കർണ്ണപർവ്വം

karnaarjuna

 

എഴുത്തച്ഛന്റെ മഹാഭാരതം കിളിപ്പാട്ടിൽ നിന്നും “കർണ്ണപർവ്വം” : കർണ്ണനും അർജ്ജുനനും തമ്മിലുള്ള യുദ്ധ വർണ്ണന…

 

One Step Enough For Me…

lead kindly light

In school, my most favourite hymn was ‘Lead Kindly Light…’

Written by Saint John Newman in 1833, the words capture the human yearning and hope so beautifully…

Whether it was the legendary Marian Anderson singing it to honour Bapuji, or sang by a group of mourning but defiant women marching to their deaths under the relentless gaze of the Nazis, or anyone repeating the words in solitude…there is something so powerful about the hymn..

Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th’encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me…

For Hope in these dire times…

Melodies from the Flutes

ikiru

In Italo Calvino’s essay ‘Why read the classics?’ he quotes Cioran.

While the hemlock was being prepared, Socrates was learning a melody on the flute.’What use will that be to you?,’ he was asked. ‘At least I will learn this melody before I die.’

Following such melodies, I ended up watching Kurosawa’s Ikiru, loosely inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s  novella, ‘The death of Ivan Ilyich.’  The purpose in Watanabe’s life- to build a children’s park over an erstwhile cesspool- gave him joy in the end. I remembered Socrate’s flute lesson then.

Post script: The passing reference to Mephistopheles and the quip about not asking for Watanabe’s soul, brought Kurosawa’s brilliance home…Take a salute Goethe and Marlowe!

How many nations connected via classics, I ruminated…

**

I have found selfless people the most happy in my life.

Like my favourite Sister who is filled with such enthusiasm ( The etymology reveals the meaning: The God within) when she gets to serve the needy and poor. She is an active social worker and is always full of plans for the day: a self help group of poor women, coaching classes for the government school children to supplement their learning, providing creative projects to disabled children, arranging for toilets to cerebral palsy affected families…Her to-do list is endless and so is her positive energy!

I find that joy in those who take pride in their life goals: sincere teachers, sincere doctors, sincere mothers… And I find that spark missing from those who aim at pleasure as the goal of life. Perhaps it is my skewed perspective; but I guess a lot of Harvard Business Review articles tend to substantiate my observation.

Why do we read classics? Why do we work? Why do we learn music? Why, why…happiness and meaning are surely  side effects of a deeper pursuit.

May we have the courage to find worthy goals in our lives.

Yes, I have to read ‘The Odysseys Within’ now…:)

Meanwhile listen to this:

***

 

 

ചില ഉത്തമ കഥകൾ …

holy cross

സ്കൂളിൽ  പഠിച്ചു കൊണ്ടിരുന്ന സമയം.ഇടവപ്പാതി തകർത്തു പെയ്യുന്ന സന്ധ്യയിൽ, വായിക്കാൻ പുസ്‌തകം തപ്പി എത്തിച്ചേർന്നത് അച്ഛന്റെ കളക്ഷനിലാണ്. ചില പേജുകൾ തുന്നൽ വിട്ട ആ പുസ്തകത്തിൽ നിന്നും തലയുന്തി എന്നെ നോക്കി. മഴയുടെ താളത്തിനൊത്തു ചുമരും ചാരിയിരുന്ന് വായിച്ച ഒരു കഥ എന്നെ നിലവിളിയിൽ കൊണ്ടെത്തിച്ചു.

ആ കഥയിൽ ‘Amarantha’ എന്ന പേരിൽ ഒരു പെൺകുട്ടി ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നു. അവൾക്കു സഹജമായ കാരുണ്യ ബോധമുണ്ടായിരുന്നു. ഒരു ദിവസം അറിവുള്ള ഒരു പാവം ഭ്രാന്തൻ അവളുടെ ജീവിതത്തിൽ കടന്നു വന്നു. അയാൾ കവിതകളിലൂടെ അവളുടെ സൗന്ദര്യത്തെ പ്രകീർത്തിച്ചു…ബൈബിളിലെ ഉത്തമ ഗീതങ്ങളിലെ വരികൾ അവൾക്കായി, അവളുടെ ചെരുപ്പുകൾക്കായി ഉപയോഗിച്ചു…വേറെ ഏതോ കവിയുടെ വരികൾ ചൊല്ലി അവളുടെ മുടിയെ പറ്റി…പക്ഷെ ഒടുവിൽ എല്ലാവരും ചേർന്ന് അയാളെ കൊന്നു. അമരാന്തയ്ക്കു മാത്രം മനസ്സിലായ ഏതോ സത്യം അവശേഷിപ്പിച്ചു കൊണ്ട് അയാൾ പോയി…

ആ പെൺകുട്ടിയുടെ പേര്, ഭ്രാന്തൻ, കവിതകൾ, സോളമെന്റെ ഉത്തമ ഗീതങ്ങൾ, കർശനമായ, സങ്കുചിതമായ മതത്തിന്റെ കാഴ്ചപ്പാടിൽ തെറ്റെന്നു ധരിക്കപ്പെട്ട ബൈബിളിലെ സുന്ദര വരികൾ…മനസ്സിലാക്കാൻ ബുദ്ധിയില്ലാത്ത ലോകത്തിൽ ഭ്രാന്തനായ, മിടുക്കനായ ഒരു യുവാവ്… ക്രൂരമായ ഒരു കൊലപാതകം, ആ പെൺകുട്ടിയുടെ കണ്ണീർ…മനസ്സിൽ വിങ്ങൽ നിറച്ച കഥ. പക്ഷെ ഞാൻ പേര് മറന്നു, വർഷങ്ങൾ കഴിഞ്ഞതും, കഥയുടെ പല നേർമ്മയുള്ള ഇഴകളും മറന്നു പോയി. എങ്കിലും…

മനസ്സിൽ മുപ്പതു വർഷങ്ങൾ കിടന്ന ആ കഥയുടെ കാതൽ സൗന്ദര്യമായിരുന്നു,കവിതയായിരുന്നു, കാരുണ്യമില്ലാത്ത ലോകം ‘ഭ്രാന്ത്’ എന്ന് വിളിക്കുന്ന, തച്ചു കൊല്ലുന്ന ക്രൂരതയായിരുന്നു.

2013- ഇൽ, മനസ്സിലെ ഓർമ്മകൾ വയ്ച്ചു ‘ഗൂഗിൾ’ എന്ന അലാവുദീന്റെ വിളക്കിലെ ഭൂതത്തെ വിളിച്ചും കൊണ്ട് ഞാൻ ആ കഥ തപ്പിയെടുത്തു…

അച്ഛന്റെ പുസ്‌തക സഞ്ചയത്തിലെ എനിക്കേറ്റവും ഇഷ്ടപ്പെട്ട ആ ചെറു കഥയുടെ പേര് ‘ How Beautiful With Shoes’..എഴുതിയത് അമേരിക്കൻ സാഹിത്യകാരനായിരുന്ന Wilbur Daniel Steele …1932 ലാണു പ്രസിദ്ധീകരിച്ചത്.

***

സി. വി. ബാലകൃഷ്ണന്റെ “അവൻ ശരീരത്തിൽ സഹിച്ചു’ എന്ന കഥ വായിച്ചപ്പോൾ, മധുവിന്റെ കണ്ണുകൾ ഓർമ്മ വരുന്നു. കഥ ജീവിതത്തിനു മുന്നോടിയാവും എന്ന് എഴുത്തുകാരൻ തന്നെ കുറിച്ചിട്ടുമുണ്ട്. 1970 കളിൽ എഴുതിയതാണ്.

“ദൈവമേ! എന്തൊരു ദൈന്യതയാണ് ഞാനീ കാണുന്നത്!”ആ വരി എഴുതിയത് മധുവിനെ കുറിച്ചായിരുന്നോ? ഒരു പക്ഷെ, ഒരു നല്ല വ്യക്തി അവിടെ ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നെങ്കിൽ! അയാൾ ആ ദൈന്യതയിൽ ദൈവത്തെ കണ്ടിരുന്നെങ്കിൽ…രക്ഷിച്ചിരുന്നെങ്കിൽ?

Leo Tolstoy യുടെ ‘Where Love Is, God Is…’ ഇലെ Martin Avdeitch എന്ന ചെരുപ്പു കുത്തിയേയും ,
Matthew-25 :40നേയും  ഓർമ്മ വന്നു ..

“രാജാവ് മറുപടി പറയും : സത്യമായി ഞാൻ നിങ്ങളോടു പറയുന്നു, എന്റെ ഏറ്റവും എളിയ ഈ സഹോദരന്മാരിൽ ഒരുവന് നിങ്ങൾ ഇത് ചെയ്തു കൊടുത്തപ്പോൾ, എനിക്ക് തന്നെയാണ് ചെയ്തു തന്നത്.”

ദീനരിലും, പതിതരിലും  ക്രിസ്തുവിനെ കാണാൻ പഠിപ്പിക്കുന്ന എല്ലാ ഉത്തമ കഥകൾക്കുമായി സമർപ്പണം .

കേൾക്കൂ…സി.വി. ബാലകൃഷ്ണന്റെ കഥ…

**

“സത്യത്തിനെത്ര വയസ്സായി?”

kennedy

പണ്ട് കവി പാടിയത് പോലെ ചില സത്യങ്ങൾക്കു വയസ്സില്ല.
സുഗത കുമാരി ടീച്ചറുടെ ചില പഴയ കവിതകൾ കാലിക പ്രസക്തിയോടെ ഇന്നും വഴി കാട്ടുന്നു.

നാലു കവിതകൾ…
ഗാന്ധിജിയെ കുറിച്ച് ” മറക്കാതിരിക്കട്ടേ” (1969 ),
അധികാര ദുർമ്മോഹങ്ങളുടെ അധഃപതനം എന്നും പഠിപ്പിച്ച ഷെല്ലിയുടെ “Ozymandias” ഇന്റെ വിവർത്തനം (1964) ,
പെൺകുട്ടികൾ നേരിടുന്ന ചൂഷണത്തെ, അവർക്ക് പഠിക്കാൻ അവസരങ്ങൾ കൊടുക്കേണ്ടതിനെ പറ്റിയെഴുതിയ ‘സാരേ ജഹാൻ സെ അച്ഛാ’ (1986),
മരങ്ങളെ സ്നേഹിക്കുന്നതിനെ കുറിച്ചെഴുതിയ , പ്രകൃതി ക്ഷോഭത്തെ പറ്റി പണ്ടേ ധ്വനിപ്പിച്ച ” മരത്തിനു സ്തുതി” (1980).

കവിതയെ ബഹുമാനിക്കാൻ പഠിപ്പിച്ച എൻ്റെ പ്രിയപ്പെട്ട സ്കൂൾ/കോളേജ് അധ്യാപകർക്ക് നന്ദി. ജീവിതത്തിൽ പലപ്പോഴും ശക്തി നൽകിയ, ഒരു “survival tool” കൂടിയായി മാറിയ പാഠമാണത്.

Let us bow before our mother tongues in the International Year of Indigenous Languages….

മധുരമാമെൻ മാതൃഭാഷയ്ക്കു പ്രണാമം!

Wolf Song

wolf

Woman, Wolf

Whatever name you go by

In the world of ours,

Watch and abide,

Listen and stay sharp.

For when the foe stirs

Aim for the jugular first.

 

Carry the howl within,

The thirst and the anger.

Ignore the brambles

The bleeding scars awhile.

It is time to fight

And so arm yourself nail and tooth.

 

Bare your fangs

That sparkle in  the moonlight

Let no enemy sleep tight

When the wolf stalks its prey.

And when they gaze at you

With revulsion and fear

Flip your luxurious mane

And walk gracefully away.

 

The wise ones know

That the  she-wolf within you

Is loath to forgive

Is wary of sweetness

Is proud and brave

And excels in survival.

But even they are unaware

That the flame within

Is a raging fire.

Touch once, it singes,

Mess with it twice, it will burn

Trouble it thrice, hell breaks loose

Wolf and inferno shall remain.

**

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One For The Road!

IMG_2745

In life, sometimes we come to crossroads:  as a pilgrim, you have to choose a way forward. One path is dark, full of ominous silence, holding nothing but suffering, strife, and victimhood. However, it promises safety to the traveller. You will get swallowed by that darkness, and submerge into somewhere unseen; where like a wounded animal, you can try to heal all by yourself. The only compromise you have to make is with your own inner voice which will call you a coward. Whatever be the justifications that you may give to the world, the ‘woman in the mirror’ will mock you by that wordless question: ‘Ran away, did you ?’

The other path is full of dangerous fire and brimstone, at least in the beginning. There are treacherous moats and crocodiles with serrated teeth gnashing at you. Beyond the fumes and predators, however, lies a silvery path on which the pilgrim sees a sign, ‘Self -Respect.’ The warriors can be seen walking with heads high, dignity intact, having called a spade a spade and a bully a bully and a perpetrator of wickedness, evil.

It is an inevitable Rule of Dharma, that either you side with evil or with good. The middle paths are dangerously grey and many millions throughout history, have suffered due to that singularly coloured indecisiveness.  One cannot act or pretend to be polite with evil or wickedness or hidden agendas or nefarious interests. One has to say, ‘No.’

Edmund Burke so wisely pointed out, ‘The truest test of integrity is a blunt refusal to compromise.’

And so, the decision is taken. Aesop said, ‘It is very easy to be brave from a distance.’ The sword is drawn. It is time to display courage. The most important virtue, without which other virtues like honesty and integrity cannot be practised.

I remember the words of Gandalf….and smile again.

‘All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.’

**

Holy Memory

IMG_2276

This incident happened nine years before, during a Holi.

I had recently taken charge as the District Magistrate/Collector in a remote district . Villagers stood in long queues to meet the DM and get their grievances redressed. The powers granted to the post being very significant, the poor and the needy travelled many miles -from far flung villages- to meet the officer holding the position.

There was a small ruckus outside, and I heard someone scolding a woman. ‘ Why do you come every single day? Your letter has already been forwarded,’ the chaprasi/ peon said; trying to stop a woman from moving ahead in the queue. When I enquired about the matter, a woman in advanced state of pregnancy was ushered into the room. She was dressed differently, with the dress and jewellery associated with nomadic tribes. The first thing she did, was to try to touch my feet.

A pregnant woman, bending down to touch my feet? I sat dumbstruck, scalded by that sight. I managed to get her seated by my side with some effort. She burst into tears as I asked her about her problem in my limited Hindi.  In her peculiar dialect, she made me understand one thing: ‘ I do not want to give birth to another child, when my first one has been denied to me!’

She told me that every single day for the last few months, she had been travelling from her distant village to meet the officers with her plea. Her little son had been kidnapped.

I felt as if struck by lightning: who had kidnapped her first born? And how come no one understood the burning pain which made this woman- in the last stages of her pregnancy- travel thirty odd kilometres in rickety vehicles to meet the Powers-that-be? How come no one had bothered to listen to her till now?

The office clerk , in charge of grievances, referred his register and updated me on her case. Her application had been marked on such and such a date to the Circle officer in charge. More than thirty copies of the application, to be precise.

When I called up the police officer, he said that the woman belonged to a tribe which was notorious for indulging in bootlegging and thefts. Her husband was in jail in some theft case. The woman’s elder child, hardly three years old, had gone missing a few months before from her house. They were ‘ investigating’ the matter. No case had been filed as yet. And yes, all the marked applications were there in his office; as duly forwarded by the Collectorate staff.

‘ I know the man behind this. He is in jail with my husband. He had a tiff with him, and he got my son kidnapped. I know my child is in his village in Bihar.’ The woman sobbed out her story.

I asked the officer over phone whether he had ever bothered to talk to the mother. He had not.

‘ Madam, these are criminal tribes!’ He said, as if that should let the matters stay.

I lost my cool.

‘The mother who lost her child is a criminal in your eyes? How dare you say that? What relevance does her husband’s deeds have over her agony as a mother? You never even bothered to speak to her after thirty applications?’

I do not know to this day, what came over me- but with all the language skills I could manage, I told him that he should take this case as a personal priority and report the progress directly to me. His success and failure would have significant impact on his career. Well, at least that was what I tried to convey – in my grammatically wrong Hindi, empowered by outrage rather than diction.

I told the woman that she should not harm the unborn baby with her constant travels and that we should give some time for the officer to work out the case.

**

On the day of Holi, early morning, hardly three weeks later, I woke up to the Police Officer’s phone call from the landline.

‘ Madam, I have retrieved the child! He was in the village in Bihar. The woman was right. I went personally to trace him. Please talk to the mother. She is holding her son.’

I heard what sounded like laughter mixed with a heart rending cry, through the phone. A giggle of a child could also be heard.

‘ Thank you,’ she said, ‘ My blessings with you.’

I hugged my little girl,  who was sleeping next to me, speechlessly.

I wrote a personal letter of appreciation for the good officer’s efforts.

**

When great danger has tried to trip me up,  whenever harm has bared its nefarious teeth, from somewhere, would arrive protection. Always, always.

I was only doing my duty as an officer, but  I know for sure that  the mother had given me a shield/ kavach of her blessings. It  has  singlehandedly held back many poisoned arrows that came my way often, in my life journey.

If there is a lesson, it is this: never under estimate your power to do good. It will return thousand times, in a circle of blessing, to keep watch by your side.  I can vouch for it from my life experiences.

This Holi, as I remember the past, amongst the colours, I can imagine an unseen child- of  my young daughter’s age – enjoying Holi with a sister or brother. Anklets jingle nearby, colourful skirts twirl, as a laughing mother sprinkles colours over her children.

It is an honour to listen. It is an honour to serve. It is the greatest honour, to be blessed by grieving hearts.

**

In case the article comes out as a pride filled boasting of a braggadocio, I beg for forgiveness. It is actually a prayer of gratitude. That He chose me as his instrument at that point of time.

**

 

,

Unexpectedly…

IMG_2230

‘ People do not have enough time to read or watch anything long. So , can you write something interesting, which is er, let us put it this way, amenable to quick enjoyment?Especially now that all are writing love stories, can you try one?’ My friend sipped her coffee.

‘ Can I write a murder mystery instead: very short?’ I wheedled. Wry cynicism is more my nature than  a naive trust in happily-ever-after. Give me  short films like ‘Chutney’ any day with Saki’s stories as accompaniment!

‘ Later…we will try that later. You have half an hour,’ she said.

She is like a sister to me; and sisters have the right to demand anything.

*

Love In a Train

**

Sound of rain…and a train whistling…The story unfolds in a train compartment

Young man: Damn! The train has stopped again! Someone must have pulled a chain..The phone has no range in these parts…where are we, in the middle of jungles? Who lives in such places?

Old Man: ( Coughs) I guess, people like you and me.
Young man: I did not mean to be rude.But see, there is no internet or mobile range.
Old man: Girl friend? Urgent call?
Young man:( laughs) Oh, no! No time for all that…Besides, I am yet to find someone that special.Just my mother…wanted to tell her that the train is running late.
Old man: Since we are alone in this compartment, may be you will like to listen to a story?
Young man: Oh, yes…there is nothing else to do, anyway! I mean…please tell me…
Old man: It is a love story…
Young man: ( curious) Really?

Old man… It began in a train compartment like this …some fifty years ago
**
Young man( Old man’s younger version) voice: Oh, blast this rain…and this train is moving through jungles! Who lives in such places, I wonder…Ah, not again…another station?

Sound of a luggage being dragged
Young man( whisper) My lucky day! What a beautiful young woman! That must be her mother…or aunt?
Middle aged lady: Beta, can you help with the luggage? We are drenched…

Young man: Oh sure…here we go..Where are you going?

Middle aged lady: Oh this girl works too hard and has fallen sick! I am taking her home for a vacation…
Young woman: ( laughs) You exaggerate greatly auntie..

Young man: You work here…in the jungles? It must be terrible…What are you doing…I mean ..Are you teaching? You should try for a job in the city..There must be options…
Young woman: These are tribal areas…and people are much nicer than in the cities…I am a doctor.
Middle aged woman: She is a gold medallist. Did her higher studies in England but insisted that she would work for poor tribals….Works with a missionary hospital here…
Young man : ( Utterly flabbergasted) Really! My God! I feel so stupid…I am sorry…I mean…
Young woman: It is alright….I hear that a lot. It is my choice and I am fine…What do you do?
Young man: I have my own business…

*
Cut to modern train scene…train chugs..whistles..

Old man: I told her that I was running my family business in the big city. I had just opened a new factory in a nearby town…I was trying to impress her…You see, I had fallen in love.

Young man: Whistles! ( It strikes him for the first time that old men were once young too!)

Old man: We got married eventually.My wife started her own hospital in the tribal region.Later we started a school too…
Young man: Wonderful! Where is ma’am now?
Old man: Sighs…Love is such a gift…but sometimes it is snatched away fast…The memories remain.She passed away five years before…
Young man: I am so sorry
Old man: Don’t be…We had a beautiful life together.Today, our only grand daughter took over as the new head of the hospital…she has just returned from England with a gold medal…like her grand ma…I went to bless her.She wanted someone to accompany me back.I refused.There is strength in my old bones still.Besides, I wanted to travel in a train back…for memories’ sake…

Young man: I am speechless.
Old man: My phone is buzzing….the range must have come back…Hello…hello dear…I am fine…I have a travel mate…a young man in the compartment…we are having a good time chatting….Yes, I shall take my medicines…don’t worry…What…ok, will give the phone to him…One second..
Young man: Hello, yes…Ensure he takes medicines before he sleeps? Oh sure, I will remind him..May I know, your good name? Ah..lovely name…sorry, I mean…yes, sure…Shall look after him…

Old man: ( Laughs) She is as stubborn as her grand ma…By the way, what do you do beta?
Young man ( respectfully ) I have my own tea plantations, sir.
Old man: Ah…a businessman…I like that…
**
End