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

Sunday, December 22, 2013

I, God





They said - ' The kingdom of God is within you'
They said - 'Aham Brhamasmi' and 'Allahu Akbar'.
I looked inward– I was happy to find Him
Abiding within me, decked out in love, tolerance and harmony
And in such hues of kindness,  patience and decency.

One day while I slept, priests crept in
Tore Him out of me and kept it in the temple of doom.
Then they said – 'Now look within you, you are empty,
You are bereft of God, sinner!'

Far away, through the swirling mist, I glimpse the Cross
From far away, adhan of the muezzin come drifting
From across the bridge and over the hills,
Tolling of the bell from the temple in the valley.

I wait, patiently, for the day
When God would break out of the box
And come running back to me.


************** Balachandran, Trivandrum, 23.12.2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sights and Smells of a Morning Walk



  Recently, I went for a different kind of  walk. I might call it Meditation Walk; don't think there is nothing new in it. This particular walk I undertook was in the hills - Vagamon area. My fellow walkers were Capuchin Brothers. But, more about that later. What I want to tell you is about a commonplace morning walk with Parvati. Only thing is that it is no commonplace; every walk with P is a session in learning. I have written about this sometime back; this is the next time we walked together after that!!

Among the many quirky pleasures that we share, one that has us giggling like kids is the exciting crawling along the labyrinth of lanes that crisscross the Chalai Bazar. We prowl alongside the little shops that display curious pieces of metal, electronic stuff, wood, and what-have-you. We gaze open-mouthed at a broken down old transistor; we drool over rusty, unidentifiable pieces of wrought iron that once could have been part of anything from an army tank to a pipe wrench. Our hands itch to caress a headless bronze horse which seemed to have stopped galloping when somebody broke its head off. We glance at each other and giggle conspiratorially, about to pounce upon the One-rupee coin size Parippu Vadas and miniature Bhaajis. They can be dropped into your mouth one or two at a time ( or stuffed with several); and the aroma of fried curry leaves and chillies and asafoetida ascend up the nostrils. Titillating!

Chalai Bazar is one of the oldest bazars in the world; well, in MY world. I love it because it fills my senses with nostalgia. The old old provision store from where we long long ago had bought our provisions. The monthly home delivery would come in a pull cart, each item lovingly packed in baskets made of palm leaves. On top of the many different sized baskets there would be a little one with Kalkand ( rock candy), a free treat for the kids such as yours faithfully. That, my young readers, was in the Sixties...

A walk through Chalai these days is an assault on the senses. The stench of rotting waste, human waste and undefinable wastes. The sight of rotting waste, human waste and unimaginable wastes. Yet, we still walk through the lanes because Chalai is a slice of life, where beauty and ugliness co-exist amicably.

Having a friend or a spouse – or as in my case, a friend and spouse two-in-one - who is a botanist is to have a long but interesting course in the study of plants. You don't have to take an exam, fortunately. Life with P opened up my eyes to the world of plants. So, whether we are walking in the mountains or in Chalai Bazar, we are on the look out for interesting plants and trees. I love to listen to the grand sounding Latin names of the plants – Alstonia scolaris, Ficus religiosa, Ipomea pes tigridis, Ricinus communis – like I said, I don't have to take an exam, so loving the names is fine.

















Today, somewhere in the recesses of Chalai, I come across this elephant. I am achingly reminded of the young one at the Elephant rehabilitation centre who is no more. This is in a lane where Tamil Brahmins live – not an agraharam, but a little lane. They wash down the narrow pavement and lay intricate 'Kolam'. This little elephant is placed there along with other stone idols that look like a Siva lingam and a lamp. I learn that the lady who got this elephant from a temple ruin is no more. But the neighbourhood cleans the idols daily and places a few flowers. I wish that Vigneswara temples that throng our country would keep idols of elephants, instead of elephant god. Why not exclusive temples for animals? Trees? Birds? Nature? It was all there in our culture, but now our brothers have fun cutting down trees and tormenting animals.

Just by the side of the cute stone elephant, mosquitoes take morning ballet lessons in the flooded sewer  as I watch. 
 


A little ahead,  Public Convenience, courtesy Trivandrum Corporation! P & I laugh mirthlessly at the folly of our authorities. We spend crores  on Techno Park and Rocket Science and Shopping Malls and have an orgasm at the rate of 'development' of God's own country as we so gloatingly call our pretty land but hey, this is what it is, this is what it is. We smear ourselves with filth and faeces, bellow at our Allah-Ram-Jesus-es, Bishops join hands with real estate mafia and encroachers, declare war on Western Ghats and burn up Forest offices - ho ho ho, see how we live in Gaad's own country!












Yesterday's Chicken Biriyanis and Vegetable Fried Rices are having a Kumbh Mela by the side of the bridge; the sewer is steep below the bridge so street dogs are denied a feast. Dogs? Kill them! Massacre them! One fellow even suggested that we start eating dog meat. Doesn't he know that the 'beef' ( now at Rs.220/- per kg) is enriched with dog meat? The 'menace' of stray dogs is man-made. The more filth we let around, the more would be the street dogs.

Then as we bid a quick good bye to filth, this beautiful serene temple – Aryasalai Devi temple. Like a painting....














 P @ Aryasalai 

 











By the side of the flyover near the Thycaud Women & Children's Hospital, shady trees overhang the streets. The trees in the city are being rapidly  decimated. We WANT wider streets for our SUVs! Acres of wooded land near East Fort are going to be cleared for a Shopping Mall and parking space. Like the Hon'ble Collector told us, 'Why do you walk? Use air conditioned cars or air conditioned buses. Who needs wayside trees?'



 
Ipomea
From beyond the wall of an empty plot peep out Ipomea pes tigridis, a common wayside flower, like children poking their heads out of a passing bus. 

 

On a leaf of Ficus religiosa (Arayaal) growing out of a crack, a pretty little fly suns herself. She (?) is quite accommodating and poses for my camera. A branch of Ezhilampala ( Alstonia scolaris) with leaves huddled together look up at my camera, bright in the morning sun. 
 

 Alstonia scolaris

The name Castor gives me nausea. When I was a little boy, there was this monthly purgatory ordeal of swallowing spoonful of castor oil as a laxative. My mother and maid servant would chase me all around the house and compound and grab and pull me down and while the maid would hold my arms down with one hand and clamp down my nostrils with the other, my mother would thrust this 'Gokarnam' between my teeth and then as I choke and gurgle, she would slap down a palmful of sugar down the same way which then would become an oily mess in my mouth and I would be screaming and whimpering and hating the world... But to look at this intricately patterned leaves and the peculiar fruits, I could make peace with Castor finally. 
 

 
                                                                                             Castor - Ricinus communis

Making peace with the world or with oneself isn't as easy as making love. It is a coming to terms with, an acceptance of the is. It is not necessarily a surrender to circumstances or fate, but a calm, unfluttered gaze around one; and into oneself too. At times, one is irked, but soon lets it pass, because goodness and evil are complementary and cohabitants, within and without.

We pass a couple of stray dogs; they glance up at us. From the way they turned their heads away in disinterest, we could see that they weren't afraid of us, just as we weren't of them. It is that reassurance of security, of live and let live, of the joy in the magnificent and the mundane and the acceptance of good and evil that make life worthwhile. 
 

*************** Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 11-12-13

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Of Dogs and Monsters


Ms Sally w/o Sancho

I know. I am on to my favorite topic once again – dogs.

Today morning I went to the People for Animals (PFA) shelter in Trivandrum with a couple of friends. They are contemplating on getting a dog; I suggested that instead of spending a few thousands on a so-called 'breed', give a home to a homeless. Sally, one of my two dogs was adopted from this shelter. Two year old, she is an extremely friendly and touch wood, equally healthy specimen. People look at her coat and ask me if I oil her. When I saw her for the first time, she was a scrawny 4-month old pup, one among the abandoned. I took to her because of her coat, which was excellent even then. She looked demure and meek enough to be the mate for Sancho, the most loved, fifth generation dog in our family.

The PFA shelter looked resplendent. They seem to have overcome the teething financial problems and now has 4 or 5 permanent staff, an in-house vet and a full fledged surgical theatre. It is now home to nearly 100 dogs, a few cats, a bull and a horse, all abandoned. Most of the dog inmates are strays and abandoned puppies; but what is really heartbreaking is the matter of dogs who had been pets. People discard them when they become old or injured. Sometimes a dog would have bitten somebody. No dog bites without provocation. Either you maltreat it or forget to keep your respectful distance. One dog like the Labrador Retriever had belonged to a breeder; when she became too old to produce more litter, the breeder threw it out. The unidentifiable old terrier was found suffocating in a drain, sunk in mud. It has no disease; it is just old. The Rottweiler  is so friendly and not very old; his hind foot was injured and thats it. The handsome, dignified Basset Hound is again old; it has cataract in the eyes. Great Danes, German Shepherds – the list goes on.


Great Dane





Rottweiler 


Basset Hound


Labrador Retriever 



Terrier


Pups

I can understand the fear of dogs, but what kind of monsters are these who kick out their loyal, faithful friends of many years just because the dogs have become old and ill? And even many household pets suffer greatly. They are kept chained and housed in cramped concrete shelters all the time. Is it any wonder that many of them turn vicious?

If you have the time and inclination, please go through the links I have given here to earlier stories. If you cannot adopt a stray, at least donate a few rupees for the care of man's best friends.


Please visit www.pfatvm.in. Also, if you plan to buy calendars for 2014, please buy from www.wsdindia.org, an organisation based in Mumbai, working for the Welfare of Stray Dogs. The calendars, both desktop and wall are beautifully brought out. Each costs Rs.150/- plus courier charges. Please visit the website for more information. 
*********** Balachandran V, Trivandrum 03.12.2013



Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Out of Focus



Image by Tiago Ribeiro

My camera has auto focus; switch it on, point, press -
It focuses on its own
All you have to do is to press down all the way.

Of late, the auto focus doesn't work.
I pull the focus ring  manually, forward and backward
It never focuses sharply.

This is the only camera I have; guess I will have to live
With images blurred.
To buy a new one is not an option
Till the next life, if there is one.

But I do take out my camera everyday
Brush it and blow away the dust
Tweak it here and there
Imagine sharp and clear images.

One day, it might snap back to  life.

************* Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 19.11.2013


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Tribute to Carson






I reproduce below what Tom Junod, a FB friend of mine has written on his Facebook page. Nothing more can be said about the relationship between a man and his dog. I am reminded of the several posts I have written on dogs; and also the poem, by Pablo Neruda on the death of his dog. The poem can be found somewhere in my blog. 

Give your dog a hug, and thank him/her for all the love he/she has given you; and for giving you the ability to love back. 




"We did not give our dog Carson his name. He was two and a half years old when we got him, and he'd already left behind life as a "bait dog" in a fighting ring south of Atlanta and a subsequent year and a half of rehab and rescue. We got him with broken teeth, small scars on his face and big scars on his neck, and a ten-inch burn down his back. To the end of his days a few people crossed the street to avoid him, but anyone with half a heart and eyes to see knew that he was the gentlest of souls. We had him for 11 years, and in that time he hurt nobody, and gave us nothing but happiness. He died 630 this morning, from the complications of a tumor in his belly we knew nothing about, and to his last breath I was -- and will remain -- astonished by his simple goodness. I hope that we healed some of his scars. I know he healed some of mine."


https://www.facebook.com/tom.junod.1?sk=photos

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Do Not Pluck Flowers



Do not pluck flowers, please
Do not walk on the grass.
Do not cut the trees, please
Do not set  forests on fire.

Flowers have a purpose, Lord
Flowers have to blossom,
Flowers have to spread fragrance,
Flowers have to bear fruits.

You would remember us
Sitting cross-legged on the floor
Before you, before the lighted lamps
The flickering flames casting shadows
On your impassive face.

Shadows fall on our faces, Lord
Shadows of doubts, of disbelief
Suspicion rise, like a snake's tongue
Our minds flick, sense
Your presence, our enemy.

You are our enemy, Lord,
You are the enemy of life.
We are not of your image
Nor are we your creations.

Faith, you made us have
Faith in you.
Trust, you tricked us to have
Trust in you.
Love, oh, we never knew,
We squandered on one that never was.

Born, we were, of the seeds
Blown in by the winds of time.
Blighted, we would be and
Blown out, into oblivion.

But let us be, let us
Bask in the sun, let us
Be drenched in the rain.
Let us smell the earth
Let us find joy in living
And let us fade and fall
Like flowers, at dusk.


Do not pluck flowers, Lord
Do not stamp on the grass.
Let the flowers laugh
Let the grass dance
Let birds perch on the trees
Let life bloom, let rivers flow.

*******
P S: I am anguished at the loss of young lives – and devastated to realize that there is no 'meaning' to life...



Saturday, July 13, 2013

Cycling is Green - and Great!






The voice at the other end of the phone was a familiar one - a former colleague from the bank - over the crackle of the background noises he asked me - ' So, how are things? What you doing these days? How do you spend time?' 

Ever since I took VRS more than three months back, 90 per cent of the calls I received was the same kind - asking me how I am spending my time. By now, I have stopped getting irritated and reply: ' Answering the same questions that you asked!'

But let me tell you what I did today. Got up at 0530 hrs and cycled about 3kms to Vellayambalam and joined the gathering there, for the monthly cycle rally. Of the 60 plus riders, the majority were from the LNCPE (Laxmi Bai National Centre for Physical Education), the sports centre; competitive cyclists. The rest were like me; older, retired men who had nothing else to do on a Saturday morning! There were a two or three women (other than the sport cyclists). 




We cycled through the City, for about 15 kms, through Vazhuthacaud, Thycaud, Killippalam, East Fort, Statue, Cantonment, Pattom, Kuravankonam, Kowdiar and back to where we started.  When I learned about the route, I had decided to break off mid-way, before the gradient between Overbridge junction and GPO. But once I took off, I thought what the hell let me try, and  if it is too much, I will push the bicycle. But I huffed and puffed up through it and then the incline at Pattom and Kuravankonam, never stepping off the bicycle. 





Two police vehicles escorted us, stopping other traffic at the junctions while the four-wheelers and two- wheelers gazed at us, amused. Kings of the streets, we were. For once, none tried to push us to the footpaths. As I laboured up the inclines, I took a peek at the slowly passing buses. The passengers, it seemed to me, looked at us with respect.

Some time in the mid-Seventies, my friend Rahul and I hired a couple of bicycles and rode it all the way to Kanyakumari, 85 kms from Trivandrum. We had promised ourselves that we will not get down at even one gradient. We didn't. Sore-assed, We did the full circuit in two consecutive days. How great was that feeling! Pressing down the pedals, throwing all our weight on to it, we would sway and swing as our knees crackled.

Long long ago. I and my friend, Sreekumar went to Amarnath in the Himalayas. This was in the late Eighties, before  terrorism struck Kashmir. As we struggled up the winding steep path, those who rode horses looked at us with respect and I hoped, envy. Long ago, again with Sreekumar, I walked up the Kailas parikrama, gasping for breath, stopping every 10 steps. There were Yak riders then. Again, I remember the gleam of respect in their eyes.

It is not the achievements in life that is important; what counts is the measure of effort that one is willing to put in.  The respect I noticed in others is actually my self-respect. With every step forward, I strive to redeem myself.



***************** Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 13.07.2013

Those who would like to learn more about the cycling scene in Trivandrum, visit http://induscyclingembassy.org/

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Poetry Chain





The weather had changed; maybe briefly

Rains had paused, sun shone in bright blue sky.

The poets were gathered in the hall

Where hundred of books had lined up long ago

Where you and I had browsed, eager – we were so young!



In the proffered seat I sat down shyly

For I were in the presence of the august

Who were poets.

They sat, holding sheaf of papers

That throbbed with words, the writers’ hopes

Dreams, sorrows and angst.

Young and old, men and women

Holding on to their creations in words.



Looking at them, at myself, I wondered

What brought us together here in this evening.

What am I doing, this collection of my poems in my hand

What do I want to tell them – ‘Look, I am a poet, listen to my words, please?’



I look down at the book

And remember those evenings and late nights

Those days in winter and autumn and spring too

Those places far away and the quiet corner of my house

When thoughts would rush in and I would splutter

Words crowding, impatient to be freed

When images would  grow larger, in black & white and in colour

When in pain, in joy, in unutterable sorrow I would

Write or tap out these words tainted with my blood.



The poets recite – the words, some are lost, some jab

My heart with their arrowheads.

The poets paint – images in words

On love, on anger, on reflections of life.



I await my turn – I grip my book

Wishing the words would  draw up into me

Wondering if I could ever rewrite my life 

Wondering if  I would ever be heard

My lone voice in the multitude of this world. 


************* Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 02.07.2013


Poetry Chain ( poetrychain.webs.com), is the coming together of writers of English poems.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Key






Pondering over the cold leftover iddlies

And the bland chutney refusing to soak them

It comes to me in a flash as I bite into a red chilly

That the key to success is

Knowing what one is good at, in life.



Beleaguered are the ignorant 

Blessed,  those who know. 


********* Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 16.06.2013

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Untitled




1.
As I tap this out sitting in my room, P and her student are at the PC in the drawing room; the boy has come for his thesis correction. Harish was to come yesterday evening; P had postponed other things to do. Not only he didn't turn up but did not call P till late evening. I had heard her 'giving him nice' ( this is a convent school phrase, I believe).

P came to me a few minutes ago. Hush hush she told me about the boy. He is doing his MSc Botany Final year. His father was an autorickshaw driver. The only sister was married off along with the 10 cents of family property. Harish lives in a thatched house in the rural suburb of Trivandrum. Father's secondhand auto was bought a few years ago; the loan is still outstanding. One fine day, the father climbed a coconut palm ( the going labour charge in Trivandrum is Rs.60/- plus one nut per palm) so that he could save the labour charge and promptly fell down, breaking his back and arm. Bedridden, he is now.

Come rains, the thatched roof gave away. Harish borrowed Rs.25,000/- to put tin sheets. His sister who lives elsewhere gave her gold bangle to him to pledge. The old auto is due for renewal of registration and the patch up and repair would cost more than Rs.20,000/-.

Harish, in between his studies at the College, makes about Rs.1,000/- taking private tuition for school children. In between he also goes around in a bicycle distributing home-made snacks and fries to bakeries and petty shops. In between Harish drives the auto ( expired registration). Mom is sick. Dad in bed. Sole breadwinner is our Harish. Yesterday evening he was going around in the auto; got a good fare, it seems and hence couldn't come for thesis correction. P bought books for Rs.1500/- for him last year. Psst, P asked, do we have any good shirt that belongs to K which I can give to Harish? ( K, my son, btw has had a lateral widening in the last few months). And Parvati says Harish is her best student.

2. P has been going around without a watch since some time. The drawers of her table carry substantial number of irreparable, irredeemable chronometers. Yesterday we went watch-shopping. Had done a prior survey in watchkart and flipkart. In the showroom, we look at the glittering, garish watches. I hate the colour of yellow metal and recommend steel or leather strapped simple elegant watches. P looks at me and says I don't wear a gold bangle or studs. Let me at least have a gold look alike watch, an ornament. I like one that costs around Rs.5,000/-. P says nothing more than Rs.2,000/-. We return home without buying one. Maybe we will go again one of these days. While in the Mall, P suggests that I get a new pair of floaters. Mine is well past expiry date. The Mall has all branded stuff - from Adidas to Woodlands, costing a minimum of R.1800/- I tell P that I will buy a hand made footwear that will set me back by Rs 350/- . Not that I am stingy, but I feel it is a crime to spend 2000 bucks on a pair of sandals.

3. I read in today's newspaper that Prithviraj, the actor had paid Rs.3.5 lakhs for a fancy number for his Porche'. Got another fancy number for another car quite cheap at 25000/ or 50000/ , I don't remember. Nothing wrong in riding in a Porche'. Nothing wrong in paying 3,50,000/- rupees for a registration number 7777. Nothing bloody wrong. But I wish Prithviraj would go around in a random numbered car and donate that 3,50,000/- to some needy people? Kids in Attappady are dying, Prithvi, of malnutrition. People are dying, like flies, with fever.

************ Balachandran 12.06.2013, Trivandrum