Thursday, 7 November 2013

wanting to do
this thing that
hither then thither
a ping pong ball
on bounce


Wednesday, 23 October 2013

elephant ride

the elephant lurches, sways and heaves,
its great mass rolling
in sudden surprises,
the chains on its hind legs like cymbals clanging!

heart in mouth,
i cling for my life
to the rope round its neck!

"Velayudha," i cry out.
"how do i bail out?"

mahout Velayudhan,
i have seen,
sometimes even dozing,
over Manikantan,
along this very lane.
and i had thought it comfy ride!


Saturday, 5 October 2013

though not what it used to be

bare chested under the sun--
on my rooftop--
i felt like a mirror
receiving and reflecting the morning rays.

my neighbour, blinded by the lights,
put down his spade.
"phileman anallo!" he said in disbelief.

i flexed my biceps
and struck an elegant pose,
for his better appreciation of the facts of the case.

"though not what it used to be," i said,
rather modestly.

"pande pole phalikkunnilla."


Saturday, 28 September 2013

the night was quiet

blackout time...

in the candle light i saw the gestures of my hands bring alive
demons in the shadows on the wall.

the night was quiet.


Friday, 30 August 2013


Just the other day, a dear friend was sharing with me his pain over separation from his teenaged son, "perhaps never to see each other again."
My friend is separated from his son's mother and I was one among many friends who had unsuccessfully tried to prevent the separation from happening.
The lady is now remarried and along with her son she is going far away to build a new life.

"You know how I love my son, Venu," my friend said, over phone from a bar around 10 in the morning. "You can't blame me for feeling down."

I didn't blame him. The next morning, after he had drunk and slept over his grief, I called him and recited to him the following lines by Kahlil Gibran in his book 'The Prophet':    

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said,
"Speak to us of Children." 
And he said: 
Your children are not your children. 
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. 
They come through you but not from you, 
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. 
You may give them your love but not your thoughts. 
For they have their own thoughts. 
You may house their bodies but not their souls, 
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. 
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. 
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. 
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. 
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. 
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness; 
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

the word the way

yesterday, i walked along a lane
where there were no memories.

it was like the thing they call amnesia,
a queer name, reminding me of a samoosa,
hot, puffing steam in the mouth.

all shops in this lane in this town
where they sell only antique vessels,
stolen idols and mementos that had changed many hands,
were shut,
ancient padlock on each door.

and there was no signpost,
nobody to ask which way to go.
and the wind, a silent tomb.

i remembered
not even the word the signpost, the way...


Monday, 19 August 2013

sharp shooter

and then a very old man,
gun slung over his left shoulder, stooping,
stepped forward from the crowd and said,
tell me about sharp shooting.

the chosen and the beloved,
for whom the ship waits at the harbour,

he is a sharp shooter who is above all desire to shoot.
when he shoots, he shoots.
he wastes no bullet.

(to my friend Vijayan)


Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Ambi retires

My wife Ambika retired from service as a college teacher today, after putting in a long service of 33 years, two months and twenty-seven days.

It was I who accompanied her to the college on January 1, 1980, when she joined service. That was 45 days after our wedding on November 16, 1979.

Her first appointment was at the NSS college at Dhanuvachapuram in Thiruvananthapuram district. I was employed in Coimbatore then and both our families were in Alappuzha. The two of us were leading a suspended animation kind of married life then, neither here, there, nor together. Both of us were just 23 years old, which is hardly the age at which one sees anything seriously.

We married because we were in love (from school in my case and from college in hers) and her mother, after objections all through, suddenly insisted that the wedding ceremony be gone through immediately.

My pop, as you know, was as casual a person as one can ever imagine. He went with it and, virtually right out of the blue, without warning, we became husband and wife.

It was just after she had completed her post graduation in Calicut University and I was into my second year of employment straight after my graduation, trying to get ready to set up a home with her by the time she finished her studies.

We were classmates and she was the most brilliant student in the class.

Ours was a surprise wedding. Surprise, because it had looked so complicated that when the script changed direction, it changed so drasticalky that the marriage happened just as though it was the most natural thing to happen. One moment it was all overcast and there was no hope at all in the horizon, but suddenly the sky cleared and the sun was shining like the Dickens.

I was earning Rs.630 a month in Coimbatore then. Of this amount, I used to send Rs.300 to my mother because my home required support and Rs.300 to my wife in Thiruvananthapuram. Although she got a job immediately after our marriage, her monthly salary started coming only two years after her joining service because of the red tape none can escape at the university.

What I mean is, we had struggled quite a bit in the beginning and also later on. There was a time when I used to survive on an allowance of Rs.10 earned on alternate days by doing overtime work. I could do the overtime work only on alternate days, because a friend of mine was in a worse situation than me. The overtime responsibility at the office required the services of only one man and we used to split the loot between us.

Ambi and myself used to meet only once in two months at Alappuzha (where both our parents were living those days) so that we can save on bus fares.

I know she had struggled more than me, getting pregnant also in the meantime and watching every paisa she was spending. She used to resist the temptation to go to the then Trivandrum Hotel, near the hostel where she was staying, to order a ‘Butter Roast.’ The ‘Butter Roast’ was a special thing at this hotel those days and she somehow often used to get the temptation to have a ‘Butter Roast’ during the time she was carrying my daughter Lakshmi.

As I mentioned before, I had accompanied her to the college on the day she joined service. And, today, when she retired from service, I was there at the gate to take her back home. My right foot is still in plaster cast because of the injury already referred to in this blog and so I cannot drive; but I phoned up a friend to drive the car for me so that I can be there at the college gate to bring her home on the date of her retirement. My son Vishnu (who doesn't drive though he is 24) too was in the car.

In fact, Ambi does not believe in any such show of sentiments—she is a down-to-earth lady, who does not believe in display of sentiments. All the same, I felt I should not miss this opportunity to be the HIM who was with her on the day she began her professional career and also the HIM who was with her on the day she finished her long professional career as a highly respected teacher.


Monday, 11 March 2013

Thoughts in times of silence

There are times when one finds time standing still.

I have been experiencing it off and on these past few days.
For more than a month now, I am at home with my right leg in plaster cast from toe to knee.
I will be in this condition till the first week of May.
Three months of forced sitting.

The mind is quiet.
I am not under the shadow of work worries.
I don't have to buy vegetables and drive around the city keeping appointments.
I can't go to the Cellar, where we friends nightly unwind over a few drinks.

I am free from my all my routines. There is no running around to keep time. I am just sitting.

I look out of the window.
In this silence, there is no observer, only the observed, when the seeing takes place.
I vanish. Only the sparkling rectangle of the view through the window is there.
There are tall coconut trees lit by the sun and two goats grazing in the small green valley there.
Only the sparkling rectangle is there and everything in the rectangle is breathing.

I mull over the question 'what is Mu' and finally find it a squeaking object, like a clammy wet frog suddenly in my pocket.

I start hearing the squeaking sound of Mu in the cawing of the crows, the bleating of the goats and the whisper of the wind. I smell it in an orange my wife had left by my bedside before leaving for her work. I eat it at 11 a.m., as she had advised.

I think of my face before either my father or mother was born.
My face looks exactly as it looks in the mirror, but neither me nor the mirror was there when my father and mother were born. There is no need to check the dates of manufacture.
I am up against a clueless mystery...

Who am I, anyway?
Who is typing all these things on the blog?
Whose thoughts are they exactly?
Who is this chap here before the computer thinking about a way to end this piece, his right foot in plaster cast, from toe to knee, taking three months' rest?


(P.S.: Thinking over the question through lunch and sleep,
with the answer one wakes up in the evening:


Monday, 4 March 2013

What is 'Mu'?

What is 'Mu'? What is 'Mu'? What is 'Mu'?

I know it deep down I know it!
As though, in a forgotten dream,
In a forgotten time,
I had known it very dearly.

In fact, only just now have I placed it somewhere.
I am all wrong in grammar!

Can I say,
It is shaped somewhat like this...
But I cannot tell you its shape...

The day's mail,
This month's telephone bill:
Is it 'Mu'? Is it 'Mu'? Is it 'Mu'?

Is 'Mu' me or you,
Or a combination of both?

Is it negative, affirmative,
Or just an adjective, a colour, a smell?

Or, is it the ticking of the clock?
The clock, the clock?..

Or, is it the Hindustani Raga
Chaliye Kunjanumo,
Soft on the DVD player,
Honey flowing over each note?

Or, is it,
By any chance,
A black mole under the left ear,
Slightly to the back side of the neck?

(I am flabbergasted by the wondrous coincidence:
It is something from my SSLC book!)

"What is 'Mu'?" is a koan Zen masters usually assign to monks at a particular stage in Zen training.

A monk one day asked Zen master Chao-chou (Joshu), wanting earnestly to know: "Master, tell me. Has a dog the Buddha-nature, or not?"

Joshu retorted: "Mu"!

This is the background. Training in koan involves asking the novice to think over this answer day and night, as though their very life depended on finding its meaning.

There are other koans also that are assigned to the novice during Zen training. One such koan is: "How did your face look like before your father and mother were born?"

Solving koans is seen by the masters as a way to break you out of your habit of seeing things only from within the limitations of logic and reason. It is about transcending the realms of thinking.


Murali Nagapuzha

Given below is the link to an article, which appeared in the metro plus page of the Delhi edition of The Hindu today, about the memories of 1960's evoked by the paintings of Murali Nagapuzha, my friend. 

Friday, 1 March 2013

movement of thought

it is interesting to lie quietly in a silent room,
in a silent home,
all through the silent day
just the movement of thoughts.

thoughts are of two categories.

the first type of thoughts are the ones that come and go and are fleeting in nature.
they have a beginning and an end...
like bubbles, on a stream, they pop open and are suddenly there.
they flow with the flow, for a while,
and then vanish into the air, without leaving a sign.

the other type of thoughts are persistent in nature.
they are not fleeting like the bubbles,
but represent the steady flow of the stream itself.
the stream carries with it the tumult of all the waters it had gathered upstream.

if you watch the movement of thoughts in you,
by and by,
you feel like sitting on the bank of the stream
and watching the flow...

and you realize you are not the flow you see.


Monday, 18 February 2013

the question of rape

some time back, when the media was full of reports about the gruesome rape in new delhi and the nationwide outrage it created, a friend asked me what did i think of the issue. he was of the view rapists should be given capital punishment.

i was confused what to say. but the question reminded me of the only time my father beat me, which was a long time back when i was six or seven years old. i have recorded it elsewhere in my blog: ( )
he did not tell me why he beat me; but there was an unsaid message in the incident from a father to his son, at a very tender age...

then my wife was telling me the other day about a seminar on the subject in her college and how there were reputed speakers at the programme, who all disappointed her with shallow speeches.

she says no one speaks about the core thing. no mother who had brought up her son with love will want to continue her life after hearing her son has committed rape. he is raping her first when he is raping a woman.

and just now, while reading Adhyatma Ramayana, i come to the place where Sumithra gives her son Lakshmana a few words of advice as he prepares to leave Ayodhya with Rama and Sita for 14 years' banishment in the forests. I shall roughly translate the lines as folows:

always be with your elder brother serving him, never separating from him. hold him in your heart as you do with love your father Dasharadhan. take Sita for your loving mother, and always see the forests where you go as Ayodhya itself.

this, i think, is the key. for our sons not to become rapists, blinded by ignorance and lust, they should come to understand what true love is, who a woman is, what the relationship between man and woman is. this understanding can come only when they experience true love at home and receive good eduction, which is not in the degrees they win in the universities.


from the hectic to the static

the first change i notice, on shifting pace in life from the hectic to the static, is this dramatic drop in my personal expenses.

i cannot disclose the sum since my wife too occasionally reads this blog. it is sufficient to state that the amount involved is significant when considered in relation to my income.

i don't have to pay for petrol now. that was one major daily expense... also, i don't have to ask prakash, our friend at the cellar, how much was the bill for the day.

the stunning fact is that my personal expenses have come down to zero. i don't spend any money nowadays even for the cigarettes i smoke, because my friends bring them free to me!


Saturday, 16 February 2013

Appooppa, tell me another story!

Neha was staying with us till yesterday evening, having come on February 8 hearing about Appooppa falling down broken-legged and crying. From the time of Appooppa's discharge from hospital, she had been taking good care of him at home. She would run errants from the sickroom to the kitchen to bring oranges and so on (even a matchbox) and tell him nice stories from morning to evening. She would also frequently ask Appooppa to tell her 'yet another story'.

She had to leave for Kannur with her parents yesterday because she had already lost many days' class at her playschool for being with Appooppa in his hour of sorrow.

Her ma'am telephoned her mother even yesterday to express her concern over Neha missing so many classes. She had taught Neha's friends many new things during the past one week. When Neha goes back to school the coming Monday, she will have a heavy load of "activities" pending to be done. But she will surely handle the problem very efficiently. She has to catch up with her classmates!

One of the new things they were taught during Neha's absence was how to stick bird pictures in a noteook. Pictures of the crow, the peacock, the duck, the parrot and the kite, not to mention the kingfisher and the woodpecker.

Neha can do all these things in double quick time! Ma'am does not know these little secrets! Ha ha ha!!!


Wednesday, 13 February 2013


Questioner: Why do you feel so shy?

Krishnamurti: You know, it is an extraordinary thing in life to be anonymous--not to be famous or great, not to be very learned, not to be a tremendous reformer or revolutionary, just to be nobody; and when one really feels that way, to be suddenly surrounded by a lot of curious people creates a sense of withdrawal. That is all.

(From the book 'Think on These Things', consisting of J. Krishnamurti's talks and discussions with students, teachers and parents in India.)


Tuesday, 12 February 2013

a stage still beyond

then will come a stage (i said)
when i am not disturbed
when with global warming and all that sort of thing
the tides rise sweeping away all that is dear and close to me;

a stage (i told her),
when i am not disturbed
and am a man of perfect poise
even when i don't get a cigarette after my supper.


Monday, 11 February 2013


On January 7, while playing for my organisation in the annual cricket tournament of the Press Club of Thiruvananthapuram, I injured my right foot. I hadn't thought the injury serious and had been limping along in pain hoping the foot will mend by itself. Then on February 5, while stepping out of the Cellar where we journalists meet nightly to share the day's gossip over a few drinks, my legs buckled and I had to sit on the pavement. My friends took me immediately to a nearby hospital. The next day the doctors conducted a surgery on my leg to tie up the broken ends of the achilles tendon, which had ruptured. I was discharged from the hospital on February 8, with advice not to put the injured foot on the ground for two months. A tendon injury takes longer than a bone injury to heal; and Dr. Kailas Viswanath, who led the surgery, said my foot was in a very bad condtion. He was surprised how I had carried on with the injury for nearly a month.

So, the long and short of the thing is I am to take rest for around three months. My daughter bought me a laptop computer and these are the first lines I am typing on it. I have started reading Thunchath Ezhuthachan's Adhyatma Ramayana. I look forward to finishing it in a couple of weeks and moving on to the other books I had always wanted to read. It is a pleasant feeling to be without the pressure of work. I started my working career on May 27, 1977, the day after I finished my BSc exams. First I was a supervisor in a Spinning Mill and it was on December 15, 1978, I began my long career in The Hindu. I have less than 4 years left before retiring from my job. I haven't had a break all these years. So now I am taking a break...

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Angels in Tiger Land

I was pleasantly surprised just now to see on the internet a story I had written a few years ago on a film on butterflies. I am not a butterfly expert. However, while doing the story I had clearly taken a lot of pain to learn the subject of the film, although I have by now forgotten everything I had learned for the sake of the story then. With the writing of the story, I had forgotten everything. I don't even remember writing the story. That was what surprised me... Just recording the surprise...

This is the link to the story: