Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Lord God Made Them All



All Creatures Great and Small; all Things Bright and Beautiful; all Things Wise and Wonderful; the Lord God Made Them All.

James Herriot books are a genre apart in uniqueness, beauty and simplicity, about animals, pets and his love for them. The dog stories of Herriot are viand for the mind and soul, be it young or old. However it was not until well into my life, I could have a pet at home. That was more because of C’s immeasurable love and fascination for animals, especially dogs. I have had cats back when I was little, but they were often frowned upon at home, more because of their behavioral traits of opportunism. I did love them nevertheless.

So we were assisted by a family friend to take a pet from a litter of puppies. The offer was for free as it was the only one from the litter that was left because the others all male were taken away by people. So, the little bitch, a Labrador- Dachshund mix breed and a black one came to our house when she was about sixty days old. We named her “Blacky”! Both Aravind and Radhika, then about five and two years of age were equally excited and in fact their curiosity was often irritant to the little pup.
Blacky was less than foot tall and pretty stretched like her mother who was a Black Dachshund. However her behavioural traits and attitude was inherited from her father the Labrador. That made her an intelligent, loving and obedient dog. She was zealously concerned about Radhika and guarded her like an Alsatian. She would not shy from chasing a stranger if he/she went near the girl. But understood who had to be let in and kept at a distance.

There was an instance when she did what she resisted doing and what she never dared to do thereafter. The primeval instinct in her once got the better and she ran out on to the road and later came in awash, probably in stagnant drain water. For the first and the last time she got the stick and endless bath in shampoo, soap,  spray of lots of perfume and cologne thereafter.

She slept on the sofa in the living room. Though the kids wanted her in the bed along with them, I was insistent that bed was out of bounds to her and she can have the cosy comfort of the sofa. Certainly I could see in her tiny eyes that she frowned upon my decision. She used to timidly tag on to the kids at bed time but when I wagged finger at her she used to go and curl up in the sofa.

Then, we moved into another house and a couple of house next to our, was a woman with whom Blacky became friends. The intro, I guess happened when C took her for strolls outside. The woman had a comfortable and luxurious life. She was estranged, from her husband; in fact she abandoned, banished him after he suffered a major heart attack and was penniless as well. The story is rather unsavory to dwell. She was keen about a hedonistic life and seemed to enjoy it.

Blacky who was annoyed and uncomfortable when she knew that none of us would be around in the house suddenly seemed to vanish at night after she got her meal. It was rather a mystery; we could not hear her growl and bark in the night admonishing a street dog when it would howl outside. Then punctually at about seven in the morning when I would be in the verandah having my cuppa and morning newspaper she would wriggle in through the closed gate and trot to me rather timidly and with  guilt in her eyes and sit by my chair staring eagerly at me. Her black tail wagging and was with some apprehension. When I asked her where the hell she was she would gaze down on to the floor and then quickly vanish into the house. This became a routine. We later found that the woman next doors were keeping Blacky in her bed and in the comfort of her air-conditioned bed room. Blacky finally got the privilege which she wanted. There was not a moment during other hours of the day she would leave the house.

I was quite defiant about the dog’s attitude. I exclaimed that she was an opportunist and selfish like the woman next doors forsaking relationship for comfort .Though an uncompromising dog lover, even C was rather surprised at her behavior and perhaps saw some parallel.

Later ironically and quite disturbingly, when she took ill she chose to spend the night at home and die and we were calling out to her when we found that she did not turn up the next morning as she used to. C went to the woman’s house to fetch her and was alarmed when she found she had turned up the previous night there, but did not sleep in the woman’s bed and she went away soon. Sometime late in the morning, she was found dead under the foliage of crotons that stood outside the French window she used to sneak out after her meal at night.

Did she know she would die and wanted to die in the house? Did she try jumping back into the house that night through the window

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Summer Storm


I stood by the well, and it was about three in the afternoon. The hot summer sun swiftly had vanished and darkness had dawned at noon. I felt the change in the air-the crows seemed to flutter in circles perhaps prodding the others to scamper and fly back to the safety of their roost; the sparrows which are a rare sight these days were hastening to pick up the specks of food they could find and were intent to fly back to their nestlings; the mynas were not to be left behind; the family of squirrels were scurrying up the branches of the old mango tree; the lone ranger –the serpent bird who found roost among the thick green foliage of the mangos-teen moved to a safer branch. The clouds had gathered in thick mass, in dark, blackish grey. The sky looked viciously beautiful! One would wonder if the sun was up in the sky a little while ago glaring down on all earthlings in its full summer fury. The dominance over him was total


The breeze scouted and moments after thunder roared in the distance. The wind quickened and the tall stooping coconut palms swayed ominously. I stood still looking at the sky and felt the swift change in the air seep up from through my feet, through every sinew in me. Lightning broke crevasse of fire-fiery   streaks in the dark rain clouds. The cumulus nimbus was in no mood to retreat, the storm clouds soon spread her canopy of dark grey tentacles and it felt the sky was coming down to meet the land. The chariot of the gods roared swiftly and blazing silver flashes in the dark sky. I thought I saw firmaments in the sky. The earth seemed to shudder and I stood by the well.

Then she arrived in grandeur. Pouring down in torrents quenching the flora and she hit the earth as succor to the soil, dry and parched by the relentless glare of the summer sun. It was April 7 th 1973. The summer rains had arrived. I soaked in her. I longed to melt in her, awash!

Why do I remember that day and the morning after? I do not know. The summer rains, how she arrived and squelched the earth, engulfing all life in her munificence and beauty. And then, the day after- morning when I woke up and walked about outside the house and on to the road still drenched and cold after the rains the evening before- breached branches of trees, debris of broken twigs and tree leaves littered; pebbles and sand carried by the torrents  and strewn on the road; bright red and chaste white hibiscus flowers bowed by the beating of the summer storm albeit still with splendour and  beauty, washed by the rains and carrying droplets of water, peeped over the compound walls and fences of houses on either sides of the road; Kanikonna (Cassia fistula), was in full bloom , being April and nearer to Vishu- they looked bright lapped by the rains and their  yellow gloss prettier in the warm soothing rays of the rising sun. The bougainvillea, kanikonna (Cassia fistula) and the cluster of jasmine flowers were strewn around on the wet earth by the gate in front of the house; their tiny petals still sparkling with droplets of rain water.  They seemed to paint a picture abstract and beautiful, red-pink ,yellow and white. The sunflowers endured the beating in the rain but they invested their majesty and stood beckoning the morning sun. As it was my habit of checking by the fish tank every morning soon after I was out of bed, I went to it. The water was almost spilling over, and was crystal clear. I felt my finger the index and the middle into the glazing water and I tinked in the coldness that grabbed them. The fishes- the Gold, the Angels, the Black-ies and the Sword tails all were in ecstatic play.


By then the sun was up and the warm rays fell upon the earth, through the trees and it brought forth a feeling of blessedness.

The majestic jack fruit tree which stood at the front left corner of the compound was gleaming. Its foliage of dark green leaves looked pristine, fresh and brilliant. The jack fruits that donned along its trunk through the year were resplendent greenish yellow and beamed, tanned by the storm. The huge mango tree was imposing and sweet little yellowish mangoes had fallen down in the wind and rain waiting to be picked up. I looked over the well and saw the water level was only a couple of feet below the brim. The ferns sprouting luxuriously on the walls of the well had driblets of storm water and looked vivid green. The squirrels were scurrying along the trees and squeaking, tails standing up; the sparrows and mynas were intensely devouring the seemingly unending carcass of May- flies that were washed out in the rain.


The feast was splendid, the ambience electric and the wait worth. I inhaled a very deep lungful of air. There was a lyrical quality about the air that morning. I felt I was reborn.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Malarkey



It is not true that one can create an illusion of humility; the membrane is so thin that the world will see through the facade  It is not possible to divorce us from what we voice and write. They are our selves-good or bad, acceptable or outrageous, humorous or livid.

In times gone by when I was young, avenues to see one’s thoughts in print was  rare and success- an achievement as scaling the Everest, possible only to the very few who succeed after relentlessly posting in the mail the works they pen- essays short stories, poems ,so on and so forth to publishing houses, newspapers and periodicals. In fact there were no boulevards that one could trod through to air one’s thoughts. The virtual age has revolutionised all that. And it will be sheer untruth to claim that what we write on our blog, be it as a post or comment is not us speaking, our psyche, our experience and they are only pertaining to aliens or we speak for the reader. Else one must admit that one is a common hypocrite who wants to influence and sway people with clich├ęs like “awe”, “awesome” etc.

An ode to melancholy cannot be penned in an elated state. One has to be feeling sad to write about being sad. Can I say that my poem, my essay are not my thoughts but of my neighbour? It is only when one empathises with the misfortunes of the neighbour or when one is consumed by one’s own misfortunes does the ode to melancholy bears. A man like Mukesh Ambani sitting in the ugliest mansion ever built to desecrate the Mumbai skyline cannot possibly pen or be enchanted by the lines of William Wordsworth
“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.”

I’m not an afficando of poetry but I understood that the language of John Keats lines
'Yes, I will be thy priest, and build a fane
 In some untrodden region of my mind'
can be linked to his love letters to Fanny Brawne.

Keats penned one of his famous five odes , “Ode to a Nightingale”, one spring. He felt immense tranquility and happiness in the song of the little bird that nested near his house. He went out sat beneath the tree for hours and thence was born one of the most beautiful odes. What other state of mind other than sheer joy and tranquility can provoke such a creation? A paranoid mind cannot hear nor see the nightingale.

Take these lines of P.B.Shelly:
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
 My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
 Oh! lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!'

The poet evinces his aching for rebirth and resurrection. He wants to be as 'timeless, fleeting and lofty' as the West Wind, for he suffers endlessly. The intense emotional distress of the unforgiving life makes him bleed-the life experiences ('I fall upon the thorns of life') and longs to put an end to the agony. I do not think that Shelly would have felt offended or ashamed at this dissection of his verses.

Can one say that the lines were all in humour and jest? There is always our pale self in our words and writings even if we consciously want to camouflage or deny that. One need not be a Maugham or a James Joyce, but life’s experience is in our words and writings.

 Hemmingway’s candid painting of life as seen and experienced by him created the unique literature that give us immense pleasure. Hemmingway’s life and his writings are entwined and are mirror images. “Death in the afternoon”, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” both vivid narration of his love- bullfighting and his experience in the Spanish Civil war, then “The Old Man and The Sea” are undeniable exposition of human relationships, emotions, love, agony, lust and disappointment. Imagine Papa Hemmingway creating “Snows of Kilimanjaro or the Green Hills of Africa if he were a reticent and incipient arm chair explorer? The throbbing emotions packed in the “Snows of Kilimanjaro” would certainly have touched Hemmingway as an experience felt or seen in some ways.

It is life that make a writer or a poet, Mark Twain,Hemmingway or the Bloggers like us and there is no infamy in not being timid and to accept that our words in letters are our life- humour, jest, agony, joy or stoicism.The opposite is sheer malarkey.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Legacy of Agony



Over the past few days two incidents happened in places distance apart. One, the tragic death of a young woman in far off Ireland and  the other, a timed out death of a volatile virulent man in Mumbai, India. Both the incidents, one a terrible tragedy triggered by religious dogma and the other the due process of a natural law that does not even discriminate tigers!

To tell my personal opinion, the sad story of the young woman in Dublin, Ireland, who was discarded to bleed and die an agonising death after being denied medical intervention to save her life during the miscarriage of her pregnancy and that too in a society and country that is seen as economically advanced and modern is quite distressing. Distressing and macabre because the premises the medical facility based its refusal to terminate the miscarrying pregnancy was on the didactic interpretation of a religious code that says man has no right to take away what God has given-”life”.

The Vatican Council holds the declaration, "Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes”. I went through much of Wikipedia and some sites that have posted Christian doctrines, but could not see any reference to Jesus Christ touching upon the subject of abortion. However, I notice that though the Bible gives direct guidance on many topics, but not on abortion. In fact the Roman laws in force during the time of Jesus did permit abortion and abortion was practiced from the times of early human history.

I do not intend to pour scorn on a moral code of catechism or asperse the faithful practicing catechism. But if laws are made to better life then they must be interpreted in spirit and not in a bigoted and outlandish way as the doctors in Dublin did. That was criminal and wanton negligence which will only defile the faith if faith is used as an apron to hide. The bane of scriptures is that the moral exhortations they give are all entwined in jargon and euphemisms, often liable to be interpreted by mortals whichever way to suit them. More often the self-acclaimed custodians of religions and zealots state their versions of a code to thoroughly ensure that the flock stay pliable and unfortunately gullibility is not in dearth. This  may be graver in the present day Muslim world.

The last knell orchestrated by the bigotry in Dublin was the outrageous statement of the Irish Government that they would provide all means for the widowed young man to rebuild his life. What would they do? Provide him with an Irish bride?

“Good riddance to bad rubbish”, was the general expression when told about the passing away of the self-proclaimed custodian of Hindu bigotry and Marathi manoos, Marthi asmita. A person who idolised Adolf Hitler and when asked by the Time Magazine soon after the Barbari Masjid demolition for his comments, infamously said, “kick em out”( meaning the Muslims of India).A person who seldom traveled outside Maharashtra just twice in the past forty years was certainly living in a well. To him perhaps the world was his carefully manipulated and cultivated frenzied following like the GM crop! He ran the State as if it were his fiefdom, his heirloom.  And the rest of the country and the world hardly existed or even mattered.
He was a man who exhorted Hindus to organise suicide death squads and hit back like the Islamic fanatics. Perhaps as a token of goodwill and willingness to sacrifice, as to ensure that charity and philanthropy starts at home and within the household he should have asked his son and nephew to lead the death squads to begin with. But like all such operators he ensured his safety and his family’s safety by assembling and expending the gullible and frenzied foot soldiers of the Sena.

He said after the demise of his wife, that he ceased to believe in God and even dislikes his favourite one of the pantheon Vinayaka, as even this God did not do enough to save his wife. What can one define this thought process- imbecile, demented, ridiculous?

Professional jealousy and rivalry is understandable. Infamously the professional jealousy of the late thespian M.R.Radha provoked him to shoot the late icon M.G.R. But this Sena supremo’s ire was towards the three Khans in Bollywood. He alleged that the Bollywood was being increasingly controlled by Muslim actors and he unleashed his Sena goons on theaters screening movies of SRK. The harrowing time people from South of India lived through in the Bombay of the late sixties and seventies will also be recollected by the Biharis and Northerners. He was a direct threat to the concept of the Union.

It is does not require maverick capability nor is it an achievement to harness and unleash anarchy and unlawful elements on the society and the commoner. Money and power can see to it. To subjugate and enslave by fear and terror is not supreme achievement and iconic. And this was exactly what the Sena Supremo did. He was no Mandela, no Gandhi, no Martin Luther King and no Mother Teresa who all could sway and enslave people not by terror but something apart and distanced that the late don and his ilk will not have known and will understand.

The bane is that bigotry and myopia are growing virulently amongst us sans religion, faith and race. If not, the tragedy in Dublin would be only a nightmare nor would a fanatic in Mumbai been a fact of our times for almost five decades. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Tale Of The Fallen Apple



His idiosyncrasies are not absolutely among the kind one can put up with. They are rather insipid and quite frivolous. They are often bore and also annoying. But what the heck, he has a diploma degree in mechanical engineering, which he is quite proud of. It is true that education perse and as it is imparted today would have no bearing on one’s character and behavioral attributes. Erudition is not a panacea and a carte blanche certificate for ills in the personality either. But somewhere they do blend and can have tremendous influence on one’s personality conduct and words. It multiplies and enhances the aura when the company one keeps from the formative period in life is not trivial.

The blissful thing about him is that he is oblivious to the faux pas  he brings about by his conduct and words. They are not offensive but annoying-something I sometimes wish I could do without. No malice meant but yet he can haul you over the barbed wire.

He does not acknowledge or may be not aware of his limitations. He would go to the White House and ask the President why his mansion is not painted white but yet he dares to call it the White House. I often felt it was a bit of audacity and over confidence out of ignorance that drives him. I shudder to think of his claims to the education he had. No spite meant.

His spoken  English is awful, but once he even boasted to his General Manager that no one can draft a communicative message in English as he can. His impudence once prompted the C.E.O, to observe that he was rather rude and has no reverence to him even. I always felt that it was not arrogance that made him comment and behave as he often does, but perhaps ignorance of etiquette or a way of eclipsing an inferior complex. But he always did a commendable conclusion to the jobs that were entrusted to him. That perhaps makes him the lieutenant of the C.E.O.

It was an occasion when we were at an official dinner and was in his brassy oratory self .I was seated next to him and he picked up conversation with a couple of ladies. I do not remember how the conversation began and how it progressed to the stage when the women almost dropped the glasses they were holding and I quivered a bit. I cowered because the women knew that he was in my company! But our presumptuous friend was in no mood to notice our gape and that of the quite a few heads that turned towards our table.

As I mentioned, I cannot remember the thread from where and how the conversation or call it monologue began. However he reached the stage where he wanted to use an assertive allegory. He said,“It is like the principle of why things fall down and how that was first found out. It was a scientist called Einstein who first found that out. One day he was seated on a bench in his garden and an apple fell down from the nearby tree. Einstein saw that and wondered why it fell down to earth. Have you folks heard about this story before?”


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mystic- Mystery



“Who am I ? Ask yourself.” She exhorted. “Are you the flesh and blood that you are now or are you the mind that is in you?” I did not see it even a shred necessary or imperative to fret and send my brain on a hunt seeking answer to this monumental ask. She continued her monologue at the group that we were, about a score of virtually bewildered people. Bewildered more because of the strange introspection the petite French lass with shaven head and in white kurta pyjama implored us to engage. We were all seated on the forest floor and in the opening strewn with dried leaves and a perfect canopy lend by huge trees to shade us from the noon sun.

The group was confounded and that enhanced their pleasure in a strange way. It happens when you are dumb struck with jargon and entwined sentences and meanings that are the arsenal of God men and women. Your bewilderment is fanned by virtual curiosity and hope of something about to break open as revelation. A fool’s paradise where ignorance is bliss and more mystifying more the bliss.

She continued her monologue in accented English. She spoke about SreeKrishna and dwelled on his alleged sorcery  She soon turned to lecture on a verse from the Gita and began to decipher for us its intricate meaning. It was amusing to think what depth of knowledge would life and experience besides the five years she spent in the congregation render this young woman in her twenties to indulge in the audacity of lecturing on Indian and oriental philosophy. It was a different coin when it was her master-her guru in the ashram. The guy had such powerful and haunting eyes that can only be surpassed by the pair of eyes of the late Rajneesh. He was tanned and brown complexioned. The turban on his head addressed the probable baldness. But the flowing white beard and whiskers added to the captivating gaze.

I was to live with the congregation inside the sprawling but Spartan ashram for three days as a participant in what was termed as engineering of the inner self. I was pulled in there by a distant acquaintance and had to shell out fifteen thousand Rupees as participant fee in the sessions and the chance to correct my inner self. (sic) To be fair the food was strict vegetarian but was heavenly in taste and richness. The ashram was at the foothills of the Western Ghats and was well designed. The guru or master as many called him was a Shivaite but I did not sense any bigotry or an iota of religious tone in his lectures. His discourses were matter of fact, thought provoking and distanced from conventional beliefs and had a syncretism that was encouraging. He was a master of yoga. I could hear and see inmates up well before daybreak and engage in asanas.
The first evening after dinner, I and my acquaintance went exploring the periphery of the ashram. We were warned to not wander far out as the periphery was frequented by wild animals. The surroundings with the mountains silhouetting in the late moon rise was fascinating and awe. At about five early in the morning, I was waked up by the live beat of traditional drums, cymbal and evoking flute. It was the ashram’s way of wake up call or alarm. It was a beautiful way of saying the day was about to dawn.

Some days after I was at the ashram I happened to meet a friend who was living in the city for a few decades and with whom I chanced to discuss about this ashram, its founder guru and inmates. His reaction was bordering derision. He said it was fine with just yoga but matters generally don’t end with that. “Ha that fellow, the Guru was roaming around this town a few decades back on a Java motor cycle. I knew him personally. One day he went missing and when the Rip van Winkle came back he was a master, a guru. He has a penchant for the good things in life; you know what I mean and the euphemism. There are a lot of innuendos about his abode and himself. He is a jet setting fellow and has high influence and contacts. Just leave things as it is and do not get entangled in the web they weave”. He said. The conspicuous part was he mentioned the man in the first person and used his name that was from his motor cycling days.

The captivating thing about the three days sojourn in the cloister was I was virtually levitating for a few days after. The amazing hypnotic effect of the man and his words will ensnare one in a trance, until the power of the opium and his aura ebbed away in the incessant pounding of matters of life outside.
I noticed that his eyes were hauntingly transfixed sometimes. I observed that he has the orgasmic look in his eyes and that is especially directed to women. The companion who was with me was ploughed under by his gaze. And I sensed that she was beguiled by him. She was wealthy and he has a knack for wealthy elegant women.
She chose to let the enchantment get better of her and began to frequent the ashram. She was obsessed. She wrote off a fat cheque for the ashram and that was not endearing to her family. She even went on a journey with the monk and his caravan of followers to the Kailas -Manasarovar in the Himalayas through the luxury route via Tibet. When matters began to threateningly move towards her getting embroiled with the ashram and when she was almost decided to write off her wealth to the Guru and perhaps spend her remaining life in the congregation, her people hit the panic button. I’m not privy to what transpired after, within her domestic confines. But her honeymoon with the ashram that was menacingly obvious waned at the combined onslaught from within her family. It is a guess what panicked them- her obsession or her apparent plan for largesse.

It will be unfair however to not  to accept the vast knowledge the monk seemed to have and his candid aversion to the traditional religious order and self appointed holy men.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Audacity of Youth



The audacity of times youthful has seldom a parallel. The gift of youth is to rejoice in youthfulness. I may have had my share of impudence in my youth. Now when I see it in my kids and in the ones their age (children of friends and relatives), I feel bewilderment, some consternation and steadfastly cling on to hope. Hope in their future.

The audacity often is in the form of seemingly arrogant retorts. This happens both from the boy and the girl, though the fellow is more subtle and careful in his reaction whilst the femme terrible is very matter of fact. I wonder if this is the case with their peers’ elsewhere. At least I wish so for my comfort.
I do not know if they have any fear of the morrow. Can one be obstinately sure of oneself? Why do not they have a plan B should there has to be a detour. I did not have a plan B for my life, in the first place I was vacuous to not plan at all. But that is not even in the least a consolation.
The fellow states in as many words that he has to be let free till the year winds out and he has to think, explore and know matters besides going places before he can with passion and singular purpose pursue his line of activity. And to cement his statement he signs off by reminding that nobody shall harbour the fantasy that he is pliable to others wishes. I feel helpless more out of this audacity than fear.

Light heart banter is more often pursued with the girl though her tongue in cheek retorts usually harnesses me. More because of her emboldened comments compared to the reticent nature of the fellow.
Surprisingly to me when I compare after delving into my past the kids of this generation are sure of their footing and fear less of the future. Vicissitudes are not in their lexicon, not yet!

I often remind A, the boy (a man now) to avoid by all means riding a two wheeler without protective head gear whether he is a motorist or a pillion. The advice which in fact is a pleading was generally laughed away by him with a comment that I’m too queasy. Last week K, his friend confessed on his Facebook wall that thanks to the helmet he wore , he could save his face from distortion , though his arm ached badly after bruising from the fall from his motor cycle that morning. K went further that he learned a lesson that day and was an experience. I could only sigh relief and say, “thankfully not an expensive lesson!" That night A, was travelling to his friend in Kozhikode, where he would certainly be going around on a two wheeler, I implored him with the experience of K, he did not pass his usual comment but sounded pensive and understanding.

Sometimes one wonders if there is an overdose of apprehension as a parent. Certainly it is not the best and enviable job one has to tackle in a phase.