Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Daily Bloom

Pic Courtesy : www.russillpaul.com

Wet with dew, scented earth, swept clean
With tender shoots and gentle touch
The horizon lightens up, in a line so lean
From pure earth, life is born as such.

To the pores and holes, the wealth pours
The wealth of rice has risen everywhere
At equal distance and definite in fours
Like nature's symmetry painted fair

Across the seeds of first delight
Flashing, they come the swift lines
Every wealth, within it's boundary right,
Like light and sun and all that defines.

With wealth and limits set right
Colours; they come, of blessed joy
From the cocoon to the butterfly
From pure earth, the new baby coy.

Flowers set to bloom, and birds fly
Deities descend and tease her more
But she, looks at her mirror and then the sky
Is she the mother of nature or lore?

Before the descent, the blooms shall fade
Birds shall die, and seek solace in her reign
In the hungry stomachs of red ants, as they raid
But the sun shall rise and give birth again

Dedicated to that beautiful practice of drawing kolams, the beautiful patterns and the untiring hands which create them.!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Beauty Interpreted.

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter: therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
John Keats could not have been more right!. Art as such is beautiful, be it in the form of literature, music, painting or cinema, there is a certain beauty to it, and that cannot be denied. But when a truly imaginative mind explores a piece of art, tying loose ends, painting pictures out of the dark and unknown, horizons are expanded and a myriad of colours arise like a new rainbow discovered hiding, in what was initially a simple cloud. The beauty of art is metaphorically enhanced so much in it's interpretation.

And such examples have been many indeed.! In that sense, take poetry, their rhyming and simple lyrical quality lends them a beauty, but it is when different minds absorb different things, different meanings and evoking different emotions altogether, that a few words of poetry become so surreal and heavenly. So then take the case of an epic, like Mahabharatha, which is simply speaking a story of sibling rivalry and war, but how much of further analysis storytelling, painting and other art forms it has spurned!.

Raja Ravi Varma, wondered how Shakuntala would have looked like, and then gifted us the most beautiful paintings, that seem so heavenly and out of the world even today. So many philosophers, over a great long period of time, added to and carved, a beautiful piece, the Bhagavad Gita, which beyond being about religion, gives simple facts that lend meaning to life. Like life itself, art begets art.


Recently read "After Kurukshetra", by Mahaswetha Devi, a great author, a fiery social activist and a wonderful woman. She elegantly crafts three stories, with the Mahabharatha in the backdrop, looking at it from angles, in ways, we have never looked at conventionally. What was the common man doing at that time.? How did they react to the war? What is right and what is wrong.? Was kunti's abandoning of Karna, her only mistake. Why did she not acknowledge him later.? Is that correct from today's standpoint, so then were moral values not at part then.?

While Mahabharatha remains the backdrop, she crafts three beautiful stories set upon it's fringes, which analyzes issues like social inequality, widow remarriage and freedom of women in a subtle, beautiful manner, and the irony is that through the eyes of the characters she creates, we look at the characters, we had known to be symbolic of righteousness and then realize how successfully, they have been painted gray. The irony is that in many ways we then realize that when it comes to politics and class differences, things are not much different even today. Talking about irony, wasn't Mahaswetha Devi also the person, who created that beautiful character of Shanichari in the short story, Rudaali. A woman who suffers from grief all her life, and ultimately when shedding tears becomes her profession, her tears have no grief in them. Was Shanichari, her interpretation of Kunti.? A question again, probably which will get an answer in another work of art, when someone, later looks at the works of Mahaswetha Devi in 'that' unique way.

There are questions, which arise in our mind, only when an interpretation initiates us to ask them. To look at a piece of art, from angles we've never thought about, is an exercise that really adds layers to our understanding of any work of art.


When Literature, poetry and paintings vibrate with the sheer energy inherited from one source of inspiration, can visual and aural arts like music and dance be far behind. Take for instance, Shobhana's dance drama, Maya Raavan, which also happens to sketch the romantic, scholar and poet in Ravana, the villain of the piece, Ramayana.



In that sense, nature itself is a work of art. Daffodils were there much before Wordsworth was born. When M.T.Vasudevan Nair scripts a tale like vyshali, or when keats crafts untold stories from a grecian urn or on looking into Illiad and Odyssey, we know that in the end, there's only more art, more beauty, more interpretation and more life.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Tag with a "Spark"

Tags are like a spark, in our other wise slow blogging lives. You get running for some time, take some rest and then there comes along a tag with a spark from wetspark and you get going. Reminds me of the spark plug in our old Bajaj scooter.! Mathew, inquisitive that you are, you want me to divulge 8 secrets of my otherwise highly confidential life, so here goes eight highly guarded secrets. :-)

8 things, I am passionate about.
* Books of all kinds, whether I get to read them all or not. at least seeing them decked up on the shelf gives me a feeling of pride - My only savings so far.!
* My family. My ideal family would have been a cross between the Addams Family in Cartoon Network and the one in Little Miss Sunshine, but I'm more than happy with what the dear lord gave. Love you.!
* My Country, Like they say, Mera Bharat Mahaan.
*
Writing - I still remember the smile on my teacher's face, when someone showed her a poem I wrote. From then, it has just continued. Having said that, I'm passionate about blogging itself. It changed my life for me.
* Nature - Green landscapes, Lucid clear blue water and the pure music of the breeze. What can I say, it inspires me.
* Music - I love all kinds of music, mostly melodies, old romantic ballads. I get queer faces at me, when I sway sitting in my cube, listening to music. They think I'm mad.! I sure am.!
* Society - Does that make sense..? I am passionate about at least working to eradicate one social evil. Don't know which one, probably Female Foeticide.
* Cinema - I love films. Watching them, as well as the finer nuances of film making. Be it our very own Padmarajan, Maniratnam, Adoor or be it, Alfred Hitchcock, Tarantino, or the genius of Satyajit Ray. They all make my day.

8 things I want to do before I die.
* Write and publish a book. What I will write about, I do not know, but write I must.!
* Travel to the Himalayas and stand alone on a high peak and spread my hands and simply freeze that moment.. Ah..! Bliss!
* Build a beautiful naalukettu house. Now this, I know for sure is tough!
* Ride a bike properly. I know you will say WHAT?! but it isn't that easy for me. I've already failed once in the license test. It's a long drawn battle down there.
* Have a wild pet, probably a big boa constrictor.
* Sing, in front of a real audience for once. I'm tired of bathroom singing. I could have, but there is a big stage fear to overcome. Gives me the creeps even now.
* Teach in a small school, somewhere in remote Wayanad.
* Go to varanasi and spend some days in deep retrospect of life.! Grow a beard and dissolve into the confluence of life, nature and people.

8 things I say often
* "What to do? Life's like that." - Some thing I claim to have invented. To be patented.!
* I call up some one after a long time and they enquire what I'm doing. If it's in malayalam it is "Jeevichu povunnu"(Just living) , if in tamil, it's etho poguthu.(Somewhat going on).
* "Not Interested" -
All banks upon earth, know my mobile number, and they wont rest until I take at least one credit card.! (*&^%$$@(!!!!
* "Sheri" - means simply ok.
* Great! - good or excellent, is not enough these days.. Life, simply has to be "Great!"
* "Hello!" - Graham Bell's mistake.
* Grre.. Hmprrh! - Ever since I saw The Incredible Hulk!
* "Hi" - It's amazing how this two letter word has taken by storm.!

8 Books I last read.
* "My Childhood Days" - Memoirs of Satyajit Ray.
* After Kurukshetra - By Mahashweta Devi.
* 5 Indian Masters.
* The Penguin Book of Indian Railway Stories - Still reading.
* The Last Mughal - By William Dalrymple.
* A Readers' Digest
* Outlook
* Unheard Voices - Stories of Forgotten Lives by Harsh mander.

8 Songs I could listen to over and over again
Now this is where 8 becomes too small a number.. :). So I'll keep two each for the four languages I know.
* Tharalitharaavil mayangiyo.. sooryamanasam
* Devasabhaathalam Classic of Raveendran Maashu
*
Narumugaye - Classic from movie Iruvar. Beautiful use of Sangam Literature and lilting music from Rahman.
* En Vanile from Johnny
* Ghanan Ghanan - The arrival of rain celebrated with joy. Classic from Lagaan
* Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon - by Lata Mangeshkar ( Nightingale of India), she sings not only with her sweetest voice, but the most sincere passion and emotion. Great! - There I used it again.
* Heal the World - A Beautiful Song, from Michael Jackson. I'm a great fan! (Strictly professional!)
* When you believe! - When Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston croon so elegantly, there are miracles and you believe..! Amazing!

8 people I think should do this tag

* Alex - Alex!, In the middle of your philosophy, take a break! :)
* Starry - Long time Starry..! Get back !!
* Sreejith - My namesake friend.! you've been too busy lately. take this One!
* Dwarak - Because I know you've never done a tag before.!
* Shankari - In the middle of those wonderful stories, let's get to know you too..!
* Chitra - In the middle of train journeys, children and mobiles, do a tag too..!
* Jac - In the middle of your ever-exciting travels, how about a tag..?
* Vinay - In the middle of your poetry, let's get to know you too.!

So the spark plug, sputtered, coughed, then sprang to life. The scooter travelled for a while, before it realized no one had boarded. I was lying on the sand.!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Roads to Peace


Why is there blood everywhere
On this long winding road.?
O' towering son of Kabul,
Wherein goes this treacherous road?

This road will take us to peace, my friend
But when are these blood stains washed, I ask
Pensive and grim, someday there will be peace
he says. amidst the workers at their task.

Someday, safe will be our women, they will live
Someday, happy will be our children, they will live
Someday, rested we shall all be, we will live
Live, we all shall, and doves will fly.

Insha'Allah, may your words come true, but.
No buts, Someday for the homeless, castles there will be
for the hungry, all delicacies and all free
Yes!, I say the city will be built as you see

For the homeless, castles there will be,
Every brick as strong as a painful memory.
For the hungry, all heavenly delicacies,
Eating while they talk of those old miseries.

Insha'Allah, Someday, may there peace, be.!
Insha'Allah, Someday, may there peace, be.!

In remembrance of all those who lost their lives, while taking valiant efforts to bring peace to the land of Afghanistan. We salute you.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Legend of Mad Kokila

Some souls are sent to earth, with lesser privileges, with almost nothing, but despite all barriers, they find each other, embrace each other and live on.

Gowripuram was not unlike any other village. It had it's own group of innocent villagers, mostly farmers, some lorry drivers, some mechanics and some casual labourers. Some were money lenders, some were housewives, some worked in the garment factories nearby, but all were part of Gowripuram. All were benefactors of the temple in Gowripuram, the blessed river Nelli which provided water and life for all their needs.

Like most other villages,
Gowripuram also had it's own legends and folklore, that the villagers proudly related, be it the tale of the temple elephant, which brought up the idol of the goddess from the river or be it the legend of the wicked sorcerer who kidnapped the king's daughter and got punished for it, or the tale of the donkey with a vengeance, that stopped the rains.

But there was one story, that only some villagers, mostly old men or lonely women, told with a shudder, with a shivering of their lips only when prodded, for the story had occurred in recent times, and was no myth for sure. It was also believed that the legend of mad kokila was a curse upon
Gowripuram's otherwise peaceful presence.

No one knew where kokila came from, Where was she born ? to Whom?. The truth was that nobody knew. The old beggar woman near the temple had called her by the name 'Kokila' once and the name stuck. She was a beautiful girl, with hazel brown eyes, long slender legs and long hair. She was always on the streets mostly playing around near Mohan's tea stall. She played all day long and when night arrived, she slept below the old banyan tree along with the old woman. It was one rainy night, when the winds howled and the sky turned deathly dark that Kokila became alone. The old woman passed away in her sleep and kokila kept crying as the villagers burned her corpse far away. Kokila knew her life would now change, that her tomorrow would be different, difficult.

The villagers, were not ready to take in Kokila. After all she had spent all her life till then as a beggar. Who knows what bad luck she might bring, but they built her a small shed, gave her food and so she lived. From dawn to dusk she roamed about, eating whatever she got and then she came back and slept, and life moved on in Gowripuram. No one noticed that Kokila never smiled, never laughed, never cried.


And then came Appu, and for kokila, life was suddenly colourful, more fun and full of sound. Where he came from nobody knew. Like kokila, appu was alone, he roamed around and slept at night in the forest. Perhaps because their lives were so similar, there was an instant connection. Kokila and Appu became inseparable as Kokila brought him to her shed. They roamed together and slept together.


Souls destined to meet, shall often meet. Maybe late but there's no doubt about this fate. Meet they shall and their lives, they shall share.
Often in the rain, it grew very cold. Kokila shivered, but Appu would cover her legs with his body and lend her warmth. In the summers, when Appu panted in the heat, kokila collected cool water in earthern pots and sprayed it on him. He would jump and keep running around her playfully, with delight always wagging his tail. Over the years kokila grew, tall and supple, full of youth and brimming with the ripeness of adolescence. A great pair they were, she and Appu, two people whose lives were full of each other.

The once unmindful villagers, in who's world kokila and appu never existed, today they kept staring at Kokila, making fun of her, jeering at her and trying to hug her. But Appu was always nearby. With his resounding bark and fierce grunt, he often set them running. Somehow Appu knew, that in their little world, outsiders brought only misery. With Appu she walked, and roamed all the streets picking at rubbish, sharing food, chasing chameleons and running helter and skelter. They spoke through their eyes, reading each others minds completely.


Days passed by often fun, sometimes tough due to hunger, sometimes due to heat or cold, but always together but one dark day kokila woke up without the soft presence of Appu's fur. Shrieks, barks and shouts rent the air as Gowripuram awoke to the violent symphony of pain and desperation. Kokila ran to the forest's edge with all the energy she had. Behind her the village gathered and stood looking at a cloud of dust, a pack of wild dogs barking and tearing at each other, running all around. Poor kokila, only she could see him, appu in the middle of it all, tired and haggard, wounded and hurt. Poor Appu.

For days and nights, she sat, beside him, beside the body he left behind, the last remnants of his soul's journey through the world, the last remnants of all hope, for Kokila. There she sat, through rain, through sun, through heat and cold.
Even souls have to part, but so often they take with them, the life in the souls of those they leave behind. The souls who remain, lose the remaining life they have, in the tears they shed until they unite, forever again.

In the dark of the night, in the silence of the moonlit night, in the chill of the cold windy night, they crept. They, the blinded poor souls who were deceived, that there would be life, emotion and womanly presence in Kokila's body, crept up till where she sat, beside Appu's departed trail. Blinded they were both by wine and lust, blinded both in body and soul.

As one of them, crept behind her and shook her shoulder, she turned back, her hair haywire, her face almost blue, her eyes blood red. She wounded him with her nails and screamed. They stepped back in fear as they saw Kokila. Frightened to move they just stood there as kokila screamed and screamed. She ran towards the village in seething rage. Screaming at the top of her voice, as once more Gowripuram arose to a violent symphony of anger, fear and blood red madness. Kokila was running fast, tearing her clothes, shouting at the top of her voice, shouting aloud, calling out for Appu. The village looked on stunned as kokila, ran in all her nakedness towards the forest, with all her madness. Gowripuram had lost kokila for ever as she was lost in the forest. No one knew what happened to her.

But the legend does not end, because the learned, and enlightened, the wise of gowripuram later came to know that Kokila was a gifted soul, her Appu had left her, but not without a parting gift, her madness. And so the legend is related to everyone who searches for more. After listening to this much they often depart, but only the wise remain to learn that for two souls to connect, to die for each other, they don't have to be human beings, they only have to be humane, only few stay back to realize that blindness is not in not seeing the sky ,or the bodies, but in not seeing the souls and privileges in life is not in all that can be relished, but in sharing with others all that you have to relish, and then they shared with everyone, the legend of Mad Kokila of Gowripuram.


Pics Courtesy : "Street Scene of Little India", Painting by Chua EkKay - www.gajahgallery.com , Pit bull pet portrait - http://paintingadogaday.blogspot.com , Jonathon Hibbert Hingston - BBC News

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Colours of Life


 Pic Courtesy : www.indigoextra.com



“It is getting dark”, I must leave she said,
With a smile, I nodded my head
When again, we both did not know
Though sad, our faces did not show

“One last game”, my brother did plead.
“Alright”, she said, “I shall lead”.
Happy I was, for that last time
Play, we shall, like lost lifetime

Colour, Colour! What colour do you choose?
Green, it would be, like her, I did muse.
“Green!” she said and my brother fled
Caught some leaves, “I’m safe”, he shouted.

Leaves, I could have caught, but I ran
To nowhere green, did my legs slant
Fast I ran, all around her giggling sound
Yet, slow I was feeling the bare feet ground.

Ran, I did round and round and all around
If she caught me, or I got safe and sound
By touching green, I knew the game would end
As my legs hurt, I rejoiced at every bend.

Laugh, we did, at our silly game.
Confused, my brother angrily came.
“What are we playing”, he wanted to know
Both of us wobbled, like penguins in snow

Dark it was, so we had to part
Part we did, our lives crept apart
Far away, like her I could not muse
Like mine, her heart, I could not deduce.

Years and Years, we finally did meet.
Shook hands, relived all old tales sweet
With her beloved, to smile at me, she did choose
Colour, Colour! What colour do you choose?


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Idiots, or Mutant Intellectuals.?

I still remember, in the eighties my tryst with that marvel called Television. Those years, which even today in several blogs across the Internet, several writers recollect with nostalgia about those wonderful programs on Doordarshan, even today we have had discussions with friends and at the workplace where we've discussed Hum Log and Buniyaad and even laughed at programs like Vayalum Vazhvum ( a daily series on agriculture and farming, in Tamil.), those simple detective serials and cultural programs like Surabhi in the 90`s, they were all the staple diet of the Indian audience. The present youth and middle aged people are all people who fondly recollect, those programs and talk about those golden days. But past is past and we move on with our lives today, those experiences just memories, but yet strong imprints on our conscience and mind. So what about today`s children.?

Since the nineties, television viewing has increased, with the onslaught of Cable Television. Suddenly there were lots of channels all over, and strange dish antennas springing up everywhere on rooftops of houses. There were suddenly a huge number of channels to choose from. From movies,to cartoons, to fashion, to sports, you name it, you've got it. Then came M.TV, F. TV and more, and then to top it all, the news channels, ( those fashionable channels, with brilliant graphics, with picture perfect anchors delivering news 24 x 7 about the most sickening incidents around the world). In computer terminology, we suddenly have had an information explosion in our society, and not just that cultural shock too. Where once parental discretion was used, while Chitrahaar was being telecast, today there is a state of confusion as to which button to press on the remote.

When one form of medium, grows exponentially suddenly in it`s reach and coverage, then others have to take giant steps to keep up. In my childhood, when television was simply switched on, only for that one particular program, books were the alternate pastime. Then I remember devouring children`s magazines like Chandamama and Gokulam. So it was with some excitement that I bought an edition of Gokulam recently while traveling home, simply to relive those memories. I must say I was taken aback at the stories and information. It actually had details about inflation, Ram Setu Issue, the incident of Priyanka Gandhi meeting Nalini and what not.? The maturity and the seriousness of the topics, the letters to the editor, where different children have written in, have all undergone a drastic upgrade. It is not merely the students who get the privilege of education, but due to the reach of media nowadays even the unprivileged are more learned in their own space.

Recently at a social gathering, I somehow ended up with the responsibility of taking care of this child from the fourth standard. Amidst all the festivities, and people running here and there, I decided to take up the responsibility of entertaining him. I pumped in all my story telling skills and told him the story of two monkeys and a cat. After I had finished, I looked at his face and knew instantly that he was simply bored to death.

I started, therefore to tell a new story about the lonely princess in a castle, when I was suddenly interrupted.

"What`s the score ?", he queried.
"What score.?"

"IPL ?!". I must have seemed an alien to him at that instant, i`m sure. I was just beginning to explain, how I am not a big fan of watching cricket, when I was stopped midway again.

"Okay, who do you think will win? Delhi Daredevils or Mumbai Indians ?".

Before any more major embarrassment, "Mumbai Indians!", I managed to reply. And that is all I spoke, as I waited silently for the next one minute, listening to his discourse, flooded with statistics and news reports, and injuries, as he delivered the final judgment, the final nail, in my coffin of ignorance. "Mumbai Indians will not win."

It is with awe and admiration, that I see today`s children, their awareness of current affairs, their command over language, often English. I know for sure that I am not jealous, but there is a slight concern, whether all this smartness, this knowledge, is at the cost of their innocence, at the cost of their sensitivity. While there are things children of today should be aware of, like for example child abuse, It is also better they not know certain things. In some spheres at least it`s always better that children remain children.

With all the kind of exposure, there is, at times over exposure, would they grow up to become lazy storehouses of information, while emotionally becoming idiots, or will they become prematurely matured mutant intellectuals? Because after all, as time advances these changes will affect both body and mind. It is a well-known medical fact that young girls and boys are nowadays known to turn mature, in both body and mind at the young ages of twelve itself. Probably these are signs, or probably my thoughts and fears are totally unwarranted, unjustified and unnecessary. Perhaps, even downright ridiculous. I sincerely hope they are.

Pic Courtesy : www.missionindia.org

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Sunrise at Champa

"How more long do we travel, Amma..? My whole body is aching", complained Chinnu.

"We`re almost there, Chinnu. Try to sleep". replied Seetha.

"Poor Child", she thought to herself, stroking his forehead as she looked into the eyes of Gopi, sitting across her. Gopi turned away. He could not look into seetha`s eyes. This was not the time to think of the past. Surely there`s a bright future, he assured himself. After all it was not them alone that were travelling to their new lives, it was not them alone that had left behind their roots, their homes and their hearts, it was not them alone that were leaving, leaving behind their dear old village near Champa, that small stream of life giving lucid blue water that was the source of all their joys.

"Life keeps changing, and we have to learn to adapt at God`s will", he consoled himself, a little loudly as well, so that seetha would listen. Perhaps she too would come to terms, he thought. But in one hidden glance at her eyes, he had known that it would not be as soon as he wanted it to be. Like the swaying bullock cart, life was a rocky ride, but still gopi managed to fall asleep. Chinnu kept murmuring, while seetha, looked back at her best friend, the river Champa with tears in her eyes. When would she see the sunrise at Champa..?

*************************************

The final bell rang at Vidyanagar Corporation School, and the children rushed out of the tall green doors, with great gusto. It was such a relief when the bell rang, as the boys made plans to play cricket at the nearby college ground, while the girls rushed home to their dolls, temples and games.


Amidst all the sweat and noise, Chinnu slowly walked home. His friend Raghu had not come that day, and therefore he didn`t make plans, rather decided to walk home. The exam papers had been given and he had secured decent marks. As usual hemanth had been the topper. O` how he envied him. Anyway that was not today on his mind much. The Class teacher, very unlike his usual strict demeanour had told them about the school`s plan to take them all on an excursion trip, and so all were very excited, already chattering and making plans for the trip, about the toys and snacks they would bring. Chinnu, on the other hand was worried. Would his parents give him the permission. He made a small prayer near the Ganesha Idol below the banyan tree and moved on. He had done his best, the rest was for Ganesha to take care of.

********************************

Gopi reached home early that day. His shop did not have the usual crowd and even more, his son was to come back today from the school excursion and he was eager to listen to Chinnu`s animated conversation. "It`s so soothing to see these children enjoy life", he thought. As he walked towards home, he remembered his own Childhood, his grandmother, the evenings along with friends on the banks of Champa, those endless hours, he used to wait on those same banks, while waiting for seetha to sneak out of her home. All were clouded memories, but they all had that beautiful Champa river in common, at the centre of it all. It had been eight years since they left their home behind, since those government officials walked up to their homes and advised them to evacuate the place citing some welfare project. As living became more and more stressful due to lack of rains, they had been forced to leave. Today he had forgotten all about farming, all he knew was the constant rattle of his sewing machine.

If only, he could discuss all this with seetha, he would have felt lighter, but seetha had resigned herself to life in Vidyanagar, and he did not dare bring up the past and upset her, also worried that she might not share the same feelings anymore.

"There amma, dada has come. Now stop crying", shouted Chinnu. "What Happened ?", asked Gopi, while he hugged Chinnu, noticing seetha`s teary eyes.

"Nothing. I will go and prepare something for you both to eat", she sobbed and rushed inside. "Why is your mother upset, Chinnu? How was the trip? Were you up to some mischief?", queried Gopi. "No dada. I don't know why.? The trip was real fun. There were these two giant green hills and in the middle of it, this beautiful river. At sunrise, the sun rose over a giant gulmohar tree near the horizon and the river was almost decked in gold. I was telling all this when mother suddenly started crying. I didn't do anything.", replied Chinnu between gasps.

Gopi was no more listening. "The sunrise at Champa", he muttered.

*************************


There was a gentle breeze in the evening which was soothing after a tiring day`s work. As children scrambled home, and others returned from a strenuous day at their offices and shops. Gopi was sitting at the porch looking outside, when seetha brought him a steaming cup of coffee. His eyes lit up with happiness. "Did you go to the market today ?", he asked. "No. It was really hot in the afternoon. Did not feel like going outside.".

"Forgot to tell you. Chinnu had called me on telephone from his college. He is coming day after tomorrow on vacation. He said he had a plan.".

"What Plan? Did you ask him to bring all his clothes and bedsheets..?", queried seetha. "Plan.. I don`t know. He didn't tell me. Yes he`s bringing all clothes. Don`t worry".

Two days passed waiting for Chinnu, and when he finally arrived, it was as if their home suddenly came back to life. "Amma, Dada, you remember I told you I had a plan ?"

"Yes. what is the plan?", asked Gopi. Seetha silently looked on. "Tomorrow dada, you shut down shop, amma pack everything for two days, we will go to Champa."

"But..?", seetha managed to say. "No buts, now or never amma. Let us go. I have booked the tickets and have saved enough money, from the tuitions I took, while at college. Let us just go.". Gopi never spoke, only his eyes beamed.

*************************

"No! It`s not possible. The whole place is blocked and I could lose my job. No way", shouted the watchman. They had at last arrived near Champa at midnight only to find that the way was blocked by a government checkpost. It was no use arguing with the watchman. Before Chinnu, started to fight with the watchman, Gopi consoled him and they prepared to turn back.

"It`s Ok, son, you've already done so much for us, by just trying to bring us here.", he remarked. Chinnu was still sad. As they slowly walked back seetha was again reminded of the time, when they left Champa.

"Sahib, Sahib... I can take you to Champa", they heard a whisper as they turned a bend. It was an old haggard man, with a long pole in his hand. He looked like he had been in the forests there for centuries. "Sahib, I have a boat. I can take you to the river Champa. I take many tourists often. Please pay this old man a hundred rupees, it will do".

"A Hundred Rupees! No way. and let me tell you we`re not tourists. We are people of this soil. You cannot sell us our our home." Chinnu, came from behind and took Gopi`s hand.

"Please Dada, let us go. Just this once. Please.", begged Chinnu. "But Chinnu..", Gopi started to say. "Let us go. It`s ok", seetha exclaimed in excitement. Gopi pretended to look angry, but his eyes betrayed him. They followed the old man, as he lead them through the forest towards his boat.

The boat was shaky at first, but slowly they all sat down. It was after all a ride on Champa, their beloved river. The smell of those wild flowers and croaking of the frogs, lending the whole night, it's own natural symphony. It was still dark and so they just sat silently as their old boatman rowed and rowed towards, what they could make out was a valley, between two giant hills.

And then suddenly it happened!.

From the horizon, a pink, and magenta gleam of light suddenly illuminated the sky for a long distance. Slowly the ray of light widened, and then at the horizon, the water started turning golden, like a million lamps having been lit upon the temple pond. The light reflected from the beautiful red blossoms of the Gulmohar tree on the banks, and as the leaves slowly descended upon the water, it was almost as if tiny red fairies were descending upon earth, pure earth, pure water, pure life.

"Amma, dada.. you see that..? Isn't it so beautiful..", Chinnu exclaimed.

There was no reply. Gopi and seetha were standing on the boat, their clouded eyes fixed in a trance. No more were they father, mother and son. No more were they Gopi, seetha and Chinnu. They were just three children, three children holding hands, enjoying their beautiful Sunrise at Champa.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Missing the Green.

Conservation of our environment and spreading of awareness for the same is the buzzword everywhere and it is truly heartening to see the same. Everyone takes steps to do rain water harvesting, saving on electricity, recycling paper and plastic and so on. It definitely is the need of the hour and the fear factor induced by catastrophic visions of the future like Global warming, and Ozone holes have somewhat helped add a sense of urgency and alarm to these efforts. So today people buy environment friendly cars and builders or factories aggressively advertise how environment friendly they are. We have suddenly started to embark upon a mission of repair and restoration, in fear of the future repercussion nature could wreak upon us, which is all very good, but the truth is it would be more honourable and also spirited and powerful if the soul of our efforts were not just to save ourselves, but to save nature and mother earth that we once loved a lot and was effectively a part of our lives.


This love for nature and the soothing effect it can have needs to be rediscovered. Tomorrow`s generation today grows in concrete jungles, in complexes where they are used to travelling by elevators. Playing in the water, to them, means playing in swimming pools with all those rubber toys. It is for the benefit of this generation that they must rediscover the simple natural joys of the past, which their ancestor had the privilege to enjoy. You cannot venture out to rescue something, which one primarily has not loved or known personally.

Take the case of all temples and heritage sites. It is because we marvelled at their beauty and splendid workmanship and art, that we actually took steps to renovate and preserve. Similarly unless we are marvelled by nature`s beauty and comfortable in living a simple life in communion with nature, it is very difficult to relate to and understand the need to preserve and take care of the same.

It is time to head to the villages, to those remote places, where we all have our roots and absorb and appreciate it`s value and beauty and allow this love and warmth in us to permeate to the next generation, to show them that there`s a world and life outside your flat, without a television, without a washing machine, without a shower or a geyser, and yet, a place where you can learn to live, and thus provide an experience in all that they will treasure and aggressively and actively seek to maintain throughout the stretch of their lives.

My uncle, who has his own wonderful little blog here had recently written about the alarming decline of crows in Kerala. It is a startling observation, because it shows to what extent the change in our lifestyles is affecting the natural cycle and ecosystem at such a rapid pace. Crows are not just birds, they are cleaners and scavengers who are given the natural responsibility of cleaning up the place around you. It is our lack of love for the natural process and techniques, which is leading to this decline, the loss of this knowledge and hence putting us in the grave situation that is there today.

In our active and vibrant society we are used to a lot of colours. Colours of paints, colours of buses, new buildings, office complexes, food wrappers and what not. The secret to the panacea of our environmental problems is that today we forget to miss the crystal blue of the sky, the beautiful placid blue of the waters, the dark black of the crows, the sprightly green of the trees and plants. The secret lies in missing the green of beautiful mother earth.

Pics Courtesy : All pics taken at my native place in Kerala.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Ritual of Madness

"Painted by The Hand of God" - Painting by Gretchen M Smith.

The sky is painted in reddish shades
Drowsy sun, seems eager to leave
Red is the sky, red is the grass and blades
My blood and vermillion, together they grieve

Bells clang, small lamps lit in a fiery dance
The temple stands witness. silent and calm
Down, down, my forehead splits thence;
They all stare, like bees, a swarm

My mind, i`ve heard, is stable not
Lively, it flows, my red head, so numb
Stability, thy meaning, i so forgot
Desires at heart, to life i won`t succumb

When, my blood dries, cure, is to come my way
The lamps take life, and light up the godly face
Her merciful eyes, wont let my madness stay
Or so they say, to my clouded reddish haze

Farewell, I bid, amidst their hymns of pride
Smeared in colours, to walk along a peering mile
At her feet, i kneel, at her lips, my eyes ride
Forgive my mind, but is that a mocking smile.?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Blog it out!

Let me get this straight.! I`m not a diehard fan of Amitabh Bachchan. But I have admiration for his sheer personality and that wonderful deep baritone voice.! He is a great actor, with several hundred films to his credit and truly one of the biggest names in Indian Cinema.

But above all he is a great human being and truly an icon, so the media obviously wanted to get some tidbits about him, and provide gossip, controversy and interesting facets of his life everyday on national Television.

To have seen glaring distorted facts, and unnecessary controversies over nothing being created by the media circus and all the hype and hoopla about oneself, can upset any common man. So what do you do when you get blamed for things totally unknown to you. You go ahead and clarify things. Vent out your feeling, pour it out in public, today thanks to the internet, blog it out.!

Sir, this is one of the better decisions that you`ve made in your lifetime. As the media is at a loss on how to intervene as you communicate directly to the Indian public, you go ahead and give a fantastic final blow.

Anchors move on to the next programme - a rape or shoot out, car having run over pedestrian sleepers. Get the blood, get the relatives in various stages of shock and dismay, weeping and distraught close ups would help. Catch the cops for comment and the ambulance taking away the bodies. Didn’t get the shot ? Damn !! No problem, pick up the visual from the day before as the bus plunged into the river, patrol cars and ambulances were seen there as well.


So true..!

And they talk of monotony and lack of fresh content in our cinema. They talk of ripping off foreign DVD’s and plagiarism. Where did they get there programme ideas from ? Are any of their presenters sitting in front of studious looking desks any different from the sets of the BBC or ABC or CNN Studios. Is ‘Seedhi Baat’ not ‘Hard Talk’ is KBC not ‘Millionaire’ ?

Exactly..!

Truly dont we see an end to these irritating news channels as more celebrities and personalities, decide to finally blog it out.? Let`s get to know things in first person. Soon like there are television sets in every household there would also be computers and internet. The media might as well start behaving while there`s still time.

Pic Courtesy : bollycircle.com

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Bidding farewell to the Mughals

1857 is the most important year in Indian history. Many remember it for Mangal Pandey, the Sepoy Mutiny and some even call it the First War of Indian Independence, but the fact is that, above all this history captured of that period beautifully establishes how a dynasty ends, how a nation evolves and how a country beautifully adapts all these changes, through much warfare and bloodshed to the India that is today. In many ways you understand, that this is the period during which the British actually go on to completely conquer India.

If anything had changed during that pivotal year, the India we see today, would surely have been different, whether it would have been better or worse is left to the analysts and astrologers, but surely for an historian, capturing the essence of that period is the best exercise in terms of sheer scale and possibilities. In that sense William Dalrymple has done a wonderful job of travelling across the country and dissecting the Mutiny papers and letters of that period in such a meticulous and detailed manner, that he captures the stories of almost every kind of common man, Hindu, muslim or the british, taking slices from their lifetime to construct a very objective and very unopinionated view of the entire period. Khushwant Singh tells about the book, "This is how history should be written", and you simply cannot help but agree, because it is not a lecture and in many ways a collection of stories, which can effectively draw you into that era so captivatingly, that you relate to all the main characters and learn to appreciate history, culture, art and yet at the same time, the deprivation, poverty, lack of administration, of planning, all make William Dalrymple`s "The Last Mughal" a must read, especially for aspiring historians.

Having said that about the book, I must admit my initial interest in reading it, wasn`t so much in the political history, but in getting an insight into Mughal culture. I must say I was not disappointed. The Mughal Empire and it`s successive Emperors have always been an object of fascination, because though essentially foreign to Ancient India, like the British, their culture of Art, poetry and architecture is unfailingly impressive. There is abundance of historical texts which detail the life and times of Emperors, like Akbar, Shah Jahan etc. But 1857 is also best remembered for the great urdu poets Zauq and Ghalib. and their rivalry. The book provides beautiful anecdotes from their lives, how they were affected by the Mutiny and the Emperor`s closeness to Zauq and Ghalib`s representations to the Emperor to accept him in equal light. The Emperor, himself being a wonderful poet himself. That poetry, art and tradition was held in such high esteem makes us truly wonder at the lack of the poetic culture as we see today.


It is another surprising fact that Bahadur Shah Zafar was the only Mughal emperor to have been photographed. The painting above of the same frail emperor, which is also on the cover of the book, serving testimony to the fact that many of the paintings of that era were often amazingly glorified and exaggerated versions of reality comes to the fore. It has to be admitted therefore that the emperors and artists of that generation really understood the importance of history and it`s documentation, whether they were opinionated and with neutral outlook is another matter.


Also the photograph is an evidence to the emergence of technology that the advent of British empire brought about. Photography replacing Art, can very much be perceived as a result of the British conquest of India. It is not that technology is not advantageous, but the fact remains that as technology brought about comfortable changes, it also failed to keep aloft beautiful traditions of Art and paintings, poetry recitals and both persian and vedic style of architecture. In that sense 1857 was also a period of great change, when the British stopped adopting the existing culture, and turned to enforcing their culture and beliefs upon a groups of faithless infidels as they understood, mainly as revenge to the severe rage and outburst of the natives. Because otherwise it is greatly interesting how the britishers before this period had learned to assimilate and absorb the Indian customs and some had even revelled in Urdu poetry, art and tradition. So in that regard 1857 brought to an end not only a great dynasty but also several aspects of art and culture that today seem so unique and unearthly.

As we learn about the inefficiency of the Mughal generals in leading the war and collating the strengths of several armies of the Indian subcontinent and finally succumbing to the lack of administration and planning, we get the picture of a great and huge, but clumsy elephant brought to it`s knees by a sharp and agile lion. We feel sad that the great Mughal empire in it`s last attempt at glory could not find good leadership and also effectively realize that the general Indian public too could not get beyond their differences and reconciled rather weakly to the onslaught of the British, but even more sadder is that fact that even as they got ready to bid farewell to the Mughals, they also failed to keep back strong pillars of the finer aspects of their culture and tradition. Every time a dynasty changes, every time an invasion happens and a new ruler emerges there was a loser in Art, architecture, culture and traditional riches that makes delving into history and rediscovering their glory ever so interesting.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Parting


The truth was always there, in sight
In future, in my sleep, every night
The time would come, when we walk
Paths different, lonely, new and dark.

Illusions are sweet, easier to act like old
Life will move on, pain in our hearts, we hold
Things no more same, but we never tell
With vigour they lived, let our histories tell

The time will come, when I am not there
Beside you, behind you, in sight nowhere
In my mind and lonely heart, you shall be
And dear friend, in your heart, I yearn to be

Let life take us on a confusing ride
Every day , a new way, lots to decide
Yet, hope I shall, that our paths meet
Every passing day, eyes eager to greet.

In your path, I wish flowers bloom,
Birds sing and let the sun light up every gloom.
Cliched as it might seem, forget me not
For every shared moment, our life, then begot.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Paths, we walk upon

It was one humid month in Calicut, when the oncoming of the monsoon rains was eagerly awaited by everyone. Afternoons, after an heavy lunch were often unbearably hot, when most of the elders in the house stretched themselves on the floor, fans running at full speed. But my city bred mind, which spent a majority of it`s life within a flat in Chennai could not rest easy. After all there was no one to stop you from roaming around, perhaps the hope of discovering some age old treasure dug under the house or near some pond. It is in childhood, that we often bring out the Ulysses in all of us, the urge to see and conquer the world around could not subside easily.

And so I walked long and far, past the Bhagavathi Temple, stopped to look at the closed temple premises from outside, the swords clothed in red, the silent grass which too seemed to be resting, No breeze, no sound from the trees, everything taking a silent siesta, or remaining quiet, so that they did not incur the wrath of the goddess, by waking her up. My mind was now in a dilemma as to whether to proceed or not. I hadn`t ventured so far earlier ever before, To go beyond the temple, without a grown up accompanying me was like taking the first step into what surely was a big bad dark world out there. Then the brave me shouted to the child in me, "You are in the fifth standard now, Come On.." and so I took my first step beyond the temple steps. A great moment, a moment signifying the coming of age..!

The road was empty, no one seemed to be around, the trees just kept whispering around me. I had decided I would have to walk as long as it wont get too late and mother wouldn`t know. Each step was a victory, an accomplishment. And then I saw it the house, painted in white, flower pots kept before it. It looked beautiful, it was somehow reassuring to the little adventurer, the tired traveller in the desert who had just seen an oasis. I kept walking towards it, To just pluck one of those beautiful flowers, and come home and show my sister, proof of the brave journey, her big brother had just made. I was sure she would be envious.

And then it happened..!

There was a rustling sound, and I saw this big colourful bird, like a giant hen, atleast three times bigger than one, rushing furiously at me, making this thundering cackling sound. I dont remember much, only that I`ve never run so fast, in my life before. The P.T. teacher at school would have been proud of me. I ran and ran, fell down twice, bruised both my knees. Time seemed to be going on and on, but at last I reached home. It`s only then that I realized I hadn`t even looked behind even once.

My mother was drowsily standing at the doorsteps. She saw me, gave me a good glance and gave a sigh.
"You must have been upto something I guess. Come let`s get a bath, and have those new wounds plastered. Ammamma has prepared snacks for you"

I smiled and followed her. The secret remained a secret, my first ever encounter with a Turkey.

Today years afterwards, I did get the chance to walk that great path again. The house wasn`t there, no flower pots. In it`s place there was a brand new bungalow. But I still could remember that turkey`s nasty look. My heart skipped a beat.!

Truly strange are the paths, we walk upon...