Sojourner

It is a gypsy’s life

That I lead, from place to place,

Nomadic in deeds,

But, homesick in the heart.

 

From the frigid climes

Of Adirondacks

To the Arabian sea shore

And Pacific sands

I wandered

Without goal

And without destination,

Searching for something

To anchor me down.

There is no one to wait for

And no one to travel with,

But a lonely sojourner

I remained

In my seemingly

Dreamlike life.

 

But, does anyone know

The pathos of loneliness

That leaves one shiftless

Like a paddle free boat?

Advertisements

Writing

The blank paper stared at me

And I took up pencil with trepidatio;

My palms were sweaty

And my nose was crinkling

When my nerves came close

To being shattered.

 

To freely write

Is to navigate unknown waters

And I dread to get

My feet wet.

 

The topics on the board

Glared at me

And I tremble

At their defiance.

 

What do I choose?

Do I opt for the easy one

Or let creative juices flow,

So I choose ambitiously?

 

Ah, I have my topic

And I am happy to note:

I will write

About the wonder of writing.

 

Chaos of Visits

The crow had been cawing

All through the morning

And that foretold the advent

Of visitors any time.

 

 

Oh, but what can I do?

The house is not ready!

Is it messy, is it clean?

Run around and check

Every nook and corner,

Every room and porch,

And every piece of furniture!

 

What about the food?

Will they stay long?

Is it enough to have a snack

Or is a meal expected?

With trepidation, the thought wriggle in:

The stay could be prolonged!

 

So many things to do

And so little time!

I am bound in cliches now.

What an unusual state it is!

 

I detest cliches

Homage to Annie

On the wings of fancy,

I travelled to Paradise,

Adventured in Arabia,

Climbed Olympus

And sparkled in fairy dust-

Timeless gifts

Of untold pleasures,

More precious

Than diadems and gems-

All showered from one

Whose voice is a memory

And whose gentle smile

Is pressed between pages

Of pensive recollections.

 

I stood in front of a name

Etched on the wall of monuments

And the face swam in front

Of eyes swimming in tears

And yearning for a look, a voice,

Or a smile!

 

I could not raise a sound

To pay homage to that voice

That stilled for our times;

My eyes could not open

To see those eyes bent in kindness

And the smile that blossmed

Perpetually, never wavering,

Never skewed in complaint,

Always taking in the arrows

Shot by life’s crossfire

It is the benefice

And benediction

Of my todays!

 

 

Taunting Grief

Grief is ruthless,

Taunting till one grips it!

 

Shed or unshed,

Tears tried in vain

To wash away the grief

That happened suddenly

And surprisingly.

 

Whether affecting slowly

Or striking with lightning speed,

One is never ready

To withstand the onslaughts,

The ever widening eddies!

 

Where is the foothold

To stop the sinking,

The infinite whirl

That is relentless

And giddying?

 

Try this, try that;

Talk, walk, do something.

Yet, there is no end

To this maddening swirl,

The ever widening whirl of grief.

 

But, there has to be a pause.

A sudden brake

Or a slow lowering pedal

That comes to complete stop

To the maddening depth

That sucks one in,

Leaving only dry leaves

Of plausible memories.

 

Is there a hand reaching down

Or a branch within grasp?

Does this have to be eternal?

 

Reach out for someone,

For a consoling gesture,

Or a shoulder to cry on.

 

It is always an extrovert

Who endures quietly,

The silent grief

Unperceived by the world,

However  excruciating !

 

Is there anyone out there?

Is that a cry in the wilderness,

A cry that wafts with the breeze

That waltzes by, unnoticed?

Is there a Providence

To pull one out of this abyss?

 

Or  reach in

To the core of entity

To find oneself

To bear the grief

That almost toppled

The very existence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eliana

Eliana of the dusky locks,

Dressed in polka-dotted frock,

Lay on the floor,

On the dusty carpet

And was admonished for good measure,

Sent to the corner

To stand immobile.

 

There were repeated transgressions

And the girl paid with the absence

Of all the scenic views behind her.

 

But, when she pulled up the bench

And sat on it,

Running her fingers over the keys,

Playing an arpeggio with nonchalance,

The music was so divine

That one forgot the floor and the carpet.

 

The Fall of Practical Democracy

Shuttling  between two countries, I was painfully made aware that democracy as we see it is a fallacy. Between the sedition arrests in India and the bombastic crudities of a Donald Trump, the demise of pure democracy has become a reality.  When voters despair about their choices in the polling booths, representational democracy appears as an idea from the past. When the media focus on trappings and sensationalism to sell “news”, the people are being manipulated to the tune of the owners of the media. When PACs and SUPER PACs control the candidates and money buys opinions, what is an honest voter going to do?  A lot of the anomalies are created by the media. We have candidates who make a mockery of the word ” leadership”. We have candidates whose antecedents make one tremble. A healthy democracy depends on a credible media. When that option is taken away, the only people who can keep their eyes open are those who are willing to read between the lines. With a minimalized public education, the capability to balance and judge one’s choices has dwindled.  It is amazing how that great equalizer, the public education, has suffered drastically in the last few years. One wonders whether there is a sinister plot to thwart the ideals of democracy by debilitating the thinking processes of ordinary citizens.

Being Who I am

I feel compelled to write this blog because of the appearance of an article in The India Abroad, December 4, 2015 issue. It was penned by Chaya Babu.  The caption was, A Six Yard Political Discourse.  A gender and race studies academic, Tanya Rawal has  the Saree, Not Sorry Instagram account.  Several photos of her wearing sari have populated the account. Chaya Babu’s interview with her made it appear as if a unique stand is taken by an Indian woman.

The interview was filled with platitudes and there was nothing unique about an Indian woman wearing a sari in the USA. Women had worn sari in this country for decades.  Many of them are professionals and choose to wear sari to work.  These women are comfortable in other clothes too.  I choose to wear sari many times, even to work in the academia.  But, I enjoy wearing it to church also, especially when I am a Lector and stand at the Lectern.  I never thought of it as making a political statement.  It was merely me being me.  The congregation is used to seeing me with different apparel.  But, on special feast days,  I give first choice to sari.  I feel that, by wearing sari, I was honoring the particular day.  I honor the occasion by being me.  I am the only one who wears a sari in that rural area.  People respected me doing it because it is part of my identity.  I come as myself when I wear a saree.  But, there is no drama on these occsions.

Life Meanders

Among dripping vines

Festooning stone walls

And amid the morning breeze

Wrapping scarf ends

Around shivering shoulders

And sleepy farewells,

Life swore and learned

The salt beneath desire;

Love smote and stuck

To grainy laughter.

Snow swept litter

Under the sidewalks;

The moonlight wove

Among the dotted cobblestone streets

And olive trees converged

On shaded hilltops.

Smug light filtered

Through retreating shadows,

Varying life”s themes;

Drifting, fading, vanishing,

The laughter edged in silence.

Fingers of candle smoke

Reached into the eyes-

The dear pools of light

Burning red in shame

Of faded dreams.

Desire found sweet imprints

Of fingertips fluttering

Tenderly on cheeks

With a briefly captured caress;

Desire tasted love

And waded into eddies of passion!

Old men desire

Dreams of glory

And the young burn up

In high jinks and spirits

And uncontrollable swings

Of passion and desire.

The summer breeze wafts

And the winter frost freezes;

They come and they go

In life’s dynamic cadences.

The Drums of Kandassankadavu and the Movies

Kandassankadavu! What is in a name?  Everything. Drums around Kandassankadavu resonate with its name.

I used to tremble when I heard the drums during processions and festivals.  Somehow, they kept time with my heartbeats.  I never comprehended this and believed that I was afraid of them.

But, when I was seven years old, we moved from Mangaloru to the ancestral home of my parents: Kandassankadavu. They were born in two separate branches of the same family, Vadakkethala.  Vadakkethala Outhudan Moopar and Vadakkethala Poovathingal Moopar were two of the elders who brought the copper plate (Cheppedu) for the creation of the St. Mary’s parish in Kandassankadavu in 1807.

Kandassankadavu is ten miles west of Thrissur.  It hugged the coastline by situating itself by the Connolly Canal.  Coconut trees waved their fronds above the waters in the balmy breaths of a breeze while the trunks leaned over in lassitude.  During the 50’s, there was no bridge to span the waters.  One had to take a boat or a canoe to cross over to Vaadaanapally.  Beyond that lay the Arabian Sea which wafted salty breezes towards Kandassankadavu.

My early memories revolve around the trio who traversed the highways and byways of Kandassankadavu.  One carried a drum with drumsticks, the second a billboard, and the third a sheaf of fliers in colors. They took away the fear of drums from me.  The billboard holder named Appukuttan is sixty-three years old today and is still around.   They were the only means of advertising a new movie in town. The drums were welcomed warmly by children. Some ran to the gate to watch them and some followed them to a certain distance from home.  I belonged to those who raced to the gate.  These movies were not new releases because it took a long time for a movie to reach remote areas.  The drum beats did not have any sophistication, but were just followed some indifferent rhythm.  But, the beats were the harbingers of much awaited excitement – another movie.  I was home and the drums were welcome.  There was no more trembling and syncopated heart beats.

What movies and what atmosphere awaited us after the excitement of the drums?

In those days, the only venue for movies in the surrounding areas was Kandass Talkies, the movie theater placed not far from the Carmelite convent.  Kandass is a shortened form of Kandassankadavu.  It boasted no grandeur and was strictly utilitarian.  Yet, it was the only place for movies!  The structure itself appeared like a warehouse with corrugated tin sheets for roof.  There were several exits which were wide openings covered with faded navy blue curtains which were pulled aside to let people out.

The seats in Kandass Talkies were hierarchical. Right in front of the screen was the sand covered floor for the cheapest tickets. This was “Thara” or the place for groundlings.  Men and women were segregated.  The men enjoyed the central seats and the women were relegated to the right side. Most of the catcalls and comments came from this section.  Next came the wooden benches.  Men and women were segregated here also. Advancing to the folding wooden chairs, the segregation stopped abruptly.  The level of education of the spectators have advanced here.  At the apex of the seating arrangement are the seats reserved in the back on a two feet high raised floor.  The chairs were made of wood with no plush cushioning.  But, they had arm rests! The wall behind these chairs had small openings for the projection streaming to the screen.  I used to watch the streams of light in which dust motes danced with the variations of the picture hues. Let us not forget the hawkers during intervals.  The only available delicacies were roasted peanuts or chickpeas in paper cones.  Plain sodas of carbonated water closed tightly  with glass marbles were also available.

Every day, there were two showings and Sunday was privileged with the addition of matinees.  Half an hour before the shows, the loudspeaker released several old movie songs for the delectation of Kandassankadavu residents.  Along with the drums, these earsplitting songs reminded people of the movies.  The songs were from old Malayalam, Hindi, and Tamil movies. Once in a while, English movies appeared.  We became quite well versed with the lyrics of all these songs. The late show was at 9:30 pm and the songs blared from the theater.  But, they were good alarm clocks.  People did not have to look at their clocks to tell  time.

Now, Kandass Talkies is no more.  The advent of the bridge across the river extended the limited boundaries.  The neighborhoods developed rapidly and, everywhere new new theaters sprang up, one better than the other.  The new releases did not take time to reach the village communities.  Somehow, Kandassankadavu never resurrected its own theater. The drums are silent for movies. The natives do not mind travelling a little farther to watch movies.

The drums do come alive for festivals and processions.  Shingari melam and Pancha Vaadyam compete during the parish feasts and I am lulled by their musical beats.  No more heartbeats thrumming with the drums for me!  I am cured completely because of the tuneless single drum of the movie advertisements for a rustic theater.  Now, that memory is in a time warp.