Monday, December 7, 2015

SUBMERGED - THE DAY CHENNAI SANK







The photos posted above have been taken by my neighbour HARI HARAN


People are walking through the flooded MMDA Colony on Wednesday. Photo: R. Ragu


SUBMERGED - THE DAY CHENNAI SANK

As I write this post, Chennai is still cut off from the rest of the world. There is no electricity, no Wi-fi, and most important, water is scarce (reminds me of ‘Water, Water everywhere not a drop to drink’) and if you are wondering how I have been able to write all this – my Laptop lay fully charged. Thankfully the mobile network functioned for some time but the landline went dead. During that time, I was able to assure my near and dear ones and friends who rang up, that we were safe and our area was free from the water logging which had affected other places in the city. The rains that battered the city were unprecedented and it would be safe to assume that none living now in Chennai had experienced such a downpour as it was reported that it was the highest in the last 100 years.

It reminded me of that day in Mumbai on 26th July 2005 when the city received 95 cm of rain in 24 hours and I found myself in the midst of it travelling from Cuffe Parade to Chembur by car. Marooned after reaching Sion and staying overnight at my friends place, I trudged along the Eastern Express highway in the morning, waist deep in water with my briefcase on my head, and along the median of the road behind a trail of people who were also on a similar expedition after having abandoned my car and asking my driver to find his way back home. I reached home one and hours later, fifteen hours after having left the office the previous evening. That was an unforgettable experience, but I never felt as isolated as I do today. Mumbai was back on its feet in the next few days and I was in Office on the third day.

This is the third day and the mobile network had stopped functioning, the newspaper boy did not deliver though miraculously the milk got delivered. Many trips up and down the staircase to bring water that was still in the sump and fast depleting, to take care of whatever necessary things were to be washed (does not require elaboration). As the morning was sunny I took a trip around the market place to grab something from the Super Shoppe and found that whatever was to be grabbed had already been grabbed and I was lucky to come back home with a loaf of bread and a packet of wafers. We were lucky since my wife’s foresight had enabled her to store enough drinking water when it was still available (She always plans for such eventualities what with the erratic supply of Metro water and competition from 15 other residents of the block). The last two nights we had slept keeping the balcony door open to let the coolness seep in and along with it came the mosquitoes to ensure that we spent the rest of the night sleepless. I lay awake for long periods during the night gazing into the darkness which was everywhere and just as I would start drifting off to sleep the skies would open up and there would be a heavy downpour and I would sit up and start praying that it should stop, giving the city which was already limping, a chance to come back to normalcy and with it our lives. I sparingly used the Inverter mainly to ensure my mobiles were charged all the time. I had asked my daughter in Hyderabad to keep me updated as to the news coverage of the situation in Chennai for the only information pouring in was from those who were brave (or curious) enough to venture outside the neighborhood, each one coming back with differing versions regarding the ground situation. Well today the Inverter ‘conked’ out, but there is still charge in my mobiles however the mobile and wi-fi networks are out.

When I look back over the last twenty days it was a journey through great joy, sorrow and ultimately, panic, helplessness and isolation. It all started on the morning of the 9th November when I was woken up at 6 am, an hour and a half before my usual waking time. My wife was shaking me saying that the branch of the tree under which my car had been parked had broken and fallen on the top of the car after the previous night’s strong winds and rain. Staring out of the balcony, I could not spot the car as the thick foliage had covered it entirely. I rushed down and after moving in through the foliage of leaves and branches of the tree I found the car. The only way I could see was to drive through before the entire branch broke and fell down. Mustering up all my courage I did exactly that. Believe me when I say this – there was not a single scratch or dent – well that was a miracle (giving me something to think about – miracles). Well, you have to believe me once again when I tell you that I did have a dream during the wee hours of the morning that a tree had fallen on my car.  What do I call that – ‘Premonition’? That’s something which will me keep me occupied for a long time and maybe try and reinforce my beliefs that there are things which are beyond the comprehension of the human mind – I try balancing my rationalism with beliefs that I have grown up with.

It was a day of great joy on the 12th November when my elder daughter and grandson arrived. It had been four years since we had seen them (the Skype communications though helpful were only virtual). Then the rains started and I spent the next two weeks ferrying her across the water-logged streets to the Consulate for her Visa stamping interviews and the airport to pick up and drop my younger daughter and son-in-law who had come down from Hyderabad to be with us. The apps cabs were not available nor other taxis, but may be because of ‘God’s grace’, pardon me when I say that for I could not find a better way to describe the events in any other way as ultimately all the things worked out, though there were some dampeners along the way. By the 26th November, they had all left before the deluge happened. Though partings are always difficult, in a sense I was relieved as the weather forecast for the coming days seemed ominous. I was happy that they were safely back in their respective places when the skies opened up over Chennai.

Having experienced Mumbai and now Chennai, I have kept asking myself the question why both cities  suffered the way they did from the torrential rains and the subsequent flooding which left thousands homeless, lives and properties lost. One cannot help noticing the similarities – Mumbai never thought of the Mithi as a river, it was only a small rivulet which was filled with slush and a stench as strong as the Cooum in Chennai. Like the Adyar river the Mithi also had encroachments all along its bank, the most famous one being Dharavi which carried the infamous tag as the largest slum in the world. All these encroachments have happened due to faulty urban planning and lack of affordable housing. If one looks at the course of the Adyar River in Chennai and the Mithi in Mumbai you find both these lie close to the airport runways in both the cities. The devastation unleashed by the floods in these rivers due to the unprecedented torrential rains has been terrible. Mumbai reported more deaths and losses, but the Chennai figures have only started trickling in now. As reported in the newspapers, parts of the city especially the old city areas have been spared the full onslaught of the floods due to the efficient drainage system built a hundred years ago during the British Raj, so was the case with Mumbai. This speaks volumes of the efficiency of the new age drainage systems – bad planning, implementation and maintenance?

 When the Tsunami hit Tamilnadu in 2005 Chennai was badly affected. That time the threat was from the sea and this time from the skies. The Tsunami was too fast and totally unexpected and it is always difficult to thwart such a disaster and I am afraid that even Mumbai would not be in a position to thwart such an eventuality being hemmed on all sides by sea. One can only hope that disaster management measures are in place to tackle such an eventuality. To Mumbai’s credit, the city bounced back within three to four days despite the heavy losses and we can only hope that Chennai does the same.

Five decades ago when I was studying in St. Patricks High School situated on the banks of the Adyar River, I remember the river was a river and not a canal for carrying sewage down to the sea. I have played cricket on the grounds of the Gandhinagar Cricket Club, Adyar, which was on the banks of the river. The outfield was green and the river seemed pristine. In fact playing Cricket there, was like playing in one of the English counties. Now I guess one would also need a nose guard to keep away the stink emanating from the river, but maybe people have got used to it. The Cooum even those days was still better than what it is now; though people still associate anything that stinks with the name of the river. Today when we look at what has happened by way of development we find – 1) unauthorized, unplanned and illegal structures have sprouted all along the banks of the rivers and elsewhere 2) there is only a very small fraction of the large number of water bodies which existed around in the hinterland of Chennai still left and encroachments have happened at such places hindering the natural course of water flow 3) the real estate boom has given rise to the proliferation of housing societies built on low-lying areas where once a lake existed and (today most of them are flooded). This has been made possible due to the dangerous nexus between the unscrupulous elements in the construction sector, the land grabbing quick buck making politicians and the respective departments in the government who it appears have not made a really serious study of the feasibility and the safety of such projects before giving clearances. The result being that a vast majority of the people aspiring to own a house have taken a huge risk investing in these projects. 4) If a mapping of the entire region indicating the low lying areas and lake beds has been done, it does not appear to have been made public and the ordinary citizen is not aware nor have the builders been transparent enough to reveal the hazards. Ultimately one should lay the blame on the agencies involved for giving clearances. Who knows (or rather everyone knows) what considerations are involved.  

Hopefully, this disaster should open the eyes of the ordinary man to the game being played. Though storm water drains have been planned and implemented they have not been fully completed; where completed, periodical maintenance is not evident. Roads are dug up by different departments like the electricity board for laying cables and again dug up by the water and sewage department for laying pipelines without any proper resurfacing of the road. The pathetic state of the roads is evidence enough. We already have large potholes and caving in of roads at some places, aggravated by this present spell of rains and I am sure some patchwork will be done immediately, which within a few months will once again revert to their pathetic state. No one is held accountable for carrying out such substandard and shoddy work. One hears that there was opposition to the proposal for relaying the roads with concrete. One can only surmise that if that is done the need for maintenance will drastically reduce and with it the annual contracts for relaying the roads would diminish and with it …… (No elaboration required I guess). It's ‘consideration’ and not 'necessity', that appears to be the rule for awarding work contracts.

I could list out any number of failures and shortcomings of the administration. But have we ever asked ourselves the question why this is so? To what extent have we ourselves contributed to this sorry state of affairs, isn’t it fair to admit that we also have a major share in this blame game?
This disaster has brought to fore the fact that it is the ordinary man on the street, our armed forces, NDRF and other voluntary agencies which have emerged as the heroes of the day; whether it is rescuing marooned people and ensuring that supplies are delivered to the affected. People have thrown open their homes to house the affected. For the first time I have seen Chennai rise up as a single united force without relying on the unreliable support of the political class, to battle the forces of nature to ensure the survival of the city. Well the politicians whichever party they belong to have engaged themselves in blame games, trying to garner credit for the rescue efforts that have been undertaken. What can one say except that the Assembly Elections are imminent and this ‘Disaster’ is an ‘Opportunity’!

Well, the Wi-Fi connection was there for a brief while yesterday, but it is off since last evening, so I thought that I should continue writing for some more time. Yesterday’s newspaper carried some very important and interesting headlines which speak for themselves-

British-era sewers withstood deluge – New-Age Drainage System in Suburbs Fails

Relief Mired in Chaos, Anger Rises – Govt. Fumbles As Help Pours in

Amma Branding on Food Packets Sparks Outrage

It has been nauseating to say the least to find the local MLAs and their goons of all hues fighting with the relief workers about distribution of essential items to the affected public. Well here’s another headline for you from today’s newspaper –

Politicians will be politicians: War breaks out to corner credit for relief – Some Local Netas want Bribes Too

Do I need  say more? Where have all the ‘Award Wapsi’ pseudo-intellectuals gone? Maybe they do not have any more awards with them to return, pity for they could have shown their solidarity in this time of crisis.

The power has been there for the last two days though it does go off occasionally, but I have kept myself in readiness by ensuring that there is sufficient water and the inverter and all the mobiles are fully charged. I have learnt to live with the darkness and the surrounding eerie silence, the battering rain and the mosquitoes, and so have the others in this city. But the fear of repetition does hover around as the weather forecasts for the coming week have not been very encouraging.

Though I am thankful that we have not suffered that much, I feel guilty when I think of all those who have lost their homes and possessions and some their lives. Rebuilding homes and lives and the city is going to be a long and painful process. I ask myself how I can be useful and do my bit. I am waiting for the answers to crystallize.

As I lay awake in the darkness during the first three days, I would wait expectantly for the lights to suddenly come on, and in the end when they did come on it was a feeling of deliverance, but for many out there I guess that the light of deliverance is still a long way to go.

One thought that kept recurring was ‘How aptly have I chosen the title for my second book as ‘Darkness and Beyond’. 


Monday, October 26, 2015

DARKNESS AND BEYOND – 'A MEDLEY OF MANY LIVES' THE PREFACE TO MY SECOND BOOK


DARKNESS AND BEYOND – A MEDLEY OF MANY LIVES
THE PREFACE TO MY SECOND BOOK

It‘s been awhile since I made a posting on my blog. It is not because I had nothing to say but I had been busy completing the manuscript for my second book. Now that it is complete, I thought that it would be appropriate to put down what motivated me and what this book is about. I have learnt a few lessons from the publishing of my first book – i) You can take the book to the reader but you cannot make him read it ii) If perchance he has read it, you cannot pester him to review it iii) There is always that line which you should take care not to cross, for otherwise you end up as a salesman rather than a writer iv) Don’t get swayed by fantastic reviews and 5 start ratings, pay heed to the more critical ones for they help you become better v) Know your limitations – in my case I found out I am better off writing what I have always done vi) Not every reader is interested in the genre in which you write vii) Last but not the least don’t ever compromise on your integrity as an author. These are lessons that I have learnt. For me writing has become a journey in understanding life as it is. My drawback is I lack the imagination to cater to the reader’s fantasy, and in that sense my writing is selfish, but I do try to cater to the questions that are bound to rise in their minds.

Though my manuscript is complete, I find that with every reading I find better ways of expressing what I have to say. So I shall take some more time before publishing it, but I could not hold back the euphoria of having completed another journey.

Wish me luck and shower me with your best wishes.

PREFACE

"Life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced" -- Soren Kierkegaard

My first book ‘I am just an Ordinary Man’ was a journey to understand the processes taking place within me; the questions that arose out of the angst of existence and finally coming to accept the reality of living and the finality of death. It was the world as I saw it; it was my world. I also believed that these were questions that plagued every other individual. As we travel through life, we learn not only through our own experiences, but also from people we meet on the way. Yes, I have learnt a lot in the process of interaction and observation of the world outside my being. I have also learnt not to be judgmental, for there are as many paths as there are individual lives, and to each is left the job of defining his or her authenticity. There is nothing like a better life; a life is a life and has to be lived within the constraints of each individual’s boundaries that define the circumstances of his birth, where he has had really no choice and the subsequent choices he makes, to deal with the vagaries of a life that is indeterminate.

When asked whether I planned a sequel to ‘I am just An Ordinary Man’. I said yes, but added the sequel would be a journey out into the external world, where lay many lives that needed to be understood, for only then would my comprehension of what life and this world is about would be complete. While the first one was all about introspection, the second is about being part of a larger process, a process of experiencing. No knowledge of life is complete without introspection and experiencing. This book is all about that. This is a book of ‘many lives’, simple ordinary lives, nothing dramatic or sensational. It is about people whom we have met sometime, somewhere; people who have left an imprint on our minds, it is about people of whom we have heard and cherished their memories.

A medley is an assortment or a mix of various types or elements and is best understood by us with reference to a musical composition consisting of various tunes arranged as a continuous whole. The key words here are ‘various tunes arranged as a continuous whole’. This is what life and the world in its entirety is about – ‘A Medley of Many Lives’. Each chapter in this book is a slice of life, in search of a meaning that would define existence, in search of the ‘Beyond’ of this ‘Darkness’. The writing of this book has been a journey, an exploration of life in its many facets, bringing me closer towards a better understanding of what this life is all about.

Without hope, the prolongation of life itself would be absurd. We go to bed every night with the hope of waking up to the dawn of another day. Our life oscillates between patches of light and darkness, each oscillation marking the passage of our existence in this world. Our emotional response to darkness has always been one of insecurity, the fear of dissolving into an eternal darkness with death. For a man of hope, he finds it perfectly logical that just as there is light at the end of the tunnel or like the darkness of the night which dissolves with the dawn of the day, there is also a beyond of this darkness of death. Though one does not know what really exists thereafter, it is the ‘hope’ that takes man forward in living an authentic life.

The book is written in an Indian context for the different scenarios explored are in an Indian setting. To a large extent my personal background and upbringing does creep into portions of the narration. But this does not in any way take away the universality of the situations or the message that is sought to be conveyed. I am aware that I shall be asked whether these are real people and whether these are chronicles of real lives. I would leave that question unanswered.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A HAPPY ANNIVERSARY ‘I AM JUST AN ORDINARY MAN’






A HAPPY ANNIVERSARY
‘I AM JUST AN ORDINARY MAN’

At the stroke of the midnight hour, the ordinary man closed his eyes as he sat in the shadows. Only the desk lamp was on and the blank screen of the computer stared at him.

He remembered that day, when at last he had declared to all those who heard him, that he was just an Ordinary Man. It happened as he was returning home. The road was slightly wet with the remnants of a light drizzle and he was walking slowly avoiding the puddles of water that had collected on the pavement, when he heard a voice calling out from behind him –

“So who do you think you really are?”

He had turned around and found no one. However he replied loudly so that whoever it was hiding in the shadows could hear him –

“Sir, you asked me who I am. What shall I say?  I have been asking myself this question for quite some time and reached nowhere.”

“So you think that you are a saint?” the voice again responded

 “No sir, I am no saint to throw away everything that I have and go in search of an answer. If I had, I would have been a saint. Don’t you agree, Sir?”

“If that is so, you should have a name. So what is it?” the voice once again responded.

“Well I have a name, but what’s in a name? Sir, you may call me an Ordinary Man.” I replied.

He looked around once again to see who it was. Then it dawned on him that the voice in fact seemed to originate from deep within him.

So as he stood there on that desolate road, he threw his arms skyward towards the moon and the stars and shouted “Hear you all, I am just an ordinary man. Please do not ask me again- who I am?” With that he had returned to his apartment, his head clear from having shed off the burden that he had been carrying for so long. He sat down in front of the computer and typed-

I stand absolved,
Of all the guilt and shame, that eroded,
The entrails of my conscience,
As I shake the shackles from my ankles,
Break away from the bonds
That held me down.

That was exactly a year ago. Now once again the voice woke him up as he was slowly drifting away to sleep.

“Well did people believe you?” the voice asked

“I am not really sure. Some said they believed me, some believed in me and most of the rest have been silent. I really don’t know whether they heard what I said.” he replied.

“I hope now you realize that however loud you shout, you will be heard only if people choose to hear you. You know what was wrong with your statements – you included a vast majority along with you and called them Ordinary. That is not acceptable. If you had shouted ‘We are all extraordinary people’ I am sure that many would have heard you. After all what is there in being ‘Ordinary’. You thought that being ordinary is a satisfactory state of mind. Well it is not. Ask me I shall tell you. I like it when I am called extraordinary and I am sure that when all those who believed in you said that shouting out like you did requires a lot of courage and therefore extraordinary, you must have felt the same despite all your exhortations that you are ordinary.”

Well that was a small dialogue I had with myself on the eve of the first anniversary of my book ‘I am just An Ordinary Man’. Today as I look back at the year that was, I feel elated, in a sense that I have been able connect with at least a small section of the vast number of readers out there. Reviews have come in from genuine well-wishers and readers, which I know have been in the nature of support to an author friend and as a realistic critique of the book. These are the ones that have given exposure to the book and myself as an author and I am grateful to all those who did take the trouble of going through the book in full and writing a detailed review. All of them have been illuminating and given me joy and made me look at how I have connected with the readers. May be they really liked it; I am sure that some of them did, and after a year when I myself go through what I have written, there is a sense of happiness and satisfaction that I have been true to myself to a very large extent, though there will always be a small something that I have kept back.

In the introduction to the book I write “I never wanted to write a story. My life has been one long series of conversations with myself and I thought that the only way I could really say what I want to, is speak to someone; a friend perhaps or maybe even a stranger. If you ask me why I would do that, I cannot answer truthfully; it could even be vanity.” But now, when I have just finished writing my second book I know I have moved on. For now I have not written about myself, so the question of vanity does not come in. I have become but a small part of a larger canvas where exist other lives that need to be understood.
The Ordinary Man (as in my book), does not want celebrate his birthday by blowing out candles or cutting cakes. This day he wants to thank all those people out there who had lent their ears to hear him say ‘I am just An Ordinary Man’ –
I am just an ordinary man,
I do just what I can,
So let me be,
As you can see,
I am one of those who also ran.

You cannot say I do not care,
Of love and dreams, I’ve had my share,
Of pain and pleasure,
In no small measure,
Though now I stand alone and stare.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

I AM JUST AN ORDINARY MAN - MY JOURNEY THROUGH VERSE



I AM JUST AN ORDINARY MAN
MY JOURNEY THROUGH VERSE
I remember standing out in the balcony at 4 am in the morning. I found that it was better to get out on to the balcony and lean against the railing trying to breathe in the night air, not that Bombay then had a surfeit of fresh air, but that was better than sit inside suffocating within the apartment. Of course the more important reason was to be with myself, there on the balcony gazing into the night, into the night sky, feeling one with the stars and letting my fantasies fly. Despite the discomfort, these were periods of intense living. As the medicine slowly took its effect and the drowsiness started setting in I used to move into a world of dreams. May be an hour and a half later I would slowly make my way back to my bed and fall asleep. I remember that was when I started writing poetry; at least that is what I thought it was. What an irony when one considers the setting! I remember that I used to keep awake, sometimes till the morning dawned with the clanging of the milk bottles, and Bombay slowly woke as I moved towards my bed. The mornings in Bombay were always grey and by 7 am the road was populated with people, office goers, and the frenzy increased as the peak hour approached. It was on one such early morning that I started writing ‘Ghosts’.
It is in ‘Ghosts’ that I wrote about events as they happened and as I observed them and they ultimately became my connection with the external realities and the effect they had on me. Bombay, a city that I love and hate, taught me a lot. As I explored every nook and corner of the city, I saw the life that goes on outside the areas of affluence, the life on the pavements, the stench of the gutters, in the dark shadows, with the hope that there will be a next meal, that there will be a shelter when the rains come, a fight for survival. A hope, that there will be a better tomorrow.
Somewhere I hear a clock chime,
Marking the passage of fleeting time,
Somewhere I hear the motor whirr,
Slowly from my slumber I now stir.

On this grey and gloomy morning,
Like many other mornings I have known,
I see the faces of the dead walking,
This city’s streets up and down.
This is how ‘Ghosts’ starts. There is something that always seems to lurk in the background of each event, something unseen; observing the happenings without interventions 
There the ghost it starts its dance,
 Freed of fetters and a lively trance,
 Leaves no footprints on the sands.
It was much later that I wrote something more on the effect that Bombay had on me. You see the city never did get out of my system.
Ominous patterns,
A dreary grey smoke,
Weaves across a vacant sky,
Whilst a stifled city struggles,
And groans to stay alive.
These are the opening lines of ‘Ominous Patterns’ which forms a part of ‘Ghosts’.
But my fantasies were not always grey. This was also a period when I discovered ‘Rapture’. I remember how on one of those nights, especially after one of those more severe attacks, as my breathing slowly started easing, I experienced that feeling of oneness with the world: the night was particularly cool. It was late December and the sky was filled with stars and the silence; all had their effect on me. I felt transported to another realm and the words just poured into my head. When I went to bed it was as if in a trance. When I woke up, I was surprised that the trance had stayed and I was enveloped by a feeling of lightness and joy. You may feel that I was drugged by an overdose of my medicine, but my head was clear and I sat down to write ‘Rapture’. It just flowed, I do not how, but I completed writing at a stretch. Even now when I try to recollect and revive that state once again, it does not happen. It was something mystical. Not that I did some great writing, I have always kept it to myself and enjoyed reading it again and again. It has been something very personal.
Sometimes when to these heights I soar,
I feel this fever more and more,
And in delirium I do rant,
All this fervour’s magical chant.

I love everything on earth,
That has given rise to beauty’s birth,
Every joy, pity and pain,
In my heart a passion gains.

In my rapture I had seen,
All that love that never had been,
Now once again I spread my wings,
As my heart in fervour sings.

This is how ‘Rapture’ ends.  I discovered fervor later when I read Andre’ Gide’s, ‘The Fruits of the Earth’ where he says “I will teach you fervor’. Gide wrote this book, while suffering from tuberculosis. In the preface to the book, Gide writes that “it is the work of a man who, if not actually ill, was recovering, or had recently recovered from illness – of a man, at any rate, who had been ill. In the very flights of its poetry there is the exuberance of someone to whom life is precious because he has been on the point of losing it.” He further adds, “May my book teach you to care more for yourself than for it, and more for all the rest than for yourself.”
I have had my dreams, I have had my infatuations and I have faced crises and had my fears. I have had experiences that have pushed me into the depths of despair and I have emerged with a clearer insight of myself and my relationship with the external world. I have tried documenting my passage through life in the only way I knew, put it down in words. I followed no particular order, sometimes in spurts, sometimes in rhyme, but wrote as they came to my mind. I have written my recollections and my reflections and of events that were happening around me, with increasing intensity. Since all the writing was done after what I would call ‘my awakening’, a good portion of them have been recollections, I had to rearrange the sequence to reflect distinctly the various stages of my life itself. In fact I had to put them in different sections so that the continuity is maintained.
I guess it was easier that way, from the first stirrings of infatuation to love, to an obsession, to unrequited love and finally to say,
 Leave me, let me be,
 Content in my fantasy.
‘Rebecca’ symbolises all that and more. As I stood gazing at the statue in Salarjung Museum in Hyderabad, the floodgates opened and all that had lain hidden for a long time, flowed out. The veil that had hidden many a mystery seemed finally to lift.
Unshackled from the bonds of infatuation and having suffered the pangs of separation one moves through a sabbatical before he comes down to the harsh realities of life. The movement towards the recognition of all that is beautiful and the bountiful gifts that nature has to offer, overwhelms, and one is drowned in rapture. This is what ‘Rapture’ intends to capture
The more my encounters in the external world, the more I started turning inwards to understand my relative existence. These turned into ruminations and that’s where I found my Solitude. From ‘Being and Nothingness’ to ‘I remain’
Though cold,
In nothingness I remain,
Waiting for a spark,
To light the fire again.
And on to ‘Oh, I was young then!’ an acceptance of growing old though reluctantly –
The forebodings,
Of approaching emptiness,
Follows me like an apparition.
The thought process thereafter becomes fragmented as I start to move back and forth in time. This still happens as I try to understand every emotion, every thought that is generated around me. I do try to cling onto moments, as slowly but surely they slip away. In ‘Moments of Happiness’, I accept the temporality of happiness - 
These are certain moments and they pass me by,
They remain etched in my memory, as I try
To understand what is my quest,
To perpetuate these moments, try my best.
In ‘Stillness’ I explore all those moments which stand frozen in time, those moments of joy, ecstasy, of alienation. It is a snapshot of all those pictures and I seek the stillness therein, it can be seen as a extension of ‘Moments of Happiness’
When will these moments ever last?
Is it when I find,
The silence in my heart,
And in the stillness in my mind?
It is in ‘Illusions’ that I finally end up defining the ultimate purpose in life as I have understood it–
Life is just a river that flows,
On its way it winds and grows,
To settle down in tranquility,
To finally merge with the sea”.
Finally in ‘Secrets of the Soul’, the imagery becomes hazy and complicated, as my own inner world of dreams and awareness mingle with the happenings in the external world of things and events, in a bid to correlate and seek answers to the turmoil going on within myself. Here again the presence of the ghost is felt. It took me a long time to write down my thoughts, in bits and pieces, and it has been one long journey, but the secrets that I seek to understand never really end, that is why this is an incomplete poem, running into nearly two hundred lines.
I seek the secrets of the soul,
That beat the drums of destiny,
The shadows that shrivel and stretch,
Shiver as they dance around
The dying embers of the fading years,
As they turn to ashes and the dust,
They disappear as the darkness descends,
Leaving only the footprints,
To be blown away to oblivion,
And beyond to a another world,
Another day, another night, once again.
Only the ghost remains unbound and free.

This could go on and on but that could be another journey so I end with ‘Absolution’ or’ Nirvana’.
I stand absolved,
Of all the guilt and shame, that eroded,
The entrails of my conscience,
As I shake the shackles from my ankles,
Break away from the bonds

That held me down.

Friday, September 4, 2015

RAPTURE


  Rapture

When in these rapturous states I fall,
I hearken to every beauty’s call,
And in passion I embrace,
All the gifts of nature’s grace.

When the green grass I do see,
I am filled with infinite glee,
And the song the chirping birds sing,
Makes my heart in resonance ring.
          
         * * * *
Paddy fields, so green,
A sight for sore eyes,
Never had I seen,
Such blue skies.

I sat at the edge,
Watched the river flow,
Such fragrance, such cool,
I never had known.

My legs in the water,
Hands in the air,
I breathed in this freshness,
That was everywhere.

The setting sun cast,
A reddish glow in the west,
I had awakened now,
To an eternal quest.

       * * * *
The cuckoo cries ”spring is here”,
The flowers bloom, the sky is clear.
Everywhere it is red, yellow and green,
A sight so pretty to be seen.

The birds inhabit the blue skies,
The bee from flower to flower flies,
The river water full and clear flows,
Fed by the mountain’s melting snows.

I stand to absorb all this joy,
Transformed again into a little boy,
His feelings so pure,
In his state so secure,
That never a moment,
Does he lament,
His impermanence.

          * * * *
When I see the sun does shine,
I marvel at that power divine,
And in its warmth I fall asleep,
Into a world of dreams I creep.

There I see such wonderous sights
They take me on fantastic flights,
A thousand visions dance around,
the air is filled with a melodious sound.

  * * *  *
In the east a golden dawn breaks,
As the sun rises,
With all the splendour of a ceremony,
The sky is lit with an orange fire,
The birds chirp in harmony,
The night’s agents disappear with the dark,
Good things begin to rise with joy,
Yet another day to live.
The fragrance of the morning air,
Embraces me like a lover’s arm
I wake, stretch my limbs
And yawn, with sheer delight,
Its good to see once again,
This morning light.



In the coolness of the moon,
In her embrace I did swoon,
My heart with love overflows,
In the dark my passion glows.
          
          * * * *

In the depths of every cave,
I find these figures that make me rave,
Figures of stone many ages old,
They still stand firm and bold.

When I touch these cold stones,
They come to life, I feel their bones,
Through the ages, hand in hand we walk,
About Gods, kings and queens they talk.
   
There I see great battles fought,
The horror and glory that they brought,
All the blood that did flood the field,
The victory markings on the shield.

There sat the glorious king in court,
With all his people in rapport,
As the dancing girls came whirling on,
An era in its brilliance shone.

Oh! exquisite Ellora,
Your beauty breeds terror in my heart,
For as I stood,
Gazing at your Kailasa,
The spectre of my present vacuity,
Stood gazing down at me.
Oh! what hands were those,
That gave thee thine shape?
What mind was it,
That conceived the beauty,
Which till then had lain hidden,
Behind nature’s veil?
And now ages could’nt tear away,
That expression from your face.
You are alive though
Your creator is dead.
My hands, oh! my hands,
They could only feel,
Your smoothened curves.
How I wish they could paint,
The joy in my heart,
At the sight of your silent splendour.
    
It was in Ajanta,
That I peered into a dark chamber,
There sat the Buddha,
Steeped in divine slumber.
At my entrance, he did wake,
I thought I saw him smile;
I gazed in awe,
Dumfounded for awhile,
For this magnificent obsession,
Gave rise to a succession,
Of a thousand more Buddhas,
And everyone did smile.
Oh Buddha! if you could impart,
Life to these stones,
What could you have been?
I stand here and imagine,
A sight I never had seen.

Men now have become stones,
But these stones of yore,
Though devoid of flesh and bones,
They still live on.

Men now know no art,
Which can reveal and mould
The images of the heart;
Their hands are tied,
To machines they have built,
And under them, they now do wilt.

There I saw Lord Shiva’s dance,
I was drowned in divine trance,
And my head in veneration bow,
To the Lord who rules above.

I marvel at these men who mould,
Stones that speak of ages old,
All the fervour of their heart,
Has poured in through their supreme art.

Sometimes when to these heights I soar,
I feel this fever more and more,
And in delirium I do rant,
All this fervour’s magical chant.

“I love everything on earth,
That has given rise to beauty’s birth,
Every joy, pity and pain,
In my heart a passion gains.

In my rapture I had seen,
All that love that never had been,
Now once again I spread my wings,
As my heart in fervour sings.