Friday, January 29, 2010


Usually, I get attached to anything and everything and try to cure my nature by remaining or appearing as cold and unattached. 

There were times before this when leaving a work place made me so sad that I couldn't talk for days together and will not call anybody. Not to make calls when you know that you miss them and they miss you as well. This time, however I plunged into the farewell with a difference.

Morning my first hour on Aristotle was spent on "Tragedy" and its classic definition. It was complete teaching time as if we had no time to waste. The next hour was spent in student presentations with the same principle in mind. But the surprise came when a student handed over a carefully gift-wrapped parcel.

First, I was astounded and put it down on the table after muttering a "Thank you". Then, I realised what a fool I'm remembering all the times when I've also missed unwrapping a gift. So, I unwrapped the parcel to see a beautiful Ravi Varma Painting of a woman with a bowl of fruits. It was quite unexpected and then I understood that learning Oscar Wilde and his 'Importance of Being Earnest' together brought us closer to one another.

Then after sometime, I realised that the teachers in my staffroom were throwing a surprise party (with sweets and specials). This was another unexpected blessing that made me realise how loving somebody is (for every noble gesture is an idea in the mind of a woman ;-).During the party, everybody said good words about me and I was moved by their kindness. Some of them even asked me to return next year for the next academic session.

This farewell was a heartwarming experience; for once I reached home, I felt as if I had left something precious at college. But the saddest part is that I feel shy of going back even for a day because everybody has bid adieu already and I feel conscious of that!
Still I have made calls to my colleagues and plan of visiting college to finish some unfinished businesses.  

Thursday, January 28, 2010


How do years pass so fast? Still we are bound by the same mind that once felt too small in a large world. Humbled by our own insignificance, we lived by retreating into our own well-crafted shells. Until we met the deaf, the mute and the blind, who were all made senseless by their exaggerated sense of self-importance.

For who can feel free or breathe in the presence of the those who are made senseless by the power and the glory of their past, which they claim is brighter than what they had really known. Whatever that be, when words do come, they all carry within them a tinge of bitter loneliness.

Peace and silence are hard-earned lessons; so is a smile or a cheering word. Still, I count my blessings in these days of silence and understand that this too will pass, like all the other days before it. Moreover, you are a newly found joy; one who loves without asking anything in return, whose heart is filled with longing and love and one who awaits my words with eagerness.

Love begets love; so the wise sages have said. So wait for these days of madness be over and I can come back to you for more pleasant days of togetherness.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A few interesting reads that I came across today

Dear Reader,

It is sharing time again. Today, I'm sharing with you a few articles that I came across:

  1. Haiku from Melissa Donovan's Writing Forward. As usual, her posts are informative and show a beginner how to write in different genres.
  2. How to Start a Blog in 19 Minutes or Less from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits who discusses the strategies that you need for setting up a good blog!
Hope the shared items were useful to you! :-)Maria

Monday, January 25, 2010

On Writing

If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer. It means you are so busy keeping one eye on the commercial market, or one ear peeled for the avante-garde coterie, that you are not being yourself. You don't even know yourself. For the first thing a writer should be is-excited. He should be a thing of fevers and enthusiasms. Without such vigour, he might as well be out picking peaches or digging ditches; God knows it'd be better for his health.RAY BRADBURY

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Revisiting the Literature in my own mother-tongue Malayalam

When I was a teenager, I was kind of an amphibian voraciously reading (but not always retaining the details) of good books in English as well as Malayalam, my mother-tongue. I could even read in my national language Hindi though nowadays I find it hard to decipher even the alphabets (which I have tried by reading the film news in Navbharat Times).

Regarding Malayalam classics, my tastes more or less revolved around these major writers in Malayalam- Madhavikutty, T. Padmanabhan, MT Vasudevan Nair and Vaikkom Muhammed Basheer. These were the writers whom I loved to read again and again. My mother always brought new books by these writers to replenish my reading list from her office library.

We were a curious mother-daughter duo for in most serious aspects of life and we have always differed from other in principles or just for the difference of it; but regarding books, she is the one who has guided my reading tastes in Malayalam literature. Now, she has turned religious and reads only the Bible and prayer-books but there used to be a time when I could listen spell-bound to the stories that she recounted from the books she has read.

Well, back to my love of Malayalam literature. Though I have read only a few Malayalam books these ten years since I became an English literature student- a few like Khasakinte Ithihasam, Short stories of Madhavikutty, Jeevithanizhalpadukal and Balyakalasakhi by Vaikkom Muhammed Basheer and MT Vasudevan Nair's Randamoozham- the fact that recently I was teaching in a place where Malayalam literature was taught for MA as well brought to light that love of good literature written in Malayalam.

What followed was a gobbling up of Complete works of Madhavikutty now followed by Complete Works of Vaikkom Muhammed Basheer as well as a few works of MT Vasudevan Nair. Greatly amazed by Basheer and well as by MT, I feel like a curious child who is still in the process of joining together a jigsaw puzzle.That means that you, my dear readers will soon be bombarded with reviews and stories of the books I have encountered in Malayalam literature soon! 

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Riding on a Full Moon Night

The ice-cold fingers of the full moon,
Could seep through the windowpanes
And caress this small self that moved
Across the state on a large vehicle.

The city lights shone in the distance,
Ships and islands glittered in my view,
While I sat in the bus dreaming of you,
And thought the moon followed my path.

The journey was unpleasant and sad,
To see if life could change from despair,
But wherever I went, the full moon shone,
In a life that was spent in your dreams.

In those times, you were like a deity,
Whom I worshipped night and day.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The second is always the best

My grandmother always had this saying to prove that I'm not as good as my elder brother: The second is never the best. Her explanation was that the expectation and charm of a first-born, first job, first salary (who said so- money is money, spendable, splashable and savable) is unmatched by anything that comes after it. My grandmother always favoured the eldest and the male. It was part of her legacy and I was more than once much irritated by her attitude.

For a few months, I was working as a lecturer in a college. Though temporary, it was my second stint as a teacher for students at the college level. The first stint was very unpleasant and had made me very bitter and comically venomous towards teaching at colleges in general though the fault lay in my mind, which was so unfocused and fatally in love.

But this second time was different. It was only few months but the best time of my life in my opinion. A city college with not many amenities but the basic ones and students coming from poor backgrounds, it was not easy to win hearts as a teacher.

When I leave the campus in a few days, I know that I have not made a revolutionary change in the "Englishes" of my students but I know for sure that I have made at least a small difference in their grades.

Now, I'm leaving a job after making my students ( at least my Drama class students) and the teachers in the staff room LIKE me incredibly.This second chance for me at least meant that I could shed many of my stupid notions and negative emotions as well as my own lack of confidence in my teaching abilities gained as an after-effect of my first stint.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Once it was burning the midnight oil,
Going over thick books and big ideas.
Now, times have changed, so have I,
With my mind no longer ready to read.

Though dark nights are back again,
Heavy with despair and old grief,
Over life lost to this crumbling
Of all existing personal barriers.

I wish it was easy to build again,
A shell of comfort and silence,
Read myself to that forgetfulness,
That came with books and ideas.

But this mind, once a clean page,
Cannot now hold wisdom of ages.

Friday, January 15, 2010


In a different life made of walls and despair, you were my way of stepping into the future.Often I walked out of the walls and despair by travelling into time and dreaming of the future. 

You were a  pair of little feet walking beside me always giving me comfort . It was from your eyes that I learnt the magic of innocence and unconditional love. Still you cling to my hand as we walk together in the street, though you are grown up and hate to be called "baby".

You do not know much each and every word of yours mean to me. More than anything, all the silly rambling talks that we share- on the metaphysics of nothingness- have meaning than all the conversations on making a living or following dreams.

From the first time, I saw you and held your tiny form in my hands, you have remained with me as a treasure, a whiff of home and childhood that makes my heart flutter and wants to tease you forever with all those silly recountings of your countless mischiefs.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Guide

They sat beside the Swami and read the message to him. He smiled at it. He beckoned Velan to come nearer.

The doctors appealed, 'Tell him he should save himself. Please do your best. He is very weak'.

Velan bent close to the Swami and said, 'The doctors say----'

In answer Raju asked the man to bend nearer, and whispered, 'Help me to my feet,' and clung to his arm and lifted himself. He got up to his feet. He had to be held by Velan and another on each side. In the profoundest silence the crowd followed him down.

Everyone followed at a solemn silent pace. The eastern sky was red. Many in the camp were still sleeping. Raju could not walk, but he insisted upon pulling himself along all the same. He panted with the effort. He went down the steps of the river, halting for breath on each step, and finally reached his basin of water.
He stepped into it, shut his eyes, and turned towards the mountain, his lips muttering the prayer. Velan and another held him by each arm. The morning sun was out by now; a great shaft of light illuminated the surroundings. 
It was difficult to hold Raju on his feet, as he had a tendency to flop down. They held him as if he were a baby. Raju opened his eyes, looked about, and said, ' Velan, it's raining in the hills. I can feel it coming up under my feet, up my legs----'He sagged down.
The novel The Guide by RK Narayan ends this way. A Swami named Raju refuses to stop his fast for rain and his condition worsens.  But the movie version of the book in Hindi, Guide directed by Vijay Anand in 1965 shows the villagers dancing to the music of rain while Raju’s mother and Rosie mourn over his death.

The movie version deviates in many ways from RK Narayan’s novel. For example, Rosie’s husband Marco is a womanizer in the movie, while in the novel; he is shown as an archaeologist interested only in his research. The music by SD Burman is memorable in that it beautifully captures the atmosphere of the story.

Both have as protagonist, Raju, a roguish railway guide from Malgudi. He lands in a village, where he is mistaken for a saint while he has no such otherworldly traits in his nature. His past, which he narrates to Velan, has dramatic incidents-such as seduction of a married woman of a client, living together much to the angst of his loving mother and a term in jail for forging Rosie’s signature on a document.

 The story of his past shows how he falls in love with Rosie and causes a drift her and her husband Marco. He takes her into her home and lets her follow her dream of becoming a dancer. She succeeds as a dancer and brings money to him, who acts as her manager. But he forges her signature on a document and lands in jail. On his release, he finds himself in a village, where the poor uneducated villagers mistake him for a saint/sadhu.

What is amazing is the transformation the self-centred Raju undergoes as a result of the devotion and faith of the villagers headed by Velan. Though his guiding qualities are manifested in the way he entertains his clients and how he helps Rosie find her dreams, in his newly-donned role as a guide to the villagers he survives by his glibness and experience of the world. 

For free lunches, he becomes a spiritual guide, a solace to the worried villagers. When drought and famine hits the village, his words are misinterpreted as his intention not to have food till it rains. The villagers are astonished by this and Raju cannot fail them. So he decides to keep a fast for twelve days in order to bring rain to the starving villagers.The roguish hero turns a saint when he makes an effort to sacrifice his life for the villagers.  The end of the novel is ambiguous- whether Raju dies as a result of his unselfish act or whether it rains is not clear. But the movie depicts an outburst of rain while Rosie and Raju's mother mourn over his death.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Celebrating 300 posts

It was only in last June that Journal- Serious and Trivial celebrated its 200th post and he not-so-modest author  made a pick of what she considers as the best of her most valuable sacred space: potpourri blog of poems, silences, reviews and definitions of silence. Now, several months later, lagging behind in the number of posts due to several reasons yet trying to catch up with an occasional post or the other, this journal is celebrating its 300th post. 

Here are a few select posts from the meagre and feeble 100 that followed the 200. 

This year, the Indiblogger rank of this blog has gone up again and reached 60 this time, though it was from 71 that it fell sometime back!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Today, imperceptible is the word that comes to my mind when I think about the few days that we spent together. For the last few months, since our first introduction on that narrow staircase by a common friend, our world was bound together by successes and failures of an opposite kind. 

Our failures and successes made a grand total; for it was strange how you won where I failed and I won where you failed. No two people could be so different in their attitudes to life; a pair of opposites in every single detail. Yet yesterday when you walked out of that door, I felt that the world has changed for me. 

The world that we built up with our daily chatter, quiet confidences and silly laughter exists in memory and there’s no way I can shed tears on my fondness; for that will make it too different from what I have known. Yet the whole credit goes to you, my dear friend, in making the world alive, all these unforgettable months.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Shashi Deshpande

Self-revelation is a cruel process. The real picture, the real you never emerges. Looking for it is as bewildering as trying to know how you really look. Ten different mirrors show you ten different faces. SHASHI DESHPANDE

It's unfortunate that I got introduced to the works of Shashi Deshpande through her novel, The Dark Holds No Terrors. It was part of my BA Syllabus and somehow I disliked this classic of Indian feminism that openly attacked the patriarchal values of repressing women.

Now almost a decade later, I read her novels Moving On and Roots and Shadows. To my own amazement, the books were well-written and very readable though her books follow a particular structure and form just like all the thrillers of Dan Brown are made of the same mould.

Somehow I felt betrayed as a literary student when I realised that what I studied as a student was one of her earlier works written in 1980, while Roots and Shadows belonged to 1983 and Moving On was published in 2004.

Though so late, I have become a fan of her writing and is happy to find that can keep the suspense of the story intact till the end while writing in a simple yet precise style.Written mostly in the stream-of-consciousness technique, the novels reveal the inner lives of women who try to liberate themselves from the shackles of family and society.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


This book of magic, for you, my beloved,
Remains to this day, a faraway dream;
For once there were flavours dreamt
To be set before your taste-buds.

Strangely, I have lost that magic wand,
To turn anything into appealing dishes,
Instead I have lost you and my dream,
To an inertia that loves only the self. 

Now no longer the magic appeals,
To the ones who matter the most,
No feathers are seen in my cap,
To display proudly my secret skill. 

You cook and call me a beginner,
While I sit and smile ironically.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Reading Spree

Do you know the occasional learning spree that makes you read every scrap of paper that passes before your eyes? Well, I have this tendency once in a while, when I want to read lots and lots of books and gobble up tonnes and tonnes of new ideas- anything that can quench my thirst for knowledge. But such spells last only a short span of time and may be followed by times of no reading at all.

This week, I'm on such a reading spree and I have got writing assignment on new topics that  might have created this curiosity. Well, let's see what writing comes out of this love of words and ideas.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Save Paper; Save Stress; Avoid Scandal

This year, I have made a rather strange and dramatic New Year Resolution. No diaries, this time and writing only on scrap paper and with the help of the PC. Regarding empty pages, I have plenty of them left in my other notebooks. So all I need to do is to start writing on whatever sheet of paper that comes handy.

My last year's resolution of writing a page a day was kind of stressing me out. Somehow, there were days when I found it impossible to sit down and write. Of course, there was a hectic, unhealthy and trivial life to lead. Moreover, the empty pages stare at me from the diary accusingly, for I have left no record nor memory of many of those passing days.

Finally, there is this habit of mine to pour out my true feelings and emotions on to paper. For me, that is my remedy for stress and tension and bottling up emotions. But it somehow backfires when I forget to lock my diary up and leaves it right in front of my family with whom I might have fought and wrote venomously. So no causing scandals this year.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Interesting Articles I Read Today

Dear Reader,

I'm sharing with you a few interesting articles that I read today:
  1. 36 Poetry Writing Tips 
  2. 9 Ways to Develop Intelligence at Any Age
  3. How to Touch Your Creative Soul: A Zen View
Hope you enjoy reading them as I did!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Journal: Serious and Trivial

A thousand blank pages wait to record a few lines,
Some serious, some trivial, some mixed like life,
All gathered from the same rambling mind,
Which has loved to dream, to love and to lose.

The serious thoughts were all about your loss
A vacuum that I have never been able to fill,
A turning point from the fact that I was loved, 

Into a world full of options and crossroads.

The trivial thoughts were all written in joy,
A bundle of words on a beautiful morning,
When the fresh air and bright blue sky
Was more than enough to make me high.

But the best was always the mixed ones,
Not too sad or happy; just real like today's.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Jane Smiley and her list of 100 novels

Jane Smiley writes about her experiences with novels- reading, writing and reviewing- in her Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Novel. In this book, she lists a set of 100 novels that has influenced her considerably. From classics to most recent books, her list covers a good deal of novels, belonging to various types.

  1.  Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji
  2. Author unknown, The Saga of the People of Laxardal
  3. Snorri Sturluson, Egil's Saga
  4. Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron
  5. Marguerite de Navarre, The Heptameron
  6. Anonymous, Lazarillo de Tormes
  7. Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, vols. 1 and 2
  8. Madame de Lafayette, The Princess of Cleves
  9. Aphra Behn, Oroonoko
  10. Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, Roxana
  11. Samuel Richardson, Pamela
  12. Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling
  13. Charlotte Lennox, The Female Quixote
  14. Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
  15. Voltaire, Candide
  16. Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker
  17. Choderlos de Laclos, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
  18. The Marquis de Sade, Justine
  19. Sir Walter Scott, The Tale of Old Mortality, The Bride of the Lammermoor
  20. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
  21. Jane Austen, Persuasion
  22. James Hogg, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner
  23. Stendhal, The Red and the Black
  24. Nicolai Gogol, Taras Bulba
  25. Mikhail Lermontov, A Hero of Our Time
  26. Honore de Balzac, Cousin Pons and Cousin Bette
  27. Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
  28. Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
  29. William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair
  30. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin
  31. Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, or the Whale
  32. Nathaniel Hawthorne,The House of the Seven Gables
  33. Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
  34. Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
  35. Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White, The Moonstone
  36. Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons
  37. Emile Zola, Therese Raquin
  38. Anthony Trollope, The Last Chronicle of Barset , The Eustace Diamonds
  39. Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot
  40. Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
  41. George Eliot, Middlemarch
  42. Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
  43. Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady , The Awkward Age
  44. Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
  45. Bram Stoker, Dracula
  46. Kate Chopin, The Awakening
  47. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles
  48. Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
  49. Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth
  50. Max Beerbohm, The Illustrated Zuleika Dobson, or an Oxford Love Story
  51. Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier
  52. Sinclair Lewis, Main Street
  53. Sigrid Undset, Kristin Lavransdatter, volume I, The Wreath
  54. James Joyce, Ulysses
  55. Italo Svevo, Zeno's Conscience
  56. E.M. Forster, A Passage to India
  57. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
  58. Franz Kafka, The Trial
  59. Hermann Broch, The Sleepwalkers
  60. Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time
  61. D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover
  62. Virginia Woolf, Orlando
  63. William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
  64. Robert Musil, The Man without Qualities, volume 1
  65. Mikhail Sholokhov, And Quiet flows the Don
  66. Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
  67. Elizabeth Bowen, The Death of the Heart
  68. P.G. Wodehouse, The Return of Jeeves, Bertie Wooster Sees it Through, Spring Fever, The Butler Did It
  69. T.H. White, The Once and Future King
  70. Christina Stead, The Man Who Loved Children
  71. Junichiro Tanizaki, The Makioka Sisters
  72. Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
  73. Rebecca West, The Fountain Overflows
  74. Nancy Mitford, The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate and Don't Tell Alfred
  75. Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
  76. Jetta Carleton, The Moonflower Vine
  77. Yukio Mishima, The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea
  78. Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea
  79. John Gardner, Grendel
  80. Alice Munro, Lives of Girls and Women
  81. Naguib Mahfouz, The Harafish
  82. Iris Murdoch, The Sea, the Sea
  83. David Lodge, How Far Can You Go?
  84. Muriel Spark, Loitering With Intent
  85. Anne Tyler, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant
  86. Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  87. Jamaica Kincaid, Annie John
  88. J.M. Coetzee, Foe
  89. Toni Morrison, Beloved
  90. A.S. Byatt, Possession
  91. Nicholson Baker, Vox
  92. Garrison Keillor, WLT: A Radio Romance
  93. Kate Atkinson, Behind the Scenes at the Museum
  94. Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance
  95. Francine Prose, Guided Tours of Hell
  96. Chang-rae Lee, A Gesture Life
  97. Arnost Lustig, Lovely Green Eyes
  98. Zadie Smith, White Teeth
  99. John Updike, The Complete Henry Bech
  100. Ian McEwan, Atonement
  101. Jennifer Egan, Look at Me 
Note: I have read only a handful of them but would like to catch up with the rest in future!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Goodbye Again

For you, no words are enough; no goodbyes enough,
For you were always there besides the River Green,
Looking at my small and big steps with lots of pride
For all these long years from early childhood.

Now you are like a child with a weak heart and mind,
That trembles and forgets who you really represent,
Still in your shaky voice heard over the distance,
I hear the same pride that I have heard before.

You taught me my first words and the first songs
You sang in that hoarse voice, your many boatsongs,
That later formed the wild rhythm of musicless songs
Written in a language you have forgotten to understand.

Now, all you know is a strange language of goodbyes
That makes my heart tremble and grow old so early.

Saturday, January 02, 2010


I am the taste of pure water and the radiance of the sun and moon. I am the sacred word and the sound heard in air, and the courage of human beings. I am the sweet fragrance in the earth and the radiance of fire; I am the life in every creature and the striving of the spiritual aspirant.
The Bhagavat Gita