Sunday, May 24, 2009

Dom Moraes

I have been snooping around the house a bit and happened to chance upon my sister-in-law's stash. Thanks Aps! I was able to lay my hands on quite a few good books and have displaced these from their intended location to my room, I promise I'll put them back :).

Have been fond of poetry for a long long time now and so I picked the Collected Poems by Dom Moraes first. I must admit that I have not read the poet before and don't even recall his name as being even remotely familiar. And since Vish had atleast heard of the poet (he couldn't recall the poems, thank god!), I had to swallow his snide remark that expressed his concern on the kind of literature I have been into. Hmmm. Okay. Everyone has their moments of enlightenment. I owe him one now :)

Back to Dom Moraes. Born in Bombay, educated in Oxford, Moraes is one of the select few celebrated English poets that India has ever produced. This particular collection comprises select verses from his large body of work over a period of almost five decades. I read through almost all in no particular order (obviously can't read poetry like a novel - beginning to end).

Maybe I didn't give him too much time and thought but my first reaction was wow, the poems are technically sound, beautifully crafted, characterized with apt and unique imagery and interconnection of themes, but very few poems left the deep impression a good composition leaves on you. Some poems, especially, used loud images rather than subtle cues, the focus seemed on the physical power and enthrallment rather than on discerning emotional involvement. Maybe, I am being a little hasty in writing him off and I need to read him atleast once more and with greater care. After all, everybody deserves a second chance.

However, like I said, Moraes does come across as an elegant craftsman, an experienced artist who commands the readers' interest. Here are some verses that I particularly liked:

Aspects of a City
On a defensible hill, by a river,
The foot rested, the bronze hammer
Tested for the fault in the rock.
Tapped up by one concise stroke,
Shape detached itself, visible,
Chisels scraped, details clarified.
Brushes made colours separate.
The blind man, an unnecessary lamp
Raised, commanded the camp to see.
Women's whispers, imprints of war,
Deathmasks, the prescience of blood.
In the living rock, the first shape.
From the first shape the final form.
In the storm's eye the city stood.

All languages is its own history,
Scarred with eponymous heroes,
Heartsick dictators, martyred tribes,
Gods desecrated on their altars.
The sound of an ancient trumpet,
Summons to war, in the vowels.
The clashed consonants echo
Hammer on rock, blade on blade.
All language is its own landscape.
Where single cities can be made.
If it is reductible to a word,
Each one must find his own.
It is the destiny of a dynasty
To form a language from a language.

It happens to you once and only once.
You stare into yourself for many years,
a childhood habit, followed ever since,
and then by accident the face appears
you recognize but have not ever known.

Delicate features of an ancient race,
a classic beauty chiselled from dark stone,
call back the memory of another place
you were acquainted with in other times.

From your exhausted mind the memory climbs
as after a thrown stone the water clears:
the world made flesh, her body of deep bronze
held in your arms after too many years.
It happens to you once and only once.

Typed with One Finger
Travel with me on the long road
into loneliness, where the hours
offer pardons to those still afraid.
Bursts of white and blue flowers
will surprise you in summer, with
denials of what is called death.
When I am not there in the maze
where the long road ends, think
of the clumsy stutter of my limp
behind you always, hindering you,
trying to help you all my days.

Every word that I wrote was true
this way or that, meant to praise
whatever was worth it on earth.
When my thumb, slowly flexed,
erased vexed lines from your brow,
it did more than my typing finger
achieved in those seasons, for that,
over the endless miles of paper,
scratched in marks like crowfeet.
As so there were always reasons
how are lives became complete.
For me the main one was I loved you.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Endlösung der Judenfrage - Holocaust

The worst gang wars of all time – Nazis against the Jews in the 1930s and 1940s under the rule of Führer, as Adolf Hitler was known - is a testimony to the most abysmal depths to which the human race can ebb. Genocide of approximately six million European Jews and systematic annihilation of millions of people in other groups including ethnic Poles, the Romani, Soviets, and political and religious opponents as part of a program of deliberate state-sponsored extermination planned and executed by the SS (Schutzstaffel) army in Germany is what every human being, irrespective of religious, political and national boundaries, should be ashamed of.

And this is the context of the book I just finished reading - Holocaust by Gerald Green, based on the critically acclaimed NBC-TV series by the same name.

Through the fictional accounts of two men caught on the extreme spectrum of this catastrophe – Erik Dorf, officer in the Nazi Army, swept up in a frenzy of murderous rage and Rudi Weiss, a Berlinian Jew, the anguished victim, the author traces the bloody trail from Berlin to Warsaw to Russia to Czechoslovakia to Prague to Israel, unfolding the searing and contrasting saga of the two interlocked German families.

Green spares no gory detail – the destruction of European Jewry, the confabulations of the architects of Hitler's Final Solution, the slaughter at Babi Yar, the impoverished ghettos, the death trains used to export Jews, the concentration camps, the gas chambers, the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and finally, the liberation of Auschwitz. He chronicles how euphemistic phrases such as Endlösung der Judenfrage (German for ‘the final solution to the Jewish question’), resettlement of Jews, autonomous Jewish territories, among others, were used as means to one end – mass obliteration of a whole race. Add to this, the complete apathy by religious and humanitarian institutions, governments and media organizations across the world.

If Holocaust is a story of extreme hatred, it is also a mesmerizing tale of passionate love. It captures the heroism and courage of the some few who fought to live and died with dignity. In its dismal setting of unparalleled monstrous deeds, it strives to keeps alive the hope in the spirit of human relationships.

The narrative brings alive the sadness beyond tears of the lives of the millions perished for no apparent logical reason, and though there is a sense of survival and triumph towards the end, one realizes that it comes at too exorbitant a price and with too many scars that even the waves o f time may not be able to alleviate.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The unceremonious exit of our visitor…

Self invited guests who barge unannounced at home on weekends are bad enough, and if they choose to stay longer than is absolutely necessary, hell tends to break loose. And this is precisely what happened at our place last evening.

This particular visitor slipped unnoticed into our house, presumably in the wee hours of the morning. As soon as my mother-in-law spotted it in the puja area, a high alert was sounded with orders for all bedroom doors to remain closed till further instructions; severe restrictions were imposed on movement between rooms, almost like a mini curfew.

An exordium to the visitant: A critter from the reptilian species, dry and scaly skin, clawed feet, long tail, and slimy and obnoxious, to put it very mildly.
If my feelings for this being are that of disgust and abhorrence, my hubby’s border on paranoia. While I do my regular shrieks and just curse the damn thing and pray that it goes away, Vish simply cannot tolerate the sight of a lizard. If he sees it, he needs to make it go away. Period. Nothing more, nothing less. And though I totally lack the spirit and passion required for this kind of an operation, Vish finds ample support in his mom. Thank God, I say. Keep me out of this.

Only if words could help me re-create those crazy 30 odd minutes! Nevertheless, I try.

Both mother and son braced themselves for an armed combat with Mr. L (L for ‘lizard’ and Mr. coz Vish insisted on referring to it as “him/he”). Amma equipped herself with a broom and Vish was loaded with Hit spray (used for cockroaches etc.). They both then entered the puja area with the deadliest of intentions, and I was like this curious amateur journalist sans any camera or notepad, reporting from Ground Zero. My peace-loving father-in-law refused to participate in the war without an ample cause and remained locked in his room.

Vish mercilessly sprayed the foul smelling Hit all around, behind the idols and pictures to bring the enemy out in the open, and Mr. L graced us with his scummy presence. What an unfair battle it was. Here was our six inches adversary unarmed and in a state of shock faced with two adult human beings girded with mortal weapons. Panic-stricken, Mr. L tried hiding, but all in vain. The mother-son duo was indefatigable and soon brought Mr. L on the ground with a big thud. The poor guy tried to find a foot-hold but only slithered. After almost half-an-hour of broom stick battering, unpleasant aerosols and loud war-like cries, our soldiers, with a never-before vengeance, threw Mr. L out of the house.

You should’ve seen the triumphant smiles of my MIL and hubby. They were on top of the world. As if the whole episode wasn’t funny enough, their victorious back slapping made me literally roll on the floor in a wild laughter.
Apparently, this has been the fate of all lizards that have been unfortunate enough to be seen by Vish, and to be fair, I’ll admit he is a little less fierce on the intolerable guests.


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