Thursday, August 30, 2012

The circle of life

This picture taken by my friend, has both haunted and piqued my curiosity in different ways at different times. The circle of reason or of beginnings with no end, seems to find perfect expression here. Three things specifically come to my mind while looking at this picture and strangely so all three seem to have a strange connection between them, especially if you can understand that circle also stands from originating in the nothing to everything.. emptiness to fullness...Incidentally only one earthen pot here seems to be full..perhaps the emptiness of all the others poured into one?

Banaras, the ancient city of Indian culture, knowledge, traditions and pilgrimage center to thousands of Hindus is considered by the Hindus as the center of the earth. A place for creation, in a symbolic circle of the Mandala. In this matter the Hindu belief is perhaps similar to that which denotes Jerusalem and Mecca as the holiest cities and the center of all creation. And yet Banaras, is not Banaras, without the Ganga and hence instead of being the my mind it is a circle, a waiting place, where creativity and death both are part of the same land. It is the only place with open burning Ghats, because dying in Banaras is as holy as birth in it.

Tamalatala, in the village of Kenduli in rural Bengal is a circle in itself. The name arises from the presence of Tamala trees in the area. Kenduli, is the seat of one of the biggest Baul fairs in W. Bengal, also known as the Joydeb Mela, after the famous poet who was born there. In the heart of Tamalatala, is a quiet ashram where the Bauls find solace, silence and peace. Adjacent to a crematorium, the ashram is open to all and anyone visiting there is served lovingly. Curiously, the ashram receives the belongings of those burnt in the crematorium, which is then distributed among st the poor. No hungry man, leaves the ashram without being fed. I found in this instance too a curious case of the circle of life and death being beautifully connected where the dead feed those alive!

The 'Kundalini' according to ancient wisdom is an ancient form of wisdom, a very 'pure desire', coiled, that which only needs to be understood and felt within each of our selves. This unconscious force that is often sleeping while resting at the source of all human inspiration is what begets the human journey from the ordinary to the sublime. It is our own human circle, where we emerge from nothingness to the everything or the supreme.

( Picture courtesy Sumana Roy)

© 2012 Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The wamth of a butterfly..the dance of a woman

Dance is something, a dancer never misses, because it usually never leaves you, with time you add to it another facet of yourself..While on my on and oft dance routine today, I was reminded of Cleo de Merode and sat down to write a few lines..urged by some unknown urge-

My dance, its elegance, its waywardness,
Its slight intimacy,
Is like you and your caress-
Your touch so profound
Like the khol in my eyes,
My circle of love complete,
In the balance of forces-
Both yours and mine.
And yet all too sudden and short.

I kiss your shadow,
Flitting and suddenly incomplete-
Without the lust of whispered edifices,
into you-
Your eyes shut, to my tremble of resonance
And warmth like a butterfly
In some belly.

And now when I look back,
Curled up like a cat,
I'm content, rendered useless
Of all that needs to be done-
Careless and seem-less in my crawl.

© 2012 Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury

( Image courtesy Google Images)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Madhukari- The ritual of arousing love

About a year back, I opened my FB inbox one morning to read a message. The messages were written in response to few lines from a poem of mine that I had posted the previous day. The man was a techie sent to Canada for a year long program. He wrote, " I don't know you too well, even though we are on a friend list, but today when I read your lines, it helped me survive a very cold night in freezing temperatures here. Thank you"

That day I realized that poetry perhaps sometimes has the ability to touch the soul and leave an impression there. It reminded me of my childhood days in Shillong when I was taken to see the Orange orchards, from where Orange honey is made. Bumble bees hovering and buzzing all around, collecting in their own beautiful ways honey from the little flowers while buzzing their song.

The ritual could be well compared to that of Madhukari, wherein Bauls move from one home to the other for alms in lieu of singing. When the Baul reaches a persons door and sings, his songs reach out to the inner ear of the person and helps the inner Kalpavriksha bloom. Flowers sprout in the mind and sweetness like that of honey, moves along the stamen to the pistils of these blossoms..which in the human body is replicated in the structural form.

This beautiful exchange of arousing the complete individual in us, is where the Kalpavriksh and Madhukari are beautifully tangled in a complete whole..much like the bee and the flower or the poet and the reader.

( Image courtesy Google)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

'Pakhi' a story by Banaphool ( Translated from Bengali)

It was a beautiful day, in the forest as the Peacock and his lady walked around the lush green surroundings. The Peacock suddenly broke into a dance, while the Peahen watched, both lost in their own happy world.

Suddenly they heard the roar of the king of the jungle. The Lion, as the king was not too happy at what he thought was disturbance to his peace by the birds prancing around. He ordered the Peacock to stop dancing immediately. But the Peacock did not listen to him and continued dancing. Angry and agitated at being disobeyed, the king pounced on the peacock, but both birds immediately flew away to a nearby tree.

The king of the jungle was so angry that his orders had been disobeyed that he wanted to immediately do something about it. He talked to his assistant the Tiger and told him how disobedient the birds had been. The Tiger agreed to the Lion's story, adding that the Peacocks were indeed a nuisance because whenever he was out hunting they would cry out and warn the animals before hand of the Tiger's coming.

Both hatched a plan in order to catch the impudent peacock. Soon one day, a Jackal visited the Peacock s as they were dancing again. On seeing the Jackal, the birds immediately flew to a tree top to save themselves. The Jackal pleaded with the Peacock to come with him, since his wife was not well. He said that his wife had given birth a few days ago and had since then been behaving absurdly. The doctor, a Mr. Crow had advised them to show the wife the dance of a Peacock, if they wanted her condition to improve.

On hearing this, the Peacock laughed a lot. He said, 'I'm sorry but perhaps you don't know that I dance only to pleasure my wife." The Jackal had to return empty handed and this completely made a flop story of the plan that had been hatched by the Lion and the Tiger to catch the Peacock, when they thought he would accompany the Jackal.
But the Lion would not give up yet. And he got a chance to avenge his insult when he saw one day the Peacock was chasing a snake. The Snake is usually food for Peacock’s and the Lion thought this would be a good time to take his revenge. He suddenly pounced on the Peacock and even though he could not actually catch the bird, which flew away, the act had the effect of making the Snake easily get away, just when the Peacock was about to catch it.
This act on part of the Lion angered the Peacock who asked the lion why he had done it. When the Lion told him that he was angry at the Peacock because it had not listened to him, who was the King of the jungle, the Peacock said, ‘you might be the king of the animals, but we are birds and it is our right to fly wherever we want in the jungle and my dance was for pleasure, it should not affect you so much. But what you have done, I shall not forget and take revenge.’
Very soon, one day the Lion was out hunting and he had almost sunk his teeth into a young Lamb. Just then he saw, the mighty wings of an Eagle swoop down and snatch away the little Lamb with powerful claws. As an astonished and crestfallen Lion looked on, the Eagle said, ‘You have snatched away the prey of one of the birds, something not tolerated amongst animals. Being the king of birds, it was an insult to all of us. We as birds roam free and we soar high above everyone. We are the poets amongst animals. But we do not take away the prey from another animal’s mouth. I give back to you what was yours’
Saying so the Eagle dropped the lamb into the astonished feet of the Lion and soared off.

*Please note, I am no translator. It’s a beautiful & simple story that I read & thought of sharing with friends here. The story is a gist of the original story by the writer Banaphool, the Bengali writer. Banaphool is the pen name of the Bengali author, Balai Chand Mukhopadhyay. Born in Bihar, he began writing as a teenager and adopted the his pen name Banaphool (wild-flower in Bengali) to hide his work from his tutors. He is most noted for his short vignettes, often just one page long.

(Image credit- )

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A leaf for the love of the lord

As a country, we are full of little eccentricities, but that is perhaps what makes us so different. Like our country Hinduism as a religion is bestowed and enriched with many little nuggets of wisdom, faith and stories that in some quiet and happy simplistic way seek to reinforce what some of us know and that which some don't.

A very long time ago, we had Bael tree in the house, for some reasons the perfect threesome of the Bael leaf reminded me of the three eyed Shiva and this was at a time when I wasn't really aware that as a tree the Bael was very relevant to Hindus. In my adolescent games, the tree was fun because it was the only fruit that the crows could not crack open, an exercise I watched with a lot of amusement, till the day one of them accidentally managed to drop the fruit and it cracked!

The hardness of the Bael fruit always reminds me of the tradition among st Nepalese people where young girls are married off to the Bael tree. A very hardy tree that can survive many odds, the significance here on its strength can hardly be ignored. It served the purpose of bettering the faith of girls who became widows, because girls married to the Bael were not considered widows, even if their husband dies in reality and were perhaps spared the pathetic life of a widow.

Since time immemorial the Bael leaf has been associated with the worship of Shiva, because the holy trinity of the leaf is supposed to signify the lord's trident. But there is another quite charming story to it. Apparently a hunter after a long tiring day of hunting, fell asleep on a Bael tree. Just below the tree where he slept was a Shiva Linga. Towards the early morning, the dew drops accumulated on the leaves touched the hunter and then rolled down to fall on the head of the Linga. The easy to please Shiva was so happy at the pouring of love even through water that the leaves of the Bael became dear to him.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Rabindranath Tagore- The man before the poet

Realms have been written on Rabindranath and yet some more. So when one picks up the pen, or maybe the 'mouse' in this case to pen something on his death anniversary, there are a few distinct s that come to the mind. It is of course rather bleak to repeat the unnecessary little fact that he wrote tremendously. To my mind, to read Rabindranath is like achieving the purity of orgasm- One is fatigued with the smile in the heart, echoing in the lips and yet astonishingly, there is scope for more.

But for someone like me who has read some bit of him( a very small portion of his entire work) I found his own life extremely intriguing. In fact having read the different facets of his life, I began pitting them with different works of his and suddenly like a huge puzzle, the individual( His works) started making sense when compared with the whole( his life). There are some people who write well but are very average as individuals, Rabindranath was poet who did not only WRITE poetry, he also LIVED it.

There are many who scoff at the idea of humility in greats, because for their limited minds it is difficult to accept that humility maybe an after affect of greatness. But in the most genuine cases, it mostly is. In context to Rabindranath, one instance of this humility and ability to assess the self that I am always reminded of is on the occasion when he was fascinated by German literature. This was primarily sparked off by wanting to read Dante in German, since according to him in translation, 'Dante remained a closed book to me'. In fact so great was his desire to learn German that he asked for help in learning German from a missionary lady. It is here that he makes a rather pertinent observation about himself, when he writes-

"Fortunately I met a missionary lady from Germany and asked for her help. I worked hard for some months, but being rather quick-witted which is not a good quality, I was not persevering. I had the dangerous facility which helps one to guess the meaning too easily. My teacher thought I had almost mastered the language, which was not true. I succeeded however in getting through Heine, like a man walking in sleep, crossing unknown paths with ease, and I found immense pleasure. Then I tried Goethe, but that was too ambitious."

It is because of this un-sureness about his abilities that perhaps he could reach where he did. I smile then when I hear and read about people comparing him to God, making him to be things he was not. He was always human and no where is this facet of him more prominent than in his poetry. He found it ridiculous when people asked him to explain his poetry. He writes-

'But does one write poetry to explain any matter? What is felt within the heart tries to find outside shape as a poem. So when after listening to a poem anyone says he has not understood, I feel nonplussed. If someone smells a flower and says he does not understand, the reply to him is: there is nothing to understand, it is only a scent...The utterance of feeling, is not the statement of a fundamental truth or a scientific fact or a useful moral precept.. if while crossing a river you catch a fish, you are a lucky man, but that does not make a ferry boat, a fishing boat, nor should you abuse the ferryman if he does not make fishing his business..The fact of the matter was that, a longing had been born within my heart, and unable to find another name, I had called the thing I desired an Echo.'

In remembering Rabindranath the man, the poet on his death anniversary, make not a God of him..but if you can make him one among st you..fallible only to love. In remembering him, I give him his own words-

I do not wish to die to this lovely world.
I wish to live as man among men,
with the sun shining, the flowers in bloom
and perchance some loving heart responding!

How varied is the game of life on this earth,
its meeting and partings, its laughter and tears!
Oh to sing of man's joys and pains
and leave behind a melody undying!

( Words of Tagore courtesy- 'Rabindranath Tagore - A biography By krishna Kriplani)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Vulnerability and the goat

There was a time when I photographed quite a few goats..I'm fascinated by the element of casual grace in them..unlike the snake, the goat is like many humans who are not really aware of their moments of grace.

Yesterday while on a walk, I passed a butcher's shop..a goat was bleating. I usually avoid looking at the animal, because there isn't much to see in a butcher killing a goat..but yesterday I turned my head and saw the butcher who is usually seen with his hefty knife and too busy to care attitude, suddenly bend down and caress the goat..for me that one act of showing vulnerability as a man..was enough to make it feel that the world is not that bad after all. We are special sometimes because we are vulnerable & not the other way round.

( Image courtesy Google)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The silence of the Bamboo

This is a corner of my garden, a clump of Yellow Bamboos. ..whenever I want silence, this is my refuge..the Bamboo roots are stubborn, they seldom let anything grow close to me they are like the ghosts of poetry.. or those of thoughts, just itching to be dug out, begging to be understood, without the explanations of why & how...waiting to see a life forgotten..I leave this part untouched, un-manicured. It reminds me that certain things in life don't need to be dressed up..their beauty lies in being brown..the colour that is a part of everyone.