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, August 28, 2006

The Specialist Gods

The other day while reading The Times of India, Bhubaneswar edition, dated 26/08/2006, I came across an interesting write-up. Its title ran something like this :

“When everything else fails, visit the ‘specialist Gods’”.

Mr Ketan Tanna, its contributor seems to have enjoyed writing this--at least as much as I enjoyed reading it. The report speaks of one Visa Balaji of Hyderabad who specializes in clearing all hurdles for the issuance of visa. Interesting!

Even yesterday there was a news item about US relaxing H1B visa for the Indians in a big way—by 25 percent from the current 80,000. I don’t know if the miracle can be traced to the blessings of Visa Balaji of Hyderabad.

The report goes further. Then it tells us about one more temple where special prasadam is offered to its goddess Jivantika. It is located near Rajkot in Gujarat and the special offerings are none but loads of pizzas and candies, chocolates and peppermint. Should be a lovely place for the children, and the teenagers!

The list does not end here. There is yet another interesting temple in Tamil Nadu as per the report. Seated at a distance of 220 Kilometer from Chennai, Sree Kulanjiappar, son of Lord Shiva receives written applications from his devotees to help them out of their litigations and marital disharmony. A bureaucratic formality, isn't it?

Now I am reminded of at least two such interesting religious spots of mundane import. One of them is located at Ryli of Amalapuram district in Andhra Pradesh and his area of specialization is transfer. Yes, he is known for helping government servants securing transfers to their places of choice!

The other one I’m reminded of is Parsanakadavu of Malabar coast where the devotees are treated as friends of the presiding deities. On arrival there, one is treated with a glass of tea and soaked gram. If you can linger over such introductory treat, you can take other meals of the day too. Usually people stay there for a darsan of gods at night. Lord Shiva and lord Vishnu, the two primeval gods from the holy trinity, appear bodily at night. Lord Siva is blindfolded and he is led by lord Vishnu. [They are human beings who acquire their godhood at night!] Both the gods bless their friendly devotees. Unlike other temples in India, dogs are allowed here, straight into inner circle, the sanctum sanctorum. You can even present a brass dog there.

Hold it a second—temples are not for gods alone; there are temples of film stars and politicians too. And they are mostly found in/reported from Tamil Nadu. So, the concept of living god is just not a figment of somebody’s imagination; it is real, as real as visa God or the god that receives written appeals!
A. N. Nanda


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Thirsty Gods

I never knew it while posting "In Favour of Mobile Phones" on August 20, 2006 that the reference to an old episode of lord Ganesh's drinking milk could be so coincidental. Lo and behold, the news is here, just two days after my bringing up the topic in my blog. This time lord Ganesh is not alone; other gods and goddesses have joined him.

Then comes the usual arguments: is it a science or a miracle?

Here's a link that narrates how an unbeliever turns a believer, seeing everything enacted to a challenge, under the focus of television cameras.

Milk sells drearer, at Rs. 30 per litre. People skip their morning necessity: a steaming cup of tea--no milk no tea. Newspapers go on to report that with puns and wits: "Milk for Deities, Not for Locals". Here's a link. The avalanche is comparable to the one that came in 1995. Here's is a link to refresh that.

Essential humour is not lost even this occasion, but there have been reports and reports and more reports. How it spread from north to south and from west to east, a newspaper updates it in detail, comparing this miracle with that of the waters of the Arabian Sea going sweet.

Now is the turn of scientists. They have come up with their scientific explanations: the theory of capillary action is at work. Very much like the ones they offered in 1995. But then who would believe that? Those who have not gone to school or gone and come back finding science too difficult a subject to pursue?

This frenzy can only be countered by light-hearted treatment. I got something interesting to read about in this link. Really, "no one wants to be a non-believer"!

But at the end of the day I would cast my vote in favour of a scientific explanation. Yes, after I had taken my quota of laughter from this episode.
A. N. Nanda

Sunday, August 20, 2006

In Favour of the Mobile Phones


‘Don’t receive a call to your mobile if it’s from a 12-digit number; it’ll detonate and blast your instrument. You may even die.’

‘Believe me, I’ve seen a victim in hospital. Please don’t use mobile at all.’

Thus warned our well-wishers and stopped we using the ubiquitous wonderful instrument of communication, the mobile phones. But then the rumour was very quick to die, almost as quick as it took its sensational birth and grew in strength and ferocity raising the fear of death, the thanatophobia.

Well, you do not always need a mobile phone to invent a rumour. I am reminded of something that happened in 1994—or maybe in 1995—much before we actually heard a thing about the cute instrument. One day I was travelling from Hazaribag to Ranchi and, when I was passing by the outskirt of my destination town, I saw a crowd building up on the road. My driver was an experienced fellow and he knew exactly what to do: he just sped the car. In a matter of 20 minutes or so—or maybe half an hour—I was home. There I was greeted by a group, hotly discussing something animated. A flurry of activities had already seized them, the ladies full of imagination and willingness to enjoy varieties in life and living. This time I did not avoid the crowd, rather I felt the urge to go nearer. As I approached them, I was invited animatedly to witness the action, participate in the deliberation, to marvel at things unfolding and perhaps not to question anything…

‘Strange! You don’t know it---lord Ganesh is drinking milk?’

‘Where and how?’

‘At Delhi, at Mumbai…and at Ranchi even. We’re also trying but Lord is not taking it from our hand.’

‘So what can be done? And why is Lord not taking milk from you…if he is taking from others?’

‘Because we’re giving milk not to the real Lord Ganesh, but to his photograph, a glass-framed calendar Ganesh…maybe our milk is not pure but pasteurised, homogenised…maybe Lord Ganesh loves milk from cow, only cow’s milk…’

Finally came the last word, the word of wisdom.

‘Lord will take milk from persons who are pious. Others may try, but then it depends…if you’re pious.’

True, Lord takes the offering from the pious, like Lord Jagannath took the coconut from Dāsiā, the Bāuri(the backward caste). (Someday I’ll tell the legend for the benefit of my non-Oriya readers.) Not that the Lord only takes the offerings from the pious; he/she also reciprocates by giving something, physically and sincerely, like the Goddess Ganga gave the gold bangle to saint Raidās, the cobbler.

Then the question is who on earth is not a pious fellow? Now, everybody agreed Lord Ganesh drank (sipped?) milk from him/her. Like everybody saw the kings magic cloth. It only took a child’s courage to blurt out: ‘the king is without a cloth even.’

And all these things happened in India when mobile phones were not in fashion, not even heard of.

The moral is here to read and reflect:

The mobile phones are just so much innocent!

[[Glossory: Lord Ganesh=the presiding diety of knowledge and wisdom and success;
Goddess Ganga=the river Ganges considered holy with an important place in Hindu pantheon;
Saint Raidās=The Middle Age devotional saint, reformer, poet;
Dāsiā, the Bāuri=One of the great devotee of Lord Jagannath. The lord took his coconut offering personally and physically whereas he did not even shake from His seat when the priest offered the same to Him withholding the name of the giver, Dāsiā, the Bāuri.]]
A Story by
A. N. Nanda

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Mirror On My Way


It all happened during last February.

Akbar Alley, a quaint little departmental store at Sayan, Mumbai is one of my favourite shopping venues. Especially for all those small knick-knacks like a shaving pouch or a pair of readymade pyjamas. I can't say it is a very expensive upmarket spot. The inside of the shopping does not have so much hustle and bustle whenever I have visited. And it has reasonable arrangement for car parking.

Its delivery desk is at its ground floor—or rather at its basement—where the average waiting time to get all your packets is just negligible. The day I visited the store last February, I had an occasion to stand near the delivery desk for some time. Reason: the ladies were still to finish their shopping whereas I had bought the lone item I required—my shaving pouch.

And I kept observing the desk personnel in action. He was not very busy and he had his own speed which was rhythmic and careful. He was contended and his voice was just sibilant.

Observing the relevant—I don’t believe I am so capable of it. Yet at that moment I felt the employee at the desk was doing something special, much different from what many of us would be doing. ‘Is he aware of that, should I tell him about that, here and now?’ I thought of it. I could not conclude.

‘Brother, you should be the most pious person in your establishment, in your life…, for you just give and give, and do nothing else,’ I just commented. It was unsolicited and had its elements of indiscretion and spontaneity.

There was a peculiar expression on his face, an expression of disbelief. Maybe he feared I was taunting him. But my words were from somewhere within, and my face just betrayed my sincerity. Maybe he thought it impossible for anybody to taunt him, for he did not deserve any.

But definitely he understood me; I posed just a harmless waylayer.

Then he came up with his response. It was even more sincere than mine, almost in a tone of self-effacement.

‘Sir, in my twenty years of service, you’re the first person to have said me so…’ he had perhaps more than this to tell, but he did not. He is not a man of many words. But his look, his face told me what more he had to say:

‘Sir, you are a different kind of person; try to maintain your difference as long as you can….’ ================================================================
A. N. Nanda


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Dying in Harness

[Writing short stories cannot be a child's play. I know that, especially when it does not allow the same poetic freedom to bungle grammar and collocation, to misplace syntax with impunity, and to start and end up abruptly leaving the rest to the readers. In poems every pause appears to be deliberate, every departure from collocation is seen to be on purpose. Flow of muse--that is all a poet needs to scrape ahead. In the name of poetic profundity and poetic licence, things can be taken to some extent. I know that.
So, when fiction is going to be a new area for me, let me do that stage by stage. The first stage should be one of hands-on, comprising easier materials like anecdotes, reminiscences, or even small clips that would read more like news than short fictions with oomph. Let me do that, the first one in the blog. By the way, it was also posted in my first blog a couple of months ago]
Death due to spurious liquor was the big news from a small village. For a month, this village alone gave news to the national dailies for six occasions. Youth and old alike, whoever consumed the poisonous beverage, fell prey to it.

Their deaths were, however, independent and curiously unspectacular. Despite their reporting in the media, they failed to trigger any mass emotion. Probably, more deaths were needed to outrage the public or evoke their sympathy.

Then one day something tragic happened in the same village. It was even more tragic than all the recent deaths in the village put together.

An old man died hours after consuming that methyl-rich liquor, and everybody in his family cried. They cursed their luck, but not so much the bootlegger or his macabre merchandise.

There was a spurt of activities: the widowed wife was made to shatter all her glass bangles and wipe the dab of vermilion off her forehead; the six-stick stretcher was prepared to carry the body to the cremation ground; the fuel wood bundles were transported to the ground and stacked into a bed where the old man would sleep his last….

The whole thing took four to five hours. At the end of these tiring chores, the kind neighbours who helped the family do whatever was to be done to the deceased, needed entertainment. Yes—the same old entertainment that makes death acceptable and forgettable.

‘Won’t you give us drinks, you the worthy son of the dead?’ the representative of the helpful neighbours asked the bereaved son.

‘But how can I? Isn’t it the same liquor that killed my father?’ the son replied politely, folding his hands and bending himself before the group.

‘Nothing doing. Six deaths in village and all the occasions went dry! You’re trying to be miser, boy! Like the others in the village. Who on earth can avoid this expenditure? Are you the son of the dead man or are you not?’ somebody among the group chose to tease the son.

‘Why should we be blaming liquor when Yama, the lord of Death does everything? All deaths are predetermined. It is preposterous to deny the cremation people this simple entertainment—a bottle of liquor, our good old country liquor,’ another person insisted.

And their critical stance worked. Liquor came to the cremation ground in crates. It was a case of self-service, a buffet in the lawn. Each had a bottle to himself and a bottle was enough to bring the result. The old man who died had not drunk even a whole bottle. He had also his fatigue to relieve by that magic beverage, the aqua vitae.
* *

The result in this case was no different. People from other village helped them in the mass cremation. The widow population of the village just increased by a dozen more.
A. N. Nanda


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Swell the Crowd

:So, you've written a book, created your blogs, presented some poems there. Then what next?

:My next? Um...I should've another book, now that I am experienced.

:Experienced? Ok, let it be so. What kind of book do you want to churn out now?

:No poetry, at least not for now. I should try something different, say some short stories.

:Are you sure anybody would read short stories...I mean your short stories?

:Forget that for a moment. I know that--nowadays people have no time for reading, but then stories are written and get published. So how does it matter if there is one more man in the crowd?

:No harm in trying. You may go ahead and swell the crowd.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A Halt For Humour

By now I’ve copied and pasted enough from my old book. I know monotony has already crept in. So I should remedy this by posting some goodies. Here goes my recipe of jokes, my original ones. Hope they’re up to a standard.

1. With your knowledge of English, you can solve an engineering problem:
If you want to construct it strong, then insert another 'l' and make a pillar stand. It will definitely be stronger than a 'pilar'.

2. Question: When a English ghost meets a Hindustani genie, how will they talk to each other?
Answer: Obviously, in Hinglish.

3. The word pregnant means 'carrying a baby'. See how a journalist uses the word:
The house was ablaze. Everyone was running helter skelter. The baby surrounded by the fierce fire was crying bitterly. The fireman rushed into the fire and came pregnant.

4. I know there is only one inanimate feminine object in English:
The ship will go on her first sail.
I don't know if she is married or a spinster.

5. Q: What is the difference between a doctor and a teacher?

A: A doctor prescribes whereas a teacher describes.
A. N. Nanda

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Small Is Beautiful

It's time to come back with a new post. And what should it be like? Oh yeah, I was talking about "In Harness", my first published work. I've already given two poems. I think one more post will do.

Okay, I'll post one more poem from that book. This I've chosen because my readers have all along liked it. Let me cite just one instance. I was once invited to a function to sit on the dais with other dignitaries. It was a function in an engineering college to inaugurate their internet centre. In time the gentleman who conducted the meeting called one professor to introduce the guests. He was a professor in English; so what better way would he have adopted to introduce me than reciting a stanza from my poem? I think he had got the copy of my book and read it for selecting a suitable stanza. And the poem I'm going to post here was his selection.

Besides, I have posted this one in my other blog and received a few comments. All my comments there have vanished during the last maintenance of that blog, but fortunately for me I have their e-mails. This is another reason why I thought I should also post this poem in this blog before moving on to other topics.

================================== =======
=================================== ======

I’m a discarded hawai chappal
Floating in the Bay of Bengal
Long forgotten and drifting in silence.

I’m an unsung hero,
No farewell arranged for me–and who bothers?
After a selfless sequence of tireless chores
Now I’m tired and hence retired
It’s about the time I go, perhaps.

I gave constant company
To my master in all his journey
To the seashore, to his bath
To the jungle on the uncharted path
He made me go, so I went along.

When in queue for his cooking gas
In a scorching sun waiting for hours
Or before an officer bribe-loving
Frightened, fold handed, ignominiously bowing
He kept me afoot, a confidence kit.

Among the less equals while browbeating them
Or in deep embrace of his beauty, the undressed
Searching his lost coin crawling under the cot
Or kicking the dung-heap on his enemy’s face
I was his strength, a willing friend.

Alas! It was my love unrequited
I was denied this little privilege
To enter a temple with him,
Left at the gate sobbing and silent
For those gasping moments of a life wasted.

The God in temple, the God in heart
The God of the sky or the God on the earth
The God at bar or the God with whore
The God in garbage or the God at slaughter
Isn’t He the one and the same!

Then why did he hide his God esteemed
So stealthily away from me?
Why, then, was this punishment for me?
Am I not a soul innocent?
And should he not repent that?

Gracefully—maybe by mistake
He has chosen to bury me in the ocean
Where priceless jewels dwell and mermaids flock around,
Where dragons scare the devils to frightfully abandon
Their buccaneering plots and unholy missions.

For years million the multicoloured corals here
Make the rocks smile in self-fulfilment,
Where in days of yore in the tug-of-war
The gods duped the demons in a game unfair
Just for a few drops of godlike nectar.

Now I have no regret;
Rest of my days will pass this way
Beneath the starlit sky, amidst the mermaids;
The dragons and vampires will lull me to sleep
When I am tired beyond my fatigue.

While sleeping for good not to wake up again
I’ll chant the psalm of a meaningful existence
Into the depth of cosmos, unto the sublime vacuum.

*Chappal=one out of a pair of rubber slippers