Archive for January, 2016

Every Boat has a Hole

January 31, 2016

Ref: TRIVENI (Estd: 1927), India’s Literary and Cultural Quarterly, Vol. 83, No. 4, Oct.-Dec. 2014, p. 52-54, ISSN 0041-3135, RNI No. 25269.

 

                               EVERY BOAT HAS A HOLE

  1. P. Arora*

 

“Don’t blame only the poor.”

“Why not? They are ready to sell their vote for a bottle of desi wine or a few hundred rupees. It is no democracy. They make a mockery of this democracy.”

“No, not only they. Everybody is ready to sell his vote for a consideration here. The only consideration is consideration. How much? Or what kind of consideration? We are all corrupt or corruptible.”

“No, not everybody, Vivek. There are always exceptions.”

“Very few. And even those who are at the top and have everything in the world, they too are subject to temptations. Man is like that,” I said.

We were discussing democracy, elections, and the fate of our nation. Big things. Small people discussing big things.

“No, Vivek. Everybody is not that bad. There are many…” Before Ashish could complete his sentence, Guruji walked in and sat on the bench.

“Look at Guruji. Such a simple man. No wants beyond the minimum. Always smiling and helping everybody. Teaching yoga and pranayam to every seeker without asking for anything in return,” said Ashish forcefully, excitedly.

I folded my hands as usual.

Ashish wanted to score the point. “Do you think Guruji can ever be subject to any kind of temptation? No, never. What a graceful and self-negating man! What an epitome of godliness!”

I smiled. “My respects to Guruji. With due apologies, I would only say: Man is a strange bundle of contradictions. You are never sure when even the best of the men might fall a prey to the devil of temptation.”

“No, no, impossible. There are always people who resist all sorts of temptations, and are the saviours of human race.”

Everybody there said, yes, yes, and as usual, they asked Guruji to recite the Gayatri Mantra and begin the daily prayer and pranayam.

Guruji, in his melodious voice and inimitable style, started the daily prayers. Everybody closed his eyes and got engrossed.

In the summer we went to England. My daughter lives there. She had to attend some summer course, and she insisted on our coming to her place and be with the kids in her absence. They couldn’t be left alone, she said. We found it was our duty to take care of the kids. When we returned, we thought of everybody and brought some small gifts. Everybody was excited and thanked me profusely. When I gave one tee-shirt to Guruji, he smiled and said, “What shall I do with it. You know I wear only kurta-pyjama. I have never worn these western dresses. I am a simple man.”

“I am sorry, Guruji. This too is a simple dress. However, if you don’t like it, you can give it to someone else. I shall bring a shaving jell for you.”

“No, no, I don’t need anything. But in case you have a spare shaving jell, that will be a good idea. You can take this tee-shirt back.”

“No, guruji, you can keep this too, and give it to someone you think would like it.”

Next day, I brought a jar of shaving jell and gave it to Guruji. He was extremely pleased and immediately put it in his ‘jhola’.

It was my birthday. As was the custom, I brought a pack of sweets like everybody always did.

“Take a big piece of burfi, Raman. Your favourite.”

But he said, “That won’t do. We want a feast.”

“Why so? That is how we celebrate everybody’s birthday here,” I said smilingly.

“No, no, it’s a special birthday. Birthday after your England visit. You went abroad for the first time. A treat is certainly due,” said Naren.

Everybody shouted, yes, yes.

“OK. What do you want?” “Costa Coffee. The simplest treat,” shouted Vijay. A new Costa Coffee joint had been opened recently in our area and everybody had been excited about it. We had all been eagerly waiting for an opportunity to have our first cup over there.

I smiled and instantly said, “Done.” Everybody was delighted and shouted Happy Birthday in chorus.

I turned to Guruji, “I would be happy if you also come. Please join us.”

“No, no, please forgive me. I can’t come. I never go to restaurants. Moreover, I don’t take coffee. Please go ahead, and enjoy yourselves.”

I didn’t insist. Next Saturday, we all met at the Costa Coffee. Everybody said, it was good. Everything about it was pleasing. Furniture, counter, cups… above all the ambience. Paintings on the walls,   aesthetically satisfying, marvellous.

“But I don’t understand,” said Ashish, “why you invited guruji. You know he never goes out; at home too he sits on the floor for his dinner.”

“Well, I didn’t know that much. I thought it would be discourteous on my part not to invite him. But once he said, no, I neither insisted on his coming nor made an issue of it. He is free to live his kind of life.”

“Good that you didn’t force him,” said Ashish. “He would never have agreed. It would have been embarrassing for him to say no again and again.”

“I would never like anybody to do anything for my sake, something that goes against his grain,” I said emphatically.

Naren quipped, “But what is there in it? Once in a while, it should have been OK for him. That would not have disturbed his spiritual balance.”

Everybody laughed. Ashish grew serious. “He is not an ordinary person. He is a disciplined man, and cares only for the higher things. He has some kind of divinity in him. Small, ordinary things don’t attract him. He is beyond them. In fact he is an ascetic.”

“OK, enough of Guruji,” screeched Gaurav. “What about coffee?” ” Ye a h , ” everybody shouted. As I stood up to place the order, I saw someone walking towards our big table. The light was dim, and I couldn’t recognize him immediately. Everybody looked at the figure amazed, eyes wide open. The figure gradually sank into me. “Guruji, you! Here!”

“Why? Vivek, aren’t you glad to see me here?”

I said haltingly, “Guruji, I am delighted. But…but…”

Ashish was dumbfounded. But Naren handled the situation. “Guruji, you look wonderful in this tee-shirt. Trousers too. Great, Guruji, great.”

Guruji smiled. “This is the same T-shirt that Vivek brought for me from England. And I thought I must join you all to celebrate his birthday. It would be odd if I don’t.”

“But Guruji, how about the trousers?” Said Vijay, his eyes brimming with naughtiness.

“Oh that, it is my son’s. A bit tight perhaps.”

“No,no,” said Naren, ” that is perfectly OK. Latest fashion. You should always wear such bright, tight clothes. You look so youngish, and smart too.”

“Really! You like it!” said Guruji, pleased.

I looked at Ashish. He was really sad. I didn’t want to spoil the party.   I turned to Guruji, “We are delighted to see you here. I am particularly grateful to you for joining us here on this occasion.”

“No, no, no need for thanks. I am glad I got this opportunity of coming out and looking at the world.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. Ashish’s eyes clearly revealed his disgust. “OK, guruji, what would you like to have? I know you don’t take coffee. Some cold drink or ice cream or something else?” I said hesitatingly.

“No, no, I too would take coffee. Let me have a taste of this world-renowned coffee. I learn that they specially brew it. Once in a while everybody should have some fun too.” They all shouted in chorus: Wow! That is the spirit.

Only Ashish couldn’t raise his eyes.

*   Poet, Writer, New Delhi

Ref: TRIVENI (Estd: 1927), India’s Literary and Cultural Quarterly, Vol. 83, No. 4, Oct.-Dec. 2014, p. 52-54, ISSN 0041-3135, RNI No. 25269.

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Never the Rain

January 29, 2016

Drought PNG(Ethiopia Drought)

We
sit
and watch
patiently
no sign from the sky
clouds forget about us today.
Yesterday clouds teased sorghum seeds
they thought about rain
earth waiting
never
the
rain.

Three Writers of Colour

January 11, 2016

 

Posted by: lisaparavisini | January 10, 2016

How three writers of colour stormed 2015’s major literary prizes

ta-nehisi-coates-marlon-james-andre-alexis.jpg

Andre Alexis, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Marlon James’ books have more in common than it first appears, as Amanda Parris reports for CBC/Arts.

Given that we are a few days into 2016, it’s a little bit late for another article about 2015. But while I was perusing through the inevitable lists and roundups, one fact about 2015 was not mentioned by any that I came across: Black male writers took home three of the top literary awards in the world.

“Each of these writers in his own way is fighting for a kind of freedom — creatively, intellectually and literally.”

Forty-five year-old Jamaican writer Marlon James was awarded the Man Booker Prize for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings. Forty year-old African-American writer Ta-Nehisi Coates took home the National Book Award for non-fiction thanks to his bestselling Between the World and Meand, here at home, fifty-eight year-old Trinidadian-born, Canadian raised writer André Alexis won the Scotiabank Giller Prize — and before that, theRogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize — for his imaginative apologue, the novel Fifteen Dogs.

I read each of these books back to back and so they inevitably entered into a kind of conversation with each other in my mind.

The title of Alexis’ book is not a metaphor; the protagonists of Fifteen Dogs are literally dogs, and Alexis imaginatively crafts the story of each of their lives as they are bestowed with the gift/curse of human consciousness by two Greek gods. I raised an eyebrow when reading the synopsis on the back of the book and side-eyed the idea of dogs as main characters. Once I began however, I was locked in, easily buying into the premise and becoming deeply invested in the characters. In very little time, I had hopes for some of the dogs, despised others, wept for my favourites and talked about them for days afterward.

I wrote a little in my last column about my experience with Between the World and Me. An extended essay structured as a letter to his son, Coates left me thinking about what it means to bring a black child into this world. My partner is now reading the book and we are engaging in conversations not only about the scary side of raising children but also about the kind of lives we hope they will live.

Chronicling the events surrounding the 1976 assassination attempt on reggae superstar Bob Marley, James’ novel — the first by a Jamaican to win the Man Booker — is an epic sprawl of people, events and time. (One thing that A Brief History of Seven Killings is not is brief.) The descriptions are so raw, brutal and violent that I frequently had to put it down and take moments of reprieve before returning. In an interview with Charlie Rose, James states that violence should be violent. It is clear that he doesn’t want his reader to gloss over these experiences but rather to be left unsettled and disturbed by them.

The uncomfortable reality of violence is actually something that is shared between the three books — from the violent realities of dogs that have been cursed to exist apart from their kind, to the bloody history of life in pre-election Jamaica to the systemic realities of violence historically inflicted on black bodies in America. Indeed, the inspiration for at least two of the books in part emerged from the desire to remember pivotal moments of violence.

For Marlon James, the attempted murder of one of the most famous men who ever existed is the entryway to imagine the lives and people around this moment who have since been forgotten. Each of these characters are given names, motivations, fears and desires. In fact, the only one left unnamed is Bob Marley himself, who is simply referred to as The Singer.

For Ta-Nehisi Coates, the murder of his college friend Prince Jones at the hands of a police officer 15 years ago (a police officer who was never punished or prosecuted) led to a desire to not only write about the larger issue of systemic and historical violence inflicted on black bodies, but also to remember a friend who it seemed the world had forgotten.

Coates uses his experience as his foundation for exploration. His personal journey becomes a point of access for a larger treatise on the history of race in America. Coates unapologetically notes in a Slate interview, “As a writer I was shaped by a desire to write for black people. That things were not being represented. That was my motivating force.”

Although not boasting quite the same scale of attention as Coates — not only did he win one of the MacArthur Foundation’s ‘genius grants,’ The Washington Post named him the foremost public intellectual of our time, though he protests the accolade — for years Alexis has also made it a priority to have his voice heard on a variety of issues. In 2014 he called out writer David Gilmour for racism and also utilized the incident to shed light on the silence of Canadian reviewers who avoided the issue in ways that would never have occurred in the United States.

And yet, though they echo Coates’ concerns in their interviews and their work, as fiction writers Alexis and James have publicly struggled against the prejudicial assumption that they can only speculate on things that have to do with their identity. In a conversation with Donna Bailey Nurse, published in her 2004 book What’s a Black Critic to Do? Interviews, Profiles and Reviews of Black Writers, Alexis states, “I am absolutely a writer of colour. That’s who I am. But I really want to insist that I have the right to speculate on things that aren’t directly to do with race. I prefer that you don’t read my book and look at it as the product of a black person.  I would prefer that you take it and look at it as speculation about faith, about God, about place.”

James has similarly noted his frustration that an assumption is often made that writers of colour can only write from a perspective of experience rather than realizing that, just like their white counterparts, they also have access to the tools of talent and imagination.  His novel exhibits this boldly as he weaves the story through a dizzying array of protagonists who range from hippie Rolling Stone reporters to young disposable gunmen from the ghetto.

It’s interesting that all three of these literary figures’ upcoming projects allow them to move into worlds of fantasy, magic and myth. Alexis is continuing his exploration of mortal connection with Greek gods, James is embarking on a quest to write what he calls an African Game of Thronesand Coates is writing a new comic book for Marvel based on the superhero Black Panther.

Each of these writers in his own way is fighting for a kind of freedom — creatively, intellectually and literally. This year, the world chose to celebrate that desire to be free. Let’s see what happens in 2016.

How three writers of colour stormed 2015’s major literary prizes

January 11, 2016

Source: How three writers of colour stormed 2015’s major literary prizes

Everything Gonna Come To Light

January 9, 2016

 

Everything Gonna Come To Light (Celebrating The Legend: Bob Marley- 1945-1981) – Poem by Leonard Dabydeen

No, oh no, no, no …
Is not the natty dread lock
What catch me eye, me eye;
I look at his face
See the pain, the pain
Like you see naked rain …
Hear the music playing, playing:
Everybody no cry, no cry
Let the music play, play Almighty
With love in the eye, the eye …
Listen to history of man-
Reggae drum a talk:
No lie, no lie …
Everything gonna come to light.