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.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Multi-tasking and Giggle

A visit to an airport and how can it be interesting? Does it not remind you of those traffic hold-ups en route, the ear-splitting horns of the automobiles blaring straight into your earholes? The barricades at the entrance and scrutiny of the intimidating cops? The delay announcements and the packed waiting lobby?

Yes, it can be interesting, sometimes…if you’re there to receive somebody you love to, if you’ve a company that knows how to tell only things interesting, and if you’ve an eye for things happening around for your grand entertainment!

Last Monday I had an occasion like that and I thought of reserving a whole day for the lone task of receiving our much-awaited guest at the airport. It was my abundant precaution, nay the superfluity of time at my disposal that made me start for the airport sufficiently early, say an hour and half in advance. Despite the traffic, the drive took only a quarter of an hour, and before I could know, I was standing in front of the counter to buy the entry tickets for both of us—me and my daughter.

‘How much is the entry free for both of us? I mean for an hour’s entry?’ I’d taken care that my lips gave out some warmth for the benefit of the person sitting tight behind the glass panel.

‘It’s thirty bucks for a person for three hours,’ the counter fellow said matter-of-factly.

‘Ok. Can’t I have an entry for an hour only…paying ten bucks?’ now my words were mixed with a smile that was broader and happier.

‘No, it has to be for three hours,’ the grumpy-looking counter fellow had quivered his lips. He was half smiling.

‘Then we’re two of us. Would you not permit us for one and half hour with one ticket?’ I said.

‘I see what you mean. You want me to sell half a balloon!’

And now we both laughed mirthfully with the entry tickets in my hand and the cash worth sixty bucks in his.

Then we entered the airport lobby. It was cool and comfortable with plenty of chairs welcoming us. We searched for vantage seats. The flight would take another three-quarter of an hour to arrive.

We chose the best seats available that afforded us a kind of grandstand view. A person was standing in front at a distance enjoying his coffee. He was extremely slow and aeons seemed to pass between his swigs.

‘Do you know why this man is so slow handling his coffee,’ I asked my daughter to guess. She knew what I meant: I was not keen to listen to her reply; I was just asking for her attention, her curiosity. And she promptly granted me that.

‘Why is he so slow? Is he thinking of something or what?’

‘Look, it’s pure economics. Coffee is twice expensive in the airport and he should get twice the value for his money, by stretching his swigs,’ I said expecting her to give my reward with a mirthful laughter. And we both laughed at somebody’s expense, who was not in the hearing distance!

Then it was time for chewing gum. I hate chewing gum…don’t know why people chew that for hours just to throw them. But now it was a different occasion and I was in a different mood. Breaking into the self-imposed domain of don’ts, I gladly accepted a piece from my daughter. As I started chewing it she insisted I should keep the aluminum foil with me.

‘But for what use?’ I enquired.

‘It’s for wrapping the gum that you’re going to spit out. This is etiquette, Dad. You should remember that,’ she gave a condescending smile. I enjoyed that. After all, learning etiquette could not have been easier.

A beautiful girl just passed in front of us. She was a modern girl, an educated girl with economy in her make-up, and confidence in her manners. But she was doing a manoeuvre worth noting.

She had a laptop hanging low from her left shoulder. I don’t know why the straps should be so long as to interfere with one’s free movement of legs. She was coming with two mugs of coffee filled to their brims. And she had a cell phone held tight between her inclined head and shrugged-up right shoulder. Quite a modern posture at that!

She was careful not to spill even a drop of her expensive coffee, the same material we saw somebody drinking measuredly prolonging his gaps between his swigs. She was receiving a call…and nowadays with cost of mobile usage going down so drastically, who cares for the age-old brevity on phones? She was doing everything perfectly: keeping happy the caller, secured the laptop, and well-served the one for whom she was carrying a coffee mug filled to its brim.

Yes, it was an example of multi-tasking. I could not giggle now, for things so common never get a laugh. And I waited on to find something even more interesting….
A. N. Nanda

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Innocently Yours

In the seventies of the last century, India became self-sufficient in foodstuffs on the wake of the Green Revolution. The grain markets overflowed with piles of wheat and the government kept building up its buffer stocks to ensure food security. “From begging bowl to breadbasket”, the nation traversed a long distance to emerge victorious in its war on hunger.

To a large extent that was true, but at the same time, the revolution was only an all-wheat affair. For the rice-eaters, the benefit meant nothing.

That is the backdrop of my story.

Age of plenty had finally dawned. Now the rice-eaters discovered on their plates a new thing called wheat. It was introduced rather suddenly through those fair price shops of the public distribution system.

Some started chewing the grain like they would munch peanuts; some took the pains to get flour out of the grains but did only the nominal kneading before actually gulping the stuff. Some even fried and roasted their quota.

But wheat was no substitute of rice and a sense of destitution ever haunted the poor rural folk. ‘What is this stuff—one remains still hungry even after eating whole load of that!’ Some would rather remain unfed for a day than eat the alien stuff called wheat! They would rather slog for a day if somebody gave them a kilo of rice than accept free a quintal of those insipid grains called wheat!

The womenfolk in the rice-eating rural households, too, had their tales of woes to tell. They were not cut out for kneading wheat for the entire household; it was so painful a chore. There were conjugal fights, sulking—all in the name of wheat.

However, the urbanites were quick to accept it.

One day an old woman visited her son’s place in the town where he was staying with his family near his workplace. The dowager was a rich fellow from countryside who had mounds of paddy in her granary, herds of cattle in her shed. She had a successful grain-lending business too. On the whole, she was contended and she took pride that her son was an officer living in the town enjoying a life of comfort.

In the evening when the dinner was served, the old lady came to join her son and grandchildren. She was expecting something delicious from her daughter-in-law.

She took a quick look at the plate. Oh no, something was amiss. For a moment she was not sure about it. Then she located the odd man out—it was a stack of chapattis, the unmistakable sign of poverty.

She started brooding over it. Where was the big point in her sitting over the heap of money when her own children were starving? The old woman could not help crying an agonized cry:

‘I never knew, my son, you’ve become so poor. You don’t even have rice at your place to feed your children!’
A story by
A. N. Nanda

Friday, September 22, 2006

Text of Innocence


Scientific Rain
******* *******
‘Right then, tell me how it rains. Aren’t clouds the vapours formed out of the smoke that escapes a pond, a river, the oceans, and the cooking pots that boil rice?’

‘Hmm…smoke and water vapours are not the same, but then in a way you’re right. The so-called smoke that billows out of the water bodies does form the clouds and when they condense and fall, we call them rain. That’s okay. Now tell me how does your sacred fire stoked up with wood and ghee produce rain?’

‘Simple, it’s the same way vapour brings you the rain. As we consign wood and ghee to the sacred fire we get smoke, right? And the smoke that escapes fire along with the special power of hymns forms the cloud, which in turn gives the rain. It’s as simple as that. Our forefathers in Vedic age knew what your modern science now claims to be its own discovery. They knew many more things like this. You people now borrow from our old scriptures in the name of inventions and glorify yourselves.’

‘Say for instance…what is that the scientists borrowed from your scriptures? Try if you can name at least one thing interesting.’

‘Aeroplane, my dear. It’s aeroplane that Wright Brothers had imitated from Ravana’s Puspak aircraft. Haven't you read the Ramayan? Go and read scriptures to learn many more examples. You'll find in our scriptures the references to mobile phones, computers, missiles, blackberries, ipods, gameboys, camcorders, X-boxes--almost every gizmo and every swanky contraption!’

Skimmed Water
When the multi-purpose hydel project was completed with the construction of a dam, a powerhouse, a reservoir and a system of distributary canals, not all people were happy. In this case, the unhappiness was not fomented by environmental activists; rather it was spontaneous, born out of those genuine apprehensions of people affected.

At the downstream delta the advent of an assured source of irrigation did not make anybody happy. That an era of agricultural prosperity had already arrived was not entirely unknown to them, but there was a big doubt. And soon they voiced that.

And what was their doubt?

‘Of what great help is this water? It’ll be totally useless for our crops.’

‘But why? What is wrong with it?’

‘There is. Will this water, discharged from the powerhouses, retain any potency to do any good to our firms? We know all its essence will be skimmed as electricity before it’s discharged to us for irrigation here. Oh, we’re being taken for a ride!’
Iron Ladies
The city became prosperous with an integrated steel plant, a host of ancillary units, good roads, planned housing and other community facilities. The population became composite and cosmopolitan. And the most remarkable thing about it was the visibility of the progress of womankind.

The ladies with their fashionable make-ups were found on the road riding two-wheelers, moving in convivial company shoulder to shoulder with manfolks. Certainly they, as a group, ranked more advanced, more fashionable, and finally more buxom than their counterparts inhabiting the other cities of the state.

Not that man folk in the town were unaware of this speciality of their women—they also knew its secret. And on this they were unanimous too. If you had asked anybody from them about this, you would get his elaborate response, something like this:

‘Look, ladies need more of iron than men do, right? When they’re in the family way, doctors advise them to take plenty of iron capsules. So why would they not flourish in this city? Isn’t it a city of iron and steel? What I mean is they get sufficient iron from the water they drink and the air they inhale. They make them healthy. It’s as simple as that.’

However, male folks here have never ever tried to chew iron ores to become robust, because they know what works for women would not work for men! No way!
A. N. Nanda

Sunday, September 17, 2006

An Accurate Prediction

A man got three sons, born to him as triplets amidst lots of doubts if they would really survive. While doctors and nurses did their job, the astrologer was not to be left behind. He handed out a set of wonderful predictions about the boys.

The predictions said the first one would be a person of helpful disposition. He would do something that would bring help to people at their fingertips.

The second one was predicted to be a very powerful person in his life, one that would make even running people stop moving an inch just by showing his hand. So powerful would he grow up to!

And the third boy got the nastiest kind of prediction. He would be cutting throats of people with their relations around crying swollen-faced. He would do that without any compunction.

In time the predictions came true.

And now you have in the family a software professional who writes “Help Menue” at Oracle Corporation; a traffic policeman who manages the maddening crowd of the central square of the town successfully; and finally a doctor who performs autopsies day in day out at the state forensic institute.
A. N. Nanda

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Prediction Therapy


The first lesson of Prediction Therapy begins with an internalisation of an array of tested and tried statements. They are the ones that cannot be challenged, that are always correct and universally applicable. They are correct both heuristically and statistically. In my blog I may enumerate a few.

Statement 1:

‘Sir, you’re basically a peace-loving individual, but then there are some who do not allow you to remain in peace. They envy you, curse you—but whatever they do, they do it at your back.

‘Take it from me—they would not be able to do any harm to you.’

Statement 2:

‘In your life you keep getting some good support from an unknown source, say a friendly individual or a well-wisher. He (you may change it to “she” if you’re predicting it for a young man) loves to remain incognito, he(she) believes that it would be a bad reflection on his (her) sincerity if he (she) tells that in public.

‘But rest assured, the influence will always be there.’

Statement 3:

‘Your mother had prayed god for your recovery in the childhood (when you’re just a baby, a toddler) and had promised god something. She had completely forgotten it. Minor difficulties keep coming in you life for this small slip on her part.

‘But keep this secret from everybody. You, as her worthy offspring, can fulfil this your way. Just offer a simple prayer to god for seven (make it 15, 30, 45 or as you deem fit) and everything will look up. Don’t remind your mother (or your father in case mother is dead) and make her feel guilty. This might aggravate the consequence on you.’

Statement 4:

‘Your wife is very good at heart. All good things in your life happen for her good deeds, silent prayers. (Don’t change it to “Your husband is a very good person at heart…” if you are to predict it for a lady. Don’t you’ve the common sense that husbands are responsible for all the worries of wives?”)

‘Henceforward whenever you go out, make a habit to drink a glass of water as served by her; this will minimize the hassle for you.’ (If you’re predicting for a foreigner tell “Kiss her before leaving house”.)

Statement 5:

If you are predicting a forty-plus north Indian male or even an east Indian (restrict it to Hindi-speaking or Hindi-knowing clients, for “Jai Santoshi Mata” film was only restricted to Hindi belt), try this:

‘Your wife used to worship Santoshi Mata (Goddess Santoshi), but she had left it. Nothing wrong would happen by this, but then, a puja (worship) is a puja and you have only blessing to gain if she restarts it.’

Statement 6:

‘You get a dream quite frequently and wonder what it is and how it shapes. Sometimes—why sometimes; it is most of the times—you forget the contents early in the morning. Then you feel unhappy, giddy or as if you’ve lost something.

‘That has something to do with your previous birth, you know. In your previous birth a very close friend of yours died in front of you. That was a very sad moment and I know you will carry this for next two or three births.

‘But then there is a remedy. (Tell it is of Chinese / Sumerian/ Red Indian origin). (Ask him to) Draw a triangle/hexagon/pentagon in a paper on a new moon night, away from the view of anybody. He may do it inside your bathroom, but make sure that nobody has a scent of it. Then as him to keep it below his pillow/bed. This will propitiate the soul of his friend in the earlier birth.’

Statement 7:

‘There are many occasions you have wondered how things so obviously nearer your reach just go away. And there are a few occasions—yes, only a few occasions—you feel so happy getting a thing so unexpected. This happens because of the balance/imbalance of your good luck over your bad luck. If it is positive, you succeed, and if it is negative you fail.

‘But don’t worry; luck can be boosted for the desired result. You may have some stone ring/ bird feather/ talisman/ ritual….’

So why delay? Keep trying a career in prediction therapy. After all, many are doing this. If Hritik Roshan can jump from a flying aeroplane and people pay to view it and believe it, why not your predictions? This can be perfected, for a commercial utilization.

Really I do not know if there is need of any licence for this and if so who issues it? Further, you may ask me: Do we have to pay service tax for this? Why bother—these are minor details; they can be checked, eventually.
A. N. Nanda


Friday, September 08, 2006

Why in English?

Some six months ago, I happened to get introduced to a great Oriya writer at an official function. How it exactly happened was something like this—a well-wisher of mine who was present there and who had her prior acquaintance with the writer laureate took that opportunity to introduce me to the dignitary. But then, she chose to present me as an author who has a book to his credit, which is written in English. Well, the question that followed then was just natural. Guess!

'Why do you write in English, not in Oriya?'

And what answer should have I offered to satisfy the dignitary? That English is an international language and writing in English is a passport to name and fame and money, and what not? Or should have I replied that I am comfortable writing in English?

'Well, like that...with no particular reason,' I prevaricated which was neither the answer the enquirer wanted to hear nor the answer I thought I should have offered.

All our work, whether it is in creative domain or in our day-to-day profession, tends to get mixed up. Howsoever we try to keep one immune from the vagaries and vicissitude of the other area, they just contaminate each other.

Then how can I write my files in English and fiction in Oriya? People say it is possible and some have even done that. But I am yet to try doing both simultaneously.

Had I replied that way, I was sure I would have invited another question: 'Tell me, how do you think—in Oriya or in English? I'm sure every Oriya thinks in Oriya and if he/she is writing in English he/she is only translating his/her thinking into a foreign (an alien?) language. Then, why do you cheat yourself?'

Well, a question like this would have become a leading question for me. Like, ‘Have you stopped pissing inside the swimming pool?’ Saying 'Yes' would have shown my past in bad light and saying 'No' would have made my present disreputable!

And then how could have I said it is possible even for an Oriya to both think and write in English?
A. N. Nanda

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Making a Language Immortal

It’s an innocent curiosity that comes to me again and again: why should our Gods listen to Sanskrit hymns only? Now that we know this particular language is dead how can we say gods understand only a language that’s dead? Isn’t devotion language-neutral? Aren’t our gods polyglots? Why should there be an official language for gods? Don’t we have enough of hassles at hand not being able to accept an official language?

Before I go anywhere near its answer, another question bothers me: how does Sanskrit continue to exist when nobody ever speaks this nowadays? There was a time I used to think that Sanskrit exists even to this day owing to its status as the most scoring subject in secondary school examination. Yes, it’s easy to score in nineties with a little bit of labour, or say mugging up a few pages from the help books. And I’ve done that for a result.

But parking a language in the school curriculum alone cannot be said to have ensured its survival. High school examinations are just the recent paraphernalia, nothing compared to the ancientness of Sanskrit.

Only the other day I came across its answer. The secret of the survival of Sanskrit lies in the richness of its contents—they are beyond obsolescence. Aren’t we increasingly validating the methods and medications handed down to us by Ayurveda? So, what is the medium of these treatises? The answer is Sanskrit. Anybody trying to get a grasp of this useful system has to learn Sanskrit.

Another example can be found in the philosophies expounded by our ancient seers. Beginning as oral traditions, they were eventually documented as Vedantas which were all written in Sanskrit. Agreed, translations bring the body of knowledge to us to some extent, but there is nothing like comprehending the philosophy in entirety by studying its originals. Say, an astrophysicist trying to understand origin of universe would like to go through that hymn in Rigveda that says universe came to existence from the primeval light that was in the midst of a vacuum, or the particular prayer verse of Isavasa Upanishad that says that an individual represents the fullness of the creation, a microcosm in the macrocosm.

Why to go that far? Isn’t the ancient Indian history largely based on Sanskrit treatises, like puranas? How to discover the common ancestry of Indo-European races if it is not through the study of etymology, and finding the linguistic affinities, like a “door” in English= a “dwer” in Russian=a “dwar” in Sanskrit, and so forth.

Now there’s a message here—languages that are content-rich has a better possibility of survival. The vernaculars can take cue from this. They should increase their contents—write their encyclopedia, technical literatures, experimental texts and so forth. They should adapt to the technological environment, say they should go online and have more of dictionaries, thesauri, wikipedia, and so forth. Only a few volumes of fiction will not help achieve the immortality of a language in the long run.
A.N. Nanda