Little Women (Continued)

1. So she comes, eyes red with grief, nose puffed up, hands a tight fist. ” What happened?” I ask, perturbed. I know the answer even before she speaks.

” My team did not win!”

Another tear trickles down the pretty face.

Ouch!

” You know, ma, I was the only one answering! None of the team members were participating.”

“Like the Big Bang Theory? Sheldon did not allow the Russian scientist to answer the Physics case, did he?’ I joke, rather weakly.

She rubs her nose.

” Did you pick your team?”

” No.”

” Did the winners select themselves into one team?”

” No! Of course not.”

” If you were a part of the winning team, what would you have  done differently?”

” Would have carried that gold medal home today, ma,” she says crisply.

” Done differently?”

” Mommmmmmm!”

A small grin appears, albeit resisted a lot by the competitive spirit inside her.

” Done differently?”

I am like the stuck music disc.

” Oh, well. Nothing different. I would have still done my best.”

” Which you did even now?”

” I guess so..”

A poignant pause.

” Does anything else matter? That is the only thing under your control”.

” There is that other competition tomorrow…”

A smile flickers sunshine onto her face.

” What’s for dinner?”

***************

” We did it! Yayyyy!!”

She is ecstatic.

” It was wonderful!”

This time, I think of the dead young cricketer, the two young men in a coma after driving competitions, and a host of others who play with life and death- like competitions every day.

” Good. Victory is wonderful. But sometimes , I wonder…,” I mutter to myself.

**********************

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Two Autobiographies : Prof Veerankutty ( Poem Translation from Malayalam)

“Randu Atmakathakal” ; Original Poetry in Malayalam by VeraanKutty; published in Mathrubhumi Weekly, Onam Special edition, September 2014.

On reading it, I imagined the hundred rupee note mentioned  in it, as money in any denomination, in any currency, in any country in the world. The stories would remain the same- its own and ours.

A torn hundred rupee

Landed in my hand.

Stained

Faded

Weary and dirty.

I had purchased Gandhiji’s autobiography,

This was handed over as the leftover gain.

I tried to lodge it in between fresh rupees

And escape from it

Keep your trick  to yourself, they said.

When I left it at a busy cash counter

Someone caught my collar

And barked

I felt furious, ashamed.

Threw it inside my pocket

Wished to wash my hands

A hundred times.

It fluttered helplessly within my pocket

It leaned closer to my heart and whispered

In a voice which only I could hear:

“I have never hid inside a rich man’s pillow cover

Have been with the poor and the hard working

For a long time

With those you say, want to make you wash

A hundred times.

I had prayed that the dawn came much later

When I was inside the pocket

Of a thief who slept off.

The milk stain which spread over me

When a mother walked the street

To purchase medicines for her newborn

Is still not faded.

Within the pocket of the man who

Hanged himself

I was there, witnessing his death

Measuring it.

The fish scale from the fisher woman’s hands

The blood from the butcher’s hand

The crab meat curry stain from the toddy shop

Are tattooed over me

Like another skin.

In the gambler’s den and in the God’s coffers

I have lain equally calm.

Even though I disliked it

Was handed over as reward

After murders and pimping.

Through dark places

Hidden undergrounds

Touched by tears and sweat drops

Hit by spittle,  and human waste

Subtly and Openly

The path that I have traversed

Even your Mahatma

Might not have travelled.”

I sat down stunned

Unable to hear the story

Of a discarded rupee note.

I took it out from my pocket

And bowed before it

With absolute humility

Of someone who was deeply perplexed

By

The language-

Of the great book which was full of

Lives, I have never lived.

***************

Writing Boards Sweet As Honey

Great writing fills me with awe, and a sense of reverence. It can be in any language, any length, any genre- the only litmus test is that something deep within changes colours, to shine a bit more brightly.

As usual, the train chugged its way to the Northern plains, near the bounteous Ganges, from a land surrounded by ocean and sea waters. The language with which I was brought up, Malayalam- as sweet as sugar cane and honey to my starving senses, came to redeem me again; through a fabulous collection of  vernacular writers speaking on their writing destinies.

M.T.Vasudevan Nair speaks about a forgotten poem – “Toys”, which was about a father detecting a child’s toys, after he goes to bed sobbing due to a scolding.

A piece of horseshoe, a broken bangle piece, a segment of a chain,one nail..The father realises, that to the young child, all these held value, which he himself could not see. Similarly,  as an adult , whatever he considered right and wrong, the young child child could not see.

In the same way, we gather much in the life’s journey. We keep it aside. Later, when we retrieve it, it has a curiosity value. There is the smell of life in it, there is a hidden question. It is when one feels like that, that one creates a story, poem or words out of it.”

Sara Joseph speaks about her radiant mother, who was her first story teller..

I was watching how her  movement’s boundaries were getting limited with age. First, she would wait for me by the road side, then, behind the gate, then it became the verandah, then behind the front door, then within the small square of her room, then on a cot, so small in width…

Subhash Chandran draws a parallel  between mothers and writing boards.

Every writer is following his mother. The relationship need not always be cordial.There are those raging within. Yet their language and the structure of their words, follow a pattern- of their own mothers.What about a writer born to a dumb mother? He will start writing about the unheard conversations he had with his mother…

Little children cannot understand the complications of our rented lives in this earth.In many houses, in many times, using writing boards as varied as a grinding stone to one’s own mother, we try to capture those onto paper sheets, in vain. I remember the unknown writer who said that man is the only animal who dies before he reaches his full growth…”

As I stop translating, my eyes fall on two lines from another article.

The great blue sky, the only house in this world

Universal love, the eternal light within.”

In that world, language is not relevant. The language of human imagination and heart- only these matter.

*****

Past and Present

1. The Past

The first anecdote, from Stories of Buddha, most of us have read.

Once the Teacher and the Student were travelling and reached a river bank. There was a beautiful, young woman standing there, seeking help to cross the river. The Teacher offered to carry her on his back. On reaching the other bank, the Teacher bid good bye to the woman, and continued his sojourn.

The Student was very perturbed. How could his Holy Teacher touch a woman? Struggling with his anger, he finally blurted out, ” How could you carry that woman ? It is a sin!”

The Teacher started laughing. Then he said, ” I let her down, so many hours ago. Are you still carrying her, my boy?”

******

2. Present

From Sri Ramkrishna Upanishad, translated by Chakravarthy Rajagopalachary, originally in Tamil. His daughter, Lakshmy Gandhi translated it into Hindi.

Then, SriRamKrishna Paramahansa, told a story:

There were two friends .Both came to the city, and did not have much to do. They heard the chants from  Sri Bhagvath, arising from a nearby House. Hearing the melodious recitals about God, one of them said, ” Let us join the crowd.” The other was more interested in women. ” There is a brothel nearby. Let us enjoy the evening there,” he suggested.

The first one went to the House of Prayers and the second proceeded to the brothel.

The man, who sat amidst the crowd, chanting the Lord’s name soon became frustrated. ” What a fool, I am! My lucky friend is enjoying the pleasures of a woman’s company. I am wasting my evening here,” he regretted as he sat there.Meanwhile, the man who had gone to the brothel, started regretting his decision. ” What a bad person am I! My lucky friend is benefiting from the chants of the Lord’s name. I should never have come here.”

Sri RamKrishna Paramahansa explained that the man in the brothel, in spite of being in undesirable company, was redeeming himself with his thoughts seeking goodness. And the man in God’s presence, with his desirous thoughts, was gathering bad energy all the while.

******

RamKrishna Upanishad : Chakravarthy Rajagopalachary (Tamil)

Translated into Hindi by: Lakshmy Gandhi

Good and Bad

Picture 037

I am good.

I am so good that I suffocate everything

Which is not like me.

I cut down, I malign, I find blemish

In anything unlike me.

I am so full of myself

That my goodness becomes noxious,

And poisons everything around.

In its intolerance of difference,

My goodness makes me judgmental

Of other lives, other mores, other hearts.

I am sure that the God that I pray to,

The only God which matters by the way,

Will cut off the head of all unlike me.

All who denounced me, who walked away from me,

Will suffer at my God’s hands.

Preening like a pompous peacock

I reign in my small world

Of suffocating goodness inside

The house called Self Righteousness.

I am blind to the laughter of others

Who can see through the pretentious

Curtains of my hideout.

I am blind to the tears of those

Whom I had maligned, suffocated, crushed

In my fight for control and self righteous superiority.

*****

I am bad.

I am proud that I am bad.

I believe that  greed, lust, selfishness

Rule the world.

I do not care about any one except myself.

I love no one, no one loves me, in truth.

I do not even love myself, I laugh at love.

I am bad, you see.

I will cut off the hands that stretch to help me

Once I reach my destination.

I hate those who cling to me.

I despise intimacy and affection.

I am proud that I am bad.Repeat.

The only truth is I get bored easily

I hate consistency, I hate sameness

I am truly attracted to what I cannot get

Because, I am bad inside.

I live in a house,

Perfumed by my selfishness

It is a house in the island of mediocrity

Surrounded by the waters

Of a thousand silent tears

From those I had crushed in my sojourn.

I am bad. I am proud of it.

*******

Thus, good and bad dwell together

Within every human being.

Twin souls, mirror images

They are so similar that,

They cry themselves hoarse denying it

All the while.

*****

Selfies – A Farce

So the different selves were having a discussion:

Selfie One :(Piously) I want to give it  all up – Dresses, wealth, property, grains, even my hair. And when the last bit is given away, of my shorn tresses too, I will wear white and retire.Far from the madding crowd.

Selfie Two: (Laughing uproariously) You  are no Bathsheba Everdeen dearie! In fact, you remind me of Father Sergius! That awfully confused Kasatsky himself! I would not mind dancing a jig, sipping something strong, having  some admiring souls in the neighbourhood! Pass that water, will you?

Selfie Three: (Interjecting politely) You two! Always fighting like those addled country cousins! I mean, country couples, literally. What I mean is actually, explicitly,literally those countries at war from eons. This nonsense should stop. You are like those blind men exploring the elephant. Both are right, both are wrong.

It is time you read some spiritual poetry.  Was it Tukaram? An army of ants armed with sticks went up to an elephant and threatened it. The pachyderm, said, ” Dear scholars, good that I am of serene temperament.” I feel so too- when you two bicker; when Dharmas bicker.

Self Two: ( Sticks out a tongue) Brother, brother! Thou art so eloquent! Pray, when my Dharma is in opposite league with yours, what else can you do but shove the truth down the throat? Like William of Baskerville and the blind Jorge themselves?

Selfie One (Miffed for being ticked off, loses it a bit.)   You think you are the only smart one out here? I won debates in my college days too, Selfie dear!Umberto Eco had  Jorge saying, ” Laughing at evil means not preparing oneself to combat it, and laughing at good means denying the power through which good is self propagating… The tenth degree of humility is not to be quick in laughter. Stultus in risu exaltat vocem suam.” So there!

Self Two ( Googling furiously )Wait, wait. In the next page…..yesssss, here it is! ” Tum podex carmen extulit horridulum!” hahahahahahaha

Selves One, Three shudder not very delicately. They are used to getting these jolts from Self Two. But sometimes, Selfie Two can get too much. Like reality star posteriors. Preposterously preponderant.

Selfie One: I am leaving. There is a literature festival down the block.

Selfie Two: Yepppp. I hear some of the authors are very hot!

Selfie One: Disgusting mind, you have! What the hell do I care of their biceps or straightened hair?   Have you not heard of Wabi Sabi?  Nothing is permanent, nothing  is complete, nothing is perfect.

Selfie Two: Hehehe. All  that men and women care in this Maya filled world of ours is to be seen, watched, admired, adored, loved, attended to. It is based on the philosophy of hoarding, selfishness, me, me,me and me . Doubts? I really need a strong drink, after wasting time with you losers!

Selfie Three (Loses all Diplomatic elan and altruistic motives): Selfie One, Peggotty is willing even if Barkis is not! Shall we do it?

Selfie One (With devilish glee!) Yeah!!!!!

Selfie One and Selfie Three lurch towards Selfie Two. In between two chokes and one gasp, they overpower a half drunk Selfie, and throw her into a dustbin. Then they click a Selfie and Post in online in selface.com. It becomes viral. Selfie Two gets an offer to star in a Hollywood movie. The self effacing ones are tried by the Divine Court.

Moral of the Story?

Be a light unto yourself.  Be Unapologetic. (Forget about evangelizing the rest.)

***************************

.

Word Story

Picture 244

Ernest Hemingway’s story, for inspiration:(I read this somewhere)

A pair of baby shoes for sale, never worn.

****************

I reflect on the stories I have seen in my life journey.Word Stories.Real Stories.

1.Pregnant woman screaming. I do not want to give birth anymore. Give back my kidnapped first born.

2.Mother laughing on Holi. Colourful. I got my child back!I got him back!

3.Child speaks. Lunch was not good. Got into the wrong train. Been here for five years.Help.

4.Mother cries. Thought he was dead. Five years. Did not like his lunch that day. A train station nearby.

***************************************