Saturday, October 1, 2011

Analysing the cover of The God Of Small Things

I have wondered about it quite a bit and each time got lost in the beauty of the cover...I don't associate it with anything negative like death...though I agree with Hope..the lotus flower is one of the eight auspicious symbols or 'ashtamangala' in Tibetan Buddhism in which it represents purity of body, speech, and mind, floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire; represents the full blossoming of wholesome deeds in blissful liberation. The flower, as you know, blooms out of dirt and mud; so the allusion could be the pure love of Ammu and Velutha blossoming out of the dirt of caste system and untouchability. The plant also has leaves which repel water, which could symbolise the same thing - their love repelling the dirty waters polluted by the likes of Baby Kochamma and her family members. I personally liked to fancy the lotus as Velutha himself - the beautiful man with a "dirty" background...the man with "a leaf on his back, who made the monsoons come on time"....the one who dared to "make the unthinkable thinkable, and the impossible, really happen".....The many layers of leaves and their various shades of green could also hint at the depth of the story, the multiple meanings and the various perspectives....The presence of several leaves of various colours, with a tiny blossom in the center, appeared to me as if, we all are the same (leaves) but are different, whether in caste, colour or religion (colours), yet our needs are the same (the pink blossom) - love, togetherness and happiness. {Ah..this last interpretation is perhaps reading too much!! ;) }
Finally, the placing of the tiny blossom in the middle of those big, broad leaves could also be telling us to focus upon the Small things that the book talks about.

Describing a tree to a blind man (using the 5 senses)

It’s a beautiful day and I can’t see
But today I wish to know a tree.
I walked barefoot,
As he led me by my hand
To nature’s lap,
Which he called magic land.
A sudden roughness I felt, as I touched,
Jagged edges that seemed quite much.
“The bark”, he said, was the name,
“The colour of your eyes looks much the same.”
Alarmed I was, to hear a sudden “knock-knock”,
The woodpecker, he said, was building a home in the block.
Made to reach out and feel something round,
Mango – the fruit was what I found.
The smell was different, when I put it to my nose
Not like burnt paper; neither the fragrance of a rose.
He asked me to bite, and it was then,
A juicy nectar transported me to heaven…
So today it was the mango-tree
That he helped me to feel, to taste, touch and see.

His Eyes

(Poem in hundred words comprising of only monosyllables)

His eyes are black
As black as night
They give a light
That lights my life.
Long of lash,
Thick of brow
I saw them then,
I see them now.
When he sets them on me,
I smile in glee
I feel the blood in me rush,
And my cheeks start to blush.
I so wish to stand and stare,
I try to peep from my hair
But I feel so shy,
Dont know why.
I so wish to lock eyes with him;
But guts I lack, and it stays a whim.
His eyes it is that I am drawn to,
Get close to them, I do want to.
His eyes which are black
As black as the night
They give a light
That lights my life.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


 Tomorrow my house gets painted, so had to take off all my posters. While I was completely remorseless, guess who was getting extremely emotional!
 Mum would stare and sigh at them each time she entered the room and say with a touch of nostalgia, “kalayaan thonunnilla”…while I shrugged indifferently…. It was only when I climbed the table to take them out, my hands stopped unconsciously at the now yellowed cello tapes, my eyes locked with theirs… the years of togetherness passed before me…..that day when I had put them up so lovingly… perhaps never to put them up again….
End of an era…
End of a part of me…

(written some time in early 2008)

Morning Walk

 This morning a most wonderful thing happened to me. It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced. When I woke up in the morning and looked out at my garden…the time being around 8 and the sun had not come out fully….just a few rays streaming out….. My garden looked so white as it was covered with dew. I decided to go down and take a walk barefoot. And as I did I realized it was one of those moments when I could forget absolutely everything and there were no cares at all. One of the most enthralling and rejuvenating moments….almost a kind of meditation…a spiritual feeling seemed to overpower me. The simplicity of the pleasure relaxed me so much that I went on and on till the sun came out and the dew started evaporating. And as I walked on the ‘white’ grass, my footprints left the grass green where I had walked….just like the way it is while walking on a beach. And the dew was so cold and fresh that I felt my entire soul being cleansed……

At the end of it my feet were so cold, wet and dirty. I sat on my swing watching my feet go dry. I had never before felt so good about being dirty! (Not that I’m a cleanliness freak by nature; but yeah the habit has been ingrained subconsciously thanks to mum’s strict upbringing!) So when my mom saw me strolling like that, she made maximum use of her talent for screaming and asked me to come back (she loses her head when she sees me walking barefoot!!)….I just looked at her and sighed…tsk-tsking at what she was missing…….. J

(written on a spring morning sometime in 2009)

Monday, May 16, 2011

My first ever poem in Malayalam...

ജനാലക്യരികില്‍ നിന്ന് നിന്നെയും കാത്ത്,
ഈ രാത്രി ഒരു ജന്മം കഴിഞ്ഞു..
എന്തെ നീ എന്നോട് മിണ്ടീല
എന്തെ നീ ഒരു വാക്ക് ചൊല്ലീല...
കനവില്‍ വരുമോ, അതോ നിലാവില്‍...
നിന്‍ മുഖം കണ്ടു ഈ മേഘങ്ങളില്‍
നിന്‍ വാസന വന്നു ഈ കാറില്‍...
നിന്‍ ഓര്മ പതിഞ്ഞ ഈ ഹൃദയത്തില്‍, ഈ അധരങ്ങളില്‍ നിന്‍ പേര്,
ഒരു തുള്ളി ചുംബനം ആശിച്ചു പോയ എന്‍ ആശയില്‍ നീ വന്നു ചേര്,
എന്‍ ആശയില്‍ നീ വന്നു ചേര്...

Below is the English translation by Professor Prem Kumar Vijayan from Hindu College, Delhi University:

Awaiting you by my window
A lifetime measured in one night….
Why won’t you speak to me,
Why won’t you speak one word…?
Will you come in dream or in moonshine…
Your face in these clouds,
Your scent in this breeze….
In my heart slowed by memories of you, the lilting of your name,
Come meld into my desire, desirous of kisses,
Come meld into my desires….

Monday, May 2, 2011

White Shirt

Graduation day gift
She'd wrapped it in purple and gold
"To make you feel like a prince
For a princely rank" - a robe.
It was crisp and bright
Just like her smile
That lit up the world - and mine.
"Wear it on my birthday
With your new Levi's
And when we go out for dinner."
I promised I would, like a good big brother.
Protect it, protect her. Cherish it, cherish her.
Still do, despite the change in colour.
Now no more,
The whiteness gone.
The brightness gone.
It lies there,
Dusty with mud
Splashed with blood.
Still unopened,
The scratched-out price-tag dangling.
Priceless - just like her smile :
Jingling, tinkling.
I pick up the shirt.
I pick up my sister.
Lay her head on my arm.
The soiled shirt, the spoiled shirt.
My beloved sister, my dead sister.
Hit by the the truck
Running towards me
Across the road
To give me my present
The graduation day gift
Just like her smile
Crisp and bright
A shirt - white.

The Resplendent

A resplendent gift was given to me,
Whose womb gave birth to divinity.
An angel who was sent to earth,
She was the one who gave me birth.
With all her love, she protected her seed
And answered my every call and need
From seedling to youth to the handsome tree,
She helped me to become the real me.
Giver of strength, protector of my soul
She is the one who completes me into a whole.
As firm as a rock, as gentle as a feather,
God sent her to me…and I call her – my Mother.

Pieces of Faeces

The entire world’s a big damn trash
Where hopes and dreams meant to crash
When stained glass crushes into junk
Every next guy turns out a skunk
Oh friendship is crap – slurry of shit
Just let yourself wrap – in piss and spit
When every damn fucker shows his worth
You doubt yourself – your existence, your birth
Just let it all go
It’s just your pieces of shit you know
To be flushed down the pot
To be remembered not
Just be yourself, you are just you
These pieces of shit are far and few
Just let it all go – all that you don’t need
It goes out in your shit – an unwanted swallowed seed
Roses can also turn out to be rotten
There are some bitches that can’t be forgotten
Think of nice things that are cute
Not all are bad, not even a prostitute
Do not compare – you are divine
Though some shits intrude – cross the forbidden line
You cannot please everyone
Least of all a fucked up chum
Be courageous, the world is your oyster
Do not yield to fuck and boaster
No use crying over spilt milk
The world is filled with fuck and filth
Love everyone; leave out a few
You’ll get used to it, this one’s just new
Be honest and frank – despise all greases
‘Coz the world’s trash – just Pieces of Faeces. 

You'll Always Be In Front Of My Eyes

When I have no words to call you
When my hands don’t move to hold you
When my ears shut and I don’t hear you
Don’t worry, my heart will remain open
My soul – with your love will be soaken.

When you called me and I was busy
The next time you held me, I felt dizzy.
When I wasn’t looking, you were there
More sweet waiting, you couldn’t bear.
Angry, you turn to go
It’s this restless you that I want more.

You play hide-and-seek
You run far and wide
‘Cause of you I can’t speak
So I wait with my arms open wide
Wherever you hide, be it day or night
You’re safe in my heart, and that’s alright.

Whether it’s your smile
That hides behind the clouds
Or even your eyes that set below the skies,
I’ll always be the day that follows your night
For you’ll always be in front of my eyes.

The Melting Pot

Back from the third round of K Nags
It's half-past twelve and we're rushing.
The load undisturbed in our bags
We reach D-school - weary legs and cheeks flushing.

There's ten minutes to go before class starts
Add another five: "Let's go late.
Now that we're here, let's sit for sometime,
Have some chai, and samosas in a plate."

"In the sunshine, under the trees;
Or behind J.P teastall where there's breeze?"
"Any place where there are no dogs...pleaseee!!"

Lovers have monopolised the stretch under the trees,
Professors usurp the haunt outside the xerox-shop
With two chais at a one-rupee discount
The cemented area behind J.P's is where we flock.

Then it begins - honing the skills of observation:
Chat and churn,
Watch and learn:
The specimen that throng,
Alone, or with friends along.
Waste? - We couldn't agree.
New taste? Maybe.
(That reminds - we're still hungry!)

Next pit-stop - inside the canteen.
Is it very crowded?
There's a corner empty.
What'll you have?
Greasy spring-rolls or half-cooked idli?

Will make do with rajma-rice.
How does it matter - 
It's all oil and no spice!

Import of stares; export of glares
(And the inevitable shifting of chairs)
The food arrives after the third reminder.

A poet (probably) scribbles away in the corner
A hunk gropes on the table to show off his 'ceps
A pretty lass oblivious of the gap widening between her jeans and tee
And Baba running around under his white topee.

Gradually we push off to join the fair outside
The scene is unchanged - well almost.
Friends huddle together for jokes and sutta
Intellectuals engrossed in their intense debates.
And it's cricket now (was soccer earlier).

It's the melting pot of North Campus
Where all assemble -
Economists, litterateurs, historians, musicians,
Poets and managers from freshers to final year.
It's the platform to interact and make friends,
To catch on the latest news and hottest trends.

Somebody by mistake looks at the time:
One-thirty - didn't realise the time fly.
So last class gone; now it's time for the bus
'D-school Honours' is what everybody does.

Can't exit the hallowed ground without the last rites -
The most important 'to-do': the D-school loo.
And finally we leave, to come back the next day
Till then, to D-school, we bid adieu!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

In Wait Till The Winds Blow...

It just took a while for me to know

The seed from the flower, the leaf from the tree

Time comes and it all has to go

From rain-drops into the ever-widening sea.

Then the winds came and took you away

It’s all quiet now, and I’m waiting somehow

Waiting somehow for the winds to blow again.

Time and space and eternity

Could not keep you close to me

Just as I try to hold it tight

Fizzle away the pearls of mercury

Gone away in search of another sunshine

My shadow it was that grew too cold

In certain bliss you kept me, till

This deep secret you had to unfold.

Then the winds came and took you away

It’s all quiet now, and I’m waiting somehow

Waiting somehow for the winds to blow again.

Getting Inside A Book, Or Getting The Book Inside Of You

It began with the God inside me. Or was it the God without?
Of little things Bigged and Big things belittled
Whispers echoing back as a cry or shout.

The 'surprised puff' : Estha - was he really my brother,
Rahel - my name, Ammu - mu mother?
It's been twenty-three years and I know I am not a murderer
Not of Sophie Mol's, not of Velutha's either.

I remember the boat-rides on the Meenachal
The history-house is not just my refuge or sanctuary.
I still hear Baby Kochamma calling out "Satan in their eyes."
Ayemenem - where I was taught : how to love and despise.

The monsoon breeze sprays the droplets on my face
I wake as 'The God of Small Things' drops from my hands
I wipe my face off the Delhi monsoon shower
Wait! was there a drop of the Meenachal on my tongue?

Nah! But that was where I came from - a couple of hours ago
Flipping the page of 'Saving Ammu' for the seventh time
I realise I'm a part of the book; and the book, mine.

Never before had I smelled the soil, touched the breeze or heard the making of pickles this way in any other book
It's not a story of them but a reflection of me.
It's become my Bible, my water, my food
It envelopes me, binds me from all,
Into its world I find myself fall.

Am I not that pink blossom
Betwixt those large lotus leaves
Elevating me to a retreat I always wished of...
Am I not that small hope on its cover -
The Goddess of Little Things....The Goddess forever?

The book has grown to take roots in my soul
The 'silver-thimble' sprouting from my body's bowl
Its verdant green spreads from the cover,
Grows on my wall and washes beyond my window.
I see my grim Delhi backyard transforming
To the magic land of Ayemenem.

Ah I hear mother calling...
A brief disruption; oh I'll be back soon
Time to devote to my own life's goings-on
Till then, The God Of Small Things remains my favourite.
It's been more than a book for me -
They are my philosophers, my guides,
My mirrors, my teachers, the leaders of my life.

So now I get up and walk to my living-room.
"Some guests have arrived," mother says, "bring out some snacks.
A family it seems - come let me introduce them to you -
Baby Kochamma, Rahel, Estha and Ammu."

Reconciling August and Agastya

English, August comes to you with the aura of something exotic, mystic, refined and mysterious, as the title attempts to make us anticipate. But it turns out to be just none of these. The title turns out to be as vague and ambiguous as the mind of the man whose different names are what the title constitutes.
The novel is a candid presentation of the mind’s battle with ennui and disinterest amid an acute sense of mental and physical dislocation. It is the twenty-four year-old Agastya’s (or English, or August) search for self-definition. It documents his quotidian routine of deathly boredom in which he searches for familiarity and a sense of rooted ness and continuity in his need for sex and marijuana, and his half-hearted attempts at maintaining a diary.
His boredom leads him to a state of suspension of body and mind – dislocation from everything around; crumbling of his resolutions: avoiding Vasant’s hazardous meals, but eventually getting used to it; a staunch declaration of abstinence from masturbation but eventually accommodating it in a mechanical and disinterested way as part of his routine. In his stagnating life in a remote and obscure part of India, called Madna, Agastya fights frantically to create some semblance of mobility through his dogged regimen of exercise which is the only ‘motion’/’activity’/’growth’ in his life.
The story is set at the juncture of the early 1980s, when the Indian social and intellectual ideology was poised at the brink of modernization with increasing influences of the Occult; where the acceptance of Americanisation was contentious among the varied sections of the urban Indian society, as exemplified through the characters of Agastya, Dhrubo, Bhatia, Renu, Neera. It was also the point where the Indian youth had begun to experiment in their sense of career direction and were ready to move out of conventional lines; yet not completely strong enough in their convictions as they continued to remain in the rut of the tested and tried – as realized by Agastya and Dhrubo by the end of the book.
Upamanyu Chatterji’s maiden novel of fiction is a stark representation of the stagnant nature of the Indian bureaucracy – taking a leaf out of his own stint at the Indian Administrative Service. While every generation is fraught with their own conflicts, Agastya’s began from the moment of his birth and christening. His own name, with its different variations, is an indication of his multiple personalities he deftly employs to suit the changing scenarios. This ambiguity is reflected from his background which is an amalgamation of cultures (which is also the cause of confusion for Agastya) – belonging to a Bengali Hindu father and Goan Christian mother. His confusion lies in his propensity to adhere to tradition as well as seek refuge in westernization as a mode of rebellion. This fusion is evident even in the way Agastya and Dhrubo use their language: “hazaar-fucked”, says Dhrubo on the opening page, as Agastya wonders at the panache of Indians to combine words and cultures – Urdu and American here. This inextricable enmeshing of cultures pervades the very sensibilities of Agastya who finds himself indelibly intertwined in the tangles of tradition and the modern: as the two sources who guide him through his tribulations are the Gita and Marcus Aurelius.
The discord between the urban and the rural is one of the major themes in the novel and the urban Agastya becomes the victim who finds himself anachronistically compelled to live in conditions utterly alien to him.
Madna is therefore a litmus test of patience for Agastya where he learns to deal with boredom and loneliness. The frog in his bathroom presents a somber parallel to Agastya’s life, being another lonely soul; stuck in the same place with lack of mobility and bleak possibility of escape. Everybody in Madna is hence, an island on their own.
The novel is riotously hilarious and offers a veneer of comedy through the mesh of Agastya’s befuddlement; but on close inspection we apprehend the earnestness of questions that cloud the young protagonist’s mind, thereby representing the larger questions arising in an entire generation of contemporary young Indians. The nature of humour in the novel is provided by Agastya – almost all of it emanating from his internal monologues and tacit unspoken retorts to almost everyone around him.
While Agastya may or may not have been able to record the anguish of his days as apprentice at the most esteemed job in the country in his diary, the novel does succeed in establishing the bildungsroman of Agastya. The entire length of the novel presents the dissension between his heart and mind which invariably pulls him in different directions leaving him to tussle with his fate that he himself had asked for. The novel shows him going round in circles, where at one moment he appears to be exhausted with his status quo and he raises expectations of taking the initiative to change it; yet soon enough loses momentum and succumbs. It is only with the relinquishing of his job in the end, that his final act of self-assertion takes place. Agastya’s act of renouncing the most prestigious job in the country, as well as his father’s legacy, is not just a colossal step in his life; but also ushers in the era of modern Indian youth finally crossing the barriers of the perpetuation of conservatism and imposed expectations. It is a coming of age for Agastya as he helps himself break free of his constraining position all by himself and with little help from those around him like Tonic, Pultukaku, Sathe, who set themselves as precedents.
The novel’s end is disencumbering not only for Agastya, but equally momentous for his close friend Neera too. Her losing her virginity, comes not only as a sense of relief for her, but also echoes the shedding of unvalued conventions a la Agastya. If Agastya and Neera felt disposed to embark upon uncharted territory, Agastya’s closest friend Dhrubo chose to resort to convention by giving up the newfangled life he had grown to excoriate. Agastya’s character evolves through the novel as by the end he is able to sift and sort out his priorities. His observations and metaphors throughout the novel are tinged with sexual and scatological perversity; yet I do not condemn him or attribute vulgarity toward his deeds because I perceive him as a prisoner of his circumstances. He does not unequivocally reject or rebel, but gives himself time to accommodate and adjust; thereby delineating his growth as an individual. He is essentially honourable in his thoughts and is on the lookout for a suitable outlet to translate them into noble deeds.

The Samskara of Being

Samskara according to Hindu karma is the performing of one’s duty of cleansing the soul. In ‘Samskara’, the novel by U.R Ananthamurthy, he gives the epigraph as “A Rite for a Dead Man”. While the novel is about the various profound issues of existential paradoxes and the inherent contradictions that plague the human soul; I would like to dwell on the significance of samskara in the context of Hindu ethics.
Sanskara or samskara is derived from the root-word ‘samsk-‘ from which also comes samskrit/Sanskrit. Sanskar in the Indian moral philosophy stands for the ethics of right conduct in the public domain. Such a life would be commandeered by staunch idealism and indomitable will of abidance to the right path in terms of words, deeds and thought. The revered sages of the Indian lore are the precedents that parents list out to their progeny ever since they start acquiring the powers of understanding. Leading a virtuous life is the goal of every being. Yet, it is a quality left much coveted and aspired for.
What then is virtue? Is it the ideals of non-violence and truth that Gandhi professed; the adherence to celibacy that sages keep to; the swallowing of anger and containment of desire that Buddha discovered; or compassion to the subaltern as Mother Teresa practiced? Undoubtedly yes. But then how many Gandhis, sages, Buddhas and Mother Teresas has civilization produced? Does virtue then, become a quality unattainable to the masses? Should virtue, as a characteristic, then be ousted from the human domain?
Being strictly virtuous is an impossible project for humanity. We don’t need an anthropological or psychological survey to inform us that desire, lies and deceit are inherent features of the human psyche. Why then this façade of purity leading to an epidemic of hypocrisy? The example of Praneshacharya from Anathamurthy’s ‘Samskara’ presents the quintessential moment of self-realization for all of us as we experience the unmasking of ourselves through the experiences of Praneshacharya. The novel is not about the fall of the paragon of virtue; but the coming to fore of the essence of being human. If the so-called vices are to be abhorred; yet are constitutive of the being of every human individual; the scheme of its banishment becomes a futile venture and makes a mockery of human limitations. Praneshacharya’s acts of transgression thus signify the fall of virtue as a human construct; for, if after committing the acts of ‘sin’ as he comes to condemn himself for; yet tries to appraise the motivations of his deeds, just as we would do, it signifies the fallibility of virtue. In contrast, Naranappa, who is in the eye of the storm and the subject of controversy facing excommunication, in an ironic reversal, comes forth as being virtuous in the true sense for the stark forthrightness of his acts and words. This character is replicated in Mahabala in the novel. These characters function for the questioning of virtue as that unattainable element in the quest for which characters end up losing their virtues.
Thus, virtue should me made more accessible to human beings. Purity and merit should not be estimated in the degree of goodness that one possesses; but rather in the quantity that one gives out. Salvation lies not in the samskara of one’s soul; but the ability to incorporate and integrate the vices of one’s nature with the understanding of how it is an inextricable part of the essence of one’s being, and to accept it yet balance it so that it is not inimical to others around one. It is by such an assimilation of the anomalies of one’s being, that human nature triumphs over virtue.

Kumbalangi Nights: Empowering men to step away from the masquerade of masculinity

Amidst the cries of #MeToo and debates on ambiguous forms of feminism,  Kumbalangi Nights  comes as a breath of fresh air that deals w...