If you have not read the Part I then you have missed the preface to what I am posting now
Nowadays I am trying to cope with rejection which is nothing new but whenever I am hit by a fresh wave of “no-you-are-not-so-good” reaction, the dejection that builds up like a gnawing pain in the pit of the stomach, stays on and on and on…like a solid entity….an unwelcome insurgent who is hard to shove out and harder to acknowledge as one of the many. Perhaps that’s a wrong description of rejection but that is what it is with me. Now, it is not “why rejection” for which I shall be devoting a separate post subsequently. It is how to wade through the aftermath of rejection that holds your body, mind and soul on ransom that needs to be looked into. And that is what brings me to the million dollar question: what do you do when you are suffering from a bout of depression triggered by continual rejection from the four corners of your world on efforts that were very dear to you? The smarter generation goes for an extra hour on the treadmill or hits the punch bag a hundred times more to be relieved of the pent up frustration coiling up within. The wiser ones sit in Padmansana and resort to Om chanting or Pranaayaam to detoxify body and mind (and soul??). The hard-core doers and go-getters give it an energetic toss out of their system. The morbid takes recourse to brooding and the incurable optimist remains hopeful of a serendipitous find around the bend which will topple over the extant disgruntling arrangements to replace it by a more equitable, pleasureful experience.
If you ask me what do I do, I will not be able to give a satisfactory answer because of the simple fact that I do not have any. I moo around, crib occasionally, enter into a shell and stay there for a long, long time and then at the end of all the futile exercises emerge out of my comfort cocoon accepting the fact that I am no good in this world. During these times there are certain /particular song(s) that gets stuck onto my mind repeating itself like a monk’s incessant chant. And in doing so, it makes me concentrate, at one point or the other, on the why of it. Why or what is it that the lyrics of the song keep coming back to me again again in a whirling motion and stay on and on till I conclude that this is a song which is very much part of me or my life at this point of time because of this very reason. It also underscores the process of mood influencing a choice. A choice that would have been hard to make and harder not to make.
Coming back to the song. It’s again my favourite lyricist Yogeshji. The music composer, Salil Chaudhury, deceives with the sweetness of his melodies , which as a singer, I know is extremely difficult to rendition, if you are not a classically oriented performer, both Indian as well as Western. His jumping notes and even the straight ones are hard to pull through. Talking about the singer, Mukesh, is definitely not my all time favourite. But the deeply embedded reverberating pathos in his voice makes most of his songs a compelling listening experience. I have tried singing his songs but it’s easier to hide one’s flawfull singing behind karigari than hitting a straight note straight. And to give the devil it’s due, try imagining someone else singing these songs. You will fail as none can sing out pain in bass voice as he can.
I struggle to transliterate the Hindi lyrics into English. So, I would just go by the essence of the ditty:
My eyes have dreamt zillion dreams
Knowing not whether they would come to pass
Yet I dream…
My heart tells me be not sad defeated by sorrow
The songs that I have penned from the heart
One day may be sung with pain or happiness
Knowing not, yet I dream…
Picturized on the yesteryear hit duo Anil Dhawan and Jaya Bhaduri from the film …Oh I forget the name of the film, but it’s one of those realistic mainstream cinemas used to be made in the 70s and 80s on very low budget for the middle class audience torn between dreams and deprivation.
Listen to it. The value of the song does not lie totally in the words, the music or the rendition. But somethings beyond which may broadly, and vaguely, be compressed in one word – the effect!!!
And that brings me to the moot point. What makes a song tick – it’s lyrics? It’s composition? Or its the way the song has been sung? Or in today’s terms put together with all the techno-effects packed into it ?
I am sure it’s none of these and all of these plus the chiaroscuro of light and darkness, pain and pleasure, the omnipresent sense of void and being , juxtaposed into a single oneness. And therein, my friends, lie the worth of a song and it’s timeless overture.
I have just finished reading Tannaaz Irani’s “Goodness Gracious! Grand Mama!!” (GGG) – a memoir so lovingly written. But I am not much into memoirs. The last read was Shobha De’s “Selective Memories” which I found very, very selective in every sense of the term. In contrast, Tannaaz’s tribute to her grandmamma, through this book, is not only an invitation to meet her “idiosyncratic” family and the colourful persona that her granny was, but it also chronicles passage of an era.
I, generally, do not “review” a book – I merely put in words the thoughts that race through my mind and the feelings that whelm my heart in the process of assimilating one. Whether that can be called a review is definitely debatable.
A few chapters into this one, I was transported to the Kolkata of more than three decades back – a difficult phase of my life which I’d rather not prefer to remember but for the peek it provided into those impassable alleys of life! An unthinkable exposure to a sheltered middle class existence, years later which coagulated into clusters of unforgettable experiences serving as fodder to a pen much inclined to put to account the vagaries of human life in all its kaleidoscopic extravaganza. It was also during this time that I had my first encounter with Parsis and Anglo-Indians which also coincided with my entry into the corporate world. The secretary to the CEO of the esteemed organization, I debuted in, was a Parsi lady whom I found most intriguing. She had a name way different from the names I was accustomed with. More than that, she was quite unapproachable being associated with the higher echelon of the organizational ladder. She spoke less, smiled much lesser and maintained a distance from the rest. Perhaps it was the requirement of the post she held or she thought it was. However, my bitchy colleagues attributed her stiff-backed stance to confirmed spinsterhood. Parsis are an affluent but closed community with an acute aversion towards socio-cultural intermingling. Reading Tannaaz, I now understand the socio-historical anatomy of this exclusiveness stemming from a regrettable colonial hangover which we all Indians, more or less, suffer from and the consequent misplaced diffidence.
Are memoires supposed to invoke wistfulness? I thought as chapter by chapter, Tannaaz’s words retraced my steps back to childhood – those carefree days of fairy-tale dreams oblivious of the limitations of hard-hitting realities.
The best thing about GGG is that it is in no way a deliberately packaged product. The writing is free-flowing sans the intent to make it attractive. Grandmamma leaps out of the pages as the formidable matriarch, fiercely guarding the family from disintegration, even if that means the not-so-well-to-do-relations unabashedly taking advantage of her hospitality and generosity. Her indomitable spirit is infectious. Her valiance in the face of adversity is inspiring. A unique combination of feudal grandiose and charming grace, bestowed upon those whom she considers deserving of the same, Grandmamma epitomises a class long-extinct and times long gone by. Perhaps, one can even take the liberty of saying she would have been a misfit in today’s times, yet, she seems to be such an integral part of the past – a past that would remain incomplete without personas like her who defined the ethos of those times – a birthing nation with its umbilical cord still tied to a decadent imperial dominance! Understandably, Grandmamma, thus, desperately sticks to her self-created image of the virtual mater familias dictating terms, imposing rules and overshadowing all her kith and kin who toe her line either willingly or unwillingly or just as a matter of practice. Yet, Tannaaz, describes her Grandmamma’s royal eccentricities with a handful of humour which may have bordered on irreverence if she were not in awe of her. Grandmamma is fun to the fresh crop of the family, the gen next – the budding scions of a different time!!
Tannaaz inks her memories without a single trace of malice. GGG is a flipbook of memories visited with care and creditworthy neutrality. One can make out how much the writer must have enjoyed penning her thoughts. And that is what makes the read enjoyable and engrossing. Yes, writing is cathartic and in the process, many an emotion, suppressed, dormant or hidden, wells up within surprising even the writer. The introspective chapter right before the epilogue-ic analysis of the pivotal character is commendable. It is balanced, unbiased and skillfully crafted. There are some which inspire and even prove to be life-changers, but this book has been catalytic for me and not too far in future I too may think of weaving an honest account of those who have shaped me into what I am today.
Thanks Tannaaz for sharing this book with me.
Wrapping up the session with these extraordinarily gifted students, I, in my heart of heart, revised the basics of haiku which I had briefly touched upon in the beginning. These were :
- Haiku is a 400 years old Japanese form of writing very short poem
- Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) is known as the father of haiku
- Haiku is hai = humour + ku = verse
- Haiku tells a story without telling one
- But the story is told in very few words
- In so few words that haiku is called the wordless poem
- It is wordless because you do away with the unnecessary and retain as few words as required to make a whole picture
Picture they did …Now it was their turn. Vaishali gave them the following options to draw out the story embedded therein :
the way her laugh
colours the sky
searching for slippers
lost in the pile
a splash of purple
on my new white kurti
drip, drop, drip,
on the child’s cheeks
the clothes out of the bucket
get a new shade
(this one was mine)
And the children did well…pretty well. Haiku had made way into their hearts.
However, a story till remained to be recounted to initiate them into extracting the untold tales hidden in the haiku. And it went like this :
Rainy days are so difficult! Messy! You cannot walk on the roads without slipping or splashing on to a puddle of dirt water. And the roads are full of them – a puddle here and a puddle there! And in the puddle you will always find them resting – buffaloes, cows, goats, sheep and even dogs! After a never ending stretch of hot, humid days what else do you expect?
I am especially scared of the buffaloes. The way they look! Their curly horns! Their deep mooing…how they drool!!! You never know whether they are angry or pleased with you. But it is said that you have to face what you fear the most! And that is what happened with me.
It had rained heavily the night before. As usual the pot holes on the roads were filled with rain water. I was walking back home from school. Not exactly walking back but skipping and jumping over one puddle to the other. My shoe buckles were loose. I don’t know when that had happened. Must be during the recess when we were playing a round of kho-kho! I had just hopped over one puddle that I lost balance and slipped……………..dhadaaam!! There was a loud splash. I had landed in a puddle wherein till then was peacefully resting a huge black buffalo with crumpled horn with his eyes closed and head lolling slightly forward. I must have disturbed his tranquil leisure. He jerked his head up and gave me a look. A look that spoke volumes…
As I scrambled out of the puddle in a hurry I wondered whether he was angry or disgusted or merely hiding a gleeful chuckle behind a serious face… These humans!! They don’t even know how to wade through a cool pool of water after a soothing spell of rain. Huh!!
And to be honest that look is still etched in my mind and I still wonder what he must have felt as I slithered into his personal zone of watery pleasure. More so, when years later I wrote this haiku
the buffalo and I
exchange a look
And then there was no looking back…the children came up with their own stories from each one of the haiku given to them ….imagination running wild yet very much in tune with the haiku. The magic was on….
However, the exercise was incomplete without the involvement of the parents. So we had a little chat with them about why haiku and how it should resonate in our life style after the class. We urged them to join the next workshop with Kala Ramesh proposed to be held sometime by the end of this year. A few looked skeptical while there were many others who were interested and eager to know more. I suppose there would always be mixed responses to something which is out of the box and compels you to unlearn before you learn afresh.
On that positive note I said goodbye to Vaishali and her troupe of little men and women promising to meet again some other time and somewhere else.
Those who wish to read the earlier posts can read them here :
Our haiku mentor, the one and only Kala Ramesh says,”Where there is craft, imagination ought to have a rightful claim.” Employing imagination is just not being fanciful, as it is derogatorily construed to be, it is an essential ingredient of human survival and evolution. A mind which does not make use of imagination is stagnant and powerless. Strong words yet true. It is pertinent, at the onset, to figure out whether imagination is merely a habit akin to some self-destructive addiction (“Oh! you know, he is always fancying things”), an indispensable requirement (no invention is possible without the adequate employment of imagination) or an enviable skill (which only a few gifted souls know the right measure to apply with and when and where in order to assess the implications of a course of action, circumvent major mishaps, anticipatory or otherwise, and chart out the most suitable path ahead amidst all odds – in short farsightedness)? For any kind of creative craft imagination is the byword. Since, life itself is the biggest creative handiwork of God, the entire cosmos manifests a greater and higher precinct of imagination that is humanly indecipherable leave alone scalable. Again, in order to sustain such a vast and complex matrix of the processes of creation, preservation and annihilation, what instruments are perceptibly and imperceptibly at work are again the outcomes of imagination, the level of enormity of which is, humanly impossible to perceive let alone gauge. In every sphere of life, be it education, profession, social cohabitation, economic prudence et all, imagination assumes much greater proportion and significance, not just to perpetuate and sustain the existing or proposed scheme of things but to comprehend the larger picture behind or beyond the myriad day to day, mundane and not so mundane, occurrences. Imagination, enhanced and backed by knowledge and intuition, empowers the mind to take the right decision at the right time, avert catastrophes if not obviate them altogether and forge ahead to build a comprehensive corpus of accumulated wisdom to the advantage of the posterity.
Be it any form or type of skill training, the rudiments of learning and unlearning need rest on imagination.
“How will you emote if you cannot possibly imagine what Cinderella must have gone through when she realized that she has lost her glass slippers at the stroke of midnight?” Was my question to the little ones, gathered for their Sunday session of acquiring drama skills, which I am certain made them think and wonder! And I am glad it did because when it boils down to the crux in haiku to assimilate the “vertical” nuances of a seemingly innocuous “horizontal” image, what one requires is a ladle scoop of I-M-A-G-I–N-A-T-I-O-N to experience epiphany through one’s sensory vision….what else?
My reason to emphasize this least-stated faculty of imagination will gain more clarity from the next story from haiku narrated below… a haiku in which the poet masterfully and generously crafts loads of it at the same time leaving nothing to it at all (here read it as imagination)….the picture is so sharp, precise, lucid yet impactful, resonating and spell binding all in one!! And that, my friends, is the beauty, power and x factor of haiku…easier analysed than mastered.
Many years ago when I used to stay in Kolkata, I would often stand on the balcony of my house, which was next to the railway tracks, and spend hours watching the trains pass by. Sometimes I would even sit on the platform and watch the trains coming and going. Those days Rajdhani Express was the fastest train of the country connecting Kolkata to Delhi. And did you know the train would pass by the very tracks next to my house on every alternate day.
I can’t tell you what fun it was to watch the Rajdhani pass by. I would wait for hours just to see it for a few seconds possibly as it swished past the tracks in a jiffy. The bogeys were coloured red and yellow. The windows would be all tightly shut. The dark glass of the windows would not allow a view of the inside. But its speed! Whew!! Maddening how it rushed from one station to the other to reach on time at the destination. And, mind you, it was always on time! Sometimes, as the train would hurry by the driver would blow the horn loud and clear. And even after the train had passed by, the horn could be heard from a distance for a very long time.
But one morn as I woke up I found the tracks could not be seen at all. A heavy cloak of fog had descended from the sky and enveloped the city. The houses, the roads, the traffic and also the railways tracks were all covered with fog like a giant hugging a child and nothing could be seen far and near!
I was very unhappy. Now I would not be able to see the Rajdhani swish by. Still I waited on the balcony at the time when Rajdhani was scheduled to pass by hoping after hopes that I would have just a mere glimpse of it.
And lo! I did. Faintly though…but yes, the body of the train was visible for a few tiny seconds before it vanished into the film of the thickening fog like a speeding cheetah….a cheetah with red and yellow stripes! And to make sure that I was not dreaming, the driver blew the horn which blared through the grey, smoky fog and kept on blaring till it became a distant echo.
Many years later when I read this haiku the memory and along with it the joy of watching the Rajdhani speeding on the tracks flooded back to me. The haiku was
the train evaporates
into a distant horn
Also written for : WordPress Daily Prompt : Express
Ryokan was a very poor Japanese monk. It is said that he was so poor that even the robe that he wore was all tattered and torn. One fine evening, when he returned to his tiny hut he had a feeling that someone was there before. He opened the door to find that a thief had visited his hut and taken away whatever little he had.
Ryokan was sad…. very sad. He entered the hut and opened the window to find a large, round moon smiling down at him from the sky. As the moonshine spread on the floor of his mud hut his heart was filled with happiness and the sadness of being robbed was replaced by immense joy. It is said that he was so happy that he said, “If the thief had come to the hut to steal when I was here, I would have even given away the robe to him that I wear.”
But why was Ryokan so happy to see the moon? He was happy because the thief, who stole everything from his hut, could not steal the moon from the window. And why could the thief not steal the moon from the window? Because it is a gift from God and whatever God gifts us – the sun, the moon, the stars – can anyone steal these from us?
So Ryokan, happy that he was, wrote a haiku
the thief left it behind
at the window
This is a true story, needless to say, a beautiful one….
But what was more interesting were the questions that I had to face after I finished with my story.
“Who would rob a moon, now?”
True! Who would rob a moon when there is no price tag attached to it!
“Why would it be left at the window?”
Again! Moon is a moon is a moon. It is always there shining up in the sky. Taken for granted. How can it be left at the window?
Children ask funny questions. And the adults are funnier who cannot make them understand what’s so precious about the moon being left at the window…
As I have said in my earlier post, I learnt much more from the children than they possibly did from me. The one thing that struck me most was the level of exposure they had at such young age – pizza party at home, You Tube watch with friends, visits abroad, taking part in short films were some of the fun experiences which were recounted by the children in the last segment of the session. Gone were the days of garden picnics and vacation at the nearest hill station. I, who was stuck up in my Enid Blyton days when it came to memories of childhood, was once again reminded of the yawning gap between gen now and then.
I wonder how much could they ‘feel’ the story that I weaved around the next haiku:
“This is the fifth time,” Maa scolded, “That you’ve lost your umbrella.” I kept mum because I knew it was the truth. Funny! It always happened in the school bus. I would have a regular fight with one of the bus mates for a window seat. Why would Hari or Anu require a seat by the window? They were always chattering and making noise in the bus. What did they care about the blue of the sky? Or the snowy white clouds that flew by from one land to the other? The birds flapping their wings and soaring with the clouds or the sun rays dancing over the leaves of a tree. These never meant a thing to them. I knew. So, I would shove their bags aside and make myself comfortable by the window, the cool breeze blowing across my face.
And then the fairies would descend from their abode of cottony clouds and open their delicate wings of pure white feather to flitter around with the butterflies. They would touch the budding roses. kiss the laughing marigolds and poke the shy lilies bursting into a shower of giggles like little girls. The bees would then hum a song strumming the green leaves. Huffing and puffing would then join Timmy, the dog, who lived down the lane. After him would follow Ben and Brown wagging their tails. Party time! They would chorus in unison. Ben would be the DJ while Brown would serve the drinks. The fairies would spread laughter and the bees would croon the latest hits.
And when the party would be at its peak, would then sail in a bank of dark, foreboding clouds sucking away all sun shine and along with the demonic clouds would saunter in Mr. Singh, the bus coordinator. “Rajan!” His booming voice just next to my ears would sound like drum rolls and then a good shake of my shoulder would be the ultimate spoiler, “You’ve again fallen asleep Rajan and missed your stop.” I would look up with groggy eyes trying to recall where I was.
Yes, it’s two lanes away from my house that the bus would stop and I would hop out in a hurry with my bursting school bag completely forgetting the umbrella which would as usual be left behind not to be found ever again.
But tell me, how did Kizie, my haiku mate, knew about all these things when she wrote
I watch the bus leave
with my umbrella
– Kizie Basu
Recently, I was invited by Vaishali Chakravarty of Actor Factor fame to interact with her students (age group : 9 to 12 years) and introduce haiku to them in terms of editing thoughts. Interesting! Though I had never thought of haiku in that perspective, yet, it made sense. This was my first interactive session with children of that age group and that too on haiku. And to be honest, I learnt much more than they might possibly have from me.
Coming back on track, it seemed a daunting task in the beginning. Making children understand the brevity and simplicity intrinsic to haiku was no small deed. The technique I adopted was focused on the story element so unintentionally presented by haiku. Yet, it was only a minuscule aspect of the genre. I selected ten most relatable haiku which would appeal to children of that age group and weaved a story around five of them which were rather extensions of the main theme of the haiku and five I left to them to react upon – my idea was to let them figure out the story in these, however, Vaishali suggested that they picture the story rather than write. So they drew the haiku which was perfectly in order and reinforced the visual vibrancy of the minimalist verses. Needless to say, it worked and how!
Thanks to my very talented haiku mates of InHaiku Group, NCR Chapter, who lovingly allowed me to borrow their haiku for the session. I would be sharing post by post (five/six in series) the stories that I weaved around these haiku to convey to the pupils the art of tapering down thoughts to the bare essentials disregarding or discarding the unnecessary. Point to note : these stories should not be confused with or construed to be haibun. Haibuns are paras or stories embedded with haiku with strong element of the ingrained shift and link. Rather these stories, as I mentioned earlier, are kind of extension or elaboration of the haiku itself concentrating on the suggestive narrative of the ku (verse) .
So to begin with….
Grandma’s house has always been mysterious. An old, rambling building with lots of rooms, a huge courtyard and a winding verandah running parallel to the rooms. The ventilation of the house was poor as a result the rooms would remain dark even during day time. After nightfall, it would be dimly lit throwing shadows across the walls which loomed large.
While wandering around the premises I would find many rooms locked from outside. Heavy padlocks tied in thick chains rested on the doors like formidable sentries guarding hidden treasures. I was so curious about these rooms. “Why do these remain bolted day and night ?” I would often ask Ramu Kaka, who was as ancient as the house itself. He would remain silent most of the times or try to tell me some other story about the lame mongrel who had given six puppies in the backyard or Mimi, the kitten, who was grandma’s pet.
But it was Govind, Ramu Kaka’s son, who spilled the beans. “Those rooms are meant for the ones who cannot be seen,” he told me in hushed tones which sent a chill down my spine.
When it rained in the dead of the night, I would hear the croaking of the frog near the well in the courtyard or a jackal howling in the jungle a little away from the house. A door would suddenly open and then close. Shaded lights would be shown to strangers who entered the house quietly and left as quietly after. Govind said they carried pistols and guns, pamphlets and bombs. But they were not bandits. They fought for a cause. “What cause?” I asked. Govind would look down at me from his imposing height of four and a half feet and put his finger on his lips, “Shhhh!! They are fighting against the kings. They are rebels. They say it is we the people who should rule the country and not those who do not belong here,”
At this point, I would rack my brain hard to understand what Govind said. Confused, I would loiter in the untended garden at the back of the house. And during nights, when the clouds placed a blanket over the stars, I would eagerly wait for those nightly sounds – the frog croaking, the jackal howling, a door closing and shutting, unknown footfalls in the courtyard and sometimes a gunshot afar and then a heartrending cry tearing the sky and thereafter silence….a familiar sound which I had listened to earlier when mother was whisked away covered in a white sheet on a charpoy shouldered by four men in front of my father’s bleary eyes and once again when father had fallen into deep sleep six months later in the hospital.
Those nightly sounds of my childhood days came back to me when my friend wrote
a jackal howls…
ghost stories spook
my grandmother’s home
—Nandita Jain Mahajan
At the airport…
The old man with a Dumbledor-ish beard asked me:
“What are you ?”
I replied,” No! None ! I am just on a journey trying to find myself out…”
His glassy blue eyes twinkled at that.
He looked at me piercingly and said, “I have got my answer…!”
I thought the New Year would bring in good tidings. It has not. On the contrary, it has ushered a fresh phase of confusion, dejection and irresoluteness. As it is said darkness leads to light, I wonder whether this chapter of indecision will end in unfazed determination and indomitable will to push on or continue to imbue my life with grim shades of desolation and despair.
There have been many such phases earlier wherein I have vacillated between hard hitting reality and die-hard optimism. However, with growing age, optimism has given way to something which borders on acceptance of the fact that things may not be the way I wish them to be mixed with a wee bit of cynicism. There is an odd kind of stupidity about life. It goes on the same way even if you do not fit into the scheme of things. Or does this idiocy a personal subscription? I do not know and I do not want to know.
I feel happy that things did not happen my way. It would have made me complacent. Learning the hard way has always been the flow for me. I am still following the same current. It is not that I do not wish to depart from the set trend. It is only that deviants do not always cause serendipity in life. Every being has been bestowed with a predestined matrix of evolution – emotional, intellectual and spiritual. We have to understand broadly the design of the weave, however, indecipherable it may appear at times. Most of the times we give in to bafflement. On hindsight, we somewhat realize the pattern, may be fully not. Yet, there is a pattern which perhaps goes haywire at times because our own aspirations disrupt the larger plan and perspective of which we are just a minuscule part.
In this damnably confounding game of karmic existence is it possible to keep faith? Alas! That’s the only proverbial straw we have to hold on to. Otherwise, to acknowledge that your mere being is just another elusive act of the illusory magnum opus of cosmic manifestation is too much to grasp cerebrally.
So, flow with the tide? What else?
This Post is written for the Daily Post Prompt : Educate