The Swing

Swing up, swing down,

Swing high, swing low!

From mango tree

Or guava tree branches,

The swing rope tautened

While the wooden seat steadied.

The legs kicked up

Into the clouds

And folded back

To pull into position

For the next kick.

Effervescent joy bubbled up

And echoes of raucous laughter

Carried back between swings

Up into the skies.

From the height,

The world could be seen,

From top to bottom, 

As if from bird’s-eye-view.

The air became thinner

At the high point

Of the trajectory

When the swing swung

Back and forth like a pendulum.

A child in infantile chortle

And a hard-bitten  yet jolly adult

Could both feel the abandon

Of tetherless freedom

And undescribed ecstasy.

All the cares of the world were shed

Until the swinging became slower,

Legs became weaker

Till they reached placid ground

And met with mundane realism.

The Agony and The Ecstasy of Elijah

At the Baldwin keyboard, he sat

Picking at the keys for his scale,

Trying the notes with aplomb

To be stopped midstream

At the discordance of a wrong note.

He started again with nonchalance

And almost reached the lowest note

When a false note crept in.

He was so sure that he had it right,

That it was agonizing for Elijah

To see the bubble burst

And to drown himself into despair.

Never to be beaten,

He started again and again.

With frustration mounting to a peak,

Then, started the ‘G’ scale

And stayed the course

Every note keeping the metronomic beat,

Every note ascending without flaw, 

And the descending scale meticulous.

Elijah lifted his fingers from the keys

And smiled with beatific ecstasy. 

The Prodigal’s Starry Night

In the inky backdrop,

The stars sprinkled and shimmered.

From the open hayfields,

The narcissist watched the scintillation 

And failed to see the Hand

That wrought them all.

But, alas, in the eager search

For the urban fleshpots,

He left the rural land

And squandered his self and worth

As nights of revelry spilled into dawns;

Bleary-eyed and unfocused, 

He did not see the starry night

In the never-sleeping city lights.

There were no stars for him

In the midnight skies.

The man-made  lamps and lanterns

Faked light and shrouded starlight,

He failed again to see the Hand

That made the stars for all.

Beaten and downcast,

Totally spent, he left the city-

Bedraggled and beggarly-

In tattered rags, his hesitant steps

Carried him to his father’s gate in the country. 

Doubtful of welcome and greeting,

He yearned at least for a meal.

Yet father, waiting for the son-bereft of hope-

 Saw his child through tears

And recognized the child who came back.

With quickened steps and outstretched arms, 

He ran out and hugged 

His emaciated child in dirt and rags

And wept tears of joy

At the return of one who was deemed dead.

The fatted calf was killed

And mourning turned festive

When guests lolled in abandon.

The Prodigal walked into the open

And gazed at the shimmering starry night.

He saw the Hand that made them all!

Cotton Candy World

In the woolly soft world,

The innocent babe curled,

With dreams unfurled

And with rainbows circled

In slumber unhindered.

No harsh words

And no hard swords

Can wound this child.

She stays unblemished!

Woe befall

The male or female

Who dares to crush

The cotton candy world

Of all babes in creche.

A Food I long for

One food I wish to have I will never have now that its creator is no more.  My Mother had a delicious preparation of pearl spot fish or chromide.  I did not pay attention in those days to anything in a kitchen. But the taste of this dish always lingers.

Unfortunately,  I do not know the recipe.  That is written in my mother’s brain and taste buds.  It is known as “karimeen pollichchathu”.  The seasoning is a blend of  onion, garlic, ginger, green chilies, coconut milk, vinegar and salt.  Something else must be there too. All these are added at different stages of sauteeing in coconut oil. The mixture covers the scaled and cleaned fish and the whole thing is wrapped around by banana leaf and cooked gently in an earthenware pan. It has a mothwatering aroma.  Eating this is a hedonistic experience.  But one has to be careful in eating this because there are many bones.  We ate this with fingers to remove the bones. It goes well with rice and other Kerala vegetable dishes.

Assissi of Love

Gleaming in the sunlight,

Assissi lay hugging the west incline

Of Monte Subasio in Umbria-

A fortress, a refuge, a goal

For seekers of self and soul.

The barefooted mendicant

Blessed the medieval cobblestones

That paved the the narrow streets,

Meandering up and down, skirting

Around homes and stores.

There Francis spoke,

Embracing a larger world,

To the sun and the moon,

The birds and the beasts

And all creation

That trod across the planet.

Assissi proudly witnessed a love,

Brotherly and sisterly,

Without constraints and restraints

Of highs and lows, 

The rich and the poor,

Enveloping and embracing

All of humanity.



Meaning of Life

Life is a gift. There is meaning to this gift of life only when it is reciprocated. Our lives create meaning when they benefit others.  Big or small, the benefits carry meaning.  For example, parents nurture the young and the young become caregivers of the old.  The true teacher inspires learning that creates and transforms people to lead meaningful lives. The scientists and technologists discover and invent to improve human lives. The artists and architects bring aesthetic meanings around us while musicians create melodies to bring rhythmic meaning into daily lives. Above all, goodness envelopes us whether talented or untalented by the sheer sweetness that makes every life worth living. Finally, we give back to life when we protect the earth not only for us, but for the future generations. Thus we make the meaning of life complete.

We live in the world, among living people. The meaning of life then is focussed on  giving. In every walk of life, there are givers and receivers. Shakespeare’s words about mercy can be applied in this context, 

“The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:”

Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I

Winter Haiku

Winter’s frigid ice

On the crystal star

Reflects cold light spears.

Sharp are the angles

Of the hard and wayward heart,

Wntry like ice freeze.

Numb with cold, pain’s gone;

Freezing cold wraps around wounds,

Living held at bay.

Winter landscape shrouded;

Snow drifts drew patterns in swirls

Of winter language.

Snowfalls hid tree barks;

Starving squirrels and deer gnawed,

Digging below snow.

A pallid full moon

Silvered exposed green slivers,

Shadow conifers.

Snow layers lifted

In the wake of warm spring breeze

To bid “Goodbye  Winter”!

Shalom, Solomon

“Shalom, Solomon” ,

The wind whispered

As Solomon slept

In the peaceful slumber

Of the innocent child.

His breathing echoed

In sibilant syllables

As the breeze entered

Through cracks 

In doors and windows

And through holes in rafters,

Gently hissing and wheezing

The nursery words,

“Solomon is asleep”.

A Venial Past

Whether it is the funniest is debatable. But I did what I consider the “funniest” thing during my Middle School years.

It was the mango season, around March. After the dry winter, the mango trees put out satin leaves in coppery hues. Soon the mango flowers bloomed in pagoda stems. The bees buzzed around and pollinated. Tiny green mangoes started to show up among the cluster of cream colored flowers. The green mangoes became bigger and hung down on their stems. One was hanging at a distance within reach. Green mangoes are crisp and sour. When one bites into them, the sounrness makes one close eyes tightly.  But when we were young, we looked forward to this experience.

But, the family dictum was not to pick them before they ripen. I thought hard about eating the mango without disobeying.  

I was against disobeying. What am I to do?

In my juvenile mind, I found a way.

I was forbidden to pick the fruit. There was nothing against eating it.

I reached up to the mango and took one big bite out of it. In the immortal words of John Milton in “Paradise Lost”, when Eve ate the forbidden fruit, “Earth felt the wound”.

I  left the half eaten fruit on its stem.

I never told the tale. Birds or squirrels were naturally blamed for the condition of the mutilated mango.

But, nature took her revenge. The acidic juice of the green mango left its burn mark above my lips. It stayed there for a few days. No one interrogated me about it. It went to oblivion like a lot of my bruises.

Alas, the mango itself stayed stunted without ever reaching full growth and ripeness. It could not fulfill its hope of sweetness which was its due. It remained a mute reminder of my perfidy.