Friday, April 16, 2010

the forever NEW...

A new year comes with a peculiar entourage. The English New Year is just round the corner of the week celebrating Christmas. So it is like a practice match, celebrating celebrations! With the Bengali New Year, there’s nothing dramatic as that. Occasionally though, the “kalbaisakhi” (the storm, peculiar to the Bengali month of Baisakh) used to act as an announcer of sorts.

The kalbaisakhi, which was more frequent when we were kids, used to be a typical blinding storm of dust, which would leave people on the streets in tears, literally. I remember another aspect of the kalbaisakhi too. The first rains of the season would mean the smell of the parched earth drinking water like the thirsty car in Rwitwik Ghatak’s film, “Ajantrik”. The smell of the wet earth is a dreamy nausea of sorts. Imagine yourself to be terribly thirsty under the scorching tropical sun. Imagine yourself drinking after that dryness. The sounds that you would hear - the sound of the gulping down of water - is what the director used in a scene, in the movie “Ajantrik”, where water is being poured down the ‘throat’ of the car by the driver. I always visualise the same sound coming from the dry earth, greedily drinking the rain water in huge gulps. I love the way it sounds in the smell it emanates.

Another aspect of the Bengali New Year is similar to any new year – the ritual of sharing greetings. It would almost be a competition of sorts to be able to call and greet first. Those were kiddo days but they were good nonetheless! The greeting ritual would typically begin in an interesting fashion in my home. No matter how late we slept the night before, we (i.e. my sis n me) would wake up early on the first day of the Bong New Year. Sleepy, as we would obviously be, we would dress up in a new saree (that great Indian drape!), and, accompany my mom n my aunt to the nearby temple. I have always lacked consistency in matters of faith. Some years, I would be devoutly greeting the deity and, in others, the ritual of the new year greeting with God would be more of a fun-filled outing in the morning (the reasons varied from me believing that I was a believer or an atheist; to the more humdrum reality of me being in a soup or not). Either way, the Bong New Year was eventually a day when we would end up buying the absolutely yummy packets of Uncle Chips and if good luck prevailed, then hot kachori and potato curry from a shop which believed that cleanliness is conflicting to the perfect taste of the crispy kachoris and the spicy aloo curry. It surely was a pleasantly auspicious day!

The element of the auspiciousness of this particular day, the first of the first month of the year (poila baisakh) was, however, more seriously taken by some. These are people who have businesses. On this particular morning, the temple would be thronged by several businessmen and they would, usually, wear the white kurta-pajama duo. I couldn’t help but notice their eagerness to have their business registers (haal-khata) marked by the holy sign of good luck (the swastika; well it existed even before the Nazis you see) by people, who I presumed were yet to be initiated in the duties of the priest. So, it could be that a novice priest was drawing the swastika in unsteady hands as a devout businessman was thanking the Almighty for assuring security and steadiness! The most interesting people in the crowd were however the most busy ones. They were the little ladies and gentlemen who imitated their parents in everything. If the mom was seen covering her head with the saree as she bowed to god, the little lady would wrap the “dupatta” over her head and attempt to bow with a greater arch of the body. The little ladies and gentlemen would also be seen climbing on to their parents’ lap to reach the temple bell and played it till the guardians forcefully put them down.

The fun and frolic of the day would pass and the eventual outcome of the grand Bengali New Year would however be the gruelling truth of the scorching sun the day after, and a fatigued and perspiring self only 24 hours from the grand opening of another lunar Bengali year! For all that and more ... let the Bengalis keep celebrating the Bengali New Year forever!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

odd flights...


sometimes the old wind catches up pretty fast,

no matter if
I am riding the rocking horse
that gives me visions.

On such days,
above the clouds,
the planets hang out
the sun takes a nap, and,
the holy cow flies across the moon.

And then, the pegasus of my vision
shrinks to
the rocking horse,
that once gave me dreams ...

image: detail of a bird, medium: porcelain, @ Szentendre, Hungary

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I have a author in my head...

There are times, in the real time mode, when mornings are not noons and summers are not winters. Yet, homogeneity is a latent dream that we nurture. If the only thing constant is change, then, why does the mind continues to desire the dream? Guess the desire for change is interspersed with bouts of those for the droning regularity, a hum of the bees (or of mosquitoes in more tropical regions). Someone (or, possibly every human being has got philosophical enough, at least once in his/er lifetime, to make this observation) articulated it precisely- habits are deadening. I add, now, (this is my bit of philosophical input) it is the most deadly addiction. If given a undiluted control of the mind, it becomes an up-mountain task to undo the rules of the game of life that it produces- to be an armchair critic ( I refrain from using the term uphill, since, it undermines the significance I want to attach to the task; besides authors are not liable to write meaningful stuff). This deadly addiction (but it never appears to you that it has the potency of blinking the bone-and-the-skull logo at any juncture) numbs the senses, making the reflexes unaware of variable stimuli. In English, this means it makes us as good as dead. The mind stops functioning and it sloths and slumbers and continues to say in a mangled voice: Delhi abhi dur hai!!!* To him, like to many of the species, concord was/is a natural alibi to calm. But what is calm if not juxtaposed with the discord of the impending storm at the horizon?! Unilateral thinking, the armchair critic and writer would say [dont accuse me of generating opinion in favour of any (or, all) political party(/ies) though]. It is a two-dimensional diagram that draws the locus of the mind in the dubious dual coordinates of singular time (nullifying the possibility of time-transfer and time-machines sadly; I wanted to visit the Atlantis, the lost Greek city) and singular space (quantum space is still a theory hence). The dimension of the chasm in between is not considered at all!

The mind is not always functioning, neither is it idle when it is not functioning. In English this is the equivalent to the statement that nothing can be definitely defined (if that is English enough or not, I dont know. If not, kindly help yourself). There are lapses in time when the mind is suffering from what I would call the third-person-narrator-syndrome. Like in the novels (the ones that Jane Austen and her clan wrote) the omniscient narrator is like Casper, the friendly ghost. S/he observes, though not too objectively as we presume. These observations are almost always induced by the authorial intention. In the functioning of the mind too, the author is omniscient (though Barthes proclaims otherwise). The author that is making me write all these crappy pseudo-philosophical rambling is possibly the same one that makes me choose between butter and cheese. Her name is Prejudice.

* Bahadur Shah Zafars observation when the British forces were approaching his fort and he was busy in shayari mehfils (Urdu poetry soiree)

Image: Original Woodcut illustration from the Just So Stories 'The Crab that played with the sea' by Rudyard Kipling

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Winds of change?!

Whether or not it’s happening in the human political framework, it surely did unfold today, in front of my eyes, in what can only be called the political work of evolution. I don’t remember who told me (or if anyone ever told me at all!) that cats chase rats, and, get chased by dogs. It is possible that Jung would call this the archetype of enmity arising from the Collective Unconscious of all species. But, I don’t know what he would make out of today’s incident.

I was appreciating the bounty of colours brought forth by spring, when movement in my field of sight attracted my attention. The archetypal European with her dog was nothing intriguing. The lady was wearing a red jacket with navy blue tracksuits, and was holding on to the collar of her dog. I have watched her dog very often. He (I assume from his gruff attitude) is a very strange dog. He is a huge dog with a lot of hair, the kind of hair that you can possibly imagine falling on the face of a rock-star and hence contributing to his enigma. It incidentally does obstruct this dog’s face too, and, makes me feel that it’s a mobile bundle of wool, with innumerable loose ends that is. So, this woolly, hairy, black, gruff dog was being held at its collar by his master.

And then, the third unassuming protagonist came into view. It was a she-cat (I assume this from its slender movements directed at attracting attention). She was looking at this disgustingly chauvinist dog from behind the trunk of the tree, with little or no attempt to hide herself from him. The dog didn’t even care to sniff and look up in that direction. This, I think attracted the cat, because she trailed him throughout his walk, keeping the same tactic of hiding-and-not-so-hiding intact. I expected a final showdown when I saw her making a desperate attempt to gain attention, when she mustered enough courage (and also enough readiness to flee in a hopeful way of sorts) to stand within a finger’s distance as the lady led him home. I was ready to see a screaming lady trying her best to control that huge dog growling and charging at that cat, and she gleefully sprinting across the ground. with her mission (of irritating the dog and causally its owner) accomplished.

Instead, what I saw would deeply affect the confidence of that cat if she knew I saw her failure, both as archetypal representatives of her species and of her gender. That dog didn’t even look up!!! He dispassionately walked past her!!!! Her next neck movements validate my assumption that she was at a loss. She looked around to check if anyone of her kin was audience to the spectacle of her absolute failure. What would her father say? “MEOW!!You are not cat enough to provoke a dog!!!” Her mother would be doubly devastated: “O Almighty Bastet *! What is to happen to my girl! If dogs don’t charge her, where will I find a suitable groom for her!!!” Thinking about Jung’s possible thoughts, I presume he would possibly brood over his archetypes and deem the archetype of the Everlasting Maid appropriate to her.

But that surely doesn’t lessen the probability of the dying hostility between cats and dogs (since Jung is not here to validate my observations on what he would have said and besides, you don't presume Jung and I think alike!) That would surely make this world more peaceful. If only humans care to learn from cats and dogs as George Orwell wanted them to learn from pigs! However, if this extends to the domain of cats and rats, frankly, I wouldn’t be too happy. I don’t want to lose out on the Tom and Jerry cartoons after all!.

*Bastet is the Egyptian Cat-Goddess