The Wall

I cannot find my spectacles and I cannot see what lies ahead. Maybe I just don’t want to.

But I know this much that the wall in front of me is laughing at me. Oh! I know this much, I can hear it laugh, point finger, glare and burn; gnawing questions and harrowing answers and more burst out from this wall only and only to crush me, inching slowly to get my heart.

The wall purposely fooled me or so I would like to believe and having done so I refuse to accept or arrange for any attempts of reconciliation. Life is a mess and I refuse to look at it.

Oh well, oh hell with it all. I am not afraid of a wall. The unmoving structure knows not who I am. Huh! I have hammered several nails into this wall before and I can do so now.

But let me first find my spectacles and see what lies ahead. Maybe it is time I should.

Listen to your heart – Banksy

Photo credit – Banksy the Bindaas!

Raga Pranayama

When the Music is Good by Dr. Kirell Benzi.

Playing the Raga Pranayama in my heart and soul I am sitting inside this quiet room for so many days now and slowly this world has stopped reeling.

The shrivelled old self shed off its glories and achievements and regrets all at once, it was painful and I did die a little. Then all I did was to look up and breathe, close my eyes and breathe again.  

Now brighter, with no desire to compete with light or a sharper mind or the maestro musician, I sit simply playing the Raga Pranayama.

Yes, often my memory makes me feel overwhelmed, and yet something allows me to accept it all that too with a smile.  

And softly the wind brings a message from the meadows that the dandelions are gushing with joy and beaming for one and all; that the butterflies are coming carrying colours for you and me; that the stream is singing, sparkling sibilantly, shy at first, vibrant then. Oh it is lovely!

*

It is a new beginning, I am sitting in my room and everything has changed as I play the Raga Pranayama.

Dispelling the emaciated fears that had spread and frolicked in my mind, dispelling with the truth of this life force running lightly within and without… the fears just succumbed in the end and this I will remember, always, so that I too can share and struck a happy peaceful note.  

Voices together, singing this happy note, playing the Raga Pranayama will eventually rise above the gloomy cry of this malady.

Together we will rise and break that wall which was once built greedily by us. Hold on, hold on for it will pass.  

Play with me the Raga Pranayama in your heart and soul and let the life energy guide you.

That hazy glow you see when you close your eyes and breathe, that dot, it is the one that surmounts, it has and it will, sometimes with and sometimes without the shell.    


Raga (Sanskrit for “colour” or “passion”) is a melodic framework for improvisation and composition in Indian classical music. Read more here.

Pranayama (prana, Sanskrit for “life force” or “vital energy” and yama, Sanskrit for “restraint” or “control”), is a set of meditative practices designed to control pranawithin the human body by means of various breathing techniques. Read more here.


Also, listen to the magnificent Ragas that inspired me to write this post –  Raga Rasia by Pandit Ravi Shankar

Raga Brindabani Sarang by Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia


Learn more about Data Art by the fantastic Dr. Kirell Benzi, click here.

*


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Three Voices

Three voices in pink.
Image from Pixabay.

The three voices are saying the same thing.  

What is tolerance… the capacity to endure hardships and… and the willingness to accept beliefs, respect the opinions that are different from our own.  

Tolerance, they say, shows that you are educated for you listen, you debate and you rule out what is not plausible.

You stick to what gives you clarity and what appears to be true, true for one and all because we, the people, are walking forward together.

The boundaries are superficial.  

And so the intolerant idea that in its core aims to divide, to break, to segregate is a foolish one, it does not succeed in the long run.  

But oh, oh, we are complex beings, we are slow and we glow with pride or we moan with guilt and we disturb the peace, we freeze the disease in our minds and resist the resolution till the very end of the war.  

We the humanity and I the individual still do not know who is more powerful… powerful not only to survive but powerful enough to understand, to forge a balanced world, to see through eyes unclouded by hatred… powerful enough to show tolerance.  

The three voices are saying the same thing.  

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

Aristotle

The highest result of education is tolerance.

Helen Keller

Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.

John F. Kennedy

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रंगों की तरंग/ The Wave of Colours

रंगों की तरंग

रंगों की तरंग

बस इतना कहने उठी

कि ये जो अस्मा है

रंगो के लिए बना है.

*

Translation –  The Wave of Colours  

The wave of colours

Rose to say

That this sky is

Meant to be coloured    

*


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Message from Women Screenwriters


Capsuling a journey that has a unique message for every individual who witnesses it, she wrote passionately for days and waited patiently for the culmination. High on the giant white screen a character narrated a story, another danced and loved and fought for it and won. In darkness this message spread like light.


She is currently preparing to capsule yet another journey.

Read to know the language of Hindi cinema spoken by women screenwriters in India – https://www.swaindia.org/article_dyn.php?q=T0RNPQ== 
Image courtesy – Google

Cor Cordium

Skylark in flight, paper, ink drawing by Ingrid Blixt.

What the heart knows it reveals without any second thoughts for it does not weigh its words. The heart never babbles, it speaks passionately for it speaks the truth.  

The heart speaks to a calm mind, to an honest voice, to a confident cry. The heart speaks fluently and soulfully.  

Powerful enough to move mountains, the heart often uses poems to express, to highlight, to show what the eyes cannot see, to declare and vanquish weaklings who betray humanity.  

I am thinking of you and your skylark song, cor cordium, you listened to your heart then and we are listening to you since.    


Cor Cordium is Latin for ‘Heart of Hearts’; it is the inscription written on Percy Bysshe Shelley’s grave to whom I dedicate this piece.


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Jailed

Golden Flower of Light
Four giant steps forward and six steps sideways, a room with no window, locked in it forever.
The thoughts buzz tirelessly, not letting the music of a quiet mind to settle.
The walls are painted daily, it shouts ‘I blame you’ boldly. But there is light, it comes from underneath the door, sometimes mixed with the chirping of the birds. It fills the jail with a happy calm light. It does.
And the key, kept on a tiny table beside the door, never moves itself to unlock the door. It just waits.
Amusingly, the happy calm light never ceases to be. It wishes us to breakout.

The Truth is Pale Blue and its Apparent Size is Equal to a Dot

Pale Blue Dot by Voyager 1 Space Probe.
[Source – Wikimedia Commons]

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet

Whose hands can strike with such abandon

That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living

Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness

That the haughty neck is happy to bow

And the proud back is glad to bend

Out of such chaos, of such contradiction

We learn that we are neither devils nor divines  

*

This excerpt is from a refined piece of poem by Maya Angelou which shared then and is sharing still the truth.

We all call a pale blue dot in this magnanimous universe our home, and then we forget. For what else can it be if not weak memory that we repeat the same blunders and invite catastrophes?

We are full of contradictions, we are the chaos, we are neither devils nor divinesand yet we are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world. Why?

Because we can think, we can create, we can sing and dance, we can understand the science behind everything, and we can write a poem to share with everyone A Brave and Startling Truth.

Because deep down all each one of us want is peace. Yes, but only if we remember… if we remember to think.

*

When we come to it

We, this people, on this wayward, floating body

Created on this earth, of this earth

Have the power to fashion for this earth

A climate where every man and every woman

Can live freely without sanctimonious piety

Without crippling fear

When we come to it

We must confess that we are the possible

We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world

That is when, and only when

We come to it.

*

Read Maya Angelou’s beautiful poem, A Brave and Startling Truth here.

Know more about our planet, the Pale Blue Dot.

Also, read this fabulous article by the fabulous Maria Popova that inspired me to write this post here.


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Sujata – The Voice of the Unheard

Film Analysis

Film Poster. [Source – Wikipedia]

“Woh humari beti nahi, humari beti jaisi hai”

(She is not our daughter, but we treat her like our own.)

Bimal Roy’s 1959 film, Sujata, sits silently and gracefully amongst his other iconic works, I say silently because of the story’s gravitas and the maker’s devoted yet subtle approach towards the social evil like casteism. Based on the celebrated author and journalist Subodh Ghosh’s short story, the screenplay is written by Nabendu Gosh and dialogues by Paul Mahendra. To the sauntering and soulful music of S.D Burman, lyrics, by Majrooh Sultanpuri, add emotions of innocence, love and pain, making the soundtrack unforgettable.

Revolving around the cursed concept of untouchability, the film presents the real, crude and prejudiced face of the society, iteratively hitting the theme, not only to highlight the flaw, but also to show how we can bring a change.


Story

Sujata, born in a lower caste family (the achoot or the untouchables), still an infant is taken in by a high caste Brahmin family when her parents die and there is no one of her caste in the village to look after her. Thus, starts the first chapter in Sujata’s life where as a curious child she finds it difficult to understand why her Ammi and Bapu treat her and her sister Rama –who calls them Ma and Pitaji – differently, why they never celebrate her birthday, why only Rama is allowed to study and not her.

Anxious and troubled about their decision of giving an untouchable girl shelter in their house, Ammi and Bapu first try to hand her over to someone from her caste, but finding that the man is a drunkard, they change their minds, later when she grows up a little they try to send her to an orphanage, but are not able to see her leave.

In a scene when Bapu falsely says that Sujata has high fever, Ammi goes running to her room and checks her fever only to find out that Bapu was teasing her, he laughs and says that she will have to take a bath now as she touched an untouchable (something which she had said to him in an earlier scene, when he had caressed little Sujata).

Throughout the half an hour long track of Sujata’s childhood, we see many such scenes where the kind couple feel torn between the responsibility they have taken up and the customs they are supposed to follow. Why is Sujata not their daughter even though they have brought her up? The couple avoid this question throughout the film, only to accept their mistake in the end and accept Sujata as their own.


Tittle and the Theme

The feminine Indian name Sujata comes from the Sanskrit word sujaat which means ‘of high birth’. An apt tittle, Sujata, in this story’s context raises the crucial question upfront without much delay – who is sujaat, who is not and who decides it? Throughout the story, the protagonist’s selfless and warm attitude only brings out the noble side of hers; she is a beautiful individual who can win over everything, but does not for she is told it is not her right.

Each and every frame in the film is used to magnify its theme as if trying to convince a stubborn mind that caste does not determine a person’s nature. This is shown ingeniously in one particular scene where an old man from upper caste comes to meet Bapu with his son’s marriage proposal for Sujata; he tells him that he is strictly against dowry, but will accept whatever they gift their daughter, he also makes sure that Bapu helps his son by investing money in his son’s business. All seems well, only until he gets to know that Sujata was born in a low caste family. The old man leaves angrily after rebuking Bapu for trying to trick respectable people like him.


Characters

Nutan as Sujata and Sunil Dutt as Adhir. [Source – Film Companion]

Sujata, played by the charming Nutan, is a vivacious, loving, uneducated, but smart girl who is the back bone of the Chowdhury family, working from morning till night, taking care of everyone’s need. In fact when the hero, Adhir (Sunil Dutt) fails to find Sujata in the house, to meet whom he has especially come, Rama tells him that it is not easy to find Sujata as she works like a clock, non-stop, handling all the household chores with perfection. Sujata’s likeness to the clock is again repeated when before Ammi and Bapu can ask for their evening tea, Sujata brings it for them; her Bapu says, ‘Sujata tu to is ghar ki ghadi hai’ (Sujata you’re like the clock). Clock that tells time, time that one must be aware of in order to work efficiently, thus, drawing a parallel between Sujata and the clock only highlights how essential her presence is in the house.    

The young Sujata, played by lovely Baby Farida, who questioned Ammi and Bapu’s biased behaviour towards her and felt jealous of her sister Rama, grows up to blindly accept her position in the family, position of not the daughter of the house, but of a cared member.

She is best friends with Rama and makes sure that she calls her Didi (elder sister). The relationship is presented very realistically; they fight, play and laugh together. Rama, who is studying in college, loves Sujata as her elder sister, never leaving one opportunity to praise her especially in front of Adhir. While Rama is infatuated by Adhir in the beginning, she, without making a big deal out of it, steps back when she sees Adhir has fallen for Sujata.

For our modern, progressive and educated hero, Adhir, it is love at first sight; he is absolutely smitten by Sujata’s beauty and elegance, he always talks to Rama just to enquire about Sujata and does not hesitate to accept in front of Sujata that he came there hoping to get just a glimpse of her.

Adhir’s love blooms in Sujata’s heart and she dares to dream; his comforting words astound her as no one had ever tried to understand her or even hear her out. Adhir tells Sujata about his dream where he saw her in a beautiful sari, with a Chandramallika (Chrysanthemum) flower in her bun and a red bindi (mark) on her forehead, overwhelmed Sujata says, with a pretty smile on her face, that the meaning of this dream is that Adhir is beautiful. What Sujata means is that one who can paint such a wonderful image of her, one who does not worry about the social labels is indeed a man with golden heart. Later, when the story takes a turn and they are forced to part, Sujata asks him to think that the Chandramallika of his dreams has wilted.

Upendranath and Charu Chowdhury, Sujata’s Ammi and Bapu, and Adhir’s grandmother, played by the terrific Lalita Pawar, who also happened to be a distant relative (aunt) of the Chowdhurys, are the ones who bring a rift between the two lovers. A staunch orthodox, Adhir’s grandmother frowns every single time she sees Sujata, in fact in the very first scene of hers when she picks up the baby mistaking baby Sujata as baby Rama, appalled and angry, she literally throws the baby away who is caught mid-air by the nanny, making a scene for touching an achoot.

It is she who repeatedly warns the Chowdhurys of a calamity that could fall on them for going against their religion and keeping an untouchable girl in their house. Talking about problems Sujata’s presence can cause in finding a perfect match for Rama, she even convinces them to marry Sujata to a widower from the low caste. Hopes of marrying Adhir with Rama overpower her and she gives an ultimatum to the Chowdhurys.

There is not one confrontational scene between Adhir’s grandmother and Sujata and yet it is Sujata who defeats her. When she is praying in the puja room, Adhir comes to tell her that he wants to marry Sujata and the fact that she belongs to a lower caste does not bothers him at all; in her rage his grandmother asks him to leave the house once and for all and decides to break all the ties with him, declaring that she will not give him one penny from her property. Adhir packs his bag and is at the door step when she comes running from the puja room and requests him not to leave, crying and accepting her defeat. She then goes to the Chowdhurys and tells them about Adhir’s decision. It is interesting that she does not have a change of heart; she merely acknowledges that she has failed, still refusing to understand that casteism is wrong. Unlike her, Ammi and Bapu, who have always been in a dilemma for they loved Sujata, but were also bound by social ties, in accepting their defeat also accept their mistake and welcome the change.

Apart from a scene or two where Adhir is explicitly talking about the evils of casteism, every other character portrays their beliefs rather than verbalising it; Ammi and Bapu always stay aware of not hurting Sujata’s sentiments, albeit they end up doing so and even Adhir’s grandmother always indirectly taunts Sujata, as if running away from her shadow. It is the brilliance of Roy and the writers that an ignorant Rama who is truly friendly with Sujata becomes the one who highlights the bias – her carefree and jaunty attitude hits a sharp contrast to Sujata’s ever present burden and shame of being a lower caste girl.   


Imagery and Music

A strong set of images are used to depict Sujata’s emotions in the film; every flower in the garden blossoms and sways when she is happy, the wind is gentle and soothing when she sings, the calm water and the small boat by the Gandhi Ghat (pier) appear like a painting when she is at peace, but when in a turmoil the wind blows madly, it rains heavily and darkness spreads, in fact Sujata herself chooses to be in the dark on two occasions, one when everyone is celebrating Rama’s birthday and the house is lit, roaming outside, she switches off the light and sits in the dark under the tree, second when she overhears Ammi and Bapu talk about Rama and Adhir’s wedding, she quietly agrees to forget Adhir, switches off the light of the hallway and walks away.

The background score and songs further underline Sujata’s state of mind. Jalte Hain Jiske Liye Teri Aankhon Ke Diye, Suno Mere Bandhu Re Suno Mere Mitwa, Tum Jiyo Hazaaron Saal, Saal Ke Din Ho Pachaas Hazaar and Nanhi Kali Sone Chali Hawa Dheere Aana are some of the hit songs of the film. The song Kaali Ghata Chhaye Mora Jiya Tarsaaye where she sings (after closing the door so that no one overhears) –

Hoon mai kitni akelee woh yeh janke/ Mere berang jivan ko pehechanke

Mere haatho ko thame hanse aur hasaaye/ Meraa dukh bhulaye kisee kaa kya jaye

(Translation – If only he knew how lonely I am, if he could hold my hand, laugh with me, it would make me forget all my sorrows, if it happens, how does it matter to you)

– here in saying ‘kisee kaa kya jaye’ (how does it matter to you) it is as if she is mocking all those who see her with disgust while she is just like them, a normal human being, capable of falling in love.


Gandhian and Buddhist Philosophy

The film criticises the act of untouchability time and again, sometimes indirectly and sometimes directly.

Mare kaise? Atmahatya karke? Kabhi nahi! Avyashakta ho to zinda rehne k liye mare.

(Committing suicide? Never! If need arises, die for the purpose of living.)

This is the quote written under Mahatma Gandhi’s statue at the Gandhi Ghat that makes Sujata think before taking any rash decision like committing suicide. Ammi’s words that she is an untouchable girl, born in a low caste family, nothing but a burden on them troubles Sujata so much that she leaves the house in the thundering rainy night and reaches the Gandhi Ghat. The rain drops are made to appear as Gandhi’s tears underlining that he is equally sad. She returns back and slowly the storm within her and the storm outside quiet down.

In another scene, Rama, in a play in her college, acts as Chandalika, the untouchable girl who was detested by all, but the Buddhist monk Ananda, by drinking water from her vessel, liberates her from this curse. Everyone except Sujata is present there and they all, especially Adhir’s grandmother, appreciate Rama’s performance marking vividly the hypocritical outlook of the society.

Also, when Adhir confronts his grandmother in the prayer room, he points towards the portraits of Buddha, Ramkrishan Paramahansa and Swami Vivekanand saying that they all did not discriminate between people and she should understand this simple truth.


Climax

Ammi works herself into a frenzy of rage as her biggest fear comes true, she blames Sujata for coming between Rama and Adhir and poisoning their lives like a snake. Ammi falls down from the stairs and hurts herself fatally. When no one else’s blood matches with Ammi, it is Sujata who asks the doctor to test her blood group. To everyone’s surprise her group matches with Ammi and thus, Sujata saves Ammi’s life.

Dramatically Ammi and Bapu also find out that Sujata is ready to sacrifice herself for them and has already asked Adhir to forget her and marry Rama. Understanding their mistake, discarding their doubts and wholeheartedly accepting their love for Sujata they call her ‘beti’ (daughter) and embrace her warmly, asking her to forgive them. The last scene is of Sujata’s vidaee (farewell), Ammi and Bapu marry her off to Adhir, an upper caste Brahmin, finally breaking the shackles of casteism.


Conclusion

Sujata was nominated for the Golden Palms at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival, but it lost to Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. This 161 minutes long film that takes ample time to build its world, presents the theme strikingly, always keeping it in the forefront and uses metaphors to magnify its impact could make it, one might say, a tiresome watch. Also the melodramatic tone of the film could bother the minds accustomed to watching fast paced dramas. Nevertheless it is a must watch for not only is this a classic, but also because it is as relevant a film as it was back then in 1959; shockingly we have not changed much, intolerant towards a caste then, intolerant towards a religion now. Roy highlights this issue poignantly and drives the point home, effectively.

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


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Maha Shivaratri

The music – fibrous, raw and riveting – seeps in all the four directions touching the sky and the earth alike devouring every happy heart and announcing the arrival of all the gods.

They are here to celebrate the Great Night of Lord Shiva and show reverence to the supreme one.  

The deities in exuberance dance and sing and chant and revel. Fully aware, their rhythmic movements slows the time and the thundering clouds rains to shower it and rains beautifully… refreshed, the cycle of time resumes as if it had never slowed down.

So simply this revival occurs, revival of the five elements, the minds, the hearts and the souls, the revival of the gods and of the fleeting time, all in the presence of Lord Shiva.

Enchanting folk music is played on this occasion.
[Source – hpmandi.nic.in]
Deities wait to meet the Lord.
[Source – Wikimedia Commons]

Also, read about Nataraja, Shiva as the divine dancer.


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