It’s not just me!

It has been tiring

said she

holding on to

what was never there

yet have I tried my best

even holding a few others together

as I went falling

they fell too, with me!

the constant pounding

the massive howling

the dynamite

the jcb

then you dear lover

your anger

at what was never my fault

have caused me to tumble downstream

no house holds without a hold

neither can I

when I give up against indifference

don’t blame me for weakness

yes, I fail at times

my failure is yours too

that’s all I would ever say

It’s not just me

it’s, whatever it is

is in spite of me!

PS: lands go tumbling in the rains

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Unishe April and more

All my interest in Bengali comes from my love for my sweet friend Oditi, I mean Aditi Ghatak.

While I had been reading a lot of Tagore and a few other writers its not until recently that I felt drawn to Bengali music and cinema.

Unishe April was an experience. A beautiful narrative scripted around a simple story of love, angst and the complexities in the relationship of a mother and daughter who discover each other.

Then I watched Punashca 2014. An elderly writer develops a relationship with his college mate, an old flame and the unexpected and complicated events this leads to is what the film is all about . With some great acting by the beautiful Rupa Ganguly, Soumitra Chatterjee and Sayani Ghosh, the film is a treat to watch.

Regional literature, music, films in India are a hidden wealth, unexplored by most Indians due to the language barrier, which I believe only adds to their beauty.

While there is the constant agony of being subsumed by the more powerful, techno-savvy and rich Hindi Cinema, regional cinema hold on its own self and is constantly improving in terms of regular and loyal followers.

But I am afraid we can’t say the same for music because as we were working with students for the Independence day celebrations, we realized that singers are unable to sing in their own mother tongue with confidence.

Hindi songs, we know a plenty, they said. So any Marathi, patriotic song.. ‘no mam’, ‘Bengali, can’t remember mam’.. so on and so forth came the excuses.

It is important that every educational institution, works with the youngsters instilling a pride in them for the place of their origin.

Watching films from across the country could be a good way to learn other Indian languages!

To dance or not to dance, Science vs Arts

Prostrating at the altar of science

arts cried

Sir, your vision is inimitable

your techniques sharp and crisp

your points are yes, points

valid in their precision

you have come up with

unctions to cure and to excite

instruments to fascinate and experiment

weapons to destroy and discriminate

contraptions to add variety to living

I hear you are traveling to space

thank you for teaching us

to escape the reality

Moon is the next trash can!

Captured images are somehow priceless

a rhino horn adorns your walls

a stuffed deer mocks you

you have taken us far

too far indeed, from where we ought to be

Sir, I salute your temperament

your umpteen Nobel sacrifices

and the many prizes for such selflessness

( who can ever forget Curie?)

I don’t deny you the power of your logic

the talent of your intellect

but did not man first in his mind see

what he then produced

if he did and you know he did

then that is art sir, that is art

the songs of the wild are not silly

the chorus of the skies are not ignorant

the dance of the bees

is much more than what science knows

ask the octopus, he knows what you think

Sir, I beseech you not to mock language

literature, theater and poetry

oh! please don’t quote Plato

he knew but half the truth

add some joy to your life

come join me in the laughter club

let’s escape the prosaic of the science

to seek the poetry of thought.

Take up that chisel

dip that pen in the love potion

pinch some colors of that palette

let your hair down, relax.

PS: To dance or not to dance!

The Voice

It is the voice that matters after all

deep,sonorous, sensitive

uplifts, holds, cares

speaks from the heart

connects straight to the soul

little goosebumps on the skin

little tear drops in the eyes

the voice

calming, soothing, loving

‘afghan match-makers say

is more than half the love’

she carried a voice in her head

desperately trying to fix a body to it

haunted by the voice

she scoured the faces

not this

not this

not this

the voice, the body, the soul

and the face?

it could be any, she laughed.

PS: Shantaram

Office Vibes

She liked the eye. Deep. Contemplative.

Such are the eyes I would love to look into, she thought oddly.

She was arranging the files, the manager would come any moment.

The old fool. He walked fast, the manager. His paunch though walked far ahead. It was like two of them, the paunch, the man, the paunch, the man.

There was a certain music to his movement, she had noticed it yesterday. He was called to the office of the manager, the senior one, his manager, the manager’s manager.So he must have felt important because there was a lilt to his movement, a push, a start and a settling down, again a push, a start and a settling down. It must be tiring to walk like that, she thought.

He was always shouting, shouting in general. Move that file, bring this file, give that paper. If he got up to get a few papers it would be good for his paunch. At this rate, the guy is not going to live long…. she shrugged indifferently.

How does his wife tolerate him?

Then came the deep eyes, yes, the new transfer. Oh! when did that happen?

‘I know you can’t tolerate a good guy looking at me, can you?’ She was annoyed at Meenu, the secretary.

Meenu only liked guys to look her. Her huge buxom self ever eager to hug every one. What’s with this hugging? Once she just wriggled off the hug not bothering about what Meenu thought. Maybe not enough hugs back home.

Too much of cynicism is creeping into me these days. Where’s this coming from though? After a point of living alone. spinsters get it apparently. That’s what Raju told her last time.

‘You need to find someone ok. The cats and dogs can’t do to you what a man can do.’

‘Like ,like what? hurting ?’she demanded angrily as he walked out to smoke.

He came back smoldering an hour later and glared at her, ‘The problem with feminism is that it is somehow half-brained. You women with the notion of self hood have no sense of self good.’

‘Yours or mine!’ She was not in a mood to give in and he threw up his arms helplessly. ‘Whatever!’

How many times have I told the old fool that it is not ‘cha’ as in chai but ‘ch’ as in champagne…ha..good sense comes with good living…who can help that…

‘Charlene’, and the call comes.

‘Go, your darling can’t wait to see you,’ said Raju as she got up with a start.

She glanced at the mirror before entering the manager’s cabin. With all his lack of class, the man was still good at his job.

Hmm…got to brighten up the lips. A hint of mascara has added depth to her eyes. ‘Love you my beauty.’

With a toss to her mane, she said brightly

‘Good morning Sir!’

Perfectly lifeless

perfect

measured figure

smooth ageless skin

manicured nails

slim waist

eyes so sharp

see nothing

ears so good

hears none

the lips

never move

hands flailed

looking macabre

stacked up one on another

a pile of posteriors

butt heading one another

awaiting sermons

some postures

some standing up

some warm cloth

in this cold weather

lifeless yet living

they in the changing rooms

and them nearby piled up

just piled up

a single grey hand reached out

not a cry, not a tear

just a chiseled hand

polished nails

‘I would never want your place

mine is none the better, still’

the girl said

a thud was heard

that was it.

Of re-reading ‘Shantaram’

I remember setting my eyes on ‘Shantaram’ in the hands of one of my colleagues at Daly College, Indore and yearning to look at it closely. In fact, I feel an irresistible urge to ask ‘What are you reading?’ to every person who seems to be hugging a book!

Somehow, I lost track or I didn’t get any encouraging reply and being not one to buy a book, I left it at that.

Years later, it was at Just Books outlet at Kammanahalli in Bangalore that I actually got my hand to the book. https://justbooks.in/

I devoured the book eager to reach the end and unable to stop the urgency to know what happens to the protagonist. I like the book immensely and it stayed in some corner of my mind and I caught myself wistfully thinking about the book. By the way, why is there no film on this book?Or is it there?

Got to find that out. However at the university library I again run into Shantaram sitting pretty among a handful fiction and non-fiction for the not so technically inclined like me.

In fact, I never miss a chance to give my own list of 100 -200 books for the library to purchase happily adding poetry, philosophy, memoirs, biographies and everything and anything that is not even remotely technical.

I seriously think it is misuse of any library to simply stock up merely science and math without any regard to literature. Did they never hear that ‘art precedes science?’

So, there it is Shantaram, what a delightful reading it makes? The funny appellation ‘Linbaba’, the betel chewing, ever raucous Prabhakar and the green eyed Karla.

As I read I wonder at many places, did I notice this before? Oh! wow! what a beautiful narration, this is amazing and am also cracking up at jokes which I have forgotten so long after my first reading.

Re-reading a book is like navigating a known place and yet coming across something new and wondering how did it escape your attention before. A sense of wonderment fills you and there is always the comfort of familiarity.

Now, that reminds me there is a lot more to read again…like all of Charles Dickens, most of MT Vasudevan Nair, Benyamin, Tagore. Well as for Shakespeare and Kalidas my knowledge is mostly limited to the Paico Classics I read as a kid..hmmm. where is the time though? Where is the time?

There is much to read and much more to know

in the vast sea of knowledge

yet, caught between chores and EMIs

I know not where to go!

As for now…I back to the second chapter in Shantaram.. Will Linbaba get close to Karla? Will he be able to retain his freedom?

So, I got to get back to reading!

Which book are you reading again btw?

Get Out – The Thriller

I catch up with most movies late, does that make me sound lazy…perhaps I really am.

But watching ‘Get Out’ did get on to my nerves. Literally!

The last time I had sleepless nights after watching a movie was after ‘The Great Debators’. It did strike a few chords and ask a few uncomfortable questions.

I mean everything about the movie, the premise, the casting, the setting and slow but eerie surprises the story line you tossing and turning in the bed, unable to catch a wink.

I liked how Daniel Kaluuya walked into a death trap in a different twist to honey trapping. It is amazing how Alison Williams plays her character and her mother played by Catherine Keener. Goodness! I am suddenly suspicious of anyone who stirs a tea spoon too long and too slow here after.

Get Out

Somehow it eerily reminds me of the numerous instances of child kidnapping we read about in the newspapers and in the social media. Is it really impossible to do any thing about it?

Are our children to grow up fearing for their lives constantly? Is it possible that continuous updates on social media of families boasting of their pretty, handsome, smart children is somehow driving a demand for such kids?

I don’t know maybe, I am just getting a bit lost!

CTR for Benne Dose

If you are in Bangalore and if you do not visit CTR and have their classic ‘Benne Dose’ well, you have missed an experience of a life time.

Tucked in the busy corners of Malleshwaram, a corner of old Bangalore that is always abuzz, like my friend Suma would travel to Malleshwaram in search of stuff like the bindis, the bangles, saris, ready made blouses and what not. It was Suma who over repeated narrations instilled into me a certain respect and awe for ‘Malleshwaram’.

So me and my daughter visit the very famous CTR after a stroll at the Sankey Tank presumably to regain whatever calories we lost in the ‘good for health morning walk’!

The space is crammed and has an old world feel about it. People are jostling in and out busily in search of the best dose in the world. There is a rush!

The rush is an everyday event though, what with the popularity and awards that this place has been winning over the years with the ‘apps’ furthering the appetite of the city.

We tuck into our own Benne dose with glee and seal the deal with a cup of filter coffee.

We go back again greedy for another round many days later and guess what after a belly full of benne dose, I go tumbling down the narrow, buttery staircase and end up looking like a fool with blood gushing down my chin and bruised lips, pain in unspeakable places and what not.

A few stitches later, the doctor making small talk, so you are from, but you speak good Hindi and stuff and a very frightened look on my daughter’s face, I try to bring about a broken smile through it all, no choice right!

But yes, benne dose wins the day, and I get stitched all over, nevertheless, I might just go again, stitches or no stitches, the dose calls can’t be resisted.

Benne Dose

But if you are planning a visit, be there like real early, grab your chair and hold on to it, because a few others are eyeing your chair and waiting for you to get up for their share of Benne Doses.

So good luck for your visit to CTR!

My Last Duchess – Robert Browning’s Dramatic Monologue

It is impossible not to be drawn to the intense drama of a Browning poem. Infact, I have often thought that his poems like Fra Lippo Lippi or My Last Duchess or the dark and eerie Porphyia’s Lover can all be made into movies. There is enough passion, love, lust, anger and what not so cleverly woven into the dramatic monologues in which Browning excelled.

Let’s take a look at this master piece in which the speaker invites the guest to take a look at the portrait of his ex-wife, the duchess. Ironically, the visitor is some one who has brought with him another prospective alliance for the Duke.

Does the Duke sound shady, villianish to you?

(Lines 1-4) Notice how the Duke draws attention to the portrait of the duchess , ‘looking as if she were alive’. As you read on you will get to the reason for this cryptic comment. He goes on to complement the painter Fra Pandolf who worked hard over a day for the portrait.

(Lines 11-17) The quality of the painting is such that it requires attention and care so the Duke invites the visitor to take a seat. It is not an ordinary painting and the Duke emphasizes the Fra Pandolf whose name he says he took for a reason. When strangers meaning those who have not seen or met the duchess when she was alive, look to the Duke for further explanation when they see the intensity and passion in the eyes of the figure in the portrait. It is he pompously announces a rare privilege to catch a glimpse of the portrait to which he alone reserves the right to show it to others. (Lines 5-10)

Anticipating the question in the eyes of the visitor the Duke continues that he is not the first to ask so. It is says the Duke not his presence that of her her husband that made the Duchess blush so. The Duchess was easily pleased with the silliest of things. Even if Fra Pandolf made a causal comment that ‘the mantle is covering your wrist mam’, she might just as well go all red! Note the jealousy in the words of the Duke, who probably resented that his wife smiled at everyone. It is possible that the painter said that no paint can capture the color of her neck and it was enough for her to go crimson , added the Duke.

(Lines 18-32) She being naive could not understand that such compliments were often false or made simply out of courtesy and that she need not really take them to heart and respond in such an intimate manner. Her fault, a heart, too easy to please, she was inordinately happy with everything she saw or experienced and her eyes ‘went everywhere’. To her my love for her, the setting sun, the bunch of cherries some one gifted her, the white mule were all alike, equal and she rejoiced in everything as if it were all the same. The ease with which she bestowed her love and affection on all these silly things some how insulted the 900 year old name of the family which I gave her with the marriage. It was as if the name of my family of 900 years which I honored her with was equal to other unworthy things.

(Lines 33-46) Why would I stoop so low as to explain it to her that I did not like a few things about her? That this is too much in you and this too less. Maybe she would have changed. Yes, she smiled at me,but who was there not smiled at? This grew. I chose not to stoop. I gave commands and all smiles stopped together. Now, there is stands as if alive.

Lines (47-56) Would mind getting up? He politely inquires. We can meet the company below. I am sure my expectation of dowry will be met though of course, the company of the bride is what I hope to win. Please take a look at that bronze sculpture of Neptune, the lord of war taming a wild horse, it was custom made for me by Claus of Innsburk. Its a rare piece.

The Duke with his malevolent and dubious character unwittingly reveals too much about himself. He not only confesses to his crime of killing his ex-wife,the duchess but also places a direct threat to the incoming bride.

The drama and the eloquence the tightness of the verses which create suspense and drama is a Browning specialty, perhaps one he picked up from John Donne and his contemporaries.

Isn’t it interesting that the Duke has painted a rather charming picture of

his wife, one who is loving, generous and of a happy disposition?

The poem – My Last Duchess

That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call 
That piece a wonder, now; Fra Pandolf’s hands 
Worked busily a day, and there she stands. 
Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said 
“Fra Pandolf” by design, for never read 
Strangers like you that pictured countenance, 
The depth and passion of its earnest glance, 
But to myself they turned (since none puts by 
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I) 
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst, 
How such a glance came there; so, not the first 
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not 
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot 
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek; perhaps 
Fra Pandolf chanced to say, “Her mantle laps 
Over my lady’s wrist too much,” or “Paint 
Must never hope to reproduce the faint 
Half-flush that dies along her throat.” Such stuff 
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough 
For calling up that spot of joy. She had 
A heart—how shall I say?— too soon made glad, 
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er 
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere. 
Sir, ’twas all one! My favour at her breast, 
The dropping of the daylight in the West, 
The bough of cherries some officious fool 
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule 
She rode with round the terrace—all and each 
Would draw from her alike the approving speech, 
Or blush, at least. She thanked men—good! but thanked 
Somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked 
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name 
With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame 
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill 
In speech—which I have not—to make your will 
Quite clear to such an one, and say, “Just this 
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss, 
Or there exceed the mark”—and if she let 
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set 
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse— 
E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose 
Never to stoop. Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt, 
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without 
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands; 
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands 
As if alive. Will’t please you rise? We’ll meet 
The company below, then. I repeat, 
The Count your master’s known munificence 
Is ample warrant that no just pretense 
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed; 
Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed 
At starting, is my object. Nay, we’ll go 
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though, 
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity, 
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!