Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Writing

Words leaped out of neatly bound and well-written books a long time back and became miracles in dark nights. Some writer, whose heart dribbled with love for a beloved set these words on paper, wove them with silence, longing and infinite love. May be the life-spirit that runs in all, whispered these intuitive life-lessons, through you, through the rain or the bright blue sky. 

I never knew this magic until one day; you came at midnight and peeked  in my dreams, with your gracious smile. Awake from your dreams, I wanted to tell you, with words like focused arrows on what ate my heart when you were not here. All the sighs, the tears, the smiles on how you spoke, smiled, walked and talked were mulled over again and again in those quiet moments of aloneness. Like a child with a favourite toy, I try to form with words; different games that might give you back to me, at least in an imaginary realm.  

This heart wants not to please the mob; only to sing about what hurts the most. These songs of silence have no art; they speak of the loss in not having you beside me. They have neither rhyme nor rhythm but only a wild beat of words that are quaint to the ear, yet in their own way, fresh-faced.  

Words come, with its thousand limbs, entangled meanings and nuances, like a sudden burst of rain that creates ripples in still water, while the great green forest holds watch over with its mighty silent wombs of understanding, from that moment when you came in my midnight dreams.  

Though I know that you will never set your eyes on these; for we come from two different worlds of understanding, I set before them engraved in a lovely script.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Heart of a Rose

Lie still, though the night
May be long and dark
For when the muse comes to you,
Words make no sense
And if they cut a vein
Or punch an old pain
How will I mend, 
How will I send, 
My love to you?

But when your ache travels
As heartbeats from distant deserts,
They echo here and I cannot sleep
On any night or lull my restless mind

What else will I do, 
When I have nothing else to do
But spin yarns and tall tales
To amuse you and lull myself
To sleep every night

For in one moment
A nameless feeling overruled
Every known feeling
You were looking at me
With surprise in your eyes

To answer that look
I must know the reason
And there is none
I can find except
That the feeling echoes
In some other place, 
In the heart of a yellow rose. 



Saturday, March 28, 2009

Few words for a writer friend

 A shade of violet, modest and humble,
Terse in speech, polished in style;
A rare specimen of delicious wine,
From choicest fruits with perfect taste;
So rare a being shines behind the words,
Graceful, intoxicating, beckoning for more
Words that mirror unspoken thoughts,
Known realms and a kinship of wavelength. 


Friday, March 27, 2009

My River Green


 The River Green always looks like a sheet of green glass, flowing majestically and serenely. It was in a small town beside this river Pamba that we-my brother and me- grew up fighting each other and playing in the water.

My memories associated with the river are innumerable.Every evening we, along with my aunt or grandmother and cousins would walk to the river and play in the water for an hour. Every day was fun, with us staying in the water for at least an hour, though both of us never learned how to swim, splashing and shouting, while the sun set and it grew dark.

In the still waters, near the banks, people washed clothes and for bathing or swimming they walked to where the flowing water was. It was an adventure to stand in the flowing currents without falling. It requires considerable practice. Once we rescued a plaintain trunk from the currents and gave it to a neighbour, who had cows. It was a big adventure, something that brought a "we" feeling between my brother and me, who were like Tom and jerry throughout childhood.

The river was part of the life there, its dips and floods, festivals like Onam, Maramon Convention or Aranmula boat-race. Everybody went to the shops set as part of Maramon Convention, irrespective of religion. That was one time, when all sorts of things came in the shops- bangles, toys, shoes, clothes and items of food.

Then there are boat-rides across the river, holidays during floods (once we had 10 days of holidays) Onam and Aranmula boatrace, when the decorated boats travel across the river to the beat of the boatsongs. It can be heard from a distance and all children will run to the riverbank on hearing the boatsong from the distance.

On the night of Thiruvonam,belief has that Lord Mahabali comes to see his subjects on his boat called Thiruvonathoni. After midnight, people wait on the banks of the river with lighted torches and lamps for the well-lighted Thiruvonathoni. This was one adventure for we, children to boast about. The ones who had slept that night had nothing to talk about and felt ashamed the next day.

Now the river has changed. It is no longer clean. Clean water exists in the middle of the river and it's a long walk. You need to wade through muddy waters to take bath in clean water and then after bath, through muddy waters again. Yet, with all its differences, this is one of the sacred spaces, I can reach in an instant, travelling in thoughts, to where I like to stand, on that mound of rocks (called pulumuttu), with the entire river, looking like a large sheet of green glass, clean and clear.

No wonder, everytime, I stand there in real, I step into the waters and become a child, splashing and loving the water. My young cousins are like ducks, "no getting them out of water". Last time,on my visit to the river, I went till the middle of the river, to where the currents are and splashed there along with my five cousins, while my frantic mother was waving to us from the shore. Short-sightedness is at times a wonderful excuse and I pretended that i didnt see her and went back after an hour or so, drenched completely and dipping water. 
I guess as a child, I related everything to the river. Once during family dinner, when I was six or seven, I told my grandfather that the sky ended at the other side of the river. He roared with laughter and asked me:"Really?"


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Yellow Rose

You stand with your head high,
Smiling at tempests and winds,
Where was your mettle born,
From the sun, the earth or wind?

You have a lovely rival in love,
With a sceptre in her right hand,
Lovely foe, with eyes like a doe,
Who can but sing your praises?

A love that never was cannot fade,
Unlike one known and discarded,
From the fiery elements it was born,
From the ancient fire of ages.

Yellow rose, now sing me that song,
That you sing when you want to cry.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Amen:The Autobiography of a Nun


Amen: The Autobiography of a Nun, written by Sister Jesme of the Carmelite Convent has created repercussions in the religious and political scenario of Kerala as the murder of Sister Abhaya and the suicide of Sister Anupa Mary. Like these two incidents, the book offers flak against the strong belief of the laity in the institution of Catholic Church and in the theory of blind obedience as propagated by the church authorities. 

Sister Jesme was born in 1956 in Thrissur and joined the Carmelite Congregation because of her intense desire to follow Christ. She chose the name Jesme because for her it meant Jesus and Me. She has a PhD in English Literature and has published three books of poetry. She has worked as the Principal of St. Mary's College. 


In the book, she discloses how she was asked by the authorities to take long leave and undergo psychiatric treatment. Instead she leaves the congregation and her high post of a gazetted officer to live a life of a recluse. The author openly discusses several taboo topics in society like the low place given to women in a patriarchy, the greed of managements run by the Church, prevalent lesbianism and sexual perversions among the nuns, rivalries and advances made by priests towards nuns. 

The word Amen is used to conclude prayers in Christianity and means so be it. As its cover page says, the life of a nun should be like that of a pure and untainted white lotus that stands at a higher plane than the muddy waters it lives in. Written with an openness, quite shocking and sensational in nature, the book portrays the daring nature of Sister Jesme, who left the Church to live a life of independence and peace. Like a white lotus. So be it. 



Sunday, March 22, 2009

Appoose


This is Appoose, my cousin's pet. Though, I'm not very fond of pets, this one knows me and always recognises me. 

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Another sacred space

Last year in February,the British Council closed its library in Trivandrum. For me, a regular visitor to the library, it was a big loss. Yes, there are other libraries but none to match this library in its vast collection of well-dusted and recently published books and the ambience of a sacred space.


For reading books on English literature as well as on other subjects, this was the ideal place. I used to feel so happy with six books and three journals to savour for may be month.

Mine was a children's membership. Where else will you get to read Harry Potter, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (as you know made into a movie as The Chronicles of Narnia), Roald Dahl, Ruskin Bond, Epics, illustrated books (I love books with pictures, even now) on Greek legends, history, planets, biology, anything.

Still, I haven't been able to find a replacement for that thrill, that spark of inspiration and that thirst for knowledge I used to feel on a day after my visit to the library.



Friday, March 20, 2009

The Budgies



Chirp, chirp, chirp. The 14 budgies begin their  racket from early morning until the light fades in the evening, when they turn unusually quiet. They won't let anyone sleep a wink at daytime or night-time. They are the famous or rather notorious pets of my pet-crazy husband. 

Their names are strange. My husband has christened them with names of footballers from different nations (Zlatan, Ruud, Jaan, Juan, Veron)  and favourite characters from TV shows (Cosmo from Cosmo Kramer in Seinfeld. I have named only one-Mousse. 

The star attraction is Budgie with yellow and green shades. Three females fight constantly over him. So the criminal has to be kept in isolation cage and brought back only after it is subdued. All kids belong to him and he's the cause of all battles till date.

The budgies have certain pronounced tastes in music as well. They are fond of Eminem, The Ramones’ My Sharona and my collection of rain melodies. They will shriek at the top of their voice (just like me) when they hear their favourite tracks being played. 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

My Home

This is the place where my dreams learnt how to fly
This is the place where I blossomed into a youth
This is where my heart grew in pain and joy.
Like a human heart, this is my home
Goodbye my home of four long years
Before I go I have  treasured each and every part of you
Before I leave you I say for sure
That though I may come back
It will not be the same as now.
Time would have changed me and you
You’d no longer miss my laughter and tears
You’d no longer miss the way I make this place alive
New voices will take my place
Yet I know for sure even now
That you will always be the home I love
Because this is where I have learnt to live. 



Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Musings

A good piece of writing makes the reader curious. How did the writer write this? Was it based on some life experience of the writer? Or is just fantasy? Will I be able to write like this?

Plenty of books are available on how to become a writer. But a point raised against the authors of most of these how-to books is that they are not great in the sense Shakespeare or Rushdie or Keats are. May be they have written books that nobody reads but they have succeeded in writing the book and getting it published as well. These writers emphasise the importance of persistence.

This fact is quite opposing to the myth of a creative artist who puts pen to paper and thus creates a masterpiece without any previous effort. While studying the great writers, it is found that these writers constantly wrote and rewrote their words, researched more and more about their subject matters and themes, played with associations of ideas and the intricacies of language, to create a collage that became a complete work of art.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Khaled Hosseini



One really good writer who I have come across recently is Khaled Hosseini with two bestsellers The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns to his credit.

Both books can be called bildungsromans or novels of formation and development. The Kite Runner is a growing up novel that narrates how Amir atones for the betrayal of his childhood friend Hassan by adopting Hassan's son Sohrab. The first chapter is unforgettable while A Thousand Splendid Suns is about the relationship between two women in a war-torn Afghanistan. The struggle to survive makes them the wives of the same man, but the bond that develops between the two resembles a mother-daughter relationship. The final section of the novel is remarkable especially about the guessing games that Laila, Tariq, Aziza and Zalmai play for Laila's expected baby. THe naming game involves only male names. If it's a girl Laila has named her already.

Both the books are well-written and unforgettable with characters and the emotional intensity of their stay alive in the mind. His advice to the aspiring writers is :"I would give them the oldest advice in the craft: Read and write. Read a lot. Read new authors and established ones, read people whose work is in the same vein as yours and those whose genre is totally different. You've heard of chain-smokers. Writers, especially beginners, need to be chain-readers. And lastly, write every day. Write about things that get under your skin and keep you up at night". 

Sunday, March 15, 2009

If life was perfect for me, on request!

If life was perfect, I would never have lost you to silence,
Or you thought over what an innocent kiss really meant,
It would have been a celebration of our mutual silences
With a huge degree of understanding, not hide-and-seek.

If life was perfect, it would have smelt of fresh coffee,
Your perfume, shined with your glaring new blue shirt,
Your Abby baby movie-star good looks and impeccable manners,
Along with those caring ways, never with another.

If life was perfect, to laugh would have been easy,
To cry easier and to trust and confide the easiest,
It would have given freely, not full of tragedies,
Which were between the cup and the lip always.

If life was perfect, I’d be what I am in my dreams,
Putting words into perfect little sheets, bound to books,
Or teaching children to sing rhymes and poems,
Or loving my little voices that mingle with mine.

Still if life was perfect, I would sit at night on the seashore,
With you gazing surprised at how beautiful I’m in black,
Talking of sweet nothings to remember and treasure,
That would be a perfect moment, for years to come...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Alchemist

"Why dont you like your favourite book anymore?"A friend asked me when I told her that I didnt regard The Alchemist as my favourite anymore. "But why?", she was curious because I had told her the story with high spirits, of course without mentioning the end and I raved about its influence on my thoughts and life.

I had no convincing answer to give her nor I could understand why it was so.May be I have stopped dreaming about my future. May be I didn't  believe in dreams and mirages and hallucinations anymore.

Why?Why? Why? This time I asked myself the question. The same friend had told me that I overanalyse everything and think in detail about every minute thing. As she would say make a kheema out of it. So my mind started rewinding itself on all the memories available on The Alchemist.

What did I learn from The Alchemist?  Follow your dream, it said. I was fascinated by the idea of the universe responding to my desires if I wanted something badly. It motivated me enough to pass a test and reach a goal. I even recommended it to my friends who were also chasing some dream or the otherbut in most of the cases they were not sure of what they wanted. I was sure and felt very happy (may be vain too) about the fact that I knew exactly what I wanted and was confident of getting it too.

In the months that followed my thoughts changed. I had forgotten my own goal and my mind was immersed in other things. So when the results came I was not able to appreciate the glory of reaching my goal. I felt  that this sucess was was a hallucination I didnt deserve. It was a mighty accident after all.

I forgot that I had chosen this path fighting my parents' dream of me becoming an engineer. I knew I would have made an unskilful engineer at that and chose to learn literature instead. It was the thought of books that fascinated me. Yet I forget it all and about The Alchemist too.

I got curious, what was in that book which motivated me so much. If it put me in my right path once, it can do it again. I read the book for the fifth time. Now this time I understood that the book didnt hold the same mystery for me. I realised that though the book remained the same, I had changed.

Finally I understood that the book was a milepost and a traveller can never hold on to a milepost. It is a treasure of the heart, something that taught you a lesson but at the sametime it urges you to move on. The next time you tread the same path, it is not a stranger anymore but the reminder ofyour first journey into the unknown.

Afterthought: I want to regain whatever I have lost because I thought I didnt deserve good things.



Thursday, March 12, 2009

Waiting for the rains

At the sacred space by the temple, on a platform of red bricks,
The saffron-clad priest chanted in high tones, the ancient prayers for rain,
Amidst the blazing summers, to the Gods of the sky and the wind,
Where the green fields of yesterdays have become parched,
Dried up devoid of any trace of life,
While people draped in earth-coloured cottons chanted,
With the sun scorching their wheat-coloured skins.

Children played by the dried up temple pond,
Thinking of the days where they splashed in the cool water,
Sat idly in the cool recesses of the rocks,
Or chattering with the juice of ripe mangoes
Oozing on their hands and faces.

The ancient chanting went on incessantly, in a land of purity,
Where none could wash or bathe except in the muddy pond waters,
The holy fires blazed along with the hot afternoons,
When none could sleep, for the heat numbed and killed,

Oh you rain; much awaited, the boon of heavens,
That brings joy to the earth, wealth to its people,
Oh you rain, come with thunder and lightning,
And soak our brown skins with delight,
Oh rain, the fulfillment of forecasts and incessant prayers,
I evoke you in the names of the barren earth,
The dried up rivers and lakes, the animals and birds,
The silent trees and the people on earth.

You end the blazing afternoons of summer heat,
With the first drops of summer rain,
You set the warm smell of earth rising,
And bedeck trees with jewels like brides,
From furnace hot afternoons to nights of restless pace.
For you, incense is burnt and prayers chanted,
For you, the comforter in candent days,
Oh rain, come and give us comfort, the priest sang.

On the third day of endless repentance and prayers,
Grey and white dappled clouds rose to silhouette the sky,
With hints of a sudden outburst,
The entire city rejoiced, the wait is over,
Days of drought are finally over,
With bolts of thunder and lightning,
The soft rain slushed over the crowd,
Who received in open hands stretched to skies
What the heavens granted as comfort
From the scorching heat of Indian summer.

The rain fell over the blazing holy fire,
With the priest and the crowd soaked in the rain,
And the beaming children screamed at the ripples,
Forming on the muddy waters of the temple pond.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A song for you

Of all the songs that have been made,
For you, until they turn old and fade, 

This one is short and may be the best,
In this world, I love you the most.

Let new songs come and years pass,
I cant find a word that rhymes with pass..;-)
(well, I can, what i mean is I don't want to)

Don't have much to say,only new words,
Come and take place of the old ones.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Signs from heaven

I have this personal belief that when you are really sad or depressed, heaven sends you certain signs to know that you are needed in this world. Not that you'll win a lottery or meet your soulmate, but small signs that are too much of an accident and surprisingly delightful.

As children my brother and me looked forward to every edition of Balarama, which was published every fortnight unlike now when it is published every week. We both would run for it and at times struggle to get it first from the old man who used to bring us paper.I remember running with toothbrush in my hand and toothpaste in my mouth to get it ahead of my brother because whoever gets it first could read it first after coming from school.It was a time of intense waiting and struggles and one book full of colours meant a lot to both of us. 


Its with the same anxiety though there is none to fight with now, we both being grown up and understanding, that I wait for the Literary Review page in The Hindu on Sundays. This is because of the column Endpaper by Pradeep Sebastian. His writing reveals a book lover with much sensitivity and understanding.  The article that touched me the most came some  years back in May. 

I was in very low spirits at that time. It was exam time and I wasnt able to study well with my project incomplete and my heart sore over something that I now consider very trivial. Agitated and worried with the exams and some nerve-cracking people around me, I went on doing a lot of self-destructive activities- like skipping studies, tearing up all diaries, cutting my long hair and getting mad at anyone who tried to advise me. A radical and highly rebellious state of mind it was. 

Then in the evening, I was sitting with a vacant mind and my eyes fell on this article. It was called An Unlived Life about a story called "Babette's Feast" by Isak Dinessen. It spoke of how a congregation without any unity is changed by a feast given by an artistic cook who gives up whatever she has for the feast. 
I felt a big calm settle over me as I was reading this. Right after reading it, I went to my room, closed the door and began to write about what was worrying me-my indecisiveness about the life and career I was to take. Not that the problem was solved that day, but it made me feel better.You don't know what saves you from killing yourself. May be a little kindness from someone. Or some signs from heaven that reminds you of your most precious gift. Not lottery. Or a soulmate. This beautiful life. The General in the story gives this speech:"We tremble because we imagine divine grace to be finite. We tremble before making our choice in life and after having made it again tremble in fear of having chosen wrong. But the moment comes when our eyes are opened, and we realize grace is infinite. We need only to await it in confidence and in gratitude. See! That which we have chosen is given us, and that which we have refused is, also and at the same time, granted us. For mercy and truth have had a lover, and righteousness and bliss have kissed one another!" 


Monday, March 09, 2009

Tales, Real and Unreal



In the dark rainy nights,
She sang lullabies to us,
In a very sweet voice.

The stories lived before us,
Brave knights and lovely ladies,
All fighting for love.

Both of us, listened wide-eyed
Lying on each of her arms,
As truth and love ruled.

Little did she know of its truth,
As we grew older, we realised,
With pain and disillusionment.

How our childish hearts soaked up,
These unreal tales of happiness,
And real love, truth and honour.

She said, love makes us whole,
She sang, never forget your truth.
She sang you are special.

Now aged and crooked, she sits,
She has lost her sweetness
And we, our innocence.

For him, love is sad and lost,
For me, love is cruel and lost,
For her, life is lonely and gone.

Yet the old hope in tales flicker,
When we meet a smile,
Of understanding in her eyes.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Being

When away from you thoughts gather,
And desires like creepers murmur,
In the dark cloudy sky to trees,
Until you come with your silence
And rain bursts in my space,
Where you are is my dream,
That I would exchange my being,
For being the air around you.

Friday, March 06, 2009

More favourites



  • Zombie by The Cranberries
  • Advertising Space by Robbie Williams
  • Blue Eyes Blue by Eric Clapton
  • Inside Out by Bryan Adams
  • Come Away with Me by Norah Jones

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A sacred space

For a time, life meant complete relaxation. Getting up late, making black tea and later lunch, listening to favourite songs (which prompted a question from a curious neighbour who thought it was a guy who played music), checking mails, replying to them and sitting to read on my favourite chair.


That chair was like a haven. The view was restricted with a wall, sometimes with a cat on it, the road you can see at a distance, the neighbour's houses (where at night, the sound of the lady scraping the last bit of food from the vessel for her husband could be heard in my room even with the windows closed) and a guava tree.

On days when I cleaned my room, after the work is done, I would sit and stare, first at my ultra-clean room with white floor (God, I miss my room, with the neatly arranged furniture, whose position I change during every cleaning session, though I am no blood relative of Tuglaq) and after a while at the scene outside. Once or twice I have seen the neighbour plucking the ripe fruits from the guava tree. Anyway, the ripe smell of its soft tasty flesh reached me all those times.

Once, on an idle day, I saw that this guava tree has a strange resemblance to a human form (with a well-shaped posterior) though upside down, with intertwined arms like an ancient supplicant praying incessantly to the gods. I even made a rough sketch of this sight. 

Now living with a husband who runs a chidiyakhana (he’s fond of pets and keeps two cages of budgies in the room) that drives me mad at times, I miss my room of single days- my neat sparkling room with a lot of space and with a good view. 


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A book


You wanted a book dedicated to you, my dear. I could write many a story of you and me, words and silence, music and love, rain and summer. 

You are a sacred space that I have never left; a home that keeps me grounded to the world of dreams, though some are lost and some found again. For I’m like the proverbial woman who lost a valuable coin and has found it again after thorough searching. 

You have a bowl full of colours that fetch you happiness every day; while I keep mine clean and empty for an impulsive act of alms from you. Someday, you might give me a little from the lot you have, just to keep me from starving. 

The clouds still heave and burst into tears, every now and then. Years have gone by; still you are special, by the way you brought back music to me; for I’d never forget that one day, when you made me understand that I had forgotten how to sing. 

Every day, from dawn to dusk, your name is like a talisman that I keep safe from the world, till words form one by one and fill these blank pages. 


Monday, March 02, 2009

Unending Love by Tagore

I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times,
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
My spell-bound heart has made and re-made the necklace of songs
That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms
In life after life, in age after age, forever.

Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, its age-old pain,
Its ancient tale of being apart or together,
As I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge
Clad in the light of a pole-star piercing the darkness of time:
You become an image of what is remembered forever.

You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount
At the heart of time love of one for another
We have played alongside millions of lovers shared in the same
Shy sweetness of meeting, the same distressful tears of farewell – 
Old love, but in shapes that renew and renew forever.

Today it is heaped at your feet, it has found its end in you,
The love of all man’s days both past and forever:
Universal joy, universal sorrow, universal life,
The memories of all loves merging with this one love of ours
And the song of every poet past and forever.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

From Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet

Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you to write, find out whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write.