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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Who are You?

“Balachandran has taken a conscious decision to ignore the world around him. He seems to write from an ivory tower where he exists in the company of his emotions, his thoughts.”

As I read these lines aloud, P chuckles. ‘That describes you best!’, she exclaims.

In my room, I switch on the PC and look at the screen blankly; before me the cursor blinks in the beginning of a blank Word page, urging me to write.

Reflecting on my hitherto writings, be it poetry or prose, I realize that most of it have been about myself and my immediate world. Am I being Narcissistic? Am I too self-absorbed as to ignore the rest of the world?

Writing, to me, has always been a journey of self-discovery. The ways of the world are no doubt mysterious and fascinating, but equally so has been myself. I am intrigued by what I am, what I think I am, what the rest of the world think what I am and yet the mystery remains unsolved. The writer in me is the observer, studying myself, my reactions, the way I relate to others, the multiple personalities in me that takes the stage as the demand of the role.

Who am I? Says Ramana Maharishi – ‘What remains when you have negated all that you aren’t is the real you’. It is only through this subtractive process of self-analysis that you can understand what you are.

What P believes is not quite right. In trying to understand myself, I learn about the rest of the world too. The more I learn about myself, I learn that there isn’t much difference between myself and the rest; only subtle shades distinguish each of us. In this journey into the recesses of my mind, I am at times ashamed, at times proud; I regret and rejoice. I accept what I am; I accept what you are and all the rest of the world.


Photo courtesy:


Friday, October 29, 2010

The review - of poems and the poet

I am a poet!

I am going to indulge in some self-congratulation; please bear with me.

It has been one and a half years since my collection of poems, ‘Signs of Love’ came out as a book. Whoever condescended to read the poems have made appreciative utterances; I am happy enough. But I wanted someone else other than my friends, who have no other reason to pat my back and have some authority, to critically view the book and comment on it. I had sent the MS to a few acquaintances who are Professors of English. Maybe due to their preoccupation I am sure, they never deigned to reply.

The first indication that what I wrote was not trash came from the publisher himself, Prof P Lal. Then, at the function that included the formal release of the book, Prof. Hridayakumari, the highly respected teacher of English but known for her brevity, praised the collection at length. It dawned to me then that I could be a poet after all.

I hadn’t sent the book for reviews to any magazines. Those friends in the related circles didn’t offer any help either. Unsold, un-gifted, the remaining copies gather fungus in my shelf. Then, the former editor of Indian Literature, the bi-monthly journal of Sahitya Akademi who is slightly known to me, came to hear about the book and asked me over phone to send a couple of copies to the Akademi for review. That was nearly a year ago. Having never heard from him since, a couple of weeks back I reluctantly wrote to him asking if he could ever read it. He immediately replied that a review had appeared in the Jan-Feb 2010 issue of the journal and that he has asked someone to send me a copy. It reached me today.

Reading the review at my office, a loud whoop! escaped my lips. Is he writing about MY poems? It is an excellent review and Mr.Anoop Verma is generous in his praise. Indian Literature is highly regarded in the literary circles; to be spoken of in such glowing terms is like getting a Nobel Prize! I call K and P and tell the good news. I send off messages to a few friends who have encouraged me to write poems. I am thrilled. I understand the indescribable joy in being recognized for one’s efforts. I feel like Miss World or Miss Universe – that is, I felt so till half an hour ago when a close friend called on me.

I run down the steps to meet him. Grinning from ear to ear I tell him the happy news; I have the journal with me. He says, good, great. We spend nearly half an hour together, drinking lemon juice and purchasing a particular kind of bag he needed. We talk about his forthcoming trip, about the new laptop he bought, about Mac and Windows, about other friends and then bid goodbye. All the time I have the thick journal with me; I grip to it. By the time he was about to leave, I was wondering how I could hide it; I tuck it under my left arm. We say goodbye. I had hoped he’d say, Oh Balan, let me see the review and maybe at least scan through the two humble pages. I am sure he wasn’t being unkind; quite likely he was too preoccupied with his affairs.

The initial flood of elation has subsided. I am at peace. I re-read the review. I laugh at myself. How silly of me, to expect others to share my joy at the same degree! At least he said great. I ought to be content with that. I am wise enough not to feel ill towards him. Of course, I am disappointed, but hell, I don’t mind, honest.

At 53, I feel like a novice in the business of living. I am forever in a Kindergarten; like an innocent child, I look around at the world wide-eyed. Like a child, I dimple when someone says how cute you are. But I am old – and wise – not to sulk like a child who is robbed of his toys or – ignored.

I reflect on the times when good things happened to those whom I love, whom I know; even those whom I dislike. I am happy with myself that I have always been able to genuinely share their pleasure and never felt jealous or never ignored or played down their happiness. I realize that more than a poet, I am a decent guy!

****** Balachandran V, Trivandrum 29-10-2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

‘All that we have, is all a gift’

K is home for a couple of weeks; his semester holidays. Typical of his age, K is conscious about his looks and concerned about the broadening hips. He goes to his old gym and pumps iron every evening and comes back home ravenously hungry. Dinner is yet to be decided; P is at some meeting and I – well – I am surfing! Usually P would be tired to cook dinner- and I don’t do the mundane items, see. Only the special dishes.

So what is it to be? Dosas with the dough leftover from the morning? I inspect the ‘fridge. Morning chutney is not enough. K says- ‘Acha, lets buy Onion Oothapams and Ghee Roasts from Laxmi Narayana. Amma would be too exhausted anyway.’ ‘Call her, will you, its getting late’, I ask him. Then K said, ‘Ha! Speaking of the Devil!’ And there she was, at the door pushing Sancho aside.

The Dinner issue came up soon. I supported K; I wanted to smoke a cigarette badly. I am always on the lookout for such excuses to go out of the house. Just as she was about to give in, P said ‘NO! We will make Dosas.’ ‘What is this Amma, I am sooo hungry, by the time Dosas are ready, I would’ve died from hunger!’ P looked solemn - and I told myself - oh yeah, here it comes.

‘Today in college, we were making out list of students for scholarships. You know something, there are so many students whose monthly average family income is less than 2000 rupees. Students who have scored above 80% marks. Rakesh, my M.Sc student, goes to his brother’s flower shop after classes and helps him make garlands. During the Sabarimala season, he can’t afford to come to college, because that’s the time they can make some real money. There are girls who work as part-time maids, do you know that, K? And here we are, spending a few hundreds with no qualms, for a measly dinner’.

K and I exchange glances. He says- ‘ OK, fine, if not eating Onion Oothappams tonight will help the students, so be it’. I resign myself to a smoke-less night.

As I prepare to make fresh chutney I gently tell P – ‘Feeling guilty isn’t going to help anyone. We might be splurging on a 150 rupees dinner, but there are surely people spending several thousands for a dinner. We cannot do much about the misery and sorrow of the world; we can only help them in whatever way we can. You have to accept that. We can be grateful and humble for whatever riches or happiness we have and never be conceited about it. We can remind ourselves not to be wasteful. But we cannot deny happiness to ourselves just because of the unfortunate millions. There is no point in feeling guilty of whatever transient fortune that we may have now’. K agrees.

The gingelly oil-roasted Dosas and my coconut chutney with tomato, green chilli, coriander leaves, garlic, ginger and shallots exude a divine aroma. We eat sitting close to each other. Sancho pushes in among our legs and takes a quick nap resting his head on P’s feet.

Bless us Oh Lord and these thy gifts which we are about to receive through thy bounty through Christ Our Lord, Amen!

Perhaps there is nothing more graceful of humanity than to express its gratitude for the bounties of nature. Let us partake of this life with all humility and happiness.

********* Balachandran V, Trivandrum 28.10.2010

See: http://psalm121.ca/praymeals.html


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Giving Away

Take it from me, a miserly hoarder of junk. Nothing equals the pleasure of giving away unwanted things. Like the slogan of the Indian Railways – ‘Less luggage, more comfort’!

Maybe it is that I am getting older and stupid, but I want to lighten down. The best way I spend my weekends (us poor bankers have only a Sunday) is cleaning the cupboards and stuff. As my house is ancient (built in the 1930s) and the 4th generation inhabiting it, there is awful lot of junk lying around. Other than the loft where people fear to tread, we even have a room that we call the Junk Room!

A digression. My son’s name is Nachiketh – for Nachikethus, a character from the ancient holy books called Upanishads – the particular one is Katha-Upanishad. The name Nachiketh is unheard of in Kerala, but in the North, though not common, not unknown either. There was a time in my youth I had an inclination for spiritual life (Now don’t you dare smirk, ANIL!) and used to read up a lot of philosophical works, including the Upanishads. OK, as the story goes, Nachiketh’s father performed a ritual sacrifice in which he was supposed to give away all his wealth to the poor, for eg., his cows. But Vajashravas kept the good cows for himself and gave away only the old and sick cows. The motive was to gain entry into heaven in later life, blah blah. I gave my son the name Nachiketh, ignoring the raised eyebrows and frowns for the reasons 1) I didn’t want to give him a God’s name (most Hindu names can be traced to some God or the other) and 2) Nachiketa’s life was a quest for knowledge. He spurned the offers of goodies from Lord Yama, (the lord of death) instead of disclosing to him the ultimate truth of life. Nachiketh asked,- ‘ If all the wealth in the world cannot let me escape death, what is it’s use?’ I thought, well, I was a moron, at least let the name of my son be Nachiketa, perhaps that will inspire him in the quest for knowledge. A name, you see, is a symbol, not for what it is, but what it aspires to be.

To come back to the junk. Just as I began delving into P’s stuff, I was met with vehement opposition. Retreating, I thought I will start with my stuff. As the first round of cleaning came to an end, “Whew!”, said the house. Then, with no motive of elevation to the heavens, I put my hands onto the most precious of possessions, my books. This is my humble savings over my entire life, these lead-spread papers, not to mention the millions in the bank vaults. Of course, I cannot give away my much loved of them, or those I refer to frequently. But there were books, though good, I knew I had overgrown. Many detective novels, books on science, philosophy etc.

Yesterday I lugged 45 of the books in the saddlebags of my bike and donated them to an impoverished library (the one mentioned in the previous post). The libararian’s emaciated face glowed with gratitude. He said – ‘Sir, I myself will write your name in every one of them – ‘Donated by Sri. Balachandran V’ etc etc”. I was perplexed. I emphatically said, “NO!” The poor man looked confused. “Sir, but how else people would know you gave these books?” I said - “If my name is written on the books, how it could be a donation? I would be still attached to them.”

Outside the old library, I stood beneath the huge shady tree. It was dusk and crows were coming in to roost. The street thronged with vehicles and people were rushing about. Relieved of the weight, the thumping of my motorcycle sounded like a schoolgirl’s giggle, as I rode home to P and Sancho.

******* Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 21.10.2010

PS. Those who would like to read the story of Nachiketa, here is a simple and beautiful version: http://www.swamij.com/swami-rama-nachiketas-choice.htm

A Graveyard of Books


The moment you enter the dingy hall, it is as if you have ridden a time machine to the mid-20th century. The solemn-looking heavy wooden, glass-fronted almirahs stand in the darkened shadows like mummies in a catacomb. Most of the lights do not function; there are ceiling fans, lifeless, from a period movie. The forlorn tables and chairs are thickly dust-coated; so are the piles of old, musty books heaped on the tables and strewn around. The librarian who leads you is as ancient as the library; bent as if the heavy key bunch is wearing him down. I mumble- ‘Travel section, please’. The prematurely aged man fumbles among the dozens of keys in his hand and selects one. Moving to one almirah he opens it; as unwillingly as its doors creaking open, displaying the books stuffed inside. Old, reverentially ancient. I look at them, unwillingly to disturb them from their torpor.

This is a library in the city, nearly a hundred years old. It has a collection of hundreds of books and journals since its inception. Donations make up the majority of the books. There is NO catalogue; subject-wise division is vague. You will be dismayed to find accountancy books among religion; fiction among science.

I do not have dust allergy, touch wood. I am quite comfortable among the fungus-ridden printed volumes, which remind you strongly of a forgotten graveyard. I squat, pull out a handful of books and take them to a corner where a shaft of sunlight falls into the room.

I am among the dead. They dreamt, lived and died more or less like us. In archaic, stiffly polite language, these travelers of yore tell you of their great adventures out of their world, which was much smaller than ours. They ventured out to Bombay, Madras, Benaras, Kashmir, England, China, Arabia and then of course, America! In the dim photographs I see them in their Chaplin-esque attire. Silk sarees are draped in a totally different way. The women are dark-skinned but elegant and remote. The ‘England-returned’ men look suave in their suits and spats and flowers pinned on the coat lapel. Natives look prehistorically primitive.

I scour each book. I am searching for old travelogues on Himalayan travels. Then, I open an unassuming book, very prosaically titled, ‘Oru Himalayan Yatra’ - A Himalayan Journey. My senses quiver. I have a feeling this is not a run-o’the-mill travelogue. It isn’t. As I rapidly read the preface, the first few pages, I realize with great excitement that this book is the first Himalayan travelogue written by a Malayalee. The year, 1924. Later, many months later, I learn that this is the only copy left in the world.

But that is something for another rainy day’s blogging.

******** Balachandran V , Trivandrum, 21.10.2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Sipping tea at a wayside stall,

I watch a cat sauntering by.

She regards me; I smile at her-

She pauses - lifts a paw -

She moves –

How graceful, how lithe, how feminine!

On her croups, she looks at me, blinks –

Twitches her ears – this way, that way.

She glances up at a crow, intent.

A man walks up –

The cat appraises.

At peace, she examines her left forepaw

And licks.

A fallen leaf stirs in the wind –

Cat looks at it, ears pointed.

A mongrel runs by – the Cat’s tail

Stiffens and then d-e-l-i-b-e-r-a-t-e-l-y

Twirls and flicks (it scares me).

She follows him, rapt eye-ed

As he goes out of sight.

The cat gazes at me.

She stares at me, unblinking -

Uncomfortable, I look elsewhere.

How she demands attention,

How swiftly does she ignore!

Kneeling, with love

I offer her a piece of cake, a bit sodden -

I never thought

A cat could express such disdain!

Oh well, you never liked cats, I thought,

Don’t try so hard to, now.

Sheepish, I realize

That the grudging admiration

I have for cats

For their attitude

For their sly, self-assured ways

Their aloofness, pooh-poohing

The rest of the world –

Is the same that I have

For certain women I know!

********* Balachandran V, Trivandrum 19-10-2010


Like the lands I will never see

The books I will never read

The minds I will never learn.

If only one could be everywhere!

If only one could see them all!

I could’ve loved more –

And, in return, be loved –

Just a little!

******* Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 19.10.2010

painting courtesy: http://artisttonigrote.blogspot.com/2009/11/nov-12-abstract-minimalist-landscape-w.html

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My British Raj

“Show me your books”, asked my aunt, glancing at the bulging bag that hung from my shoulder. “Hmm… Nevil Shute, Maurice Procter, - what? J. Krishnamurti?” I was embarrassed, as any 20 year-old jobless youth whose achievements till date were a bagful of dreams.

The year was 1977; my aunt was a retired teacher of English for a long time in Zambia and had come to visit us in Trivandrum. My mother said – “Akka (sister), this boy has no ambition. He doesn’t study well, he smokes, he dreams and all the time he is shut up in his room reading all sorts of books”. I looked at my aunt and said – “I may not be ambitious but I have ambitions. Only problem is that I don’t know how to go about realizing them”, and felt quite smart.

My relationship with the British (Council) Library in Trivandrum began in 1977, the year I graduated. One had to be a graduate to become a member then, if I remember correctly. All through the years till March 2008 when the library was closed down. It has been a lifetime…

In those days when there was no internet, libraries were our windows to the world, other than the movies and documentaries which would always be a couple of years old. And what a world it was! Sight & Sound, Country Life, Punch, Geographical, Autocar, Flight, and a host of other journals and magazines – and the books! I met J Krishnamurti at the BCL, attracted by the title of his book, ‘Commentaries on Living’. In the Eighties and Nineties, all my information on environment and wildlife was provided by BCL. The huge illustrated reference books which I opened reverently, with great awe and humility! The stern librarian, Mr.Parthasarathy, who was an English butler personified! The members kept pin-drop silence. Elders looked down at us bums over their spectacles with disapproval – my perpetual corduroy trousers and cotton kurta was so infra dig!

Years passed – the library acquired computers and videos, as the books diminished. In the late Nineties ( I don’t remember exactly when ) they started culling the number of books by selling them to the public. How many Mondays I have taken leave to wait at the doors of the library – at the stroke of 10 o’clock, make that headlong rush to grab books! Some devised a strategy of coming in groups and pick up the books greedily, rapidly and then at leisure go through them for the final list to purchase.

By the beginning of the 21st century, the culture of the library underwent drastic changes. Youngsters came mostly to browse the web and borrow CDs. Many of the Indian civil services aspirants in Trivandrum hogged the tables. The kind of books that I wanted – environment, biology, philosophy, conservation, old British authors – alarmingly became near extinct. Though with a waning interest and a heavy heart, I continued to visit the library, in spite of the hefty fees. And then in 2008, the final goodbyes were said.

Those who have been members in the British Library of Trivandrum would fondly cherish the memories. It was one of the few places in Trivandrum where you would find the vestiges of dignified behaviour. It will always have a place in my heart; just as the many books I bought secondhand from the library has a special place in my shelves. It nurtured, moulded and guided my life to a great extent. Everything in life has to come to a pass; so too the British Library. Just like the older USIS Library and the Gorky Bhavan ( Soviet House of Culture)in Trivandrum which were shut down long ago, the closing of British Library has created a vacuum in our hearts that will never be filled. It rang the end of an era, the breaking of the last links with the British Empire.

******* ** Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 13.10.2010

See also: http://bpradeepnair.blogspot.com/2007/12/british-library-thiruvananthapuram-to.html

photo courtesy: http://moorthyblog.blogspot.com/2007/12/blog-post_07.html

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Love & Marriage

“You may wonder why we have gathered here instead of a church building. But listen! The Bible says ‘wherever believers have gathered to praise the Lord, He shall be present there’. Therefore, believers in Christ, this beautiful auditorium is the house of God for now, for He is surely witnessing this holy matrimony and is here to bless this young couple”. Words to such effect. The pastor in the podium wore shirt and trousers like normal people but had the priest’s collar (I have seen it only in movies before) and spoke in fluent English with a trace of American accent.

I was at the wedding of a close friend’s daughter. It took place not in a church but in a posh auditorium in Trivandrum. Though both were Christians, they belonged to different churches or denominations. The bride’s side was Mar Thomite and the bridegroom’s, I didn’t catch it exactly, a kind of new American Methodists. It was a ‘love marriage’ and the couple was IT professionals.

Outside was parked a glorious Mercedes –Benz. Now, nothing else, not even Rolls Royce or BMW or Porsche or whatever – has a prestige value that equals that of Mercedes in India. Inside in the centralized air-conditioned hall, I was agape at the bevy of beautiful women. It always makes one acutely aware of one’s age and appearance.

Agape. The next pastor who delivered an inspiring sermon, said – “Marriage is a covenant, not a contract that can be broken. Love, my dear S & R, is not a matter of the mind. It is a matter of deliberate choice. There are different kinds of love; one is ‘Agape’ (he pronounced it u’gaa-pay), the love for Lord Jesus. The next is the love for your partner; sexual, emotional love. But always remember, love is a matter of choice”.

I wished I had my glasses, notepad and pen. I was being exposed to new thoughts.

The pastor apologizes gracefully to the women present and says- “S, remember that you are the man, the head of the new family. It is your duty to love your wife, R. And R, remember, you shall obey and submit to him. You shall remember that S is the head of your family and you shall always be subservient to him. You are not inferior to him, but below him”. I am dumbstruck. Obey? Subservient?

R is a pretty girl. As my friend who is still quite handsome and elegant, walked up the aisle with R to the tune of the wedding march or whatever (I have seen it in so many Hollywood movies and have always been moved by the solemnity and grace of the ceremony), we friends chuckled, - "We gotta get him a new wife, he looks so hot".

The ceremony wasn’t as long and tedious as the usual church weddings. The choir sang beautiful songs in English and Malayalam and I felt like singing with them. Later, with excellent bread, rice, fish curry, roast mutton and butterscotch ice-cream with honey syrup (I had two helpings from two different counters) and a bellyful ogling at the beauties under the belt, I was curious about the non-church wedding and asked my Christian friends. “Now R will be totally banished from her church”, they said grimly. “Poor R’s grandma is heartbroken. These guys (depreciatingly said) are of a new-fangled Methodists or something”. The speaker was agitated, himself a Catholic or Mar Thomite. I kept silent. I knew I was on thin ice here.

But – but I wondered. Both believe in Jesus Christ, don’t they? Both believe in the Bible. I said lamely, - ‘I liked the ceremony though. And the concept that where ever believers gathered to utter His holy name is the church’. He nods his assent, though grudgingly. “Hm, except for the absence of ‘now you may kiss the bride’, every thing was so Amerrrican!”

Christianity is truly a universal religion. Universal in number, but in ostracizing the girl for marrying from another church, not very different from the much maligned caste system in Hinduism.

Riding my bike home, I happily hum the choir song,- “ Nallavanaya Yesuve…"

******* Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 10.10.2010

The Truth about the Tornado

July 8, 1988. My friend lost her husband on that day, in the notorious Peruman train accident, which took 105 lives. It shocked Kerala.

Excerpt from a news report : In the Peruman Train Tragedy, the Bangalore - Kanyakumari Island Express train derailed on the Peruman bridge over Ashtamudi Lake, near Perinadu, Kollam, Kerala, India and fell into the lake, killing 105 people on July 8, 1988.
Officials say the cause for the accident was a Tornado. But still the cause of accident remain a mystery. Ten bogie carriages of the Island Express fell into Ashtamudi Lake, and more than 200 persons were seriously injured.
The Peruman Train Tragedy is one of the largest train tragedies in the history of the Indian state of Kerala.
The 'bogies of death' still remain on the bank of the Ashtamundi lake haunting the memory of many a rail traveller who passes through the Perumon Bridge near Quilon from where nine bogies of the Island Express plunged into the lake.

There were enquiry commissions and a lot of hue and cry. The final verdict was that the accident was caused by a ‘tornado’! Kerala laughed cynically. Nothing like that had happened there. Eyewitness accounts were smothered. Public outcry died soon. The bereaved were left alone, their private sorrow leaving unhealed, open wounds…

Yesterday I met a few old friends who work in the Railways. We had met last year after 45 years, in a reunion of friends who had studied together at the Railway Primary School, Palakkad. Over a few drinks, we talked about the Peruman tragedy.

“Tornado? What a laugh! You want to know the truth? Maintenance work was going on on the bridge. They had called up the nearest station and enquired about the passing trains. They were told that the Island Express which was due to pass then is late by an hour or so. The workers had lifted a rail, delinked it and the repair went on. Then they went for a tea break, leaving the separated rail, assured that the train was not due. They were wrong; the train kept the right time. In the enquiry commission set up by the government, they quashed the eyewitness accounts, the accounts of the workers themselves. It was an accident caused by the freakish Nature”. Of course, nature is the ultimate culprit, when you look at the fact that it had allowed the cancer, the homo sapiens,to grow.

“Indian Railways”, my friends said, “is a huge institution with the largest network in the world. Mistakes happen often. 99% of accidents are caused by the negligence of the staff. We got to live with it”. So do, those who lost their loved ones. So do, those whose dreams were snuffed out.

A whole country was mocked at. Lies, black lies, whitewashed truth. It continues. And we look up at them, those in power, in abject dejection and helplessness. We vote them into power – again and again. Democracy, my foot!

********* Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 10.10.2010


Today I was travelling from Cochin to Trivandrum; I met this chap working in the Railways. During our conversation, I popped the question of Perumon; he said that it was entirely due to the carelessness of the driver/loco pilot. He said that when maintenance is being done on the railroad, the workers put up 'CAUTION' boards as well as signs on reduced speed. The signboards are displayed, he said, at distances sufficiently away from the work site so that the loco pilots have enough time to reduce speed. On the particular date signs were put up to reduce speed to 40kmph/60 kmph, but the driver ignored them and entered the bridge at 90 kmph. The driver, some D'Cruz or other was arrested and terminated from service, though the Railways hushed it up. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Look at me before you leave

Stranger! Do not leave me!

I see you, the far off land, the unfamiliar flag.

Searching, searching for something and then

Finding me, a word, a phrase, leading you to me –

Do not leave me in haste, stranger!

I know, it is not fate but sheer chance

It was not destined, just a coincidence

That brought you to me.

I see you, though where, I do not know -

In the soft glare of the screen

Reading or scanning my words, my profile

Perhaps pursing your lips, perhaps smiling

Perhaps shrugging and then –

With a click –

You send me hurtling, at the speed of light

To the Black Hole, the void,

Into oblivion.

Do not leave me, my friend! Stay awhile,

Say a word or two

Look at me

To let me know

If I have reached out

And touched you

And you, me

When, for a moment

Before parting


We were one….

******* Balachandran V, Trivandrum 08-10-2010

pic courtesy: http://pauz.wordpress.com/


Head bowed, tail lowered
He slinks, dejected
He moves, turns around
Round and round
As he settles down in his space.
I am leaving for office.

Sancho looks at me, unsmiling
I cannot fathom his expression
But I know his sorrow at my leaving
I cannot look him in the eye, I cannot bear to.

In the evening, I rush back home
To see him, craning his neck
For a glimpse
Waiting, beyond the grilled gate
Anxious, excited, tail wagging

I open the gate to a burst,
An explosion of joy,
Of barks, of howls, of leaps
Happiness unleashed,
Shining eyes, lolling tongue
Telling me how he loves
Just to see me, to be with me.

Though not as adept as he,
I tell him how much I too love him
My words, so inadequate!
Yet I try, hugging him close,
Smothering him with kisses –
He knows.

Later, I wonder what he would think,
What would the lengths,
Of the vacuum of time and space be
Stretching to infinity
When I will have to leave him,
Or he, me, forever.
********* Balachandran V, Trivandrum 08-10-10

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Evolution of the Poem, 'Falling'

How facetious it would seem to assume what I write in the form of verse are poems! Though a collection has been published and well-received by the readers and several poems further on, I still hesitate to bracket my verses as poems; to be honest, I am embarrassed.

I write this in order to find an answer to the queries of my friends Anil and Insignia ( I wish I knew her real name – how comical it is to say – Oh, Insignia, you make me so insignificant, Oh, I love you, Insignia! J ).

You never know how a poem takes birth. It begins, sometimes with a thought, a vision, a gush of words in one’s mind. Before I started writing I had always wondered how these people write poems! It had seemed so impossible. I have written a poem, Words, (My travels, My life: Words) which kind of says how poems are born in me.

It has been raining in Trivandrum so heavily for the last few days. My old mango tree in front of my house sheds more leaves than usual when it rains. Yesterday when the rain had quietened for a while, I stood outside and looked at the fallen leaves and thought, oh, I have a quite a job tomorrow sweeping them up. ( By the way, I love sweeping – for more than one reason – ;) Anil? ). I watched a leaf falling, gently, slowly, dying. That set me off thinking on death. I got back inside the house and started typing out the words.

Death, let it be the last thing in our life or let it be a passage to another; either way, it is inevitable. And I thought of the leaf falling, seemingly without any care. Then I suddenly remembered the unforgettable photo from 9/11. I have looked at it for long, thinking of that man, on his fall to death, what must have he been thinking, waiting, in those few seconds to the final THUD on the ground. I realized that I could connect these, the falling man and the falling leaf and my own preoccupation with death.

The write-up by Tom Junod which I have given at the bottom of the last post is one of the most hauntingly beautiful pieces I have read till date. Wish I could write like that! You have to read it carefully, if possible at least a couple of times, and chew on it. My poem is complete only with Tom Junod's Falling Man...

But tell me honestly, did you like the poem? Until I know that, like the purpose of life is living, that of the poem would be left hanging in mid-air!


Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 06.10.2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


It was hardly a wind, not a storm of course

That flew by the old mango tree.

I knew my time had come

But waited; lest they mock

That I fell on my own.

In the convenience of the breeze,

That hardly made my branch sway

Let alone shake the tree – I fell.

Detaching the last sinews

Bidding goodbye to the ants

Who looked surprised

And the Woodpecker, looking guilty.

Oh! To fly! I would like to think

I am flying, though I am falling, gently downward.

Passing, I see the termites busily building

The squirrels hoping up, skirting down

And the lone kite preening

And the Kingfisher, intent

On the gecko, slinking by.

The leaves of the Money Plant

Grappling up my tree

Thick leaved.

I am falling, I am falling

I see a butterfly fluttering by

Oh, I feel the rain, the wind!

I am going there – now here,

Oh, now thither –Ow, whoosh! I am taken-


I swing, I sway, I dance till my heart is full.

Oh, what a ride! I never knew what it is

To be free!

I see earth coming up, welcoming me,

So brown, so dark – ah, my old friends

Huddling, to break my fall.

I see them, the young, so green, so fresh

Waving goodbye at me.

‘Goodbye, goodbye, my dears, take care!

Take care of the flowers; shade them from heat

Let the bees rest on you!

And if a squirrel comes, tremble, make him jump.

Make sure that you bend hard when it rains,

Make sure the morning dew fall at the foot of our tree.

When day breaks, when light comes

Turn as much as you can, let no light

Escape you.’

‘Begging your pardon Sir, you are wrong,

The young ones, they do not

Laugh at me; that’s your tale, Sir!

We leaves wait for our death since birth –

That’s when we really move, you see

That’s when we are really free!’

********** Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 05.10.2010

The Falling Man by Tom Junod, Esquire, Sept 2003

In the picture, he departs from this earth like an arrow. Although he has not chosen his fate, he appears to have, in his last instants of life, embraced it. If he were not falling, he might very well be flying. He appears relaxed, hurtling through the air. He appears comfortable in the grip of unimaginable motion. He does not appear intimidated by gravity's divine suction or by what awaits him. His arms are by his side, only slightly outriggered. His left leg is bent at the knee, almost casually. His white shirt, or jacket, or frock, is billowing free of his black pants. His black high-tops are still on his feet. In all the other pictures, the people who did what he did -- who jumped -- appear to be struggling against horrific discrepancies of scale. They are made puny by the backdrop of the towers, which loom like colossi, and then by the event itself. Some of them are shirtless; their shoes fly off as they flail and fall; they look confused, as though trying to swim down the side of a mountain. The man in the picture, by contrast, is perfectly vertical, and so is in accord with the lines of the buildings behind him. He splits them, bisects them: Everything to the left of him in the picture is the North Tower; everything to the right, the South. Though oblivious to the geometric balance he has achieved, he is the essential element in the creation of a new flag, a banner composed entirely of steel bars shining in the sun. Some people who look at the picture see stoicism, willpower, a portrait of resignation; others see something else -- something discordant and therefore terrible: freedom. There is something almost rebellious in the man's posture, as though once faced with the inevitability of death, he decided to get on with it; as though he were a missile, a spear, bent on attaining his own end. He is, fifteen seconds past 9:41 a.m. EST, the moment the picture is taken, in the clutches of pure physics, accelerating at a rate of thirty-two feet per second squared. He will soon be traveling at upwards of 150 miles per hour, and he is upside down. In the picture, he is frozen; in his life outside the frame, he drops and keeps dropping until he disappears.