Sunday, 21 November 2010
In search of truth… in tribal land
How Dayabai transformed herself and the people around her.
Life is message:Human rights activist Dayabai and documentary film-maker Shiny Jacob Benjamin at a meet-the-press in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday. –
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: What moves Dayabai, the woman soldiering on alone in her quest for something? What is her quest?
A discussion with Dayabai, who lives among the Gonds of Chhindwara district in Madhya Pradesh showing them the way out of exploitation, was organised by the Trivandrum Press Club on the sidelines of the release of a documentary on her life here on Wednesday.
She was Mercy Mathew when she left home in Kerala's Kottayam district at the age of 16 to join a convent to become a nun more than four decades ago. She gave up the convent life to study social work as a subject, do a bit of teaching and then lead a wandering life as a social worker. She had kept moving and her journey had taken her to Mother Teresa, Bangladesh and wherever she thought she could find truth.
When asked, she said she had never been able to stay for more than one-and-a-half years anywhere. At a very young age, what struck her about relationships was how there was an imposed gap between one person and another, between one entity and another — the separateness that was keeping things apart. She thought a nun's life was her calling, but in the convent she found this separateness there also. There was the hierarchy and the gradations that go behind all institutions.
She said whenever she was in doubt she would go to the Bible and therein read what Christ had said. Religion was something that happened within each individual and she knew she had to find her own truth.
Finally among the Gonds in Madhya Pradesh she reached. Dayabai said they were once a community belonging to the ruling class among the tribal people there. They had a tradition and culture of their own. But they had been alienated from much of their land and they were under severe exploitation.
“One remark I heard during my initial days with them was very striking. One of them asked me why I should stay with them who were like monkeys in the forests. They had lost the pride of their identity,” she said.
Mercy Mathew became one of them and assumed the name Dayabai. She felt one with them in all senses, but she had to remove the separateness that was in the tribal people around her also. How she transformed the people around her was the theme of the documentary Ottayaal taken by Shiny Jacob Benjamin, a journalist.
Dayabai's life is being seen as something depicting the theology of liberation in practice.
Asked about this, she said such interpretations were being given by others. Religion happened when one became part of the whole struggling life.
And what does she fear, she was asked. “All these cameras,” she said, sweeping her hand in the direction of the cameramen covering the interaction. She was wary whether it would change her small life.
Friday, 5 November 2010
he brought neha a toy, a dog that rolls paw over paw, shaking its head, when dragged by a string;
his sister a watch and his brother-in-law a shirt;
his mother a mobile phone
and his father two books--'Communism & Zen Fire, Zen Wind' and 'Vedanta: Seven Steps to Samadhi'-- both by Osho,
and a Peter England shirt,
in which i looked handsome
in the mirror.
Sunday, 24 October 2010
the full-black species we have in our countryside,
cawed at me from a bough
and i found
myself walking in the sun,
back-lit and sparkling
against the background of a sprinkling of wild flowers,
fresh from an early morning drizzle.
he clicked me now with both eyes intensly focussed
over his beaks,
now with the left eye and now with the right,
from different angles,
like a wildlife photographer
accidently encountering the tiger
in the forests
in the right lighting conditions.
Monday, 18 October 2010
He told me he wanted a simple answer. If he were to ask me whether I was thirsty, I would answer him 'yes' or 'no'. If I wanted to drink a glass of water, I would know it spontaneously. I would not have to think and select the appropriate answer from my accummulated stock of knowledge and experience. He said he wanted such a spontaneous answer.
However, instintively, I started thinking for the answers, because thinking is a habit we nourish and carry with us as an extremely important quality in life. We are not used to acting spontaneously. We think, calculate and then act. We introduce the time-and-space factor into all our responses.
I told him: "The last time we met, you told me about looking at things without giving names to anything I see. I have tried it. I see my wife, but I don't give her a name. I don't give a name to our relationship either. I see a cow grazing in a valley, but I don't limit either the cow or the rest of the scenery to names and symbols. I don't allow my brain to go into its trained function of decoding from memory the impressions that reach it, giving each impression a name, reducing each impression to a symbol...There is a strange stillness and a flooding in of something when that kind of seeing happens, which is not always. Then everything becomes fresh and new, with neither a past, nor a future. Everything IS. In that stillness, is there 'Time', is there 'Space'?"
Sashi was amused by my answer. "You can also answer my question by posing the same question back to me," he said, laughing.
"Why do we have this concept of Time and Space," Sashi asked. "Isn't it a creation of thought, the basic nature of which is to seggregate, compartmentalise and grade the seggregated entities in different ways, pitting one entity against the other and grouping some entities together, arranging all these in an order in our mind in Time and Space?"
[*Sashi is an old friend. Some of my other friends are of the view that our discussions with him should be recorded. I had a one-to-one discussion with him on Friday.]
Saturday, 2 October 2010
"Where to," I asked him. He said he knew a toddy shop some distance away, where we could get very good toddy. It was a little way off my route home, but I had decided to give that evening to him shelving everything else I had planned.
We were silent as I negotiated the city traffic. When the road cleared, he said he had come to meet me to discuss the question of suicide. He wanted to commit suicide. Then he thought I was the kind of person with whom he could talk about it.
The toddy shop was not crowded and we could have continued the discussion there without much fear of being overheard. But he was silent through our first bottles.
"Let us go out into the highway," he suggested. So we got a plastic can loaded with toddy, borrowed a couple of glasses, and set off towards the highway. I parked the car at a dimly lit place on the side of the road.
We talked for nearly two hours, spilling quite a lot of toddy in the car. The car was going to stink like a toddy godown tommorrow, I thought...
Our very serious discussion on suicide, as was quite inevitable in such circumstances, was punctuated by frequent references about the quality of the toddy we were drinking. He had big influence with that toddy shop, though he was not a regular drinker. "Any time you feel like having good toddy, Venu, you tell me. I can arrange it for you," he said. We both laughed when he said that.
We also discussed, in between our discussion on the subject of why he wanted to commit suicide, our common problem of always wanting to be recognised--within our families, within our social circles, among our friends and within our organisations. The desire to be spoken well of by others and understood by all for our good intentions and how all these are basically the result of our own habit of being totally immersed in ourselves.
He was extremely emotional at the start of our discussion. When the story unfolded, he would now and then break out into laughter seeing how his mind had been at work right from the time of a simple incident in the morning to make it snowball into something so shattering that he saw no longer any purpose in living. We talked about this funny quality of the mind and marvelled at the way the mind worked.
We were now on a high and he asked me whether I had any old Malayalam songs to put on the music system. When I said I had no music system in my car, he said not to worry, he would sing a couple of songs himself.
He sang beautifully and his face was all music and expression in the light of the headlights of the vehicles that moved past us along the highway. There was still some toddy left in the can and as I filled the glasses without spilling, a police patrol jeep, red lights and all, rounded into our side and stopped.
I opened the car door and stood outside. An officer climbed out of the jeep and walked to the car to inspect want was on.
"We are having a little toddy," I broke clean. "I finish work very late... Errr.. the other chap is my friend... He too is drunk," I confessed, adding, "we were discussing a serious issue..."
The officer blinked a torch into the car. He saw my friend's beaming face, the plastic can, the toddy-filled glasses, the mess on the dashboard...
He switched off the torch. "Okay, okay," he said, curt and very official. "That's enough. Pack up, go home." They had been watching the car parked on the side of the highway during their patrolling the past couple of hours.
"Certainly, sir, right this moment," I said, getting immediately back into the car. The police jeep followed us for a couple of kilometres to make sure I could hold the wheel and, reassured, turned back.
"Venu, did you notice the policeman's face? What a lovely face! I felt like kissing him. Isn't it a wonder he should understand the seriousness of what we were discussing? Isn't it a wonderful world?" My friend was delirious in his happniess to be in this world.
It was well past midnight when I dropped him home. The door opened the moment the car stopped at the gates. Both his wife and daughter were at the door. They were waiting for him to return.
I could see them smiling from ear to ear as he sang out good night to me and, with meticulous deliberation to keep his steps steady, started walking towards them.
Wednesday, 22 September 2010
that pulsates in your heart
through your arteries,
to the odour of your sweat,
to the moisture in your breath,
to the deep recesses of the earth
from where your roots
drink in the salt of the soil
and spread triumphant your boughs
towards the sun,
Saturday, 11 September 2010
though now I live variously
the role of a son,
a husband, a father, a grandfather,
a somebody with a name and an address,
a friend, an opponent...
I am the sum total of all these
and the sum total of something else
and still I am none of these.
Tuesday, 7 September 2010
He was a very deep person, although, on the surface, he looked just an ordinary Kuttanadan farmer. I believe that is what makes him a great writer, being very light and ordinary. He was not comfortable with English--his English was like the document writer's (just as his Malayalam is, as some critics might say). He will say what he wanted to say in Malayalam and I will come back the next day with the English version of what I thought he wanted to say.
Looking back, I now realise I had done most of these translations without really understanding the full meaning of what he had told me in Malayalam. He was very indulgent. When I bring to him the neatly typed speech or article the next day, he will read it minutely, ask a question or two, add a comma or semicolon here and there and say: "Ithu dharalam mathiyeda (This is more than enough)." I used to even take a little freedom in translating, which I now know I should not have.
Being so close (he was also my father's friend), I took the liberty of asking him once: "Chetta, ethinte guttence entha? What is the secret? How do you go about writing a short story?" (See, I was not overambitious. I wanted to start it in a very small way...and then graduate into big things like novels, perhaps).
I asked him whether his practice was to get up early in the morning and read something like a story or two of Maupassant to fall into the rhythm before starting on a story. Or is it late in the night, after everyone had gone to sleep and one had gazed at the moon for some time, that the writing begins to flow? I have tried both these and many other methods, but somehow I cannot break into the trick of writing a story.
He slowly removed the veins of a betel leaf with his finger nail, added lime and powdered areacacut to it and put the combination into his mouth. He had stopped taking tobacco with pan those days. He sat chewing and thinking for a long time. A dog was ambling slowly across the compound. Thakazhi Chettan lifted his chin so that the betel juice would not spill from his mouth and told me to throw a stone at the dog.
Anything he says, I will do with alacrity. I jumped out and, like Jonty Rhodes flashing in to effect a runout, picked up a stone and flung it flat at the dog, factoring in the dog's movement too. (My subject in college was Physics and, further, I was a cricketer and a very good fielder in my young days).
The throw was spot on, but the dog, when just a whisker's breadth was left for the stone to hit it, leaped to a side in mid-stride to render my effort null and void. Perfectly cool. It even gave me a sidelong glance and a smirk before wriggling its way under the gate out of the compound.
On resuming my seat on his verandah, I found Thakazhi Chettan laughing. "Did you see how he did it? To be creative, you should be like him."
I thought he was making fun of me.
But now I know what he meant was to keep it light and weightless. Some of you are naturally, without your knowing it, in that position. Some others, whatever their talent, will not be able to deliver it, because they cannot touch that zero-gravity orbit.
To know the position of that orbit is important. It is important to know the difference it makes to the quality of your being, your creative existence, when you are in that position of weightless agility.
When we know the difference, it may even become possible for us to navigate through distractions to that orbit, responding to the demands of the world around us with total creativity...as, if I am not mistaken, you are doing without your knowing it.
Wednesday, 1 September 2010
Thursday, 26 August 2010
Sunday, 22 August 2010
Saturday, 21 August 2010
There was hush-hush talk among the reserved passengers how the Raiways could like this permit unreserverved passengers into reserved bogeys. If it were to be like this, why should there be a system at all for booking berths?
Around 8 p.m., after having an early supper opening a packet he had brought in his bag, the pastor climbed up the side-upper berth saying since the train would reach Kottayam just after 1 a.m., he should try to catch some sleep.
Six other reserved passengers too put their berths into position and folded up for the night, leaving the remaining one reserved passenger to allow the unreserved family to sit on the lower-side berth that was his.
What the heck, he was thinking. Staying awake one night would not shatter you. He went to the side where the latrines were and inspected the narrow space by the wash basin. The floor was fairly neat. Even if he were to become too tired standing, there was this option.
The ticket officer made his appearance for a second time around 9 p.m. and was speaking to the unreserved family about his helplessness. He said all he could do was to give his sleeping spot for the children and their mother. "Tell me what else I can do. When you travel with a sick child to the RCC, don't you know you should reserve? You would have even got priority in booking."
It transpired that they were taking the elder of the two children to the Regional Cancer Centre for treatment. Those lying in their berths were immediately alert. Three of them, including the pastor, were soon on their feet persuading the young mother of the two children, her father and brother to take their berths.
The pastor and the three other reserved passengers sat packed on the side lower berth. They did not talk about the sick child now sleeping on the side-upper berth with his uncle. As the train rocked and swung on its wheels, the pastor kept those seated by his side awake speaking about Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount. The moon shone on the rushing night landscape outside.
Wednesday, 11 August 2010
Sunday, 1 August 2010
weightless into the immeasurable,
the phenomenal me
exploding in a fit of passion.
i see myself
arguing the particular, drilling home an irrefutable point,
quoting the provisions of the temporal
and asserting the cause of the vital...
there is also this me in me merging wide into the infinity
and seeping deep into the infinitesimal,
from my immutable stillness watching
the phenomenal me
in a very hot turmoil.
Saturday, 24 July 2010
When I said no, he went to his bookshelf and brought out the book.
I read four or five pages and realised what I had in mind might be the same as what Coelho had. From the way it begins, I understood 'The Zahir' is about a husband finding one fine morning his wife had vanished without leaving a trace. My novel in progress begins with a character finding his lover missing a few days before they are to get married.
I must admit it was bit of a shock. I felt the same way I had felt when an apple fell on my head some time back prompting me to expound the laws of gravity. But the patenting officer looked up the records and said: "Tough luck, buddy. Another chap has done it already."
"Don't lose heart," my son told me, seeing the expression on my face. "The thing to do is to finish what you have begun. Then read 'The Zahir', if you have't already".
He also advised me not to put my novel on the blog. He said it might as well win the Nobel. And Nobel winning books are not usually posted on the blog due to the new Cyber Laws. He is more into current trends; he knows better.
So, I am closing the blog http://www.gopalvedam.blogspot.com/ where I had started posting 'Whirlpool', my novel in progress. The rest of the novel I propose to write in the seclusion of my room here and my son shall not enter this room and touch my computer.
Friday, 9 July 2010
i just cannot describe it...
all my life i had hated eating fish.
but now, wonder of wonders,
i like nothing but fish--breakfast, lunch and supper!
and comes this pleasant shock after much pondering over:
a cat i have become, a cat!
Thursday, 8 July 2010
Friday, 4 June 2010
i was just not weightless and at the zero these past 10 days. when you are not at the zero there is no creativity in you.
conflicts arise when you are too involved. your involvement does not tolerate threats, not even little disturbances. you are like a tigress guarding its cubs.
this condition makes you tense. the mind is restless and no longer mirrors the truth. and i have kept my blog the mirror of the truth i see.
how to get out of it is the challenge...
watch yourself. keep watching yourselves as though you are another person, dispassionate and uninvolved. attachment is the issue; it is the problem. it makes you belligerent, a separate entity in conflict with the whole.
this belligerence can cease only when you know the essence of karma yoga. i know it at the theoretical level, but knowing it at the theoretical level is different from knowing it deep within.
Tuesday, 25 May 2010
the atmosphere is stacked layer over layer from sea level upwards into the regions of nothingness.
the cyclone is when all layers are involved in a total spiralling movement, from bottom upwards layer after layer past the vent into nothingness.
it is an unhindered sublimation of energy, a spiralling into the beyond.
once the monsoon currents have fallen into their pattern there will be no cyclones because a strong and steady current will be flowing from east to west at upper levels creating a lid that closes all approach for the winds spiralling at lower levels to the opening into the total freedom beyond.
under enforced limits there can only be limited manifestations of creative expression.
in meteorology these limited manifestations are called low pressure systems, depressions and deep depressions.
these drive the rains and serve ground level purposes but since the lid is on at a particular level the spiralling beyond into the stage of the cyclone is not a natural thing to happen in the monsoon season.
how analogous monsoon mateorology is to creative expression in life regimented within limits set at different levels from person to person, circumstances to cicumstances!
a cyclone is possible only when we break the lid and take all the individual levels of our being, physical and mental, spiralling into the supraphysical and supramental regions of the unknowable.
this is what Sri Aurobindo teaches in his Integral Yoga--total transformation.
Sunday, 23 May 2010
Saturday, 22 May 2010
each time i switch on the computer she lights up the screen her smile.
she has a dimple on her left cheek,
a twinkle in her eyes
and a reflection playing on the softness of her lips.
her temple is the shrine holding the hidden knowledge
of all ages past, all ages yet to come.
my screensaver is the mirror of the truth of everything.
Friday, 21 May 2010
(my friends don't know what makes me so happy!)
Sunday, 16 May 2010
moving in from the boundary line
as the bowler begins his runup,
and when the batsman hits, hard and low,
swooping in and diving full length
to pouch the ball,
just half-an-inch above the ground!
and then glowing in the glow of the gallery!
when there, you glide like an eagle high in the clouds,
not a feather moving,
moving into the mist of the clouds,
and then gliding into sunlit surprises,
seeing all things moving and static on earth,
seeing with the eyes of the eagle,
and when the prey scurries, far down below,
acting with a tilt and flap-flap of the wings,
and swooping in to lift the thing
clean off the ground.
Thursday, 13 May 2010
what we feel as individual life is the flick of a flame in an immense conflagration. the flame is born in the conflagration and vanishes into the conflagration and in its passing lights up all the flames that are yet to come. only when we know the immensity of the conflagration we know the individual flame, its footing in eternity and its immortality. the flame now harmonises the light of that which had passed on behind and that which hence shall shine forth.
"She desires the ancient mornings and fulfils their light; projecting forwards her illumination she enters into communion with the rest that are to come."Kutsa Angisara--Rig Veda.
Tuesday, 11 May 2010
Sunday, 9 May 2010
Saturday, 8 May 2010
until the showers came, i knew not of the countless ripples on the stillness of the lake, each running in concentric circles against the outward pushing circles of those around.
and when the rain intensified, i saw the ripples dancing into a frenzy and pushing themselves harder against one another, harder against one another...
and you said: only the drop not with the ripples know the depth and spread of the lake.
Sunday, 2 May 2010
Friday, 30 April 2010
there is a conducting wire running between us, each end charged and receiving, the flow alternating by turns, yet static in its motion.
know of this in quick-spreading tentacles flowing like rivulets to everything around--the trees that grow in the valley and the birds that fly in the air, the people in the throes of a plethora of emotions and them that have no emotions, the why and the wherefore of it, and also the boy, watching the chameleon, its flower neck bellowing, your heart ticking...
you know you know the moment he will transfer the toffee-stick from his right hand to left and pick up the self-same stone you now see lying there on the road at his feet and you know when he will, with a flinging swing of the whole of his body, agile as a catapult, send it shooting to destination.
and yet you know the chameleon, with a flicking leap a whisker and a whiff of touch distance away from woe and perdition, will smooth sail over to the branch yonder and disappear...
Monday, 26 April 2010
make me perfect as a perfect square, a perfect circle, a perfect sphere--let it be as you wish. let me be as soft clay in your hands. mould of me your ultimate art.
with your fingers you twist my ears till it pains and then you push me back and skip your way down the slope, leaving me alone on the hillside. as the skies darken and the stars come out, i turn into a night flower, petal by petal, flowering...
"it manifests itself in...the impulse towards perfection, the search after pure Truth and unmixed Bliss, the sense of a secret immortality"--Sri Aurobindo.
Friday, 23 April 2010
is where there is no gravity.
there you are like a satellite floating
in a geo stationary orbit,
not of this world and yet of it,
acted upon by no outside force,
moving with the world in a state of perfect rest
in relation to everything over land, sea and air.
it is like when you step out of your palace
in the dead of the night
and you wander into the wide open spaces,
come to a river,
take a dip and sit under a tree,
with your legs crossed, eyes closed and spine straight,
turning weightless into a flame,
Thursday, 22 April 2010
flapping through our coats,
the sun blinding into our eyes
through the canopy of the trees,
fanning their heavy boughs
as we pass,
each step a tangible solidity
in the solidity of the immutable,
you and i,
nor in any modulated differentiation in the odour our sweat,
Monday, 19 April 2010
growing in your womb,
suckled by the love of our ancesters,
now that we speak of the sun
and the earth and the planets,
hurtling down the milky way,
of time shrinking to this moment,
let us stop,
take a break,
and consider this:
you and i flow in a linear direction,
from point 'a' to 'b' to 'c',
from a foetus in the womb
to a newborn baby to a bubbling little child
to the time when we were in deep love
to a mom and grandma and then to dust.
how would it be if life were to flow
in the selfsame linear direction on the reverse gear,
from point 'c' to 'b' to 'a',
from dust to grandma to mom and the girl of my dreams
to the bubbling little joy i knew you were in childhood
to the bliss you were as a baby
to the no-mind expanses of a foetus...
hand in hand, dearest,
we swift-sail down the milky way.
see--there is the sun, here the earth
and there the other planets
and a million million twinkling stars.
Sunday, 18 April 2010
i place myself in the context of everything
that had happened in the untraceable history of existence
yet to happen in the eons to come,
as the sun and the earth and the other planets
swift-sail down the milky way
on their journey
without a destination.
i curl myself into this moment,
along the placenta linking heartbeats,
into the throb of your pulse,
the taste of the salt of your cheeks,
and the pain of the little toe
you had just now stubbed
against this sharp stone
by the wayside.
Thursday, 15 April 2010
Tuesday, 13 April 2010
i open the creaking doors of the attic
at the abandoned house,
and amidst the cobwebs,
old trunks, broken furniture and brass vessels,
find the masterpiece,
rolled up and neatly tied.
i unroll the canvass,
stretch its corners straight,
and the picture hits me like a blast and i reel,
struck by a resemblance
engraved in memory.
at the art gallery,
i linger long looking for faces
lighting up with recognition.
but the women come and go,
talking just of michelangelo...
Sunday, 11 April 2010
Saturday, 10 April 2010
you take me down the hills from deep woods
into an open meadow,
where graze eighteen cows, their butter-bright sheen,
luminous on the dew-wet green,
sunlit distilled still,
of all times gone and all times yet to come,
and as we pause breathless, you tell me,
don't you hear, a sound?
Thursday, 8 April 2010
where we see
all sights for the first time,
hear the sound of music for the first time.
we link our hands,
and neither you nor i have a name anymore,
our breath is the breath of the wind,
our blood the sap of the earth.
Tuesday, 23 March 2010
together we ascend and descend
on this joyous swing.
bouncing our feet on earth and leaping back,
we stretch our length from toe to head
and fling ourselves down swinging high,
and when we touch the free spaces where gravity stops,
you whisper in my ear:
"this is both jugum and yuj."
then starts the learning of new languages.
(painting The Swing by Jean-Honore Fragonard)
Thursday, 18 March 2010
these three days early morning, i open a book at page 460, intending to finish the last 25 pages in one sitting. then i close it deciding to finish it the next day.
Wednesday, 10 March 2010
Saturday, 16 January 2010
She is all smiles all the time, except when she is sleepy, or in lip-smacking mood for milk. She likes you speak to her little nothings and responds expressively, making noises that are most appropriate.
It is not as though you spend all your time with her. God fills you to the brim and you have no more space for poetry.