Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Varshaa: Rain Melodies

In one of his stories, the celebrated Malayalam writer T. Padmanabhan writes of a man who loves to listen to the sounds of rain so much that he takes a cassette of rain-sounds with him abroad. When he feels homesick, he listens to the sounds of rain- the sudden outburst, the pitter patter of rain on the roof, on the ground and to the sounds of occasional thunderbolts. The rain has always held a fascination for artists and is a constantly celebrated theme in Indian literature and films. 

The theme of the rain is explored by the artists Jason J.Nair and Aby in Varshaa: Rain Melodies, a collection of five rain melodies that inspire both creativity and nostalgia. Though it bursts on you unawares and creates plenty of inconvenience, the rain serves as a muse or a source of inspiration for many writers and artistes. The rain pitter-pattering outside, the sound of thunderbolts flashes of thunder across the sky, the wait for the rains symbolised by the dance of the peacocks or the memories of getting drenched unexpectedly, there are so many threads that come together on listening to these rain melodies.

Friday, February 17, 2017

From Your Valentine 4

One morning, I saw her playing in the courtyard with the young women of her age, wearing a crown of white lilies. Not that I would have payed much attention but her merry laughter caught my ears and distracted me from my thought. I was deep in thought for I had received new orders from my Abbot to watch my steps. I was worried because that meant I was not free to go anywhere and there were hints of imprisonment in his letter. I smiled looking at her because it felt special, that laughter and the feeling it aroused in me. 

At night, Asterius visited me with his two soldiers. Usually, he comes alone and I am treated like a guest in his castle. Then in a very solemn manner, he made me understand that the Emperor has requested him to detain me as a prisoner till the Lupercal, which means till the Ides of February. He also declared that under no circumstances was I allowed to meet anyone or use any of the special privileges that the Abbot had permitted. 

 I was led to a room near the castle gates that had barred windows and also a glimpse of the sky. There was no sunshine or laughter any longer but from the day I was put in the room, I began to receive flowers and letters from the young ones who wrote about their lovers and their hopes of getting married once the Declaration of the Emperor was cancelled. There were crowns of lilies that made me think of Julia every time I saw them. 

I think of writing a letter to Julia. Despite the sleepless nights, I don’t feel tired at all. The only thing that is before me is her lovely face. What I feel is that I met her so late in life, when in exile, when condemned to death. Though I try to read my books on medicine, it is next to impossible because of a longing to see her or to hear her voice. I have hardly known her but I feel a kind of soul connection when I think of her.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

From Your Valentine-3

The morning is only hours away and the need to see her has become so strong almost like hunger or pain. The first time I saw her she was so fragile and sick. Those days, I was not a prisoner as I am today. I was a priest who was condemned to exile for marrying off young lovers. When I was sent to live in the prison under Asterius, I took all my belongings- my books of learning, my secret potions and even my Arabian horses. 

I was taken to the bedchamber of the sick girl. There was a smell of decay in that room and when I looked at her closely, she was a frail creature with huge eyes and a feverish look. But on speaking to her, I felt that her eyes had lost their focus and she was unable to see me. Then I remembered the recipe for a herbal potion that I have read of and my next few days were spent in preparation of that cure for her illness. 

My first suggestion was a change of her rooms to somewhere with more light and sunshine. She was given a room on the Eastern side of the castle. For days together, she was my sole thought, my reason to be, the only delight in a confusing world of high ideals and disillusionment. I was at her side, observing her and how she became better day by day. 

My room was on the Western side but every now and then, I would cross the yard to come and see her. There was a strange delight in being responsible for a person’s well-being. Then, I remember the day when she opened her eyes and saw me. She mumbled some words of recognition at her mother who stood by her. When her father visited her, she was at a loss for words. 

There at times, when I wonder, had I been a layman and not a priest, I would have loved this girl who said my name Valentinus quietly and deliberately. She did not address me as “father” like the girls in my church nor did she give much thought to the fact that I was a priest. May be she knew what Emperor Claudius had in mind.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

From Your Valentine-2

I was born in Terni in Italy. My childhood was a happy one with loving parents, plenty of siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. I was the eldest in the family and I wanted to become a priest so that I could serve God. I loved reading the Bible out loud and also had the power to create potions and concoctions. 

On becoming a priest, just like the others, I did my share of baptisms, marriages and deaths. I was celebrated for my singing voice and my solemn speeches. However, I got into trouble when Emperor Claudius came to power. He was of the opinion the soldiers loved their families more leading to less attention to the duties of the nation. This made him antagonistic towards the instuition of marriage. Oh, I did disagree. 

There was Anna and Simon who were in love for years. Moreover, they could hardly wait as Anna was already in the family way. They were betrothed to each other since the Lupercalia when Anna came of age. The church took mercy in the matters of the heart and a special license was issued to get them married. It was at that time that the Emperor Claudius made a declaration of compulsory bachelorhood for all soldiers. According to him, men married so that they don’t have to go for war but stay around in the village looking after their families. 

What happened the next week was a secret marriage in the church attended only by the bridegroom and the bride. Looking at them and the simple ceremony of exchanging vows, I felt I was God in the Garden of Eden making a match between Adam and Eve. I blessed the couple and their unborn baby with a special blessing and sent them home. 

It was that night that I received an order from my Abbot asking me to leave the place immediately. In the letter, it was written that the Priest Valentinus was asked to enjoy his stay with the jailer Asterius in his castle for a few days. It meant in a veiled manner, a place of exile away from home till I was called back. But before, I left what I did was to gather some more young couples and get them married in God’s name.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

From Your Valentine-1

The month of February is the month of festivities, the time when birds find their mates and the Lupercal, the festival of the god of fertility. Yet for me, this is the month when I have experienced the optimum happiness in my life with a tinge of regret that I felt it when my days have become numbered. 

Tonight, it is very cold and even my bones can feel the chill this might. I don’t know what hour it is. But the little glimpse of sky that I view from my barred window, it looks dark blue with a glow. Looks like it must be three hours past midnight. 

Not that I was a reader of the skies but judging from the months of captivity and the hours when the watch changed in the tower, I think I have become adept at it. But there is something very special about this day as it might be the last one I might see. This day I go to face my death in the gallows before the huge crowd gathered for the Lupercalia this week. 

There are occasional shouts and celebrations that one can hear rising from the streets. Just like every year, this year too many young men will prove their valour in the competitions held before the emperor. The women will be showered with the ceremonial blood from the sacrifice of animals before the god of fertility near the caves of Romulus and Remus. 

Then, there will be the choosing of one’s bride from the urn of good fortune. Julia will also be chosen by some warrior or the other. Even the thought makes me angry as it brings to my mind a very unpleasant memory of having to tend for her for days on end and then having to leave her side on new orders from the Emperor.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Eternal love

The morning was beautiful. She woke up early even before the alarm clock started ringing. A miracle.Usually it woke up her neighbors before it did her with the continuous music. She always made the alarm as  part of the background  of her dream. This deafness to alarms resulted in her getting up late every day.  
This day was different. She could feel it in the soft freshness of the morning air. From the balcony, she viewed the morning air with surprise. Could this be the day when he would come to her? She had a lot of intuition about these things and felt hopeful. 
She couldn’t believe that this is the same city crowded with protesters over something over the other in the daytime. The white building of the state looked lovely this morning. Not even a single sound. 
She stood there for sometime.  She heard the hooting of a distant train. What silence. Only a few people like the newspaper boys moved here and there. She decided to go on a morning walk. She changed her clothes and was out walking in a few minutes.
It was not yesterday that he left the city. She didnt know here he was.  If he was here, she will see him on the morning walk across the park. What all things I want to tell you, my dear? But the situation was not as hopeless as she made it to be. 
He was just a phone call away. But what prevented her was her shyness, what if they become lovers? She couldn’t face him. Still she resolved to tell him how much he means to her, that not a day passes without his thoughts and that she would do anything to have him in her life even as a friend. 
It was this obsession, that feeling that there was something between them that was unique, something that happened only once in a lifetime, that magic that will never happen again if she lost him.She knew that from the first day that she met him, that there was something about him that she loved beyond words, through her silences.

Memories came and visited her. What was this madness that never let her spend a day without thinking about him? Every day was like this-thoughtfulness, indecisiveness and finally sobbing just before going to sleep, hugging the pillow. Night time was for writing down what all preposterous things he meant to her, while morning took all these thoughts away. 
Obsessed with him, she felt that this came out of her denial of some natural feeling towards him. At times, she had this gut feeling that it was mutual; he also felt the same. But then what?

Even that day in the rain was evidence to this. They were sitting in that coffee shop sipping hot coffee when she said in half jest" let’s walk in the rain". Before she could even think, he’d got up and was out in the rain. There was another couple who walked before them, hugging each other closely and for a moment she wanted to walk with him like that.
"Look at them", she said. They shied away from each other thought they were closely aware of each other. That night, she was a little crazy as she wrote about those little things in her diary. Suddenly, her phone rang. Strangely it was not him but her fiancé, who had called.

“What happened to you? You don’t speak soft to me anymore? You speak like a stranger, nowadays”. She knew that she didn’t do this deliberately, for her fiancé meant the world to her. Five years is not a short period of time and with every passing year and the distance that separated them, they had stuck together supporting each other everyday. 
On days of idleness, he would call her and ask her to study for her exams, for which they were appearing together. That exam meant a lot to both of them. Now both are lost and that too because of her foolishness. She could understand losing her new friend or obsession but her fiancé that was like saying drawing a boundary can make land into two nations. 
Still this morning she felt hopeful. Her life would have an answer, not this endless maze of problems, coming one after the other. She couldn’t call him and ask him to come and meet her. May be a real meeting can cure her obsession. It made her nervous, the thought of meeting him. 
She dreaded even that thought but that’s what she always wanted to do. Each and every day, she wanted this meeting, this resolution of her confusions but nothing happened. She went and sat at her favourite place in the park, on the stone-bench beneath that chempaka tree. The flowers gave off an intoxicating fragrance. Her phone rang. Her fiancé.

“Why are you not talking to me? You remember this date. This was the day when I proposed to you way back in college. What has come over you?”
“So? She asked.
“With marriage in December, how can you be playing such games?”.

“What if I don’t want to marry you?”
“Now dear, please be careful. If that’s what you wish, it’s fine with me. But what about the parents? What are you going to tell them?”
“That I will do, you don’t have to worry”.

While she was talking, she saw someone familiar walking towards her. That was him. She cut the phone and ran towards him. “Where were you? I was worried!”He smiled and put his arms around her. She was sobbing so hard. She couldn’t control herself. He  held her close. He moved his face close to hers and kissed her. First kiss. 
All her desperation was gone. The agony over whether she will meet him or not, the pain of his absence and her repressing her all feelings, everything was gone. He took her on a long drive in the city before driving to the beach far from the city. She chatted about all the things that had happened in his absence.“Where do you want to go now? He asked her.“The beach. I love the seashore, though it makes me serious about life”, she replied. 
He smiled and kissed her again. She responded fully to his desires and glowed in his love. “Don’t go anywhere again”, she pleaded. At the beach, they stayed in the water, hand in hand. The evening sky was tinted red. The ochre light of the evening, with that secluded beach made him daring enough to kiss her in the open. 
“I love you baby. I will never leave you alone”, he said. He led her to towards the sea, into the deeper waters. Now she became afraid. He hugged her tight and laughed aloud with each thrashing wave that splashed against them.  

She decided to speak to her parents when she got home. Her marriage could wait; she wanted to be sure herself whom was that she loved more, her fiance or the one whom she found anew. It was her dream come true and she thought that she did choose right.Looking at the lights, what she felt was that this was a very special day of her life.