cleansing, necessary, orienting force of healing. Rue. A word so much more lyrical and layered than regret. A word one can hold up like a prism, turn it this way and that, delighting in the way it refracts the light. A word that is not meant to be pocketed placidly like change.

Placid. This word feels flat and colorless to me. Its stillness more sedated than serene. Its composure owing itself to dullness not discipline. A word incapable of any adventure. To ‘go placidly amidst the haste,’ is not something I aspire to [apologies to Max Ehrmann.] Perhaps it is the nearness to the word flaccid that does it in for me. Sometimes the mere rhymeyness of a word with another can unexpectedly drive down its market value. This is I realize, a rather judgmental and gentrified approach to vocabulary.

I ought to reform my ways. As a philosophy, it is unattractive to insist that fine words live in gated communities, away huddled masses, the hoi-polloi, the rabble rousers, the riff and also the raff. Words, unlike people, do not have the tendency to judge one another. Nor do they attempt to dominate or discriminate against their neighbors. If you have doubts about this, simply study the dictionary and take note of the admirable diversity in all its neighborhoods.Alphabetization as a form of organization is rather revolutionary. It parks princes and paupers in the same zipcode without embarrassment or apology.

Any bias that I may have against words with inelegant associative rhymes, is a fault in my stars not theirs. It is my human mind with its unfortunate conditioning that clamps preferences down on things that are not inherently likable or dislikable. They just are. Divorced from my interpretations of the inchoate babbling of my senses perhaps I would be more free to — go placidly amidst the noise and haste.

For now I will settle instead, for going however I happen to go. Hopefully learning a little something along the way. And stopping whenever appropriate, to rue the day.


Feb, 2016

Until fairly recently I believed roundtana was a pan-Indian term. I’ve now learned it’s a South Indian original that never quite caught on in the rest of the country. I fail to understand why. What better word than roundtana to describe a traffic island? That wonderfully peculiar urban phenomenon that is a cross between a merry-go-round and an intersection. You must admit that as a word it has entertainment value. Roundtana. Notice how entirely nonsensical and made-up it sounds. How difficult it is to say it out loud just once. How it begs to be repeated — like a secret chant. Did I mention, that for no good reason, except that it makes it even more fun to say, the ‘d’ is silent? This is a word that undoubtedly deserves far more airtime than it currently receives. My husband, who only recently became aware of its existence, is now single-handedly trying to make up for lost time (almost always at the cost of making sense). “Hurry up you roundtana,” he tosses over his shoulder, as we are climbing a hill. And — “Look at that roundtana!” he will exclaim, pointing to the nearest vaguely circular object. His enthusiastic if inaccurate employment of the word is infectious. A drum-shaped water tank by the side of the road is now a roundtana. A towering tree with a massive trunk, a roundtana. A conversation that keeps circling back to the same subject — roundtana. This whirlabout, wonderful life and all that it traffics in… Roundtana, roundtana, roundtana.

Our very own Belmont roundtana, placed at the end of the street we lived on for eight years. Visitors coming to our studio for the first time were asked to look out for the landmark of a little lost tower that appeared to have wandered straight out of a fairytale.

Either Or

Some people are capable of loving life and literature at the same time she said. But as it happens I’m not one of them. I only read when I am on particularly bad terms with reality.

Plaintive Ditty

When did the window say yes to the light 

and the door that was closed open wide?

Why do the sighs that wake me at night 

bring memories in with the tide? 

I wish I could walk without fearing, 

and learn to love without fail,

I wish all birds were immortal, 

that I could ride the wind like a sail,

There are times when I think I’m doing okay

there are times when I think that I’m not 

Would that I be more stable– able 

always to welcome my lot.


She has emptied all the pockets of her life and looked in all its hidden nooks and crannies (though to be honest, she’s not entirely sure what a cranny is,) and now she is quite certain she doesn’t have any. Answers.

Personal Taste

What are you thinking of right now? he asks. Personal taste she says, and what it feels like to encounter it in other people when it’s wildly different from your own. What does it feel like? he wants to know. Well that depends, she says. Sometimes it can be unexpectedly invigorating. Like when you pull up at a light next to a vehicle emanating heavy metal- an earthquake-unto-itself that sets your car atremble. Sounds that pound their way into your bones, even your teeth are vibrating. When the light turns green and the car takes off, the silence left in its wake is both a relief and a mini-desolation. You’re still thrumming, freshly awake in your skin, full of teen spirit and ready for almost anything. 

But there are also occasions where other people’s personal taste can feel blighting. Like when your next door neighbor paints his house lime green. You believe that certain colors are best reserved for one thing and one thing only. Lime green for instance, is a color best reserved for green limes. It affects your pH balance. Now every time you look out your kitchen window, your mood turns reliably acidic. 

And then there are times when encountering the personal taste of others can be a source of unabashed wonder, like when someone pours hot sauce on top of their ice cream or– she catches an unusual expression on his face, and cuts herself off. What are you thinking right now? she asks. I was just thinking you’re something of an acquired taste. She smiles, of course, she says, all truly sophisticated things are– dark chocolate,  coffee, kimchi. It’s a wonderful thing to live in a world where taste can be acquired. Why is that? he wants to know. Because, she says, it means if you are willing to encounter strangeness often enough, chances are you’ll never run out of things to appreciate. 


This is an opportune moment, she said, and she said it so often and in so many different contexts that he doubted she was exercising any kind of discernment. Have you ever come across an inopportune moment? he wanted to ask her. But he never did. It didn’t feel like his place. Actually come to think of it, he didn’t know what his place felt like. Perhaps that was the core of the issue.