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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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

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.

 

author of the month- preethi venugopala

Preethi Venugopala, a civil engineer turned blogger, painter and story teller, is our author of the month.

15672708_1892873664277839_4485272521663554025_nHailing from the God’s own country, Kerala, she is at present settled in the Garden City, Bangalore. Starting her writing journey as a blogger, she had her first book, a novel titled ‘Without You’ published in 2015. Both common readers and the critiques have spoken very highly of the book as can be sensed from the Goodreads and Amazon pages.  To know more about her and her work visit the about page in her official website – A Writer’s Oasis. 

‘One Life is not Enough’ caught up with her for a chat session.

Q:   How smooth was the transition from Civil Engineering to authoring novels?

A:   Thank you, Durga Prasad, for inviting me. It is a pleasure to be featured on your blog.

      I took a sabbatical from my job after the birth of my son. I used to journal regularly. It was my husband to whom I had shown a particular journal entry who asked me to consider writing as a career. I had won story writing competitions while in college but had not pursued it further. When my son started playschool, I began to get free hours during the day and I started blogging. Blogging made the transition to becoming an author smooth and easy. In fact, if hadn’t started blogging, I might not have become a writer.

Q:   When did you discover you could paint as well? Or, was it your first love?

A:   I used to draw and paint while in school but had stopped once I left school. Then in 2011, my father passed away and I went into a mild depression. It was during that phase that I took up painting. It healed me from within. I still turn to painting and portraiture whenever I need a bit of cheering up.

513gnBokyRL._SY346_Q:   How do you effectively juggle various roles – as a mom, blogger, story teller, artist and other roles?

A:   It just happens naturally. Women are, after all, experts at multi-tasking. Yet, on most days I am just a mom. I give myself a few dedicated hours every day to be a blogger, writer or artist according to the mood of the day.

Q:   It is nice to see you continue to blog regularly even after becoming a published author. What role does blogging play in your overall creative journey?

A:   Blogging has played a significant role in my creative journey, especially my writing journey.

     As I said, I might not have become a writer if I was not a blogger. It was through blogging that I got acquainted with many other writers and publishers. My first publishing opportunity came via a pan India writing contest which was declared on the blog of author Bhavya Kaushik. I participated in the contest and got selected to be published.

    The first readers and reviewers of my debut novel were my blogger friends.

I also display my art work on my blog.

25656023Q:   Tell us about your first book and how did it come about?

A:   The idea of my first book came when I heard about the Mangalore plane crash on May 22, 2010. I was disturbed by the tragedy as it was the same route that I used to travel while I was working with the Dubai Metro. There were so many miraculous escape stories that filled the newspapers right after the tragedy. The many what if questions that troubled me then led me to write the book.

Q:   What was the inspiration behind your compiling a Malayalam alphabet book for kids? Do you think regional languages in India are in danger of being side-lined?

A:   The book was born out of a request made by my son. We live away from Kerala and hence it was difficult for us to get hold of study materials to teach him Malayalam. He 51UfCkLZ9pL._SY346_learned the basics but wanted my help to read the words. He told me to write down the pronunciation of the letters in English so that he could read it easily on his own. I created a PowerPoint presentation for his sake and then thought why not make an eBook that would be available for anyone who might need it.

No, I don’t think regional languages are being side-lined. Regional languages have survived for centuries. Our mother tongues bind us to our roots. Of course, because of migration, the new generation might learn a different language than the one their parents speak. It is something that cannot be helped. Parents can help the kids to get in touch with their roots by teaching them their mother tongue. That is the only way.

Q:   Is there anything else that you would like to say to our readers?

A:   Thank you for all the love that you have given me over the years. Do continue to shower your love on me.

Do check out her books if you haven’t read them yet:

Books by Preethi Venugopala on Amazon

Books by Preethi Venugopala on Juggernaut

Visit her blog: A Writer’s Oasis

Follow her on Social Media:

Twitter: @preethivenu

Instagram: @preethivenu

Facebook Page: Preethi Venugopala

 

 

my speech at the indiblogger meet, bengaluru

Well, I have been a serious blogger since last one year. Of course, I have been blogging for more than five years and doing some creative writing maybe, for last one hundred years.

No… no. I am not that old like Asha Ram Bapu  or RK Pachauri.

Actually I feel that it is not only me but also my readers who have taken my blog seriously after I joined Indiblogger, which is the best platform for Indian bloggers to network and show case talent. What do you say? How many of you here agree with me. Wow. Quite a lot. Great.

What is more,  Indiblogger now wants to take us to our next level. That is to make us published authors. I think it is every blogger’s dream to become a published author of books. How many of you don’t agree? Of course many of us here are already published authors.

I love this quote from Kahlil Zibran: To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has achieved, but at what he aspires to.

It is great that Indiblogger, Story Mirror and the Valley of Words have all come together to fulfill the dreams of aspiring authors. They deserve a big round of applause.

Coming to blogging, the comments and likes are not the only indicators that your blog is being read and liked. During official or informal meetings sometimes I come across people who tell me that they have been reading my blog regularly, even though they have never put any comment or liked the blog.

So, keep blogging. May our tribe flourish.

vow bangalore meet

Launch of Kuhase ke Geet ( Hindi version of Sashi Sharma’s the Song’s of Mist)

vow bangalore meet 2

Thank you guys for the fabulous gift hamper

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See you all in Dehradun

P.S:  Actually, this speech, being an afterthought could not be delivered. And  my time-machine is still out of order.

 

my author of the august month

Purba Chakraborty needs no introduction to the avid readers and fellow bloggers in Indian blogosphere. So, when I decided to feature her as the author of the month, I wanted her to reveal certain aspects that she had not shared with her readers till now.

I am amazed by her versatility at such a young age. She blogs, she sings and till now, she has authored one book of poetry and three novels. In addition her poems and short stories have been part of a number of published anthologies. Her third novel –  Canvas of a Mind – has been out recently.

It is seen from her Amazon and Goodreads pages that her earlier books have made their marks on the readers’ minds. I am sure, ‘Canvass of a Mind‘ too will captivate the minds of the readers.

Here is my e-conversation with the author:

Q. You are involved in quite a number of creative activities – Blogging, Book Review, Singing, Books…. How do you juggle among them? I mean in a planned way or, you just surrender yourself to the mood of the moment. 

heart listens to no one.jpgA: I don’t have to juggle with them. I cannot survive without creativity. Therefore, I do all these activities out of love. I feel blessed to be able to express myself in various ways through creativity. But my priority will always be to write novels, short stories and poems.

Q. Coincidentally, August is the Birth month of Purba, the author. (This fact, I discovered after I had decided to feature you as the author of this month). Are you as enthusiastic a writer aftet your fourth book, as you were when your first book was released in 2012?

A: Yes, August is a very special month for me as my first book was released on 25th August, 2012. Yes, every time my book releases, I am excited, thrilled, nervous and emotional. The feeling never changes because a lot of hard work goes into the book. Unless you are a very famous author, the struggle of getting a publisher who will fund your book remains. So finally, when the book gets published and you see your words in print, it makes you feel surreal.

hidden lettersQ. Tell about a quirky incident in your childhood that you haven’t shared with your readers.

A: When I was ten, I wrote about 20 poems on a few loose sheets of paper and stapled them. On the first page, I did a doodle and wrote with sketch pen “Poetry book by Purba”. I still have that stapled copy. Every time I see it, I know that I am doing something right in my life. The ten year old Purba wanted to write books, though she was not completely aware of it.

Q. Apart from your family, who have been great sources of support in your writing journey?

A:  There have been so many people who have supported me in my writing journey at various phases of my life. I think everyone who has read my book and left a positive review or took the pain of writing an email to me, let me know his/her thoughts about my writing have helped me grow as a writer. My best friend, Priyam is the first reader of my books. She reads the first draft of the books and the way she encourages me makes me feel I am blessed. She is the one who helps me believe in myself and my writing, when I am having bad days.

Q. How do you cope with the obstacles you face? Life in general and writing activities in particular?

love and destinyA:  The year 2017 has been harsh on me. I lost my beloved grandmother in April. She was with me during the making of “Canvas of a Mind” (also when I was writing the acknowledgment). Losing her has left such an irreparable void in my heart that I find it difficult to go through my work and chores on some days.

There are times when I feel I can’t push myself to sit for work. I feel like breaking down. But I didn’t let my work get hampered and ensured that my book releases on time.

I think my personal motto “I rise after every fall” helps me get back on my feet in the morning even if I have cried the entire night. Meditation and yoga help me to calm my mind and take a bird’s eye view of things. The only way I cope with the obstacles I face is by not giving up, come what may. I keep marching forward even if I have wounded feet.

canvas of a mindQ. You have written one poetry book and three novels. Planning for any other genre?

A: I would want to write a memoir or non-fiction, someday. Right now, I am happy writing poetry and novels.

Q. Any other thing that you would like to share with our readers?

A:  My latest novel, “Canvas of a Mind” is a psychological mystery novel set against the back drop of Kalimpong, a remote hill station. It tells the story of two sisters whose lives change when a mysterious stranger starts stalking the younger sister. If you enjoy reading mysteries and thrillers with a touch of psychological drama, “Canvas of a Mind” will surely appeal to you. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Purba Chakraborty is a novelist, poet, web content developer, lifestyle blogger and social influencer from Kolkata. She has authored two novels “Walking in the streets of love and destiny”, “The Hidden Letters” and a poetry book “The Heart Listens to No One”. “Canvas of a Mind” is her third novel. Her short stories and poems have been published in more than ten anthologies and various magazines. She is a restless dreamer and wishes to write till her last breath.

She blogs regularly at Love, Laugh and Reflect (www.purba-chakraborty.com)

She can be reached at:

Facebook: writerpurbachakraborty

Twitter: @Manchali_Purba

Instagram: purba_chakraborty

email: purba.khushi@gmail.com

author of the month – anupam patra

Starting from this month is a new monthly feature on my blog – ‘author of the month’. What better way to debut my series than to feature debutante author Anupam Patra whose book ‘Promises of a Firefly’ has been released recently.

Even though Anupam is from my home state, I got introduced to him through the blogosphere. I was attracted to the distinguishing literary and artistic quality of his blog from day one.

I was excited to read his book and I was not disappointed. As I gather from his Goodreads page, so have been the experience of many readers who have spoken very highly of the book.

Brief note about Anupam

anupam

 

Anupam was born and raised in the millennium city of Cuttack in Odisha. He finished his schooling and graduation while growing up in the thousand year old city’s narrow lanes and ambient warmth. Inspite of the necessity of having to pursue science and then law for a career, his love for art has always shone the light of his soul. He used to teach and has worked as a banker prior to taking up public service as his profession. An avid lover of all forms of art, he confesses to find comfort in telling stories.

 

My Interview with Anupam

Q: Tell us about your writing journey.

A: It began here in blogosphere in the autumn of 2011. I walked into this space, looking to turn myself away from a few things that were happening in my life at the time. I didn’t expect anybody to read what I wrote, I mean, there were veterans whose essays and stories and poems were around. But I got lucky to earn a small but supportive readership. Their consistent magic with words inspired me to keep scribbling something every day. There were times when the struggle would resurface and take me away from writing for days but whenever I returned my friends here were there to take me back with un-deteriorated warmth. Their support has been my real asset. I had never thought of writing a book. Till I met Mahua Ray Das, a phenomenal artist herself, who on our very first meeting decided to push me towards that goal. She was cynical about my writing but gentle with her guidance, even when I was hostile to her suggestions. She set my sail on that course. She stuck around, never let the boat rock. To ensure it never drowned, she herself got on the boat and took that long, undetermined, lonely, neurotic, journey with me. It was not easy. I was constantly mired with problems but she never gave up, even when I was constantly forcing her to. Her contributions for this book are immense. The journey for this book began with her eliciting a promise from me in a small book café in Bhubaneswar in August 2015, the promise that I’ll give her a book of my own one day. The belief she had in me was what fuelled my will to write.

Q: Who have been your inspirations?

A:The works of Richard Flanagan inspire me. Out of all his works, The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Gould’s Book of Fish have left a lasting impression on me. His writings have an effect of breaking me in a beautiful way. There’s an element in his stories that wraps itself around you. Like a sunrise waiting to happen and you wait for it after a long, despair driven night and the sunrise manages to bring a sort of an illumination that is sweeping and vivid and fresh yet you find yourself unable to forget for a moment the night that has passed. For it is that night which Flanagan has by then wrapped around you forever.

Q:  How do you balance your creative pursuits with your public service?

A: It is undoubtedly tough. I am not earning anything from the book. The whole of my royalty shall go to a foundation that will use it for a year’s school fees and ancillary expenses of an orphan girl and if anything remains, it shall be donated for procuring academic essentials for orphan kids. If there is still any money left, the above cycle will be repeated. On the other hand, the earning from my profession takes care of my needs. Actually, it also takes care of my writing in many ways. Plus, the hopes with which the common man comes to the chair I occupy, is a huge responsibility to discharge. I have a moral obligation to justify the tax payer’s contribution that makes my salary. So the scale is always tilted towards the side of my service. My profession involves a lot of reading and research and writing after all of which the mind and the body get worn out. It is then that my heart’s will to weave stories balances out my desire to write fiction. But it is such a physically taxing indulgence. As a result, so many times, I have dozed off on my computer table, only to wake up hours later, about the time of dawn, drooling on the keyboard.

Q: As you evolve as an author, do you feel you are evolving as a person also?

promises of a firefly.jpgA:The life of a writer can be terrible in spite of being purposeful. When he is able to catch the tone of his characters in ink, and everything is flowing out smoothly from his pen, it is the most complete he will ever feel. But when it doesn’t happen that way, there is barely anything he can forgive in this world. By that measure, the worst hit was taken by my family. They had to quietly let me go for hours, sometimes they were wise not to ask why at all must we part, and sometimes emotional to prod, neither of the ways bringing any change of luck. Eventually they understood how it is going to be. Then there would be work and health conditions and lack of imagination and all sorts of things that would make me want to shut everything for once and for all. I don’t know about others but for me, writing is walking down an untaken road where there are equal chances of confronting delight and despair. But you brave that chance because you want to bring to life moments you think deserve to be experienced by your readers. When you’re penning those mistakes, regrets, hopes and love your characters find on pages, you are creating experience, and you cannot create any without letting it touch you. I have always only written in one method, one hand dipped in ink and the other in shades of life. It’s a fulfilling endeavour. And for all that it is worth, you evolve in the end. You evolve because at the completion of any struggle, there is some evolution that is bound to happen.

Q: What were your expectations as you started writing the book? Are you satisfied the way the book has turned out?

A:You’ll perhaps find an author who will claim that his work couldn’t have been better. So I won’t say that I am satisfied the way the stories have turned out. Surely, they could have depicted more, had greater depth and better proximity to what I wanted to tell through them. But, I wouldn’t change the larger picture in any of the stories. That has come out exactly how I’d wanted. As far as my expectations from my book are concerned, to be honest, I never wrote it with any expectations. Maybe because I have no illusions about my writings. The only hope I had in my mind was that my readers should get the point of the stories. That’s all. And I’d happily go to sleep.

Q: Any other thing that you would like to share about you or the book with our readers.

A: I am a novice and there’s a lot I’m to learn about the craft of writing which is why I’m keen on hearing honest opinions as to where I could have done it better. And yes, I hope I’m able to write more books. At the moment, it feels like I cannot write one more line of fiction ever again, like writing this book has dried up all creative juices within me. Believe me, it is frightening, this feeling of inadequacy.

About the book, I’ll say this. Since the book was published, I’ve been asked about its theme. Even at the launch, when I took questions from the audience, a curious girl came from far behind the crowd, asking for the microphone. She must have been a fast reader for she raised some interesting points about the theme and the genre of my stories and if all of them are tragedies and interconnected. Recalling her query, I’d like to say that the stories in Promises of a firefly are not light tales or have cheerful narratives for they intend to show us our boundaries regardless of the occasional heroics life affords us. Now, that is not necessarily tragedy. It could be something as simple as truth. Some of these truths we are likely to have seen or heard around us. And as one of my readers told me over e-mail, there is this element of hope that can be found if the stories are read carefully. I want readers to find out for themselves. And if they are able to remember the stories, recall their moments when they are not holding my book – that would be a great thing for the storyteller in me.

Promises of a firefly is available on Amazon. Here is the blurb:

A blind girl’s chance meeting with a stranger sets her on an unforgettable journey of love and light; a loveless marriage is rebuilt by the very thing that is meant to destroy it; an estranged mother’s fight to reunite with her daughter reveals to her the strengths and flaws of bonds of blood, two women separated by years of hostility discover the many forms of heaven and hell as fate decides to redeem their relationship; an eighty year old man’s chronicle of love and loss that tells us all about the permanent consequences of choosing against our heart’s will. These are stories of promises and letdowns, of faith and betrayal, of sins and atonement; stories that introduce us to lovers, bravehearts, convicts and prostitutes. ‘Promises of a firefly’ binds together eleven tales that remind us of our gifts, our glories and the crushing limits of our lives. 

The author can be reached at  anupampatra2017@gmail.com

moving adaptations

There would be, perhaps, half a dozen movies for which I must have read the original book either after or before I saw the movie. Of course, unlike the Hollywood ones the Bollywood productions have been disappointing.

Gone with the Wind

In case of Gone with the Wind, first I saw the movie, for the first time some twenty five years back. By that time this 1939 movie had already become a classic. I read the lengthy novel  afterwords. Contrary to what I had thought the fact that I had already watched the movie did not diminish my interest in the novel. Maybe, had I not watched the movie  I would not have read the novel. It won 10 academy awards and is considered one of the all time greatest movies of Hollywood.

Unlike the Bollywood movies based on  Chetan Bhagat books, this  movie is not a loose adaptation of the novel. The professionalism displayed by everyone connected with the movie is remarkable.  One can experience all the flavours of this 1000 odd page novel in the four hour movie. I watched the movie (DVD) for the second time a couple of months back.  It is worth mentioning that ‘Gone with the Wind’ is the only novel written by Margaret Mitchell in her life time.

Silence of the Lambs

In this case, I read the novel first. In an earlier post on this blog titled A Gripping Tale,  I have written about my reading experience and how I came across the book. I had read the book before the movie was released. Hence I was curious to see how the movie was adapted. I was not disappointed.

Elementary, my dear Watson

Being a Sherlock Holmes fan since childhood, it was logical that I should not have missed the 2009 movie ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and the sequel ‘Sherlock Holmes-  a game of shadows” released in 2011. Robert Downey Jr. has played the eccentric detective perfectly with befitting support from Jude Law as Dr. Watson.

Earlier, I remember watching a number of BBC serials  based on the Sherlock Holmes stories. Even though my memories are vague, I don’t think the serials were as interesting as the books.

Now a days many adaptations of Sherlock Holmes are run as serials on various channels, a Chinese lady passing for Dr. Watson in one version that I saw. It is titled Elementary. With Guinness book of records listing Holmes as the most portrayed movie character, it has become difficult to keep track of the various spin off versions of Holmes.

Tales from Malgudi

R K Narayan was himself disappointed when he saw the movie ‘Guide’.  Narayan’s Guide had to undergo necessary improvisation to fit into the Bollywood version with necessary songs and dance and the usual tadka.

But, the serials produced by Kannada actor and director Shankar Nag brought in all the nuances of RK Narayan’s stories. It is still a pleasure to catch up with one odd episode of Malgudi Days telecast on good Old Doordarshan from time to time.

 

 

 

 

Essays on Hinduism by Karan Singh

 

essays-on-hinduismIt is not a book review. I am not going to write about the pros and cons of the book. I loved the book and will give a summary of the book along with the salient features that stuck me.

I read this book over  a couple of days in a hospital waiting room. Once I started the book or every time I restarted the book, I  got lost in no time and forgot about the surroundings, till someone came and tapped my shoulders.

This book is written by Karan Singh, an Ex-Cabinet Minister in the Congress Government. So the book is not coming from a member of the saffron brigade. Nor is it written by one of those so called foreign scholars. Hence, we may expect a fair degree of neutrality along with the right amount of compassion, unlike the contents in the plethora of books on Hinduism which either exalt it to the point of exaggeration or portray it as nothing more than a religion of snake charmers, idol worshipers or  charlatans  selling solutions for premature ejaculation.

Blurb:

In this collaboration of essays the author discusses the basics of Hinduism. Outlining the message of the Bhagavat Gita and the Upanishads, he argues that Hinduism is not a cult, nor a bunch of dogmas but a religion of the highest order that speaks of an immanent and transcendental god. It also offers a philosophy of life that cuts across ethnic and geographic barriers between men. According to him, the essentials of Hindu religio-philosophic teachings are pervaded by the ideals of universalism and love for humanity.

The author drives home the relevance of Hindu unversalism to an age in which nations are armed for mutual annihilation. He maintains that successful application of the  Hindu seers will help humankind to overcome the worst crisis facing it in the nuclear age, and will lead to restructuring  the world on the all-embracing principle of freedom and equity. the text is followed by the author’s lucid translation and commentary on Mundak Upanishad.

 

However, what the blurb does not talk about is the recurring theme in the book that Hinduism has five basic tenets . The author returns to these tenets again and again. These five tenets, in brief, are as follows:

  1. The concept of Brahman, the unchanging undying reality that pervades the entire cosmos. The vedic seers saw that everything in the universe changes and they called the creation sansara, that which always moves. But they also perceived that behind this change there was an unchanging substratum from which the changing worlds emanated like sparks from a great fire. This supreme all pervasive entity known as brahman has been beautifully described in various upanishads.
  2. The second great insight of the vedic seers was that,  as the changing universe outside was pervaded by Brahman, the changing world within man himself was based upon the immortal spark known as  Atman. The human entity is born again and again across aeons, gathering a multitudes of experiences and gradually moving towards the possibility of perfection.
  3. Having perceived the existence of Brahman without and the Atman within, the great seers realized through their spiritual insights that Atman and Brahman are essentially one. This  concept of Tat Twam Asi (that thou are) is beautifully expounded and illustrated in Chhandogya Upanishad.
  4. The fourth basic tenet is about the supreme goal of life  which is to realize the deathless Atman within and its unity with the Brahman.
  5. The fifth one is the concept of Karma – a concept that includes Action, Causality and Destiny.

In the chapter, Secularism – a New Approach, the author emphasises  the need for an Indian approach to secularism as opposed to the western approach which is prevalent now. According to the author,  India has never had an organised church , so the European concept of secularism was never relevant to our requirements. The following are the three premises suggested by the author to form the basis of our secularism:

  1. The term Sarva-dharma-sambhava (Not favoring a particular religious denomination over others) is a  far more meaningful formulation than Dharma-nirapekshata and  is much closer to the view of Mahatma Gandhi on secularism.
  2. When the conflicts among various religions and religious sects which create serious law and order problem, it is clear that the myth of religion being a purely personal matter can no longer be sustained and the state has to take cognizance of religion as social force.
  3. The myth that, as education increases and living standards improve religion will steadily lose its hold over the minds of people and become increasingly peripheral, has been debunked by the facts that  more places of worship are found in developed societies than the underdeveloped ones.

The author also touches upon the subject of environmental preservation and other issues faced by the global citizen  and how the solution can be found combining modern findings with vedic wisdom. At the end the author hopes that  the world recognizes ‘Basudhaiva Kutumbakam‘ (The whole world is one family) as propounded  by the ancient seers so as to realize the oneness of the human race and rise over individual and class differences to  end the conflicts among nations and groups.

Thus, major parts of the book explore the insights of the ancient seers as found in the Upanishads and other Hindu scriptures in general and the Bhagavat Gita in particular.  In a way, though the eighteen essays along with the appendix containing commentaries on Mundaka Upanishad, the author presents the soul of Hinduism, as opposed to its body which are the various rituals associated with the religion ans which are also the major focus of many of the western writers and Indian intellectuals.

My recommendation:

If you want to have a feel of the soul of Hinduism and get many of your long held myths  (which you might be unaware till you read this book)  about the religion  get busted, this book is a must read for you.

Indian Bloggers

 

A Brief Note on Stephen Hawking

stephen hawking

Here is a brief introduction to Stephen Hawking from his official website: 

Stephen Hawking is the former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge and author of A Brief History of Time which was an international bestseller. Now the Dennis Stanton Avery and Sally Tsui Wong-Avery Director of Research at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and Founder of the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge, his other books for the general reader include A Briefer History of Time, the essay collection Black Holes and Baby Universe and The Universe in a Nutshell.

In 1963, Hawking contracted motor neurone disease and was given two years to live. Yet he went on to Cambridge to become a brilliant researcher and Professorial Fellow at Gonville and Caius College. From 1979 to 2009 he held the post of Lucasian Professor at Cambridge, the chair held by Isaac Newton in 1663. Professor Hawking has over a dozen honorary degrees and was awarded the CBE in 1982. He is a fellow of the Royal Society and a Member of the US National Academy of Science. Stephen Hawking is regarded as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Einstein.’

What does not find mention in his official website is his love life. Sometimes events of his personal life gets so much media coverage that some people develop an aversion to him and ignore his contribution to science. As a person, Stephen Hawking may seem to have crossed certain boundaries of morality, particularly the ‘Indian Standard of Morality’ with multiple affairs and marriages. However, on a lighter note- considering the fact that most of his voluntary organs are not working, even the Superman should be jealous of his female fan following.

Jokes apart – his contribution to science should not be undermined whatever ‘moral’ flaws he may have. Many of the geniuses of past and present are known for their eccentricity and bizarre behavior. Stephen Hawking comes from a culture and society where his personal life is normal acceptable behaviour. Moreover, he is not a hypocrite. His whole life is in public domain. Contrast this with the life of many of our Indian leaders and famous persons. They live/ lived a double life and are/were hypocrites.An honest biographical film about Nehru was stalled time and again. What we read as history in our text books are nothing short of fiction. The stories of Stephens and Clintons would be overshadowed by the real life events of many of our adored leaders, provided these things are available in open domain.

It is surprising that a hardcore scientist like Stephen Hawking recognises the power of love.

“I’ve been privileged to gain some understanding of the way the universe operates through my work,” he writes. “But it would be an empty universe indeed without the people that I love.”

He is a great inspiration for all of us. In spite of his physical limitations, he keeps on exploring the limitless.. and he has never lost the jest for life.

“Although I’m severely disabled, I have been successful in my scientific work,” Hawking writes. “I travel widely and have been to Antarctica and Easter Island, down in a submarine and up on a zero-gravity flight. One day, I hope to go into space.”

Stephen Hawkins is a genius. His die hard attitude is an inspiration for all. I recommend my friends to read his works, at least the bestseller – THE BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME.