An attempt at poetry after years of dry spell
An attempt at poetry after years of dry spell
Man has an innate need to leave some part of him behind; a legacy of his life. He wants to remind the future generations that he existed. That he still exists—be it in memory or through art. And this can be seen in the beautiful structures, monuments, art and literature. Go back to the oldest cave paintings in the world and you’ll see a person desperately reaching out to the future with his/her hand paintings.
However, a friend of mine has an interesting theory. In India, we don’t appreciate creation as much. That’s why in the heritage places, we rarely get to see the name of the architect. No, we only know who commissioned these monuments. Contrast this to the West when you know the names of the architect. Heck, in Spain, we even knew the names of the people who melded the gorgeous wrought-iron pieces!
Don’t believe me? Ask around, who designed the Taj Mahal? Who designed the Vitthal Temple in Hampi with it’s intelligent architecture? And intelligent it is. The complex had a main building which was for performances to the God. You didn’t to carry instruments. Each pillar was designed to produce music of a particular instrument. Literally!
And then there were the side buildings like these with their intricate carvings, each telling a story and a story within a story! Take this building for example, there was a miniature carved on each side. It’s like the architect wanted to set in stone is very blue print! But the beauty is in the whole.
After all, each part—even the platforms at the bottom—have a thought behind them. One layer to hold lamps, one layer to convey how people of different regions and countries come to trade in Hampi, etc. There’s also the creative creature with parts of different animals.
This is why I love Guides and archeologists. So much gets lost in translation between the past, present and the future. Whatever little we know of, is because of the archeologists who painstakingly find meaning in dirt. And the guides who convey it to us mere humans.
They offer the spectacles you need to look around with clear sight.
It’s 8 degrees here in Sierra Nevada and I’m shivering in bed, unable to sleep. Perhaps it’s the cold; perhaps it’s the 4-hour long siesta I had in the afternoon. Either way, my brain is producing words faster than I can comprehend. So write, I shall.
But where do I start?
As I sift through the pictures on my phone to find a good story to narrate, I come across three interesting ones I took in the evening today.
Wondering why they’re interesting?
OK, let’s go back to my school days, especially the geography lessons I was taught. Hidden amongst the whole lot of text, I remember studying about how geography changes from place to place. The biggest notable factor for this is weather. And by just looking around, you can see the tell tale signs of the weather patterns expected in the area around you.
Notice the sloping roofs, the covered garbage can and the thick cone-shaped shrubs.
Can you guess what these point towards?
Here’s how the landscape looks like, if you want some more help:
The sloping roof helps the snow to fall down to the ground and not accumulate much on the roof. The shrubs need to be thick to withstand the cold weather and be cone-shaped to shed snow. And well, the garbage can needs protection too. Else, it would be overflowing with snow and not garbage. Of course, there’s also the danger of the snow water and moisture degrading the garbage. Hence the cover, one that slopes too!
Had it been a rainy area, sloping roofs could have been replaced by efficient plumbing that gathers the water from the rooftop and takes it to the ground. But that can’t be the solution for snow. Hence the slope.
Even the vegetation in the area show all the signs of being in a snowy place.
And it’s amazing that my education enabled me to observe these facets of nature. To the curious, even a meagre education can work wonders.
So all those who crib about the uselessness of the subjects in school, reconsider. Our education, at best, imbibes in us the art of scientific thinking. Yes, I call it an art because science helps me look at how artful nature and life is.
It feels like everything around us is telling its story. Like this worm that ate the small leaf, but left the veins exposed.
Or these trees that announce the change in the sun’s direction of movement—the reds and yellows narrating the story of the change in seasons.
Of course, it’s not yet autumn in Granada, where these flowers continue to bloom in full rigor.
Or notice how this harmless snail wants to be left alone, contemplating it’s own existence. It’s shell, thus, a beautiful match with its surroundings.
And then, you marvel at the beautiful creations around us; at nature’s perfection:
Just like the snail with its perfect Spiral, the goat manages to blend seamlessly in the background.
I’m lucky. I’ve been blessed with teachers who helped me see that science is nothing but a language that equips you to see the stories being told around you, stories by every living organism or even a supposedly non-living object (like the flysch as below).
And I’m lucky to appreciate at least some of the myriad stories around us.
If you only open your eyes, ears, nose, and other senses!
Bonus pictures: This gorgeous sunset in Sierra Nevada, when the drowning sun played hide and seek with the clouds.
You know you’ve read a good book if you would rather think about it for the 10 hours left in the day than pick up a new one. And that’s what happened to me—still is happening to me—after ending ‘The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad’.
It started as an innocuous read to satisfy my curiosity regarding the author’s popularity. But it ended up with the sensation of… let me explain it better with an analogy.
You know that feeling when you are hungry, and then eat a delicious meal—simple, home-made, down-to-earth but wholesome. That feeling when it seems like your entire being starting with heart—and not just your stomach—is full and ‘complete’. That’s the feeling I relished after finishing the book. So much that I ‘had’ to put down my thoughts in the form of words. Mind you, I’ve never given reviews about books—especially in the form of a blog post.
About the book
For reasons unclear to me, what I felt about the book comes across as a string of jagged adjectives and words. If I attempt to weave sentences out of them, they seem to lose their value and meaning. It’s like they refuse to let go of their individual characteristics amidst the other words forming the sentence. So here we go:
Some of my favourite sentences and paragraphs:
(Note: Potential spoilers ahead if you haven’t read this book yet)
Story 1: The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad
At once realistic, believable but with a tint of fable, the story revolves around Lakshmi Prasad (duh, as the name duly suggests). What’s remarkable about the story is the writing—the mini observations about day-to-day lives, human behavior (a sister’s jealousy about friends and how she tries to prove that she is the ‘closest’), how thoughts germinate, and how strength of character is often in subtle and small actions. More importantly, the writing is so rich that it paints the backdrop of the story easily. Reading it is like starting an old-school projector in your mind and resting back to watch the story unfold.
Story 2: Salaam, Noni Appa
This was by far my favourite in the whole lot.
Two widowed sisters, well in their sixties, and yet living a life full of unique idiosyncrasies and whacky behavior. Some of my key learnings from the story are this:
Story 3: If the Weather permits
An eccentric character, whose whole life is one continuous search—one for a life partner, and the other, an escape from her parents’ pressures. And the search continues until death gives her the much-needed opportunity to escape. Who says life has to be perfect or make sense. And more importantly, who says parents do everything right? They are flawed humans too who bow to societal pressure and their own idiosyncrasies.
My favourite line? So so so many, but I will take with me the epitaph my entire life. “Here lies Elisa, she briefly belonged to many, but truly to herself.”
Story 4: The Sanitary Man from a Sacred Land
Wow. While story spoke about ‘what happened’, I could not often go beyond what the characters ‘thought’ or ‘felt’. It’s a story that completely does justice to the real-life character that Twinkle Khanna borrowed from. In fact, it is a dutiful homage to that courageous individual full of his quirks and innocence, and at the end of the day—a flawed imperfect human! Wow.
(To be updated pretty soon)
Images with a quote are all the rage these days. Every single person active on social media (guilty as charged) has liked, posted or shared at least one such image.
What started as a beautiful thing earlier, has now, according to me, gone out of control. As with everything else, a mass democratisation (as our media studies professor called it) brings down quality. In English, this means, when something becomes too popular; when you have to cater to the masses, the quality often drops.
Take this image quote for example:
I call this the Walking Irony. Here’s why:
Let’s start with the meaning of the quote. The connotation is quite clearly negative. People are usually thankless and not sensitive about the effort someone puts in for them. It is only when that ‘help’ stops that people stand up and notice.
Agreed. So far, at least.
But the second connotation of this quote is that people ‘never’ notice; people ‘never’ notice. But that isn’t true, is it? Everyone, at some point in time or the other, has appreciated or noticed timely help and effort.
So, the quote essentially ignores all these times.
This means you can apply the rule of the quote to the quote itself. Hello, Irony!
In the film ‘Matrix’, we were told our idea of reality is skewed; it is just an illusion. In a way, it hit the right chords if we take into account the different perspectives of a human mind. Some of these we brush away as figments of imagination; some we celebrate as creativity; some we meditate upon as the ‘inner-eye’ or ‘subconscious’, and some, we tolerate as reality – something we are part of, but is out of our control.
To those who are aware of these, it will feel like there is a constant buzz in your head. Like a desktop window with multiple operations under process.
In reality, at the click of a button, you push one up; prioritize one—albeit temporarily—over the others.
But, what if we did not have this option? What if the default setting was that all these perspectives were constantly at work in non-hibernation mode?
Imagine a world, where you wade through every moment of life across three-four layers. Imagine if your vision was divided into four sectors (vertical or horizontal as you please) – one, where your imagination unfolds, is portraying night time; the one, which deals with creativity, is a mosaic of bright, interchanging colours; the subconscious or inner-eye, a dull throbbing gold, and the reality reflects the normal landscapes that mark your life – like a local train, your workstation, television, etc.
The idea seems, at once, enthralling and perverse. Enthralling, for who would want to not live not one, but four vibrant lives at one, especially in a state of higher awareness and consciousness? But perverse all the same, because it will make you realise how hopeless and powerless reality is; also because, there will come a time when you would want to switch off, for it would simply feel overwhelming, like your brain is about to burst.
I am sure the creative sort of people would relate to this, those who have powerful urges to step out of reality and capture their imagination and thoughts by penning down (or painting). Those whose brains are bursting with too many thoughts and feelings.
Perhaps, this is what we already do unconsciously, though, on a smaller scale. This is why we box sections of our lives into categories, and make sure they are processed in hibernation mode.
The book, ‘Asura: The Tale of The Vanquished’, says that Ravana did not really have ten-heads. Instead, it was metaphorical. Each head represents one base emotion in man – Anger, pride, love, jealousy, ambition, intelligence, fear, selfishness, happiness and sadness. He was called Dasamukha or ‘Ten-headed’ for embracing all aspects of humanity and its emotions.
I love to know the other side of the coin. Whenever anyone narrates any story, whether real, reel or mythological, I itch to know the point of views of the other characters involved. Sometimes I ask point blank if the other point of view tallies; sometimes though I keep my trap shut and leave things to imagination. After all, there is not just one truth. There are many truths—depending on the perspectives. (Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon or Gillian Flyn’s Gone Girl, anyone?)
Anyway, the point is I love reading about alternative view-points – especially when it comes to mythology. Currently, I am reading this book called ‘Asura: The Tale of The Vanquished’ by Anand Neelakantan. It tells the tale of Ramayana through Ravana’s point of view. Essentially, it is ‘Ravanayana’.
Almost every child in India knows that Ravana is the ten-headed villain from the Epic. Why he is ten-headed is not a question many thought of asking. I didn’t either. Until, that is, I started reading this book, which has a wonderful explanation.
The book says that Ravana did not really have ten-heads. Instead, it was metaphorical. Each head represents one base emotion in man – Anger, pride, love, jealousy, ambition, intelligence, fear, selfishness, happiness and sadness.
Ravana’s gurus tried to teach him how to shun all these emotions except one – intelligence or logic. They said this will help him achieve greatness. The rest of the emotions, the Gurus said, will only serve to distract him in one way or the other. By suppressing all the other ‘heads’ or ‘emotions’, Ravana will be able to achieve balance in his mind and thus achieve greatness.
“The only thing worth preserving is your mind. Your mind absorbs the knowledge you gain from your Gurus, your books and your life, and refines it to great wisdom. It is what you have to develop. Every living minute, you have to strive to feed your mind with fresh and positive inputs. This will give clarity to your vision and immense power to your action. You will make fewer mistakes and also learn faster from them.”
This is what his Guru taught him.
Ravana, of course, refuses to do so. And then he proceeds to give a beautiful explanation for the need for each and every single emotion, even if it is negative like selfishness. Here’s an excerpt below:
“The amazing speed of progress man has achieved in the past few years would have not been achieved without that small flame of ambition in the minds of a few men, which was fanned to become a huge fire by the other emotions you have urged me to shun. Pride in one’s capability gave men the confidence and ambition to grow; jealousy that someone else would achieve more prodded him to work hard and more efficiently; the quest for happiness resulted in ever-expanding ambition; the fear of sadness kept him awake at night and pushed him further; the fear of failure made him more careful and God-fearing; selfishness glued his family, city, clan, tribe and country together and made him strive even harder. Love for life and the things which made life precious, made him protect his achievements. And I am sure an undying ambition for more will lead mankind to progress. Progress, which we cannot even imagine, can never understand in our short lifetime.”
In the end, he says that he wishes to neither be a God nor achieve Moksha. All he wants is to live a fulfilling life as a human, and exactly as his emotions tell him to do. Otherwise, he would be but an empty skeleton. This is why he is called ‘Ten-headed’ or ‘Dasamukha’, according to the book.
I could not agree more. For years I have contemplated about the need to sacrifice or supress some parts of our persona for the sake of betterment. As a Brahmin, I’ve often been told to not do many things, because it apparently takes me one step closer to the perfection that is God. But over the years I have realised that life is empty without these imperfections. There are so many aspects of life which are harmful. That said, they do add some colour to life. I would rather live a fulfilling life when I am alive than worry about life after death, or worse, how I would be reborn – as an animal or human or Brahmin (believe it or not, these are some legitimate threats I’ve heard)
Agreed it is important to constantly aim to improve over time; the goal should be to do away with your imperfections, but that doesn’t mean you supress it altogether. There will always be times when you will give into your natural instincts like anger or fear.
This brings me to the conclusion that it is moderation that is important, not complete suppression. Everything is better in the right quantities. Even complete suppression could backfire – like a volcano that bursts suddenly after gaining steam for hundreds of years.
At the end of the day, I appreciate and accept my humanity. More so, I want to embrace it whole-heartedly. There will be days when I get angry, afraid, jealous, over-ambitious, proud, happy or sad. Otherwise I would be like the stone which sits in silence and observes the world, wouldn’t I?
I think the key point here is ‘limit’ and ‘objectivity’. It is ‘not getting carried away’. Any of the base emotions, when in excess, can wreak havoc; even love or happiness. The question, then, is – where to draw the line? And most importantly, who decides whether the line is correct or wrong? And that is something I have always struggled with – limiting myself and walking on the thin line that separates the right from the wrong!