Monday, December 31, 2007

The Tale of a Dark Priest

I bought this novel about two years back but only now got the time to read it. It was short novel, 130 pages, so I was able to finish it quickly. It also helps me overcome the guilt that I keep hoarding the books, without actually reading them. Kala Padri a Hindi novel by Tejinder (the novelist just uses his first name) is set in the tribal areas of Chattisgarh and follows the growth of James Xaxa, a young man of Uraon tribe, who is studying to become a Roman Catholic priest. James is a 'talented' and intelligent young man who is expected to make it big, go to Rome, meet the Pope in person and spent three years studying theology. But he is also acutely sensitive to the socio-political upheavels that are happening all around him and which prompt him frequently towards poltical activism. There is also Soselene Minz, a young woman friend who gradually becomes more than a soundboard for his ideas and thoughts. The novel goes into the intricate details of the lives of tribal Christians and brings out rich and complex narrative of India's social, economic, political fermenting. The narrator of the novel is a young man called Aditya, a bank official who has recently been posted in Ambikapur. The working of the bank, especially the corruption disenchants him and he often spends time with his somewhat idealistic friend James Xaxa and Soselene Minz. And it's with them and through them that he's able to clear the cobwebs of prejudice and ignorance, and allows the novelist an incisive narrative.
(काला पादरी, तेजिंदर, नेशनल पेपरबैक्स, नई दिल्ली. 2005)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Back to reading ways

After a long hiatus I have resumed my reading. These are a few books that I recently finished. The first one is biography of a Marathi poet-reformer written by J. C. Winslow and the next three are novels by Japanese writer Shusaku Endo:

1. Builders of Modern India: Narayan Vaman Tilak
2. Scandal
3. Deep River
4. Silence

Apart from that I have read a couple of short stories by Laltu. The first one is "Jab Brazil Mein Suraj Sir Par Tha" (When the Sun was Overhead in Brazil) and second is"Nitai Bhikhmanga, Premika Aur Kavita Ek Maut Ki" (Begger Nitai, Lover and Poem of a Death)

Both of these stories by Laltu have a male narrator, in the first one he is a narrator proper, while in the latter he is writing a letter. The stories are a richly complex mix of a male yearning for meaning, a dream of social equity and longing for the woman increasingly drifting apart. Both the stories are a fascinating study of educated middle class urban male who has excelled in academics with tenacity, overcoming crippling effects of economic disadvantages and who has nurtured a vision of social transformation. A host of Indian men are cast in this mould. There are so many of them, who have gained higher education, dream of change, so many of them have found that it is not easy as the structures of inequality and exploitation have percolated very consciousness of our nation. And so many of them cannot let go of the dream either. Fighting personal problems, relationship issues and professional disappointments so many still want that dream transformed into concrete reality.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Writerly Question

There are things that I want to write about. Things like the upcoming US Open final between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Things like novel of Endo Shusaku that I have been reading. About Vir Sanghvi's polemic against Mother Teresa in today's newspaper. The first fills me with excitement. I am looking forward to it. The second one requires me to be solemn and meditative. The third makes me melancholic. I wish I had the patience (and more importantly, skill) to integrate these three events seamlessly in one piece of writing. Sometimes I wonder if it is possible to write about life fully.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Stuck in the Schindler's Lift

I am glad I am not claustrophobic. Since the day we got the lift working in our office I have often had one thought—What if the lift gets stuck in the middle? I never actually answered, or sought to answer this rather morbid flash of fancy. Today, I seem to have gotten an answer—if the lift develops a glitch, press the alarm button and the lift operator will do something.
.....There was a power breakdown as I just boarded the lift this morning. I was alone in the lift and no sooner did it reach the first floor than the lights flickered, the fan ceased to hurl the tepid air and the lift stopped. I caught myself smiling gleefully in the full-length mirror. No, I am not claustrophobic, it is confirmed. My phone was fully charged and so I could spend a day talking to the reporters from the news channels if need be. I called Jagdeep, my office mate and told him how I was stuck. We both were amused and we hung up. He didn't think necessary to come down and it didn't make sense to me to call him. It was physically impossible for him to come anyway; the lift was stuck and all of us hate stairs (Jagdeep and I especially, even though our waist sizes are beginning to become unavailable in the market). In the meantime the door of the lift slid open but instead of the passageway there was a wall in front of me. I was on the first floor and the lift is not meant to stop there so that logical opening is walled up. I didn't feel like Anarkali and I didn't bother wondering who decided this and why. I was only too happy relishing the prolonged moment of my fortitude. Then I heard some commotion overhead. Our security incharge and the lift operator were executing a plan to rescue me. With soft jerky movement the lift began to ascend. I overcame the wall and a new dawn was setting in through what seemed like a skylight in my prison cell. As I moved up, the passageway of the second floor became a skylight, then a window and then a big window.
.....In this picture on the right you can see the floor level of the second floor. I was thinking to climb up and go over but didn't want to do anything unless asked to. No movement without instructions. Our security guard, Shiv Shankar ji, came to check and then shouted to pull more and then ran up to, I think, do the pulling himself. The hiccupy motion of the lift continued. And the big window began to grow into a proper door, a welcoming gate to glory which awaits people who have endured much in life. I was thinking that my whole office would have come down to give me a hero's welcome but as you can see in that picture there was no one, oh! heartless world. Anyway, Shiv Shankar ji, came back. By the time the lift had moved few inches up. I was still not stepping out. Not before somebody had noticed my travails. Only Shiv Shankar ji was there, the man with Bholenath's dual eponym. He couId at that moment burn me to ashes by his supernatural third eye—Sir why don't you come out. More than request it was an order, actually admonishment. He perhaps wanted to say—You fool what the heck are you still doing there? Who are you waiting for? For me to play on my damru so that you to start your monkey business (This should not be taken as a reference to the company I am working for, or to the work I do there). His veiled annoyance was justified because I could just step out of the lift now as easily as mounting on a single step. In the second you can see the difference in floor level of my lift and the second floor. And that foot that you see is of Bholenath's. Only one foot is visible because he is now the Natraj, getting into his most iconic posture. Come up sir—his voice thundered. And I meekly climbed up to his level. The level which is more awesome than the Olympic pedestal. And I trudged, unmindful of the fact that this little misadventure has had been a double blessing to me. One I have found the answer to what happenes when a lift gets stuck and secondly, nobody seemed to notice that I have come half-an hour late to the office.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Theme: Delay

Continuing with the same theme, of delay, I am reminded of few lines that I wrote many-many years back, in 1999 to be precise.


एक अलसाई कोंपल देर से फूटी
एक पत्ता देर से हरा हुआ
साथ वाले
साथ की टहनी वाले
झूमते हवा के साथ
गाते थे चिड़ियों के साथ
वो दोस्त थे सारे

नया पत्ता
कुछ देर से पैदा हुआ

न हवा का रुख़ समझता था
न गीत चिड़ियों का पहचानता था
उसका कोई दोस्त न था
उसने बहुत देर कर दी पैदा होने में
या शायद
...............बहुत जल्दी


वो उगा
उस टहनी पर
उसी पर उसे उगना था
वो पैदा हुआ
क्योंकि उसे ही पैदा होना था
हरे रंग पर हक़
............उसका भी था
हवा का रुख़ उसकी मजबूरी न बना
चिड़ियों का गीत
........उसके गुनगुनाने को दबा न सका

वो टहनी
वो पेड़ वो साथ वाले पत्ते
उसके थे
क्योंकि ये उसी के होने थे

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Distraction: A Double Edged Sword

Looking at my last couple of posts I have become painfully aware of how much catching up I need to do. I haven't gone back to the books I bought as far as four years back. The "latest" music I bought hit the charts three years ago. Gadgets people are about to discard have come to my notice only in the most recent past. LATE. LATE. LATE. I am late while catching trains. My colleagues panicked last time when I was travelling with them. (Aside: Mention of colleagues brings to mind that I am often late for the office. Hope my boss doesn't read this).

Time oppresses me. Clocks, watches and calenders are my worst tormentors. Every year my birthday gives me jitters. I am reminded of John Milton's ode he wrote on his twenty-third birthday. I don't think I will be able to write anything like that even on the twenty-third anniversary of my resurrection. Those who know me know how John Keats rattles me. He died at the age of twenty six, having written some of the best verse ever composed. Nietzsche published his first book at the age of twenty-eight.

Last night I watched the movie Lola (1981) by the German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder . The man died next year, at the age of 37. By that time he had made about 43 full-length feature films. That's more films than he was old. The movie, by the way, was hugely engrossing. From the first frame where Marie-Louise aka Lola (Barbara Sukowa) is combing her hair till the last shot there was no let up. The dialogues, the visuals, and of course the performances were all class. One scene that stays with me is von Bohm (Armin Mueller-Stahl) passionately playing on his violin.

But of course, I am getting distracted here. I am not supposed to be discussing the movie but my struggle with the relentless march of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades. That's a whole legion against a solitary me. And this solitary me cannot afford to be distracted in the face of this formidable opponent, guided by veiled or perhaps a faceless commander. Distraction is snake in the grass. Wish I were more disciplined, even like Fassbinder. On the other hand, it's possible that distraction is my most potent weapon against a single-minded obsession. On my MSN blog, Mindscape, I changed my introduction. Till now I had this written there: Looking at my life I am increasingly becoming convinced that God sends some people to be drifters. Floaters. My nickname there was DrifterAshish (I have changed that now).

Even this blogwriting is a kind of distraction. I had decided to utilize the off today to write the book review I have been planning for quite sometime. However, this distraction is endearing. I'd rather make a provision for diversions and digressions in the life-and-death battle of purposefulness.

Come Away With Me

Bought this grammy award winning album by Norah Jones a few days back. The title song is one I have enjoyed the most though Don't Know Why was the award winning record that year. Also bought Kailash Kher's Kailasa.
Meanwhile I have also updated my Mindscape. Updated my profile, changed the "More About Me" box, added two playlists.
It's Saturday today and though a long to-do list is throbbing in my head--adding a separate rhythm to Norah Jones's dulcet voice--I just don't want to get away from my comp. Its a pleasant, very unlike-June day today, and perhaps the best day to get over with the errands. But to sit here and go tap-tap on the keys seem to be the most important thing to do.

Ummmm ... I better get going.
  1. I have to return the DVD, which didn't play last night.
  2. Visit the bookshop and find out if the books I had placed an order for have come or not.
  3. Buy some M-seal to mend the cracks in door.
  4. Order lunch.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


I am four days late in celebrating this.

11 April 2006 was the day I started putting together this motley collection of my thoughts. I haven't been very regular in updating this. But that just reflects what I am, I guess. Begin with a bang and don't worry how it ends.

Having said that, I am not going to let it end with a whimper.

Blogging has been a great experience to say the least! I have friends stopping by and occasionally leave a comment. Some of them started their own blogs. Hope they continue. There have been some exciting conversations. And I realized that even maintaining a casually written diary also require a huge amount of carefulness, even research. Not to mention, what a fantastic way it has been, in many ways, to discover my own self. I think, poets derive the same kind of pleasure writing poems which I have extracted from this exercise of blogging.

This morning when I talked to Laltu--one of the inspirations behind starting this blog--he asked me immediately if I had added something here. I am adding it now Laltu. Hope you keep adding stuff at your space too. Voices of sanity are few and far between.

To celebrate this anniversary I must mention a most flattering incident. Last Sunday Joel talked to me saying that the previous evening as he was driving from one end of the city to another to deflate some stress, he realized that he needed to speak to someone. At 2.00 a.m. he thought of giving me a call. Call me selfish, but instead of knowing what bothered him, I was just too glad to know that he thought of me at that moment.

On this blog I want to confess that the most flattering thing in life is to be of use to people who have always been a strong support to you. People you have learnt from. People who invested in you and patiently (even painfully) waited for you to grow. Being rememberd by someone like that is an awesome feeling. I was so overwhelmed by this feeling of gratitude that today I called people who made difference in my life. I called Laltu. I called NKO. I called Akshaya. I will be calling a whole list of people now.

Meanwhile, Joel, I wish that you activate your "Thought Spot"

Monday, February 05, 2007

Remembering Brahmabandhab Upadhyay

2007 is the year of death centenary of Brahmabandhab (Brahmabandhav) Upadhyay. This 11th February is his birth anniversary. Some of us are trying to organize a discussion around the life and ideas of the man. I just wrote a small introduction which we intend to send along with the invitation, since we don't expect many people to know about him. Here is what I wrote

Brahmabandhab Upadhyay: A Very Short Introduction

Upadhyay’s short life of 46 years or so spanned one of the most creative periods of Indian history, when India as a nation was in the making. A number of the key-figures of the nation-building process – Debendranath and Rabindranath Tagore, Keshabchandra Sen and Pratapchandra Majumdar, Annie Besant, Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Swami Vivekananda, Bipinchandra Pal and Aurobindo Ghose – to name but a few, encountered his forceful personality. Upadhyay was in the thick of the struggle to form the soul of modern India - Julius Lipner

Upadhyay is one of the enigmas of modern India and … a potential embarrassment to those who invoke him – Julius Lipner
Brahmbandhab Upadhyay was born on 11 February 1861 in Bengal. A fiery intellectual – Vivekananda-like in scope of his vision of spiritual revival of India, like Aurobindo a nationalist to the core, and a comrade of Tagore as the latter materialized his idea of Shantiniketan – Upadhayay was a trailblazer in many ways. An editor of religious as well as political journals; an itinerant preacher challenging most cherished ideals of his day; a nationalist who sought self-respect for his motherland; an educationist; a sannyasi. He treaded on a terrain with no guidance from the past, and made possible creative synthesis of knowledges arising from East as well as West. But sadly the hero of cultural awakening lies forgotten by a large majority of Indians. A genius like him is not necessarily popular, as the comment above suggests. However, those who wish to give the hero his due, those who seek integration of experience and faith, those who wish to understand the soul of twenty-first century India must get into conversation with the ideas, the ideals and the life of Brahmabandhab Upadhayay.

1861 - Born as Bhabanicharan Bandhopadhyay in a Brahmin home. Comes under the influence of Keshabchandra Sen in his boyhood.
1887 - Initiated into the Church of New the Dispensation of Keshab
1888 - At the age of twenty-seven goes as a Brahmo teacher to Hyderabad in Sindh, and there chiefly through his friendship with two missionaries, Redman and Heaton gradually became convicted of the truth of the resurrection of Christ and his co-eternal Sonship. Reads Faa di Bruno’s Catholic Belief
1891 - Baptised in February by an Anglican, affirming at the same time that he did not thereby join the Church of England. In September becomes a Roman Catholic.
1894 - In January starts Sophia from Karachi. Dons the ochre robe of a sannyasi. Takes the name Brahmabandhab, the friend of Brahaman (Theophilus in Greek).
1897 - Emphasizes the potential of ‘Vedantic Theism’ and formulations of Shankara
1898 - Writes in Sophia, “We are Hindu so far as our physical and mental constitution is concerned, but in regard to out immortal souls we are Catholic. We are Hindu Catholics.”
1899 - In March, monthly Sophia is discontinued. Followed consecutively by two short-lived journals – the weekly Sophia and The Twentieth Century. Both publications include political discussion on topics of the day. Adopts a nationalist stance and becomes unsparing in his criticism of the behaviour of foreign Christian missionaries and of various actions of the British Government.
1900 - Works closely with the poet Rabindranath Tagore in developing the famous ashram at Shantiniketan
1902-03 - Pays a visit to Europe. Disappointed with the west.
1904 - Starts a daily Bengali newspaper Sandhya, culturally and politically anti-British.
1907 - Undergoes prayashcitta, the penitential rite by which the excommunicate formally returns to the Hindu fold. On September 10 arrested by the British Government on a charge of sedition. On October 27 dies while recovering from a hernia operation. Cries “Thakur, Thakur”