And He Said, Speaking Low and Nervously…

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So I told my daughter, ‘Read M.R.James. You will be surprised and delighted with that horror genre! Besides, you can enjoy the BBC versions of every story!’

As a beautiful eyebrow was raised-the owner contemplating on the utility of reading a Cambridge  don exposit on the supernatural and the impalpable in exquisite English -I rushed in: ‘ Start with ‘The treasure of Abbot Thomas’! Bet it can enchant you as much as the twistor theory..’.

This time, she laughed indulgently. She knows me well. It is better to humour me , when I am on a pulpit preaching the virtues of reading classics.

‘ What of it?’ She asks, with a smile.

‘ There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy…’

‘ Ha!’

‘ Ciphers! Zacchariea 3:9  Super latinum unum occuli sunt!’

‘ Eh? Latin?’

‘ Upon one stone are seven eyes…’ And that is from Zachariah! More from Job and  Johannes…!’

‘ Eeeks!’

And a warning. In French! Gare a qui la touché!’

‘ What?’

‘ Beware, whoever touches it!’

‘ Ugho!’

‘ Yup! There was a Guardian! Depositum Custodi! Keep that which is committed to Thee!’

‘ And you want me to read it before going to bed, Amma?’

I laugh in a theatrical manner!

‘Do tell me if you enjoy the imagination of a brilliant Cambridge don!  He was a genius. Your generation probably has not appreciated him enough. He used to read  out his horror stories by candle light in the Cambridge Chit Chat Club!’

‘ What an ideal life!’

This time we laugh together.

My teenager promises that she will meander from her safe Physics turf into some intriguing classic horror genre.

I grin happily. I know that once she starts with the wicked Abbot’s tale,  ‘The Ash Tree’ and ‘ Casting the Runes’ will be  consumed soon enough. After all, no one can stop with eating just one chocolate, can they?

And as for me, The Tractate Middoth awaits! And the warm afternoon sun is so delightful in accompaniment!

**

 

 

 

 

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Poems of Pain : Prof VeeranKutty ( Translation from Malayalam)

  1.  Your Life

The plant that has grown

Over your burial site,

Is resplendent with flowers!

I cannot believe

That you went back

With so many love- secrets.

**

2. Forgetfulness

The Secret which I kept

For your ears

Was lifted away by the breeze.

Wonder on which branch

It has kept it dangling!

In what fire has it got scorched?

Where is the earth,

Which has buried it deep?

What was the secret

That I had kept for

Your ears?

Well, now it seems

You will have to remind me

Of it

Yourself.

**

3. Confrontation

I cannot bear to look

At that emptiness

That was left behind,

When you went away.

How am I supposed

To confront

The void

Which is growing

To your proportions

Over there?

**

4. Unspoken

I might die

In the contraction and dilation

Caused

By the word

That you left unspoken-

Even when  life

Was  being snuffed out of you.

**

5. Loveless

Without love,

The body becomes

The most unyielding tree

Ever.

Though the lips may struggle to sculpt,

It simply does not oblige:

Refuses to transform into an idol.

**

 

 

 

Painting Once Again…

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In a way poetry and painting are kindred souls. What some accomplish by a few words strung like beads together, others strive by mixing dots of paint. There is an inevitable catharsis- the hoarded up emotions furiously burst- and all is well again.  Some kind acquaintance might exclaim over your lines or appreciate your painting. Added bonus.

Why do we stop doing those things which we love, when we grow up?Because, we get into the business of living. And when life becomes regimented with multifarious responsibilities, happiness inducing hobbies take a backseat. It is only after a bad crash or two on life’s highway that the  Master Guardian-intuition- whispers again: ‘maybe time to trust the silent spectators sitting behind you offering help.’

So you pick up that dusty paper again. The paint is half dried up and the brush is so stiff that no amount of softening it with a water treatment works! You hesitate between a sketch pen and a black crayon. Then you start…And like a poem, beauty reveals itself, very sweetly.

And one remembers the sentence about the soul being on its knees….praying.

**

 

 

 

 

Poems of Sagacity : Prof Veerankutty,(Translation from Malayalam)

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1. For You

**

It is good,

That God  has kept

My mind

In an unseen place.

Even you  won’t be able to discern,

The love I have,

( For you, dearest)

Which is hidden inside it.

**

2. On Aging

**

On aging,

My words shall not

Regret painfully-

That they have to

Recline forever

Inside

A dictionary.

After all,

The memory of having spent

Their youth

Indulging in poems

( About you, dearest)

Is constantly with them.

**

3. Till The World Ends

**

Language was drawing

Its very last life- breath.

Then

Someone whispered,

‘ I love you.’

And  the heart beat

Started again.

The heels pulsed with

Energy,

To leap

Till the world’s end.

**

4. Dying

**

Dying

Is like the parting of ways

After a  lover’s tiff:

Shall never disclose

Where it is headed for.

**

5.  The Secret

**

What the Rain was shy to reveal,

Was written  down by the Lightning.

But Thunder turned out

To be a tactless confidante!

Blurted it all,

Noisily

To everyone.

**

6.  With God

No lightning flash,

Or any lit lamp,

Hereabouts.

Then from where

Has this light arisen?

Look-

When no one is around,

An infant in the cradle

Is gleefully playing

With God!

**

7. The Fence

**

Behold!

The thorny fence

Has sprouted flowers:

Much loftier

Than all the  hate-filled sounds

We made

Over that border!

**

8.  Love-Grape

How bitterly

You rued

The day when you

Got a pimple

On your face!

I longingly looked on,

As sweetness welled within,

At that

Love- grape

Ripened by God.

**

9. Visit

**

Like sunshine  falling on water

You entered my life.

Like the dew drop on a leaf

You left me behind too.

Yet I am grateful to you-

For those few moments of togetherness:

When you made our embrace,

Look like pure crystal.

**

10. Corrigendum

**

What I had perceived

While staring at the darkness

Turned to be all lies.

The light

Revealed the truth.

**

 

 

 

Poems of Passion: Prof Veerankutty (Translation from Malayalam)

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1. Who said so?

Who said that

Humans cannot fly ?

Let them produce

The evidence then,

Of your feet having touched

The ground,

Ever since you fell in love.

**

2. As if unseen

Whatever you are doing-

As if unseen by anyone,

I am cognisant of it all.

My only regret:

I cannot convey it

In a language

Unheard by anyone else.

**

3. Willingness

Anyone could have come,

Instead

You chose to come yourself.

You could have come any day,

But you came today itself.

You need not have come,

Yet you came;

I got to know of it.

The seat before you

By the side of the sea shore,

Shall be bereft of my presence.

Tonight

All alone,

In that silence

Where even a foot step’s echo

Cannot intrude,

I want to reminisce

About

Your willingness

To meet me.

**

4. Unable to hide

How lovely to see your

Land!

I caught sight of a tree

In full bloom

Amidst all that green!

It was unable to hide

The spreading blush-

Like you caught unaware,

In an unexpected kiss.

**

5. Lightning

Your smile struck

Me down,

Just once!

I have died many times

Hence.

**

6.  Futile

Alone,

I climbed a hill

And stared down at the valley.

A  wandering breeze

Sent

By God,

Came by,

And tried to

Skirt around me-

In a futile effort

To compensate

Your absence.

I could not help

Laughing.

**

7. Sticker

Two life- spirits

Unexpectedly

Unite

In any love affair.

They endure

The agonised helplessness

Of being torn apart

When they separate.

8. Unique

I am the Fire

You

The  fragrant oil.

In the light cast about

As we

Burn together

God

Completes

A love poem.

**

8. Promise

I shall come seeking you

Forever.

Irrespective

Of the number of times

I am turned back.

I read my own promise,

In the language of the waves.

**

9. Mine

There a few things

Totally belonging to me.

God

Mind

Life

Then you.

(Ah, you mock:

‘Where are these anyway?’)

I have not seen any of those!

We are always busy,

Aren’t we-

Involved deeply

With all that  which remains

Unseen?

10. Who are you?

Who are you?

The one who is willing

To run towards

Someone like me-

Who is lazy

To even move a step

Forward?

**

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bored. Oh, Really?

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Three children with muscular dystrophy, and struggling to have access to a toilet! Can you believe it?

My work has led me to believe that any act of reaching out, is like God smiling that day. And God smiled today too. There was a good person, who promised us to coordinate the needful. The children will have their dignity restored soon enough.

When life overwhelms you with boredom, I request you to do a quick assessment of how you can be God’s smile for that day. I promise you that you will not get bored. It is an affliction which strikes us  only when are obsessed about ourselves.

A group of women who make exquisite products out of  reusable things: such beauty from nothing! They need help in marketing. Maybe your gift lies in networking. Reach out…they are present  where you live…

Children from shelter homes need care, financial support and vocational education. Someone who can build them a library, teach music and arts….Can you volunteer your time? Reach out….they are present in your city…

Environment friendly initiatives…an NGO struggling to clean a river. They need sensitive volunteers. Contribute one hour. They need you …Reach out…the river flows nearby…

Disabled people want dignified employment. Differently abled children need special schools. Can you help in any way? Reach out…perhaps a mile away from you is someone in need…

One set of  school uniform,  and a bedridden father with two motherless daughters who go to school. One wears it one day, while the other stays at home. No fiction, but simple truth. Until one day, someone reached out and got a journalist to cover their story. Help poured in. Today, both attend school regularly.

So many opportunities to serve.

Next time you get bored, do me a favour. Reach out…be that someone who makes a change. I bet you will smile better.

***

Sly Wit, Caustic Barbs…(Life is a short story:)

When Olena was a  little girl, she had called them Lieberries- a fibbing fruit, a story store- and now she had a job in one…

‘ Don’t I look like Eric Clapton?’

‘Eric Clapton would never have sat in a Woolworths photo booth like some high-school girl,’ Olena said, in the caustic blurt that sometimes afflicts the shy.

( From ‘Community Life’, short story by Lorrie Moore, 1994)

**

She had been married: it was as if she’d done an interminable, boring stretch on a transcontinental train and emerged- tired, dispirited and yawning uncontrollably- into the starless night of a strange city, where the only kindred soul was her suitcase.

( Tatyana Tolstaya, short story ‘The Poet and the Muse’, 1991)

**

I explained to my wife that on the plane going down I was going to have to do research and she said, ‘ Fine.’ My research consisted of reading the galleys of a detective novel someone wanted to make into a movie, and my enjoyment of it would have been increased if she had resisted, but she did not. So I struggled through the book. My three year old daughter watched Romancing the Stone, and my wife coloured in the kid’s colouring book for three and a half hours.

( David Mamet, A Family Vacation, short story, 1988)

**

My mother’s movements got deeper and smoother, and Mr.DeCuervo suddenly came alive, as though a spotlight had hit him. My father danced the way he was, warm, noisy,teasing, a little overpowering; but Mr.DeCuervo, who was usually quiet and thoughtful and serious, became a different man when he danced with my mother. His dancing was light and happy and soulful, edging up on my mother, tuning her, matching her every step. They would smile at all of us, in turn, and then face each other, too transported to smile.

‘ Dance with Daddy some more,’ my sister said, speaking for all three of us. They had left us too far behind.

(Amy Bloom, ‘ Life is not a pie ‘, short story, 1994)

**

‘Still not had it?’ The old lady who lived next door appeared at the fence, her leech-black eyes peering through the trellis of the honeysuckle. ‘ You must be very worried by now.’

‘ I’m all right,’ she said, taking a step backwards towards the kitchen door.’ How are you?’

‘ As you know, lonely as hell since Reg died,’ said Mrs Pightle. ‘ Sometimes I get so bored I wish even something nasty would happen.’

Wanting to avoid infection by contact with Mrs.Pightle’s misery, she took another step back.

( Helen Simpson, ‘Last Orders,’ short story, 1993)

***

From the Cosmopolitan Book of Short Stories.

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