Part-2: The Japanese sense of Aesthetics

japan mono no awareThe Japanese sense of aesthetics is a fine combination of the awareness about the impermanence of things on one hand and appreciation of the inherent beauty of the moment on the other hand. The emphasis on the element of transience or the changing nature of things in Japanese culture and art comes from not only the influence of Budhism, but also from the furies of nature that devastates various regions of Japan from time to time in the form of earthquakes.

However, one must take delight in ‘beauty’ in spite of its impermanence. In fact it is the impermanence that should provide the urgency to appreciate life. The Cherry Blossoms, which is one of the greatest fascinations for the Japanese, flower just about a week in a year. They have a term to describe such delight which has an underlying tinge of sadness about its passing – Mono no aware.

Master chefs take great care to decorate food and to some extent take care in the choice of cutlery. But would they take care of the aesthetics when it comes to sending packed lunch? Well the Japansese do, whether it is food from a hotel or home cooked food. They take care not only of the art of the lunch box but also of the colour and arrangement of the food items inside the box called a Bento Box. There are also various types of traditional and modern styles of arrangement of food inside the box, one popular style being called kyaraben which is the arrangement of food in such  manner as to look like cartoon characters.

If great care is taken to bring in aesthetics into the art of taking food that includes the elaborate tea ceremonies, the complementary part of eating is not neglected. The traditional Japanese toilet is located away from the main building in a grove fragrant with leaves and moss to be in close proximity with nature. Unlike the modern toilets, the interiors of those toilets are not made glossy.

The traditional Japanese toilet is one example of Sabi which is associated with something that has aged and rusty. Things that have aged well and are rusty, desolate, and  tranquil have a beauty of their own. The following poem brings in its spirit the best:

Solitary now —
Standing amidst the blossoms
Is a cypress tree.

If there is beauty in grandeur, there is beauty in simplicity. If one can find beauty in presence, one may find beauty in absence as well. Wabi is exactly about that- finding beauty in absence and austerity. Sometimes a house would be built in such a manner that the walls will not have anything to hinder the appreciation of passing shadow of beams following the movement of sun rays.

Japanese writer Tanizaki captures the essence of Wabi when he describes the beauty of a traditional tea house in his essay, ‘In Praise of Shadows’ :

An empty space is marked off with plain wood and plain walls, so that the light drawn into it forms dim shadows within emptiness. There is nothing more. And yet, when we gaze into the darkness that gathers behind the crossbeam, around the flower vase, beneath the shelves, though we know perfectly well it is mere shadow, we are overcome with the feeling that in this small corner of the atmosphere there reigns complete and utter silence; that here in the darkness immutable tranquility holds sway.

(The second and last installment of free promotion of my book IDLE HOURS will be from 12 to 13 Dec 17. Please download it if you haven’t already done so. I will be glad if you could put your reviews on my Amazon and Goodreads pages.)

The Japanese Sense of Aesthetics

The word Haiku reminds me of millions of awful micro poetic compositions that pass for as haikus in the blogosphere. The other day I came across a couple of such alleged haikus. I don’t remember the wordings but one was about the miserable office wage and another was about the boss who was an asshole.

Come on dear aspiring poet. Any micro poem is not a haiku even if it fulfills the condition of being of seventeen syllables.  According to the Wikipedia page about English Haiku, the first element of a haiku is –  ‘A focus on some aspect of nature or the seasons’. Maybe, our aspiring poet, being a Chetan Bhagat and Ekta Kapoor devotee, interpreted ‘nature’ as human nature and ‘season’ as a series of episodes in the office soap opera.

In addition to being of seventeen syllables and focusing on some aspects of nature or season, the haikus of prominent Japanese poets like Basho evoke the sublime in you due to their meditative, contemplative, and philosophical allusions even though they may describe very ordinary events. Here are a few of my favourite  haikus (translated from the original Japanese)

Since my house
burned down, I now own
a better view
of the rising moon

Enviable leaves
becoming so beautiful
just before falling

Scarecrows are the first 
heroes to fall
in the rush
of the Autumn wind

What a pretty kite
the beggar's children 
fly high
above their hovel

He is unknown 
the poet who sings 
the greatest 
of all songs -- spring

Haiku and spring remind me of the Cherry Blossoms that flower in their fullness in Spring and are inspiration for a million haikus so much so that the word flower has become synonymous with Cherry Blossom for the Japanese.

The other day I was watching a program on NHK (the official TV channnel of Japan) about Cherry Blossoms. Its flowering during the spring season is the most celebrated national event in Japan.  No other country celebrates a natural phenomenon with such religious fervour.

I am yet to visit Japan. But my love affair with the country goes back to childhood days when Radio Japan was one of the  staple diets (along with Binaca Geetmala)  to ward off boredom during those long summer vacations.  Of course, I don’t remember any of the contents now, but I do vaguely remember the feel good effect.

Among Asian nations, Japan is not only the most innovative country as far as technology is concerned, it is also a nation with the most developed sense of aesthetics. I will cover more of my aesthetic impressions about Japan in my coming posts.

Meanwhile, you may think of spending the idle hours of your weekend with my book which is available for free download till 3rd December.

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my book will be available for free download

My book IDLE HOURS will be available for free download between 1st and 3rd December 2017. I have made minor revisions recently and those who have already got it may download it again to get the latest version.

Meanwhile here are a few reviews / feedbacks:

Enjoyed reading the book. At places the humour is hilarious and some places it is very subtle. Most of the articles are for leisurely read, but not all. Some, like the one on the nature of reality and another on Transcendental Mathematics require deeper introspection. The articles are a combination of serious and trivia. Overall, the book is worth one’s time. I could relate with the memoirs too, myself hailing from a remote place of India.

—Srikant Jha on Goodreads

“Idle Hours” which is a collection of articles, thought provoking essays on subjects that are liked by everyone and memoirs of some incidents that took place in Sri Durga Prasad Dashji’s life. As an ardent fan I had read almost all the articles, essays and travelogues written by him through E-magazine as well as his blogs.

I had always been awestruck by the plainness, simplicity and uncomplicatedness with which he writes. All his writings are thought provoking, filled with wit and humour and depict some resemblance to what we see in our daily life.

Dashji has the potential to encapsulate the readers with his deep knowledge on the subject that he writes and more over he uses apt words which naturally makes the readers feel comfortable in understanding it. More than everything he is capable of conveying any message in a lighter vein without hurting anyone.

This compilation has come out as an E-book. Dashji has been a great supporter of paperless communication and he has appropriately come out with this E-book. I read the book and enjoyed reading all the 39 articles some of my favourites are given below.

“MISUNDERSTOOD?”
“OF T-SHIRTS AND SOCIAL ACTIVISM”
“RIP: TELEGRAM- MEMORIES FROM MILITARY LIFE”
“WHEN THE WRAPPER IS CONSIDERED SUPERIOR TO THE GIFT INSIDE”
“COME ON INDIA, DO NOT LOSE YOUR SENSE OF HUMOUR”
I would highly recommend this book to everyone irrespective of age and gender. Kindly buy your copy today.

 – Mani Gopalkrishnan on Amazon

Please email your your feedback to: dpdash@gmail.com

I would also love to read your reviews on  your blog /Amazon/ Goodreads.

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heights of beauty

Manushi Chhillar.jpgCan’t one be lovely without being fair? Is beauty only skin deep?  The facts, of a CBSE topper becoming the miss world this year and the balanced mix of whites, blacks, and browns in top ten of the Miss World pageant, are more than enough to bust these myths.

But one disconcerting question remains. One of the eligibility conditions to participate in the contest (for an Indian) is that a candidate’s height should be at least 5 ft 5 in ( earlier it was 5 ft 6 in). Even though this is the minimum, the past winners of Miss India contests have been around 6 ft. Hence, low height is a disadvantage for any contestant even though she may qualify. I don’t understand why should height be a limiting factor when it comes to be an eligible participant in a  beauty pageant?

I don’t think, from India, there has been any Miss World or Miss Universe who can beat Rekha in grace, elegance or mental agility. Same goes for Vyjayanthi Mala, Jaya Bachchan, Vidya Balan, and many of the past and present Bollywood divas. It is worth noting that the average height of Indian women is 5 ft.

Even though at the international level contest skin colour has never been a disadvantage, it seems it is a disadvantage to win the contest in India. I would be happy to be proved wrong if someone can inform me of a case when a black beauty in India was a finalist in the Indian version of the pageant.

Well there are some other limiting conditions. In order not to give a miss, the girl  should be a miss – literally and biologically and she should not be between 18 and 25. There is an ambiguous condition too: The applicant by nature and habits should carry the traits of a female. Maybe to give a chance to those who missed the contest for not being a miss, they have started the Mrs. world contest.

Such conditions keep a vast majority of the beautiful and talented women of India out of the context. Thus, chosen from the minority sample size, someone winning the contest at the international level contest is a great achievement indeed;  that too in a beauty contest where every contestant’s ultimate dream is to become a Mother Teresa or a female version of a Mahatma Gandhi.

It is wonderful that an Indian girl has become a Miss World. It has happened after a gap of seventeen years. India has equaled the record of Venezuela in terms of most number of winners. However, given the talent that is available in India, if some of the discriminatory conditions are removed, India will not have to wait for another seventeen years to get the next crown. Moreover, it will be in line with the philanthropic ideals of the beauty contests.

 

Thus, here is my first published book

My first published book was supposed to be a book of poetry to celebrate the labours of love of an unsung poet who has been writing poetry off and on for the last three decades. Being a professional procrastinator I had also set a deadline for the completion and the publication of the book.

My first task was to trace out all the poems that I remembered to have written. Beginning from my blog to a number of long forgotten anthologies and magazines. Some poems really surprised me and I gave myself a pat in the back wondering at the same time as to whether I was really the one who wrote those poems, while for some others I wondered why I wrote those poems at all. In majority of the cases the poet and critic in me ‘now’ did not agree with the poet in me ‘then’. Finally the number of poems that passed my quality test fell far short of the numbers required.

There was another consideration though.   When I confided my plan to publish a book of poems to a few trusted ones, their reaction was:  it is OK. But, now a days who buys and reads a book of poetry. There may be a tingling of truth in what they said. Every time I visit famous book stores in the city I struggle to locate the poetry section. After I locate it The few books in the section are either translation of Hindi film songs or anthology of well Known poems that are available in free domain. The works of poets (other than the filmy variety) who are alive and kicking somehow never make it to the standard book stores.

Then I remembered once I had sent a manuscript to a couple of publishing houses. One reputed publishing company had shown interest in the book. Even they wanted me to make certain changes in the manuscript. I carried out those changes and resent the manuscript. They did not reply for a long time. After being reminded their reply as I interpret was something like this:

“Your book is Ok. But as you are a first time author and not widely well known we are a bit worried about its commercial potential.”

It also means that in India, if you are an already well known person or some kind of a celebrity whatever trash you may write will be take up for publication. Hence, in spite of finding some merit in my writing the publishers were worried about its sell potential.

Another alternate was to again approach some new traditional publishers. But, as I have already said in the first paragraph I had set myself a deadline for publication of my first book. Hence, I decided to publish it as an e-book on kindle using the Kindle Direct Publishing Platform.

The book is a work of non-fiction and meant for leisurely read to provide entertainment as well as insight into many personal and social issues. It also includes a few articles (after a lot of re-work) that appeared first on this blog, while some are written exclusively for this book. While some articles are thoroughly humorous, others too have a shade or two. Even though meant for leisurely read, the discerning reader will find glimpses into the nature of reality.

The book is available on Amazon.   Kindle unlimited subscribers can download for free. Please provide your valuable feedback on Amazon and Goodreads.

idle hours

cities inhabitable

air pollution

Hawa mein udta jae,
mora lal dupatta malmal ka
ooo…  ji… ooo ji

Hey girl. Don’t let your dupatta fly off your soft hands. Delhi is approaching. You will need it to cover your nose and mouth.

The air pollution in Delhi reaching alarming proportions is the top trending news these days. Of course for the weak lunged, most of the Indian cities are increasingly becoming inhabitable. After shifting to Bangalore when I went to a doctor friend for my persistent cough, the first advice he gave was to leave Bangalore.

In the WHO list of most polluted cities in terms of outdoor pollution, ten Indian cities have the honour of being included in the top twenty.  Delhi, which ranks fifth among Indian cities, gets highlighted the most because, the media men and VIPs stationed there think Delhi is the world.

Air pollution in cities has become a common phenomenon in hugely populated developed countries. Countries like India and China with their affluent population crowding the cities experience it the most. Recently there were newspaper reports that many city dwellers in China are forced to flee the cities.

In India, the major causes of pollution are industrial and vehicular emissions and inefficient cooking fuel. According to the WHO report the air quality in many of the thickly populated rural areas do not provide a back up for the city dweller.

Adulterated vehicle fuel and traffic congestion worsen the situation in cities. Following the example of China, the Delhi government implemented the odd even scheme to reduce number of vehicles on the road. But the impact of such schemes has not been on expected lines and these schemes are likely to end up as symbolic gestures in the long run as people find innovative ways to bypass the system. Maybe, the time has come for tougher measures like banning of all four-wheelers other than public transports and ambulances on fixed days.

Those who commute to office for less than  five kms can easily pedal to office. The healthier and more enthusiast ones will not mind the distance, provided there are dedicated cycle tracks. We need to create more awareness in this regard and the city planners must focus on decreasing traffic congestion and encouraging people to pedal around the city.

The sharp increase in use of personal vehicles can be attributed to increase in purchase power. But economic empowerment of people cannot be and should not be reversed. No doubt pollution is a byproduct of modernisation. However, scientific development in one field can be used to counter the ill effects of scientific development of another field. We can focus on developing technologies to have affordable cars like Nano or, improving the vehicles that run on no fuel. Further increase in standard of living makes people abandon basic bikes and cars in favour of luxury brands that consume more fuel. Problem is – it is the inessentials with money power who also influence legislative decisions. Thus, it becomes difficult to legislate and implement simple and practical solutions.

For a growing economy with a huge population the situation can only get worse as we go for more investment in manufacturing sector. Hope, side by side with the improvement of our ranking in ease of doing business,  we took tough steps to ease out our ranking from pollution index.

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This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

Get a copy of my book ‘Idle Hours- Humour|Memoir|Essays ‘to read more of my takes on  social, trivial and selfhelp issues. You may find some of them hilarious too.  

Remembering those notebandi days

Remembering those notebandi days ( Originally written after a few days of demonetization)

One Life is not Enough

Random Notes

The times are such that, neither are notes so random nor do they have any  association or destination other than the bank. The whole nation is in queue for a few ‘tukda’ notes. It is Saturday night and as we finalise our plan to visit Chinchi Falls and Mekedatu as part of our weekend getaway, we are reminded, we have forgotten to factor in legal tender notes to our itinerary. So we rush to the nearby ATM. Though there is still a queue, we manage to get some of those extremely rare pieces of paper and come back home by 11:30 P.M.

It is ‘7’ o clock in the morning when we start our trip. However, people have already left home long back for their  ‘Cash’ mission and we notice long queues in front of every ATM or Bank that we pass.

Four days earlier, on my way to…

View original post 602 more words

Sunday Musings and Random Notes #9

While last Sunday was spent hearing the sales pitch of established authors at the Bangalore Literature Festival, this Sunday I am taking the first step towards establishing myself as a book author. Or, so do I think.

I have finalised my first book which is a compilation of selected articles from my armory of published and unpublished compositions.  Even some articles which were published earlier underwent extensive revision. I tried to put the old wine in completely new bottles so much so that some bottles, that earlier opened from the top, now open from the bottom, making a few things go topsy turvy in the bargain. Of course, some new bottles have found new wine too.

Coming to the literature festival, this time it was heavily tilted towards the ‘left’. Kanhaiah Kumar, who was too afraid to come to Bangalore last time, was made the star attraction in spite of the presence of twinkling stars like Mrs Funnybone. The left have always dominated the press and publishing scene in India. Two years back they faced a minor threat and fear. Seems, this year their bullying bore fruit with the near absence of any right wing representation to bring in balance to the discourses.

This is a sad dilution of the festival’s original agenda. It was supposed to be a different literature festival that sought to bring contrarian voices to one platform. What happened in 2015 is detailed in this firstpost article. The only crime of the Sahitya Academy winner author Vikram Sampath, who was one of the organisers, was that he refused to join the band wagon of ‘award wapsi’ authors. This did not go down well with the so called ‘liberal’ authors so much so that they threatened to boycott the festival and pressurised others to do so, with the result that Vikram Sampath had to step down to save the festival. That is how the tolerant and liberal Indian intellectuals, who champion free speech, counter contrarian points of view.

Even though we call ourselves a country with a great culture and so on, it is cricket and films that dominate our fascination. Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid took the limelight on the first day. On the second day, the session of the great classical dancer Sonal Mansingh was scheduled after that of Twinkle Khanna. It was heartening to see many audience  members leaving immediately after Twinkle left. However, this did not dampen the enthusiasm of the virtuoso who has seen so many vicissitudes in her life. Majority of the audience members who left were young people who would have definitely found the story of Sonal Mansingh highly inspiring.

sonal mansinghThis is not to undermine the achievements of Mrs. Funnybone.  Both were born with silver spoons in their mouths. In spite of upheavals in personal life and classical dancing not having the huge earning potential compared to acting in films or writing bestsellers (that have the potential of being turned into films), Sonal stuck to the pure form of classical dance and has led a modest lifestyle. She recounted how she had promised her grand father that she would never make dance a commercial venture and she has stuck to it in spite of facing financial difficulties from time to time.  For her, dance has been a journey of self discovery like any other sincere seeker on a spiritual path or a yogi.

I first saw Sonal Mansingh some seventeen  years back in a setting in terms of place and time that was not conducive to leisurely appreciation of one of the most intricate dance forms. We were in the middle of Kargil war and it was a forward base close to the centre of action. She came there with her Odissi dance troupe. For a soldier on active duty, it was a welcome temporary relief and a morale booster. What was appreciable was her timely gesture. Of course it  has become a fad for many film stars to visit defense units and interact with the soldiers. These are perfectly timed gestures too,  coinciding with the release of their films.

Earlier in the day a ‘white’ lady in a ‘bright’ sari was drawing a lot of attention. It was German poet Jessy James LaFleur. More interesting was the content of what she said.

I come from Germany and a high percentage of women there are subject to sexual assault. But, India has been portrayed in a very bad light by the media. I personally have felt very safe walking the roads of Coimbatore. Men have been pleasant while women have come to take selfies with me.

While limit it only to the media Madam. Our celebrity ambassadors who go abroad are no better.

So, Mr Amitabh Bachchan! Here is a lesson for you.  You are a great actor and I am a very hardcore fan of your acting. Let me remind you that you are also a son of a great intellectual.  Next time when you go to US and people raise question about crime against women in India, don’t be apologetic and react like a dumb ass actor who must always act and speak out the script handed out to him. Tell them without feeling inferior and with the confidence of your character Deenanath Chouhan:

Yes. There are crimes against women in India and we are working on that. But, with an ex-groper as the president and with 70% girls getting sexually assaulted during their preteen years,  your country has a far worse record and you do not have any moral authority to point fingers at India.

 

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This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

 

today flowers blossom in me

Usually, the commuting to and from the office is the most unpleasant experiences of a working day in a city like Bengaluru so much so that when someone asks, ‘what is the distance of your office from home’, I say, ‘it is one and a half hours to two hours depending upon the mood of the traffic of the day’. Of course, in terms of physical distance it is only 25 km one way.

But today while going to office flowers blossom in me.

In spite of the fact that it is a post holiday working day. Today is Diwali. It must be a holiday for the Indians in the north of the Vindhyas. However, for many offices including the central government ones, yesterday was the official Diwali holiday. The thin traffic indicates that in spite of it being a working day, many thought in true Indian spirit that a day like Diwali ruled in favour of staying at home over whiling away time on mundane office affairs.  I also learn that officially it is Diwali off day for some.

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian BloggersIt is such a pleasant experience to drive on Bengaluru roads on some of the busiest routes on a working day with thin traffic. I ruminate whether there is a remote possibility that in distant future a time will come when every working day traffic will be like this. Why limit the traffic problem to only working days. Even on weekends you may have a horrible time while negotiating with the Bengaluru traffic on many stretches. I am reminded of those lazy weekends twenty five years back when I used pedal around Bengaluru the whole day sometimes alone, sometimes accompanied by a friend. If I do it now the doctor may, in stead of calling it a healthy habit,  discount my life expectancy by five years.

But today flowers blossom in me.  Bangalore is a cool beautiful city. What make it hell are its potholed roads, made worse by the incessant rain of the last couple of weeks. And the bumper to bumper laborious traffic. Today, free from the care of the bumper to bumper traffic, I can smell and feel the cool breeze passing through the roadside trees.

Flowers also blossom in me for another reason.  Thank God, I am not a Delhite. I will be able to blast a few crackers along with my son and his friends at least this year. For I don’t know when the ban- cracker-to -avoid- pollution syndrome that originated in Delhi will infect Bangalore, which is as cursed as Delhi in terms of vehicular pollution.

Of course our liberal and secular sensibilities do not allow us to ban certain types of highly polluting vehicles and industries, and inhuman practices of privileged religions.

Wishing all my readers a very happy Diwali.

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Mein nikla satya ke sandhan mein

मैं निकला सत्य के
संधान में |

दिन दहाड़े , डायोजिनिज के लालटेन ले के
राजधानी के राजपथ पर,
सत्ता के गलियों में,
कलाकारों के रंग मंच में,
मंदिर , मस्जिद और गिरिजाघरों में |
ढ़ूँढ़ता रहा
वो सच्च जो कबका खो गया है,
या सुलाया गया है,
राजनेताओं के सफाई , आरोप
और प्रत्यारोप में,
पत्रकारों के हल्ला में,
क्रांतिकारियों के हल्लाबोल में,
धर्म गुरूओं के शास्त्रार्थ में,
बाबूओं के फाइलों के नोटिंगस् में
विचारपत्तियों के लम्बी – लम्बी
आदेशों में |
सभी ने एक साथ बोला
सच्च का पता लगा तो
गजब हो जाएगा,
देश बरबाद हो जाएगा,
आखिर लोग भी तो अभी कच्चे हैं
सच्च को छूपाने में
है हमारी समझदारी
और हमारी जिम्म्दारी भी
फिर कोई एक मुझे चुपके से कहा
” आखिर दूकान भी तो चलाना है ” !!!

 

Mein nikla satya ke sandhan mein

Din dahade, Diogenes ke laltan leke

Rajdhani ke rajpath par

Satta ke galiyon mein

Kalakaron ke rangmanch mein

Mandir, Maszid aur Girja gharon mein

Dhundta raha

Who sach jo kabka kho gaya hai

Ya sulaya gaya hai

Rajnetaoon ke safai, aarop aur pratyarop  mein

Patrakaron ke halla mein

Krantikarion ke hallabol mein

Dharmaguruyon ke Sastraarth mein

Babuon ke filon ke notings mein

Bicharpatiyon ke lambi lambi adeshon mein

Sabhine ek saath bola

Sach ka pata laga to gazab ho jayega

Desh barbad ho jayega

Aakhir log bhi to abhi kache hai

Sach ko chhupane mein hai hamar samajhdari hai

Aur hamari jimmedari bhi

Phir koi ek mujhe chup ke se kaha

‘Akhir Dukaan bhi to chalana hai’

 

(The words came in Hindi. So I let them be. Thanks my friend Ms. Nilima  Kanth for helping me put it in Devnagari Script)

In response to Indispire #191