Life

Begin and End Like a Raag

Commentary
A Lady Playing the Tanpura, ca. 1735 Rajasthan, India.
[Source – Wikipedia]

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.

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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.


Akbar watching as Tansen receives a lesson from Swami Haridas. Imaginary situation depicted in Mughal miniature painting (Rajasthani style, c. 1750 AD).
[Source – Wikimedia Commons]

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…

Why not we begin and end like a raag…


Some supreme performances by the legends –

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Let’s Take The Final Curtain Call Together

Flash Fiction
A lovely dancing tree.
[Source – Pixabay]

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.

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Sombre Saami’s imagination.
[Source – Pixabay]

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.

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The lead singer-cum-dancer-cum-poser.
[Image by Roy N from Pixabay]

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.

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Cosmic-i-dance!
[Source – Pixabay]

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मंत्र नंबर 205 / Mantra Number 205

गद्य काव्य/ Prose Poem
जल  ही  जीवन  है/ Water is life.
[Source – Unsplash]

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देर हो गई इतनी, मैं सोचूँ तो बोलू इतनी कितनी?

कई मंत्र जप्पे थे, कई जाने थे, अब आई बात समझ जाकर नंबर 205 पर।

उमर होगी मेरी 88-90, बोलो फिर कहाँ पाले मैंने इतने मंत्र?

हाँ तो मैंने फिर जाना की माना इस्कूल में पढ़ाया था जल ही जीवन है,

मैं गई भूल, अब आई बात समझ जाकर नंबर 205 पर।

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अब खा लूँ मैं जल, पी लूँ मैं जल, करलूं सफाई जीवन भर,

जल ही औषधि, जल ही प्राण और मैं राख,

जल नाले-नदी -झरने -समंदर में, जल मेरी मटकी में और मटकी मेरे सर पर,

मटकी टूटी तो जल ज़मीन-बीज-पौधे-पांच-साल-में-पेड़ पर, और मैं पेड़ की डाली पर।

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झोंपड़ी सी है मेरी, छत डालियों की बुन्नी थी कभी, अब छेद वाली है… फिर…

फिर इस बार अम्बर का पानी मेरी झोंपड़ी में और मैं मुईं झोंपड़ी की छत्त पर,

मुंगी भौंक उठी उस दिन मुझ पर, या मुईं छत्त पर… बिजली चमकी अचानक

और मैं गई कूद, गिरी सीधे चार-पाई पे, अब लगे मेरा बिस्तर फर्श पर।

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बड़े मटके में बड़ा, छोटे में छोटा बन जाये ये जल

और जब जाए मेरे भीतर तो बन जाए मुझ बुढ़िया सा कुबड़ा।

मूयें कुबड़े होंगे तुम सब, मैं कोई न होनी…

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फिर जल कभी मेरा खाना, कभी मुंगी का, जो वो न खाए तो चिड़िया का।

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जल आकाश, जल समंदर, और ये माटी के पहाड़ जैसे मेरी मटकी,

रिस-रिस के पानी, अंदर इस भू को जल दे जाए प्राण और ठंडक…

क्यों? पृथ्वी घूमे है तो थके न क्या? जल तो मांगे है…

फिर जल से कौन बचा, जो डूब गई वो भी किश्ती थी, जो तैरती रही वो एक किस्सा,

तुमने सुनाऔर मुझ बुढ़िया ने भी जाना, माना  माना, नहीं माना नहीं माना।

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बचपन में आई एक बार बाढ़, सब जगह जल ही जल और सत्यानाश,

मैं बच गई… काहे चौंके?

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देर हो गई, देर हो गई इतनी, मैं सोचूँ, तो बोलू इतनी कितनी?

देर नहीं होनी कोई, तुम्हारी घडी भागे दिमाग से तीन कदम पीछे।

सुनलो, जल पीना चौकड़ी मार के जैसे है कोई अमृत ये, तब ऊपर के निचे के

दांत झड़ेंगे पहले और तुम मरोगे बाद में, बिन बतीसी के

बुड्ढे खुसठ 100 पार छलांग लगा कर।

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हाँ, याद रखना, मुझ बुढ़िया की बात, मैं जल देवी कहलाउंगी इसके बाद।

हं… हं… हाँ तो…

कई मंत्र जप्पे थे, कई जाने थे, अब आई बात समझ जाकर नंबर 205 पर। 


मटकी जाने है एक राज़, हम न जाने क्या/ Clay pot knows a secret that we know not.
[Source – Pixabay]

English Translation –

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I understood quite late, but then I wondered how late is quite late?

I chanted many mantras, knew many more, but mantra number 205 enlightened me.

Am around 88-90, so will you say I have gone overboard with chanting mantras?

Hmm, so as I was saying I know we were taught in school that water is life,

But I simply forgot about it, but now mantra number 205 enlightened me.

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These days I eat water, I drink water, and I say keep it all spick and span forever,

Water is medicine, water is life-force and I am dust,

Water in the stream-river-cascade-ocean, water in my earthen jar and the earthen jar on my head,

The earthen jar broke, water seeped in the earth-seed-plant-and-in-five-years-the-tree and am now sitting on the tree’s branch.

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I live in a small shack, with an old thatched roof that now has a hole in it… then…

Then, recently, it rained heavily, water entered my bloody shack, I climbed the thatched roof then

Mungi barked at me or was she barking at the bloody roof… Lightning struck suddenly,

I jumped and landed on my cot, as a consequence of which now I sleep on the floor.

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Big in a big jar, small in a small one, water takes any shape

And when I drink water, it takes the shape of a hunchbacked oldie…

Oh, you all must be hunchbacked, because I surely am not.

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Hmm… I often have water for lunch, sometimes I share it with Mungi and if she rejects it, the birds feast on it.

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Water is sky, water is ocean and these mountains made of earth are like my earthen jar,

Slowly seeping inside, water gives life-force and coolness to the earth…

Why not? The earth rotates so don’t you think it gets tired? It too asks for water…

Water is very powerful… the one that sinks is a ship and the one that doesn’t is a legend,

You have heard such tales, this oldie has also known some, if you believe in it, you do and if you don’t, you don’t.

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Once, in my childhood, a great flood caused catastrophic destruction,

I survived… you look surprised, why so?

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Quite late, quite late, but then I wondered how late is quite late?

You’re not quite late, your watch runs three times slower than your brain.

Listen, sit down cross-legged whenever you drink water as if it is an elixir, then your lower and upper

Teeth will fall before you die and you will die toothless

Grumpy and senile, only after crossing 100.

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Okay! Remember what this oldie has shared, maybe from now onwards I’ll be known as the ‘Water Goddess’.

Hmm… hmm… like I said…

I chanted many mantras, knew many more, but mantra number 205 enlightened me.


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Of Monsters and Men and This Journey

Coverage
Of Monsters and Men and This Journey…
[Source – Pixabay]

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A happy piece!
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. – Wikipedia

[Photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash]

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For a better experience, listen to the wonderful, magical tracks before reading on –

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Listen to Little Talks here –

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‘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 –

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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 –

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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 –

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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 Sound here –

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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 in summers it is like playing with the breeze.

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Ninety-Nine Times out of a Hundred

Sherni (2021) Film Review

“Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way.”

John Muir

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“Even in the dense jungle, the tigress knows her way.”
[Source – impawards.com
Poster design – True Blue Design Co.]

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.


Lady forest officer! Hoo-ha!
[Source – IMDB]

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.

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Rescuing wildlife after a short tea break.
[Source – IMDB]

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.


A fleeting glimpse…
[Source – IMDB]

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.

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Hassan Noorani, Vidya’s team mate.
[Source – IMDB]

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.

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Pintu bhaiya; “might is right when I am carrying a rifle”.
[Source – IMDB]

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.

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Jyoti and Vidya Vincent; they found the cubs.
[Source – IMDB]

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.

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Glorious, always!
[Source – Pixabay]

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.


Watch the trailer now


Sherni (2021)

Story and Screenplay by Aastha Tiku

Dialogues by Yashasvi Mishra and Amit V. Masurkar

Directed by Amit V. Masurkar

Cast

Vidya Balan as Vidya Vincent

Vijay Raaz as Hassan Noorani

Sampa Mandal as Jyoti

Brijendra Kala as Bansal

Sharat Saxena as Pintu


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Sharpening the Lens Cavafy Style

Poem Review
Together we wait…
[Source – Pixabay]

Waiting for the Barbarians

By C. P. Cavafy

Translated by Edmund Keeley

*

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

The barbarians are due here today.

*

Why isn’t anything going on in the senate?

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.


Steady like a statue.
[Source – Pixabay]

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”.

But let us not wait anymore…


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Shubhasya Shighram – A Pocket Sized Mantra

Philosophy

Nature too believes in this mantra.
[Source – Pixabay]

शुभस्य शीघ्रम अशुभस्य कालहरणम।

Shubhasya shighram, ashubhasya kaalharnam.

Translation – Do not delay when planning to do something good, but when inclining towards the opposite, think twice.


Contemplation is good and needed. Action is better and a must.

Plans in a potli-mind take time to come out, yes, for they are grand ones, created meticulously, weaved with love.

Inspired thoughts build this glass minar with intricate designs, colours of hope and success and appreciation and a little bit of all that is magical in this universe. We fly high when planning in a potli-mind.

Now how to fabricate such a tall glass minar in reality? Where to start from? How do we know if the time is right?

And what about all the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’? Oh, and our dominating ‘know-it-all self’ that loves to put a stamp on every new thought, issuing summons, calling the poor thought a fraud, out-of-our-league or an impossibility, come what may?

Or worse, comparing it with the giant called the OTHERS?

Maybe this is the moment to tell yourself, shubhasya shighram, why wait to do something good.

Maybe this is the time to take the first step towards that glass minar, an overwhelming act it may feel at the beginning, but by the end, whatever the result is, we get enriched, we understand the rotating world and our bumbling selves a little better.

What a brilliant mantra then, a pocket sized mantra!

So, my friend, go ahead with that plan… because shubhasya shighram, shighram shighram.


Potli – bag, bundle, parcel, packet.

Minar – a tower or turret.


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Ancient Dusky Rivers

The river… sketching its way ahead…
[Source – Pixabay]
The Negro Speaks of Rivers

by Langston Hughes

*

I’ve known rivers:

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

*

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

*

I’ve known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.


Rivers – streams, creeks, brooks or rivulets – love to flow; flowing towards a sea, lake, an ocean or another river, and at times also drying out. Rivers love to flow just like life.

Most of the earlier civilisations prospered when they settled around rivers, channelizing the same love when drinking its fresh water.

And when mankind sat in a circle around the fire and created stories – of the sun, the moon, the thunder and the wind – they fostered their imaginations and decided to pass on the love running in their blood to a lovely supreme one.

Different supreme ones took the centre stage at different places and myriad dramas unfolded that the rivers watched quietly, flowing, gushing with joy every moment.

Resisting neither the rocks nor filth, accepting the dead and plastic bottles alike, it continues to flow… for now.


Still like a mirror, moving like a reflection…
[Source – Pixabay]

Langston Hughes in his poem The Negro Speaks of Rivers connects the human soul with the world’s ancient rivers; the hands that cupped to drink water, the feet that crossed the river, whatever race it belonged to, felt the same damp calmness every single time they drank water and crossed the river.

Written during the early twentieth century when African Americans struggled to achieve equality and justice, Hughes, presenting a powerful historical perspective in this poem, emphasises the link between his ancestors, the ancient rivers and the rest of the human civilisation.

The Euphrates, often believed to be the birthplace of human civilisation, the Congo, powerful and mysterious, that saw the rise of many great African kingdoms, the magical Nile that carries with poise the secrets of the great Egyptian pyramids, the folklorist Mississippi that shared here the tales of Abraham Lincoln and American slavery – shows how rivers carry the past in its depth, carrying it always with love.

And the one who sees with love can sense the connection between rivers and souls, between them and us; we all started this journey together, the rivers are a testimony.


“I’ve known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”

Experience and history, though often oppressive, have not extinguished but rather emboldened the development of a soul, the birth of an immortal self, the proud ‘I’ that now speaks to all who will listen.

Christopher C. De Santis

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Regina Spektor’s Musical World and the Ephemeral Moments of Joy – Part I

Coverage
Delicate dance anthem…
[Source – Pixabay]

Walking down the street with old heavy memories, frozen and hazy, not bothering for a while and the unknown liveliness of the fresh sounds greeting us from all around – the dripping thaw, the golden sunny warmth, the tiny twittering birds, the ‘oh my god’ honking of a dashing car’s ghost that passes by, the hearty smiles and laughter – we blush with hope teasing us, giving us bright ideas, gleaming as we experience our quiet, still mind-pond.

These ephemeral moments of joy, so true and innocent, are hard to capture, harder to sustain, probably that is what makes it so special for and loved by all.


Regina Spektor, the star singer, songwriter, musician, the starry-eyed star, the star magician, knows how to hold such moments very well. She doesn’t capture it, na-na, she only knits a pretty, sweet and soothing melody and then soaks it into such warm moments, letting the melody take this ephemeral colour.

To this colour, she adds free-play, emotions and her pianist-self and, voila, a Regina Spektor song wave is ready.

Listen to “Ne Me Quitte Pas (Don’t Leave Me)” before reading further –

*

…And down on Lexington they’re wearing
New shoes stuck to aging feet
And close their eyes and open
And they’ll recognize the aging street
And think about how things were right
When they were young and veins were tight
And if you are the ghost of Christmas Past
Then wont you stay the night?

Ne Me Quitte Pas, Mon Chere
Ne Me Quitte Pas…

Regina Spektor

She amalgamates it all so well, life’s experiences, cut both ways and so gently she allows herself to smile an honest smile. How beautifully this song captures time and lets it go.

And she loves Paris, especially when it rains there and so do we all (at least the rasiks* do).

Listen now to “Dance Anthem of the 80’s” –

*

…I’m walking through the city
Like a drunk, but not
With my slip showing a little
Like a drunk, but not
And I am one of your people
But the cars don’t stop…

Regina Spektor

This is nothing but a memory, cold, harsh, but funny in retrospect; one that glares until you glare back at it, acceptingly. And Regina Spektor handles this mixed emotion so peacefully and at the same very eagerly, probably eager for it to evolve.


Also, listen to the live performance of “Dance Anthem of the 80’s”, how sweetly she thanks her audience.

*

Here, at Chiming Stories, the blogger will be covering Regina Spektor’s musical world in the coming posts, trying to live and relish her songs in your company, so dear readers ‘ne me quitte pas mon chere’ (don’t leave me, my dear).


*A rasik, in Hindi language, is a passionate and thoughtful being.


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The Thousand Faces of Night – A Charcoal-Inked Raga

Book Review

The certainty of it being the night promises us of the erubescent dawn. It is an inky night, it has been for aeons and aeons… and, mind you, she uses charcoal-ink… for the stove is still burning, she never forgets to collect woods.

And so, with her inky fingers she writes messages, anecdotes, dead secrets and stolen dreams on the walls in the kitchen.

A custom followed since antiquity, now the charcoal-ink smells of these quiet cursive messages. It talks about the dark night and the breaking of the dawn.

Her inky fingers will turn red with the dawn.


But Sita needed all the strength she could muster to face the big trial awaiting her. After that, it was one straight path to a single goal, wifehood. The veena was a singularly jealous lover.

Then one morning, abruptly, without an inkling that the choice that was to change her life lurked so near, Sita gave up her love. She tore the strings off the wooden base, and let the blood dry on her fingers, to remind herself of her chosen path on the first difficult days of abstinence.

Githa Hariharan (Part Three; Chapter 1)

*

Painting of the Goddess Saraswati by Raja Ravi Varma.
[Source – Wikimedia Commons]

The Thousand Faces of Night (1992) is written by the astounding Githa Hariharan. The novel is a melody sung and composed at night that captures the thousand faces of the moonless, starless night.

It narrates the many tales of Indian women – the celebrated mythical ones and the limited editions – with such excellence that the novel takes the shape of a woman carrying a heavy potli bag full of tales.

The tales, entangled badly, still echo well and dramatise their essence. The tales are spicy and heart wrenching and true.

*

Earthenware… they hold intact their stories, cultures for centuries.
[Source – Pixabay]

Devi, Sita, Mayamma – daughter, mother, maid – kindle fire that burns time, others and themselves. And so powerful is this fire that life gathers around it to get some inspiration.

Delicate like earthenware, painted beautifully, allegedly breakable, they hold intact their stories, cultures for centuries; you must have seen the pieces of such earthenware dug out from archaeological sites, displayed in a museum safely.

Their resilience never fails them even if it means to walk alone, against the tide, the familiar sunshine. Devi, the present, dares to break away, in her agility, eager to explore, moving away from Mayamma and Sita, the past.

Posing in front of the patriarch, they contribute to his legacy/magnificence. After foolishly spending a long time and suffering from backaches, Sita straightens up and Devi dodges the mockery, while Mayamma continues.

The patriarch sees Mayamma and smiles, Mayamma bows and cusses silently. She prays for Devi.

*

The new raga.
[Source – Pixabay]

After etching their charcoal-inked messages on the kitchen walls, the three ladies change the notation of their melody slightly, making the raga, still sung at night, fresher.

*

I must have, as I grew older, begun to see the fine cracks in the bridge my grandmother built between the stories I loved, and the less self-contained, more sordid stories I saw unfolding around me. The cracks I now see are no longer fine, they gape as if the glue that held them together was counterfeit in the first place. But the gap I now see is also a debt: I have to repair it to vindicate my beloved storyteller.

Githa Hariharan (Part One; Chapter 3)

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