Jagriti Rumi

Surprise!

The Happy Prince and the little blue swallow.
[Image by Jagriti Rumi]

Round the same corner, where the overgrown bushes and wildflowers say peekaboo, where the hilltop takes a sudden steep turn, where the gusty wind is always somewhat high, there, no formula has explained how, one is always greeted with a surprise.

Happy, tricky, charming, daunting, could be anything. The same corner’s sameness, the old corner’s oldness never mars its impact – the surprise surprises the surprised passerby.

Yes, it’s a corner to cross, no one’s destination. Just meeting an unexpected twist by the way, you walk past changed if it surprises you well.

Surprise, the word’s root meaning will take you to meet the medieval Latin word superprehendere which means ‘seize’. No wonder, a surprise seizes you, capturing fully until you see the hidden newness in what you thought was the same-old-same-old.


The Happy Prince & Other Stories by Oscar Wilde, a collection of fairy tales that he wrote for his own family members, is fun and full of surprises.


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The Lion’s Truth

Your highness, you rule!
[Source – Pixabay]

What shade is the lion’s

Truth? Grassland golden, hunting prey in red

Marking the dark night black

Soaking in wet sky blue

Of the stream, cloudy, stony, fish green

And scent heavy wind’s white

Smelling dry muddy earth’s brown

Resting, playing shadows under the sun’s yellow

Colouring death not in sorrow

Mankind behind great walls checks

Time, never finding how come his truth

Is different from the lion’s.

“It is not, truth is truth, same for all”, said the lion.
[Source – Pixabay]

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Farewell, Dear Star

Webb Telescope NIRCam image of supernova remnant Cassopeia A.
Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Danny Milisavljevic (Purdue University), Ilse De Looze (UGent), Tea Temim (Princeton University)

A star that shattered like a glass

Cassiopeia-A, its name

A supernova remnant, when captured

In a telescopic lens, it showed

The colours of peace that overtook the space

When the star exploded

Breaking the shell into pieces

To embrace the space

To become one

Dying not, but evolving

Into what is the infinite

Not far or near, but everywhere

Direction-and-distance-free

Beaming brightly, lives

The star that shattered like a glass.


The structure contains cosmic dust, which has the potential to coalesce under gravity over time, to grow and grow and eventually form brand new stars.


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The Samurai Walker

Reverberating grand mountain range… here I come!
[Source – Pixabay]

Recently ordained as a samurai or was she a veteran, no one knows for what is the difference between new and old journeys… Experience! Experience? Experience is always limited, tied to the past, a guide it maybe, yes, just that, but not a compass, for the working compass points towards the present, always.

And grannie, the samurai never called herself a samurai… she said, and I have heard too grannie, she called herself a walker.

Hmm… yes, yes, that’s right too, but listen what happened next. She crossed the ocean of the golden grass that swayed with the silken wind, her hands stroking the golden waves past her, dancing a little to the left, then to the right, dancing to dodge the crickets, grasshoppers and in some seasons the dragonflies. Some seasons? Some seasons, yes, for she has crossed this ocean of the golden grass many a times.

You mean the meadow, right grannie? Golden grass ocean is where we play? Because I have seen her passing by.

Yes kiddo! So, listen now, she crosses this ocean to climb the reverberating grand mountain range… mountains that speak and its white peaks touch the sky, its high peaks that speak that us chaps fail to see for we bend to sow seeds, our backs ache and speak a different language that doesn’t reaches the peaks that speak.

But the samurai’s footprints, when in the mood, talk and share anecdotes and so we know somethings like that she stands still to sleep and drinks fresh water for breakfast and dinner, skipping lunch altogether, that she takes different routes to reach the top in search of an answer.

Grannie, she bought flour from the market one day, I saw her. She knows how to cook too.

The footprints are complete, not weak, she is never in a hurry, walking ahead, different routes but one direction. Where to? What chasing question she chases? What can be seen that is hidden in these glorious mountains? An answer? Why again? Yes, again… isn’t the old answer relevant anymore? Or is the question too old, dimming the revelation in-turn? Or there’s no question, no answer to be known?

Kiddo? You asleep, good. Rest now, for you too have to go on a long walk soon.


The samurai, standing on the mountain peak, her hundredth journey, maybe, she mutters, for she stopped counting long time back, for it didn’t answer, it dated the time passed and that is all. Why hundredth then? For impact, she whispers.

Biting cold wind reminded nothing of its silken version that swayed the golden grass, the meadows that looked like a shiny river from there. The samurai looked in one direction for hours, concentrating madly, couldn’t see clearly when suddenly a brisk energy filled her fully, and she stopped looking in one direction, and looked at the panorama fully, the whole of it and not just a part.

The question, the answer busted in joy then, concentration took a dive into complete attention, a clarity dawned that stopped the samurai from checking time, for the whole movement moved in her wholly.


This one movement played like a melodious orchestra around her, that from that day, the samurai walker didn’t imagine her goal, but saw the radiant whole.

The job was done, yet the samurai walked, fought and caught the fallen and rose every time, looking, from a certain angle, as tall and strong as the mountains.


And those who have heard the peaks, mostly the oldies like our grannie, even once – the echoes of the purple caves – they have spent the days and nights in glorifying it as a legend, speaking in riddles, confusing all and never…

Hey, where’s my stick? Wait, you!!


Climbing like the rainbow.
[Source – Pixabay]

She walks without counting, checking time

Or imagining a direction, she walks

Matter-of-factly, fearlessly, lightly

Like the rainbow after a storm

-Samurai’s footprints

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An Ancient Temple

Living and dying daily.
[Source – Pixabay]

Stranger, think long before you enter,

For these corridors amuse not passing travellers.

But if you enter, keep your voice to yourself.

Nor should you tinkle and toll your tongue.

These columns rose not, for such as you.

But for those urgent pilgrim feet that wander

On lonely ways, seeking the roots of rootless trees.

The earth has many flowery roads; choose one

That pleases your whim, and the gods be with you.

But now leave! Leave me to my dark green solitude

Which like the deep dream world of the sea

Has its moving shapes; corals; ancient coins;

Carved urns and ruins of ancient ships and gods;

And mermaids, with flowing golden hair

That charm a patch of silent darkness

Into singing sunlight.

-Inscription on an ancient temple, Pingalavel, G.A Kulkarni

An ancient forgotten temple that luckily doesn’t asks for donation, mutters a handful of such words that falls on some lucky ears, but usually ricochets off the nearby rocks.

The mossy temple, absorbed in and absorbing the greenery around, is purposeless, meaningless, free from limited definitions.

It shoots comet-fireball-meteor-like sparkling rays randomly into the bright dark sky… or catches the comet-fireball-meteor-like sparkling rays… it shoots or catches… if you see after tilting your head a little.

And so, it meets and greets only the earnest pilgrim, who is roaming aimlessly, ‘seeking the roots of rootless trees.’ Admonishing a half-hearted, tied-to-a-string, fearful attempt, a fearful approach that has drawn conclusions. ‘… the gods be with you. But now leave!’

Sitting still, sinking into the deep sea, a silent celebration that never began and will never end.

The ancient forgotten temple disappears into singing sunlight.

Sing along the sunlight!
[Source – Pixabay]

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Together Pan-optically

Ah, recording it all and then repeating it.
[Source – Pixabay]

A humble looking, I mean just two lines long, definition took such a grim turn that it never left the abandoned penitentiary.

Definition –

Panopticon – a prison with cells/ rooms arranged in a circle, so that the prisoners in them can be seen at all times from the centre, without them knowing whether or not they are being watched.

After taking this same turn, one Michel Foucault – French philosopher, philologist, historian and social theorist – observed things differently, trying to understand why the penitentiary was made in the first place. To control and rule perhaps, but what about the good old methods of confinements in dungeons, solitary cells, and the public displays of torture? With the death of the monarchy, these methods rusted away quickly.

The new progressive democratic modern world needed a much more sophisticated method to control, to rule. Panopticon with a panoptic (pan= all, optic=seeing) tower cheered for itself, gaining a decent fan following.

Doubly jailed!
[Source – Purdue University]

Foucault in his work Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975) shows, with great detail and pain, how a structure like panopticon guarantees internalization of the idea of surveillance.

He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection.

Michel Foucault – Discipline and Punish

Walking ahead, leaving this grim lane behind, rushing past the dullness, the dilapidated mood and tiring heavy air, you realise someone is following you, a shadow appears now and then, it is eager to manipulate, and then a crisp clear voice says, ‘Big Brother is Watching You.’

The Panopticon is polyvalent is its applications; it serves to reform prisoner, but also to treat patients, to instruct schoolchildren, to confine the insane, to supervise workers, to put beggars and idlers to work. It is a type of location of bodies in space, of distribution of individuals in relation to one another, of hierarchical organisation, of disposition of centres and channels of power of definition of the instruments and modes of intervention of power, which can be implemented in hospitals, workshops schools, prisons. Whenever one is dealing with a multiplicity of individuals on whom a task or a particular form of behaviour must be imposed, the panoptic schema may be used.

Michel Foucault – Discipline and Punish

To discipline and punish a society that loves power-knowledge* equally and functions “pan-optically” allowing the power of mind over mind to flourish, what feelings, emotions then nourish the individual…?

A very lonely affair, this panopticon business, it inevitably breeds fear, snatching away life, pinning a number, tagging a label instead. This number, this label becomes reality unbeknownst by the one numbered/labelled.

The prison cell and the panoptic machine thus are two similar moulds that create same order in society, though with drastically different labels. So different that they are always seen in opposition.

“I know… yet I don’t know…”
[Source – Pixabay]

The humble looking definition that took a grim turn is essentially noble. It is not at all bleak in nature for it gives rise to questions and doubts, it confuses and bothers, if one stays longer with it, allowing us to see, that too in no time, how the two moulds – a prison cell and panoptic tower – are similar, and when seen so closely, one even gets to see its foundation – fear.

And when you see fear, directly, you find that fear is nothing but you, a concoction of some ideas, a darkness that simply dissipates when seen, it ends at that very instant, and with it, so do the two moulds.


“Am listening”, “am listening too”, “am listening three”, “sssshhh!”
[Source – Pixabay]

*For Foucault, knowledge is connected to power, his critical theory states –

Knowledge linked to power, not only assumes the authority of ‘the truth’ but has the power to make itself true. All knowledge, once applied in the real world, has effects, and in that sense at least, ‘becomes true.’ Knowledge, once used to regulate the conduct of others, entails constraint, regulation and the disciplining of practice. Thus, ‘there is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time, power relations.

Michel Foucault

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Essentially Gold, The Lavender Hill Mob

A praying mantis sitting on a leaf, stealth mode on, meditating and still, prepares to make a move, to catch the prey and the predator unawares, killing one, fooling the other.

A man sitting in a bank jeep, subservient clerk’s hat on, conniving and shrewd, plans to make a move, to smuggle gold out of the bank and become rich, killing none, fooling them all.

The praying mantis jumps, attacks with precision, and wins; the man, fumbles, tumbles and yelps ‘Old MacDonald had a farm, ee i ee i o.’

The film poster.
[Source – vintageclassicsfilm.co.uk]

A black and white 1951 comedy film, that runs truly, only and only, on the story fuel, The Lavender Hill Mob, is perfectly crafted, balanced and performed heist caper, a hilarious journey that arrests you from the very beginning.

Ranked as one of the greatest British films of all time, The Lavender Hill Mob confides in the audience, letting them see, feel, laugh and think without tickling persuasively with a joke here and a punch-line there.

And so, personifying itself successfully, narrating a comic tale straightforwardly, wonderfully, giving the visuals the space to rise and fall, promising entertainment, delivering it with twists.

Comedy that studies its own movement through planned time-checked routes and unexpected quick-sharp turns, The Lavender Hill Mob set the foundation for future British comedies without any pomp and show, rather just through pure performance.

Check out the official trailer of The Lavender Hill Mob now –

Meet the protagonist, Henry ‘Dutch’ Holland

I was a potential millionaire, yet I had to be satisfied with eight pounds, fifteen shillings, less deductions. A weekly reminder that the years were passing, and my problem still unsolved.

Henry Holland (played by the genius Alec Guinness) narrates his tale honestly, matter-of-factly, beginning from the beginning, a man of numbers, to be specific, of the number 495,978 (pounds of gold bars), for that is what happened and he, like an amused storyteller, reminisces it gladly. This fact, that the protagonist is the narrator, doesn’t hang heavy on us, we forget and start walking with Henry Holland.

Henry is daydreaming again.
[Source – vintageclassicsfilm.co.uk]

The bank manager and his superior and juniors and most importantly the two guards see him as an honest fool, imbecile, fussy crack-pot, who they can trust, even blindly, who they feel is a cog in the machine, tailor made for nothing innovative. Henry knows it, he bows to this fact, choosing to continue the charade.

A place that assumes no special status, the boarding house, Balmoral, in Lavender Hill, London, becomes Henry’s abode, suiting his obscure identity well.

Mapping a robbery of a consignment of gold bullion robbed Henry of peaceful mapping as without a safe route to smuggle the gold abroad, all this stayed stuck like a day dream unexecuted. It is when Al Pendlebury, an artist, finds lodging in Balmoral, Lavender Hill, that Henry finds a ‘golden’ way out.

Pendlebury owned a foundry that made souvenirs – like Eiffel Tower paperweights – that were exported to holiday destinations like Paris.

More than a paperweight, eh?
[Source – Fruggo.com]

These two good friends partner-up and set the mapped scheme into action – timely they hire two chaps/ experts/ thieves for executing the robbery smoothly.

What Henry didn’t factor in while daydreaming about the robbery was the common errors, intrusive and funny ‘by-chance’ happenings and the simple-stubborn-absurdly-comical behaviour of all of us.

Ha-ha! Henry and his mob of friends run, miming a wall and hitting against it, encountering the police on the street, in the office, the gully, the lodgings, somehow meekly fooling them.

But when juggling too-too-too many balls, some are bound to fall… especially if one is juggling and running madly down the Eiffel Tower’s spiral staircase like Henry Holland the juggler… His paper plane, boat, car, crashes, sinks, collides and yet, he tries to do as planned – “for it’s a perfect plan.”

Henry Holland beams through his eyes, camouflaging neatly, mantis-like, aware of his agility and other’s dreariness; master planner, he walks to-and-fro, amongst the crowd, catching them unawares, cheating, skipping, dodging.

Al the Artist

Ee i ee i ohhh!
[Source – IMDB]

Alfred Pendlebury (played by the wonderful Stanley Holloway), lover of everything fine – paintings, sculptures, pottery, complete/incomplete canvases, a ready-made studio at his lodgings that he exclaims ‘…has a north light, too’.

He would be a full-time artist, quitting his souvenir business for good, but he never had the courage, and he quotes – “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these… it might have been.”

The iron’s hot and Henery doesn’t wait to strike; Pendlebury, in the mould, honestly thinks about their honest lives and steps out to join hands with Henery the mapper.

But there is a rush now, the robbery must happen within one week’s time because Henery Holland is promoted to foreign exchange’s department, with 15 shillings raise in his salary.

The Mob

The mob at work, ta-da!
[Source – IMDB]

How to hire two thieves? Talk about leaving your office’s safe unlocked with the staff’s monthly salary in it in crowded places on the top of your voice and ta-da, the applicants will land up in the office the same night without fail.

Two applicants – Wood and Shorty – small time goons end up chewing the bait, happy to be of assistance and glammed by the grand bullion million pounds plan all mapped neatly by now. 

Miss Evesham and Mrs. Chalk become Henry’s accomplice without them or him every finding it out. These two fortuitous accomplices by simply coming downstairs, crossing the corridor, sipping tea, getting someone to read a crime-fiction for them, knitting, ignoring door bells, opening and closing doors, suggesting and commenting contributed silently in building and yet disrupting the status quo.

The Gold

What’s cooking?
[Source – IMDB]

Like a dormant volcano, the gold, in the form of bullion stays too quiet, shining but inactive, somewhat silly, sitting steadily, favourable to none but the locks owning entity, so that the protagonist lurks, dances around it praying for a better life until the day the volcano becomes active.

Henry’s prayer is heard, that is what he assumes, liquid lava gold turned into Eiffel Tower paperweights add weight to his plan but nevertheless begins to slip away, carrying the souvenirs back to Britain from Paris, landing right in an exhibition of police history at a training college for police in London.

The game reaches its final stage, with time slipping by and Henry losing almost all his mob members, he tries to place the king on the diciest square to quash the enemy king’s check-mate move.

The king wins, but which one?

So, we wait and watch till the end.

Comedy

Suffering from vertigo?
[Source – sceen-it.com]

Serious about comedy the story refrains from pretentiousness. Catch Henry Holland gently smiling now and then, turning and glaring with another soft smile and beady eyes, and you’ll be a step closer to knowing what he is up to.

Al Pendlebury’s confused, amazed looks, clumsy actions, along with his loyalty to his best pal Henry allows him to sow and reap comedy.

Wood and Shorty – though they surrender the heist midway for the greater cause i.e., getting the freaking cash (actually refusing to travel because one has got tickets to a Cricket test match and the other’s Mrs. just won’t let him leave) – become the much-needed side-kick pals who bring in the spirit of tomfoolishness in the team.

The language too brings out a unique British flavour of comedy; it is straightforward, dialogues a bit longish, colloquially languid with a Shakespearen high, funny and fitting. In fact, the climactic drama owes it to the language mix-up as it causes a French saleswoman to sell six gold Eiffel Tower paperweights to six English school girls.

A shocked Pendlebury says, “How did that get here? I told you never to use a crate marked ‘R’.”

French Saleswoman replies, “But that is not an ‘R’, monsieur, it is an A(eh).”

Pendlebury exclaims, “It’s an ‘R’ in English!”

Henry’s calculations begin to fail frequently as such twists keep on overruling it; the master plan starts to lag behind and when no one is looking, it is put aside. The nail-biting hilarious ending reminds one, amongst other things, of the novel that Mrs. Chalk is reading – You’d Look Swell in a Shroud.

Conclusion

A cameo by Audrey Hepburn.
[Source – Film Forum]

Produced by the Ealing Studios, directed by Charles Crichton, and written by T.E.B. Clarke – a team renowned for making great comedies – The Lavender Hill Mob became one of their masterpieces, also winning the Academy Award for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay.

As the plot swiftly steers the story ahead, the absorbing clever character tracks merge strikingly with it, accelerating, without much effort, the journey. One forgets to question anything – a twist, turn or an action – while watching Henry and Pendlebury tricking and getting tricked at once.

The Lavender Hill Mob is gold for it has aged like the metal gold, without rusting or tarnishing, still shining and entertaining, turning every viewer into a mob member, following and cheering their leader Henry the juggler.  

Can they see us?
[Source – British Comedy Guide]

Watch this comedy classic here.


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The Source

Short Commentary
The diya flickers gently.
[Image from Pixabay]

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Listen to this wonderful track by Pandit Jasraj and read along.

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Transported to the past, a pinch of time plucked, rubbed, glided from vilambit (slow), madhya (medium), to drut (fast) tempo, casting a spell to unite.

The golden light smeared the pillars, the roof, escaping through the hall, smudging the dusk too… or was it dawn?

A small earthen diya (lamp) lit the space wholly, for so long, and though the last one to enter the hall, standing near the pillar, you feel the warmth.

No one moves, as if they are painted and fixed, but you do to see the diya from nearby, you ask it something, it flickers gently, and you realise it is the music that is its source.

The beats slowly embrace you.

Suddenly, in the end, before transporting back, you find yourself dancing, joyfully.

*


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In The Sundarbans

Poem

[Source – Pixabay]

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Tides rise to meet the sky

In the Sundarbans

As the sky dives frequently

To borrow some condiments

From its marshy islands

For making rain;

Often overdoing, then hitting

The Sundarbans

With cyclones and storms

Flooding itself, the sky

Meets the tides

In the Sundarbans.

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The Bengal Tiger
[Source – Wikimedia Commons]

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Flora and fauna there

Love drama

And everyone’s a fan of the Bengal Tiger,

A method actor,

Its every move, meaningful.

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And us folks, we take our boats

And get busy earning a living or sightseeing

(Hands tied, backs bent, loans taken, empty stomachs

Populated, polluted, dripping blood, we work so hard to make a living)

When we can simply live,

Live simply, now, here and there

In the Sundarbans.

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[Source – Pixabay]


Read more about the Sundarbans and also, “Explore Rohan Chakravarty’s Ecologically Conscious Map Of The Sunderbans.”

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Watch these insightful short documentaries to understand the Sundarbans better –

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The Knight’s Missing But The Horse’s Here

Feature
“Here comes the horse and the sun, doo-doo-doo-doo.”
[Source – Pixabay]

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Nature’s furious, the clouds are anger-dancing, the trees are trembling, surrendering, oh trees you say, oh here the mighty mountains are kneeling, falling flat, many many streams erupting singing jingling hymns, begging for mercy, but the nature god has turned its back on us.

Charu, eight, hears the elders saying such things, quite animatedly, and she thinks of a solution immediately, “they should simply walk to the side where the nature god is looking… and talk.”

But now, here she rushes past them all, there she climbs the mud wall, then the tree, and then gets scolded by her mother. Ya-hoy! She lands splashing a puddle and there she runs away.

*

When the rain stopped, all the children in the village came out to play, seeing this, all the frogs high jumped away, leaving the centre stage for them.

Not lamenting over the loss of time – most still couldn’t tell time, it didn’t exist from them – the kids were happy with this break; they didn’t miss the school walls, exercises, question-answers, fill in the blanks, class-tests or the teachers.

Books were all packed nicely, kept safely in the trunk, kept under the bed, in that room which the children rarely entered.

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But lo, what is that sound, oh, who is’t cometh this way? Charu stares at the turn, the fog lands quickly to add to this mystery.

Through the cracked, broken, muddy trail that was once a kacha road, that now rejected vehicular traffic bluntly, who dares to come to their village?

And then sauntered the Knight or so did Charu thought, but the Knight was missing, rather a humble yet dashing horse emerged when the fog folded itself up like opening curtains; treading carefully, neighing, the horse moved, making sure the trail didn’t deceive him.

*

Charu, amazed, rushed-then-slowed-down, towards the horse, the village kids followed her.

“Look, the horse is carrying something”, said someone and Charu shouted, “oh, it is coming our way, it is coming our way.”

The horse neighed and the kids thought it smiled; they clapped but then became quiet.

Stopping right in front of the group, the horse said, “Kids, are you doing well?”, and then immediately shouted in excitement, “Yes-yes, for I welcome you to the horse library.”

Charu and her friends went round and round the horse, “these books”, “are they for us”, “picture books”, “oh, yes-yes kids”, “this one is about animals”, “hey, look the seven wonders of the world”, “see, told you Octopus has eight arms”, “and legs?”

The children sat around the horse, who asked them to read leisurely as he stood grazing the fresh green grass. And the children sat reading different books, some together, some by themselves, quietly travelling forward, backward in time and space, cherishing the moment.

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Some pack-full of hours later, the horse left, promising them to return in some days, hoping they would finish reading the books by then, colouring the black-white drawings, sharing each with the other.

He had also said, “and when I come back next, I will bring a fresh lot of readables… because kids, vegetables and readables are very good for health.”

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Charu, since then, has lived many lives, visited the world in eighty days, went on an expedition to the south pole, and also fought for reading and colouring the underwater world with her village friends.

Aunties with toddlers and cows, goats and dogs, and some oldies have also now joined their semi-circle party, offering them to gather in this or that courtyard if it is raining or is too cold or too windy outside.

They all remain, to this day, good members of the horse library.

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When the horse returned (Charu not missing the knight) with the new books (the readables), each book appeared to be shinning, announcing the arrival of the saviour, the hero, the magician, the joker, the pied piper and many others from all over the world.

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It is a beautiful bright day, at some good distance a sheet of clouds is slowly covering the sky, the semi-circle party has gathered again to read and narrate, the horse, happy and calm, stands nearby grazing and some folks, passing by, are talking about the nature.


This post is inspired by a real life fantastic story (that is still unfolding), read about it here –

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Uttarakhand: How The Horse Library Started To Promote Reading In Remote Villages

‘Ghoda library’ trots up to remote Uttarakhand villages with books for kids, parents to join in


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