But as they went on walking and walking – and walking – and as the sack she was carrying felt heavier and heavier, she began to wonder how she was going to keep up at all. And she stopped looking at the dazzling brightness of the frozen river with all its waterfalls of ice and at the white masses of the tree-tops and the great glaring moon and the countless stars and could only watch the little short legs of Mr Beaver going pad-pad-pad-pad through the snow in front of her as if they were never going to stop. Then the moon disappeared and the snow began to fall once more.
Chapter 10 – The Spell Begins to Break
They were pretty tired by now of course; but not what I’d call bitterly tired – only slow and feeling very dreamy and quiet inside as one does when one is coming to the end of a long day in the open.
Chapter 12 – Peter’s First Battle
Though not in Narnia – oh this wonderful secret burns brightly within, always showing the way through whimsical times – but in this not-so-glaringly-magical world, there is something that reminds me of Narnia and that is – you’ll find it strange – the act of walking.
Yes, walking and especially in the woods, but also just walking you know, in the garden or any rough road, walking silently, worrying less and losing myself in the surroundings, walking transports me, like every step walked on the land of Narnia did.
Hmm… It seems ordinary, especially when I think, compare, weigh, measure, imagine and get emotional. But when I don’t, when I simply forget to do any of that, I am able to simply walk and that is when the joy of walking makes me feel so sweet.
Do you know, only that day, I lost myself when walking aimlessly towards my house, landing safely, feeling light hearted and cold but in a gentle way.
My journeys on foot in Narnia were plenty, full of dangerous adventures too, but I believe it connected me to the pace of the magic unfolding, for magic was routine there, and so was walking, on the snowy land to the grassy ones through the woods and across the streams, one walked to keep the magic alive within.
Godfather, is it one of the reasons for the Witch’s downfall, for she walked less and used the sledge, until, of course, Aslan… oh, I miss Aslan.
But I don’t feel dismal about it, dear Godfather, I long for Narnia, but I don’t cry, could be because I walk, via lovely pathways, wardrobes, parks, and in the town too, and through the village roads, whenever I can…
Thanks for the most wonderful gift one could ever give a goddaughter!
And indeed, Lucy Barfield, a spirited bright person, an artist, loved the book.
“What I could not do for myself the dedication did for me. My Godfather gave me a greater gift than I had imagined.”
Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 28, she led a life under restrictions, nevertheless, she continued to shine and must have again walked and, without looking for it, found Narnia for that is what a robin sang about to me.
The Geographer and the Astronomer were in the same room as Vermeer for it is in the front room, on the second floor of a spacious house, Vermeer’s mother-in-law’s house, that he produced most of his work.
One good room and in this one good room, a window (usually on the left), a table, chair, cupboard, stool, curtains, draperies, tapestries and a picture-within-a-picture maintained a position, steady, jolly, known, homely, oozing warmth that allowed the artist to mix the pigments well.
And in these two paintings, the two silent globes – a celestial globe with its terrestrial pair for in the 17th century globes were sold in pairs as a direct, neat, calculable link between astronomy and geography was thoroughly entertained – appear in full support of the two sharp owners, a trust built on daily encounters in the same room.
The Japonsche rocken/ Japanese kimono worn by the two scholars here add to the room’s mood and colour; more like precious gifts for a selected few – back then these were not for sale, but presented in batches only to the merchants who were allowed to visit the Imperial Court in Edo (Tokyo) – the robes then feature seriousness, persistence and also recognition.
The ultramarine, cyan shade that colours the two robes, derived from natural lapis lazuli, very expensive, deep, quietly presents the two scientists caught wondering, imagining, getting inspired by a source.
And the artist painstakingly fine-tunes the details, adds layers, swirls and golden dots, folds, peaks and dips, floral touches, tiny tiles and shadowy walls, and signs the painting, sometimes signs it twice.
And the room, sitting patiently absorbing in light and darkness, also signs.
An old cobbled stone lane, old-old and narrow, lined with – old and famous – medieval structures, Mozart playing in the backdrop, timeless, captivating, deep and probably the reason that keeps the old charming and new, through this old cobbled stone lane passes old Mr Thomas, every day, pipe on, no smoke, with a copy of Wiener Zeitung folded, under his arm, thoroughly read, re-read.
The folded copy of Wiener Zeitung – one of the oldest newspapers in the world, 320 years old, whose first copy got published in 1703, a newspaper that Mozart must have read, that covered (in 1768) 12-year-old Mozart’s magical concert, that got shut down in 1939 on Hitler’s orders (started printing again in 1945) – isn’t heavy at all, even though historically a giant.
Direct, also echoing, echoes arriving/leaving, Wiener Zeitung spoke what it saw, observed, analysed freely.
Old, Mr. Thomas’s favourite, this newspaper has friends too, you know, same like it, old and gold – the Italian Gazzetta di Mantova (1664), the English London Gazette (1665) and Berrow’s Worecester Journal (1690), also Haarlems Dagblad (1883) from Netherlands and the very many, thousands and thousands, of readers and the humble employees.
Old Mr. Thomas is walking fast, caught in a thought of uncertainty and the past and future, that he almost tumbled in the present. But, hey, he is fine because he is doubtful and so will explore.
July 1, 2023
Weiner Zeitung won’t get published today. Yesterday was its last day, the print version’s that is, for an online version will be out soon.
Saying tata-bye-bye to many employees means tata-bye-bye to many readers too? Will old Mr. Thomas now, with his pipe on, no smoke, surf the internet for Weiner Zeitung?
The old cobbled stone lane, old-old and narrow, lit by medieval lamps and Mozart’s songs, will see Mr. Thomas sometime soon, him and many oldies that it had befriended and many youngsters too, with a smart-smarty phone, listening/reading as they walk, to news bulletin, probably one published online on Weiner Zeitung.
Relationship with the world grows like grass and creepers; growing in every direction like the grass, growing criss-cross network like the creepers. The very many we don’t know, the very few we do, together shape our lives.
Meeting not the grass patch across the road, I stay happy/unhappy with my rocks, my stones, my pals, my weeds.
And in a shrinking world – our one big grass field, our one small landmass in the world of oceans upon oceans – the seasons may change, but the weather remains the same, it is the weather to form relationships, this weather is here to stay.
Hatred and discomfort in a relationship doesn’t require much effort, it easily springs to life, nurturing illusions in separation, measuring neatly, dividing by all, leaving the remains in decimals.
Compassion, love in a relationship is all that there is to it.
Then doing a chore becomes something more, like wild grass covering and fostering the soil exuberantly, turning into meadows, savannas, prairies, pastures, it grows, not knowing the difference it grows.
The weather remains the same, it is the weather to form relationships, this weather is here to stay, that is why probably the weather forecast says, ‘Listen to George Ezra’.
His songs are about forming relationships – with friends, family, the beloved, the city, the village, Tiger Lily, the oldies goldies, heaven, hell, middle earth, nature, you and me and them all.
In baritone voice, his songs narrate a story of relations without conclusions so that you can freely listen and freely walk on the grass field.
His songs share secret messages that you get before you know you did.
Without an end, like a creeper stretching its hand, meeting a tree or a forest floor, the song meets you, takes you along.
Ezra’s songs speak not about ‘eventually’, for there is no ‘eventually’, but only the now, the present, this instant, not what is fleeting, nothing is, for you’re fleeting along.
Hold on, hold on dear world for we are moving together, divided we fall, we have fallen, fallen on the green grass that if we see, observe, will share a thing or two about relations.
This weather forecast won’t fail you, rather it’ll nudge you lovingly to make do, see through and say Take Two today.
Twisted, quirky and stubborn relationships, at times, may overpower, confuse, ridicule you, don’t give up then, but take this antidote; first get drenched in rain and thunder, be with the darkness inside, then simply ‘blame it on me’, only to switch to a soothing greenery, back to nature for a while.
Why Day – Did You Hear The Rain?
Eh Day – Blame it on me
Any Day – Barcelona
Weather forecast ‘ifs’ –
If you want a clear sky and the day to be bright and sunny or if it is too hot and you want a happy tiny cloud to follow you for shade then listen to George Ezra’s Morning Song.
That high school year passed too quickly, swiftly, madly and you could not believe it – holding unsaid messages in one hand and uncertain life decisions in the other, you had stepped out of the school gate.
Footsteps, voices, promises, laughter, you could hear it all, but when you had turned, you saw no one there.
Suddenly on your own, with phone calls, messages not being good enough and the classroom meetings of everyday, of every month, for so many years, suddenly took over by hostel walls, you were hit strongly.
The everyday meetings become few, fewer, rare… and the bond?
Presently, it makes a good happy place within you.
If you remember that last high school year, the last month, friends leaving town, and maybe you too leaving for a hostel, all by yourself, then you will love Nautanki*.
A 2022 feature film, Nautanki, is a coming-of-age drama that calmly, brightly, innocently tells its story. It never forces any thoughts nor is it in a hurry to reach a dramatic point in the protagonist’s saga.
A very rare film that allows the viewer to be on a journey without the burden, aggression of being on one. Not fulfilling a duty, but just observing and exploring honestly, as much as one can.
Joshi will leave the town after his 10th standard exams and his best friend, Priti, wonders if he has learnt anything at all, to pass the exams and in life, in general.
Experimenting with the flow, twisting the technique, the film progresses beautifully – where to, you ask, we don’t know for we too are moving with Joshi.
Fun times and fights with friends, that ‘not-speaking-anymore’ zone, the reunions that colours our high school years give us a tool for sure before thrusting us towards the end, the beginning.
A tool that navigates.
And with our very own – skilled, unskilled, aware, unaware – hands we write our life’s drama.
Joshi, who knows simply to be – not in the moment, he is ‘moment-free’, he is super careless/carefree – eventually will be pulled into the world’s drama…
Yes, no? And what role will he play in the Nautanki?
*Nautanki is a Hindi word that means drama in English. It is used to refer to a style of theatrical performance that is usually more showy, exaggerated and over-the-top than traditional types of theatre. Nautanki performances often include elements like music and dance.
But the play is more than a political allegory. It has an irreducible, puzzling quality which comes from the ambiguities of Tughlaq’s character, the dominating figure in the play. All the other characters are dramatized aspects of his complex personality, yet they also exist in their own right. Kannada critics have made detailed analyses of the play, paying special attention to the symbolism of the game of chess, the theme of disguise, the ironic success of Aziz whose amazing story runs parallel to Tughlaq’s, and the dualism of the man and the hero in Tughlaq, which is the source of the entire tragedy. Yet no critical examination of the play can easily exhaust its total meaning for the reader, because the play has, finally, an elusive and haunting quality which it gets from the character of Tughlaq who has been realized in great psychological depth. But it would be unjust to say that the play is about an ‘interesting’ character, for the play relates the character of Tughlaq to philosophical questions on the nature of man and the destiny of a whole kingdom which a dreamer like him controls.
Introduction, U. R. Anantha Murthy
Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq, in the play, commits to actions with a confidence of a master player, one who is certain of the ending, one who is far sighted somewhat like an ominous oracle – a skilful, wise puppeteer who runs the show singlehandedly, unaware and forgetful of his involvement in the drama.
People unlike puppets, even though tied to strings, quietly keep gathering the power to pull down and topple the king puppeteer, they always do.
The echo of a future that reached Tughlaq’s ears, the making of history that Tughlaq could see so clearly was nothing but an illusion, a time bound vision, a trick that tricked him.
Sure about a glorious tomorrow, he dragged his people along towards it – an ever evading tomorrow.
Sultan’s experiments done so as to unite the country as one, to build an ideal powerful state, failed pathetically, leading the kingdom to anarchy. With a staunch eye on greatness, Tughlaq couldn’t manoeuvre without ‘murdering’ the stubborn present – the present, so full of the past, so treasured by his subjects.
Subjects who wrote hate-letters, full of rebukes, all addressed to the Sultan.
Let us meet Tughlaq, whom we first met in the library, who is now placed, by the playwright, on the chess board and the game has begun –
Old Man: You can go to the Kazi-i-Mumalik for small offences. But who do you appeal to against such madness?
Third Man: This is tyranny! Sheer tyranny! Move the capital to Daulatabad! Such things never happened in his father’s days – may his soul rest in peace. Now he’s got his father’s throne. He isn’t happy with that and—
Tughlaq has set up the court of Chief Justice in the capital where people can file a suit against the officers of State or even the Sultan.
He talks about justice and equality after accepting the Kazi’s verdict; he declares to compensate and offers a post in the Civil Service for the Brahmin who had appealed against his land being seized illegally by the State.
The humanistic monologue ends with Tughlaq announcing his well-thought and thoroughly discussed decision of shifting the capital from Delhi to Daulatabad and without waiting for a reaction or a bird to fly by, he leaves.
The shocked public worries if their worst nightmare will come true – what are they to do? The guard shoos them away shouting “Go home! The show’s over!”
Aazam: Anyway, why did you have to dress up in these ungodly clothes? Couldn’t you have come like a proper Muslim?
Aziz (scandalized): But then what would happen to the King’s impartial justice? A Muslim plaintiff against a Muslim King? I mean, where’s the question of justice there? Where’s the equality between Hindus and Muslims? If on the other hand the plaintiff’s a Hindu… well, you saw the crowds.
Aziz, a thug, disguised as the Brahmin, seeking justice from the Kazi, truly understands Sultan’s ‘impartial justice’; playing along with the Sultan, he makes use of the State’s scheme and presents the Sultan a chance to make use of him – Sultan gets the tag of a “fair ruler” and in turn, Aziz makes some money.
Throughout the play Aziz maintains the stance that no one knows the wise Sultan as much as he does because it is only he who participates in the Sultan’s game.
Aziz will, sooner or later, dare to check-mate the Sultan, will he win?
Step-Mother (bursts into laughter): I don’t know what to do with you. I can’t ask a simple question without your giving a royal performance.
Tughlaq’s step mother is his confidant; well aware about his burdens, the Step-Mother always urges him to slow down and more importantly, to make every move not in secret, not from her.
The Step-Mother too is playing alongside the Sultan, sometimes delicately trying to use him as a game-piece, but never showing it. The crime of patricide and fratricide hangs heavily on the Sultan’s soul; the Step-Mother never brings this up, never, unless it is required to make an impact.
Muhammad: Surely a historian doesn’t need an invitation to watch history take shape! Come, Barani, what does he say?
Barani: It’s as Your Majesty said… He says the Sultan is a disgrace to Islam.
Muhammad: That’s all? I could find worse faults in me. What else?
Najib: He says Your Majesty has forfeited the right to rule, by murdering your father and brother at prayer time.
First Tughlaq makes praying five times a day compulsory, then he completely bans praying in his kingdom, only to wait in the end for a messiah to bring back pious prayers for his doomed subjects.
Like a devotee crossing all boundaries – that of life too – to connect with the almighty, Tughlaq crossed all boundaries to win over the almighty.
The far-off dream seemed the biggest truth to him and making sacrifices the only way towards it.
Scene Three to Five
Muhammad: No one can go far on his knees. I have a long way to go. I can’t afford to crawl – I have to gallop.
Imam-Ud-Din: And you will do it without the Koran to guide you? Beware, Sultan, you are trying to become another God. It’s a sin worse than patricide.
Muhammad (refusing the bait): Only an atheist can try to be God. I am God’s most humble slave.
One Sultan, one dream, one decision, and what did the thousand eyes see – bloodshed or sacrifice, deceits or promises, Delhi or Daulatabad? Perhaps they couldn’t see clearly, perhaps they were hungry – for prayers or food?
Shihab-Ud-Din: I’m sorry. But you have never liked the Sultan, I don’t know why. After all that he has done for the Hindus –
Ratan Singh: Yes indeed, who can deny that! He is impartial! Haven’t you heard about the Doab? He levied such taxes on the poor farmers that they preferred to starve. Now there’s a famine there. And of course Hindus as well as Muslims are dying with absolute impartiality.
Scene Six to Eight
Moving stealthily ahead, like an animal approaching its prey, Tughlaq finds it hard to remember that he is not an animal. Playing the game too well, he begins to lose the grip on reality; shuffling strategies, imposing with a hope to win once again.
Muhammad: I could have killed you with a word. But I like you too much.
Stabs him. Then almost frenzied, goes on stabbing him. Hits out at Shihab-Ud-Din’s dead body with a ferocity that makes even the soldiers holding the body turn away in horror.
Barani: Your Majesty – he’s dead!
Muhammad stops, then flings the dagger away in disgust.
Muhammad (anguished): Why must this happen, Barani? Are all those I trust condemned to go down in history as traitors? What is happening? Tell me, Barani, will my reign be nothing more than a tortured scream which will stab the night and melt away in the silence?
Aziz, the thug, awaits a chance to be in the centre, right in front of the king; to be there not as a pawn, rook or knight, but to be invited by the Sultan himself, to be revered – he plans to replace Ghiyasud-din Muhammad, a saint.
Aazam (giggles): So you want power, do you? What do you want to be, a Sultan?
Aziz: Laugh away, stupid. You’ll soon see. It all depends on whether Karim will bring the goods.
Aazam (seriously): But, no, Aziz, why are you so dissatisfied? We have such a nice establishment here. We take enough money from travellers and the other robbers are scared to death of you. There’s no limit to what we can make here.
Aziz: I am bored stiff with all this running and hiding. You rob a man, you run and hide. It’s all so pointless. One should be able to rob a man and then stay there to punish him for getting robbed. That’s called ‘class’ – that’s being a real king!
Scene Ten to Twelve
Unlike the game of chess, the king wages a war against his own people; wounded and hurt, he tortures himself by giving his step-mother the death sentence.
Step-Mother: You had your share of futile deaths. I have mine now.
Muhammad (shouting): No, they were not futile. They gave me what I wanted – power, strength to shape my thoughts, strength to act, strength to recognise myself. What did your little murder give you?
The Step-Mother too wanted power, power to rule Sultan’s heart and mind and through him the Sultanate; Tughlaq knew it, but couldn’t accept it anymore, not after she had Najib, the royal adviser, poisoned.
Muhammad: God, God in Heaven, please help me. Please don’t let go of my hand. My skin drips with blood and I don’t know how much of it is mine and how much of others.
Aziz is finally face to face his idol, unafraid and gleefully meek, he praises every move of the Sultan, revealing it to him unabashedly who all profited from his ‘just schemes’ – some goons like him and the generous Sultan himself.
The only character who manages to break Tughlaq’s dream and show him the ugly reality, the present that is far off from his historically grand future. He brings forth the truth as a twist.
Barani: This man should be buried alive this minute!
Aziz: I only acted according to His Majesty’s edicts.
Muhammad (exploding): Hold your tongue, fool! You dare pass judgement on me? You think your tongue is so light and swift that you can trap me by your stupid clowning? Let’s see how well it wages when hanging from the top of a pole. I haven’t cared for the bravest and wisest of men – you think I would succumb to you? A dhobi, masquerading as a saint?
Aziz (quietly): What if I am a dhobi, Your Majesty? When it comes to washing away filth no saint is a match for a dhobi.
Muhammad suddenly bursts into a guffaw. There is a slight hysterical tinge to the laughter.
Aziz wins without check-mating the king – his life is spared and a job in the deccan is offered by the Sultan – as he seals a deal to continue fooling the crowd for a while and then to vanish. He makes the king adhere to his wish.
Muhammad: If justice was as simple as you think or logic as beautiful as I had hoped, life would have been so much clearer. I have been chasing these words now for five years and now I don’t know if I am pursuing a mirage or fleeing a shadow. Anyway what do all these subtle distinctions matter in the blinding madness of the day? Sweep your logic away into a corner, Barani, all I need now is myself and my madness – madness to prance in a field eaten bare by the scarecrow violence. But I am not alone, Barani. Thank Heaven! For once I am not alone. I have a Companion to share my madness now – the Omnipotent God! (Tired.) When you pass your final judgement on me, don’t forget Him.
Barani, the historian, Sultan’s only friend, prepares to leave Daulatabad; Tughlaq will soon be all alone in the magnificent palace, alone with his deeds and this terrifies him.
As a king Tughlaq took responsibility of his subjects, confident of his vision, that when it breaks, he knows he has fallen and with him, so has his people. The cries, chaos, mayhem follow him like his shadow.
But if not a king, yet a ruler, a group of elected rulers, what does responsibility of the citizens mean to them? Who falls, if they fall? What do their shadows sound like?
The play ends with the fake Ghiyasud-din Muhammad performing at the prayer time in the background (Muezzin’s call to the prayer is heard), Tughlaq, sitting on his throne, takes a short nap, then suddenly wakes up unsure of the place or time.
Witnessing the sun rays dancing leisurely, peeking from this-that window, for days and days, it sat in dust amongst others, quaintly steady despite of its love for an extravaganza. Tughlaq – a play by Girish Karnad – captured in a petite white book, first published in 1972, sold at a humble (that now appears to be too little, too funny) price, steadily awaits the reader on the shelf in the library for that one chance.
But why so steady? Are you dead? Were you immured then?
Like a bright star in the darkness, it spreads its light when the reader opens the book first, without any promise – it may guide you, lead you astray or try nothing or try everything that you have cooked up in your head.
But be assured that it will stay with you, always, once you meet Tughlaq; a play in thirteen scenes, thirteen tricks, thirteen faiths, many murders and one Sultan.
Time’s moving, time has changed, many ruled and died, no more Sultans, no more sultanates, what’s in it for you? Has the power game changed too?
What struck me absolutely about Tughlaq’s history was that it was contemporary. The fact that here was the most idealistic, the most intelligent king ever to come on the throne of Delhi… and one of the greatest failures also. And within a span of twenty years this tremendously capable man had gone to pieces. This seemed to be both due to his idealism as well as the shortcomings within him, such as his impatience, his cruelty, his feeling that he had the only correct answer. And I felt in the early sixties India had also come very far in the same direction – the twenty-year period seemed to me very much a striking parallel.
Introduction, Girish Karnad
Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq (1290 – 1351) reigned the Delhi Sultanate (from 1325 to 1351) like no other; a visionary famous (less) for his political experiments, innovative ideas, (more for) tyrannical grandiose love for his public, the sultanate and history – he was the public’s beloved mad king.
…I have something to give, something to teach, which may open the eyes of history, but I have to do it within this life. I’ve got to make them listen to me before I lose even that!
Sultan Muhammad, The Fort at Daulatabad, Scene 8
Who is the Sultan addressing here, if not us?
Ahead of his time, this king spoke directly to his future listeners, galloping towards his ideals, desires and dreams, forgetting behind the world he was tied to, and while he fell several times on this journey, the world tied to him suffered more.
Shifting the capital from Delhi to Daulatabad (Maharashtra), he pined to make history in a jiffy, combine past-present-future hurriedly, uplift every life, even the one that was not his own.
Guard 1: Was it hard, coming from Delhi to here?
Guard 2: I survived. But my family was more fortunate. They all died on the way.
Guard 1 (sympathetically): I am sorry. The arrangements must have been very bad.
Guard 2: Oh no. The merciful Sultan had made perfect arrangements. But do you know, you can love a city like a woman? My old father had lived in Delhi all his life. He died of a broken heart. Then my son Ismail. He was six years old – would have been ten now! The fine dust that hung in the air, fine as silk, it covered him like a silken shroud. After him, his mother.
The Fort at Daulatabad, Scene 8
You begin with just one image – the mysterious cover design (by Vasudev), a chess-piece-like king wanting to seize it all – which challenges you, but not so much as the dramatic scenes in the play as they convert your imagination into a projector. You visualise as you read, only to find that the king is not where you placed him; he deceives you again.
Sultan’s sins grow faster than his glory and power; and we get a first-hand experience for the playwright makes us sit in the front row.
We witness it all – the king’s game, we take part in it, but what part do we play? Unknowingly, knowingly?
“Both Tughlaq and his enemies initially appear to be idealists; yet, in the pursuit of the ideal, they perpetrate its opposite. The whole play is structured on these opposites: the ideal and the real; the divine aspiration and the deft intrigue. Tughlaq is what he is in spite of his self-knowledge and an intense desire for divine grace.”
Introduction, U. R. Anantha Murthy
Tughlaq, first published in 1964 in Kannada, received immense success on stage and amongst readers; it was translated into English by Karnad; capturing that era so well, he frees his work from limitations – time changes, but human emotions don’t.
Time, something the Sultan tried to play with, passing sleepless nights as if to overpower it, facing defeats, yet not accepting the fact that his public was not on his side, but Time’s.
For now, let us keep sitting in the front row, the classic play is about to begin –
“Announcer: Attention! Attention! The Warrior in the Path of God, the Defender of the Word of the Prophet, the Friend of the Khalif, the Just, His Merciful Majesty, Sultan Muhammad Tughlaq.”
वह दूसरी ओर पीठ किए खड़ी थी। हमारी टैक्सी एकदम उसके पास ही आकर रुकी। वह हड़बड़ाकर मुड़ी और मेरा कलेजा मुँह को आ गया। उसके चारों ओर छोटी-मोटी भगवा पोटलियाँ बिखरी थी, पीठ पर मोटे रस्से में दो-तीन भारी कम्बल लदे थे। अपने खुरदुरे, तिब्बती लबादे को सम्हालती, वह एक कोने में सिमट गई।
She was standing with her back to the other side. Our taxi stopped right next to her. She turned around in a huff and my heart came to my mouth. Some small bundles were scattered around her, two or three heavy blankets were laden with thick ropes on her back. Holding on to her rough, Tibetan cloak, she huddled in a corner.
A known face, however time-wrought, when seen, catches the eyes and attention almost at once that you cannot resist thinking about it. She saw Kiki, her heart smiled and a surge of memories filled the world, stopping time effortlessly.
Kiki, a spirited girl, enamoured with every new idea, had the courage to not to conform, not too easily, blindly. As a maiden, when in love, then a married woman, a mother and again in love, she moulded her life and everyone she knew anew. Some cheered for her, others washed away her colours.
When her livid father cremated her without uncovering the shroud, once just to see Kiki’s face, she instantly got a new lease of life.
A new lease of life where she chose to become a bhikshuni; crestfallen, she took a turn to continue with this journey called life. How difficult it would have been?
To let go of the collection closely locked in the heart – the hurts, laughs, blessings, all of it. To begin afresh when old tidings try to tie one down, to let the old self know its place.
The bhikshuni was carrying a potali… what was in it, we know now.
The great Indian house, stationary, offering shelter to its inhabitants, was no less than a monster said the poet.
With its welcoming smile and thousand arms it ushered the foreigners to come and stay and to become one with its culture – resistance withered itself away gradually. The time of Rajas, Shahanshahs, travellers, envoys, merchant kings, queens all lived and looted and loved this great Indian house.
This monster’s burning red eyes never blinked said the poet, not even when its inhabitants, its children set each other on fire. It swallowed these deaths, warmly, and sang lost songs.
Who met this monster once couldn’t leave, those who left, came back, every single time, as matter or chatter.
The monster – and so maybe for the want of a better word – fits and breaks the spectrum simultaneously, it is a monster but not evil or kind, not entirely, said the poet.
Reminiscing, hating and loving it, the poet’s poem tells that the great Indian house, with all its filthy incongruities and slow, glossy loveliness, is alive, apparently stationary, yet on the move, grappling impalpably with every idea and action that it warmly, blindly has gathered, is gathering.
The great Indian house when hit by a tempestuous storm, though handling it eventually, even now follows the tradition of first welcoming and serving it hot tea.
A modernist bilingual poet, linguist, essayist, folklorist, philologist, translator and scholar, A. K Ramanujan‘wrote of the home left behind with a remote passion and irony’. Born in Mysore, Ramanujan moved to the US in the 1960s; settled there, he would remark to friends that he was the hyphen between Indo-American.
His translation of the Kannada novel Samskara and a Tamil bhakti poetry, Speaking of Siva, into English and the essays like ‘Who needs folklore?’ and ‘Is there an Indian way of thinking?’ allowed the readers to see regional literature in a new light.
The following poem, that inspired this blog post, appeared in Ramanujan’s second collection of poems titled ‘Relations‘ in 1971.
Clouds in the evening sky/
Tell the old mountains a secret 'secret'/
Lights on, we turn deaf.
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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