Sunday, September 19, 2004

Spring and Winter

WHEN daisies pied and violets blue,
And lady-smocks all silver-white,
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight,
The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men; for thus sings he,
Cuckoo, cuckoo!—O word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear!

When shepherds pipe on oaten straws,
And merry larks are ploughmen's clocks,
When turtles tread, and rooks, and daws,
And maidens bleach their summer smocks
The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men; for thus sings he,
Cuckoo, cuckoo!—O word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear!

WHEN icicles hang by the wall,
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When blood is nipp'd, and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
To-who!—a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

When all aloud the wind doe blow,
And coughing drowns the parson's saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
And Marian's nose looks red and raw,
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
To-who!—a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

By William Shakespeare

Saturday, September 11, 2004

On My Bookshelf These Days

I finally finished reading Hari Kunzru’s "Transmission" a few weeks back. I was quite excited about the book, having heard so much about this new diasporic author, who had won accolades for his debut novel - and I was just as disappointed. The book has absolutely nothing remarkable - I went through it without experiencing a single moment of delight or fascination at anything he said or how he said it. As I said the other day, it is just another novel churned out by the current spate of diasporic authors. Novels such as these make me question the attention being given to post-colonial authors, irrespective of the content and style of the works. If it isn’t bad enough that they give you an absolutely stereotyped representation of their country of origin, the country they have nothing in common with anymore, except for some ancestry and some relations they would probably have nothing to do with any more, they are claimed as one of “our own” by the country in question– in this case Hari Kunzru is being touted as in Indian – and I fail to understand why. His attitude towards Indians is almost completely condescending and it is glaringly obvious through the narrative that he is in his element (what little there is of it!) while talking about U.S.A or U.K and not the least bit comfortable when talking about India! I definitely wouldn’t ask you to pick up the book – read it if you must, to know who’s who on the Literary Scene these days, but don’t expect much out of it!

Having finished that book I started devoting all my attention to
Kavita Watsa’s “Brahmins and Bungalows – Travels through South Indian History” (2004). Now this is a remarkable book, if I may so. I have still not finished reading it, but I can already recommend it – to everyone, not just people interested in history or those who are from or now live in South India. The book is divided into several chapters each dealing with a separate region/city :- Srirangapattana, Mysore, Bangalore, Padamanabhapuram, Devbagh, Goa, Madras, Pondicherry, Tranquebar, Hampi, Mamallapuram, Thanjavur and Kodiakanal.

Off late I have been increasingly and uncomfortably aware of my relative ignorance of Indian history. I have a copy of Romila Thapar’s "Early India" which I intend to read soon, but the book requires a lot of concentration. So when I found this book, I was completely charmed and won over. Coming to you in the guise of a travelogue the book takes you along the history of South Indian cities, weaving personal experiences (from childhood to adulthood), accounts from other travelogues or journals of the colonizers along with historical facts. Kavita Watsa has narrated the history with panache, without giving it the feel of a lecture - rendering it personal and making it seem like your own discovery of the city. Her comments on the growth of the cities and what she feels about their current state are incredibly insightful and sensitive. Though the historical facts are selective, and are from the Anglo-Indian perspective, it is still an enlightening read!

Brahmins and Bungalows was all the more interesting for me, since I have visited Srirangapattana, Mysore, Bangalore and Goa – reading the accounts brought back memories of my trips, threw light over places I visited without knowing the complete history behind them and made me want to go back once more, with this book with me as my guide!

Most of the other placess she talks about were on my list, but one that has been added is Devbagh. A few months back I had had stated that it would be a dream come true to spend my honeymoon at
Devigadh – I think I’ll change that statement of mine. Devbagh definitely would be more romantic – a small island inhabited only by a small fishing community, one has the option of staying in rustic cottages or tents at a jungle camp on the island. What could be more idyllic than spending your days on a pristine beach, that is yet untouched by commercialization – soak in the sun during the day, walk along the beach, letting the surf wash off your feet, relax on a hammock tied between palm trees,lulled to sleep by the gentle sea breeze, make love lying under the stars at night and fall asleep to the sound of the waves breaking on the shore not too far away? If you are adventurous enough, you can even persuade one of the fishermen to take you to a nearby island that is completely uninhabited – Devbagh, as Kavita Watsa says is “Beyond the realm of prose!”


Wednesday, September 08, 2004

La Belle Dame Sans Merci

Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight,
Alone and palely loitering;
The sedge is wither'd from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight,

So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel's granary is full,
And the harvest's done.

I see a lily on thy brow,

With anguish moist and fever dew;
And on thy cheek a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads
Full beautiful, a faery's child;
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long;
For sideways would she lean, and sing
A faery's song.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She look'd at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna dew;
And sure in language strange she said,
I love thee true.

She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she gaz'd and sighed deep,
And there I shut her wild sad eyes--
So kiss'd to sleep.

And there we slumber'd on the moss,
And there I dream'd, ah woe betide,
The latest dream I ever dream'd
On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings, and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
Who cry'd--"La belle Dame sans merci
Hath thee in thrall!"

I saw their starv'd lips in the gloam
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke, and found me here
On the cold hill side.

And this is why I sojourn here
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is wither'd from the lake,
And no birds sing.

By John Keats (1795-1821)

[Ballad, n, A narrative poem, often of folk origin and intended to be sung, consisting of simple stanzas and usually having a refrain.
Etymology: -
Middle English balade, poem or song in stanza form,
Old French ballade,
Old Proven├žal balada, song sung while dancing, balar, to dance,
Late Latin ballre, to dance ]