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

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Flower Market

Do not leave, my friend, do not
Leave me with just a glance.
Do not just caress me and leave
Do not just pick me up and smell
My fragrance and throw me back in the basket.

I have been plucked, tenderly
With care not to smudge or crush
My lovely petals even now damp with dew
I wait for thee to hold me to your chest
And take in deep all I have to offer
Look, look at my colour, my grace and beauty
Smell me deep, my sweet scent!

Let me adorn your beloved's head
Or soothe her eyes, still, in the pot.
Let me remind her of you, of your love
For all thats worth in the world is just love.

This is all I have to offer thee, my friend
My life, though it be brief.
Take me, my friend, let me be
A fleeting memory and later
Scatter me to the winds.
What more do I need
What more to fulfill
What more be the purpose of my life?
************ Balachandran, Trivandrum 25.02.2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Aquarian

‘I am tired’, thought he, as he poured

‘Where has it all gone, the sweet waters

That glinted silver in the morning sun

That glistened in the pale moon light

That I carried from afar and gave

So that men and beasts and plants

And the dry crumbling earth may thrive

So that life may spark in them

So that Thy creations shall not grieve!’

Wiping sweat off his brow

He paused as he heard a voice.

He raised his head, looked up

As he saw a vision.

Clouds parted before him –

Above, in the sky,

The clouds drew a painting.

Men, the Aquarian saw

Had fouled the waters with filth.

Poisons spread, laying waste the fish

Wetlands were filled with soil

Seas turned red in oil

Trees were felled

Rivers were dammed

Ponds were killed

Birds were dead

Beasts, bloated, floated dead

In the sweet and clear water

That now turned an angry black.

Clouds closed up the sky –

Then a wind blew, howling

And it rained black, red blood.

Beside him kneeled the last child of earth

Huddling, hugging the last green plant.

************* Balachandran V, Trivandrum 22.02.2010

This is a 'commissioned' poem. I was asked to give a poem for a magazine's special issue on water. The poem may undergo deletion/alterations , though I submitted it since the deadline had arrived. It is kind of 'contrived' - I don't like it much, myself!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Into every word goes a bit of my soul

The books in my library, those other than I inherited from my late father, bear my signature, date and place where I bought them. It is not, as you may think, a mark of my ownership; it is a sign that each of them contains a bit of my soul. Looking at each of them, I can recollect the moment I saw the book, caressed, smelled it, leafed through and with muc pleasure and excitement paid for and became its happy owner. Similarly, my friends, believe me, into every word that I write here, goes a bit of my soul. Read them together – and what I gift you with is what I can call really my own – my self. Scattered among these virtual pages lies kaleidoscopic Balachandran V. You roll it, shake it, take it to light – you have every right to like or dislike, love or hate me.

I am happy that all of you found my gift of C K Williams most endearing. Reading his poems, I gather an image of C K Williams and am humbled that he let me into his soul.

The other poem that I wanted to share with you is not Shame, but Harm – forgive the vagrant memory of an old man! Again, it is not available in the ‘net – therefore I will type it down here. I hope C K Williams would forgive me for this violation of his copyright etc, but believe me, Mr. Williams, I am paying a tribute to you. I would love to buy copies of your ‘A Dream of Mind’ which has ‘Harm’ in it and give to all my friends, but am too poor to do that. All I can hope and fantasize is that perhaps you might read me one day and think of me as a kindred soul who looks up at you, you, like a bright star in the sky…

There is a reason why I am taking this effort. I want you, my friends, to look beyond the walls that surround us. Beyond the walls lies the vast and eternal ocean of life. It is beautiful, ugly; serene, tempestuous. I would like you to look at life the way C K looks at it – with compassion, with dispassion; with love, with detachment; touched and untouched. If what you see is disquieting, remember that it is only your reaction; reality is real and unchanging. All that changes is your perception of life. In perceiving life, you perceive yourself – that is all life is about – understanding and marveling at the you in you. Do not be judgmental, on you or anybody else. Be open and vast like the skies and the sea and the forests that lead to the edge of the horizon. The void and darkness invariably follows – later.

Harm – by C K Williams

With his shopping car, his bags of booty and his wine, I’d always found him inoffensive.

Every neighbourhood has one or two these days; ours never rants at you at least or begs.

He just forages the trash all day, drinks and sings and shadowboxes,

then at nightfall finds a doorway to make camp, set out his battered little radio and slab of rotting foam.

The other day, though, as I was going by, he stepped abruptly out between parked cars,

Undid his pants, and, not even bothering to squat, sputtered out a noxious, almost liquid stream.

there was that, and that his bony shanks and buttocks were already stained beyond redemption,

That his scarlet testicles were blown up bigger than a bull’s with some sorrowful disease,

and that a slender adolescent girl from down the block happened by right then, and looked,

and looked away, and looked at me, and looked away again, and made me want to say to her,

because I imagined what she must have felt, It’s not like this, really, it’s not this,

but she was gone, so I could think, But isn’t it like this, isn’t this just what it is?


My most sincere and warm regards to you all. I value you; immeasurably.

Balachandran, Trivandrum, 12.02.2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

C K Williams

C K Williams is one of my favourite poets. Though his collections are quite expensive, I do have a couple with me. The uniqueness of the structure of his lines as well as the subject matter is quite striking. I would like to share with you a couple of his poems.

On the Metro
by C. K. Williams

On the metro, I have to ask a young woman to move the packages beside her to make room for me;
she’s reading, her foot propped on the seat in front of her, and barely looks up as she pulls them to her.
I sit, take out my own book—Cioran, The Temptation to Exist—and notice her glancing up from hers
to take in the title of mine, and then, as Gombrowicz puts it, she “affirms herself physically,” that is,
becomes present in a way she hadn’t been before: though she hasn’t moved, she’s allowed herself
to come more sharply into focus, be more accessible to my sensual perception, so I can’t help but remark
her strong figure and very tan skin—(how literally golden young women can look at the end of summer.)
She leans back now, and as the train rocks and her arm brushes mine she doesn’t pull it away;
she seems to be allowing our surfaces to unite: the fine hairs on both our forearms, sensitive, alive,
achingly alive, bring news of someone touched, someone sensed, and thus acknowledged, known.

I understand that in no way is she offering more than this, and in truth I have no desire for more,
but it’s still enough for me to be taken by a surge, first of warmth then of something like its opposite:
a memory—a girl I’d mooned for from afar, across the table from me in the library in school now,
our feet I thought touching, touching even again, and then, with all I craved that touch to mean,
my having to realize it wasn’t her flesh my flesh for that gleaming time had pressed, but a table leg.
The young woman today removes her arm now, stands, swaying against the lurch of the slowing train,
and crossing before me brushes my knee and does that thing again, asserts her bodily being again,
(Gombrowicz again), then quickly moves to the door of the car and descends, not once looking back,
(to my relief not looking back), and I allow myself the thought that though I must be to her again
as senseless as that table of my youth, as wooden, as unfeeling, perhaps there was a moment I was not.


The other poem that I wanted to give here was 'The Shame'. However, it is not available in the internet.

I am sure some of you would have read C K Williams; this post is for those who haven't. I hope you will share my enthusiasm for CK.

******** Balachandran Trivandrum 11.02.2010

P S. btw, today is my actual ( read non-official) 52nd birthday! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ME!! :D

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Full Moon and Friends

To get to the sandbar at one end of the reservoir, one has to walk about a kilometer through forests, crossing a stream en route. I had been coming to this place for nearly 25 years. For bird watching at first; then with P for her research work. Last weekend, once again, my old friend Dr Sreenivasan and I went there to camp out in the open under a full moon.

One of the blessings of getting older is the company of old friends. You can be you with them. No need to pretend. They know you thorough and thorough and hopefully, they respect and love you for what you are. I am sure otherwise they wouldn’t spare their time and life for you. I would always remember how Doc and I met first. A common friend had introduced us, as one birdwatcher to another. Within 5 minutes, we decided to go on a long bike ride to Thattekad Sanctuary for bird watching. The relationship retains the same flavour and fervour it had 23 years ago. We go to the wilderness once in a while, though both are too lazy to do extensive bird watching now. Generally we booze, discuss food and philosophy in the same breath.

The day was January 30 and we blundered as ever; no liquor shops on Gandhiji’s death anniversary! Fortunately, another friend supplied us the vital fluid in sufficient quantity.

We were much excited this time. One, the full moon; two, Doc’s recently acquired new tarp, which his son’s friend in the States had gifted to him. One of the many passions we shared was sleeping outdoors, with a little fire to warm the body and a little spirit for the spirit. We had another friend with us this time, Gopi, a well-known wildlife photographer, who had chucked his job as Photo Editor in a very popular English Weekly and now freelanced and free rolled in the forests.

As the sun set, we set up our camp on the sand bar at the edge of the waters of the reservoir. We could hear a lot of birds, the jungle fowl as usual the loudest. Hoof marks of Gaur and Elephant spoor nearby gave us hope. From the woods around, came the cough of the Sambar deer and the hoot of the Macaques and clucking of the Giant Squirrel. We set up the tarp, one end tied to a rectangular frame and the other sloping end to sticks stuck in the sand. Ground sheet is spread and sleeping bags rolled out. Glasses are brought out, snacks opened and the fizz and booze kept at hand. We gather wood and light the fire as the moon breaks out from behind the mountain slopes.

Those who have lit and tended campfires would know how joyous and serene is to watch the fire. The crackling of burning wood, the flames leaping this way and that way, the occasional re-arrangement of the logs and the silence... one shouldn't talk much; turn the ears outward as Deer’s' footfall crush dried leaves, as Owls hoot, as Lapwings titter and Jungle Fowls cackle. Sipping Whiskey, one stares at the flames, content.

Gopi had been on a Bullet ride to Ladakh recently, like I did a couple of years ago. We swap stories, exclaim at the memories of those haunting landscapes. Gopi talks about his wildlife adventures; how he was sitting in the middle of nowhere in Bandipur forests and the lone tusker padded by behind him. The long wait for a Black buck jumping, the sight of a Marsh Harrier snapping up prey, the pensive macaque watching for tidbits.

The full moon came up and grew larger. In the forest, everything was lit up. But the mountains had gone under the mist that rose along with the night. We sat in silence as frogs croaked and fish jumped in the water. Sometimes we could hear the breaking of twigs; deers were moving about nearby. Chill wind blew and we sat closer to the fire, gripping our glasses. We were warm; the fire, the whiskey and the company of close friends.

In the night, I dream Gaurs standing next to me and nipping at the tarp. Sambar deers hopped across the narrow channel and huddled near the fire. I wake up several times as do my friends. We tend the fire and sit looking around as the forests slept all around us. In the morning, we wake up to the calls of a dozen different species of birds.

I feel sorry for people who cannot enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Like home-cooked food. Playing with dogs. Watching night sky. Looking at bonfires. Walking in the mountains. Being with bosom friends. Last week, a relative of mine about my age, a millionaire business man, was puzzled when I told him that I was going to the forests. 'Where will you shit?', he asked. I said, 'Out in the open and clean ourselves in the stream'. 'What about snakes and insects', he wanted to know. 'Wouldn't animals attack you? What will you do for food?'. I shrugged. ‘We manage', I said. On the contrary, I couldn't understand him, late-night partying everyday at his posh club, hardly any close friends other than business associates and competitors. I am not saying my life is better, but just that I would not swap my life for his; not for his fleet of cars and mansions and foreign jaunts.

What I would like is to be like the Moon – move gently across the vast skies, among the stars. In the wee hours of the morning, I would disappear slowly behind the hills, leaving a pale light, making way for the sun.

********** Balachandran, Trivandrum, 3.02.2010

Photos Copyright: Gopinath Sricandane