Life

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

Coverage
Delicate dance anthem…
[Source – Pixabay]

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Regina Spektor

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

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

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

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

Regina Spektor

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


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

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


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


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The Thousand Faces of Night – A Charcoal-Inked Raga

Book Review

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

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

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

Her inky fingers will turn red with the dawn.


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

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

Githa Hariharan (Part Three; Chapter 1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The new raga.
[Source – Pixabay]

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

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

Githa Hariharan (Part One; Chapter 3)

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Avicenna and the Turning Wheel

Spinning starry time wheel. [Image from Pixabay]

Thinking… the activity of using our mind to consider something; the process of using our mind to understand matters, make judgments and solve problems… that is what the dictionary says and says more and then sites many lovely examples:

“I had to do some quick thinking.”

“She explained the thinking behind the campaign.”

“Thinking, for me, is hard work!”

Our mind, coloured by a plethora of this and that, happy and sad, a sea of information, thinks in isolation, yet always a part of the collective unconscious. And how wonderful is it that this tinted mind, nevertheless, is fully capable to create something novel.

The thinking mind turns the wheel, knitting the society tighter. The juggernaut of sociocultural norms, in turn, fabricates the yarn for such a mind.


Avicenna or Ibn Sina (980 AD – 1037) was a physician, philosopher, astronomer, theologian, poet – a polymath – who greatly contributed to the Islamic Golden age. His book Al Qanun fi al Tibb or The Canon of Medicine, a medical encyclopedia, was studied as a textbook for medical education in many universities, also in Europe, up till the 17th Century.

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1950 “Avicenna” stamp of Iran. [Source – Wikimedia Commons]

Philosophical encyclopedias like Kitab al Shifa or The Book Healing and Kitab al-Isharat wa al Tanbihat or The Book of Directive and Remarks presented Avicenna’s take on the Aristotelian and Platonian philosophy through the lens of an Islamic theologian.

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Avicenna’s The Canon of Medicine, Latin translation, dated 1484 CE. [Source – Wikimedia Commons]

A well-known physician, Avicenna got support from most of the rulers of his time – some made him a vizir or an advisor in their court – and the opportunity to access the royal library. Highly influenced by Aristotle, Avicenna also disagreed with the Greek polymath on many points.

That the soul is not just ‘body’s form’ (Aristotle says that a soul is the actuality of a body that has life) but it has an existence, he came up with a thought experiment, famously known as the floating/ flying man thought experiment. He argues –

One of us must suppose that he was just created at a stroke, fully developed and perfectly formed but with his vision shrouded from perceiving all external objects – created floating in the air or in the space, not buffeted by any perceptible current of the air that supports him, his limbs separated and kept out of contact with one another, so that they do not feel each other. Then let the subject consider whether he would affirm the existence of his self. There is no doubt that he would affirm his own existence, although not affirming the reality of any of his limbs or inner organs, his bowels, or heart or brain or any external thing. Indeed he would affirm the existence of this self of his while not affirming that it had any length, breadth or depth. And if it were possible for him in such a state to imagine a hand or any other organ, he would not imagine it to be a part of himself or a condition of his existence.

Avicenna

While this blogger will definitely take a lot of time to grasp these theories in entirety, she would like to appreciate the art of thinking that moulds the world in such a steady and grandiose manner.

The art of thinking, in which we participate daily and, most importantly, in the times of despair, is running the show as we then stand face to face our true being and raise questions, refute the botched theory and create a new one.

Avicenna wrote the floating/ flying man argument when imprisoned for around four months as a result of a political debacle – an argument that was later termed weak by the other thinkers.

But this is how the thinking mind works, it continues to question, argue and turn the wheel.


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Shakespeare’s Sonnet 107 and Timelessness

Coverage

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Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Suppos’d as forfeit to a confin’d doom.
The mortal moon hath her eclipse endur’d,
And the sad augurs mock their own presage;
Incertainties now crown themselves assur’d,
And peace proclaims olives of endless age.
Now with the drops of this most balmy time
My love looks fresh, and Death to me subscribes,
Since, spite of him, I’ll live in this poor rime,
While he insults o’er dull and speechless tribes:
And thou in this shalt find thy monument,
When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent.


The idea of timelessness, eternity, immortality must be true as we wish, look and aim for it in some way or the other. Imagining living continuously, building and creating happy ways of life, chiselling and shaping the continuous source of happiness, we forgetfully live with the idea of forever.

The decisive time gone by, the melting present and the secret future, though definite, knows the indefinite. And one is lured, naturally, to know and identify with the indefinite. Why? For the indefinite is the absolute. So? The absolute appears to be complete, eternal, beyond the cyclic drama and free. Then? We may be a part of it or we too may want to be complete. And so? I don’t know, I am living forgetfully with the idea of forever, remember.

Shakespeare, the greatest and most famous playwright ever, via his works, attained immortality and this is what he celebrated in Sonnet 107. Full of creative splendour, he announced his lead on rusty cenotaphs and statues of the rulers.


The Battle at Gavelines and Elizabeth I at Tilbury (Pastiche).
The painting presents a stylized account of the battle of Gravelines between the Spanish Armada and the English fleet, including the beacons, Elizabeth’s address at Tilbury, and the battle itself in a single montage on three jointed pieces of fine tabby-weave linen. 
[Source – Wikimedia Commons]

“The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured”

That the grand, rock-hard, grave and lovely moon too continues its finite journey, eroding gradually, black red white, suggests that the moon knows well the infinite’s will. Or else why will it so humbly accept its role? This long journey, then, is no less than a quiet meditation. The deep circular craters are the timekeepers and the moon knows it.

One of William Shakespeare’s renowned 154 Sonnets, Sonnet 107 is often linked with the contemporary events of the time: the defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588), Queen Elizabeth’s death (in 1603), the Long Turkish War (1593-1606); the Armada charged in a crescent formation, Queen Elizabeth was also called Cynthia (name of the Greek moon goddess), the Ottoman Empire’s flag boasted the crescent moon symbol.

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Elizabeth I of England.
The portrait was made to commemorate the defeat of the Spanish Armada (depicted in the background).
[Source – Wikipedia]

In times so precarious, one would want to hold on to a secure thought or remember the limits of mortality, mocking unabashedly the warmongers and peace-lovers alike, or even hope to create something timeless.


Read the wonderfully crisp commentary on Sonnet 107, here.

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First image from Pixabay


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Jasmine-Rich Raga

Coverage

White Jasmines.
[Image from Pixabay]

Like flowers threaded to form a sheet, woven intricately, the free white petals settling in a designed pattern, accepting the arrangement with joy, like an endless beaded wave of fragrant flower-colours, the ragas also weave intricately musical framework that evokes fragrant feelings in a quiet listener’s mind.

Just like the perfection-loving flowers – the humble sepal, the vibrant petal, the ambitious anther – the ragas too know how to bloom to perfection. Capturing the exact mood that exudes the season’s essence perfectly, the ragas effortlessly scent time making it beautifully appreciable.

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The scented time celebrates the raga – in Vilambit laya (slow tempo), Madhya laya (medium tempo), Drut laya (fast tempo) – accepting every melodic improvisation, evolving with each performance, never bothering with change, rather ushering it with consistent Riyaz (practice).

Overwhelming calculations keep the ragas free from vegetating and from the burden of the past that at times tries to confine its spirit, but almost always the spirit remembers to break free.

The many notations, the Swara, bring forth incessant improvisations, giving space to every emotional twist, forming an intricate, fragrant Mandala.

The ragas symbolise, like a flower threaded sheet, intricacies of life… and more.


Lat uljhi suljha ja balam

Piya more haath mein mehndi lagi hai

Lat uljhi suljha ja balam

Mathe ki bindiya bikhar rahi hai

Apne hi haath laga ja balam

Lat uljhi suljha ja balam

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(Translation – Disentangle my hair, dear beloved/ I have applied henna on my hands/ So come and disentangle my hair, dear beloved/ The bindiya too is spreading on my forehead/ Correct it for me with your own hands, dear beloved/ Disentangle my hair, dear beloved)

This Bandish* in raga Bihag decorates time with a jasmine-rich fragrant emotion that vehemently values love and life.


*Bindiya – a colourful dot mark worn between the eyebrows, especially by married Hindu women.

*Bandish – a composition in Hindustani classical music.


Listen to a melodious version of this bandish now.

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A shorter version.

Complement this with another melodious post – Amir Khusrau and the Mustard Flowers


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Not Lithic

POEM

The universe’s engine runs on love.
[Image from Pixabay]

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Its nature is not lithic,

Not etched,

You cannot run your fingers over it,

Malleable and foldable for some,

Yelling, “Come, come,

Buy a packet full of love…”

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From the absolute beginning

Love, not lithic in nature,

Etched if anywhere, then in atoms;

Ride like the wind to feel it;

A malleable, foldable sweet memory

For all those who fall

In love, just like in the absolute beginning.

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O Apache!

One summer gleaming morning, back in the 90s, a musician woke up, looked at the world maze and its commuters when a rapturous beat filled his mind… it was a fusion, a fusion of ragga and bhangra beats… the musician knew it was the time to sweetly twist the great razzmatazz of the world maze drama.

And so Apache Indian, the British Indian singer and reggae DJ, mixing cultures, tunes and beliefs, London to India via Jamaica, created a new wave that danced its way into stiff-grumpy-busy society’s heart. His funky hybrid tracks spoke bluntly but always with the spirit to bring a change.

Staying true to its roots – the reggae music genre is known to attack social evils – Apache Indian tried to arrest some fanatic dogmas and set free our handicapped progress.

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“High caste low caste, we don’t want that,

Everyone equal, let us decide that.

High caste low caste, Sanu ni chahida (we don’t want that),

Saare jaane barabar (we are all equal), Maano rab da kehna (listen to the one God).”

Caste System – Apache Indian; Album – Nuff Vibes

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“Caste System”, “Arranged Marriage”, “Aids Warning”, “Election Crisis” are some tracks that talk about an era and some persistent crippling ideas, all composed in an upbeat style. The very vigorous sounds of bhangra beats give these songs a desi, identifiable and yet refreshing touch; the east and the west amalgamates beautifully.

Then the peppy catchy dance numbers like “Boom Shack-A-Lak”, “Chok There”, “Don Raja”, “Ragamuffin Girl”, “Jump Up”, and “Celebrate” call out to all the listeners to enjoy the moment.

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No.1 in a the Bombay chart
Indian me a tear them apart
When me come me bring a new stylee
So listen crowd of people and you have to follow me
Chok there – them a ball when they see the Indian
Chok there – raggamuffin under style and pattern
Chok there – when me come that a different fashion
First tune a say me do no it reach No.1
In a the reggae charts and the Indian
Chok there – see me face upon the television
Chok there – hear me voice pon the radio station
Promotor them a come them a rub off them hand
Keeping a session and them want it fe ram
Chok there – put me name pon the invitation
Chok there – pon the gate go raise a million
Me bring a brand new style upon the Island
Fe the black a fe white and a fe the Indian
So each and everyone come follow fashion

Chok there – dip your knee cork out you bottom
Chok there – everyone in a the Bhangra fashion
Nuff DJ them a have a fe them own stylee
Some a wa da dong deng same a come follar me
And some a them a say Oh Lord a mercy
Pnumina ick pnumina do and also in a three
But anytime me came me bring a brand stylee
So listen crowd of people and you have to follow me…


Chok There; Songwriters: Simon Duggal, Diamond Duggal, Steven Kapur aka Apache Indian; Album – No Reservations

Experimenting freely and successfully, Apache Indian collaborated with many artists worldwide, from Sean Paul, Maxi Priest, Shaggy, Boy George to A. R Rahman, Asha Bhosle, Bally Sagoo, SteroNation and Jazzy B.

True to his craft – music is all about innovation – Apache Indian continues to create fusion music, uniting converse genres, fostering harmony.

It was in the 90s, a summer dream that came true… not a super-sonic era, but moving towards one, grooving and listening to Apache Indian’s music… that was created with a hope, adding a little bit of this and that to ragamuffin magic, a hope to become better… a hope that is still alive.

O Apache, we are listening.


Some of Apache Indian’s popular tracks –







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Moony Clay

Moon’s cloudy carpet.
[Image by Jagriti Rumi]

Now a clear dot… now hazy… mixing with the clouds through and through, then beaming alone gloriously. Splattering moony clay, then rubbing it, greasing with it the deep dark sky.

Mirroring all the romantics and dream-talkers, the moony clay moulds itself to fit into the beholder’s eyes and patient hearts. It listens, nods and registers its reply with the artist.

Moony clay – an assiduous storyteller, slowly moving away – happily builds the wavy waves and like a sand clock shows the slipping time its way.

Singing joyously, dancing leisurely, the moony clay creates and fills the heart with hope, lost in splendour.

See how it re-shapes, re-writes its journey, certain of uncertainty in knowing… in knowing it all. 


Images by Jagriti Rumi


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Fine-Tuning The Fears

Poem

Facing the fears.
[Image by Alexandra Haynak from Pixabay]

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No, not the fear of the ultimate ending

Binds or resides within;

It is the opposing voices cascading,

Confusing, crippling, caricaturing

Us and the peace within.

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No, not the fear of a sickness

Troubles or tortures the heart;

It is our hopelessness,

A steady bleakness,

And the habitual surrendering of our craft.

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No, not the fear of failure

Numbs or stuns the mind;

It is the snagging daily battle

Against the monsters of routine life;

Those are treacherous, lazy and anything but kind.

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No, not the fear of the invisible

Tricks or fools us;

It is our way to define,

Design and create

The heroes, the villains and the fuss.

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No, not the fear of the word fear

Lurks or creeps today;

It is our forgetfulness that steers…

… And suddenly, in haste one remembers

Fine-tuning life’s fears to Play.

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Tick-Tock, Time For Treasure Hunt

Tick-tock-tick-tock…

Match clocks!
[Source – Booked for Life]

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.


Tick-tock-tick-tock…                   

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.


Tick-tock-tick tock…

Our lovely home!
[Source – Kobo.com]

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.


Tick-tock-tick tock…

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

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