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

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Beginnings of a New Day

There were two of them, silent, so unusual

Green Barbets, on the Papaya tree.

A flurry of green wings, heads cocked

They studied the ripe, yellow Papaya.

To lie on bed and watch birds in the morning!

One nibbling on one and the other on the other –

Pity me! The fruits I had hoped to pluck today!

Then hopped down a Woodpecker – what business

Does he dare here, I wonder, this nemesis

Of worms and termites? So do the Barbets –

Awed at his red crest and sharp beak

And how funnily he sat on the stem, so unlike birds!

One Barbet hurried away – the other sidestepped the ‘Pecker

And watched him, like me, head cocked

Jabbing away at the ripe yellow Papaya.

Filled, he left, the mighty Woodpecker

Leaving the rest for the Barbet.

I reach for the music – happy at the signs

Of the new day to come.

********* Balachandran, Trivandrum 28.11.2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009


It had started raining early in the evening; there was no sign of a lull even later in the night. So, like always I do, I let the dogs inside the house. Tommy, the father, curls up on floor mat; Sancho, the son and my pet, nonchalantly lies down on his back beneath my cot, exposing his deep chest and genitals for the cool air of the ceiling fan. Next morning, I spot a puddle of urine on the corner of the verandah. I look daggers at Tommy and shout at him, drag him by the collar and show it to him. ‘Look what you have done, you stupid old dog, peeing inside the house!’ Tommy’s face is full of remorse and shame and he kind of prostrates before me, begging forgiveness.

Shame. Sometime ago, my son and I had a quarrel. K shouted at me, ‘I am ashamed of you!’ Parvati, Head of the Department of Botany in her college, once said, - ‘I am ashamed, begging for a lift in the cars of my colleagues. I am the only teacher in the college who doesn't have a car.’ Her college is on top of a hill and to reach the road and catch an autorickshaw or a bus she has to walk down a kilometer. We had never got around to buying a car for our own several reasons.

Reflecting on my past, I realize I distinctly remember each of the innumerable instances of shame, of self-contempt, of self-pity. Instances in which I have lost out, due to my handicaps, my ignorance. I shudder and grimace at the very thought of such times; I wish I were dead.

Glancing at the obituary columns, reading about people who commit suicide, singly or en family due to financial problems or some public ridicule; youngsters, for failing in examinations or in love affairs – I have always empathized with such people. I try to imagine their moments leading up to the final act, like killing their own children, killing themselves. They were amongst us, you see, perhaps you would have seen them waiting at the bus stop or queuing up at the cinema or relaxing at the beach. I think of them and ask them silently, why why, you could have waited a little more, problems would have been solved, you could have come to me-

Couple of days back, there was a terrible crisis. When I gave the title deeds of my property to the bank for a loan, they said it was not the original, that I have been living in this house without any rightful ownership. I will not go into the technicality of the issue, but when I heard this over phone, I sensed a kind of clamming up in my heart. My face went pale and my sight went vague. My colleague was asking me something; I said please, I am not in the right frame of mind now. There was a kind of stillness in all the movement around me. I was like the one in the TV ad where the man stood watching, frozen, as the rest of the world moved on, in slow motion. For sometime, there was this eerie silence. I bowed my head, in shame. I thought I had failed in my responsibilities, that I have brought only ruins of sorrow for my family. When in shame, we bow our heads, unable to look up, unable to look at others, unable to look at ourselves, unable to see anything other than our miserable selves.

Tommy raises his head and looks at me. His dark blue eyes glitter with love that the film of cataract cannot hide. I love these guys more than anything else in the world – I pat him, hold his head close to my chest and tell him ok, ok, but never do this again. He wags his tail; there is such relief and happiness in his face. He licks my hand.

^^^^^^^^Balachandran, Trivandrum 23.11.2009

photo 1: courtesy www.ctemploymentlawblog.com/dog.jpg

photo 2: courtesy fineartamerica.com/images-medium/old-black-la

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bird Watching

If I remember correctly,

It began at the temples.

I thought it most distinguished

Mature, even attractive -

Though it was the foreboding

of things to come.

Over decades, it spread gradually

Over the head, face and chest.

Now I notice it appearing

On my forearm, in ones and twos.

It took away the lustre in my eyes,

Strength in my limbs -

The slowing down of the systems

Is ominous than ever.

It is evening; sitting in my armchair,

I look at the sunlight slanting,

Shadows lengthening,

Night creeping up, cold.

I stretch my legs, take another sip

Of the Whisky.

He will come

When wind starts

Rattling the windows,

Swirling up dust

Settling it gently on this floor

When rain falls pitter-patter

When fireflies start to dance -

Silently he will come

On the wings of the Great Horned Owl.

******* Balachandran, Trivandrum 15.11.2009

Friday, November 13, 2009


Last weekend I had to go to Calicut on official business; which means an opportunity to travel 2nd A/C. In the night train, I prepared for sleep at around 2200 hrs; the other three were fast asleep. It might have been half an hour into slumber – I woke up to the roar of a snore, from right above me. Once you latch on to a snore, it is impossible to shake it off. Even the slightest pause in the snore opera would tense you up – when, when is it going to rap out again? Nothing will work to bring down the volume of the snore – pillow, cotton, counting sheep.

More than halfway into my journey, I sit up groggily, only to find the other two victims too awake and sitting huddled up on their berths. We mutter curses. I had to act, because I had to be fresh for the next day’s programme. I get out of the berth, stretch my arm and shake the young fellow. ‘Frr-Hmphrrhh - wh-wh-what?’ ‘If you don’t mind, you are bothering us with your snoring, lie down straight or something’. He does, for the next 10 minutes, by which time I am deep asleep and too tired to notice his performance later on.

When we get up to leave at Calicut, I offer the young fellow some advice. ‘Buy paper plaster available at any medical shop, cut a piece and stick it over your mouth before going to sleep. Snoring is mainly due to breathing through mouth. Hyperventilation has other problems too’

‘Yeah? Does it work?’ ‘Sure’, I said, ‘Ask my wife’.

**************** Balachandran V, Trivandrum 13.11.2009

Play Ball

I am playing ball, you see.
Throw it down, it bounces up
Throw it up, it comes down
Throw it on to the wall
Hey! it comes right back to me.

Tired or bored playing ball
I fling it on the floor
Despondent, it rolls to a corner.

I slump down on a chair
Sit watching the ball.
It looks back at me, sullen.
Glowing red, it takes the shape
Of my heart
Shouts why I wouldn't play ball
With life.
Balachandran V, Trivandrum 13.11.09

Thursday, November 5, 2009


He asked me politely, ‘ Do not write

All these sob-stuff, write about happiness’.

I turned further morose when he said kindly

‘Regret I cannot take anything away

From what you write’.

Rummaging through my trunk

I retrieved my faded, forgotten mask

Of good cheer.

Clasping it over my face

I felt good, looking in the mirror

Because I was grinning

From ear to ear.

But then, queerly, the reflection

Had empty sockets

Where my eyes should've been.

********* Balachandran V, Trivandrum 05.11.2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Introducing a blog

To continue our discussion (?) on religious beliefs , I would like you readers to visit the blog of a friend of mine, Anil Kurup. The blog is http://anilkurup59.blogspot.com/. I would like you to read one of the most powerful indictments on religion I have come across these days, in his post, 'Why I am not a Christian'. The title is borrowed from Bertand Russell and it is not only about Christianity but about religions in general.
Happy reading.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Commentaries on Living

In 1977, fresh out of college, hesitating whether to go for PG or get a job, jobless, loveless, a 20-year old boy roamed the streets of Trivandrum in great anguish and angst. (Angst is a nice word – I have not used it much before; so pardon me, I am enjoying saying it over and over) And then he happened to meet a man who would turn out to be quite important in his later life – J Krishnamurti. The boy saw this book, ‘Commentaries on Living’ and what made him pick up that book is not the name of the author but the title – Commentaries – there is a kind of detachedness about it, yet close observation – of life. From that day onwards the two became friends; the boy thought, Jeezuz, this guy is saying the very same things that I wanted to say! Yet, there were arguments too. The boy didn’t agree with JK in everything. In not following JK, he became the kind of disciple JK would have liked, walking by his side, not in his footsteps.

Perhaps, unconsciously, I have been writing a kind of commentary on my life, be it in poem or prose. It is not a celebrated life; just a man-in-the-street. But I believe I have tried to glean some insight, some understanding of things beyond the mundane. Blame it on my melancholia, most of what I have written, in retrospect, seems to be depressing! But there have not been any fear; just a kind of weariness about life.

Yesterday, I received the following comment from ‘Mike’ in my poem, ‘The Whiteout’. Mike, I understand is a real estate agent in the US. He hadn’t provided any email/ blog id, but from the link of his company’s URL, I could see he is doing good business.

I have read everything up to this point. Regretfully, I take nothing away. I do not cast aspersions in a heedless way; rather, I wish to say your heart needs to be glad, not sad. You take the world too seriously (or at least this is my perception). Live for the day. Love those near to you like there will be no tomorrow. Drop your baseless fears, endless searching. There is more to every day life. Here are a few words... on Fulfillment: In from the incoming ocean and over the island floor, the tide rises in slow motion, covering more and more, reef and lagoon and shore.~~ Finally reaching its fullest, what is its logic then? To cling to the heights at its tallest and curse fate, as would men, that it must come down again? ~~ The tide fulfilled I am learning is in its forever returning. Here is its bond with the beach. Here is the truth beyond speech. (end) Please write of the things which bring every day joy to your heart and life.

Kind regards,

Yes, Mike has been quite kind, short of saying you are a big bore! I replied that I can write only what I feel like writing; if I feel happy and feel like writing about it, I will. But the general state of mind is just the opposite, can’t help it. But, I said, there have been a few moments of happiness too. I felt what Mike said is true, I have been quite morbid, like a sick dog.

That set me wondering – are we bloggers writing what we want to write or what readers expect us to write? Are we trying to impress our readers, are we being honest in our writing? How can I write, like Mike asks me to, of contrived happiness? What are we, friends, doing here? Why do I, every day look up my dashboard for the new postings of my friends? When Sujata writes about Pujo or her life in Muscat or about her children – when Kalpana writes in length about baby care, when Sumi bubbles with joy, when Gopu writes about the unseen life behind the surgical masks – I am sharing your lives, your joys, your sorrows, your angst ( there I go again!) just as I share mine with you.

If, like Mike, you have not taken anything away, that will be a sad day for me. If, my writings have been as drab as my life, what can I say, - hope sun is shining out there!

Balachandran, Trivandrum 03.11.2009

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Marriage of Faiths

“My son is getting married, Sir, next month. You must come for the wedding.” There was such happiness in the lady’s voice as she said it. She was my colleague at Kottayam, where I had worked about three years back. I was glad that she remembered me. I knew her son too, who is now an upcoming playback singer in Tamil and Telugu. I said sure, I will, though as a matter of principle I don’t care much to attend weddings unless the invitation is from an unavoidable relative or friend. I invariably attend funerals, though. I have this intense dislike for the grand wedding- dos, where people would be spending so much of money unnecessarily, right from the ornate invitation cards to the gold ornaments and criminal waste of food. But I wanted to attend this wedding; I liked this lady and a trip to Kottayam, which always has a special place in my life, is something I would love to make.

“She is a Brahmin girl from Bangalore, settled in Chennai. Oh, he found her himself, ha ha ha,” she said. “The wedding is at our church; we converted her, Sir, she is one of us now’. Suddenly, I felt cold. I have nothing against Christianity or Islam or Hinduism or any ism-s, but I dislike anyone or any is-m that tramples on individual right to faith and belief. I have several friends and acquaintances who are from different religions and married but continue to practice their faiths and allow their partner the freedom to do theirs. But, recently, like the ‘love jihad’ that is in the news, one comes across this unpleasant conversion to the faith of the other partner. And in most cases, it is the Hindu man/woman who submits to conversion.

A friend of mine who is a Hindu, married off his daughter to a Christian boy. My friend is a person with a very liberal outlook and not a devout Hindu; when his daughter announced her intentions, he was generous and accepted her choice and her right to decide. Then she said that her fiancé’s parents wanted her to convert. He was disturbed and asked her why she should. The girl gave priority to the boy’s wishes rather than her right to remain a Hindu. Later my friend told me that he wouldn’t ever forget the day when he had to be on his knees in the church.

Last month I had posted a blog on ‘belief ‘. I had said I am a non-believer. I omitted to say that I too am a believer; believer in individual freedom, in acceptance of all faiths and non-faiths. I am a believer in my right, in each of our right, to be what we are and would protest against forcing people to choose or discard their faith.

The crux of the matter is not that whether the convert does it forced or in free will, but that the other partner has scant respect for the one who is forgoing his/her right to be what he/she is. I believe in respect. I believe in sharing space. I believe respect is above love.

The other day Anil, a close friend of mine, called. He is married to Caroline and they just celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary. She attends church regularly; he doesn’t go to temples. Anil teases her all the time, poking her for her bloopers and we all have a great time laughing. Like when she said Anil’s biceps in the leg is bulging or calling her friend excitedly from Yellowstone National Park saying that she has this terrific view of the Alps from where she was standing. Anil said, “ Dey, I took C yesterday to open a bank account. You know what she wrote in the column against ‘Religion’? Nature!” There was great love and respect for her in his voice. I said give her a hug for me.

I will miss the Kottayam trip.

************** Balachandran V, Trivandrum 01.11.2009