The luxury of guilt

Guilt is like scratching
The scabs that have settled to heal
The oozing blood comforts.
It’s really just pretending
That the numbness you feel
Has not forgotten the hurt.

It’s like banging your head
To say hello to pain
With the secret consolation
Of knowing to anaesthise your dread
With the inured bane
Of routine and repetition.


Posted by on November 18, 2015 in Poetry


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Sometimes the soul stiffens
Into long silent screams
And each slice of self is crushed
And each belief wrung out.

Hope cringes back in terror
And recognises itself
In all it’s vulnerability
Too small and weak to shout.


Posted by on November 18, 2015 in Community, Poetry


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The Daily Me

Violence yet again  rocks a European  city . The perpertrators are said to be members of the ISIS . They were heard to be shouting “Allahu Akbar “  and therein lies a tale, narrated by some, thankfully not  all.

According to that story  everyone across the  world who believe in a God as the source of everything  and call that source by the name of Allah become partners or accomplices  or at least are silently acquiesing  and tacitly  approving these deaths.

“Why are the muslims not protesting enough? “

“Why is there no outrage?”

The “terrorism  has no religion “ response on the social media  has become passé , they declare and is too lame .

After reading  very many such posts on the Facebook,  the social media I am a member of,  I was curious enough to find out if this was indeed true.  I just googled using the words “Muslims protest against Paris killings “ and 74,50,000 links showed up at that point of time.

These are a couple of them:

I then googled  “Muslims silent on Paris killings” and 36,10,000 links showed up. A cursory glance at some of the initial pages though, were in fact, those that pointed towards  muslims speaking up against the current attack and the earlier incident of the  Charlie Hebdo attack.

I then remembered reading an article  in the New York Times  written by Nicholos Christoff  titled ,”The daily Me” .

It is  a very, very perceptive way  of looking at the way we search for information  that matches our own line of thoughts, attitudes , beliefs or prejudices and I can often see the truth in that,  in the way I  choose the key words while googling for something whenever I want to quote something that will affirm what I set out to say.

“we generally don’t truly want good information — but rather information that confirms our prejudices. We may believe intellectually in the clash of opinions, but in practice we like to embed ourselves in the reassuring womb of an echo chamber.”

As far as Indian muslims are concerned,  may be they are not as vociferous  perhaps  as their Hindu counterparts when it comes to denouncing dastardly acts committed in the name of religion, going by  the numbers who do so.  But then the Hindu population is far more . I wonder how the numbers who raise their voices reflect in terms of percentage and whether at all,  the voices raised are heard or registered.  Also, Hinduism  has hundreds of years of an inherent tradition of allowing dissent in thinking and giving expression to the same.  Islam , on the other hand , is a relatively new religion and it’s followers who are ordinary citizens , in a country where they are in a minority are perhaps a little diffident of speaking up and choose to go silently with their lives. It would be very far from the truth, however to conclude that they support such violence.

I’ve always felt that the more distance,   both physical and mental , that we keep  from those we perceive as the “others” , the more we are prone to falling prey to our prejudices .  I don’t know if this is absolutely true, but may be most  of us are more comfortable in forging friendships with only those who share  our beliefs, whether it be religious, political or something else. I admit that is largely true in my case.  But may be that is why the distances grow.  May be we need to have sane conversations for a start  , which does not resort to name calling and four-lettered abuses with people  who don’t share our views and without our egos getting in the way.

May be we need to listen more and not immediately think of ways to counter the other.

Although, perhaps, that is precisely what I am doing now :-) :-)


Posted by on November 15, 2015 in Community


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“Human”-film by Yann Arthus Bertrand

The film opens with a remarkable aerial view of a line of ant-like figures moving slowly along an incline in a desert, the men and beasts casting shadows that bears no semblance to their shapes or sizes. “Human”, a documentary by Yann-Arthus Bertrand, has many such breath-taking frames. Not surprisingly perhaps, as he is reportedly one of the best in the field of aerial photography. But “Human’ is not about that. It is a peek into one’s own soul, the myriad emotions that have been in play since the beginning of time as we know it, that have driven and depressed us, tweaked our heart-strings and made it sing, flung us into fires and kept us in fetters, darkened our desires , made us love and hate , made us scared and insecure, strong and resilient, weak and vulnerable , ripped us asunder with guilt and made whole again with love. In short, it is precisely about what the title says ; it is about what it means to be human.

The canvas is stretched across continents and the painting encompasses all colours and contours of the human race. Faces that beckon you compellingly to look at them , their eyes staring unblinkingly at you from the screen in silent monologues and faces that speak to you making you revel at times in the uniqueness of being alive and the vastness of our potential for goodness and joy and at other times squirm at the degree of defilement that we are capable of.

What brought me to this film was an excerpt posted on the Facebook wall of one of my friends. It was an interview of Jose Mujica, President of Uruguay from 2010 to 2015. This is what he said, “ I am Jose Mujica. I worked in the fields as a farmer to make a living in the first part of my life. Then I dedicated myself to the struggle for change, to improve life in my society and now I am the President and tomorrow , like everyone else, I’ll be just a pile of worms and disappear.” He goes on to tell us what his churnings in life, ten years of which had been spent in solitary confinement (seven years without reading a single book) had led him to conclude. “ This is what I discovered”, he says, “Either you are happy with very little, free of all that extra luggage because you have happiness inside or you don’t get anywhere……we have invented a mountain of superfluous needs, shopping for new, discarding the old. That’s a waste of our lives. When you buy something you’re not paying money for it, you’re paying with the hours of life you had to spend earning that money. The difference is that life is the one thing that money can’t buy”. This and everything else he said made so much sense to me that I just had to find out more about the film from which this excerpt was taken.

I was pleasantly surprised to find all three volumes of this documentary, each stretching on for over an hour, was available for public viewing on the You Tube. And reading more about this film here:
only made me more impressed about this project.

As those interviewed speak, looking into the camera and so straight at us, sharing their experiences about love, loss, death, poverty, war, guilt and redemption , as they pause to control their emotions and check their tears, as they grow silent with the weight of the feelings that overwhelm them , as their eyes light up with joy and the calm of wisdom gained through trauma and tribulations tone their words with gentleness, we experience all of it too…. the proximity that is generated is such.

When Leonard from U.S.A talks about how he finally understood what love means from the woman who was the mother and grandmother of the woman and child he had killed, the tears that start streaming down his cheeks haunt you for a very long time.
When Sylver from Ruanda rakes up his tormented memories of his family members being hacked to death with a matchette, the shudder that runs through your spine doesn’t ease your guilt.
When Crepin from the Central African Republic tells us that he took to arms to avenge his brother’s death and that killing now gives him a sense of calm, you shudder again.
Zoher from Israel , “ One evening, while in the reserves, my unit had to stop a suicide attack by capturing a terrorist in a village near Nablus. I deployed our forces. To flush him out, we shot at the walls as a demonstration of our strength. A woman came out of the house carrying a girl and holding another by the hand. It was 3 A.M. The girl panicked and ran towards us. I was afrais she would blow herself up. I yelled at her in Arabic to stop. She kept on coming. I fired above her head. She stopped. At that moment time stood still. It was the shortest and longest moment of my life. The girl remained alive. So did I. At the same time, something died in us both. When a child is shot at, it kills something inside. I don’t know what. When an adult shoots at a child, it kills something inside. Something dies and something else has to come to life. I was ashamed of shooting at her. A painful shame. And above all this sensation of my finger pressing the trigger and shooting at the girl..from this finger pressing the trigger something had to come to life” and he turns his head away from the camera saying a lot with what he left unsaid.

These are not scripted conversations..they are raw and unrehearsed …naked slices of truth cut out from real experiences . Everything that may have seemed distant and disconnected is brought uncomfortably close to confront and unsettle you . You can no longer delineate yourselves from the other. You become the other and for a short time at least, you are forced to look beyond the shadows and focus your vision on the reality of human existence plodding through the sands of time.

Please watch and share.

Here’s a link of the trailer :

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Posted by on November 13, 2015 in Movies


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The fabric of our reality is extremely fragile

I remain pretty indolent on days when my grandson is not around . I love his chatter , but the quiet is not entirely unwelcome either.

I walk around the house, staring long out of doors and windows, have tete-a-tetes with my plants and long distance communions with the trees in the neighbourhood, listen to sounds of everyday life that get carried in from the next door houses, do some cleaning and no cooking, making do with left-overs in the fridge or fruits etc. I spend lots of time surfing the internet and some reading.

Sometimes, I go back to read or listen to links that I’d earlier shared on Facebook which had held my attention. This interview of Richard Gere was one of those.

In his new film “Time out of mind” , Richard Gere plays the role of a homeless man in New York City.

In the interview, he talks about the very first shot of the film , in which he hangs around at a corner, in character,near the Cube in Astor Place, New York City, with the cameras placed at a distance for almost forty five minutes. None , who walked by in that busy section , paid any attention, he says.

And this is Richard Gere!

Very few cues worked towards that judgement of the people who passed by, of him being not worthy of a second glance , he observed.

May be it was the dishevelled clothes, the indistinctive hair-cut or may the body-language of a homeless guy, which Richard Gere being such a wonderful actor would surely have carried off to perfection.

“Nobody can imagine being homeless”, the interviewer remarks.

This was Gere’s reply, “No, you can. I think that’s really it. People sub-consciously know how close they are to having all of it taken away. I don’t think anyone is that secure, especially in these times. They lose their jobs..the violence..”

“Do you feel that…that it could be that close?’

“I feel that mentally I could go and I could feel that, playing this guy in the street. I could feel how easy it would be to lose integration, that mentally I could come apart, physically, spiritually…..
The fabric of our reality is extremely fragile….in all ways”.

From the kitchen door, I can watch a building being constructed in a plot near by. The basic structure is being put into shape . The labourers are seen busy building up the walls of the third level, laying brick by brick, throughout the day and the sun is pretty hot at this time of the day.

I think guilt is gnawing at me for having the comforts I have , of knowing peace and tranquillity in a nice house, having all the time in the world to put to use as my mood beckons, although I keep trying to convince myself that may be I deserve it .

But why I went back to watching that interview again was because of that one line uttered by that actor I hugely adore kept coming back….
“The fabric of our reality is extremely fragile …in all ways.”

This is a clip from the movie.


Posted by on October 22, 2015 in Movies, Reflections


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The Nightingale’s songs

Nothing concrete has been established about the origin of music in our species. The earliest remains of musical instruments date back only 40000 years. But we may have been making sounds much before that as the voice box had started descending to a position lower in our neck region around 1.8 million years ago. So those ancient skulls reveal , they say. Some say, that as human babies had bigger heads than the older primates, they couldn’t cling to the mother and the mothers had to carry them around . The origin of the use of sounds may have been some form of “motherese” , says one hypothesis .
Darwin was of the view that music may have been used by our species much like bird songs, by the male to attract the female. Whatever may have been the origin, music may be one factor that helped bonding amongst the early homo-sapiens and given them the advantage over neanderthal man, so one theory goes and there are many.
It’s a remarkable ingredient of our lives. No two ways about it . Listening to one’s favourite music reportedly gives us a dopamine rush but the why is still a riddle as it does not have any intrinsic direct value in the evolutionary process like food or sex.
Why do we feel sad when listening to certain strains of music and why do we feel joyful while listening to others? Indian classical traditions even have particular ragas for the different times of the day and if you listen to them, they do evoke the moods that one would associate with the hours between the rising of the sun and it’s setting.

Here’s an early morning raga:

An afternoon raga:

An evening raga:

One for the night :

I’ve been reading up on all of this all day , all the time listening to the lilting melodies of Lata Mangeshkar, who turned 86 today. Her songs have matched all our moods and many , many of her melodies have a timeless quality .
Wishing Lataji a healthy , peaceful life .

Here’s a link to a nice collection of classical songs from the great singer.


Posted by on September 28, 2015 in Music


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Kandal Pokkudan’s legacy of love

“Education, if it means anything, should not take people away from the land, but instill in them even more respect for it, because educated people are in a position to understand what is being lost. The future of the planet concerns all of us, and all of us should do what we can to protect it. As I told the foresters, and the women, you don’t need a diploma to plant a tree.”

That was a quote from Wangari Maathai , the Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize winner , who founded the Green Belt Movement, and who devoted the major part of her life for environmental concerns and planted and motivated others to plant thousands and thousand of trees.

She died on 25th September 2011, leaving behind her a legacy of her love for Mother Earth.

Now, four years later , another such lover has passed away and the mangrove forest in Kannur district which he nurtured and help grow and flourish, must surely be sighing through their dense green darkness. May be many of the first 300 seeds that he planted way back in 1989 are still standing there, bent and gnarled. May be they would have many a tale to tell , if we only had ears to listen.


Kallen Pokkudan belonged to the Pulaya community of Kannur District. Way below in the social heirarchy, Pokkudan had never gone to school. He had joined the communist party and after many years of allegiance, had left it. Planting mangrove trees along the Pazhayangadi River became his passionate mission thereafter.

David Briggs who acted in the malayalam film Papillon Buddha , directed by Jayan K. Cheriyan , had this to say about his interactions with Pokkudan, who also played the role of a tribal chief in the film,

My Papilio Buddha experience with Kallen Pokkudan
By David Briggs
In 2011 I had the honor and privilege to play a featured role in Jayan Cherian’s powerfulfilm, Papilio Buddha. I had met Jayan as a student of mine in the Graduate Film Program of the City College of New York, where I teach Sound Design for Filmmakers. I knew him to be a great mind and talent, and he had told me about his plans for this exciting feature film project, so when he asked me last year to play the role of a gay lepidopterist in the film, I was thrilled.
As a middle-aged American who had resigned himself to never having the opportunity to visit India, I leapt at the opportunity. I arrived in India knowing only the basic outline of the story and the general concept for my character (I also knew that at some point I’d have to get half-naked in the rain forests of Kerala!). At the very first rehearsal, Jayan assembled the entire cast of principal characters together; all were experienced actors, with one notable exception: Kallen Pokkudan. Jayan introduced him to me and told me his remarkable story, and though our language barrier made it impossible to communicate with one another directly, I was immediately struck by his magnetic presence. As rehearsal got underway, Jayan directed Pokkudan to speak to us all in character, as the spiritual patriarch and leader of the Dalit community in the film’s story. As he spoke improvisationally, my own personal acting challenge became immediately apparent to me: I would have to be as natural, as simple, as honest, as AUTHENTIC as I could possibly be in my performance. For as an actor, Pokkudan was that rare thing: a total natural. As I would soon discover once we started shooting, he was someone who has that rare and much-envied ability to be fully, simply, authentically and truthfully himself in every moment before the camera. He simply appears to be living his life in front of the camera, not “acting,” which is the goal of every good film actor.
In one scene I had with him, he speaks at length to my character, who of course can’t understand a word he’s saying. But Kallen is so magnetic and compelling that all I had to do was sit and listen; though I did not understand the content of what he was saying, I was mesmerized and swept away by the total conviction with which he spoke. And while I sometimes found myself challenged by some of the shooting conditions (grueling locations, long days, difficult weather, leeches!), Kallen never seemed to tire or complain, even at one point in spite of severe illness. I had nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for him as both a person and a performer. His story of lifelong activism and his contribution to Jayan Cherian’s brave cinematic achievement are to be applauded. In my mind, both he and Jayan strike me as being two of the most patriotic people I’ve ever had the honor to know.”

Some great souls , instead of harboring rancour and vengeance for the injustices meted out to them by society, go on to pay back to the community with their labour and love. Pokkudan was such a man.
Bowing my head with profound respect.

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Posted by on September 27, 2015 in Community, environment, inspiration


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