Saturday, February 28, 2009

___ Grammer of Good Times

The airlines announcer can't say this the last boarding call, when it quite clearly is not. She can't say this is a final boarding call - which, while being the most honest thing to say is unlikely to achieve a thing. So the poor dear says: "this is final boarding call...".

And you thought Indians were just careless with prepositions !

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


When you take something unoriginal and put your stamp on it by trying to rhyme, then I guess that may be termed re-verse.

I mean, what is original anyway... As it goes in Latin: prudens interrogatio dimidium scientiate - all that a scientist discovers in a fact is the language in which he enunciates it.

So here's an old joke....

In another instance, quoted from the dictatorial regime of Gen Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan, Mr Luther said Zia's barber used to ask the General when he would usher in the promised democracy.An annoyed General once admonished the barber for asking the question repeatedly and wanted to know how he was concerned with democracy. The barber replied: "General, I have no idea what democracy means, but every time I ask the question, your hair stand on end and it makes my job easy!"

And now it is mine:

அரும்பெரும் அண்டை நாடாம் பாகிஸ்
தானம் அதற்கு ஒரு தலைவன்
அரசது வமைக்கு மொரு முறையாம்
ஜன நாயக மதற்கே செறு பகைவன்

மறுமொழி கேளா ஜெனரல் ஜியா
என்றால் அண்டம் நடுங்கிடுமே
ஒருசிறு நாவிதன் அவனைக்கூட
மிரட்டிய கதையிது கேட்பீரே

துருதுருப்பாக செயல்படும் அரசன்
காலில் என்றும் சக்கரமே
மாதம் அரைமணிநேரம் மட்டும்
ஓரிடம் அவனும் அமர்வானே

கருகரு முடியை திருத்திட வேண்டி
நாவிதனிடத்தே தலைநீட்டி
மெருகது தன்னிடை கூடிய மட்டும்
ஏத்திட அவனும் முனைந்தானே

ஒருமுறை பாதியில் நாவித மடையன்
'ஜெனரல் சாஹிப்' எனவிளித்து
'வருமோ இப்பொது தேர்தல்கள்' என்று
வினைவின வதனை உதிர்த்தானே

சிறுபிழை பொறுக்கா ஜெனரல் ஜியா
உஷ்ணம் மிகுந்த மூச்சிறைத்து
அறிவிலி மூடா யாரிடம் என்ன
பேசுவதென்பது அறியாயா ?

ஒருபிழை அருள்வேன் இது போல் இனிமேல்
தரமறியாமல் பேசாதே
மருமுறை நடந்தால் சுல்ஃபிகர் அலியின்
நிலை தான் உனக்கு மறவாதே

பொறிபறந்திடவே கிளம்பிச்சென்ற
ஜெனரல்வாளிடை பிழைத்தவர்கள்
அரிதென வறிந்த நாவிதன் அன்று
கீழுடை மாற்றிட நேர்ந்ததுவே

வரிகள், போர்கள், மானுடப்பதர்கள்
என்றே ஜெனரல் பொன்நேரம்
சரியாய் போவது ஆயினும் அழகை
பேணுவதென்பதை மறவாரே

மறுமுறை நாவிதன் பயத்துடன் மௌனச்
சபதம் எதையோ காப்பதுபோல
விருவிருவெனவே கத்தரிகோலுடன்
வேலையில் மட்டும் ஆழ்ந்தானே

சரிவர முன்முடி திருத்திய பிறகவன்
பின்தலை வேலையை தொடங்கையிலே
'வருமோ இப்பொது தேர்தல்கள்' என்றே
மீண்டும் ஒருமுறை கேட்டானே

எரிகனல் விழிகள் நுணலனை எறிக்க
ஜெனரல் ஜியா எழுந்தங்கு
மரிப்பது இவன் விதி இதுவே
எந்தன் ஆணை
என்றும் சொன்னாரே

உருமியபடியே சீருடைக்காவலர்
பிழைஞன் தன்னை நெருங்கிடவே
எரிமிலை ஜெனரல் தாள்சரணெனவே
நெடுஞ்சாண்கிடையாய் விழுந்தானே

சிறியவன் யான்செய் பெரும்பிழையதற்கு
காரணமுண்டு அதைக்கேட்டு
பொறையுடை அரசர் நீவிர் என்னை
தயைசெய்தருள வேண்டுகிறேன்

சுருள்முடி தங்கள் பிடரியிலுண்டு
வெட்டுவதற்கே பெருஞ்சிரமம்
வருமோ தேர்தல் என நான் கேட்டால்
மயிர்கள் யாவும் கூச்செரிந்து

விரிந்திட கத்திரிகோலினில் வெட்டுதல்
எளிதாய் போவதைக் கண்டேனே.
திரிபர உரைத்தேன் நடந்தது இதுவே
நிரந்தரத் தலைவா அருள்வாயே.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Cubbon Park - the literary risk

"Our sambhar may be sweet, our women too forward, our government right-wing, we may have opened the gates to a greater integration with -what the informed rightly call - the North Indies...But sir, at the end of the day, we have Cubbon Park. Your city does not." he said dipping a slice of his kadubu into a cup of liquid jaggery.

I smiled patronizingly. "The reason for that is quite simple sir", I said dusting the sand off my gentle moustache. "You see, a place like Cubbon Park with its deceptive sense of idyll encourages all and sundry to attempt poetry. Even I came within an ace of that this weekend about Eden, Fall of Man and all. Scary, no ? We - the Hindu reading population of Madras - take our role as protectors of our national language quite seriously. That is why we make do with Panagal Park and even build flyovers next to it. Even with that, our boundless imagination sometimes threatens to make us susceptible to poetic afflatus. Then, we sit down and do the crossword and read "This Day that Age" till the impulse passes."

Okay, got to run. Someone a few streets away has apparently won an Oscar.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Arbeit Macht Frei

Work is the curse of the drinking class - Oscar Wilde

திங்கள் விடிந்தால் காதைத் திருகி
இழுத்துக் கொண்டு போகிறது

It's good to have land - Stewie Griffin

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Brittle Beauty

G.K.Chesterton most famously said Angels fly because they take themselves lightly

Let's ignore that and celebrate the virtue of self-consciousness along the lines of Matsuo Basho the founding-father, so to speak, of Haiku. He once recalled something he wrote ten years earlier and mentioned to his pupil, how the last line should have been re-written.

A poem is never really completed, only abandoned - Paul Valery via AKR

Here is something abandoned in 2004, 2006 and 2007 and further scissored down further this morning

Brittle Beauty

A moment’s beauty is always there
For every creature that was around
It’s only those who’ve some to spare
Who give hope of life unbound.

But then there are morals, then there is shame
And worse: ‘each one has an innate talent’
God! Whoever said ‘twas a fair game?
It’s just us cynics who are gallant

The rest go armed with handkerchieves
That play purdah to the eager eyes
Evolution indeed from the days of fig leaves
But then, Adam hadn’t a choice

So here I am, rewriting drafts, chiseling is my game
Scratching out the not so gold.
If you still don’t like it I can always blame
The eyes that do behold.

This is why you should never show work in progress - Norther Winslow, Big Fish

Monday, February 16, 2009

Big Fish

Often I feel like the girl in "If Tomorrow Comes" who plays chess with the American and Russian.

To the technical guys I am the business guy
To the business guys I am the technical guy
I speak of Tamil literature to 'English medium' friends
Moffusil politics to Chennaites
I'm the conservative's liberal and liberal's conservative

All that, I assure you -not in a show-offy manner. But in a simple what-can-I-bring-to-this-table contributory way.

I could be the only screenwriter who plays the oboe
- Charlie Kaufman, Adaptation

But what's impressive about the iceberg is that we assume there's more from where it came from. We know we only see a part of its monstrous size and rest is below the water. The difference is, the knowledgable man doesn't sync enough. To be judgemental on this is being unrealistic.

Biting off more than you can chew is a virtue in Tamil culture. So it took me some alienation to appreciate the wisdom in..

I'm always amazed at people who want to understand the universe, when it's hard enough to just find your way around Chinatown. -- Woody Allen

Learned and ignorant aren't binary but more a question of degree. But knowing that makes the threshold for 'opening up' undesirably lower. How to say you know that not in the regular way but in a 'deeper way'. For instance, I could expand on that sentence with some fancy mathematics and get an epistemology publication.

But wanting to write that paper is not exactly wanting to have written that paper...ay there's the rub !

Ditto and Smile

The conscious man's smile surely is fake
How else can he with his weighty thoughts bear
The wide world's misery to which he's awake
And smile as if, it is all quite fair
I can only ditto what greats thus spake
Content that the answer is somewhere there

Had the cave man laughed, history would have been different
- Lord Henry Wotton, Picture of Dorian Gray

: Let me play the fool:With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come
(Act I, Sc I, Merchant of Venice)

Why has my motley diary no jokes? Because it is a soliloquy and every man is grave alone. Ralph Waldo Emerson

As a writer of light fiction, I have always till now been handicappedby the fact that my disposition was cheerful, my heart intact, and my life unsoured. Handicapped, I say, because the public likes to feelthat a writer of farcical stories is piquantly miserable in his privatelife, and that, if he turns out anything amusing, he does it simply inorder to obtain relief from the almost insupportable weight of an existence which he has long since realized to be a wash-out.

- PG Wodehouse in the foreword to The Clicking of Cuthbert

We all need the eggs - Woody Allen, ending lines in Annie Hall

Friday, February 13, 2009

Good from far

We are good friends now and I really enjoy your company. I mean that and not in an all-words-fake-warmth way that is natural to that line. But just for a moment, can you it would been if things had gotten serious between us back then.

We had many things that clicked and truth be said, the freedom and flexibility I had with you, did in many ways make me whatever little I am. But I was always conscious of our dissance. For a while I thought I could like you in my own way but after a point I could not deny certain things. Like how you were always too quick and dare I say, of a rather unmanageable size for me. And I too meek and nondescript to match with you.

We ended it right and now I am only even more sure of that. Aspects of you I knew and enjoyed have changed substantially but in some inexplicable way you are the same. I wish I could say the same about myself.

Happy Valentine's Day Mumbai !

Monday, February 9, 2009

I dig this

Regarding translation, AKRamanujan mentions a lovely story about how a Chinese emperor tried digging a tunnel. A minister suggested digging from both sides and the emperor asked him what is the digging didn't meet. "Then we will have two tunnels instead of one" came the reply.

Enamoured by the analogy this writer takes his pick-ax and gets to work. Those who know the Tamil original, the tunnel story is for you. And those who don't, well it atleast rhymes, doesn't it ?

A bright little spark of fire I found
And tucked it away in a burrow in the woods
All the forest was razed to the ground
Does the rage of fire know its shouldn'ts and shoulds

Sunday, February 8, 2009

First Person Singular

Like the philosophically inclined kitten which is carried by the mother cat by the scruff of his neck, I lazily await enlightenment. I hear it is a tradition that is rooted in humility as it passes the buck to powers that be to care enough. But the central issue is, how can I care about, let alone long for, what is allegedly an acutely I-less, scheme of things

The first story I remember writing, was written with crayons. Not drawn, written. I was in a school that believed children's hands are too soft to wield a pencil till they were seven. Where are those places now ? Anyway,the story ended with the words "...then I died".

I seem to have had an early understanding that sorrow was the cornerstone of serious literature. Atleast that's what I plan to say when the NY Review of Books interviews me. It was set in McDonald type farm and it wasn't much of a story as much as it was a description of the grim melee of animals pitted against each other - which in retrospect is more natural than each submitting a voice sample on command. I chose to be the narrating hen under attack.

My teacher pointed out that I cannot end the story like that. "How can you write the story if you died ?" she asked with a supercilious smile. I didn't have answer then. Now I know. I should have pointed to the logical flaw in her argument: "Miss, I just did".

Friday, February 6, 2009

Masterful Illiteracy

It is ruthless how people expect everyone to have an opinion on the economics slowdown. I don't mind humouring cabdrivers and supplying their solid common sense with some jargon armoury. But someone starts a serious conversation I so wish he talked about whether. "You did economics right, so what do you think went wrong ? People say it's going to be say it's going to be dim the next three fiscals.."That's my cue word. From there I know I am in a conversation I should be out of real quick. I try the old but sure trick "look there is Ramalinga Raju" and gently slip out.

Why do they do this ? Do you see me starting polite conversations with electrical engineers on the lines of "suppose you have a solenoid of length n". Is it too much to ask to be extended the same courtesy. But, you may point to a flaw in my argument that electrical engineers will probably smack their lips and relish such conversation. But you see, that is one of the reasons why I am not an electrical engineer.

To quote an alleged luminary of my tribe: "Familiarity with the subject matter of economics breeds contempt for special knowledge about it" - Milton Friedman

I once had aunt ask me for investment advice. Seriously, me ? I am just short of keeping my savings underneath my mattress. The only time I ever got Sensex was when solving Amartya's coitus unknown after perception (6).

My daily dose of The Hindu consists of the sports page, archaeological finds, body counts in Gaza and SriLanka (one inflated and one deflated), then some "woman relieved of chain and youth fatally knocked down" to digest with my breakfast ceral and then I throw the paper away. And for whatever economics I want to understand, the cartoons are always there.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Groan up

For some reason people classify puns under jokes when it quite obviously classifies under poetry. Among the several purposes of this blog is to right that wrong.

A carpenter known for his innovations also used to moonlight as a deer hunter. Once he lurked in the dark and after a hard struggle proved to be an ace marksman and killed a poor dear. Famished he settled down on an instant barbecue and as soon as he finished the meal he lost his eyesight.That day he discovered venison blinds

Monday, February 2, 2009

Letchumibadhee !

Srikkanth finally does what he was hired for.
Balaji back in the team.

Jokes apart, he had an awesome Ranji season, leading TN's charge . The team itself had a good run and would have made it to the final (to lose to Mumbai of course), had it not been for the infernal first innings lead rule - which in this writer's opinion should be taken out and shot - that awarded UP the semifinal, because a blighter made a virtue of longevity and camped in the middle for a week or so.

It is unfortunate that during the the partisan days the sceptre only that far south to Gundappa Viswanath and no further. Watching Sujith Somasunder open for India gave me hope in life, in those days when I worked the sheen off the rubber ball with what the embellishing racounter in me describes as a "many a glorious square drive", saying to myself "mEra number aayEga". These days there seem to overbalance as Badri waits in the sidelines as Srikkanth seems intent on making another Badani out of him. Balaji's 5-wickets-in-a-session burst that blew away Bengal in the QF should have been sufficient reason to walk into the team weeks back. Anyway, let's see the man get a couple of big hauls this year and play till WC 2011 or at the least, win a Padmashri or two.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Teflon pen

“… all babies are born with knowledge of poetry, because the lub-dub of the mother’s heart is in iambic meter. Then, life slowly starts to choke the poetry out of us." - Billy Collins

It is essential for the readers of this blog to acquaint themselves with the phases of this writer's literary history, in order to better appreciate the forthcoming contents. Till I was 20, I was quite attracted to sombre stuff like the Billy Collins quote above. Its poignancy would have drawn some sighs and long ruminations from yours truly. Now, if I were to be surprised by a curve-ball of that sort I deftly observe "Pretty stiff stuff that" and move on with the usual business of existence.

A mature sense of humour, which some detractors have mistaken to be flippancy, elevated my persona almost as soon as I was done with being a teenager. Given that this emotional progression is usually in the reverse, it will have to be said that this author has always lived his life in reverse. Perhaps drawing from the wise insight of one Søren Kierkegaard: "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." Don't groan, you were sufficiently warned in the first post that this blog is going to be about chronic name dropping. Heck, I heard that Kiekegaard quote in an amusingly relevant context, from my professor at the start an "Introduction to Dynamic Programming" class.

Anyway, in what I shall call the sombre phase, the oevre was dominated by deep existential concern coupled with scant regard to form. A sample:

What else is there to make us stay?
What more than Beauty ?
Transforms the mundane Moment
Into an illusory Snowflake

But what use does he have for beautywho can't come to terms with:
Hot breath and cold sweat;
They speak for themselves
Eloquent flagbearers of Proximity
They laugh when I call Man an Aesthete

Ridicule is stronger than proof
Must I then bow to Truth ?
'What is truth ?' I'll ask Pilate-like
And then wash my hands.

Truth is not my purpose
It is seldom beautiful.

20 changed all that. Guard was up, growing up happened and it became essential to be amused than concerned. Limiting "moral concern" to oneself, figuring out "how to fit" rather than changing the world etc. have been humble intentions of this writer always. So it is only the form and tone that have gone under observable change. Here is the first poem marking the conscious change in approach acknowledging the importance of form and choice of tone.


Rereading, my poems made me sick
Grey pictures of a no good nick
Then you were cruel only to be kind
‘Blank verse reveals a blank mind’
And I’ve graduated to Limerick

My prof thinks I’m taking down notes
While I search for a line ending ‘boats’
For poetry I do dare
For math I do not care
Non-poets may go love goats

Rigorous math with epsilons
Enough to upset the balance
Of the simple life of a simple man
Mathematicians do all they can
To fortify us with malevolence

‘Character efforts whet’
‘Man is the child of his sweat’
Never mind all such clatter
I’d like my like my life on a platter
And so do you I bet

That I’m trading life for ease
Does perhaps give peace
But I know it’s a half-truth
For life lacking in ruth
Shall patternize this squeeze

Discarding lie after lie
In search of a central why ?
But philosophical excess
Is a deterrent to success
Which itself does definition defy

Depression in free supply
When you do care to apply
Rendering this attempt to be punny
Not even remotely funny
God! More effort this does imply!

The purpose of this post is forewarn readers not to be impressed by works from the earlier phase, that may make an appearance here and prevent conversations like

me: eppo sonnEn ?
reader: annikku sonneengaLE
me: adhu vEra aaLu