Today, the morning is late

Today, morning,

Is not like every other morning –

Today, the morning is late.

 

But we understand –

We know it can happen sometimes.

We will wait.

 

We know who to blame.

Or maybe we don’t.

We have our suspicions, but we are silent.

 

The morning maybe sulking,

But it will come.

It cannot die. Can it?

 

We can learn how to live

Without light.

We are used to living with less.

 

But the morning will come soon.

It is only late today.

It cannot die.

 

***


Words

Leave the words out in the sun

To dry;

Let their moisture be suck’d out

Let their texture be rough,

Weather’d.

.

Words will need a hard skin

To survive;

To face the heat

Of your apathy,

Your scorn.

.

Hide the words when they are young

Tender, innocent;

Wear them

After they die,

Like mink.

***


The most clear, honest elections ever

This election has not been like any other in the living memory (my memory, obviously).

It is the bitter fight, with no clear favorites, that is usually the most absorbing. However, even though this one is a pretty one-sided contest (- with a clear Modi wave, a clear prime minister, a coalition government with a predominant party which clearly does not need allies, but will keep them along because of its large heartedness etc etc –) it is turning out to be like no other, as I said, in my memory.

The trailer to Polls-2014 was launched in December 2013 itself. BJP won three states, and was the single largest party in the fourth. The party that was supposed to win just 6 seats, spoilt the party, grabbing 28 and prevented a well-deserved clean sweep. And the party ‘was’ spoilt – there is no doubting that. Left a bitter taste, that result from the capital did.

But what it also did was to alert the rightful winners – that to ensure there is no slip between the cup and the lip, bitterness has to be sustained and kept alive in the hearts of the bhaktas. Only then will the poor sods be in the fighting fit mode, only then will the work be completed satisfactorily and appropriate result achieved. And so, although it is a clear, one-sided election, a pretense of a fight has to be kept up till the last round of voting. After which date, exit polls and celebrations can be uncorked.

The election has been good for the economy. It has generated lots and lots of temporary rural employment. For many, elections have been a boon – two square meals a day and some spirit to keep the spirit up. Election has recycled lot of black money in the system – not a mean achievement. Huge amount of ‘foreign’ investment into the election has ensured that the rupee, that was wobbling against the dollar, gained strength. There is an all-round cheer in the corporate board-rooms. District maps are being dusted and laid on the tables again for carving up the wastelands for development – something that will be a boon for a lot of God forsaken places in the country.

But the best aspect of the elections this time round has been the truthfulness of the campaigns. We are witnessing clear statement of priorities that will ensure there are no heartburns after the elections. It has been clarified, for example, who will, and who will not, get irrigation or drinking water, and why. It is probably only for the good that people are wearing their caste, religious, regional loyalties on their sleeves. No point in hypocrisy and pseudo talk – an unbecoming coyness that has dragged the country down since time immemorial.

And that reminds me of the foreign policy stance of the main parties. For the Jonny-come-late-lies, foreign does not exist. For the spent force parites, ‘foreign’ is an un-parliamentary word. But the rightful winners are clear in their focus – a potential superpower must behave accordingly – it must be muscular and imperial – or else it will not be taken seriously. They have made it clear – neighbours should not throw their weight about – the pecking order of the business of weight-throwing will be made amply clear by them once they start the serious business of ruling the great nation.

All in all, this one has been one of the most honest, clear and non-partisan election I ever witnessed. The coronation will be sometime in the last week of May, but the party will start on the 16th. Keep yourself free for the happy occasion.

***


Sense of responsibility

Our meeting was a disaster. There was no consensus on even the need to save the company, let alone the way it was to be done.

Mr A, my boss, sat through the meeting, silent, like the man who has accidently walked into a divorce proceeding, but knows not how to extricate himself from the mess without seeming to be rude.

That Mr A was among the oldest employee of the company in our branch did not instill in him any feeling of loyalty that was so manifest in rest of the agitated members. That seemed strange to me, for I believe that his skill-set is not likely to be of any use to any other organization, and that he has a direct stake in the survival of the company.

Later that day in our office, I delicately broached the subject.

“There is a fear that if things continue to slide, it will be curtains for the company. Have you thought of any plan B?’ I asked him, seeing that he was waiting for his opponent to make his move on the online scrabble.

“What for?” he mumbled absently.

“You don’t fear that things will get worse, and we should start brushing up our CVs?” I tried a more direct approach.

“You are panicking too soon. That fool doesn’t know what he is talking about,” answered Mr A. I understood he was talking about his arch-rival Mr X, who was the one who had called the meeting today.

“Why, you see a turnaround?” I asked.

“Of course. Its commonsense. In a company of our size, what you do at branch office doesn’t matter, but what is done at the HQ is important.”

“And…what is being done at the HQ?”

“Nothing, so far as I can see. But that will change with the requirement of the times. Pressure to stay afloat will force them to act.”

“But that can also mean shutting down braches like ours.”

“Of course it can. That could be one of the options. Changes in technology could be another. In fact there are at least half a dozen possibilities of what could happen.”

“None of which we control,” I said, agitated.

“Don’t try to be a control-freak. There are thousands of things in life you don’t control. If you start worrying about all of it, when will you live?” he said, smiling at last.

That bugged me, for it was too condescending, but I let the matter rest.

A few days later, I found Mr A in an agitated state. It was early Monday morning, a time when we generally go for a cup of tea at the canteen, and I asked boss if we should go.

“No, you go ahead. I have something urgent to finish,” he said without looking up from the screen.

“What is it? May I do something?” I asked, surprised.

“Oh nothing. Superboss asked me to make a plan to submit to the HQ to turnaround the dropping sales. He feels that our branch is at stake and that we should take the matter seriously. I totally agree. All the buggers here are living in fools’ paradise, thinking they can keep on living like they did and others will think for them,” he said accusingly.

The change of tack was too quick for me, and I let it sink for a while. Taking a deep breath, I asked, “So what does Superboss want?”

“A proper plan for restructuring, and a new business model that is specific for our branch, but, if possible, something that can be integrated into a model for the whole company. In any case, we must do something to guard our interest,” he explained reasonably.

“What was the provocation today for Superboss?” I asked, for I knew therein lay the solution to this mystery.

“I think he got a letter from the CEO, who refers to a prospect of closing down some branches, and has asked for suggestions to avert such a possibility,” Mr A said.

If our branch were to close down, Superboss may or may not be taken to the HQ. Clearly his job was on the line. So things had come to such a pass.

“What’s the plan you have in mind?” I asked Mr A.

“Changing product line, upgrading technology and aggressively hiring new agents. It is a no-brainer. Shift in technology keeps on happening, and you must incrementally update yourself. If you don’t, you will have crisis at hand, when you will have to do it. We have left things to drift for too long.”

“But the other day you were not so worried. You said that…” I began, but was interrupted.

“I know what I said. And I know what I am saying now,” he said heating up. “Instead of talking shop, that bugger should come up with practical proposals,” he said implying that I was siding up with Mr X.

“Mr X has no plans,” I said to placate him. “But should the HQ not think of solutions. The crisis has been created because they did not act for so long,” I reminded him.

“No. That is where you are wrong. The crisis is because the branches did not give the right picture to the HQ. Did not project their requirements. HQ is not where action is, branches are. We should wake up now, or it will be too late. You call for tea here, we will have to work hard to get this document done today. Maybe we will be sent to the HQ for making a presentation next week….”

Our office was filled with a degree of urgency not seen before. At least not in the last few years. Within a week, the whole branch was buzzing with frenzied activity.

For making an office work, nothing like putting the job of the top man at stake, I thought happily. I wish I could engineer that more often.

***


Botanical Garden at Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

The Botanical Garden at Nuwara Eliya is the second enchanting garden that I have visited in Sri Lanka (see pics of Kandy Garden in an earlier post). It would be silly to compare the two, as both of them have very distinct character and charm of their own.

The Botanical Garden at Hakgala, 10 km from the Nuwara Eliya hill station, was setup in 1871 and is located at an elevation of 1745 meters above sea level. The climate in the region is extremely pleasant throughout the year, with hardly any extreme season.

Too much fiddling has not been done by man to disturb the natural beauty of the area, and it is a photograher’s paradise. It does not boast of ancient and historic trees like the Kandy-Peredenia Garden, but has over 10 thousand species of flora and some of its huge trees are also more than a century old.

??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????

Nuwara Eliya

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????


A bunched up Book Review

animalfarm2Catch-22_1slaughterhouse-five-cover

     

 

 

 

 

Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut

Catch-22 – Joseph Heller

Animal Farm – George Orwell

I do not why I have lumped these three books together – there must be a method behind the apparent madness.

The first two are American, the last British. The first two are anti-war while the third is on political philosophy.

But they do have some similarities. They all are from the middle of the last century, all sad-funny, what is called dark-humor. All have an underdog at the center of it, though the ‘underdogs’ in the last are the farm animals ‘minus’ the pigs and the dogs.

All these books have sensational quotes; all of them can be read happily by children and adults alike without meaning anything to them; all of them are depressing, for they ask you to abandon hope and try to understand the society ‘as it is’. All of them are against regimentation through ideology.

***

The central theme of Slaughterhouse Five is on the bombing of Dresden; but is also about Vietnam and other wars that will follow. It is about a person who is ‘unstuck’ in time and exists at all times of his life, all the time. I understand that to be merely living in memory, for the science fiction bit in the novel is really not very important.

Kurt Vonnegut was in Dresden when it was bombed by the Allied forces, for no apparent reason, killing over a hundred thousand civilans – more than the Hiroshima atom bomb. So, the novel is partly autobiographical, and probably that is why it is so rich in detail.

The anti-war sentiments are spot-on and the most beautiful passage is where it describes a war movie running on a rewind.

American planes, full of holes and wounded men and corpses, took off backwards from an airfield in England. Over France, a few German fighter planes flew at them backwards, sucked bullets and shell fragments from some of the planes and crewmen. They did the same for wrecked American bombers on the ground, and those planes flew up backwards to join the formation.
The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in flames. The bombers opened their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the planes. The Germans below had miraculous devices of their own, which were long steel tubes. They used them to suck more fragments from the crewmen and planes. But there were still a few wounded Americans, though, and some of the bombers were in bad repair. Over France, though, German fighters came up again, made everything and everybody as good as new.
When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody ever again.
The American fliers turned in their uniforms, became high school kids. And Hitler turned into a baby, Billy Pilgrim supposed. That wasn’t in the movie. Billy was extrapolating. Everybody turned into a baby, and all humanity, without exception, conspired biologically to produce two perfect people named Adam and Eve, he supposed
.”

But like I said before, the novel is dark and offers no solution:

That is a very Earthling question to ask, Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber?”
“Yes.” Billy, in fact, had a paperweight in his office which was a blob of polished amber with three ladybugs embedded in it.
“Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why
.

***

Another beautiful anti-war novel is the famous Catch-22. Here is how the novel describes the clause “Catch-22” –

Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to, he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.”

The confused question of relevance of nationalism that has become so central to the ordering of our lives is brought out thus –

What is a country? A country is a piece of land surrounded on all sides by boundaries, usually unnatural. Englishmen are dying for England, Americans are dying for America, Germans are dying for Germany, Russians are dying for Russia. There are now fifty or sixty countries fighting in this war. Surely so many countries can’t all be worth dying for.”

The book is scathing at places, and truly insightful –

“It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.”

Again, as is common with all the books reviewed here, it offers no hope. The society wants a total submission and eventually the life of the individual; the individual instinctively resists, for it is not in his DNA to die for others; much persuasion and heartburn later, the matter remains unresolved. Such novels, after all, can only raise questions and warn against the prevailing lies.

***

The last in the list is Animal Farm by George Orwell. This one does not have a war as its backdrop, and I probably include it to underline the fact that it is not war that is at the root of our problems – war is only a symptom, an inevitable result of the way we have ordered our society and brainwashed ourselves.

Let’s begin with the story, for it is beautifully-childish. The farm animals overthrow the regime of a cruel man and take it upon themselves to run the farm in the best possible manner, in the interests of the animals. But the newly named ‘Animal Farm’ under the democratic rule of the pigs fast degenerates into a dictatorship of ‘Napoleon’, the brightest pig, and his family, who use a group of dogs as their ‘musclemen’. They mainly use ideology and oratory to keep the other animals satisfied, but have to use ‘muscle’ eventually, when even the dumbest start to understand the true nature of the new order. The last lines of the novel shows the animals peeping inside a cabin where the pigs are having a party with the neighbouring humans, and the author concludes –

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

The beauty of the novel is that it simultaneously attacks capitalism and communism. And because of that, the novel comes to an inevitable dead-end, where human greed and cruelty comes out victorious once again.

Not surprisingly it was banned in both the US and USSR at one point of time. Written in 1944, it was before the excesses of Stalin era came to be, and so we can also salute the foresight of the author. But the worrisome part is not the “I told you so smirk”, the worrisome part is that the book is so ‘universal’ – reading it you know that this cycle of greed and domination will happen again and again. The way children pick up the same comics to read, again and again and again, despite knowing what will happen.

***


The Great Democrat

He always has a smile ready
Has that son of a gun –
And has a tear or two to spare
For the funerals.
 
He loves his people
And all that belongs to them –
He is their father and teacher
Rolled into one.
 
He is the greatest democrat
He has never lost an election –
Why, when people want to vote
He lets them give him two.
 
His wisdom is unsurpassed
All respect his legal mind –
And when the law fails to serve
He helps the lady blind.
 
A protector, a defender, a nationalist
He is the scourge of the enemy –
And the way he is a-going
In an year there won’t be any.
 
His name will be writ in history
(To that the History Department will see – )
He will set right the ancient wrongs
And set the country truly free.
 
The papers are full of his praise
As they should, for he does no wrong –
And the schoolchildren are glad to study
His autobiography.
 
And that his good work may not go waste
He teaches and prepares –
His wife and sons and daughters
With due care.
 
***

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 133 other followers

%d bloggers like this: