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

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Key Factors of Life

Life is a bitch; take it from me, I've had 55 years of it. Well, I'd agree, maybe in general. Or maybe not. But - sitting in a bus that took me oh-so-slowly from Kollam to Trivandrum, squeezed between two gentlemen of considerable girth ( that makes it three gentlemen), the sweat of one's armpit drawing bizarre patterns on my left shoulder and the right serving as a pillow for the other man who seems not to have slept for the last one week - it struck me - zen comes in the most unpredictable moments - that one's life has mainly two set of factors - those that can be controlled and those that cannot be. So? So, when you can't bloody well anything about the uncontrollable factors, what the f*** are we doing about those that can be controlled by ourselves?

Say, take my smoking. I can easily stop it anytime. Like Mark Twain said, ' Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in life; I know, because I have done it several times'. My smoking could be the cause of many of my discomforts; sore throat, cough, palpitation, giddiness - and whatever my ECG says I have. All I have to do is to chuck the horrible habit. Long ago, just after marriage, I quit smoking for two years! I kept on reminding myself that with every cigarette, I lost 5 minutes of my life. Life that could be spent with P and K and walking in the mountains.

Yeah, my Mr Hyde would then say, 'Listen pal, just think about the moments of great pleasure that Gold Flake King Size has given you. Just think of the poems you wrote, drifting in and out of the smoke. Think of the moment when you paused at the top of the hill and lit one'.

Or - shall we talk about the 32 goddamn years I've spent working in a bank? Oh, yeah, I had all sorts of weird dreams about doing this and doing that and - Ok, I've realized a few but many many are left unattended. Actually, I could do something about them - like going to Tierra del fuego or Scotland or wandering in the Himalayas - but that horrible interruption called 'priorities' intervene and my dreams are left in the lurch.

What are the things that really makes you feel that life is a bitch? Laziness. Procastination. Cowardice. Dullheadedness. Indifference. If one starts analyzing the whole rigmarole that makes up one's life, one can straightaway come to the conclusion that the Controllable factors are more than its opposite. Climate Change? Corruption? Accidents? Deaths? Pollution? Deforestation? Ageing?
The question that we should pose to ourselves is - What the F*** have you done about it?
Excuse me, folks, while I light a cigarette....
****** Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 23.08.2012
P S . Just wanted to share a poem I wrote long ago:
Gone up in Smoke
Crackling cellophane
As the packet opens-
Aroma of tobacco.
Fingers a- trembling, brain a- tickling.

The glowing butt, curling smoke
As the tip touches one’s lips-
Tingle! Deep intake of smoke
Seeps in settling, satiating one’s blood.

Rings dancing in the air
Wafting away into nothingness
Only a fragrance remains-
Then that too, like you, is gone forever.

************************ 31.08.2004

All India Bank Strike!

Two-day strike, but I reached home only in the evening of the first day. Wasn't sure if the Strike would be held, so has been the history of bankers in strike; left Alleppey in the morning, attended a marriage at Kollam at noon. Today, on the second day of the strike, I am short of cash and go to five ATMs, of different banks, including mine. They all say, 'REGRET'; probably cash in the ATMs must be fully exhausted. As I leave the fifth, a man standing outside asks me- ' Got money?' I shake my head and he clucks sympathetically and adds - "Those ---------ers! Striking for two days in this Onam season! ----ers should be thrown out!" I nod - whether it was in concurrence or not, I hope he could not recognize....!

******************** Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 23.08.2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Har Har Mahadev! Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim! Independance Day musings

Satnam Singh

Walking along M G Road, Trivandrum in the morning, wondering at the daily changes that happens to it as the old tiled two-storyed buildings give way to multi-storyed shopping malls and regretting that I did not photo-document the old City of the 70s and 80s, I am shaken out of my reverie by the sound of blaring horns and revving motorcycles and racuous cries. A procession of a dozen or more motorbikes piloted and followed by four-wheelers, blinking lights and waving the flag pass, blocking the regular traffic. The drivers of the cars have their doors kept open; boys sit on the window frames. The bikers have no helmets; some boys stand up on the pillion seat. They ignore the traffic lights. They pass Police vehicles - security is beefed up today - and the police just look at them.

Typical of Indians that the boys should celebrate Independence Day by flouting the law of the land. Freedom, to Indians, is to be free of law. Otherwise, how do one explain the political murders, where people who defy the Party are hacked to death or the death of a mentally deranged youth at the hands of the devotees of the 'Amma' or the Police or the mental hospital staff?

Satnam Singh was found dead inside the lavatory of the Govt Mental Hospital at Trivandrum. Satnam had crawled through the corridors of the hospital and licked up the water on the floor of the lavatory before collapsing to death. Satnam was 23, from Bihar. He had been missing from home since last May. Satnam reportedly suffered from Bipolar disorder. Before the incident at the Matha Amritanandamayi Math, Satnam was at the ashram of Muni Narayanaprasad at Varkala for 20 days. According to Muni Narayanaprasad, the one prayer at the All Religion prayers offered at the Ashram that Satnam was fond of repeating was 'Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim' , In the name of Allah, Most gracious, most merciful'.

On the fateful day, Satnam rushed at Matha Amrithanandamayi, shouting 'Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim'. The security guards and devotees detained him and later handed over Satnam to the police. According to a newspaper report - "The math office-bearers detained Singh and handed him over to the police. The police subjected him to a medical exmaniation before they produced him before a magistrate and got him remanded in judicial custody. The police said the doctor had reported serious injury on Satnam at the time they assumed his custody".

The video footage at the Math showed Satnam being manhandled by the people there. Later, Satnam might have been subjected to further physical torture at the hands of the Police and at the government run mental hospital.

Enquiries have begun; at the same speed they are being hushed up. Attendants at the hospital are in custody. Doctors who gave false certificates could not be indicted; the Medical Council threatened strike.

Perhaps one cannot expect more from the law or health institutions in this country. But what is more painful is that Matha Amrithanandaymayi - Amma to the millions of her devotees - she could have saved Satnam's young life. One word from her would have given a young son back to his parents. She could have been a bit 'graceful, a bit 'merciful'.

One cannot really help being cynical about the icons that we carry in our hearts - be it the nation or living Gods. Happy Independance Day, fellow Indians!

                 Satnam's father
************* Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 15.08.2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

Close encounters of the Exciting Kind

I was in a poorly lit hall in Alleppey where a book exhibition was going on.  I had passed her a couple of times before; maybe it is the dim light or my failing eyesight, I did not notice her at first. Then, on the third time, I stopped by - and. as I always do, began  fondling her. Suddenly, I froze - one has that instinctive feel, that arousal, that pounding of the heart, that innate knowledge that one has found it - folks, I am talking about the exicting discovery of yet another book, poems that have captured my heart.

The poet lives in my home town, is already well known in the literary circles - I had heard her name, but I am ashamed to admit that I hadn't read her. Reading Anitha Thampi and her second collection of poems, 'Azhakillaatthava-yellaam ( All that are bereft of beauty) is like watching a storm outside as you sit dry and warm and alone, inside. After reading her poems over and over, I google her. Translations never do justice to the original, but you can read a few here.

What struck me most is the lean crispness of the words. Emotions pour forth, not uncontrolled, but with a startling nakedness, bereft of pretensions. There is such precision, such clarity and overwhelming directness that left the reader trembling. The language bear no laundry bags from the past. The thoughts hits you direct and straight, puncturing your heart like a rapier. Those of you know Malayalam would find Anitha Thampi very close to you - very close. Non-Malayalees will have to be content with the translations.

There is enough information about the poet and her poetry in the web. My words are inadequate. 

കളഞ്ഞു പോയ ഉടുപ്പ് 

കഞ്ഞിപിഴിഞ്ഞു വിരിച്ച ഉടുപ്പ്
ആര് കൊണ്ടുപോയി?

എന്റെ അളവിനെ 
എന്റെ മാത്രം അഴുക്കുകളെ 
അത് കൂടെകൊണ്ടു പോയി

കണ്ണ് നിറഞ്ഞാല്‍ തുടചിരുനു
വാക്ക് തടഞ്ഞാല്‍ തെരുപ്പിടിച്ചിരുന്നു
എന്റെ തണുപ്പും പൊള്ളലും എത്ര കാലം പൊതിഞ്ഞിരുന്നു. 

മൊരിയും വിയര്‍പ്പും ഒപ്പി
ഉള്മരങ്ങളുടെ പൂമനങ്ങളെ ചോര്‍ന്നു പോകാതെ കാത്തു
കാറ്റുകള്‍ക്ക്‌ പായ്മരമായി
ഉത്സവങ്ങള്‍ക്ക് കൊടികൂറയായി

പല കറകളെ പേറി 
പുഴുക്കങ്ങളെ പൊറുത്തു

പാതിവാടിയ ഇലകളുടെ നിറമായിരുന്നു
ആര് കൊണ്ടുപോയി? 

എന്റെതല്ലാത്ത ഒരു അളവില്‍ 
അതിന്റെ ഇറുക്കങ്ങളില്‍ 
ഒരു നീലകുപ്പായതോട്  ചേര്‍ന്ന്  നിന്നതിന്റെ 
ഇനിയുഒരു കുപ്പായതോട് ആ വിധം ചേര്‍ന്ന് നില്‍ക്കാനാവുമോ?

ഏതെങ്കിലും തിരക്കില്‍ 
എന്നെകടന്നു പോയാല്‍ 
എന്റെ കളഞ്ഞു പോയ ഉടുപ്പ്? 
കടലിന്റെ അടിത്തട്ടില്‍ നിന്ന്

നിന്നോട് സംസാരിച്ചു കൊണ്ട് 
ഞാന്‍ കടലിനു മീതെ നടക്കുകയായിരുന്നു.

എന്റെ കാലടികളെ ഇക്കിളിയാക്കി.
കാറ്റ് ഉടലിനെ പായ്മരമാക്കി 

വിശ്വസിക്കൂ എന്ന് പറഞ്ഞു 
ഞാന്‍ തിരിഞ്ഞുനോക്കുമ്പോള്‍ 
കണ്നെതുന്ന്ടതെങ്ങും കരയില്ല,
കര തേടുന്ന കടല്ക്കാക്കകള്‍മില്ല.

ഇത്രമേല്‍ ആഴത്തില്‍ 
From the depths of the sea

I was walking over the sea
talking to you. 

Tickled my feet
Wind turned my body into a mast. 

Trust me, I said
And turned around -
You were not there. 
No land wherever I looked
No seagulls searching for land either. 

That's how 
I am now all alone
in the great depths
of the sea. 
*****  ( My poor translation) 


പ്രിയ അനിതയ്ക്ക്. 

പേര് പരിചിതമായിരുന്നു എങ്കിലും, വായിച്ചിരുന്നില്ല. ആലപ്പുഴയിലെ പുസ്തക പ്രദര്‍ശന ശാലയില്‍, 'അഴകില്ലത്തവയെല്ലാം' വെറുതെ ഒന്ന് മറിച്ചു നോക്കിയപ്പോള്‍ ഹൃദയത്തിന്റെ മിടിപ്പ് പെട്ടെന്ന് വര്‍ധിച്ചു. മലയാളം വായന പരിമിതം - ഭാഷാജ്ഞാനം കുറവ് - ഭാവന ശുഷ്കം - എങ്കിലും കൈകള്‍ വിറച്ചു. ഹൃദയത്തില്‍ എവിടെയൊക്കെയോ ഒരു കത്തി കൊണ്ടുള്ള കോറല്‍. 

ആലപ്പുഴയില്‍നിന്നും തിരുവനന്തപുരതെകുള്ള തീവണ്ടിയില്‍ ഇരുന്നു പലവുരു വായിച്ചു; എന്റെ മുഖം അടുത്തിരുന്നവര്‍ ഇടക്കിടെ ശ്രദ്ധിക്കുന്നുണ്ടായിരുന്നു.  വീട്ടില്‍ വന്നു ഭാര്യയെ ചിലത് വായിച്ചു കേള്‍പ്പിച്ചു. കളഞ്ഞു പോയ ഉടുപ്പ് - എന്റെ മനസ്സിലെ വിഹുഅലതകള്‍ ഞാന്‍ എങ്ങിനെ പറഞ്ഞറിയിക്കാന്‍? മനസ്സ് വിതുമ്പുന്നു. കുട്ടനാടിന്റെ പച്ച!  ചാഞ്ഞും ചരിഞ്ഞും ആകാശത്തിലേക്ക് നീണ്ടു മേഘങ്ങളില്‍ മറഞ്ഞും പടര്‍ന്നു പന്തലിച്ചും, ഭലവും തണലും സ്നേഹവും വാരി വിതറി മരങ്ങള്‍! ഓരോ ചെറു തിരമാലയിലും മാടി മാടി വിളിക്കുന്ന കടല്‍! 

ആര് പെണ്ണെ നീ? ഓ, വരില്ലത്, തെരണ്ടിരിപ്പാണ്, എന്ന് വായിച്ചപ്പോള്‍ പാര്‍വതിയുടെ മുഖത്ത് എന്തോ മിന്നിമറഞ്ഞു. 'തുലാത്തില്‍' വായിച്ചപ്പോള്‍ മാവേലിക്കരയിലെ, എഴുപതുകളിലെ എന്റെ കൌമാരം ഓര്മ വന്നു. കൈലി മടക്കികുത്തി കുനിഞ്ഞു നിന്നുകൊയ്യുന്ന   പെണ്ണുങ്ങളെ കൊച്ചംബ്രാന്‍ ആയി വരമ്പത്ത് നിന്ന്,  കൊതിയോടെ നോക്കി നിന്ന എന്റെ ചെറു ജന്മിത്വം.  കടല്ക്കരയില്‍നിന്നും പിന്നോക്കം നടന്നു പോയത് ഞാന്‍ ആണ്. ഒറ്റക്കാക്കി, ഒറ്റയായി ...

ഓരോ കവിതയിലും ഞാന്‍ മനസുടക്കി മറിഞ്ഞുവീണ് , വീണ്ടും എണീറ്റ്‌ - കാറ്റിലൂടെ, മഴചാറ്റിലൂടെ, നിശബ്ദനായി ...

ഞാന്‍ വീണ്ടും വീണ്ടും - വീണ്ടും കളഞ്ഞു പോയ ഉടുപ്പ് വായിക്കുകയാണ്. 

ഭാഷയുടെ ശക്തി - ലാളിത്യത്തിന്റെ പ്രഭ - അത് സത്യതിന്റെതും പരിശുദ്ധിയുടെതും  കൂടിയാണ് - നന്ദി. 

************ Balachandran V, Trivandrum 10.08.2012