Sunday, April 24, 2011

When memory ...

This was in the days when you didn't know what the picture would look like until the entire roll of 36 shots was used up and you sent it for development. Uncle joined a photography class, working out his homework of painting a glass, half filled with water, in the evenings, as the niece and the nephew and the daughter scrambled to see what was it that was being done. There would be some interesting words floating in that room - 'perspective' being one of them.

As the course advanced, the three kids followed him around, bewildered at all the machinery and the set up that was now being put up in that little room above the garage. The glass was being covered with black chart paper. There was something sinister in it, the kids thought. Uncle suddenly talked about what was it like when there was a war. To keep the houses drowned in darkness, for the sake of safety, the lights were put off in the evenings, the glass windows were covered with thick black clothes when a lamp was lit. It seemed to be a story to the kids, like the one they read in books.

Years later, the story of the war is suddenly re-lived. The numbers of the dead, of the injured, of the demolished , the heroes and the villains, the sounds of the guns and the bombs - are returning to the consciousness. This time around, there are no popular names, no popular faces, no history text books analysing the primary and the secondary causes of the war. This time around, there are only faces of people who could have been an acquaintance, a friend, a lover, a family.


It all began with Kurosawa's Rhapsody in August. 

The musical name and its soft vowel sounds betray the unease that permeates this film. While their parents visit a newly found relative in America, the kids spend their summer holiday at their grandmother's country-side home. The long lost and the newly identified relative is supposedly one of the grandmother's brothers. The grandmother doesn't remember it however. The kids spend their time speculating how wonderful it would be to go to America.

They attempt to remind their grandmother of her past, so that she would accept the invitation of her 'brother' to visit America, along with her grandchildren. In the process, they unwittingly have a view of a war that is only a story to them. The ripples of the devastating atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 touch their hearts for the first time in their lives.

In the sun and the rain of their summer holidays, they come to know their grandmother as they have never known before. Her silent ways perplex the kids at first. They do not understand why their grandmother sits, face-to-face with a woman, for a long time without uttering a single word. The silhouette of the two silent old women, with white light flooding in from the background creates an uneasy frame even for the viewer. Later on they come to know that, both the old women had lost their husbands to the atomic bomb.

A distant past, untouched by the children, returns as a newly realised emotion in the now.   

To be contd.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Does Spring spring out of nowhere?

According to the Encyclopedia of Religion and the Encyclopedia Britannica, the timing of April Fool's Day is directly related to the arrival of Spring, when nature 'fools' humans with erratic weather.
as if spring arrives on a date that you can mark in your calendar! as if, till the 31st of March, the buds are trained to remain shut and at the dawn of the 1st of April,(amidst the twittering of the birds) they march to full bloom, as kids dressed as flowers would do in a performance as the teacher animated the movements from the side-screen! 

Spring doesn't really sprint into our lives, does it? 

In hot and humid Kolkata, spring makes it presence felt through the soft winds blowing through the thickly populated city. It is in the air that you can smell the arrival of spring. In such times, our neigbour's mango tree brings in the smell of the juicy mangoes that will populate its branches a few weeks from now. The 'mukul' (the flower which will become mangoes) have a tantalising smell. 

mangoes-to-be ... 'mukul'

The kids passing through the lane look up with expectant eyes. The mango tree's human neigbours looked at it with longing. Maybe one summer storm called 'Kalbaisakhi' (since the storm usually happens in the Bengali month of Baishakh, it has gained this name - the black storm of Baishakh) will make several seed-flowers to fall (unfulfilled mangoes ... sigh!). The owners of the mango tree, their neighbours and all the people passing the lane would mourn for the untimely loss. Spring is also such cruel times.

flowers that bloom from the soggy earth
In countries which suffer devoid-of-the-sun winters, spring arrives with sogginess. As the snow thaws, (and doesn't return anymore, thankfully), the soil becomes soggy - wet and dirty as mud. The few green stems and leaves that had been covered with snow all this while looks maligned. They lie in a wet heap. And then, suddenly, you see flowers blooming out of nowhere. 

flowers that bloom in light
The flowers appear because of the increase in light. Or, it seems that the soil, that was suffocated with snow for so long, feels relieved as the weight of the snow melts into life-sustaining water. If you look at the muddy, soggy soil for long, you can have the feeling that the soil is quenching its thirst, soaking in the pleasure of being able to breathe freely once again. 

so, is it spring now?

May be, the true arrival of spring happens as the new green shoots appear, the new leaves curled in sleep appear on the branches that have been starkly empty for long. 

up above in its
The birds too have returned to inspect the branches that can be used for making nests. They hop around the trees and shrubs, identifying the perfect branch, swiftly breaking it in its beak and flying off to where it plans to have its nest. 

Perhaps, the vitality of all things natural is the actual harbinger of spring. 

With not much ado, Lustrous Lives too seeks vitality ... in words and patterns. Hence the new look. 
Please do stop by to share your opinion on the same. Please share your opinion on whether the posts are reader-friendly in appearance, or not. All opinions (both favourable and unfavourable) are heartily welcome.

Wish you all a vitality of the mind, the body and the soul this spring :) 

Images: "mangoes-to-be ... 'mukul'" by my uncle Subhendu, a few years back. Copyright retained by him. The rest of the images are shot here and there in Lund by the blogger. spring 2011.