Wednesday, December 28, 2005

waiting to get inspired...

its very rare that i get down to write something purely out of inspiration from within.. the words usually flow only as a spill out after reading somebody else's composition- I've no idea as to metre- verse- its just more of a haphazard flow of emotions that have been evoked from reading someone else's thoughts...and hence its possible that my words deviate onto a track of their own different from what the original writer/poet intended- some words, images create a response within me depending on my attitude/perception/ mood of the moment...and then I feel like jotting the resultant thoughts...hope its not illegal! let me know if it is... :-)

I have mentioned the source of inspiration for each of the following:

this one was inspired after reading at Fizo's

http://knittingalspoetry.blogspot.com/2005/10/moment.html


That moment from the past
Has come back to haunt me
That moment which gives me no rest
That endless moment
which refuses to burn to ashes

I had deluded myself
That I had forgotten that moment
Today, now, I realize
I was mistaken
That moment
Has yet again seized me
In its grasp
A sigh escapes
From the depths of my soul
I surrender meekly yet again
To the whims of memory…

Fool that I was
To have believed
That I had moved on
All that it took
Was just a whiff from the past
And the steps that I had trudged in toil
I retraced in a trice
And I was back where I started…

this one flowed after reading this:
http://myopendiary.blogdrive.com/archive/64.html

aayi thi mein phir in galiyon mein
kuchh umeed se, kuchh aasha lekar
lagta tha ki shaayad
mera kuchh yahan phir se mil jaayega
par yahaan to sab kuchh anjaana sa
sab kuchh naya sa
jo tha woh ab na raha...

jis gaon ki khoj mein main yahaan aayi thi
woh dikhayi nahin deti
waqt ki parivartan
meri gaaon ko bhi chhookar jaayegi
yeh shaayad sochi na thi mein..
ab sirf man ke kone mein

kuchh bhooli bisri yaadein
jis ko sametkar
raat ki andhere mein phir se tarashoon
aur dil mein chhipaake rakhoon...
jo tha woh na raha
aur jo hai, woh mera nahi
uski aarzoo bhi nahin...

again from akhil's pages:

http://myopendiary.blogdrive.com/archive/62.html

sheeshe mein jab khud ko nihaarthi hoon
to apne pratibimb ko dekhkar
aksar yeh bhram mein pad jaati hoon ki
shaayad akeli nahi hoon mein...
phir jab mud ke dekhti hoon to
koi nahin - sirf shunyata
koi mujhe bataa de
ekant mein itna soonapan kyon hai??
tanhaai se dosti karoon
phir bhi seene mein
ek tadap si kyon hai?

yet again from :
http://myopendiary.blogdrive.com/archive/55.html


aastha bhi nahin
manzil bhi nahin
zindagi ke chaurahe par
khadi hoon duvidha mein
is disha me jaaoon
ya us raah ko chunoon...
Bus khade rahe hum
aur achanak ek

Hawa ka jhonka aaya
aur hum fisalte chale gaye ...


kahan se kahan le gaye hume
ab jahan pahunchu
vahin hai hamari manzil
Mud ke dekhoon to
jaane kis raste par nikale hum
par tab tak to bahut der ho chuki hogi
na manzil chun paya hum
na raste ko
jo aaya so paaya
haath me kuchh na samaaya...

the attempt in english:

Just Arrived

Standing at the crossroads
I kept gazing into the distant horizon
Dilemma, conflicts, Indecision
Tormented my mind and soul
Do I go this way or that other one?
I kept waiting ...

In the twilight hour
Suddenly a gust of wind
Pushed me ahead
And I found myself floating
Like a lost leaf
I tottered, I floundered
I stumbled, I fell..
I picked myself up
I brushed the dust off me
A wound there, a tear here
A weary but redeemed soul

I stood rooted to the spot
Where I now found myself
I cupped my hands
Over my eyes
and looked ahead
And What did I see?


In the orange of dusk
Wilderness stretching to nowhere…
I turned and looked behind me
I saw no tracks nor footprints
There was no path of return
For me to follow....

I had not chosen
the path that I traversed
Nor my destination
And so the place I reached
I declared was my destination
I looked again
The embers were glowing in the Horizon
And I had Arrived!



one more:

http://myopendiary.blogdrive.com/archive/61.html


jis tarah bujhthi diya ki jwala manmohak hai
shaayad zindagi ki anischita hi
hame lubhaati hai..
aaj hai kal ho na ho
yehi chintha hamein sataati hai...


the latest inspired from here:

http://viveksharmaiitd.blogspot.com/2005/12/saga-of-crumpled-piece-of-paper.html

I had been leading this crumpled existence
expecting nothing, hoping for nothing
mute acceptance...

you came by...
unfurled me, infused colour
and breathed new life into me
I began to hope...
I began to feel the pride
that comes with the
sense of belonging

Alas! I was but a fool
to believe that I belonged
You stamped a value
and changed hands
I was nothing-
just a medium-
for your expression
the lines, the colors
were not me
and yet I ceased to be yours too...

and now I’m trapped in this ornate frame
The life, the color not mine
And yet I transform the walls that I adorn
Once again mute acceptance
Frozen existence…
But I remember
the touch of your fingers
The ring in your laughter
yet no regrets...
to have been touched by you..
is enough sustenance...

Monday, October 31, 2005

Fickle thoughts

Her intuition had once again proved right-but she did not feel proud about the astuteness of her intuition- instead she wished she had been proved wrong-

What she had feared would transpire actually happened- and when the incident unfurled itself, it had a surreal feel to it- like it was not actually happening to her- she was not a part of the happening- like she was just watching it happen to somebody else as a spectator- so much so that she did not know how to react, respond. She remained queerly unmoved- and then she realized that she had to respond in some manner- and not just sit there like she were watching a movie. She had to think of an appropriate answer- hunt for the right words- She answered dispassionately- she calmly continued to pack his lunch for him- handed it over indifferently- told him to forget that he had uttered those words ever and that she had heard them.

After the impulsive outburst, seeing her grave expression perhaps he realized his blunder and began apologizing fervently- he asked for forgiveness- but she could not bring herself to say that she forgave him for his indiscretion. She stubbornly refused to say that she forgave him- She was not angry or even offended but she felt indignant that he had not paused to think about his wife back home or her husband who was his friend.

He got up and left and she closed- nay slammed the door after him… she hoped she would never have to see him again…

She did not want him to feel humiliated but she did want him to realize that he had been thoughtless- inconsiderate- She understood the frailty of human emotions, but how could he act upon his fickle feelings? Why did he have to confess to her about how he felt about her? What had he expected? How did he summon the audacity to utter those words to her? To tell her to the face that he found her “tempting”? Had he hoped for a reciprocal feeling? She shuddered at the thought.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Invisible Boundaries...

What did she want? What did she expect? He was right when he said that if she expected him to talk and behave in a specific manner, she might as well draw a picture, stick it on the wall and interact with that lifeless picture! He reminded her that he had a mind and heart of his own- that he existed beyond her imaginations and expectations- his thoughts and feelings could not be tethered to her whims.

She realized he was right. But then she could not make herself accept or like certain aspects of his behaviour while she loved particular traits in him- and he seemed so different at different times invoking contradictory responses within her- she was confused-

But him? He had no confusions, no dilemmas. For him things were simple- and uncomplicated- he could not see or understand beyond his feelings- he had no compunctions about rights or wrongs- He did not find it strange that Friendship could overstep its boundaries and stray into the terrirtory of Love. To him it seemed one of the most Natural culmination to their relationship.
He had no limits drawn for himself. He could not bring himself to stop abruptly at the point she dictated. He often wanted to stretch it a bit further-

So then was this relation incomplete? Or was it a farce? She did not know- but she knew that there was definitely some element which refused to stick to boundaries…some aspect which threatened to lurk beneath the surface- a lurking danger waiting to overwhelm her…where the invisible barriers wore thin and she had to be alert, wary, because she had to face herself at the end of the day…

And so they remained tottering on the rickety wall between definitions of relationships…

Monday, October 03, 2005

For Sumit and Prachi!

On the Threshold

The strains of the shehnai
are just round the corner...
the chanting of hymns...
the chiming of bells
echoing within and without

The misty fumes of incense and camphor
The fragrance of the mogra and bela blossoms
are already wafting in the air..

The verandas and the courtyards are bustling
Rustle of silks
glimmer of jewels

there is laughter, there are giggles
There is thrill, there is anticipation
and yet there is trepidation too
Hopes and expectations
Doubts and fears...

But there is willingness and readiness
To make the Best
On the threshold of a New Life
To stop being "I"
and begin as "WE"

Wish you both a Long, Happy Married life...

Monday, August 22, 2005

More scribbles


Lord Krishna

Have always been fascinated by Lord Krishna from as long as I remember- in all his various forms and roles- and may be specially by Meera's Krishna and Radha Krishna. As a child I remember having tried to draw him from one of the pictures in the puja room- but this one I drew a few years ago, when my younger son was still a baby- 1996-I had just put him to sleep and I remember hurrying through the picture afraid he would wake up any moment.


This Krishna I copied from the Amar Chitra Katha "Meerabai"- there were a couple of other pictures too which I wanted to draw- one in which Lord Krishna holds a fainting Meera- Meera looked so beautiful, nubile- with long hair- but I was unable to sketch it...







It was one of the boring classes after lunch interval while in college-1986, and I was dangerously nodding off to sleep- when I noticed this picture on the cover of the note book of my friend next to me - I promptly set down to copy the picture on my note book- all the while pretending to taking down notes- the picture tho did not look like the person on the cover, did help me to ward off sleep.






I dont remember when I drew this one- but I must have been terribly bored...











It was soon after our wedding - 1988-89- I used to accompany my DH to the shop in the evenings - those days he used to run a medical shop in Kochi - and I would sit in a room at the back of the shop- with stocks of medicines around me- sometimes I would while away the time reading some book from the library- may be that day I had no book- I drew this on a sheet of paper bearing the seal of the Medical shop- copied it from a picture on some magazine lying around - The Week perhaps....I'm not too sure.




This was copied from an ad of Farex or Cerelac, I think- again from the pages of a magazine- I had been fascinated by the expression of the mother, but when I tried to capture it I think she looked kind of toothless! The baby was much cuter in the mag.







Its been a long time I scribbled something- recently when my net connexn was down, I tried to draw a pictutre of Radha and Krishna- from a wall hanging that we got from Udupi this May - the pic was beautiful- tho Krishna looked kind of effiminate- I tried to give him some muscles , make him taller- but the results were disastrous as you can see - the original is really beautiful I tell you...I sighed and returned the pencil that I had borrowed from my son.

The best ones were those that I drew in school- that of Mickey Mouse,Minni Mouse, Donald Duck and Ms Donald Duck- I coloured them with sketch pens- and made kinda wedding photos of the Mickey and Donald couples- those and a few others are now in my maike...which I show to my sons when we go there...

Now the younger one draws Pokemons with various kind of innovative "attacks" - he draws these funny looking creatures with helmets, and armour like things on them...

Crude sketches....

Sometimes, when time weighed heavily, I used to pick up a pencil and scribble- but now its been a long time that I did any drawing- I usually copy from some drawing, photograph- I have very less patience and by the time I'm half way, I cannot wait to finish the picture- no finishing touches... Besides I don't think I have any particular talent, I scribbled away just to while away time...

This is my grandfather . I drew this soon after his death in april 1988. It was more of an attempt to reach out to him when he was no longer there- I drew on a sheet of paper torn out of a note book. The edges are now frayed, but I wish I could have shown him this-he'd have been proud. I tried to copy from a portrait, but was unable to sketch the lips effectively. How muchever I tried, the likeness dissappeared when I attempted to draw the lips...so I left it as it is...I have signed off as "Naru" - that is what he used to call me...

This is of course an attempt to sketch a Kathakali character- I'm pathetic with using colours- so pencil sketch it had to be- I think I drew it long ago when I was in the XII th std- that must've been way back in 1984. I copied it from a painting- but it is disproportionate from many angles- the character is Rajassic-aggressive-( Ravana, Duryodhana etc) and the main colour tone would be various shades of red-

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Moving On...

Moving on

Memories still bring that
Treacherous gleam to the eye
And the world becomes
A floating bubble
On the sea of fond memories-

A sense of something precious lost,
A sense of jealous fear,
But Alas! The sand grains trickle
Through the clenched fist-
Fool that I was to believe
To hold secure, sand in my palms-

The sea is not mine,
Nor is the shore
I too a passing anybody
Among the yesteryears-

The sand grains pound
against the waves
and onward it travels
across to morrows

And yet, while memories
Moistens the eyes,yet
Gladdens the heart
For that which had been

Sometimes, as we move on
From the past into the future
Racing through the present
Now and then
Ours soul gets caught
In the thistles of time
Causing a tear, a shred
A wound, a scar…

Yet we heal…
surging into the morrow
for it is memories
that shape, that mould
The person that I become

And then there are those
That bring a smile to the lips
A cheer to the heart
And hope to the soul

And I resume collecting
The little memories as I move on…
Forging the past
Savouring the present
Refreshing the Future…

My Son's poems

The Song of Dawn

Hear ye good folks!
The morn is here!
The realm of darkness hath ended
Giving way to Dawn.

Hear and be happy
For your watch hath not been in vain
The dark reign is broken
Your King hath passed through
Triumphant and true.

Hear all ye children!
For your King shall rise again
He shall live among you
Until the next dark hour commeth.

The green that was withered
And the flower that was wilted
Shall be aroused and awakened
They shall reach for the skies
Swaying in pristine grace .

Rejoice all ye seedlings of the Earth!
For Light hath overthrown Darkness
Your King- The Sun is back again
He hath fought like a lion in battle
To hark in the Day break.

Hear all ye farmer folk!
Awake , your King is back
Its time to work your hand
To reap the crop
For the world to feast..

Hear all ye good folk!
Exult and be glad
The hour of gloom is past
The morn is here in all shimmering glory!

The Spring Symphony

The flowers they bloom
In the spring sunshine
Without a sulk of gloom

The birds of song
They sing along
In rhyme lifelong
In the shimmer of Dawn

The huge mountains grey
Cast their kind shade
On the valleys and the plains
And along the waters of the Bay.

The gorges rugged and deep
Caressed by the gurgling river
She springs and leaps
Shimmering in the glimmer of Dawn…

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Wooing The Wayward Muse

She lay sprawled on the bed,
Papers strewn around-
Pen held poised;
Waiting for Inspiration to strike…

Her eyes wandered lazily,
Seeking her errant Muse;
Vacantly she gazed
Out the window,
The railway tracks mocked at her…

Words flirted shamelessly,
Like fickle lovers;
Now here, next nowhere-
They slipped her clutches;
As she gave chase…

Language laughed aloud in scorn,
As she scraped the-
Bottom of creativity;
For a stray morsel…

Thoughts were empty,
Emotions ran dry,
Life glided by-
Without ripples;
Nothing shook her placid stupor…

She closed her eyes-
In mute surrender;
And slipped into-
A wordless slumber…

Friday, March 25, 2005

Meghamalhaar- story of another mallu movie.

As the movie begins, we see a lady –Nandita Menon and another man- Rajeev – waiting at the counter in a bakery to collect B’day cakes for their daughter and son respectively. Both give each other just a cursory glance and go their respective ways after collecting the cakes.

Predictably, the cakes had changed hands- i.e: the cake meant fot Rajeev’s son had been given to Nandita and vice versa. Phone calls are made, both go back to the bakery and exchange the cakes. Period.

Rajeev is an advocate, his wife Rekha works in a bank. They have 2 children and lead a very happy domestic life. Rekha’s constant crib being that she has to travel daily in the local train to her place of work. Her weekends are set aside for catching up with lost sleep. Rajeev is an indulgent, affectionate husband which is well reciprocated.

Nandita is a fairly known creative writer and asst editor in a reputed Magazine house. Her husband is in the Middle East. She lives with her father-in-law and her daughter. Her husband calls regularly and keeps assuring her that he would soon be coming home for good. He tells her that his colleagues are her fans and yet somehow he cannot manage to read her stories but likes to gaze at her photgraph that invariably accompanies her stories in the magazines.

Rajeev has an advocate friend- Bhoominathan who keeps praising Nandita’s stories, and when Rajeev sees her photograph in a magazine, he realizes that it was her whom he had met at the bakery. Curiosity perks up and Rajeev reads Nandita’s stories and likes her writing.

One day, Rajeev has to go to the hospital because his elder brother had been admitted for cirrhosis. Incidentally, Nandita also comes to the same hospital because her father- in- law is admitted there after a mild attack. Rajeev notices her sitting outside the ICCU, ponders whether to talk to her, hesitates, then goes to meet her. He reminds her of the bakery confusion, also mentions that he had read her stories and liked them too. Nandita does not speak much, just smiles.

Sometime during the night, Rajeev wakes, decides to get a cup of coffee. He notices Nandita dozing on a chair outside the icu. Rajeev goes to the canteen, was abt to order a cup, a thought strikes him- he goes back to the room, takes a flask- one can see the constant deliberation on his face- he is not too sure if he should- then finally decides. He gets a flask full of black coffee, goes back and offers it to Nandita. She is hesitant at first, then accepts. Rajeev mentions that he was unable to get hold of the latest edtion of the weekly magazine in which Nandita’s story had appeared. Nandita thanks him for the coffee, then gives him the magazine copy.

A few weeks/ months elapse. They run into each other again, this time at the advocate office. Nandita had accompanied her friend – another writer-Saudamini-who had to see an advocate to apply for divorce. Nandita enquires after the health of Rajeev’s brother and he informs her that he was no more. Nandita feels awkward… and is at a loss for words…they are still formal in their talk- the way they address eachother…

Rajeev calls Nandita and thanks her for reviving his interest in books. He had lost touch with reading after setting up his practice. Rajeev buys Nandita’s collection of stories and enjoys reading them. One of the stories was titled “Meghamalhaar”- which makes Rajeev say that he had always been interested in Hindustani music esp Ghazals. He gives a couple of cassettes to Nandita, and also one in which he had sung a few songs. Nandita after listening to the cassettes, compliments him on his singing talent. Rajeev sends Nandita a couple of passes for a Ghazal concert and Nandita attends it with her writer friend ( Saudamini).

After the concert, Rajeev who had come down with his friend Bhoominathan, invites Nandita and her friend for coffee. During coffee, Bhoominathan in an inebriated state, speaks disparagingly to Saudamini wrt her writing skills creating an awkward tense situation. Saudamini gets up and walks away, and Nandita follows. Rajeev is annoyed with Bhoomi, but the latter is hardly repentant. He says he had always wanted to give a piece of his mind to Saudamini because her writing was hypocritical and pseudo-feministic. However, when Rajeev mentions that Nandita too must’ve felt bad, Bhoomi immediately apologises and does not forget to remark on his friend’s growing soft corner for her.

Rajeev apologises to Nandita at the earliest and also conveys his regrets to Saudamini. Things are back to normal.

One day Nandita calls Rajeev for a favour. She wants to interview a famous artiste living in a village for a feature in her magazine, whom Rajeev knows very well- who also happens to be Bhoomi’s uncle- The artiste shuns reporters and Nandita is apprehensive abt being refused an interview. Rajeev agrees to seek Bhoomi’s help. Bhoomi says he would speak to his uncle about the interview, but says he would not be able to accompany Nandita and the magazine photographer to the village and asks Rajeev to go instead. Besides, the artiste knew Rajeev very well too. So plans are made- Rajeev, Nandita, and the Magazine house photographer would go by the company car to the remote village the coming Sunday.

En route, Rajeev mentions that the story he liked best of Nandita’s was the one which was about 2 little girls- Parvati and Kausu- how they lived near a river, and often played by its banks. The story goes like this:

Parvathi and Kausu were 2 friends and one day, Kausu fought with Parvathi, and the latter in a moment of childish anger pushes Kausu into the river and runs off. Parvathi forgets the incident, goes to sleep and when she woke up she is shocked to see Kausu’s body being carried from the river. Only then the gravity of the situation dawns upon Parvathi and she is filled with remorse and guilt. She spends her days crying, unable to confide in anybody. Eventually she befriends a little boy – another neighbour and many a time that boy offers her comfort and solace.

Nandita’s face pales upon hearing Rajeev recount the story but Rajeev does not notice. The photographer comments that this story had won the best story award the year it had been published. Nandita remains silent and moody.

Now, it was time to stop the car, and resume the journey by boat. The locale is beautiful. As they were waiting for the boat, Rajeev asks Nandita if she was feeling fine, becos she looked “mood- off’- Nandita replies that she was fine. Rajeev then went on to say that a similar incident had happened to him in his childhood - they used to live in Kanyakumari then- like in the story- he used to know 2 girls like Parvathi and Kausu- and he had consoled a girl whom everybody called “Shree kutty”- who was in similar circumstances as that of Parvathi in the story. Now Nandita is totally wonderstruck…as she realizes that Rajeev was her childhood playmate, but she does not tell him anything, and neither does Rajeev think of the possibility. He just expresses surprise that Nandita wrote such a story. Rajeev adds that he had since carried fond memories of that little girl- Shree Kutty and wondered where she was now.

Nandita, during the boat ride keeps deliberating whether to tell him that she was Shree kutty, but she decides not to and keep it to herself as a precious, sweet secret.

They go to the artiste’s palatious ancestral home- have a great lunch- and of course an interview- the old man was a tough nut and did not have much opinion abt the press media- which incidentally had once twisted his words an created a controversy a few years ago – and since then the artiste had banned the press. However he relented to this interview becos Rajeev knew her- then he goes on to ask Rajeev to sing a song- and Rajeev obliges- obviously a song in the raag- Meghamalhaar…

As the song unfolds- we see that the trio return to town, Rajeev and Nandita meet often, their friendship deepens- now the way they address eachother is less formal- previously it used to be in terms of “aap”, now it had become equivalent to “tum”…

Nandita is perfectly comfortable with the friendship- she has no qualms- she sees him as the playmate from her childhood who had helped her cross a tough phase…without whose help perhaps she might have become a mental wreck-but Rajeev finds himself thinking too much abt Nandita- it disconcerts him- he confides to Bhoomi- he says its not “Love” but that definitely he was feeling very affectionate towards Nandini. Bhoomi opines that perhaps Rajeev should tell it to Nandita.

Rajeev asks to meet Nandita at the beach- he hems and haws…and is unable to tell Nandita anything- Nandita imagines that perhaps Rajeev had guessed that she was Shree kutty and wanted to clarify it- Nandita feel svery excited thinking about the recognition- however they go their ways that evening without being able to speak much. Next day again Rajeev calls her to the beach, and finally blurts out:

I like you very much- why-I don’t know why, tho I have asked the question to myself a lot of times- it is a liking that makes me feel I want even if my mind keeps telling me I shouldn’t …”

Nandita is aghast- she glares at him with tears in her eyes and then walks away....
Rajeev is stunned and regrets his confession. He is upset…

Nandita is also disturbed and confides to Saudamini. The latter blames her telling that perhaps Nandita gave him too much liberty considering him her childhood playmate.

(There are scenes interspersed where they show that the relationship between Rajeev and his wife Rekha, as well as Nandita and her husband Mukundan is happy.)

Rajeev tries to call Nandita, give her passes to another Ghazal concert but Nandita ignores him completely…and yet Nandita is vaguely unhappy.

Months pass, Nandita is going to Trivandrum with her friend Saudamini to participate in a creative writing workshop. Saudamini mentions that perhaps Nandita had taken Rajeev’s confession too seriously and over reacted…that she needn’t have misconstrued Rajeev’s “liking” to be misplaced. She also suggests that maybe Nandita could gift him her recent copy of collection of short stories as a peace offering.

Nandita takes out a copy, and inside she addresses it as:

To my childhood playmate
From Shreekutty”


Now Rajeev has to go to Trivandrum on an official assignment, and as luck would have it he boards the same bus as Nandita and Saudamini. Nandita ignores him pointedly, Saudamini makes polite talk. Rajeev feels very hurt but remains silent. When they alight at TVM, Nandita asks Saudamini to give Rajeev the copy of her book.

Rajeev opens the book while sitting in a rick, and upon seeing the contents is overwhelmed with several emotions- surprise, confusion, happiness…

Meanwhile Nandita is wondering what Rajeev’s reaction would be…

Rajeev calls Nandita at the camp and asks to meet her one last time. He was waiting just outside. Nandita goes out to meet him- there are few moments of silence- as Shreekutty and Rajeev look at eachother as childhood friends. Then Rajeev asks why Nandita had played such a drama, why hadn’t she told him that she was Shreekutty- The Shreekutty –whose image -as she waved bye forlornly -had stuck with him for years-whom he had imagined running into some day-
Shreekutty only smiles. Rajeev then apologises for having spoken the way he did at the beach the other day, he then bid farewell and was about to leave, when Nandita calls him back and says could they visit that shore in Kanyakumari one last time?

Nandita and Rajeev board a bus to Kanyakumari, they visit the seashore and all the places of their childhood- there is a nice song running in the background- they sit side by side in companionable silence- and when the song ends we find Nandita resting her head on Rajeev’s shoulder. She suddenly opens her eyes, moves away- Both are embarrassed. Then Nandita asks Rajeev- now they address mutually as “nee” (equivalent to “tu” in Hindi)- The vestiges of formality has finally crumbled away :

Would you be able to forget that we ever met again- that we would never meet again, that even if some time in the future we were to cross paths, would you be able to pass by as if we never knew eachother?
Because, if we continue our friendship there is the possibility that we would be lost to the people who love us. So would you be able to promise me that after we leave here, we would never meet? Would you be able to promise me this? I too need to forget this encounter, and I promise you that I shall. So what do you say Rajeev?”-
There are tears in her eyes.

Rajeev replies with a sad smile: “Shall we leave?”

The frame freezes- next frame:

Many years into the future,this could be a possibility:

Nandita is watching the sun set at Kanyakumari. She has aged, there are streaks of grey in her hair, her husband comes near her and says; “Shall we leave? I did not know that you meant this place when you said you wanted to go on a trip”. Nandita smiles. They are checking out of the hotel that they were staying in.

Another taxi- Rekha is dozing off- her husband Rajeev wakes her up and tells her affectionately- that they had almost reached their destination. Rekha wakes up and tells her husband that she did not know how the sunset in Kanyakumari was different from the one that they could see at the city where they lived. Rajeev smiles indulgently and quips that she was better off asleep. The taxi enters the hotel premises.

Rajeev enters the hotel. Rekha follows him. Mukundan exits from the same hotel. He recognizes Rekha- they had studied in the same college it seems. Rekha introduces Rajeev to Mukundan. Mukundan calls out to Nandita who was already in their car. Nandita comes out- she sees Rajeev- their eyes meet- Mukundan introduces her to Rajeev and Rekha. Rekha recognizes her as the famous writer. Rajeev says “Hello” and Nandita murmurs “Hello”- the next shot is of waves lashing on the shores of Kanyakumari and the words reverberate a few times….

(This story might seem quite irrelevant in today’s world, where there are many healthy friendships between the sexes. But, somehow this movie touched me in a special way- the possibility of deep affection developing between two individuals which might have caused undesirable repercussions in either’s family life- I think it could be still valid in some instances atleast…( have witnessed a few such relationship -evolutions :-))
Somehow, if there is a possibility that such friendships might go on to become much deeper then perhaps it is wiser to avoid such circumstances. Just what I feel.)


Trivia:

This movie was directed by Kamal- not to be mistaken for Kamalahassan.

Rajeev was played by Biju Menon and Nandita by Samyuktha Varma- soon afterwards, these 2 got married in real life! They have played co stars in quite a number of movies.

Though this movie was not a box office hit, it won a few State level awards. I think it was produced by asianet.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Maanasaputhri- The daughter of my Dreams!

I

Lalita reclined further into the sofa languorously, and her leaden eyelids closed on their own accord. Absent mindedly, she caressed her swollen abdomen and a smile lingered on her lips…as if in response she felt the sudden movement beneath her fingers…Lalita hummed a lullaby softly…the same one that she had heard her mother sing to her little brother years ago… “Omana Thinkal Kidaavo…nalla komala Thaamara poovo..” she could not remember all the words, but it was a really beautiful one- and there was another one which her uncle used to sing- “ente makan Krishnanunni…”Lalita decided she should get both the songs from her mother- there was still time for it…

Thoughts of her mother filled her heart with longing for her mother’s presence Today, she was also soon going to become a mother, but that did not mean that she would stop being her parent’s baby… she felt tears – tears of love, gratitude, yearning for her mother’s touch…She always knew how much her parents loved her, but now, she could feel the intensity…today at the threshold of Motherhood, it suddenly hit her like a whiplash, the tangibility of the affection of her parents’ overwhelmed her- she was always aware of the invisible cocoon, and she had basked in it warmly…The realization, the awareness filled her being with a surge of love and zealous fortitude.

Lalita drifted into a dreamlike stupor, she knew it would be a daughter, Vikram wanted to name her Lavanya, and Lalita loved the sound of it…Lavikkutty- Lalita spoke to the baby in her womb incessantly- sometimes in her thoughts, sometimes aloud…she sang to her, she read to her- stories, shlokas, played good music…she wanted to instill the best into the spirit of her unborn daughter..her grandmother had written to her to read The Sundarakandam from the Ramayana daily – Lalita had never been very religious minded, perhaps spiritually inclined maybe- but now, she was inspired to follow any measure to ensure a healthy spirit in her unborn-

Her abdomen felt so taut and glazy, she could even ‘see’ when Lavikkutty moved. Vikram also talked to his daughter, he emotionally underwent all her pregnancy symptoms …he even admitted to feeling a trifle jealous about the physical bonding that a mother always had with the offspring. Vikram was so anxious, he would make a note of Lalita’s condition each day, and grill the doctor with a zillion doubts when they went for the monthly chek up- he was unmindful of their friends’ and relatives’ amused comments teasing him for behaving as if he was the first father-to- be in the world! Every evening he would coerce her to take a long walk- Lalita forgot her own anxieties watching Vikram’s apprehensions. In fact she was more concerned about how Vikram would bear “her” labour pains… She smiled at the thought… How true that men of today’s generation was so different from the husbands/fathers of bygone times…

Lavikkuty, why are the days crawling by so slowly? Every moment weighs so heavily… and yet I want to savour these moments when you are a part of my being- my body, my soul…but I can’t wait to hold you in my arms, to hold your little finger- to bathe you, to dress you- to sing to you…

I would like you to grow up into a loving, caring , compassionate person. I would pray that you bring Happiness and cheer to those who touch your lives, I would have liked you to remain untouched by pain, sorrow, but I know that is impossible, so I would just pray that you emerge stronger with every setback in your life- you would find your parents with all their love, affection and blessings- we will let you fall, make mistakes… and we would urge you to get up… brush the dust off- and move on…

The months passed at snail’s pace for Lalitha and Vikram. One night Lalita woke Vikram up in the middle of the night. Vikram was alert immediately, he saw Lalita’s face wince in pain…her face was beaded with perspiration. For a moment Vikram was alarmed, Lalita smiled weakly, and whispered- “Vicky, Lavikkutty is on her way…”

Vikram immediately went and woke Lalita’s mother who had come down for the confinement, the bag was all ready weeks ago. He called up the hospital, and they had asked him to bring Lalita over immediately.
They reached the hospital, Lalita was immediately taken to the labour room.
Two hours later, which had been like eternity for Vikram, the nurse came out smiling- it was a girl. Both mother and daughter were doing well. Vikram and his mother –in-law were relieved and thrilled. Vikram had been praying to all the Gods whom he had seen in his mother’s puja room…but had forgotten long since…and now he breathed easy.

They went into the room, Vikram moved towards Lalita, she gave a tired smile, he just held her hands…and there was this inexpressible feeling which threatened to overwhelm his being- he then looked at the little bundle by her side…and he gasped- she was so perfect, so beautiful…he just could not believe his eyes…He felt as if he was beholding a miracle…He gingerly touched his daughter’s little fingers and she immediately held fast to his finger…that moment in Vikram’s life…it felt as if the core of his existence concentrated into that single moment…

II


The years passed one by one, and Lavanya seemed to be growing healthily. But now and then Lalita felt that soemthing was not quite right. She voiced her fears to Vikram, but he just shrugged it off- Some how Lavanya seemed perfect from the outside but as she grew up, her motor development, her attaining milestones, then her performance at school all suggested some problem- they kept denying it to themselves…but when others began noticing and making enquiries, Lalita was forced to confront Vikram with the option of consulting a specialist. Vikram refused to accept, and argued bitterly with Lalita. Lalita though pained, had no choice but to consult the doctor on the sly. And her fears were confirmed- there was definitely something different about Lavanya…and the prognosis was far from encouraging.


Lalita’s world came crashing down and she had no idea how to break it to Vikram. She knew she would have to fight this battle alone, but she was determined to put up a fight for her precious daughter.


Handling Vikram proved to be much more challenging, that there were times when tackling Lavanya seemed easier. Vikram simply refused to accept the fact that his precious daughter was "less than normal". He kept longer hours at office, fought with Lalita, sometimes even behaved as if Lalita was his and his daughter’s enemy. There were times when Lalita reached the end of her tether, but she realized Vikram just did not have it in him to face life. Vikram however lavished his love upon Lavanya.


Lalita went to a counsellor to seek help to manage her upturned life…Vikram refused to accompany her…Lalita took up courses to learn how to teach children like Lavanya…she left her daughter with her parents during the day…Her parents were her major source of strength and support. Lalita taught her daughter to cope and manage with the limited faculties that she was endowed with…
The days of yore when Vikram had been an indulgent husband seemed like a fable now to Lalita, but she had no time for sorrow or moping.


Years passed, Lavanya grew up into a beautiful woman child…but she was as naïve as could be… Vikram kept expecting her to perform in par with normal children of her age, and Lavanya was constantly seeking to win appreciation in her father’s eyes. Lavanya adored her father and craved for his approval. The innocent girl was however sensitive to the dissappointement and frustration that she constantly saw in her father’s eyes…and her mother was her only ally- she would sob in her mother’s lap, telling her that “papa does not love me mamma”.
And Lalita would spend hours trying to make her understand that he did, and it was just that he showed it differently…


But Lalita’s painstaking efforts had its effect and today Lavanya is much better than what her doctors had foreseen- of course she would never be completely normal, and Vikram too has kind of come to terms with the situation. He has realized that his darling daughter was different..he tries to help Lalita in his own way nowadays…


I don’t know where to take this story from here- because, as you must have guessed, again, it has been woven around a real life situation and the circumstances are yet to unfold…I just hope and pray that Lavikkutty, Lalita and Vikram live a happy life.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Parinayam-5- conclusion

Conclusion:

Meanwhile, the head of the household is furious that the trial was extending indefinitely all because Mohini refused to break her stubborn silence. The jury was having a gala time feasting, singing, the coffers were getting emptied- The head of the house goes to see Mohini in the barn and orders her to blurt out the name of the culprit- he even stoops to physical abuse, but the maid servant manages to stop him-

We also see that the senior wives are more predisposed to kindness and pity for Mohini, and the eccentric wife even arranges to send food and water to Mohini under cover.
The jury suspects Manoj to be the culprit and taunt him, but Manoj remains undaunted. But Manoj guesses that Vineeth was the person responsible and questions the latter. Vineeth is enraged and throws back the accusation at Manoj. Unable to tolerate the jury enjoying themselves behind the farce of conducting “Smaartha Vichaarana” , Manoj orders the trial to be brought to an end-

Manoj also tries speaking to her brother, but he too disowns her…

By now, Mohini has also come to a decision- she emerges from behind the door- she refuses to be addressed through a middle person, and demands the jury to shoot their queries! Upon being questioned about the identity of her paramour- she says that there were too many to be named , and they were welcome to make their judgement. The jury has no option but to declare the case closed, and Mohini is excommunicated- she is driven from the house in ignominy, and yet Mohini remained serene and dry eyed. Only the maid servants and the eccentric wife shed secret tears…

Upon emerging from the back door of the “Illom”- into the outside world, she is accosted by a horde of leering men from the lower castes who make lewd comments and ask her to go with one of them…Mohini is slightly flustered, but a maid servant comes to her rescue, drives away the men, and requests Mohini to come to her humble dwelling.

Manoj arranges for Mohini’s accommodation, gets a her a job and Mohini starts life anew with dignity…

Vineeth’s conscience gives him no peace and finally he confesses his guilt to his mother and sister and they ask him to bring Mohini home as wife. Vineeth, accompanied by his sister hastens to meet Mohini. Manoj is delighted that Vineeth had finally become man enough to own up and accept Mohini. Manoj informs Mohini…Mohini comes to the door- she declares “ My child has not a coward for a father, tomorrow if he were to ask who his father was- I would take the names of Arjuna, Nala or Bheema”- and she goes back to resume her job and life..
Vineeth looks on shamefacedly…

Postscript:

I was very enthusiastic about recounting this story , and sharing it with you all, but now that I have finished with it I am dissatisfied with the way it has evolved- the magic that I perceived is sadly missing- and when I talked to my cousin yesterday, I realized that I had missed out on some significant details- sharp dialogues- the signature of M.T, but when I tried to insert them in between my narration, somehow it lost its impact- and so I let them be…I regret that I was unable to bring out the brilliance, the poetry of the celluloid creation that was… not that I imagined I would be able to do justice to M.T’s creation , yet…

My only prayer is that neither M.T nor Hariharan ever lay their gaze upon this audacity of mine…


Link:

Parinayam-4

Back to the present:

Upon hearing about the trial at the “Illom”- Vineeth is panic stricken. He cannot imagine the aftermath if Mohini were to succumb to the mental torture of the jury and divulge his name! Vineeth is terrorised, and fear haunts his soul- he is unable to concentrate in his art- he resorts to alcohol- Under the influence of alcohol, he makes a fool of himself on stage again and again, and soon, the audience do not want him to perform.

One day, as Vineeth sits utterly dejected, he meets another senior artiste- Prem kumar- who used to be a much sought after actor during his hey day- but today, his plight was pathetic- Today he was ostracised, shunned and he was never invited to perform. The senior actor wandered aimlessly often fully drunk- like a lost soul-

(Here, the allusion is to a real life incident of yore- There was one aristocratic lady by the name Kuriyedath Thathri- and she was driven to prostitution as an act of rage and revenge against her husband who neglected her and the society at large- She wooed all the men in Society from all strata- and finally when she was brought under trial, she threatened to reveal the names of her “clients’- and she did expose about 64 “gentlemen” of society who were subsequently excommunicated- finally when Thathri was about to reveal the 65th name, it is said that the King himself ordered the trial to be brought to a close- it is suspected that the next name to be divulged would have been that of the King himself!!)

Now, this senior Kathakali artiste was supposed to be one of those excommunicated, subsequent to the infamous trial- He was banned from giving public performances- he was shunned- and it had driven him to liquor addiction- He was in dire straits, and now he spent his days wandering the roads- begging for roles and money to drink- One day, a rich man offers this senior artiste a role in a Kathakali performance and the actor is overjoyed! He dons the costume- the artiste in him emerges out of his human persona and merges into the ethereal larger than life role he is about to perform- He gives out a shriek of delight in keeping with the Rajassic character that he has donned- and the viewer’s hair stands on end! Suddenly the rich man comes to him, looks him over, gives a cruel smile and says that he could not permit the artiste to go on stage- The transformation is amazing- from the crescendo of ethereal dignity and splendour- the actor crouches and stoops to shock, dissapointment and the depths of misery and pathos….this scene is brilliant- the picturisation, acting- everything is mesmerizing- the sobbing actor looks pathetic in his larger than life costume- and the viewer is rendered speechless! ( This role was performed to perfection by the late Premkumar the son of another veteran actor- late Premji- )

Vineeth is a mute witness to the entire series of events, and he sees his future reflected in the other senior artiste’s predicament!

Vineeth makes a fateful decision- he decides to meet Mohini! In the cover of darkness, he tiptoes to where Mohini is held captive- he peeps through the window covertly- Mohini comes to the window eagerly- Her eyes light up on seeing him- she speaks for the first time since her ordeal- She tells him that she knew he would come to rescue her, that he would take her away from this hell and make her his- Vineeth looks at her wretchedly- He tells her that he had not come to take her, that he could not- he pleads, begs her not to take his name during the trial- that his life and career would be destroyed if she took his name. Once again- the acting is exemplary. Mohini’s eyes do all the emoting- first the delight in her eyes melts into disbelief, and evolves into sheer contempt for the person imploring before her…( I understand that Mohini was considered for the National award that year for this role but lost it to Dimple Kapadia in Rudaali ). Mohini assures Vineeth disdainfully that she would not take his name and bid him go his way…
Vineeth recoils in shameful misery…







Parinayam-3

Flashback contd…

Days pass by, the young widow is not permitted to participate in festivities or watch her favourite Kathakali performances even when they take place in the Tharawaad itself- Mohini accepts everything with a quiet resignation. She runs into Vineeth- the young Kathakali artiste once in way- within the temple precincts- or perhaps on her way to the temple tank…they exchange a few words- Vineeth is besotted- he dreams of her…Mohini too is not untouched but she does not indulge in dreams- she knows dreams were not in her Destiny…

One day, Mohini receives tidings that her brother’s wife had delivered a son after a long anxious wait- Mohini is eager to see her nephew and after securing permission hastens homeward- however, her brother is aloof- she is not permitted to participate in the ceremonies- because she being a widow was considered an ill omen- and at this moment when she is spurned by her own brother, the gravity of her fate dawns upon her…The meaning of widowhood is revealed to her…only her aged father is pained , but he was helpless as always. She silently goes back to her marital home- she realizes that now she had no other recourse- she was doomed to an obscure existence in the dark interiors of her late husband’s “illom”.

Time passes…even in the darkest of nooks of the huge household- it is festival time- and Kathakali performances are being held in the household- Mohini and the other widows are however not allowed to sit among the audience but they can watch from the windows of their rooms facing the inner courtyard…The rest of the household are rivetted to the perormance- Vineeth is also performing brilliantly- each night a different mythological story is enacted, and each night after delivering a brilliant performance, Vineeth stealthily enters Mohini’s chamber in full costume regalia- one day he is Arjuna, another day Bheema, each night a Mythological hero visits Mohini in ethereal splendour- the colours on Vineeth’s face leave their mark upon Mohini…! Nobody notices another story unfolding behind the scenes…

Days pass- festival is over- the festoons come down, the cymbals and gong are silenced- the artistes depart- the household falls back into monotony- but something has changed…forever!
Mohini is pregnant- the secret is out- but how, who- the question remained unanswered- The household is scandalized, Mohini is banished to the barn- the “Jury” is summoned- Mohini withdraws into Silence-

Parinayam-2

The Movie:

The movie begins with a “gang” of sinister looking Namputhiris who are the “jury members”- moving towards the barn of a reputed Namputhiri Tharawaad. Some of them are almost chuckling in anticipation and glee because they foresee a few months of entertainment and feasts- besides being entitled to voyeuristic glimpses into a miserable woman’s private life! The convict- Mohini - waits in terror inside- she knows not what horrors she is to be subjected to in the coming days, and yet there is a serenity , a dignity , maturity beyond her young years on her countenance.

Mohini will be grilled with questions regarding her transgression, she has to remain hidden behind the door, murmur her replies and a maid servant would repeat her answers to the jury. The senior most jury member (played to perfection by the actor Thilakan), asks her questions with contempt and disgust oozing from every nerve and muscle…the other members too, are eager to get a chance in the questioning- but Mohini maintains a stoical , stubborn silence. After a vain attempt to get her to answer, the jury withdraws a trifle disappointed, but then their spirits are still high because a sumptuous feast awaits them at the main house , and they know that if Mohini refuses the answer, the trial was likely to last for a long time…

The jury has left, Mohini cowers to a corner of the shed, the maid servant is sympathetic and feels sorry for the young girl- but Mohini remains tearless- her past flashes before her eyes, and we are taken to a house agog with festivities…

Flashback :

Wedding festivities are in full swing in a reputed “Illom”-there is mirth and gaiety everywhere- but one can also hear suppressed chuckles, sniggers amidst the brouhaha- because the bride is a young girl barely out of her teens, and the brideroom was a senile old man old enough to be her grandfather. But nobody cares…Mohini, fully covered in a mundu, holding a palmyra umbrella, her winsome eyes lined with kohl is led to the marriage dias. She breaks into a child like smile when she sees children running amok to retrieve coconut pieces flung on the ground…there is music- the ladies of the house-“illom” are playing the “kaikottikkali” – a folk art- the song is also lilting-Mohini watches the proceedings with innocent curiosity.



It is night and Mohini is waiting in the nuptial chamber…she does not know what to expect, but she is nervous. Her doddering husband totters in unsteadily, looks at her from top to toe, admonishes her for something and then promptly goes to bed and falls asleep. Mohini and we, the viewers are relieved…Mohini takes a mat and lies down on the floor.
Suddenly, there is a commotion downstairs- the old man’s sleep is disturbed, he is enraged and he rushes downstairs- one of the senior wives was creating a ruckus- she was slightly off her mental balance, and the preceding events had taken its toll on the unfortunate woman- the old man takes her by the hair and thrashes her on the wall- she falls away crying- the oldest wife looks away unmoved, mumbling in anger and disgust- Mohini watches alarmed and confused…

Days flow one into the other un eventfully- Mohini blends into her surroundings and circumstances- she meets the son of the eldest wife- her step son who is older than her- let me refer to him by his real name- Manoj- He is a non conformist, social activist and is determined to eradicate senseless traditions, bring about a radical change in society- he works for womens education, emancipation- and hence a thorn and eye sore to the conformists- Manoj requests Mohini to not retreat into her cloistered life- he knows she is well read, and promises to get her papers and books to read- he keeps her updated with the happenings in society, and urges her to keep herself aware about the changes in society - Mohini is curious and amused. She is happy to be able to read …The narrow minded elders in the family view his actions with derision and suspicion…

Mohini remains cheerful inspite of her circumstances. One day, she is summoned to her own home and she leaves for her home escorted by a lady servant. On her way she runs into a young, upcoming Kathakali artiste-Vineeth-, who has also heard about her knowledge of the Art, besides, her father was a famous Kathakali actor himself- they get talking along the entire distance- and the young man is enamoured by Mohini’s beauty, intelligence.
During her stay at her home, Mohini is suddenly summoned back because her aged husband had taken ill. She rushes back to her marital home, but the old man had already expired. Mohini is too dazed to realize the implications of the situation- the neighbours and servants are sympathetic to her plight realizing that she was now doomed to a life of wretchedness. There is this scene where the wives of the old man are made to sit in the inner courtyard- they discard the various adornments of marriage- the “thali” or the mangal suthra- bangles…one by one the wailing wives remove their ornaments, Mohini too removes her “thali” serenely, stoically tearless, but there was not a dry eye among those who watched- there is the potential hazard of filming such a scene melodramatically, but M.T handled it so sensitively, subtly, aesthetically as only M.T can- the poignance reverberated in silent dignity…

Parinayam-1

Prologue:

After posting “Theerthaadanam”, I had been toying with the idea of writing about another celluloid creaion by M.T- directed by Harikumar.- “Parinayam” (may be loosely translated as “Wedding/marriage”…but somehow the vernacular word has more depth which cannot be effectively brought out in the translation.)…but it seemed a daunting task and I kept postponing it. The storyline was gripping and the visualization brilliant- it was an expeience to watch the movie unfold.( I remember that day at the theater, we met another famous Malayalam writer- C.Radhakrishnan)… Besides, the story needed a kind of prologue/introduction to the milieu- a peep into the traditions and time period in which the story was set and I was not sure how to go about it.

Serendipitiously, two days ago, my uncle gave me the English translation of another Malayalam novel- “Agnisakshi” by Lalithambika Antharjanam. The story is different but set in the same milieu. I had already seen the movie version of this story but had not read the novel (Rajat Kapoor- of Making of the Mahatma- , Shobhana, Praveena,Srividya). Once I finished reading this book, once again I was inspired to write about the movie “Parinayam”. It has been a long time since I saw the movie and it is possible that my memory fails me at times, however I hope I don’t distort the actual storyline…also, I am not confident that I will be able to do justice to the actual work…still would like to try- If there are any discrepancies from facts, please excuse me, and feel free to correct me…

Background:

Many, many years ago- during the pre- independence era, the social structure of Kerala was steeped in orthodox traditions and superstitions which were not exactly very beneficial to society in general, and women in particular. In today’s context, these beliefs may sound incredulous, but that was how it was those days.

Since this story is about the community of Namputhiris- Brahmins- let me stick to the traditions followed by them . In a Namputhiri family, usually only the eldest son got married to a girl from the same community, the rest of the brothers took wives from other communities but did not necessarily bring them to the family home- “Tharawaad”. The old gentlemen of the house were permitted to marry many times, and often very young girls from poor families were given in marriage to doddering old men who had one foot in the grave- to skip the dowry issue. The womenfolk were expected to live cloistered lives- within the dark interiors of the huge Tharawaad- and were referred to as “Antharjanam”- meaning people of the inner rooms- The men often had concubines belonging to different castes, and ironically the offsprings were not permitted to touch their immaculate fathers! As for the harem of wives, there would often be rivalry, “ragging” of junior wives by the senior wives , but the importance often veered towards the most favoured wife. Most of them accepted their destiny as they did not know of any other way of life, but once in a way, there would be a renegade among either gender, and would create chaos in the community- there would be men who felt that it was unfair to subjugate and deprive the women of basic human rights, and would rebel, and there would be the rare woman who had the courage to oppose and fight the existing traditions and break away…

The senile gentleman would often kick the bucket sooner than later leaving a harem of wives of all ages doomed to a life of darkness and obscurity…the life was harsh, inhuman- Parinayam is the story of one such widow- let me refer to her by her real name- Mohini, because I cannot recollect the name of the character she played. She is just a girl barely out of her teens, and the gravity of her predicament is yet to sink in…she had been a wife only in name and did not grieve for her dead husband who was old enough to be her grandfather. She was still discovering the wonders of Nature around her, she had been educated in Sanskrit and the Fine Arts by her father and she loved Mythology, Kathakali, Poetry, Literature, Music.

Now during those days, it often came to pass that once in a way, a woman deprived of every sort of happiness in life may be lured by wily men who took advantage of their situation stealthily, and when the trespass came to light, a scandal followed, but inevitably it was only the woman who had to pay for her “crime”, while the transgressor often escaped scot free. The male members of the family then invite other eminent members of the community to conduct a “trial” called “Smaartha Vichaarana” – The “fallen woman” is banished to the barn, made to starve, she is addressed as “saadhanam”, meaning “object”- The grilling is callous, ruthless, obscene- the convict is tortured emotionally, mentally and at times even physically and it is perfectly justified. The host family is expected to provide every facility and luxury to the “jury members” who will stay at the “tharawaad” for as long as it takes the trial to be over. The jury members extort maximum advantage of the situation- every meal is to be a feast, and they have great fun and entertainment at the expense of the host…it is said that many a family went bankrupt due to such “smaartha vichaarana”. The trial may extend for as long as the jury members deign it to…and finally when the “convict” is proved guilty, she is excommunicated from the community- “Bhrasht kalpikkuka”- funeral rites are performed and she is thrown out into the society- and outside the House- are waiting, men folk of lower communities leering, waiting to swoop upon her like predators!

Theerthadanam- The Pilgrimage

I do not know if you have heard of The Malayalam writer- M.T.Vasudevan Nair- (BBG had mentioned abt him in his last blog) – well, he is a very famous writer in Mallu land- has also got plenty of awards- titles- including the Padmashri- for his stories, novels, screenplays (both National and state level)etc…His stories mostly revolve around the matriarchal system of the aristocratic Nair families- the old joint family where the maternal uncle is the decision maker- the numerous aunts and uncles and cousins- the grandmother- sibling rivalry- partiality- all these are depicted beautifully- and those familiar with the mileu can relate to every instance- the dialogue is in the typical dialect spoken in the land of M.T’s place of birth.

He was born into an agricultural, aristocratic family. His stories are mostly based on his personal experiences and the characters he grew around with.

Recently I saw the movie adaptation of his short story- “Theerthadanam” on T.V- Actually I did not find it as brilliant as some of his other works- but then M.T is M.T and there is always a certain aesthetic echelon that is maintained…I had read this story before and feel that full justice has not been accomplished in the adaptation. I am unable to pin point the flaws…and this is not a review….

There is this retired school teacher- Karunakaran…who is leading a reclusive life with his wife…kind of aloof- into his own world of unresolved thoughts and memories. Most of the time he spends reliving the past especially those which revolved around one of his students from years ago. This girl- Vinodini drops in a letter, card once in a while- and always signs as respectfully Vinodini…that she was much more than just another student is shown in intermittent flashes into the past…Both the sir and the student had a special soft corner for each other, but left it unsaid…

When the movie begins, we find the aged teacher reading the latest last from his student, in which she has “carelessly” mentioned that she would be visiting the Mukambika temple when she was coming on a few days leave in the next few days.

The master who is not exactly bubbling with health tells his wife he would like to visit the Mukambika temple in the following days. The wife is worried about his ill health and suggests he take with him the young boy in the neighbourhood- also a relative. The master agrees half heartedly. The master and the boy take leave of his wife and proceed to Mukambika. Here, we see that the master is of a melancholic dispositon, and his relationship with his wife of many years is a bit hollow- in the sense that while they care for eachother, there is really no “soul mate”- thinking alike kind of relationship – just a very functional, mutually beneficial kind of sharing. The master languishes in his own world- as if stuck to the past, while the wife is a practical, down to earth person. It is not mentioned if their early years where different…she reminds him to take his medicines regularly as he leaves…He is in a hurry to reach the station..

The master arrives at the temple- he prays at the sanctum sanctorium, he is doing his perambulations around the temple- while his eyes are searching for someone in the crowd. The boy dutifully reminds the master to take his medicine-and is only too happy to stay back in the hotel room and eat …

The Sauparnika lake – the surroundings are all beautifully picturised - but I am afraid I did not notice the song that was running in the background…The temple precincts, the crowds- distracted me…and I too was eagerly looking out for somebody…almost as eager as the master himself.

On the second day, the master emerges from the temple tank after his bath, he is climbing up the steps…and suddenly he stops- the woman who just passed by…he slowly turns back and she was also just pausing to have a second look- They look at eachother’s eyes…first recognizing the other- both had changed almost beyond recognition- time had caused irreparable ravages on their countenace- first there is disbelief, then there is a unique joy, and finally the shock after having assessed the changes that time had wrought upon the other’s face…we have already seen how different they looked in the flashback clips. Life had been obviously harsh to them and perhaps harsher for Vinodini.

Vinodini says that while she had mentioned that she would be visiting Mukambika, she was hoping that the master would perhaps make a trip too at the same time…she asks him to wait so that they could pray at the temple together. After offering prayers they have breakfast at a nearby hotel. They catch up with incidents of the past- The master notices that Vinu is very finance conscious- that her attire is very simple, her slippers were worn out…it haunts him- he remembers she used to belong to a rather well off family. Vinu expresses her wish to visit Kudajadri- a nearby sacred place which is uphill and difficult to reach- the hotel manager informs them that jeep service was available, but for Vinu, the rates were exorbitant. The master offers that he could make arrangements to go there and she could join him. Vinu is hesitant at first but agrees later.

Again in between we are taken into the past through the master’s and Vinu’s memories-friends of the master and Vinu used to tease them about their obvious affection for eachother…but they do not ever express it to eachother themselves. We get to know how the master gets transferred to another school in another place, how Vinu’s father does not approve of the polite, affectionate letters from the master and finally the master stops writing to his student. Vinu however sends a few lines , a New year card once in a while which the master treasures and keeps reading time and again.

The next day, the master persuades his young companion to stay back at Mukambika, and leaves for Kudajadri with Vinu. During the trip uphill, Vinu talks to the master about her difficulties, she was a teacher working in Chennai, how it was very difficult for her to make ends meet- she had to send money home to her ailing mother. She also says that she would be entitled to a better pay if she could do a course equivalent to B.A but is unable to do so because of financial constraints.

The master asked her why she never got married…she said that there was some “dosham”- flaw in her horoscope and so a suitable alliance never materialized and eventually her father fell ill and died, and the years passed unnoticed in the sheer effort of living a daily life. The master talks about his wife “Ammutty” , children who were living elsewhere. Vinu informs him that she had always updated herself with his news. The master remains silent. They reach Kutajadri by dusk, avail lodgings at a small home in the place- run by a priest and his family and provided shelter and food to pilgrims. The driver guides them along the hilly trek, and thus the two pilgrims make the pilgrimage of their life together for a brief snatch of time-

The master offers prayers in his name and Vinodini’s and she is amazed that he still remembered her birth star. The priest conducts a puja and offers prayers to the deity on their behalf. The hosts have naturally assumed that the two were a couple and the two don’t deny it either. Later at dinner time, the hosts relate the story of their hardships and Vinu tells the master afterwards that her hardships paled in comparison.

After dinner, the two pilgrims sit by the lake nearby ..for some time they share a companionable silence and eventually the master asked Vinu why she had rejected his proposal for her hand in marriage many years ago. Vinu is taken by surprise and she says she never knew he had ever proposed! Then the master explains that a mutual friend had talked to her father many years ago on his behalf seeking Vinu’s hand in marriage. Vinu’s father had rejected the proposal outright and the master had naturally assumed that Vinu knew about it. A shattered Vinu reveals that she never knew about it and she utters vehemently- the only moment when the otherwise softspoken Vinu explodes involuntarily in suppressed fury- “Dushtan”- meaning- “the cruel one” incriminating her dead father. It was now the turn of the master to be shocked…it had never occurred to him that she had no inkling about his proposal. After this startling disclosure, followed a stunned, wistful, forlorn silence…Vinu is unable to suppress her sobs and the master has no words of comfort to offer.

The host soon comes to call them inside to retire for the night. They realize that they have been offered a single room. At first, the two pilgrims are awkward , but eventually they accept the situation, and settle down to sleep on the single mat maintaining a polite distance between them.

Vinu enquires of the master, that wasn’t the puja done in their name- The “Dampathy” ( done as a couple)puja..the master just laughed at the irony…and Vinu says- perhaps it was destiny that they were meant to make this pilgrimage as a couple- may be that was all they were destined to have in this life…she breaks into sobs and the master remains silent. Suddenly the master develops chest pains, and Vinu tries to get help from the hosts but the latter were busy with some rituals. She comes back to the side of the master writhing in agony…she sends up a silent prayer to the deity, and the master in his pain calls out the name of his wife_ “Ammutty”! Vinu starts and we see mute resignation on her face. She gives the master water, and gradually the master recovers. The master looks up at the distraught face of Vinu and there is an apologetic air about him. He goes back to sleep, while Vinu leans against the wall and spends the rest of the night in a sitting posture. That single moment when the master called out his wife’s name while in the throes of agony was a revelation to both of them…

The next morning, the two piligrims return to their respective homes, but before leaving the master asks Vinu if he could help her to secure her B.A degree, that he was willing to sponsor her course fees, but Vinu declines…they go their ways…it was a pilgrimage for the two of them not just in the religious sense- they had to make this pilgrimage to bring a closure to the blanks in their past…to come to terms with the “if only’s” and the “had beens”…

The master was played by the South Indian actor Jayaram and Vinu was played by actress,director, social activist, Suhasini- (also manirathnam’s wife). Jayaram was quite good-effectively underplaying the pathos- however his make up was jarring…Suhasini was tolerable- I usually do not enjoy watching her mannerisms, the way she moves her hands, her crinkly smile, and a tendency to be carefully “natural” …however her voice over did not suit her…my opinion only…

I enjoyed the unspoken silences in the movie…M.T. has this way of making silences speak…he has written another novel _ Randaamoozham_ – meaning the second turn alluding to Bheema’s turn in his marital life with Draupadi, in this novel, M.T. admits to have taken creative liberty to elaborate on certain blanks in the Mahabharatha epic…certain incomplete insinuations- loud silences…and he has achieved that beautifully..the entrie story unfurls from the pov of Bheema…and is very interesting and intriguing..


Thursday, January 13, 2005

Farewell Across The Past

The following story, I had written many years ago- '87...




1


“Lotus...Thomara...Thomara…” he mumbled in his sleep. Lolita woke up and strained her ears. There he was, murmuring the word "Thomara" in his sleep again. She shook her husband awake. He opened his eyes and looked at her uncomprehendingly. She shook him again and now he was fully awake. She told him that he had been repeating the word “Thomara” in his sleep. He gazed at her and said, “Loli, Thomara means Pankaj -- Lotus.” Seeing her bewildered expression, he explained, “Loli, it is all right. I saw a dream of my college days, that is all.” She nodded pacified, and went back to sleep. He also tried to go back to sleep, but memories kept flooding his mind in torrents. Memories of his college days, fifteen years ago…the distant past, but now suddenly, out-of-the-blue, they had attained amazing clarity. He surrendered helplessly to the whims of his brain and let the scenes of his past flash in his mind's eye…

2

Fifteen years ago, when Prakash had been studying for his medical degree at Hyderabad, he used to feel terribly lonely. True, he did not lack friends in his college, but somehow he felt disillusioned. They all seemed hollow or superficial. He wasn't sure. His friends, he felt, were too engrossed in living the routine life, simply performing the biological act of existence. He sought a friend with whom he could share his thoughts -- abstract, random and confusing, his innermost doubts and fears. His friends could not always understand his track of thinking and at times even seemed to consider him somewhat peculiar. Only Ramesh had been a little different. He craved for a friend, with whom he could unfold himself, with whom he need wear no masks or false appearances and with whom he could reveal his innermost soul spontaneously.
It was at this juncture that Ramesh introduced him to Pankaj. Pankaj…his friend in the truest sense.

3

The old house was majestic. A kind of serenity enveloped the premises. The front door was huge with large brass knobs arranged linearly. Ramesh tugged at a rope that hung on one side of the door and I heard the tinkle of bells far within. I could feel the tension mounting within me. The sight of the well-kept garden did nothing to ease my nerves. I began to regret having agreed to Ramesh's insistence on my coming here. It was obviously too late to make a retreat. I could hear footsteps approaching the closed door.

The door opened, and a woman dressed in a simple, but elegant sari, roughly about thirty-five years old, stood smiling before us. Her name was Pankaj. There was an aura of dignity and charm about her as she led us into the house. We walked through a spacious corridor where we removed our footwear. We were ushered into a spacious drawing room and she asked us to seat ourselves. My face must have reflected my thoughts, for I heard her speaking to me, “Prakash, you seem to like what you see in this room.” Obviously Ramesh had already acquainted her with my particulars, and thankfully, formal introductions were unnecessary. As if by cue, all my apprehensions vanished and I heard myself speaking, “That odd-looking spouted kettle looks classy. Never seen one like it before.” Only for a moment did she hesitate before replying, “That kettle, as you call it, is actually what we call in Kerala, a kindy. It found its way into my drawing room from the closets of my ancestral home in Kerala.


Later Ramesh took me on a tour of the house and I was positively taken in by the quaint décor. Subtle yet classy. Not a thing that was shoddy or out-of-place. Most of the furniture was cane and the showpieces were either brass or wooden. The walls in every room were bare except for a huge single painting. Some time during our “sightseeing”, Ramesh left and I hardly noticed.


One room, presumably the bedroom was especially beautiful. The walls were a pale pastel-green shade. There was no cot, only a huge circular mattress in the center. A giant mosquito net hooked to the ceiling gracefully draped the bed. There was a circular table in one corner and on it was a book wrapped in brown paper. I opened it and read the name “Zorba the Greek” by Nikos Kasantzakis. I replaced the book in its place.

I looked at a large painting hung on one of the walls. I could not make much sense out of it. It had a rather big eye in one corner and an immaculate lotus arising from muddy water diagonally opposite it. Below the solitary eye, to the side, was a huge open palm and on its side were the words:
“It arises from the muddy soil, but is not contaminated. It aspires high to the daylight, and reveals an immaculate beauty undefied by the darkness it traverses. The noble flower typifies the soul of the perfect man -- Chou Tun Yi -- Confucian Scholar -- 11th century.”
We talked through the night, covering almost every topic under the sun. We talked about the arts, science, literature, politics, philosophy and even relationships. I told her about my mother who died when I was eleven and my father, who had strived to be both mother and father to me. The pleasant fragrance that lingered in her house, the nightly discussions, the painting of the immaculate Lotus, all became a part of my existence. I realized that I had finally found the true friend I had been seeking. Here was someone with whom I could be myself with no fear of impending judgment, with whom I could share my innermost fears and insecurities without fear of ridicule, with whom I need wear no masks. Life, at last I felt, had become meaningful.
I confided in her about my infatuation for one of my juniors at college -- Remitha. She told me about her brief, unhappy marriage. She was twelve years older than I was. What we did not discuss, however, was how she came to be what she was and never did I feel the need to ask her.


Ramesh told me that she had stopped seeing customers and I was not surprised. I didn't ask her about it because, somehow, I knew the reason. I continued seeing her and we were never at a loss for topics to discuss. Sometimes, I felt, even language had become unnecessary for us to communicate. But never did our unique relationship ever come in the way of my academics. Both of us took special care to ensure that it did not.

One day, I was in her room gazing at the painting on her wall, which fascinated me even now. Suddenly, Pankaj asked me, “Prakash, do you know the meaning of Thomara?” I said I didn't. She explained, “It is the Malayalam word for Lotus.”

Meanwhile, Remitha got engaged to Ramesh. I had, by then, outgrown my initial crush on her, but Pankaj liked to taunt me. I passed my exams with a high percentage and my internship period was also drawing to a close. It was soon time for me to bid farewell to college life. I booked my ticket for Calcutta and went to see Pankaj. She asked me that day, “Prakash, why did you have to come here? Why couldn't you have stayed back in Calcutta?” Though she was smiling I could feel the ache in her voice. Trying my best to conceal the emotion from my voice, I answered, “I had to come here to pluck a Thomara.” She laughed at my accented pronunciation. She was aware of the fact that I had joined the Hyderabad Medical College, because it was my father's place of work at the time. After retiring four years ago, he left for Calcutta, while I stayed on to complete my course.

On the day I was to leave for Calcutta, I went to see Pankaj for the last time. For the first time since I had known her, we were at a loss for words. Both of us attempted small talk and failed miserably. Finally, I got up to leave. She asked me to wait and went inside. She came back with a wrapped package and gave it to me. She was smiling but there were tears in her eyes. I mumbled “Thank you for everything,” and stumbled out of the house. My heart was heavy and my vision was blurred...



On reaching Calcutta, I opened Pankaj's gift. It was a smaller version of the painting in her bedroom, but the caption was different -- “Let us think of it as a game. If either one of us ever find ourselves in the danger of death, we will think of the other so intensely that he/she is warned wherever the other may be -- Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantsaki. With best wishes, Thomara”.


4


He tossed around restlessly in his bed. All these years he had avoided thinking of Pankaj. He had trained his mind to veer away from her thoughts these last eleven years, since Lolita became his wife. But, he had taught Lolita the Malayalam term for Lotus. And tonight suddenly the past had caught him by surprise. He got up, feeling uneasy and went up to the painting Pankaj gave him years ago. Under the dim glow of the bedroom lamp, the painting had assumed an ethereal luminosity. He went over the familiar caption once more. A sense of void and a nameless fear gripped him. He looked at the wall clock. It was 3:17 a.m. He tiptoed downstairs, made a cup of black coffee. As he sipped at it, thoughts of Pankaj assailed him. Finally, when he crept back to bed beside his wife, it was almost 4:00 a.m.


The alarm woke him up at 5:00 a.m. His wife was already up, as usual. He sat up on his bed when she came in with his coffee and the newspaper. She smiled at him affectionately and told him, “You were mumbling 'Thomara, Thomara' in your sleep. Was it a dream or what?” Suddenly he remembered last night's dream. He had forgotten all about it.


What had he seen in his dream…he tried to recollect. The picture was vague…yes, now it was coming back to him. He had seen the painting in his dream. The one which Pankaj had gifted him. The solitary eye, the Lotus, the open palm…wait… there was something jarring in the image. The Lotus was not in the muddy water, as in the painting, but in the center of the open palm and there was a teardrop falling from the eye.

He glanced through the paper abstractedly. He got up, bathed, all in a stupor. He kissed Lolita goodbye and left for the hospital. On his way there, he dropped his children Prashanth and Pranothi to school.


He was walking to his cabin in the hospital, when he had to give way to a shrouded body being carried on a stretcher. He reached his cabin and set about his daily routine of examining the outpatients. He worked till noon but the nagging uneasiness persisted. Finally, he decided to leave for home. He called the nurse on duty and informed her. As she was about to leave, on a strange impulse, he asked her a question. His own voice sounded strange and alien, “Sister, whose body was being carried to the mortuary when I arrived this morning?" The nurse was confused first and then suddenly remembered, “An accident sir. A car collided into a parked truck. No trace of alcohol. It was diagnosed as a case of cardiac arrest in the post mortem. A Ms. Pankaja. No surname...nothing. Fifty-two years of age, as per the driving license. She was driving. No passengers. A torn admission pass for the art exhibition at the Tagore Arts Gallery was also found along with her belongings. It happened at about 3:00 a.m.”


He did not hear the nurse leave. He did not know how or when Pankaj came to be in Calcutta. All he knew was that there was a queer pain in his throat, and that the ink had blotched on the paper on his desk. But Pankaj had kept her promise; she had remembered to bid farewell.