Tag Archives: art

Awaiting the judgment day

It has been raining embers.
Men collect the burning drops
To make garlands
To offer to their Gods.
 
The angry sky spits fire.
The burning roof
Reminds the older children
Of bonfire, and Christmas.
 
The blood red sky is unforgiving.
No one remembers who committed the sins
That Gods counted and collected
In their silver cauldrons.
 
Earth hurtles towards the Sun
Eager for a fiery embrace.
Painted men dance with glee
Celebrating their misery.
 
Children have stopped crying-
They are born numb.
The birds too have learnt
To crow and screech.
 
The seas are boiling hot
The fish jump out in agony
And call the fishermen
For redemption.
 
The rust brown leaves
Have swiveled into thorns.
The land, where once grass grew,
Is being dug for making the graves.
 
Hope and wishes and prayers
Are for happy times.
For now, keep your smiles and tears hidden-
In wooden boxes.
 
***

The Obstinate Hero: A cautionary tale for young writers

I have been had, treacherously, by my own hero. Only Julius (Et tu Brute) Caesar can truly understand my plight. For the others, I will always be the funny guy who slipped on the banana peel, the guy who could not write his first novel. It is true that I yielded to a force of unprecedented resourcefulness, but I shall still do what is right – I shall caution the young innocent writers of the world by telling them my story, as a cautionary tale.

The writing of my first novel began sometime last summer, on a happy note. I had the plot all tied up. It was as follows: The story begins with a flashback- a young law graduate (to be known as ‘the hero’ from here on) is married to a spoilt rich girl who is mentally unbalanced and a pest. Over the year he struggles hard to raise his five kids and becomes a successful lawyer. He is humble, compassionate, steadfast – a true hero. Cut to present – the five children of the hero are insensitive, repulsive, rebellious, and ungrateful. The hero ponders over life and its meaning, and sees hope in the smile of his grandchild, before putting in his papers.

Brilliant, as far as plots go. I am sure you will be reminded of Dickens and Tolstoy and Marquez, and rightly so. ‘An Epic’, the critics would no doubt have said, had the novel been written and published. Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: “It might have been!”

The problem between The Hero and me began from the first scene itself. As I was describing the hero as a sober, solid man of mettle, though a little sad and melancholy, The Hero made his first intervention in my mind, with a nasty comment.

“No young man is so dull. It is un-natural,” he said in a tone of unpleasant insolence.

Overcoming my surprise, I said in reasonable yet firm tone – “I actually know such a person, trust me.”

“You must not have known him well enough,” he said, raising his voice, “and in any case, that’s not me.”

Face with such intransigence, I decided to reveal more – “The person described here happens to be my grandfather, and the facts are true.”

“Facts! Bah,” the hero retorted.

I had to yield to that – no one can have a monopoly over facts. “You know different?” I challenged.

“I am your grandfather, I should know better,” he retorted, throwing Surrealism at me.

“You can never be him. You are my imagination of him,” I corrected him, falling into his trap.

“Exactly. And you are not imagining me right,” he said, with an irritating grin.

“If it is my imagination, surely I have the right to do whatever I want with it,” I said. But this conversation was going nowhere, and I was getting increasingly irritated. I took a deep breath and began again.

“So what should be changed, according to you?” I asked.

“The hero should be a fun person, and the heroine should be a fun person too, only a little temperamental. Five children are too many, though keep them if you want. I think more focus on the courtroom dramas would be better, especially the one where the British judge praised me,” he began in right earnest. I noticed that he knew everything about my plans for the novel, though I had not yet spelt them out in my draft plot. I also noticed that his idea of the novel was very different from mine. It was sort of a Perry Mason rolled into a Mills and Boon.

“I am seeking to present a relatively true story of a man I admire. I cannot fudge with facts to make it popular, if that is what you want,” I tried to reason with him.

“You are trying to be too literary and bombastic. A normal man lives a normal life, and the epic battles have to be shown with a light brush, maybe like James Joyce,” he said.

James Joyce light!! Give me a break.

I was not toying with literary greatness – I wanted to write an honest story, I tried telling him, but he would have none of it. The Hero would have to be made into a dashing figure, at least some of his children had to come good, and he would not die at the end, he insisted. The novel should end with reconciliation with either the wife or a daughter, on a happy note, with a possibility of sequels like it happens in the novels of the famous Horace Rumpole of Bailey.

“But the hero in my story is not like that at all,” I wailed in dismay.

“Then it is not I,” he replied, his grammar dubious, his tone final.

For a few days I struggled with the novel, but I was getting tired with the attitude of my hero. He would not even agree with the clothes that I gave him to wear – much less with the description of the heroine. I distinctly remember my grandmother of being short in height and having a small nose. But no. He remembers her as medium height with sharp nose and…well, he goes into great detail about her anatomy, none of which matches my memory of her.

To cut the story short, I had to reluctantly shelf the project. There was no other way. I would rather not have a novel, than write something in which I did not believe.

I know some sniggering critic would say that I did not have sufficient ability to control my material. But let me tell you this – no one could ever tell my grandfather what he should do, and the very idea that his memory can be controlled and molded to anyone’s wishes is laughable. Let the critics try, if they are so clever. I will give them all the facts.

***


The Mall Girls

They line up outside the Malls
Before they open,
They are the last ones
To be chucked out;
They plan to spend their honeymoon,
Nay, their lives,
In the glittering environs
Of shopping arcades
For they are, unabashedly,
The Mall Girls.
 
They need a lot of dresses
And accessories to go with them,
They need some plastic money
And a nice designer bag;
It takes  care and planning
To be just right
When they are on the marble floor
Of the spanking urban oasis
Of modern life – for they are
The Mall Girls.
 
They lose their heart early in life
They bunk schools and college,
They forget their homes and kids
To be where their heart is;
Though they found their love
When young,
They remain loyal till the end
They pine to be with their love
Everyday, for they are
The Mall Girls.
 
                                                                 ***

A Poet’s world

A poet lives on a rainbow.
When he descends
to write about the poor,
he fails to notice the tattered clothes,
or the stench of disease
in their sweat, in their breath –
he can only see a brave man
loved by the Gods.
 
The landscapes in his poems
are either sunrise or sunset
(preferably on a beach);
and when he writes of deserts
he misses
the fierce mid-day heat,
the searing sand,
the cacti and the scorpions.
 
The world of a poet
is rhyming, metered, musical.
His ears are not tuned
to register the jarring note
of jealousy and sarcasm.
He believes
that all laughter is joy,
and all smiles are honest.
 
Let us drag the poet
to a market and make him sit
with the ledgers, or the beggars;
let’s make him carry coal
on an empty stomach.
And in the evening, let’s take him
into the graying lanes
where the mobs feed on the innocents.
Let’s squeeze poetry
out of the poet.
 
***
 

The plagues of…

Doomsday procedure began yesterday.
No one noticed.
Terror attacks, poison gas leaks,
Freak weather storms, plane crashes,
Pestilence and disease-
Everything happened.
It was just like any other day.
 
Man has become a cockroach.
That is a good thing.
They can live in filth, tolerate a lot of poison;
They are immune to the sufferings
Of fellow men.
Plagues of Biblical proportions
Does not worry them any more.
 
Even those who died
Did not notice.
Living in hell, all their lives
There was little noteworthy change
In circumstances.
The strange faces of new neighbours
Was not even noticed.
 
The issue of burning earth
Was debated at the UN.
When the AC of the General Assembly failed
The leaders shook their heads in disgust.
The rich nations said it was not their cars,
But the rice fields of the poor,
That was at the root of all trouble.
 
The doomsday procedure
Did affect traffic in many cities.
The burning roads, the lightning strikes
Was intolerable enough- the failed traffic light
Made many reach the offices late. They honked
At those who ran on the roads, burning, naked.
 
***
 

Love: Fresh enquiry into an old subject

I asked my friends the old question –
What is love?
 
I had asked, just to pass
A summer afternoon.
 
I present the results
Without naming names.
 
‘The searing pain in the chest
Is love.’
 
‘The bitter-sweet urge for revenge
To choke someone in an embrace
Is love.’
 
‘The feeling of drowning
And the need to hold on tight,
Is love.’
 
‘The obsession. The desire for more
And more, of the same,
Is love.’
 
‘The fear of loving, the panic,
Is love.’
 
‘The doubt that this might be love
Is love.’
 
‘The taste of butterscotch with honey
Is love.’
 
‘The hallucination of being at the centre of the universe
Is love.’
 
‘The possessiveness, the selfishness
Is love.’
 
‘The madness, the self-less-ness
Is love.’
 
‘The illusion of love
Is love.’
 
‘The promise of love
Is love.’
 
I seriously doubt
The sanity of my friends.
 
I think I have to search further afield
To know the answer to the old riddle-
‘What is love?’
 
***
 
 

Half lived lives

Monkeys do not like to hear their tales to the end.
They are satisfied with the half-told yarns –
Perhaps they fret that they would not like the end.
They dump the unheard parts
On the jungle floor, to rot, or,
To be heard by others, who will,
Therefore, only half understand them.
 
People live their lives like that.
They begin living their life all eager and keen,
But then, due to boredom or cowardice,
They throw away the rest of it.
They leave a lot of love and hate
And dreams and hopes and desires and goals
For others to make some sense of.
 
You can find a lot of half-told tales
Lie rotting, in the jungles,
And a lot of half-lived lives
In the cites.
 
***

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