Debaleena Mukherjee and their work

Debaleena is a homemaker who also reads and writes. Reading isn’t about “making time to read”. She reads wherever, whatever, whenever. Writing is her articulation of all the incoherence in her head. She lives in Bangalore. She needs books, coffee and cake, a reading-light and her recliner.

Ink-Smudged Dreams- by the Reading Light’ is a collection of poems. Poems that reflect the many facets of my life: maybe any woman’s life. Certain moments, fleeting experiences, lasting impressions, unknown anxieties, silly apprehensions, humble realization, intense joys and every hurt felt; these are the poems’ moods . And above all a growing perception that life is not about tomorrow: it is about today. But all these are not my consciously addressed ideas. Each day, they have gently enfolded me. Then in the quiet of the night, I would sit down and pour my heart out on paper. Drowsy, blurred, and very close to my heart. These are those ink-smudged dreams by the reading light.

‘Coffee, Smiles & Tears: by Starlight’; is a collection of short stories. These are vignettes and miniatures. They are the doll’s- house in my heart. These tales are of fleeting moments in which we live a lifetime of emotions. These are my ‘Wonders’ and ‘Closures’ in life. I emerged from the cocoon;I found my wings. Here are stories of “Life” that never ceases to surprise me. As with my collection of poems, so with these stories, this is “Life” as I see it. They are ramblings, musings. I claim no definition, because, for me life does not come with tags. It enfolds you every which way. Being a coffee lover, I believe in dipping every nuance of my life in coffee, especially late into the night. I love looking at the night sky and gazing at the stars. They know of my tears and smiles. So that’s my time to watch the starlight blend into my coffee.

Debaleena is a previous participant in The Irregular SloWord BirthMonth Festival. Read “Carpe Diem Cupboard” here.

Blank Horizons


Debaleena Mukherjee


They both were on their way. Both were headed towards that horizon that they had fixed upon as their meeting point. They wouldn’t call it a tryst or rendezvous; that sounded too trite. It was – their meeting point. For this wouldn’t be a clandestine, furtive  stolen hour. They were winding up their respective worlds to merge them into one world of their own.

So they walked, almost ran to that distant horizon. They walked, even as they worked through life. Duties, commitments, conditions, caring; they did it all as they walked. A million halts, innumerable detours had to be made. This was,  after all, life. First they had to fulfil the promises made to life and then reach the horizon. But somehow , always the horizon beckoned. And if they didn’t start their journey now; then when?

So they had started that long walk to the horizon. But why to that faraway horizon? Why someday; why not now? They had their individual lives: totally different, completely involved and so busy in the usual commute of life. They had met, and they continued to meet in snatched moments. But they wanted “a forever: together.” That could happen only when they would have cleared the  clutter of their current lives.

They would meet at the horizon; then build together; a new life. Just the two, for they were kindred spirits. All duties done, they wouldn’t have to look back with regret. For the horizon was where the earth merged; blended with the sky. That would be their plateau of love, and contentment too. And there wouldn’t be the guilt of deeds left undone. This horizon where the blue of the sky plunged into the green earth: or the earth melted into the embrace of the sky, in that embrace there were no fixed notions or or expectations that had ruled life on the plains of reality.

All was fluid , all was a flux. There would not be any agonies of the right and the wrong. Only choices, and freedom  of choice without censure, without judgment. That’s what had held them back. This awkwardness of choice. Of options that had no second chances.

True that their elusive horizon was a seamless, unfettered precipice of passion. But when you abandoned yourself utterly to passions then it was a sweaty, heated, seething surrender. You sank; you sank into a delicious slush of body and  rush of emotions . Funnily the heart stayed afloat. There was no going back. Judgement was immaterial, as it was just about freedom and abandonment. The heart beat to the rhythm of passion- that’s all. Its  multiple other beats about imagination, values, yielding, longing: nothing worked at that horizon. Like the earth and sky they would blend into each other without a care for either boundaries or for their identities.

Such tempestuous coming together could not be denied. Their beings cried out for this union. But they could not ; not here in the alleys and courtyards of life and rules, and above all considerations for others. Rights, wrongs, hurts, betrayals- these interfered too much. A towering passion needed the empty spaces of a horizon, where right and wrong were interchangeable at will.

So they had the appointed hour when they would embrace, in the horizon; with the world left behind far away. There would be only love, pleasure and togetherness. That kind of love that created art that was pristine and unblemished, uncluttered and uninhibited even when out in the open; bold, free and a declaration.

No trappings, no conventions. They had met, they sought to meet forever. But both were persons of long time commitments, set in their ways. Too many white picket fences, PTAs, mortgages, groceries and laundry loads got in the way. Now that all chores were done, they could go to the horizon. Encumbrances, hindrances and baggage of guilt would not hold up in that horizon of  distances and spaces.

And so they had begun the walk ever since they had felt the attraction. It was not  cemented, but it wafted over them, swept over them. Gusts of longing that life would not be able to withstand . It would crumble under the weight of right, wrong, pain, guilt. There, beyond the boundaries of human hurts and unreasonable pain, they could be wild and free.

Unshackled in their coming together. They both knew that it was just the place,: that  plateau of ecstasy that they were headed towards. That horizon, however was bare and stark. No  finesse of any hypocritical behaviour, just the raw exuberance of indulgence. It was  always hollow with a wanting , but never a surfeit.

And then one morning both reached the horizon. Everything had been left behind in perfect order, meticulous condition. Nothing unfinished, no duties ignored, no one stranded. They had arranged it all. Here they were; two spirits, unburdened, light, no baggage, no stories: waiting to make their own new one.

They came towards one another in a  congratulatory way. The passion would follow. The horizon, after all, was their own. They stopped in front of each other; a million words waiting to be articulated . Then they didn’t talk. They, without knowing why, turned around to look at the roads they had just traversed. And they saw that they had left behind another horizon.

This horizon, on this morning was a swirl of mist. The green of the earth was shrouded and invisible. The sky was grey, without even memories of blue. Morning chill fogged their breaths. It wasn’t definitely the steam of gut- searing passion. That horizon they had left behind was gleaming in a soft sunshine. The earth stretched her arms to the sky, but she didn’t lose herself. The sky embraced her; he didn’t drown in her. Hence the trees, hills, glint of the rivers; all were visible. And they caught fleeting glimpses of familiar life.

They eagerly looked, they animatedly discussed. What? The road left behind. It was as though they were backtracking their long sojourn. If she spoke about a trailing vine of wayside wildflowers: yellow and lush; he spoke about the houses with lighted windows, and how inviting they were. They found themselves talking about daily routines and constant fixtures in their lives that had seemed monotonous . His was different; as was hers. They exchanged notes. The passion was of course there.

Again and again they looked back. They discussed the journey rather than their destination. Why did she bring up the alarm clock by her bedside? Here time stood still. Why did he remember his routine coffee. Here routines were unknown. They talked and talked. They remembered all that was behind. They discussed people, family, with each other. They spoke and discovered how they were worlds apart. But they were secure in the awareness of their suppressed passion.

Familiar faces, little  remembered conversations intervened and intruded. But they had said everything before they had  left. And yet, as they sat side by side in contemplation, they found a million new things they wanted to say to those left at home. And now they seemed to have nothing to say to each other.

So they reminisced. Passion was comfortably simmering. It could wait. They had so many stories of that road they had traversed. She remembered insignificant details like colours of home. He talked about the babble of voices in the evening.

And both fell silent: they had not said everything that should have been said. They had come away, leaving a behind a bewildered world. The mist grew dense, the horizon surreal. The time and the place were ideal for that abandonment to pleasure and satisfaction. They could now let loose their imaginations, carnal and cerebral and wallow in their sensuality. No questions asked, no approval needed.

But still they hung around. The mundane was emerging like a sunburst through the chilly mist in this horizon . Faint voices laughed and called to each other. Flowers bloomed by the wayside. Homes were waking up. Life stirred. And along with life, the leaves and flowers burst forth with a fresh passion. Nothing was stifling or cloying. All was fresh, all was vibrant. But here, the horizon was too flimsy and too gossamer to take on the earthy, warm and pulsating passion of these two.

Quietly they turned  back. They stopped at the patch of flowers, and the pond. They found people and chatted at length. But they didn’t have much to say each other. Now they were both in a hurry to return to the coloured soils of everyday life. But what had gone wrong?

Actually all had just been set right. Life had just cleared her uncertainties and pacified his impetuosity.

No, life had not destroyed their personalities. It had just cleared all the fog in their hearts.They almost ran back. The horizon behind was a grey empty place. The horizon ahead was a twilight with multiple hues. . It was they who had confused the horizons in their hearts. Not their fault because sometimes the windows are not enough. We want to walk out through that door too.

Then they stopped in front of their respective doors. They looked at each other in silence. A big sorrow crushed him, and she was lost; unravelling at the seams. And they realised; that they  were on the correct road. They couldn’t give up on their respective roads because of their passion. Not because it was a “right or wrong”, but because this was the road on which they were meant to be. So they each hurried back, their eyes  ahead. They walked back with clumsy haste. So much still to do and say in this earthy plot, so far inland from the horizon . So much joy and  anticipation in doing and saying. Actually,  never was all said and done.

For they had left behind not duty but their own needs. Not commitments but caring. Not obligations but gifts. Most of all here; they had the choices between love; and only love. This horizon would waver and gather in a passionate but always a nebulous embrace. The “ home” would enfold and gather close – forever!

The horizon beckons to us., It always beckons. But where earth meets the sky: where is the room for vulnerability and ecstasy!

(c) 2023 Debaleena Mukherjee

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