Monday, December 31, 2007

Please don't

All gates are open for one who doesn't wish to walk through them
Alas! Such moments bite my heel and gnaw
The last of what painted my life alive.
Oh! Please don't nude me for inept love's flaw,
Or flay me blue for spineless passions' strive.

I love you, dearest, but sullied am I
To win and husband your kohl-eye's favour.
For in its clear depths I'd this world defy,
Though no knight to clasp your heart forever.

Know me now, as once in true smile you did
That I shall love you, only you, till death.
And I beg you don't, or of life me rid -
Of absence eclipsed-life or one sans breath.

In you is all, pardon my cowardice;
I grovel at your feet, please don't do this.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sonnet - 5

When the singular music of the morn
Tinkles with the grey rub of ironness,
When unheeded moments fly past forlorn
Empty and unlived in their vast briefness,Love Shattereth All!

When in hushed stealth, straggle exiled snowflakes -
No vacant eye to trace that dizzy path,
When saucy din's clang, in a mute ear, quakes
Clenching my silent innards in loud wrath,

When feather's breath breeze on opisthenar
Rolls numb and desiccated o'er vein streams,
My life blood speaks your name in a manner
That wakens me to your bequest of dreams.

In shackles, searched I my heart's warm epoch
Till you known, erring love for a keyless lock.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Bee Movie

Its been nearly three decades since I saw a movie first-day first-show. And its even better when it is the first time ever!! I chose Bee Movie(watch the trailers, they are quite different from the movie) for that. I agree, that it is not necessarily the best choice for such an event, but then hey! I'd pick this any day over OSO.
PVR is quite a disorganised place requiring people to go to an entirely different floor in order to place their helmets. Put me off totally!
The movie is good. It is perfect for a light evening, noon or night. The storyline is not very impressive with several factual errors, but then are you there to simply find faults, you ol' fella? Lots of nice jokes and a lot more fun scenes. Spoilers ahead...

Courtesy: IMDB


The story starts off with a quick summary of what happens in the beehive by presenting the life of bees once they graduate. When I heard that the bees (in the movie, hence, Bee Movie!) get to choose one career in Honex and would need to stick to it for the rest of their life, I shot a secret prayer to God requesting him to never make me a bee (for that movie, hence, Bee Movie!). Barry (Seinfeld voiceover) feels the same but decides to join the Pollen Jocks on a trip out of the hive to collect nectar (then why not Nectar Jocks!?). On his first trip they land in the midst of tennis balls and then by some turn of interesting fate Barry lands in Vanessa's (Zellwegger house and is saved by her. He startles her by talking to her in English (if they claim a 27 million year... oh! forget it!) and she accepts that with great difficulty. They become friends and he dreams of her in a pool of honey!!
One day he joins her to a supermarket and discovers that human beings buy and sell honey (what about bees wax!? Well... forget it, E). He is outraged and takes pictures of the activity in a honey farm. He decides to sue the human race for using something that belongs to them. Court scenes follow and eventually he wins. Then what happens is so typical of American lawsuits. Barry demands that all honey be returned to the hive (though no honey was taken from that hive. Shhhh, E) and there is suddenly a surplus leaving all bees jobless. The Pollen Jocks do nothing and soon no pollination happens in the world which leads to a rather grey Earth (or at least that city). Another disconnected bit about flowers not being pollinated and how Vanessa and Barry get together and steal a lot of flowers, bring it back and then go about collecting pollen and, well, pollinating (but you can't pollinate dead plants or flowers! Shut up, E, shut up!).
In short, it was fun though the family 2 rows behind kept repeating dialogues and laughing all over again (I heard it the first time, you blokes!). Some people really know how to kill the moment! Have your ear open for the dialogues and catchy scenes (eyes for these, not ears!). I loved the scene with Larry King and the other one with all the insects on the windscreen. Honey just got funny.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The conscious mind

Those who see worldly life as an obstacle to Dharma
see no Dharma in everyday actions.
They have not yet discovered that
there are no everyday actions outside of Dharma.
--Dogen

This has been the question that has plagued millenia of men and a myriad in each. The question when stated, as it arises in a naive mind, would be:
Why is there a need to move from the current state of living to a more supposedly enlightened state?

This, in its womb, holds several questions which the reader might nod their head to:
  • Why is the current state of living not right?
  • Why did we get into it, in the first place?
  • How do we know that there is a better state of living?
  • Why are we born in that state?
  • Why must there be a move?
  • How should we bridge the eternally parallel states?
  • Are they parallel?
If we notice, the last question summarises our prejudice towards recognising and maintaining the parallel tracks of right and not-yet-right and all the earlier questions were based on that surmise.
Often one notices that the path towards spiritual completeness or enlightenment implicitly excludes our quotidian life. It is as if to say that enlightenment cannot happen in the daily setting. So many teachers and gurus have said that it is not possible to be in the world and attain to the Divine. So many teachers and gurus have said that it is vital to merge the Divine path into daily life. Undoubtedly, nearly all of the latter category have themselves renounced common life (Dogen included)!! So what is true? Does a path towards the Divine require less of the common world? Does it require an initial abstinence followed by a bringing home of the wisdom?
These in turn lead to more questions like:
  • How is one to know when one can return to the world?
  • Why did one have to "leave" in the first place?
  • How is the mind and self going to be any different from what it was before the excursion?
  • Why can't that difference be brought about with running away?
That is when we come to the point of the conscious mind. When the mind is growingly conscious of itself and the world around it, can the self simply drop its role and act according to the Divine will (which it is still clueless about)? Wouldn't that be the case of jumping across a wide well and deciding half-way that you want to turn back? The path to the Divine requires a conscious mind which need not mean an erudite mind. But can the conscious mind suddenly say "So what if the vegetable vendor is giving me stale tomatoes. All the world is Maya and I am sure the stale tomato will become firm and edible as soon as I offer my cooking to the Lord"? While the mind is not yet there, wouldn't the mind require to be able to discern between the worldly and the inner development? Then the question is, when can the mind ever stop doing that? And the one that follows the latter is, does the mind ever need to stop doing that?

The thought that I am playing with is the state of the mind and self where every vacillation of the world is accorded its due reaction. If your mother dies, you will cry though you are aware that all beings come to pass. If you win a lottery, you will rejoice because you can now go on a trip to Hawaii and not stay impassive about the ephemeral nature of all joy. Point is, why should the self be prescribed a state of no-emotion or no-response when the same Divine to which we wish to attain has created all of what this world has to provide? This is not a case for living in ignorance but to realise the duality of the world and how in spite of the variety the Divine is one and the immeasurable joy at the Divine's feet and in the Divine's arms is blissful. And although we know one from the other, there is no point denying one or the other. In awareness, there is built a foundation for consciousness, which in turn prepares the ground for the Divine to enter into us.
So to answer the questions:

  • Why is the current state of living not right?
It is as right as you feel.
  • Why did we get into it, in the first place?
Ignorance.
  • How do we know that there is a better state of living?
Because you recognise that this is not the right way to be, and in that recognition you are also aware of what is possibly right.
  • Why are we born in that state?
Because of the Divine will and the state of the 3 gunas. There is no scientific answer to this question but it is something to be realised. Every single state that a human being is in, is fine in the Divine scheme of things. In other words, to the self which is one with Divine, every state is equally ok and inconsequential (as a starting point) in the grand scheme of things. So the conception of the state we are in (born or current) is a function of what our self feels about life and our own measure of rightness.
  • Why must there be a move?
There needn't be any, if the current state is fine and comfortable. The Divine is not separate for a person who is happy and contented in the current state of affairs.
  • How should we bridge the eternally parallel states?
By emptying yourself and letting the parallel states merge in the void.
  • Are they parallel?
Yes and No
  • How is one to know when one can return to the world?
The minute the unison with the Divine is complete. How? There is no way to know that.
  • Why did one have to "leave" in the first place?
Because It can be there only when there is nothing.
  • How is the mind and self going to be any different from what it was before the excursion?
In the same way one's body is while in front of a fire on a cold Winter evening.
  • Why can't that difference be brought about with running away?
Because the warmth of the fire on a cold Winter evening is available only near the fire and not in the market place.

So in seeking the Divine, giving up on discriminatory consciousness is possible only when the duality of the world is not presented every minute. This can be attained by either going on a long break in order to focus on the path to the Divine or by continuously rejecting the world's appetisers. Once the Divine has entered the individual being, then the individual can be anywhere and it wouldn't matter. How is one to be involved in everything of the world, responding to each stimulus appropriately and still empty the self for the Divine, without recognising and maintaining the duality of it all?



Maam ekam charanam vraja

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A theatre of simultaneous possibilities

Pretentious
I have chanced upon a few delightful articles which I intend to share with you. But the pleasure lessens if I merely handed over to you a string of letters and dots and slashes starting with a www. Let me prance about in the unconscious - and to the writers of these articles, I do not exist - forming of a coterie of "literary writing" haters. Suffer my unbridled exuberance and hold not a single phrase against me at the dawn of a more sober morning. I don't hate literature but am holding myself back from actually detesting what passes off as "literary writing" nowadays. As readers of this blog might recall, I had written a trilogy on what I thought literature was (they are available here, here and here) and I would summarise great writing as something:

  • Which weaves a splendid tale for me

  • Which wrings the finest honey out of the language employed

  • Which leaves me unlike myself when I started reading the piece, and

  • Which makes me want to rush to write myself
I would be arrogant enough to say that this is the sole definition of great literature that I recognise, not because I composed it (does that even matter?).
When I was young (that was a couple of decades ago), I read Shakespeare and wondered why everyone spoke so highly of a man who wrote phrases like "saucy fellow" (Julius Ceaser). Only recently (and may I brag of owning the complete works of Shakespeare in wonderful print?) did I gain the required faculties to appreciate the works of the Bard. So much so that I was quick to proclaim him as one of the only 2 writers whom I consider truly great (the other being Nabokov; Gogol seems to be pulling this club to gain inclusion, but it wouldn't be a wrong if he succeeded). Shakespeare's sonnets drove me to a tizzy and made me drop everything I was doing at that moment and pick up a pen to give vent to what he had stoked in me. I thought that he heightened my sense and I was thoroughly glad when I read this article about an experiment conducted to correlate Shakespearen writing with brain activity. I totally agree with what the author says:

In that case Shakespeare's art would be no more and no less than the supreme
example of a mobile, creative and adaptive human capacity, in deep relation
between brain and language. It makes new combinations, creates new networks,
with changed circuitry and added levels, layers and overlaps. And all the time
it works like the cry of "action" on a film-set, by sudden peaks of activity and
excitement dramatically breaking through into consciousness.

And as abrupt as this turn might seem, I must hurry into discussing the other articles I read. All of them are from http://www.theatlantic.com/. The first I read was a review by B.R.Myers of a book called Tree of Smoke and about how "It’s the most critically acclaimed novel of the fall. And it’s astonishingly bad." I couldn't stop nodding my head when I read this:

It’s just that once we Americans have ushered a writer into the contemporary pantheon, we will lie to ourselves to keep him there.
I would definitely agree with him when I think about Updike, Oates and Lahiri. The article talks a lot about pretentious writers and how the entire literary community feeds on and into this farce. Here is another excerpt from that article:

An amputee with a phantom limb, fancy that. Lewis’s aside that Tree of Smoke
doesn’t feel like a Denis Johnson novel” lends weight to the assumption that a
writer cannot become famous by writing like this, at least not yet. But with no
way to prove insincerity on the reviewers’ part, I have to pretend to believe
that they really do consider Tree of Smoke to be “something like a masterpiece”
(Lewis) and “bound to become one of the classic works of literature” (Kakutani)
about the Vietnam War. (The novel, a New York Times best seller, has been
nominated for a National Book Award.)
I surely wouldn't be reading this book going by the samples that Myers quotes. This novel appears to be below mediocre to me and if it ever became a "work of literature" let alone a classic, I shall write another post!!
This is what the The Washington Post has to say about this book: "To write a fat novel about the Vietnam War nearly 35 years after it ended is an act of literary bravado. To do so as brilliantly as Denis Johnson has in Tree of Smoke is positively a miracle". Literary bravado? What on earth is that? Why does literature need bravery? So would painting a war scene (albeit cubist) be called brave painting? If this is a miracle, then I am a non-believer. And if "This novel makes large demands on the reader" I wonder to what demand did the writer cater. Please read the Washington Post's article about the book and you won't find anything in it that actually talks about the prose and its style. Just a lot of adjectives and bull-crap. What are we reviewing? The article-writer's proclivity to smitten-talk?
So here I am wondering who this Myers guy is and simultaneously feeling glad that there are others out there who are ready to grab the "literary writers" by their collars (post-modern collars) and give then a good shake. I stumbled upon his "A Reader's Manifesto" and liked him even more. From there I hopped my way to A Reader's Revenge where I loved this at the end:

But if they were to say the prose is good or bad, and explain why on the basis
of lengthy excerpts, then we could judge for ourselves
I remember getting into a virtual brawl with a member of a popular "writer's" online group. She was reviewing Ms. Lahiri's Namesake and used words/phrases like "soul-satisfying, introspective, multi-layered and intellectual read" and when I asked her to justify her conclusion there wasn't any offered. People (readers/reviewers) fancy using large words and cliches to avoid the conscious task of understanding a book and enjoying it for what it is rather than what it is touted to be. I am glad that Myers raises concerns of similar sorts. Although I haven't read a word of DeLillo, I agree with Myers when he says this (and yes, he praises Nabokov :-)


When Don DeLillo describes a man's walk as "a sort of explanatory shuffle, a
comment on the literature of shuffles," I feel nothing; the wordplay is just too
insincere, too patently meaningless. But when Nabokov talks of midges
"continuously darning the air in one spot," or the "square echo" of a car door
slamming, I feel what Philip Larkin hoped readers of his poetry would feel:
"Yes, I've never thought of it that way, but that's how it is."
So why would people still want to call such writing as great? Myers has to say something in tune with what Toohey said in Atlas Shrugged:

"Don't set out to raze all shrines — you'll frighten men. Enshrine mediocrity —
and the shrines are razed . . . Kill by laughter. Laughter is an instrument of
human joy. Learn to use it as a weapon of destruction. Turn it into a sneer.
It's simple. Tell them to laugh at virtue. Don't let anything remain sacred in a
man's soul — and his soul won't be sacred to him. Kill reverence and you've
killed the hero in man"
Mediocrity and laziness is what rules the world today. People would rather have a solution than an understanding of the problem. But I digress. Myers clearly states:

Well, imagine what would happen if the Big Three were allowed to review each
other's cars in Consumer Reports. You might think they'd just try to run each
other down. But they wouldn't; they'd realize that it's in the industry's
interests to screw the consumers, to lower their expectations. They'd say, "The
brakes don't work, but that's what real driving is all about," and so on. They'd
save the bad reviews for outsiders like the Japanese. The same principle is
behind the insincerity with which novelist-critics review each other's books.
And even the full-time reviewers like Michiko Kakutani don't seem to represent
the consumer's interests to the extent that a movie critic like Roger Ebert
does. The best way to reform things is to force reviewers to concentrate on
prose. As it is now, they say things about the plot and the characters that we
have to take on trust.
Pick any review that you might have read of a book and see whether the critic bothers to detail the prose and style without starting with a conclusion. I am glad that Alvibest, as an instinctive policy, disallows reviewers to state anything without evidence.
Given that we have had great writers like Shakespeare and Nabokov, why would I bother to read any of these new novels? I needn't, but when the literary community builds hype around them, it gets me concerned about the state of literature about which I care a lot. Why doesn't anyone aspire to write like the greats and when they can't, just pause writing?
And this is where I see the truth in what I had written in one of the posts I mention here: Attempting to create literature is an adamant belief in permanence. Shakespeare and Nabokov believed in that. I doubt whether any of the modern contemporary writers even recognise that. The mind is, as William James said, a theatre of simultaneous possibilities, and we should try to keep that vibrant and enriching rather than numb it with the opiates of mediocrity and laziness.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Foods Galore

Praanaya Svaaha
It should be no shocking revelation that I simply love food and anything to do with culinary delights. I am also proud of being deliciously promiscuous (within the limits of being vegetarian). Yesterday was a fun day when the entire team went out to eat and I had the good fortune of an audience prepared to watch me grill their food for them while explaining the technicalities of each and every sauce used and the details of mixing food items and cuisines. My manager, though, was only interested in getting the food on his plate, but seemed to relish what I prepared for him.

Over the past few weeks I have been finding myself in blogs/webpages which focus entirely on food. Some of them are rather good and I thought it might be a good idea to share those sites out here.


The Yum Blog (the lady is quite sweet and specialises in Iyengar recipes and hence... :-)

Tarla Dalal's Blog (Her recipe books are one of the first I allowed in my house)

I Love Pasta (More educational)

Mahanandi (Nice collection and very well organised)

What's for lunch Honey? (I like this because it combines food and photography (check out her calendar, whether you buy it or not)! Damn, why don't I get to meet such fine women!? ;-)

Cheese Lovers (Again educational)

Epicurious (I love this sites l-n-f)



Food for thought (the gobi-kheema won me over. I have developed this fetish for cauliflower and seem to be buying it no matter wherever I spot it. I also loved the fact that she tastefully featured bottled of olive oil on her page)

101Cookbooks (this is ok as a site but special because I found my friend whom I had lost over 18 years thanks to her namesake putting some comment on this page)

Aayi's Recipes (beware! Lots of non-veg stuff, but I generally skip them or replace the offending ingredients with ideas of my own (well cooked and browned cauliflower with stems does resemble chicken!!))

The Cook's Cottage (liked the bhakri recipe here)

Cooking Bread (for bread lovers. I am Atkin's nightmare)


And many many more (I have over a 100 links to sites I have collected over time and hunger). Hope you enjoy this collection. Let me know in case you have found some really interesting sites which I could add to my kitty.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Butterfly



These pictures are of a butterfly found dead outside my office gym. At first glance I thought it was perhaps some fine lady's brooch, but on closer examination recognised the deceased. Brought her home and thought it best to give her a suitable "immortalisation".

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Off the news(paper) and sundry

Yes.


The Aaja Nachle Controversy:
Here are the lyrics that have been keeping jobless politicians busy:
Bazaar mein machi hai maramar, bole mochi bhi khud ko sunar.
And as Hindi lyrics of the present day go, this one doesn't differ much on the PQ (pathetic-quotient). But the politicians aren't complaining about the quality of lyrics. They care too hoots about that and wouldn't know the meaning of words like "taqmeel", "raza" and other beautiful words that once upon a time filled Hindi songs. So here goes a disinterested attempt at getting you the meaning (and N, I am sure you won't complain this time!).
There is a lot of uproar in the bazaar (did you know that is legal English, now?), even the cobbler consider himself a goldsmith.

So let's see what could possibly bother the Indian-jobless-politician.
Uproar: India is being portrayed as a place of noise and confusion and this is tainting the India Shining image into a India Whining image.... Naaah!
Bazaar: This is India's contribution to English and it should not be used in chaste Hindi lyrics. This only goes to show that we are still slaves of the Empire (Arundhati Roy-ish?).... Naah!
A lot: This again is an innuendo about India's population problem and songs like this are what influence the World Bank from not giving us any money because our programs are ineffective.... Naah! Next line please...
Cobbler: We still recognise this occupation and it only strengthens the massacre of animals for the sake of their hide (anti-Hide-Sign and Maneka Gandhi-ish?)... Naah! but you are getting warmer!
Consider: This is the problem of the urban metro-sexual who keeps considering himself to be somewhat in between a male and a female and this is leading to a lot of suicide and hysterectomy!... Naah!
Goldsmith: Errr... no apparent problem here! Oh! yeah! that is the problem. We haven't included goldsmiths in our problem allocation committee and hence they feel discriminated against and want a reservation in problems! ... Naaah!

I give up. I can never become a politician in India! :-(
Answer: (Tell me you didn't skip to this section directly! Gosh! you really are the same since 4th "std", right?) The blokes in khadi think that a cobbler considering himself a goldsmith is a casteist remark at cobblers being low-class and the goldsmiths being high-class. So they probably want it replaced with "Bole software-engineer khud ko Ambani" which isn't casteist to them. But the Indian Software Union of Engineers on the Bench or Working or Employed (ISUEB-WE) is objecting to that and demanding an increase in allocation of Reliance group's investments in their IT department. This has sent Reliance groups share value down the drain (and this drain flows through all high-class and low-class areas, so no discrimination of funneling Reliance shares into a caste based drain) which has troubled our finance minister, PC, who is requesting SG to look into the matter so that she can make statements about no by-elections and the like.

Alright, enough of seriousness. Let's get a little jovial. UP, Punjab and Haryana have banned the movie. Some have lifted the ban too. Producers have apologised for using such words and are providing movie halls with a chemical to erase the lines from the recording. JNU sociologist Vivek Kumar calls it "downright derogatory" and an attempt to mock "those who are aspiring to reach a higher social station". But doesn't that aspiration, Mr. Kumar, automatically acknowledge that those in the so-called lower-station (no, not the kinds between Madras and Ooty) prefer the so-called higher station without attempting to remove the wrong done to their profession and station? I am not saying that Dalits have been treated fairly. Quite a disappointing state of human affairs, but why are we making a ruckus of a meaningless song which would hardly live more than 10-20 days? Aren't we creating a fear and paranoia in the minds of everyone about what they might say or what they might do which might bring onto them someone's ire? Isn't there a very thin line between sensitivity and rampant fear? If the intent was to put the cobblers down, then the cobblers have a reason to object. To make it a Dalit-wide issue is basically being stupid. I am sure that the lyricists aren't intelligent people to have put so much thought into their lyrics. Just look at the lyrics! It is only constructed to fill space and be sung wrongly on the tongue of someone who heard it while passing a tea-stall. Stupid lyrics and so much made out of them. It would be like going back to the fun (and possibly then silly) lyrics of "Sar jo tera chakraye" and saying that the "Kaahe ghabraye" was a hint at oil-massagers being dangerous people and hence calling all people of that caste (no clue what that is) as people with a criminal past and inclination. I think politicians should focus on more important matters and giving facilitating an environment where everyone has a good quality of life.

Joker in the pack:
Another lets-do-something-to-get-noticed-and-rich attempt. Why oh! why can't people write a novel/piece with some interesting content? I am tired of seeing more and more chick-lit (and I am told the male version of this is called dick-lit! Urgggh! Too many of these, and do we call them chock-lit?). Why can't people just not jump into writing? It doesn't have to be done, ladies and gentlemen! I remember reading an article on a similar vein (I just searched and it has been taken off the main site. Here is a place where you can read it). Writing is for people who enjoy the language and cannot help but write. For those who want to give vent to their personal feelings, there is a journal. For those who want to get rich, there is investment banking. For those who want to get noticed, please refer to Britney Spears. Please don't write any more of those you-know-what-really-happens-in-the-place-you-so-admire kinda stories. Chetan Bhagat got lucky. Let's applaud and stop it.

A virtual bookstore:
Pradeep Sebastian is kind enough to share information about the virtual bookstore called "Between the Covers" (there is a show on CBC.ca with the same name). I doubt whether I will ever buy something from there (not as long as I have my Bookworm and Blossoms and other little gems) but it is interesting.

And here are some magazines I would like to mention for their good content. Please find time to read "Bangalore Food Lovers" and "Design Today". Very good stuff in there. There is a Design Conference on the 12th and 13th in Bangalore.

Oh! btw, the "Yes" at the start was for those who always wondered whether I read newspapers and magazines... I don't read the politics and current affairs sections (the only affairs I am interested in are best left unrelated on paper!!) but the Aaja Nachle thing caught my eye. The rest are from the Literary Review and from magazines which I do read!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Through the hole

I think it was the summer of 1989, for it is nearly always summer in Madras. I was in 7th grade then and, according to a lot of friends, haven't changed much. We followed this rather arcane curriculum of numbering our subjects as 1 and 2 (Math 1, Math2, English 1, English 2...) and I fail to recall which one of those numbers applied to the class where we were asked to prepare a pinhole camera. The mechanics of this was simple: Get a hollow cylinder (which should be called a pipe, but our teachers thought that they were being quite scientific as against sounding like someone from the hardware store). Seal one end with butter paper (and we actually applied butter on standard paper when any oleaginous substance would have suited the purpose) and the other which a thick material. Poke a pin-hole through the thick material and pray that you get an image of some distant object upside down on the butter-paper.

We had decided that we should employ talcum powder cases (like that of the nearly erstwhile Cuticura, or of Gokul Santol)as one end would be shut anyway. We did a lot of hunting and excitedly constructed the contraption for, to a child's mind, any activity with expensive names like camera, engine brought a lot of importance. I think I chose a Gokul Santol dubba (I think I did so because I didn't want to have anything to do with a Kutti-Cura... kutti in Tamil means small).

When the d-day arrived, everyone proudly held their cameras in hand (one girl had even painted hers! I am glad there wasn't a pink bow to it). Some of the fractious boys (and every class had its share) had bullied the students of the other classes to lend theirs. Some of the lazy ones borrowed from their friends in the other "divisions". There was a lot of whispering and speculation as to who possessed "honest" cameras and who were the ones who had "stolen" (for anything non-honest was considered stolen to our inarticulate minds) cameras.

The teacher walked in. She was a rather puny lady with a voice that broke with least warning, resembling a little puppy on ice - running fine a bit and then skidding. She demanded to be informed if anyone had borrowed cameras from students in other divisions. No one spoke a word. Some students got up to say that they didn't finish their project and these were the ones who had secretly vowed to turn informers.

Things went as expected. Some student would be called, he would present his piece. If it was an honest camera, he got some marks depending on the clarity of the tree with its root heavenward on the butter-paper. If it was stolen, some student would blow the whistle. Then there was a lot of ruckus and Yes-No and eventually a zero on the marklist. One girl who had stolen started crying even before she was exposed, which was exposure enough.

One boy was about to go and do his presentation. He was my friend (and that meant a lot back then!!) and I gestured to a whistle blower not to expose him. Surprisingly the presentation went rather smoothly for him. I was amazed at the powers of my gestures and considered the prospects of a career as a mafia Don with the imperceptible nod to signal that someone must be made to "sleep with the fish". I was stirred out of my reverie by a call to my name skidding badly on my teacher's tongue.

I walked over and did my presentation. The tree looked rather nice and helplessly strung upside down on the butter-paper. I was tempted to rotate the camera in order to rectify that, but knowing that it wouldn't earn me any extra marks, I didn't bother.

"Ma'am he stole it."

Which poor soul was caught now? I turned around to see all the boys and girls (minus the weeper) looking at me. Me? ME?

"No, ma'am. I made this. I can assure you I made this?"

"How?"

Damn! That was my first lesson in never assuring assurances without preparing for one.

"Ma'am he told me not to tell you that he had stolen this camera."

Damn! So that is where the intent of my gesture had gone. Like signalling my own henchmen to fill me with lead and thinking all the while that I am such a good Don.

"No, ma'am."

"Yes, ma'am."

And the topic hardly changed for the next 2 min. She was about to give me a zero when I offered to take everyone to the shop where I bought the talcum powder case and getting my father to vouch for me. The teacher asked me and the whistle blower to resolve this by the next class.

Well, I was able to prove my case and got 7.5 out of 10, but I look back at this incident every time I see a similar one happening in my present day (which became a yesterday). People still love to blow the whistle on others without a basis. I am undecided about whether whistle blowing makes sense (except in really criminal cases and the like), but doing so without basis is quite silly according to me. There is nothing to gain for the whistle blower except for the possible sadistic pleasure of watching another person suffer his fate (and I am only talking about whistle blowers who had themselves defaulted and are trying to redeem themselves by turning into that). Even in corporate circles at the non-executive level, people seem to be resorting to this childish behaviour and feeling quite pleased with themselves. Wonder whether we ever grow up. I definitely haven't and am busy collecting assurances and proofs for the world, lest someone decides to shout out "Ma'am he stole it."

Why is the world upside down!?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Unwelcome

Svaaha
Today will be the last day of this sincere performance, thought Raman. The wet cloth clung to his loins, and the air trapped beneath it drew sinuous veins along his thighs. With the occasional shudder of his shoulders, Raman managed to repeat fragments of the meaningless mantras that the priest was rapidly pouring out.

The sacred fire crackling in front of him occasionally hid the photograph of his father. He tried not looking at the picture, as he was sure his father would sense his intentions. Raman was not interested in the rituals except for one thing that one of his garrulous aunts had mentioned while she was consoling his mother. That had stuck to his mind and often, in the midst of the chants, kept echoing down his conscience. Then he would dart a look at the photograph hoping his father hadn't heard it, too.

The priest handed some rice, sesame seeds and instructions to Raman.

"Son, you need to perform this thrice, repeating the mantra that I will tell you. Hold the sesame seeds and water in the palm of your hand. Once you finish chanting the mantra, pour it down along your thumb to the side."

In his mind's chamber he heard the low rumbling voice of his aunt: "Don't worry Meera. Your husband would surely re-incarnate as Raman's son. Just you wait."

"Son? I know it is disturbing, so, if you want, we could wait for a few minutes before..."

"No, no. Nothing like that", Raman hastily replied and felt embarrassed that some stranger was sympathising with him. They proceeded to perform the rituals and Raman avoided glancing at the picture thereafter.

His head was a bedlam of talk from the past, most in the intonation of his father's voice.

"This is how you wish to study, huh? 89%, our son gets in Mathematics!! You are good for nothing."
"I tell you, he won't play the guitar properly. Why waste so much money on this? I'll get you a silk saree, Meera, and it would be worth every rupee."
"Chemical engineering? What else could you get for such a horrible score? Look at Mr. Parthasarthy's son, IIT top ranker. Now, he makes a father proud."
"Why do an MS in the US? Stay here in India. It's your turn to earn some money for the family."
"With a salary like this, what life can we lead? Look at Mr. Vasu's son. He is earning in dollars. They bought a villa recently."


"Son... son?"

"Yes, Sir? I am sorry. I was lost in ...", and Raman let that end in a manner which didn't require him to speak the truth but let people infer the socially acceptable connotations.

"I understand, son. I was twelve when my father expired. I was too young, but my brother was inconsolable. But all that is God's will."

Out of the corner of his eye he spotted his pregnant wife inch her way into the room.

"Revathi, please go back to your room. Now."

"Raman, why are you shouting at her", his mother asked.

Raman breathed in deeply before replying, "The doctor said these fumes aren't good for the baby."

Revathi was escorted back to her room and Raman sighed.

"Sir?"

"Yes, son?"

"Aren't these rituals performed to ensure that my father's soul has a safe passage to the heavens?"

"Indeed, son. With these rituals, the Lord is pleased and He..."

Raman had no time for the religious banter and he quickly interrupted.

"So, if done properly, there is no way that he will come back to earth, right?"

Why I don't write letters

Dear God...
People call me an atheist, and I don't protest. I have known God but I don't pray or write him letters as I used to. I don't receive any, either. That is not unexpected, since I possess his pen. Actually, the day I received it, I stopped having anything to do with God.

I remember the first time he had cycled up to our gate. I was sitting in the mud turning snails on their back. I collected the letters from him but continued to stand there.
"Postman-Uncle, do you deliver letters to anywhere?" I asked.
"Anywhere, son."
I lowered my voice before asking him, "I have a letter for God. Can you deliver it to him?"
He laughed and said, "Of course, I can."
"I will give it to you tomorrow, ok?"
The remaining day and a generous portion of the next found me under my bed, carefully preparing the first letter to the Gods. I wrote a common one for all of them. I drew the "Om" in one corner and some tiny pink flowers at the bottom. I wrote about how History was boring and the pet dog I wanted to have - why didn't they come in red? I also told him that I love him and didn't mean to steal the sweetmeats on Diwali before they were offered to him.

The postman arrived the next day and took the letter from me.
"Where is the address?" he asked.
"I thought you knew it."
He smiled and took out his pen. He wrote,

To,
Dear God.
Heaven: 1234567890

"Such a big number?"
"All the numbers are there in his pin code, son."
Somehow that made sense to me and I nodded with the seriousness of one who approves fine logic.
Every day I sat by the gate waiting for him. On the fourth day he arrived and handed me a bunch of letters. There weren't any with the name "Rahul" on it. I looked at him sadly. With a flourish, he produced a long white envelope from within his jacket.
"Ta da!"
I grabbed it from him.
"Secret?"
I whispered a "Yes" and rushed to my room under the bed. God wrote short sentences unlike in my textbooks. He wrote in gold. I liked God. He told me why History would make me good because I will learn that wars and bombs are bad. I nodded in agreement. He also said that he was happy that I ate the sweetmeats because he had a toothache on Diwali.

Our correspondence grew very regular. I discussed school and Cartoon Network with him. He liked the same shows that I did. We gossiped about Gods and my neighbourhood. The postman said that God was very happy to receive my letters. He leaned forward and asked, "So, what do you write to him?"
I clutched the letter tightly and half turned away.
"Secret."

On my birthday a different postman arrived. He handed me a bunch of letters and asked, "Who's Rahul?"
"I am Rahul."
"Parcel for you."
God had remembered my birthday. I felt something long inside. A magic wand?
"Where is the other postman?"
"Kishore? He... He went to heaven."
"I know, but why didn't he come today?"
He simply stared at me. I didn't hand him God's letter. Somehow, I felt he wouldn't know God's address.

I wonder why God gifted me his gold-ink pen. My postman never returned from heaven. God and I never discussed anything, thereafter. I miss them - both.
So, you might call me an atheist but I wouldn't protest.

Sri Aurobindo's Savitri

I was reading this (amongst several other tomes) last night, and couldn't help but recognise the beauty in it and fall asleep peacefully.


All is too little that the world can give:
Its power and knowledge are the gifts of Time
And cannot fill the spirit's sacred thirst.
Although of One these forms of greatness are
And by its breath of grace our lives abide,
Although more near to us than nearness' self,
It is some utter truth of what we are;
Hidden by its own works, it seemed far-off,
Impenetrable, occult, voiceless, obscure.
The Presence was lost by which all things have charm,
The Glory lacked of which they are dim signs.
The world lived on made empty of its Cause,
Like love when the beloved's face is gone.
The labour to know seemed a vain strife of Mind;
All knowledge ended in the Unknowable:
The effort to rule seemed a vain pride of Will;
A trivial achievement scorned by Time,
All power retired into the Omnipotent.
A cave of darkness guards the eternal Light.
A silence settled on his striving heart;
Absolved from the voices of the world's desire,
He turned to the Ineffable's timeless call.
A Being intimate and unnameable,
A wide compelling ecstasy and peace
Felt in himself and all and yet ungrasped,
Approached and faded from his soul's pursuit
As if for ever luring him beyond.
Near, it retreated; far, it called him still.
Nothing could satisfy but its delight:
Its absence left the greatest actions dull,
Its presence made the smallest seem divine.

Complete text available here: http://www.savitribysriaurobindo.com/

Apologies

I am sure you think it silly that I do, but for reasons that are best not told (for constructing them from within the labyrinths of my mind is not the most joyous exercise), I feel I should apologise for being lackadaisical about the management of this blog and breaching the blogger mense. I hope to be back in action starting today (well, I just finally got my broadband connection at home and... well, I said I wouldn't go there, right?). Hope you like what you get to read here...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Beat the (ear)Drums

Call me a sissy and I would stick you in a 3'X3' room with lots of them, but pray tell me why does Diwali have to have noisy firecrackers (in India, we just call them crackers, which happens to be an edible commodity in the West)? Bangalore is even more silly in having 3 days of Diwali!! People were undecided about whether Naraka Chathurdasi or Amavasya or (what was previously unheard of) Prathama should be considered as Diwali. So why waste the little grey nut upstairs: let's make noise on all days.
I don't know what the obsession with noise is, but as is generally observed, ruckus is considered the (in)sensitive index of human revelry. Be at work or at just about any place. Go to a coffee pub to have cuppa and you simply have to listen to the noise that some stupid bloke chose for the day. At work, screeching Marthas (or Mariammas) define the level of fun a particular group is having. A cool guy at work decided to play music at a loud volume. I remember a time when I was made the DJ for my team and I think I enjoyed guessing the mood of the team and playing songs from my PC while others worked or grumbled under their breath. Now I realise that some guy who wasn't cool enough to blog about it must have also wanted to wring my neck.
Amongst children it is an unwritten code that the louder something gets the more excitement it provides. Kinda makes me wonder whether we (human beings) are wired to be like that and prefer noise to tranquility. I see monkeys jump, chatter and "chee-chee" to exhibit their excitement and hence, I think we haven't changed much, but we can, right? I really wish Diwali was lesser noise and more colours and light. I saw very few houses with diyas but lots of "bombs" go off and scare the daylights (daylight-nightlight-fanny-by-the-gaslight) out of humans and animals alike. We should probably sell CDs with firecracker recordings, but I am sure every tea-shop will be playing them on their boom-boxes.
Wouldn't it be fun if someone could invent a noise-canceller?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sonnet - 4

Light my way
Shall I call me misfortune's chosen blade cleaved,
Or Divine's frail leaf eddying to shores calm?
Here I stand at Life's fork with no choice thieved
Twixt the eye and soul in a life on alms.

Why cloud the seer on a path needing no eye
And hearken to Sirens on one, deaf to Truth?
Is it but romance to see fog and gold ally?
Why mute, my Friend, whither your words to soothe?

When the start and end be the sods same,
Why anneal Life's pains into coffin nails?
Why what beckons me, not do by my name
That I, for poison, all nectar shall fail?

What I will, is the road where shunpikes fade,
Led far from rasorial days, unafraid.

Happy Diwali

Wishing all of you a very very happy Diwali. May your joys multiply and may you find peace.



Happy Diwali

Saturday, November 03, 2007

When we danced...

This post is dedicated to that little darling I call my nephew. He turns 3 today. Happy Birthday, sweetheart. This is the design I had printed on his birthday T-shirt.

Happy Birthday



------------------------------------------------------------

Avuncular pleasures are few but, aah! Such pleasure be they, that any more and hedonism would be redefined. Recently my sister and her four-month old son visited us and then stayed with us for a few months. Amongst the many things we – my nephew and I – did, there is this one ritual which grew to be very dear to me. Before I get into that, I would need to detail certain things which facilitated the birth of this activity!


My sister loves to sleep, so much that we were worried that she might go into labour while she was asleep. She stays awake till way after I have fallen asleep and stays asleep for many hours following my diurnal rise. We haven’t noted a single day which serves as an exception.


My mother likes to get all her work – prayers, cooking, cleaning, chores, etc. – done in the morning. No, she doesn’t have her dinner then, but a significant portion of her work gets completed by 11:00 a.m. And while she says her prayers she will not touch certain “things”, which includes babies.


My nephew, for reasons unknown, is a lot like me in his schedule. He rises early, goes to bed early (well, if you skip the occasional going-to-bed game of his), must have his food on time and burps exactly 48 seconds after his last mouthful. He is good, I must say, for one tends to morph flaws into benign goodness with the able hands of sophistry.


With all the characters set, and it is a fine feeling of a theatre director that I have now, we shall now study the ritual. I really wouldn’t want to call it that (and I have no clue what my nephew wants to call it) but for the lack of a better word. So ritual it shall be. We designed various rituals and regularly changed their forms to introduce variety for him, but this one was serendipitous.


It all began one deceptively common day with his cries, gurgles, and finally a bear hug which thrilled him more than the noisiest toys in his kitty. My sister dreamily handed him over to me. I took him out asking him about the weather and what he thought about the recent evacuation initiative in the Gaza Strip. He stuck his tongue out for both. We really need news reporters like our man here. Iwalked him up and down the length of our house discussing a variety of things and pausing to obtain his expert expression on them. Soon he got bored, which I believe has little to with me or my conversations but with his sense of time; matters of the world can occupy only thirty minutes of his morning.


I decided to strap him to the car-seat, which is basically a basket-like contraption to house a baby, and, when babies are unavailable, can contain washed socks and sundry. He demanded some entertainment. Rattles and soft toys and spinning tops and musical ones were brought out one after another and were operated, sometimes, simultaneously. He sulked at the little bouncing toy, whichrepeated its trick of the past few days and then looked up at me. I took him off hisbasket and he was excited about what was due in the next few minutes of which I surely had no clue.


I walked him up and down the house again, until I reached the audio-visuals room, which is nothing more than the room, which houses all appliances that make usually pleasant controllable noises. With him wriggling on one arm, I picked the DVD with the widest choice of songs and pushed it into the player. Out came a “Long, long time ago, I can still remember” in Don McLean’s voice! Our man straightened his neck and – thank god – stopped squirming. He looked all around him and then again at my mouth. I kept it pursed with a “guess-what” smile. He looked up into my eyes with his head still unsteady on a rock-n-roll neck. When the guitars picked pace, our man smiled. Hmmm. This was interesting. Then I turned him to face the player with all its coloured bands flaring up and falling to the beat. When I turned around, he quickly spun on a still supple axis and kept looking at the rainbow band singing in a man’s voice with some nice guitar tracks.


I slowly started swaying him to the music and he shrieked with joy. It was such a delightful reaction from him in the morning. His laughter and such shrieks are pretty much the only things that make the mundane task of babysitting a shade better. He loved it when I sang the “Bye, bye, Miss American Pie” blowing some air in his hair on the “bye” and “pie”. Slowly the dancing got a little bit more like Volkstanz and he was delighted when I spun him around my no-longer-supple axis! His shrieks transformed into “Encore” and he kept pumping his fists!! The song changed to “Summer of 69” and the young rocker was busy head banging – well, not really, but kept moving himself back and forth by pushing against my chest. To a more mellow “Annie’s song” and “When you say nothing at all” he glided well on the “floor” and enjoyed the slow dance.


I was tired sooner than the 4th or 5th song started and I sat on the cane hammock. I made him sit on my lap with his back well cushioned on my stomach. We beganswinging to the Tamil number “Thoda Thoda malarnthathenna” from the movie Indira. Soon he was sleeping like, well, a baby.


This was just the first day and I happily shared this with my sister who was excited to know that her son had an ear for music. My mom had watched some portions of the various dances we had performed in the room and was happy without much reason! My sister started envisioning the days when he would learn music and croon like Kishore Kumar and funny scenes of him serenading to women, who for all practical purposes weren’t born at that point of time. He was busy sitting in his basket making spit bubbles.


The next day was to herald similar fare until he grabbed hold of my jaw with both his hands. I rubbed a really fast swivelling nose against his and after his laughter subsided he held on to my jaw. I looked at him through narrowed eyes and then let a smile grow with the beat of “Pudhu Vellai Mazhai” from Roja. I shut the door and slowly started humming the tune to him. I placed his head against my chest so that he could feel the vibrations. Humming turned to singing and singing turned into a full song with instrumental interludes mouthed to something quite distant from the real note of the instrument. We swayed together and I held him aloft while trying to impress upon him the beauty of some lyrics. Then we were back in the cane basket, the one that held adults and now, held the bond that had grown between us, and swung around till he fell asleep.


The following days let him hear other songs and now he could clearly specify which songs he liked; he basically reached out to the music system. If he didn’t like a song, he would look vacantly at me and slowly frown. I would change the song. His all time favourites were “American Pie”, “Annie’s song”, “Bantureethi Kolu”, “Vaseegara”, “Hungama hai kyoon barpa” and some others, which I have forgotten.


Soon he started making sounds to match what he heard. It was difficult to believe that a child so young would do that. He would try to sing, or so it appeared. We would put him in his basket and then place him in front of the TV. In the mornings, some channels broadcast Carnatic music and we would let that play to him. He would listen with rapt attention and then draw in his breath. He would let it out with what seemed like a cry but turned out to be an accompaniment to the piece being played on TV. I even recorded a few of his recitals. Very interesting.


After he left, I haven’t played that disc again. Nothing sentimental, but merely didn’t find enough drive to play it. Maybe I needed someone to dance with me. Maybe I needed him around. Those were fun days when he danced like a baby possessed by the most cherubic and frivolous devils, though I am sure he would deny all of this once he grows up; like how I deny that the reasons aren’t sentimental!

-------------------------------------------------------------


Sonnet - 3

To the One and only who matters... :-)

What Love has set on me when Life smiled sweet!
A mind so rich, a soul so complete, so starkEn Uyir Poovinn Ondrey Thenee
A difference. Should Love fall to such conceit?
What use be such a world in lost Love's dark?


Carefully tread your path, with love held close.
So rare a gift, 'tis called a God's sad whim
To let His breath seek another from those
Who hold in their void your love to the brim.


But the twain shant meet in your stained yards,
Of beliefs, hopes and misunderstanding.
How bloom a Rose amidst society's shards?
Why bloom a Rose on this Earth so scalding?


For you are to be but in my heart's beat
Where love for Love's sake leaves our souls replete.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Ye Raat Ye Chandini



Such a night, such moonshine (shall we ever see) elsewhere?
Pray listen to the heart's tale.

On the boughs a drowsy moonlight
Lost in your thought a moonlight
In a while tired, it shall vanish
This glorious night never to return
For a moment or two is the life of this tapestry
Pray listen to the heart's tale.

On the lips of waves rest a dulcet tune
In the moist breeze blazes a fire
Come and enjoy burning in this fire
And change the tune of life's melody
Set free the tongue of your heartbeats
Pray listen to the heart's tale.

Beauty shall pass and youth shall well
In the shadows of stars shall remain our tales
If having beckoned you should they leave
Never will they return those infidels of Spring (the prime of life)
Come, for life is still young
Pray listen to the heart's tale.

(Wouldn't it be better had D-A strummed the guitar a shade more convincingly? :-)

Koi Hota Jisko Apna




Wish there was someone
Someone I'd call mine
If not near, then yonder
But still someone who'd be mine.

Sleep failed my eyes
They'd swim in tears
I'd lay awake in my dreams
Someone to soak in my grief
Someone to be by my side.

Wish there was someone
Someone I'd call mine
If not near, then yonder
But still someone who'd be mine.

Some forgotten promise
Some memories passed
Loneliness retold them through the night
Some solace to be found
Someone to call my own.

Wish there was someone
Someone I'd call mine
If not near, then yonder
But still someone who'd be mine.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Zen Koan - Reflection

Where they all meet
It was that time of the year when little Aiko loved lazing under the firs, though it was mostly the mystery of the wet-needle-thrower that brought him there every day. He would rest quietly on the damp sere leaves, with one eye open waiting for his invisible tormentor. Suddenly a dew drop would fall on his furry back and a twitching shudder ran up his spine to whip his head into a spasmodic search for the phantom. He would look all over and search for monkeys and bark a warning to no one in particular before spiralling his trot back into the centre where he would rest, waiting for the next clue.
Today was also the day when a particular batch of students were to leave Sensei Hisa's school and make a life for themselves. Some found a life in there while others thought it impossible to treat this school as anything beyond a rung in the ladder of their progress. It was rumoured that the king's son was also one of the students but no one was able to spot the royal scion based on the Master's treatment of his students. Today there would be the ceremony when the Master would hand over each of his students a bamboo leaf with a directed but cryptic message. Most of these leaves simply rotted away with the household beetles treating it with no greater reverence. Some of the students lived their lives entirely based on that singular message, and grew to be great commoners. Still others used it to guide them through times on their path to noticeable greatness. The Master never refrained from continuing this tradition but always explained to the bamboo shoots as to why he needed their leaves.
Hideaki was looking forward to this occasion as the Master was also known to pronounce who was the best student. It didn't happen always, but Hideaki was planning on pressing the Master to confess to Hideaki being the best. He might also pursue, based on the the number of creases on the Master's forehead, to educe a greater accolade of the best of all times. He had outshone everyone in every subject except in bonsai, where Daisuke had surpassed his capabilities. But Daisuke was just a common help in the Master's school. What better could he do than bonsai and winnow.
The Master was busy composing the individual certificates while the boys waited outside, some discussing about the fair that was being setup at the outskirts and some about the maidens who came to wash clothes near the streams. Some were studying books in the hope that their Master might take that as a sign of sincerity and award them suitably. Hideaki was rehearsing his speech of gratitude. He would flex his muscles to let his Master realise that he hadn't erred in conferring the title on him. The Master's door opened to snap everyone into their ranks. Even Aiko dropped his trail of the phantom and darted towards his master in foot-long leaps. The Master stood for a brief second surveying the assembly before re-entering his chamber. The students paused a while longer before following him in.
The Master was seated behind his low table with a stack of leaves beside him. He was casually looking at each boy as they entered. When they were all seated, he arched his lips before addressing the batch of students.
"I suppose you realise that today is your last day here."
The boys nodded in silence.
"Hmmm. May it not be. This school has a purpose, and that purpose is to let you learn enough so that you may carry on with the life chosen for you, without much hesitation. Nevertheless, the school also includes in its purpose that of welcoming the student whenever they feel a need to learn more about life. Do remember that nothing stops. Such is the breath of the Buddha."
He paused to make sure that everyone had heard him although none had understood him. Like a tan, there are some Truths that will fall unnoticed on the mind but create an impression over time. He was in no hurry.
"I would like each of you to eat your fill today before you leave. Now I shall hand over the certificates to each of you."
He then proceeded to call each student, handed the certificate to them and blessed them with a life without regret. Once he was done, he nodded his head to the students. They would wait for him to nod once more before they rose to the music of rustling robes and left the Master's chamber. Hideaki was unable to hold himself back.
"Master, do I have permission to speak?"
The Master nodded with a smile.
"Master, it is my honour to be your student and no greater honour can be done unto me in this life."
The Master's smile neither grew nor shrank.
"Master, if this is impudence, may I be struck down by the God's wrath, but I in earnest and borne by the eagerness of establishing the greatness of what you have taught us, seek to know whom you consider the best amongst our batch."
Murmurs rippled through the class and the paper stretched between the strips of woods of the amado trembled. The Master looked around.
"Does anyone have something to say?"
No one opened their mouth.
"Then silence is the best to practice."
He turned towards Hideaki and smiled.
"Hideaki-kun, I think we shall not go into why you wish to find that out or what you intend to do with it, like I didn't ask why some of the boys here wanted their certificate when all they were thinking about were the maidens of Kyoto nor what they intend doing with the certificates upon receiving them. I hope everyone realises that Hideaki-san's request is acceptable in this gathering."
The Master paused before continuing.
"Without doubt, Hideaki-kun, you are best student of this batch. I was about to pronounce this just before this batch was to leave and I am thankful to you for having given me the opportunity."
Hideaki was holding his joy back in the pressure of his clenched fists, but he still had more to know.
"Master, if I may explore further, may I know whom you consider the best student from all your batches. Perhaps it is someone from this batch. It would serve me and others to have someone as an example to live up to."
The Master smiled and closed his eyes to visualise what was going to come. His eyes lightened behind the closed lids.
"An example for the world of this school, eh? Quite a noble intention. In that case, the finest student that this school has ever produced is Daisuke."
This time the murmurs were loud enough to stop the school-helps outside. Hideaki was shocked and was unable to hold himself back.
"What? The winnower? Master, perhaps I didn't make my question clear. My apologies. I wanted to know who amongst all your students was exceptional in all that was taught and can serve us as an example. Daisuke hasn't even learnt the art of sword-fighting from you. I am told that he did attend a few classes of yours before he was relegated to the role of a help. Surely, you do not consider him an example for all of that you have taught."
"I understood your question quite clearly, Hideaki-kun. Daisuke has learnt the crux of all that I have to teach as well as something that I haven't taught anyone."
"But he is just a winnower! What is there to learn about winnowing? He doesn't know literature or fencing. How could he be an example?"
"That is for you to figure out, Hideaki-kun. Surely, someone with your sharpness cannot miss that."
Hideaki, for once, had the sympathy of all the students. They couldn't digest the fact that all of them had to look up to a mere winnower. They rose silently and left the chamber. The Master studied the length of the sun rays and realised that it was just a few minutes before his morning bath. Suddenly, he heard some commotion outside. He smiled and walked toward the entrance of his chamber.
Outside, he saw a circle of students with Hideaki and Daisuke at the centre. Daisuke was on his knees with a mound of grain scattered all around him. He saw Hideaki standing arms akimbo towering above Daisuke.
"Come on, I challenge you to a duel."
Daisuke turned slowly to where the Master stood and sought his permission in the silent speech of his eyes. His Master gave his assent in an equally imperceptible manner. Daisuke requested someone to loan him a sword. No one offered so he requested a few minutes before he brought his sword. Hideaki granted his wish with a huff. Daisuke ran to fetch his sword. Hideaki maintained his back towards the Master. When Daisuke returned, Hideaki demanded an explanation for the delay and Daisuke simply bowed his head.
Hideaki took his position and commanded Daisuke to prepare. Daisuke did just that. Hideaki's eyes were filled with a fury which found no reflection in Daisuke's. Daisuke was busy watching Hideaki. Hideaki lunged forward with a scream and attacked Daisuke. Daisuke warded the attack and moved quickly with his sword. Every attack of Hideaki was countered and Daisuke attacked Hideaki in return. Soon Hideaki gained an upper hand and toppled Daisuke on his back. Hideaki burst out laughing and shouted, "What are you going to teach me now, winnower?"
Daisuke rose to his feet and bowed low.
"Shall we continue?"
Hideaki grew serious and attacked Daisuke. The duel grew furious with Hideaki unable to find enough space to pierce his sword into Daisuke's flesh. Daisuke's eyes were fixed on every single movement of Hideaki and every move of Hideaki was countered. After a few minutes, Hideaki was tackled and tossed to the ground with Daisuke's sword placed firmly an inch away from his throat.
"Are we done?" asked Daisuke.
When Hideaki looked away, Daisuke dropped his sword and ran away from the circle. Hideaki slowly rose and the crowd dispersed. Hideaki went and sat on a nearby stump and dusted his elbows and ego. The Master walked up to him and placed a hand on his head.
"How is it possible, Master? Did he have some secret lessons? I have always found him sleeping when the other boys did. He woke up not much earlier than the rest of us. During lunch he would also eat and rest on his pile of hay. The only time he seems to have had for himself was the few minutes he took to get his sword. What could he have learnt in that time?" Hideaki asked and paused. He looked up at his Master and continued, "Is it black magic or some secret communication between him and you? Please tell me Master, else I will not be able to be at peace."
"Daisuke came to this school and after a few days asked me: "Master, how does the rice know how to grow and bear seeds?" I had asked him to meditate. He returned in seven days to let me know that he would like to work in the fields. I granted him leave as his education was over. I have not taught him anything secretly and what purpose does black magic serve beyond placing an individual at a disadvantage?"
"Then how is it possible that a winnower could wield a sword like that?"
The Master smiled and said, "Come with me."
He led Hideaki to the ladies' dressing room. He held Hideaki in front of a mirror and said, "There are two aspects to Daisuke's knowledge and learning. One aspect is in front of you."
Hideaki didn't understand and looked puzzled at his puzzled reflection.
"I don't understand, Master."
"Can you show me your best moves?"
Hideaki proceeded to demonstrate the nagare moves of the okuden class. Finally, he plunged his sword towards his reflection.
"Good, so now you see?"
Hideaki was still puzzled but, like a good student, repeated his moves in the hope of catching something that he had missed earlier. He noted that his flow was perfect in the reflection and his elbow was now bleeding.
"Master, I only see my reflection, and yours."
"Good, so now you know."
Hideaki pondered over and wasn't sure what to realise.
"Forgive me, but are you saying that Daisuke has been studying my reflection?"
"No."
"Me?"
"Not entirely."
"Then?"
"I shall answer this, else the next facet of his knowledge will be totally lost to you. Daisuke was busy becoming your reflection. Do you now see what I mean?"
Hideaki looked closely at his reflection and repeated his moves and stopped as soon as he realised why Daisuke wouldn't take his eyes off him.
"In life, all knowledge is a just a reflection of what is. All demonstration of knowledge is best done when it is a reflection of what the other person knows. Daisuke would not do more than what was required in the situation in which he was placed. All he had to study was how you moved and how the sword moved and he simply had to reflect it."
"And if I hadn't attacked?"
"Does he need to?"
Hideaki nodded his head.
"And the second aspect?"
"You should find out, else how would you justify being my best student from this batch?"
Hideaki bowed his head lower and proceeded to walk out.
"In case you are still wondering why he was away for a few minutes before returning with his sword, he went to remove a few logs of wood from the fire which was heating my bathing water. That gave him enough time to tackle your challenge and then return to a cauldron with water at the right temperature."
"And the second aspect he learned by meditation?"
"No, by being a winnower."
Hideaki walked out of the school gate meditating on that when he remembered his certificate in his kimono's folds. He extracted it to read what his Master had written for him. It was a haiku.
With dust in the eye
Or bloody sword, what reflects?
What you see is seen.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sonnet - 2

Comrades forever
Strange comrades make they, white death and black life -
In white absence does black be born. Yet they,
Under friendless-foeless Time's scathing knife
Lock palms, now right, now left, in silent sway.

Thus scurry my thoughts as I watch unmoved
Of one mate gone and the other arrived.
Where goes the pink, with life's music removed?
And the calm, with death's lissome shroud deprived?

Uneventful death is life's dreaded act
And lo! behold another falls. They cry
A desultory wail, spiting Fate's pact
To keep alive one's love till love shall dry.

Though scythes will fall on unshent and sinner
They will befriend the fearless and wiser.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Wholesome Foursome

Dil cheese kya hai... Mozarella!
The greatest loss I suffer due to undue work pressure is the paucity of time to entertain my guts (literally). As the hand on the clock moved in predatory circles, I managed to steal a few slivers of time and made myself more of these little merrymakers. Well, all I'll tell you is that a good amount of potato, cheese, corn and some more (the more maketh the little pleasures of life) went into the making of a happy evening! Bon (visual) appetit!!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sonnet-1

Bow down, arrogant soul
In sadness' tell, I, a weighing heart carry,
Such threads enweaved, held in another's clasp.
Every smite a painful tonne's decree
To buckle, founder, but bear all's rasp,

For in Fate's tutelage, love's a queer whip
That bringst little joy but anxious wantings.
Dare a moment of trust lie sweet on Time's lip
The next shall cleave, lese majesty it brings.

Myriad ferules make coral scars common
And mind sillies to seek purpose in pain.
What such life heralds, what seeks the soul broken
Will one ever know, what be good Fortune's bane?

When grey sorrow bows to a blacker one,
Sole joy I limn in grief's colourful run.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Why?

Why leave me alone?

I wonder why
I confuse names
But never yours
With another face
Or another voice
Or another smile.

I wonder why
I still wish to hear
You laugh at me
And call me cute.
Pity me and my world
Scold my tormentors
Shoo away the black crows
Of destiny that
Mingle with my shadow.

I wonder why
Your approval matters
Why I still seek
Your "ok" even after
A hundred "go ahead".
Teach me the magic of
Infusing power and hope
With a bi-syllable.

I wonder why
I feel empty without you
And every dream
Has you at the end
Or at the beginning
If it were a nightmare.
Let me curl up to you.
Be my pillow for this
Lifetime's sleepy travels.

I wonder why
All that you give me
Can be counted
On several fingers
But what I have to give
Doesn't have me unfolding
A single finger.
But my hands are
Firmly holding you
In my heart
And I wouldn't
Move a finger for the
Banal purpose of counting.

I wonder why
You never get to hear
My heart call out
Your name
Before and after mine.
And then just keep
Calling out yours,
For mine is lost in there
Somewhere.

I wonder why
You will never know
That I keep
Wondering about
The silliest things
In our life
And imagine how beautiful
It would be
Every single day
Only if you had stayed on
To hear me tell you that...
.
.
.
.

I wonder why
Like a lonely boat
Unmoored
Unanchored
I buoy to the
Painful thump
Of your departing feet.

Plug-in

Excavating

This is my nephew trying to clean his ears. The best thing about him is that he is stupid to the core (stupid in the dear sorta way). He had this earbud plugged into his ear and he was walking around. Much to my sister's delight I must confess that he is as weird as I am. So I see this little nut walking around with a erabud hanging out of his ear and I asked him "V what do you want me to do? Should I hang my handkerchief there!?" He gave me this sheepish grin and went to sit on his Pooh chair while watching my mom do her puja. Suddenly, he decided to operate it and that is when I shot this!!!