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.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Puja Chronicles: questions in the mind ...

There is a strange custom among some Hindu households that perform the worship of goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, on the day of the festival of lights. Before prayers are offered to Lakshmi, an idol made from mud, accompanied by the urine of a cow are taken outside the entrance of the household. Prayers are offered to this strange goddess, goddess Alakshmi and is requested to leave the household. Children of the household, beat bamboo sticks on kulo (an instrument used in villages for husking paddy/rice)1 with all their might so that the bamboo sticks are broken. They sing a couplet in a completely out-of-tune format :
alakshmi biday hou / ghorer lakshmi ghore eso 
alakshmi go away / lakshmi of the household please return.

- a prayer in earnest by the adults, sung by innocents.

I was always intrigued by this phenomenon. Why do the rituals demand a prayer to the one who is unwelcome, a prayer to the one who is associated with filth and misery, a prayer to the one of misfortune? Deification of the negative forces is not uncommon in Hindu mythology. But why pray to it, before the prayer to the goddess of wealth and prosperity is performed? 


Halloween has always seemed ominous to a child, feeding on Hollywood interpretations of it. This year as K_ marked out the eyes, the nose and the mouth on the pumpkin, I looked on and thought, why the pumpkin is made to look dreadful on Halloween? (Either way, it is dreadful for all those who dislike its appearance on dinner tables in different culinary versions) Or, to cave in the question - why is Halloween thought to be dreadful at all? Why do kids dress up (and yes, some adults dress up too) in something sinister and hop around the neighbourhood asking for 'Trick or treat!' ? Why celebrate something that evokes fear in the minds? Why is the Little Miss Muffet of the household so excited to see A_ carving out the pumpkin so that it gains that fearful dimension? 
Halloween at home

1 'kulo' is defined as "winnowing fan; a bamboo winnowing fan; a multipurpose household implement; a  
    sacred adjunct to almost all folk rituals and ceremonies in Bengal" in 
    the The Quilts of India.. Nov. 5 2010.

To be contd.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Puja Chronicles:A memory

On the eve of the festival of lights or Deepabali/Diwali (deep/dia=an oil lamp), 14 earthen lamps are placed on a round tray. We sit and talk about all the trivialities as we make the cotton wicks (solte) by rolling the cotton between our hands. With the wicks ready in the lamps, we vie for the opportunity to pour oil into the lamps. And then we light them. one by one, as the oil-soaked-wick starts being consumed and starts emanating light, I always remember a Tagore song Ei korechho bhalo... where occurs the expression:
Aamar e dhup na porale, gondho kichui nahi dhale 
amar e deep na jalale dei na kichhui alo ...
If I do not burn my incense stick, it doesn't spread its scent 
if I do not kindle my lamp, no light is emanated ....

To be contd.

Image courtesy: