Thursday, December 30, 2010

Stories from the hiatus 1

A wooden house. A family of laughter. A father with a penchant for photography. A mother with a womb of artistic creations. Six siblings, playing the guitar, singing songs learnt while camping. The walls filled with the scent of love, inviting hope, relations and creations. Walls of glass rushing in the light of life and love. Amidst this crazy dance of life, christmas presents sit with gaiety on the chairs and on the arms of the sofas ... waiting to be unwrapped, waiting to burst into a new strain of happiness in belonging.

Age is a bluffer's name. The grandmother sings along with the kids from sixteen to twenty-eight. The busyness in the kitchen gets interrupted by the 'kids' hungry for the chocolate, sticking to the spatula after it is spread on the cake. I join in unceremoniously. 

After almost-skating across the lanes to and from the church, the muse of the night starts gleaming. Tinkering glasses with miniatures hand printed by the mother, the decorative plates, the one-eyed Santa and the glittering Christmas tree invite in more life and laughter. The uncle with his first-of-its-kind beard, the adorable aunt, the gregarious cousins trickle in with more of the clause of laughter and joy.   

Images: the christmas home of Angélique's parents ... December 2010.


I had thought I will pen down my thoughts of this Christmas with a parisian family in a single blog post. However, as I sit to write this post, so many impressions rush through the mind that it is becoming increasingly difficult to capture all of that (or at least some of that) in words and pictures. Hence I choose to leave this post with the TO BE CONTD.  mark :) Keep reading to know what happened as the christmas clause took us to another land... 

To be contd.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

season of closures 3: The Christmas Clause

As the snow slips from under the feet of the bird that flies into the horizon, as the white birds form the horizon as words are etched, the clause of the season is walking on.

For a day or few, the blogger soul will be scratching little thoughts and images in another land. The soulful reader will be etching out new dreams in the warmth of the family colours. If or if not religious, is an absurd issue. The clause of the Christmas is the comfort of companionship - with family or, with friends, or, with freshly baked cakes, or even with the queues in the cake shops...

The cheer of Christmas is "Hey ho! Keep walking!"

Keep walking the path of living lustrous lives dear reader ... till we meet again, just before the New year swings us into another time of beginnings ... HEY HO!!

Image: by self. The Christmas lamp belongs to my landlady's grand-mom (i guess). The lights reflect onto the window panes ... as if Christmas Claus is walking on into the snow! :) December, 2010. Lund, Sweden.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

season of closures 2: make a new moon

you could wish this remained this and that remained at a distance. all the things remain clear as it is in this moment. but the world is not static. it is like travelling in two times- the one in which you see others moving and the one in which you move but can't feel the swing. the days will be longer. the light will be stronger as the solstice has knocked at your door. you wished the moon was decadent with all the dark spots- an image of the cursed victor of sorts. but, yesterday night, it slipped into a moment of oblivion, where victory is sparse and denial is lost. it was at that space of non-being that the moon was yesterday night. eclipsed by the now, all the routine grudges died down. this is always blended in that. 
it is the time to pack the lies into cardboard boxes with deep red cross marks. you need to send them to the cellars or to the dump-yard. this is the season of closures. close all the debt accounts you have accumulated over the year. tomorrow is, and always will be, a new day.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

season of closures 1

It is the season of closures now. The days are rushing towards the culminating last week of the year. In this part of the world, stars, in different shapes and hues, emerge from nowhere. A passing glance will get stuck at the decorated Christmas tree beside the couch. Newspapers are seeking the 'top' 10/20/30 ... stories to be assimilated together for the special world-this-year edition. The individual is re-opening the Pandora's box of long-shelved ideas and commitments. Resolutions for the new year are diligently being formulated in personal journals. It is as if, on the last day of the year, time will re-start from the beginning. Without a before, without an after; in medias res. 
As the liberal snowflakes settle on the nose, the eyelashes and the cap tops, another part of the world lives in memories. 

(to be contd.)

Friday, December 17, 2010

group photo

the tilts, the bends,
the degree to which
the lips must strain,
the gesture that's game.
the snickers pale
highlight the crunch,
the undo-able stretch
achieved in a darn!

it rubs off the skin
the glory, the shine.
they wear a grin
same as the tie

black in the blizzard
yellow like a dime
pink in love
gray to cry

the stunt they need
the spoon they feed
the curl they rear,
the fear of a tear

in the couch
with crackers
a huge teddy bear.

wishes are whims
whispering ally,
smiling in clay
wishes may lie.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

birds in the snow-wind

The snow is blowing like a wind. You can hear it rise and fall, as if the gushing water of a stream. The beauty of the white creates awe and humility in the mind. Look up. Your sight will catch a bird surfing in the snow. It bends and curves, swoops down and fly up. All in this snow. If you step out of the warmth of the hearth, your nose will freeze, your tongue will be like a spade, itching with a sharp senile sensation. But the birds can fly, even in it. They do it simply. Simple it appears to the eye that sees the wings spread out, a bird in the sky, in its domain you believe. To the eye that sees the bird pecking the dry leaves, looking for food, coming down to the isles of green that emerge in the sun, to that eye the bird is strong. It faces the storm. Maybe because it is its domain. To live in the eye of the storm.

birds in the snow

Image: by self, using Paint. 2010.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


having spread the wings, twittering and gnawing against the bark, the creepers nigh through the winds :
out of the basic cone that spirals down the spine.

at the foot of the spine is the breathing boots:
lungs of the womb that soil the soul.
they need be there, at the foot, ugly and grim, dirty with tentacles of dreams,
it need be there- silent and scarce to the eye.

else, we need the shades when the solar schemes shine.

Image: Creepers, Prague; by self.

Monday, December 13, 2010

On foods of comfort and comfort in foods ...

Procrastinating on the procrastinator of all times - Shakespeare's Hamlet - in two recent posts (Missing the mark and History, Text and Imagination), I re-opened my will-do list of the past month. There are quite a few things that are left undone. I start off right now to tick them off with this post. Somdatta, a friend and a fellow blogger, had inquired about the comfort food/s that "give[/s] one the warm and fuzzy feeling of a blanket on a winter night" as she so rightly put it. 

The list of comfort foods have been distilling in my mind for the past fortnight. And I realise, I can not generalise on the idea of having a comfort food. Though she had accepted the possibility of her readers having more than one comfort food item, in my gastronomical set of choices, it is a wee bit more complex, and hence, confusing.

the dusk's comfort food
If it is the dusk of a weekend, when the filling lunch is still munching in my stomach, there is only one and one thing that I desire. Nothing but that can give me comfort. (For the past two years, I am suffering from the lack of it.) It is a typical Indian snack, called shingara. And I desire, nothing but the bengali shingara stuffed with potatoes, cauliflower, nuts and a free drizzle of chillies and corriander. Ah!!! What a bliss to sit with a mug of coffee and the sizzling hot shingaras!! And it has no pleasure if cooked at home. I need to buy it, the warm shingaras in the paper packet itching the fingers and producing an unimaginable amount of saliva in the mouth!

the can-be healthy snack
If it is the late evening, and I need to munch on something before I have my dinner in another hour or so, there is nothing but Masala muri. It is a mixture of puffed rice (muri), thinly sliced cucumber, tomatoes and onions, with ample chillies and a wide variety of spices (masala) that only the street-masala-muri-maker can add. The 'healthy' masala muri at home will always lack that special zing.    

heaven wrapped up!
If the dinner menu is grim, the only food that can give comfort to the grieving stomach is the blessed egg-chicken-roll. The thick but soft paratha fried in egg, filled with thinly sliced onions, cucumber and carrots, fried chicken pieces, sprinkled with chillies and with a generous spread of hot tomato sauce - heaven wrapped in one!  

This is just the tip of the iceberg that is my list of comfort foods. Sigh! only if each of these were available at any part of the world ! Deep sigh!!! Deeper sighs continue ....

"the dusk's comfort food" from

"the can-be healthy snack" from

"heaven wrapped up!" from

Missing the mark

In the span of a few months, I have met several wonderful people, across the globe, by virtue of a social networking site. I haven't met them in person. I have known them through images, status updates and the little notes that they scribble in their virtual notebooks. They are an amazing bunch of people. In them I found a discursive space of interaction. With them I have the opportunity to debate and to discuss.  It is as if, I am living a more 'real' life of sustained discussions in this 'virtual' space.

The real world of this virtual space, unsurprisingly, also functions according to the real human dynamics of emotions. The notes, especially, reveal the thoughts that engross the self. The thoughts have no boundaries; and the notes become poetry, prose, fiction, essays, abstract jotting of emotions and all the obscure and the particular that involves us in the real world. And they can be shared with  particular people or with everyone, depending on our choice. This, it seemed to me, is an extremely 'free' mode of communication that the social networking site facilitates.

After several months of intense interaction with such notes of friends, one fine morning, I couldn't trace an individual in the network. His notes have always been an inquisitive mix of information and engagement with knowledge. It is not that all notes, either by him or by others, appeal to me in the same league. Yet, I always live by a principle put to me by a friendly doctor uncle - "Read everything you can lay your hands on. Don't pick and choose. Choose the things that you would like to keep with you after you have finished reading." I emailed Alokeda enquiring if he has deleted his profile for some definite reason and to check if all is well at his end. 

The reply that came challenged my idea of free networking in the virtual social space.

Alokeda, aka Aloke Kumar, wrote back saying that his profile has been "disabled" by the authorities of the networking site since he had expressed his negative opinion of journalists in a note. Possibly after several complaints from people with a different opinion, the networking site had nullified Alokeda's account. My first reaction was to be appalled by the networking site's administration. I wanted to write about this incident. But, each time I read the piece that I had written, I realised I am missing the mark.


While studying Aristotle's Poetics with Prof. Krishna Sen in the University of Calcutta, I was introduced to the Greek concept of hamartia, used prolifically to analyse literary tragedies since Aristotle's era. Interestingly, hamartia  had nothing to do with drama in the Greek world. Etymologically it means, "missing the mark" and is an expression that was used with relation to archery. An archer is said to have hamartia if he misses the target.
Tragic heroes are tragic since they are neither too good, nor too bad. They are neither saints, nor devilish. They bear semblance to the reader-audience of the the tragedies. They lack the balance of  goodness and badness, like the most of us. They err. They achieve. Their characters misses the arithmetic mean that would make them a perfect balanced creature, situated at the middle of the two extremes of absolute goodness and absolute evil. Shakespeare's Hamlet is too much thoughtful; he would do good with some rashness of Macbeth and vice versa. But what should be, never is. And hence they are tragedies, not fairy tales.


This interpolation of the idea of hamartia is necessary to the context of the nullified profile of Alokeda. Though my initial grudge was directed at the networking site that succumbs to such un-democratic approach, I did not know why, but I was constantly reminded of a dialogue from the 2007 film, El Greco, directed by Yannis Smaragdis. While El Greco was working in the workshop of Titian, the master painter Titian gave a brief piece of advice to El Greco. He said, "Never show them everything." The truth, if shown, is unpardonable. By "them", Titian was referring to the human ego that wants to know everything but does not have the power of humility to accept opinions opposed to those that are already framed in the mind.

When Alokeda expressed his negative opinion about journalists, I understand that those holding a positive opinion on the same issue begged to differ. It is only a natural expression - a universal possibility of difference. Differences of opinion is what provokes progress. The human need to be assertive, by itself, is a necessary component in creating 'new' ideas and things. It is not an evil in itself. But when assertiveness is expressed by forcing silence, then we see a 'missing the mark' syndrome. The target should have been creating a zone of interaction where reasoning and debate in a rational manner would be the means of functioning. Instead, it became a zone of combat, aiming at the nullification of the opposing view. 

But does complaining against the different opinion of Aloke Kumar, leading to the disabling of his profile, make the pro-journalism view predominant? The question whether silencing the challenging voice is good has always been there. And, probably, it is rhetorical question that should be directed at ourselves rather than at each other.

The absence of Alokeda from this interesting networking site is a constant reminder of the limitation of replicating the existent systems of the real world in the virtual space. Thankfully the virtual space is ever-expanding and hence Alokeda's interesting 'notes' continue to exist in another domain of social networking. Silence is but a temporary agenda that the humankind attests to. Limitation is but a challenge to continue questioning the accepted idioms of expression. Had there been no questions, the human history would have stalled. Succumbing to the fear of change is a weakness that mankind needs to challenge. Or else, we will forever be frozen in flight, rather than be able to feel the freedom of flight.

frozen in flight, or flight of freedom?
Image of the statue of the legendary Turul bird at top of the rails of the Buda castle and a living bird in flight, Budapest, July 2010. By self.      

Friday, December 10, 2010

A view from last winter

On such seasons when the leafless branches allow for the lucid view of the horizon, all that you can see is the sky. A little ball of fire, thrown from behind the mason's monsters, climbing the cloud-creepers, invading the silence of the white lands, until it has pierced your soul. 

Image: pencil and pastel on paper, by self, a view of the morning sun in snow clad Budapest, painted on 17.12.2009.

life path

I don't know which wave is rushing towards me
as I carve the wood
fetch the kid,
sew the blouse,
take the red broom out of its box ...

I have a sledge that drives me through the glaciers
as I pick the sparrow,
tie a love around its neck
and flee -
... the clouds in the dreams ...

And yet, I do not know which wave is my guest tonight.

I will wait for it in the woodpecker's hut.

A few sustaining drinks later,
We will walk down the garden path
and climb the stairs to the centre. 

At that era of being,
I will name the wave, christen it
with the dark waters of the cesspool.
Till that elevation I must wait
without knowledge
without wisdom
carving my wood, like Sisyphus in his dreams.

Image: by self; Mytilini, Lesvos islands, Greece 2010. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

History, Text and Imagination

Walking through stories, walking through tales is like a dream. It is like living multiple lives in this finite life. As I walked into the historic Kronborg castle, the literary castle of  Hamlet, a strange gush of wordless-ness flowed through the mind. It was amazement, not at the stately structure of the palace alone; it was amazement at the fact that, William Shakespeare never visited Denmark and yet, it is through his work that I have visited this castle several times for a character that was and was-not at the same time. A thread of continuity  seemed to tie us: three entities in three different centuries. 

As I walk through the first gate, sound boxes positioned around the gates bring alive the sounds of the past. The sound of the dragging of the chains to lift the wooden spiked gate, the sound of the horses hooves galloping into the castle - transposed me into a fictional space that I had imagined several times while reading Shakespeare's texts. Standing on the grounds of history and of imagination, I was filled with silence and humility.

The history of the human civilisation is long compared to the life of a single individual. Compared to the history of the world, that of the human civilisation is but a spec of dust. Compared to the history of the universe, that of the world is that infinitesimally small era and that of the human kind is but an abstraction of the idea of history and existence. And yet, there was an Amleth, challenged by the royal need to defend the righteousness of the crown; and, there was a Shakespeare, challenged either by the financial need to write plays that are theatre-box-office hits or  by the universal, era-transcending need of mankind to probe deeper into things of being. Shakespeare based his play on the character of Amleth.  The characters of Amleth, Shakespeare and Hamlet are, thus, an amalgamation of facts, figures and fiction. The imagination of the human mind has kept these characters alive, beyond the boundaries of perceived time. As I step out of the castle of literature and history,  I feel a throbbing in my head, and my heart - I love to believe that that is the pulse of continuity in me. It is the potential of the human mind to traverse beyond the cordoned off impossibilities in life

Image: The historic Kronborg castle, the castle of Shakespeare's Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark at Helsingør, Denmark. Photo by self. 2010.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


They were undecided about the way in which the fire will be lit. Some suggested that that a pyre be built. Then they can look up to me as I stand tall on the pedestal of the pyre. Some suggested that there should be a sitting arrangement at the middle, so that the fire can surround me. It would look poetic said the court poet. Whatever may be the fire arrangement, the washer man wanted it to be telecast across the three worlds. "Then the milk will become separate from the water!", he had said, informed my sister-in-law. Since this pyre building has started, no one has seen his wife anywhere. I overheard the maids whispering, "She feared being thrown into the pyre by her husband! What a shame!" Amidst all this commotion, he has not come across the guest quarters where I had been shifted since the last court meeting was held.

My first maid is of the opinion that this is a conspiracy that is being hatched against me. I yawn. She continues dusting. With her back turned to me, she says, "Which sane husband will put his wife in fire because of a stupid washer man's comment? I say, memsahib, there is plenty of dirt in this curry!" I leap out of my bed as I remembered that I have left the curry uncovered. I had planned to send it to him for lunch. I arrange the cushions and sink into them. No point in rushing to the kitchen now. The cat must have had a good lunch today. "...and then there is also the question of a heir." O, I am getting so forgetful! I need to send that letter to him. That is why I had planned to cook the curry. Without the curry, a letter will seem to be too intimate. Now what? May be it's better to wait a couple more days till all this fetish over proving purity is over.

Gosh! I never understood what these men want. That dupe wanted flesh, but didn't force himself upon me. And, my husband wants to be a good king. He wants to put my flesh to test so that there is no riot in the kingdom. The grapes look luscious. I pick one and put it in my mouth. I ask the maid to leave. She looks at me deeply and says in a ghoulish voice, "If only women could be left to themselves." As the clicking of her bangles cross the door, pass through the corridor and walk past the guarded entrance, I look vaguely at the grapes.

Image: taken by self in Sigri, a small fishing village in an island of Greece, 2010.

Friday, December 3, 2010

stepping into creation

The initiative to write the previous post was largely derived from an event that happened the evening before. I was facing a writer's block. Ample thoughts were floating in the top-sphere, but, it was becoming increasingly difficult to harness them in words. I put down the pen and put on the cooking flame. 

It is only recently that I had realised my love for cooking. Along with finding the poetry in the act of cooking (the outcome of which was meditations while cooking... (click on title to read that post)), I have also realised how cooking with consciousness de-stresses me. During most of such sessions, I use conventional recipes. The act of de-stressing involves, in such cases, an awareness of the subtle change of aroma, of the colour of the spices and of the texture of the constituent elements. The evening in question gave me an opportunity to realise the effects of meditation in a new way.

while creating ...

As I stepped into the kitchen that evening, I had no idea what am I going to cook. I passed a glance through the storage counters in the refrigerator; it seemed it created certain sparks. I didn't mind having a disaster dinner, but I wanted to 'create' something 'new'. Stepping back from the 'busyness' of life, and the need to be 'proper', I wanted a breathing space of unadulterated joy of creating. The kind of joy that a kid feels while making arbitrary scratches of colour on the paper and defining them as something substantial. I became that kid in the kitchen. I had several ingredients at hand. I simply decided to cook on instinct. Instead of planning elaborately the recipe. I decided on the first step only (on hard-boiling the eggs). The next half an hour I spent making a paste of this, a batter of that, a spice mixture of this and that. As each of the ingredients, changed colour, changed texture, changed aroma, the mind not only felt relaxed; it was elated. Dancing to a flowing music of creation, I cooked that evening. At the end of that cooking session, I felt a joy that, in turn, re-invoked the confidence in my dreams and the possibility of creating some beautiful word pictures. The act to re-instate the poise in writing gifted me an additional pleasure of having a delicious dinner. 

Image courtesy: the web

Thursday, December 2, 2010

On busy-ness and time

Busyness, we say is the syndrome of the malady of modern life. There are always more things to do than the hours can accommodate. It almost creates a surreal wish for an additional 12/24 hours (as per the individual needs) or for cloning of the self in many of us. We imagine life would be so much better if there was more 'time' in our hands. What this leads to is a constant sense of incompleteness, a constant feeling that so many thoughts, ideas, desires, possibilities have to die due to lack of what we know as time. The Irishman, James Joyce, talked very candidly about time as we perceive it. If we are 'busy' doing something that we love, or, participating in something that we enjoy, time seems to fly. It seems time has walked its space a little faster when we are doing things that that we are fond of. When I used to attend Bharatnatyam (a classical Indian form of dance) classes, the two and a half hour rigorous routine of practicing dance moves and steps, repeating them incessantly till the gestures are right, seemed like a fleeting evening. At times, I wanted the clock to slow down, so that I can dance a little more. In a similar vein, try doing something that is a pain-in-the-neck. No matter how little clock-time such a thing would require, it would seem like an eternity. For me, it can be anything from making the bed to dusting the furniture. Time can and does (if you will notice) fly or creep, depending upon the involvement of the mind, the body and the soul in the act being performed.
Time leads where we want to go...
Joyce charted out the difference between the clock time and the psychological time exquisitely in a novel titled Ulysses. (If you love reading Joyce, you will sail through the book. If you don't, you may end up making several attempts to read the novel, each with a fresh surge of enthusiasm, for a period spanning from 5 to 15 years.) Without involving ourselves with Joyce's particular novel, let us rest our case on what such different categories of time would mean in our common, down-to-dust lives.
In the previous post, I had confided in you that I was assailed by too many tasks and ideas, thus leading to a serious need for a stopgap post!!!! When we have to undertake several important tasks (each with a red priority tag), the mind takes the easy route of escape. It simulates tiredness and acts as if it is too much burdened. (This almost reminds me of stomach aches I 'had' in order to stay away from school.) The mind tells the body - "Gosh, you are sooooo tired! Why don't you take rest?" The body believes in the mind and thinks, "Yes, I will regain my strength if I rest." And so, the mind and the body, along with a little pricking in the soul, draw the curtains, arrange the pillow and sneak underneath the tugged blanket. Off to sleep. Off to a world away from the real world of red-tag-priorities, until waking brings back the horror of priorities. Continuing to postpone the priorities create Hamlets out of us. To wake or not - that becomes the crux of existence. The only unfortunate thing in this entire episode is, that, the priorities never lessen or die. Every time we shut our eyes, the priorities flash like the headlights of an approaching vehicle. It keeps getting bigger.  
The only way to avoid the evident imminent disaster is to keep awake the whole while. Instead of giving in to the bullying mind, we need to master over it by understanding the way a bully functions. A bully has the might to threaten because the victim has the fear of the bully. If we choose to be unafraid in the face of the bully, traditional wisdom asserts that the bully will crumble. The definition that might constitute the idea of being 'unafraid' is pretty ambiguous. It may appear to mean the absence of fear, while I understand it more as the act of walking through fear. This is because denials doesn't help me usually. When the priorities loom large, in number and/or in complexity, take a break but do not go to sleep! 
The 'psychological time' that flies is the time that we enjoy, that relaxes the mind such that it leaps beyond the continuous hammering by the clock-hands. Create that 'psychological time'. Do something that gives you immense sense of pleasure and peace. As the mind falls into the rhythm of the relaxed psychological time, it calms down and stops its hysterics. Then, you can simply sit with pencil and paper and chalk out a routine that accommodates all the priorities. As the routine is sketched, with each unit of time allotted to a particular priority, the next important gesture is required. 
In each bundle of priority-allotted-task, we need to train the mind to focus. As we focus, we simulate the absorption in an act that we feel during our experience of 'happy' psychological time. And then we conquer the inhibition that clock time injects in us. What we do in the process is simply see the priorities in perspective. They remain priorities that need to be addressed, but shed the aggression  implanted in it by the unbridled clock. At the end of it all, we realize, it is all about perspective.
close up

from a distance


"Time leads where we want to go". Spiral staircase inside Salzburg castle. Salzburg 2010.
"close up". Structure in museum in Vienna. Vienna 2010.
"from a distance". View of Prague from top of a tower. Prague 2010.
All images copyright Susmita Paul 2010.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010


At times too many thoughts and ideas crowd the top level of the body. It almost reminds me how the top of the mountain is usually painted as if shrouded in mists. Too many water particles getting heavy at the top. Guess am at that part of the mountain. The droplets of words and ideas are getting collected in various soul-buckets. 

In the mean time, am sharing with you a translation that I did of the bengali poem, "Anandabhairabi" by Shakti Chattopadhyay, some time back. A special thank you to Supratikda for initiating me in this process.

The Joyous Bhairabi

By Shakti Chattopadhyay

in that room today, the image has dipped;
it wasn’t like this at the monsoons’ end-
with rain-drenched blooms in the gardens
was the joyous bhairabi.

no shepherd boy comes to that lea,
banyan roots shed no tear at the enchanting flute-
yet, when the rains dig through the clouds,
streaks of lightning are found.

wasn’t it known that such hard times
leap and seize the cock’s red crest?
wasn’t it known that in a squandered heart
the miser’s gains rest?

wasn’t it known, though the seat be vast,
the heartland is not known that much?
wasn’t it known, much that I know
is but oceans in the nails?

in that room today, the image has dipped.
it wasn’t like this at the monsoons’ end,
With rain drenched blooms in the gardens
Was the joyous bhairabi.

Translated by Susmita Paul
© 2010

Saturday, November 27, 2010

An experience in translation ...

As a kid I have read several versions of the fairy tale dealing with the two queens of a king: the selfish materialistic queen Suyorani and the humble,caring, non-complaining queen Duorani. The standard fairy tale version narrates the story of how the selfish queen ousts the humble queen from the palace and tries to keep her away, and how finally the worth of the banished Duorani is realised and she is brought back to the palace. Rabindranth Tagore's take on that fairy tale in his book of poetic prose Lipica deals with the story from a slightly different perspective. Tagore's tale is about the unhappiness that Suorani encounters in the palace of comforts. As I sit and read and attempt to translate Tagore's take of the fairy tale, I am drenched by waves of thoughts from different seas of ideas. 
Duorani or Shuorani?
Fairy tales charm the mind of the young and the old by virtue of telling a tale that has been told forever. We, the listeners, know for sure, that the evil will be defeated by the good by the end of the fairy tale. The allegory of the power of good that prevails over the power of evil has been narrated in various ways across the globe. And all such conventional fairy tales categorise everything in terms of binaries. Each and every character is either good or bad. There is no trait of one in the other. The lines that demarcate each are distinct. The structure of the allegory aims to teach; and the basic requisite of teaching is to demarcate and differentiate. This brings me to the thought-sea that churns questions like : Can everything be identified as either black OR white? If so, then where does the colour grey come from? Where is that space where BOTH black AND white exist? The waves of this sea leave me in the sands of words created by Tagore in Lipica

The treacherous Suorani  who had left no stone unturned to push the existence of Duorani to the brink of the kingdom of the king's heart, weeps with sadness in Tagore's take on the standardised fairy tale of Duorani-Suorani. In Lipica, his book of poetic prose, his version of the fairy tale is titled "Suoranir sadh" (Suorani's desire). Unlike all the desires that Suorani had in the wide-spread fairy tale, the desires that she experiences are non-materialistic. She does not desire fine clothes, precious jewellery or such stuff that can be quantified in terms of money. She desires simplicity of being, she desires the dignified calm of simple living, the joy and the warmth of the hearth. She desires the sorrow of Duorani...

Duoranir dukkho ami chai ...
"oi duoranir dukkho ami chai ....or oi ba(n)sher ba(n)shite sur bajlo,kintu amar sonar ba(n)shi kebol boyei beRalem, agle beRalem, bajate parlem na." 
I long for the suffering of Duorani .... her reed can create such music, but my golden flute I vainly carried along, guarding it and alas never being able to create music from it.   

Image with caption "Duorani or Shuorani?" : Woman's face by Rabindranath Tagore, Ink on paper, n.d.

Image with caption "Duoranir dukkho ami chai..." : Lady with flowers by Rabindranath Tagore, Watercolour on paper, dated 28/9/37.

Images taken from the web. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

rumbling crumbling concluded : heal

"And die of nothing but a rage to live."
From: "Epistle II: To a Lady: Of the Characters of Women" by Alexander Pope

Innocence in its purity is powerful, only when it is aware of itself. Anger is the weapon of the calm. Silence can be the choice of the weak out of the fear of speech. Silence can be the virtue of the strong who would conserve it and use it for the best purpose defined to the self. Silence can be an awareness of where I invest my anger. Each moment  when energy gets wasted in the form of destructive anger, the possibilities of the moment dies. Conserving anger to direct it at the more powerful 'wrongs' can be a healing process. Anger is like fire. If we can direct the flames in the proper manner, it can create beautiful glassware. It also has the power to ravage and destroy, all for nothing that can be valued.

Does this mean, destruction is a non-natural process? Is it something that should never have been? Funnily, I don't think so. Destruction is as natural as construction. Death is as natural as life. Rage is as natural as love. The question is not to to 'decide' and to 'decree' what should be. The question is what you and I choose to do with all the "combustibles" in our lives.

The previous section of the post was written before the previous post  was published. At first I thought of deleting it , or, adding it as a postscript to this post. But then, the responses of Somdatta and Shiuli, made me think otherwise. 
Somdatta's response is worthy to be noted since it perceives anger as a very personal emotion. I am angry when things pertaining to me are not as I had expected them to be. I am angry when the bed is dirty. I am angry when the dishes are not washed. Ask yourself, and you will find a thousand reasons for being angry. Anger IS a very subjective experience. And that is the reason I decided to shift its approach from the literature of Blake to the literature of common lives. I believe strongly, there is magic in each of us. There is magic around us. But all of that is waiting for the magician to surface. All I wish to share with you is my encounter with magicians like that ... What these magicians do, I wasn't doing when I was writing the first post on rumbling crumbling ... I was objectively talking about it, from the armchair of a thinker. And that the reader in this blogger didn't like ... she had made a choice of 'proactive living' a few posts back ... and all that she was hell bent on doing was mincing words! That is when I stopped writing a moment, took a break from thinking about things in abstract terms and started experiencing the magic ...  and here I share with you some of those ...

Magic of dance...

A beautiful woman, in her middle ages, at the peak of her performative years in dance realises she has cancer. She breaks down. She is afraid. That is the nature of her anger- her fear that she is actually walking towards the end. And then she chooses. She chooses to dance like 'magic'. She believes her dance IS magic ... and here she is  ... not a survivor of cancer ... in her own words ... "a cancer conqueror" ... She is Ananda Shankar Jayant ...
Listen to her story here.

Magic of courage...

As a teenager she was gang-raped by eight men.  From that episode of her life,  she remembers the "anger part of it". She was, is and continues to fight the outrageous dissociation that we attest to survivors of rape victims. She didn't sulk and let that single chapter of her life take over her entire life. she did not end her life in despair. Instead, she fights the odds with that anger that is still oozing out of her ostracised self. She doesn't believe the merit of a woman is her meekness. She believes the merit of her pain is her anger. And she helps directing that anger in all such survivors and yes ... i will say conquerors of societal stigmatisation ... by channelling their anger in performing tasks of heavy physical labour in industries which categorically ward women off by virtue of being women. She is Dr. Sunitha Krishnan.
Listen to her story here.

Magic I touched   

A beauty with a smile. Back at home she was fighting the world for her angel, who is very special. And yet, every time I met her, every day I met her, she was smiling that angelic mesmerising smile. She still does. Her skin shows signs of the waves that lashed out at her. It may have eroded the glow of the skin, but her eyes are still bright and her smile still warm. She is the only magician in this list whom I saw ... who touched my life with a magic spell ... The power of her magic is so strong ... that all who have been touched by her, will know her, when he/she reads this ... Her story we carry in our hearts ... her story is that of life ...


Blake's world of creation is that world of magic, where the magic is not in any pockets of existence. It is everywhere - from the mild green meadows of the lamb to the pitch black forests of the tiger - magic is everywhere, only in the need to be harnessed. When our professors said, the poems 'the Lamb' and 'The Tyger' are about the creator instead of the creation, all that the academic mind saw was the answer to an academic question where one has to take pains to tell how the One who created the lamb can create a tiger. Now, when the degrees are at a distance, the academic shroud is shed. And with unclouded eyes, all that this blogger realises is that. Blake's poems are not about a distant unknowable god. It is about the power that lies in each of us. It is about us -about you and me. Yes, we have the playful innocent child in us. Yes, we have the fierce rage of the superman/the tornado/the tiger. All that we need to do is CHOOSE. We can choose to let that rage run over all that is good in us. We can choose to let that rage consume us in a split second of cosmic time. We can choose to use that rage to nurture all that is playful and creative in us. We can choose to be the magic.

the road's within ...

The choice is essentially ours. I made one today as I write this post. Did you?


Image Courtesy: Macwallpapers @ web

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

rumbling crumbling: Intermission

Was reading the last post ... rumbling crumbling 2 .... It seemed to the reader in the blogger that, the words are flying in circles ... creating a cone of a wind ... something that is also called a tornado. The blogger had once seen a television series titled "Chasing a tornado". Seemed pretty futile, since it really couldn't be chased away! It wrecks what comes in its way nonetheless.  Remembering that tv series, the blogger decided to stop chasing the tornado within. (Learning in such an ubiquitous act!) The fury of the tornado can not really be 'chased' away with either words or mere contemplation.

The blogger is attempting to chart out a self-therapeutic method to deal with that not-so-smooth-flying-superman-called-anger. Words and ideas are good, but not really great until one really deciphers the implication of them. (See, I am back to word-pouncing again!!!!)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

rumbling crumbling 2 : all that is desired is 'magic'

"How can you make magic from the elements of combustibles ...."
 Purvi Shah, poet; author of Terrain Tracks

Some say life mirrors the vision one sees in it. If one is angry, hatred for things and for people fill the life. If one is joyful, one sees joy in everything and in everyone . It is the kind of expression that one may encounter in one of the innumerable courses on the art of living, as well. An apparently enlightened being will be saying it from the podium. And the ones listening apparently inject these enlightening words into their lives and transform it, just as if it could be achieved by a spell. 

Magic is very interesting. It shows changes occurring in a time frame that apparently seems impossible in the natural frame that the human eye sees. It amazes the mind and the mind applauds such feats. The next moment the audience steps out of the auditorium, and all that remains is the sense of amazement and appreciation. The magic is there no more, only a memory of it remains.

The interpretation of the "The Lamb" and "The Tyger", as delegated to us by our teachers in the course, was that, the poems are not so much about the individual animals, as it is about the One who made them. The One who can create the meek and mild lamb can also create a tiger "burning bright" in its "fearful symmetry". So all it said was about the 'magic' of the Creator???

Does the poem then end up like the speech of the apparently enlightened instructor of the art of living courses? Or, like the magician who only  can perform 'magic'? Does  a layman's life, with its "elements of combustibles", have the possibility of becoming magic???


Friday, November 19, 2010

rumbling crumbling

Temper flew like a free-spirited Superman. It simply had a mind of its own. Or, so I thought.

My father, till date, has given me a single advice - be patient. For me, however, to be patient was to be silent, and silence seemed to imply weakness. It seemed logical that being patient was to be vulnerable. Patience seemed to mean acceptance, and hence a way of permitting the causes of agitation and disturbances to continue approaching the self. Temper was a shield. A cocoon to save the self from the blows.  

Then, Professordadu (dadu means grandfather, in Bengali) said something about it. He said, if,anger empowers to create something constructive, then it is of use. Or else, it is best to dump it. 


Around the same time, I came across the poetry of William Blake. I got introduced to a strange concoction of poems which used simple language, as if that of children's poetry. That was my first experience with Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience.

front cover of that book, hand-painted by Blake @WEB

Blake had created the two sets of poems - The Songs of Innocence and The Songs of Experience - where, each poem in the first book has a mirror poem in the next. For, example, while a poem titled "The Lamb"
was part of the first book; its mirror poem in the second book was titled "The Tyger". The meekness of the lamb and the ferocity of the tiger are instances of the two "contrary states" that Blake wanted to express. In between preparing essays on 'how' the selected poems in the curriculum expressed "the two contrary states of the human soul" (the words are written above the two human figures in the given picture; "shewing" means showing), I was intrigued by the thought: are things truely so mirror-like in life? Does patience really imply weakness? Does being patient means the absence of anger? Do we really have no choice but to be either

The Lamb by William Blake @ WEB


The Tyger by William Blake @ WEB


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Puja Chronicles: Actual/Virtual

No one spelled it out. And yet, it was there. Like a star. 

I always thought I had a non-scientific mind. When I looked up at the clouds, I could never recognise whether they were cumulus or stratus. I saw images. Of elephants, of Archaeopteryx (I loved to figure this out specially), of flying castles, of Santa Claus's face. I believed I was prone to imagination than rational thinking. Then, a few years into high school, and Physics introduced me to the world of constellations. Individual stars being a part of an image in the sky. I was baffled to know, science needs imagination. 

That was the beginning (I guess) of questioning what seems to be 'real'. The absolute versions held ground for a long time since then, but the foundation of the idea of the 'absolute' had started eroding. 


Far away in the distance, there used to be a ball of gas. It started 'living' - burning itself up in order to radiate light/energy/life. It performed the balancing act of gravity and expansion. And then it had to die. It became a 'dwarf' or an eternity called 'black hole'.

Life cycle of a star

Is the star there as I see it now?

I can see it twinkling! It is actual, I guess. But, it may have died and its light is still crossing the seas of the universe to reach me. Does that make it virtual?


Feeling homesick on a day when celebrations of a mother goddess fill my mother's house with laughter and joy. Before the deity leaves the threshold of the home, I skype home. I dress up as a traditional Bengali married woman - complete with sari, the jewellery, the vermillion on the forehead. I have arranged a candle, the vermillion (sindoor, the mark of marriage), a flower, an Arab sweet, a small glass filled with water on a dish. The camera looks into the face of the deity. From across the oceans, I hold the platter in my hands and perform an action that every married woman does at the end of the festival for any Hindu goddess. I boron (a ceremony performed to cordially welcome) the deity. 

[It is strange that the festival begins and ends with the same custom of boron. Even when the deity is taken away for the immersion in water, marking the end of the festival, it is wished a good journey and an invitation to return in the next cycle of time.]     
What I did was in real time but not in real space. Does that make it any more virtual or any less actual? 
I do not know. The conventions of understanding the time and the space are somehow soiled by the sense of happiness I had at the end of the act. I felt  as if I participated actively in the joy that exuded in the household for the past few days. I felt the warmth of having a family filling me in this chilly land. That is the perspective I choose.


"Life cycle of a star" from "Nebulas" in E.Encyclopedia Science on Fact Monster. Web.

"boron" : Image boron performed by my mother. The deity is that of the Mother Goddess Jagadhatri © Susmita Paul 2010.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Aside ...

As this blogger tries to perpetrate her present thoughts on the uncanny connective thread between the disparate ... here's food for thought ... and, for the imagination ...

If you like this video ... go ahead and have a peak at the theory behind the making of it at Nature by Numbers by Cristóbal Vila . The blogger did not know about the complex mathematical theories referred to. She needn't either. The video just re-validated her idea of this invisible thread of similarity underlying apparently disparate things or ideas... 

Share your views when you see this ...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A view ...

The worlds separated by the glass worlds melt in this room.

The lean wooden cupboards stand tall, the soft lights in the apartments across the pathway remain unmoved on it. The yellow light, at the entrance of the building opposite to the room, makes the presence of the 'de-leaved' trees felt.Looking a little observantly will actually reveal the last leaf on that branch, still waiting for the wind that will blow it to dust.

Nonetheless, the lamp in the room glows brightly. And, a few notches above, behind the thin film of darkness, caused by the rain-clouds, is a hemisphere of a moon. Little black patches of night imprinted on it, and a fluorescent white light- the light of the burning zeal of the sun, that some call 'life'.

A few miles beyond the glass, a soul is sick of the elements. On the other side of the glass, a strange unnerving sensation creeps up the spine of the phantom of solitude. A few nights beyond this night, the phantom and its soul sunbathe in sunshine-islands.

The lean wooden cupboards stand lean, soft lights smoothen the edges of the lanky towers. The yellow light, hanging at the entrance causes nausea to the insects and humans alike. A few notches beyond the light, across the luxuriating waters, a glowing ball of light fires up the sky. Streaks of colours spread across the sky as an inattentive hairdresser would spread the streaks on your hair. It is strangely nauseating - the colours. 

Some may call that 'life'.

colours of water
Image @ Self, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010


The blog was designed at leisure. I had more time to design the blog then, since I was writing less and less at that point of time. Moreover, I was so sure that except for family and real close friends, no one would bother to visit this world of mine. 

But, times have changed.

I have started believing that I have the ability to use words. In short, I am a writer. And this belief grows strong each day, as readers, from across the globe, drop in, to have a peek into my little world. 
It is extremely important that they feel comfortable in this virtual world of mine.


Please help me in making your experience of reading more beautiful.

The primary issue on which I would like to hear your opinion (feel free to add other issues as you comment) is: The difficulty in reading the posts - 
    1. would you like the background of the posts to be changed ?
    2. would you like to have the size of the letters increased for easy reading?
    3. would you like to have the letters in bold ?
    4. I usually put external links in the post to cover issues that can't be accommodated in the post. Would you like to have the links separately listed instead of in the post itself?
    5. there are some words which I use from the vernacular, and provide the respective meanings in parenthesis. What is your opinion on this?
These are the issues on which I received feedback from quite a few of the readers. I would like to seek the opinion of all of you who make this little world of mine a delight for me.

thanks dear friends and readers ... :)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Puja Chronicles: the memory and the questions blend ...

Be it Deepabali/Diwali or, Halloween, the fearful and the dreadful are not kept at a distance. Each is a celebration of the duality of existence - of light and of darkness. The legends behind each is varied. The legends associated with Diwali include the mythical return of Rama to his kingdom after a period of 14 years; the mythical slaying of the demon Narakasura by Krishna (an incarnation of Vishnu); the return of Bali (the demon-god slayed by another incarnation of Vishnu- Vamana) from the nether-world, to dispel ignorance; the celebration of goddess Lakshmi and that of goddess Kali. Each of the myths involves the victory of good over evil, light being the symbol of wisdom, knowledge, wealth and goodness. 

Of all the rituals that I have seen, I feel intrigued by three specific rituals. 
The first is the act of praying to the goddess Alakshmi (see the post regarding this here). 

The second is the the lighting of the 14 lamps on the eve of Deepabali, which is said to be a custom that started when lamps were lit as the mythical Rama returned to his kingdom after 14 years. I didn't know of this myth for a long time and created a significance of it in my mind. I believed (and continue to do so) that the 14 lamps lit somehow signify the 14 generations of ancestors who preceded me. I had no idea of myths involving Halloween celebrations then. In the presence of the pumpkin being 'Halloweenified' by K_ and A_, I thought of looking up the legend behind the celebrations.

I was in for a surprise when I realised that the legend of remembering the ancestors, that I had thought of as the explanation of the 14 lamps-lighting ceremony as a child, is eerily linked to the beginning of the custom of Halloween celebrations! Traced backed to the Celtic custom of celebrating Samhain, Halloween has its origins in the belief that on this day of the year, the border between this world and the Otherworld becomes thin allowing the passage of spirits into the human world. The spirits that could harm were repelled by carving out hollowed faces in turnips (pumpkin was adopted at a later stage for the same function) and placing them at the entrance of the house/ at windows; and, by wearing costumes that were repelling. The lamp placed within the hollowed turnip/pumpkin is symbolic of the souls in purgatory. 

It left me perplexed and humbled to feel that the Alakshmi, the 14 lamps and the carved face on the pumpkin on Halloween are connected by this inherent idea that the positive and the negative co-exist simultaneously. Life is not a shade of black and white. When the prayer to Alakshmi is offered, the act is that of humble request to the 'goddess of misfortune' to leave. When the Halloween pumpkin is lit with a candle, it is not to ward off the spirits of one's ancestors. Goodness and evil, darkness and light, hope and frustration (and all the antithetical ideas that can occur in your mind) co-exist in a strange sense of simultaneity. 

The idea of simultaneity is also evoked in the act of worshipping goddess Kali, which is the third ritual that intrigues me during this festive days. Kali has a terrifying form. The mythology of Kali is beyond the scope of the blog. You could have a look at  the wikipedia article on Kali. To an individual who does not understand the complex symbolism, Kali appears to me to be the confluence of all the oppositional ideas. When in the battlefield, the mother goddess, in the form of Kali is fierce. Her form can repel an individual. All that the mind tutors to believe as bad and ugly is present in her form. In popular iconography of Kali, she is naked; her tongue hanging out as she steps on her husband, Siva; she wears a garland of severed heads; and carries in her two hands a sword like weapon called kharga, a severed head while the other two are in the abhaya mudra (a gesture bestowing fearlessness) and varada mudra (a gesture bestowing blessings). She is usually depicted as dark skinned. The apparent opposites blend in this iconography. The violence of expression cohabits with the benevolence of bestowing blessings. 

It is possibly this simultaneity of the opposing forces/worlds that makes Little Miss Muffet of the household so excited to celebrate Halloween. In her innocence, she does not find the difference between what the adult world would designate as 'good' and 'evil'. Perhaps, this is the wisdom, that, inclusivity is more potent than exclusivity; maybe,this is the 'light' that dispels the 'darkness' of prejudice.
As the season of Halloween and Diwali passes this year, this humble blogger continues her journey towards that light ... an apprentice journeying to realise the celebration of that 'sound' which was 'noise' before....

Image: candles lit at the Esztergom Cathedral in Esztergom, Hungary @ self.