Saturday, February 28, 2015

BOOK REVIEW -LIGHT GREW LESS IN HIS EYES AND OTHER POEMS – Jagannath Rao Adukuri



BOOK REVIEW -LIGHT GREW LESS IN HIS EYES AND OTHER POEMS – Jagannath Rao Adukuri
The blurb on the back cover says “Poetry is product of an exquisite sensibility, the ability to respond to complex emotional or aesthetic influences. Is there a sensibility unique to country or its people, directly flowing from their cultural conscious?” Well if you ask me I would definitely say yes. A poet who is rooted to the uniqueness of the milieu in which he has integrated himself will definitely be able to reflect on the sensibilities involved and therein lies his authenticity. A question can be raised whether it would not be more authentic if he wrote in the language of the land. Well it is true to a certain extent, the local flavor can be transmitted more truthfully in the local language. For those of us who think and write in English, though our native or mother tongue is something else, I shall fall back once again to the poet’s own words in his Introduction “An Indian poet writing in English will draw from his own cultural conscious and incorporate in his vision complex aesthetic influences working on him to produce poetry that relates to his people. Such work will still have some appeal to a global audience because the English that results is a unique creation of Western expression with Indian flavor.”
Well that’s the truth. For example I reproduce a few lines from the very first poem in the book ‘The Rope of Fire’
“Man has a coconut rope with fiery end
Tied to electric pole, burning slow like debt.
It’s fire enough to light white sticks all night.
No need to see faces by the light of match.”
Your mind races immediately to a small shop in a village where the passerby stops to buy a cigarette and lights it from the rope of fire. For a brief moment as he puffs at his cigarette his face is visible in the light emanating from the tip of the rope.
Or take for instance these four lines from the poem ‘My Mother’s Brocade’ –
“The rustle of the silk drowned
The wails of the boiling cocoons
They died so beauty would live
In death cries lay bridal hopes.”
I find it appropriate to say that Jagannath Rao Adukuri lives in poetry rather than that he writes poetry. This book is just a selection of 175 poems from out of the, I guess more than one thousand and odd poems he has written over the years. He writes about day to day events, of people long departed, of customs and practices, of movies, of Gods, religion and beliefs, of places. In fact in his own words he says that “this collection is rooted in Indian sensibility. The imagery used in them are reflective of the language patterns employed by the people of this country. The recurring myths are familiar to an average Indian and do not warrant scholastic efforts to relate them to their context.”
I should admit that I took a long time to go through the book; in fact it would need a second reading, even a third. The imagery is stark arising out of an acute sense of observation and identification. Rao belongs to that class of Imagists who rely on free verse to put forth their images in a clear language. Poetry is not only about Metre and Rhyme but also of discovering powerful images through an unbridled expression of one’s thought process as and when they occur. This is where the pleasure of poetry lies.
In his tribute to the Sitar Maestro Ravi Shankar in the poem “Light Grew Less In His Eyes” (the title of the book) Rao writes –
We hear a body’s fall steeped in a melody
With exquisite sound gone from its fingers,
The eyes fell of broken strings, their music
Lost in the winter of time, in its nightfall
The glass spread quickly in its stringing eyes.
The big black eyes werestrung to fine song,
The song of lifetime, the flow of generations.
The sound is now ashes, the eyes just beads.

But I found two lines most poignant in the poem “The Hand”
Death is not fragrant ashes of incense
Or mumbled prayers on trembling lips.

This book is a definite literary contribution to Indian writing in English. A must read for all poetry lovers.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

CONCLUDING PART - THE DREAM OF A DISTURBED MAN - With due apologies to the makers of the movie ‘PK’ and to one of the great short stories of Dostoevsky – ‘The Dream of a Ridiculous Man’


CONCLUDING PART  - THE DREAM OF A DISTURBED MAN - With due apologies to the makers of the movie ‘PK’ and to one of the great short stories of Dostoevsky – ‘The Dream of a Ridiculous Man’
That night DY kept me awake, telling me more about his planet and the way it had changed ever since PK returned. I let him have his say even as I fought of the sleep demons. My eyelids did droop from time to time but I was alert to what he was narrating; after all he would be gone the next day and I was also interested. Another consideration was that this was an alien himself in an alien land and I was concerned for I wanted to ensure that once he left my house he should be able to find his footing as fast as possible in the hostile environment that awaited him outside. In a sense I felt responsible. I had not factored in his alien intelligence, his special capabilities of reading other people’s mind and his powers of manipulation which I did suspect he must have picked up from PK (who I was sure had carried it back, as a takeaway after his sojourn on our Earth and imparted to his fellow Planetites).
DY said “You know we have been watching you guys from up there and have accurate data as to all the upheavals and advancements that have taken place here. But like I said we are a thousand years ahead of you in terms of evolution. We were once like you are now. We now live in peace and desire nothing; at least that was the case till PK returned from your Earth and planted a virus in our midst. There is fear that we shall once again revert back to those centuries of war, strife and domination, which ultimately ended in the Great War that nearly annihilated our entire race. In the process of rebuilding arose an awareness that survival depended on our emotional responses to our environment, be it a tree, an animal or a fellow being and living in harmony. The knowledge we sought was more for betterment of our lives together. All we sought was peace and not domination. You know we have no religion, temples, mosques or churches. God for us is the very air we breathe in and on death we believe we escape the trappings of this body which had become no longer fit enough to hold us back and merge with the larger picture. I want you to understand that we have kept God away from us as a fulfiller of wishes and as a dispenser of punishments. We do not need him in our daily lives as we have learnt to be happy and accepted life and death as part of a universal design.
At this stage I interrupted “But how do you ensure that your people stay together? There has to be some sort of administration or governance. Who is responsible to ensure the needs are met?”
“Oh, there is an elected Council of Elders, persons who have proven themselves in their chosen fields of activity and earned the respect of the people. There is no fixed term, some of the elders move out from time to time voluntarily to make way for others.”
As I listened to DY I felt more and more convinced that his was a planet that I would never opt to live in. What is life I thought, devoid of conflicts and from what DY told me there was no place for hope or faith as they were not needed. Wouldn’t life be so boring and meaningless if one were to be totally satisfied? Strange but that is the reality to which we are used to, and that is why we need these Gods, Godmen and Stones. Without them we are lost. “But if you are so happy out there why did you send PK down here in the first place?” I asked.
“You know PK was not the first. Nearly five hundred years ago one of our people did land up here. He had been part of the team that been monitoring your planet and had gathered enough information to know what was going to happen here in the next five hundred years or so. But he never returned. We did keep track of him and found that he had settled down as an Earthling and later became famous here for his predictions and you people till this day believe that all that he had said had come to pass and elevated him to the status of a prophet. It was a mystery to us as to why he never returned. That was one of the reasons why PK was sent, to find out the true reason” he said.
“Who was he? How was he known here?” I asked as a familiar name cropped into my mind.
“Oh, you people called him Nostrodammyou” he replied.
“In retrospect I now feel that sending PK down was a mistake. We are a planet where goodness rules. What started as a curious observation soon turned into concern. Yes, our goodness made us concerned about the way things were beginning to happen in your Earth. We could foresee the path you people would ultimately follow. Our model is based on the observations we have been making of your planet. You are headed towards a Great War which will result in near total annihilation here. May be we cannot change the course of destiny, but definitely you can be better prepared to handle it. That is why PK was sent to caution. We never expected that in the process he would be overwhelmed by what he saw and experienced. He returned infected with that virus of dissatisfaction. That is now spreading.”
“Well, what do you expect to do out here? Do you expect to find a solution to the present problems on your planet?”
“Frankly I do not know. The only way I see is to get PK back to this planet of yours and make him stay here permanently like Nostrodammyou”.
“And how do you think that would be possible?” I asked.
“As I see it there is only one way. You know that woman who was with him when he was here, my sources tell me that he had fallen in love with her. She is the only one who can make him return. Alas! I heard that she was in love with someone else and married him. PK returned a heartbroken man and I suspect that all this disappointment he carried back with him he spread it amongst our people as dissatisfaction. So I really do not know.”
“Don’t be disheartened. There’s good news. You see the marriage never really lasted. That was a doomed relationship from the start – conflict of faiths and a perpetual conflict between the two countries. In the end she must have thought that it would have been better if she had married the Alien, for whom she had also developed feelings and which crystalized only after he had left.”
“That’s good news. How do I find her?”

I must have at last dozed off sometime during his narration. I woke up with a start as the ringing of the doorbell pierced the silence of the morning. That must be the milkman, I thought. I got from my bed, but how come, the last I remembered was lying on the sofa in the living room listening to DY’s narration. There were sounds in the kitchen, what the hell was DY doing there? I slowly made my way to the kitchen to find out what was happening.
“So at last you decided to get up from bed. What’s wrong with you?”
“Me? When did you come back? I thought you were coming back by the evening flight?” I said.
My wife looked at me “Are you ok? Something is definitely wrong with you. I have not been anywhere. You have slept like a log for ten hours at a stretch; that is nearly half a day. The whole night you kept murmuring in your sleep and in the process kept me awake for most of the night. Let’s go to the doctor today, you have not been your usual self for the last one week since we went to that movie about the Alien. You still appear as if you are in a hangover.”
“But where’s DY?” I asked still reeling from the shock of seeing my wife standing in front of me.
“What DY? Is it a man or a woman? My God! Don’t tell me you are having an affair on the sly.” She nearly shouted.
“No, no DY is an alien like PK, you see.”
“Now I am sure” she said, “you need a shrink. You are out of your mind. I have told you again and again to look for some assignment after retirement to keep you occupied. You never listened. The only thing you have been doing is sit in front of the computer, watch movies and be perpetually on the phone talking to someone or the other. Daydream, Nightdream and what else? This is getting serious, we can’t wait any longer. I will get an appointment with doctor fixed for this evening itself.”
“Wait, wait listen to me. It was so real that I cannot still believe whether that was a dream or this conversation I am having with you. Well you can at least listen to what I have to say first” I pleaded.
As I finished retelling the events of the previous night, which to her was my dream and to me so real, she slowly got up and picked up her phone and rang up the doctor.
She turned to me and said “The doctor is out of town and is expected back only tomorrow, so the appointment is fixed for the day after. I am at a loss as to how to handle you for the next two days.”
I kept quiet for I did not really have anything to say. I sat down with my cup of coffee, picked up the day’s newspaper and switched on to my favorite channel ‘Times Never’ on the TV; a ritual ever since I retired. My attention was drawn instantly to the Newsreader’s special announcement –
“Tune in to your 9’oclock show tonight. We have something special and out of this world for you. It is our inimitable Arnold Ghostbaiter in conversation with DY. In case you are wondering who this DY is, all we can tell you now is, he is a cousin of PK from Planet X. PK as you all know created quite an upheaval here when he accidentally landed on Earth and quite a few of our politicians and Godmen were happy to see the back of him when he went back. What is DY’s mission now? To find out, tune in to ‘Times Never’ tonight. There never has been a channel like this and never will be”
My wife stood there, her mouth wide open and the only word that escaped her lips were “My God!”
And across the TV screen ‘Arnold Ghostbaiter in conversation with DY from Planet X at 9pm today’ beamed at us.

(May be I shall tell you about that some other time) 

Monday, February 2, 2015

I AM JUST AN ORDINARY MAN - BOOK REVIEW AND AUTHOR'S INTERVIEW BY WRITERS EZINE MAGAZINE - FEBRUARY 2015

I AM JUST AN ORDINARY MAN - BOOK REVIEW AND AUTHOR'S INTERVIEW BY WRITERS EZINE MAGAZINE - FEBRUARY 2015 



Book Review - I


:Intro:

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. After all 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? Well I have a name, but what’s in a name? You may call me an Ordinary Man.  

The narrator in a series of conversations with a friend who he says is his alter ego and through his own introspections, unfolds the process of growing up and aging through an exploration of all that had brought joy in living to serious questions regarding God, religion, destiny, freewill, compassion and to whether we have been really honest in our relationships; the relationships that have affected us at various stages in our life and continue to influence even our present living. They are all locked up somewhere within our private world and which we release and relish in our solitude.

Though ‘I am just An Ordinary Man’ is an autobiographical novel, it is only in parts that real events have been narrated to build a base for addressing the questions and the existential angst which arise in the mind of any person during the process of living and that the first step towards resolution is in acceptance of the reality of existence and the finality of death.

:Book Review:

1. Cover: One word to describe the cover – alluring! It is so enticing that it makes you want to know what is there inside.

2. Presentation: The presentation of the book is very easy going, like a conversation with a friend that has been captured within those few pages. The topics on which the conversations have happened aren't so easy going though. They are hard hitting facts of life, oft ignored.

3. Narration: Narration is simple, straight from the heart and yet manages to create an impact on the reader.

4. Characters: The lead character, the narrator definitely steals the show. He is the one who makes you sit up and take notice of many things.

5. Plot: The plot is very straight forward with no major twists and turns but that is what makes it the main highlight of the story. It is more on a conversational fashion which gives it a very endearing feel to the reader.

6. Storyline:  There is no story line so to speak but whatever narration has been connected has been done in a very splendid way making it a definite page turner as you want to know what the ordinary man is talking about next.
7. Story flow: The lucid story flow makes this book one that has a lot of aesthetic appeal. The topic on which the book has been written life and its lessons don’t need much of beautifications around to add to its grace. 

8. Language: The language is austere making it an easy going read for readers across all age groups.
9. Pros:  The biggest pro about this book would be its unique narrative style and the topics the author has managed to cover through this book. It is simple yet hard hitting, touching yet one that makes you want to ponder over a lot of things and most importantly it is subtle yet one that manages to leave an impact on you for long.
10. Cons: The only con in this book is the few places where the narrative gets a big dragged leaving the reader wanting to flip pages and move over to the next chapter. 




:Overview:

The overall rating for the book would be 4 out of 5 for the author’s narrative and of course for the unique style of narration in the book. This book is a slice of life from each one of our lives and makes us hear the silence whispers of our soul very beautifully.


WE team would like to thank the author for sending across this book for review and would also like to wish him all the best for all their future endeavours. 


Author Interview - I


When it comes to books WE team loves them and when it comes to review it becomes all the more special when it is one of our contributing author’s book. This month we have G S Subbu the author of I am just an ordinary man with us for a conversation.

GS.Subbu (Gopalasamudram Subramanian) is an avid blogger and writes regularly on his blog ‘Sublimation’ at subbusg.blogspot.com. His posts are a reflection of his deep passion for the arts, philosophy, religion and relationships. His writings depict a search for a meaning in life and how little things which appear inconsequential can contribute to a greater understanding and help us discover the joy of living. He has been a member of book clubs and done book reviews. Apart from writing on art in his blog he has given talks on ‘Appreciation of Art’ in some forums. Though ‘I am just an Ordinary Man’ is his first completed book, he has a compilation of his poems and other writings which he intends to publish subsequently.

An engineer from IIT Kharagpur, India by qualification and a Banker by profession, he now pursues his passion for writing after retirement. When not writing, he can be found trying to finish a painting in water colors or improving his singing skills.

The blurb of his book reads:
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. After all 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? Well I have a name, but what’s in a name? You may call me an Ordinary Man.  

The narrator in a series of conversations with a friend who he says is his alter ego and through his own introspections, unfolds the process of growing up and aging through an exploration of all that had brought joy in living to serious questions regarding God, religion, destiny, freewill, compassion and to whether we have been really honest in our relationships; the relationships that have affected us at various stages in our life and continue to influence even our present living. They are all locked up somewhere within our private world and which we release and relish in our solitude.

Though ‘I am just An Ordinary Man’ is an autobiographical novel, it is only in parts that real events have been narrated to build a base for addressing the questions and the existential angst which arise in the mind of any person during the process of living and that the first step towards resolution is in acceptance of the reality of existence and the finality of death.


In conversation with Mr. G S Subbu,
1. Welcome to Writer’s Ezine and thank you so much for sparing your time for us. Talking about I am an ordinary man, tell us more about it.
‘I Am Just An Ordinary man’ is my debut novel. It is a novel that takes you through the process of growing, living, aging and tackling the questions that arise regarding the purpose of living and finding a meaning.The novel is written in the form of a conversation with a friend interspersed with monologues. The narration does not follow a pattern but keeps shifting from thepast to the present and back to the past, similar to the way our brain works, more by way of association with those small events that keep happening every day and those small things we hold dear to our heart.
2. How this whole idea got conceptualized? Was it something you always wanted or write and felt THIS was the time?
I always wanted to be an author. Since my interests were varied I never really got down to deciding on the subject matter. It was after my retirement and subsequent heart surgery that it began to crystallize. Looking back at my life I had to admit to myself that there had not been anything extraordinary about it, I had led a normal ordinary life. But I had a story to tell, my angst was real – an existential crisis, something that I believed everyone faces at some point in their lives. I can say that the entire concept fell into place during my recuperation after the surgery. To quote a few lines from my book –
“Like us all ordinary people, I have lived an ordinary life. I have done all that the others have done and at the end of the day when I evaluate my life, I find I have not made any lasting contribution that will make me live beyond my death. 
People will remember that there was one such who existed; a memory that would fade away in course of time into nonexistence. Don’t you think that is the way to go? It would be so difficult to go, leaving behind a trail of achievements. How does it matter when you have gone? You will be talked about as a memory and may be every year there will be a function to remember and honor you. May be you take with you the satisfaction of achievements to your grave. May be you shall die in peace. Nothing prevents the ordinary man to also die in peace. That shall happen when he realizes that ‘ordinary’ is also a satisfactory state of existence.”
3. Can this book be called as your autobiography?
Not really, it is only in parts that it is autobiographical. I talk to a friend who is a fictional character, though I do admit that he may be my alter ego and represents that portion of myself which could have been a possibility. The questions raised and the answers I seek are true for any person during the course of living. Again the last chapters of the book are all projections into the future and that is how I imagined it would be when one approaches the end. In the entire book no character is named, I leave it at that for I want my readers to identify themselves with the book and feel they are reading their own story. Moreover I state early in the beginning that I believe an autobiography can never be a complete story and can never be an honest submission. 
4. Do we see a sequel coming up to it soon, given the responses that it has garnered till now?
I am happy that I have connected with a lot of people and that has validated my assumption that it is every person’s story. Yes a sequel is in the offing, but not in the way of further explorations of my own world. Your own world becomes clearer to you only when it is complemented by your awareness of the external world. You can say that I move from the subjective to the objective world. Slices of life, you may say.
5. The book though has an autobiographical tone; it surely comes across more as a journey into one’s inner self, knowing the real meaning of life and a true awakening in every sense. Your thoughts on this.
Any journey into one’s inner self has to have the autobiographical element in it, so yes that is the path I took. I do not know if there is any real meaning to life in a general sense, each person searches and perhaps finds his own answer to the riddle that is life. When we talk of awakening, you can ask yourself when does it really happen? The ultimate awakening is when man is confronted by the temporality of his existence. It is the fear of termination that makes him seek ways and means to eternalize himself. This is when he moves towards God and religion and seeks solace and hope, or rebels against the situation, seeking an authenticity in his living. Though grounded in Hindu Philosophy, I recognize that the existential angst is very real and is present in every individual. How he tackles it, is a personal choice. Not everyone can be Buddha or a Ramana Maharishi. Whether it is the theistic Existentialism of Kierkegaard or the Atheism of Sartre both tackle the same question. While one offers hope the other points towards authenticity in living. Albert Camus’s ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’ and ‘The Rebel’ has influenced me a great deal. In this context I wish to quote Albert Camus in his monumental work ‘The Rebel’ – “An Awakening of conscience, no matter how confused it may be, develops from any act of rebellion and is represented by the sudden realization that something exists with which the rebel can identify himself – even if only for a moment.” I have tried to tackle these questions in my book, especially in the section on letters to God and in the concluding chapters of the book.
I found this portion from one of the reviews of my book to be very profound and did convey what I wanted to get across – “This is the life story of a person who through the fever and fret of life never ceases the search for the deep inner silence. He seems to understand that the search for meaning of life is ultimately pointless as it is left to oneself to give a meaning to it.” 
6. How difficult or easy it is to separate yourself from the author you – especially when you are narrating your own life and you don’t want to sound prejudiced or judgmental. How has been your experience in writing this book? Any particular chapters or instances you would like to discuss with us?
Like I said before, this is not a narration of my life story, though it does contain a part of my life. When I started writing, I wrote as myself, it was only later the author took over. I did not find it difficult for I wrote what I felt. I have learnt my lessons in life and it has not been easy. I have learnt to be less prejudicial and avoid being judgmental. I have, I think succeeded in doing that exactly in my book. I leave it open ended for the reader to find his own answers.
Writing the book has been like a journey to the roots of my consciousness. It has been most satisfying and has lent an authenticity to my existence. Every sentence I wrote brought me a step closer to that elusive ‘the meaning of life’.
The most important portion in the book is ‘Sublimation’, in fact the last sentence in that chapter sums it up – “There is no private world any longer as there is nothing inside now. I feel merged in an all-encompassing consciousness and realize that this is ‘Sublimation’”. Well you may interpret it as the end of a search for a meaning in life. The other portion which to me is very important is when I talk about the death of my father. That perhaps was the first transformation moment in my life. 
7. It is said, you are born twice on this earth. One when you are born and second time when you understand why. What do you think about these lines?
I do not agree with that, for I am not sure that anyone has really understood ‘Why’. Once you are born, your life becomes one long search for the ‘Why’. Once the search is over and the ‘Why’ becomes clear, you are freed from the bondage of living. Well that is what I personally believe. But I will supplement your statement with another quote “You only live twice – once when you are born and once when you stare death in the face” – an old quote from Ian Fleming’s ‘You only live twice’. 
8. How much of fiction has been mixed with reality to make this book what it is right now?
This is a real book about a person’s journey within himself though a portion of the events narrated are fictional, especially the role of the friend and the later chapters. This is only to enhance the import of what I want to convey and I wanted the reader to feel it is his story. In that sense I would call it fictional reality if I may be allowed to use that word.
9. Can you take our readers through your journey of being a published author? Has anything changed post that, something like the before and after phenomenon?
Writing has been easy for me and I found that I evolved as a writer after I started getting active on my blog. I learnt to connect with readers in course of time and I can now say that I do have a dedicated readership. When I decided to write the book it began as a journey and only later did the thought of getting it published occur. 
My own experience could well highlight the travails of aspiring authors. I first experimented with self-publishing with one of the major houses and left it midway as I thought pitching to a traditional publishing house would help me evaluate the value of my manuscript better. I did submit it to five of them. There was no reply from three even after a lapse of four months. The fourth was courteous enough to say that they will not be able to fit it due to constraints in their existing calendar.The fifth publisher did accept the manuscript for publication and placed it as ‘Projects under consideration’ stating it would be taken up when the commissioning editor deems fit. They were also very courteous enough to add that a book under consideration with them could get published within weeks or in a few years. I did wait till my patience wore out. Then I decided to go back to where I started from – Self-Publishing. But in the entire process I have learnt a lot not only from my own experience, but also from the hurdles faced by some of my friends when they published their books. The constraints of finance does make you compromise on some issues like editing and marketing. Professional editing is costly and how much reach can you really expect through your friends and social media contacts for selling your book. I was also awake to the fact that there would be more number of likes on Face book than the number of books sold.
Still in the end there is a sense of satisfaction that I have actually made my dream in to a reality. The entire process has now made me a more confident writer and I feel happy when people tell me that they liked the book
10. What is the message that you want to convey through your this book?
It is very simple. There cannot be a general formula to tackle the questions and the existential angst which arise in the mind of any person during the process of living, as the problems faced are ultimately subjective and the answers are within each individual. The first step towards resolution is in acceptance of the reality of existence and the finality of death. It is only when a person comes face to face with nothingness that he searches for ways to immortality, either through a belief in God, reincarnation and religion or through leading an authentic life.
11. We would like to know about any future projects you are currently working on.
I am already half way through my next book and as I said before this is more in the nature of an exploration of the external world. Each chapter is a ‘Slice of life’ and narrates my encounters with different lives. I may again dub it as a fictional reality.
12. Some words for your readers.
I will only say that this is your book, written for you with the hope that you will be able to recognize and identify with the events that take place in your life. 
Thank you very much for your time