Monday, November 28, 2016

The Perfect Winter Read

"There is a legend about a bird which sings just once in its life, more sweetly than any other creature on the face of the earth. From the moment it leaves the nest it searches for a thorn tree, and does not rest until it has found one. Then, singing among the savage branches, it impales itself upon the longest, sharpest spine. And, dying, it rises above its own agony to outcarol the lark and the nightingale. One superlative song, existence the price."

- Colleen McCullough
(The Thord Birds, Page 422, 30th Anniversary Edition)

What are your expectations from winters? Mine are rather simple. Warmth. Whether it comes via a fond conversation over drinks, or through mid-morning strolls in the beautiful monuments of Delhi. Or through a book which makes you forget all else as you plunge nose-deep into it's world of romance. Along with a steaming cup of Earl Grey as you lie limp wrapped in a blanket. 



While the first two expectations I am still working on, the last got fulfilled through the most gorgeous read which was literally thrust into my hands by the very sweet librarian at Shiv Nadar School, Gurgaon. Titled 'The Thorn Birds', I had no idea it was every bit the literary classic I had wanted to lay my hands on since long. It just looked thick, and good enough to hide behind the pages off for a while. And so, I grabbed it and began turning pages at the solemn pace the story demands out of a reader. 

It is not a page turner - a book like this never can be. It is a tale which makes you shut the covers once in a while to reflect, not necessarily on the contents of the story, but perhaps on the universal condition and experience of humans and humanity. It doesn't make you feel wretched; but it makes you realise how equal a participant you are in the inescapable suffering and pain which comes packaged with life. It makes you belong to this world, in its tribulations, if not the triumphs. 

But this is not all why I enjoyed reading the book. I loved it because it churned the ordinary into grand. To call it a love-story between Meggie Cleary and Ralph de Bricassart would be too less. It is a life story extending to three generations, taking the reader painstakingly through every detail, every season, every loss, and every minute of maturing which the characters undergo. It contains characters who are not shy of evolving or altering. These characters - people - respond not to their impulsive vows bound in time and situations, but to life itself. They respond to fears, tragedies, prospects and desires just like we would. It is fabulous to see how at the end, you can actually pin-point all incidents which led to the complex layers that have evolved within each character. That, dear friends, is very, very fine writing. 

A tall, imposing presence in the text is that of Drogheda - the land on which most of the story is based. Even when the tale ventures beyond the land and sea, Drogheda remains conspicuous by its absence. What is profound about this spatial dimension is that just when you are led into believing that there is a permanence which we all must return to, you're made to realise that such permanence can never be earthly. It has to be divine. It has to be of the realm beyond. 

The author - Collen McCullough - who died aged 77 last year.
And finally, the one reason the book will stay with me is because it taught me to see fulfilment in tragedies. It makes you believe that you may begin with a love story, and end up with another. It showed me how answers come to those who believe, not to those who doubt. And also because it, unerringly, and non-judgmentally, brought up the beautiful discrepancies as they exist between genders - through the upbringing, conditioning and also, intuitively perceiving the world. 

Like I said, calling this a love story would be too less. It is a story of lives - many lives, lived and lost. Most certainly recommended to all looking for something replete with grand ordinariness, and ordinary grandeur. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Moments of Epiphany

I have not written since a long time. I have made plans. Elaborate lists with themes. I have created full length stories in my head. I have saved pictures to write poems on. I have clicked images of people and their characters in my head. All for the sake of someday returning to Nascent Emissions and penning them all down, but each week presented a new picture of my own failure to my head. The amount of stories I have now hoarded inside me is nothing short of criminal. And the curious part is, it is not a crime against humanity, so much as it is a sin against my own heart which has now grown heavy, very heavy with the weight of all that is untold, and unshared.

Today, however, something triggered a change, forcing me to open my laptop, even though the hours are late and office time near. I had planned on sleeping the entire day - thanks to the constant dizziness caused by the Delhi smog, till I remembered a commitment. Two very sweet girls - Ditsa and Pushpangana had invited me over to give a short talk at their monthly get-togethers to encourage prose writers. They call their endeavour - Euphoric Epiphanies - a complex name signifying a very basic human urge, that to write and then to share what has been written with so much heart and labour. Of course, in the presence of a warm and receptive audience.



So I dragged myself out, reached the meet-up an hour late with an itchy throat and itchier head (thanks, again, to the Delhi smog), and was given a fabulous welcome note (most of which I missed), post which I shared a little something on prose-and-poetry writing. The writers who had collected at the spot, the beautiful Hauz Khas Monument Complex, gave me more than their ears, when they engaged in a discussion about what they find more solace in - prose or poetry. Surprisingly, most of them found poetry to be their calling, since prose demanded more 'effort', or did not come as naturally to them. While for the latter reason, I feel convinced, I am nowhere as satisfied with writers taking to a form of writing because it is easier. Poetry demands as much, if not more effort, because of the gravitas of thoughts and the unity of meaning which a poet constantly aspires towards while churning out lyrics in the most apt words, with music, and with metaphors yet to be unravelled and understood by the world.

I also read aloud my favourite prose passage from a book titled Ammi - Letters to a Democratic Mother, authored by Saeed Akhtar Mirza. The excerpt dwelt upon the simple, yet profound love story of the author's parents - Nusrat Beg and Jahanara Begum. In the simplicity of that tale, I know many hearts felt the weight of their own heaviness lift off.

It was already a very fulfilling day, but became grand when I received a special handmade gift from the organisers (I love gifts - always remember that!). Ditsa and Pushpangana (and Tavishi) put together a little box crafted like a book for me. This box/book was titled 'Nascent Emissions', and this is when I realised how others still remember what I have conveniently forgotten. With over 230 posts, this blog has chronicled most of me, through the best and worst of times. And thanks to the kindness shown by the girls, I had to get back here and pen a little of whatever I could. Truth be told, a lot came to me in life because of this virtual collection of very personal writings - my first writing assignments, as well as a little recognition in the world of bloggers. This blog, in fact, also served as the live portfolio for my first job!



So, thank you Ditsa, Pushpangana and Tavishi, for putting together this heartwarming labour of love. I would keep it very close to my heart. Thank you also for the pretty bookmarks with prettier quotes on them - all of which, by the way, are my favourites! How do you people know me so well? Cyber stalking, eh? And those notes on coffee smeared pages - sigh! How do I even begin to say how loved they made me feel?

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Continue doing pretty things to make our smog-ridden world a more tolerable place to live in. And thank you, yet again, for shoving the words 'Nascent Emissions' in my face, and having me land up back here, happily!

I hope the associations forged today continue a tad longer :) 

Monday, September 12, 2016

100 Days of Poetry - Part II

So, on 18th July, 2016, I began this series called #100DaysOfPoetry, and decided that I am going to collate the individual poems here in sets of 10.

The first 10 can be read here - Part 1

The next 10 are -

11. John Donne - The Good Morrow

Context - I studied this during my Masters in Jamia, and instantly fell in love with this love which is beyond cartographic definitions.

Poet - Among the greatest of metaphysical poets, John Donne is also remembered for his profound prose. He was the master of 'conceits', which are a category of metaphors where the comparison is rather abstract. In fact, Helen Gardner has famously commented on conceits by calling them a 'comparison whose ingenuity is more striking than their justness.'

Takeaway - The beautiful notion that when you are with your lover, your world converges in the little space you inhabit.


12. C. Day Lewis - Walking Away

Context - I found this hidden away in this amazing book called 'Poetry Please', which is a collection of the 100 popular poems from BBC Radio 4 programme. 

Poet - Cecil Day Lewis has held the distinction of being the Poet Laureate of UK. A 20th century poet, he is of Anglo-Irish origins. If you have ever heard the name Nicholas Blake - the author of detective novels, he is the same guy. Till date, he is remembered as a voice of revolution in poetry and politics. 

Takeaway - The last line - "And love is proved in the letting go."






13. Agha Shahid Ali - Tonight

Context - FAVOURITE poem. By far. 

Poet - A Kashmiri poet, Agha Shahid Ali is a dear, favourite voice from the postcolonial corpus. His poems smell of nostalgia, of a lost land, of lost culture, of despair, of identity, of conflict and seamlessly blend traditional notions with modern connotations. He is credited with giving ghazals their just place in English language. And I can go on about him, 

Takeaway - Each couplet in this poem is a discourse in itself. The poem in the attached image is incomplete - find a version which has the epigraph. This is a ghazal in English, following each rule by the book of the Persian poetic form. And it is beautiful. So beautiful. By the way, can you figure out who is the narrator in this poem?





14. Judith Wright - Failure of Communion

Context - Judith Wright lay on the unexplored terrain of poets for me, especially since the first poem I read of hers was supposedly a 'ghazal', and it just did not seem to be one. That put me off. Rediscovery began with this poem.

Poet - Wright is an Australian poet and environmentalist. Among her poems, 'Woman to Man' has the most hallowed status. And rest, I am still exploring. 

Takeaway - The subtle sensitivities of relationships encased in-between the words. Oh so nice! 





15. Margaret Atwood - The Moment

Context - Stumbled upon it while randomly googling Margaret Atwood poems. (Yes, I do that.)

Poet - Atwood is a contemporary legend. On her recent visit to Delhi, she has been known to cause a stampede. Of Canadian origins, she dons many hats - poet, environmentalist, novelist, critic etc. Handmaid's Tale is perhaps her most read work. 

Takeaway - Stoicism. That is my takeaway. What is yours?




16. Lord Byron - She Walks in Beauty

Context - Among love lyric, this has been in my imagination since much before I can recall. Many writing exercises have begun with these oft-quoted words. 

Poet - Byron is a Romantic poet, and also the genesis point of the term 'Byronic Hero' - the charming recluse, or the tortured charmer. Byron himself, being a Romantic poet, dwelt extensively on the theme of 'nature' and its dichotomy with civilization and urban living. Nature, while being used to evoke metaphors, was also the all powerful entity, and an apt companion for humanity. 

Takeaway - Beauty, and a companion for lovelorn nocturnal readings. 




17. P. B. Shelley - Good Night

Context - I just needed a nice 'good night' wish to send across to a friend and was reminded of this. 

Poet - Another Romantic poet. Like fellow Romantics, he too dwelt deeply on the power of nature, and in addition, the power of human intellect. He saw the poet as a seer, a commentator and a visionary. 

Takeaway - Thinking what is a 'good night' for me. 





18. e e cummings - i carry your heart with me

Context - This has been a poem which is close to my heart for its simplicity and for being a literal specimen of meaning lying 'between the lines' and hidden along punctuations. 

Poet - cummings is remembered for his eccentric usage of punctuations - you'll find no use of capitals, abrupt parentheses, lines beginning after gaps - and this was not all random. Meanings, gaps, emotions could be located in the way the words were arranged. Though inspired by the avant-garde style, much of the content of his poems is traditional. 

Takeaway - Simplicity and universal assertions on love. Carrying your beloved's heart in yours, firmly, carefully. 





19. Frank O'Hara - To John Ashbery

Context - Friendship Day

Poet - Frank O'Hara is an American critic, writer and poet. Interestingly, his work is inspired by Jazz, surrealism and abstract art. 

Takeaway - O'Hara wrote many poems to Ashbery, his friend of 20 years, whom he affectionately called 'Ashes'. This one was penned in 1954, and here he imagines them both reading this together like a pair of ancient Chinese poets. 





20. Keats - quote on Poetry

Context - I cannot stop being inspired by the Romantics, can I? Late night Twitter scrolling led me here. 

Poet - Keats is, again, Romantic. And he propounded the 'negative capability' theory of poets, of which I am such a fan. 

Takeaway - He calls 'imagination' truthful. Can you see how subversive and beautiful is it at the same time?


The next 10 will come up soon :) 


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Why PC Scares Me

All this is a little scary, really. And that is because I believe in balance. I believe in binaries. I believe in the net being zero, always. I believe in good being neutralised by bad, smile with sorrows, and heaven with hell.

The fear stems from the fact that perhaps the Almighty has reserved hell for me post mortal departure, because what I am living in at present is, definitely, closest to what heaven would seem like.



Would you believe it, that exists a place on the planet, in the heart of our very own city, where -
- people listen more than they talk
- people are unafraid of expressing all good thoughts
- negative thoughts are as good as non-existent, not just on the surface, but deep down below
- books are shared and hoarded like the greatest treasure
- smiles are the currency to buy and invest in invaluable human emotions
- humility is indispensable, but so is show-off with a casual shrug
- you are allowed to be you, just you, but you have no option but to be the best version of yourself.

I am, of course, referring to PC, which as become more than a mere poetry sharing forum now. If it was just that, it wouldn't have come so far. It is a place where we all are nourishing thoughts, cradling words and bringing up such verses which attract our collective emotions, while being distinctly unique. It is a zone for us to connect not just with each other, but also with our common heritage - because acquiring knowledge is non-negotiable focus. It is a haven for kindred spirits to gain touch with themselves, while they go about shaking hands and hugging each other.



If there was ever a live example for you to understand how hugs heal, this is it.

Poets' Collective is going to be 2 years old soon, but I have already lived a lifetime ensconced within its secure embrace and caring warmth.

Last meet up was a revelation for me to understand and witness the scale we've achieved - in terms of numbers and goodwill. And I will go back where I began - it is scary. Sustaining scale, perhaps, is easy; but sustaining beliefs is not.

Couple of us, at this end, will always try and keep our hearts in the right place as we try and give solace to yours. If I was to talk as PC, I would thank you all, who come and spend time with us, love us, tickle us and then overwhelm us.

And then, as Adhiraj bhai says, #GadarKaayamRahe.


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Mythical


I

We make myths out of the unrealized.

II

Love untouched
Is love curled
Into a scared ball
Pushed against the wall
Of the darkest passages
Of your most familiar,
Personal dungeon.
Love untouched,
Is not love undone.

III

He crept with feline grace
Shimmering, into that glass filled
With the only true liquid love.
He reflected, contorted,
Changing forms.
Elegant now.
Grotesque later.
Caught in a glass.
Tightened in a bottle.
Corked in a vision.
Free in the world.
Invisible in the Universe.

IV

Things fall apart
But the centre holds.
Silly centre.
Caught into its own
Twists
And twirls
And folds.

V

Love unrequited
Has its colours.
Break it through a sheet of liquid.
Sparkling clear?
Blurred, dear?
Buried, fear?

VI

While walking through a desert
I conjured a water in my mind
I conjured mirage in my mind
An illusion of an illusion later
I conjured comfort in my mind
(Illusory, from the disillusioned)

VII

Liquid love, is not life force.
Liquid love, is love, and liquid.
It is love, which is liquid.
Hence it flows,
Like fluids, it grows,
To take shapes of visions,
You were scared to profess.
Dreams are comfortable,
Risk-free.
Or, are they, really?

VIII

Myths were created for truth.
Layered with dust of a millennia
Shrouded within tongues infinite
They gain magic, lose truth.
What is our truth, my dear?
Our love is magic, or a myth, mere?
Was our story made by us?
Or kindled under a curtained hush?

IX

She talks for both, when he talks for none.

X

Love untouched,
Is not love undone.
Love unloved,
Is love left pure
A gentle cure
To heart’s busiest hum.
The din of dreams,
Conflicted streams.
Pain is but a figure of speech. 

XI

Loving is so short.
Forgetting is so long.
And myths are eternal.




PS – Thanks for Yeats, Neruda and Bachchan.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

100 Days of Poetry - Part 1

I started putting out my favourite poems across social platforms about 10 days ago, in a series called #100DaysOfPoetry. The reason was simple - the innate need to share which impacts you deeply, with a hope that it manages to impact and connect with a few more humans in the same manner. I was pleasantly surprised with the response this little daily initiative generated. On last count, four other friends had started sharing their favourite poems in a similar series.

This seemingly small number also feels grand, because it comes as a good answer for all those who consider poetry esoteric, elite and unreachable. It helps us know what people like us are connecting with. It helps us read great, time-tested poetry, in a period where all of us are just spewing out words under the delusion of being great writers ourselves. Don't get me wrong - I have no problem with people believing they can be great writers. My only problem is with poor reading, and lack of a desire to learn and know from where emerges our heritage of poetry.

So, while the series goes on, I also want to catalogue and chronicle the poems somewhere, lest I forget all the great words and great artists I came in touch with. Here are the first 10 of the poems I shared, compiled for a heart-warming reading rendezvous.

1. Dylan Thomas - 'Do not go gentle into that good night'

Context - I had watched the movie Interstellar. And how can anyone who has watched the movie miss out on this beauty!

Poet - Dylan Thomas was a Welsh poet, and also an extraordinary orator. He died prematurely, at the young age of 39. In this short life, he had acquired fame for poetry, and ignominy for his extreme drinking habits. Popular opinion remembered him as 'roistering, drunken and doomed poet', and while critics remain divided on how brilliant or abysmal his poetry is - I remain in love with two of his works. The one pasted below, and another titled, 'And death shall have no dominion'.

Takeaway - Don't accept doom. Don't accept darkness. Don't accept what others might call a definite down or a certain calamity. Stay alive. Behave alive.



2. Pablo Neruda - 'We have lost even this twilight'

Context - When I am even slightly mushy, and I want to read something which I know for sure will hit my heart, I randomly pick up Neruda. He never disappoints. 

Poet - Neruda was a Chilean poet, politician and diplomat. Interestingly, Pablo Neruda was only his pen name, but he later legalised this into his official name. His most beautiful collection of poems is in a book called 'Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair', and I cannot thank Dr. Saif Mahmood (Saif bhaiya to me), for gifting it to me last Diwali. Melancholy, love and eroticism effortlessly combine into his poetry, and dissolve into the soul of the reader. 

Takeaway - Vivid images and this warm, but sad feeling of love inside my heart. I draw no meanings from Neruda's poetry. I draw only love. And a calming despair. 




3. Akif Kichloo - 'Let us ignore the stars tonight'

Context - Chanced upon it some months ago. Kept it close to myself. Stumbled upon it just in time for sharing. 

Poet - I do not know much about him, except I know he is a contemporary poet and a product of digital postmodernism. He posts his poems on Instagram and has a steady following. Also, I discovered I have a common contact with him, and hence, I am dying to invite him to a future edition of a PC meet up!

Takeaway - The precision in the thought that 'lonely will always love you more'.




4. Strickland Gillilan - 'Watch Yourself Go By'

Context - I have no idea where and when I learnt this poem, but it has been a part of my childhood. For the longest time, I did not even know the name of the poet, but this was a good way of discovering. 

Poet - Gillilan is an American poet. Other than that, I have zero knowledge of him!

Takeaway - It helps sometimes to step out of your skin and see yourself as others would. Not to create pressure, but just to gain perspective to oneself. Try it. 




5. Walt Whitman - 'O Captain! My Captain!'

Context - 'Dead Poets' Society', what else? Duh! Immortal lines from a poet made immortal by an immortal movie. 

Poet - One of America's all time greatest poets, and a trailblazer himself. Sample his poems, any. If you're lost, pick up a copy of 'Leaves of Grass' and lose yourself to the 'power' of his words. His words are literally powerful, and that is why he ruled over 19th century poetry. Most importantly, he understood and advocated for a relationship between poetry and society, both potent of affecting each other positively. 

Takeaway - Reliving that last scene and feeling vigour run in my veins as I read it aloud to myself. Poetry is meant to be read aloud. Inspiring generations to action. 


6. Hoshang Merchant - 'Poem'

Context - I had picked up Merchant's anthology, called 'Sufiana', which compiled his poems written at different times in life. This poem, titled 'Poem', comes from there. 

Poet - Hoshang Merchant is an Indian English language poet, born, curiously, in the year 1947. About a year or more ago, I had heard him recite in the India International Centre, and I remember being serenaded by both, his presence and his recitation. I later learnt he is gay, and has edited India's first anthology of gay writings. Reading him left on me the impression of a poet rather well read himself, functioning within the strains of memory, identity and history - the rubric of postcolonial writings. 

Takeaway - Look at the imagery. Look at how the physical transcends to emotional, and leaves a sort of spiritual satisfaction in completing that journey to the earth. 




7. Thomas Hardy - 'A Confession to a Friend in Trouble'

Context - Found this on Twitter, shared by @Syddie. 

Poet - I could never cope with Hardy as a novelist, and had no inkling he wrote such wonderful poetry! Hardy the poet proved to be better than Hardy the novelist. His Victorian realism remains a struggle, but his poetry found a smooth way to my heart. 

Takeaway - I am analysing that still, but even at first reading, the poem left on me an impact of strength and hope. 



8. William Wordsworth - 'She dwelt among the untrodden ways'

Context - The Lucy poems are among my all time favourite and I often catch myself reciting them. Unaware. Like an old childhood melody. This poem just popped in mind. 

Poet - Wordsworth is, of course, the great Romantic poet. He is my favourite among all the Romantics, a view not favoured by the well-read and well-informed literary enthusiasts, but I cannot help falling for his simplicity time and time again. Nature, love, emotions find easy expressions in his poetry, and what I connect with is the nurturing solitude which recurs in his poems - as if worldly engagements are a contamination poets must necessarily keep away from. 

Takeaway - Beauty. Despair. Simplicity.




9. Elizabeth Bishop - 'The art of losing'

Context - Shared by Supriya Kaur Dhaliwal, a wonderful poetess herself, who began her #100DaysOfPoetry series with this!

Poet - Literally zero idea!

Takeaway - I once read that you are not made by the things you have, but the things you missed. This poem reminded me of that, and the depths to which art makes you go and investigate, even at the cost of generating chaos. 




10. Walt Whitman

Context - Rains! Random reading up on poetry on the rains led me to this beauty. 

Poet - Not even 10 days and Whitman is back on my list! Read up on him in poet number 5. 

Takeaway - An enhanced beauty of rains :)



Monday, July 25, 2016

The Liberalization Generation

I was one among the 4 individuals who features in the Sunday Magazine of the Indian Express, which talks about the liberalization generation and their choices, pressures and aspirations. In a conversation which stretched over a couple of days, many things became apparent to me as I spoke to Ankita, who asked incisive questions to put her story together. Titled, 'The Winner Takes It All', the page long story brings out the concerns and comforts of our generation, which evolved alongside the Economic Reforms to which our country owes much of its present shape. You can read the whole story here - http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/life-style/the-winner-takes-it-all-2931791/ - and it was a privilege to be featured alongside my friend - Akshat Mittal, whose comment on how our generation has the ability to convert passions into professions was my pick of the lot.

While talking to Ankita, I realised, how fortunate are we to belong to our times. We do have our share of pressures, but the opportunity to exist as unique individuals is overwhelming, and available to all. The internet and social spaces have eliminated any filtering interface, which makes it that much easier to build ourselves into a version of our Visions. The opportunity is democratic - the skill and perseverance is the differentiator. Our aspirations are set high, and hence our focus must be set higher. The perils are there - too much interactivity, too many choices, too much distraction, too much pressure (active and passive both) - but the deterrents (and deterring addictions) have existed in all ages, and so shall they continue to. The point I am trying to make is, anytime someone tries to talk to me about social media as taking away from reality - I have scores of examples to quote where digital has been used (exploited) to create, curate and inspire real experiences. Secondly, it is time we understood virtual experiences as a part of our reality - enriching, informing, integrating and entertaining. And thirdly, if there are individuals who prefer a virtual existence to real - I'd like them to have it. Digital-social spaces have been empowering for people whose physical participation was often unconsciously discriminatory. Persons with Disabilities are a case in point.

The space to exist is huge. The chance to construct our dreams is tremendous. The power to bring people together is unprecedented. And the opportunity to just be ourselves, assertively firm and fluidly evolving, is overwhelming. Your struggle - to find who you are, what drives you, what lends you happiness, and what do your doggedly dream of.

There. For more perspectives, hop onto the Indian Express link and read on!

Read here - http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/life-style/the-winner-takes-it-all-2931791/

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Love, Language, Literature

Her words
The ones she had borrowed
From love
Life
And literature
Left my palms aglow
As I rubbed them softly
Between my hands
Firmly pressing them into
The meandering lines of destiny
Filling up the cracks
Caused by an undone future.

The haste of chronicling
Her unbridled, scattered utterances
Dried up all ink I carried
But the nib continued scratching
Invisible letters
I later caressed
And comforted with my fingers
Sans comprehension.

Am I supposed to get meanings,
Or intents?
Am I to follow language,
Or expression?
Am I to catch words,
Or flow with the flow?
Am I to find myself whole,
Or scattered in fragments of her story?

The language of love
And of literature
Often leaves a true student illiterate.

Image Source - http://gihsphoto2.weebly.com/assignment-9-book-photography.html


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Communicating on Communication

When I begin wondering, I wonder till the beginning. Even if that sentence sounded syntactically wrong, that is the best way I can put it. I wonder a lot, about a lot of things. Somehow, I am always keen to know where it started, how it started, who started it, how did it catch on. The search which thus ensues leads me on to very interesting vistas of knowledge, interpretation and analysis.

The thing I have been wondering about most, of late, is 'Communication'. This happened as a result of a work-place assignment, which needed me to build a programme on communications for students, including aspects of verbal, written, visual and digital communication. We named it 'creative communications', because we thought of firmly instilling the 'creative process' in the minds of our students (at Shiv Nadar School - for those who did not know where I worked), while giving them exposure to and insight into relevant skills and the practice thereof.



While I had an entire module ready on the nuances to touch while dealing with distinct aspects of communication, what intrigued me, again, was where did it all start? How did humans start talking? When did they realise they could produce sounds? Forget sounds, how did they realise that they could use gestures and organise actions and elicit reaction? Since language (and gestures) pre-date writing by aeons, there, obviously, exists no written record of the same.

A good way of understanding things which predate organised system of recording knowledge is to delve into myths and oral traditions. Man has the tremendous ability of crafting narratives around most happenings in the world, which have been passed down through generations. These passed down oral narratives hold the key to understanding many things which form the ancient history of mankind.

Now, even in myths, I have not been able to find many tales which relate specifically to the origin of speech (Tower of Babel story is an exception, but it helps one understand distortions, expansion and diversity, rather than origins). In most places, language or speech has been presented as a 'gift from God'. Anything inexplicable is conveniently bracketed here.

The Mythical Tower of Babel
Some interesting answers can be found on Quora in this regard, but my understanding after conducting some decent secondary research is that there is no conclusive word on it. There are biological (evolutionary) roads to understanding speech, and there are sociological routes to doing this. Linguistics based on sociology, of course, interested me more, since Biology bas ki nahi hai. So, I found the following really cutely named (nicknamed) theories on how humans started talking, attributable to various people -

1. Bow Wow Theory
Man probably started talking as an imitation of sounds around him. Humans have learnt much via mimesis, ape-trait, I guess, and language could be claimed under the same. So we'd hear the birds and chirp, hear the wolves and howl, hear the brook and gurgle - aah, the pleasures of the early man days!

2. Pooh-Pooh Theory
According to this theory, sounds were not generated as an imitation of something external, but emerged intuitively from deep within when man experienced extremes of emotions. So you step on a thorn and scream in response - that is the kind of sounds this theory is talking about. Only, these sounds are not unique to humans - they are possessed by most animals who did not end up having a language system as elaborate and nuanced as ours.

3. Ding Dong Theory
This theory is based on the idea that man started referring to objects by the virtue of the sounds they made. It would be like calling a door 'knock-knock'. In fact, a more realistic example can be drawn from the Chinook language, where heart is called 'tum-tum', probably the interpretation of the sounds the beats make. The same 'tum-tum' is used to referred to 'feelings'. So pretty!

4. Yo-He-Ho Theory
This is the sound of effort. Rhythmic chants on grunt noises which people made during organised effort is supposed as a possible source of speech origin. Consider our own 'zor laga ke,, hayeesha!' While hayeesha doesn't mean anything in particular, it is what helps organise action while rowing huge boats.

By now, my students in the class were convinced I had made these up, so I thought it best to not introduce them to the 'Ta-Ta' and 'La La' theories. Truth be told, I do not understand them that well myself.

The question of origin of speech was abandoned for quite sometime, but it gained traction again sometime back. Now, the answers are being searched for in the domain of evolution, using the tool of palaeontology. Some people out there are actually doing really creative work, and this is one field I would love to stay abreast with.

Leave me nuggets of knowledge if you happen to know something on these lines. I'll tell you more about classroom escapades in my future blogs, because these 'Creative Communication' lectures are really teaching me so much! Till then, ta-ta! And la-la-la!

Source - idoartkarenrobinson.com4

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Historicity of the Mahabharata by B. B. Lal - A Glimpse

धर्मे च अर्थे च कामे च मोक्षे च भरतर्षभ
यदिहास्ति तदन्यत्र यन्नेहास्ति न तत्क्वचित् ।

Mahabharata has been a subject of limitless fascination for me, now since two years. It is amazing what interest can make you do. In two years, I have read more texts on Indian history, myths and mythology than anything else, as a result of which, I have grown a lot more thirsty for knowledge than ever before. The desire to know more and more about these historical epics is unquenchable, and it is motivated by this steady desire to understand the origins.

I have this strange belief that if I could understand where I come from, where we come from, where are stories come from, and where our languages come from, I will have a clear vision of where I am and where I am headed.

When I noticed this amazing book titled 'Historicity of the Mahabharata' is the library of Shiv Nadar School, Gurgaon, I know my heart thumped at insane decibels. While we were still debating in the realm of imaginative discourses if Mahabharata is a historical text, or an imaginative narrative conjured by an ancient bard, here comes in front of me a research laying down ample, convincing evidences to show how a great war did actually take place at Kurukshetra.



Since it a work of pure research, I can provide a plotline of the book. What I can tell you is that to test the veracity of claims of the MB narrative, researcher B. B. Lal undertook many routes - through internal extracts, through excavations, through architecture and through contemporary and later secular texts.

While building an understanding of historicity, the text also serves well to educate a reader about the various topographies to traverse while trying to build an archaeological-historical argument. Not just that, it also delves deeper into relevant sections of the Mahabharat to throw light on the politics of certain instances. For examples, were the Pandavs really being humble in their demand for the paanch graam from Duryodhan, or was they a larger game at play? Think geography and you will have your answer.

While I admit it is an unimaginatively written text, it serves its purpose well - that of piquing interest and setting a seeker on course to find more instances of truth a literary body shrouded in myths, not acquiring religious colours.

Must read for MB lovers!

PS - The next Maha Varta session, whenever that happens, shall revolve around the myth v/s mythology v/s history discussion. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Dear Anonymous Letter Writer - Birthday Chronicles

I make a big fuss of birthdays, each time. Especially if it is mine. Of course.

And you know what counts as luck? When you find others who make a bigger fuss of birthdays than you. And I'm the lucky one, who has not one, but about a dozen crazies around her, who've been investing time and mind into creating little gestures of warmth, leaving a wide, uncontrollable smile on my face.

A recent pretty phenomenon is a red coloured note, which I find stuck to my almirah with the help of magnets, each day when I get back home. These notes/letters contained words of love, which, as hard as I might try, I cannot identify the source of. I thought of cheating, because, it is easy to (all I need to do is steal my sister's phone - I already know the password). But then, I thought of living the experience through. I have analysed the handwriting, the tone, the language, the emotions - and honest admission - I have zero idea of who he or she is. I think the writer is a 'he'. Just, instinct.



So, while I have given up trying to establish the identity of my anonymous pen-friend, let me write him (assuming 'he') a letter of my own. I am doing this, because unresponsiveness is among the things which irks me most in life. Even though I do not know who I am responding to, I will still go ahead and do it, because words deserve words, love deserves love, emotions deserve emotions, and letters deserve letters.

Here goes, a short one, for the person counting down 26 days to my 26th birthday.

Dear anonymous letter writer

I want to thank you. Not for writing to me, but for writing in general. People have quite forgotten the genuineness and touch which ink and paper hold. People have also forgotten that at times, all it takes is one little gesture to completely light up someone's life. Like you are lighting up mine. I look forward to your notes each day. It is a habit I could fondly cultivate. 

Thanks for making me realise how old am I going to be. No sarcasm. I am happy to know how far I have come in life, and also to get a glimpse of how others have journeyed along with me. 

A little word of caution though. When I finally get to know who you are, we'll work a little on your handwriting. No offences, just, my way of saying I think I like you enough to want to work with you. 

Looking forward to note number six. 

Thanks. 

Love, 
Saumya. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

#FolkInVogue - Revisiting Roots

It’s in the click of my heels,  
The bend of my hair,  
the palm of my hand,  
The need for my care.  
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
- Maya Angelou

The evening of 30th March, 2016, was beautiful for many reasons. These reasons, primarily, would fall under three categories - the Place, the People and the Cause. 

Place - We were gathered inside the Asian Paints Color Store, a place I love calling my personal wonderland, for the amount of ideas, expressions and creativity it inspires. A store which gives you live experiences of how wall colours alter and enhance the look your spaces, it has given me many a cool ideas to implement back at home and feel thoroughly satisfied about. 



People - Gathered in the store were some women, who had succeeded in creating an impact by following the call of their passion. They belonged to diverse fields, but were united by the conviction they carried on their faces aglow with the happiness of being together. Each had a story worthy of sharing, and each shared personal narratives worthy of putting into wisdom capsules. 



Cause - A unique concept which blended the tradition with fashion, Asian Paints conceptualised #FolkInVogue to grant greater contemporary relevance to our many dying folk art forms. Gond, Pattachitra, Madhubani and Warli art forms found manifestation on dreamcatchers, scarves, vases and mugs. 



What's even better is that one could witness all these art forms in action - artists practising these many styles of painting were invited to the store to give all the gathered ladies a first hand experience, and even a brief tutelage into practising the art. 

A simple gathering of some stunning ladies, by the end of the evening, turned out to be an experience worth being remembered for a lifetime. Asian Paints surmised the life story of all these ladies in flawless videos, the screening of which evoked pretty emotions in everyone's eyes. In the past too, I have witnessed Asian Paints curate experiences which give voice to diverse shades of art - my own association with them began through poetry.  As they celebrate the modern woman, carrying ahead her roots with elegance, why don't you also attempt to revisit traditions and see how they may apply to your contemporary living spaces? Hop into their Color Store today! 


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Bibliophilia Revisited - Part II

Thanks for reading the earlier post and feeding me some brilliant new titles. Here is the second set of 9 books. Tell me which ones you adore and abhor - and why!
(Also, it took me a while to complete this post - I am finally at the point in life where hours in each day are too few!)

1. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Gifted by Saif bhaiya. He never goes wrong with books and poetry. 

What you remember is a very personal version of what happened. This book, a short text of profound depth, will grill into you precariousness of memory, history and constructs of identity.





2. The Sensualist by Ruskin Bond

Bought from Oxford Bookstore. 

Why this book makes the cut is because this is unlike any Ruskin Bond you might have read. The endearing author who wrote of childhood, hills and nascent relationships suddenly delves into topics of intense and even violent sensuality - a surprise from his corpus.





3. The Last Song of Dusk by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi

This book called out to me from a shelf at Spell & Bound, SDA. The bookstore, unfortunately, does not exist anymore. 

I have misplaced the picture of the book, but it remains indelible on my psyche. It is among my top 5 reads of the entire lifetime. I have a definite crush on the author, and he, in my opinion, is the best writer of Magic Realism among Indian writers in English. The Last Song of Dusk is a masterpiece of intensity, poignance, pain and sensuality. Treat, this book is a treat for any heart!


4. To Sir, With Love by E. R. Braithwaite

Sent to me by Ayush, a cousin from Mumbai.

A classic. This is an autobiographical text about a teacher making a forceful impact on the lives of students. It resuscitates your belief in the institution of education, which, however obsolete in terms of content, can create remarkable differences with the aid of one motivated and enterprising individual. (I am so kicked about being a teacher in a part-time role, more so because I know of such possibilities!)





5. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

Gifted by Gangesh, who remained disappointed with me for the greatest time because I couldn't find time to read this book. 

This is a memoir - about a child growing up along with the world around him. Each new development brings an opinion along with fascination - a wonderful guided tour through the America of mid-20th century.





6. Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda

Gifted by Saif bhaiya, as a Diwali present. His choice, as always, was impeccable. 

I sigh as I read the name of this book. Neruda creates magic while fusing melancholy and love in his verses. Read - there is no other way of understanding this experience. I have gone through each poem here more than six times, and I cannot help but be captivated into a lull each time. A lyrical lull.





7. My Gita by Devdutt Pattanaik

Bought from a roadside book-shack in Green Park.

"Yatha ichchhasi, tatha kuru" is my takeaway from this book. Own your beliefs, be an eternal observer and change along with the times - this is what the text teaches us. The best part is, this text will probably teach you something much different than what it emphasized to me. Pattanaik has created a following for a reason - he makes Indian philosophies accessible, while providing counter-narratives to each. Read this book, and then read this again. I have put it on my TBR this year as well.





8. Urnabhih by Sumedha Verma Ojha

Gifted as a performance reward by Deepak, my boss in the previous organization. 

A love saga set in the Mauryan times, drawing its basic plot from the state espionage system - what else do you need for killer excitement in literature! The author brings an altogether different era alive in front of you - and I experienced racing heartbeats more than once. I was literally sitting on the edge to see plots and sub-plots unfolding with alarming grace as I turned pages. This is highly recommended!




9. Norwegian Woods by Haruki Murakami

Secret Santa gift by Shweta, colleague at Shiv Nadar School, where I am currently employed. 

Need I even spare words on praising Murakami? I will say what I said in a review earlier - Murakami makes sadness titillating. It is a task accomplished with much difficulty and immersion. Norwegian Woods became a part of my blood flow while I read it, and rendered me incapable of reading anything else till long later.




My reading is coming along just fine this year as well. I recently received my Brunch Book Challenge hamper, for having finished 58 books in the past year, and I am more positive now about the ways in which reading can impact your life. Above and beyond all, reading gives you yourself. I don't know if it makes sense, but each time you run a line and its meaning in your head, you're talking to yourself. It brings you at peace with the idea of existence. It also, many times, gives you answers that you had forever been seeking. Read, and keep reading, for there is only so little time to absorb so much out of the Universe.



Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Dreamcatcher

My thoughts meander
In first person
Through geometric patterns
Woven with dreamy glow

I am the centre of the culvert
Which bends towards you
And then disappears behind
A foliage
Of ugliest brown
Vintage solitude.

I am the incline
Of the scale
Which refuses to measure
Your lengths
In my breadths
And the hypotenuse of
Long dead human concern
Longer than the sum
Of your lengths in my breadths.

I am the radius
Of the ellipses
Which dot the ends
And enjambments
In all sentences
Phrases
Murmurs
I create and destroy
Within the haven of
Illuminated text boxes.

I am the angle
Between my desire
And your swollen ego
Acutely aware of the
Obtuse notions
You straightened in your head
At quarter past nine
Over an empty flute of wine.

I am the point at which
Reality blurs
Into forcibly conjured dreams.
Nightmares of your departure
Touched by the feathers
Of my dreamcatcher.

You left.
Nightmares left.
I am the circumference
Around the dreamcatcher
Swaying without a centre