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)
The crayon doodles, chalk scrabbled floor and walls, silly games of following the clouds, the butterflies and the wind, toying with fairy tale thoughts, dancing in the rain, eating snowflakes, and living in the inverted fable world… all this and every other childhood memory comes alive in Miyazaki’s masterpiece anime, My Neighbour Totoro.
Those whispers, secrets, and myths that we all have heard, in which the happy spirits rise to guide the one who dares and bridges her to the magic around, which world-wide have different versions, which are absurd yet possible, forms the core of this motley work.
Two little girls, Satsuki and Mei, move to the countryside in Japan along with their father, Tatsuo Kusakabe. Mama Yasuko Kusakabe is not well and so she is admitted to the hospital which is closer to this countryside house.
“But she will recover and come back home soon”, says Dady Tatsuo, “when, will she be back by tomorrow?” asks four years old Mei, “there she goes again with tomorrow”, says Satsuki and they all laugh.
Mei is courageous, she even catches a soot gremlin to show it to Satsuki but it ends up only in making her hands black.
As Satsuki goes to school, little Mei plays around the house alone; carrying her packed lunchbox, she explores the place with a clear and light mind, giggling, following two small bunny-like Totoros to the colossal camphor tree and ultimately meeting the big Totoro there.
Totoro is a furry giant animal, with whiskers, big eyes, and a bigger smile. He lives in the huge camphor tree in the forest neighbouring Satsuki and Mei’s house.
While the little Totoros collect acorns, the giant one helps it to grow; together they play the ocarina like music instruments at night, sitting high on a branch, guarding the forest, and all the beings living in it.
Totoro in some ways is like a Kami – a spirit in Japanese religion of Shinto – which can be anything, from forces of nature to spirits of an honoured dead person like a King. Possessing both positive and negative qualities, these spirits are to be worshipped and thanked for their blessings and support.
Kami cannot be seen by everyone, but the one whom it chooses to reveal itself to. Being aware of the powers of Kami means being aware of the powers of nature, respecting it, and also showing gratitude for what it grants.
After Mei’s first encounter with Totoro, their father takes both the girls to a nearby Shinto shrine to thank the Kami for looking after Mei and asking it to continue looking after all of them. The shrine is next to the giant camphor tree which Mei happily recognises, but doesn’t find the way to Totoro’s den as she did the last time.
Two Little sisters, Mei and Satsuki
As children look at the world with the hope to see a miracle every second and love as if it is all theirs, it is only Mei and Satsuki who get to meet Totoro. It all starts with Mei, she sees the soot gremlins twice and then the three Totoros. Little Mei’s world, it seems, is still more magical than Satsuki.
When Mei tells Satsuki about Totoro, she tells her father that she too wants to meet Totoro, but on one occasion when Mei accompanies her to the school and draws Totoro’s image on a sheet, Satsuki feels embarrassed amongst her giggling friends, typical of a growing-up kid.
On a rainy late evening, Satsuki and Mei go to the bus stop to receive their father who had not taken an umbrella, there Totoro joins them. Satsuki is elated to see him but stays still. She then gives him the spare umbrella and shows him how to use it.
Raindrops falling on the umbrella from the branches above give Totoro the shivers which he enjoys; he jumps up and down and a heavy splash of raindrops fall on them and Totoro beams magnificently. The magic only multiplies then as a Cat Bus arrives there, Totoro climbs on it and leaves.
That same night, Totoro comes with his two little friends to silently perform a ritual in the yard where Mei and Satsuki have planted the acorns; the girls wake up and join the Totoros.
Their prayers are heard and the plants sprout magically to form a giant tree, just like the camphor tree, right before their eyes. Totoro then takes all of them to the top of the tree to sit on the branch and play the ocarina.
Next morning the girls find that the tree has vanished, but the seeds have indeed sprung; both of them then repeat the ritual ecstatically shouting “I thought it was a dream, but I was wrong.”
Mei repeats whatever Satsuki says, she gets excited when Satsuki is, dances along and follows her everywhere trying to match her speed, happy to be around her elder sister. But when she gets the news that their mother will not be returning soon as planned, she gets angry.
Both the sisters argue and Mei leaves for the hospital all by herself to give her mother an ear of corn that Granny had said would make her perfectly healthy.
In the evening when Satsuki realises that Mei is not at home, she, Granny, Kanta, and his family all start looking for her. Sure that Mei must have left for the hospital Satsuki takes to the road, running all the way and calling out Mei’s name, but she does not find her there.
Satsuki then goes to meet Totoro, praying to the camphor tree to allow her to meet him; she tells Totoro that Mei is missing and she cannot find her on her own.
Totoro smiles and immediately calls the Cat Bus, the destination indicator blinks Mei’s name, an awed Satsuki climbs on the bus and on its many legs the Cat Bus leaps from one farm to another, tiptoeing from one utility pole to another, finally stopping at the roadside where Mei was sitting and crying.
The Cat Bus then takes both of them to the hospital; there sitting on a treetop the little girls feel relieved to see their parents together and happy.
Both Mei and Satsuki come across as two real-life girls – their mannerism (in the first scene, sitting together in the small lorry, sharing candies), their reactions (when Mei sees the soot gremlins she freezes, holding her frock tightly), their silly arguments (when Satsuki teases Mei that she is afraid at night and that is why she cannot sleep alone), when happy (after meeting the Totoro for the first time Satsuki is overjoyed, she asks his father to hold both of them and they jump into his arms) when sad (both are disappointed to know that their mother will not be coming home soon), all these actions in totality make them appear like two actual kids.
Mama and Daddy Kusakabe
Both Tatsuo and Yasuko Kusakabe are loving, supporting, and open-minded accepting parents. They know that it is a tough time for the girls as they have been staying away from their mother and have shifted to a village for her sake, thus, they do not discourage them from any vibrant idea of theirs.
Whenever the girls talk about soot gremlins, Totoro and the Cat Bus, they both show excitement, honestly interested in their tales.
Tatsuo always listens to them and joins them in their fun activities. Yasuko misses both of them and worries for Satsuki as she knows she takes more responsibility than others do in her age.
When Yasuko tells her husband that she thought she saw Mei and Satsuki sitting on the tree, smiling, Tatsuo, familiar with the Totoro story by then, picks up the corn with the inscription ‘for mama’ on it lying on the window-sill and says that they must have been here.
Granny and Kanta
Mei and Satsuki’s neighbours, other than the Totoros, are Kanta’s family. While Granny is caring and full of warmth, Kanta hesitates even to talk to Satsuki.
On two occasions – delivering them lunch on their first day and giving his umbrella when it is pouring heavily – he simply hands over Satsuki the lunch box and the umbrella, grunting and without uttering a word.
As time passes by, they become like family to the Kusakabes; when Mei leaves for the hospital on her own, Granny gathers the whole village to look for Mei and Kanta goes to the hospital on a bicycle to check the way for her.
Granny hugs Mei when she returns with Satsuki. The four of them walk back home together as the cheerful closing track plays in the background.
The Charm of the Era
The film is set in the late 1950s Japan when life was simpler and the pace was kinder. On arriving at their new home, Mei and Satsuki get excited about seeing every new thing – the timeworn house (‘it could be haunted’, says Satsuki), the collapsing patio, the soot gremlins, the water pump, the small bridge that takes them to their house, the stream and of course, the giant camphor tree.
Raindrops falling in the rice paddies, the sudden downpour, the drizzles dripping from tree leaves, the puddles, all these scenes are beautifully captured in the film.
Totoro is overwhelmed with joy when raindrops fall on his umbrella which he is holding for the first time, this brings back memories of childhood.
Such simple happy actions become a habit unknowingly; whether it is raindrops falling on the umbrella for some or say, crushing the dry autumn leaves for others, it always gives us a sudden boost of cheerful energy.
Imagery & Music
The wonderful work done by Hayao Miyazaki and Kazuo Oga, the art director, makes the anime world truly alive.
The cushiony clouds, the rapturous scenery, the quiet stream, and every rock and leaf complement each other, aiding in and not shying from embracing the modernity.
When Mei, Satsuki, and their father visit the shrine for the first time, the ambience and even the cool moistness of the hidden place catches us and we are struck by the glory of the huge camphor tree.
And what gives the imagery this soothing life-like quality is the music in the film. The excellent soundtrack, composed by Joe Hisaishi, gives the film a mythical tone as if opening a door to a magical dream world while keeping it firmly grounded in its times.
Especially the score titled “The Huge Tree in the Tsukamori Forest”, which plays whenever we see the camphor tree in its glory, has become analogous to the spirit of the film. It is an uplifting majestic tune that marks the listener’s entry into a secret world.
The Credits Roll
The story goes on as the credits roll at the end. We see Mei and Satsuki spending time with their mother – taking baths together, reading storybooks – as they had been hoping to for a long time.
The girls continue living in the same region, making new friends, bonding with the old ones, making a snow Totoro in winters, and enjoying their childhood days.
My Neighbour Totoro is considered to be, both by the critics and the masses, one of the best Anime fantasy films of all time. Totoro has become a cultural icon and the film has a worldwide cult following.
Apart from being the company logo and appearing in Studio Ghibli’s other productions, Totoro has also appeared in Disney Pixar’s Toy Story 3.
Such is the love for the film that an asteroid discovered in 1994 and a velvet worm species discovered in Vietnam in 2013 were named after Totoro.
A smiley giant, guardian of the forest, Totoro does not have a dialogue in the film; apart from speaking his name out loud to Mei, he only beams, roars, flies, plays the ocarina, eats and sleeps.
His simplicity makes him a more welcomed, accepted, and believable character by one and all. Mei and Satsuki’s neighbour, the guardian of the forest, Totoro is a true friend, yours as well as mine.
Written and Directed by – Hayao Miyazaki; Production company – Studio Ghibli; Music by – Joe Hisaishi; Cinematography by – Hisao Shirai; Edited by – Takeshi Seyama
Here is a children’s film made for the world we should live in, rather than the one we occupy. A film with no villains. No fight scenes. No evil adults. No fighting between the two kids. No scary monsters. No darkness before the dawn. A world that is benign. A world where if you meet a strange towering creature in the forest, you curl up on its tummy and have a nap.
Roger Ebert, the film critic. Read his review of My Neighbour Totorohere.
Sound is a sensation and a stimulus; reflected, refracted, and humbly attenuated by its medium, the sound wave propagates. Only the frequencies between 20 Hz and 20KHz comes in the hearing range of us humans.
Voices, calls, laughs, and whispers fill this range of ours, from morning to evening. We consider, approve, discard, ignore, and absorb it as and when we understand the hidden meaning.
The hidden meaning…? Yes, the message that every sound wave carries is the hidden meaning, it shapes this very understanding of ours.
And what an exuberating elusive message a melody is, a wonderful wordless story that nevertheless is discernible, more than that in fact, as it touches and soothes our heart and soul.
Bansuri, a bamboo flute, taps a tune, using wind as the source and wind as the medium, carrying the message as far as possible, resonating beyond the visible, accepting all, conquering all.
Two and a half ample octaves and the bansuri deciphers happily the message using the Sargam (solfege); a subtle and soulful tune reads it to us.
Lord Krishna, the Jamun coloured Hindu deity with a peacock-feathered crown, is always depicted with a bansuri in his hands. Various stories tell us how Krishna, the charmer, used to mesmerise the listeners, stopping the time as if to unveil the beauty of the cosmic play.
The leading character in several ancient Hindu religious, mythological and philosophical texts, Krishna plays his bansuri to win Radha’s heart, to celebrate the victory over evil, to turn impossible into possible and routinely for shepherding cows (he played a melodious tune on the bansuri and the herd of cows themselves returned to him).
Natya Shastra as well as the other Vedic texts associated art and music with the Supreme, calling it the spiritual means to rise above, concentrate on and connect to one’s consciousness, witness it and attain Moksha (enlightenment, release).
Why would one make a creative artist’s job tougher by leaving the great responsibility of enlightening the receiver on her? Let art be for art’s sake.
Right! But apart from just being true, pure art, what if say a tune played on a bansuri leaves a listener illumined, will this not add to the beauty of the melody? It absolutely will.
If it deciphers the message for the listener, showing her more than what is on the surface, by additionally doing absolutely nothing, then surely the message is intrinsic to the composition.
Wonderfully it all also depends on perception. Synesthesia is a condition in which one sense (for example, hearing) is simultaneously perceived as if by one or more additional senses, such as sight, thus, in such cases sound involuntarily evokes an experience of colour, shape, and movement.
Read what the first recorded case of synesthesia was about –
“The earliest recorded case of synesthesia is attributed to the Oxford University academic and philosopher John Locke, who, in 1690, made a report about a blind man who said he experienced the colour scarlet when he heard the sound of a trumpet.”
Mirai o Mirai, where are you? You cannot hide for long.
Mirai o Mirai, I will find you.
Those childhood days gone by, gone by in playing, playing hide and seek, ice-water and cycling, cycling all day long like a crazy fool and laughing, those childhood days gone by eating candies and ice creams, hopscotching and skipping ropes, flying kites, strolling aimlessly, gazing at the sky, merry minds flying high, those childhood days are now a dream.
I remember, I still do, Aru and I were sitting, Pinti was roaming around as always; Aru was talking non-stop, sharing one of her charming stories, a feature film story I must mention – our protagonist, a little girl, the best detective in the town, begins her quest, she is looking for some stolen bright precious stones – we paused the story and went to play hopscotch with Pinti, she had re-drawn the rectangle-y pattern for us, sweet Pinti, we talked and played, then followed the clouds, just when we were about to get hold of the moody clouds, they turned and shouted, “peek-a-boo.”
We screamed and ran back, but could not out-do the rain bullets. And then… then we guffawed and danced in the rain, I remember.
Those childhood days gone by were full of dreams, dreams of the future, pocket full of adventure and sweets and joy and endless playtime… those dreams were of the future, a hidden gold chest…
Through those dreams we time travelled and blushed, knowing well that we have to wait a bit before we discover this treasure… we treasured the future and waited.
Those childhood days gone by, what a sweet melody… the future we still dream of, what a happy idea…
And what is left is the present, this very moment – quiet, true, rudely true, factual and boring, but euphoric if grasped and powerful enough to change everything, the past as well as the future.
Take the golden thread I say, take it and chart the course, know that it will not break for it is tied to you, you of the past and you of the future.
The times when the sky mirrors the sea and the sea mirrors the sky, when the horizon disappears and the sun’s reddish stroke colours both alike, at those times you get a glimpse of the whole Universe celebrating life.
Children of the Sea is a Japanese animation film directed by Ayumu Watanabe and is based on Daisuke Igarashi’s manga series.
The story unfolds leisurely as the protagonist Ruka, a teenager, meets two brothers – Umi and Sora – who are from the ocean.
While the grown-ups stay occupied with understanding the physiology of the two boys, hoping to know through them the secrets of the marine world, Ruka, Umi, and Sora go through a magnificent journey.
The unseen and the unknown happen for Ruka as she sees and lives the connection… the connection of every being with the universe.
Umi and Sora tell her that every living being is waiting to be found, that the awakened bright light in one finds the other and that if you pay attention and listen, you can hear the sea and the sky talking.
Quite depths of the ocean await the light of the comet for it is then that the celebrations begin; all the marine life gathers to be in this light of the comet.
Umi and Sora take Ruka along as a guest to witness this mystical event, themselves turning into a comet and disappearing forever.
Ruka on one hand cannot forget the surreal experience, cannot forget Umi and Sora, on the other hand, she just can not understand the meaning of it all and is not ashamed to say it out loud.
Dede, an old lady, tells Ruka that she also met a boy from the ocean when she was her age and that she did not understand things just like her, but she learned to understand the sound of the wind that carries secrets from the five oceans of the world.
Ruka’s confusion reminds me of Arjun from the Mahabharata, he, after witnessing the supreme lord in his absolute vastness and glory and listening to him, requests the lord after winning the battle to elucidate once again the message of the Bhagwat Gita.
An unfathomable experience and a human’s forgettable nature…
Summer vacation ends and Ruka heads back to school, to the routine life, on the way she hears the ocean and looks at the sky, she feels the secret is within her and smiles.
The times when the sky mirrors the sea and the sea mirrors the sky, when the horizon disappears and the sun’s reddish stroke colours both alike, at those times the Universe shares a message, one that is meant for you and only you.
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.