Nibbling the leaves and thorns, reaching for its yellow flowers, suddenly, Jhui-Mui the little goat made a novel request to the Khejri tree, “please tell me a story.”
Jhui-Mui’s mum and other goats chuckled a bit, then continued surfing the shrubs spread around the Khejri tree for shade, water and love.
The tree which gave, for centuries, both food and medicine to all, with its ground bark to make a flour during the very many parched famine days, and its deep-deep roots that held the soil and directed the researchers to the cool water table, the desert’s old friend, Khejri, knew a pocketful of folktales too.
The Khejri tree told Jhui-Mui the little goat about a four-hundred-year-old tree, one who belongs to its own family, but lives in a far-off desert, alone on a barren hill, with roots fifty meters deep and long groovy, harmonious branches that welcomes every traveller and every story.
“What is its name?”, asked the beady eyed, happy Jhui-Mui. “The Tree of Life”, replied the Khejri tree and hummed an old tune that filled the arid air with cool magic.
Out of the three worlds, this time, which one can you hear? Which one appeals to you more? The fish’s saga, the floating leaves’ travelogue or the tall dry trees’ declaration?
Is it clear then that the fish is frantically slow and brokenly quick, dashing here and there, carrying a wide-eyed moustache-o message for one and all?
And that the floating leaves, united and wet, surge to take over the stick, the feather, the boat and the paddles? A spirit of wilfulness rises in every seemingly dead leaf that allows it to fade at its own pace… green, red, brown, and skeletal leaves speak a different language.
The tall dry trees say nothing that time can capture in the garb of winters, autumns, summers, springs or monsoons, for the tall dry trees declared it long back that it is all just one big movement, constant movement, and stays so whether you measure it or not.
Is it clear then that the trees are old masters and not just a reflection of our ideas?
Out of the three worlds, now, which one do you listen to? Which one swirls you as if on a joy ride? Which one’s too fast, which one’s too slow?
Call it a myth, an experiment, a mistake, it retells, at the same time approaching the same unknown vision, the story of Victor Frankenstein – a man who humbly tries to be god.
The novel retells, and is still retelling like a folktale in the air, how Victor Frankenstein’s passion for alchemy, chemistry and natural philosophy acted as a catalyst for his many experiments on lifeless frames he gathered from cemeteries.
Long, maddening but exact and taciturn, expeditions, not to a far off land (not as of now), but inside the laboratory, expedition to the depths of knowing the dead and undead, to the threshold of unruly desire and undue greed, greed to dominate.
“It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.
How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form?”
Chapter 5, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The creator fled away from his creation forgetting that the two are now tied to each other by a thread – a thread stronger than creator’s own shadow, voice and thoughts. Victor created a monster, not on that ‘dreary night of November‘, but over a period of time. Absolute neglect and abhorrence left the monster no choice but to be one.
Even when he learns the ways of the world – living in a hovel, grasping in silence what a family life means, secretly helping people around, picking their language and deciphering meaning in what he could read – he faces rigid rejection to whomsoever he turns to.
Shunned, he questions his existence and finds the winter weather leaping away after answering him with a static silence.
Fear fosters fear and with such weakness and anger the monster acts, brutally he acts, making sure that his master hears all about it. The monster kills Victor’s younger brother William and thus begins the downfall of both the creator and the monster.
Darkness and gloom overpower Victor and with the deaths of his best friend, fiancé and his old father, he becomes as lonely as the monster.
The pure white snow at the North Pole, that appeared to be engulfing the earth and the sky alike, could not make the monster anything less than what he had become – he was a curse, told Victor to his new friend, Robert Walton, an explorer and closed his eyes forever, hoping that in death he may find victory over his loathsome creation.
And this once Victor was right, the monster decides to put an end to his grotesque life too.
A little bit of gleaming sunshine, valley fresh flowers and joy too may feel subdued in this novel by the inky rainy nights and foggy, grey skies, but that is because it stays true to its core – a tragedy, but a modern one where the hero nurtures his flaw, unaware yet certain at first, lamenting and regretting later, truly owning it as a dead man.
Victor Frankenstein borne the brunt of such a curse that no one may ever dare to face, even in the advanced world, maybe only by mistake, but not as a determined goal and even if one did, in the times to come, such a creation will know what happened to Frankenstein’s monster and will know it only too well.
Until then, Frankenstein will continue to live, in our memory, for the sake of the curse and so will his monster.
When I placed my head on my pillow, I did not sleep, nor could I be said to think. My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie. I saw – with shut eyes, but acute mental vision – I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.
At 18, when she began writing Frankenstein, Mary Shelley had thought of it to be a tale no longer than a few pages, at 20, the novel, after initial rejections, got published anonymously – customary for most female writers of the period – with a preface by her husband, P.B Shelley.
Some thought P.B Shelley or his father-in-law, the philosopher writer William Godwin, to be the author of this phantasmagoria and Mary Shelley surely was influenced by both, but her close encounters with death that tortured her, but kept her alive, very much like the Titan god of fire, Prometheus, made her who she was.
Mary Shelley wrote in her diary – “Dream that my little baby came to life again – that it had only been cold and that we rubbed it by the fire and it lived – I awake and find no baby – I think about the little thing all day.”
Mary got her name from her mother Mary Wollstonecraft, a feminist writer, who died soon after giving birth to her. Even though deprived of this pious golden bond, Mary Shelley nurtured it solitarily, just like Frankenstein’s creation.
Percy Bysshe Shelley’s world became her world when she, at 16, fled with him, well aware that the journey ahead will be more perilous than it ever was. Percy, then 20, was already married, penniless and somewhat on the run from his creditors. After his first wife’s death, the couple got married and just for a few shy years they happily lived together.
Too strong a wave, was Mary’s beloved, for he rose to meet the light on a stormy night on the sea and drowned unabashedly. Mary Shelley kept the remains of his heart as keepsake and continued to edit and publish his poems posthumously.
Patience of deep sea grew in Mary Shelley and she decided to live – for her only son and her pen. She wrote novels, short stories, travelogues and biographies both to earn a living and stay close to the phantasmagorical world of stories.
The idea of Frankenstein came to Mary Shelley in a half-waking nightmare in the summer of 1816. She had been staying with her husband and Lord Byron on the shore of Lake Geneva when at Byron’s suggestion they were all challenged to make up a ghost story.
– Frankenstein (Penguin Popular Classics)
The summer of 1816 later came to be known as ‘the year without a summer’ because of the eruption of Mount Tamboro in Indonesia that sent clouds of volcanic ash throughout Europe, North America and Asia.
Torrential rain and grey gloominess filled the sky, it must have, when Mary Shelley sat down to write Frankenstein. And this only favoured her, even if she didn’t realise it, as she managed to breach the measurements of time in presenting a vision, hideous and terrifying, but intact and alive.
And so, it walked, with our desires and knowledge meeting, it walked – Frankenstein’s monster walked.
A phase is defined as any stage in a series of events or a process of development; while we all go through different phases in life, at times we either forget to notice or simply become fearful of transitions, inadvertently being ignorant about the fact that this phenomenon is universal. In this short poetry collection, the blogger has attempted to capture this subtle yet powerful phenomenon – phases that are observable in every journey undertaken.
Here are the last two poems from this collection –
From the pious to the picturesque,
From the lovelorn to the metaphysical,
The passionate poet enquires about life,
Stock-still like a quiet monument, but alive;
Merging this, that, and all the worlds
Into a rhythmic thought, the words
Together nudge, jerk, rise and fall,
Carrying the mythic, mystic, epic god,
Pulling to and forth and churning
The ink seas; the poet believes in creating.
Linking the myriad life phases,
The poet sovereign readies
Pen, paper, season and riddles
To record the ever-evanescent time.
The trickling, babbling, rippling river,
The chirping, twittering, singing bird,
The whispering, chiming, gliding wind,
The swaying, circling, smiling dancer,
The silken, beaming, talking sun rays,
The messenger moon’s lovestruck sweet bays,
The melodious, mesmerising music composition,
The honied, light, bright hymn’s completion,
The mother’s lullaby and the father’s delight,
The sound softens the silent universe’s might.
This Sound travels leisurely than Light,
Fading, often breaking on the way;
We are in a phase of celebration and life
Is speaking fervently, for now it is here to stay.
A raag in Indian classical music becomes Time when orchestrated. Glorious instruments, colourful songs and performances, although, when glimpsed at, mute, await patiently for the right Time, right raag.
For a different season, a different raag – Malkauns, Puriya Dhaneshree for autumn and fall, Megh and Miyan ki Malhar for the monsoons, Brindavani Sarang for summer – that captures the weather in wavelengths, letting it communicate ever so freely.
Raag as Time presents itself in a harmonious clock, naturally. Dawn breaks with raag Ahir Bhairav, Lalit, Bilaval… afternoon visits with raag Bhimpalasi, evening with raag Yaman Kalyan and night with raag Chandrakauns, Darbari, Hameer…
Moulding live Time into a majestic melody, into resplendent raags – they sit still. Who all, exactly? Both raag and Time – raag as Time, Time as raag. They sit still, now bursting into true joy, now as fragrant as love, they await, never losing the discipline of being one.
Yes, here comes the structured, palpable, countable, direct, strict form of the raags – notations. Tied to notations, raags sincerely obey the rules set by the masters, always free to improvise and ameliorate the notations. Raags aim for clarity of ever vibrant awareness, presence that transcends.
And who do the masters, gurus, legends and myths obey? Well, life is cyclical – they obey, observe, listen to, be mindful of the raags.
So, the strictness, the structure of notations attempts to keep the raags’ soul alive, while firmly certain that raags’ soul is eternal. And carrying this paradox rhapsodically, the artists move rather uniquely, theirs is a different gait, rich in colours, in fast-forward or rewind mode.
Ti-ha-yi i.e. tihayi, a technique used in Indian classical music mostly to complete a piece.
“Tihais are sometimes used to distort the listeners’ perception of time, only to reveal the consistent underlying cycle at the sam.”
–Music Contexts: A Concise Dictionary of Hindustani Music by Ashok Damodar Ranade
Sam is the ending point/ beat.
Listeners’ perception of time… very true, after all it is done for the listeners, the stage is set for the viewers, the raags become Time for the audience.
Why? So that the sublime connection between the world around and the world within doesn’t break, so that the cyclical journey goes on and on… for no mortal being knows the final destination.
Raag comes from a Sanskrit word that means ‘dyeing’ or ‘a colour, tint, hue’, and so when the right note – beautifully beaded, richly fresh – is played, it touches the heart and soul of the listener, affecting and colouring the thoughts, urging one to act well, arresting one’s hurtful quietness, liberating one from the heavy shackles, boosting one’s spirited self.
An ecstasy when experienced so, in general the raags take a traditional ritual’s shape that often gets dull under the burden of untouchable rules… untouchable for they are pious.
And oh, be careful of rupturing the impeccable quaint charming world.
But they forget the raag becomes Time here, when orchestrated well and as Time it evolves, evolving others along.
Who has captured Time in this ephemeral space? And that too in a sweet honeyed way that in captivity it turns melodious – Time becomes raag…?
An eternal tug of war between the thoughtful and careful, a wave rising and falling, union and separation, spoken and unspoken – there is a raag for every shade, every mood, every subtle change, every sky and every earth.
Together why not we take a dive into this ocean of raag… why not we learn to be as patient as a still raag as if we have been sculpted out of stones, while the atoms within hum steadily the right tune… why not we become in action that ecstatic joy like the raag Malhar, causing the clouds of bleakness to rain, in-turn nurturing our roots… why not each one of us create a unique tihayi that uncovers the similarities at the sam…
Standing next to the giant old tree, its static presence made Saami sombre, more and more.
He cried, “Saami is now one with the rigid, rough and-and dead, yes, dead and gruesome tree bark, Saami has turned into this tree bark… O, but why?”
Resting against the tree now, now hugging the tree and mumbling, Saami stared into nothingness blankly, quietly. He opened his fist – a flint stone chip, equally dead he thought – and started ripping off the bark once again.
“Saami sees it all, Saami knows the limits, Saami’s dungeon is different from theirs, but… it’s all the same”, he announced in pain.
The twittering yellow bird, the prancing butterflies, a distant lullaby, the pesky kung-fu crickets’ funny civil war and the red flowers’ bold stance, Saami turned a blind eye to it all.
Even the crickets stopped their civil war to enjoy the rain and the rainbow that day, but not Saami.
“Fools! Saami knows the pattern, Saami knows hope and destiny are always stuck in a traffic jam, and love…”, said Saami two hours ago.
“Love… love coloured Saami’s world black… black is the absence of all colours… black reflects no light… Saami lives in darkness”, he completed the sentence just when the fireflies lit the jungle.
Some rested on his head and hands, but Saami refused to greet them.
With a dry look, sullen eyes and tired limbs, Saami spoke for the last time, “dead, static tallness, this soulless tree bark hates Saami, this is the death penalty, and the most terrible because Saami is not tied, Saami can move, Saami knows, but not anymore, for Saami has become one with this giant numb stubborn treeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…”
Saami spoke for the last time because the lovely, joyous and calm tree’s branch took hold of Saami’s tired body and pulled him up-up-up… in a gushing blast of speed, suddenly music broke Saami’s heart-heart-heart… ta-rum-pup-pup-paa came the sound and immediately replaced it with a musical hub-dub sensation of a heart.
From the top-most branch of the tall lovely tree, Saami could see melodic colours and no darkness, nothing was static for the entire jungle and the river and the wind and the sky and the stars and the moon and the sun (together) danced to the twee peppy tune – and equally soothing, thought Saami – that the animal orchestra was playing.
Every animal – jamming freely – sitting on the top of some tree just like Saami… Saami who started clapping, swaying along and tip-tap-toeing in the air.
The tall lovely tree finally spoke, “Saami, yoi-knowi-da-cosmic-i-dance-sO-‘ell”; Saami was seen blushing brightly before the curtain was drawn.
For a better experience, listen to the wonderful, magical tracks before reading on –
Listen to Little Talks here –
‘Cause though the truth may vary This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore…
Little Talks, Of Monster and Men
And this journey forward that seems uncertain, unforgiving, perilous, and so lonely transforms into a key – a key that unlocks both the Pandora’s box of adversities and the heart’s orchestra.
String, woodwind, brass and percussion music, always on stand-by, ready to win-over the adversities melodiously, has given the heart’s orchestra a good name.
What if the monster charges with an army or is two-headed or many eyed or has tentacles? Hey-hey, hey-ho, the key that unlocks, also locks… it is all up to you and your heart’s orchestra performance.
Psst! Listen, all monsters aren’t evildoers, but they are music lovers for each one has a heart. Good luck!
Listen to King And Lionheart here –
And as the world comes to an end I’ll be here to hold your hand Cause you’re my king and I’m your lionheart
King and Lionheart, Of Monsters and Men
And this journey that seems to have ended with our destruction, our death, and yet alive, we silently stare, scar-faced and overwhelmed, at our sacrifice blooming at the right place, at the right time…
Tired steps befriend the trodden grass… and at last the haunting echoes fail… the Lionheart rises again.
Listen to Dirty Paws here –
The bees had declared a war The sky wasn’t big enough for them all The birds, they got help from below From dirty paws and the creatures of snow
Dirty Paws, Of Monsters and Men
And in the middle of a war, when you turn around to see and cannot distinguish between the mad faces, you become one with them and fight fiercely until you remember, you too are a creature that breathes.
Breathe, breathe, breathe and continue for that is the call…
Listen to Love Love Love here –
Oh, ’cause you love, love, love When you know I can’t love You love, love, love When you know I can’t love You love, love, love When you know I can’t love you
Love Love Love, Of Monsters and Men
And what hurts the most in this forgotten life of ours… unfulfilled love that can be fulfilled and yet…
When love love love turns you into a piece of Kintsugi pot, smile for now you have been repaired.
Listen to Mountain Soundhere –
Of Monsters and Men is an amazing indie rock band from Iceland. They have a knack for amalgamating folk stories, emotions, joy, pain and the magical into their songs that almost every time matches with the universe’s wavelength.
Listening to their music is like sitting around a bonfire on a bright winter night… and like playing with the breeze in the summers.
“Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way.”
Aware about the scents, the dancing shades and the quiet breathing sounds of the jungle, the tigress moves knowing with certainty that the world is unpredictable.
Familiar with the idea of freedom and boundaries, she has learnt to cooperate.
For the tigress to become a man eater it would mean that either she crossed her boundary or a man crossed his and then if we shed light on their reasons, we will see some simple similarities and some dark differences.
Sherni is a brilliant 2021 film written by Aastha Tiku and directed by Amit V. Musurkar. Displaying the bare truth, in all its rude capriciousness and glory, the narrative builds a powerful unsolved puzzle for the viewers, unsolved but thoroughly engaging.
Through its veering route it takes the audience on a safari tour, one where we wish wholeheartedly to never get a glimpse of the tigress for the gunned men accompany us.
The film raises questions and leaves us with hints to, collectively, as a society, solve this puzzle and be aware about our roles.
Vidya Vincent, the protagonist, is a newly appointed forest officer who challenges the status quo from the start just by working efficiently. The apathetic, insincere mood of her co-workers upsets her but doesn’t surprise her.
She tries to stay detached and work for work’s sake, but well aware about her job, about the bridge her department builds between the forest and the village, she never lets go of her sensibilities.
In a bureaucratic leisure loving system, Vidya Vincent walks swiftly and cautiously; in protecting the wildlife, making the villagers aware, dodging the political never ending hoo-ha, she is reminded repeatedly that SHE is weak.
Vidya’s family loves her, but doesn’t fully understand her rather they emphasize the importance of their expectations, underlining insistently for her a daughter-in-law and wife’s responsibilities.
After two fatal attacks on villagers, a tigress is declared as a man-eater; and with elections approaching in that area, this hot topic is smartly used by the two challenging parties to manipulate the trampled villagers and the confused slow officers.
Protecting the composed jungle from the chaotic outer world, Vidya strategises the tigress’ safe return to the sanctuary.
Vidya Vincent, a Christian lady-forest-officer, is a wonderfully layered character; brave and bold but also vulnerable and at times helpless.
Her dilemmas and exigent actions unfold so realistically that even though we get attached to her and wish for her victory, we also see her with an objective lens; and so her struggles, efforts, decisions, plans, victories and failures come across as real.
She wins and loses at the same time in the end; surely the writer here wanted Vidya Vincent to pass on the flambeau to those who would come forward and continue the fight.
Sherni, the adult female tigress, named T12 by the forest department, has given birth to two cubs and is trying to reach a safer place, away from human infiltration, deep inside the sanctuary. It is only through the villages and a mining site that she can reach the sanctuary.
Fierce and vigilant, the tigress doesn’t fall for the forest department’s ploy to catch her. She attacks the villagers who by chance wondered in her area and earns the cursed title of ‘man-eater’.
Protecting and feeding her cubs, the tigress gradually moves closer to the sanctuary.
But because she follows only the rules of the jungle and is illiterate about political chicanery, she misjudges the scent, shade and silence spread that night in the jungle and is shot first and tranquilized later for a hassle free report.
When the cubs dare to step out of the hiding, a few days later, they see a smiling Vidya Vincent staring at them with relief.
After spending generations in the vicinity of the jungle, the villagers inherit many of its qualities. Straightforward and simple yet considerate and calm, the villagers value life.
Though afraid of the big cat, only the villagers can survive as its neighbour.
In the film Sherni too, the boundary shared by the villagers and the wildlife becomes the site of contention. Will the big cat let them survive?
The political parties promise them that they will survive, but only if they vote in their party’s favour, while Vidya Vincent tries to make them aware about the tigress’ behaviour, frequently visited trails and sole goal to reach the sanctuary.
And so some of the villagers support Vidya and end up securing, at least, the lives of the two cubs, whereas the others, who refuse to adapt, get dragged in the pompous parade of the powerful who for this occasion specially invite Pintu the hunter.
The film subtly highlights the essential role that the villagers neighbouring a jungle plays in safeguarding the wildlife. If their interests are also cared for, a harmonious bond could be formed between the two neighbours.
The corrupt and manipulative system that ensnares the boorish, ignorant and weak brings antagonism in the film. The one who doesn’t dare, one who prefers the herd, the guileful, timid and adjusting inadvertently support the dominant.
Vidya Vincent’s office employees and the villagers, who face daily life’s struggles, neither appreciate the new forest officer’s help nor do they agree with the political thugs wholly.
There are divided as a group and easy to control.
Vidya’s boss Bansal, who promotes and supports the men in power, doesn’t wince twice before switching sides; the present MLA, he who is contesting for the post of MLA, the supreme lords in the high ups, Pintu the hunter and his colleagues/ juniors are all his friends; he favours the favourable.
And so Bansal, the sly, the coward becomes the most dangerous creature here.
Pintu the hunter comes across as a stereotypical character unlike any other in the film; he brags from the get-go about how hunting animals is in his blood. His father killed so many tigers and he killed this many; arrogantly he guarantees all that the man-eater tigress will raise man-eater cubs, so the little ones should not be shown any mercy.
Pintu flaunts his rifle in the parade, promising the mad crowd that now it is Pintu VS Sherni and he only knows how to win.
Meanwhile Vidya and her ‘forest friends’ try hard to keep him misinformed and away from the tigress and her cubs. They achieve one of the set goals.
Hassan Noorani, a zoology professor, and his expertise is welcomed by Vidya. Well aware about the village political scene, Hassan always guides Vidya in the right direction.
Volunteering to help the newly appointed forest officer, we see in him another individual who is passionate about wildlife conservation.
Sympathetic and sensible, Hassan contributes greatly as Vidya’s team member, but fails to stand by her side till the end. And this makes him all the more a realistic character; when a lucrative job opportunity calls him to Mumbai, he decides to accept the offer.
On finding T12’s body, shouting out loud that this is a “pre-planned murder”, disgusted and helpless, he leaves.
Jyoti, a panchayat samiti member, is another ally who understands Vidya Vincent’s genuine efforts. She represents the few who acknowledges the link that must be built between the wildlife and villages surrounding it.
Daring enough to counter the politicians, she chooses not to go astray, rather step by step form a better relation with her wild neighbours.
Vidya Vincent’s little kitten, from the very beginning, shows what it means to survive in the “wild” outside the jungle. She adapts quickly, and later, so does Vidya.
“If you pass through the jungle 100 times, you may spot a tiger once but the tiger will have seen you 99 times,” says a forest official in the film. So even though we rarely get to see the tigress here, this game of hide and seek, nonetheless, allows us to feel her wonderfully strong presence.
Not a man eater, the tigress attacks either in self defence or to hunt her prey (a livestock animal); some of the forest officials do testify the same, but the tigress fails to present her case with valid proofs and is unjustly sentenced to death.
Then we run towards Vidya Vincent, hoping that she’ll avenge the tigress’ murder; and she tries her best, saves the cubs, and in return gets a transfer order.
Posted at a Museum of Natural History, she looks after the displayed stuffed animals; a glorious stuffed tiger also poses in one of the glass cages there.
Waiting and watching, patiently, we recognise Vidya’s dilemmas and helplessness, her actions taken silently against bigotry, her tears of joy and pain.
When there is no one left to run to, we realise we are on our own. It is our turn to act now. Sherni leaves us wondering.
The boundaries of a wildlife sanctuary, the walls of our painted homes cannot separate nature from nature.
It knocks on our windows every night when we leave the balcony light on; little insects, beautiful moths are only too determined to remind us of it.
And when we get a glimpse of the wild, maybe when on a safari, taking pictures of the baboons, hushing and shushing each other, dressed in khaki, hoping a show to unfold before our eyes, the tigress sees us from a distance and walks away.
Why are the senators sitting there without legislating?
Because the barbarians are coming today.
What’s the point of senators making laws now?
Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.
Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting enthroned at the city’s main gate,
in state, wearing the crown?
Because the barbarians are coming today
and the emperor’s waiting to receive their leader.
He’s even got a scroll to give him,
loaded with titles, with imposing names.
Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?
Because the barbarians are coming today
and things like that dazzle the barbarians.
Why don’t our distinguished orators turn up as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?
Because the barbarians are coming today
and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.
Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home lost in thought?
Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven’t come.
And some of our men just in from the border say
there are no barbarians any longer.
Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
Those people were a kind of solution.
Waiting to take a stand, sitting comfortably, letting the waves cover with silt our body, mind and soul, we continue waiting, living.
Glaring caustically at the silt, we regurgitate pompously.
Unable to cross the maze, we burn the walls down, unable to touch the sky, we pull it to the ground.
Waiting for them to distinguish between the truth and hearsay, to dust off our earnest intentions, to demystify our vision, we humbly stretch and wait.
In waiting for an autonomous lustrous life, we steadily pass by, dulling our society.
C. P. Cavafy, “a Greek gentleman in a straw hat, standing absolutely motionless at a slight angle to the universe” (as per his friend E. M. Forester), wrote the poem “Waiting for Barbarians” in 1904, juxtaposing the past with our modern thoughts, superimposing the ancient image on the now, yes the now, swiftly jolting the reader from slumber and questioning “this wait”.
The leaders in ancient Greece, the poem shows, await desperately, in static opulence, for the Barbarians to come and take over everything and to begin mending every disaster, but when they don’t come, the city dwellers are aghast as now they will have to tackle problems and take decisions on their own.
And so the free individual, waiting for an external source to revitalise the life, takes a dip in the bright, glittering mirage, dreading, complaining, ignoring, barricading, adjusting all the while, and refusing to end “the wait”.
Keep walking! Walking? Together! Together?/
For a bright future – said the leader,/
Sitting comfortably on the throne.
A storyteller, following the ancient tradition of cave chroniclers, standing in vrikshasana (the tree pose) on a hill top (it is sunny, but windy), breathing in and out stories (relishing it all, but at times overwhelmed), declares animatedly that she will continue to – tell stories, share rare story gems, and connect with the pacy universe while also keeping the website ad-free.
Big thanks to my readers. Stay tuned!
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Chiming Stories (formerly Home Chimes)
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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.
Godard… Breathless and Alive
A Tribute to Jean-Luc Godard, the Film Philologist who Reinvented Cinema.
Arthdal Chronicles is a South Korean fantasy drama TV series that takes us back to the Bronze Age in a mythical land named Arth, where different human species and tribes struggle to be on the top of the power pyramid.
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.
Universe’s a Disciplined Place
Silver cascade shimmering the night sky, music to the waves and surreal beauty to the eyes, the Moon loves the art of discipline.
It may be difficult to believe for the Moon’s splendour defies time, it stupefies the clock, it follows the path of a dreamer, but how could this be possible if the Moon knew not discipline?