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, October 30, 2006

The Game of Self-perpetuation

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Here stands a huge rock aged about a few million years. Flows down it a gurgling stream, reverberating the adjoining knoll and its sylvan environs. Stands upon the primordial rock a majestic peepal with its rootlets spreading into the stony pores, proclaiming its century-old association with the rocky habitat.

The rock is itself scribbled and disfigured with names written in red and yellow enamels. It reads “P + J” and then is expanded into “Peter + Jasmine” or “Prasant + Jahnavi” or “Pervaiz + Jamila” or something as inconspicuous as that. Who are they, the P+J? It matters a little so long as the passers by can read their names and their lurid insignificance, their ambition for eternity, and their ridiculous self-advertisement...

Sure, they are not the deathless rock, nor the majestic peepal. They are only the humans!

And their act is cold-blooded. The most self-revered P+J who came near the rock for their picnic must have brought with them a tin of enamel paint and a few brushes. They must have gone about their plan of ravaging its beauty compunctionless. So what do we call them? The cold-blooded promoters who can promote themselves at the cost of others or the misguided artists that force those visual breaks on the monotonous?

So, do they want to keep a record of their visit to the spot? Like the track of a snail on the branch of a Jatropha? As if nobody on the earth is taking a note of their good deeds? So smarting are they under a feeling of neglect!

Now to end this ramble, let me ask a question to myself: Is earth the only place where humans live? If the answer is no then the humans elsewhere in the universe should be quite unlike us with a different set of motivation, and a different set of goals!
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By
A. N. Nanda
Bhubaneswar//29=10=2006
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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Cleansing Thing

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Sometimes I ask myself: would I handle my new job with the same feeling of satisfaction I derive from my present calling, if I were to work as a sweeper?

Maybe I’d. It’s a hypothetical question though.

India is a strange country with weird social mores—people who clean are considered themselves unclean. It is considered to be a job of indignity. Of course, Gandhiji used to emphasize the dignity of labour; but attitudes have not greatly changed. History continues to rule our minds with all its infamy!

Only yesterday I experienced something illuminating at the homeopath’s.

It was eleven o’ clock in the forenoon when I reached there. The doctor had already arrived, but not started his work. I saw him sweeping the floor of his cramped clinic. There was hardly any space to call it floor, yet he did a good job. Presently, a lady came for doing the mopping and, before being asked, I shifted to a corner to allow her doing her job. It was inconvenient; nevertheless I co-operated. The doctor noted this with approbation.

‘Sir, I’ll tell you a small event in my life—how my father once praised me for a good reason,’ the doctor happily opened the talk. I could feel he had a feeling of elation recollecting the happy memory of his dead father.

A father praising a son for a good reason? On other occasion I would have just glossed over a statement like this, but now the mood was different. His tone, the expression in his face made me attentive. I had no doubt that the gentleman would be narrating something useful, straight from his heart.

‘Once I was voluntarily sweeping my father’s clinic at this spot, some thirty years ago. Somebody affectionate present then began to discourage me as if I was doing something sacrilegious, but my father encouraged me to continue,’ the doctor took a pause.

‘So, your dad must have done that for a reason,’ I meant buttressing him.

‘Yes, you’re right, sir. My father had a reason. He said by doing this supposedly small work I was unknowingly sweeping the dust that came from, maybe, some great men’s feet. And I keep doing this as a pious work to start my day’s routine.’

It was something really profound that I heard from the gentleman homeopath. Agreed, he earns his livelihood selling those placebos, yet he is a person of spiritual realization. I was reminded of the gestures people in India show while approaching a highway. It is a usual scene to find them taking dabs of dust from the road to put them on, on their forehead before setting their feet on a highway. What does this imply? And what does this accentuate? All roads lead to god’s abode and holy is the road that great men and women tread on, on their way to spiritual attainments.

Today is Diwali, the festival of lights. India will burn tonnes of crackers and streets will be full of scraps of paper and burnt chemicals. Tomorrow, only a few cleaning personnel will perspire to make streets clean.

Nothing has changed since the days of yore. There are still more people to make things dirty than those who sweep them clean.
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By
A. N. Nanda
Bhubaneswar
21/10/2006
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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Rambling About the Snail

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Last week I was required to churn out a write-up for a souvenir which was being readied for release on the occasion of a state level philatelic exhibition. An accustomed user of net and e-mail, I could not have posed as the real well-wisher of the group, for I hardly write letters these days. But then I had a task at hand--to write, putting myself in the shoe of somebody who could be a well-wisher unto them, who still loved to write and wait for epistles, and who longed for the olden days of written communication to return.... I attempted something which was eventually published and I have reports that people liked my write-up. Let it be there in my blog too.
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One of the current additions to English vocabulary is the word “snail” or more clearly “snail mail”. Oxford Advanced Dictionary categorises it as a humorous word and goes on to define it as follows:

[…an expression] “used especially by people who use e-mail on computers to describe the system of sending letters by ordinary mail”.

And as per the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, the word originated sometime during 1980-1985. Not quite old—everything is in our living memory!

Let us listen to those hard core in the virtual world what they have to say. Oh, they are unsparing! They go on to discourage the practice of writing letters to an extent that they think writing one’s postal address as the header of any electronic communication is a wastage of bandwidth!

If speed is the only criterion of communication, then what the netizens believe about postal system is true. Letters do reach later than e-mails. (Mails killed by spam killers are exceptions.)
Now a question follows from it: in matter of communication, do we need speed and speed alone? Doesn’t content play any role here? Imagine a nicely written letter and the feeling it expresses. Let me draw a parallel. There is a range of terrific software for imaging these days. So, should painters to leave paintings on canvas and go over to electronic creation of their arts? Are collectors to stop collecting such paintings paying whooping sums in the auction house at Sothebey’s because electronic imaging has arrived?

Here the argument goes to stress the romantic aspect of letter writing. Maybe one feels it quite outmoded in the present commercial age to think of writing letters just for the sake of churning out emotions. Lo, emotions are not to be expressed; they are to be stifled, if could not be articulated! No need to appeal through a letter to forget misunderstanding, to pray for help at the time of need, to thank for the favours shown, to convey the depth of longings in separation, to share the joy of success…. There is no need—humans have really changed!

Then, is chasing of commercial goals the only purpose of life? Don’t we hear many nice words of philanthropy even today? Such as from rich fellows like Bill Gates? In other words, the so-called romantic things have still their place in life. Love letter, evocative poetry for instance. Who doesn’t like to preserve his or her first love letter? Who doesn’t want to feel the pleasure of stroking one’s collections that have past inscribed on them? Why the collectors place premiums on a memorabilia like a love letter of Marilyn Monroe or Elvis Presley?

Let us consider another aspect, the inspirational or the emotional side of the stories of success. Life’s achievements are not to be rejected as events of quotidian insignificance. They are to be relived again and again for making a life worth lived. Successful people in all ages like to announce proudly, how they reach from rags to riches. So, what can be a better way to relive the past than going through a bunch of letters or a stack of private diaries? Or even a few albumful of photographs? What can give that intimate feeling if they are not letters full of ambitions, resolve and hope? Handwriting accentuating care, courtesy, and self-discipline? Themes redolent of times that have been vanquished and brought to their knees?

Some would love to argue: letter writing is a thing of the past. And they have those all-pervading cell phones in their mind when they say so. Like the recent issue of the India Today (October 2, 2006 issue). While enumerating thirty fade-outs under caption “Gone With the Wind”, it has this to say about the love letters:

Scented, poetically-driven letters, sometimes stained in blood, usually the best way to express emotions.
Replacemet: Instant messaging. Dte 2nite?

It also says the same thing about the inkpens which have been replaced by ballpoint pens, Amar Chitra Katha replaced by Harry Potter, and so on. I wonder how these conclusions have been derived. On the one hand it is stressed that writing—or for that matter writing of love letter—is out of fashion, and on the other hand, it goes on to say that ballpoint pens have replaced inkpens. What these ballpoint pens are for if they are not for writing, and is there any reason why people should sign only the cheques using the ballpoint pens and not write their love letters using that?

Sometime back there was a move by the producers of greeting cards to project that greeting seniors by SMS constitutes bad manners. They did not pursue and the result achieved by this move is as unspectacular as the half-hearted efforts behind it. But nevertheless it underscored a point: not all uses of mobile phones are to be accepted without question. Does it not remind you of a reckless rider on a crowded road receiving calls in their mobiles while speeding at above 40 kmph? How do people tolerate the corruption of English through such anti-lingual trends? Like IMO=in my opinion; IMHO=in my humble opinion; jus4dat=just for that; and so on.

One thing is worth considering: people write letters to discharge their social obligation, say to congratulate, to wish, to inform, etceteras. All these are formal and the matter ceases with just wishing. Mobile phones can do that. But think of a situation where a letter is just the beginning of a long process of expenditure, and of obligations propelled by the force of tradition-bound social system. In other words, nuclear families are less likely to write letters than their joint family counterparts. So self-contained they are! Not to write a letter is economically less taxing. Love and affection is limited to the immediate family members; and dependence is so very unfashionable? So why write letters and invite burden? Medical insurance, life insurance will take care of unforeseen situations; club will take care of urge for sharing and social togetherness. Where is the space for relations? And where is the need for letters?

If writing a letter to the familiars is not the preferred choice of this self-contained generation, then what about writing to unknown or less known? Yes, I am talking about pen pals, or the penfriends. The desire to make friendship is but human and sharing with somebody sitting at a distance has a charm of its own. ‘Look my friends are not only from my street or town. I’ve friendship with people living in the other side of the globe.’ ‘Look my friend has got an X-Box 360 already, but here in India we’ve to wait for some more days to get it.’ ‘Look, my penfriend is so lucky; she has a turtle, a cat, a puppy, but my mom doesn’t allow me to have a pet even.’ It’s not exactly bragging, but an expression of a bolstered feeling born out of pen friendship.

Pen pal or key pal? Why write letters and make penfriends and why not key in your feeling and make key pals. Chat anything and everything; nobody is stopping you. Add a web camera and see each other. Click ‘go private’ menu (and pay through your cards) and see (and show) more of you. Why write letters then?

The real question is whether you know writing a letter or not. If the answer is ‘yes’, then you would know what writing gives which chatting fails to. All through the ages illiterates have not written letters and post offices have thrived, letters have not gone out of sight. And now we have these SMS-savy illiterates (should I say signiterates?), and post offices will survive along with their bundles of letters. Remember: Your friend is waiting for your letter; it is for you to write or not. Even there are people waiting for your letters, sitting behind bars! For details, you may visit the website Friends4Lifers.com.

Letters have created wonders. An illustrious father writing letters to her daughter and infusing in her the best of human values and characters—yes, I am talking of our beloved Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru and his immortal letters to another Prime minister in making, Indira Gandhi, the child, suffering the pangs of separation! Can you beat it? Can any SMS create a prime minister material? Judge it. Think if you can write a letter. Decide if you have not forgotten all the alphabets!
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By
A. N. Nanda
Rourkela/14=10=2006
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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Clods of Earth

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Concrete creates structures of convenience
Tearing down the old landmarks
Oblivion sets in all of a sudden
And we grope for our old tracks.

The old banyan on the route
That told us to take a turn and go homeward
Where is now its endearing presence?
And where are its shining branches?

For decades it just did one thing:
It assured everyone that the world is fine
Now the world has itself changed, all of a sudden
And it is all for concrete convenience.

Humans like me will often lose their way
In chase of the painted milestones
There won’t be a minute’s halt henceforth
Under the soothing shade of the ancient tree.

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*PS- The poem is dedicated to the souls of inumerable trees felled to widen National Highways in India. May their souls rest in peace.

By
A. N. Nanda
Bhubaneswar
08/10/2006
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Friday, October 06, 2006

The Poetic Identity

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Are poets crazy?

Often one gets to hear about that. Don’t they think more than they talk, all the time brooding over something inexplicable, something weird? Don’t they talk about matters we all think of but don’t disclose, something trivial and irrelevant? Don’t they chase people to listen to them, understand their arcane and esoteric stuff?

A poet’s wife thinks she is a neglected fellow when her husband loves her poetry with all the passion at his command. Even if he composes one ballad to immortalize his love towards his darling wife, he is misunderstood. As if he had another girl behind his composition to inspire and express.

A poet’s husband is no better placed. He starves for attention, listening all the time to her high ideas and formatted expressions. One day he finds himself transformed as an object of her wife’s poetic experimentation--a guinea pig in her poetic lab! He cannot be rude and cannot speak his mind out how profoundly he hates her poetic blabbering!

A poet thinks he should transcend the level of banality. He should tell something which is the truth undiscovered, seen and felt by the poet alone. He challenges his detractors, the critics. He is misunderstood by the men on the street.

A poet tries to define indefinable. What is beauty? What is life? What is love? What is time? And so on and so forth. Does he reach the truth ? Arrive at his conclusion? Yes, mostly he does. Like time is something that takes us from event to event; love is something that is volunteered, accepted and returned. Like an economist defining money: Money is what money does.

Poets trace the route to the ultimate. Love leads to life; life leads to struggle; struggle leads to realization; realization leads to the truth; truth leads to blithe; blithe leads to…. Can we reach the beginning of a circle, or its end?

Are poets crazy? One has to be either crazy or a poet to answer that. Or maybe contest that. I cannot admit I’m crazy and the world would need proof to admit me as a poet. So why this blabbering?
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A. N. Nanda
Bhubaneswar
01/10/2006
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Monday, October 02, 2006

A Gandhian Dussera

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This year Dussera and Gandhi Jayanti are on the same day. The latter is a national holiday meant for celebrating the birthday of the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi. In deference to the philosophy of the father of the nation, we have a day’s ban on the sale of liquor. Besides, there is no sale of meat today, just to promote Gandhiji’s belief in non-violence.

Dussera is the day to commemorate the victory of good over evil. It was on this day in some mythological aeon that goddess Durga killed the demon named Mahisasur and made the universe a safer place for gods and humans to live. In a way, when we celebrate Dussera, we remember, nay glorify how violence helped goddess stop violence. Quite un-Gandhian at that! There are temples even nowadays where the goddess is offered animal sacrifices, despite the spurt of public opinion against this. People take non-vegetarian food on this day and this is considered to be in conformity with the religious norms. At least this is what is prevalent in my part of India.


So, there is something ideologically contrasting about the coincidence—a saintly message of non-violence brought face to face with the divine symbol of violence. Then how people would reconcile this?

Let me just look around for the ground reality, say what is actually happening here today. Very few are more than casually aware of Gandhi Jayanti today and many, especially the chaps working as government servants, smart under their loss of a day’s holiday. Normally they would have got two day’s holidays had these two occasions came separately—Gandhi Jayanti on the October 2 and Dussera a day later.


It shows Dussera is higher in importance than Gandhi Jayanti, for the former is a religio-social function and the latter an official. Gandhi Jayanti would not give an occasion for new dress, delicious food, and familial togetherness like the other festival. Even politicians, always eager to talk to people, will come and participate in the incineration of the effigy of the demon king Ravan that will burst with dazzling fireworks. Come evening a politician, preferably a cabinet minister or the chief minister will do that in my locality to the merriment of the teeming crowd.

Lage Raho Munna Bhai is a film which shows that the world would treat you as a mad fellow if you practise Gandhism (Gandhigiri). Or, conversely, you have to be a crazy fellow to follow the tenets of Gandhiji. You may win victory after a long struggle, but that is immaterial.

So, where is time to relive Gandhi’s memory? And that too when the occasion falls on an important day like Dussera?
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A. N. Nanda
Bhubaneswar=02/10/2006

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