Category Archives: Literature

Thoughts on Love on a Grey Calcutta Morning

By Devjani Bodepudi

“When love beckons to you follow him, Though his ways are hard and steep. And when his wings enfold you yield to him, Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him, Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden. For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth……

But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure, Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor, Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears. Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.

Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love. And think not you can direct the course of love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.”

But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires: To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To know the pain of too much tenderness. To be wounded by your own understanding of love; And to bleed willingly and joyfully.”

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

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When I was about thirteen, I came across these beautiful lines in a poetry anthology I was given at school to study. I was in love then, so I memorised the lines then, not knowing what they meant. I only knew they were beautiful and talked of love being vast and holier than anything that I had known before.

There is so much love inside us all. The love in me is destructive sometimes. It comes out with a fierce desire to protect and as a result it may destroy. I’m thwarted at every turn because the ones I love will make the choices that they must. I describe it as shouting at a soap character on screen, willing them to make the right choice but they can’t hear me. The script must play out, the show will go on, and in the end, the hero will be heartbroken. There is simply nothing I can do.

The love here, in Calcutta seems magnified. Everyone loves to extremes. It’s like watching a strip of magnesium burn brighter than the sun only to be left with the remnants of a memory. It is a starburst in the darkness and clinical correctness of a laboratory.  I think everyone here is chasing that starburst, that momentary elusiveness of wonder and lust.

I’ve heard stories of couples who have been married for years, have children, respectable positions in society, just let it all fall away because they’ve ‘fallen in love’. It happens everywhere, I suppose, perhaps more so in the West. People get divorced all the time. But somehow, it feels like it’s been sought out here, deliberately. It’s necessary because the poets have written about it for centuries. We’ve taken Romeo and Juliet to heart and Tagore’s heroes and heroines must befall heartache and tragedy, as it is the only way to love. Despair is a prerequisite to happiness and truth, it seems.

Growing up and in my teens we were exposed to the story of Sarat Chandra’s Devdas, in all his cinematic glory. That tragic drunk, inebriated with his own sorrow, the courtesan, made transcendent through her grief, the simple girl next door, within reach but tainted through poverty. As Indians, I think we’ve come to worship such love, but I was able to move on thankfully. I think it’s like dancing in the rain; there is pure joy in drowning in the tears of the gods. To fully experience love, one must drown in it first. One must first be left bereft of hope until an angel appears and lifts you up and whispers in your ear, “you will love again and this time it will be for an eternity.”

But what is Love? I did not know what it was until it filled me up with contentedness and content. It is that which stopped still the longing and searching and swallowed the void until light poured forth from every pore. Every droplet of self was wrung from my being until there was only elation.

Love asks of nothing. It is whole. It will be you, who will give, willingly, as you are nourished with its enduring strength and its midday warmth.

I suppose we must all learn the ways of heartbreak and rejection first, like rights of passage. Perhaps our hearts need to be broken and set in the form of the perfect vessel to allow Love to enter. I wish I knew.

All I know is that I am blessed with Love. I pray that those whom I love, will find it too, that many-coloured bird that sings of joy and strength and patience and peace.

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In Memory of the Poet Laureate on his Birthday – Lord Alfred Tennyson

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Born on August 6 1809, Lord Alfred Tennyson was the poet laureate for two nations – Great Britain and Ireland. Compared to any of his contemporaries, Tennyson seemed the embodiment of his age.

Tennyson first published his compositions as a student in Cambridge. His first publication comprised a collection of boyish rhymes about himself and his brother. However, the major breakthrough in his works came only by 1830, upon the publication of his solo collection titled – Poems Chiefly Lyrical.

Since then, there had been no looking back. By 1842 he had already published two volumes of poems and was living in London. The success of his work Poems made him popular like never before; and eight years down the line in 1850, he was appointed as the Poet Laureate.

A master craftsman in his own right, Tennyson made use of mythological references in most of his works. Subject matters in his works ranged from medieval legends to classical myths – from domestic situations to even nature in its extreme forms. The influence early romantic poets such as John Keats and William Blake is often reflected in the works of this master. An excellent user of rhythm, Tennyson’s use of musical qualities exudes in his lyrical compositions. Use of figures of speech like metaphor, onomatopoeia, assonance and alliteration is prevalent in his works.

Tennyson is considered as one of the great poets of not only the early Victorian Era but also one of the great English Poets, almost at par with likes of Wordsworth or Keats and definitely above many of his Victorian contemporaries.

Remembering The Radical Romantic On His 221st Birthday – Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Regarded as one of the finest lyric poets of the English-speaking world, Percy Bysshe Shelley was born on August 4, 1792 in Sussex, England. Immensely radical in his works and political as well as social, Shelley unfortunately did not receive much recognition during his lifetime. His worth as a genius as a poet came along only after his death. Shelley became such a strong influence on the next generation of poets and writers, so much so that he was great admired by the like of Oscar Wilde, Karl Marx, Robert Browning and Thomas Hardy. 

Shelley’s literary compositions exemplify both extremes of Romanticism – joyous ecstasy and brooding despair. The major themes of Shelley’s works comprised – interchange with nature, pursuit of ideal love, rebellion against authority, visionary imagination and the untamed spirit always in search of freedom. 

Though Shelley’s themes exude certain similar hues with his contemporaries, nonetheless, he has left behind certain peculiarities on the literary movement of Romanticism. Pursuit of the idea and the creation of powerful symbols are idiosyncratic to Shelley’s works. His compositions like Ozymandus, Ode to Intellectual BeautyPrometheus Unbound and Ode to the West Wind are not only intellectual feasts but also a delight to the visual imaginations. 

It goes without saying that Shelley’s radical ides embodied in his literary compositions, still remains as a challenge to us to achieve our extreme potentials. 

घुलता हुआ एहसास

Sad-Love-Poem

Ankit Chandra writes this forlorn lover poem with a caveat. Don’t label him as a forlorn lover, this is just an artistic creation. Wonderfully crafted though, enjoy

सोचता तो था की शायद उसको याद करता हूँ
पर अहसास अब कुछ कम होता है

कुछ समय पहले चाहता तो उसे बहुत था
पर महसूस अब थोडा कम करता हूँ

कहीं से कुछ कम हुआ है या खुद ही ख़त्म हो रहा हूँ
पर कुछ बातों को याद करके मायूस अब थोडा कम होता हूँ

सूरज को देखने की आदत तो नहीं पड़ी है,
पर चाँद को अब कभी कभी ही देखता हूँ

किसी और का नाम तो नहीं आया है अभी जुबां पे,
पर उसका नाम ज़रूर कम लेता हूँ

देर रात तक जागना तो अभी शुरू नहीं किया है,
पर रात में अभी भी कम सोता हूँ

आँखें अभी तक सूखी तो नहीं है
पर शायद अब थोडा कम रोता हूँ..

You Can’t Exist. It Offends ‘Us’

By Ankit Chandra

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In the news today, among other more immediately critical things, is this news about a paintings exhibition in Bangalore (http://www.ndtv.com/article/cities/in-bangalore-moral-policing-means-three-paintings-face-the-wall-326900?pfrom=home-otherstories).

What’s the big deal about a paintings exhibition? Isn’t it just about some people only putting their expressions on to some canvas? who has time for that right? To be quite honest, I think it would be a big deal when a painting exhibition was actually not a big deal. Sadly, we are not there yet.

So what happened was that in this paintings exhibition, there were some paintings showing a few Hindu Goddesses in the nude. A local BJP ‘leader’ walks in and sees these paintings and flips out. He ensures that those paintings be put inside out, so that no one can see them. He said “I have reported to chief coordinator of Chitrakala Parishat saying you people should not show like this, Hindu gods and all. We have our own belief, we have our own culture…”

When I read this, I had a mixture of feelings inside me. Besides the obvious questions like ‘who the hell is he to be the representative of Hinduism’ (I am sure Lord Ram didn’t send him an appointment letter, because I think God likes me more than this BJP leader), I was more anxious because I see a special type of slow rape and murder happening here. That of freedom. Not only of speech, but to exist freely. Given that this rape of freedom a slow process, I am sure the government wouldn’t care to fix this, as this doesn’t affect the elections in 2014, or the local Karanataka elections, whenever they are held.

This is an urgent problem. Not only in Karnataka, but in Tamil Nadu with Viswaroopam, or with the late M.F. Hussain, or with the painters in Ahmedabad whose exhibition was vandalized, or with Deepa Mehta for making Water. The list goes on. And this list scratches our faces with its iron finger nails telling us that you must live in servitude of those who can walk over you whenever they feel like.

Anyway, back to the news. The father of the painter issued a statement: “There is absolutely nothing objectionable in his paintings. If that is so, then all temples should be destroyed.” After reading this statement, I had another mixture of feelings ride inside me. One of which was that of desperation. You see, in the older times people seemed to have more freedom of expression. They ‘could’ sculpt Hindu Goddesses in the nude. And those sculptures were integrated into temples. In 2013, we have regressed to a time even before them. Maybe stone ages where the whims of a petty local politician were taken to be a decree more critical than the dreams of Rabindranath Tagore.

Of course we could not have one more than one Nobel in literature. For that, we’d need to coexist in this century first…

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The Ghost of Kothi No. 136 at Punjabi Bagh

This is a short story by Ravi J Singh. For those of you who feel excited by fear factors, keep a lookout for the series.

Ghost

“Do it fast guys, we are already late and the installations cannot be delayed more”. Vardha, the South Indian team leader almost shouted on his fabricating team. He nervously looked at his golden chained Timex watch tied to his left hand. Droplets of sweat were now visible on his forehead and temple area, though it was a cold night of Delhi in January 1998.

Work pressure and deadline can have this effect on the leads after all. But was the pressure really so much on Vardha Swami Narayanan, a 33-year-old recently married guy from Madras who immigrated to Delhi seven years ago, that he was sweating profusely in a cold night of January of Delhi. The minute needle of his watch touched the number 3 and the hour needle was on 12. A worried Vardha looked at his guys – Ghanshyam, Kishore and Surinder – all young lads in their early 20s, who were trying to assemble the signboards with their trembling hands.

They wanted to get over this ordeal before 12:30am, and so did Vardha. All of them were aware of the fact that a big showroom opening was scheduled of one of their regular clients, and all the signboards had to be installed before 11am in the morning. They still had good 10 hours to complete the job, which by industry standards, were more than enough to complete the job.

Despite this, they were in great hurry. Was it the long working hours? Probably not, because working in night meant 1.5 times extra regular income and free night meal! And 500-600 rupees extra was lure enough to keep any fabricating guy working whole night.

Everything was fine till last week when that incidence happened with Radhey and Kishore…

…The same incidence happened with Srinivas and Mishra four days back and with Sonu, Mangal and Vishnu yesterday.

And, it happened to all of them in the fabrication area and around 12:30am. The area which was a long covered passage connecting the 200sq. yard lawn to the back side of famous Kothi no.136 of Punjabi Bagh area in West Delhi.

Punjabi Bagh is an affluent upper-class area of West Delhi, primarily comprising kothis (villas) ranging from 1500 to 3000 sq. yards. And, of course, true to its name, the majority of the population is of upper business class Punjabis. Like the Bhallas, who were the owner of Kothi no. 136, many had their business establishment within their villa.

So, the ‘Bhalla Niwas’ which was the name of Kothi no. 136, was planned in a way where the front 2/3rd area was utilized for the lawn, car parking and residence. And, in the rest 1/3rd were crammed the reception, design studio, printing unit, fabrication area, finance dept, a stinking urinal and a big 50 years old Peepal tree. The thick Peepal, with its roots emerging from the branches, looked horrifying, especially at night. And it happened to be at the other end of the fabrication area.

Currently the trio was fighting against time to finish their work and escape the place before 12:30am. Vardha, yet again, looked at his bejeweled watch, which was a dowry gift. The clock struck 12:28. It was in no way they could complete the job in the next two minutes.

Suddenly Kishore shouted “wo aa gayi, wo aa gayi“, threw his tools and ran towards the reception area like a mad dog. Ghanshaym and Surinder stood on the spot clueless and so did Vardha. They looked terrified and unsure. Is this really happening to them…the incidence which happened to seven people in their organization in last 10 days on three occasions! And, Kishore was the only one who had agreed to work at night again despite going through the now-infamous incidence. This incident has been talked and discussed incessantly by the 35 odd employees of Bhalla Signworks, situated in the Kothi no. 136 from last 10 days.

While they looked around unsure, they suddenly heard the voice!

…to be continued

Elizabeth Bennett…uhm…Darcy!

This is Sampurna Majumder’s homage to the attractive and vivacious Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, which completed 200 years in 2013.

jennifer-ehleIf Elizabeth Bennett would have been alive today, what would she be doing? At twenty and one, searching for a husband and marriage would probably had been the last thing in her mind. Then what? Studying in college for a degree and later focusing on a career?

Well, 200 years later, Elizabeth Bennett remains one of the much-loved fictional heroines ever produced. Her wild ways, sharp wit and frank disposition makes her as alluring as ever. Elizabeth is probably the heroine we all want be secretly. Despite residing in a rigid society that is steeped in moral codes she rejects all corsets of conventions by out rightly refuting the likes of Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine de Bourgh. She firmly believed that women have every right to marry out of love and their own will.

However, she is not without her follies. She is easily clouded by Darcy’s remarks and mistakes his reserved nature as arrogance. This leads not only her rejecting his proposal but also considering him responsible for creating differences between her sister Jane and her fiancé Mr. Bingley.

The outspoken and straightforward Mr. Wickham impresses her and she is carried away by him so much so that she even goes on to the extent of falling in love with him. Though warned by her best friend Charlotte and Caroline Bingley, she does pay much heed only to be disheartened at Mr. Darcy’s revelation of Wickham’s true character.

miss-bennetBut she is intelligent enough to realise her follies but does not give up on her prejudiced mind easily. It takes Darcy a second time to approach with his proposal.

She is not cowed by Mr. Darcy’s social and economic superiority, but challenges him. Even when she is called an ‘obstinate headstrong girl’ by Lady Catherine, she is not scared to retort. She stands her ground saying that Mr. Darcy is a gentleman and she is a gentleman’s daughter.

There’s a real sense of new order coming in, that of Elizabeth’s vitality and her ability to stand up for herself and her family. In this case, consider the case of Kate Middleton marrying Prince William. The fairy tale love affair does remind us of Elizabeth and Darcy and also that whatever ‘class’ we are born into, as human beings we are equal.

Whatever it may be, Elizabeth Bennett will continue to be our beloved fictional heroine of all times.