Friday, 31 May 2013

Poetry Reads: She Walks in Beauty by George Gordon, Lord Byron


This poem by George Gordon Noel Byron (Lord Byron) was written in 1814. The poem was inspired by his cousin, Mrs. John Wilmot who was in mourning at the time they met. Her beauty has been compared to the gaudiness of the day and in the last stanza he summarizes a person with depth, innocence and beauty.

This poem is considered as one of Byron's most popular poems.

She Walks in Beauty 
by Lord Byron

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

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(Article by Kabita Sonowal)

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Poetry Reads: First Fig by Edna St. Vincent Millay


The oft-quoted lines of this particular poem first appeared in the 1920 poetry collection A Few Figs from Thistles. So much is said in these lines - that to truly live is to burn and dazzle each day with one's free will and wish. 

The poet doesn't need to write an autobiography to get the message across. Instead, as if addressing all the people known to her, probably from an imaginary stage, she accumulates her entire life in four lines of verse.

First Fig
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light.

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(Article by Snehith Kumbla)

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Non-Fiction Reads: A Time for New Dreams by Ben Okri


A Time for New Dreams by Ben Okri is a collection of essays on several diverse topics such as: Childhood, Writers and Nations, Seeing and Being, Plato's Dream, The Romance of Difficult Times, Photography and Immortality, Hospitality, Self-Censorship, One Planet, One People; London, Musings on beauty, When Colours Return Home to Light, Form and Content, Healing the Africa Within and a Time for New Dreams. The title is appropriate for this anthology. These essays are a peek and insight into Okri's thoughts. With wisdom and eloquence, he discusses thoughts and ideas that are universal in thought and timeless in appeal. His observations are hard-hitting too.

Here I have made an attempt to highlight some of his thoughts from this anthology.

On Childhood:

'Childhood: being under the care of those who are generally ill qualified to be parents. people ought to learn to be parents before they become parents. It should be more than just a biological inevitability'.

Childhood: focus of love - real love and confused love.

Childhood: a lottery, Chardin's game of cards, the luck of the draw, an unsuspected gamble, an obscure mathematics of destiny or karma; an unspecified punishment or an unnamed blessing - for deserving the parents that you have, the family you are stuck with, or the life you were born into'.

Childhood: the place of all society's experiments, its disastrous ideas of conscious engineering'.

101/2 Inclinations:

'Read outside your nation, colour, class, gender.
Read the books your parents hate.
Read the books your parents love.
Read what you are not supposed to read.
Don't read what everyone else is reading. Check them out later, cautiously.
Read for your own liberation and mental freedom.
Read widely, for fun, for stimulation, for escape.
Read the world. It is the most mysterious book of all
'.

Plato's Dream:

'The universities of the future will do one thing we do not do today. They will teach the art of self-discovery. There is nothing more fundamental in education.

We turn out students from our best universities who know how to give answers, but not to ask the essential questions. They leave universities with skills for the workplace, but with little knowledge of the best way to live, or what living is for.

They are not taught the art of reading. True reading is not just passing our eyes over words on a page, or even understanding what is being read. True reading is a creative act. It means seeing first; and then a subsequent act of the imagination. Higher reading ought to be a subject in the universities of the future. As we read, so we are
'.


(Article by Kabita Sonowal)

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Short Story Reads: Night in Tunisia and Other Stories by Neil Jordan


Over the years my shepherd like attitude to books has waned. No longer does my heart bleed if a page has a dog-ear. Placing a book under a heap of dozen other books to straighten out the dog-ear, applying steam iron on the page, binding books with cardboard hardcover, designing a separate book cover with newspaper cut outs, book title and author name inscribed in a stylish handwritten blue scrawl - these adolescent pastimes no longer hold me.

Then there is the morally debatable case of lending books. Trust, friendship and a bookworm's bigheartedness play a major part in these decisions. Yet, much to my surprise, primitive feelings of territory and ownership still persist with this particular second hand copy of Night in Tunisia and Other Stories.

The 1950 born Jordan first established his reputation as a contemporary Irish novelist and later on as an Academy Award winning film maker. His written work is still published from time to time. Jordan was yet to delve into film making when this particular collection was first published in 1976.
 
Now on to...
The stories in this collection prominently deal with thoughts. Interesting, observant inroads are made into the intangible, invisible thing - the mind. There are no convenient endings as racing, random, nostalgic, angry, happy, lonesome and wondrous thoughts are revealed, much like scraps from a dairy entry.

The opening story Last Rites comes across like an experimental piece of abstract cinema, the effect in the tumult of words is disturbing. Seduction starts with the promise of mischievous expectation, then washes up like a sea wave with the boil of pent up sexual desire. Sand is another unpredictable tale - what seems to be a harmless squabble between a younger brother and the elder sister leads to a shocking event involving a gypsy and a donkey. Mr. Solomon Wept is an observant, cold note on the effect of betrayal in marriage on a middle-aged man.

Night in Tunisia is easily the happiest, free flowing story of the collection. Bathed in the perpetual sunlight that childhood seems to be, sea salt and breeze dissolves to the sounds of jazz and a father-son bridge to an alto saxophone. In Skin, we see how engaging words can vividly describe an Irish woman's mundane life along with an incident that displays her vain hope for change to occur.
 
 

Moving on...
A brief, dreamy, drowsy rambling of a woman apparently doused in alcohol during a party, Her Soul gives us a drab look at the female wondering and theorizing where her soul has slipped away to. Outpatient tells of strained husband-wife relations, and how both quietly realise that their relationship is meant to smother away.  

In Tree, the view of a whitethorn tree sets off intense nostalgia and the urge to change in a woman driving past it. The book culminates with a beautiful story -  A Love. Apart from mind reading, the sense of place and occasion are strong here. A young emigrant returns to Dublin to play out the last strands of his love affair with an older woman, even as the funeral procession of President Éamon de Valera passes by.

To a degree, the tales in Night in Tunisia and Other Stories hold a mirror to how much we identify with our minds, replicating the chaos that swirls within our seemingly sane heads.


(Article by Snehith Kumbla)

Monday, 27 May 2013

Comic Book Reads: Modesty Blaise by Peter O'Donnell


To my nine-year old mind, Modesty Blaise struck as a kind of fascination and wonder. I was introduced to the world of Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin from the graphic/comic strips on the English daily, The Telegraph several years ago. Today, that phase of my life feels like another lifetime; I read Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and Modesty Blaise with the same gusto although the last one was from another literary zone. My understanding of Modesty Blaise was hazy; it felt like a read for grown ups. However many years and on, Modesty Blaise continues to make me  wonder.


A background to Modesty Blaise: British writer Peter O'Donnell teamed up with British illustrator Jim Holdaway to create this comic strip in 1963. Short stories, the series and film adaptations followed since then.


The story of Modesty Blaise starts in 1945. She escapes as a displaced person from a camp in Greece. She cannot recall who her parents are or where she comes from. There seems to be this feel of extreme pain in the mind of child who has witnessed a lot of brutality and therefore she has decided to blank all such memories. What remains of this child is a nameless girl who has traveled across the geographies of Africa and the Mediterranean during the Second World War. She strikes a rapport with a Jewish-Hungarian refugee called Lob who educates her and names her 'Modesty'. She adds 'Blaise' later on. He is a scholar; however he dies by the time she is twelve. She fends for herself fighting toughies and becomes the head of a criminal gang in Tangiers and calls it The Network. In the time that follows, she meets Willie Garvin and the rest is all history and adventure.

The Modesty Blaise series is a riveting one. Some of the books from this collection include: I, Lucifer; A Taste for Death; The Impossible Virgin, Pieces of Modesty; The Silver Mistress; Last day in Limbo; Dragon's Claw, The Night of Morningstar; Dead Man's Handle; and Cobra Trap.


(Article by Kabita Sonowal)

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Fiction Reads: Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje


First published in 1976, this is a remarkable debut by Ondaatje, for Coming Through Slaughter uses jazz music, multiple narrator-perspective, selection of factual records and the gift of flowing yet cropped prose  to add bones, veins, blood, skin, poetry and soul to tell the story of Buddy Bolden.

Buddy Bolden was for real. From whatever little is known about him, and dissipating the myths that have cemented themselves, one thing is certain - Bolden was a famous cornet player at New Orleans in his band from 1900 to 1907. He is considered to be a jazz pioneer, a musician who constantly improvised as he played, consistently touching high decibel levels. Unfortunately, Bolden was never recorded.   

Bolden - second from left, standing. The sole surviving photograph of Bolden's band is used to strengthen 'the truth within the lie', as good fiction is often referred to.   
Ondaatje gives us an enjoyable, tragic myth with strands of facts, breathing in characters, jazz lyrics, shackles of fame, fear and destruction. Here Bolden is a barber, publisher of gossip by day, drunkard by afternoon and musician by evening.

He was the best and the loudest and most loved jazzman of his time, but never professional in the brain. Unconcerned with the crack of the lip he threw out and held immense notes, could reach a force on the first note that attacked the ear. He was obsessed with the magic of air, those smells that turned neuter as they resolved in his lung then spat out in the chosen key. The way the side of the mouth would drag a net of air in and dress it in notes and make it last and last, yearning to leave it up there in the sky like air transformed into cloud. (COMING THROUGH SLAUGHTER / PAGE 11)

Other intriguing characters Ondaatje conjures to create a mysterious haze around Bolden include Nora Bass as Bolden's wife, Webb - his close friend, now cop; Bellocq - a photographer specialized in taking pictures of whores; and Robin - the other woman in Bolden's life. The non-linear arrangement also keeps us hooked, there is no knowing what will turn up in the next page, just as we do not know tomorrow. A little gem of a book, astonishing for the control and finesse a debutant novelist (Ondaatje was 33 then) displays. 

Recommended Edition
The image displayed below is the front cover of the concise Bloomsbury Classics edition - handy to carry around, the hardcover ensures durability.

(Article by Snehith Kumbla

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Poetry Reads: Upon Westminster Bridge, Sept. 3, 1802 by William Wordsworth


The poem encapsulates a description of London from Westminster Bridge in the wee hours of the morning. There is a highlight on the magnificence of the sights of London while only ‘Dull would he be of soul who could pass by’ without taking in the beauty of this place. The city wears the morning like a ‘garment’.

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment wear

The city is quiet and bare without the bustle otherwise. This stanza feels like a painting as it evokes  images of ‘ships, towers, theatres, and temples’.

The beauty of the morning: silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky,
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

There is an element of tranquility during this hour of the day.

Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!

The Thames is flowing at its pace while the houses appear asleep. The ‘mighty heart’ in the following stanza refers to the spirit of London that is yet to wake up.

The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

Upon Westminster Bridge was written by Wordsworth in 1802.


(Article by Kabita Sonowal)

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Poetry Reads: The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes


The Highwayman by the late British poet, Alfred Noyes (September 16, 1880 – June 25, 1958) has always been one of my favorites. Set in Bagshot Heath in Surrey in England where Noyes stayed for a while and wrote this poem, it is rich in imagery; and phantasmagorical and real at the same time. He tells the story of an unnamed highwayman who is in love with Bess, an innkeeper’s daughter. However Tim, the ostler gives away his whereabouts and he is love with her too. She chooses death to warn him after she is harassed by the king’s men to reveal the truth. Once the highwayman learns of the truth, he decides to avenge her death and he is murdered; thereafter people sight the two lovers meeting after their deaths.

In 1995, The Highwayman was voted 15th in the BBC's poll for ‘The Nation's Favorite Poems’. 


The Highwayman
by Alfred Noyes

PART ONE

I
The following lines describe the imagery and the setting of the highwayman riding down the highway to meet Bess.

THE wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
Riding—riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

II
The lines below illustrate the highwayman’s attire and his carriage.

He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

III
The following stanza reveals the two lovers’ meeting.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

 IV
Tim, the stable boy is quite the eavesdropper and the creep prying into the couple’s conversation as he is also in love with Bess. He is green with envy.

 And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's red-lipped daughter,
Dumb as a dog he listened and he heard the robber say—

V
The highwayman reveals where he would be on that fateful night post their meeting.

 'One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.'

VI
Love, passion and parting never to see Bess again.

He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair i' the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
(Oh, sweet, black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the West.


PART TWO

I
The highwayman does not return; however the king’s men come looking for him.

He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
And out o' the tawny sunset, before the rise o' the moon,
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching—
Marching—marching—
King George's men came matching, up to the old inn-door.

II
Bess is gagged.

They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

III
Bess is forced to reveal the truth about the highwayman’s whereabouts.

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
'Now, keep good watch!' and they kissed her.
She heard the dead man say—
Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight;
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

 IV
Bess decides what is to be done so that the highwayman can be warned.

She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

V
She has decided.

The tip of one finger touched it; she strove no more for the rest!
Up, she stood up to attention, with the barrel beneath her breast,
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love's refrain.

VI
The highwayman returns; there is the sound of hoofs.

Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still!

VII
Bess chooses death in the face of adversity.

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.

VIII
The highwayman is stunned.

He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

 IX
He (the highwayman) decides to avenge the death; he goes stark, raving mad and he is shot.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

 X
Strange sightings of the highwayman after his death.

And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—
Riding—riding—
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

 XI
Strange sighting of the highwayman and Bess who waits for him as she always did before they died.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard;
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

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(Article by Kabita Sonowal)

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Book Excerpts: Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil


An opium filled opus if there was one, Narcopolis has Thayil take the garb of fiction to document a time of hallucination, ennui and quiet decay through a motley group of characters, covering three decades in old, derelict Bombay.  But what stands out in remarkable swing to the rest of the conventionally written content is the prologue titled Something for the Mouth. In the hardcover edition, the sole prologue sentence stretches for six and half pages. It is a breathtaking piece of literature - telling of a drug addict's delirium, brilliance and also his doom. Here is an excerpt of the first few lines: 

Bombay, which obliterated its own history by changing its name and surgically altering its face, is the hero or heroin of this story, and since I'm the one who's telling it and you don't know who I am, let me say that we'll get to the who of it but not right now, because now there's time enough not to hurry, to light the lamp and open the window to the moon and take a moment to dream of a great and broken city, because when the day starts its business I'll have to stop, these are night-time tales that vanish in sunlight like vampire dust - wait now, light me up so we do this right, yes, hold me steady to the lamp, hold it, hold, good, a slow pull to start with, to draw the smoke low into the lungs, yes, oh my, and another for the nostrils, and a little something sweet for the mouth, and now we can begin at the beginning with the first time at Rashid's when I stitched the blue smoke from pipe to blood to eye to I and out into the blue world - ....

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(Article by Snehith Kumbla)

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Poetry Reads: The Mermaid on Robert Browning



I was introduced to the works of Robert Browning in one of my Optional Literature sessions at Mayo College. And what a wonderful experience that was! My love for Browning's works stayed on and today, I feel blessed to have had a dose of his poetry really early. For who would have created dramatic monologues, voicing thoughts of twisted, psychotic and devastated minds with a flavor of the original and fragmented bits of lunacy. 

Robert Browning was born on May 7, 1812 at Camberwell in England. His father was an abolitionist, worked for the Bank of England and was a literary collector. His mother was an accomplished musician. He studied Greek at University College, London. He decided to write poetry for the rest of his; he discovered his panache for this craft pretty early in life along with his flair for languages: French, Latin, Greek and Italian.

Life was tumultuous; his earliest works were not well-received and he was a subject of derision. However, he persisted and his writings gained recognition and his monumental works followed. The rest is history. He wrote Meeting at Night, Parting at Morning, My Last Duchess, Porphyria's Lover, Fra Lippo Lippi and Andrea del Sarto among many other mind-numbing and haunting poems. To grab an anthology of all these poems, one needs to look for the Bells and Pomegranates volumes.

This month, I ponder on Browning's contribution to the world of literature and the legacy lives on. Cheers to Robert Browning!


(Article by Kabita Sonowal

Monday, 20 May 2013

Poetry Reads: Basanti Hawa by Kedarnath Agarwal


There is something about the Hindi language that appeals to this writer's heart. Expressing in English has its joys in putting pen to paper, in arranging, rearranging words, in description, documentation, rhyme and flow. But for the sheer spontaneity of conversation - Hindi it is.

I embarked on translating the following poem, word by word. But 
realized after a few lines that I am yet to grasp the nuances, polish and majestic vocabulary of the language in its written form. So here is a note on the poem with specks of what I could convey:

Roughly translated as Spring Wind, this Hindi poem by Kedarnath Agarwal (1911 - 2000) is a first person narrative by none other than the invisible, omnipresent, and free - Wind. The poem's sing-song flow is such that it conveys in its deliberate clipped arrangement, a continuous, ageless quality of an element we usually take for granted.


बसंती हवा
केदारनाथ अग्रवाल

हवा हूँ, हवा मैं                                                                                        
बसंती हवा हूँ।                                                  

सुनो बात मेरी -      

अनोखी हवा हूँ।       
बड़ी बावली हूँ 

बड़ी मस्तमौला।

नहीं कुछ फ़िकर है

बड़ी ही निडर हूँ 

जिधर चाहती हूँ

उधर घूमती हूँ

मुसाफिर अजब हूँ।

(wind am, wind I, the spring wind am I...it begins and then goes - am crazy, mischievous, naughty, no worries, fearless, I roam where I please, am a strange traveler.) 

न घर-बार मेरा,
न उद्देश्य मेरा,
न इच्छा किसी की,
न आशा किसी की,
न प्रेमी न दुश्मन,

जिधर चाहती हूँ
उधर घूमती हूँ।

हवा हूँ, हवा मैं

बसंती हवा हूँ!

(Breathlessly, the wind blows its tale like a whistle - no home, no ambition, no desire, no hope, no lover, no enemies, go where I please, wind am, wind I, spring wind am I...)

जहाँ से चली मैं
जहाँ को गई मैं -
शहर, गाँव, बस्ती,
नदी, रेत, निर्जन,
हरे खेत, पोखर,
झुलाती चली मैं।
झुमाती चली मैं!

हवा हूँ, हवा मै
बसंती हवा हूँ।

(from where I passed, to where I went, city, village, ghetto, river, sand, desolation, green fields, pond, I went swinging, I went swaying, wind am, wind I, spring wind am I...)    
 
चढ़ी पेड़ महुआ,
थपाथप मचाया;
गिरी धम्म से फिर,
चढ़ी आम ऊपर,
उसे भी झकोरा,
किया कान में ‘कू’,
उतरकर भगी मैं,
हरे खेत पहुँची -
वहाँ, गेंहुँओं में
लहर खूब मारी। 

(climbed a tree, made havoc, fell with a thud, went for the mangoes, shook them too, said "ku" in the ear, leapt off running, reached the green fields, there, among the wheat, made many waves)

पहर दो पहर क्या,
अनेकों पहर तक
इसी में रही मैं!
खड़ी देख अलसी
लिए शीश कलसी,
मुझे खूब सूझी -
हिलाया-झुलाया
गिरी पर न कलसी!
इसी हार को पा,
हिलाई न सरसों,
झुलाई न सरसों,

हवा हूँ, हवा मैं
बसंती हवा हूँ!

(not for a moment, but for moments eternal, I dwelt here. Then the wind eyes yet another mischief - tried to budge the splashing earthen pot from its hold, but it did not fall! Raw from this defeat, did not sway or shake the mustard, wind am, wind I, spring wind am I

मुझे देखते ही
अरहरी लजाई,
मनाया-बनाया,
न मानी, न मानी;
उसे भी न छोड़ा -
पथिक आ रहा था,
उसी पर ढकेला;
हँसी ज़ोर से मैं,
हँसी सब दिशाएँ,
हँसे लहलहाते
हरे खेत सारे,
हँसी चमचमाती
भरी धूप प्यारी;
बसंती हवा में
हँसी सृष्टि सारी!

हवा हूँ, हवा मैं
बसंती हवा हूँ!

(the pulses shied away on seeing me, I tried to charm, but she didn't yield...I didn't spare him too - a traveler was coming, I lunged at him, I laughed aloud, laughed all directions, laughed all swaying fields, laughed the sparkling lovely sunlight, in the spring wind all creation laughed, wind am, wind I, spring wind am I)      

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(Article by Snehith Kumbla)

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Fiction Reads: The Dog Who Came in from the Cold by Alexander McCall Smith


Enter Corduroy Mansions at Pimlico in London and one enters the world of philosophical conversations, etiquette, charm, class, love and eccentricity. The Dog Who Came in from the Cold By Alexander McCall Smith is a lovable and idiosyncratic piece of literature.To summarize it, it is a wonderful world of characters with a hue of idiosyncrasy and delight. What struck me most in this book is the touch of esoteric poetry of love and love for Scotland that resonates throughout the story:

'Traveling northwards through the night
Heading to a Scotland
Of forbidding mountains, and poetry,
And sea, home to me, of course,
But to one whom I love
A place of unknown and unpronounceable names;
May the rain that will surely greet us
Be gentle; may the sky over Ardnamurchan
Allow a glimpse of islands, of Coll, perhaps,
Of Tiree; may she encounter kindness
And the things that kindness brings;
My wishes for her, now, the one I love,
As we travel northwards through the night.

This is a story of love and kindness: love for parents and reciprocation, concern of siblings for each other, love between friends and attraction, and in general it is a reflection of warmth, cosy as the 'cool kindliness of sheets'. It is eccentric literature too; however all's well that ends well.


(Article by Kabita Sonowal)

Friday, 17 May 2013

Poetry Reads: Perfume by Arthur Symons


The arrival of a new bookshelf at my den has led to arrangement, alignment and reappearance of what was previously scattered and stacked away to temporary oblivion. For there was a time when I used to scrawl out in notebooks any kind of gripping literature that I chanced upon. The poem featured below is a reproduction from one such notebook.

Teenage years; a time of titillation; carnal desires were at their wild, uncontrolled zenith. Browsing the Internet was an expensive affair then, limited to rare visits to cyber cafes. Books, magazines and newspapers were thus my source fountain. This poem is a remnant of those bubble dream days, wasted as they were, wound in the most natural of yearnings.


Perfume
by Arthur Symons

Shake out your hair about me, so,
That I may feel the stir and scent
Of those vague odours come and go
The way our kisses went.

Night gave this priceless hour of love,
But now the dawn steals in apace,
And amorously bends above
The wonder of your face.

'Farewell' between our kisses creeps,
You fade, a ghost, upon the air;
Yet ah! the vacant place still keeps
The odour of your hair.

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(Article by Snehith Kumbla)

Poetry Reads: Mandalay by Rudyard Kipling


Mandalay by Rudyard Kipling is lyrical in structure and filled with imagery. The geographical setting is former Burma for whom Kipling had a fascination. Mandalay was the capital of Burma for a while when the country was an outpost of the British Empire. The opening lines introduce the reader to the setting of the poem. A Burmese girl called Supi-yaw-lat whose name was the same as the name of the queen of Burma – King Theebaw. The wind and the temple bells beckon a British soldier back to the Orient while he is in England. The following lines in the poem also speak of the emancipation of women in this part of the world while they are treated as merely ‘exotic’ treasures. In this poem, Supi-yaw-lat is sketched as smoking a cheroot while she also worships her heathen gods. The English soldier meets her on the way to Mandalay.

‘By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin' lazy at the sea,
There's a Burma girl a-settin', and I know she thinks o' me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the Temple-bells they say:
"Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!"
            Come you back to Mandalay,
            Where the old Flotilla lay:
            Can't you 'ear their paddles chunkin' from Rangoon to Mandalay?       
            On the road to Mandalay,
            Where the flyin' fishes play,
            An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China
            'crost the Bay!
'Er petticoat was yaller an' 'er little cap was green,
An' 'er name was Supi-yaw-lat --- jes' the same as Theebaw's Queen,
An' I seed her first a-smokin' of a whackin' white cheroot,
An' a-wastin' Christian kisses on an 'eathen idol's foot:
            Bloomin' idol made o' mud ---
            Wot they called the Great Gawd Budd ---
            Plucky lot she cared for idols when I kissed 'er where she stud!
            On the road to Mandalay,
            Where the flyin' fishes play,
            An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China
            'crost the Bay!

The soldier and the girl romanced while the girl sang and played the banjo. The soldier reminisces that it was a long time ago when he was there on the road to Mandalay. He hears a fellow soldier say that once one has been to that part of the world, one would need nothing else but to return

When the mist was on the rice-fields an' the sun was droppin' slow,
She'd git 'er little banjo and she'd sing "Kulla-lo-lo!"
With 'er arm upon my shoulder an' 'er cheek agin my cheek
We useter watch the steamers an' the hathis pilin' teak.
Elephants a-pilin' teak
In the sludgy, squdgy creek,
Where the silence 'ung that 'eavy you was 'arf afraid to speak!
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin' fishes play,
An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China
'crost the Bay!
But that's all above be'ind me --- long ago an' fur away,
An' there ain't no buses runnin' from the Bank to Mandalay;
An' I'm learnin' 'ere in London what the ten-year soldier tells:
"If you've 'eard the East a-callin', you won't never 'eed naught else."
No! You won't 'eed nothin' else
But them spicy garlic smells,
An' the sunshine an' the palm-trees an' the tinkly Temple-bells;
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin' fishes play,
An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China
'crost the Bay!
I am sick o' wastin' leather on these gritty pavin'-stones,
An' the blasted English drizzle wakes the fever in my bones;
Tho' I walks with fifty 'ousemaids outer Chelsea to the Strand,
An' they talks a lot o' lovin', but what do they understand?
Beefy face an' grubby 'and ---
Law! Wot do they understand?
I've a neater, sweeter maiden in a cleaner, greener land!
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin' fishes play,
An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China
'crost the Bay!
Ship me somewhere's east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
Where there aren't no Ten Commandments an' a man can raise a thirst;
For the Temple-bells are callin', an' it's there that I would be ---
By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin' lazy at the sea;
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay,
With our sick beneath the awnings when we went to Mandalay!
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin' fishes play,
An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China
'crost the Bay!

This is a beautiful poem and at the surface level of it, one can marvel at the inheritance of one’s memory, geographical illustration and the description of the exotic. Kipling wrote this poem when he was 24 and he had returned to England after a seven-year stay in India. This poem was published in
the Barrack-Room Ballads, and Other Verse anthology (first published in 1892).


(Article by Kabita Sonowal)