Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Old thoughts. New Series.

In school, the blogger's favourite subjects were anything but compartmental. She loved language and literature - both English and her mother tongue, Bengali. She was thoroughly intrigued by Physics lessons and developed a particular love of mathematics for a short time. She loved studying history but suffered a mind-block when attempting to remember dates of eras and emperors. She belonged to that weird species of school-goers who liked studying. Eeek! Some younger folks (friends of her sister, precisely) were continuously shocked to know, that the blogger's plan was to continue studying, no matter which year she met them after school. The gasp and the horrid look on their faces made her embarrassed. They meant no harm ; all that they wanted was, to hear something different than the word 'study', the blogger guesses! Bless their souls!

In spite of her love of the weird combination of subjects, she knew very clearly that she would choose to study in the Humanities stream, when the time would come. Among all the subjects, literature appealed to her the most, and, she knew she wanted to study literature in English. Bengali literature was an area that she can continuously improve upon at her own sweet time. The reaction of all, except her close classmates and family, was one of disbelief. The humanities stream was considered the least prestigious study stream then. Once, one of the mathematics teacher in the school, (with whom she shared an antagonistic relation because of no reason she can remember now) stopped her in the corridor to ask why she was not joining the Science stream. He refused to believe that it was her personal choice based on her preference for the arts. She further met some folks who were simply disgusted with her choice. She didn't quite understand the reason why the humanities were any less worthy a subject for study than the sciences. She didn't understand either why it was so difficult to desire to learn mathematics along with literature, history and political science. Soon she moved on to another school where she continued her studies with a strange mixture of subjects that everyone, outside the school, found funny: English and Bengali languages and literatures, Nutrition, Computer Science, Mathematics and Economics. 

From then on, English literature, or rather, literature in English, became her specific area of study.  More than a decade has passed since the blogger confronted the anti-humanites-frown.  Unfortunatelym the scenario hasn't changed much. This is the era of technology they say. The arts are for leisure. The sciences are for active living. This compartmentalisation of education has always  appeared to be an unnatural process to the blogger. The blogger has little knowledge yet to advance this opinion by herself. However, in the past few months, the blogger have had the pleasure of reading validated articles, news items, books engaging in this same opinion. And the belief becomes more strong that, in the synthesis of educational subjects, rather than breaking them into small brick houses with tiny windows, lies the natural purpose of education. Education can be the telescope to see space beyond our reach; it can be the room of one's own where many Michaelangelo-s will paint ceaselessly; it can be the philosophy of being blended with the quantum truths of science. 

Addressing this particular urge of the self, to see the link between what the frowning-faces see as opposites, the blogger wishes to begin a new series in this blog devoted to the idea of education and learning. No preachy stuff though :P The blogger wishes to share the insights she is gaining from her reading. Simple. (at least, the blogger will try to keep it simple, that is :P)

a picture of a painting
 Image: a picture of the painting A Man Looking Through a Window by Samuel Van Hoogstraten, displayed at the Kunsthistorisches Museum or, The Museum of Art History in Vienna. by self/ Arijit. 2010.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


I signed off with this image in the last post. I tentatively left a rather rhetorical question along :  
What do you see? 

The image is really the memory of the noisy neighbourhood when the roads were being repaired. The usually quiet neighbourhood in this part of Budapest became a crazy chaos. You walk 50 meters to find that the pathway was closed. You turn back retracing your steps, thinking all the while if this loss of a fraction of time would be vital, since the neighbourhood store closes in less than 5 minutes and your refrigerator is empty right now. The continuous sound of the drilling machine in a sultry morning is unbearable at times. I while my time observing the workers and their broad work-space: the entire neighbourhood. And all the others continue their own flights.

This picture was taken on such a day, as a experimental shot using some function in the camera (i forget what). I didn't intend to capture the flight of the bird. As I saw the preview, nothing struck me initially. I saw what I thought I would see : the green makeshift rooms, the dry branches poking out from here and there, a part of the car-parking zone, and that huge yellow truck, blue stripes in its mixing section I guess. And then I saw it - the bird in flight, framed in motion forever! Its eyes are intent. It blends with the wry surroundings because of its colour. And yet, when I looked closely, I saw the perfect spread of its feathers in its tail - the black and white parts spread to look like a half-opened Japanese fan. Its wings were free and yet so aware of itself. It is as if in meditation, aware of all and yet not restless, participating and yet not sucked into the momentum, like a fish in water - always in water and yet, never wet!

With all the commotion in the background, the bird simply flies. As I stumbled upon this image yesterday night, I just had a eureka-ish feeling for the umpteenth time - the picture communicated with the restless kid called the mind. It seemed to say, simply fly, in wind and rain, in sunny days, in grumpy days, in spring and in winter, simply fly. Simplify.

Image: in Budpaest, by self


Walking out in the open

This is not really a comeback of sorts. It is a little walk, out in the rain, when the clouds are thundering above the cityscape of regular life. It is like looking up at the sky as the lightning reveals the sombre surroundings. When the thunder claps and the resulting crooked charged line dash across the landscape, it is terrifying, to say the least. And yet, the landscape revealed in that flash - silhouettes of the buildings, of the trees, of the empty vastness of the sky - mesmerises me. Walking through the thunder, at such times, is a dizzy cocktail of fear and of pleasure.

the woman was studying for her upcoming exams in the room at the roof. the 'chilekotha' was her study-space. she retreated here after all her family duties were attended to. this was her zone of thinking, of being. in the floor beneath the room, her child was perhaps cuddling to its pillow, still warm from the mother's touch. perhaps she looked out of the glass window before she settled into her books. perhaps the beauty of the night that was bringing the storm and the thunder excited her. perhaps she saw the madness of the leaves of the coconut tree, roughed up by the wind. perhaps she was lost in her books when the lightning came, across the skies, landing on the top of the coconut tree, and then blazing through her.

And yet,

the beauty of the charged landscape is thrilling. the wrath of the ancient gods are expressed in such atmosphere in myths. the potency of change lies in this unstable moment. the firmly grounded tree can be uprooted. the dry pool will be filled with the rains that come along the thunder. it is like watching the dance of Nataraja in all its power. it destroys, true, but it is beautiful nonetheless. it is beautiful since the destruction is never a full stop for this strange species called man, who has created a theory attesting the need to pull down the standard structures at times, a theory called deconstruction. a closer look and surprise! 
need to deconstruct=need to construct anew
is this not the same principle of Nataraja deadly dance - Tandava? I ponder...

Beauty often lies in seeing the possibility beyond and beneath the veneer of real perception. It is in realising the potential of change that the perceived situation holds. Before the change happens, you will never know if its to be feared or to be savoured. Why fear change when that is the only thing that has been constant since recorded time?

I now walk in thunder with the all its potentialities etched in my awareness. I recognise that the unwanted and the unknown can affect life. And, yet, none but I will be living it.


In the past two weeks, I waited for the clouds to part in the mind. The more I waited for the sun, the more restless I became. And then, the thought beamed through the mind. The more I wait, the more empty time rushes out from this life. The more I wait, the more my clock ticks. The more I wait, the more moss gathers on this stone on which I have to etch a world of words! 

I nudged the kid out of the bed and showed it the door and it said to me, "Let's go!"      

Before this post ends, I would like to share with you an image I stumbled upon in the pictures folder today...  

... country roads ... away from home ... 

what do you see?

"thunder": image of the sky just before a torrential rain, Budapest. by self.
"what do you see?": break-offs in the mundane, Budapest. by self.

Friday, January 21, 2011

the kid's back!!!

The kid is out of bed! See the whims of the kid blotted across this page TONIGHT!!! YES! It is back backpacking thoughts, right now! :)

Thanks for the lovely patience you showed to the kid! The support, sometimes silent, sometimes verbal, means a lot to the kid. It is more determined to be a kid forever, scrapping this and that, out from under the dusty cupboards that some call life! It is a kid's play henceforth!


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Announcing the whims of a kid called the mind

For the last few months I have been regularly conversing with you through this blog. Prior to that it was an introspective zone, a self-reflexive writing of sorts. Then, whether I write a post in a week or in a month did not bother me. But now, since you take time off your busy schedules to peek into this thought zone of mine, I feel it to be my responsibility to communicate with you the current state of affairs, which is the absence of an 'actual' blog post for exactly a week (The last 'actual' post was Learning the elements: Water on last Saturday).

Such days as these are not new. And unfortunately are not few either. On these days, if I had the habit of chewing a pencil while thinking, I would have needed several packets of pencils each  such day. On these days, the mind is in a limbo. It is un-rested, always in a continuous state of agitation. While on the pro-writing days, I step out of bed in the morning with an idea or a thought (an inspiration of sorts, for the entire day); on such black-listed days when no writing happens, I wake up grudging against the need to have morning tea. The inspiration is not only lost, it seems it never was. Even if I do not spell out another word, I guess, you understand what these days are like to me. Frustration oozes out in every sphere. The hopeless realisation at the end of the day that not a worthwhile or a worthless word have been framed during the course of the day! It is disturbing. 

But then, you don't always drive a car in the top gear. I try not to pressurise my mind. It is a playful thing. It is like a kid. May be it is not in the mood of playing now. I will have to wait till it feels good and is ready for the acrobatics of the word-games I play. Till then, dear friends and readers, bear with me. 

I will share with you all the little words and phrases or images that pop-up in books or paintings or in the clouds. That is, if I happen to see them.    

waiting for the light

Image: an unlit lamp, Salzburg castle, Austria. By self.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

As I search for words...

... I would like to share with you some thoughts-in-words from Ben Okri's Starbook: A Magical Tale of Love and Regeneration (2007), page 73

"Many are the ways of seeing the future, glimpsing the past. Some stare into crystal balls, into clear waters of prophecy; some read the fall and placement of kola nut lobes in enamel bowls; some read the shapes and direction of the footprint of herons or chickens or rare birds; some read the past in momentary visions had outside time; some use the Bible or other sacred texts; some resort to sorceries and consult wizards that may or may not know the mystery of the stars; some travel in the minds of tortoises to the beginning of the race; some fly to the moon on the back of beams of light; some wander deaf amongst angels; some consult the ancient oracles and ponder the incomprehensible messages from the gods, delivered in verse to the sibyls. Some listen to the prophecies that fall from the mouths of babbling children, or the language of crows, or the accidental words that reach them in marketplaces, or pay too much attention to words said to them by strangers or the insane. Such are the perplexities of the ways of man and woman in a world where the past and future do not speak, and where the present has not fully revealed itself to our partial-seeing eyes. And thus we live our days between knowing and unknowing, blind and deaf in a vast panorama of revelations, a perpetual theatre of timeless events where history is as much the future as the past, an infinite living book in which all things are present. We live in these wonders and do not see." 

If you ask, what these words mean to me, well, it is like seeing the self in the mirror. It is like looking at the self that thinks stupidly of time as a tripartite structure with thick black lines demarcating one from the other. It is like an inner voice that talks about the limitations we create for ourselves to adhere to. It is like a call for living life being awake to our senses. 

front cover of Starbook

I had to severely curtail the temptation of highlighting certain phrases or expressions, since I wanted you to have your own understanding of the words...There are several phrases that stun my mind ... one of them is: "some travel in the minds of tortoises to the beginning of the race". 

Does this extract create any meaning to you? Does a phrase/expression in the extract 'stun' you? Would love to hear your thoughts...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

these are the days when thoughts remain un-sprouted in words

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Learning the elements: Water

"Water, water everywhere ..."  - The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, S. T. Coleridge

The gnawing sound of the engine stopped at the middle of nowhere. Our boat was now circling a piece of rock that surged from the deep seas, rising skywards. It was awe-inspiring. The captain of the boat announced something.

the rock that was an island

I looked around at him. I must have heard it wrong. This is in the middle of the ocean, with no land anywhere to be seen,  the only thing above the water level is this boat, and I did not know how to swim. So I asked him to repeat what he said. He repeated the exact same words. We are going snorkeling here, he said, with skilled swimmers.

I was terrified. I trust the swimmers, but this is in the middle of nowhere! My less-than-a-week spouse said that I needn't go in the water if I didn't want to. I knew he was right. I also knew, this was a rare opportunity to see the world of the little mermaids I have always dreamt of.

The next moment, I was clinging on to the ropes of the boat, afloat in water, refusing to let them go, even when a skilled swimmer was just beside me. I finally did let go, and how glad I am that I did so. Just a dip into the water and the world changed. Corals in orange, in purple, in myriad colours were breathing just next to me. The fishes had colours which I only imagined could be in a fairy tale. It was a dreamland. As I was taken round the menhir with the swimmer literally dragging me around, I could rarely breathe thinking that all this exists beneath the veneer of the calm and the fierce waves! It was a breathtaking experience, an experience which I still recall when I want my mind to calm down. It was truely worth dying for.
Or, so I thought at that moment. 


A few years earlier ...

What a peaceful expanse it was. The sea had come alive with the colours of the sky, of the corals lying underneath the shivering ripples, and of the colours that the distance made one see.

the beauty of the sea; Andamans, India

A week later this haven of corals was submerged for a few months.

It was 2004. The year the deadly tsunami struck several south-asian countries - Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. I looked at the images on the television in disbelief. I had been there, just a week ago.

A family of four had been there, when that unexpected wrath of nature had lashed out in Andamans. The father had gone out to fetch the morning tea, while the others were waking from their deep sleep. Suddenly the water started flooding the sea-beach guest house. The father rushed back, only succeeding to wake them all. The water level had now risen to touch the ceiling fan. The father, the mother, the brother and the little sister hung to the blades of the fan, praying either survival or annihilation for all the four. Suddenly the sister lost her grip and she fell into the water of the seas. The brother made a dash for her. She survived. In another instant the water had started receding as unexpectedly as it had risen. The family of four ran out of the guest house, starting a breathless run for the higher ground. As their legs stopped with tiredness and tension, they looked back - the guest house was no more there, swept into the sea that they had admired the previous evening from the courtyard. A sea that had calmed their senses, the waters that had the miraculous touch of peace, has now the quality of nightmares for a very long time to come. 

Water has this peculiar quality of enchanting as well as threatening. It hides the secrets - of life and of death. Look at it from an objective distance and you will find this is not unnatural. It is a cycle of existence and annihilation. A cycle that is epitomised in the hindu mythology of the trinity - brahma, bishnu, maheshwar. The creator, the nurturer, the destroyer. It is actually more than that, I like to believe.

Water is life. From the embryonic stage to the stage of death, when the parched throat seeks a drop of it before the final let-go, it is water all the way. Life is not a set of compartmentalised stages of existence. It is a flow. The power of life lies in this power of being a flow. A flow that is mild in the plains of existence and rapid in the caverns of the mountains. A flow that adapts with the changing scenario. Water is the essence of change. The container of water defines the shape in which you can see it. Otherwise, water is bimūrta, an abstract existence - without form, without colour. It is without prejudice, without any pre-conceived idea of anything. It is it and nothing else. We add colour and form to it.

Can you not see life is also that abstract to which only we, the fearful and the enchanted, can give attributes? So, what form and meaning are you giving to your existence? Share them with all of us. 

"the rock that was an island" - Andaman Islands, India, 2008. by self/Arijit.
"the beauty of the sea" - Andaman Islands, India, 2004. by self.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Learning the elements: Fire

There are different things you put in the fire. When hungry, you keep it flaming, since it needs to cook the food that is going to satiate your hunger. The flames keep bright to calm the flame of hunger within. When there is a fire that harms, then we calm it by dousing water on it's mighty rage. It is the same element, and yet, the way it is, in the different situations, make them different. Somewhere it means light and life; somewhere it is the agent of death and decay. 

When you have a fire raging within you, all that you need to do is to understand what meaning is it creating. The elements can be of beauty and benevolence only when the circumstance of it is recognised. If you have a fire that gnaws within you, that systematically destroys and degrades, corrupts and decays, it is the type of fire that needs water. Water is a fluid entity. Denial is not. If you deny a fire is spreading in the forest of your thoughts, it will soon burn down the meadows of your dreams. To find water that calms the fire that harms, you need not to go to one special being. Yourself. The reservoir of the water is in us. The nature of the water is to flow. Let the fire that eats you from within flow out of yourself. Let go of the fire. Don't hold it back for the sheer pain of burning. Let it be water, and there will be calm.


Don't fail to recognise the fire that is life. A dream. A desire. A wish. Anything worth living for. That is the sacred fire of the yagna. It requires the sacrifice of your petty fires. It requires dedication and hard work. It requires the choice of tenacity. It requires hope and faith and a belief that Prometheus was not wrong in giving our ancestors fire. Nurture that fire. Nourish it. Let it be the fire around which the carnival of life happens. Let it be you. 
Fire in the sky 
Image: sunset, Lund.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

to be a storm

the wind plays merry-go-round,
the grass bows near your feet,
clearing the streams,
making pathways to somewhere

you feel the bending wind
rushing through your veins
the madness of life
straining through the thumb
that press down the eye of the tornado-

it is dreadful to be there alone.
you may be brushed from the soil
and piled at another place, in another din.
the bones may rattle
with the newness of the blow,
and guard you into a shell ...

and yet,
the storm brews something in you
something with flavours.
something, you can feel.

you've never seen the skies so drunk,
you gesture them to calm down
but sobering seems a strain.

cut out the past in cardboard shapes
hang it in loose circles near the window
open the panes-
you may be the eye for a while.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Stories from the hiatus 2: What is it that brings on a smile?

May be, champagne overflowing the glasses? I guess not only that can create a happy smile.

Happiness is a heady mixture of the feeling of being in the company of people who celebrate life not only with the molecules of the chemical elements, variously christened as wine, champagne, vodka and their likes. You need someone to spill it from your glass of pleasure. You need the company of people who care to talk to you and to listen to you; the company of people who create the arbitrary molecules of experience that you can call life.

The finest experience of this Christmas eve is a rather natural phenomenon when you have all the eight people strumming guitars and singing. It was the after-dinner song carnival that filled the wooden house with a throbbing vibration of music.

After a long day of preparing for the I-lost-count-of-the-number-of-courses meal spanning a mind boggling 5 hours, the father started humming a song which soon became a full-house chorus! Just when I was thinking now people will gradually doze off on the sofas and the armchairs and on the dining table, there was a fluster of activity across the room. The uncle was busy with a group of possibly-amateur connoisseurs of vodka, the grandma was lazily reclining on the sofa with one of her grandchild and chatting like sixteen-year old friends. the youngest kid was cuddling into the sofa, while the three gorgeous sisters were, by now, singing full-throttle.

It was like being a third person narrator in a novel. I was there, mouthing the only words that I had remembered from the last night's singing ritual at Angelique and Jerome's home :  Jolie bouteille, sacrée bouteille .... And as I observed the magical vibrancy of all the voices in the chorus, I realised they are singing for the joy of it. A simple fact, but wondrous in a strange mundane way!

They have sung these songs many times and yet when they were singing these when the eve of christmas had walked into the day of christmas, waves of joy and peace filled the mind. The songs were not religious alone. They were the songs of life - ranging from the drunkard's plea to his loving bouteille  to help him quit drinking, to the song filled with painful memories of the Jewish concentration camps, to hymns. 

This Christmas dinner, could have forced me into the cliched expression of Christmas being the festival of time spent with family and all that. As I looked at the faces of the mother and the father, who brought up their six kids, not in any other excess but in the excess of life and a strange force of living life up to the potential that each of them have.

The Christmas clause is the potential to walk on. The potential to have the courage to follow your dreams, knowing well that they are not really Columbusque in scope. Our acts in our little lives do not change the worldscape of others. The single day of the Christmas celebrations do not drown our thousand conflicts. What it does is that, it  re-affirms the hope that we can walk together, in spite of our differences. That we can create music and be alive by embracing each moment. The clause of Christmas is possibly the inherent truth of life ... be here, be now. And that will make us smile.

P.S. Though the "Stories from the hiatus" series is concluded with this post, the experiences from this christmas spent with a marvellous family will keep cropping up in various posts for certain. This is a conscious decision of the blogger. The experience of having met these  special people can not solely be confined in a series on a singular event. As I realise it now, it is not only an experience of christmas, it is an experience of life.

Image: song-carnival post christmas eve dinner.