INTERIOR – MAIDS ROOM, CHAPMAN HOUSE – MORNING Lyn (thin,30+) and Sally (chubby,30+) are drying wet hair of a golden terrier with a hairdryer. The terrier does not like it.
LYN (ANXIOUSLY) Looks like Bowie or not? SALLY Looks golden, Bowie was golden. I am telling you Mrs. Chapman won’t even notice…. LYN (INTERRUPTS) Shut up Sally! We have lost her dog, her Baby Bowie and that too on his birthday. SALLY (AMUSINGLY) Hah! Old Mrs. Chapman will go nuts again if she…. LYN Shut up will you! Thanks to Carlos, he brought this dog. SALLY (IRRITATINGLY) Yeah, yeah! All we had to do was colour his hair with my hair colour.
Carlos (Fat,40+), Mrs Chapman’s Chauffeur, comes in their room at this point.
CARLOS (GRINNING) (LOOKS AT THE DOG) Bloody hell! She looks like Bowie now. LYN AND SALLY She? CARLOS Yeah! She’s my neighbour’s… they call her Emily or Mily, something like that.
LYN Listen Carlos, try to find Bowie, he couldn’t have gone far… we can’t hide this from Mrs. Chapman for too long.
INTERIOR – THE LOBBY, CHAPMAN HOUSE – MORNING Mrs. Chapman (70+, white hair, elegantly dressed) is holding and caressing the dog.
MRS. CHAPMAN Why is his hair still wet? And he smells awful. What soap did you use? LYN AND SALLY Mrs. Chapman…. MRS. CHAPMAN (HANDING THE DOG BACK TO LYN) Give him a bath again, and hurry up, the party will start soon. (TO THE DOG) Baby Bowie would not like to smell bad on his birthday, right? Right Bowie? (TO LYN AND SALLY) Don’t forget the white bow!
EXTERIOR – LAWN, CHAPMAN HOUSE – DAY The lawn is beautifully decorated, the theme is golden and white, tables are set and the giant white cake looks too good to eat. Other servants are seen running here and there.
After half an hour, the guests start arriving and Mrs. Chapman, holding the duplicate Bowie in her arms like a baby, greet them one by one. Her high-class friends have brought bouquets and gifts for Baby Bowie. The golden-haired dog with a white bow complements the party’s theme.
Everyone is standing around the table, singing; it is time for the birthday dog to cut the cake. Mrs. Chapman is holding the dog who is irritated and is trying to free itself.
MRS. CHAPMAN Aw! Baby Bowie is too excited for the birthday song to end.
People in the party laugh in chorus. Mrs. Chapman tries her best to hold the dog in her arms.
MRS. CHAPMAN (MAINTAINING THE SMILE) (CONT’D) Baby Bowie, manners please! You are 3 years old now. Big boy!
Everyone laughs again. The dog whines.
MRS. CHAPMAN (CONT’D) I think Baby Bowie wants all of us to enjoy the cake as soon…. (THE DOG JUMPS) B-O-W-I-E! Ah!
The dog lands straight on the delicious white cake and then runs across the table, spoiling everything, jumps down and runs away. Mrs. Chapman is in a shock; almost all the guests first burst into laughter and then suddenly suppress it and copy Mrs. Chapman’s expressions.
EXTERIOR – LAWN, CHAPMAN HOUSE – DAY The party is over, most of the guests have left, two ladies have stayed back to console Mrs. Chapman who is drunk and looks extremely depressed.
MRS CHAPMAN (SITTING ON THE DESERTED GRAND TABLE) How could Bowie do this to me? Why?
Mrs. Chapman’s friends look at each other, they don’t know what to say.
MRS. CHAPMAN Why Bowie? How could you leave me too? (TALKING TO HERSELF IN WHISPERS) How…? Leave me… for a waitress?
At this point Lyn and Sally approaches Mrs. Chapman to tell her the truth, as Carlos has brought the real Bowie back.
LYN Mrs. Chapman, we found Baby Bowie… Carlos found him… we wanted to tell you… before the party… but…. MRS. CHAPMAN (DRUNK) Bowie!
Looks at the dog in Sally’s arms and then takes him. She makes him sit on the table and starts caressing him.
CUT TO CLOSE UP:
Standing to a side, Carlos whispers to Lyn and Sally –
CARLOS Did you tell her? LYN She is drunk…. SALLY (LAUGHINGLY) Good for us! LYN Shut up Sally! CARLOS Where is my neighbour’s dog? LYN She ran away… Oh! We completely forgot. CARLOS What?
While the three of them are talking to each other, Bowie starts barking. They then see that the other Bowie (Emily) has come back and both the dogs are barking at each other.
Coming out of depression, Mrs. Chapman now looks irritated.
MRS. CHAPMAN (SHOUTS) Shut up Bowie!
Bowie runs to and fro on the table and barks at Emily who keeps running around, barking back at Bowie. Mrs. Chapman again shouts at Bowie on top of her voice; Carlos runs after Emily.
CARLOS (NOT TOO LOUDLY) Emily! Mily! Emily!
Both the dogs are barking angrily at each other. Sally can’t control her laughter.
LYN (ANGRILY) What is wrong with you? SALLY (LAUGHINGLY) Don’t you get it? Mrs. Chapman’s first name is Emily. And old Mr. Chapman’s nick name was…. LYN Bowie!
Carlos repeatedly calls out the name ‘Emily’ and finally gets hold of her. Both the dogs are still barking at each other. Mrs. Chapman loses her senses and starts shouting loudly.
MRS. CHAPMAN Shut up! Stupid dog! Shut up! Damn with your birthday party and damn with you all. Bowie, are you happy now? Happy! You have spoiled everything once again.
LYN Oh! I think we should call Dr. Mathew.
As Lyn rushes inside to call the doctor.
SALLY (AMUSINGLY) Hey! I didn’t wish Bowie.
Mrs. Chapman’s two friends, totally confused, finally leave.
Carlos takes Emily away and Sally runs to protect Bowie from Mrs. Chapman who, in her rage, is now attacking him with the cutlery.
This light and bright book, ‘Japan Haiku by Marti’, is a library to me that has a collection of thoughts, wise words of a wise heart.
Haiku, a form of Japanese poetry that is dated back to the 17th century, is a fruit that a poet bears in her mind. It tastes subtly sweet and brazenly true. (Truth tastes different to all people, what does truth taste like to you?)
Carrying oceans and mountains and all the seasons within, it takes me on a journey every time I visit it.
Shying away from nothing, neither life nor death, haikus sing about nature and dance in the present. They capture it fully, through the lives of those who craft it, the haikus capture the moment fully.
No less than an explorer or a monk who practices meditation, the haiku poets in ancient Japan travelled to witness the peaceful, dramatic, kind, unforgiving nature. They did not hurry and that is why could understand it all.
Fetching cold water from a deep quiet well, with wit and brevity, the haikus quench our thirsts in this manner.
I finished reading this delightful book (part of my Auroville collection) sometime back, but I knew the journey has not ended yet.
Earlier I had taken a haiku turn to meet Matsuo Basho, the master haiku poet, and today I found a hidden haiku trail that took me to visit Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali polymath.
“They reveal the control over the human emotions. However, they are never short on aesthetic sensibility. Their sense of aesthetics is marked by deep appreciation yet there is a mastery over expression.” – In Letters from Japan, published later as JapanJatri, Tagore recorded his views on haikus and his experiences of visiting Japan.
Interested in reading Japanese literature, knowing their culture and art history, Tagore in 1915 wrote to Kimura Nikki, who had studied Bengali under him at Calcutta University, “I want to know Japan in the outward manifestation of its modern life and in the spirit of its traditional past. I also want to follow up on the traces of ancient India in your civilization and have some idea of your literature if possible.”
Knockings at My Heart is a collection of short poems by Tagore (discovered only recently and published in 2016) that highlights the impact of haikus on him.
Let my life accept the risk of its
Sails and not merely the security
Of its anchor.
The pomegranate bud hidden behind her veil
Will burst into passionate flower
When I am away.
The mist tries
To capture the morning
In a foolish persistence.
The simplistic approach, depth of thought and brisk climactic acuity make this poetry form of the past very much of the present as well as of the future, for the passionate are always searching.
And so my journey continues.
Fireflies, an epigrammatic poem by Rabindranath Tagore, is a perfect complement to this post.
Gabbeh, the 1996 film, is a simple tale of a gipsy girl, her clan and the way their life goes on.
Unfolding beautifully just like an artist painting a canvas, Gabbeh quietly touches the grand questions.
What is the purpose of existence, what is this feeling of love, what makes colours so harmonious, so arresting?
The complexities, the insatiable desires, the mind games, what helps and what hinders, how do we know?
What is to be said, heard and done before death?
The film weaves a beautiful pattern of such thoughts, but subtly, charmingly that one gets truly absorbed in the flow of the story and does not feel staggered or burdened at all.
The story is exceptionally close to reality even though the style of its narration is truly poetic. It is simple and complex, romantic and mystifying, colourful and rough, complete and incomplete.
Presenting life from a woman’s point of view, talking about the role of a woman in a family, sharing her aspirations and wishes with us, the entire story thus, inherently is full of warmth, colour and calmness, making the love palpable for the viewer.
The best way to describe Gabbeh would be to call it a dream. It is a folk tale, a myth and yet an unembellished raw saga; hazy, vibrant, unreal and real at the same time.
Gabbeh is an experience, a dream that you must see one day.
Written and Directed by – Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Gabbeh – Shaghayeh Djodat, Music by – Hossein Alizadeh, Cinematography – Mahmoud Kalari, Edited by – Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Language – Persian.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull wanted to master the art of flying. Soaring up in the sky, above the white ocean of clouds, he felt truly free.
Though very unlikely of a seagull, Jonathan flew high ever so high, he practised and failed umpteenth times, but he never gave up.
An outcast, he lived alone and happily spent his time in his quest to achieve perfection.
On reaching a higher level of existence, he meets gulls like him who wanted to enhance their flying skills. It was not heaven for everyone there were learners.
Chiang, the guru of them all, teaches Jonathan how to let go of the concept of time and space so as to travel freely in the Universe.
“Begin by knowing that you have already arrived”, said Chiang.
Wondering if someone else, one who dares to question and take risks, needs guidance on Earth, he returns.
“Devil” for some and “angel” for others, Jonathan teaches a few eager ones. Practising, failing, practising again, Jonathan’s students rise above the Flock, the mundane.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull then continues his journey to guide other gulls who must have been waiting for him somewhere else in the Universe.
Richard Bach’s fable is soothingly clear, and thus, appears too simplistic to many. Just like flying looks simple only until we give it a try.
He equates perfection with freedom, emphasising on practising and a thirst for knowledge as the golden path to it; a path where you walk ahead passionately and not cumbersomely.
Every little bud in nature rises high, soaking in sun rays, moving towards it. Rising high, shedding the old self, stepping forward to explore the unknown, dwindling before making a firm stand is what life’s journey is all about.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull, “a one-in-a-million bird”, if appears to be too perfect and his ideas if sound too far-fetching then you should look at your on-going journey and answer these questions – what are you looking for in life – perfection in some form or maybe a balance?
And what is balance if not a proportion of perfect this and perfect that?
Even better, you should meet Shelley’s Skylark.
Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
Bird thou never wert,
That from Heaven, or near it,
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.
Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.
‘Blithe Spirit’ calls Percy Bysshe Shelley a Skylark that is soaring up in the sky (or Heaven, or near it), singing beautifully and gloriously that to him it is nothing but unprecedented ‘unpremeditated art’.
The Skylark, invisible to his eyes, has such power in its voice that the poet likens it to ‘a cloud of fire’.
Shelley beseeches the Skylark to teach him what it knows; a divine secret it must be for nothing on earth could outshine it. Joy so true, Shelley calls it ‘a star of Heaven’.
Nature’s bounty, the golden glow worms, the rainbows, the playful wind, a young maiden’s love and a poet’s grand verses, Shelley says the Skylark’s song, that flows in a ‘crystal stream’, is above them all.
What thou art we know not;
What is most like thee?
From rainbow clouds there flow not
Drops so bright to see
As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.
Like a Poet hidden
In the light of thought,
Singing hymns unbidden,
Till the world is wrought
To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not:
Like a high-born maiden
In a palace-tower,
Soothing her love-laden
Soul in secret hour
With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:
Like a glow-worm golden
In a dell of dew,
Its aëreal hue
Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view:
Like a rose embower’d
In its own green leaves,
By warm winds deflower’d,
Till the scent it gives
Makes faint with too much sweet those heavy-winged thieves:
Sound of vernal showers
On the twinkling grass,
All that ever was
Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass.
The Skylark, above these mortal dilemmas, sings with pure love and delight. And in contrast we, humans, are locked in the past or the future.
We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.
Shelley urges the Skylark to teach him just half of what it knows, this ‘harmonious madness’ so that he could capture it within and share it with the world.
The Skylark if not a gleaming reflection of perfection, then what is it? If its song is not a song of freedom, then why is the melody ‘a flood of rapture so divine’?
It must be that just like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, the Skylark returned to Earth, to guide and share its knowledge, to remind the poet that ‘freedom is the very nature of his being’.
Unlike a miracle, both took time to convey what little they knew of the truth. The Seagull stays to make his students practice and the Skylark sings till the chosen one – the poet in this case – hears its joyous voice.
Showing what doors can perseverance open and how patience leads to strength, the Seagull and the Skylark leave it up to the individual to unfold the story further.
Birth and death are timed then and a fully lived life, with all its imperfections, aims for a balance, for perfection that guides it to fly high and well.
“Hurry up girl, there is a lot to do”, said Mama and Sue Anna smiled for she was dreamy. And she had a good reason to feel so, she was making Ganpati Bappa’s idol with shaadu mitti (a type of clay).
In Ganesh Chaturthi, a ten-day-long festival in which colours rise in glory and fragrant flowers dance, sweet songs are sung and delicious sweets are distributed, all the Sue Annas in the world become brighter blessed beings.
Yes, there are many Sue Annas, the ones who are a bit more kind, the ones who love to find creepers ruling their garden and butterflies sharing their stardom, the ones who are cheerful when it is cloudy, the ones who dance in the rain loudly… you got it now, right?
But then they are a bit forgetful too, daily chores trouble them and they easily catch the flu.
Stealthily the sickness resides and gives a victory shout, but ha-ha-ha, lovingly all the Sue Annas broom it out. After all, they are Lord Ganesha’s favourite.
“Where are the garlands? Oh! You’re still not done? Sue Anna…”, said Mama and Sue Anna smiled, looked at her and said, “Did you say something?”
Mama told her about the unfinished tasks and Sue Anna yawned, stretched and added lazily, “first let Ganpati Bappa come to our home, he is only half-ready… see for yourself.”
And she gestured Mama to look at the idol. “The clay is so soft… this colour is so rich, right Mama”, and without waiting for a reply Sue Anna got busy once again.
“My Lord Ganesha… little elephant head and beautiful big eyes… a modak (a sweet) in hand and sitting elegantly on a grand asan (seat)…“
Mumbling these words for hours and hours, Sue Anna finally finished making the idol.
She then rushed away on hearing her Mama, Papa, maid and neighbour’s voice, all calling her at once for some work.
When she returned after tackling it all, to her surprise she saw that there is not one but two little Ganpati Bappas in front of her, both smiling sweetly with twinkling eyes.
Utterly amazed Sue Anna kept staring at the two idols, she then said, “Mama, Ganpati Bappa twinned up! Mama!” And Sue Anna ran to the kitchen beaming.
Ganpati Bappa is here to shower more blessings on you, don’t you remember your wish… I mean wishes… go and get your diary… hurry up girl, there is a lot to do!
Sufi poet and singer, Amir Khusrau (1253 – 1325), famously known as the ‘Voice of India’, was an expert in unifying the mundane with the divine. His poetry presents the mystic in him and the mystical world around him.
Reading his verses, seeing through his eyes, one gets a chance to experience the transcendental self.
Here is one of his most famous poems on Basant (spring) –
सकल बन फूल रही सरसों।
बन बिन फूल रही सरसों।।
अंबवा फूटे, टेसू फूले
कोयल बोले डार-डार
और गोरी करत सिंगार
मलनियां गेंदवा ले आईं कर सो।
सकल बन फूल रही सरसों।।
तरह तरह के फूल खिलाए
ले गेंदवा हाथन में आए
निज़ामुद्दीन के दरवज्जे पर
आवन कह गए आशिक रंग
और बीत गए बरसों।
सकल बन फूल रही सरसों।।
Literal translation –
The yellow mustard flower is blooming in every field,
Not a forest, yet like a forest of mustard flowers.
Mango buds are clicking open, and other flowers are blooming too;
The Cuckoo bird chirps from branch to branch,
And the maiden does her make-up,
The gardener-girl has brought marigolds.
The yellow mustard flower is blooming in every field.
Colourful flowers bloom everywhere,
With marigolds in hand,
Waiting at Nizamuddin’s door
For the beloved who had promised to come
In spring, but hasn’t turned up – it has been many years since.
The yellow mustard flower is blooming in every field.
My Take –
The delicate mustard plants are ruling the world and the forests are shying away from their glory, what a splendour, a burst of yellow joy this is.
Seeing the blossoms, the cuckoo bird begins singing, its melody though familiar, fills every heart with delight.
And with a delighted heart one beautiful young girl is dressing up, she is hopeful.
And the gardener-girl has brought marigolds for joy has chosen a ‘colour’ and it is yellow, the yellow of the delicate mustard flowers.
Myriad coloured flowers everywhere and marigolds in hand, I am waiting as promised at Nizamudin’s door for the colours of love, waiting here since ages.
And the delicate mustard plants are ruling the world. It is spring.
The Sufi Touch –
In love, the whole world appears to be one with us, in this state of ecstasy every atom resonates with us and here ‘mustard plants ruling the world’ is a metaphor for it.
Further, the blooming flowers, the singing bird, the beautiful young girl, the gardener-girl and marigold enhance this feeling, this thought.
Then at the great Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya’s door, one awaits, with marigolds in hand and yellow lustre all around waits for the beloved for years and years.
Here, the poem transcends from the transient to the eternal, from passionate love to soulful love.
It becomes then about the devotee waiting for the supreme light, for the union with the ultimate soul, waiting with flowers in hand, forever in joy, waiting to attain absolute bliss.
This Sufi poem/ song has been performed by classical/ folk singers all over India and other Hindi/Urdu speaking countries.
Check out the powerful performance by Rizwan and Muazzam Ali Khan –
Photographs, phot + graph which is Greek for “light + writing”, are marvellous means to capture moments almost forever – a print may fade, a digital file may vanish – that shares, and if seen keenly expresses, the truth.
The truth has as many versions as the fish in the ocean, each one equally powerful, waiting to reveal itself to the one awaiting.
What did the Afghan Girl reveal to me?
This photograph was taken in 1984 by photojournalist Steve McCurry for the National Geographic magazine in a refugee camp for Afghani people in Pakistan, where he documented the ordeal of hundreds and thousands of them.
“Haunted eyes tell of an Afghan refugee’s fears”, these words, imprinted on the magazine cover, talk about her Present i.e. the war-torn Afghanistan of 1984-85, but her eyes are talking about an ancient saga which was and which still is unfolding.
It is the tale of a fierce innocent soul that struggles to survive, that dares to live.
Dorothea Lange who took the iconic photograph titled the Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California (1936) while she was documenting the lives of Americans and migrants during the Great Depression also captured something similar; the struggling life of a thirty-two-year-old migrant mother of seven, her tired yet firm gaze reflects perseverance.
Talking about her technique as a documentary photographer, Dorothea Lange said –
“My own (sic) approach is based upon three considerations – First: hands off! Whatever I photograph I do not tamper with or molest or arrange. Second: a sense of place. Whatever I photograph, I try to picture as a part of its surroundings, as having roots. Third: a sense of time. Whatever I photograph, I try to show as having its position in the past or in (sic) the future”.
An idea/ a concept with which I cannot agree more for both these photographs are real, deeply rooted in their culture and have a position in the past and the future… amazingly the present has faded.
The image of the Afghan Girl has stayed with me for all these years and somehow I can relate to her.
I am afraid and at the same time curious when I see this image, afraid because her fierce glare raises so many questions that cannot be answered and curious because I (and we all are in fact) am a part of this ancient saga.
While documentary photography documents facts, it is interesting to see that the fact when it comes to every living being is more alive and beautiful than a tailored presentation; there is a hidden true story behind every image documented.
In 2002, the mystery behind the identity of the Afghan Girl was resolved as the National Geographic team found out who she was.
Sharbat Gula aka the Afghan Mona Lisa lived a difficult life like millions of refugees in the world and only in 2017 was given a home by the Afghanistan government.
Similar was the story of Dorothea Lange’s migrant mother, who later lived a much secure life.
The subplots run along with the main storyline.
A pure photograph picks one strand from the ocean that has the power to reveal what the unfathomable ocean hides within.
For me, the Afghan Girl and the Migrant Mother are two such photographs.
[Recently I completed a photography course (MoMA – Seeing Through Photographs) online and learned more about this fantastic field. I had researched and written about the Afghan Girl for an assignment.]
The crayon doodles, chalk scrabbled floor and walls, silly games of following the clouds, the butterflies and the wind, toying with fairy tale thoughts, dancing in the rain, eating snowflakes, and living in the inverted fable world… all this and every other childhood memory comes alive in Miyazaki’s masterpiece anime, My Neighbour Totoro.
Those whispers, secrets, and myths that we all have heard, in which the happy spirits rise to guide the one who dares and bridges her to the magic around, which world-wide have different versions, which are absurd yet possible, forms the core of this motley work.
Two little girls, Satsuki and Mei, move to the countryside in Japan along with their father, Tatsuo Kusakabe. Mama Yasuko Kusakabe is not well and so she is admitted to the hospital which is closer to this countryside house.
“But she will recover and come back home soon”, says Dady Tatsuo, “when, will she be back by tomorrow?” asks four years old Mei, “there she goes again with tomorrow”, says Satsuki and they all laugh.
Mei is courageous, she even catches a soot gremlin to show it to Satsuki but it ends up only in making her hands black.
As Satsuki goes to school, little Mei plays around the house alone; carrying her packed lunchbox, she explores the place with a clear and light mind, giggling, following two small bunny-like Totoros to the colossal camphor tree and ultimately meeting the big Totoro there.
Totoro is a furry giant animal, with whiskers, big eyes, and a bigger smile. He lives in the huge camphor tree in the forest neighbouring Satsuki and Mei’s house.
While the little Totoros collect acorns, the giant one helps it to grow; together they play the ocarina like music instruments at night, sitting high on a branch, guarding the forest, and all the beings living in it.
Totoro in some ways is like a Kami – a spirit in Japanese religion of Shinto – which can be anything, from forces of nature to spirits of an honoured dead person like a King. Possessing both positive and negative qualities, these spirits are to be worshipped and thanked for their blessings and support.
Kami cannot be seen by everyone, but the one whom it chooses to reveal itself to. Being aware of the powers of Kami means being aware of the powers of nature, respecting it, and also showing gratitude for what it grants.
After Mei’s first encounter with Totoro, their father takes both the girls to a nearby Shinto shrine to thank the Kami for looking after Mei and asking it to continue looking after all of them. The shrine is next to the giant camphor tree which Mei happily recognises, but doesn’t find the way to Totoro’s den as she did the last time.
Two Little sisters, Mei and Satsuki
As children look at the world with the hope to see a miracle every second and love as if it is all theirs, it is only Mei and Satsuki who get to meet Totoro. It all starts with Mei, she sees the soot gremlins twice and then the three Totoros. Little Mei’s world, it seems, is still more magical than Satsuki.
When Mei tells Satsuki about Totoro, she tells her father that she too wants to meet Totoro, but on one occasion when Mei accompanies her to the school and draws Totoro’s image on a sheet, Satsuki feels embarrassed amongst her giggling friends, typical of a growing-up kid.
On a rainy late evening, Satsuki and Mei go to the bus stop to receive their father who had not taken an umbrella, there Totoro joins them. Satsuki is elated to see him but stays still. She then gives him the spare umbrella and shows him how to use it.
Raindrops falling on the umbrella from the branches above give Totoro the shivers which he enjoys; he jumps up and down and a heavy splash of raindrops fall on them and Totoro beams magnificently. The magic only multiplies then as a Cat Bus arrives there, Totoro climbs on it and leaves.
That same night, Totoro comes with his two little friends to silently perform a ritual in the yard where Mei and Satsuki have planted the acorns; the girls wake up and join the Totoros.
Their prayers are heard and the plants sprout magically to form a giant tree, just like the camphor tree, right before their eyes. Totoro then takes all of them to the top of the tree to sit on the branch and play the ocarina.
Next morning the girls find that the tree has vanished, but the seeds have indeed sprung; both of them then repeat the ritual ecstatically shouting “I thought it was a dream, but I was wrong.”
Mei repeats whatever Satsuki says, she gets excited when Satsuki is, dances along and follows her everywhere trying to match her speed, happy to be around her elder sister. But when she gets the news that their mother will not be returning soon as planned, she gets angry.
Both the sisters argue and Mei leaves for the hospital all by herself to give her mother an ear of corn that Granny had said would make her perfectly healthy.
In the evening when Satsuki realises that Mei is not at home, she, Granny, Kanta, and his family all start looking for her. Sure that Mei must have left for the hospital Satsuki takes to the road, running all the way and calling out Mei’s name, but she does not find her there.
Satsuki then goes to meet Totoro, praying to the camphor tree to allow her to meet him; she tells Totoro that Mei is missing and she cannot find her on her own.
Totoro smiles and immediately calls the Cat Bus, the destination indicator blinks Mei’s name, an awed Satsuki climbs on the bus and on its many legs the Cat Bus leaps from one farm to another, tiptoeing from one utility pole to another, finally stopping at the roadside where Mei was sitting and crying.
The Cat Bus then takes both of them to the hospital; there sitting on a treetop the little girls feel relieved to see their parents together and happy.
Both Mei and Satsuki come across as two real-life girls – their mannerism (in the first scene, sitting together in the small lorry, sharing candies), their reactions (when Mei sees the soot gremlins she freezes, holding her frock tightly), their silly arguments (when Satsuki teases Mei that she is afraid at night and that is why she cannot sleep alone), when happy (after meeting the Totoro for the first time Satsuki is overjoyed, she asks his father to hold both of them and they jump into his arms) when sad (both are disappointed to know that their mother will not be coming home soon), all these actions in totality make them appear like two actual kids.
Mama and Daddy Kusakabe
Both Tatsuo and Yasuko Kusakabe are loving, supporting, and open-minded accepting parents. They know that it is a tough time for the girls as they have been staying away from their mother and have shifted to a village for her sake, thus, they do not discourage them from any vibrant idea of theirs.
Whenever the girls talk about soot gremlins, Totoro and the Cat Bus, they both show excitement, honestly interested in their tales.
Tatsuo always listens to them and joins them in their fun activities. Yasuko misses both of them and worries for Satsuki as she knows she takes more responsibility than others do in her age.
When Yasuko tells her husband that she thought she saw Mei and Satsuki sitting on the tree, smiling, Tatsuo, familiar with the Totoro story by then, picks up the corn with the inscription ‘for mama’ on it lying on the window-sill and says that they must have been here.
Granny and Kanta
Mei and Satsuki’s neighbours, other than the Totoros, are Kanta’s family. While Granny is caring and full of warmth, Kanta hesitates even to talk to Satsuki.
On two occasions – delivering them lunch on their first day and giving his umbrella when it is pouring heavily – he simply hands over Satsuki the lunch box and the umbrella, grunting and without uttering a word.
As time passes by, they become like family to the Kusakabes; when Mei leaves for the hospital on her own, Granny gathers the whole village to look for Mei and Kanta goes to the hospital on a bicycle to check the way for her.
Granny hugs Mei when she returns with Satsuki. The four of them walk back home together as the cheerful closing track plays in the background.
The Charm of the Era
The film is set in the late 1950s Japan when life was simpler and the pace was kinder. On arriving at their new home, Mei and Satsuki get excited about seeing every new thing – the timeworn house (‘it could be haunted’, says Satsuki), the collapsing patio, the soot gremlins, the water pump, the small bridge that takes them to their house, the stream and of course, the giant camphor tree.
Raindrops falling in the rice paddies, the sudden downpour, the drizzles dripping from tree leaves, the puddles, all these scenes are beautifully captured in the film.
Totoro is overwhelmed with joy when raindrops fall on his umbrella which he is holding for the first time, this brings back memories of childhood.
Such simple happy actions become a habit unknowingly; whether it is raindrops falling on the umbrella for some or say, crushing the dry autumn leaves for others, it always gives us a sudden boost of cheerful energy.
Imagery & Music
The wonderful work done by Hayao Miyazaki and Kazuo Oga, the art director, makes the anime world truly alive.
The cushiony clouds, the rapturous scenery, the quiet stream, and every rock and leaf complement each other, aiding in and not shying from embracing the modernity.
When Mei, Satsuki, and their father visit the shrine for the first time, the ambience and even the cool moistness of the hidden place catches us and we are struck by the glory of the huge camphor tree.
And what gives the imagery this soothing life-like quality is the music in the film. The excellent soundtrack, composed by Joe Hisaishi, gives the film a mythical tone as if opening a door to a magical dream world while keeping it firmly grounded in its times.
Especially the score titled “The Huge Tree in the Tsukamori Forest”, which plays whenever we see the camphor tree in its glory, has become analogous to the spirit of the film. It is an uplifting majestic tune that marks the listener’s entry into a secret world.
The Credits Roll
The story goes on as the credits roll at the end. We see Mei and Satsuki spending time with their mother – taking baths together, reading storybooks – as they had been hoping to for a long time.
The girls continue living in the same region, making new friends, bonding with the old ones, making a snow Totoro in winters, and enjoying their childhood days.
My Neighbour Totoro is considered to be, both by the critics and the masses, one of the best Anime fantasy films of all time. Totoro has become a cultural icon and the film has a worldwide cult following.
Apart from being the company logo and appearing in Studio Ghibli’s other productions, Totoro has also appeared in Disney Pixar’s Toy Story 3.
Such is the love for the film that an asteroid discovered in 1994 and a velvet worm species discovered in Vietnam in 2013 were named after Totoro.
A smiley giant, guardian of the forest, Totoro does not have a dialogue in the film; apart from speaking his name out loud to Mei, he only beams, roars, flies, plays the ocarina, eats and sleeps.
His simplicity makes him a more welcomed, accepted, and believable character by one and all. Mei and Satsuki’s neighbour, the guardian of the forest, Totoro is a true friend, yours as well as mine.
Written and Directed by – Hayao Miyazaki; Production company – Studio Ghibli; Music by – Joe Hisaishi; Cinematography by – Hisao Shirai; Edited by – Takeshi Seyama
Here is a children’s film made for the world we should live in, rather than the one we occupy. A film with no villains. No fight scenes. No evil adults. No fighting between the two kids. No scary monsters. No darkness before the dawn. A world that is benign. A world where if you meet a strange towering creature in the forest, you curl up on its tummy and have a nap.
Roger Ebert, the film critic. Read his review of My Neighbour Totorohere.
Love is pure truth, a divine experience, a way to live more and surpass even death.
It is a sublime fantasy that is real and better than the material world. Love is life’s paradox.
This is the idea that John Donne is expressing in the poem The Canonization. It is a reply as well as a declaration that the poet makes to the world- a world that treats lovers harshly.
He scorns the worldly, he questions the inquisitive, he proves the myths true, he places his love high and announces it as canonized.
The sudden change in his tone doesn’t bother if one recognises the powerful and apt imagery he has used in the poem.
The very first line ‘For God’s sake, hold your tongue, and let me love’ hits hard, but certainly in a good manner. In fact, it catches the interest of the reader at once.
The poem is like a necklace, beaded with beautiful and grand images like –
‘What merchant’s ships have my sighs drowned?’
‘And we in us find the eagle and the dove’
‘The phoenix riddle hath more wit/ By us; we two being one, are it’
‘As well a well-wrought urn becomes/ The greatest ashes, as half-acre tombs/ And by these hymns, all shall approve /Us canonized for Love.’
‘Countries, towns, courts: beg from above/ A pattern of your love!’
These are not empty expressions as every word in the poem is linked with the central theme – love.
If we randomly pick one word from each stanza, it will still be related to the poem.
For example, ‘improve’ (stanza 1) – one who is in love grows as an individual and improves by learning to be selfless; ‘remove’ (stanza 2) – when in love you cannot dwell on hatred, and so the negativity is removed to make space for hope; ‘Mysterious’ (stanza 3) – love is an easy mystery; ‘legend’ (stanza 4) – we all remember love stories as legends, sadly these are mostly incomplete ones; ‘mirrors’ (stanza 5) – love is as reflective as a mirror.
Love is closely related to asceticism in the poem, which is one of the conceits (an ingenious or fanciful comparison or metaphor) used by the poet.
He proves it with great subtlety that the lovers need nothing from the world; they complete each other and hence, know inner peace.
The poet says that the lovers rise to such a level that they become one and enter a divine world, thus leaving the material world behind. They dwell in each other’s simple presence.
In the last stanza, after canonizing himself and his lover, the poet says that his pious canonized love would be celebrated in the world by one and all.
He ends by completing the canonization of his love, placing it on a high pedestal, and separating it from the worldly pleasures.
Canonization, the title of the poem, seems to be a question and an answer at the same time. As one wonders about how love can be canonized and attain sainthood, the divine nature of the poet’s love presented in the poem gradually justifies the same.
The poet shows that his love is spiritual not merely physical, that his union with his lover has made them blissful and assures that it will radiate amongst the others.
His canonized love is not against the world rather it is for the world, acting as an inspiration. His love is not harming anyone but is a liberating force, just like a saint’s.
John Donne’s The Canonization is a smart poem with brilliant use of wit, the quintessential quality of a metaphysical poet.
He celebrates love in a simple, forthright tone that makes this 17th-century poem wondrously alive in today’s world as well.
‘Alas, alas, who’s injured by my love?’ (Stanza 2)
‘Call her one, me another fly/ We’re tapers too, and at our own cost die’ (Stanza 3)
There is a message hidden in this poem and the title ‘canonization’ is the key to unveil it. Donne wants to share that every one of us, whatever be our rank in the society that runs according to the man-made rules, has the ability to reach the divine state.
Sainthood according to him is not reserved for some but is achievable by all.
What we need is to rise above the material world, to resurrect ourselves through true love. Here the beloved represents anything- a person, God, nature, the entire world.
Love is the best, the all-embracing way to reach the sublime state as it is love that makes a person truly selfless and compassionate.
Even today if someone pursues this path, they will know that they are canonized, for they are in love.
It landed lightly right behind the unknown labourer who was sweating his day off, certain of his actions and in complete focus, busy in a simple yet, arduous task.
#Fifth entry; Day 1
The flying golden-grass machine runs on a magic engine. A high maintenance product, if not frequently checked, leaks pixie dust.
#Thirteenth entry; Day 1
On the way back from home, that evening, when you saw an aeroplane blinking red-blue lights in the sky, you had uttered something, do you remember it, mister?
You were just fourteen then and had a rather rough day and a broken slipper was not helping either.
You had wished to fly.
Of course, you meant in an aeroplane, but you know how things are in offices, what was spoken was noted down verbatim, it became a written record and a record is the most sacrosanct concept and is hailed throughout the universe.
#Third entry; Day 3
It may look a bit raggedy to you, but it is as good as new. After the service station gave it a nod and we made them sign a nine-paged document for the record, this is its first trip. We, sir, run a professional organisation here.
#Ninth entry; Day 5
Come on now, why don’t you give it a try. The sky awaits you, explore the world and be spellbound by its majesty.
Also, then you have to fill a bunch of forms and sign it, for record purposes.
#First entry; Day 9
Listen, we do apologise for being late. Don’t be upset, in fact, you would be pleased to know that this is also an award, you are one of the most efficient and disciplined people in this world, please accept your prize… and then sign this document here… just a formality.
#Eleventh entry; Day 21
A handful of resources and a handful of desires, how do you adjust to such a life so easily? Doesn’t the heat bother you… the flies, the stench and the failures?
Is life nothing but a cycle ride to you? Oh, remember the cycle rides from your childhood? I do, very clearly, we have it in the records.
With the wind in your hair, you rode it so swiftly, beating all your friends… I bet you can beat the flying golden-grass machine as well.
#First entry; Day 40
Ahm! Let me again ask for your forgiveness for the delay, our department is not the best, it is the 6th best, well 16th actually, but keep this off the record please.
Nevertheless, there is no fault of this machine. It is a good model; many have travelled to far off lands in this little light ride.
What is remarkable is that it is in so many ways just like you, mister.
It too works year long, dreaming of meeting new travellers, visiting different lands, stopping at pixie-dust-pump-stations, collecting visions silently.
#Fifteenth entry; Day 55
Yes, for the 100th time yes, this is a magical machine… and… oh, why don’t you understand… think of it this way, you have won a lottery… you are getting to travel the world, okay? Now, don’t waste time and sign this…
The unknown labourer, id no.00089∞, after two months of bewilderment, shock, anxiety, panic, anger and confusion, agreed to make use of the flying golden-grass machine.
The messenger, id no. ᶲᴥ჻֎, successfully delivered the award and got the awardee’s signatures on all the forms.
Please find attached here the detailed report of the awardee’s world tour.
The messenger took charge of the flying golden-grass machine once the tour ended; the awardee’s memory was altered as per the protocol; he will now remember it as a strange dream.
Please find attached here all the signed documents for your perusal.
A roguish year, 2020, I believe was a twist in our LIVE story. Terrible, oh, terrible things happened. Let us nurture hope, let us learn from our mistakes, let us help each other and contribute honestly to this change.
Let the old charm of stories work, let stories heal your tired heart.
This colossal twist proves that the great writer is planning to finish a chapter, but the story is far from over. Dawn is about to break, the sun rays will fall on a new beginning soon.
Come to Chiming Stories, pocket old and new posts and watch, along with me, the horizon.
Yes fly! For walking on the second track is dull and usual, but dreaming high, high, high requires tools. Tools like the right pair of shoes, a chirpy, gritty soul that eats butter-jam dreams, a soul that drinks milky-milky creams.