‘Teach Me To Dream’ – Book Review

My illustrator friend Sailaja Anand ( who is also an eternal optimist) has put up her perceptions of my poems on her blog.

ETERNAL OPTIMIST

‘Teach Me To Dream’ has been written by Mr. Durga Prasad Dash whose work I always have admired. It is an anthology of poems that celebrate life in its myriads of aspects: love, longing, pain, illusion,beauty and ugliness, freedom, bondage, war, politics, enlightenment.There is no sphere of life that is left un touched by the author. Each emotion is conveyed beautifully and every reality is expressed with conviction. Each stanza is a beautiful piece in itself, touching the deep core.

In part I, the way the author has connected seasons and emotions with his web of words is so heartening.
”there is a rhythm in the sun,
melody in air, and
dance in water”
Through words the author is indeed celebrating the nature with beautiful expression.
In poem ‘your sweet absense’
In the following lines
“In my lack of discretion
hoping to rise with you
I fall again and again”

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Educating India (part-2): Specialisation

 

This week’s Indispire prompt suggested by blogger Neha Tambe is about Indian Education Scenario. The exact prompt is: ‘What kind of changes do you wish to see in the education system in India? Learning cannot work like an assembly line. Why can’t children choose in high school their focus subject and graduate with that? Share your ideas and vision about education.’

The prompt asks: why can’t children choose in high school their focus subject and graduate with that. Well, in my opinion high school is too early a time to go for specialisation.

In High School (upto class X) let the children taste all the different branches of knowledge. It will help them, first of all, to know for themselves where in lies their strength or weakness. It will also help them to discover their own inclination for particular fields of study.

Secondly, specialisation cannot happen in total isolation. It can happen only after a certain degree of generalistion. An engineer needs to express his thesis in proper language. All subjects are somewhere interconnected. A scientist should have a little background in humanities and ethics so that when she goes for scientific inventions she does not ignore the potential harmful effects of the inventions on the civilisation.  The scientist also lives in society hence must know the basics of social sciences to be aware of what does it mean to be a responsible citizen. And without history we would not know why a particular group of people behave today in response to different situations.

In ancient days, in the western civilization, all kinds of knowledge were bundled as philosophy which literally means love of knowledge. Of course now a days the word philospher indicates to someone who is devoid of all types of practical knowledge. There was no rigid partition. The greatest Greek philosophers wrote about science, poetry, drama and rolled out self help literature all at the same time. Pythagoras was not only a great mathematician, but also a great mystic. The works of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and others have stood the test of time.

In ancient India knowledge was divided into two broad categories: the para vidya and the apara vidya – the knowledge of the inner and the knowledge of the outer. While we need certain skills to make a living, we also need to learn certain skills to manage our own life, its ambitions and emotions. In the Gurukula both the branches of knowledge were taught to the children to make them complete human beings. Of course subsequently students moved onto their area of higher studies either on their own or under the guidance of specific masters. The universities at Taxila and Nalanda were famous for higher education.

Let me here clarify that para vidya is not religious knowledge which is all about a set of beliefs and rituals. Para vidya is more of kindling in the student a spirit of inquiry into the existential issues of life and giving them the tools to discover them.

In fact I would recommend that the curriculum of high school becomes more broad based to include subjects like elementary economics and accounting. It will also be good to introduce the students to alternate versions of History, rather than changing the history syllabus to suit the ideology of the party in power. 

Maybe, the time has come in India now to go for cross-specialisation. I come across the profile of US or European students with a diploma in Art History and graduation in electrical engineering. Of course In India also students also go for cross-specialisaton after Engineering or medical they go for an MBA degree in Finance or Marketing. It is still not a culturally acceptable thing in India that someone is pursuing a serious academic course in a University in aesthetics after a post-graduation in  in anesthetics.

Mad Charvak says cross-specialisation is the mother of all creativity. 

 

Teach Me To Dream by D P Dash

Deeply honoured by this review.

One Grain Amongst the Storm

teachme to dream book coverJust as I thought I was done with the ash-berries tossed at me by the departing year, suturing up my tattered ego with a ghazal in the reigning obscurity, Mr D. P. Dash ruffled the quiet of my languid existence. Dash is a blogger who writes at ‘One Life is Not Enough’, but he didn’t stop at that and went ahead to self-publish his oeuvres, the latest being a book of verses so refreshing the droplets are still sticking to my mind.

Teach me to dream’ is a collection of jaunty poems written in a workaday diction that is blithely lucid. Unlike many practitioners of poetry, Dash doesn’t adorn the stream of his thoughts with symbols and motifs often. His is a candid style, crisp and direct, but it has none of the jarring monotony plaguing a host of present day poets. The movement of his…

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the cart of clay and Rumi in a traffic jam

I will write about Rumi towards the end of this blog post and try to connect it to my recently released book. After all I have a book to promote. Gone are the days when the Hero’s or heroine’s role ended with acting in the movie (and collecting the pay check). Now he/she must take part in an extensive film marketing. So is the case with the authors these days, whether you follow the self publishing route or the traditional route.

Now, talking about books, today is the birth anniversary of Mirza Ghalib.  I come to know of this from the Google Doodle. Many of my readers must have the experience of coming across his shers and shayiris. He is like the old mischievous gentleman of the next street who you bump into every now and then during your random walks. But this year I read one of the books outlining his life and his wisdom. It was after I was gifted with a Kindle by my daughter on the occasion of my birthday. Many of his couplets have stuck and refuse to go out of memory.

Haathon ki lakeeron pay mat ja ae ghalib, 
Naseeb unke bhi hote hain jinkey haath nahi hote 

Hum ko mallum hai jannat ki haqiqat lekin 
Dil khush rakhne ko ghalib ye khayal achha hai

I go into periodic lunacy of binge reading. Those are also the periods when I end up reading a lot of bullshit stuff. During such a period of lunacy this year I read Paulo Coelho and Eckhart Tolle. I came across Coelho for the first time from a newspaper column and was under the impression that he was a self help Guru of some sort. But he and his bio in a number of internet sites claim he is a novelist! I was also amazed at the way these two guys (worldwide bestselling authors in their own right) clothe ancient wisdom in new words and metaphors and never give any credit to their source, thus giving the impression that they are the inventors of such life changing wisdom.

Some of the interesting books I have read are associated with their own stories about how I came across the book or, in what circumstances I read the book. While helping my father-in-law arranging his home library some months back I came across an Odiya version of Mritchhakatika. Does the word sound a little complicated?

This is a Sanskrit  word combining two words (sandhi) –  mrit (soil/mud) and sakatika (cart). Do you remember the movie utsav starring Sekhar Suman and Rekha? The movie was based on this ancient Sanskrit drama- The Cart of Clay. Some English translator use the title – The Little Clay Cart.

During school days, one of our teachers – Sri Surendra Das- used to teach us both Odiya and Sanskrit. His way of teaching was to tell stories. We used to wait eagerly for his classes. Over a month he told us the entire story of Mritchchakatika in episodic manner during his classes. Those were the days when TV soap opera had not colonialised our country.

I had read the book once during the college days and watched the movie during its year of release in 1984. But reading it again this year was like relieving those moments of my school days in the 1980s.

A book I have recently picked up for reading is -Never Let me Go – written by the latest Nobel Prize winner for literature, Kazuo Ishiguro. I had read a review of the movie adaptation long time back and I liked it so much that I wanted to see the movie or read the book immediately. Those were the days before Amazon and I could not lay my hands on the DVD or the book in our local stores.

Another book worth mentioning is Ulysses by James Joyce. It took me three months of frequently interrupted reading to finish it. In between I had to read a lot of reviews and notes about the book to understand all the layers of the theme. But it was worth it.

Ulysses is one of the all time great novels in the history of fiction, consistently being voted as one of the top ten novels in polls after polls. However, our dear best selling novelist Paulo Coehlo could hardly find anything remarkable in this masterpiece. Coelho faced a lot of flack for his criticism of Ulysses. Of course, we can hardly blame Paulo for all this. Loved by the masses from Iran to India, after all he is a novelist of a special class.

Now I remember of the time when I was rescued by Rumi when I was on may way to the airport and was stuck in a traffic jam. Thankfully, I was not going to catch a flight but to receive someone. Thankfully again, I had borrowed a book of Rumi’s poetry from a library in the morning and it was with me. As it rained outside, sitting in the car backseat, perhaps at that time I was one of those few commuters who did not curse the rain or the traffic Jam. Of course, by the time I finished the book, I was yet to reach the airport. Thankfully yet again, I was able to compose a poem – of traffic jam, rain and Rumi, which has been included in my recently released anthology of poems: teach me to dream. There are a couple of poems – one dedicated to rain and another to typical everyday traffic jam – that find place in the anthology.

cloud of gentle rain, pour down 
come, let us friends get truly drunk 
and you, the king of tricksters 
befuddled with drink we all greet you (Rumi)

By the way, when I started to write this post I noticed that teach me to dream has jumped to No.2 position on Amazon ranking of New Releases and No.10 in Poetry category. As Amazon ranks fluctuate by the hour, I don’t know what will be the ranking by the time you read this. Anyway, I hope it continues to be one of the top twenty books in poetry category.

With a little help from you, of course, my dear reader. 😀

amazon rank1

 

 

 

teach me to dream – an anthology of my poems

Well, finally I was able to nail my poetic muse. It is such a great sense of relief. Whether my book reaches its destination of readers or not it is a great sense of relief. It is like delivering the baby after a prolonged pregnancy.

This was supposed to be my first book, as I have mentioned while writing the blog post announcing the release of Idle Hours. But my poetic muse has been so elusive that neither did it help me complete a few half written poems, nor did it assist me in clothing a few concepts wandering in my mind with lyrics, sometimes escaping some time arriving unannounced to be gone in a moment.

After Amazon took care of the post delivery issues of teach me to dream, it is now live and kicking, waiting to be picked up and hugged  by loving readers.

 

Meanwhile, I thank Sri Uma Shankar Pandey, Sri M Gopalakrishnan, Sri SK Pathak, Sri Srikant Jha for putting your thoughts about Idle Hours on various forums.

Also worth special mention in connection with the anthology of poems are the following:

  • Sri Sailendra Narayana Tripathy, my first mentor of poetry and my professor of English Literature during my graduation at Khallikote College Berhampur. Coincidentally, these days he is a regular guest speaker on numerous Odiya TV channels. Famous Actress Leslie Tripathy is his daughter who carries on the legacy to revive the international poetry magazine Poesy where my first poem was published way back in 1987.
  • Ms. Sailaja Anand – Blogger and Art of Living Teacher – for providing the illustrations.  I am not able to do full justice to her efforts as I am not able to utilise all her illustrations in this e-book version. Maybe, when I go for the print version I use all her illustrations at appropriate places.

At present the book is also part of Kindle Unlimited.

I request all my readers ( including my blogger friends many of whom are great poets themselves) to share your thoughts on Amazon/Goodreads/your blog.

teach me to dream cover

 

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.

cherry-blossom.jpg