“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Heavy, Empty Heart

New Year Eve evening. Like the last few New Year eves, this one too, I shall spend with my family. And I will fondly recollect the many New Year eves of my youth. The many drunken orgies, standing atop hills in forests shrouded in mist, walking alone in the Himalayas, sitting at the Wellington Island Embarkation Jetty with a friend.

I had half-heartedly tried to pick a friend today for an evening drink together. I don’t frequent this habit; when I do, I drink only with close friends or such company I am totally at ease with. There aren’t many friends left here; those left are occupied otherwise. So be it.

But today’s news left me even more brooding about the coming new year. A young, pretty girl of 21 died near University College in a freak accident. I gazed at her face for a long time. Twenty one! Then, there was news in the morning about the blaze at Karunagappalli when a gas tanker and car collided and killed a few. Many of the casualties were brought to the Medical College Hospital (very close to where I work). Don’t know how many more might die.

I am not depressed; but these tragedies leave me listless and disturbed. I cannot, I really cannot celebrate New Year. I guess I will sit quietly in my room, listen to some old Hindi songs and read a book. It is not any guilt or sorrow that makes me feel like this. It is just this heavy emptiness that bogs me down.

I won’t write a poem. I won’t. But let me wish you, my friends, the very proof of my existence, a Happy New Year.

************* Balachandran, Trivandrum, 31.12.2009

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


The hall was filled with audience. They had come from far and near to listen to the old poet. At one end, on the raised podium, sat the old man, head bent and silent. Then somebody asked him to recite a poem. His poem. Words he had written. Raising his head, the old man looked at the people. His strength had gone; he knew he hadn't much longer to live. His memory had faded, there were too many to remember. Looking at the people who waited patiently, with love, to listen to his poem, the old man searched his memory. Then it came, the words in soft Spanish. He spoke of love.

He would have remembered the black hair that flowed in the wind, the red lips that send blood surging through him, those dark eyes that drew his heart and hid it between her breasts, those gentle, caring arms that embraced him and made him forget himself.

The old poet stopped. He couldn't remember the next line. He looked around for her, asking her help. Then – a man rose from the audience and recited the line. Then, another rose and the poet heard the next line. It flowed, from the different corners of the hall. The old man sat up straight and from his eyes flowed tears of happiness....

Couple of weeks ago, at the annual Bodheswaran Memorial Lecture, Sasi Tharoor spoke of those who were politicians as well as writers. Who amidst their duties as world leaders found solace and strength in writing. He spoke of Neruda.

Below, you will find a few poems by Neruda. I write this about him, because I believe any work of art that lay claim to be one, has to be created in love. Even when we speak of hatred or sorrow, we should remember we are talking about love; or the lack of it. All the rest is mere contortions of the mind. The essence of life is love. One can only pity those who cannot love, those who are afraid to love and those who pretend to love.

Ode to Sadness

Sadness, scarab

With seven crippled feet,

Spider web egg,

scramble-brained rat,

bitch's skeleton:

No entry here.

Don't come in.

Go away.

Go back

south with your umbrella,

go back

north with your serpent's teeth.

A poet lives here.

No sadness may

cross this threshold.

Through these windows

comes the breath of the world,

fresh red roses,

flags embroidered with

the victories of the people.


No entry.


your bat's wings,

I will trample the feathers

that fall from your mantle,

I will sweep the bits and pieces

of your carcass to

the four corners of the wind,

I will wring your neck,

I will stitch your eyelids shut,

I will sew your shroud,

sadness, and bury your rodent bones

beneath the springtime of an apple tree.


I Crave Your Mouth, Your Voice, Your Hair

Don't go far off, not even for a day

Don't go far off, not even for a day, because --

because -- I don't know how to say it: a day is long

and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station

when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

Don't leave me, even for an hour, because

then the little drops of anguish will all run together,

the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift

into me, choking my lost heart.

Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;

may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.

Don't leave me for a second, my dearest,

because in that moment you'll have gone so far

I'll wander lazily over all the earth, asking,

Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying?


From – Twenty Poems of Love

I can write the saddest lines tonight.

Write for example: ‘The night is fractured

and they shiver, blue, those stars, in the distance’

The night wind turns in the sky and sings.

I can write the saddest lines tonight.

I loved her, sometimes she loved me too.

On nights like these I held her in my arms.

I kissed her greatly under the infinite sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.

How could I not have loved her huge, still eyes.

I can write the saddest lines tonight.

To think I don’t have her, to feel I have lost her.

Hear the vast night, vaster without her.

Lines fall on the soul like dew on the grass.

What does it matter that I couldn’t keep her.

The night is fractured and she is not with me.

That is all. Someone sings far off. Far off,

my soul is not content to have lost her.

As though to reach her, my sight looks for her.

My heart looks for her: she is not with me

The same night whitens, in the same branches.

We, from that time, we are not the same.

I don’t love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.

My voice tried to find the breeze to reach her.

Another’s kisses on her, like my kisses.

Her voice, her bright body, infinite eyes.

I don’t love her, that’s certain, but perhaps I love her.

Love is brief: forgetting lasts so long.

Since, on these nights, I held her in my arms,

my soul is not content to have lost her.

Though this is the last pain she will make me suffer,

and these are the last lines I will write for her.


A Dog Has Died

My dog has died.

I buried him in the garden

next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I'll join him right there,

but now he's gone with his shaggy coat,

his bad manners and his cold nose,

and I, the materialist, who never believed

in any promised heaven in the sky

for any human being

I believe in a heaven I'll never enter.

Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom

where my dog waits for my arrival

waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

Ai, I'll not speak of sadness here on earth,

of having lost a companion

who was never servile.

His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine

withholding its authority,

was the friendship of a star, aloof,

with no more intimacy than was called for,

with no exaggerations:

he never climbed all over my clothes

filling me full of his hair or his mange,

he never rubbed up against my knee

like other dogs obsessed with sex.

No, my dog used to gaze at me,

paying me the attention I need,

the attention required

to make a vain person like me understand

that, being a dog, he was wasting time,

but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,

he'd keep on gazing at me

with a look that reserved for me alone

all his sweet and shaggy life,

always near me, never troubling me,

and asking nothing.

Ai, how many times have I envied his tail

as we walked together on the shores of the sea

in the lonely winter of Isla Negra

where the wintering birds filled the sky

and my hairy dog was jumping about

full of the voltage of the sea's movement:

my wandering dog, sniffing away

with his golden tail held high,

face to face with the ocean's spray.

Joyful, joyful, joyful,

as only dogs know how to be happy

with only the autonomy

of their shameless spirit.

There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,

and we don't now and never did lie to each other.

So now he's gone and I buried him,

and that's all there is to it.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Today is Bank Strike. I am at home. P has left for college, K to his friend’s for studying. I cleaned the house; swept and dusted and swiped the rooms, while listening to Elvis, Mukesh and Kishore da. Now, resting, I listen to Lighthouse Family’s song. It is what is called of the ‘Easy listening’ genre. I feel good, relaxed and for the time being, at peace with the world. Before K left, he made me watch a bit from the movie, ‘Taare zameen par’. It is about handicapped children; dyslexic, mongoloid and such mentally challenged children. Together we watch a scene. K tells me – ‘Acha, this is what I want to do, to work with such children, to help them.’ We reminiscence about helping blind people cross the road and how elated we would feel after that. I am touched and glad that the two of us could talk like this. I am happy that he has realized what he wants to do with his life; not to make money, not to climb ladders, not to join the rat race. I am happy that my son has compassion for the less fortunate. In him, my faith in humanity is restored.

I have given below the link to Youtube of the above song. And also the lyrics ( in spite of having listened to English songs since my youth, I still find it difficult to follow the lyrics, which K finds pathetic!). I would like you, my friends, to listen to this song; and believe in the goodness of life. In such moments of inspiration do we find a reason to live…

Love, love to you all.



(I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be) lyrics
I wish I knew how it would feel to be free
I wish I could break all the chains holding me
I wish I could say all the things that I should say
Say 'em loud say 'em clear
For the whole wide world to hear

I wish I could share
All the love that's in my heart
Remove all the bars that keep us apart
And I wish you could know how it is to be me
Then you'd see and agree that every man should be free

I wish I could be like a bird in the sky
How sweet it would be if I found I could fly
Well I'd soar to the sun and look down at the sea
And I'd sing cos I know how it feels to be free

I wish I knew how it would feel to be free
I wish I could break all the chains holding me
And I wish I could say all the things that I wanna say
Say 'em loud say 'em clear
For the whole wide world to hear
Say 'em loud say 'em clear
For the whole wide world to hear
Say 'em loud say 'em clear
For the whole wide world to hear

One love one blood
One life you've got to do what you should
One life with each other
Sisters, brothers

One love but we're not the same
We got to carry each other Carry each other
One One One One One...

I knew how it would feel to be free
I knew how it would feel to be free

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sun Shines Brightly

The evening was full of surprises.

Sunshine had a brighter, merrier tinge

Streets were full of decent men

And every woman looked beautiful.

Signals turned green at my very sight

Youngsters gave way, most obliging.

The fishmonger gave a couple free

The coffee tasted so good.

At the corner shop, I read out

A letter in English

To the unlettered worker

Who listened joyfully, as I told him

His daughter will be home for X’mas.

Passing, slowly, I saw me

In the glass panes -

A happy, smiling, me.

******* Balachandran, Trivandrum, 08.12.09

Friday, December 4, 2009

Sunset sceneries

Yesterday evening, I was waiting near the counsel’s chambers to hand over the money for purchasing stamp paper for the sale deed. I felt drained and exhausted. Never before in my life had I made such a huge financial commitment. It is a gamble that I took; only the future would reveal its fate.

I was on the corner where the road turned left and the lane by the canal veered off to right. Roosting crows cawed; men slunk beside the tea shop. Roosting humans hurried, harried, home. I waited for the lawyer, tense. The recurring thought was how unfit I was in the survival business. I am the kind who would be comfortable in cold mountains; it is not an escapist’s fantasy. I just know I do not belong here.

Then, from the darkening lane, an old woman appeared. Walking briskly, she came up straight to me. I have a habit of automatically noting physical features (cultivated from reading too many detective novels as a boy!). I note the faded, crumpled, soiled green checkered rag that you might call a sari. I note the shabby blouse and the wrinkled, dark skin. Hair is partly grey and she has lost most of the frontal teeth. On her left shoulder hung an old fashioned ‘air bag’ stuffed. I note: beggar woman, late sixties or early seventies, must have seen better days - no, not a beggar; I see it in her eyes.

‘Ente Makkalevide poyi?’ she asked me, Where have my children gone? I assume that grave, expressionless countenance I use for dealing with drunks, the mentally unstable and other avoidable humans. It is a mask of blank face. It works, usually. She glares. She repeats her question. I get uncomfortable and glance at the men standing by the tea shop. They are curious how I would handle the situation. She too glances at them and asked –‘‘Ente Makkalevide poyi?’ The men turn away, avoiding her eyes. I realize that she was not really expecting us to answer her question, because she turned and walked away briskly into the crowd of humanity, asking over and over, about her children.

The old woman is swallowed up by the crowd. I lose sight of her. Nothing really matters, does it? Really, nothing matters.

******** Balachandran V, Trivandrum 04.12.2009