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, December 31, 2012

New Year Verses

New Year Verses


I
So, you’ve finished your job then
And in a hurry to go back?
Wait, your reliever is on his way
Maybe reaching here any moment.
Don’t tell him for god’s sake
All that you had to see during your stay
Let him start with an open mind
Let him do his work his way.
 It’s a must to forget one’s yesterday
If one is up to doing things anew
Or else the same sun will shine
To expose our misdeeds of gone moments.
Why are you in a hurry to go back?
It’s matter of mere one day
Enjoy the last moments of your existence
While we mourn for our moments wasted.
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II
Last evening it rained
To wash us clean of all our dirt
For it knew we’re readying for the New Year.
If it had not rained?
Well, it would have made us cry
We would have cried losing our face
And a little more to soak our towels
And then undergone ablutions
For cleansing our smeared souls.
For all the year round
We did so much and so wholehearted
And all of them from our dingy hideout
Very surreptitiously and everything secret
A thief is no thief if not caught
It’s not his crime if the sufferer goes silent
Everybody looked the other way
And we merrily went ahead.
Now the New Year will arrive here
All of us are clean now thanks to the shower
We’re ready to do everything anew
We all have now a washed face.
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III
In this brand New Year
The twelve of them have faded and buried here
Since this millennium had set foot on the earth
I want to do something new…
I want to light a bonfire
In this brand New Year.
A big bonfire with billowing smoke
The smoke to make it white all around
The flame to devour their big talks
Of the small souls yapping all through the year
The warmth to melt all the fear
I want to light a bonfire
In this brand New Year.
Come, all of you with a newspaper
The newspaper of the yesteryear
And consign them to the flame ablaze here
I want to light a bonfire
In this brand New Year.
Or else how do we forget the past?
The old newspaper will cover our books
Even if we buy it all anew
The old toothbrush will leave the dirt
The old purse has still the black…
Oh no, don’t jump into it so hurriedly
It’s burning, true, but not yet a funeral pyre
It’s just a bonfire, it’s simple and clear
For all our old newspaper
Of the fast fading yesteryear.
In this brand New Year
I want to do something new…
I want to light a bonfire
For all our old newspaper
In this brand New Year.
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By
A N Nanda
Coimbatore
1-1-2013
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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hogenakkal: Watering the Stones

Hogennakal: Watering the Stones

The Cascade
 It is about my visit to Hogenakkal, the gorge of the River Cauvery on the border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. It’s a scenic spot where water finds its way against all obstructions of ancient rocks of demonic dimensions, sometimes appearing calm as a placid lake and sometimes roaring as a hungry lion, sometimes looking turbid as a big bowl of soup and sometimes limpid as the pair of expressive eyes of the sweetheart, sometimes whirling eddies out of its unfathomable depth and sometimes flowing shallow inviting to wade it across. The cascading water sparkling against the sunshine and its deafening sounds, the droplets of cool water touching one’s skin and soothing and tickling, its rainbow refusing to stay beyond a flutter of the eyelash—all these are just a few highlights of that great spot to be seen and remembered, to be remembered and recalled…and to be recalled and relived. It is about Hogenakkal, the garden of rocks, the smoking rocks.
Slow and Serene
As for me, it was a repeat visit, the second trip to the spot in a matter of one year. I had gone there to refresh my memory, to have some real good photographs for my blog, to have some fun of boating in the gorge, to eat Cauvery fish and relish, and so forth. Oops! On my way I realized how pathetically I was under-equipped for the trip: I had forgotten to carry my camera as I did last year. But then I had the second best option to invoke—I just decided to rely on the capability of my mobile phone. The midday sun was trying to act the spoilsport letting all its rays concentrate on the screen of my cell phone so that I would perforce give up. But I didn’t. Rather I took a series of blind snaps. In retrospect I’m happy about the result.
Hogenakkal: Beyond the Big Hill
The much-touted fish of the gorge—the Cauvery fish—was just a talking point. What the hotels actually offered in the name of Cauvery fish was perhaps the ones caught from some inland ponds—it could be my guess only, an informed guess. After tasting the fish in a hotel I could not have betted on its actual provenance. Otherwise, I found people throwing fishing lines from the rocky niches were just doing that out of their hobby. And my simple inquiry gave me the information I needed: Until midday an avid indomitable gentleman fish catcher, according to his own admission, had caught only a small catfish—neither rohu nor carp. So how would the hotels feed Cauvery fish to all the tourists that crowded there? Any fish with a Cauvery prefix would pass for Cauvery fish. And this was how I guessed the secret!
Out of the Blue
Hogenakkal is not an ordinary gorge, but a great outdoor setting for many Tamil and Hindi movies. At least that was what the boat fellow imparted us. In fact everything out there proved that he was right, for I could find many hideouts for villains, so many lonely caves for romantic trysts of the heroes and the heroines, very many inaccessible niches for the ghosts and goblins to haunt—Hogenakkal has something to offer to every hue of filmy characters. And when it comes to innovate, it is no less than Dal Lake of Srinagar. Look how the fellow is selling snacks to the tourists that are enjoying their boating on the basket boats. Even we too bought something from the floating snacks man...and left a trail of plastic!
The Seller Sailor
Rocks were lofty and we were on our basket boat almost at the abyss. Looking at the lofty rocks from the boat was like looking at the skyscrapers, nay the sky itself. As the boatman said, children used to dive from the high rocks for the lure of backsheesh worth ten rupees each. It used to give thrill to the tourists and money to the boys. That is banned now as it is too dangerous and a kind of exploitation of poor children of the locality.
There were far too much oil spilled everywhere around. It smelt acrid and made the pathway fearfully slippery. There were masseurs with identity cards but no training in physiotherapy. Only people who were not mindful of the safety of their bones and nerves and those with no inhibitions about showing their undergarments and skin to all and sundry were getting oil-bathed in the open. I listened to the canvassing masseur but did not get convinced. This was my silent argument to myself, ‘Look, if you didn’t care about being massaged in Bangkok, the massage capital of Asia, then where is the big point in trying it out now?’
The Buddy Shopping
Besides the oil, there were plastic and more plastic, everywhere one surveyed. People were taking their ritual bath, washing their cloth with regular detergent and rhythmic thrashing, and I was told that a project was under way to supply drinking water from Hogenakkal to various localities around. राम तेरी गंगा मैली हो गई...
I had gone to this scenic spot exactly one year ago and now I repeated it as if it were a matter of annual routine for me. Despite that, I did not feel it to be boring: it could be repeated with relish. I could eat fish with a Cauvery prefix. Last time I had had no boating experience, and this time I supplied the omission. And about bath? Oh, this should wait till next time!

The Whirling Eddies
And last time I came back from Hogenakkal I had supplied nothing to my blog...and now I have something to share, both pictures and text.


  
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By
A N Nanda
27-12-2012
Coimbatore
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Monday, December 24, 2012

The Visitor

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Begging is bad...and who can contest the statement? As a poet I had once seen in it something worth pondering about. Aha! The great feeling of endearment! This poem of mine that I present here from my poetry collection, 'In Harness' was the result of that feeling of endearment. I had liked it then as I articulated my feelings on a paper and even now, after fourteen long years have elapsed since its creation, I still like revisiting it. In my opinion poetry should always be like that--they should function as the repository of the one's present emotions for their future retrieval...and in a more concentrated form. Here, the theme is simple, say one of give and take. And it happens to be the highest form of quid pro quo---blessing in exchange of a bowl of rice.
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The Visitor


The shrill cry at the door repeats
Routinely, for the occasion umpteenth,
The theme of sufferings and famishment 
And nettles, but pleasingly everybody—
The bed-ridden patriarch included.

The freshly bathed lady
Then appears in her pious sari
Finishing her daily worship
With a fistful of alms
And releases her grip
Slowly and contentedly.

The grains of life-giving rice
Pour out in a flow rhythmic
From the palm of the serene lady
Into the visitor’s empty tin
Once used for packing
The hydrogenated ghee.

The hapless visitor
Fervently friendly and familiar
Throws his expectant look
On the face of the generous Juno
And pleads with all his humility
For a bowlful of water-rice.

In a matter of minutes
The fermented rice with tamarind,
Salt sprinkled affectionately around
Reaches the hungry soul
Jumping in satisfying sequence
From tongue drooling to stomach empty.

And then follows
The rich series of blessings
For the lady and her offsprings
In a style of thanksgiving
The friendly visitor has perfected
Over a period of decade
In the ritual of mendicancy.

The visitor leaves the door
Beaming, in a satisfied mood
Skipping a few prospective donors
To be approached in his next round
And reaches the ancient Banyan
And its benign shade
For a refreshing nap
And a nourishing dream.

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VISAKHAPATNAM
28-10-1998
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By
A N Nanda
Coimbatore
25-12-2012
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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pic n Sing

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I know there are painters who base their works on photographs and then add other artistic elements to them just to make them look like paintings. With the advent of digital photography they have found the job easier, for it affords them the chance to do some kind of prior assessment of what the painting would look like after being applied the artistic strokes. Somewhat comparable to that, this post is based on photographs followed by instant stanzas, something that has chosen rhyming structure for the fun of it. Should I say it is cross-genre?
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Pic N Sing

Hillock on the way to Salem


A hill between the green and the blue
Here you're, there's something hidden for you
Go and pick up before others come to know
It'll sell for a million, just take it for a clue.


Bull-backed Hill: On the Way to Salem


A bull for ages goes fooling around
Blithely chosen to squat the middle of the road
To chew the cud and never ever to move
It's Nandi the public bull, the darling of god.



The Cauvery: A view from the Bridge at Bhavani

Oh the Cauvery, no need to say sorry
If a hillock comes your way just like this
What better can you do to make it happy
Just take it with you to the middle of the sea.


While Returning from Ooty: Before the Final Curve

The cloud is angry, rumbling in its celestial abode
Eyes covered in specs and so darkness around
It may burst now or it may do that at night
Let's go back home and let others do the fight.

Nilgiri Mountain Railway

The train trundles out of the story teller's town
Cheer up and say it bye and go back your home
It'll come back for sure and it'll come back soon
With stories and fables and dreams a wagonful.

The Tunnel: Nilgiri Mountain Rail
Chook-chook train now enters the tunnel
A dark dingy hole in the demon's trail
It's cool but smells so foul of charcoal and smoke
Holler a while and pinch ur neighbour n nobody will know.

Amaravati Reservoir

A pond of water with hills around
I'm fond of fishing and I'll catch a few
Something to fry and something to roast
Go away rain you the spoilsport.

On the Way to Amaravati

I'm the demon king my hands are big
Go, go away the clouds if you wish to live
It's my time to play and I play alone
No, don't loiter here, you're only blocking my view.

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By
A. N. Nanda
Dharmapuri
19-12-2012
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Friday, December 14, 2012

Humour Thru Hodgepodge

Humour Thru Hodgepodge

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Sometimes good talkers invent their jokes on the fly as a qawal would compose his qawali while the show is on. Humour that comes naturally have been liked by all. I just tried writing something while I'm conscious that I'm writing it to produce humorous effect. I was confident, should I fail producing the effect, my caption of the post would take care of the deficiency. So I gave it a name " Humour Through Hodgepodge". Hope I'll still like it when I revisit my post.

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Multitasking:

It is scientifically established that we cannot make both our hands write different content simultaneously. It’s impossible even to write 1, 2, 3, 4 with our left hand while our right hand writes a, b, c, d. Reason: We’ve only one brain and as to hands, even though they are two, they pathetically depend on the brain to act.

But I know at least one case where it’s possible.

So, let’s try the exercise. Hold two pencils, one in each hand. Also have two sheets of white paper before you, right? Now write ‘G’ on both the papers. Your both hands wrote ‘G’ simultaneously, is that okay? Well, now move your right hand to the right of the letter ‘G’ on the right paper and the left hand to the left of ‘G’ on the left paper.  Then write ‘O’ with both hands. Now you have ‘OG’ on the left paper whereas it is ‘GO’ on the right. Then move, once again, your right hand to the right of ‘O’ and the left hand to the left of ‘O’. Then write ‘D’ simultaneously. And that’s all you’re to do. You have now GOD on your right and DOG on your left. Aha! You’re blessed by God and helped by Dog! So, isn’t it an act of writing two different things with two hands?

Mathematics Made Easy:

When one says two, he means just two, and not three. Similarly, speaking in ordinal sense, ‘second’ should mean two and third three. But there is at least one occasion when the expression second becomes third as soon as it falls into your hands. So, 2 = 3, let me say it in their cardinal form.

But how?

Well, look at your watch. See how its second hand is not exactly the second hand; it’s rather the third hand. So, am I not correct if I say 2 = 3? It’s possible many will not agree with me and I can see the reason. They must be wearing those complicated watches with indicators to function as a stop watch, a tide table, a direction-indicating compass, an astronomical aid to indicate lunar and stellar positions, an alarm clock, and blah, blah.

More the Merrier:

How many people really listen to the music that directly blasts into their ears through the white thin wires they insert into them? I wonder none. At best those plugged-in and ever-connected people get some sound around them, for their sound minds need that so very desperately…and that’s all. We use sound to drive away sound; pain to drive away pain; seal our houses to switch on the lights; spray scent to drive away smell; laugh without reason in the public to shed some tears; crowd our roads with bigger SUVs to beat the crowd; and so on. It is clearly a phenomenon of redundancy, or say compulsive superfluity. For an example of my own, the nearest I can go is my watch: does the second hand actually deliver me any information? Any help? No—it’s an emphatic ‘no’. Like sound wafting from the gadget directly into the ears, the second hand just moves on and on, producing in its wake information which I don’t need. A lazy person like me needs hours and days to complete jobs, not seconds! If a numerologist guarantees me to buy a ticket at a time exact to seconds so that I’d get a jackpot, I’m not sure if I’d be able to hurry myself to be accurate to seconds in lure of the jackpot! So, a lazy person like me has nothing to do with a second hand twirling on and on in his watch!

So what did I do with my profound realization?

Like meetings these days end in deciding the date of the next meeting, I decided to do another act of redundancy to put an end to my living in redundancy. Say, I bought another watch which does not have a second hand: it has only two, like the two hands its conscious owner possesses! And just to share a small bit of relevant (redundant?) information in this regard, I bought the watch from the land of watches. Yes, you’re right there: I bought the watch from the airport of Geneva a year ago. So, the lesson is that redundancy can be remedied, nay beaten by redundancy, like I had to buy a watch, my fourth one, with no second hand!

Q & A:

1.    When does one get rewarded for stealing?
A: If one steals other’s heart.

2.    If everybody praises a book without actually reading it, then what sort of book it is?
A: It’s a classic.

3.      Can somebody fly into the cloud just by paying a train fare?
A: Yes, if he chooses to jump out of a running train.

4.      How is a book dependent on notes?
A:  To book one needs notes. Try booking a flat in your town without notes!

5.  Why are teachers these days complaining of lack of job satisfaction?
A: Because while teaching their students they’re not allowed to teach them a lesson!

6.      Why is god kind to all of us?
A: Because human beings are mankind.

7.      When does a dream meet the reality?
A: A boy meets a girl in his dream and is about to kiss her. The dream ends but the boy goes to the crowded bus stop in the morning to plant a kiss on the girl’s lips. The girl too had a dream the previous night wherein she had warned the boy of the consequence of his advance. Now on being smooched in the public, she just slaps him. This is how their dreams met in reality: Jab we met! Why this kolaveri di?

8.      How is a consultant different from a magician?
A: Both make their living by making others fool. Whereas a magician shows impossible things just to be forgotten after the show, a consultant weaves impossible dreams to be remembered even after they’re shattered.

9.      How does a Hyderabadi-fish cure asthma when it is swallowed?
A: It uses the entire extra oxygen inside the patient and then he has nothing left to gasp.

10.  What’s the pan-Indian mantra to live in happiness?
A: No problem; Koi parva nehin (कोई परवाह नहीँ); parva ledu; parva illei; and so on. 

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By
A N Nanda
Coimbatore
15-12-2012
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Friday, December 07, 2012

Vizag: The Smiling City


Warm Up! Up!
Vizag: The Smiling City

I just returned from a 4-day trip to Vizag, one that I wistfully looked forward to for quite some time. It is a city where I lived for five long years, at a time when it was going through many changes, so much so that I used to feel like a stranger whenever I returned to the town from a fortnight’s leave. Roads got widened felling the trees; buildings were razed to give way to apartments; parks added rinks and tracks; a submarine was heaved out of the sea to make it a showpiece on the beach and so forth. In a way, the old charm of the city began to wear a new gloss that even surprised its dwellers. And they began to get convinced, ’Aha! I may grow old but not my city!’ It was a time when the world feared a digital catastrophe in the shape of Y2K but was successful in tiding it over thanks to the exodus of software professionals from India to the US. Even, as somebody was telling for the sake of humour, a constable underwent a crash course, left the government job and then flew to the US to help them in rewriting their legacy codes. And he earned in dollars and changed his old house in his villaged from its roof of palm leaves to its concrete avatar. The dot-com bubble burst in no time and people came back from the States and sold their laptops and trendy fashion objects through the duty-free/paid shops. It was the time when cell phone suddenly came up as a fashion fad in a big way and even an old hag on the road scratching her ear gave the impression that she was talking to somebody through her cell phone. Yes, I stayed in that city between June 1998 and February 2003.  
For a Net Result

The trip was nostalgic through and through; and it was rejuvenating too. Otherwise, December is the best month of the year for a trip to Vizag; one need not have to creep about its sultriness. As for me, it could not have been at a more appropriate time. I recall my last visit to this place was some six years ago and that, too, was so brief that I had hardly the time to revisit my favourite spots to rekindle the old feelings of endearment. Now I had almost five days—Wow! Five long days of sojourn, not a joke! Good enough a spell it was, to catch up on things, to meet old friends, to visit new landmarks and so forth. My most important gain from the visit is that it helped me to fine-tune my new project: Oh yes, it’s about my novel-in-progress “The Roadshow”.

How?

As anybody who has ever dabbled in writing would vouch for me, the text one churns out would ultimately be of any worth if he has lived the character he is writing about and has soaked in the ambience of the place the story is set in. After all, what is fiction all about if it is not people and places? In my novel I have devoted one chapter to a boozing scene—two friends drinking in a bistro, talking of big people and lofty ideals and the backdrop is the old abandoned lighthouse. Well, this was the spot I had seen a decade ago and that, too, was not so minutely. Depending only on Google search engine will not be of help, especially when one is trying to say something with confidence. I thought I should revisit the spot and be sure that there lay no big gap between what I have written and what it exactly looked like. So I took an early morning trip to this place. The declared destination was VUDA Park on the beach road but as I reached there, I coolly strayed into the premises of the abandoned lighthouse. It was locked, and the door that stood between me and my destination of exploration had an inviting hole. I just slipped through it. And, lo, I was surprised to see there was nothing so very different from what I have written except that there was just a boundary wall between the venue of boozing bistro and the lighthouse. That is a minor slip; a mere sentence will take care of it.
A beacon of Hope

And inside the premises of a run-down house and verdant wilderness stood a derelict old lighthouse whose outer colours still retained much of its shine. There were splinters of glass bottles strewn all over the place and aluminum foils dazzling in the morning sun. And I found the traces of the nightly boozing activities there and felt vindicated. Aha! I had thought it right and wrote it true to the ambiance. Now was time to soak in it. Oh no, it was only a morning exploration. Then I found a closed cigarette pack too, lying neatly on the concrete floor. I just wanted to test if my sense as an ex-smoker continued to be sharp enough and I looked at my colleague who accompanied me to the spot. ‘I’m sure there’re no cigarettes in the pack. What do you think? Do you think there’s any left in it?’ He did not accept my challenge as such, nevertheless went on to pick up the discarded pack and open it. It was really empty and I felt mighty vindicated. Nay I felt like Sherlock Holmes. I knew a smoker, even after his fifth peg of whisky, is most likely to remember that there is still one more cigarette left in the pack. It had once happened with me: after coming back from a month’s leave I had actually scrambled for my cigarette pack because I was sure there was still one cigarette left in it, one that I had not finished some thirty days ago! One may ask me, ‘Well, do you intend to say that smokers have tremendous memory?’ And my answer would be, ‘Yes. A smoker is selectively efficient in memorizing things. He has the ability to remember how many fags are left in his pack but will definitely forget the amount of change he has brought back from the tobacconist!’

And then there was one more setting to be set right. It was the temple of Astalakshmi at Madhurawada. In the novel there are two chaps that are on the run, trying to hide somewhere at least for three days before they sail for Port Blair. And for the venue of their hideout I have chosen a flat near Astalakshmi temple of Madhurawada. Did I actually know of the spot beforehand? Oh yes, as a place I knew of Madhurawada, a growing spot in the map of urban Vizag that still accommodates housing ambition of the middle class there. But I located the landmark of the temple from among the Google stuffs and thought it could be the best fit for my narrative. Now I wanted to be sure that actually there is one such temple at Madhurawada and there is some place nearby to serve as the hideout for the duo. It is not going to be just a hideout, for there are so many things waiting to happen in the plot here: old doubts will get clarified; new ones are going to be sowed; hints about the future happenings are going to be dropped here, and so forth. So I went there.
An Abode for AstaLakshmi

And here, too, I found the setting picture-perfect, nay more enigmatic than I had imagined it to be. Secluded and not far from the depleting wilderness of Kambalakonda, with construction activities there yet to reach its maddening pitch, with roads and potholes coexisting agreeably, with houses on the outskirt constructed but not occupied, the place was perfect for a fictional hideout. My chaps would remain safely lodged here to unfold many more aspects of their yet underexplored personalities. Besides its ability to live up to the requirement of the plot, what I liked about the place was the landmark: the temple of Astalakshmi. And I visited there, as though it were god’s recipe for my peace of mind for the day. It was a pleasing spiritual rambling that afforded me an occasion to see and reflect as to why there should be so many Lakshmis—one for wealth, another for issues, the third one for victory, another one for paddy and so on. And I arrived at my own explanation: Success can come in very many ways, not necessarily in the shape of material acquisitions only, and that is why goddess Lakshmi has to appear in various forms. One should be in a position to recognize her, for she is everywhere around us. She is in the mellifluous tune of a bird in the grove and in the soothing view of the verdant landscape. She is in the morning ray of the sun offering us health, wealth and wisdom and in the cool resplendence of a rainbow whetting the imagination of a poet. She is in the chiaroscuro of a cloudy sky and delicious fragrance of marigold; in the succulent sweetness of a mango and in the sweet smell of jasmine in the braid of the sweetheart; in the lisping drawl of a child and in the sparkle of dewdrops in an autumn morning…she is just everywhere, full of beauty and solace. One should spot her and win her favour, for oneself and for others. And therefore we have Astalakshmi…I can only explain thus far.

And then I chased the sun.
Go On, God won't mind!

It was a challenge for the lazy fellow in me to take a snap of the sunrise. The first day I was late but the cloud on the horizon hid my laziness. I had at least an answer why I could not take the snap. The next occasion I was busy exploring the abandoned lighthouse and that was a convenient excuse why I failed to click the rising sun. The next day I was caught half way through: the sun rose gloriously but behind the hovels of the fishermen on the beach. And no luck there! But the next day I succeeded. I could not reach Tineti Park by the time the sun showed up on the horizon, yet I plodded straight to the beach through the lane going in the middle of the shacks. And there I caught the sun, my laziness notwithstanding. I liked its glorious resplendence; I liked the distant mist beyond Rushikonda; and I liked those early dinghies inside the sea with shining sails riding the silvery waves of the small hours. And I liked my snap.
The Great n the Glorious

And in the end, the forgetful soul in me realized that there are always things in the world that are simply unforgettable.  

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By
A. N. Nanda
Coimbatore
8-12-2012
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