“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Book Release

I was not really keen on a formal function for the release of the book. But then, Mr. N T Nair, publisher of the magazine in which my poems and articles have appearing regularly for the last nearly couple of years, insisted that it be included along with the function for the launch of his magazine's 50th issue. Prof.B Hridayakumari, writer, educationist, etc etc ( She is well known and highly respected in Kerala, not only as a venerated teacher of English language but also for her work in educational reforms, writings on literature) happily agreed to release the book. It was an unforgettable moment for me when she lavished praises and even read out a poem, 'The Leftover'. I will always cherish her words.
A few photos given below:

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Poems for sale!!

At the end of the long corridor with ceiling-high bookshelves on either side, my friend, the bookshop owner sat, browsing at his PC. I ask him if he is too busy. He says, 'No, pull up a chair and sit down'. I know him for more than 20 years - not really a friend, but an acquaintance; I am a regular customer at his shop. It is one of the best in the City.

I tell him- 'I have committed a blunder'. 'Ah, wrote a book?' Worse, I said. A collection of poems. He shakes his head sadly. 'Yes, that is terrible'.

I lay it straight across the table. 'Look, how about some shelf-space for me?' He cocks his head and looks at me speculatively. 'Hope you are not keen on making money out of it, are you?' I say, 'Well, not much, but I would like people to read it. He says - 'Listen, poetry, especially in English, is the slowest moving stuff here. Maybe a Neruda goes once in a while or a Sylvia Plath. Then the poets who are in textbooks. Indian poets? a Big NO NO. Not even Dom Moraes, Ramanujam, Ezekiel. Prose, Fiction - they have market , but poetry? No, SIR'.

I nod sympathetically at the woes of a book-seller, taking care not to show the disappointment in my face. 'See, everybody writes poetry nowadays, but nobody buys poetry'. I think of my collections - the Hughes, the Larkins, the Willams, the Dickinsons, the Dharkars and the anthologies - I say nothing. He takes off his businessman mask and says mildly - 'Look, Balan, you can keep 5 copies if you like. But don't call me up every month asking if they have been sold. If they do, we will see about your percentage, ok?'

What is money, I wonder quietly. It is a form of energy, isn't it? Physical energy is converted to paper when you toil from morning till evening and then gratefully accept the wages for your labour. People churn out third-rate novels or c-class movies that turn out to be big hits and they make a lot of money. People invest in shares and sell them when the rates are high and they make money without a drop of sweat off their brow, it is all speculation, the magic of making money from thin air. Con-men trick greedy people and get away with crores of rupees. A labourer comes in the morning and till evening he toils and takes home 300- 400 rupees. I slog it out in the bank, looking at other people's money and making sure that they get interest and pay interest for the loans; on 25th of every month, I too get my blood money.

I have been writing poetry for the last 5 years. Churned out nearly 140 or so. I have written several scripts for documentaries, a few articles on travel or nature or environment conservation. Some gifted a book or two, some magazines gave money, most ignored to acknowledge. Instead, I feel grateful to them for giving me an oppertunity to write the script, to include my article in an anthology, feel gratified at their compliments.

I give my boss a complimentary copy. He leafs through the pages. I wince. Can poetry be read like the jokes and quotes you see in Reader's Digest? Each poem, each line, each word - reflects my pain, my joy, my agony and my ecstasy. Trivial and trash it may be to a reader, but to the honest writer, it is the essence of his/her soul. He says condescendingly - 'Thank you, Balan. But let me buy a copy of your book for the office library'. I am touched by his kind gesture.

Poets, are the last of the romantics. The last of the lot who can call themselves human.

In my young days in the 60s and 70s I remember seeing persons walking around in the Bus stands or Railways stations calling out their wares - books written by them - small booklets of patriotic songs or love poems. Guess I too will have to take to the streets - " Poems! Poems! Poems for Sale! Love, lust, sex and violence!!! Read one and you read them all! Poems! Poems for Sale!"

*********** Balachandran, Trivandrum 15.08.2009

Saturday, August 8, 2009


In between the sporadic bursts

Between the heckling customers

The intimidating bosses

The gossiping colleagues

In between the drudgery and monotony

I doodle faces on bits of paper.

Faces of men and women

Full face and left profile –

I have grown up with these people

Though they remained the same -

Adults passing through youth.

From behind notebooks, inside novels

Corners of text books and on pages left blank -

From every possible piece of paper

These Picasso profiles stare up at my face.

Most of my women are beautiful;

They all have full lips

Wide-eyed with long lashes

Wearing Bindis and ear-studs

Hair wavy, they all glance

Off-centre, over my shoulders-

Rare are the ones who look into my eyes.

Men mostly sport a moustache

Thick eyebrows, thin-lipped

Pleasant to look at but -

Grim and somehow sorrowful.

They all are so familiar

Though none like another.

Doodling, I brood over my men and women.

Are they the ones

Who come in my dreams?

Are they the ones from my lives past –

Or the lives yet to live through?

Are they the shadows

I sense, flitting behind me?

Are they, the unknown and strange

Souls I see in my own self?

*********** Balachandran, Trivandrum 08.08.2009

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Loco Pilot

“In the last thirty years,

Three hundred and sixty kills-

Mind you, kills, and I don’t keep track

Of the mutilated, the disabled, the living dead

Who fell before me on the tracks.”

He takes a sip of the whiskey,

A deep drag of the cigarette

Looks out through the window -

I see the glimmer of tears in his eyes.

Outside, the river roared as it gushed

The birds sang as they flew

Wind ran helter-skelter among the trees

The setting sun scattered golden light as it sank.

We were old friends, meeting after forty or more years,

This boyhood friend of mine

Who tagged behind me all the time

In awe of my bungalow, dogs and my little deer.

How sharply does he remember!

My metal school box he had envied

The goodies I had shared with him,

Apples and chocolates -

My father, the big officer of Forests!

“There are many ways they do it, you know,” he said

“Some jump head-on, some would be lying down

Their necks neatly nestling on the rail,

Some would be walking, facing away from the train.”

“But one image that even my deadened mind

Cannot wipe off

Is that of the one who stood in the headlight,

Arms raised, palms joined,

A last and final bow to me, her killer.”

“Women dragging their screaming children

Up on to the rails, young girls and boys -

In the rumble of the diesels

I strain my ears for that soft thud, like a loving pat

As I usher them into the netherworld”.

“We are old hands, we know it all

The bends, the blind curves

The favourite haunts of the wanting-to-be-dead.

We dread the day, the next after

The public exam results come.”

“We have to move on, you see,

Cannot bring the big diesels to a sudden stop.

Every time, I watch them, their final moments

Helpless, with a heavy heart

Not even a silent prayer.”

The cigarette burns down to his fingertips.

“This is what I have done with my life -

All I know is to drive trains –

And to kill people.”

************* Balachandran V, Trivandrum 01.08.2009