Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Unsaid

"Now, however, there remain faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”—1Corinthians 13:13


Love, in its pure form is like a tree. Even though the people who plant it move apart, the tree remains and shares its shade for those gather around it. And the memory of the one's who had planted the tree remains.

Sometimes, the culture we live in, the moral and ethical background in which we are brought up, forces us to suppress the emotion of love. And we, due to the fear of being proved wrong in front of others, succumb, keeping the seed of the Tree unplanted, love unsaid. Those who keep it unsaid never think; after all one is not saying 'I hate you', but 'I love you'. 

“The Unsaid” is my new series of i-poems, discussing in depth the moment, when most of us choose not to reveal our love for another person, and the resultant emotional conflict that we all experience. One thing is sure, when love remains unsaid, it gives rise to multiple possibilities too, along with all the pain and conflict. 
"The Unsaid" starts below...

First

The Unsaid is the distance,
Dreams, love, hopes and my tears.
It’s my sin, revelation and redemption.
It’s that moment too when,
You met me saying something, unsaid. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Blind Scene


The class teacher was an unpopular one. Today he announced a surprise exercise for the students; the reason precisely why most of his students disliked him—for being innovative.

Today he wanted his students to look through the nearby window and make a mental note of what they saw outside. He asked them to prepare a write-up on what they saw, by the next class.

One boy stood up, moved to the window. He hated the teacher’s class, too. Standing beside the window he gazed out. He noticed termite activity on the windowsill. There were ants too marching outside the room carrying white raw rice. He scrutinized them closer. It was not raw rice. It was ants’ eggs.

Suddenly, he felt the wind and realized his eyes drooped down, locked on to the windowsill. He tried hard to focus outside. That is the task, he reminded himself. Then there was something that lured his curiosity, there was a long hair locked within one of the tiny projections from the windowsill. It was perhaps a girl’s. None of the boys had long hair in the class. Who would that girl be? The darkness of the hair gleamed up at him in blue. He wondered in the color change. He wanted to touch it and smell it. Would it smell of oil?

There was some movement in the strand of hair that brought him back once again. He bit his lips. He wanted desperately to study the hair, as if he was madly in love with it, all of a sudden. But his teacher expected something else from him, to study the outside. 

There were white holes on the green painted windowsill. The window, from a distance looked green. They are not holes, but big pores, he thought. Inside the painted green surface, the wood was white. He had thought it would be brown or dark brown, but now he could see the inside through the holes. There was something more, dry lentils, on one corner. It might have fallen there when someone emptied their lunch wastes outside the window. The dust that enveloped other parts of the windowsill had barely covered the lentil; it may, soon.

Then the boy heard the teacher’s sound calling his name. Something was strange. The voice of the teacher brought with it a strange lurch in his heart. He had to write an assignment on scenes he saw outside the window by tomorrow. And he did not know what existed beyond it, yet.     

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Blogadda.com Book Review

"Our duty is to be truthful to the call of our soul, even if it sounds stupid for some"--Anu

 Hi Friends,
I am one of the 50 bloggers chosen to review Ashwin Sanghi's book Chanakya's Chant out of a billion members in Blogadda.com. I published the review below. Happy reading! 
Anu. 

Book Review: Ashwin Sanghi's Chanakya's Chant

Image Courtesy: Google
History is not a novel. But it has all the essential ingredients that could enthrone it as one. It has bad guys and good guys, pretty chicks and poisonous virgins who hide snares for trapping the good and miserable alike. History has been in use in Indian novels in English is unavoidable terms and some noteworthy attempts has been made in the direction of experimentation with history, the historiographic metafiction, ever since the publication of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children in 1981 and the historical novels of Amitav Ghosh. Something like this is in action in Ashwin Sanghi’s Chanakya’s Chant.

In Chanakya’s Chant, history parallels the present. The novel’s story swings between two periods in time, “Present day” and “About 2300 years ago”. The Prologue of the novel, although pictures an off-putting hospital scene with an octogenarian in his sick bed, watching the political “Ram Leela” of the contemporary Indian democracy, the oath taking ceremony of a lady prime minister, Cnhandni, a figure with its verisimilitude with Indira Gandhi. The first chapter takes the readers to “Pataliputra, the capital of Magadha, the great Brahmanic empire in the cradle of the beautiful Ganges valley in eastern Bharat.” (2) And from here the novels takes the readers to a fascinating journey through the ancient India and through the life of Chanakya, one of the greatest political thinkers Indian has ever produced. The writer identifies India as Bharat, as if it is another name for India in the ancient time and no more in use. Here the novel becomes so cheesy that one might think about putting it aside. But wait much of the fun is reserved for later.

The book shows attempts of experimentation, as well. It uses quotes from other authors and eminent personalities as part of the dialogues and conversation by the characters, a list of which is given as an index at the end of the book. The well researched novel follows Salman Rushdie’s pattern of listing its references at the end. In his novel, The Enchantress of Florence, Rushdie attempts the same. Although it seems little short of paradox to stick with the well researched base of facts, after such a quote being used as, “any clod can have the facts, having an opinion is an art.”

Chanakya’s Chant connects past and present through a subtle intertwining narrative technique, a plane crash after which Gangasagar found the granite tablet on which Chanakya’s Chant was inscribed. Chanakya’s chant appears thereafter throughout the novel, giving it a Hindu propaganda touch. The novel portrays ancient India as the hub of Brahmin domination and the glorious Hindu tradition and the novel poses the risk of crossing the borders of secular ground. Sanghi’s first novel The Rozbal Line [2007] too dealt with the delicate petals of historical consciousness, a propagandist attempt to assimilate the History of Jesus into the web of Hindu epics. Sanghi published this book under his pseudonym Shawn Haigins. Subsequently, this book was published in 2008 and 2010 under his own name.

Character construction too is not much cared for. Some characters pop up from nowhere and disappear after their role, without much explanation, except Chanakya and Gangasagar. With witty remarks and thought provoking cunningness, Chanakya’s character entertains both brain and adrenalin at a time. In the “Present Day” Gangasagar, the mimesis of Chanakya is portrayed as the contemporary Chanakya with all the vices of an Indian politician. This technique undeniably provides the writer with ample scopes for constructing a political satire, and he has done his job well. Moreover, Saghi has described through Gangasagar and his attempts to gain power certain truths about Indian politics. However, attempts could be perceived in the direction of entertaining certain archetypal north Indian myths about South Indians. The scene that describes the moment when Gangasagar, the god father first meets Menon, who later becomes his secretary, ridicules the Keralite slang of English. Gangasagar’s character reminds of Don Vito Corleone of The Godfather by Mario Puzo, perhaps a conscious attempt by the author.

At a time when the Indian politics is undergoing a major transformation through Anna Hazare’s movement, this novel presents an artistic opportunity to unveil the political dark games played within the nation. This novel ignites hopes for more endeavors directed towards unveiling the lies and dirt behind the shining draperies of Indian politics. If Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children is a novel with its political correctness, Saghi’s novel smashes off the any kind of political masquerade with utmost brutality, which would lead any reader to rethink his or her trust on any political party or group. 

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Reactions

“What is called the “genius of a people” is only a set of reactions to a given stimulus.” –Octavio Paz, The Labyrinth of Solitude
It is said that humans can experience different forms of realities--unconsciously or consciously--such as scientific reality, academic reality, cinematic reality, political reality, etc. Among all these diverse forms of realities, the people of India, or the people especially belonging to the locale to which I belong (Kerala) experience an incessant bombardment of one form of reality, within which they locate their pleasure, sorrow, sin, redemption, life, death, and space. For them it is the beginning of existence and its edge as well. No one bothers to change this form of reality perception. The form of reality mentioned here is the ‘political reality’. And anyone or any movement or any idea emerging would inevitably find itself or themselves within the enchanting walls of this labyrinth. Anna Hazare is no exception.

Who is Anna Hazare? An old man of seventy four, who is courageous enough to challenge the Indian democracy for answers to his questions and to implement a bill in its parliament for stopping corruption; he is the man about whom the youth of India says “though we are bound by the totalitarian culture (the culture that dedicates most of its time and resources to restrict, redeem and remodel the lives of its inhabitants) and a democracy that denies its own presence vehemently in its exercise of power, but curtails every other attempt of individualism through moral and ethical or stricter legislative means, this old man is doing something, for us. In a country where everyone born is fated to be enveloped with the label of Hindu, here is the man who made us say “we all are Anna”, protectors of righteousness and justice, words that meant little or mostly pilloried by the mob and the sahibs alike until this time. Anna is the man who filled the hollow word with depth that meant much more at a point in the past of this great nation, morality. The greatest service Anna Hazare did to this nation, where every moment one of its citizens were cheated by shop keepers to politicians, is to resurrect the idea of ‘morality’. Morality, a word that was dead somewhere, sometime between 1947 and 2011, and was commemorated in bollywood movies and in meaningless speeches made at the Red Fort, alone. Who is Anna Hazare? The social activist who supplied meaning and depth to the word, ‘morality’ within the ‘political reality’, the only form of reality that is actively part of the realm of experience of an Indian citizen.      

Anna Hazare’s major demand is the implementation of Jan Lokpal Bill, a bill that could apparently curb corruption in various governmental positions including the prime minister’s. But as the article, “Which democracy Do We Want?” by Kanti Bajpai published in The Times of India, dated 20th Aug. 2011,  pointed out, even though the strike against corruption is the lead slogan of the campaign the core of the issue lies in the title question. It is about the question whether we need a democracy with a substance or just a ‘procedural democracy’.
The way the people or, precisely some people, in India has reacted to the stimulus called Anna Hazare, demonstrates in identifiable ways that this populace is no moronic. The movement against corruption, which Anna Hazare himself calls the ‘second freedom struggle’ is thus a movement against the hypocritical political reality existing in the nation.  Anna’s struggle is an individual’s struggle against a totalitarian culture that favored in the name of democracy, organized mass betrayal, and sheltered in the name of politicians, scoundrels and thieves within the regions of its constitutional power. Even though, the number of swamis and ochre clad politicians are rising up around the old man, the cause for which he stands justifies every prank from the Indian Communists and the BJP lead Indian Hindu rightwing people to assimilate this movement.

What difference can this movement make in the Indian reality, (which is essentially and totally political)? This movement will forever lift the trust of the commoner from the politicians, good or bad, and the totalitarian culture will suffer a great deal in its attempts to outcast Anna and people like him by accusing them for being American spies. The central government and related authorities, who are in the fragile regions that could possibly suffer a great deal if Jan Lokpal Bill is passed, allege Anna for receiving help from the US, which Anna denies incessantly. There is no logic in extrapolating political antagonism against a particular political party or group from the “Anna Hazare Movement” after this realization that each of his steps is shaking the pillars of hypocrisies of the contemporary Indian democracy disregarding the political group ruling the at the centre. Moreover, this is a movement that marks for the first time in Indian political and cultural history, an individual’s attempt to stand up for his own convictions.  

Who actually is Anna? 
“I am Anna.” 

The Indian Commentator stands up and supports Anna

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Day of the Test

I read the original story somewhere. And what I write here now is my own version of the original. But both communicate the same essence, though are created with different cadence. Stories are like that. They are always the same, but told in different ways.
                                    
This story takes place at a recent time in one of the states situated in the southern part of India, bordered in the East by the Sahya Mountains and the West by the Arabian Sea. The state had recently come out a Communist government after people choosing a Right Wing party in the parliamentary election. The one legacy the Left rule left this sate with was the long lines in front of Ration Shops, a picture that resembles the photographs one can find in National Geographic magazine from a poverty stricken “third world country” somewhere.

In one of the Upper Primary schools, one teacher decided to conduct a test for his students. There were just fifteen students in the class, as most of the students with wealthy familial background preferred English medium schools to government schools that taught subjects in Malayalam.

“You don’t have to be ashamed of what you are,” the teacher said. And he smiled at a rising hand. A boy asked from among the students, “Sir, my father calls me a moron, whenever he sees me reading stories. I love stories, but he says stories are lies. He says stories are the opium that blinds our brains. And…” there was a pause and the boy struggled to bring his words forth. His words, through the lump in his throat seemed a pleading ‘I am here, and alive’. The teacher’s face grew serious at the sight of the boy struggling to control his emotions.

After a moment, the boy continued: “And he burnt all my story books.” He closed his eyes, for they were flooding as if his tear glands were slit open. The teacher went outside, without saying a word. But the test, it was not conducted yet. He almost stopped and turned. He saw students walking out of the classroom with only one staying behind with the student who cried out in the class. The teacher came back to the staffroom. The Head Master, seeing the distress on the teacher’s face enquired him what happened. “I was about to conduct a test for the students, a special test.” he related his experience to the Head Master. “From the boy’s description, his father seems to be too much worried about the economic situation of the family.”
And the head master asked, “What special test?” as if nothing else had happened and the question was the only congruous gesture apt for the moment.

Hiding his disturbance, the teacher said; “I wanted the students to narrate their experiences in helping their fellow beings.”

The next day in class the teacher asked: “I am going to conduct a test, today. You have to tell me some experience from your life when you believe you helped someone in need to the full of your capacity.”
  
Every one narrated some incident or the other from their life, from helping a hungry beggar with money, to driving away stray dogs from attacking their cows. But one boy stood up and said nothing. It was the boy who remained in the class the previous day along with the boy who cried after the description of his father’s cruelty. That boy was absent, may be due to the shame of crying out in the class, the teacher thought.

The boy stood up. He was silent. “Haven’t you helped any one is your life yet? Oh, that is very bad,” the teacher said.  

“Yes, I did,” The boy said. “But most of my experiences are similar to what others said.” And he looked down as if imitating the flowers in the garden.

“What were you doing with your friend, when he cried yesterday?” the teacher asked. The boy did not break his silence. “Tell me. What did you say to your friend?” the teacher prodded the boy, again.

“I didn’t do anything, sir. He was so alone. I thought he needed company. So I just sat beside him and cried with him.” The boy said.

A smile blessed the teacher’s lips. He took a package from his desk and gave it to the boy. “You win the test,” he said. “You rendered the help that no one else could even think of. You helped someone cry.”      

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Reading and Happiness


“The best thing about Life is that it's never late to start again.”—Anu.

It seems I haven't read anything for ages. Well, at least for the previous couple of days.

After entering into my new job, it so happened that Sunday became the only day I could spend time in reading. The busy schedules, time tables, course structure, all the worst things in the world that can handicap a teacher's precious life has been interfering into my life too. Curiously, I now remember some of the desperate sounding comments from the teachers who taught me in the university, whose chair I now occupy and whose pride I inherit.

I had this habit of discussing with them the books I read. Whenever I met them after finishing a different book each week or month (mostly fiction because I love reading fiction) full of excitement, their faces would drop and they would say: “We haven't read anything for ages!” And they would look at each other with a sagging helplessness in their eyes. When they were in their attempt to console their sick soul, I would stand beside them and smile at their “inefficiency” and wonder at those unsaid reasons that prevented them from their time with books and eventually conclude in my mind that they lack a certain “determination” or “dedication” to literature.

Living my life in the teaching profession now, which all those teachers who mourned over no reading once led, I too realise that I am no different, because I haven't read anything for ages. One thing I can find in my present life is the “inefficiency” I found in my teachers', my silent self contentment in feeling pity towards the teachers during those days back then, when I was a sophomore.

I am dedicated to my cause, reading. I am determined. But there is something...something that prevents me from reading. May be teaching job is tiring me out inevitably, and leaving me skull and bones after each class. That might be why I find it hard to get into reading with a fresh perspective or with enough physical energy, at night at home. Then how is this article born, which sounds like a confession register, and elaborates upon myself with self-pity?

The reason is very simple. It’s been there in books and movies, fantasies and fairy tales since ages; the secret of happiness. The other day I watched a movie. It was about a man who lives away from his friends, coming back to help them, after getting a call. He runs his own company and had earned a huge fortune. But in his past he was a night watchman in a museum where his friends lived, the mannequins and ancient creatures who mysteriously come to life at every night by the power of a mysterious Egyptian golden tablet. At the end of his adventure he realises the answer for the quest for happiness. The secret of happiness is doing what you love to do. And as I write this article I feel happy and at peace with myself. May be now, I can go back to reading Room, by Emma Donogue. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Déjà vu: A True Story.


The rain had stopped before half an hour. But the moisture from continuous raining hung in the air and gave the feeling of a poignant painting imprinted in front of one’s eyes. The trees, the lawn conquered by weeds and wild plants that flower, multiply and still live an eternity, the cars parked in the courtyard, the flag of the students’ union, the class room with students and the teacher, every thing about that place seemed as if they were part of the portrait.  

I was discussing Untouchable with the students of MA English Literature, the novel by Mulk Raj Anand, which dared to tell the story of an underdog for the first time in Indian Writings in English; part of the syllabus in the University I work as a Lecturer. Their judgment about my teaching methods was not very much heartening from the routine feedbacks taken by the head of the department. Perhaps my strategies were new and not similar to those usually employed in the academic circles here. As usual, I enquired the students for their feedback on the novel unsure about how they would react. And the discussion traversed in regions that even my attention had not reached, as a teacher. They are all doing extremely well, I thought.

But then I found my gaze fixed at a point in space outside, where the cars were parked, through the windows at the left corner in the back of the class. And I felt for almost three or four seconds as if I had been witnessing a movie. A scene flooded my eyes that was much familiar to my conscious understanding and memory. I had been here before, I heard myself mumble. The girl who sat in the front row, in front of the rostrum started saying something. Perhaps she was asking a question to me. I heard my voice again, “Please wait a moment.” But the girl without responding to my request, continued with her question, which I could not make out.

Déjà vu. It was the feeling of re-living the present, or perhaps the shock of meeting the past in the present, a distortion in time at an unexpected moment of placidity and quiescence. It happened with me in the past too, especially during my adolescence, when I felt moments of absolute awareness of the present as re-living a memory. The only difference with this time was that now I knew the time in the past in which I witnessed this scene as clearly a moment I could trace back, whereas, in the past I could not locate the moment at which I lived that very slice of the present, déjà vu.

I raised both my hands and made the class silent. And to the surprise my own senses, I asked, “Do you believe in Déjà vu?” The whole class was a bit taken aback at the incongruity of the question, and it followed the inevitable reaction; silence. I asked again as the zero response had started upsetting me. Then I saw the girl in the back seat nodding affirmatively, and I smiled.

“I had seen this moment before. I had a déjà vu.” I said.  

I tried to focus upon my déjà vu. And I found the trace of a memory slowly retreating after its surprising leap into my present. I stepped upon it. And it hurled its long tail at me. It was the memory of one of my dreams that I had during sleep. Now I remembered the dream; what happened moments before, was exactly what I saw in the dream. I was teaching in the MA Literature classroom in front of the students, the exact number of students present at that moment in the real classroom, and cars parked outside, and I looking at a point in space in the parking lot, and the weather the same picture in which moisture envelops everything natural and transcends them to the world of the uncanny.

When I had the dream, perhaps I was working at another college, the graduate college where I worked before joining the university as a Guest Lecturer. I remember still, my own disbelief of the dream. At that point it was just a wild dream occurred at some point in my sleep, and I never believed it to happen in real life, just like any average human being who, without any reason, is proud of his rationality. Because to be a university Lecture is usually not something a fresh graduate can dream of.  But now, I had lived it in real and had seen it unfolding in my past when I never believed its possible existence in my very own future.

Sometimes you fail to know your precious moments, but if you really deserve them and if you trust yourself to be capable of living your dream, only then, some of those special moments would reveal themselves and you would know.         
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