Is it the time for the fluttering bird to take a dip in the tiny cool puddle, and for the other one, that flame-throated bulbul, carrying a silky grass leaf to that topmost branch of that lush happy tree, to finish weaving its nest?
And is it the time for the Oo slithery snake, zigzagging like a threatening thought, to just be itself and rest in the sun, simply meditating, with its uncanny sense of smell taking in the jungle’s fragrance?
And… and is it the time for the slim sharp golden jackal, dancing a slow jazz twist otherwise, to sit under a tree with a full stomach, attentive ears and a cheerful beam?
And ohhh… is it the time then… for the lion-tailed macaques, frolicking as a rule, to alert-a-l-e-r-t-ALERT all in the jungle about the royal king’s visit?
Is it the time… I don’t know… there isn’t a clock in the jungle that tells time. Is there? Yes, there indeed is.
The animal and plant kingdom are joyful disciplined folks, every species, diurnal and nocturnal, breathe in the jungle’s air, finish all its chores on time, maintain a balanced diet, sip water leisurely and quietly rests zzz…
They keep following the clock that shines up in the sky – they follow the shadows and the white shimmery light at night and the rhythmical wind and the damp, dry, crumbly and chilly seasons.
Clock in the Jungle (written by Ketki Pandit and illustrated by Sneha Uplekar) narrates in verse this saga of the punctual wildlife, revealing a powerful secret that every species adhere to by choice, the simple sweet habit of keeping the clock always running.
Listen to this another story that utters no word, that is as silent as a voiceless thought, behold its magic, it will enchant you, surprise you and remind you of the climate’s call.
My Friends Are Missing (by paper artist Keerthana Ramesh) is a pop-up book that introduces us to thirty endangered species in the world, delicate, quiet and tolerant beings, that are battling the climate’s challenge, positioned at the forefront, they continue to face the impatient and greedy world’s madness.
Just like in the pop-up book, these species with a functioning clock and a devoted heart, step forward in the drastically changing world where their natural habitats are transformed into a smog-loving, power-hungry factory that clickety-clack runs in the anti-clock direction, challenging the earth’s circadian cycle.
“The damage is ours, the curse is ours, the solution won’t come from the aliens”, said a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle before taking a dip in the Gulf of Mexico.
And what the elusive bird, New Caledonian Owlet-Nightjar, commented in 1998 isn’t clear because it vanished before the reporter could pen-it-down and hasn’t been spotted since then.
Only our blue-green planet knows where this elusive bird resides, but she won’t tell for she loves mysteries. Our lonely planet is not so lonely as so many hidden mysteries and stories unfolding simultaneously accompany it; our dear earth provides a home for all.
In How The Earth Got Its Beauty (written by Sudha Murty and illustrated by Priyanka Pachpande) Mother Earth, decades after the creation of the planet, disguised as a little girl meets three sisters – Sunaina, Shyama and Seeta – to find out if humans are living peacefully and she finds out that the three sisters desire for something else in their lives. Will Mother Earth grant their wishes?
The story emphasises values like patience, compassion and empathy, highlighting also the selflessness and power of Mother Earth; the author writes, “Whenever humans become selfish and uncaring towards Mother Earth, she makes her presence felt and restores the balance in the world.”
We, the forgetful ones, so often forget about our home, not the walled-well-lit-well-decorated-space, but the beautiful breathing planet that never forgets us even when it rotates ceaselessly, matching its clock with the burning star’s every aeon.
It is time for a treasure hunt, go to the jungle and look for a clock, then walk in the direction its three hands (seconds, minutes and hours) point at, one day at a time, and look for the endangered species. Be patient and kind, focus on the treasure, the great grand treasure, value it, it is your home, your only home.
Grab these wonderful books now –
Clock In The Jungle by Ketki Pandit, Illustrated by Sneha Uplekar (click here);
How the Earth Got its Beauty written by Sudha Murty and illustrated by Priyanka Pachpande (click here).
And also flip through Keerthana Ramesh’s My Friends Are Missing –
Seeing through a lens that sees things as it is, in its truest form, looking at a broken feather as a feather, not denying its reality, not giving it a quality, experiencing the moment quietly the Mother wrote about Japan. She wrote about its perfection/ beauty-loving people, the value given to nurturing kids, the dedicated women, the Japanese restrained-balanced-subtle art and the transient life.
The people, she observed, not via reactions, but by silent selfless actions showed how much they cared for someone; happy to persevere they worked to fulfil the task at hand, devoted harmoniously and absolutely in the present moment, aware about nothing else.
Taking long walks to a garden in spring or autumns and spending time there or climbing the steep stairs to reach the monastery at the top of the hilltop, the people (of every and any class), she noticed, believed in beauty and peace.
“…very simple people, men of working class or even peasants go for rest or enjoyment to a place where they can see a beautiful landscape. This gives them a much greater joy than going to play cards or indulging in all sorts of distractions as they do in the countries of Europe. They are seen in groups at times, going on the roads or sometimes taking a train or a tram up to a certain point, then walking to a place from where one gets a beautiful view.”
“For instance, in autumn leaves become red; they have large numbers of maple-trees (the leaves of the maple turn into all the shades of the most vivid red in autumn, it is absolutely marvellous), so they arrange a place near temple, for instance, on the top of a hill, and the entire hill is covered with maples.”
“Well, an artist who goes there will experience an emotion of absolutely exceptional, marvellous beauty. But one sees very small children, families even, with a baby on the shoulder, going there in groups. In autumn they will go there. In springtime they will go elsewhere.”
The Mother (Questions and Answers, The Mother on Japan 12 April 1951)
While reading about the 1919 flu and how the Mother fought back the negative, dark energy, one thinks about the present pandemic and hopes to win like the Mother in the end.
The glorious cherry-blossom trees in bloom – pink, white, vivid joyous pink – and the narrow paths that take one to wonderful places, with old Japanese houses on both sides, presented the Mother with a paradise puzzle…
“Then you go wandering around – always one wanders at random in that country – you go wandering and all of a sudden you turn the corner of a street and come to a kind of paradise: there are magnificent trees, a temple as beautiful as everything else, you see nothing of the city (Tokyo) any longer, no more traffic, no tramways; a corner, a corner of trees with magnificent colours, and it is beautiful, beautiful like everything else. You do not know how you have reached there, you seem to have come by luck. And then you turn, you seek your way, you wander off again and go elsewhere. And some days later you want to come back to this very place, but it is impossible, it is as though it had disappeared. And this is so frequent, this is so true that such stories are often told in Japan. Their literature is full of fairy-lore. They tell you a story in which the hero comes suddenly to an enchanted place: he sees fairies, he sees marvellous beings, he spends exquisite hours among flowers, music; all is splendid. The next day he is obliged to leave; it is the law of the place, he goes away. He tries to come back, but never does. He can no longer find the place: it was there, it has disappeared!… And everything in this city, in this country, from beginning to end, gives you the impression of impermanence, of the unexpected, the exceptional. You always come to things you did not expect; you want to find them again and they are lost – they have made something else which is equally charming. From the artistic point of view, the point of view of beauty, I don’t think there is a country as beautiful as that.”
The Mother (Questions and Answers, The Mother on Japan 12 April 1951)
Drums can be heard in a long corridor, with several doors on both sides, that runs till the very end and opens into the last room where the drummer is playing… no, say practising, practising like Buddy Rich, practising until corrected, practising until mastered… this incredibly clever tune, ‘Whiplash’.
Damien Chazelle’s 2014 drama film Whiplash revolves around a passionate jazz drummer Andrew Neiman (played by Miles Teller) and his perfectionist jazz instructor (played by J. K Simmons); one dreams of becoming great, the other demands greatness; one is hopeful, the other is ruthless; when out-of-tune, they clash, when in sync, they dance.
At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement.
T.S Eliot (Four Quartets: Burnt Norton)
Here, T.S Eliot is talking about that state of mind where not so overwhelmed by it, we make peace with it; Whiplash the film is also about Andrew Neiman’s state of mind which when at peace, allows him to create magic, to dance, to play harmoniously perfect.
Whiplash highlights the protagonist’s internal journey beautifully, in fact, that is all we see – Andrew’s internal dilemmas, struggles, failures and the shining sudden victory. The writer-director very carefully places us within Andrew’s mind.
In the opening scene of the film, Andrew is playing the drums alone in a classroom when he notices that the best teacher in the music school – Terrance Fletcher – is watching him.
Andrew – (stops playing) I’m sorry…
Fletcher – No, stay…What’s your name?
Andrew – Andrew Neiman sir.
Fletcher – What year are you?
Andrew – I’m a… first year.
Fletcher – You know who I am.
Andrew – Yes sir.
Fletcher – So you know I’m looking for players.
Andrew – Yes sir.
Fletcher – Then why did you stop playing?
Andrew Neiman starts playing… then stops.
Fletcher – Did I ask you to start playing again?
Andrew – I am sorry…
Fletcher – I asked you why you stopped playing and your version of an answer was to turn into a wind-up monkey…
Andrew Neiman plays… in a few seconds he hears the door shut loudly. Andrew is disappointed… Right then Fletcher comes back inside.
Fletcher – Oopsy Daisy! I forgot my jacket. (Takes his jacket and leaves.)
Watch the opening scene here –
While the Andrew VS Fletcher drama unveils, Fletcher the perfectionist starts to appear more like Andrew’s inner critic especially in those scenes where he is practising; the setting, the lighting, the mood and the music makes it look like a void where either jazz or Fletcher’s authoritative voice plays dominantly.
“Don’t be harsh on yourself”, we often tell this to ourselves as sometimes our inner critic can harm us more than an outsider. The antagonist, Fletcher, is equally harsh and critical; a student when talking about Fletcher’s reputation mentions how he is known for making or ending one’ career.
So who wins here, Fletcher the antagonist or Fletcher, Andrew’s inner critic? The answer is both.
Like a pompous self that often praises itself, there are scenes when Fletcher praises Andrew; initially friendly, Fletcher encourages him to play well and tells him how Jo Jonesthrew a cymbal at Charlie Parker’s head, and how that incident made Parker work insanely hard; later on, like a strict-discipline-loving-freak-self, Fletcher, during a practice session, throws a chair at Andrew, warning him not to dare spoil his bands’ image.
Fletcher personifies Andrew’s obsession to be a great drummer – he works hard, accepts Fletcher’s treatment even when he starts to resent him.
The internal journey of the protagonist overpowers the antagonist, but not in a negative way; it only boosts the antagonist’s authority over the protagonist; it feels like another side of Andrew is working hand in gloves with Fletcher.
The secondary characters too reflect the protagonist’s internal journey.
Andrew does not like his father’s mediocre mentality (Fletcher is the one to fan the flames by mentioning it repeatedly that his father is not a true “writer” and that is probably why Andrew’s mom left him), nor does he understands his girlfriend Nicole’s attitude towards life – how is it that she does not know what she wants in life – he loathes mediocrity and it is evident from his behaviour.
In a scene where Andrew, his dad and some guests are having dinner, an argument breaks out where his father, talking about the musician Charlie Parker says –
“Andrew’s Father (Jim) – Dying broke and drunk and full of heroin at the age of 34 is not exactly my idea of success.
Andrew Neiman – I’d rather die drunk, broke at 34 and have people at a dinner table talk about me than live to be rich and sober at 90 and nobody remember who I was.”
Watch the dinner scene here –
Even though the secondary characters’ role is nominal, yet this does not weaken the story.
They do have a voice of their own though we do not hear it clearly and that is because the protagonist is not ready to accept their version of the life. Andrew’s obsession does not leave any choice for them but to only listen to him as the core of the film is about this very obsession; the subdued self of these secondary characters, thus, appears to be their actual state.
Andrew is obsessed with the thought of becoming the next great drummer so much so that he refuses to value the external life which consequently starts to fall apart – he has arguments with his father, he also breaks up with Nicole – and this then affects his internal life; he practices day in and out, but one single mistake and Fletcher replaces him with another drummer.
Unable to thread the needle, Andrew first gets irritated with himself for not working hard enough and later on with Fletcher whom he literally attacks.
The result is that he is dismissed from the music school (the best in the country); devastated, he agrees with his dad and secretly files a complaint against Fletcher.
When awakened in the external world, Andrew internally goes into a hiatus. The setting shifts from the dark rooms to brighter ones and to open places.
The story approaches the climax and the internal journey, after the short hiatus, takes over once again. Climax scenes are about Andrew meeting Fletcher, who has been expelled from the music school and is now forming a freelance jazz band; he offers Andrew a position.
Now the internal journey resumes from the same point of tension where Andrew had left it – Fletcher hates Andrew and tells him that he knows it was he who framed him, but reveals it on the stage, just a few seconds before the performance, leaving Andrew utterly shocked.
Andrew is defeated by the antagonist, he plays the drums foolishly and finally gets up and goes backstage where his dad waits for him feeling sorry; but because Fletcher is not just an antagonist but also Andrew’s inner self, his obsession – it pulls Andrew back on the stage. He starts playing the drums not worrying about Fletcher’s threats.
Final performance part 1 and 2, watch here –
This transformation in Andrew may appear to be sudden but is not so; this is an internal transformation that forges gradually.
Andrew transforms in this last scene – he overpowers his fears – he plays flawlessly – so much so that Fletcher recognises his genius at this moment and joins him and together they play a fantastic jazz number (Caravan). As Fletcher reflects Andrew’s inner self, he does not object to this transformation in him and accepts Andrew’s victory quite happily.
Drumming passionately, just like he did in the first scene of the film, Andrew’s story comes to a close; this time he just doesn’t play the tune, he lives it.
“The enjoyment of art is an act of recreation, or rather of creation in the reverse direction, towards the source of intuition, i.e., an act of absorption, in which we lose our small self in the creative experience of a greater universe.”
Anagarika B. Govinda
I happen to have a small sweet book titled Art & Meditation (actually a few years back I took it from my brother), written by Lama Anagarika B. Govinda – an artist, a Buddhist monk, traveller and writer.
Sharing his paintings, poems and thoughts with us, he talks about the ineffaceable, elusive yet real, sublimely beautiful link between art and meditation; how true art merges with true religion and vice-versa.
It is not digressive or sluggishly cumbersome, this thought, rather it is stimulating for the one who is not in a hurry.
The author wishes his essays and artwork to serve as koans i.e. ‘meditative problems’ for his readers that churn our thoughts and act as an impetus for continuing the search.
I have gone through this insightful book twice now. What struck me this time was its size, how come Lama Anagarika Govinda’s lectures on art and meditation along with his artwork were capsuled in such a tiny book?
Of course, there must be other collections of his essays and pictures, surely in not-so-tiny a book.
But here I would intentionally turn this coincidence into a grand undertaking and happily say something ambitious.
This beautiful book holds, yes-yes it does, the secret to enlightenment and simply because of its humble, calm and forgiving nature, affordable price, elucidations of the artwork and colour schemes given and the profound ideas shared.
With these balmy thoughts, I will read this book again in the near future for then it will reveal a new secret to me.
Leaving you with an edifying thought –
“Art in itself is a sort of a paradox, a Koan in the deepest sense of the word, and that is why the followers of Zen prefer it to all other mediums of expression. For only the paradox escapes the dilemma of logical limitation, of partiality and one-sidedness. It cannot be bound down to principles or conceptual definitions, because it exaggerates or abstracts intentionally in such a way that it is impossible to take it literally: its meaning is beyond the incongruity of the words.”
Wars fought for peace have nothing to do with peace as in the very end the avaricious intentions and deceits also win and not only the powerful/ just one. All this after crushing many innocent souls.
Yes, life is a cycle of chaos and calm, and we do evolve. We evolve because of the unsung kind-hearted simple folks continue to work no matter what.
Just like the protagonist in the short animation film titled Laymun (directed by Catherine Prowse and Hannah Quinn; original compositions and sound design by Kalle Jurvanen) who continues to revive the spirits of the Syrian public traumatized by the unending war; she gifts the residents in that area with lemon plants, trying to refresh and enliven their war-sick eyes.
The lemon’s yellowness and its leaves spunky greenness transforms the cracked walls into a brave embroidered piece and beautifies the broken windowsill.
Soon the war frenzy returns without any shame, aerial bombing the city, shattering the gardener’s nursery; she manages to escape.
Bowed but not defeated, she boards the bus that will take her maybe to a better place.
Seeing a little girl, who is sitting next to her, crying and clinging to her mother for comfort, the gardener takes out the only lemon that she had, scrapes off its skin and gives it to the little girl.
The sweet fresh smell of the lemon makes the little girl smile.
What a beautiful film this is! The gardener in her gentle manner wins over the war, albeit, she continues to struggle. She thus becomes the unsung kind-hearted hero who contributes in bringing change.
“We didn’t want to oversimplify the issues we were depicting in the film and offer a neat, unrealistic ending, but we wanted to offer a note of hope. We found the idea of a lemon seed being taken with the protagonist at the end offered the perfect balance of a possible new start for this character but also a sense of precariousness: would the one lemon left in her city have a chance to grow into something better, or would it perish?”
Surely nothing could have highlighted the ephemeral human life better than the usage of paper animation/ cutout animation, quietly mocking the idea of wars, the profitable victory of one over the other… as if they are immortals.
The light-spirited-jumpy smell of any citrus fruit, its taste cheers up a sick one, especially one who has motion-sickness, this age-old remedy is known to all, it has travelled via the “oral culture” routes.
And so has the stories of bloody battles, clashes and bloodshed… we have learned from our mistakes, we have!
Let the paper-light-lemon-fresh stories carry the tales freely.
A Must Watch Short Film –
Read Chelsea Lupkin’s review of Laymunhere. Complement it with the true story of the last gardener of Aleppo that inspired the makers of Laymunhere.
Check out another write-up on a short film titled One, Two, TREEhere.
Every language brings a distinctive flavour in the story, making its world unique and familiar at the same time. The world of Hindi stories always comes across as very honest and subtly profound to me.
Just like visiting a beautiful village, coloured green with flora, blue with water-wells and brown with earthen-wares, the Hindi language stories that I have read till now have become this lovely quaint place in my head.
And the people that inhabit this place, interesting characters from all over India, each one has struggled, battled, lived and loved this life truly.
Malkauns, Yaman, Basant bahar, Darbari, Khayal and other such ragasintricately design the wind here.
The others – Vishambharnath Sharma ‘Koshik’, Sudarshan, Vishnu Prabhakar, Kamla Chaudhary, Jainendra Kumar Jain, Chandragupt Vidyaalankar, Acharya Chatursen Shastri, Yashpal, ‘Agyaya’ and Siyaramsharan Gupt are the ones whom I had the opportunity to meet for the first time.
What a world they have all created – sensitive, soulful, revolutionary and inspiring.
The title of his short story is मूर्खा Murkha (A Fool).
अम्माँ का नाम गुलाबो, मुँह देखो तो छुहारा, आकृति धनुष की तरह। गुलाबो अम्माँ की अवस्था अस्सी और पाँच पचासी वर्ष।
[Translation – “Amma (Granny) is called Gulabo (Rosy), face, a dried date, shape, bent like a bow. Gulabo Amma is eighty and five, eighty-five years old.”]
Bang!! That is how the story begins, gripping instantly, visually powerful; it reminds you of an old lady, one who is waiting on the roadside to cross the road or sell vegetables or beg.
The author’s famous penname ‘Ugra’ describes his writing aptly. Ugra means fiery, radical, hot-blooded.
He writes economically, hitting the right chord without any delay, not shying away from the truth, not allowing the eyes to escape, making a satirist out of you before you can realise it and run.
The Story Gist
Amma is old and so is the cow that had for past ten years served the family without a complaint; she gave six-litre milk every day, six of her bull calves and four heifer calves were sold for a good amount.
But now old, she is of no good and thus, Amma’s three darling sons want to get rid of the cow.
Though politically inversely aligned – eldest one a congressman, other a communist and the youngest follows a Hindu party – they have unanimously made up their mind to either sell the cow to the butcher or send it to a cow-shelter or simply abandon her.
But Amma has become a heavy hurdle for them; she is horrified to even hear of such a suggestion about her beloved cow.
She argues with them, starts eating one meal a day so that they still buy the cow’s feed and saves her one wintry night when the youngest son tries to drag the cow away.
Amma lovingly apologises to her; seeing the cow shivering in the cold weather, she runs to her room, calling herself a fool.
Out of the two blankets that she owned, she picks her own warmer one, goes to the cowshed and happily covers the cow with it.
A two page long short story, dramatically strong, dipped in sweet sarcasm, this piece raises questions unabashedly. What path have you chosen dear one? What rules do you abide by?
You weigh matters miserly, falsely, egotistically and complain of the imbalance. Why do you refuse to learn and almost always forget?
Ugra’s मूर्खा Murkha (A Fool) boldly strengthens the storyteller’s voice; still pertinent to the present times, one looks around to see what all has changed and what has not.
The lovely quaint place is kaleidoscopic in nature; I often see through its lens to pick up the different shades and rhythms of life.
“The time scheme of the epic is somewhat puzzling to us who are habituated to a mere horizontal sequence of events. Valmiki composed (Ramayana) as if he had a past tale to tell, and yet it was broadcast to the world by Kusa and Lava, the sons of Rama, who heard it directly from the author.
One has to set aside all one’s habitual notions of movement and get used to a narrative going backwards and forwards and sideways.
When we take into consideration the fact that a king ruled for sixty thousand or more years, enjoying an appropriate longevity, it seems quite feasible that the character whose past or middle period is being written about continues to live and turns up to have a word with the historian.”
An excerpt from R.K Narayan’s book ‘Gods, Demons and Others’, Chapter 3, Valmiki
The myths, the legends, the folktales, the epic victories and defeats, the deaths and rebirths simplify the reality of the extraordinary spirit – confounded and weakened often by tribulations or lulled by indolence – that resides within us all.
These stories take myriad routes, journeying from the world of Gods to the world of Demons, concluding on a high and happy note, introducing one to the game of life, entrusting then the secrets to win.
Every emotion makes an appearance here; ego clashes until it shatters to accept change; Gods create obstacles almost breaking one’s spirit, but blesses the resilient one in the end with immortality and splendour.
These unfathomable, and at times a bit ridiculous, tales are the means to measure the unfathomable, ridiculous reality we live in; these tales, the bases of our culture, our rituals and an amalgamation of past societies, lead us.
Splendidly well-adjusted to change, it accepts deletions, additions, revisions without much hullaballoo. It revels in various versions and shades read throughout the country. Same gods-goddesses, demons, sages, avatars… often playing different roles, but embarking on similar journeys.
Written in a playful and ambitious tone these valued legends, retold by storytellers in every generation, are our inheritance; it holds a secret for every tenacious individual.
It is not a particular theme that is the moral of the story here but the journey, the journey with its endless possibilities and absurdities, twists crafted by the capricious fate and the supremacy of time that gives us insight into our understanding of life.
And such has been the role of the myths, legends and epics and of course, the storytellers and it continues.
The renowned author R. K Narayan’s Gods, Demons and Others is an interesting and engaging read, one that opens the gates to Indian mythology for one and all.
A roguish year, 2020, I believe was a twist in our LIVE story. Terrible, oh, terrible things happened. Let us nurture hope, let us learn from our mistakes, let us help each other and contribute honestly to this change.
Let the old charm of stories work, let stories heal your tired heart.
This colossal twist proves that the great writer is planning to finish a chapter, but the story is far from over. Dawn is about to break, the sun rays will fall on a new beginning soon.
Come to Chiming Stories, pocket old and new posts and watch, along with me, the horizon.
Arthdal Chronicles is a South Korean fantasy drama TV series that takes us back to the Bronze Age in a mythical land named Arth, where different human species and tribes struggle to be on the top of the power pyramid.
Yes fly! For walking on the second track is dull and usual, but dreaming high, high, high requires tools. Tools like the right pair of shoes, a chirpy, gritty soul that eats butter-jam dreams, a soul that drinks milky-milky creams.