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.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Future: The Biggest Killer

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It's good to ramble. Yes, it's better to be flippant than to be dull. Maybe this will help me produce content for my blog. Quality content through rambling? Could be possible. Sometimes smalltalks are more absorbing than topical discourses...
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Is knowing the future essential? Agreed, it is a lot of thrill to know things in advance when none else can achieve the feat. It's like spotting the first bud of rose before anybody around can…it's like peeping at a beautiful girl from a position she cannot spot you; nay it's like hiding oneself away from the track while the tiger approaches…

Aren't we all making a history of the present going all the way to future? Aren't all these preparations for achieving this small act?

A simple question often bothers me: Are all these good things that have happened to me the result of my efforts? No, not always. In fact, the real thrill comes out of the suddenness and inexplicability of the cause and effect, or the disconnectedness of the efforts and result. Similarly, do I really deserve all the frustrations and agonies that befall me off and on?

If god does everything, he is the same god who resides in the heart of a thief while he goes on thieving. Then why does the thief go to jail for something he has not done? A great soul has explained the dilemma. It is god who thieves, and having committed the theft, he alone goes to jail. The thief neither thieves nor goes to jail. The question still remains: Why should god do both the crime and the expiation? So perorates the great soul--it's god's way of showing the world that punishment follows a crime. Aha! Here is a brilliant piece of logic…a seamless resolution of the doubt!

At the end of the day, everybody knows his or her future, the ultimate future. Who does not know that one day he or she has to die? It's as simple as that!

Does it mean that nobody wants to know the future and that everyone is interested to know the process of reaching there?

While I try to be sure of future, I essentially try to sustain my present. Let time pass but not those things(?) that define time, say age, freshness, relevance…. While I want to know about future what I really desire is to carry everything of the present into the future, intact and encapsulated, and scout there for things that I miss now. The hassles that I have been successful in avoiding at present should not be allowed to happen in future. This is how I try to see my future, all to suit me. It's like saying, "Let me not grow old; let my children grow to adulthood." How is that possible?

Between the present and the future, there is always a bridge, and the bridge is made of elements like savings, commitment, gratitude, action, hope. But none of these elements is foolproof; everything suffers loss in its transmission from the present to the future. Inflation eats away savings; commitments get repudiated; gratitude is forgotten; actions fizzle out; hopes get belied….

So, I don't need the future; I don't want to die. My present is all that I'm made of. The future kills the present; it has killed the past. It's a killer, the biggest one in the universe.

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By
A. N. Nanda
Muzaffarpur
30-07-2004
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Poem to Revisit


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Today I 'm here to share an old poem of mine, the one I included in my book of poems "In Harness" ISBN-81-8517-183-5 [Published by Writers Workshop, Kolkata, in 2004]. This blog of mine has adopted an address "ramblingnanda" and the poem I'm going to post here is entitled "A Ramble". So, by posting this, what am I going to underscore? Is it that the the blog is my pursuit in rambling? Um, I'm not sure... . Be it as it may, I view modern poetry more as rambling than overflow of muse--where pleasure is to be had even before getting the meaning of the words, lines and stanzas. So says my poem "A Ramble"....
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A Ramble

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Really?

Shouldn’t I have a moment’s respite?

To chart a course, different from those

Of your ordained circuit?


At the permanent set

In the monotonous drama

Enacted every day

For those stultifying hours,

I stand to play a trivial bit

Before the audience captive

And the involved critics.


Now I ponder restlessly: Aren't these--

The robe with its cushion padding,

The spongy flooring, and the felt ceiling —

Keeping me miles away from me?


Under the glare

Of the high-wattage drama,

I’ve been dancing restless

For these countless hours,

Grasping little and realising none

Whose revelry did I join?

How long these twirls, and what for these gambols?


A dream

Has finally descended on me in that hour soporific

A jasmine of distance, swinging in her grace

Chanting the hymns from the freedom epic.


Her poignant look

With its instinctive appeal

Hints at the trail

To a sequestered alley,

My fatigued person simmering inside

Collects a few strands of my spirit,

I just wish to ramble away alone.


I have understood

The sweet whispers of the dreamy woods

Its inviting signals, distinct from miles

Stirs me now to rise in revolt.


Thus I start my escape

On the heels of my unsure steps

Very hesitatingly

In my timid moments;

But going there so close as one would wish―

It needs no petty sidling but giant strides,

I’m sure I can’t ramble my way up to it.

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By

A. N. Nanda

Bhubaneswar

15-07-2008

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Village Stories: Brahma Dheuncha

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Half a century ago my village was not as drab as it is today. There were more swamps and wastelands, more foxes and mongooses, more birds and butterflies... Lives were easy, dreams were achievable and priorities were self-determined. Even ghosts behaved friendly—they meant no evil even though they played pranks and frightened those gullible rustics.

Once there was a ghost on the prowl at the end of the village road. Like all its fellow beings, it gave its nighttime appearance. Its purpose was to frighten the passers-by and it used to be happy with just one act of ghostly adventure a night—nothing more, nothing less.

The night our brave ghost was caught so unceremoniously, it had chosen a difficult target. And that was its mistake.

Its target was one shopkeeper by the name of Bhikāri. A known ghost-repeller in the vicinity, he used to surprise people by tackling almost single-handedly all those ferocious Brahma Dheunchas, Satans and goblins that came his way. Of course, he was a Brahmin and he knew all such hymns by heart as were appropriate and effective. One such hymn had been the Gayatri mantra, which he as a Brahmin used to chant thrice a day. People believed that the anti-ghost prowess he possessed was nothing but the accumulated spiritual powers, achieved out of years of chanting of that holy mantra.

That night Bhikāri was returning from the market. It was the eleventh night past the full moon in the month of Shrāvan which was roughly around the second fortnight of August. The rain was not in full force, yet there was enough cloud in the sky to make the night pitch dark. Bhikāri had unsuccessfully waited for the moon to appear. This would have made the road visible and he would have easily biked the distance from the market to the village without the risk of falling off from his dynamo-less bicycle. Riding a bike under the situation was difficult, yet he counted on his experience, as usual.

As he reached at the beginning of the village road, he found something weird. A phantom was sitting just in the middle of the road, swathed in a straw mat. And that was hopping. The ethereal being was not talking, but nonetheless uttering some kind of sound, like a growl of a dog or a croak of a frog. Bhikāri had no doubt he was before a ghost. For him it was yet another chance to tackle an incorporeal.

‘How dare you intercept a Brahmin?’ Bhikāri challenged in a tone mixed with fear and boldness.

‘Hoom hum…hoom hum,’ was the response from the interceptor.

Then the spook hopped nearer Bhikāri. The shopkeeper-Brahmin became apprehensive. ‘Ghosts maintain distance from a Brahmin. Then what kind of preternatural being is this? It’s not afraid of the bagful of salt I have; nor is it daunted by the iron of my bicycle! These two objects alone should have been enough to scare a ghost away. Then what kind of entity is this?’

The owl hooted somewhere inside the bamboo bushes and the wind swished past him. The night was getting colder and colder every passing moment. Bhikāri felt uncomfortable and yearned for his cozy bed at home.

Dazed and frightened, he reluctantly considered a possibility: it could be a Brahma Dheuncha, a ghost that possesses the power of a brahmachāri dying in the middle of the Upanayan ceremony. If it were a ghost of that genus, it would not be containable by any amount of courage except by chanting of Gāyatri hymn with full purity and devotion. The ghost called Brahma Dheuncha would transform its victims into a handful of ashes if enraged. It would take away one’s speech for the entire life or would make him or her demented permanently. Besides, it was known to be very strict and unforgiving to the Brahmins who would struggle for words while chanting the Vedic hymns and the Gāyatri mantra, the mother of all hymns.

Bhikāri had never seen a ghost of that type; he had only heard about the abominable atrocities the ethereal being was in habit of perpetrating. He had seen in his life many witches walking on their feet extended from their nostrils, chirgunis taking care of their stillborn children, prets immuned to ordinary threats, and so forth. Now he faced a real Brahma Dheuncha. He remembered the Gāyatri hymn by heart, but he was not sure if he was actually a pure Brahmin. He used to eat fish and mutton and indulged in worldly vices like telling a lie or cheating the customers that used to come to his shop.

‘Would all these pollutants fail him? Would all his hymns turn ineffective?’ Bhikāri posed this question onto himself timidly.

The Brahma Deuncha grew impatient and closed in on his victim. Bhikāri closed his eyes and imagined that the spectral being was extending his leg towards him to trample him any moment. In no moment he started to chant his hymn.

om bhūr bhuvah svah
tát savitúr váreniyam
bhárgo devásya dhīmahi
dhíyo yó nah pracodáyāt

Howsoever sincerely he chanted the hymn, it had no impact on the Brahma Dheuncha. Now it began to hop more, whine more spookily than ever before, making frightening gesticulations while crouching on its haunches. Bhikāri started to recite another powerful hymn: this time it was Purusha Sukta. Still it failed to have any impact on the preternatural being.

The frightened Brahmin began to lose his sense. His throat began to dry and his limbs began to lose rhythm. Death was inevitable and it was so near! He had nothing that he could have done now. His strength had deserted him and he was on the verge of worst befuddlement in his life. The only instinct he was left with was his instinct to survive, to do something with a force born out of desperation.

Bhikāri closed his eyes once again. The darkness further concentrated in front of him. Then he opened his eyes to do something he could decide on the spur. There was a long stick lying nearby. He caught hold of it and charged towards his preternatural adversary.

‘Bang…bang,’ he thrashed the first few blows on the fellow swathed in straw mat. With every swish of the stick, the determined Brahmin felt recharged. And emboldened. He felt like a warrior fighting for the honour of the village.

‘Oh, spare me please. I’m not the one you’re thinking of. I’m not a Brahma Dheuncha,’ the fellow threw aside his mat.

Bhikāri saw him. Now his intense fear was transformed into a kind of subdued anger. The man facing him was none but his ever-friendly Māyādhar. Bhikāri knew his friend who was the past master at practical jokes—he could go to any extent. He could be reckless at times, but funny and imaginative nevertheless.

To cut the long story short, they agreed to keep it secret, for it suited both of them. But a story juicy as that could not have been lost to time, so soon and so easily. It continues to be one of the most interesting stories of my village, even to this day.

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Notes:
Brahmin=the uppermost echelon of the Indian caste system in days of yore. Brahmins used to worship, institute sacrifices, teach and sometimes legitimize the powers that ruled the land. Now Brahmins are one among the poorest lot in the society.

Brahmachāri=literally it means remaining celibate throughout. But in this context it refers to a boy who is in the midst of his sacred thread ceremony. Boys born to Brahmin couples undergo this ceremony to wear sacred thread and to thereafter become eligible for doing the worship rituals.

Upanayan also Upanayanam=the sacred thread ceremony that a Brahmin boy undergoes to be eligible to do the worship rituals.
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By
A. N. Nanda
Muzaffarpur
1-7-2008
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