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