Monday, 11 February 2019

Prayer

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Oh the architect of our destiny
the harbinger of harmony, prosperity,well being
victory to thee, victory to thee
victory to your will at all times 

Traveled for long, thousands of years
today weary, tired,divided and so far away
from our famed ethos, culture & values
a pale reflection of our original selves!

Save us oh saviour
from this web of desire
greed, lust and anger
that translated into deceit, corruption, murder
rape of even little ones
hate and intolerance of  citizens
for  one another   

Let us Oh Lord  drop off into slumber
a deep sleep- for a week, ten days
and awaken with none remembering
their caste, religion, region or economic strata

Awaken  with a clean slate
hearts clean and fresh
hearts filled with just one emotion
love, love, love for all-  mankind
fauna, flora all living beings....

May our nation awaken to her true nature!

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

My Thoughts on the Book "SriLankan Tamil Poetry- An Anthology"


I traveled to Vijayawada in November 2018 to attend the poetic prism organized by the Cultural centre of Vijayawada and Amaravathi (CCVA), The organizers had arranged for our pick up from the railway station and drop to the hotel.When I entered the car, I got introduced to distinguished Srilankan poet and translator, Mr S.Padmanathan (Sopa). We discussed about the constitutional crisis that was then prevailing in his country caused by conflict between the President and Prime minister. On reaching the hotel, we promised to catch up the next day at the poetic meet.

The next day when we met, Sopa kindly presented to me two books written by him, one in Tamil  and another in English, (poems of Tamil poets translated by him )  titled, "SriLankan Tamil Poetry- An Anthology".In this post, I wish to share my thoughts and impressions about the anthology that has 48 poems by 26 poets. Although, various subjects are discussed in the poems, given the trauma of civil war and violence that the island nation witnessed for a long time, the accent is more on the impact of these experiences on the lives of people. In the preface Sopa observes as follows: "If this collection contains too many poems on war, I would say it is not my fault.We have lived through it and the poets who experienced the trauma of war have had their say and those who were outside the war zone need to respect them for what they have endured."

I immensely liked the introduction to the book written by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha M.P. which contains the spirit of the poems included in the anthology. He has extensively quoted from the poems and it  becomes easy for the reader to relate to it when he reads it in full, later in the book. The concern and sensitivity of Prof Wijesinha comes through very clearly in his narration. One feels that if the island nation had more MPs like him, the country would have been saved the years of conflict, pain and trauma. 

We all know that war is cruel. At the end of the day, no one really wins, more so in a civil war. Scars remain in the minds of even  the soldiers of the so called 'victors'. Impact of war is a lot more than  mere statistics of people dead or injured in an operation reported in the media  . Poetry goes deep and brings forth the feelings and experiences of the people in flesh and blood.- What it means to deal with situations when  heads of families/ sons in prime of youth  disappear, when you are forced to leave behind and flee from a  place that had been home for you and your ancestors. All these and more can be experienced in a reading of the anthology that has been translated in a free flowing style by Sopa.

As prof WijeSinha had already drawn attention to many good poems, I looked out for others as well that made an impression on me. There is this poem titled "Murder" by N.A.Nuhman alluding to the incident of the burning down of the  Jaffna public library in ethnic violence-

Last night
I had a dream
Lord Buddha was shot dead
by the police-
guardians of law
   
Under the cover of darkness
came the ministers
'His name- not in our lists!
why did you kill him?
they ask in anger
No, sirs, no!
without bumping him off
it was impossible
to harm even a fly.
Therefore....' they stammered
There was no mistake.

'Okay, okay!
Hide the corpse.' 

In the subtle poem, "Rainy Season" by Karoline KaitamPillai, she discusses about rain being enjoyable 'as you sip tea and watch through the window panes" and rain being detestable "when it leaks through thatched roofs".

Sometime
we may all love rain
when ventilated rooms and window panes
and views of water- dripping plants
are available to all

We may love rain
but forget to sip tea
when memories of our comrades
haunt us!

T. Jayaseelan's "Grandfather" recounts the nostalgic association of the poet with his "appu' and ends with these lines:-

Selfless love
so rare in this life
ruled by sophistication
will I be able
to offer my grandson
a relationship
as precious
as yours, appu?
I wonder

In the poem "Catching dogs", the poet is vexed by his dog running around freely and the possibility of his  becoming  a victim of the dog catchers

My dog doesn't understand
if it is found
a stray dog
he would be clubbed
to death
My dog doesn't understand
He runs off dodging me

"The Release" was one poem that touched me deeply. I had not observed the name of the poet as I read through the poem. soon after I finished  reading, I eagerly checked the name of the poet to find that it was written by Sopa (S.Pathmanathan) himself. The poem tells the story of the person who fled from his home at the time of violence, leaving his dog to take care of the house. I am quoting below the first stanza and two more at random  from the poem 

I returned
after a six month exile
to find to my surprise
my house standing, the roof intact
with the exception of some stolen items
our belongings safe 

From the sanctuary I paid fleeting visits
seeing me you leaped up in joy
licked me, snatched from my hands
the goodies I had brought

You are not there
but your memories haunt me
when I think that you perished
defending the house that I abandoned
I feel the pangs of guilt 

Sopa's poem "Thoughts on a Full Moon Day( Composed on the eve of the departure of the IPKF)" calls attention to the fact that the Tamils who had thought that the Indian Peace Keeping force would be a saviour found to their dismay that it did more harm than good:-

But one day the Gods turned into demons
they pestered us who had asked for a homeland
and our homes were destroyed
the transformed Gods had to be appeased
with fowls and goats
with ornaments and houses
with wine and women 

The harassment faced by ordinary citizens is powerfully brought out in the poem "They will come again" by Castro.

I am fed up
This is the third time
they have come
it is the third time
they have searched
my baggage
torn my bags
scattered my clothes
glared at me
suspiciously

One of them
must have thought of Jesus Christ
He slapped me on the left cheek
and before I could turn my right cheek
slapped it too

When they left
they spirited away
some of my possessions
They returned a fourth time

They will come again!


Moving away to another topic I would like to share the poem "Freedom" written by Mulai Musrifa.

My daughter is drawing a picture
My son wants it to shine like the son
My wife prefers a cooling moon
My mother wants a lot of stars on it
My father prefers gathering clouds
I want a never ending sky
But the brush said the choice is mine

Sangari's "Today I am a big girl" talks about  of how all of a sudden a girl loses freedom to clap, laugh, shout out aloud or climb trees on becoming a 'big girl'.

must be modest
patient
coyness
a female ornament
talking
smiling
glancing
dressing
and walking
everything as per code
a rock
a block of ice
a woman 

There are many more wonderful poems in the anthology like Avuvvai's "My son comes home", Solaikili's "That velvet bird, Ramalingam's "Lust is without caste", Sharmila seyyid's "Keys of the broken home", Karunakaran's "Her question". However, I am not discussing them in detail, in the interests of brevity of this post. For me, reading Sopa's book was a revelation. It  gave a lot more information and insights into the minds and hearts of the Tamil people of SriLanka who had to go through decades of hardship. We can only hope that all problems get resolved in the island nation so that the Tamils can write more poems on love, happiness, aspirations and  all good things in life.

NB: Readers can reach the writer and translator Sopa at the Email ID - spatma149@gmail.com

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Sunday, 20 January 2019

Wisdom From a casual Interaction

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The other day I had a conversation with a teacher who takes tuition in  Maths and science ( CBSC syllabus) for students of class 9th and 10th. As she wishes to remain anonymous, let us call her Ms Y. The teacher related an anecdote about one of her students. During the tuition class, the student gave an impression of  knowing all the answers to problems/questions asked orally, as she answered in unison with other children . However, in formal tests during tuition or at school , she fared badly. Ms Y said that she advised her student to ask questions and clear doubts. "I am not interested in knowing what you know well. I am interested to find out what are the areas in which you are weak or not clear so that you can be made strong.'  I felt that this was some very sound advice. I asked Ms Y  as to what prompted her to give such advice.

Ms Y is an Msc B Ed  qualified person who had quit teaching after couple of years of working in late eighties, to cater to the challenges of motherhood. However, years later when her son was in 9th class, she started teaching him. A few more students requested to join and thus began a revival of her journey as a teacher. she particularly loved Maths and enjoyed imparting it to students. Ms Y said that the seed of the advice that she gives to students  came from an experience from those early days. In a tuition class as in any class, you get a mix of students who are sharp and others who are weak. Yet success depends on the approach and mental make up of the students.

In that initial class Ms Y  had two weak students, a boy and a girl. The key difference between the nature of the two was that the girl would keep on asking questions about things that she did not understand. At times, it seemed repetitive but  she was getting her doubts cleared and  was not afraid of being thought of as 'ignorant ' or 'slow' before other students. The boy on the other hand remained silent and was reluctant to ask questions. Gradually, the girl began to do better and better as she became sound in the basics. The boy could not make appreciable progress.

As Ms Y related these stories, I was thinking of how important the approach of the teacher is to the success of a student. They can be a source of encouragement and reassurance or one of  discouragement and demotivation. I was reminded of my own Maths teacher in middle school. we had just moved from class V to VI and were scared having to cope with a new teacher and new concepts like sets, algebra etc. The teacher was not thorough in his subject. He used to simply copy down steps on the black board, expect us to copy it down and perhaps by heart them. To cover up his limitation, he used to always dress 'Tip Top' and put on an air of an intellectual. We used to call him "Tippan". At the end of the class, he would ask "Any doubts?. Ask any question". If no one did, he would persuade them- "Go on ask a question".Finally if a child took courage and asked a question, his response would be " you coconut pith holder ( Brainless) you don't know the answer even to this! ".  His strategy was to ensure that in his class, in the long run no one ever said, that they did not understand his teaching.

I was happy to listen to the approach of Ms Y- urging students to come out with all things they have not understood or have difficulty with, so that they can be addressed. Teachers in general, whether at school or in  tuition classes would do well to follow this tip.They need to reassure, and ensure that the children do not have the fear of ridicule so that they may speak up and  freely ask even "silly" questions.The approach and effectiveness of teachers affect not just one project or assignment but the future and success of generations of students! 


Saturday, 12 January 2019

Captivating lines from here and there- 25

  • Successful people think about what they want and how to get it most of the time. Unsuccessful people on the other hand, think and talk about what they don't want most of the time and who is to blame for their problems and difficulties- From the book "Million Dollar Habits by Brian Tracy
  • Excellence is improving every day on whatever you are doing.
  • If leaders praise good work and encourage more of the same,then eventually they will be able to relax and let their subordinates do most of the work. All the leaders will have to do is guide them in the proper direction.
  • Happiness is feeling good about yourself- Louise Hay, Author and metaphysical healer   
  • Everywhere we go,we see problems.Anyone with a solution to a problem is an innovator- Dr Annamalai , Scientist and editor,Creativity sphere
  • " I forgive you for not being the way the way I want you to be. I forgive you and set you free". This affirmation sets us free as well- Louise Hay Author and metaphysical healer
  • Get out of your complacency states.Look for inconveniences and find out ways to remove the inconveniences- Dr Annamalai, Scientist & Editor "Creativity sphere
  • The best way to put the 'Law of Giving' into operation is to make a decision that anytime you come into contact with anyone you will give them something - it could be a flower, a compliment or a prayer- Deepak Chopra Author, Seven spiritual Laws of Success
  • By paying attention to the signals of your emotions, you can understand with absolute precision everything you are now living,or you have ever lived- From the book " Ask and it is given"
  • Every subject is really two subjects.Something that you desire and absence of something you desire. Some believe that they are focused on the subject of a healthy body, when actually they are focused on the fear of a sick body.  

Monday, 7 January 2019

Statistics

Even as politicians 
tell lies, damned lies
and statistics to back claims
the 'common man' of R.K.Laxman
stares in bewilderment
wondering "what is the fuss about?
Has my life really changed?"  

After all, "The good times" hasn't happened for him
for the farmer, the guy next door
or the one sleeping on the pavement
perhaps the 'good times' are not meant
for 'any citizen' but only for those
who are 'more citizen'!  

NB In the allegorical novel 'Animal Farm', by George Orwell, there is a proclamation by the pigs who control the government that.” All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." 

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."- Quote popularized in the United States by Mark Twain (among others),who attributed it to the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli:

Friday, 4 January 2019

'Kedarnath'- A Lovely experience

Soon after I watched the grand flick
on the vast, big screen- I told myself
must write about this alluring  experience
at least for the beautiful locales
set in elevated abundance!

It deserves a "Dekho" though, for a lot more
a very strong message, that you disrespect,
exploit nature, at your own peril and
that greed has to pay a very heavy price
in the long run!

Another important, sublime message
is of the grandeur of 'wholeness'
all of nature- humans, flora & fauna
being part of a grand panorama
albeit divisive voices of vested interests,
screaming,No, you are Hindus, Muslims
Sikhs and Christians!

Lovely acting by the debutante
Sarah Ali Khan, by the ever reliable Sushant Singh Rajput
and shall we say, by every actor
who played parts in the flick
black, white or shades of grey...

Director. co producer,Abhishek Kapoor
camera person, Tushar Ray, other technicians
can all be proud of the breath of fresh air
that the movie emits, radiates
it upholds traditional values of  'unity in diversity'
that India and Indianness stand for!

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Book Sharing- ' Zorami ' by Malsawmi Jacob

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Our  book Lovers club called "Bring your own Book", based out of Bangalore, meet periodically to share the gist of a book we have read and liked. Everyone brings a book he/she liked and talks about it. Great conversations follow!"Participants are encouraged to read a few lines from the book as well.  The best part of the exercise is that you get information and snippets from more number of books than you have actually read and you may be motivated to get hold of a book that impressed and actually read it yourself. Further you get exposure to a variety of books be it fiction, self help, classics, health, economics, spirituality, mystery or adventure!

When we met in November 2018 at the Takshashilla Foundation premises, I shared about the book "Zorami" the maiden novel of author Malsawmi Jacob, who is also an accomplished poet. The book,  tells about the life and times of the protagonist Zorami, from her childhood in the sixties to the year 2004. Parallelly, it traces the chequered history of the freedom movement of the Mizo people who were also part of British India.

 At the time of independence however, the Mizo people were not happy to be included with Independent India. Majority of the population felt that traditionally in terms of culture and as a race (Mongoloid), they were different and distinct from the mainland (Vai) people. They also felt that New Delhi was not bothered or concerned about the misfortune or difficulties experienced by people living in far flung areas.  In 1959, the Mizo Hills were devastated by a great famine known in Mizo history as 'Mautam Famine' . The cause of the famine was attributed to flowering of bamboos which  resulted in a rat population boom. After eating up bamboo seeds, the rats turned to crops, infested the huts and houses, causing plague in the Villages. 

Many people died on account of the famine and the administration did not seem to care. In chapter four of the book titled "A plague of Rats" , a character laments "They are eating up all the food. At this rate,we will all die of starvation" The local people formed a society called Mizo National Famine Front (MNFF) which  gained considerable popularity as a large number of Mizo Youth assisted in transporting rice and other essential commodities to interior villages. Later on the word "Famine" was dropped and MNF under the leadership of Pu (Mr) Laldenga was formed in October 1961 with the specified goal of achieving sovereign independence of Greater Mizoram.

The movement that had turned violent, was mercilessly crushed by the Indian army and MNF was outlawed in 1967. Many activists were tortured and their families and homes destroyed. In this regard some of the Mizos played the role of informers and assisted the army. The problems were finally sorted out through negotiations and Mizoram became a union territory and later a state. But the period of the struggle was a nightmare for the ordinary citizens and this has been effectively brought out in the novel. It is painful for a reader to read of brutalities by a state on its own people. It must have been all the more painful for the author to write about it, being a Mizo herself . 


Although there is the story of the movement in the background, 'Zorami' is not all dark and dreary. It is enlivened with stories of day to day life of the various characters who live in the town. Beautiful caricatures of  personalities abound in the book whether it is of the shy, diffident, quiet Zorami, her  high spirited friend Kimi or the kind hearted soldier Sardarji. It is delightful to read the small little pleasures of community living, and social life that is so universal- "When not in school, the girls played house, climbed trees and dug out dung beetles.But the greatest fun was sliding down a hill side on a mound of freshly dug earth. Then they'd forget to go home until dark. That brought on scolding,of course. But the fun they had was worth it." 

The bitter sweet life of Zorami with its secrets, joys, longing and concern are all brought home dramatically by the author and then there is the sweet climax  when  Zorami and Sanga  are together again in spirit, sans the misunderstanding. 

Utilizing the opportunity to read a few lines from the book, (instead of opting to read traumatic details of the Mizo agitation) I chose to read the part that had a big impact on the relationship between Zorami Pari, the protagonist and her spouse Lallian Sanga. 

Exercept

" Dinpui, Dinpui, wait for me, Don't leave me! Sanga mumbled

A startled Zorami put down the book that she was reading and gazed at her sleeping husband. She sat up and awoke her husband " U Sang, what is it? Who are you calling? 

He sat up and rubbed his eyes.She put a hand on his shoulder and asked " What is troubling you?" 
" A sad dream."
" Who is Dimpui?"
After a long silence, he told her. Dimpui is the girl he loved. He can't forget her, though he has tried. 

Zorami felt like she's hurtling down into a black abyss. And then she felt nothing.No anger, no grief, no emotion at all.Only a heavy deadness. "No wonder there is no spark of romance in our life together.He's a burnt out stub, poor guy!" She thought. 

At last,in a flat,listless voice she managed to ask " where is she now?"
" Dead."  

  After I shared about the book, I was happy that it elicited  excited discussion..One member shared his experience of a time when he was working in the north east region. There was  apathy from Delhi to a disaster faced by the region. We also discussed of what the reputed television anchor Rajdeep Sardesai had said about mainstream media  knowingly or unknowingly tending to pay less attention to incidents that happen far away from the Capital city. As for example, he admitted that the devastating  Chennai floods were nor given adequate coverage by the media in the initial days. Rajdeep has opined  that the media needs  to be consciously and constantly vigilant to ensure that this does not happen. 

Even as I write this post, fifteen  miners trapped in a rat hole mine in Meghalaya since 13th December  are yet to be rescued although more than two weeks have lapsed. There has been apathy and delay in mobilizing the high pressure pumps essential for the rescue. Contrast this to the Thailand Cave rescue operation wherein young children and their football coach were successfully rescued by the concerted efforts of many agencies including the Government.

 During that crisis, the Pune based pump maker, Kirloskar Brothers had contributed by sending machinery and teams of engineers to assist in the Thai rescue operation. Unfortunately, the same has not happened in Meghalaya. Given the number of days lost, a survivor says that "There is no way the trapped miners will come out alive. My only hope is to see that their bodies are pulled out and last rites be carried out as per traditions.".

At a time when  there are so many divisions being created in the minds of people by vested interests in terms of language, region , race, religion or caste (that hit at the very concept of a single nation and unity in diversity), the novel 'Zorami', reminds  and exhorts us to love and respect all countrymen living in any part of our great nation, be it  east, west, north or south!  

( Readers may like to read an earlier blog reviewing Malsawmi Jacob's book- "The Messiah"  

  https://rajeevianlinesandverses.blogspot.com/2018/07/a-book-review-messiah-by-malsawmi-jacob.html )