Saturday, September 3, 2011

Keeping in touch

People yearn. Yes, they yearn to stay connected. This comes up very so often in the parting meetings, right after the final exams, at various stages in life. These mile-stones use their conventional power to push people in different directions. Friends scatter after that slingshot. Few of us realize that, that shared circle will be eluding us for the rest of our lives. Some do, in a momentary flash, realize with the last Pani-Puri we have in school uniform and shed tears. But everybody consoles him/her that this thing called Modern Technology couldn't come at a better time. It will, they are assured, help us to be together. The sense of which doesn't dawn on anyone there. If there is an Eagle looking at us from the far off, in space and time, which could span in its vision, centuries of observation, it would have dismissed this meeting of friends to be too common place. That why these people are shedding tears as if they haven't evolved, it knoweth not.

With or without technology we will never be in touch as fervently as we promised. There are many reasons to fall out. But no animosity or ill will. It is mostly because we are out of touch with that distant self of ours. The affections and affectations associated with the uncivilized times hang heavily on us due to the new found maturity, beyond every ford that we cross. Be it school to college, college to graduate and post graduate studies. We meet occasionally when people who have gone out of the city turn up for some vacation. Till our hormones take over, these meetings witness only failed attempts to rekindle the lost camaraderie. We do some roll-call of sorts, about who is doing what and crack a few old jokes. It is a tad sad picture. Something like last supper every time. A boring monotone. But we don't stay there longer than required. Biology comes to our rescue. Hormones take over.

The burgeoning testosterone is the best thing to happen to man since the original sin. It gives rise to so much kitsch. The way we prune ourselves for approval like the tailor birds. Nothing is out of the ordinary. The styles of dressing are flowing in and out. Parents are pestered to shed money on torn clothes. There are shirts on shirts. Bikes with bull horns. A few years more and cars flash by. Their alarms conveying a psychopathic desperation in the parking lots. Yes, one needs a good parking lot. It is all part of growing up.

In this fluid state of our being, school reunions happen. This time more frequently than before. We are all prepared for these meetings now. There is no roll-call. Everybody is out with their talent. And the iron is really hot. Like in a cross-connected call, conversations happen simultaneously. It seems like mental wrestling. Only few of us resign into a corner after deciding that the material present is too good for us and we don't stand a chance. Poets are the worst here. They reach out to their poems like a blind man reaches out to his cane. Impressing a girl in a group with an impromptu poem is the worst move ever conceived in fact. But of course, its bad effect can be annulled by following up with cleverly thought out lines of poetry sent to her in private.

These round-table meetings happen for sometime. The girls who are regulars either saturate their crush-feelings towards their old loves or they have boy friends from a different pack of wolves. Things are terrible now and red signs everywhere. Of course for a Hyderabadi these matter very little in terms of the road traffic. But now this is a matter of life and death. Love or no love. The regulars have taken their pick and there are still many of us left without consorts. That is when the emptiness glares at us in all glory.

One questions in a rhetoric tone where all the girls who are absent from these meetings were. Those stubborn beings, even in these moments of crisis. Thoughts precipitate into actions very quickly. Here again, the poet is at a disadvantage. He has an approachability problem. And clearly and definitively is incapable of fighting any encroachment with better gadgetry or biking performance. People are drawing up lists where as the poet is caught in a vortex of enormity of it all and trying in vain to make sense. His vanity has no bounds. The lists are drawn to perfection and zeroing-in happens. There is nothing one can do but sit up all night calling them or sending SMS. Finally there are a few lucky ones whose calling gets through. They are the victors for now and dispense relationship advice as and when necessary. The others are floating around in their bikes and explore everything of the words possibility, opportunity and other positive things. These lost souls can be found abundantly in the IMS, TIME coaching centers to go to the US or accumulate a fat loan to equal the fat salary after IIMs. They also often wander into Self-help sections in the book stores and mostly subscribe to the Chicken Soup school of thought.

As usual life beats the hell out of everyone. The regulars have no enthu left for the reunions to continue and everything falls out of touch. Recently, I mean not so recently, I met a friend in Mumbai and in a rare fit of endearment and nostalgia we agreed that it is difficult to stay connected. And also made fun and downgraded anyone from that circle who tries to call and tries to be cool unlike us. Keep in touch, people.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Reality demands

(by Wislawa Syzmborska. Translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak)

Reality demands
that we also mention this:
Life goes on.
It continues at Cannae and Borodino,
at Kosovo Poije and Guernica.

There's a gas station
on a little square in Jericho,
and wet paint
on park benches in Bila Hora.
Letters fly back and forth
between Pearl Harbor and Hastings,
a moving van passes
beneath the eye of the lion at Cheronea,
and the blooming orchards near Verdun
cannot escape
the approaching atmospheric front.

There is so much Everything
that Nothing is hidden quite nicely.
Music pours
from the yachts moored at Actium
and couples dance on their sunlit decks.

So much is always going on,
that it must be going on all over.
Where not a stone still stands,
you see the Ice Cream Man
besieged by children.

Where Hiroshima had been
Hiroshima is again,
producing many products
for everyday use.

This terrifying world is not devoid of charms,
of the mornings
that make waking up worthwhile.

The grass is green
on Maciejowice's fields,
and it is studded with dew,
as is normal with grass.

Perhaps all fields are battlefields,
those we remember
and those that are forgotten:
the birch forests and the cedar forests,
the snow and the sand, the iridescent swamps
and the canyons of black defeat,
where now, when the need strikes, you don't cower
under a bush but squat behind it.

What moral flows from this? Probably none.
Only the blood flows, drying quickly,
and, as always, a few rivers, a few clouds.
On tragic mountain passes
the wind rips hats from unwitting heads
and we can't help
laughing at that.

Notes for the poem:

Cannae: an ancient village in Italy, the setting of the crushing defeat suffered by the Romans at the hand of Hannibal in 216 B.C.

Borodino: a village seventy miles west of Moscow, saw major conflict between the French army under Napoleon and the Russian army under General Kutuzov on September 7, 1812. The battle is chiefly remembered for the heavy casualties suffered on both sides.

Kosovo Polje: is infamous for the battle fought there on June 5, 1389, between Serbia and the Ottoman Empire that resulted in the collapse of Serbia.

Guernica: a small city in the Basque region of Spain, was subjected to a massive aerial bombing attack by the German air force, aided by Italy and Spain's national Fascist party, on April 26, 1937, at the height of the Spanish Civil War.

Jericho, located on the bank of the West Bank of the Jordan river, was the first Canaanite city to be attacked by the Israelites according to the account given in Joshua I:I-6:27.

Bilá Hora, near Prague, was the site of the Bohemian defeat at the hands of the Habsburgs on November 8, 1620.

Pearl Harbor was a United States naval base attacked without warning by the Japanese air force on December 7, 1941.

Hastings, sixty-two miles southeast of London, is famed as the setting for the victory of Norman invaders led by William the Conqueror over English forces serving King Harold on October 14, 1066.

Chaeronea, an ancient town in central Greece, was the site of the victory of Philip II of Macedon over a confederation of Greek states in 338 B.C.

Verdon, a garrison town in northeastern France, was reduced to ruins during its historic resistance to German forces in a series of World War I battles that ended in French victory during August 1917.

Actium was the scene of the decisive naval victory of Octavian over Mark Antony and Cleopatra on September 2, 31 B.C

Hiroshima is the Japanese city on which the United States dropped the first atomic bomb ever used in warfare on August 6, 1945.

Maciejowice is a village near Garwlolin, Poland, where on October 10, 1794, Polish forces under Tadeusz Kosciuszko were defeated by the Russian army under General Fersen.

Email from the Past

By some twisted turn in fate's blueprint I wandered yesterday, into my Yahoo Inbox. And a few seconds later I found myself sifting through the oldest Emails I wrote and the replies I received in return. Back then I stunk at writing. I had heavy punctuation problems and committed so many blunders. I had deleted most of the mails that were written to me except the ones from my father and sisters. Blood being thicker than water. My dad, who has a flair for a stricter English, wrote much better Emails. He used correct punctuation, full-stops when necessary with aptly placed commas.

To quote from the past, here is an email I wrote to my father on Tuesday, 25 October, 2005.

hi dad i am fine here .hope teh same for u all tehre.i
dont know what buses to go to XXXXXXX any direct
buses? i will be starting here on 27 th tht is
thursday and reach hyd by morning of 28 th .how is
rajeev?(My Nephew)

today was our last quiz.wrote net started
working in ur office.
convey my regards to mummy and akka.

thats all for now bye trinathg


As I read it now, my hand involuntarily reaches for Delete, Backspace, punctuation keys and a glass of water.

I grew up with strict English grammar rules from Wren and Martin, the thick red 1960's edition that governed our Sunday afternoons. In between English grammar lessons were sandwiched the Mathematics tutorial sessions that my dad organized so diligently. For English exams and other academic writing I continued to follow correct punctuation. But I guess for Emails I never cared to do that. I am not sure if my dad felt how wasted all his efforts turned out, after looking at my garbled up replies to his mails. Even if he had felt he might not have corrected inorder to give me some independence or a free reign to make a few mistakes. I remember filling an application form of any course/examination called for some tensed moments in my home. Every letter was written down slowly as if speed would spill some ink into the next block, the legitimate space of the next letter. White-laid, eraser and a Topaz blade were always by the side to cut out any mistakes that my sisters or I made filling out the forms. After the tense moments are over we would disperse to watch the daily serials on Doordarshan.

But things have changed since 2005. I started dipping my fingers into the honey-pot of Literature, English or otherwise. Slowly, the importance of the words, their weight and appropriateness seeped into my pen. But the boyishness in my writing was still present when I wrote the much eluding Statement of Purpose (SOP) in 2007 for my graduate studies in USA. After a rejection from Uncle Sam and spending two months reading and writing arbitrary verse gave me some hold on the absconding meaning in my words. Soon after I joined a job in Pune. I had a great time exploring the city in Food and Books. The romance of the first job and the company of some of the wonderful people (Krishna, Sravan and Pranab) I have ever met, enriched my experience. We had everyone of the writing world in this group. I wrote poetry, Sravan and Pranab adept in Fiction and Krishna, the Critique. I was taken, what is the word, under the wing, of Sravan and Krishna as soon as I landed in Pune. The importance of the words, communication, clarity and all the Orwellian rules of writing conquered the better part of me during the time I spent there.

Time doesn't have an obituary but may be an experience does. It slips away, bit by bit into the dark. There is no way we can remember all of the experiences that we had, that nudged our way into being this and now. But some exist I believe like eternal poems. Read and re-read till the end of time.