Writer's Blog

Transient Thoughts

Saturday, September 30, 2006


I don't know why there is a law that allows the government to buy land below it's market value. I think they should be paying 50% higher than the market price. That way people might not so feel so bad about their land being aquired, they might even feel good about it.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Snippets from my Trip to the South of France - (and Frankfurt airport, he he)

I was going to type the heading of this post in part French part German. But some ideas seem really hot only when you first think of them...

So I went to Cannes, last week, for a customer meeting, and also visited Nice and Monte Carlo in the free time. They, my company, had put me up in a swanky hotel right on the marine drive - boulevard de la croisette. Sumptuous breakfasts, lunches and dinners at the hotel, lazy walks in the sun, and sweet girls saying bon jour monsieur made me feel quite like Dr. Grimsdyke whooping it up on the French riviera at Lord Nutbeam's expense in Richard Gordon's 'Doctor in Clover'.

My room was, ofcourse, very good. But the best part was a framed photograph of Van Gough's 'Nature Morte aux oignons' which surely translates to 'Still life with Onions' - characterstic Van Gough yellow, still life with a book, a knife, a candle, a kettle and of course some onions. I get these nice surprises once in a while, that's when I feel 'ah! Nice move, God, you have won me over again.'

There was another painting, by Kandinsky, some improvisation or other. That was a nice painting too.

One of the highlights of the trip, for me, was a grand dinner at the hotel for everyone attending the review meeting - there were lots of people. Sunlight at seven in the evening, walking on to the terrace with a view to the sea and a chappie (as Dr Grimsdyke might say) saying 'Champagne, monsieur?' 'Yes please, thank you', should have said, Oui! Merci!'. One or two nice dress to take the occasional peep at/into... Two glasses of champagne and you are ready to sit at a table and they serve white wine with the first course: scallops with mango chutney. The white wine was'nt such a hit, the mango chutney was good, the scallops were indiffernt (I have yet to develop refined tastes). Next course, beef steak and spinach and onion cake of some sort with red wine - the beef well done please. Excellent red wine, good spinach cake, good beef but I am not a great fan. Desserts - totally don't remember what was for dessert. Coffee? No thank you. And then surprise of surprise they bring another drink. It is smoky like whisky but tastes sweet like brandy. Cognac, someone says helpfully. Ah, cognac. So this is cognac. It is fruity and sweet, almost like dessert. In the meantime I have been discussing languages in India - English the lingua Franca - and European economy, why England is not switching and how did the prices behave when France changed to the Euro; I really enjoy discussing such topics when I am drunk, can hardly stand them when I am sober. I am still sipping my cognac when the fireworks start over the Mediterranean - they spend quite some money on these customer meetings. One kind of firecracker after another in a seemingly un-ending sequence. Hmm...good life.

I will keep the Nice and the Monte Carlo for some other time. Let me write about the flight back. I had decided not to get drunk in the afternoon. But you know how it is with free booze. But I had only red wine and ofcourse some cognac in the end. Again, I am having my last sips of Cognac, hoping they play the English movie first - the Pink Panther, and not the Hindi movie - don't remember the name of but it had Kareena and Shahid Kapoor with Himesh Reshmia singing all the songs, that's when out of the blue (?) they start playing Mickey Mouse. Oh, thank you God. Donald duck with his bum stuck in a gold fish bowl and his nose in something else, making all those hilarious noises. Just could not stop laughing. And then they brought on the Pink Panther. That was another laugh riot. Don't know if it was the alcohol, but I was laughing blisfully, continuously, uncontrollably and quite quite gratefully. A nice ending to a nice trip.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Prodigal Returns

This Sunday, I went to the Mallu Mess (actually, Kerala Spice) after a long time. I had been slightly peeved at their apparently charging me more and more for the fish, and I had found another Mallu restaurant which served better food and was at-least a kilometer nearer home. But this Sunday, the other Mallu restaurant was serving Onam special lunches and all tables were booked in advanced.

So back I went to the Mallu mess for my weekly dose of Sear Fish.

I was treated like the prodigal son when he came back home. As I walked up one of the waiters smiled a large smile at me from the upstairs window. I started to feel guilty already. The owner beamed from behind the cash counter. Then another guy who I had gotten quite friendly with came rushing to where I sat, shook hands and said 'Enda saare, njangale marnjo? Kerala spice ne maranjo? Njangale maranjalum bhakshanam maranjo?' What sir, did you forget us, did you forget Kerala spice? Or even if you did, did you forget about food?

At that moment my scanty mallu failed me. I broke into English. 'I was not in town' I lied. A perplexed expression appeared on the waiter's face. 'Saar malayali alle?' Sir, you are not a Mallu? I had never pretended to be more than what I was - a non-mallu who knew some mallu, but the fact that he had taken me for a mallu, for so long, was quite gratifying. Apparently the other waiter had assumed the same thing too, I gathered from their conversation later. So what mallu I knew, I knew it well :-). And I also knew how to enjoy my red rice. So anyway, this waiter knows Kannada and we chatted and I told him what I tell all mallus I meet - that I have lived in Trivandrum for four years. He reminded me about the Onam sadya (a special feast for Onam) they were having on Monday and Tuesday and asked me if I would come.

About the prodigal son part. They did'nt lead any fattened calf into the kitchen, but they did give me quite a large cross-section of Sear Fish.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

In the desert of my loneliness

A nazm by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, an edited cut-paste from the net, plus my own, inadequate, translation. The translation is non-literal; refer to it to get the general drift of the poem, only if you need to ofcourse.

dasht-e-tanhaaii men ae jaan-e-jahaaN larzaaN hain
terii aavaaz ke saaye tere honThon ke saraab
dasht-e-tanhaaii men duurii ke Khas-o-Khaak tale
khil rahe hain tere pahaluu ke saman aur gulaab

(Dasht=desert,wasteland, larzaan hai = are shimmering; saraab=mirages; khas-o-khaak= the leaves and gen debris to be found under trees in the woods; pahalu=thought; saman=flowers)

In the wasteland deserts of my loneliness, are shimmering,
the echoes of your voice, the mirages of your lips...
And, under the rubble and dirt of our separation,
Thoughts and memories of you cause fresh flowers to bloom

uTh rahii hai kahiin, qurbat se, terii saaNs kii aaNch
apanii Khushbuu men sulagatii huii, madham, madham
duur ufaq-paar chamakatii huii, qataraa, qataraa
gir rahii hai terii dildaar nazar kii shabanam

(qurbat se= from close by; aanch=warmth; sulagatii hui= simmering; ufaq-paar=beyond the horizon; qatraa, qatraa=drop by drop; dildaar=generous; shabanam=dew)

The warmth of your breath seems to rise from close-by
slowly simmering in its own fragrance.
The shining mist that covers the horizon,
seems like a hundred dew-drops of your loving glance.

is qadar pyaar se, ae jaan-e-jahaaN rakkhaa hai
dil ke ruKhsaar pe is vaqt terii yaad ne haath
yuuN gumaaN hotaa hai garche hai abhii subah-e-firaaq
Dhal gayaa hijr kaa din aa bhii gaii vasl kii raat

(rukhsaar=cheek; gumaan=illusion; subah-e-firaaq = the morning (beginning) of separation; hijr=separation; vasl=meeting, union)

The loving hand of a thousand memories
so seems to caress the cheek of my soul,
that I forget it is only just the beginning of our separation,
and it seems the night of our union draws near again.

In the deserted wastelands of my loneliness are shimmering...

Iqbal Bano has done a great job of singing this song. It is probably one of her popular ones too, considering it appears in several of her albums. Each stanza is sung twice and adds to the effect...like a second shave...And she sings it so lovingly. It's as if the poet's sweetheart were herself singing the poem written after her...you can imagine the effect...hmmm. One can almost feel the 'warmth of the breath' and 'the loving caress on the cheek of the soul.'

Listening to the song one feels lucky to be alive. I am not exaggerating, but I guess hearing is believing.

Over the tens of times I have listened to this song, it has become my favourite Faiz poem, and maybe my favourite love song too.

Other Faiz favourites are: 'Tere gham ko jaan ki talaash thi', a song of reconciled disillusionment, a song that says 'its too late now sweetheart' and 'Hum Dekhenge, Woh din ke jis ka waada hai' a song of resilience, of revolt, of hope. The former can be found on www.urdupoetry.com, under Faiz.

Ghalib and Shakespeare are masters of flourish, of cleverness and wit, of brilliance, of good humour. Mir writes with a diffident pride and a diffident arrogance. Daag is characterized by sheer simplicity, and Omar Khayyam (who I have just started reading) by pragmatism and worldly wisdom.

Faiz seems to write with a depth of emotion. From the heart, and with great feeling. The ego of the poet is missing or unperceptible in Faiz's poems. This perhaps distinguishes him from the other great poets.