Thursday, May 29, 2008

Of Flowers and Poetry

The best part about working in your favourite bookstore is how books you'd reserved yonks ago show up out of nowhere, still reserved in your name. The books section staff come waving the bundle, reservation slip secured by rubber band intact, mischievously asking if you still want the books, knowing full well that you do. You chase them up and down the aisle, behaving in a manner most unbecoming of bookstore staff, till finally the pile nestles in your palm. What makes this triumph even more happy is that the books in questions are this one, this one, and very, very awesomely, this one!

I am the most thrilled about Tell me the Truth About Love simply because of its incredible price. I mean, when was the last time you bought Auden for Rs 150?! I've read some of the 15 poems (and no, it's not the same thing as the expensive version just because there are only 15 poems!) but some are new and, as all Auden is, they are delightfully brilliant and the subject of another post. The other two collections are really rather great and one of my very favourites from Short and Sweet is this one:


Have you forgotten what we were like then
when we were still first rate
and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth

it's no use worrying about Time
but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners

the whole pasture looked like our meal
we didn't need speedometers
we could manage cocktails out of ice and water

I wouldn't want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
were the best of all my days

--Frank O'Hara

The Chinese Erotic Poems, you say? Well, I'm still savouring a lot of the book but of the ones I have read, I lack the finesse to describe the sheer *poetry* of these two so I'll just let you get on and read them.

Tangled Hair
From 42 Songs

Last night I didn't comb my hair.
Like silk it tangles down my shoulders
and curls up on my knees.
What part of me is not lovely?

Night is Forever

From 42 Songs

The night is forever. I can't sleep.
The clear moon is so bright, so bright.
I almost think I hear a voice call me,
and to the empty sky say, Yes?

-- Zi Ye
(3rd-4th centuries CE. Translated by Mike Farman)


I'll leave you with a photo from a set that I hope to finish over the coming weekend. It was taken at the Globe Hotel in Udwada, Gujarat. I'm not much of a fan of "flower photography" (and I know there's a better name but I just can't remember it!) and I indulge in it quite infrequently but I must admit, I really do quite like the shot.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Deep Blue Something

One dark and exhausted evening in Madras, after hours of racking the HR and business sections — both of which I loathe, don't you know — a colleague offered to take me down to Marina. Despite warnings of it being dark and hazy and my not being able to see too much of the area or even the sea, I was quite happy to take him up on the offer. You see, not only am I seldom at the beach at night, I also didn't want to go back to a (then) alien and cold guest house. The smells and sounds of the ocean would go far calming very frayed nerves I thought.

It's a nice walk down to Marina from the mall, a single road that changes character at least thrice till you get near the beach. You'll pass a large gutter, overhead rail tracks, and small local shops nearly all your way down, when suddenly, wider, posher parts of the beach front arrogantly push their way into predominance. Amongst the lovelier buildings at Marina is the Police Commissioner's office. The graceful columns of that gorgeous building are an exquisite reminder that quite often, being a government employee pays. Marking the middle of the waterfront road is a Sivaji Ganesan statue. Erected by Karunanidhi, very interestingly, the plaque on the side of the statue carries the late, great actor actor's name in a much smaller font than the politician's.

I must admit that I was quite pleasantly surprised at the state of the beach. Quite unlike the filthy madness of Juhu Beach, Marina's fronted by a small promenade full of small carts and followed by a huge sandy expanse. The beach, I'm ashamed to admit, seems much cleaner than most in Bombay. We sat, watched the sea in a rather uncomfortable silence (mostly because of my unwillingness to speak then), and finally went home. I was still blue but certainly a little soothed. That visit, I didn't get another chance to go back for daylight photos, but one evening a few days into my second visit, I spent a few hours at the Besant Nagar beach.

Besant Nagar Beach, Madras

This beach was at least a little more reassuring, with the eats on the beach and the balloon boards (the ones you try and burst with an air gun?), and the beach a little littered. The best part of being there was finding out what coming face-to-face with the Indian Ocean was like, especially after a lifetime of a very intimate acquaintance with the Arabian Sea. The ocean, whether in Madras or along the ECR, seems wilder, the waves crashing with more force than I remember seeing in Bombay. It is also certainly cleaner and with more vividly azure waters. The one thing that stands out most clearly about that night on Marina is how threatening the waters seemed. Two months and more down the line, I am not entirely sure if this is because I am aware of the tsunami.

These pictures below were taken at the main promenade in Pondicherry, on a rather short trip down. A and I'd planned to get some photos of the sunset and then head back to Madras. But that evening in Pondicherry, the wait seemed endless, and finally, the dusk arrived with only herself for company. Only later did it dawn on me that the sunset would never come because in the east, only the sunrise ever does.

Deep Blue Something


And that evening, A and I sat watching the sea forever, taking a certain comfort in seeing the familiar on a completely unknown coast because some things don't change no matter where you are. This is a universally acknowledged fact, not to be disputed. Any urban beach in possession of a rocky outcrop must be in want of its share of the lone watchers and the couples sneaking their kisses. But it is quite rare indeed to find a couple sitting apart doing their own thing, staring out at the sea. I'd like very much to think that they were in perfect accord — not needing to say a word after so many long years, each part of the other's whole. They could, of course, be completely irritated with or indifferent to each other but it makes for a nice ending, what I saw of the way they were sitting there to imagine that they just were... the way I'd like to be.

Pondicherry Promenade I


Just a few of things really. One, the Pondicherry pictures, on some screens, tend to have a most unbecoming yellow tinge. I assure you, that's not what I am seeing on mine or in my camera. Two, the second photo in Pondi is A's. Three, in nearly three years of E Vestigio, this post marks my 101th. :-)