The Unadorned

My literary blog to keep track of my creative mood swings with poems n short stories, book reviews n humorous prose, travelogues n photography, reflections n translations, both in English n Hindi.

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I'm a peace-loving married Indian male on the right side of '50 with college-going children, and presently employed under government. Educationally I've a master's degree in History, and another in Computer Application. Besides, I've a post graduate diploma in Management. My published works are:- (1)"In Harness", ISBN 81-8157-183-5, a poetry collections and (2) "The Remix of Orchid", ISBN 978-81-7525-729-0, a short story collections with a foreword by Mr. Ruskin Bond, (3) "Virasat", ISBN 978-81-7525-982-9, again a short story collection but in Hindi, (4) "Ek Saal Baad," ISBN 978-81-906496-8-1, my second Story Collection in Hindi.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Ekalavya: Even Vyasa was Unfair to Him

 Ekalavya: Even Vyasa was Unfair to Him
All of us know the episode of Ekalavya of the Mahabharat. We feel pity for the young and talented forest-dweller whose devotion to Drona, his master-in-absentia went unrequited, hate the way the great teacher of archery rendered the young man totally unfit for archery, doubt the talent of Arjuna the insecure hero of the epic etc, etc. I agree with all these observations. Plus, I’ve my own little observation too.

What’s that?

Look: Drona, after finding Ekalavya a greater archer than the one he had groomed in the shape of Arjuna, asked the fellow to tell him who his master was. Credulous simpleton as he was, Ekalavya said that he had achieved excellence in archery by the blessings of the idol of Drona whom he used to worship as his master ever since he was refused to be taught by him. Now Drona, standing before him in bone and flesh, demanded his fee (Guru dakshina, mentor's fee) and stated that the appropriate fee would be the right thumb of Ekalavya. Upon hearing this, Ekalavya chopped his right thumb off with his arrow and presented the same to Drona.

So, as the story goes, Ekalavya chopped his right thumb off, not with any knife but with his arrow. The probability is that he did not use the arrow in any other way than the way an expert archer would have thought appropriate. That was his dignity; an archer would not like to use his arrow as a sickle. A writer would not use his pen as a pair of tweezers for extracting a thorn from his foot! This means that Ekalavya had used bow and arrow with the help of his left hand and some other limb, say his leg (toe), to chop off his own right thumb. Having done that, he proved himself an expert archer not as a right-handed person alone but as an ambidextrous performer, one who had the ability to perform the archery with either of his hands and with the help of his legs (toes). This is my explanation. Don’t we find these days expert but differently-abled painters who paint with their legs?

If the above explanation sounds plausible, then ambidextrous Ekalavya remained the same expert archer even after the trickery of his notional teacher Drona deprived him of his right thumb. It is a fact that the epic does not say if Ekalavya died of bleeding. So he was very much alive even after this heart-rending episode. Vyasa abruptly left the character thereafter: he was left to fade out and die. Having been made a victim of exploitation, (and at least for the sake of compensation) he could have been given some celebrated role in the war of Mahabharat to prove himself, how he could outlive the trickery and jealousy. This can be treated as an unintentional omission. Maybe Vyasa had only this much to show how mean a fellow was Drona and how insecure was Arjun. Thereafter even Vyasa forgot Ekalavya. In a way, not only Drona and Arjuna were guilty of dealing with Ekalavya unfairly but also Vyasa, the creator of the character did not bother to highlight the talent of that forest-dweller when the fellow had all the qualification for it!
A. N. Nanda


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

On the Cusp: Three Sixty-Five

I wish all my readers a very Happy New Year 2015. 

On the Cusp: Three Sixty-Five
= = = = = = = = = = = = =

Won’t you ask me
What I did with the gift you gave
What I did with the money you lent
Exactly before days three hundred and sixty-five?

Now, again, your generosity is abloom
Your coffer is open and your offer alluring
You’re the great giver, not for nothing.
The investment you make in me
Not waiting for the return,
No balance sheet is ever drawn,
What’s that you expect of me?

What sort of business you are in!
Aren’t you the optimist incorrigible?
When you see me squandering
All you gave were thinning and thinning
Did you ever bother me to stop
And demand a report from me?

Nope! You didn’t.
The blunder is yours you’d better own
And now, how can a better tomorrow
Grow out of a yesterday wasted?
Where is the seed you’ve sown?
You want me to till that land
Sprinkle it with my blood and sweat
And wait for that better tomorrow!

You’re the great merchant
You know your business
Your investment:
You’re the great peasant
You know your crops
And your yielding patch of land:

Looking forward to a turnaround…
Now, the business is the same
A cycle of three and sixty-five,
The land is as big and as fertile
As a year ago it used to be,
I know it only too well
There’s only so much capital in the business.

Your business must go on…
It hardly matters
That one day I’ll be eased out.
Your crops must grow luxuriant…
It hardly matters
That one day I’ll fade out of memory
And lose count of three sixty-five. 
A. N. Nanda


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Winter Anarchy

These are the two poems I wrote at different points of time with a gap of 18 years, but when it came to choose a caption for the new one I just repeated it as I thought eighteen long years ago. As they say, styles change but to come back again: similar phenomenon also occurs in the poetic process. This is the maximum I can go to explain why I revert to the same idea again and again.
Winter Anarchy -II

Finally the freezing morning
Is here again
With its big burden of bounties
Up for grabs—
The falling flakes from the firmament
The pretentious, the blithe, the deceptively silent
The ambitious little assailants from the ozone
It’s white, white, everywhere
Not a spot of grey.

It’s the new age
Begin all to speak the same language:
White is purity and black is bane
White is insight, black is taint
White brings compliance, black the defiance.
All of us, the wise homo sapiens
Love to see it white, perfectly unstained.

In the process
No matter if Ajanta is white-washed
No matter if white goes the murals
Ceding their space to wall putty
It’s all for the sake of purity
Everything now should look pure
Even white turns the human blood.

Gung-ho, the frigid air is now afire
Ending Kalyug, the age of black
No place is left
For myriad spectrums
Look yonder
Here comes the platinum
The pure white, as white as snow
The hard-hearted, the dangerously obstinate
The sombre, the sedate
As white as the widow’s clothes.

In this way
Ends, finally, the autumn phase
Gone are the heydays
Of the gold glittering
Golden is no glory now
Golden is garbage
All are on their last legs
Atop the bough, the yellow foliage.

Any moment from now on
Barbarian from the sky would launch invasion.
Amid the snow-white, in the new dispensation
The phalange of slayers will pound the pavement
Everybody should think white
Think alike or else face the venom.

Killed will be the weak, the children, the disabled
Deviating from white, the path dictated
The slavery shall reappear but glorified
With whip and disgust and torture
The blood whitened will leave no trace
The tears will freeze for a full compliance
It’s the zeitgeist, as white as snow
It's zeitgeist, as white as platinum. 
 Shimla/ 19-12-2014

Winter Anarchy - I

Come now the loathsome December
The pungent smelling quilts grow flamboyant
The spiteful crime of April night
Gets merrily effaced from public memory.

Water flirts miserably for acceptance
Windows slam with bangs all of a sudden
They loose their interest in the outside
The horizon squeezes within the miniscule walls.

Laziness rules rampant
with hearts narrowed and ears spoilt,
We keep listening to gossips of the woollens and quilts
Smoke, the fugituve, delivers incomprehensible sermons
Streams of foul-smelling saliva inundate everywhere.

We go on begging moments of servile warmth
Everybody willingly forgoes his right to protest
Indignity and exploitation--all accepted
We inhale, continue to live a few more moments.

Port Blair / 04-12-1996
A N Nanda

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Wednesday, December 03, 2014


रि हा ई 


सुबह के शीतल समीर से मुग्ध मन

अपने आप को कुछ देने के लिए बेताब...

भूले-बिसरे सपनों से अगर एक भी पंखुड़ी

बच कर कलम तक आ पहुंचे

बस काफ़ी है, मंजूर है मुझे  

न किसी तुक बंदी की पावंद हो वह

न किसी विन्यास की भूख हो उसमें ।

छंद ऐसा हो...

समझने वाले पढ़ें, आज़मा लें अपनी-अपनी आरज़ू से जोड़कर

भाव से भीगा हुआ...लफ्ज़ भूल जाएँ पर लय ठहर जाए

आवेग ऐसा हो, आह्वान हो इस क़दर  

एकांत में दुलारने के लिए काफी

अनकही बातों को पंख लगा दे

फिर से सपने में प्रकट हो जाए ।

खुद पर रहम करना चाहता हूँ...

कुछ देने के लिए मन है, पर औकात नहीं

लोकाचार ही तय करता है लफ़्ज़ों की गहराई

कहना चाहता हूँ मैं, माँगना भी चाहता हूँ

भेंट चढ़ाना चाहता हूँ, दे कर दीन-हीन हो जाऊं   

मेरा वजूद भी मिट जाए, कबूल है मुझे

पर यह कैसी कायरता, मज़बूर हूँ मैं    

देने की ख्वाहिश है मन में

पर भयभीत हूँ मैं ।

सुबह के शीतल समीर से मुग्ध मन

अपने आप को कुछ देने के लिए बेताब...

सोचते-सोचते शाम ढलने को है अब  

क्या मैं अपने आप पर रहम कर सकता हूँ?

या फिर से सपना आने तक करना होगा इंतज़ार?

अथवा अँधेरे में खुद को संभाल कर

लफ़्ज़ों को पुनः परिभाषित करना होगा?

सारी रात, नीरवता--मेरी हमराही के सानिध्य में  

चारों ओर बिखरी भीनी-भीनी खुशबू से मदहोश,

दूर-दूर से बहते आए मार्मिक संगीत से मंत्रमुग्ध,

हँसते हुए तुम्हारे नूरानी चेहरे को याद कर

क्या कविता-कलम-कायरता से जूझ लूँ, 

या फिर से, कल की किस्मत के इंतज़ार में 

एक नई सुबह की राह देखूँ ?
A. N. Nanda




Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Legacy: the Eponymous Story from Virasat

The Legacy
This one is the eponymous story from my Hindi story collections "Virasat". I thought I could translate it for all those who would like to read it in English. While giving a title for the story, the other option I had considered was "उत्तराधिकार " but then I had to settle for "विरासत ". Now while translating this into English, I chose its title accordingly: The Legacy.Hope it makes sense. I had to add a few more sentences to amplify the choice. Anyway, happy reading.

Maganlal left everybody awestruck as he came first in the state, scoring a whooping aggregate of ninety-three percent in his matriculation examination. All his teachers were overwhelmed and they began to hurrah, ‘Look, what a stupendous achievement has been registered by our student Maganlal! Agreed, students do score cent per cent in mathematics, but then what to say of a score of ninety-five in English? Isn’t it a piece of special news?’

Madanlal blushed as people kept showering lavish praise upon him. It was not possible to respond to one and all but whenever he did that, he would try to thank everybody he could remember. Sometimes he dedicated his success to his teachers and sometimes to his parents; sometimes he remembered the grace of his family god and sometimes he gratefully remembered the help received from his friends.

Maganlal had all such qualities that one would like to ascribe to an intelligent teenager. Such a sharp boy he was, whatever he read once, he would remember that easily. If anybody asked him to reproduce that even a month later, he used to do that effortlessly and in exact sequence. Say, like a photocopier! There were topics which really needed one’s skill to mug up and for Maganlal it needed just two or three rounds of reading at the maximum to internalise the contents. Yet there were many subjects that did not strictly demand skill of mugging up and Maganlal devised his own mnemonics to reduce the lessons into bare minimum points to mug them up. Science and mathematics did not need such cumbersome processes at all but only the faculty to understand them. Maganlal was not deficient in it; he not only understood them fully but also was instrumental in making his friends understand them with ease. That was the reason why all his friends loved him so much.

His matriculation now over, the next big thing to come in his career was his college education. Madanlal’s father said, ‘No problem, he can study for a year more. Thereafter he’ll be eighteen and eligible to take up a job. Then he can leave his studies and join it.’

In fact Maganlal’s father was desperately waiting to see his son employed. His financial condition was simply deplorable. Anybody could have marked that from the dress Maganlal wore to his school. The family was in near starvation, so much so that sometimes they had barely enough for a single meal. Maganlal’s parents had all their hopes concentrated on the employment of the boy which was yet to come and they were waiting for the day when the family would be simply adequately fed.

It was true that Maganlal needed an urgent employment for reason of his family’s destitution, but where was a job to join? And that, too, so quickly? There was, of course, an organisation that was so very easy to join if the applicant was as talented as Maganlal. And the organisation was none other than the Department of Posts. It had no such long-drawn recruitment processes of examination, interview and so on before giving appointment to a postal assistant. The only requirement was the score in matriculation examination. Maganlal had more than enough score in his matriculation exam to qualify for the employment. And he was selected. As soon as he was selected, he proceeded on training for six months and then became a full-fledged postal assistant. His entry in the department came to be a process as simple as that!

At the outset, the work of a postal assistant was to Maganlal’s liking. In a family where there was constant shortage of food, a steady source of monthly income brought them a great relief. It could be literally said that the family got a fresh lease of life. And while Maganlal worked, his friends continued their studies. For a period of four to five years, he could not realise that he was losing something in the process, but as all his friends got jobs one by one as executives in different organisations, he suddenly felt uncomfortable. He felt that he had been left behind in the race and it was not possible in the present life to catch up with his friends. Self-pity bothering him as such, whenever he got some free time, he started brooding over the matter, ‘Now those of my friends who had scored marks far less than me are now miles away from me. At the end of the day, it’s me alone who is left behind, to endure the curse of a low-paid employment—as a mere postal assistant!’

In a post office everybody has to work to finish his or her daily workload and that is the norm. So, who can dream of free time here? Nevertheless Maganlal thought of improving his lot by exploring the possibility of promotions by writing departmental examinations. But then, after doing the day’s work, where was the interest left in him to do all that extra? Really he used to get tired, tired to the hilt, like a tired buffalo chewing the cud.

There was another reason, though, behind Maganlal’s diffidence. Now he was married and a father of two. If father would apply himself to his own studies, who was there to take care of the homework of his children? Maganlal’s wife used to pose the same question but in a rhetorical fashion, ‘If a father with a score of ninety-three per cent will not teach the children then would it make any sense for a mother with thirty-five per cent score to do that job?’

Listening to her wife speaking like this, Maganlal used to feel happy for a while. ‘It matters little if no one in this world remembers my score as long as my wife Premamayi remembers this,’ he used to draw satisfaction out of her statement. From the beginning, he used to love her so much, and now when she had achieved the real glory of womanhood by giving birth to two cute boys, how would he dare to go against her wishes?

Anyhow he wrote the departmental examination for promotion to the cadre of inspectors, not once but thrice, and as ill luck would have it, he failed all the three occasions. None of his teenage talent blossomed at the time of his need. His lacklustre present stood in contrast with his glorious past. He was not aware of the agony that was to come in the wake of a failure in the examination. Now it was a blatant reality and it was no wonder that he grew crestfallen and disorientated. He became grumpy sometimes and went berserk at other. He was paranoid, schizophrenic and it pathetically affected his normal life. If he did not have a wife as dedicated as Premamayi, he would have committed unimaginable damage to himself. Most probably he would have even ended his life!

To get control over his disturbed mind the doctor prescribed powerful medication. He became dull and tame on being weaned away from his extreme tendencies. Now he did whatever his wife dictated. He helped his wife at home and sat teaching his children every morning and evening, silently and without any murmur.

Teaching others is not the same thing as reading oneself and remembering the lessons. Maganlal did not find those qualities in his sons that he himself possessed in his childhood. Off and on he remembered how he used to forget the pangs of hunger just by reading the stories out of his course books of literature. Siddharth the boy became Gautam Buddha the enlightened but in the process used to endure so much difficulty and such a lot of resistance—he would remember the story and the magic it contained that used to help him forget his hunger! But now what had gone wrong with his two sons, Balu and Virat? They were the two ancient duffers with hardly any interest to learn anything. Arithmetic was a far dream for them—howsoever Maganlal tried to explain it, they continued to cast only blank looks. And what about their handwriting? Oh god! Nobody could read it; even they themselves would stammer if they were challenged to read what they wrote!

Finally a grim realisation dawned on Maganlal that Balu and Virat would fail in their examinations. But such realisation was of no use to him. He had no quick fix to prevent the catastrophe. He arranged for private tuitions for them but no fruitful result was there to greet him. The situation grew worse as days passed; it was only open for despondency. Come to think of it, Maganlal had nurtured a wish that one day his sons would surpass him. If he could score ninety-three per cent in a state of perpetual hunger, his sons with all comforts available to them should do better than his father. But, alas, nothing of that sort really happened.

His wife Premamayi was not a bright student. When he would think about it, he was sure to be reminded of a proverb he was familiar with: Beauty and academic achievements are inversely proportional! And then his thought would wander but ultimately lead him to conclude that Balu and Virat sadly inherited the qualities of their mother. Despite such a firm conclusion, Maganlal was not in favour of perpetrating the torture on his beloved wife by disclosing what he used to secretly cogitate so very often. He was acutely aware of the fact that he had lost everything by now, except the love of his dear wife Premamayi. And he would ill afford to lose that now. He would try to veer his thinking the other way, one in which he would not have to find her fault at all.

The boys grew up. Lo! Both of them failed miserably in their matriculation examination. Maganlal had accepted the fact even before the misfortune befell him. Otherwise, what else could he have done? Was it any use to lament that thing day in, day out and suffer in the process? Would it have brought him any change to make the situation any better?

Before it was too late, the unfortunate father arranged part-time jobs for his sons in small shops and establishments. The boys had no inclination to work there. Otherwise, they were the same boys as were totally averse to work in agriculture, not as the two wage-earning labourers but in their own ancestral property. Then what other option was left before them? They became the aimless wanderers in the street with little inhibition that they continued to be burden on their father.

Nowadays nobody in the department was as unhappy as Maganlal. All of them had seen to it that their children got higher education, which brought them well-placed jobs as executives in various organisations of repute. India was a happening country by then; it had long become the IT hub, the outsourcing destination. Maganlal knew at least a dozen such doctors as were the sons and daughters of postal assistants like him. There were many who were quite vocal about the success of their sons and daughters. They used to say, ‘Look, Magan, my son earns so much in a month as would take our superintendent a year or even more than that to earn that amount.’ Maganlal used to cock an ear at all such statements of those satisfied fathers and used to be happy too. ‘Whoever may be successful here, it’s, after all, a matter of pride for all of us. He or she’s the fellow employee of postal department. Like our own people achieving success, we should celebrate all such news of success our way.’ He used to persuade himself in his way.

So far Maganlal used to think, ‘Post office is the burning pyre of all talents. There can be no two opinions about this. When I entered this place, I was a fellow with a whooping score of ninety-three per cent, but it took just a few years to turn me into a forgetful nincompoop, a mere unsuccessful candidate. After all, who made me such a worthless being?’ Such thought would lead him to a resolve, ‘Whatever comes, I’m not going to allow my sons to work in this department.’ As for him, it was not his private thought only; more often than not Maganlal used to think aloud and swear to this effect before his friends.

But what of today?

Today Maganlal got news that a vacancy of an extra-departmental mail carrier had cropped up in a nearby office. The post was one of part-time engagement, whose status was even less than a peon, the lowest paid government servant. And as for remuneration, it would bring only twelve hundred rupees per month. Be that as it may, Maganlal took leave for a day and headed for that office with Balu his son right away. When father and son duo reached there, the inspector was available in his office. The latter made them sit and listened to the purpose of their visit quite patiently. He already knew everything, including the dream that Maganlal had cherished about his sons. Especially he was aware that Maganlal was not in favour of seeking an employment for his sons in the Department of Posts. Despite everything what made him rush there?

‘Really? Is your son going to work in postal department? This means you’ve finally changed your mind, isn’t it?’ the inspector made an oblique statement that did not fail to hurt Maganlal.

‘What else can a boy who has failed in his matriculation exam do in life, inspector sahib?’ Maganlal replied with all humility at his command.

‘So, you’ve finally accepted what is your real worth, isn’t it?’ the inspector was yet to change the tone. However he happened to view the boy from an angle of compassion, nay of condescension. He observed that the boy had seen enough luxuries in life yet could be shaped into an obedient hand. After all, there was postal legacy behind him, and it was postal blood that mattered much in this case.

Turning his face towards Balu he said, ‘Come to join your work from tomorrow. And listen to me carefully, you’ve to come to my house every Sunday if you really wish to learn your work...and if you want to make your job a permanent one.’
Berhampur/ 15-08-2007

A N Nanda

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