Sunday, July 29, 2012

Veteran Adolescent

( A tribute to Gulzar I wrote many years ago for Deccan Herald)

Among the honors conferred this year on the Republic Day is the Padma Bhushan awarded to Sampooran Singh Gulzar. The felicitation comes just a year after he won the Sahitya Academy Award for his short story Dhuaan. Awards at a national level are nothing new for Gulzar and he has garnered three of them for his films - Best Screenplay (Koshish), Best Director (Mausam) and Best Lyricist (Ijazat). But the Sahitya Academy Award for a short story was somewhat of a paradox. Gulzar deserved it much earlier for the poetry he has penned as film songs. In fact, poetry is intrinsic to all the work Gulzar is associated with - the films he directs are lyrical, the dialogues he pens have a flow and his lyrics contain vivid imagery appealing to our sublime senses.

Gulzar was born in 1936 in Deena, Jhelum District which is now a part of Pakistan. After the partition he came to Delhi. He started as a poet and was a part of the Progressive Writers association. Hence his literary roots are firmly grounded in poetry. He joined Bimal Roy productions much later in 1961. As a result, Gulzar appears to have imbibed the best of two rich literary traditions in India - Urdu as well as Bengali. A fact that is amply borne out by the fact that he has translated into celluloid one of Saratchandra’s novels (Khushboo) and two of Samresh Basu’s works (Namkeen and Kitaab). Ijazat is also based on a Bengali short story.
In 1988, Gulzar made the landmark television serial on Mirza Ghalib with Nasiruddin Shah essaying the role of the immortal Urdu poet. The influence of Ghalib seeped in unobtrusively when Gulzar penned a song for a film he directed - Mausam. The song resonates with the flush of falling in love and all the longing it encompasses - dil dhoondta hai, phir wahi fursat ke raat din…baithe rahe tasssavure jaana kiye hue. The best one can do with a transliteration is ‘The heart longs for the days and nights of leisure. Lounging around, doing nothing, a happy emptiness within, playing with your thoughts.’

The Bengali influence is best reflected in the songs from Khushboo - ‘Oh Maaji re…apna kinara nadiya ki dhara hai’. The song succinctly captures the dilemma of the boatmen who make a living from the river. A literal translation would be ‘O Boatmen, our shores are no more than the flow of the river.’ Something that does scant justice to the essence of the song that is replete with the philosophy of life and death.

Almost as a counterfoil for the same film Gulzar penned the coy and teasing ‘Bechara dil kya kare.. sawaan jale… bhadon jale’. (What can the poor heart do, all the seasons are burning)? In fact Gulzar’s penchant to transcend from the sublime to the ludicrous is legendary. He penned a song for Thodi si Bewafai which ‘boasted’ of lyrics like ‘Pink sharara silaooing' ( I will stitch a Pink Sharara). But lest anyone take this as a criticism of Gulzar’s poetic sensibility, it would be prudent to point out that this one is a rare failure. He has often used imagery that seems absurd to etch deeply evocative pictures. Consider this priceless gem from the first film he directed Mere Apne- ‘Roz akeli aaye, Roz akeli jaaye, Chand katora liye bhikaran raat’. (She comes alone and leaves alone, this beggar woman night with her begging bowl of the moon). The deft simile transforms night into an ultimate metaphor for loneliness. The song is hauntingly rendered by Meena Kumari on screen playing an old woman deserted by her family.

Yet Gulzar is widely regarded as the thinking man’s poet lyricist. And not without reason. The very first lyrics he penned for the classic Bandini is an immortal gem: ‘Mora Gora Ang Lai Lae. Mohe saanv rang dai de’ (Take away my fair body and let me trade it for the dark shades of my lover). The song like the film was far ahead of its time and dealt with a woman’s choice to have her lover as well as the price she has to pay for this indulgence. The sensuous song went well with the theme of the film.

The lyrics of Gulzar have displayed an awesome range from being bathed in childlike glee to pathos-laden soliloquies. But what has distinguished them is that they have invariably been in blank verse. Apparently the late R D Burman with whom Gulzar had a long and fruitful association had a really tough time setting to music the award winning ‘Mera kuch saaman tumhare paas pada hai’. The song goes on to request the ex lover to return tangible as well as intangible gifts from the remnants of the spent passion. ‘Ek sau solah chand ki raatein, ek tumhare kaande ka til, gili mehendi ki khushboo, jooth mooth ke shikwe kuch, jooth mooth ke vaade sab yaad kara doon, sab bhijwa do, mera wo saaman lauta do.’ (One hundred and sixteen nights of the moon, and the solitary mole on your shoulder, the fragrance of the moist mehendi, some pet peeves and some empty promises, return all of that, return all the moments I spent with you). Even the most blasé listeners were moved!

Many of his fans believe Gulzar deserved the national award a couple of decades earlier for the most romantic lines ever penned for a film song that featured in Khamoshi - ‘Humne dhekhi hai in aankhon ki mehekti khushboo, haath se choon ke inhe rishto ka ilzaam na do, sirf ehsaas hai ye rooh se mehsoos karo, pyar ko pyar hi rehne do, koi naam na do’ (I have felt the lingering fragrance of those eyes, don’t try and touch it with your hands to brand it as a relationship, it is only a sensation, this thing they call love, feel it with your soul and let it remain at that, don’t cubbyhole it with a name).

A worthy successor to that one is ‘Katra katra milti hai, katra katra jeene do, zindagi hein behne do, pyaasi hoon mein pyaasi rehne do’ from Ijazat. (I can only quench it drop by drop, I can only live it drop by drop, there is life, let it flow, I am thirsty, let me remain thus). A song that unpretentiously sighs the longing of a woman in love. But the two most pithy and powerful lines swathed in passion happen in a song from an inconsequential film Swayamvar. ‘Tumhari nighahen bahut bolti hai, zara apni nazron par palkein gira do’. (Your eyes speak of too many things, please cover your gaze with your eye lids).

Gulzar has an extraordinary gift for capturing the maverick spirit of the wondering heart. One of his earlier songs went ‘Hawaaon pe likh do, hawaaoon ke naam, ek anjaan rahgir ka salaam’ (Write on the breeze, dedicate it to the breeze, an unknown wonderer’s salutations!) In the same vein, nearly two decades later he wrote ‘Ay Zindagi gale laga le, humne bhi har ek gam ko ghale se lagaya hain, hain na…’ ( Hey Life, please embrace me just like I have embraced all the sorrows…)

No wonder, getting the better of the restless spirit featured as the opening bhajan in Guddi, the song that introduced Jaya Bhaduri to movie goers. ‘Hum ko man ki shakti dena, man vijay kare, doosroon ke jai se pehle khud ko jai kare.’ (Give us the strength to capture this mind of ours so that before we capture others we are able to overpower our restless souls.)

Hututu, the last film Gulzar directed was a critical and commercial failure. But as poet lyricist he remains unchallenged in the Hindi film scenario as was evident from two of last year’s releases - Filhaal and Saathiyaa. In Filhaal, the man endearingly implores his beloved to ‘ungliyoon mein pehen lo ye rishta’ (Wear the relationship in your fingers) and the title track of Saathiya, an ode to the tinkling laugher of the beloved, is punctuated with classic Gulzar imagery ‘barf giri ho vaadi mein, un mein lipti simti hui, aur hansi teri goonje, un mein lipti simti hui, baat kare dhuan nikle, garam garam ujla dhuan, naram naram ujla dhuan.’ (In the snow clad valley, you are swathed in wool, your laughter echoes, and you are swathed in wool, and from your mouth emerges smoke, the warm and fair smoke, the soft and fair smoke).

Clearly at sixty-seven, Gulzar is a veteran but his lyrics still have all the passion of an adolescent in love.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Celebrating the Human Spirit

(I wrote this for the Deccan Herald, way back in 2005. And now I find some site for students is charging for this essay!!)

When Toni Morrison received the Nobel Prize for literature a decade ago, she told yet another story. About an old lady. Wise but blind. The old lady could belong to any land, any culture. She is both the ‘law’ and the ‘transgression’ of that land. Her clairvoyance is unmatched. One day a bunch of cynical youngsters decide to expose her. They visit her and ask her whether the bird they hold in their hand is dead or alive. There is a long pause and the youngsters start feeling triumphant. Just as the sniggers begin, the old woman responds softly and sternly. ‘I don’t know’, she says. ‘But it is in your hands.’ The old woman’s wisdom wins once again. In a deft stroke she has felled the arrogance of the doubters. She has shifted the attention from the assertion of power to the instrument through which the power is asserted. The author went on to liken herself to the old woman and the bird to her writing, in her speech.

Ever since she wrote her first novel, Morrison has left seven brilliant novels in our hands. For us to cherish the beauty of the human spirit that remains unvanquished by the greatest of horrors unleashed on it. Morrison writes about the most savage and barbaric acts committed by human beings in the most luminous prose possible. The paradox in her writing makes her truly the wisest woman in the literary horizon. To say she writes about the black experience in a racist culture would be doing her a great disservice. Her characters may be localized to a particular race but the truths she speaks are universal. They may very well be about the Dalits in India or the Muslims in Bosnia.

Toni Morrison was born Chole Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio. Her parents moved to the north to escape the problems of southern racism and she grew up relatively unscarred by racial prejudices. She spent her childhood in Midwest and read voraciously from Jane Austen to Tolstoy. Her father told her folktales about the black community, transferring his African American heritage to another generation. In 1949 she entered Howard University in Washington D.C. America’s most distinguished black college. She continued her studies at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. She wrote her thesis on Suicide in the works of William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf.

A suicide sets the context for Morrison’s commercially most successful book Song of Solomon to unfold. Robert Smith, ironically an agent of the Life Insurance company, decides to ‘fly’ and liberate himself, setting the context for the hero of the tale ‘Milkman’ to come to this world and discover the truth about his identity.
Suicides and the nobility associated with them are integral to Black history in America and the Black folklores. In the inhuman conditions of the ships that carted the Africans to their destiny as slaves, the act of suicide was truly an act of liberation from the degradation and indignity of the life that awaited them. Only the truly fortunate got the opportunity to ‘fly’ into the sea and liberate themselves.

The act was perceived to be a blessing and not an act of cowardice. It is interesting to notice the parallel with Johar, the tradition of Indian women leaping into fire to save themselves from dishonor as spoils of war, as defeat loomed large and the enemy marched to claim them.

Another characteristic of the works of Morrison are that they are invariably lit with the hues of soft feminism. In Song of Solomon, Milkman and his friend Guitar are amazed by the mystical appearance of a peacock over the building of the used car lot where they stand. As the bird comes down, Milkman mistakes it for a female. Guitar corrects him “He. That’s a he. The male is the only one that got the tail full of jewelry. Son of a bitch.” Milkman asks why the peacock can fly no better than a chicken and his friend answers: “Too much tail. All that jewelry weighs it down. Like vanity. Can’t nobody fly with all that shit. Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”

Clearly in Morrison’s scheme of things even though it is something men all the time aspire for, it is the women oppressed in all cultures, who can truly fly and experience liberation.

Sula gets to fly in a manner of speaking. In this classic tale of exploring morality, Morrison engages with the socially correct Nell, who conforms to all the mores and her sexually promiscuous friend Sula, who lives on the fringes. Morrison cleverly colors her story with an early incident that bonds the two women to a lifetime of friendship and betrayal. They are both responsible for the death of Chicken Little by drowning. Sula simply cries while Nell’s first concern is ‘somebody saw’. Morrison manages in that passage to construct the irony of all tales with a moral. It is the girl who will be later considered evil by her community who actually mourns the loss, while her moral friend is only concerned about herself. As to what binds the two girls together despite their different temperaments, Morrison has a ready answer. “Because they had discovered years before that they were neither white nor male, and that all freedom and triumph was forbidden to them, they set about creating something else to be… daughters of distant mothers and incomprehensible fathers… they found in each other’s eyes the intimacy they were looking for.”

In The Bluest Eye, Morrison’s first novel that was published in 1970, Pecola the protagonist is obsessed with the bluest eye - a metaphor for beauty that Pecola feels will magically transform her life if she acquires a pair of them. She never achieves this feat but in the end turns insane and liberates herself. In Jazz, Joe, the unfaithful husband of Violet, kills Dorcos in a fit of passion. The fragmented narrative follows the causes and consequences of the murder. The city of New York is all-pervasive in its influence in the book and so is Jazz, the escape from reality it provides for the Blacks in the city.

Tar Baby is about the dilemma of breaking free of the umbilical cord. The need to wrench free from the maternal bond and create a set of values, expectations and desires for oneself independent of the maternal. Jadine Child’s mother dies when she is twelve but this does not liberate her from the aura of the mother. She encounters a ‘mother/sister/she’ in a supermarket “with eyes whose force had burnt away their lashes”. The woman in yellow with “too much hip, too much bust,” and eggs in hand makes Jadine uncomfortable and yet she also falls in love with the woman.

The conflict determines the flow of the narrative. In Paradise, her first novel since she won the Nobel prize, Morrison explores the nature of all Paradise. According to the author, all notions of paradise stem as male enclaves and the interlopers are always the women, defenceless and threatening. When women get together and get powerful is when they are attacked.

However it is in Pulitzer prize winning, Beloved that the mystical lyrical voice of the author is most clearly heard. If ever there was a song in the form of a novel, Beloved would come closest to it. The book deals with slavery and infanticide. It was inspired by the true story of a black American slave woman, Margaret Garner. She escaped from a Kentucky plantation and sought refuge in Ohio. When the slave masters overcame them, she killed her baby in order to save the child from the slavery she had managed to escape. Sethe, the protagonist tries to kill her children but is successful only in murdering the unnamed infant, Beloved. Later she is rejected by her slave masters and set free. The ghost of Beloved, who reappears in their lives, years later, as old as she would have been if she had been alive, haunts the house where she lives with her teenage daughter.

The book often veers into the metaphysical and is illuminated by a prose that is both haunting as well as melodious. “For a used-to-be slave woman to love anything that much was dangerous, especially if it was her children she had settled on to love. The best thing, he knew, was to love just a little bit; everything just a little bit, so when they broke its back, or shoved it in a Crocker sack, well, maybe you’d have little love left over for the next one.”

Clearly, in the literary horizon, Morrison has ‘The Bluest Eye.’

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


you recited Shakespeare, head popping
out from the window, entirely inappropriate
i thought, lines from Romeo and Juliet
reckless lovers, distant on Bangalore streets

later we feasted on death by chocolate
the corner cafe, but that was before
you turned sullen because there was no
space in our house for the stray dog you loved

you must have thought us mean, content
in our lives, of domestic helps to pitch in
with the cooking and cleaning and returning
from bookshops with overflowing bags

today i am ready to tell you the lie of
that story, i never liked you, never, but
you came to the greenroom to feed my ego
and we drifted into something temporary

something that made you flinch
when we watched Dead Poet’s Society
you were always a Pritchett fan you said
i found that detail unnecessary and boring

we moved to other things after that, things
we disagreed on, like your vegetarianism
and my disregard for commas and semi colons
only to stop talking altogether for years

not that it matters, but do you know
i walked out from a reading when i discovered
you in the audience, it would have been awkward
for both of us with mutual friends looking

but today there is something in the air,
something only you could have understood,
like lines from a poem, this blank gaping hole
for a very long time, almost eternity.

Vijay Nair

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Enduring Monuments

(This appeared in The Hindu, in 2009. One of the best pieces I think I wrote for the Literary Supplement on two of my favorite poets)

The doomed relationship of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath continues to hold morbid fascination for their admirers across the world. There have always been two distinct camps owing allegiance to each of them. The discord between the fans and admirers of the two has not even spared the grave of the unfortunate Plath. It has been repeatedly desecrated by her grief-crazed fans who did not want Hughes’s name on it along with hers. After she killed herself, Hughes was to bear the cross of being “her husband” for the rest of his life although many critics consider him to be the more superior poet.

Scathing criticism
Plath’s suicide coincided with the rise of feminism in the west. Because so many of her poems were scathing criticisms of domesticity and motherhood, she became an icon for the movement. This further contributed to the hysteria against Hughes. Germaine Greer was to confess later, “Ted Hughes existed to be punished — we had lost a heroine and we needed to blame someone, and there was Ted.” Plath had a history of depression and attempted suicide numerous times even before Hughes came into her life. In her poem “Lady Lazarus” written a year and a half before her death, she documented her failed trysts:

“I am only thirty./And like the cat I have nine times to die./This is Number Three./What a trash/To annihilate each decade.”

Her unfortunate history did little to dispel the anger against Hughes. What further turned the tide against him was that within a few years of Plath’s death, Assia Wevill, the woman who had caused the breakdown of their marriage, committed suicide after murdering the daughter she had with Hughes. There have been speculations that Hughes’s mother died of shock after learning about the deaths of his mistress and her daughter. Hughes had faced universal condemnation and notoriety after Plath’s suicide. The shock of another two lives being lost over her son was too much for the ailing woman.

Stoic silence
Hughes maintained a stoic silence in the face of the recurring allegations that he drove his wife to her death. Barely a year after the tragedy his mistress inflicted on herself and their daughter, he married again, a nurse, who played mother to the two children he had with Plath and put up with his life-long philandering. Much as we love his poetry, it is difficult to condone the inhuman side Hughes seemed to display towards the women in his life.

The ambiguity lies in the literary gems penned by him that owes to her and the luminous poems she wrote that wouldn’t have been possible without his encouragement. In the early part of their marriage, she had long non-productive spells of writing. A kind of literary collaboration made home in their togetherness where she took on the responsibility of typing his works and sending them to publishers while he seemed to have helped her whenever she was stuck. One of her early masterpieces came about because of the intervention from him.

“The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right,/White as a knuckle and terribly upset./It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet/With the O-gape of complete despair.” (The Moon and the Yew Tree, Sylvia Plath)

At her best
The separation from Hughes may have done irrevocable damage to Plath’s self-esteem as a woman and a wife; but it went on to enrich her productivity. She was clearly at her best when dogged by misery. In her depression over the betrayal, she was averaging three poems a day. When she sought closure for the two relationships that were to define the course of her life and her poetry, with her father who died when she has only eight and the husband who left her devastated, her rage spilled out in “Daddy,” one of the most potent poems to be ever written.

“There’s a stake in your fat black heart/And the villagers never liked you./They are dancing and stamping on you./They always knew it was you./Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.” (Daddy, Sylvia Plath)

Partial redemption
Hughes partially redeemed himself by putting his promising career on hold for a number of years after her death, editing and bringing out a volume of her collected poems that introduced a much more mature voice than the world had met in her first and only collection of poems to be published when she was still alive.

There is evidence to suggest he wrote poems dedicated to her every year on her birthday after she died. He brought them out in a collection of 88 poems “Birthday Letters,” shortly before his own death.

“It’s at night/Sometimes I drive through. I just find/Myself driving through, going slow, simply/Roaming in my own darkness, pondering/What you did. Nearly always/I glimpse you — at some crossing,/Staring upwards, lost, sixty year old.” (The City, Ted Hughes)

The personal lives of Hughes and Plath would always be up there for public scrutiny. What matters to lovers of poetry however is that these two creative souls completed each other in their lives and deaths in ways outside the construct of conventional morality. The poems they wrote because they had each other are enduring literary monuments to outlive all the negativity they brought to their personal relatedness.


For those interested in literary trivia, Plath’s birth anniversary and Hughes’ death anniversary fall just a day apart on October 27 and October 28 respectively.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Enigmatic Icon- Rajesh Khanna

Sister, older to me by some 14 years, brought Rajesh Khanna home for the first time. As a family, we were hooked to Hindi cinema, with no clear preferences. Any movie, released in the neighbourhood theatre was good enough for a Saturday outing, followed by Masala Dosas and Rasmalais in Bombay Sweet Mart, that faced our favorite cinema hall. The actors were all interchangeable. From Dilip Kumar to Rajendra Kumar to Shammi Kapoor to Sanjay Khan. Or for that matter Mala Sinha or Waheeda Rehman or Nutan or Mumtaz.

We relished their company on screen and ate heartily afterwards before heading home to have Eastman colour dreams. Hoping the next Saturday would happen soon. Movies ran for a long time those days. There were maybe four to five theatres in a small town like Jamshedpur and most of them were not considered respectable for families to patronize. So the interval between the viewings could stretch to be as long as two to three months, maybe more if the film decided to celebrate a 100 days run.

Sister went to Patna to study medicine and came back on a vacation with a picture of Rajesh Khanna hidden in one of her text books. She shared it with the rest of us, away from mother’s eagle eyes. The capital of Bihar had many more theatres and the girls in her hostel had turned into ‘fans’ after watching Aradhana.

He played a double role in that one, the father and son. There was little to distinguish one character from the other. There were no nuances in the interpretation of the two. He crinkled his eyes just the same while singing songs in both the avatars. But sister told us that he was awesome. In a manner of speaking that is. I don’t think the word awesome had found its way into the dictionary in that era. As the oldest, she set the trends at home and the rest of us followed blindly. Because she told us she was a fan, the rest of us turned into fans too. All of us except one of my brothers, that is. He wanted to build muscles like Dharmendra and did not want to be distracted by the limp wristed antics of Khanna. We felt let down by the betrayal.

Memory is an unreliable ally. However looking back, it does seem the man who had turned into a phenomenon in the film industry caused the first major rift among the five of us siblings. But we were fortunate in comparison. There were other families we knew of, with young girls, who decided to get married to Khanna’s picture. He was the first Indian actor to generate mass hysteria. There had been other rakes before him like Dev Anand who blinked more furiously than Khanna could ever manage. But no one had the kind of impact the superstar wielded on the women of India.

Khanna unshackled the urban Indian woman and taught her she had the same right to lust as her male counterpart. What reality denied her, she could access in her dreams when Rajesh Khanna serenaded her by a bonfire and turned her pregnant.

I think this was Khanna’s biggest contribution to Indian cinema. I don’t think he planned to be a feminist icon. If one goes by what film journalists have to say, he was quite a cad. Dumping his live-in girlfriend of many years to marry someone who was in her teens. But despite all the tales of his meanness, Khanna prevailed in the national consciousness like no one else did. He even caused the heartbreak of the meanest scribe of his times.

Maybe we lived in simpler times. If an actor had to hold the attention of the audience for the entire duration of a three hour movie, he had to exude charisma. Otherwise he had to graduate graciously to be a character artist like Balraj Sahni. Acting chops were secondary. Cute mannerisms ruled. And Khanna came armed with a boxful of them. He chose them at will, tilting his head when he wanted to, shaking his waist whenever the fancy caught him, admonishing the women around him for falling prey to tears.

They say Anand was his best performance. I am not so sure. It was all Khanna even in that one. We didn’t feel for the character, we felt for the actor. When Anand died, it made us sad to think Khanna is mortal too. That accounted for our tears, our pain when the movie ended, with his voice teasing from a recorder. Not having Rajesh Khanna in our lives meant we could no longer have romance in our lives. That’s how it feels even today.

Now that he is really dead, will we ever have romance in what remains of our lives?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

In Conversation with Abdulrazak Gurnah

(This was the first time I interviewed a writer and what a privilege it was to get into the mind of Abdulrazak Gurnah. It appeared in Deccan Herald. Also this happened during my first ever writing residency. So good memories all around)

VIJAY NAIR speaks with Britain-based author Abdulrazak Gurnah, whose fourth novel ‘Paradise’ was short-listed for a Booker Prize.

Abdulrazak Gurnah was born in 1948 on the island of Zanzibar off the coast of East Africa. He ran away to Britain in 1968. He is currently the head of the School of English in the University of Kent, Canterbury. His first three novels, ‘Memory of Departure,’ ‘Pilgrims Way’ and ‘Dottie’ (1990), document the immigrant experience in contemporary Britain from different perspectives. His fourth novel, ‘Paradise,’ is set in colonial East Africa during the First World War and was short-listed for the Booker Prize for Fiction. ‘Admiring Silence’ and ‘By the Sea’ are other critically acclaimed novels. His seventh novel ‘Desertion’ is due to be out in 2005. He has also edited essays on Africa and is currently editing a set of essays on Salman Rushdie.

Vijjay Nair met him in the University where he was the writer in residence for the year 2005.

Your book Paradise was nominated for the Booker prize in 1994. Do you consider it your best work?

They are all different. I was pleased with the nomination. You always like to think that the next one is the best one. Or the last one is the one where you realised things most clearly. I don’t have a special sense about it. Even though perhaps it is the book that most people know about.

What I really enjoyed about ‘Paradise’ is the secular fabric underlining it. Is it an ideal you hold personally?

In societies, all people have to have this kind of negotiation between them. Particularly in mercantile cultures. One of the things about colonialism, the colonialism in our part of the world- the moral force was to end slavery. To end Arab slavery. Because of the long crusade against Islam, which in any case, is still going on. The people who did most of the crusading against slavery were also missionaries. There was this hope that the ending of one would also enable the other. So to some extent there is a falsification of history of these events in East Africa, which was one of the impulse behind writing ‘Paradise’.

It was not just a matter of coming for enslavement. What was there was something detailed and to some extent it worked. Although there were all kinds of cruelties in it. But to some extent a degree of exchange was going on. See, one of the things I try to do in ‘Paradise,’ is the number of people who don’t understand each other’s language and the number of times these exchanges have to be translated between different groups of people. You have no idea how good these translations are. Because all we have is the translator’s account of what that person said. And I am certain they weren’t good translations. Because how learned you have to be to know two or three languages equally well? So there are all kinds of approximations and yet there is an exchange. People are tolerant, more tolerant than they seem, even though they shout at each other and use combative language.

In the Channel 4 coverage of the Booker nominations, the year Arundhati Roy got it, Carmen Callil, the previous year’s chair of the Booker judges called ‘The God of Small Things’ “an execrable book.” Have you ever had to face similar kind of literary prejudice?

No. I have not encountered that kind of difficulty at all. On the whole, most people who get around to writing about my work have been kind about it. And when I have met unkindness I have instantly forgotten about it. And I suppose considering what happened to Roy’s book, one voice like that has been drowned with all those people who have liked the book and praised the book.

‘Dottie’ is your only book with a woman protagonist. How was writing that different from writing any other book?

Well, it is different. They are all different. Particularly at that stage of my writing life. It was my third book. I had written ‘Memory of Departure,’ which had taken me a while to write. And despite everything, people said, “Nice. It is your life. It is autobiography”.

Does that irritate you?

Not anymore. But it used to... Yeah. Well. I had one book then, and people were asking is that written from your autobiographical experience. Well everything is. I don’t make it up exactly. You use things you know. But again, it wasn’t true in a detailed way. So I wrote that and then ‘Pilgrim’s Progress,’ which is also true of my experience of England.

You are editing a set of essays on Salman Rushdie. How do you rate him as a writer?

He is an excellent writer. Truly an original. He challenges things. He makes things fun. There is only one Salman Rushdie. Writers like V S Naipaul, Rushdie, J M Coetze are themselves. There is no one like them. That is what I mean by an original. Some of them you like. Some of them you don’t. But you always treat them with respect.

Can you tell me something about ‘Desertion,’ your seventh novel that is being released in May this year.

Actually, there is an Indian there. It begins in 1899 and there is an unexpected love affair between an European man and the daughter of the Indian shop keeper. So in the opening part, there is some sort of reflection on what this means, this impossible love affair.

Then the novel moves to the 1950s in Zanzibar. It is interesting that I wanted to write about two or three things. One is to write about sorrow. How our lives, human lives are inevitably sorrowful. I have always written about how vulnerable we are. And what we are vulnerable to, is not something that attacks us from outside but waylays us and maybe is something that is within us. And we grow old and sad and ripe for something that is stalking us, waiting for us. Experience makes us sorrowful and the more we experience the more oppressed we become. And in the end we become like all the old people we see. Weighed down by the things that we cannot forget.

The other thing I wanted to write about was good people. It is always difficult to write about people who are good. So I wanted to write about people who think they are undeserving of the fate that befalls them but to whom nonetheless life deals the same cards. It is also a book about choices one makes in lives.

It is 37 years since you made this country your home. How British do you feel? Do you feel nostalgic about what you left behind?

Well I do that. I do all of it. I don’t feel British. But I have lived here long enough to understand how things operate here. I never forget how I look. I have never quite lost my awkwardness about how would I appear to others.

I don’t look at other people and forget how unlike them I look. Which strangely enough I never felt when I first came here. I was naive and innocent and would forget what I looked like.

I would be walking and when I caught sight of myself in a shop window, I would be shocked at my own reflection. “Who the hell is that.” I would be shocked whenever someone shouted out an abuse at me. Whereas nowadays whenever that happens, I no longer react.

As for, where I come from, Zanzibar, Africa, I think about it every day, several times a day. Places don’t live just where they are, they live within you. So I think of all that- Life is what you make of it. Some of it is good. Some of it is bad. But you have made a choice and that is what life is.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Another Poem

the week begins
and a poem beckons
the overcast clouds
deliver the words at
the door and now
they tumble all over asking
to be strung together

chiding them does not help
call them names, tell them
they are worthless, no one
publishes poetry any more
and if they do, they don’t
pay you for it, what’s the point

they will be better off
in a Sunday essay
the same newspaper everyone
reads in the south, but
heedless they pester and
plead, making it difficult

to ignore the clanging doorbell
the two cheque books
that arrive by post, leaving
the half finished novel
desolate, gaping and gawking
at this feeling that persists

it should not start like this really,
the ennui of the weekend hangover
fourth glass of half finished wine
heaviness in the head brought on
by the listless knocking and the
desire to be free and make
the words dance any which way.

Vijay Nair

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Politics of Sexual Harassment

The nation is outraged over the Guwahati incident.

At least we are meant to believe this, if we are to go by the antics of hysterical TV anchors. And so? What is going to follow next?

Outrage is a distraction. It lasts as long as the next one comes along. We will soon have something even more chilling to waste our shock and disdain over. And we all know that is around the corner. A new victim, a new set of culprits, rape, molestation, the mowing down of an honest police official, ‘accidental’ encounter with a bunch of innocent villagers, take your pick. It could be any of these.

If the ordinary mortals do not deliver, the ministers should. They will make some insensitive statement to get us all worked up and give us our daily delicious dose of outrage. And the victim from Guwahati like all other victims will soon be a footnote in the history of our ‘outraged’ voyeurism.

Like it happened with the rape victims in Kolkata and Gurgaon. Like it happened with the young man who lost his life last year fighting a bunch of goons who were trying to molest the girls he was out with. Like the three-year-old child who was raped by her own father but according to the cops has not been able to provide adequate evidence to nail the culprit.

Do we remember their names? Do we even need to? They are all victims and victim-hood has only temporary entertainment value. We need new victims to keep us enthralled and glued to the television screen.

And because it is all so temporary, the solutions we come up with are also temporary and laughable. With the culprits in Guwahati it is about shaming them publicly by displaying their sneering mugs on social networking sites. In the hope they will become social outcasts.

But is that going to happen? Are you sure about that? In certain quarters they are already heroes. Do you think Pramod Muthalik thinks of them as criminals? Do you think they would be outcasts in the village that has banned cell phones for women? At best, they will get ridiculous jail terms for a few months and walk out as heroes. Most of them will be recruited as political party workers. The ones who are sent to more deprived neighbourhoods to intimidate the residents to vote for a particular party.

And why should any of us protest? What is this over the top reaction about something that happens all the time in this country? Women in this country are always getting harassed on the streets. They are pinched, groped, slapped, their clothes torn off, lifted in vans and cars and gang raped. Ok...some guy captured the whole episode on camera to raise the viewership of the channel he worked for. But this is after all a crime committed against an ordinary citizen. Why do we want extraordinary repercussions for the culprits?

Did we take out posters of Rathore and his wife, who were partners in crime in molesting and driving Ruchira Girhotra to suicide? They even branded the brother of the victim as a criminal and paraded him on the streets. I have brought Rathore’s wife into picture because she very righteously defended her husband in court.

Do we even know what the French diplomat who raped his own daughter looks like? They always give him the luxury of covering his face. He was responsible for an equally if not a more heinous crime. Why have we not thought of ‘outing’ him on social networking sites. Some complex socio- legal distinction at play here? All pigs are equal but some pigs are more equal?

Sexual harassment just like anything else is a class phenomenon in this country. Some of them have a greater right to commit these depraved acts because of where they come from.

Both the victim and the culprits are soft targets in the Guwahati incident. We can derive salacious pleasure from finding out all the details of the victim that she does not want to share with the world. We can whip up this artificial frenzy about stoning the culprits in public. We don’t have to worry about the repercussions of being sued, about getting into trouble and most importantly looking inwards.

But then that’s fine. This is about outrage right? Not about lasting solutions. If we found a way to fix this, what will we be left with? So let’s not even ask pertinent questions here.

Like why our women MPs who can rise over party affiliations to demand reservations in parliamentary seats, not align with each other to ensure exemplary punishment is meted out to perpetuators of these crimes, regardless of their social standing. Why can’t we see a link between Katrina Kaif shaking her booty surrounded by a mob of panting men trying to grope her while she teases them and belts out jaan lewa jalwa hai, dekhna me halwa hai? In any case, Kaif or a female MP or MLA is never in the danger of getting groped or molested on the streets. Why would such a thing happen to them? Who will dare? They have a posse of bodyguards to safeguard them.

The women at risk are those who have to use public transport, walk on the roads, get the shopping done after a day’s work, commute to schools and colleges. They have to pay this price of getting harassed for simply wanting to exist in this country. Going by these yardsticks, the whispers about this girl in Guwahati having brought it on herself should not be completely off the mark.

How dare she go to a bar for a drink and afterwards have a public spat with her male companion? And that too when she didn’t have a chauffeur driven car waiting for her and could do no better than hail an auto rickshaw to reach home? So of course her ‘dubious’ background brought on the harassment. We need to understand this. Only women who can afford large sedans have the luxury of wearing short dresses in this country.

Now that is outrageous, don't you think?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

this joyous land

waking up at dawn to meet our gods
light lamps and burn incense sticks
purify the fickle body with sandalwood
soap baths, decorate the shrines and the
deities with fragrant flowers and only
then step out to mutilate the souls

how easy it is to break the spirit of a
child with uncomprehending eyes and
dress up to go for a TV show to condemn
the men who stripped a girl in public, they
should be punished for this stray incident
don’t you see there is more, much more

to this dazzling country of ancient cultures
the stupid foreigner cannot even begin to
comprehend the symbolism of the filth,
just getting turned on by poverty porn and
people shitting by the roadside, what does
he know about the purity of this joyous land

Vijay Nair

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

And the winner is…

(One of my first essays to be published in The Hindu. It kicked up quite a storm when it first came out)

Aravind Adiga should have seen it coming. The bitter, unrelenting criticism towards The White Tiger in his country after the Booker triumph has a familiar ring to it.

The God of Small Things met with an equally hostile reception from the Indian literary establishment when the huge advance it commanded was made public. And the murmurs about betrayal began as soon as Kiran Desai beat her formidable peers in the shortlist to grab the big one with The Inheritance of Loss, just a couple of years ago. The Booker is the biggest, the most visible, literary prize the British bestow on a writer from any of the Commonwealth countries every year. In little over a decade, three Indians have prevailed over the competition to bring home the bounty.

It qualifies as the ultimate act of subversion. This spectacular feat by writers from a previously colonised nation almost mocking the righteous patronisation the Western literary world would like to heap on writers from the sub-continent. English writers vie for the same prize and that makes the victory sweeter. But back home, as news of yet another Indian writer beating the impossible odds trickles in, the celebration, if any, is muted and tinged with suspicion. Certainly it is nothing when compared to the adulatory headlines every time the Indian Cricket Team beats Australia or England. Even allowing for the much touted cliché that cricket and not literature is the national pastime, it is baffling that these achievers are not accorded a fraction of the accolades that a Bronze Medallist from the Olympics commands. Instead, the hostility they encounter tends to force them into being “Salingeresque” recluses in their own country.

Desai lives and works in New York and is likely to be somewhat insulated from the bitter aftermath of the Booker harvest, but how many interviews of Roy have we come across in recent years, even though home for her is New Delhi? There are regular reports of the talks she delivers in her travels, but she prefers to skip destinations in her own country. Adiga, by all accounts, has decided to give the Indian media a skip after the prize. Not even his Indian publishers can access him for interviews. And who can blame him after the things they have had to say about him and his book, questioning his integrity as well as his patriotism.

The White Tiger is the most recent of the three and it may be worthwhile to explore the book as well as the anger it has generated among Indians. Not just among stuffed-shirt critics who for years have been struggling to write their first book and despairing, frustrated writers who have had to deal with the “no advance, no royalty; feel blessed you have been published,” vagaries of Indian publishing houses and who cannot but resent the outsider who gets catapulted to a different league of big advances and international celebrity-hood riding on that one “lucky” book, but also the average Indian reader who patronises English fiction. This is the class that grew up reading Sydney Sheldon and Danielle Steel, but would like to own the work of “that Indian Bloke, what’s his name, who won that jackpot of a prize”.

This reader is a part of the same class to which Mr. Ashok and Pinky Madam from Adiga’s work belong. Who get all the joy in their sad affluent lives by making their semi-literate driver, Balram Halwai, spout English words to earn a few cheap laughs at his expense. Mr. Ashok’s entrepreneurial strengths are no match for the survival instincts born out of sheer deprivation his street smart driver has encountered and the “master” pays for that ignorance with his life. After murdering him, Balram Halwai takes on the name and identity of his employer/ master and becomes an entrepreneur in Bangalore.

The White Tiger is a fairy tale, albeit somewhat bloody in its orientation. The book even ends with the promise of marriage for the protagonist, thereby sealing the happily-ever-after ending. So it begs to reason why it has left so many compatriots of the author foaming at the mouth. The answer may be in the deceptively simple parabolic tale Adiga weaves in a little over 300 pages. Everything about the work is designed as a wickedly subversive tool to hold a mirror to the reader, the patron of his book.

The White Tiger traverses the familiar territory of class and caste divide, poverty and exploitation and the triumph of the human spirit that one expects in a book that unfolds from a place called “Darkness” in Bihar and draws its protagonist from an impoverished family of rickshaw pullers who were in the business of making sweetmeats before fate intervened. How this change in family fortune happened is explained succulently by Adiga:

“See, this country, in its days of greatness, when it was the richest nation on earth, was like a zoo. A clean, well-kept, orderly zoo. Everyone in his place, everyone happy. Goldsmiths here. Cowherds here. Landlords there. The man called a Halwai made sweets. The man called a cowherd tended cows. The untouchable cleaned faeces…To sum up — in the old days there were one thousand castes and destinies in India. These days, there are just two castes: Men with Big Bellies, and Men with Small Bellies.

And only two destinies: eat or get eaten up.”

Who can argue with this obvious truth? In page after page, Adiga teases his Indian reader with facts that the reader is familiar with but dare not acknowledge. From commenting on the petty parochial regional prejudices (“I don’t believe a word. The south is full of Tamils. You know who the Tamils are? Negroes. We’re the sons of the Aryans who came to India. We made them our slaves. And now they give us lectures) to reflecting on larger existential dilemmas (“Kill enough people and they will put up bronze statues near Parliament House in Delhi — but that is glory, and not what I am after. All I wanted was the chance to be a man — and for that, one murder was enough) nothing escapes the Adiga scanner. The White Tiger is not a comfort book but it was never designed to make its readers sleep in peace. And it is as literary as they get, never mind the easy readability factor. Because it is simple on surface, the complexities and the paradoxes contained in the book are more interesting to grapple with.

Nothing about Roy’s priceless gem The God of Small Things is simple. The book has seen a host of detractors since it was published to equal measure of controversy and acclaim. We see it being regularly featured as “the most overrated book I have read” in the list provided by her disgruntled peers year after year, but few are aware of the global phenomenon the book and its author is. Roy hasn’t written another novel although rumours surface in literary circles from time to time that she is ready with another “fictional” enterprise. There are many fans who would like her not to, because of the enduring dazzle the first one left in the literary firmament and the belief that the magic of her first novel would be impossible to recreate.

The White Tiger and The God of Small Things have one thing in common — the soul of the two books may very well be taken as twins but not of the monozygotic kind. It is possible to separate them like the two children Estha and Rahel in Roy’s novel, based on their form and structure, not to say their respective styles. The constant refrain that Roy decides to imbue the story of her star-crossed lovers with is “That it really began in the days when the Love Laws were made. The laws that lay down who should be loved, and how. And how much.” Adiga’s unwritten counter to that may very well be that it began in the days when the “class” laws were drawn up. The laws that lay down who and what should be owned, and how. And how much.

This surface difference apart, the two books have a lot in common. After the funeral of a child described through the eyes of another child with a delightfully inventive voice in Roy’s work — “The singing stopped for a ‘Whatisit? Whathappened?” and for a furrywhirring and a sariflapping,” Ammu, the young mother, visits a police station to plead for her lover’s release. The savagery she encounters from Inspector Thomas Mathew may just as well belong to The White Tiger:

“If I were you,” he said, “I’d go home quietly.” Then he tapped her breasts with his baton. Gently. Tap, tap. As though he was choosing mangoes from a basket. Pointing out the ones that he wanted packed and delivered. Inspector Thomas Mathew seemed to know whom he could pick on and whom he couldn’t. Policemen have that instinct.

Behind him a red and blue board said:







The Police Station could very well be the same one Balram Halwai may have found himself in if he had been caught after murdering his employer and no doubt Inspector Thomas Mathew would have beaten him to death just like the unfortunate Velutha, when Balram was “Not old. Not young. But a viable die-able age.”

Roy has been widely criticised for writing a book that catered to the West. Not many people are aware that there were an equal number of violent reactions towards the book even in the U.K., egged on by the liberties Roy took with the language. Carmen Callil, who chaired the committee that decided the Booker Prize for the year preceding Roy’s win, had gone on record to say The God of Small Things was an “execrable” book. But, as the cliché goes, it is difficult to ignore the book even though you may hate it because of the power it packs and the unique and distinctive style of the narrative. Roy’s mastery lies in describing a period of life that all of us look back with nostalgia and suffusing it with tender innocence so that when it is snatched away brutally from the two child protagonists we are forced to confront the time and space when we were made to grow up. The paradox of human existence is deftly and beautifully captured in her story-telling. Her writing achieves the near impossible task of being clever and compassionate at the same time.

Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss falls squarely in the middle of the bitter pills Roy and Adiga force the unsuspecting reader to swallow. Just like the winners before and after her, Desai sets out to capture the world of the exploiter as well as the exploited. The fact that she is gentler with her readers than either Roy or Adiga makes her work no less incisive. The tonality of her work is more philosophical and her unique gift seems to lie in expanding the internal dilemmas her characters go through and linking them seamlessly to the strife and challenges nations create among themselves. Class differentiations and the distinction they impose, clouding and colouring lives, are as important to Desai as they are to Roy and Adiga. The difference lies in the outsider perspective that Desai adapts in keeping with the theme of immigration in her book. Her narrative comes across as being less emotional and more objective. And yet, curiously enough, it is never detached.

“But Profit could only be harvested in the gap between nations, working one against the other. They were damning the third world to becoming third world. They were forcing Bose and his son into an inferior position — thus far and no further — and he couldn’t take it. Not after believing he was their friend. He thought of how the English government and its civil servants had sailed away throwing their topis overboard, leaving behind those ridiculous Indians who couldn’t rid themselves they had broken their souls to learn.”

Desai succeeds in bringing the diminished immigrant to us through crisply written passages like the one quoted above. The non resident Indian is brought up to believe his destiny is to immigrate and gravitates automatically towards foreign shores. It is only when he is living as an exile he discovers the disproportionate price he has paid in the cumulative loss of his family, his identity as well as his sense of self.

A loss that The White Tiger is familiar with. He migrates within his own country, from the “Darkness” of his origins to the new, bogus “Driving Technology” Bangalore, as diverse as two nations placed on different parts of the globe, sacrificing his family and his identity at the altar of success. The same journey that the Anglophile judge and Biju, the cook’s son, undertake in The Inheritance of Loss. The pathos of their existence resonates so intimately with each other that they can be interchangeable.

If the aim of literature is to help us understand the world we live in and lead more meaningful lives then undoubtedly all the three recent Indian books that have won the coveted prize have achieved this admirable objective. There would always be critics who carp that these writers were self-serving and wrote for personal glory. But their works will outlive the pockets of distress they continue to create and endure as classics.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ray and the Railways

A piece I wrote for The Hindu maybe five- six years ago.

A homage to the enduring love story between Satyajit Ray and trains… which feature prominently in many of his movies.
Photo: The Hindu Photo Library

Visual metaphors that resonate: Satyajit Ray.
The reclusive Satyajit Ray had admitted in a rare interview to a French journal that he familiarised himself with Calcutta suburbs and nearby villages through short train trips outside the city when he was contemplating making “Pather Panchali." It is tempting to link these trips of the young auteur brimming with hope and uncertainty along with the influence of early European cinema to the recurring image of a train in many of his films.
The leitmotif of the railways defines the Apu trilogy. The feuding siblings, Apu and Durga, are reunited by a train’s appearance in “Pather Panchali”. In the much debated and discussed scene from the film, the children are seen only through the gap between the carriage and the tracks. The light that falls on them appears to bring them together after their short bitter quarrel. They turn back home carrying the wonder in their eyes only to discover their dead aunt a short distance from their doorstep. In his affirmation of life’s journey through the use of the clever metaphor, Ray braces his central character for a spate of deaths of near and dear ones that Apu would encounter all through his celluloid history.

In “Aparajito”, the disillusioned mother awaits the arrival of her son from the city. She knows death is waiting to claim her anytime. As she sits outside her ramshackle house, she hears the approaching train. It is the wrong one. By the time her son arrives it is too late. The circle is completed in “Apur Sansar” when the distraught protagonist contemplates suicide by a railway track. He is all ready to throw himself in front of a speeding train when the cry of a dying pig stops him in his tracks.

Visual link
The train is the constant in all the three films. Even when it does not appear on the screen, it makes its presence felt. The sound of it is used in “Pather Panchali” to signify the death of the old aunt as well as the young Durga. Was the genius falling back on some trite symbolism to illustrate the continuous thread of life that death cannot obliterate? Or is the rationale as mundane as a cash-strapped filmmaker falling back on an existing recorded sound to weave his scenes together. Perhaps only the crew who worked with him on these films can throw some light on this.

While the Apu trilogy uses the moving train as a deliberate ploy to signify multiple factors including progress and transformation of a society, many of the later films make quixotic use of the same device. In “Aranyer Din Ratri”, four friends venture out to the forests for a holiday in a car. The first evening finds them at a loose end and they decide to spend it in a local toddy shop. This is an important sequence as it would introduce a young tribal woman, played delightfully by a young Simi Garewal, in their lives. She is brimming with raw sexual energy that is innocent as well as compelling. The camera suddenly pans on a moving train for no rhyme or reason, leaving the viewer dumbfounded. Maybe Ray, who was blessed with a unique sense of humour as many of his films indicate, wanted to cock a snook at all the self-styled critics who were discussing the train scene from “Pather Panchali” ad nauseam.

Especially since the train had played such a significant role in the earlier “Nayak”. The train journey is more than a metaphor for the angst ridden superstar’s life. In fact, it becomes the third significant character besides the hero and the young journalist. The long journey affords the superstar the much needed pause to reflect on his life. The manipulative scribe becomes his sounding board to share all that has gone wrong with his life. By the end of the journey, he is shorn of all his trappings and she sees him as vulnerable as any other human being. The train has deprived him of his sheen but vested him with humanity.

The delightful double bill “Kapurush-O-Mahapurush” that preceded the saga of the superstar had the train concluding one tale and initiating the second one. The repenting script writer in “Kapurush” leaves a note for his estranged sweetheart, now married to a middle aged man, enticing her to elope with him. He finally has the courage to make the decision that he was unable to when he was younger. She arrives at the railway station but only to reveal her own vulnerability. The unfortunate Amitabha Roy is left behind to take the train on his own.

In “Mahapurush”, the mischievous Ray peeps out right from the opening shots of the fraudulent holy man surrounded by his disciples on a railway platform. Nowhere is the genius of the master filmmaker who believed that scripting his own screenplays was an integral part of direction, more evident. The train is marrying the pathos of the first tale with the farce of the second. The silent chortle of the creator is audible to the discerning audience when the holy man thrusts his feet out of the moving train to a devotee who is hankering for his blessings. It is as if the train is essential to make sense of the complex human psychology that can veer from the sublime to the ridiculous.

But the most delightful use of the railways was reserved for the all-time favourite of Bengali children — “Sonar Kella”. The train is omnipresent in this fantasy. It leads to all the interesting plot points in the film, including the breathtaking denouement where the criminals meet a just end at the hands of the ubiquitous “Felu Da”. Not to mention that riveting first meeting between the detective and “Jatayu”, famous writer of detective fiction inside a train. You don’t need to be either a Bengali or a Ray fan to laugh out aloud while watching this scene, rife with understated humour.

Ray must have been eternally grateful to the Indian railways for letting his creative juices flow unabated through the filming of so many of his classics. We, as appreciative audience, can only pay homage to this love story that endured all through his prolific film career.

Friday, July 6, 2012


this morning like any other
boxful of books, unopened mails
a kite flashing golden wings circles
deceptive clouds float on an unimpressed sky

last year was different
we lived on a bustling street
with a multiplex at the corner
we could drown our worries
over popcorn and cola
trying not to stare at young lovers
getting cosy in corner seats

a large tree came forward
to hug the balcony, and when
they chopped it, we shed tears
how could they do this, how
could they take away a sanctuary
with an axe but in the new home
the wind does it just as expertly

uproots the tree, shrieks in the
night, litters the ground with
drunk uncertain leaves, we don’t
entertain as often and complain to
friends about distances and day
long outings do nothing to quell
the anxiety about how it might not
rain at all this year and the forecasts
are lies cops spout over a botched up case

this morning like any other
although so much has changed.