The Ship of Life

Row Row, Row away ‘O’ Sailor

That Bridge is burnt
Those Memories are ash
The Time gone by is not coming back
Row Row, Row away ‘O’ Sailor

The river does not look back to its source
It flows on wards and forward from shore to shore
Trust your moral compass to leave the morass of old woes
Row Row, Row away ‘O’ Sailor

Nostalgia is a seductive sleep
It will sink your present hook line and sinker, when you least believe
Tarry there no further, 
Where there is not reason to linger
Row Row, Row away ‘O’ Sailor

There were those who jumped ship, in your most vulnerable need
Let them be, for they have their own battles to heed
Cherish those pole stars guiding you across starry skies, 
Or the tailwinds that push you forward without a nary sigh
Welcome aboard those who wish to experience the passage by your side
But never regret those burnt bridges ‘O’ Sailor of thy Life

Row Row, Row away ‘O’ Sailor

The Twilight called life

When I was trying to describe this photo, and what it meant to me, myriad thoughts came tumbling forward. On one hand were the obvious thoughts, on how I had enjoyed playing around with the shadows and the ambient light while keeping in focus the massive temple edifice illuminated with artificial light.

However, at a more subconscious level, I have become aware that this visual represents something, that I strongly believe in. Jeff Daniels’s character Will McAvoy summarizes my belief quite nicely. In S2E09 of ‘The Newsroom’, he is accused of not being a true Republican since he keeps on criticizing different Republican candidates. He says and I quote:


“I call myself a republican because I am one. I believe in market solutions. I believe in common sense realities, and the necessity to defend ourselves against a dangerous world, and that’s about it. Problem is, now I have to be homophobic. I have to count the number of times people go to church. I have to deny facts, and think scientific research is a long con. I have to think poor people are getting a sweet ride. And I have to have such a stunning inferiority complex that I fear education and intellect – in the 21st century. But most of all, the biggest new requirement, really the only requirement, is that I have to hate Democrats.” – end quote.


In today’s world, absolutist philosophies seem to rule the roost as far as our public psyche is concerned. If you support one ideology, you MUST oppose all the tenets of a contrasting ideology. It matters not if the rival ideology has certain valid points that can be appreciated and incorporated. It is Them v/s Us, or vice versa depending on which camp’s ideology you subscribe to.
It is right v/s left. It is Republican v/s the Democrat. It is the Sanatan Dharma v/s the Abhramic religions. It’s BJP v/s the INC etc.
For me the most important question to ask is this –
“What value is added to me by adhering to a particular ideology?”


Let me take religion as an example, since the photo is of a place of worship. People more often than not follow a religion and thereby the emanating religious beliefs, because they were born into it. They were conditioned and influenced by their parents, teachers, neighborhood surroundings etc. These days especially, religion thereby has become a source of the person’s identity. The implicit value add is that you become part of a community, and thus share the benefits of living in a community. However, if you criticize any practice or tenet of the religion, or how it is being appropriated by those who don’t give two hoots about its principles, except maybe polarizing communities, beyond a point below are some of the responses that one receives:

“We are atleast better than them. They indulge in…”
“Why are you questioning only tenets of your faith? What about them?”
“What about the things they did in 19__?”
“You don’t have the maturity to understand the nuances”

If things are worse, you could be put in jail or killed for questioning. In this process, the fundamental question that I mentioned earlier, and the solutions that a religion offers are often, completely lost. The benefits that one derives from belonging to a community be that of a local church, or a mosque in a locality or even a sect in a polytheistic Hinduism are all – according to me – secondary order effects. The primary value add of religion was and is to provide a framework to answer life’s questions and challenges.

I know you could be getting a bit impatient and want to ask — what does all this have to do with the photo I have clicked.
Look at the photo. The temple is a representation of the religious framework of beliefs, practices, laws etc. The artificial spotlight is your search for answers in the framework provided by the religion. The reflected light from the edifice is some of the answers provided by this framework.

HOWEVER, try as hard as you may, the twilight which is a natural phenomenon representing ever evolving life and its challenges, which will never completely go away. Some of the solutions will be illuminated, but newer questions and challenges will be thrown at you – these are the shadows accentuated in the twilight, by the light being thrown all around.

This is what I believe in. No man-made construct (yes, I believe religion is one of them) can answer all your questions since your life is yours own to live and discover. It can at best, share guidance that may or may not be suitable to the situation you are in. Our role I believe is to ask the questions and discover the answers that help solve the questions. It does not matter where the answers come from. Having said that, accepting blindly anything that is thrown at us because its convenient for the moment, without rational analysis and healthy skepticism is a disservice to us as humans. Ideally, tomorrow if a religion tells us:

Worshiping idols is a sin, lets question the dictum, to understand why it says so, without trying to point fingers at those who do so, saying it is a sin. Also, at the same time let us try to understand why those who worship idols, do so? What is their rationale. Highly possible, that both are recommending different routes, to the same goal

There is no rebirth after death, and you face the judgement of god. Let us understand where this ideology is coming from? Alternatively, if someone says that rebirth and death are a cyclical process, also let us understand what this tenet is trying to convey?

Doing karma is the best way forward, and everyone’s karma is different v/s following the instructions and principles of the book are the only way to lead an ideal life – Let us question both the approaches and choose whatever appeals to our sensibilities

The same approach could be followed for all facets of life, where frameworks / ideologies are constantly thrown at us. For that we need to accept one truth, that there is no absolute truth. There are only facets of truth. Institutions and frameworks will reflect some light in form of answers, while at the same time create more shadows in terms of questions. This is because there can be no shadow without light, and wherever there is light there are shadows, for life is full of ambiguity like the twilight. 

Most importantly we need to appreciate that others may choose a different path and ideology, and that is completely fine, since we now know – there is no one right way, but multiple correct ways to the same goal. For me that is the most important belief, above all the rest.

The Moth’s Flight

I hover around these halogens burning bright
While I search for my precious star light
My path is in the dark, even as these neons burn the night,
Damn it’s difficult to follow my inner compass,
Where can i find my northstar?

It’s been a tiring night,
I meet many a brethren knocking on these unnatural lights
Hopefully, someone in them, would shine the path bright

” Would you like me to tell you who I am? & What my dreams may be?”
Said I hopefully to the nearest lamp, Maybe there’s a kindred spirit who understands my kind

“The path you traversed thus far,
Does not interest me,
Your dreams are not mine,
You would do well,
to speak with the next lamp you see
For they may light up the path that you seek”

Lost and confused,
I cried my heart out,
Where are you my starlight
Why won’t you hear me out

Came the words from my inner soul,
Trust your wings, and heart to the core,
It’s only to the steadfast that real stars themselves show,
For when the night is the darkest, and you feel there is no hope,
That is when the stars shine the brightest
And guide those who dare to tread the path in the unknown
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The pathfinder

When your mind is in a haze,
Remember, it’s just another phase,
Focus on the north star of your soul,
And you will always reach home,
Finding your way through the life’s maze…

Couplet © Nirav Shah

One of the perks of my previous job was that it gave me an opportunity to travel quite a bit, and traveling by planes has its own thrill.

During one of my visits to Egypt, it was particularly poor weather and visibility was pathetic. However, it was a unique moment for me to see the evening Sun, no larger than a pea shinning like a beacon right through the haze…had to grab my Nikon to shoot the amazing view then and there.
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EK KHWAISH…

Chhedi ek guftgu bande ne Apne parvardigar se,
To pucha Bande se khud Khuda ne
‘bata kya hai teri khwahish?’

‘Banade mujhko itna be garaz, ki pyar Dil khol kar karu
Par Dil de kar Dil Lene ki aas na rakhu
Jab Dil tute to shikwa ke bina duaaon Ko Ada karu
Aur jab sachha saathi mile, to tujhe shukriya kahu’

Sunkar khwahish hua Khuda hairaan

‘Aisi takat to mujhme bhi nahi ki puri karu teri ye aarzu
Yeh hai teri khud hi se khudki ek Jang,
Tolna hoga khudko, banke khud hi ek tarazu.

Jeet hai mushkil, par nahi hai namumkin
Jab utarle yeh taleem apne zehen me to ana milne ek baar,
Azad Mai bhi Azad tu bhi, kyonki tab tu hoga khud apna Parvardigar

poem ©Nirav Shah

Photo : Liane Metzler

Ek sunheri raat…

Ek arse ke baad mile yeh dono in sitaron ke tale,
Kitna kuch kehna hai ek duje se,
Phir bhi hain dono ke hoth sile,
Mann me ek hi sawal ‘Kahan shuru karu, sun ne batane ko hai kaee kisse !’

Par lafzon ka kya kaam yahan,
Jab aankhe khud hai is Dil ki Zubaan,
Bina kuch bole, dono hain nayi yaadein batorte.
Par afsos, Dunya ka hai dastur ki guzarjati har aisi sunheri raat,
Na chahte hue bhi chhodna hoga dono ko ek duje ka saath.

Par mayus nahi hain dono aaj yahan,
Kya pata kis mod pe, kis raah pe,
Fir miljaye yuhin kabhi dono inhi sitaron ke tale…

Image credits – Benjamin Davies

Galiyaren

In galiyaron ne dekhe hain kaee kisse,
Kuch the bichadte doston ke,
Kuch the naye bante rishton ke..
Inhi galiyaron se guzre har ek musafir ke kadam,
Koi hai ek CEO aaj, to koi aur, ek likhti Kalam…

In galiyaron ne badi shiddat se sambhale hain inhi bisri hui yaadon ko,
Har naye bande ko sunati kisi guzre hue lamhon ki Dastaan ko…
Fraz hai mera, karu kuch to anokha,
Yeh galiyaren bhi kahen yeh kissa to humne bhi nahi dekha…
Kyonki, inhi galiyaron ne dekhe hain kaee kisse…

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— @isbco2020 @isbindia #indianschoolofbusiness #lightswillguideyouhome #shadowandlight #nightphotography #nokia61plus #hindipoetsclub #hindipoetry #hindipoems #hindipoetryisnotdead #hindipoem #hindipanktiyaan #isbco2020

At your own peril…

Vikram wandered the corridors of the fort unattended. He was already bored of the constant droning of their guide and had decided to move on from the group. He already regretted coming to this small obsecure fort. All he had constantly heard was a long list of local kings who had uneventfully succeeded each other. No battles, no glory, no conquests. Especially no lascivious accounts of lecherous rulers who abducted princesses or subjugated maids in the palace. Ofcourse he would never voice his fascination for such tales loudly, but the gloomy corridors and dimly lit passages of this fort were giving wings to his most inner desires.

He imagined how in a different era he would have chased Nikita in these corridors, and forced her to do his bidding. She was to blame ofcourse. He had only tried to kiss her, as was his right as her boyfriend. Weren’t couples who were committed to each other supposed to indulge in frolicking. She had slapped him in midst of the party in front of everyone. She was apparently disgusted, that he did not take her consent and assumed she was ok with it. ‘Consent’ was such an abused word these days he scowled. Had she not already given her consent, when they agreed to be a couple three weeks ago. The slap still stung, and more than the slap was the humiliation. He would have to teach her a lesson.
‘STOP’ echoed a voice behind him, “Go no further”. Vikram engrossed in his musings, had not being paying attention. His wanderings had brought him to another one of these dimly lit corridors, except this one had reddish hues to it, as if lot of blood had spiller into the soft lighting. His morbid imagination was already at play.
The voice was closer this time. “You are stepping on hallowed ground. Go no further. Men are not allowed beyond this point”. Vikram turned. The voice was of a sprightly old woman of his grandmother’s age. His interest was mildly piqued. He asked haughtily “Why aren’t men allowed further? What part of the fort am I in”.
The woman squinted at him. “This corridor leads to the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Devi” she put it simply. “Males cannot proceed beyond this point”. Vikram was irritated. “You are repeating yourself budhia. I asked why?”.
“This was not always so. The temple was open to all till 300 years ago. But it was defiled in the 500 years ago in the 17th century. The crown prince, fell in love with a local courtesan. He wooed her, but she did not feel the same for him. She explained that she did not desire him. The prince could not stomach this rejection and he chased her through the fort even as she pleaded him to let her be. The courtesan finally, took refuge in this temple assuming that the sanctity of the place would shame the prince into not following through with his plan of forcing himself on her. But to no avail. The prince raped her in the Sanctum itself right below the altar of the goddess Durga, ignoring the pleas and sobs of the courtesan. Having satisfied his lust, he hung her by the temple bell, as an example to other women who refused his advances.
It is said that the Murti of the Devi shed tears of blood that night, and it does so every night since then. The prince died the next day in tremendous agony. The story goes that he had gone hunting tigers in the forest. When he did not return, his companions abandoned the hunt and began a search for him. He was found sprawled on the forest floor, his gut torn apart by a tiger, eyes gouged and the tounge bitten off by a crow. Since then all men who entered the temple, died the next day under mysterious circumstances. So it has been our family’s obligation to warn wandering males if and when they reach this part of the fort”
“Old wives tales don’t scare me budhia. If it were so dangerous, the management would have blocked this place up. A simple minded old woman would not be there to warn people”
The woman gave a toothy grin,” to believe or not what I said is up to you. Enter at your own peril”. Vikram brushed her aside and entered the corridor. The silence seemed to deepen as he went further. He could see an arch in the distance. It was pitch black ad if it seemed to drink up all the surrounding light.
He entered the arch, and into the Sanctum proper. He could see it was round in shape and in the centre was the altar. It was sufficiently eerie to even make him look around his shoulders for a while. It was when he paid attention to the Devi’s Murti, that his attention was truly arrested. Hadn’t the hag said that the Murti was of goddess Durga. On closer inspection, he realised it was, but in a very twisted way. The color of the skin had turned pitch black. The eyes were red and there were definitely carved markings of tears on the cheeks.
The red saree seemed as if bathed in colour of blood. Even the tiger’s mouth was shown chewing on red meat, with blood dripping down its chin. The trishul was not pointed upwards as was the customary position, but pointed straight at the visitors once they entered the statue’s presence. It was blood red in colour. Interestingly the place of Mahisasur at her feet was empty. The Devi was neither Kali nor the benign Gowri, nor was she the warrior Durga. She was something that Vikarm had never seen.
He was truly intrigued by the story and now the quite different statue of the goddess. An interesting day, finally he thought. A splendid story and a gruesome ending. Ofcourse it was embellished, but quite a tale. Maybe he would bring Nikita, here in some pretext and they would have a nice roleplay of the prince and the courtesan. Ofcourse he had no intention of forcing himself on her, but a slight dose of fear would do good and make her toe the line.
He returned through the passage. The woman was no where to be found. He did not give it a second thought. He rapidly descended the fort and reached the town. He began to search for an auto, to take him to the station. As he waited for one to approach, he leaned on the lighting pole for support.
“Zap” the electricity hissed, even as Vikram’s back arched and a soundless scream escaped his mouth. The locals rushed to push him away from the pole, but the damage was already done. Vikram suffered an untold amount of agony. His eyes had burst due to the electric discharge and he had bitten his tongue in half in the aftermath of the pain. His skin off his extrmeties was already peeling off. The locals rushed him to the hospital, where doctors managed to save his life. But it would be a life which would be worse than death.
Far away in the sanctum of the Devi, the bells tolled, the tears of blood again flowed, but these were of happines not of sorrow of old. A daughter had been saved today. A thin smile carved itself on the Devi’s otherwise frozen face. She had learnt to adapt to the newer times, slowly but surely. The old woman outside the sanctum heard the tolling of the bells and her voice cackled ” may the Devi’s will be done. Tathastu” even as she remembered the prince who had brutally raped and murdered her ancestor from an era gone by.