Raksha Bandhan

My literary journey began when I was in school. We had an assorted set of some of the best works to study, understand and imbibe – prose and poetry. That experience has been so good that till this day I remember practically all the works I studied.

Residing far away from home, in the Southern hemisphere I couldn’t think of a better way to express my love and wishes to my brothers, except through this beautful poem by Sarojini Naidu.

Raksha Bandhan

Beloved I offer to you
In tender allegiance anew
A bracelet of floss, let me twist
And violet, to girdle your wrist.
 
Accept this bright gage from my hand
Let you heart its sweet speech understand
The ancient high symbol and end
In wrought on each gold-threaded strand,
The fealty of friend unto friend.
 
A garland how frail of design,
Our spirits to clasp and entwine
In devotion unstained and unbroken,
How slender a circle and sign
Of secret deep pledges unspoken!
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The ‘Kubla Khan’ syndrome

Talking about inspirations and brain wave, every person would always have at least one exact spot or place where these ideas strike like lightening.

These brain waves are crucial to one’s life. Otherwise just imagine, we wouldn’t have discovered so many things and Archimedes wouldn’t have said, “Eureka!”

I had a friend in school and for her the spot was her morning loo time. If we were pondering upon a problem, then she would come back with her solution and sometimes brain wave after her morning visits. Back then when she shared it, I was amused and wondered how it could happen. Looking at it closely, it probably reflects two things:

  1. It is probably a point in a day when you are concentrating on the problem or conundrum at hand and the entire mind’s focus, both conscious and the sub-conscious are in unison
  2. It is probably also a time when you think about things that you are most interested in and your brain likes it

This goes to show that when we work in concentrated spurts of time (say 60-90mins) then our brain is most focused on the one thing we are working on and hence the productivity is very high. Secondly, you should always pick the work that you enjoy most to do, then it stops being work and something you enjoy doing and as a by product make money too.

An ideal situation which is not easy to achieve, however not impossible either.

Coming back to my ‘spot’ of enlightenment, well it is that time in the night, when I lie down to sleep and the lights are out that some of my finest thoughts flow. I am too lazy to make a note of such thoughts and more often they have just remained the passing thoughts. I am trying to put a special effort in trying to remember these thoughts, as I never know I might be a good writer too 🙂

I call this the ‘Kubla Khan’ syndrome because Samuel Taylor Coleridge, had once a dream of a beautiful poem in his sleep and when he woke up and started writing. He could only note down a third of it before being interrupted. That poem was named The Kubla Khan. The beauty of this incomplete poem lies in the literary merit and richness of the composition and it is regarded as one of the best composition’s of Coleridge. It does tend to get incoherent like all dreams, but has a lot of merit to it. It was inducted as a part of our school literature course and least to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Kubla Khan
By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

In Xanadu did Kublai Khan
A stately Pleasure-Dome decree,
Where Alph, the sacred river ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers was girdled ’round,
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But, oh! That deep, romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill, athwart a cedarn cover:
A savage place! As holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath the waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her Demon Lover!
And from this chasm with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this Earth in fast, thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced,
Amid whose swift, half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail;
And ‘midst these dancing rocks at once and ever,
It flung up momently the sacred river!
Five miles meandering with ever a mazy motion,
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean.
And ‘mid this tumult, Kublai heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the Dome of Pleasure
Floated midway on the waves,
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device:
A sunny Pleasure-Dome with caves of ice!

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such deep delight ‘twould win me
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome within the air!
That sunny dome, those caves of ice,
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry: “Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle ’round him thrice,
And close your eyes in holy dread:
For he on honeydew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise!”

 

Snake

As I sit and spend my days/take a break from my blog, trying to tackle the sweltering hot summer days of Hyd, I remembered this wonderful poem by D. H. Lawrence. This poem also belongs to my class X days and my tryst with English Literature that I thoroughly enjoyed thanks to Mrs.Rebero, our English teacher.

So, this poem is about the author spotting a golden snake on one such hot afternoon in Sicily and the beauty lies in the way he describes these often detested creatures. The poem is written in a simple style that doesn’t require too much explanation, but the wonderful way in which the poet describes a simple event in a rural area and the small moral he draws out of it is indeed wonderful. Go ahead and enjoy the poem and yes, please do not hurt any animals – on hindsight I find this poem apt to be used for some kind of animal rights preservation day, etc, but then one with a compassionate heart can enjoy it anyday.

Snake

By: D.H.Lawrence

A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.

In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before
me.

He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of
the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
i o And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,
Silently.

Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second comer, waiting.

He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.
The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.

And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.

But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?

Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him? Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him? Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.

And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!

And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid, But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.

He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.

And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.

I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.

I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste.
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.

And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.

And I thought of the albatross
And I wished he would come back, my snake.

For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.

And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life.
And I have something to expiate:
A pettiness.

The Highwayman

My love for English literature started in school. I had a wonderful literature curriculum under I.C.S.E syllabus and to make the experience eternally etched in one’s memory, I had a fabulous teacher of English too. The first poem or in this case a ballad that we learnt was – The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. 

A ballad is a story rendered in the form of a song, with certain rhythmic repetitive cadences that enable the reader/listener to form a beautiful vision in the mind. We have a number of folk tales in India that are rendered in a similar way.

The Highwayman is a ballad of a handsome, dashing and roughish highwayman who loots people by the night and his love – the landlord’s daughter Bess. It is a beautifully rendered ballad with references to the period’s setting. Their love for each other and the passion is described beautifully.

In this ballad, I was also introduced to some nuances of English languge, such as:

Alliteration – the repetition of consonant sounds, usually at the beginning of words. Alliteration is marked in blue.

Metaphor – A figure of speech which makes a comparison between two things without using the word like or as. Metaphor is marked in green.

Personification – A figure of speech in which a non-human object is given human qualities. Personification is marked in purple.

Simile – A figure of speech which makes a comparison between two things using the word like or as. Simile is marked in red

Some parts of this ballad which I particularly like are:

The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas, 

 

And the highwayman came riding—Riding—riding— 
    The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh! 
    And he rode with a jewelled twinkle, 

 

But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter, 
        Bess, the landlord’s daughter, 
    Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

Watch for me by moonlight, 
    I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.

The tip of one finger touched it; she strove no more for the rest! 
    Up, she stood up to attention, with the barrel beneath her breast, 

 

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky, 
    With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high! 

So here goes the complete ballad, for you to enjoy….

 

The Highwayman

PART ONE

I

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees, 
    The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas, 
    The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor, 
    And the highwayman came riding—Riding—riding— 
    The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

II

He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin, 
    A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin; 
    They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh! 
    And he rode with a jewelled twinkle, 
 His pistol butts a-twinkle, 
    His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

III

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard, 
    And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred; 
    He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there 
    But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter, 
        Bess, the landlord’s daughter, 
    Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

IV

And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked 
    Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked; 
    His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay, 
    But he loved the landlord’s daughter, 
   The landlord’s red-lipped daughter, 
    Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—

V

“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I’m after a prize to-night, 
    But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light; 
    Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day, 
    Then look for me by moonlight, 
  Watch for me by moonlight, 
    I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”

VI

He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand, 
    But she loosened her hair i’ the casement! His face burnt like a brand 
    As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast; 
    And he kissed its waves in the moonlight, 
    (Oh, sweet, black waves in the moonlight!) 
    Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the West.

 

PART TWO

I

He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon; 
    And out o’ the tawny sunset, before the rise o’ the moon, 
    When the road was a gypsy’s ribbon, looping the purple moor, 
    A red-coat troop came marching— Marching—marching— 
    King George’s men came matching, up to the old inn-door.

II

They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead, 
    But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed; 
    Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side! 
    There was death at every window; 
           And hell at one dark window; 
    For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

III

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest; 
    They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast! 
    “Now, keep good watch!” and they kissed her. 
    She heard the dead man say— 
    Look for me by moonlight; 
    Watch for me by moonlight; 
    I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

IV

She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good! 
    She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood! 
    They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years, 
    Till, now, on the stroke of midnight, 
         Cold, on the stroke of midnight, 
    The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

V

The tip of one finger touched it; she strove no more for the rest! 
    Up, she stood up to attention, with the barrel beneath her breast, 
    She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again; 
    For the road lay bare in the moonlight; 
    Blank and bare in the moonlight; 
    And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love’s refrain .

VI

Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ringing clear; 
    Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear? 
    Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill, 
    The highwayman came riding, riding, riding! 
    The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still!

VII

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night! 
    Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light! 
    Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath, 
    Then her finger moved in the moonlight, 
     Her musket shattered the moonlight, 
    Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.

VIII

He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood 
    Bowed, with her head o’er the musket, drenched with her own red blood! 
    Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear 
    How Bess, the landlord’s daughter, 
     The landlord’s black-eyed daughter, 
    Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

IX

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky, 
    With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high! 
    Blood-red were his spurs i’ the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat, 
    When they shot him down on the highway, 
    Down like a dog on the highway, 
    And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

*           *           *           *           *           *

X

And still of a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees, 
    When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas, 
    When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor, 
    A highwayman comes riding—Riding—riding— 
    A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

XI

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard; 
    He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred; 
    He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there 
    But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter, 
 Bess, the landlord’s daughter, 
    Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

 


Happy Deepawali!!!

 

Happy Diwali!

 

 

दीपो की आवली है दीपावली,
असत्य पे सत्य की, अन्याय पे न्याय की
जय है दीपावली
आप सब को हार्दिक सुभ्कम्नावों के साथ
एक मंगलमय वर्ष की कामना करते हुए
दीपावली की शुब्कम्नाएं

An affair to remember

On a rainy sunday afternoon, I watched one of the most enchanting romantic movie. A 1957, classic movie, which made me feel very glad to see. The story line would have been used a number of times earlier, but am sure there can be no parallel to it.

Our love affair is a wondrous thing
That we’ll rejoice in remembering
Our love was born with our first embrace
And a page was torn out of time and space

Our love affair, may it always be
A flame to burn through eternity
So take my hand with a fervent prayer
That we may live and we may share
A love affair to remember

PS: Was rumbling through my collection and found these poems. Liked them and decided its time for them to see the light of the day.

Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher

Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher

To force the pace and never to be still
Is not the way of those who study birds
Or women. The best poets wait for words.
The hunt is not an exercise of will
But patient love relaxing on a hill
To note the movement of a timid wing;
Until the one who knows that she is loved
No longer waits but risks surrendering -
In this the poet finds his moral proved
Who never spoke before his spirit moved.
 
The slow movement seems, somehow, to say much more.
To watch the rarer birds, you have to go
Along deserted lanes and where the rivers flow
In silence near the source, or by a shore
Remote and thorny like the heart's dark floor.
And there the women slowly turn around,
Not only flesh and bone but myths of light
With darkness at the core, and sense is found
But poets lost in crooked, restless flight,
The deaf can hear, the blind recover sight.

-Nissim Ezekiel