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.)