Time

She, the Infinite

A Poem

She, in red!
[Image by Gil Dekel from Pixabay.]

*

For building a house, thought God,

What could be the strongest element to mix

In the foundation so that the house wins over Time?

What could be infinite in nature, powerful and rejuvenating

So that the house nurtures love, peace and joy,

So that the flames of birth and death doesn’t sicken or weaken

This house called the Universe?

*

“There is nothing as alive as the feminine part of me,

It is infinite, supreme and divine;

My lovely equilibrium, my alighted spirit,

Fulfil this task, rise-o-infinite!”

-Said God.

*

And so the house called the Universe was built with feminine power at its core.

*


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Nature

Green magic!
Image by Mabel Amber from Pixabay.

Wondrous are the ways of Nature

Capturing, hiding the sun in a leaf,

Revealing it in a colourful belief,

Fruits of absolute joy, a treasure.

*

Giving life to all lives,

Giving shelter to all tribes,

The Nature plays a rhythm divine,

Transforming the woods into a shrine.

*

Nature destroys the apathetic traders;

Blind, unforgiving, hitting with catastrophes,

Listening not to the heavens, the creators,

But to the Time that heals.

*

A dense forest or a tiny plant,

Both are Nature’s marvel;

Her ethereal hands are the mantle

That blesses our lonely planet.

*

Sublime nature!
Image by David Mark from Pixabay.

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कलाकार/ Artist

The wheel is spinning.
Image – Pixabay.

*

सोमवार को दी एक पुकार

की जल्दी में क्यों हो सरकार

आना भी है, आकर जाना भी है….   

*

मिटटी गुंधे जो बैठा है कुम्हार

जशन से टशन से घुमाएगा पहिया वो

आदर और अदब से फूंकेगा वो

जब जान, तब बनेगा एक घड़ा जो

जल से भरेगा, तरेगा, करेगा शोर

की जल्दी में कयों हो सरकार

समय से कब बंधा है कलाकार?  

Translation –  Artist  

I spoke to Monday once

That why was it in such a hurry

To come and in a hurry to go…  

*

The potter who has kneaded the soil

Will spin the wheel in his style

Carefully and respectfully he will instill

A life force and the soil will take the shape of a vessel.

In usage this vessel will make some noise and ask

That why is time in such a hurry,

When it can never bind an artist’s creativity?

*


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Sun – A Flambeau Hi-Fi

Super close-up of the sun. [Source – BBC]

Brimming over with pure joy, spewing liquid gold, the sun transforms its energy and glows.

In our rawness, oh, we only see it as fire, blasting waves of bright power. Gathered around its warmth we live and grow and pray and surrender.

We cherish its radiance; we dance and sing always attuned somehow to it. I say somehow for we are cursed and blessed with a weak memory.

The sun is our time, a flambeau hi-fi and it is brimming over with pure joy, spewing liquid gold, the sun transforms its energy and glows.


Inspired by a BBC news report – Sun’s surface seen in remarkable new detail


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Unpack Your Destiny

In a green velvety suitcase inside a wooden trunk she packed it nicely, neatly, firmly forever.  

“I want it to be safe.” While the world rises and falls without any knowledge of it, she feels positive and shielded; her destiny is properly packed and locked.

Sitting cross legged she awaits the change, for the destiny to operate from underneath her crisp, fine, obvious thoughts, packed and placed in a corner.  

“I keep in touch of course, why are you being so sarcastic?” She laughs loudly for she is confident of her victory and rightly so, what will stand in her way when she remembers to keep a check on the package, clean the dust off the wooden trunk and pray that the suitcase does not vanish away magically.  

“Yes I remember, it is my destiny, I know…” She knows it all, yet she is afraid and waits for others’ approval and appreciation. Calculating the possibilities, probabilities, time and years she takes a step forward.  

She did pack a piece of the truth in that suitcase, what is wrong in it?

She forgot to unpack it, she forgot that the truth evolves, our understanding evolves. What is destined for someone is destined and yet it changes, that is the rule.  

The truth, the destiny unfolds when a mind lets it.  


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Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam – A tale of role-reversals and downfalls

Film Analysis

The beautiful Meena Kumari as Choti Bahu (Bibi). [Source – bollywoodirect.com]

In the game of cards, the roles of a King, Queen and Jack are determined, but in the real-life nothing is certain, in the real-life the roles often interchange, a King becomes a salve, a Queen a maid and a Jack a conqueror. Bimal Mitra’s Bengali novel, Saheb Bibi Golam (1952), narrates one such tale of a bygone era of flourishing feudalism that ultimately saw its ashen downfall.

The Hindi film Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962), keeping the spirit of the novel alive, enriches its impact through the well-knitted, tight screenplay, realistic yet charismatic direction and spellbinding performances.


Adaptation

Literary adaptation to any other medium always changes the story; it inevitably enhances an aspect of it and ignores the other. The audio-visual medium of cinema chooses the part that ‘shows the story’ rather than that which ‘tells the story’. This film has very beautifully matched the tonality of a novel; scenes, transitions, songs and dialogues all combine to give it a mystical forgotten tale-like feel.

Let us see how the first scene is structured in the film:-

The first scene begins with someone flipping through the pages of Bimal Mitra’s novel that fuses into the image of a huge mansion that is now lying in a complete state of ruin; labourers are digging and clearing the place, pulling down the giant pillars; labourers who were once not allowed to enter the royal mansion are now seen shovelling its remains.

Then enters the Ghulam in suit-boot, grey haired and gazes at the ruin that was once a palace, a symbol of rich feudal lords; he does not need to say anything to the audience, his demeanour and troubled look reveal enough, there is a mystery and he is the only one who can narrate it. This is how the film begins, with a long flashback.

Just like a page-turner novel, the film hooks its audience right from the beginning. We know now that the Ghulam survived the downfall, but what about the Sahib and Bibi.


Plot & Characters

The Ghulam

Atulya Chakraborty aka Bhootnath, played by Guru Dutt, comes to the city of Calcutta, looking for a job. The protagonist is as ignorant as the audience about the drama that is yet to unfold and thus, is the best character to relate with.

Bhootnath’s brother-in-law, a teacher who lives in the quarters of the grand mansion, warns him to ignore the ‘bade log’ (big people) just as they ignore all their petty lodgers.

He gets a job in a factory that produces Mohini Sindhoor – vermilion that is supposed to have aphrodisiac properties. The factory owner’s daughter, Jaba, astounds him with her wit and Brahmo Samaji attitude.

Fantastically, the plot and the main character together move this story forward. Bhootnath’s love story begins when he meets Jaba and parallelly the plot reveals the glittering feudal world, seen through Bhootnath’s eyes, building a mysterious charm capturing both his and the audience’s attention – one night, when he hears a painful voice singing about her misfortunes, he wonders about her, who is she? Who is Choti Bahu?

Bibi

The great Meena Kumari played the role of Choti Bahu, the unlucky wife of the younger brother of the two Zamindars. The fact that she is called Choti Bahu by one and all, that no one, not even her husband, calls her by her first name, suggests a lot about her character. She is truly beautiful, elegant, a devoted wife, the youngest daughter-in-law in the family and this is her job.

It is expected from her that she will forever maintain this status and not complaint in any way. After all what is there to complain about? She has everything – silk saris, jewelry, servants and a palace to call her home. That is why when she requests her beloved husband to stay back for one night instead of visiting his mistress, the husband is shocked and reminds her that he is a feudal lord and this is not only his right, but this is how he can earn a good reputation amongst other lords, he even asks her what sort of a lord spends nights with his wife.

Choti Bahu meets Bhootnath and asks for his help; she wants him to get her a packet of Mohini Sindoor so that she can win her husband’s love back and to do it secretly because women of her status does not approve of such methods. At first Bhootnath is struck by Choti Bahu’s beauty, he stares at her speechless, only later to feel pity for her, struck by her helplessness.

As the story unfolds we see how tragic a life Choti Bahu is living, like a bird in the cage. This character is very well crafted. Choti Bahu’s predicament sheds light on the hidden and ugly aspect of not only the society, the women folk, but also the individual.

When Choti Bahu is nearing her end Bhootnath tries to stop her from drinking, he even holds her hand, taken aback by his guts, she says, ‘Main Choti Bahu hun’ (I am Choti Bahu), reminding him his place that of a ghulam. This scene also highlights how an individual creates an identity and then clings to it forever; whoever then challenges her/his identity becomes her/his enemy.

Everyone is a foe for Choti Bahu, everyone who does not understand how dedicated she is, how selfless she is. Though drinking starts to kill her, she, in a troubled and an incomplete way, stays happy thinking that she is following her husband’s order and thus, fulfilling the duty of a loyal wife.

Meena Kumari’s acting heightens the dramatic impact of each scene and every dialogue. The song ‘Na jao saiyan chuda k bainya, kasam tumhari main ro padungi… ro pdungi’ has become eponymous to her. After her track begins, all the scenes are more or less about her. Bhootnath worries for her, Jaba is jealous of her without even having an encounter with her and her husband, indifferent to Choti Bahu throughout, digs his and her grave foolishly with his own hands.

Sahib

Chhote Babu, played by Rehman and Majhle Babu, played by D.K. Sapru are the Zamindar brothers who stay busy in their own silly world – one busy attending the dancer’s performance every night and the other busy either enjoying his royal cat’s wedding or pumping up for a pigeon war with his neighbouring counterpart. Blinded by excess of everything both the brothers bring their own downfall.

Majhle Babu assuming that Choti Bahu and Bhootnath are having an affair takes a reckless step; he gets Bhootnath beaten up and abducts Choti Bahu, murdering her in the end. But it is not Majhle Babu’s arrogance or the social dogma alone that killed Choti Bahu, it is her husband’s doing as well.

It is Chote Babu who made his wife addicted to alcohol, not only by asking her to be like his dancer mistress, but also by not giving her the respect and love a wife deserves. By the time he accepts his fault, he is bed ridden and it is all too late. His misery ends with his death.

The portrayal of the Sahibs of this era facing the collapse of the Zamindari system is written and directed wonderfully in the film. The two brothers come across as truly pitiful characters.


Ending

The flashback gets over and Bhootnath is informed by one of the labourers that they have found a grave on the site. He rushes to the spot only to be completely shocked to see Choti Bahu’s gold bangles on the skeleton; he remembers what she had told him, that when she dies, she should be decked up properly, with vermillion in her head, so that everyone can say that ‘Sati Laxmi’ passed away. Imagining the beautiful Choti Bahu, Bhootnath with a heavy heart steps back from the site; he sits in the carriage next to his wife Jaba and leaves the place.

The ending surprises the audience once again; that Choti Bahu was murdered and buried in the mansion itself is not something that Bhootnath or the viewer would have expected. It also closes two chapters – one of Choti Bahu’s disappearance and the second, of Jaba and Bhootnath’s relationship. They both are shown as a married couple, contrary to the novel’s ending.


Conclusion

Sahib, Biwi aur Ghulam is an amazing adaption; it does justice to both the medium of the novel and cinema. Chosen as India’s official entry to the Oscars, it was soon rejected by the academy stating that they sternly forbid showing alcoholic women in their culture.

The concept, quite bold for that period, is actually much deeper than the mere portrayal of a woman as an alcoholic. It has captured that moment in time where the powerful and rich were falling down and the servants were free to do as they wished. It is striking that the suffering labour-class where equally surprised by this change as they too had adjusted well to the feudal system. Bansi, Chote Babu’s personal attendant, jobless after his master’s death, tells Bhootnath that he has started working in the train station and that no one lives in the mansion anymore.

Therefore, the film is not only an interesting watch to study its screenplay, but also for those who wish to write/ make an adaptation, those who wish to study how both plot and characters can drive the story forward and how an individual fits in the larger scheme of things.

In the game of cards and in the real life, every Sahib, Biwi and Ghulam can overthrow the other and win; it is all a matter of time.


[Originally written for the Screenwriters Association (SWA), you can check the same here.]


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Humming Is Good For The Soul

The wind is blowing and the wind chime is playing a melodious tune. It is a calm hour of the day. Dozens of clouds are drifting by leisurely. And that group of birds is sailing high, their songs are falling along with sun rays, it is a tune unheard.
What charm is it that is capturing this scene? Ruby does not know, and, yet she allows herself to let it seep within. Standing against the railing, staring at the sky, Ruby feels free and happy. Those thoughts cannot grip her any more, those worries slip down her gleaming face.
Ruby realises then that there is nothing wrong with Time, if it is fleeting, it is also filling every second with a pearl like moment. “Breathe it”, she tells herself. When she does, she feels at home.
Waterfall like grand, fresh as a rainbow, her inner self whispers something. Ruby smiles, she does not know why. She looks at the kites, red kites against the blue sky, hopes, wishes, dreams they are, flying high.
Humming is good for the soul thought Ruby as she hummed an incomplete tune. Why incomplete? Who will complete it? “Ruby, Ruby”, someone calls out her name and completes the tune.
Oh! It is all magic… magic, magic, magic!

Lord Jagannath’s Eyes

Lord Jagannath by Vrindavan Das.
[Source – fineartamerica.com]

One eye says that the play is on.

The wheel of Time moves ceasing for none, winning over oceans, mountains, the sky, the wind and the fire.

People crowd to clench forms and beliefs, together they build and destroy. They wait to gauge for more and what is better.

Look now, how they shine, bright like fireflies, honest to the core; look now, how they lure, how they trick the tricksters, how they slay a man’s soul.

Speak not, for they are at work, cross-legged monks, meditating on what is less; speak not, for you will fail to express how chaotic is the chaos.

Rising high is the music of unity and harmony; falling face down is the corrupt, fake cry of every rigid mind.

Knowing the beginning, waiting for the end, it walks, it lingers, we walk, and we linger.  

Tala Pattachitra, Palm Leaf Painting – Odisha’s ancient art form.
[Source –
ethnicpaintings.com]

Second eye says that it is all absolute bliss.

There is no Space or Time and it binds none; the ultimate end and the ultimate start merges with the absolute existence.

Flowing in a silent music, dancing always, the ripple reaches the centre.

The Brahman breathes; formless, it is of the colour peace.    

Lord Jagannath’s eyes are the universe we see and the universe we can’t see. The happy devotee who bows, who worships, who sings, who gazes gets mesmerized by one of the universes, and by Lord Jagannath’s smile.

Our million eyes find a million revelations in Lord Jagannath’s eyes.

*

Lord Jagannath, Lord of the Universe.
[Source – harekrsna.de]

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Red Stories

Red stones, red walls, red stories started it all. A simple drawing spoke about Time. Whispers passed the tale further, expressing and mixing their own self in it. Even when the tale got complex, even when the sound differed, the story kept flowing.
 
It trickled once to form a rivulet, never imagined of becoming an ocean… an ocean that defies gravity.
 
The story about a drawing in a cave, about a lost civilisation, about the pyramids, about the iron idols, about the farms and wheels, about smoke engines and machines, about the moon and the first man… a never-ending saga that teaches and preaches and reveals and warns to remember it all.
 
Every day begins an untold story and every day ends an old story.
 
Red stories, you are moulding and folding time beautifully… and I am listening.

 

Red stones, red walls, red stories started it all.
San rock paintings from the Western Cape in South Africa. [Source – Wikipedia Commons]
Cave painting at the Tassili n’Ajjer UNESCO World Heritage Site in southeast Algeria. [Source – Wikipedia Commons]

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Crossing The Bridge To Complete The Circle

…to bridge the circle.
[Image by David Mark from Pixabay]

He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass.

George Herbert

For it is a circle and you must learn to remember.  

The stored memories, the cherished ideas, the endless thoughts, the proud emotions, the stubborn beliefs, the intuitive steps and the unknown, all of it nurtured by time. You learn to watch for the twists and turns, you accept the changes, sooner or later. You experience the journey.  

And when those eyes are old enough, when that smile is true, that is when you are able to see another’s journey and that is when you are able to forgive… for life is a circle and you must learn to remember.


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