Friday, April 29, 2016

Gazing at the Stars

We are all looking at the stars,
And some are content just with looking.

For it's easier to look than to dream
It's easier to dream than to act

It's easier to stop than to struggle
It's easier to flow than to resist

It's easier to drown than to survive.
But why should one settle for easy?

We are all but dreaming of the stars
A few are content just with dreaming-

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Wasp behind the glass

There was a wasp at the kitchen window one day. (Not the usual golden kind of wasp, this was smaller and sort of greenish. Perhaps it wasn't a wasp, but it did remind me of one.) It was stuck at the mosquito net, unable to go out. Must have come in through one of the open doors. I wasn't particularly keen on electrocuting a wasp with a Hunter racquet (and paying the price) so I gently opened the corner of the mosquito net and tried to coax it outside. Wasps are more difficult to convince than say, mosquitoes or flies. The reason being the obvious bite factor  - the wasp may not quite understand that my intentions are honourable, and it may decide to take the offensive.

One pane of the kitchen window was open and the other closed. As luck would have it, the corner of the net that I had pulled aside was at the closed pane. In my defence, that was the closer corner to the wasp. Somehow I urged the wasp to make its way out of the gaping hole. You should have seen it. It was like a little child being dragged to school. It reluctantly, hesitantly made its way to the other side only to encounter the closed glass pane. It looked lost at the new obstacle.

Then it began to explore the new shiny, slithery surface. One could tell that it was by no means comfortable. It crawled up and down, left and right. The open window, the path to liberty, was a few inches to its left. I waited. There must have been a slight breeze blowing. I hoped it would take the hint and go looking for whence the wind blew. Escape was just an arm's length away. Minutes passed. The wasp kept searching. I began to panic. You're free, I thought, but you think you are still imprisoned. You think I sent you to a harsher jail whereas my intention was to set you free. You aren't seeing broadly enough. Your vision is limited. Look around, look around. The door is wide open. Can you not see the blue, blue sky and the trees and the miles and miles of open space?

It came close to the edge - I held my breath - and it went back. Did it not see the open window? Why did it go back to the slithery glass pane?

The truth (or my version of it) began to dawn on me. What if it doesn't want to go out? Maybe it's weary of the world around it. Maybe flying isn't all that it is cracked up to be. Maybe gliding up and down the glass was fun enough. Maybe it had decided to live in my house, spending its days exploring the mosquito net or the glass pane. Why should it go out and get caught in the wind, trapped by the leaves or lost in the vastness of the sky? What did a lifetime of trying give it, any way?

I went away, perplexed; unable to decide whether the wasp was so short-sighted as to not see freedom one step away, or if it deliberately chose to stay behind the glass despite everything. Much much later, I returned and found it gone.

But it is a fact that the next day, I found a wasp (absolutely no way of knowing if it is the same) behind the glass at the very same position, calmly gliding up and down. Did it get lost again, or had it returned to its retreat for a sniff of peace? I guess I would never know. I like to think it was the latter.

Because, sometimes - not always - I like that too. To peek at the world from behind the barrier through a pane of indifference; to admire the sky and the moving clouds, the rustling leaves, the cars and people, but not to wade in any of it. As though none of it belonged to me. Nor I to them. On those days, I would rather be safe behind the wall of glass than to expose myself to the fury of life. And when it is time to come out from hiding, to face reality, there would still be the memory of the glass pane to keep me from breaking to pieces.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


There is a Santa Clausian presence to my memories related to Vishu. Most of our summer holidays long, long ago were spent with grandparents. We would be woken up at four or five in the morning, and we would be walked with our eyes closed to the hall.

When I open my eyes, I would see the hall transformed. I was supposed to be looking at the Gods and the kani, but in reality I would be wondering, where have all those framed family pictures gone, which used to hang from the wall? Where did these Gods come from? And all these vegetables and konnappoo and the assortment? Who did all this during the night? (If I had known about elves I would have given them the credit.) For a long time I thought there was some kind of magic behind this transformation until it began to sink in that the magician was my own grandfather. I suppose I believed that my parents and grandparents also woke up and found the Vishukkani ready.

So after the kani kaanal was over and we got our kaineettam (beginning at twenty paisa or twenty-five paisa) from the elders, we would quickly go back to where we came from - our beds. No point in wasting more sleep. The coins and notes would be scattered on the bed when we woke up. The next step was to pick them up and compare.

I used to see the same wonder in my son's eyes when he was still tiny enough to think that there was something quite miraculous behind the brightly-lit lamps and the pictures that made their appearance on Vishu morning. Now, at ten, he is a grown up. He asks me if he can help me arrange the kani. Then he thinks for a while and says, "Or maybe not. You arrange it. So it will be a surprise for me."

The transition from the world of magic to a world entirely without, and the clinging to the old memories of wonder.

Read: Vishu then and now