A womb in the Brain

A WOMB IN THE BRAIN

P. Raja

(D-88, Poincare Street, Olandai-Keerapalayam, Puducherry-605 004. Cell:09443617124, e-mail: rajbusybee@gmail.com)

 

Every Poem is from the heart. Every heart is itself a poem. Heartless people can never be poets. Zombies never write poems.

When the heart goes heavy it fills our eyes with tears. The tears that stream down our face lessen the burden the heart experiences. And on another occasion when the heart goes light, tears trickle out of our eyes or fill our eyes. We call them tears of joy, don’t we?

Every tear drop, be it the result of joy or sorrow, speaks of the experience the heart undergoes. Our sweetest songs are those that tell not only of our saddest thoughts but also of our most joyful ones.

Poems are nothing but tear drops. For they, be they made of sorrow or glee, are the expression of the heart. This is how poems are born. This is also the reason why poet can’t write poems, just for the bidding. At least, I can’t write like that.

One can write a short story or a novel or a play or an essay, when it is assigned and no writer worth his salt would ever say ‘no’ to such assignments, unless the writer  is neck deep in water. But no poem comes out when assigned. Only poetasters could succeed in doing it.

Every poem needs a gestation period. Every poet is blessed with a womb in the brain. All things that touch his heart and disturb him, take the shape of poems. And writing a poem is akin to that of delivering a child.

The poet himself is not sure of what happens to him when the process when it takes place. Here is my short poem that tries to describe the pleasant situation.

I know and I do not know

What urges me

to write this poem?

I do not know.

Only thing I know

is that I am not

What I was.

 

Yet the pen moves

swifter as usual on paper

making smudges all over

with twists and turns.

 

I do not know

what I will be

when my poem is done.

Only thing I know

is that my pen

will hold back its tongue.

And the white paper

will remain immaculate.

 

Well! The brain child is born with a palpitating heart, of course. I have simply clothed an idea with words.

Now, it is up to you, dear readers, to ask my child a question. I am sure you will not ask this question unless you like my child, I have allowed to wander. And if you happen to come across my child and if at all you take a liking for my child, you ask this question: Hei, child! Who is you father?”

If my child says, “Oh! He is P.RAJA”, then I am a poet, blessed by Goddess Saraswati.

Feb 06, 2013

READING FOR PLEASURE

READING FOR PLEASURE

 

Parents of today ask a funny question: ‘Why should we go for the pleasure of reading when there are several other things around that are made purely for giving pleasure?” A very valid question indeed.  We can not expect the modern parents to ask a different question especially when their minds are all boggled by the advent of several electronic goods. These are days when even elementary school kids have their own e-mail ids and browse happily in internet cafes.

 

Readinghas a pleasure of its own. That sets the ball rolling and the next question that crops up is ‘Why do we read books?’ As a reader and lover of books for more than four decades and as one who has moved with several voracious readers I feel that people read books for four reasons at least.

 

To keep our mind away from worries and problems is the major reason for reading books. That is to say, by reading books we can enter a different world away from reality that is bothering us. In short, we read books for escape.

 

The second kind of readers who go through books are the helpless lot who have no other option but to use the books. Businessmen, school teachers, college professors, doctors and all those of their ilk…they have to. And the primary purpose is to know, because they have understood that they do not know.

 

Reading for status …that is racing to keep up with the books “everybody’ is reading. When I have read the latest in the bestseller list, how can you afford to betray your ignorance? Shame on your status. These are the third kind of readers.

 

Those who read for pleasure belong to the fourth category. These are the people who love reading and belong to that clan that can boast of having the most satisfying hobby in life. Most booksellers rely on this category of readers when they publish a book. Most book exhibitions are aimed at this sort of readers.

 

Readingfor pleasure may not help us in getting through interviews or get a better job or even keep up with Bill Gates. But this hobby, like a true friend, comforts us when we are neck deep in trouble. It may add a new dimension of enjoyment to all our leisure activities. We must understand that works written originally for public entertainment are in no sense the private property of English professors. I, being a Professor of English for nearly three and a half decades, maintain that the bulk of what generally passes as literature belongs to the people for whose pleasure it was surely written.

 

People who read for pleasure are those who care to read for the sake of reading, and for the epicurean enjoyment it provides. The true friends of literature are those who manufacture books with a view of giving pleasure to others; and those who buy and read books with a view to giving pleasure to themselves. Pleasure reading helps us in increasing one’s understanding of humanity and thereby assures us peaceful if not endearing relationships in society. Good books invariably tell us that people are everywhere the same, regardless of the geographical or historical positions and this conduces to a tolerant attitude toward friend and neighbour.. Through this knowledge we can strive for peace which is the need of the hour.

 

P. RAJA

 

 

TO K. D. SETHNA WITH LOVE

TO K. D. SETHNA WITH LOVE

 

Dear Sir,

I am sorry I was unable to attend your funeral for I was hospitalised for a major operation. Yet I could have made it, but for the physicians in the private hospital who warned me not to move out of bed for a few days at least. I insisted on seeing you at least for a couple of minutes, but my sister who is an anaesthetist caring for me in the hospital room raised her finger and wagged it at me. It is good to have a physician in the family. But at times a big botheration too.

When did I see you last? Must be two years ago, if my memory does not fail me. When I entered your room in the Ashram dispensary sometime by sundown, the bed you usually occupied was empty. The nurse who was making your bed was kind enough to inform me that you were in your wheel chair in the hall facing the sea.

I tip-toed my way to the hall, my aim being not to disturb the many ailing men and women, probably on their death beds there. I sat cross-legged on the floor by the side of your wheel chair, and directed my eyes to go along with yours.

All poets love the sea. The ever rolling waves trying to gain a piece of land for themselves and the land refusing with a scowl and forcing them to retrace their steps… Ah, what a lovely sight the ocean makes! Who would not find time to stand and stare at the sea? That day we two, guru and shishya, stared at the Bay of Bengal without disturbing each other.

It was I who broke the silence, by clearing my throat.

“Hello, Raja! When did you come here?” You asked

“I don’t know, Sir!” I told you a lie. “How long are you here?” I asked.

“Who?  Me ?… I do not know. I do not know why I am still here. I do not know what I am going to do here,” you said. I knew what you meant by the word ‘here’. Tears threatened to trickle out of my eyes. How can a writer like me, a child of yours, who had the privilege of studying the art of writing under you, ever afford to lose you?

I guess you saw my tears… Then you said, “Perhaps my name is playing hide and seek with the Lord of Death and he is still in search of it in his mammoth register,” and made me laugh.

I know you are full of humour and your jokes are not meant to hurt anyone.

I still remember the day when I entered your house where you last stayed before you shifted to the Dispensary, I saw a few foreigners sitting around you and having a chat with you. When I felt a bit hesitant to intrude you smiled and welcomed me: “Come in, Raja and join the lit-chit-chat.” You then introduced to me all the four foreigners who were all women and told them “Here is Prof.P.Raja, our star-reviewer for Mother India.” I felt elated for you have honoured me with such a nice certificate.

When I searched for a chair to sit in, your eyes rowed all over your study-cum-office and finding all the chairs occupied you said without any hesitation; “No chairs! Then choose a lap” and sent every one of us to rib-tickling laughter.

“When is it not a feast with Sethna around?” I heard someone comment there.

I was one among those blessed few who had the honour of laughing with you. And whenever you made me laugh, I thought to myself what a sincere disciple of Sri Aurobindo you were. Was it not the Yogi’s Yogi who said, “Humour is the salt of existence”?

At a time when I began writing poems without knowing what really was meant by the word ‘poem’, and showed them to you for your comments, you were quite frank in passing your judgement. You said, “Don’t waste my time”. The next time I opened my folder before you, you asked me smiling charmingly as usual: “What? You have brought something for my bin?”

I laughed before I showed you a folder of seven poems. You went through them as an ophthalmologist would with an eye. You selected one and you tore the rest to pieces under my very eyes and threw them into your cane bin. The poem you selected for publication in Mother India was “One Aim- One Desire-One Goal”. Later you gave me a copy of Oct.1979 issue of Mother India, congratulated me and said: “Follow the title of your poem in life too”. I took your advice very seriously and till today, Sir , I strictly follow it.

Out of the six hundred and odd poems I had written and published so far in various journals both in India and elsewhere, you have published less than a dozen poems in Mother India. But when those poems were reproduced in American Journals and a few dollars rolled into my coffers, I recognized the worth of Mother India and understood your caliber as its editor.

I always wondered how at this ripe old age, you meticulously edited Mother India, the brain child of our great master Sri Aurobindo. Once when I entered your study, I saw you proof-read the pages of the forthcoming issue of Mother India. You gave me a page of the proof and asked me to proof read it. I felt extremely jittery and nervous. Yet you encouraged me to go ahead. I did what best I could do and showed it to you. You went through that once again and found more mistakes on that page than I succeeded in finding. “You need to be a bit more careful when you proof-read. It is like tight-rope walking. If you lose your balance then that paves way for your fall. Mistakes in a magazine tell upon its editor. The editor should never allow his readers to look down upon him.” O Sir! You are a lofty personality. One can only look upon you for help.

How can I ever forget the day I met you my dear sir? It was on Feb.21,1979… Mother’s birthday… Darshan day in our Ashram. It was around eleven in the morning. Mr. George Moses, (a retired Superintendent of Police, a voracious reader and editor of a literary journal Youth Age) introduced me to you in your house at Rue Suffren, where you lived with your wife. It must be mentioned in passing that your wife became a great fan of mine when I began to write my creative short stories and also translated Tamil fiction for Mother India.

But the day I met you I was only a budding writer, a struggling writer with a very strong itch to write. I placed a cardboard file before you and spread it open.

“What is this?” you asked.

“A file of clippings… all my writings,” I answered with my hands shaking in fear.

“Oh, I see! What do you want me to do with them?”

“Go through them when you find time… If my writings could get me a chance to write in Mother India, then I would consider myself a blessed being,” I said in all humility.

“I see, “You said as you flipped through the clippings in the folder. You then banged it shut. I was disappointed because you didn’t even bother to read a single line.

“Can you review a book for Mother India?” You asked looking at me through your thick glasses.

“Review? I have not written a book review so far.”

“Perhaps you were not given a chance so far. Then try with this,” You said giving me a copy of Collected works of Nalini Kanta Gupta –Vol.7. It weighed heavily both in my hand and on my mind. “You review will speak for your literary acumen and will help me judge your writing abilities.”

“Life is full of challenges,” you said and added, “Take this too as a challenge.”

You then advised me on the art of reviewing books. I had taken heart from your short lecture, took about a month to go through the book, wrote the review and submitted it to you. You went through the whole review making editorial changes. You beamed with joy and said: “You can write for Mother India.”

I jumped for joy.

By the end of April you gave me a copy of May 1979 issue of Mother India, patted me on the back and invited me to write regularly for Mother India. Thus began our friendship and continues till today. I am not ready to believe that you are no more here in Pondicherry.

Out of the three hundred and odd editors of magazines and newspapers both in India and elsewhere, who published my writings so far, I think you are the only one magnanimous enough to devote several hundred pages for my literary effusions.

Is not the writer in me a blessed being who gained valuable experience and training under your tutelage?

A quarter century ago when my daughter was not even two years old, I brought her along to your house. That was the first time she went to your home. As we entered your study, the child saw you, stood spell-bound for a minute and then whispered into my ears, “Appa! He is god.”

“What did she say?” you asked me touching her chubby cheeks.

I/repeated what she whispered. And you said, “If her soul could see the god in me, then I have not lived in vain.”

It took a very long time for me to understand your statement. Yes sir! I got the message.

Do gods die?

Affectionately Yours,

P.RAJA

 

 

 

THE PLEASURE OF SHOPPING

THE PLEASURE OF SHOPPING

Ever since I saw, the advertisement that read ‘shop like a man’ my mind was not at rest. At first, the wordings tickled my funny bones.

What is it to shop like a man? If the word ‘man’ is replaced with its female counterpart, then it really makes sense. For in my house women did most of the shopping. When I was very young, I found myself assisting my mother by carrying for her bag loads of items she purchased in the weekends. Then when I grew up and got married, my wife took up the responsibility.  My father very rarely did the shopping and during my regime as head of the family, I strictly adhered to the policy of my father – “Man for making money and women for spending them.” In my neighbourhood too men sacrificed the pleasure of shopping to women. And so, the slogan ‘shop like a man’ began to play poser to me.

On second thoughts, I found a venue opening up before my mind’s eye. How can one find the truth of the matter, unless one plunges headlong into it? Hence, I decided to go for shopping to find out for myself how to shop like a man. Deepavali came as a good excuse for doing the shopping.

On a Saturday morning  I wore a costly white dhoti and a minister white shirt half-sleeves, slipped my legs into a pair of leather chappals, put on my reebok dark glasses and said, “see you, dear” to my wife.

“Hmm..Hmm…m…Inaugurating a literary association? Or delivering a talk in a book release function?” my wife asked.

“For shopping,” I said and started my car. She looked at me as if I were from another world for she could not believe her ears. Her only suspicion was why her husband should put on the best meant for attending functions when he wanted to go for shopping. She did not know that I wanted to shop like a man. And this is the only sort of dress that modern women have spared to men. God knows when they would snatch this too away and call it the latest in the market for women.

Driving a car in the town is a real adventure. “If you successfully drive in Pondicherry, you can drive anywhere in the world”, people say.  Even if you succeed, finding a place to park your car is like finding the mythological unicorn.

I was lucky enough to find a place in Nehru Street just opposite to a mall in which I make use of the ATM services of my bank. A push of the button and I was rich. The moment I found my shirt pocket bulging with currency notes, all of Rs. 1000 denomination, my gait had completely changed. I moved out of the ATM centre, puffing out my chest. May be, this is yet another aspect of ‘Shopping like a man’.

My next questions were what am I to shop and what shop to choose. Festivals remind us of new clothes. I decided to buy clothes for the entire family, comprising five grown-ups and two kids. That means I should shop in three places—Men’s Wear, Women’s Apparel and kids dress. It is not that I do not know that all these items are available in just one shop especially in Pondicherry, where tycoons from various parts of India are spreading their tentacles to do business. However, I felt that no man, worthy the name, would ever enter a small shop and so I searched for the biggest. In Nehru Street, almost every shop selling clothes is as big as a palace and so I chose one to do the shopping. I found a milling crowd inside and so stepped back. I tried with a second, third and fourth, and found that every shop was crowded.

I had no other option but to elbow my way in. That too befits a man, I said to myself, as I somehow managed to gain entry into the kids wear section.

I know, as a man, the children have to be satisfied first. Further, they will be happy with whatever dress material we choose and will not disappoint us with questions of a sad order.

Wow! What a wide variety! How to choose from an ocean, as the sellers call their shops? I never had experienced such a tough time in my life. Yet with great difficulty, I managed to select the best for my grand children.

Winged Time flew fast. When the goods were billed, I was so tired and exhausted. I felt a pinching in my stomach. I looked at my watch. It showed 2.30 p.m.

My God! Have I skipped my lunch? I am accustomed to taking my lunch exactly at 12.30 p.m. on all working days.

My fingers began to shiver as usual for they spoke on behalf of my empty stomach.

To navigate my way in the crowded city to reach my home some 7 kms away would take me another hour. Why should not I eat out?

I entered a nearby restaurant that boasted of multi-cuisines. I eagerly entered. I was honoured with a token. My token showed the number 77. “Token number 70 is having his lunch, Sir. You will have to wait for five to seven minutes”, someone said. I agreed.

How many seven minutes passed I did not know. Someone woke me up and said, “You can go in and have your lunch, Sir.” I realized that hunger has subsided and sleep had hugged me.

When I came out of the restaurant, after eating for the sake of eating, I said to myself— Oh! This shopping is for women. They are really patience incarnate.

P. RAJA

BE INDIAN STUDY INDIAN

BE INDIAN, STUDY INDIAN

P. RAJA

There was a time when educated Indians wishing to show off their knowledge of the English language began writing about the English countryside. Their purpose was also to reach a wider audience.

A politician poet too began to use the English language as her mode of expression. She wrote about the meadows, lawns and woods of the English countryside. She also wrote about the cuckoo, giving passing references to English myths and legends. Before she could gain complete confidence over her way of writing, an Englishman gave a rap on her head and said, “Write about the things you are familiar with”. Those words played a turning point in her poetic career. She began to write about bangle sellers and palanquin bearers. By writing about such topics she was familiar with she was able to introduce India to Indians and also to the outsiders, for her chosen medium was an international language.

The politician poet was Mrs. Sarojini Naidu. And the Englishman was Sir Edmund Gosse. Had not Mr. Gosse interfered at the right moment, Sarojini Naidu like many others would have concentrated on a different culture and would have talked more about daffodils and oaks, that we poor Indians have never seen in our lifetime. In fact, Edmund Gosse paved way for a writing that can be called truly Indian Writing in English.

Both in school and college, our students hear a lot in their classrooms about coniferous forest and Iceland, Napoleon Bonaparte and Hitler, Plato and Aristotle. Very rarely they are taught about our Chirapunji rainfalls and Tanjore Temple, Akbar and Raja Raja Chola, and Swami Vivekananda and Ramana Maharishi.

Literature is something that one sees, feels and experiences as one reads. A poem like the ‘Lotus’ (Toru Dutt), a short story like the ‘Sparrows’ (K. A. Abbas), a novel like ‘A Tiger at Twilight’ (Manoj Das), an essay like the ‘Reluctant Guru’ (R.K.Narayan) can be easily and quickly understood by the teacher because the subject matter the Indian authors deal with are outright Indian and is embedded in their psyche. No wonder that he reads between the lines easily and quickly to grasp the meaning of the work and therefore interprets and imparts to the students who are also interested in knowing more about the familiar seen differently.

Most British, American and Irish authors prescribed by Indian Universities in their syllabi are understood, of course, with great difficulty by our students. This is also to say that teachers too try to understand such authors with the available bazaar notes, whose low standard would make any genuine scholar shy away from them. Vice-Chancellors of Universities invariably talk of the deteriorating standards of students and helpless teachers. Instead, a second thought on such mud-slinging would help Vice-Chancellors wake up to healthy situations. There is no use of simply hollering ‘Be Indian. Buy Indian.’ We should stick to that slogan we rave and recite if we want to be truly Indian. ‘Stick to our culture’ should be made a new slogan in our university campuses.

Indian writing in English has already made a mark round the globe. Shakespeare and Hardy, Shaw and Joyce, Mark Twain and James Thurber hereafter should take a back seat and watch the Indians writing in English move to the front row.

Diaspora Indian writers cry over their own problems, problems they brought on themselves by running away from their Motherland and so let them face the music and have their problems to themselves. Let them not struggle to transfer their headaches and bellyaches on to our students, who are yet to decide as to where they should start their life after college.

These days the best of awards go to Indian writing in English and the time is not very far when foreigners would stop saying, ‘India can boast of only one writer, Rabindranath Tagore, to bag the Nobel Prize for literature.

Recognition for Indian Writing in English has started coming from different corners of the globe. But it has to come from its home too.

 

Dr. P.Raja

88, Poincare Street,

Olandai-Keerapalayam,

Pondicherry-605 004

rajbusybee@gmail.com

cell: 9443617124