Saturday, November 20, 2010

High on a bus


What to tell of ,the magic of alcohol
Or is it the debacle of society
Of what do I cry, along shall I fall,
In the madness, do I feel pity ?.

Rushed the bus, tickets flying around
Not a gap to breathe, too loud yet quiet.
Yet there rose an unseen voice, booming sound
"Roads are bad, he cheated us, right?"

"Idiots, you listen to all", he says
"He cheats you and yet you elect him"
Scoffing at the rulers, others gaze
Some guffaw, some gape, some adore him.

"She cheated me!", then the colourful tirade
Women frown, children deaf and more blush.
A bellow of grief and the voice did fade
The bus swerved along, still in a rush.

As his stop came, the priest stood
All those who laughed, in shock!
All sober, lending a hand good
Alighting, time froze on a clock!

What to tell of the mystique of spirit
Was it pity, guilt, surprise or doubt?
What state of human plight had fit,
The silence that the crowded bus, now spout?


Pic Courtesy : The Hindu Archives (www.thehindu.com)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Got Up.!


Even a simple thing like, checking email forwards, checking your facebook page requires a certain level of intelligence. Reading a book, you require to have a good imagination and build the world out of the characters you read to immerse yourself in it. To play a game, you need skill and concentration, be it cricket or a game of Super Mario on your Nintendo. You need to have some sense of Music and the taste to sway to it to listen to it. Little wonder then, that the Television came to be known as the Idiot box, which is why it became such an essential commodity. Should come with a tag line "No brains required!".

A self confessed "Idiot" and couch potato myself, I have had no qualms admitting that so far, because there are those moments when your watching the small television set, gives you it's moments. However on an unexpected long leave, when I sit in front of the television, I feel like I am one with the devil. When soap after soap gets played across every channel, I slowly started playing a game. The game, was that the moment the character in a T.V. series / reality show starts bitching or talks about killing someone, deceiving some one, I switch to another channel. Pretty soon I had exhausted all my channels, featuring prime time television serials.

Evil, as they say is the absence of good, and it is the presence of evil that makes the story interesting. The greyness of characters compulsorily lending that completion to the story arc. But all good stories need to come to an end. Here, when stories need to end good turns to evil and evil to good and the show goes on.

A tired couch potato got up and scrubbed itself!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Fall


Swaying in the breeze, gently
The evening air descending slowly
Sparrows suddenly shrieked wildly
The first blow landing heavily

At the root of my land,
I feel the pain, I feel my heart
Children in tears upon the sand
Thoughts differ and actions part

Chips come flying, my blood not seen
Hitting again at my suffering bark
To brown they turn, my paling green
Helpless and hurt, I cried in the dark

Hunger and hatred, in the air; hung
In the balance. Tales of blood forgot
Of the peaceful days, were songs sung
With passion, all an empty stomach got

Unconscious, I dangerously did swerve
Falling unto the ground, my all and whole
In fright and death, my leaves a curve
Leaves shall wither and bark to coal

Near the fall, the mind grows numb
To fate, all tamely bend, no art to defend
The voices in shock, shall all go dumb
The era of my land, reaching it's loud end.

Painting by Charles Thevenin

Thursday, June 03, 2010

From the land of Theyyam

“Train No 6627 West Coast Express is running late by 2 hours!”, came the announcement. It was hardly heard amidst the noise in the station itself. The sounds of people, hurrying towards their respective platforms, the advertisements running on the huge plasma screen, trolleys being pulled and trains arriving and leaving, all contributed to the strange symphony that only Chennai Central could create.

“Well! That might be good”, remarked Raghu. “How is a train running late good news?” asked Sajani. “It’s simple. The train will then reach around 4 in the morning tomorrow, which is safer and I get to spend two more hours with you. Isn’t that good enough?” Sajani smiled faintly.

“I feel so guilty, Raghu. All these years, and suddenly now I’m going back, when the one relative that I love is probably on her death bed.” Raghu patted her on her shoulder. “Calm down. Sometimes life leads us away. At least you are going to meet her now, before it’s too late. I wish I could come with you.”. “That’s okay Raghu, Achan would be alone here”, she reassured him.

Sajani’s mind however was restless. It was thirteen years ago, that she had left from Neeleshwaram for Chennai along with Raghu, after which she had, had very little contact with Sreedevi Oppol, very little contact with the little beautiful town of Nileshwaram. It had been thirteen whole years since she sat near the perennially full temple well silently soaking in the serenity and peace of the Swarnavalli Vishnu Temple. She wondered whether it was still all the same in her own little Neeleshwaram town, the abode of Neeleshwara.

“Shall I get you some coffee?” queried Raghu, interrupting her stream of thoughts. “No. you go have one. You look tired.” she replied and watched him walking away towards the coffee stall. Raghu had been a loving husband, supportive and caring, helping her in both her career and her personal life. He had suggested that they go to Neeleshwaram a lot of times, but unfortunately due to their respective careers and raghu’s father’s health issues, it had never materialized. All she had been able to do was call Sreedevi Oppol once in a while. Sreedevi Oppol had been the one sole source of strength since her lonely orphaned childhood and now she felt so uncomfortable, that all these years she never bothered to go see her and help her out in her own life, even though she led a solitary life herself. However it was always the thought of the amount of respect and love the local people had for Sreedevi Teacher that gave her the courage and confidence that she would not be alone. And yet the pangs of separation, guilt and awkwardness continued and suddenly a deep sadness enveloped her heart.

“Nandan called just now. He’s having a house warming for the flat he bought on Old Mahabalipuram Road”, said Raghu as he seated himself beside Sajani. “You must go and convey my regards too.” Raghu noticed the weakness in her voice. “What is it?” he asked worried. “No, Nothing. Sometimes you suddenly start feeling really sad, though there is no specific reason. It’s an amalgamation of all feelings. Strange thing is, the sum total is mostly sadness, perhaps because grief is the strongest ingredient.”

“Woah! Where did that come from? Don’t worry too much. Everything will be alright”

“Train No 6627 West Coast Express will be arriving shortly on Platform number 5” reverberated the station. As they walked towards the platform, the sky thundered. “That’s strange” said Raghu. Sajani just smiled and her thoughts meandered. Rain - That strange phenomenon that was both a blessing and a nuisance.

As she bade goodbye to Raghu, she realized, that this was the first time she was traveling so far without him. The air conditioned compartment looked comfortable, yet she had a disturbed sleep, partly due to memories, partly due to the parting and partly due to the added pressure of waking up early in the morning and not sleeping off. When at five in the morning, the train slowly ambled towards Neeleshwaram, she was all groggy and red eyed.

The air was chill outside as Sajani walked to hail a rickshaw. As the auto rickshaw noisily advanced towards Jawahar Housing Colony, she looked out and tried to make sense of those old pathways and buildings, but as much as her town had retained it’s old world charm, modernity was catching up in every way and it made her recollections all the more difficult. However as soon as she saw that old brown gate, she felt a sudden inner peace and lightness of being. Her thoughts were distracted when the driver asked her for twenty rupees. She realized, she was indeed in Kerala. No way could she have paid just twenty rupees in Chennai.

As she walked towards the old house, with its deep maroon tiles and red floors, she felt like she was entering another world. And then she appeared, wearing glasses and in a white saree! Sreedevi Oppol, looked weak, but her eyes still had the same old glow, her face still glowing with the same complexion. “Who is it?” she asked. “You have forgotten have you?” said Sajani playfully. As Sreedevi Oppol came closer, her eyes widened in recognition, yet at the same time, brimming with tears. “My Child!” she let out a sigh of relief and there they stood hugging each other.

The next few days, Sajani became a child again, as she wandered the length and breadth of Neeleshwaram, with Sreedevi Oppol. She played with the flowers, the people, rediscovering her life and old friends. It was one evening, while they were collecting flowers in the twilight and when Sreedevi Oppol complained of headache and had to take rest, that it dawned on Sajani, that Sreedevi Oppol was not well.

“I’m sorry, Oppol. I forgot to ask you. You had written that you were not well. I forgot about that totally after I reached here”. “No problem, Sajani. I myself don’t like to remember it much. It’s just this terrible headache. The Doctor at Malayatoor hospital said that there is some kind of growth in my brain.”

Sajani was shocked. All her guilt, remorse, pangs of separation, everything came back to her and in that weak moment, when she could hold it back no longer, she let go and cried.

“I’m so sorry Oppol. All these years, I never bothered to come see you. Never took care of you. I should have been by your side; instead I just lived my own life. I’m so sorry.”

“What are you telling, Sajani? I never thought like that. Don’t you have your own problems?”. “Please come with me. Come to Chennai. We will get this treated.” interrupted Sajani.

“Sajani, what has gotten into you?. I cannot. I…” Sreedevi Oppol was shivering as she walked away. Sajani sat silent and confused, as she watched Sreedevi Oppol walk towards the kitchen. Outside, Neeleshwaram got submerged in the thickness of the night, the chill settling in.

Raghu called early morning, the next day. His father had taken ill again. There had been blood and vomiting and he had been shifted to a hospital. Even as raghu consoled her and asked her not to worry, she could still identify the sheer helplessness and yearning in his voice. She informed Sreedevi Oppol, that she had to leave to Chennai. Sreedevi Oppol nodded anxiously and watched as Sajani proceeded towards the railway station to book the next train to Chennai. After all the waiting at the railway station, she could get a ticket only for the next day, and by the time she reached back home, she was already very tired.

Sreedevi Oppol was strangely excited when she said that she would leave only the next day. “Then will you come with me today evening?” she asked. “Where?” Sajani replied half-heartedly. “It’s Theyyam at Thali Temple. Come, it will set everything right. Lord Neeleswaran will set your mind at peace.” Though sajani did not feel like going, she nodded her head.

As they walked towards, the temple Sajani could already hear the peculiar drum beats. The mystic accompaniment of chenda and kuzhal lingered in her ears. As they reached the temple, the Theyyam performance was already starting. There were lots of people, gathered around a tall dark dancer in a red head dress, as he along with the drummers and a few other dancers who joined him, started to recite a song. It was about one Palanthai Kannan, a local legend and deity. Sajani could not make out much of the lyrics, but she just soaked in the magic of the atmosphere and looked wide eyed.

After some time, the recital stopped and the dancers retreated. “Is that all?” asked Sajani. “Wait and see” replied Sreedevi Oppol naughtily. After some time, the dancer returned, only this time, she could not recognize him. Totally covered in red and yellow, with a colourful crown and ornaments and a red dhoti, it seemed like an apparition to her awestruck eyes. She watched as the music started and slowly the dancer started swaying and chanting and as the music and the eager beats continued, he danced like possessed. The people watched and prayed, as the performance continued and hit several crescendos creating a purely electrifying experience. The dancer was believed to have imbibed the spirit of the local deity and as he ran in the courtyard and went round the main temple, the devotees followed, chanting their prayers. Sajani just followed her mind numb and blank, stirred into silence by the magnetism of the experience. As the Theyyam completed all eight steps of footwork, Sreedevi Oppol nudged Sajani. “Come let’s walk. It will get late.”

“Do you remember the story of Palanthai Kannan?” asked Sreedevi Oppol on their way back. “No. I guess I forgot”. “Let me tell you. Palanthai Kannan was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. He was from Neeleshwaram. Once he plucked a mango from the orchard of Kuruvat Nair. Kuruvat Nair got enraged and beat up Palanthai Kannan and drove him away from Neeleshwaram.”

“For a mango?” asked Sajani. “Yes! So Palanthai Kannan ran away to a temple in Mangalore and stayed in a temple there. After a few days, he returned with the blessings of the lord himself. He reached Neeleshwaram, and he took bath in Kadalikulam. News of his arrival spread everywhere and reached the ears of Kuruvat nair too. They came to kadalikulam and killed Palanthai Kannan.” “Oh!” remarked Sajani. “But they did not know that Palanthai Kannan had not come alone. Lord Vishnu had come along with him. Vishnumoorthi was burning with anger and he destroyed the entire Kuruvat ancestral home and their lineage. Vishnumoorthi then took rest at Vaikunda Temple and Vishnumoorthi and Palanthai Kannan are to this day worshipped here.”

“Quite a story” replied Sajani. “Sajani, its not just a story. The Theyyams of Neeleshwaram don’t just recite stories. These are our life threads. To me, you are like my Palanthai Kannan. You might have left Neeleshwaram, but I was always sure that you would come back. I don’t fear death. I am more than satisfied that the gods here blessed me enough to be able to see you, before I leave this body behind. You thought you wronged me. If I had felt so, would Vishnumoorthi have forgiven me?”

Sajani was silent, her eyes glued to Sreedevi Oppol’s face. “Sajani, out of your compassion for me, you ask me to come with you. But I don’t want that Sajani. I have found peace here. My life has derived meaning and energy out of this pure land. How can I leave it behind? Even if I recover, for how long will it be? What if I come there and could not return to Neeleshwaram. What if I could not see Neeleshwaran or Palanthai Kannan or Muthappan or Muchilot Bhagavathi one last time? Do you want to deny me this life, Sajani? ”. Sreedevi Oppol, kept her hands lightly on Sajani’s shoulder and they walked towards home.

Two months had passed since then. Raghu’s father had passed away and Sajani and he took a long leave to go to Varanasi, Rameswaram and Thirunelli to perform his last rites. But they could not return to Chennai immediately, not before visiting Neeleshwaram and paying their last respects to Sreedevi Oppol, who had passed away peacefully one fine morning.

Raghu was now a tormented soul. Death had weakened him. Sajani however consoled him and was a pillar of strength as she helped him get back to life and work. Raghu was slowly finding peace in Sajani and Sajani in Raghu. Sajani‘s peace also came from afar, from Sreedevi Oppol, from her beautiful hometown of Neeleshwaram, from the mystic land of Theyyam.

Pics Courtesy : www.team-bhp.com, www.dreamsingreens.in, (Beautiful Theyyam snap), by Eric Lafforgue(Through www.flickr.com)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Conscience


Walk quickly, she cried out aloud
Wide Eyed, I followed behind.
Much have I resisted, never; her charms
carrying me amidst all the crowd.

When skies, sobbed and cried;
and the air thundered, much did I fear.
Fear not, she said, "for fear weakens
Both soul and hope, then died."

Despite all warnings, when I did wrong,
My weak soul tried to run away
Stop!, come face thy wrong, she said.
What bigger wrong, than a life of guilt.!

When I started to earn, like all boys,
I kept going for more, and still more.
How different are your riches, she cried,
From those old abandoned toys.

When all riches grew, cupboards filled,
In fear of thieving souls, my own in fear
Who do you fear, she used to mock
What is yours, that is not theirs.

When my great desires, turned to despair
Like all weak souls, I turned to hate.
Tired of me, she admonished, Lose thy hate;
for the biggest loss, you shall stand to gain.

Beyond a hundred monsoons, my body frail,
Yet she glowed, her soft hands by my side.
"Never leave me", I pleaded, she smiled;
Her gentle hands touched my burning head.

As I rose above and walked the golden path
She stood by me, and then started to fade.
Stop! who are you ?, a goodbye dont bade
Silly Child, "Inside you, I was always made".


Painting - "La Conscience", by Lionel Le Falher

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The world's dump yard ?

Recently several scrap metal dealers were hospitalized due to radiation exposure at Delhi. One of them lost his life due to multiple organ failure and another person is still critically ill.

And more lives will be claimed, because this business of importing hazardous waste from Developed countries, runs into hundreds of crores. It's a roaring business for both the importers as well as the exporters. It is sadly at the cost of the local population and their health.

For the so-called developed countries, it becomes very convenient, because they do not have to do the tough job at hand of recycling, and their backyards remain clean and healthy. More and more hazardous scrap parts get dumped in third world countries like India.

Having said that, recycling is a profitable business, like recycling of aluminium or stainless steel waste, which is environmentally advantageous, mainly because it can be recycled indefinitely and consumes lesser energy. However the problem with this scenario is that, the whole process becomes a facade for dumping of hazardous radio-active substances or even more infectious medical waste, mostly syringes and needles.

While India is on the one hand, the second fastest growing source of greenhouse emissions it is also being projected as a promising market for solid waste management. Therefore huge quantities of waste, be it titanium scrap or battery waste or pharmaceutical waste is imported from abroad. Unmindful of the fact that just the four metropolitan cities themselves produce around 4000 tonnes of waste every single day.!

While recycling is important, while there is a lot of scope for developing state of the art technologies for waste management and for becoming the one-stop shop for solving the world's ecological problems, we have to be as citizens aware and conscious of the fact that it should never be at the cost of our health, environment and that in the process of importing waste and scrap from abroad, we do not conveniently become the world's dump yard.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Moment of Solace.



The sun cast its glory sheath and reddish glow
Her work, half done and yet still more
Cut cane growing ripe and wrinkles grow
Day after day, her windy life she bore.

Yet every afternoon, after a lonely meal,
At the edge of the paddy fields, she just stood.
A moment of thought, she chose to steal,
And think of nothing, her tired soul’s only food.





In all his holiness, and pure air,
His duties performed and plants watered,
All deities worshipped and given their share
Little to eat, some rest, but sleep shattered.

Disturbed by dreams, by their redness
Night after night, burning amidst flames
Through the window, he chose to gaze,
At distant cold stars and their naughty games.





Long beyond the village, after the pond,
Started the river; flowing gently
And by the river, swayed the palm grove
To all secrets the river told, quietly.

In the heat of summer, for a short time
Always, the river died until sky’s end
Though burnt by lightning and no fruit to bear
The palm grove stood, awaiting his river friend.





Paintings by Baburao Painter, Anjolie Ela Menon and Indra Dugar

Monday, March 15, 2010

Over a cup of Coffee.


"You must be very happy now, I guess", remarked Jeevan, while stirring the Hot Choco Latte that he had ordered and in his eyes that naughty smile, the one he always wore, when he was about to pull someone's legs.

"About what?", replied Sanjana nonchalantly, her eyebrows however raised in curiosity. The evening was calm and breezy, and with all the day's tiring work, probably she didn't mind some of the leg pulling herself.

"You know. It's probably the year of the Women right?. With you guys finally getting 33 percent reservation, getting the Oscars and all. At least the newspapers have been talking a lot about Women Power. What more do you need.?"

"What do you mean? What more do I need? I've not really been asking for any of this. Neither the 33 percent reservation, nor the Oscars. Anyway I don't like war movies.". Sanjana, meanwhile was hard trying to remember the name of the woman director who had won the Oscar. Though not much a cinephile, she didn't want to let Jeevan get the better of her.

"Why? Don't you think the 33 percent reservation will help you ?", started Jeevan. He was rather taken aback by Sanjana's response. He had expected her to rave about these things.

"I believe reservations are an insult to a woman's capability. It is a shame that the country has to pretend that a woman is not privileged enough to grow on her own, and has to rely on reservation to get what she has rightfully deserved all this while". Sanjana sipped her coffee and sat back. She was rather surprised that when she started talking about it, she seemed to be all the more opinionated about the topic.

"Well! I've heard that argument before, but then the truth is now there will be more women representatives in parliament and that means more issues related to Women, will be addressed and probably there will be less instances of WWF inside the parliament", guffawed Jeevan.

"Don't forget there are women wrestlers too." quipped Sanjana, as she joined the laughter. "But seriously, jokes apart there were always women there at the centre of power. How has it really contributed much to the uplifting of women. There could be stricter laws, there could be more provisions and there could be more sensitivity to issues faced by women, but the struggle for a woman begins in her home, in her family, in her neighbourhood and in her society. It is a mindset change that is required, a strong urge and belief that those old norms can be broken and subscription to the belief that woman can be independent thinkers, like I read in a short story shared on Hip Grandma's blog".

"I agree, and probably that is where all this will lead. As a society where women are respected as equal starts to emerge, slowly whatever mindset you're talking about will also be seen, won't it.?. After all, think about it today there are very few families, who don't let their girls complete their education, until they have post graduate degrees in hand. So many young women have independent careers to build upon. It's been sort of difficult for my parents to find a girl for me. They have such huge demands!". Jeevan made an act of serious contemplation about his matrimonial future. Sanjana, tried hard to suppress her laughter in vain.

"Yes and that is where I was also headed. Even today, however learned and educated a woman may be and however promising her career may seem, it is at the mercy of her groom and she ultimately gets to salvage her career, with whatever little accommodations, her man will make for her.". "Not all men are like that", retorted Jeevan. "Many men have also contributed and sacrificed for their wives' careers, like many of the politicians will do now. In their places, their wives will being to rule!". "Proxy rule, you mean", chuckled Sanjana,as the cookies arrived. An ambulance passed by, and Jeevan prayed.

"Hail Jeevan, the mental saviour of wounded souls", mocked Sanjana. Jeevan smiled. " Continuing from where I left men have not always been dismissive of a woman's career." "And yet the old adage that behind every successful woman, there is an unsuccessful husband still rings true", replied Sanjana. "Hmm.. well that's a good one. Let's hope that it will become possible for both wife and husband to become independently successful.". Both of them sipped the coffee and Sanjana snapped a cookie in two.

"Hey wait, I've found a real time example. Aren't both James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow successful in their fields?". Sanjana was so thankful that Jeevan blurted that out and more thankfully she remembered more. "Well true, but they are not married any more. Kathryn worked with Cameron, on many of his previous films, but by the time she made her film they weren't married, is what I heard", stated Sanjana, with an air of victory. Jeevan bit his tongue, but rallied on. "Ok I forgot that, but think about it wouldn't James have contributed to her career too?". "Probably, but ultimately she made it on her own but anyway let's take gender out of the equation there. She made a good film that won an award. The fact that she is a woman is just a coincidence. That's the way I like to look at it.".

"You saw the movie ?", queried Jeevan. "No", she replied. "I thought so.", smirked Jeevan.

It was getting dark, as they stepped out of the coffee shop and headed to the office. "Nothing refreshing like a cup of coffee", remarked Jeevan. "Hmm. So Jeevan, what's the ETA on getting this ship stopper fixed?. We have to start no change testing next week. Ensure that it's done today without fail.", she said.

"Shall be done today, Sanjana", Jeevan replied with a frown getting the message that Sanjana was back to playing the boss. He kept walking as he wondered where he had checked out the code, while the breeze started again and the trees of the IT park whispered into his ears.. "Man or Woman does not matter. All managers are still the same.!".

Pic Courtesy : www.juliaswartz.com

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

For Haiti



O' Gods of the jungle,
Have you spoken thus?
While our hungry children giggle
Rocking our torn boat, with all of us.


From the wet jungles we lived in,
To the dull green of vodoo drapes
Was this our sin, for all kith and kin?
Or the desert, without snakes and apes.


Of all the power the riches have,
Life and time were never there.
Weren't the few who did save
Also in mourning, everything bare.


For Mother Earth, never could see,
the suffering of her chosen sons
She chose to writhe in all misery
And swallow their lives, all at once.


Let from the ashes, new lives rise
Let from the rubble, rise alive
All things lost, and flowers and rice
May all souls lost, come alive


As cruel as it is to still have hope
For the surviving thousands who still grieve
Let's hope against hope
That all in Haiti, shall in peace, live and leave.

In remembrance of the thousands who lost their lives in Haiti.