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, March 28, 2014

Poem by a Fluke-III

Yesterday we all sat together to discuss the charm of translation, its power to take one closer to the other, both living in different ends of the globe. I thought I should take cue from that for my next blog posting. So I started a poem, first composing it in English and then translating the same to Hindi. I enjoyed challenging myself to come up with something that can be shared. Hope my readers would enjoy it too.
Anarchy in the Sky
Who says it
If winter comes can spring be far behind?

Looking at the gloomy March sky
Is it sky or a black mountain looming overhead?
It threatens to melt down any moment
Into raindrops or hailstones, or the droplets of frozen mix—
What has happened to the celestial controller?
Moving in reverse, its own calendar!
Is February on its way to follow March?
Is it going to snow again?

The ceremony is long concluded and yet—
Sometimes guests do love to overstay
They have no inhibitions, no shame
Look at the poor host and how he’s harassed
Running out his patience he’ll burst into tears
Just now, any moment, at the drop of a hat.

There’s no gainsaying it
Everybody enjoys snatching the other’s right
The clouds are the squatters in the sky,
The disgraced encroachers of public land
It’s their celestial anarchy: might is right.

When some nasty fellows go hyper
The helpless others, the souls vanquished
Begin to co-operate, nodding their heads
If not so, why do winds blow so strong?
And cheer the squatters to be so presumptuous?

No tyrant, not even the great Alexander
Nobody can make his tyranny to last for ever
History flays them and they die of thirst
And, that too, in the midst of a dreary desert.
So very soon the sky will clear
And all will go away, the unwanted guests.

Aha! Here brightens the distant horizon
So take it from me
March will not flounder any more
Hold on and be happy, it’s going to be April,
Before you even call, Oh, My God
Aha! Sooner rather than later.

गगन में हलचल
कौन कहता है ऐसा—
अगर सर्दी आ गई तो वसन्त को आने में देर नहीं ।

देखता हूँ मैं यहाँ मार्च का काला-कलूटा आसमान
आसमान है या सर पर मंडराता काला पहाड़ !  
किसी भी पल उसका यूँही पिगल जाना लगता है निश्चित
वर्षा की बूंदें हों या ओलों के कण, या तो हो बजरियों की बौछार
कुछ भी हो सकता है यहाँ, नहीं कोई शक की गुंजाईश ।
आसमान के नियंता को आज यह क्या हो गया ?
देखो ज़रा उसका कैलेंडर कैसे चलता है पीछे की ओर !
लगता है मार्च के बाद तैयार बैठा है फरवरी,
दस्तक देने को वह कैसे बेताब है !
क्या अब भी बर्फ़बारी फिर से होना बाकी है ?

रस्म ख़त्म हो जाती है, फिर भी
कभी-कभी, मेहमान ठहर जाते हैं लम्बे अरसे तक
शर्म, हया, लिहाज़ कुछ भी नहीं करते वे सब
देखो ज़रा बेचारे मेज़बान को, कैसा है वह परेशान
अब तो सब्र करना मुश्किल उसके लिए, रोना ही पड़ेगा उसे
कभी भी, पलक झपकते ही, फौरन ।   

नहीं यह कोई अतिशयोक्ति—
दूसरों के हक छिनने में आता है कितना मज़ा !
आख़िरकार, अतिक्रमण करने में माहिर हैं ये सब  
जितने बादल आसमान में जुटे हैं अब तक
कलंकित लूटेरे हैं वे सब के सब  
सामुदायिक ज़मीन पर कब्ज़ा जमाने वाले प्रवंचक
कहते हैं, यह आसमानी अराजकता है, ज़रा लिक से हट कर,
और कहते हैं, जानते नहीं तुम, जिसकी लाठी उसका बैल ।

ये सब कुचक्री जब ज्यादती करने जुट जाते हैं
लाचार, कुचले हुए इंसान सहयोग देने लगते हैं
क्या यह बयान मेरा नहीं है सच ?
तो फिर क्यों इस क़दर हवा तेज़ बहती है ?
और कौन करता इन सबका इतना हिमायत ?

कोई भी तानाशाह, चाहे वह सिकंदर क्यों न हो
तानाशाही कोई टिकने वाली चीज़ तो नहीं है
तवारीख़ कोसता है उन्हें, और प्यास से दम तोड़ते हैं वे
निराशाओं के संताप में  झुलस कर, निर्जन रेगिस्तान में ।
सो, सब्र करो, जल्द ही साफ़ होगा आसमान
और मैदान छोड़ जाएंगे अब बिन बुलाए मेहमान ।

वाह! दूर क्षितिज जगमगाने लगा है आज...
दे सकता हूँ मैं हौसला, कह सकता हूँ दावे के साथ  
समय अब पटरी पर है, मार्च को भटकने की क्या ज़रुरत ?
देखो, जल्द ही दस्तक देने वाला है अप्रैल
इससे पहले कि तुम्हें कहना पड़ेगा, हे रब, बचाओ  
बस, देर नहीं यह, खुश हो जाओ
ज़रा सब्र तो करो, आज नहीं तो कल ।                        
A N Nanda

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

For Dignity's Sake

For Dignity's Sake
Markandeyulu was then a young man, dynamic and fun-loving, and at the same time had earned an enviable reputation as an efficient superintendent. But, knowingly or maybe acting on the force of irrepressible impulsion, one day he just happened to commit a blunder. Nay, it could be a simple error of judgement on his part. Had he cogitated over the incident a little discerningly, everything would have appeared crystal clear to him. But then he was really scared, too scared to gather his guts and go any deep into the matter.

It was a day of perfect harmony. The entire staff were busy to do their best so that at the end of the day they could stage a successful drama. All those who had roles to play had completely memorised their parts. Being there, one would clearly feel the air was filled with infectious inspiration. “The Fruit of Love” was the title of the drama, one that was as banal as the name would suggest…and going through the entire storyline one would not find anything extraordinary in it except those juicy titbits centring on love, chase, proposal, surrender and stuffs. Yet there was something ineluctably attractive about it. Aha! Its dialogues were ever so witty and ever so special!

The roles were to be played by the selected members of staff, all of whom were bubbling with youthful vibrancy, and yet there remained one role to be allotted. It was the role of a woman. Agreed, there were a few in the group who represented the real comeliness and womanly beauty yet, when it came to accept a role that would have demanded frankness on their part to flirt and fondle and, if not that, at least to talk amorously to the “other” males, such demure sweet beauties considered it to be purely shameless. So, for enacting the role of heroine in the drama one fellow was to be taken as a guest artist. That transpired to be the final arrangement, the best one to suit their purpose.

So, quickly a heroine was chosen. She was one Monali by name who had behind her a reputation of being a supremely talented artist during her long ten years’ professional experience on stage. It was not an inexpensive arrangement though, in that the staff had to shell out an amount of twenty thousand rupees to meet her demand. Anyway the expenses did not matter much as long as it assured them that something really spectacular was on the cards. Monali would dazzle the stage; and she would leave nothing to chance.

And now just a few quick words about the wonderful actress. So very gorgeous was Monali—as though a brand new Japanese doll had just been unpacked on the stage! Her raven-black brows had been plucked to perfection, kinking a faultless arch over her expressive eyes. Those were a pair of limpid eyes, ever eager to exchange an acknowledging look with her fans. Charming were the smiles that continually flickered across her attractively moist lips and yet they were for all, so very unending, so very universal in their appeal. Oh, she was owner of an ever delightful countenance and she was so equitable in scattering her charm! Look at her at any distance and from any angle, and she imparted the same endearing vibe to one and all. And then she had lustrous smooth hair, braided beautifully, as if inviting her besotted beholders to stroke it for a feeling. What is more she was fairly tall: none would ever miss her presence in the crowd of characters on or off the stage. Her eye-catching complexion, her swinging gait—everything was comparable with the most sensuous enchantress ever known to the mankind.

Only a few short hours were left before the starting of the performance. The spectators were slowly filling up the space and in time the auditorium was filled to capacity. Besides the spectators, the invited guests also reached there on time. Among those invited, Markandeyulu was special but somehow, by nature, he was not at all interested in such dramatic performances on stage. Nevertheless, he was the head of the division—whether he liked the stage performance or not, he was expected to take part in all such functions organised by his staff. That was the norm. And that was his predicament. How could he have avoided that?

As the special guest he was entitled to special treatment though. Markandeyulu was ushered into the greenroom. Reaching there he found everyone busy doing his work. The one near the entrance was busy pomading his moustache while another sitting near him was thoughtfully applying layers of foundation on his face. There was one in the corner, smoothing out the crease on his outfit and another beside him was busy setting his wig right. So it was all hectic there.

Then Markandeyulu entered the room adjacent to the greenroom. There Monali was busy too. She was already a beautiful lady but she knew her spectators would demand more from her. And she was trying her best to live up to the expectation of her fans. However, finding Markandeyulu approaching her, she politely motioned towards the chair lying near her. And he sat down. A moment of silence just passed between them. Nay, Markandeyulu was busy preparing himself for his momentous step ahead. By now he was already smitten by Monali, and by her matchless beauty. Oops! He did not even know that he was only gawping at Monali. For minutes on end he just ogled at her, his focus shifting from one attractive spot on her body to another. Immersed in his thought, he had little time for his inhibition.

‘O Monali, you’re a matchless beauty. Oh no, you’re the haloed angel that alighted from the sky. I’ve in all my life had not seen a woman more beautiful than you,’ Markandeyulu went on blabbering. He had a strange quiver on his lips and it seemed he had difficulty in uttering all the words that lay lumped at his throat.

Monali enjoyed the helplessness of Markandeyulu and all the unctuous words he uttered in her praise. In response she only uttered, ‘Um…hoon.’

‘Now I’m not in my control, Monali. Throw your buttery arms around me and take me in your embrace, now…this moment,’ entreated Markandeyulu.

Like her previous response, Monali said nothing that was meaningful. She had only her soft monosyllables to repeat, ‘Um…hoon.’

By now Markandeyulu had already left his chair. Slowly he inched towards Monali. Then he leaned forward and planted a kiss on her lips. And that was all he did before rushing out of the greenroom.

Any excuse was okay for doubling back. He was suddenly reminded of a very important commitment at home—saying that he just vanished from the scene. But alas! That was not enough to save him. Fear was there to stalk him. Howsoever he tried he could not get a wink of sleep that night. And he kept thinking, ‘Did Monali take his action as uncouth? Was she angry? True she did not create any fuss, but was her silence not a sign of her fury? Oh my god, I’m a culprit: I was invited as an honoured guest. I should have acted conscientiously. I should not have behaved so uncouthly with a lady. In case Monali has chosen to complain before the police, what will happen to me? Maybe she’ll wait till the completion of the stage show and then go to the police station right away. She’ll not rest until she has put me behind bars. Oh my god, what’ll happen to me now? The public will force-shave my head, and then parade me on the streets with garlands of brinjals and lady’s fingers. People will force-feed me the cow-dung solution and ask me to lick Monali’s feet in public. Oh my god, excuse me once, this time alone.’

The day dawned after a dreadful night of trauma. The effect of insomnia and tension debilitating him, Markandeyulu had a nasty fall as he tried to get up. And for hours he lay senseless on the ground. Then there came a doctor to examine him. Now Markandeyulu cried aloud, ‘Save me. I’m not a criminal. I’m only a poor pathetic lover boy. Please..please don’t send me to jail.’

The doctor gave him a pill to get some sleep. As per his diagnosis, the patient was unsuccessfully trying to get over some unknown mental tension. His blood pressure had soared to a disturbing level. And so he should take bed rest, at least for a week.

Whether or not anybody could make any sense of what Markandeyulu uttered in his schizophrenia, Monali definitely knew what he meant. As soon as she got the news, she came rushing to see the patient. He was, after all, her patient! She sat near him and whispered into his ear, ‘Mr Markandeyulu, you’re ever such a naïve fellow I must say.’

Markandeyulu said, ‘I couldn’t say you ‘sorry’, Monali. I’d no courage left in me then, after what I did there. Now you’d better punish me. Now, this moment. Yes, you punish me, and only then I’ll be free from my mental agony. Please, Monali, please.’

‘Mr Markandeyulu, I’m not what you’re thinking of me. I’m not a woman who can seek legal remedy for restoring her dignity. I’m just a eunuch you know. So, can I go to police to lodge a report because you stole a kiss from me?’

Listening to this Markandeyulu went speechless. And he pondered over the issue for minutes on end. Probably he was thinking as to what he should do in the changed circumstances. Should he shoo Monali away? And go away from her to a safe and respectful distance? Should he say perfunctory “sorry” and let things go their way?

‘Still…you may like to excuse me,’ said Markandeyulu. His tone showed that he was slowly limping back to normalcy.

Then he sighed…and thanked god profusely. Finally he thanked Monali, again and again, for (s)he took the matter so seriously and rushed to him to restore his tottering dignity.

A. N. Nanda
New Delhi

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Sunday, March 09, 2014

Tiger and the Truth

Tiger n the Truth
We're All Friends Here
Last Monday happened to be a day of jungle bliss for us. Even before the day dawned we were ready to head for Ranthambore in an open jeep. The morning breeze was one of chill, the expectation was high that a tiger would come our way, and not for nothing we were all bathed and dressed to meet the king: the jungle king.
One minute Please, Let Me Scratch
The forest has been divided into zones and our zone of traversal was zone four. Four: did it mean anything in terms of greater or lesser chance of meeting the big cat? Any numerologist among us? And ‘no’ came the reply. I wondered what could be the reason behind such division. However I did not ask the guide to explain but had an answer ready in my mind. It could be to increase the chance of spotting a tiger, or to avoid crowding the forest by the tourists and their jeeps, or it could be to optimize the earning.
Mr. Owl: Can U Spot Him?
Ranthambore is a deciduous forest. Its vegetation is different from what we see in the rainforests of south India, Odisha, the North East. And at this part of the year when the trees had shed their leaves, the forest gave a very civilized look. So it had enough rooms for the movement of animals and ensured the visibility. We strained our eyes to look at the furthest we could to spot the animals and birds. As for me, I was reminded of the charming narratives of Jim Corbett in his book “Jungle Lores” as our jeep revved on. The guide explained that there are no elephants in Ranthambore who could have destroyed the vegetation. Oh, that explained why the tiger had chosen to rule so civilized a forest.
We're a Peaceful Family, Right?
To start with we were shown the pug marks of a tiger; it seemed the wild king had prowled around the previous night. But then it was no indication that we were going to meet the animal soon. Sighting tiger has to be taken as a matter of chance. Otherwise, the king would not allow an audience to us merely because we were coming with proper dress and after a morning shower. We should better concentrate on observing those that came our way—all those from non-tiger species. There were a lot of peacocks preening themselves and there were deer, wild boars and a woodpecker scrambling around for their breakfast of choice. A couple of crocodiles slowly came out of the lake to have their sun bath and stray nilgais were found grazing in a mood of blithe unconcern. And of course there were plenty of monkeys playfully gamboling near us with their longish tails genially outlining their path of pleasure in the air.
To Begin a Day
The most memorable sight was the one that was connected with our interaction with treepies, the playful bird of the forest. They were coming and sitting on the jeep at close proximity. They were not mindful of the fact that humans could bring them harm. Even when the guide whistled one of them came and sat on his palm. I had, never in my life, seen such a level of rapport between a shy bird and a human. Not only that the treepies were displaying their best of friendliness by such gesture; they were conscious of the fact that we were in need of consolation after missing our chance to spot a tiger. And they gave their best of twitters, melodious with joyous outpourings.
The Pugmark
It was time we returned. I for myself was ready with an explanation why I had no luck with sighting the animal. It occurred to me that I had earlier seen one such tiger crossing my road…and had shared that in my blog. [here] It was the sight of a lifetime. Any more than that would have been bonus. Then I would have deprived somebody of his chance of sighting the animal, once in a lifetime!
For an Early Morning Swim
I asked the driver of the jeep if he had sighted the wild king recently and exhorted him to tell the truth. At the end of visit I thought I should go back with something truthful. Despite the excusable tendency in the jungle-lovers to tell a white lie about their birds and beast, the fellow obliged me with a sheepish smile and a reply, ‘To tell you the truth, sir, I had no luck in last six months.’
Our Guest 4m Siberia
The driver could not ignore the urge in me to know the jungle truth. He was not only a well-behaved fellow but had the guts to tell the truth…just for a change! Yes, it was a tiger truth. Good for all of us: it was a good day to begin with.
A. N. Nanda

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