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Sunday, December 30, 2012

NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS


                       REST IN PEACE: NIRBHAYA- THE BRAVE HEART


Before I share my New Year resolves, I feel the death of the fearless 'daughter of India', gang raped and gruesomely battered in a moving bus in Delhi is too bone chilling an episode to be sidetracked or forgotten  easily. It is an awakening call to the framers of law and the general public who look the other way and feel totally indifferent to the happenings around. The powers that be appear to be hardly bothered cloistered as they are in a cocooned safety. This apathy has gone too far to be forgiven any longer. The cause concerns every single one of us.

The patriarchal, chauvinistic mindset which belittles and downplays women emancipation needs a vociferous burial. Let’s see how the concerned authorities act upon the statements which they make in their public appearances. Now the surcharged public outrage won’t be appeased with mere words sans concrete action.

We barely survived in 2012. The leitmotif of this BLACK SATURDAY will surely stalk us in the New Year.

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Irrespective of encircling dark clouds of evil tidings, I recall Alfred Tennyson’s wonderful lines:

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
            Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
           Ring out the false, ring in the true

The countdown to 2013 has already begun. I for my part have decided to turn a new leaf from the auspicious dawn of the New Year. Of course my wish list for the New Year will never be complete because my demands are crazy and keep multiplying by the hour. For example in my dreamy moments, I wish the mess around us be thrust deep down under some mythological abyss, guarded by giants with flaming torches at its entrance, thereby making escape Na mumkin. Pl.do smirk at such a silly pipe dream! But our imagination is free and mercifully not under the control of any thought police (ref. George Orwell’s novel “Nineteen Eighty Four”). If the above is sheer nonsense then, let there be the genie, the kind we find in Arabian Adventures of“Aladdin’s lamp” which may sweep into nothingness all the grimness and cynicism with the sleight of his hand. Ridiculously droll in this world of rapid scientific advancements to think of such funny solutions.
I confess sheepishly that to offer solutions to overcome the surrounding muddle is not my cup of tea after all. I let it go. But my internal critic has to be pacified. Its threatening growls are getting louder every day for some action on my part. So I decided to make some New Year resolves to bail myself out of the pricking interiority. I hope, my friends; you’ll give me thumbs up for my daring.
To be frank all my promises are linked to the social narrative of our lives. A political narrative is beyond me. Though I’m impacted intensely by the prevailing scenario.

                                      On this day I make a resolve that………

Please excuse some role reversal here and there. Being a weak kneed person I’m mortally scared of fracas on the road. Therefore, I promise to be very discreet on the roads because I wish to remain alive for some time more. Hence I will respond smilingly to pressure horns of private bus operators, drunken truckers, police vehicles with some big gun inside, macho cash rich young men driving swanky cars bought with dad’s overflowing pockets from hefty compensation amounts from the govt. for land acquisition deals. I’ll oblige immediately and slow down to let them pass victoriously.

When some half witted behind the wheel passes me from the left I simply thank God that my car and my limbs are intact. And I simply exclaim to console my helplessness," Oh my God”! When some hoodlum jumps a line and drives to the jam packed front at a manned railway crossing, I’ll flaunt a fake amused look because of my saintly tolerance. .
Little role reversal. As a biker I feel ashamed to drive in the two wheeler lane. I’ll be in between the cars in the fast moving lane, negotiating angles like a stunt man, making the drivers of other vehicles drive with their hearts in their laps. Oh no, I’ll also indulge in instant gratification of talking on my mobile by tilting my neck to reach the mobile deftly placed on the shoulder, as my friend’ll not wait. I’m the king of the road. My motto is: speed thrills and other commuters better behave.
As a road user on the inner roads, I’ll follow iconic mannerisms. I’ll prefer walking in the middle of the road. Will not look right or left while crossing the road and if some one honked his horn, I will collect some like minded people and question the daring of the particular human. He’ll be lucky if he is allowed to leave simply with a verbal lashing.

And then while walking my dog I’ll release the leash and let him scare some passerby or defecate on well maintained grassy area outside the main gate of any house. It should not be my house. Others be  damned. I will not hesitate after some he hawing to spit on the sidewalk. Ostensibly to clear my throat of some irritant.
As house holder I’m going to act as a role model. When no body is watching I’ll throw left over food on the side of the road because I don’t want to waste food. Stray dogs, flies, and mosquitoes will have a field day and subsequently, stink as a bonus. I won’t mind stealthily littering the area near my house with pea shells carrot peel, radish leaves and other pickings.
My capacity to ruffle peace is legendary. My children’ll brazenly play cricket on the community roads and smash a few window panes of neighboring houses, trespass them to retrieve the ball and leave the gate ajar. The brats will cause full throated commotion around, preventing peace loving gentle folks to enjoy some undisturbed moments in their lawns for fear of being hit by the ball. No request or persuasion from the aggrieved parties will penetrate my skin.
Of course I’m raising the future generation of our country. The promising brats’ll sure make me feel proud.
In social gatherings I’ll aggressively indulge in a monologue, preventing others from intervening even edgeways. I’ll out shout everyone to silence and usurp all the space for me, mine and myself.
At parties I’ll overload my plate with food as if there is no tomorrow and later unable to consume the whole, unabashedly leave the plate under the table for all to see.
At recently opened Bharti Wal-Mart stores my children and I’ll touch and feel every item and ignore if my child picks up a small chocolate and eats in the safety of the isle. I’m in fact preparing him for striking profitable deals in life ahead.
My megalomania doesn’t stop here but I’ll ,for fear of creating a déjà vu in your minds. So I'm tearing the oppressive wish list to pieces. Enough is enough. Don’t you think my hubris need reigning in?

Image coutesy: Internet
Pl. share your new year promises for all to ponder over.

Monday, December 24, 2012

WRITING AS "STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS"

Here I'm going to share with you a fascinating narrative style of two great novelists of 20th century whose novels I happened to read when I was a university student. This literary technique is called “Stream of Consciousness.” Virginia Woolf and James Joyce were the pioneers and both applied it to great advantage in their novels. These two novelists were actually a part of the syllabus of ‘Modern Fiction’, one of the papers for Masters in English literature which I was pursuing at that time.

In this narrative style the story is told through a type of interior monologue, which takes place in the characters’ minds, minus unity of time and place. The writer bares the internal soliloquy of the characters through disjointed, incoherent pieces of information which the reader has to put together by joining the incidents and events into a logical whole in one’s head. To be honest that bland diet was tough for a young girl of twenty. Those were the days with entirely untamed perceptions and impatience of the callow and restless, but there was no way out. The upside was that even the heavy content didn’t block the realization that you ‘ere grounded in a world similar to your own.
Much later when my perusal was purely for reading pleasure, the books proved to be a window to the existential complexities of our pilgrimage on earth. Like a real rainbow which appears on some rare day after rains, real life rainbows most often than not are rare too. But gnawing hot spots in life keep us subdued and these colors don't get noticed. This reflection is brought out most vividly in the books I’m referring to.

Now let me introduce the books. On my very first reading of Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway (pub.1925), as expected, I was led to a lonely road where I had to grope my way out. Later on, I became more familiar with it, and could read half way James Joyce’s "The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” (pub.1916). At that time I found Mrs. Dalloway interesting and Joyce’s portrait somewhat cerebral. I attempted to read it through later, as its novel approach to story telling could not be ignored. However “Mrs. Dalloway”, I always enjoyed and experienced new insights unfolded in every fresh reading. Though I must confess that on the first reading of this experimental approach to fiction writing, one has to forage for narrative links to make sense of the intricacies of the plot structure. It challenges your intellect and you love this poking. A writer has to plunge into unknown territories to keep the grey cells motivated.

Undoubtedly the technique does give the writer enough scope for a in depth characterization. Joyce in his “The Portrait…” weaves the complicated journey of Stephan’s ( the hero) life from a submissive childhood to mature adulthood, through threading his thought processes, his sensory impressions, and his remembrances. His upbringing vis-à-vis his parents and his relatives; his homesickness, his sensitivities and his school life are revealed via his internal musings as a boarder.
“Mrs. Dalloway” is an account of a single day in the life of Clarissa the wife of a suave, high ranking government official Richard Dalloway; as she goes to buy flowers for the evening party which she is hosting that night. When she moves around London shopping centers, her mind rushes back and forth in time, dwelling on her young days at Burton, her present position, her doubts, her finer points, her desires, her regrets, her one time suitor Peter Walsh and why she did not marry him and chose Richard Dalloway instead. Her uncensored mental journey reveals brilliant sparks of complex human emotions. The reader relates to her turmoil as she takes you along, while traversing the secret furrows of her mind. You never lose sympathy for her and admire her childlike misgivings. You love her because her concerns are our concerns and like us she is not perfect. Her psychological musings during her walk open up the corridors to what she thinks her life is all about, as she indulges in harsh self analysis.
Only a great writer can create a master piece through a style which is born out of randomness. To keep under control various strings of story line, while sustaining the curiosity of the reader is a feat of writing artistry.
This unique method of story telling gives an edge to the writer in as much as it gifts a license to do away with most of punctuation necessities. It certainly lubricates and exercises the gray cells.
Dear friends, just imagine if one of us (provided we can communicate) manage to figure out our mental gallop of a few hours in readable prose! It can be an amusing frame if painted diligently.Or someone with a penchant for story telling can knit a psychological thriller using this approach.
For example while chopping vegetables I was in fact thinking of Chetan Bhagat’s novel “Revolution 2020” and praising the dramatic turn he gives to the story through a sudden transformation of the protagonist at the end. Interspersed with this, thoughts of going to the bank; visit to the tailor and how to write this piece which I had been postponing and scores of jumbled thoughts intruded simultaneously.
The originality of this style of narration however keeps our curiosity intact as the reader is all the time on his mental toes to comprehend the enigmatic hums and haws, subtle pauses and shifts of the internal commentary of the characters.








Sunday, December 16, 2012

WORD POWER




God has blessed us with best means of communication through languages evolved by man over centuries. Words empower us to effectively communicate with others in everyday life situations.
 Words are pulsating power brokers in creating wealth of ideas in the minds of thinking beings.They give form and cohesion to thoughts which are communicated through grammatically structured and semantically sound sentences. Words weave magic in the experienced hands of a master craftsman: the literary artist.
 For instance poetry is interplay of melody in words. It is not the meaning but apt choices of words which make us go over and over again to stanzas which are sheer music to the ears.  Wordsworth’s DAFFODILS conjure up in the mind’s eye the bliss of dancing daffodils in the breeze. What can surpass the sleepy tenor of words when a mother puts her baby to sleep singing a lullaby bringing Chanda Mama in the child's lap? Welcoming words from parents’, siblings, and one’s spouse have the ability to calm many a ruffled feather. Such is the charm and honeyed appeal of words.
It is the words which write beautiful stories for us. They chronicle the events of past ages. They enable us to peek into the saga of families .They glide us through romance and love. They express our grief and sorrows. They inspire us. They guide us in life’s rough patches. They stand by us in all situations and are our loyal friends.
However, words are like a double edged sword. They become an arsenal in the hands of leaders who sway public opinion in their favour for nefarious purposes. World History is replete with examples of the vicious use of words to manipulate the sentiments of the people. Hitler’s propaganda machinery is a case in point. His megalomania led to near destruction of the world and changed the course of world history.
There are umpteen instances also, where the oratorical skills of the well-meaning leaders turned the tables on the unscrupulous elements and brought forth tremendous changes.
Battles are won or lost depending on the oratorical dexterity of a General to revive the sagging confidence of his forces or of a teacher to lift the students out of examination fever or of a parent to calm a restive child or of a lover to reassure his beloved
I had forged an amorous relationship with words a long time back when I was in college. The first two books which I got issued from my college library were Pearl S. Buck’s, “The Good Earth” and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s, “The Hound of The Baskervilles Both books introduced me to an entirely new but fascinating world of fiction where ingenious use of word formations articulated a mesmerizing world of gripping stories.   
How the dexterous use of words brought to life Sherlock Holmes the legendary fictional detective, with whose personality readers were smitten.  His persona: enigmatic, mysteriously romantic, wearing a long coat, smoking  pipe and his alter ego Dr.Watson held sway over my curious and impressionable mind for long. It was the magical words which crafted those unputdownable mysteries. It was during these years my interest for reading and learning new words developed and became a lifelong passion
More recently the supernatural narrative of Harry Potter books spiced with enchanting word power crazed the youngsters all over the globe. Our grandson not yet thirteen told me that he had read some of them fifty times over.   
Words are powerful entities and extend their semantic boundaries regularly, defining new concepts, and conferring nomenclature to changes which are taking place in the universe all the time. Languages keep pace with the needs of the expanding world by assimilating words from other languages and cultures or by coining new words.
 In his book “Literature and Science” Aldous Huxley says that ‘words empower us not only to communicate scientific quantified regularities but also to weave oceans of human experiences and emotions in a purified, highly sensitized and nuanced language.’
Word games are proliferating in print media and being lapped by young and old. All-time favorite ‘Scrabble’ has its loyal fan base. Testing the vocabulary and comprehension of the students are an integral part of school curriculum, language proficiency tests and competitive examinations.
The contribution of the popular ‘Reader’s Digest’ with its attractive page, “Word Power” has readers (including myself) addicted to the page and the first thing which they check out is this interestingly conceived page.
Words will always remain inadequate to express the infinite world in which we dwell. Language says Saussure (father of modern Linguistics) is a living organism and flexibility in its connotative sphere is inbuilt. Words denote particularities but connote concepts as they combine two aspects of the language phenomenon i.e. concept vs. acoustic image.

For a writer an enriched vocabulary opens up possibilities of penning down deeply felt experiences evocatively.


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Images: courtesy Internet
 Your  comments are awaited eagerly.

Friday, December 7, 2012

MORNING WALK WITH LARKS




My morning walk constitutes a panorama of unique delights and also some reflective moments. I feel blessed to be able to enjoy the wonderful environs of a park which is close to my house and is largely instrumental in goading me, to dwell on certain uncomfortable realities of human existence.  Here every day, brings new landscape of surprises, possibilities and rich food for thought.
Once there, far removed from the mundane every day hassles and breathing balmy and refreshing breeze make my spirits soar. The company of ‘innocence’ personified in the persona of joyful larks under a pure azure sky, illumined by precious, warm and golden December sunshine lends a brilliant charm to the surroundings. It is quintessentially a world which is known only to a fortunate few amongst us.
That the larks will acquire the potency of a metaphor with an original linkage baffle me. My heart melts with pure appreciation for the happy go lucky larks that gift me boundless joy with their childlike gaiety and self absorption, as they concentrate on their task of finding insects, seeds etc.They symbolize unadulterated mirth.Their body language oozes easiness and unusual confidence, though they look somewhat unglamorous. They have nothing to hide. No money in Swiss banks, no tax evasion and no hypocrisy.
Sometimes I feel a twinge of disdain, in their-don’t care a damn- attitude as they don’t even register my presence.   However, I often sense some trepidation in their flight as if my being there resurrected some long suppressed anger out in the open. Suddenly converging under a silver oak tree, they twitter agitatedly which rises to a crescendo. Perhaps that is how they articulate their grievances, “You’ve usurped all the vacant land for your skyscrapers and big, small houses.You axe  trees mercilessly and pollute everything with your callous ways. And now how  dare you to trespass this small space too! Why don’t you leave us alone? God’s bountiful earth gives us sufficient food and a small puddle here and there to quench our thirst. Don’t interrupt our few moments of relaxation.”
“Do you ever realize how you harm us by throwing trash everywhere which remains unlifted and decays? We unknowingly peck at  it, fall sick and die. Our young ones’ get infected too. Have you ever done surveys why our population is decreasing because there is no space for us to raise our families? You are predators around us. Have you ever paused to notice that the sprightly house sparrows around whom such sweet children’s stories were woven are almost extinct?"
" Then imagine the ear splitting noise pollution of your possessions. You celebrate your Diwali while we fly from one place to the other in terror, as if our bodies will burst with the deafening sounds."
courtesy: visualquotient.net
" There was a time, we used to have refreshing ablutions on the banks of water bodies and now when we step there, our tiny feet get entangled in the refuse and our nostrils are invaded with foul smell, forcing us to beat a hasty retreat. We’ve even been robbed of this modest pleasure."


Continuing their harangue while looking at me accusingly they blurted out, “Look over there, those mangy mongrels keep chasing us, when we descend on the side walk, to fluff our feathers to soak in the warmness of the sun. They scare us away. What have you done to check their numbers, when you know that they spread disease and feed on filth and defecate and urinate on the grass where your children play games, sit and chat? You remain engrossed in hoarding money by whatever means to push your good for nothing sons and buy them positions with your filthy lucre and arrange grand wedding extravaganzas for your silly daughters." 
This barrage of invectives and snubs at the hands of ever charming larks, set me thinking about the stark truth of their assertions. I realized how genuine their protestations are and how insensitive our approaches! It is not the larks alone but it is the cry of all birds, to listen to which our ears are not attuned.
Other two:  courtesy Google