Friday, 2 December 2011

Movement of Meditation

I was listening to the following talk by J. Krishnamurti on the movement of meditation:
He is trying to speak to us of the unspeakable. What I grasped listening to the talk two times is only that much I can comprehend within the limit of my individual consciousness, while he is speaking about the totality of consciousness that is overwhelming, limitless, boundless...


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The procreant urge of the writer

The following is the link to something I enjoyed writing the other day, covering the Alchemist Hay Festival in Thiruvananthapuram for The Hindu. Frankly, I was not able to do full justice to the inspiring conversation between MT and Mukundan covered in this report:

This is the text:

Urge and urge and urge--the procreant urge of the writer…
Where does it happen? How does it sprout wings and soar weightless into the skies?

Jnanpith award winner and one of the greatest living Indian writers M.T. Vasudevan Nair probed this subtle question in a conversation with modern Malayalam novelist and short story writer M. Mukundan at the inaugural session of the three-day Alchemist Hay Festival that began here on Thursday.

This literary and arts festival, bringing together creative minds from across the world for a kind of cross-pollination of thoughts, questing the mystery of the creative process, is being conducted here for the second time.

“How did I start writing,” MT, as Mr. Vasudevan Nair is popularly known, asked himself when the question was posed to him. He said he had this urge to read and read and read right from the time he was very young. His home is in a remote village in Palakkad district and, those days — more than 60 years ago — even the nearest school was 6 km away.

He recalled journeying to the town several kilometres away once on hearing a report that someone there had a copy of Changampuzha's book Ramanan, which was a new rage those days. The whole book was copied into a notebook and the printed one returned to its owner the next day.

MT said he was born in a lower middle class family. Reading Ezhuthachan's Ramayana each evening aloud at home was a tradition then. If a boy could do that the right way, the elders would say “he is okay; he is good.” Children used to be entrusted with the task of taking cattle down to the riverbank for grazing. On the way to the riverbank were paddy fields and the cattle were not to be allowed to nibble on the plants growing there. If one could handle the responsibility well, again the elders used to say “yes, the boy is okay; he is good.”

He then heard about a special issue of a literary magazine that had devoted an entire page to the photos of the leading writers of the time —Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, Vaikom Mohammed Basheer, S.K. Pottakkad and a host of other writers. He climbed up and down the hills to another village to procure a copy. He cut that page and mounted it on a cardboard to preserve it. He used to wander around the silent expanses of the fields of the village and the riverbank, throbbing with an irresistible urge to write.

MT knew there was something exciting about the creative process. He had heard about Vaikom Mohammed Basheer selling his own printed slim volumes of fiction, going round the streets. “Here is something I have written. I am a writer. Will you buy a copy,” Basheer would tell those whom he met on the street. Changampuzha used to do the same thing to earn something so that he could pay his college fees. Why should they struggle like that? They were obsessed with writing.

If one were to get a poem through into a magazine, one dared not ask for payment. It was considered sacrilegious to ask money for a poem. Just the fulfilment of the process of creativity was a reward… Literature is a constantly evolving process… In content, craft, style, purpose and everything it continues to evolve with the forward movement of the gigantic flux that time is, MT said.


Friday, 23 September 2011

The Challenger

As i said, I had an enlightening time at the Cellar tonight, with me, beginning my intimacy with my first peg in a corner table alone so as to finish just that peg as early as possible and cruise home early, and then my friend Sankar sidling up to my side and, looking me needle-point piercing in the eyes, like the Ancient Mariner the wedding guest, saying,"Venu, there is a positive energy around you."

We are great friends and he draws a chair to my side and, tinkling his rum-and-water and winking his left eye, says, "You remember what we did the other day? I am 51 and you are 55. None of these boys can do what we can."

The other day, after his second peg and my third, Sankar revealed he could do Yogasana. I expressed disbelief, my lower jaw dropping an inch and eyes opening wide, for he is not the type on appearance a Yogi, whom you expect to look lean and hungry. Sankar looks well-fed, with the suspicion of a potbelly around his waist although that doesn't in any way diminish the debonair grace about him. To remove my disbelief, he moved to the clearing among the chairs to display, with technical perfection, the Sarvangasana, the all-body yogic posture.

[ Note: Sarvangasana involves keeping that part of the body below the shoulders upside down upright with the support the neck, the head and that part of the hand above the elbow, with the rest of the hands up to the fingers pressing strung below the chest taking the entire supporting pressure of the neck and the head the hand above the elbow, the whole life-force of the yogi holding forth to hold the balance of the upright poise of the rest of the body, with the toes pointing towards infinite bliss.]

"Can anyone do it," Sankar had challenged that evening. Everyone shook his head. The brandy-and-waters, the whiskey-and-sodas, the vodka-with-limes and the rum-and-waters shook their heads. Nearly 20 heads shook in a wave, like wind passing over a coconut grove. There were younger men in the Cellar and all conversation had died down and all were attentive to Sankar's display, but none dared take up the challenge. Nobody dared attempt the yogic posture on the battle field of the Cellar floor.

When the challenge had subsided and our friends started breathing easy, stirring the drinks in their hands preparatory to taking the next sips, I removed my watch from wrist and purse from pocket and moved to the aforesaid clearing among the chairs. The brandy-and-waters, the whiskey-and-sodas, the vodka-with-limes and the rum-and-waters put their drinks back on the tables. I fell on my knees, put that part of my hands above the elbow in a triangle on the floor and, taking a deep breath, swung my body into the position of Vritchikasana.

[Note: Vritchikasana involves holding the entire body in an arc, like a full-strung bow, with the face pointing floorward, but no part of the body other than that part of the hands above the elbows, with the fingers locked, touching the earth, the whole life-force within the yogi flung back into the empty space like a rainbow rising into the skies, where you can hear the rumble of thunder and see the electric flash of the lightening, beyond which is infinite energy and associated bliss.]

When I unwound the posture, all our Cellar friends raised their glasses and said whewwww.. whew-whew!!!

They all acknowledged that evening that I had passed the test to become Sankar's disciple. I touched his feet and was ordained his disciple that night.

That is the regard with which we see each other. Guru-Shikshya relation. He doesn't miss any opportunity to enlighten me on the unfathomable thing that is Yoga.

So Sankar sidles up to my side tonight also and this time speaks to me of spirituality from an entirely new perspective for some 45 enlightening minutes--the blunt and direct side of it, without being wishy-washy or anything like that... "ee jnanjha-punjha karyam thanneya ella evanmarum parayunne. I know all that, I can challenge any of them," he says, referring to what the sages of the past had said in their complicated ways.

Then he downs the remains of his third drink and orders another rum-and-water. "Eda makkale, edukkeda onnukoodi. Hey boys, give me one more."


Friday, 16 September 2011

Spring abloom

Driving home via my usual place after work in the night the thought that came to me was could I revive at the age of 55 my childhood dreams from the dust.

At the usual place my friend TNG said:

“Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome!
Those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry,...”

He is a romantic, my friend TNG, and he was into his third drink. He is my own age, though with his lily white beard and hair and grave expression he looks several years older than me, according to my belief, which is a permanent thing of dispute between the two of us. His gruff voice belies the poet and lover in him.

I asked, can I, can I...
He said, yes you can!

My childhood dreams...

Can I, at the age of 55, revive from dust those old dreams,
Which i had forgotten
At some point or the other and had allowed myself
To drift, drift, drift and drift away...
Until all these years had slipped away...
Life itself had slipped away...

To the point now,
When I suddenly feel...
The dead roots coming alive...
The spring springing abloom!


Tuesday, 6 September 2011


the sky enfolds the night to its breast
and sleeps exhausted.
the earth slumbers in dreamless silence.

anklets removed from the dancer's feet
curl on the floor....


Friday, 26 August 2011


I want to share with you a haiku by Basho this morning.

I am quoting from the introduction of a book entitled 'On Love and Barley--Haiku of Basho' translated from Japanese by Lucien Stryk (Penguin Books):

It is night. Imagine, if you will, a path leading to a hut lost in a wildly growing arbour, shaded by the basho, a wide-leafed banana tree rare to Japan. A sliding door opens: an eager-eyed man in monk's robe steps out, surveys his shadowy thicket and the purple outline of a distant mountain, bends his head to catch the rush of river just beyond; then, looking up at the sky, pauses a while, and claps his hands. Three hundred years pass--the voice remains fresh and exciting as that moment.

Summer moon--
clapping hands,
I herald dawn.

Why I want to share this poem is because I feel it is possible to experience each morning as fresh as it really is...Born anew each morning; born anew each moment.

Have a great day!


Wednesday, 24 August 2011


A discussion is a soliloquy within an undivided mind.
When the group mind is divided,
what we have intended as a discussion
becomes a debate.

In a debate,
there is violence involved.
The aim is forgotten in the fury of the violence...


Saturday, 20 August 2011

Laughter in deathbed

This is something that happened three or four days before my father's death in September 1981. He had been in the hospital for nearly one-and-a-half months, aged 68 and sinking slowly to his end following a liver condition that was never treated. He carried the condition for a long time, swallowing aspirin tablets to control the pain, until it became so bad that he had to show it to a doctor, who put him in the hospital "to complete the final lap to death" (as he himself used to describe it).

Word spread that he was nearing his end and there was a steady flow of friends and relatives to the hospital to see him. My father was a journalist and a writer of short stories. He used to get his stories published regularly in English magazines those days. He wrote without any pretensions and the only purpose was to earn an extra Rs.100 or so to help keep the wolf a few more steps away from the door. He had a very large circle of friends in the town. Some of his friends were in the room on that evening when this incident took place.

The friends, as they are wont to in a situation like that, were cracking jokes, making things seem natural and casual, as though Unnithan Chettan (as they used to call him) would tomorrow step out of the hospital and join them for a couple of drinks at the club.

He was a person renouned for his sense of humour, but he was too tired that day and just lay there on the bed propped up with pillows, listening to them with no particular expression on his face, apparently too weak to join them in their light talk. He seemed to be under a cloud as well, which was quite unusual of him. It was as though he was weighed down by thoughts about his life coming to end within a few more days, or even hours.

Just then, Babu Chettan, one of my cousins a few years older than me, opened the door and came in. Only after he had stepped into the room did he realise the room was already crowded, that too with people who had the VIP label pasted all over them. In fact, they were among the dignitaries of the town--politicians, cultural personalities and such people.

My cousin brought with him the flavour and fragrance of a thousand boat race nights into the room (you should have lived in Alleppey, my home town, to know what this means), for he had treated himself liberally at a toddy shop en route to the hospital.

Everyone noticed the change in ambience. There was silence in the room for a few minutes and my cousin, rather self consciously, moved to the window and stood with his head dangling outside, as though inspecting something he had come to inspect from that vantage position.

"Babu," my father called, breaking the silence. His voice was that of a person addressing from his deathbed someone who is very dear to him, someone to whom he wanted to say goodbye with a catch in his throat. Everyone in the room was expecting an emotional scene as my cousin reluctantly obeyed him and came and sat on the side of the bed.

"It's such a long time, Babu," my father said, holding my cousin's hands. And he had that catch in his throat as he continued, after a pause: "Don't go away. Please sit a little closer... Let me enjoy the fragrance of it for some more time."

Then he closed his eyes to better enjoy the fragrance surrounding his nephew, with the air of a person having his final wish fulfilled. And the room erupted into thunderous laughter.


Thursday, 18 August 2011

The most difficult author I know

This is how chapter XXII of Sri Arabindo's voluminous book 'Life Divine' begins:

".....He who knows the Truth, the Knowledge, the Infinity that is Brahman shall enjoy with the all-wise Brahman all objects of desire. (Taittiriya Upanishad).

Life is, we have seen, the putting forth, under certain cosmic circumstances, of a Conscious-Force which is in its own nature infinite, absolute, untrammelled, inalienably possessed of its own unity and bliss, the Conscience-Force of Sachithananda. The central circumstance of this cosmic process, in so far as it differs in its appearances from the purity of the infinite Existence and the self-possession of the undivided Energy, is the dividing faculty of the Mind obscured by ignorance. There results from this divided action of an undivided Force the apparition of dualities, oppositions, seeming denials of the nature of Sachithananda which exist as an abiding reality for the mind, but only as a phenomenon misrepresenting a manifold Reality for the divine cosmic Consciousness concealed behind the veil of mind...."

I have been off and on grappling with this 1,100-page book for the last six months and reached page No. 208 this morning.

Have a great day!

(Lesson: Take some heavy exercise in the morning. It will make everything seem so light during the entire day!)


hornbill (a haiku moment)

waking up in a tree hut
early morning deep in the forests
when the chill is on
and the light is a fluid movement...

i hear a hornbill...
then its echo...


Sunday, 14 August 2011

The only time my father beat me

My father, who died in 1981 when I was 24, beat me only once in my life. He was a totally relaxed person. When at home, he would sit quietly in the veranda with a smile on his face, mulling over some pleasant and humorous thought, smoking hard on a beedi. He would be watching everything happening around him, but would not interfere in anything. We children could do any mischief in the house without fear of his raising his voice to enforce discipline.

I was six or seven years old when he beat me the only time in my life. I was playing goli in our front yard with my friend Mohan, who was around my own age. The goli game we used to play those days was similar in principle to the golf game. There are three holes in the ground about three feet apart and you have to put the goli in each hole a particular number of times ahead of your rival to win the game.

What you do each time your turn comes is to pitch the thump of your right hand at the spot where the goli had last come to rest and shoot it with your middle finger, as from a catapult, from between the thump and the next finger of your left hand. The goli has to be shot with the right precision to fall into the next hole. You are also allowed to hit your rival's goli with your's, so that it shoots far away from the holes, making it difficult for him to score his next hole.

I was a devil at this game and I won it by quite some distance that day. The rule of the game is that the winner is entitled to have a particular number of knocks with the goli at the knuckles of the loser as the reward for winning. The goli has to be propelled the same catapulting way from the first hole to the next, where the loser would hold his knuckles to receive the knock.

The moment I started sharpening the knife for my pound of flesh, Mohan started whimpering, his face a vivid red. The first knock landed spot on and he started outright crying, wringing his hand in pain. Suddenly my father sat up and shouted: "Eda Venu, venda! Stop!"

But I was entitled to some more knocks and was intent on having them all. Mohan placed his knuckles once again at the appointed spot to receive the next missile, because he was a proud little boy and could not think of backing out of the punishment he had to take. I bent down to take aim for the next shot at his knuckles and was suddenly sent face first into the sand by a resounding slap on my buttocks, my father having jumped out of the veranda to hit me. I had never seen him angry before and was so terrified that I ran away from the scene and did not dare come back until he had left home for the day's work.

The next day, he introduced us to a new way of playing the game. He had bought for us half a dozen new marbles from the town to play goli. The new rule was: no knocks at the knuckles of the loser. When a game is won and lost, the winner is entitled to two pieces of 'naranga mitai' (the yellow pear-shaped toffee of those days), while the loser will get only one. He placed a packet of these toffees on the steps of our home and asked us to start playing. He had bought the toffees too from the town the previous day for the specific purpose of changing the rules of the game.

(Why do I write this piece now? I just happened to remember him this morning. For a couple of years in 1960's, he involved himself in the cultivation of the paddy fields belonging to our family at Punnapra in Alappuzha district and received accolades from the Agriculture Department for reaping a big harvest. His picture given above was published along with a report in a leading Malayalam daily about his achievement as a farmer. He is posing for the camera squatting in our family farm, examining the paddy ready for the harvest.

Anil Kumar Sivasankara Kurup sent me the other picture showing a tense moment in a goli game.)

Sunday, 31 July 2011


"Years back my second son during his college days had this poster in his place pasted to the wall which read: I HAVE BEEN BEATEN, KICKED, LIED TO, CUSSED AT, SWINDLED, TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF AND LAUGHED AT...THE ONLY REASON I HANG AROUND THIS PLACE IS TO SEE WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT."

This is a mail my friend, guide and Guru in the institution where I have been working for the last 33 years sent me the other day to announce he and his wife had completed 50 years of married life. I am reproducing it in my blog with his permission. NSG, as we lovingly call him, continues:

"When we shifted our Madras home I removed the poster and kept it with me. He is fond of sending wedding anniversary greetings to us. He selects funny cards and once the caption in the card was 'TO A COUPLE OF NUTS'. I thought I must inform you that we have accomplished a feat--we have completed 50 years of married life. Fifty years of happiness, sorrow, suffering, turmoil, peace, sacrifice, accusation and above all some sort of sweet satisfaction that 50 long years have gone by amidst the turbulant life we had. Life still goes on with all these. No regrets because what a life can be and should be was lived with the available resources, contentment and satisfaction. God has been kind to us all these years and was with us without fail, guiding us."

I know NSG from the time I was 21 years old. I had slept on the floor in his humble, furniture-free home those days. We used to sit deep into the night on the mirror-neat cement floor talking. His three sons, who were school-going kids then, are now in very good positions in different corners of the world, as happy as only the children of such parents could be. NSG's influence on my life is something even he is not fully aware of.

Just wanted to share my happiness with you.


Saturday, 23 July 2011

Thursday, 21 July 2011


"appooppa vava soppam," she said this morning over the phone from kannur far away. "grandpa, i saw you in a dream!"

what a way to start the day!


Sunday, 17 July 2011

beyond language

i do not know the language of the song i listened to this morning on a u-tube link on my friend MTaI's blog:

but listening to the music and watching the scenes unfolding i heard the song saying this:

when someone dies somewhere
it is part of me that dies
when a child is born somewhere
it is me... being born again....

her post is on the Mumbai bomb blasts:

Tuesday, 28 June 2011


The faded picture here shows me as a stuntman in an old Malayalam movie. I polevaulted on to the 10-foot-high wall of a fortress in that film for Prem Nazir. In the picture you see me wearing Nazir's costume. I was studying third year BSc at that time. The entire class, including four of our teachers, had come to see the shooting of me jumping over the leaping fire in the moat around the fortress to reach the top. It was a crucial scene. On reaching the top of the fortress and vanquishing a demon rested Nazir's chances of winning Sheela's hand. He pulls out a flagstaff, his expression displaying his determination and lunges forward. From that moment the shot is from behind and I take over the action. I did the jump clean first chance. Looking back I see how risky it was. There would never have been a second chance. The entire shooting crew applauded when I landed on top of the fortress. My classmates too applauded. Among them was a girl whom I had loved from the time we were in school. I remember seeing her eyes sparkle when stunt director Thyagarajan hugged me for the perfect jump. "My hero!" her eyes said...

I found this picture the other day when I was searching for my certificates among my old papers. The writing at the bottom-left corner of the frame says the picture was taken on February 5, 1977. Jijo Punnoose (son of Navodaya Appachan and director of 'My Dear Kuttichathan') took the picture. It is his handwriting. He was one of my classmates. There were four of us always moving as an inseparable team while in college. He was one of them. Another team member Anil Surana is now a prosperous businessman in Bangalore. Anil, after leaving college, acted in a couple of Jijo's films. The fourth was Raju, whose daughter Navya Nair is a very fine film artiste--in fact, the leading heroine of Malayalam movies until two years ago when she stopped acting following her marriage.

The girl with the sparkling eyes about whom I spoke is now a grandma. In the class the day after the shooting, Jijo gave this photo to her. You may notice that the photo is slightly torn at the bottom left corner. I had tried to snatch it from her hands, causing the damage. She had preserved the picture all these years along with our certificates and some other miscellaneous papers, including certain very embarassing poems I had written to her those days.


Saturday, 25 June 2011


i am floating free on the crest of a gigantic flux--
i am a wave-riding water skater.
free and weightless i glide,
twisting and turning and rising and falling i glide,
on the crest and trough and crest of this flux,
gigantic flux,
the free flowing one that started with my birth,
much before,
much much before,
the one that started much before my father's birth,
even before the birth of intelligence on earth,
before even the birth of the concept and the word...

thus i float
on the crest of this gigantic flux...
from where it all started--
where the flux is taking me.


Saturday, 14 May 2011

across my porch

a formless remorse floods in...

i unwind each count
all the way down to one
and find
an unending procession of ants
across my porch
on some timeless mission
this morning.


Thursday, 5 May 2011

Sunday, 1 May 2011


in the resounding emptiness of my skull,
i hear voices,
like marbles
dropped into a copper vessel.


Monday, 14 March 2011

being aware of your breath

i have been monitoring the different levels of meditation possible for me to explore and, joyously, something new came up this morning, from insight received from a book i am reading.

it is about being aware of the breath. when one inhales a deep breath, one is aware of taking a deep breath... when one exhales a deep breath, one is again aware of exhaling a deep breath.

then we conceive breathing as a phenomenon of the body; we keep on conceiving breathing as a phenomenon of the body. we find our entire body breathing...

then we conceive breathing as a phenomenon of the mind; we keep on conceiving breathing as a phenomenon of the mind. we find our entire mind breathing...

then we conceive breathing as a phenomenon of our sensuality; we keep on conceiving breathing as a phenomenon of our sensuality. we find ourselves breathing with all five senses of our being...

breathing is a phenomenon that takes place "here and now," the awareness of which fixes us totally to the place and the moment.

the here-now feeling...
with the breathing conceived and realised as a phenomenon of the body, mind and sensuality...
and with the awareness that breathing is the truth of what is here and now,
we breathe on and touch another level of meditation.


Wednesday, 2 March 2011


the next turn...
they come and go; they come and go:
a compound wall in thiruvananthapuram being erased of the memories of last year's panchayat elections to receive the dreams of the latest of the dreams of the years to come.
april 13 is the date of the Assembly elections in kerala.

(this is a caption for a picture my friend ratheesh took for our paper today. i thought of putting it here since i like the ring of the thing.)

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


i was listening to the Buddha speaking
about the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch
and about thought that can bring to reality all these senses from the void,
thereby tethering us to the self,
and about the freedom that is there to be gained
by cutting the chain that anchors us down,
the chain that is the total of thought and the five senses,
the cutting of which is death,
and i was sitting thus on the steps of my house
when he opened the gate and came in and stood before me
hot from the sun,
picking the post addressed to me from the bunch of letters in his left hand,
and a bird from the tree overhead shot its droppings
and the droppings fell splashing down his cheek to his shirt front
and i felt the whole of his discomfort,
a distress at the bird that had flown away
and the warmth of the droppings on his cheek
and together we went to the tap to the right of the house
and i helped him wash his face
and brush his shirt front clean sprinkling water
and we stood smiling at each other
full of love for the bird and everything
and then i looked at the letter he had handed over to me...
and the spell


Sunday, 6 February 2011

love and hate

i was wondering whether a total transformation is possible.
each one of us has an outward looking eye
that perceives so many other entities all around
that have to be named and graded
according to the best of our individual convenience,
comfort, sentiment, ideology...
everything boils down to the 'me.'
i am the person who is central to everything
when i say i love this and that,
or when i say i hate.


Wednesday, 5 January 2011

new year

happy new your to all my friends!!!
i am engaged in a fight where total focus of mind is necessary.
so i am keeping out the blog from my attention.
hope to write about this experience soon, and also visit other blogs to see what my friends are doing.
the ongoing experience is not the new. Arjuna might have experienced it aiming his arrow at the eye.
i am watching what is possible if you turn weightless,
nothing distracting you,
no gravitational pull excercising its influence on you,
no fear touching any corner of your heart,
nothing mattering,
you turn just into a flame burning smokeless.