Friday, August 21, 2009


Genuine ignorance is... profitable because it is likely to be accompanied by humility, curiosity, and open mindedness; whereas ability to repeat catch-phrases, cant terms, familiar propositions, gives the conceit of learning and coats the mind with varnish waterproof to new ideas. ~John Dewey

Well dressed, well-spoken and with a tone that might put to shame the ancient serpent that charmed Eve are the fashionable people around me who boast of anything and everything, from a tidbit of knowledge scrapped from the edges of a ten rupee quote book to the new brand faith that they propagate in the virtues of the previous generation.

They speak hours about nothing closed in rooms that reek of some artificial scent or the other that brings a bout of sneezing or a cold. The words are worse, praising ones who are absent while closing the eyes deliberately to the ones who slug hard to keep their work-worlds intact. A good word for a good deed is the last thing; but lapses, quicker to find than a daisy in a room full of laptops.

Led by charm, they live and die, lives of exasperation, when the strange lady with cat-like eyes and a lousy mouth comes with her beauty and eat their brains right away. Held transfixed in gazes across those closed rooms, all you need is a call from a friend to distract you for at least a while.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Blogger on leave

A few days away from my favourite space. The blogger who posts here is on leave for a few days, sick with fever. More posts, when she comes back after the break!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Re-reading "Tintern Abbey" by Wordsworth

Recently, I re-read William Wordsworth's "Composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey, On revisiting the Banks of Wye during a Tour, July 13, 1798" officially known as "Tintern Abbey" to all literature students. While, I was reading the poem (later teaching it as well), it suddenly occurred to me that the consciousness that Wordsworth talks about in the poem is something that modern people are trying hard to achieve: harmony with nature.

For the poet, nature was a form of escape in his early years. Later she became "all in all" to him- "the anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,/The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul/ Of all my moral being". When weighed by the troubles of the world, he could easily think about the beautiful scenes of nature and forget his sorrows.

This habit of storing the sights and sounds of nature in his mind's eye helped him to recollect such sights when he wanted them. Such memories flooded his mind, filled it with tranquility and gave rise to a pleasant frame of mind devoid of all angst. Such a tranquil mood increased in its intensity until the poet was no longer aware of the functions of his body and instead became a living soul that partakes in the mystery of the universe.

Wordsworth describes his hour of ecstasy as:

...that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened:--that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,--
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.

For the poet, this poem tracks his growth as a mature person from the immature boy he was. It shows the poet as meditating on nature, which is commonly used to calm the monkey mind in meditation.

Note- Read an interesting article about the need for being close to nature from Charity Focus.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Red rose

“Life is like a movie, if you've sat through more than half of it and its sucked every second so far, it probably isn't gonna get great right at the end and make it all worthwhile. None should blame you for walking out early.”Doug Stanhope

You were like a bird who wanted to fly high;

But your wings were clipped quite early enough.

Your heart wanted and demanded freedom,

But those around you stifled you in four walls.

For love was an addiction, his sweet words solace,
From the cruel world that blossomed your form.
Yet he could not liberate you from the four walls
That ate your happiness and killed you day by day.

Your innocent smile stares from a beautiful picture,
Your perfect face set against your dark shiny hair,
And a pair of glasses only one used to you can spot,
As you stand clad in red, a colour that you'd loved.

You could crumble those four walls with outside help,
But you chose to show your freedom to do it yourself.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Spring is here!

According to the Malayalam calendar, today is the first day of the New Year and the beginning of Spring here. Falling after Karkidakom month that signifies poverty and illness,this month of Chingam is the time of harvest and propserity.

The arrival of Chingam is celebrated with floral designs called pookalams and by dressing up in the traditional handwoven dresses interlaced with gold threads. These simple handlooms give elegance to its wearer.

During childhood, Chingam stood for Onam holidays that saw all of us children running to see the snakeboats gliding across the River Pamba to the beat of the traditional vallapaatu. It also meant onasadyas and waiting for the thiruvona thoni at midnight.

This year, the shopping sprees and festive atmosphere is very much marred by the swine-flu scare. Still, the Malayali spirit in me, decided to remember that it's spring here and Onam, the traditional festival of Kerala is only a few weeks away.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Classics of the Macabre by Daphne du Maurier

Though not at all psychic- I have never seen a ghost or dabbled in spiritualism or the occult- I have always been fascinated by the unexplained, the darker side of life. I have a strong sense of the things that lie beyond our day-by-day perception and experience. It is, perhaps, an extension of this feeling that makes me live through the characters that I create.

The Classics of the Macabre(1987) is a collection of scary stories written by the queen of macabre writing, Daphne du Maurier. This book published at her 80th birthday showcases six stories noted for their drama as well as emotional intensity.

In "Don't Look Now" (1970), a couple on holiday meets a pair of twin sisters, who claim that they are psychic. They claim that they can see the couple's recently dead daughter and advises them to go back home. The couple is shocked by the sudden turn of events in which they pay a heavy price for their cynicism.

"The Apple Tree"(1952) is about a man recollecting his dead wife at the sight of an apple tree in his yard. This tree sprang up in the garden after her death and he doesn't like remembering his barren and rather cheerless wife. So he decides to cut down the tree only to put his own life in danger.

"The Blue Lenses" (1952) narrates the story of Marda West who undergoes an eye surgery and has blue lenses temporarily fitted in her eye. To her horror, she can see only animals in the place of her near and dear ones. Her husband and her nurse have changed shape.

"The Birds" (1952) is like a nightmare. Birds come in large numbers and start attacking people. This is the reverse situation of nature attacking human beings.

"The Alibi"(1959) is about a man who is about to kill a family. The woman of the family believes him to be a painter and so he tries his hand at painting. But the evil inside him needs release more than ever.

"Not After Midnight" (1971) is equally scary in that a schoolmaster meets a couple who tell him what happened to the last inhabitant of the place where he lives.

Though most of the stories are scary and unputdownable, the best in this collection are defintely "The Apple Tree" and "The Blue Lenses".

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Vande Mataram: Happy Independence Day

This is Sri Aurobindo's translation of the Indian National Song "Vande Matharam". On this occasion of our 62nd Independence Day Celebrations, this song that celebrates the glory of Mother India.

Mother, I bow to thee!
Rich with thy hurrying streams,
bright with orchard gleams,
Cool with thy winds of delight,
Dark fields waving Mother of might,
Mother free.

Glory of moonlight dreams,
Over thy branches and lordly streams,
Clad in thy blossoming trees,
Mother, giver of ease
Laughing low and sweet!
Mother I kiss thy feet,
Speaker sweet and low!
Mother, to thee I bow.

Who hath said thou art weak in thy lands
When the sword flesh out in the seventy million hands
And seventy million voices roar
Thy dreadful name from shore to shore?
With many strengths who art mighty and stored,
To thee I call Mother and Lord!
Thou who savest, arise and save!
To her I cry who ever her foeman drove
Back from plain and Sea
And shook herself free.

Thou art wisdom, thou art law,
Thou art heart, our soul, our breath
Thou art love divine, the awe
In our hearts that conquers death.
Thine the strength that nerves the arm,
Thine the beauty, thine the charm.
Every image made divine
In our temples is but thine.

Thou art Durga, Lady and Queen,
With her hands that strike and her
swords of sheen,
Thou art Lakshmi lotus-throned,
And the Muse a hundred-toned,
Pure and perfect without peer,
Mother lend thine ear,
Rich with thy hurrying streams,
Bright with thy orchard gleams,
Dark of hue O candid-fair

In thy soul, with jeweled hair
And thy glorious smile divine,
Loveliest of all earthly lands,
Showering wealth from well-stored hands!
Mother, mother mine!
Mother sweet, I bow to thee,
Mother great and free!

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Many distrust a bond made across boundaries; for the same can turn into a ploy for infiltration. Though my self is not the high walls of Troy, when my security levels were low, you lured me into accepting your offer of friendship.

You asked me questions that I could not but refuse to answer while you wove lie upon lie to create an image of reality. When you had your fill, the life that I had in me was no more; the faith I had in others and myself had vanished and then you disappeared without a trace.

But by then, my life had degraded into empty words and need for somebody to survive. From independence, you brought me on to mass dependence on lies. An addiction, your lying words often lifted the gloom out of everyday though it ended as fast as it started.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

ON TALKING from "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran

And then a scholar said, Speak of Talking.

And he answered, saying:

You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts;

And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime.

And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered.

For thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly.

There are those among you who seek the talkative through fear of being alone.

The silence of aloneness reveals to their eyes their naked selves and they would escape.

And there are those who talk, and without knowledge or forethought reveal a truth which they themselves do not understand.

And there are those who have the truth within them, but they tell it not in words.

In the bosom of such as these the spirit dwells in rhythmic silence.

When you meet your friend on the roadside or in the market place, let the spirit in you move your lips and direct your tongue.

Let the voice within your voice speak to the ear of his ear;

For his soul will keep the truth of your heart as the taste of the wine is remembered when the colour is forgotten and the vessel is no more.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Ernest Hemingway

Every man's life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.
You, eager reader, must have read quite a lot of material on how to improve your creative writing skills. While I was attending a writing workshop recently, I had this brainwave. I actually hit upon a brilliant place to generate creative blog ideas.

The professor was discussing Ernest Hemingway’s writing habits. Hemingway chose a quiet room in his house that was neatly cluttered with his typewriter, foolscap sheets for pre-writing stages, an oversize slipper wearing which he stood and wrote and his wastebasket that contained shreds of initial drafts that he improved upon.

On the third day of the workshop, the writing exercise was on visualizing and describing the scene. For me, who is just a hack writer, the writing exercises were a disappointment. At that moment, I could not write anything more than a drab piece of prose that just rephrased what was originally in the article that the professor read out to us.

First, I asked the professor, “May I stand and write?” He said “If that helps”. Then I produced some poor quality writing whose only good point was that I described a person’s bland face coming alive when he smiled. The professor applauded that and wisely ignored the rest, while I sat expecting a word by word analysis of my writing. Well, nothing happened.

In the next twenty minutes, everybody read out their versions of the writing exercise. One was exceptionally well-written and I really saw how good it was, with good illustrations and cleverly planned. Then the clown in my mind started dancing and making faces. He showed me an image of The Carpenters in concert half-clad and inspired.

So to cover my embarrassment of being a writer and not being able to produce a good piece of writing, I started narrating the example of the carpenters and that I needed a good shower to start working on any writing job I have. Bogus or not, I went home and enjoyed some special time in my sacred space and came up with this piece on Ernest Hemingway.

Monday, August 03, 2009

27: Happy Birthday

When the multiplication tables were in
Twenty-seven stood for three raised to three;
Now it stands for the age of this old wine,
The spirit, inside a big barrel called me.

No humble words, the barrel loves to expand,
This spirit grows mellow people say (God knows)
Though it was only yesterday that I was a kid,
Splashing for hours in the mighty river green.

Now the wrong side of twenties beckons me,
For it’s a freefall that all women go through,
From where you slip into the 30s, 40s and 50s,
Wrinkles, complaints and hassles of old age.

A lousy bunch of thoughts on my special day,
That’s me on my twenty seventh birthday!

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