Monday, November 29, 2010

Pied Mynah: join the chatter club!

Mynahs or Starlings are one of the commonest birds so much so they are threat to other species. I recall writing about Bank Mynahs- that are found mostly along the Gangetic plains, Common Mynhas are found in large numbers in cities of south India -i think i will give it a miss, while Pied Mynahs are found along the eastern plains towards Bengal and East Asia. Mostly found in small cantankerous parties in open fields they seldom venture into human dwellings like other Mynahs.

Francis Webb: hugely underrated poet

You may have come across names from Eliot to Yeats and many more, and still haven’t heard about Francis Webb. Does that surprise anyone?. Probably not. Francis Webb (1925-1973) was an immensely underrated poet, born in Sydney Australia orphaned at a young age he was brought up by his grandparents in a Catholic surrounding. He worked in Air Force for sometime as air gunner later he worked for a publisher in Canada, unfortunately during this time he was diagnosed as suffering from acute schizophrenia. He was committed to an asylum in Sydney, during these periods he was intensely into Catholicism and these religious experiences permeated into this poetry. Though as a reader i really don’t prefer long poems but these poems do have the quality to engage, some requires rereading as are quite difficult.

The Runner

Watch, and for a moment pace him on.
Clipped are the wings of space from him, and gone
Thrust from the hips, self-conscious overstride.
His face hangs yellow, curtainless and void
As a cracked window in a headlong shack.
Brushed by the terrible hammer of the track,
The little spider of torment kicks and swings
In the grey, collapsing bubble of his lungs.

You will not see so pure a thing as this:
Movement alone, with its own emphasis.
For God or Devil or Nothing burns and burns
This mystery. Earth turns and turns.
Trapped in his husk of terror, but alive,
He fights for birth; till drowned and negative
He lurches in to breathe and die beyond
The silver tape, the glass of Wonderland.

The Song of a New Australian

In the hamper of a fictive world this wordy darkness
Is fed by the sick squeal of a truck moving
Onto a stage where friendly word means a weakness,
Safety hangs upon harlequin Hate with his gags
That are hallowed and hideous mockery of loving.
An interval - even armistice? But you only heard
A crate's bruising or breaking on concrete, then the last word
Of the damp, rolling, remorseless kegs.
Darling Harbour, self-fashioned, queer dogmas postered to his wall,
Discovers foreign all my words of defence,
Cannot have me in his black book, Mateship; so I fall,
Like the other thousands of mile-torn goods, to the phrases
Of the account-book, dump and stowage at a glance.
No relief from a galvanised-iron sea, and impure
Mouths are the sky-colours. Bridge is a coil of wire
Slung on top of some upturned filthy cases.

The Horses

The vegetative soul is the dedicated rhetorician:
Yellow knuckles of gorse are eloquent; motion
Is the psyche entire whose fullness is naked growing
Ungirt with passion or reflection.
Grass meanders intoxicate in green simple action,
Little hills troll the pastoral catches, allowing
Hosannas of Saints in sober gesture alive
As flowering cherry along a drive.

With the Wensum comes consecrated ordered Wish.
From weedy tenements the spying suburban fish.
Dace, roach, carp, dart or loiter with tingling gills
In subaqueous blackout, neon,
Discuss certain shadows, suns as wool or rayon,
Choose certain baits as tranquillisers, pills.
Plucked from his element, each convulsed dreamer beats
Agony for his city streets.

A phylum apart these two old horses stand.
(Flies conspire to transfix the sweating land.)
The pair of them will stand an hour together
Licking each other's sides with great slow tongues.
Minds, as bodies, are ancient galls and wrongs.
Flies would erode this hackneyed summer weather.
Memory, rumour, and an hour spin in the guise
Of the buzzing swarming flies.

He will give his body to the gesticulating
Green grass without forethought. He will lie beating, awaiting
The perfect town of water, going, gone.
He is the listing hulk or bale of straw
In silt of the inorganic; pang of law
Tides him into the rivers and the sun.
Light plays throughout his muddied floating things,
His action, desire, his gift of tongues.

Legionary Ants

The world, the tranquil punctual gyroscope,
Is more or less at peace after her fashion,
Broad bowels work, creatures rejoice or mope,
There is clash of interests in all dogged creation,
When silence comes as at noiseless thwack of a drum,
And look! the warriors come.

First shudder away the birds, all flaking, wheeling
Out of range and all forgetful of their young,
Crying at the ominous shadowy floor stealing
Over their earth; and then not giving tongue.
Now all things hold silent, and the surf
Breaks on beleagured turf.

They come. And whose ear can divine the awful waves,
Signals of command suspired by what demagogue?
They tumble in orgies of commitment, these black slaves,
All activity, but insensible as rotted log.
Their mad absorbed unity of hunger and mirth
Is the belly-heave of earth.

The wounded mammal whimpers and butts and runs,
Glazing, eaten alive. The three-days' chick
Shrills fear, and like a paradigm of guns
Anarchy gorges itself and life is sick.
Look close for a second, stranger, you will find
Blear paradigm also of our mind.

For this is our mind for today - never creation
But all nakedness. Odours and colours blent
And sounds and shapes, swivel throughout that ration
Of basic nerves, like darkness imminent;
But sometimes in moments of withdrawal one sees, feels
Certain subterranean wheels.

As their cloud progresses it may assume strange shapes:
Of devouring lover and organ, it may weep
Like mandibles of rain and whatever rapes
The fruit and flesh of life in very sleep.
Sleep is ever the enemy, it seems,
To all who dream these dreams.

But punctilious night now sweeps away all lust
On wheels, and another, a blessed, silence broods
Over many bones left twinkling in the dust.
Earth debates bitterly in these solitudes
Whether she dare replace, below, above,
The singings, ramblings of love.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Grey headed Flycatcher

A rather noisy little bird-a long loud trill, for a bird of its size it is quite a surprise-that seems to find it difficult to sit still and is cheerful all the way, just about manage to photograph this one!. This bird prefers heavy forests on the hills with bit of open space around wherein it hunts on insects, doing the characteristic acrobats that flycatchers are known for. Quite an experience to track this one. The above is resident race of Eastern Ghats; the Western Ghats race is much brighter. Apologies for the pictures…this is the best I could manage after chasing the bird for half an hour or so!.....well that was then now i got some new and spectacular pics so i am replacing the above!!

And then there was Toru Dutt

But not because of its magnificence
Dear is the Casuarina to my soul:
Beneath it we have played; though years may roll,
O sweet companions, loved with love intense,
For your sakes, shall the tree be ever dear.
Blent with your images, it shall arise
In memory, till the hot tears blind mine eyes!
What is that dirge-like murmur that I hear
Like the sea breaking on a shingle-beach?
It is the tree’s lament, an eerie speech,
That haply to the unknown land may reach
(from Our Casuarina Tree)

While reading about Derozio i came across a beautiful being named Toru Dutt. Toru Dutt (1856-1877) was born in Calcutta, now thankfully Kolkata...i like that Bengali twang in the way it is pronounced. Unfortunately the colonial Britishers found it arduous to their tongue-a Malayali would say “naak vadikathenta kozhapam ma saipe!”, a name of the place carries lot about not only the language but also socio-cultural heritage. This should have been one of the earliest steps that should have been taken when India got independence, the place should be called what the common people have been calling all these centuries and still do. But Indian elite seem to be just carrying on where the British left even now the laws and policies are archaic and nobody seemed much bothered, though it leads to serious injustices but some people are concerned about their immediate gains. This section though would do their best to get their accent of French words in English right!. Pity these people.

Toru Dutt’s first published article was on Derozio, it came out in The Bengal Magazine in 1874 when she was just 18 years old. She did some translation from French too, Ancient ballads and Legend of Hindustan (available at was published posthumously. Toru Dutt died of tuberculosis when she was just twenty one. Thinking of Derozio, Toru Dutt...all these beautiful people dying so young, it pains me, think how much beautiful they might have made the world with their presence, what a terrible loss. And what we have is crude people living longer (ten or twenty years more of manipulation crude woman?. I sincerely hope it is much lesser), i sometimes think that a code of self destruction has entered human genes. They create systems where it is the crudest who thrive, at an individual level it is very much Darwinian, survival the crudest- take the political system, economic system, entertainment etc. At every level it gets crass with very few and rare exceptions. Decency, propriety, restrain are minor causalities. But humans are only a minor part in a bigger system and these grand human conceptions don’t seem to match up to the subtleties of life and living-also referred to as ecosystem. It isn’t therefore surprising that the more humans succeed more they destroy more they are in peril. Clearly therefore humans are thriving on self destruction. Earth needs to balance, life blossom in diversity and so if Homo sapiens reach a destruction point do you think life-nature-will stand watching its own decimation. It will see humans as threat, and so the seeds of destruction are sown to eliminate this threat.

Toru Dutt was one such beautiful human who left early we now do have medicines to defeat diseases like tuberculosis (thanks to some brilliant scientists), the threat is now ethical-moral. Diseases and challenges (like say issues related to global warming) now have its origin in loosening ethical framework. It’s about greed, aggrandisement, complacency etc. Though the political system like democracy has given people unbridled choices on thoughts, market choices on products, entertainment choices through latest gadgets but all these choices are hinged on a very important parameter called ethics. Without ethics humans are going the Dodo way. And please don’t try to save the earth!.

This a poem by Toru Dutt i read in a book, it made me nostalgic firstly because it is about storytelling and secondly anything to do with stories from Indian mythology like Ramayana or Mahabharata very much reminds me of my childhood when everyday was a story from mythology. “What happen to Sita?” “How cruel that Ravana” “the fun of hanumana; heard about Kumbakaran?” “Pandavas and their adventure”...few decades back life really was quite different. I surely am getting quite old.

Three happy children in a darkened room!
What do they gaze on with wide open eyes?
A dense, dense forest, where no sunbeam pries,
and in its centre a cleared spot.-There bloom
gigantic flowers on creepers that embrace
tall trees; there, in a quiet lucid lake
the white swans glide; there ‘whirring from the brake’
the peacock springs; there, herd of wild deer race;
there patches gleam with yellow waving grain;
there, blue smoke from strange altars rises light,
there, dwells in peace the poet-anchorite.
But who is this fair lady? Not in vain
she weeps.-for lo! At every tear she sheds
tears from three pairs of young eyes fall amain,
and bowed in sorrow are three young heads.
It is an old, old story, and the lay
which has evoked sad Sita from the past
is by a mother sung...’Tis hushed at last
and melts the picture from their sight away,
yet shall they dream of it until the day!
When shall those children by their mother’s side
gather, ah me! as erst at eventide?

Beautiful but bit in line with 19th century English poems ‘esrt at eventide’ means ‘as of old at evening’. When young people die it is much sad but when young sensitive and talented humans like Derozio or Toru died i cannot really fathom the loss of people around them, it must have been devastating. I can feel that even now. Toru Dutt is a precious find.

I recall when in my primary school (third Std, in Delhi) there was this girl who used to sit in my front row, who used to write poems...must been one of those precocious types i guess, one day she didn’t come next day we were asked to stand in silence for few minutes because the girl died in an accident. It did affect me quite significantly that one. I even now recall some of the images she created through her poems, though i very vaguely recall her face except that she never tied her hair. I had ideas about death much before that. Indeed i knew about infinite, when i was in first standard (in Jabalpur) i used walk and try retrace my steps to check whether time also moves back!. Other experiments included spitting and spitting to see when the spit will end!!.

A scribble...

Something strange is exuding
from the depth of the river
Is it sludge collected over the years?
Must be the soul of the river
spreading under the ground
over the banks into the street
it makes swish noise under the shoe
shwak shwak shwak
I must be imagining.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Brown Shrike: the migrant bandit!!

A typical Shrike –a distinctive bandit band- it prefers colder climate and so a migrant into Indian plains during winter from regions of Mongolia to Siberia. Generally seen singly on the fringes of forest sitting on the bush or small tree from which it keeps a lookout for insects or small prey. A shy and active bird that posses quite a harsh call. I found this one on the outskirts of Assam on my way back, quite lucky to spot.

Hans Magnus Enzensberger

and we also know that we can’t help anybody really
and that nobody really can help us
and that we are extremely gifted and brilliant
and free to choose between nothing and naught
and that we must analyse this problem very carefully
and that we take two lumps of sugar in our tea
oh we know

These lines from songs for those who know by Hans Magnus Ezensberger (he avoided any capital letters in his poems). I like this poem since the sarcasm is not only quite biting but very contemporary and suits very much to the elite in poor and society with wide disparities like India. Hans Magnus Ezensberger (b.1929) is German poet who believed that poems “should be like utensils, publically accessible like graffiti on a wall, not hermitic or esoteric ciphers to be decoded by an initiated elite. The same elite who had either abetted or acquiesced in the Nazi dictatorship that was to make it powerless”. Having lived through the worst period in German history Ezensberger seems to be in constant guard against complacency, his poems are too complex to be identified with anything specific. He is quite critical of German ‘inwardness’ and compared it to conformism, his had strong views on Holderlin and Rilke. Like Brecht he wrote public poems but without the pretence that communism doctrine has the answer to every question.

for the grave of a peace-loving man

this one was no philanthropist,
avoided meetings, stadiums, the large stores.
did not eat the flesh of his own kind.

violence walked the streets,
smiling, not naked.
but there were screams in the sky.

people’s faces were not very clear.
they seemed to be battered
even before the blow has struck home.

one thing for which he fought all his life,
with words, tooth, and claw, grimly,
cunningly, off his own bat:

the thing which he called peace,
now that he’s got it, there is no longer a mouth
over his bones, to taste it with.

middle class blues

we can’t complain.
we’re not out of work.
We don’t go hungry.
We eat.

the grass grows,
the national product,
the fingernail,
the past.

the streets are empty.
the deals have been clinched.
the sirens are silent.
all that will pass.

the dead have made their wills
the rain’s become a drizzle
the war’s not yet declared.
there’s no hurry for that.

we eat the grass.
we eat the national product
we eat the fingernails.
we eat the past.

we have nothing to conceal.
we have nothing to miss.
we have nothing to say.
we have.

The watch has been wound up.
The bills have been paid.
The washing up has been done.
The last bus is passing by.

it is empty.

we can’t complain.

what are we waiting for.

These lines from manhattan island

when those who were cheated wise up
to all the big lies,
when they shoulder their desperate rage
like rifles:
there will always be mudholes;
they’ll have to paddle across, climb up
the unending fire-escapes
into the cold bitter sky.

historical process

the bay is frozen up
the trawlers are ice bound
so what
you are free.
you can lie down.
you can get up again.
it doesn’t matter about your name
you can disappear.
and return.
that’s possible.
a fighter howls across the island.
even when a man dies
letters still come to him.
there isn’t much to be lost or thwarted.
you can sleep
that’s possible.
the ice breaker will be here by the morning.
so what.
it doesn’t matter about your name.

Florian Illies, literary editor of Die Zeit, writes "Whenever Germany has started dreaming, Enzensberger has already woken up again. He took part in all the great German illusions and utopias, but he was quicker than anyone else to recognise their limitations. Of course, there will always be some who prefer to keep on dreaming and won't forgive him his talent for grasping reality." In Charles Simic's view, what makes Enzensberger "the best German poet since the second world war" is that "he has the largest range of subject matter, employs a variety of styles and conveys better than any other poet of that period the experience of someone who came of age during the war. Almost every one of his poems, be they lyric, dramatic or narrative, has a polemical quality. That is to say, he neither takes poetry, nor the subject matter he writes about for granted."

A scribble...

The other

There is this other
that worries,
frowns at my misdemeanour,
ecstatic about pleasant surprises,
fumes in rage on dereliction,
wants to acquaint all and everything.

Not me though
I sit silent
Indifferent to other
of whom i know nothing

Is that a mosquito that alight
on my toe?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The busy Green Barbets of Kolkata Botanical garden

Kolkata Botanical garden is one of the most unkempt gardens i have come across, its more like once grand colonial burial ground you come across in cantonments that is abandoned is in state of neglect and since it is to do with dead people keep a reverent distance, it is true to kolkata. There are some buildings in Kolkata that is like roman colosseum, so precarious you might think it will collapse the very instance. Newer buildings look in desperation to shed the skin of old surroundings that they end up gaudy. Kolkata live in extremities, traffic rage-contented Hooghly, appalling-dignified, loud-melodious so on.
I was staying in a lodge (so dirty that i refused to switch on the toilet light...on my return i stayed in a better but costly place) in the chaos of Howrah, it is a kind of place where things can go from bad to worst in matter of seconds, so one has to be constantly vigilant- lapse can go severe. I took a taxi-ubiquitous yellow coloured cavernous ambassador-and was at Botanical garden at about six thirty and witnessed people in various stages of mortified expressions, they call it morning exercise. Incidentally I always thought Botanical gardens are places to observe and cherish.

Must say i really don’t prefer this panting crowd so lazed around for few hours, it is between 8.30 to 10.30 that is the best time to be in any park since after the walkers next are amorous couples. The garden was silent and isolated by 9, and then by some cue emerged all the birds and squirrels (it was time for all things small and beautiful, i even saw a jackal!). What i liked about the garden is that they have cordoned off some land and left it to grow wild like a jungle...maybe others like Cubbon could do the same. Kolkata Botanical garden also has a huge banyan tree. It is good place to walk around with varieties of trees and plants i came back in the afternoon too. It is saddening that they haven’t been able to maintain it properly.

Fernando Pessosa: now that is what we call an incredible poet!!

Why did you give what i asked, holiness?
I know the truth, at last, of the real Being.
Would it had pleased God i should know less!

When i first read about Fernanado Pessosa (1888-1935) i just couldn’t believe it. The man did something incredible. Pessosa wrote poetry under four names, one his own and three ‘heteronyms’ (not pseudonyms): Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Ries, Alvaro de Campos and himself. These three were imaginary poets with real poems and individuality in them, he even created distinct biography for each (incidentally i read in the Net that he had 72 heteronyms the above being more prominent!!. Genius is the most misused term these days but this man was really one. He was Einstein of poetry). It was an attempt to find self keeping the multiplicity intact. I really don’t think anyone else has tried this anywhere, this is something unique. Pessosa writes about how it happened “on the day when i finally desisted-it was 8th March 1914-i went over to a high desk and, taking a sheet of paper, began to write when i can. And i wrote thirty poems straight off, in a kind of ecstasy whose nature i cannot define. It was the triumphal day of my life, and i shall never be able to have another like it. I started with a title...and what followed was the apparition of somebody in me, to whom i at once gave the name Alberto Caeiro. Forgive me the absurdity of the phrase: my master had appeared in me. This was the immediate sensation i had”. Thirty poems straight off, quite stupendous must say.

Born in Lisbon Pessosa wrote early poems in English without much success before shifting to Portuguese, he worked as a translator in a private firm earning his meagre living. He was active in literary circle for brief period and knew many including Mario de Sa Carniero a gifted poet who committed suicide. Nothing much was published in his lifetime and what was found after his death earn him the recognition as one of the greatest Portuguese poet!!. Pessosa wrote (in Personal Notes) “I am now in full possession of the fundamental laws of literary art. Shakespeare can no longer teach me to be subtle, nor Milton to be complete. My intellect has attained a pliancy and a reach that enable me to assume any emotion i desire and enter at will into any state of mind. For that which it is ever an anguish and an effort to strive for, completeness, no book at all can be an aid.”. (The portrait of Pessosais by Almada Negreiros, 1954)

Why, O Holy One

Why, O, Holy One, did you spill your word
Over my life?
Why does my false start have to have
This crown of thorns, the truth about the world?

Formerly i was wise and had no cares,
Listened, at day’s end, to the homing cows,
And the farmland was solemn and primitive.
Now that i have become truth’s slave,
The gall of having it is all i have.
I am an exile here and, dead, still live.

Cursed be the day on which i asked for knowledge!
More cursed the one that give it-for you did!
Where now is the unconsciousness-mine, early-
Which consciousness, like a suit, keeps hid?
I know, now, almost all and am left sighing...
Why did you give what i asked, Holiness?
I know the truth, at last, of the real Being.
Would it had pleased God i should know less!

Portuguese Ocean

Salt laden sea, how much of all your salt
Is tears of Portugal
For us to cross you, how many sons may kept
Vigil in vain, and mothers wept!
lived as old maids how many brides-to-be
till death, that might be ours, sea!

Was it worth? It is worth while, all,
If the soul is not small.
Whoever means to sail beyond the cape
Must double sorrow- no escape.
Peril and abyss has God to the sea given
And yet made it the mirror of heaven.

I want (i love this i wished i had written lines like these!!)

I want-unknown, and calm
Because unknown, and my own
Because calm-to fill my days
With wanting no more than them.

Those whom wealth touches-their skin
Itches with the gold rash.
Those whom fame breathes upon-
Their life tarnishes.

To those for whom happiness is
Their sun, night comes round.
But to one who hopes for nothing
All that comes is grateful.

But no, she’s abstract, is a bird
Of sound in the air of air soaring,
And her soul sings unencumbered
Because the song’s what makes her sing.

To be great, be entire
To be great, be entire: of what’s yours nothing
Exaggerate or exclude.
Be whole in each thing. Put all that you are
Into the least you do.
Like that on each place the whole moon
Shines, for she lives aloft.

Pessoa is no ordinary poet, as you read you grow with him, last few weeks i have been reading him on and off. Quite charming these poems. I strongly recommend readers of this blog to read him, i got this collection of poems from College Street Kolkata. I really loved the frivolous nature of this poem...

Newton’s Binomial Theory

Newton’s binomial theory is a beautiful as the Venus
of Milo.
The fact is, precious few people care.

O!O!O!O!--- O!O!O!O! O!O!O!O! O!O!O!O O!O!O!O!----
O!O!O!O! O!O!O!O! O!O!O!O! O!O!O!O! O!O!O!O! O!O!O!O!

(The wind out there.)

Pessoa undoubtedly was a brilliant guy but we ordinary mortals too go through these experiences sometimes, i for one surely have some understanding of that ecstatic state of ‘creative writing’...i recall about a decade back i was staying in Malpe beach, its been a week or two of reading and general roaming around, was lazing on the beach one afternoon, rushed back to the room and in a frenzy wrote five short story in three weeks straight without much break and gave framework to two more. I showed these to an English college teacher, i knew through an acquaintance in Udupi, the fellow gave me a thumbs down and told me to read Shakespeare (?!!), i did work on it further on my return to Delhi-i was stationed there-and have posted these in my story blog. ‘Beginning at the end’ is my favourite. Two of the Short Story i threw away at Malpe beach, i almost destroyed “First Love” (title influenced by one real crazy story by Becket) but read it again at the beach before tearing, somehow i liked it so kept it, in retrospect i think it is a decent effort. I think maybe i shouldn’t have torn away those two, i actually have torn away many pages like that, and have lost too in rain. Must say blogs do sometimes remove that discretion that is essential and you put some substandard stuff (i am referring to scribbles here)...but then what the heck it’s my blog!!. Having said i make it a point not to put something that really is quite atrocious, well you know it by reading it again after a day or two as a third person, quite a challenging task that one. Once satisfied i put it in my blog.

Readers could go to Short Story blog for more on the above mentioned Short Stories (i surely should be on a beach!!).

A scribble...

Next day
The world beyond what i comprehend
is a marvellous mystery
The threshold i cross once in a while
brings all the excitement
an insight, a sight,
an experience, a thought
a new electronic gadget
even an exotic ice cream flavour.
The lines are redrawn
the experience afflictions, insight attaches,
thoughts burden,
gadget another toy in the market.

Next day
here i go again...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Blue throated Barbets

Blue throated barbet is a colourful bird, just about bordering gaudy with all those green, blue, red, black, brown, yellow, orange...quite a collage. First impression is startling then you say “ok bird that really is overdone!!” Found in the foothills of Himalayas right from Assam to Burma even plains of lower Bengal. They prefer open hills than thick jungles and are confiding seen quite frequently around human habitation. Like other barbets this one too is purely arboreal and has incessant throaty call. Spotted this one on the hills of Assam on a morning walk.

At Guwahati
My connection and awareness of Assam is rather sketchy, though i spend my early part of childhood here i just recall stories of encounters with wild elephants, trekking and some recollection of floods in grainy pictures of family album. I must have been about two when i shifted to Bengal (in first two years of my life i had already stayed four places...Kollam, Cochin, Tezpur, Siligri. I like that, just the beginning i wanted!!). I have travelled to Assam few times in last few years, and in some of the worse times. Assam has a very nasty recent past, till two years back bomb blasts were quite frequent (by Bodo tribes for separate state…yesterday also there has been a massacre, mostly of hindi speaking people), and when you get down at Guwahati railway station you see lots of security personnel even now that is disconcerting. I have seen some Assamese movies and read few things here and there. So after my visit to the state museum (must add despite the fact that Assam has been overshadowed by Bengal in last century or so they do have a distinct history and proud culture) and decided to visit the public library next door. Two middle aged men looked at me “geez where does this fellow come from” and then stared each other to check who will condescend to my request, one fellow looked up other fellow looked down, it went on for few minutes then one of the two gave in and got up with much reluctance, searched for English translation of assamese poems. After initial misgivings he turned out to be quite a helpful man and did try his best, so much so i had to tell him ‘you tell me where to search i do the rest’, he agreed immediately and i regretted it. I just could locate one book by Hari Barkakati. I liked these lines

The evening lay stretched like a table
where the sky lay
pinned down on the earth
by the silvery pylons.
The egrets went flying
like letters written to
an absent minded god

I am also posting pictures (at photo blog) of a culture program i happen to witness very near to where i was staying

Navakanta Barua: the gentle poet

I am a poet, my shelter made of only words
Words only form my bridge
through the incisive bridge of words I have crossed
the dark caves of disbelief
What is the use of calling the word as The Brahma
thinking of it as The God Incarnate
When men wants to protect its dignity
With men’s blood?

Navakanta Barua (1926-2002) was one of the colossal figures in Assamese literature, he inspired generations of young poets. His poems are popular for its lyrical flow of the verses, in its simple and pleasantness that comes from awareness of the society. Deeply influenced by Buddha and Tagore, Navakanta Barua-the humanist poet- remains an endearing figure to not only to all sections of assamiya society but also across societies. Writes Bhupen Hazarika “Navakanta and I shared the same passion for music. He gave me the words, I set them to tune. Because for both of us, poetry and song were two beautiful birds playing in the same courtyard. Navakanta had summed the similarity profoundly. ‘Every song is a poem,’ he used to tell me”.

Navakanta Barua received innumerable awards, including the Sahitya Akademi Award, for his novel Kakadeutar Har in 1975, the Soviet Land Nehru Award in 1980 and Padmabhusan in 1976. He has a number of poetry collections to his credit, prominent among them being He Aranya, He Mahanagar (1951), Jyoti Aru Keitaman Sketch (1960), Samrat (1962), Mor Aru Prithivir (1973). Navakanta Barua’s latest collection of poems is called Dalangat Tamighora (2000). His novels include Kapilipariya Sadhu (1953), Kakadeutar Har (1973), Garama Kunwari (1980), Manuh Ataibor Dweep (1980), Apadartha (1981) and Patachara. He wrote eight books for children, including Akharar Jhakhala (1958), Shiyalee Palegoi Ratanpur (1956), Hat Ukare Hu (1960), Kishore Ramayan (1987), Kishore Upanishad and Umala Gharar Puthi.

The Navakanta Barua Foundation organises programs every year where children are encouraged to paint, dance, sing and recite poems.

I got these poems from the book Three Score Assamese Poems (DN Bezboruah) as also from the Net ...

God Gave Gray Cells (translated by Pradip Acharya)
God gave man brains
To achieve lunacy therewith.
With his body replenished with blood
The heart took on the task of mistrust.
Speech he had
Wherewith cunningly to obscure truth.
The only truth left to Man
Is the work-moist hands of his own woman
Clasped in his weary hands of an evening
And the smile of this his child.


It is afternoon now.

Let’s go to the tailor’s; to get measured.
Measurements of neck chest hands and arms
Measurements of the palm and the heart
We shall give measurements of the entrails
And the kidney and the liver,
Give measurements of hormones and affections

Let us give measurements of life,

Of this that and several things.
Give only the measurements.
We shall think of the stitching later on.
For the time being let’s just give the measurements
We can only give measurements.

We can only take reckonings
We shall record that suicides have
Swelled considerably.
We shall give count of the number
Of letters in a speech.
Give count of the Christians in Arabia.
Just give measurements.

We shall think of the stitching later on.
Merely think.

Someone after us will measure anew
Saying that our measurements have gone awry.
Fresh new measurements they’ll take.
Just take measurements.

When will someone stitch the garment to fit man?

From the poem The First Code of Life

Ye my people, the incarnations of the Great Ashoka,
With your tears of repentance
Have your hands washed of
The stains of your brother’s blood.
Purify yourselves, Not with the spoilt incarnations
But with the stable unity of
Thought, Love and Sweat.
Ye Ashoka the Terrible, transform yourself
To Ashoka the Just.

These lines from the poem “The Lift”

Just in this way
through the hissing of a mechanical serpent
we descend.
A descent where there is no movement
And where motion begins in the stopping.
In this way, in this way.

Above us the veranda of an ailing heaven
Below, the crumbling pavement of livelihood;
In between, a huge formless if.
In this way
In this way we descend

We housed them in prisons
For they wanted a home,
We killed them for they wanted eternal life
Then bulldozed their prisons into fields of corn
What’s that hand sticking out from the earth?
Other hands will sprout from it ...
And tickle us to death.

Two scribbles...

Blue Planet (towards Cancun)
Earth is molested
The crime is committed
Now is the time to punish the culprits
No maybes, ifs and buts
The evidence is all there to see
There is a fury that is shaking the earth
See the trembles of despair

Tell me what will you do if your child is molested, mutilated
and left to die?
Surely not argue on medical expense

So calm was the rain today
I didn’t notice the first instance
Carpet of tiny beads
swaying to its own will
landing on my palm
A rhythm primal yet near
about my heartbeats

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The noisy Black Headed Oriole of Shantiniketan

I found this noisy Black headed Oriole in the groves of where they conduct open classrooms (Sriniketan) inside Shantiniketan. There is also a small stage where all important programs are conducted like functions in honour of visiting dignitaries like Presidents, PMs and so on.

Black headed Orioles are a common birds of open wooded region, they are arboreal but do descend to feed insects, their main diet though is fruit and figs. Must add ‘noisy’ is not really how you describe Oriole calls they are melodious (but the above one was really quite incessant), orioles are delight to the eyes bright yellow among green leaves and ever so active. Quite an experience, they exude so much joy in life. It must really be something to have classrooms under these trees...

These also brings into mind ideas on Education by great soul Tagore (Tagore is someone i am always in love with!!). This from his essay A Poet’s School

I tried my best to develop in the children of my school the freshness of their feeling for Nature, a sensitiveness of soul in their relationship with their human surrounding with the help of literature, festive ceremonials and also the religious teaching which enjoins us to come to the nearer presence of the world through the soul, thus to gain it more than can be measured—like gaining an instruments not merely by having it but by producing music upon it. I prepared for my children a real homecoming into this world. Among other subjects learnt in the open air under the shade of trees they had their music and picture making; they had their dramatic performances, activities that were the expressions of life”

In some other essay in context to ideal education Tagore saysThe one abiding ideal in the religious life of India has been Mukti,Freedom, the deliverance of man's soul from the grip of self in communion with the Infinite Soul through in union in Ananda, Joy, with the universe. This religion of spiritual harmony is nor a theological doctrine to be taught, as a subject in the class, for half-an-hour each day. It is the spiritual truth and beauty of our attitude towards our surroundings. It is our conscious relationship with the Infinite, and the lasting power of the Eternal in the passing moments of our life. Such a religious ideal can only be made possible by making provision for students to live in intimate touch with- Nature, daily to grow in an atmosphere of service offered to all creatures, tending trees, feeding birds and animals, learning to feel the immense mystery of the soil and water and air”.

On another occasion Tagore saysIn children the whole body is expressive It is in going to school that we take our first false step. There we are bidden to think sitting. We mustn't move our arm. To our teacher we present so many masks. All the time we are forced to control those lines of movement that would parallel and accompany our thoughts. Whenever, as children, we are stirred emotionally or feel receptive to thought, we need an appropriate accompaniment of physical movement. Children can quite quickly acquire the habit of receiving thoughts sitting still. Their minds have then to think unaided by the collaboration of the body. The body, in its turn, feels neglected because it is not aiding its great partner, the mind, in its internal work. Our minds suffer ever after as a result. This does not mean that for certain kinds of thinking you need never sit still. Sometimes, as in the world of mathematics, you have, if you are to apply all your physical and mental energy to a problem, to eliminate all distracting movement, especially when you wish to explore to the depths a complex subject. For particular kinds of thinking, sitting still can be useful. But for creative work the mind acts as a coordinator of ideas, and we discover best by thinking and by expressing. When we try to express ourselves merely in words, we feel incomplete, and for the fullest expression there should certainly be arm and leg movement as well. The poet, or the musician, gesticulates as he works. He must move his arms, his hands, and wrinkle his face. Why, then, doesn't he start up from his chair and dance his ideas out in the sunshine? Because he's been to school. It is at school that he has learnt the habit of stifling so thoroughly the natural companionship of body with mind. His widowed body feels neglected, because he has lost the art of composing or of thinking whist he is dancing or moving. The result is that the whole body, which is designed for expression through movement, loses one of its most important missions in life, the urge to express. The body becomes feeble, and only the face retains some power and freedom to express through movement. As you think, you wrinkle your forehead. As you smile, or as you weep, each emotion is expressed in some movement of your face. But as a small child, you smiled with the whole of your body, you wept with every muscle you had and in anger you beat with your feet upon the ground. The whole body tried to express whatever deep emotion you felt. This power and this freedom we have deliberately mutilated and of both we have deprived a children”..... “By repressing all activity of the body, so many school lessons remain absolutely dead and ineffective. To compel the mind to use only one portion of the body in the learning process is not natural. In the process of taking in and of digesting our food, a whole symphony of life is being performed in which heart; eyes, tongue and ears are playing their part. The same process should occur when you are taking in your lessons or trying to swallow useful information. You can, with the help of the classroom dull all the faculties. But Life should be entire, a coordination of all the different faculties and functions. There should be nothing dead or inert about life in school. I would allow all our boys and girls during class to jump up, even to climb into a tree, to run off and chase after a cat or dog, or to pick some fruit off a branch. This is really why my classes were preferred, not because I was any special good as a teacher. I tried to keep in mind the need of the child to use the whole of its body in acquiring a vocabulary and in mastering a sentence”..... “So with children in school. Let them recite while out walking; let them do their thinking aloud. If possible, I would recommend children to carry their notebooks and to go on writing while they are on trek. First these notes would be about the things they see around them, facts and observations of natural history, aspects of the countryside, experiences on the road, of market day, of topics of conversation, of their special interests. All the picturesque details of the life around them they should sketch or record”.