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.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Hunt for the Day

How does it matter to them that I don't have a camera that can take all their poses? They're the owner of their moods and I'm only to adjust with them. वे लोग अपनी मर्जी के मालिक होते हैं भई. Anyhow, I could go to this extent, all at Mudumalai. The notice board at the tourist office says somebody had sighted a tiger on 17-1-2012. Should I believe it? In fact once, only once in my life I had seen a tiger crossing my road. And that's all. I've bragged it on my blog at an old post, you might like to visit the link  too.

Don't Worry, I'm Behind
In a Motherly Moment
Blue Brotherhood
Busy Bison
Oh, My Dear
Bathing Beauty
Give me More
Run for Fun
Anrgry Kya (एंग्री क्या?)/Why this Kolavari Di?

A N Nanda

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thieving a Theme

Writers tend to portray important objects/events as banal ones and the banal ones as something out of this world. This is a sort of their obsession, just a technique to tell something differently, to take recourse to sensationalism, or at least to remedy their own boredom. It is their cleverness—well, we may call it so. In their effort to import newness to their writing, they do not care a damn about making a god steal, an ignoramus possess the divine wisdom, a weakling defy death and so forth. Lord Krishna used to steal butter from the milkmaids; he used to try out his pranks by pelting stones at the earthen pot on the head of the milkmaids. How beautiful is the poem of the devotional poet Surdas—maiya mere mein nahin makhan khayo! (मैया मेरी मै नहीं माखन खायो) This Bhajan of Anup Jalota is my all-time favourite. In my native district there is a temple named Khirachora Gopinath which means lord Krishna that stole the sweetened milk. And the legend has it that Lord Krishna, the presiding deity of the temple once hid a bowl of sweetened milk out of those offered to him so that he could pass it on to a devotee sleeping unfed in the town. Stealing an object out of the ones offered to you? Illogical: yet let’s admit there is something called the poetic licence!
Readers since time immemorial have liked stories of Robin Hood who used loot and then distribute the loot among the needy. Perugia stole Mona Lisa and a great mass of literature was churned out on the event, so much so the thief was hailed as a great Italian patriot! Our illustrious freedom fighters had looted treasuries of British India and the daring exploits of our heroes have been extolled in the literature. The great Oriya short story “Shikar” of Bhagawati Panigrahi that later became a film named “Mrigaya” and won national awards can be taken as an example.
So, when big people act small or the small ones the big, it becomes literature. Just a few days ago, I read a beautiful sentence in the newspaper that attributed it to a judge of the Spreme Court of India: There is no saint without a past and no sinner without a future. [Justice Katju on Sunny Leone]  
I know it is painful in real life, yet it can be a piece of funny literature to describe the pranks of our rogue elephants going into the kitchen and stealing rice and sugar. Even pachyderms are fond of alcohol! I don’t know if anyone of us is really writing on this. There is no tiger in our forests these days and so tiger stories would not come to our pen so easily. Really, how lucky was Jim Corbett to have lived in the cusp between nineteenth and twentieth century when there were tigers in Kumaon! Similarly, a monkey stealing a pair of specs and a mobile phone from the hostel should supply interesting materials to develop into stories. One can even make these animals speak and act like human beings, say like a boy-elephant chasing an elephant girl for love or defeating his competitors in antakshari.
Some fifteen years ago or so, it was discovered in a certain community development block of Orissa that the numbers of wells dug as per the records of the Block Development Officer was substantially more than what was physically found. So an FIR was lodged that wells have been stolen. Can wells be stolen? Even poetic license would not allow such a fantasy. Poets can go to the extent of stealing a glance or stealing sleep or, at best, stealing somebody’s heart! And not more than that. Corruption has more power than poetry: only the manner of utilization differs.
And even I know (or rather I can produce the victim) of a person whose blood was stolen. He was donating blood and it was agreed that only one bottle of blood would be taken. But when the second was taken and then the third one was inserted, the fellow protested. And the rest I have forgotten. And if I have to imagine what had happened then, let me say the victim was compensated with an offer of two ripe bananas. That is that.
A thief’s confession could be a great story, but how to meet one? At least on two occasions people have proposed to share their private stories with their request to fictionalize them, but ultimately they have restrained themselves. Really, I had expected from them something authentic and romantic, but their gestures were only too tentative. Then I felt cheated…and that is that. 
A. N. Nanda


Saturday, January 07, 2012

In Search of My Muse

Oh my darling dream-giver!

Oh my life's lyric lively!

Ride on my shoulder
Across the life's river

And please for my sake

Don’t shy away this time.
Sometimes one has to wander all corners in search of one’s lost muse, with or without success. And now is my turn. Just the other day I tried to fathom the depth of my descent in the ladder of creativity, as if it would be enough to assure myself that the rock bottom had not reached. Howsoever I thought of all those soul-stirring scenes that once made my pen agile, I felt I was drifting away from her, god only knew how long and where. The craggy shores of the Andamans or the golden sands of Chandrabhaga, the emerald carpet of Valparai tea estates or the undulating wheat fields along the Bagmati, the snow-capped serene peaks of the Himalayas or the sibilant waves of Yerada beach, the deafening silence of the jungles of Malkanagiri or the fruit-filled mango orchards of Darbhanga, the blinding monsoon of Kerala or the golden cascade of Hogenakkal, the smiling buds of Shalimar Bag or the vibrant sweep of the Flames of Forest of Chotnagpur Plateau, the sparkling snow of Gulmarg or the sliding iceberg of Gangotri—none could come alive to cheer me up, to fire my creative hearth. I thought I should go somewhere—maybe I would bump into my muse as I stepped out.
And I reached Valparai.
En route I met, for the first time in my life, a person who said that he had eaten in his childhood rice cooked on a fire made out of the sandalwood. It should have been sufficient to fire my imagination. In our childhood we used to hear all such cock and bull stories, say for example, the illustrious father of our late PM used to make tea burning currency notes so that his British guests could be impressed. So rich was he! I could not develop a story out of such a lead. The smoke of the sandal wood did not waft across to me, crossing the time boundary of fifty years or so to induce me to imagine something interesting, something readable and something out of the blue.

And I saw a lion-tailed macaque in his natural habitat. So photogenic an animal he was! In fact, he was as photogenic as obedient, unmindful of my car whose engine was yet to die, and gave a perfect pose, something even Rajnikant would love to emulate. I took its photograph and wondered what made him so unmindful of human beings that have thought only of his destruction. Is a monkey ugly or is he beautiful? Then why do we call somebody a monkey? Aha! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
And what about the elephants? Incidentally I stayed in the guest house of Anamalai Tea Estate where wild elephants had come some three days ago to destroy its glass pans and loot its rice and sugar. Even I was told to hurriedly finish my evening walk that I was so thoroughly enjoying sauntering along the bridle paths of the tea estate. I could take some photographs. Well, picture speaks a thousand words. At least they are, in a way, some compensation for the loss of my muse.
Elephants do not graze tea leaves. Probably they know it as much as the humans do: Tea is neither a necessity nor a luxury, but just a socially accepted form of wastage. It is a willing acceptance of a false propaganda: Tea is a refreshing beverage. It is refreshing but how? Look, even if one takes a glass of hot concoction made of a some grass growing in the wilderness of one’s backyard, and of sugar and milk, he or she would find after a couple of months that he or she has been addicted to that beverage. Right at the appointed moment, his tounge would start to salivate like those dogs of Pavlov. Then he would need that beverage when he gets up, when he is tired, when he wants to facilitate his bowel movement. He would need tea to entertain his friends, build up sessions of small talk, when he is bored with ennui, when he is happy and wants that the mood of happiness sinks in delightfully.... So, what is there in tea? Elephants are not so hypocrite like humans that they will graze tea bushes!

The moon in the sky accentuated that darkness would soon wear in. There would be a whole night to think and scribble, scribble and edit, and edit and reject. There would be another night of wordlessness to drift my muse a little further, a way bit unapproachable. The darkness would come but not the dream.
The monkey, the elephant and the moon, neither jointly nor severally, could stir my pen into its wakefulness. It seems my agonizing wait is not over.
A. N. Nanda

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Thursday, January 05, 2012

A Brahmin Forgets his Hymn


I would not like to be associated with those who advocate that even census should be on caste line, yet while writing a poem I chose the topic from the caste quagmire. It is common sense that poverty could be anywhere, even in a Brahmin household. Many of our ancient stories used to start something like this: Once there lived a poor brahmin who used to go to village for begging alms...


A Brahmin Forgets his Hymn


A Brahmin

forgets his hymn...

When finds his three unemployed sons

plodding along the hungry bylanes

chasing the elusive urban employment,

When finds his daughter pale and pondering

educated, groomed homely, wearied at thirty

miles away from her indispensable wedlock,

When the sharecropper vengefully ruins

his ancestral paddy land of infertile acre

by his wanton step-fatherly neglect,

When his ageing wife sobs in silence

lamenting her birth as a woman

her lost life in drudgery and chores,

When his bed-ridden father

curses his unworthy son

desperate for a few pills of painkiller,

When his ritual fasts

end up in ulcerous hunger

before his stone gods fond of flowers,

When the generous god-fearing devotees

throw a ten paise-coin each

on a sacred brass plate in melting gestures,

When a corn on his naked heel

perpetrates excruciating pain on hot sand

of the lonely sizzling village lane,

When his perforated faded cloth cover

on his quarter century-old umbrella

bequeathed to him by his glorious ancestors

fails to prevent the meddlesome rainwater,

And the Brahmin

forgets his hymn,

salutes an officer in solemn sincerity

unmindful of his unnecessary ancestry

while dragging his feet out of the temple

to ask for a hundred rupees loan

for the day's ration...

And thus the Brahmin

forgets his hymn

of high-sounding Sanskrit

and hollow-sounding rhymes.


21 /03 /97

A. N. Nanda