Sunday, June 27, 2010

வாக்கியத்தைக் கழற்றிப் பார்க்கலாம்

சிறுகதை அதன் நவீன தொனியில் இரண்டு அல்லது மேற்பட்ட நிலைகளில் முரண்படும்போது நிகழ்வதை தனிப்பட்ட உரைநடையில் சொல்லும்போது இலக்கியம் என்று சொல்லலாம். குழப்பமாக இருக்கிறது அல்லவா. எனக்கும் அப்படியே. அடுத்த மூன்று பாராக்களில் தெளிவாகிவிடும். வாக்கியத்தைக் கழற்றிப் பார்க்கலாம்... - சுஜாதா - இலக்கியச் சிந்தனை '75 சிறுகதைத் தொகுப்பு முன்னுரை.


இலக்கிய சிந்தனை அமைப்பு ஒவ்வொரு மாதமும், அம்மாதம் பத்திரிக்கைகளில் பிரசுரமான கதைகளில் சிறந்தவற்றைத் தேர்வு செய்து, ஒவ்வொரு வருடமும் அப்பன்னிரெண்டு கதைகளில் ஒன்றை தேர்வு செய்து பரிசளித்து, பன்னிரெண்டு கதைகளைச் சிறுகதைகளையும் தொகுப்பாக வெளியிட்டு வருகிறது. தேர்வு செய்பவர் தன் தேர்வை விளக்கி முன்னுரை எழுதுவது வழக்கம்.

‘75ல் சிறந்த சிறுகதையைத் தேர்வு செய்தவர் சுஜாதா. (அவர் தேர்வு செய்தது வண்ணதாசனின் தனுமை). அந்த முன்னுரையின் தெளிவும், சரளமும் அவரில்லாத வெறுமையை இன்னும் அடிக்கோடிடுகின்றன. சில பகுதிகள்:

நான் சந்தித்த பல எழுத்தாளர்கள் யோக்கியமாக மற்றவர் கதைகளை படிக்கிற ஜாதி அல்ல என்று தெரிந்து கொண்டேன். அவர்கள் பொழுதுபோக்குக்கு தத்தம் சொந்தக் கதைகளை படித்துக்கொண்டிருப்பாட்கள் என்று தோன்றியது. ….ஒரு நல்ல எழுத்தாளனாவதற்கு சில சொந்த தியாகங்களும் பலிகளும் தவிர்க்க முடியாதவை. அவைகளில் ஒன்று சில துல்யமான வாசகத் தன்மைகளை இழப்பது. நானும் இழந்திருக்கிறேன்.

எல்லோரிடமும் ஆபாசங்களும் உன்னத நிலைகளும் இருக்கின்றன. ஆதாரமாகவே மனித மன அமைப்பில் முரண்பாடு இருக்கிறது. வாசகன் ஒரு நல்ல சிறுகதையில் ஒன்றும் போது அவன் தன் மனத்தின் ஆதாரமான முரண்பாடுகளையே மறுபடி வாழ்கிறான். அவன் மனத்தில் ஞாபக பிம்பங்கள் தோன்றலாம். பச்சாதாபம் எழலாம், வாழ்வின் அபத்தங்கள் தெரியலாம். அவலங்கள், அதன் சந்தோஷங்கள் தெரியலாம். ஆனால் இவைகளைக் குறிப்பிட்டு காட்ட வேண்டியவன் எழுத்தாளன் அல்ல. இதோ பார் வாழ்வின் அபத்தம், இதோ பார் வாழ்வின் அநியாயம் என்று விரல் நீட்டும் போது சிறுகதை தரத்தில் சரிந்து விடுகிறது. வாழ்க்கையின் தீர்ப்புகள் அவ்வளவு சுலபமானவை அல்ல.

அப்படியே நேற்று வாலியின் நுண்கவித்தெறிப்பிலிருந்தும் ரெண்டு சொட்டு:

செம்மொழி மண்டபத்தை எழுப்பியவர் பரிதிமால் கலைஞர்
எனும் சூர்யநாராயண சாஸ்த்ரி
கட்டி முடித்ததோ கலைஞர் எனும் மேஸ்த்ரி
எதிரிகள் வாயில் போட்டார் ப்ளாஸ்த்ரி…

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Thoughts sparked by: Sadayam

"Let us not put these faces through change"

These are the words of Sathyanath (Mohanlal, in a brilliant performance), in the pivotal murder scene in the film Sadayam (1992)

The evanescence of what one is, is arguably one of the more tormenting aspects of the human condition (flavor du jour for me for a while now). There are those blessed few who seem comfortable in a bulwarkless existence. But I can't help suspecting them of ignorance. How can change not be scary to anyone?

As the cliché goes: 'We become what we despise'. But that by itself is not scary. What is is, we do not strongly despise what we have become, because what we see depends on what we are.

A story - by getting meta on everyone it shows - seems to delude us into believing we can see ourselves as others see us. But, apart from temporary indulgences, memory doesn't yield to this. It has a survival function written into it by evolution.

Which is why judgement is always the luxury of the third person. And who are we judge the judgement?

And what is the point delaying judgement? Why wait for choices to be made for the choices to be judged on a moral scale? What if one were to choose between morality and choice itself? What if the only way to prevent change is to deny the capacity for change?

Would one have to - as ol' Bill put it - be cruel only to be kind?

And last and most important question...how the deuce did they manage to raise these questions in a bloody mainstream film?




PS: I concede it was a tad too slow and the last half an hour or so could have been snipped lean and all that. But all that is eminently forgivable considering Mohanlal's performance, particularly in that breathtaking murder scene!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Two tongues and nothing to say

Bi-glot I am and vain
Lose many(!) a loyal reader
Should I cleave the blog in twain
To suit their RSS feeder?

But often I feel I'm done
No urge to write anew
While I'm okay not writing one
It'll kill me to not write two!

PS: I am so done I make posts out of my own comments

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Clap Now!

அளந்திட்டதூணை அவன் தட்ட ஆங்கே
வளர்ந்திட்டு வாளுகிர்ச்சிங்கவுருவாய்
உளந்தொட்டு (இ)ரணியன் ஒண்மார் வகலம்
பிளந்திட்ட கைகளால் சப்பாணி
பேய்முலையுண்டானே! சப்பாணி !

When Hiranyan tapped the pillar strong
Out you came in imposing form
Of a lion, wide open his chest you tore
With these little hands I adore
Clap my darling!
Who suckled the demoness
To Death
Clap!


Among the several stages in piLLaithamizh, one of the stages is the 'chappANi paruvam' which refers to the phase when the child learns to clap its hands together (chappANi).PeriyAzhwAr's piLLaithamizh songs are among the pAsurams that interest me the most. The philosophic nuances of, say a, nammAzhwAr earns more reverence, on the other hand, some of periyAzhwAr's songs are more visceral in their appeal and direct and simple.

Some examples before I proceed:


ஒரு மகள் தன்னை உடையேன்,
உலகம் நிறைந்த புகழால்
திருமகள் போல் வளர்த்தேன்
செங்கண்மால் தான்கொண்டு போனான்

To all the world's fair praise
Like a princess I did raise
The one daughter I had
The god with lotus-like eyes
Took her from me in a trice

Suspending reverence, one can speculate what may have happened to AndAL. When children her age were content with their play and chores, was she the madcap girl who nursed divine fantasies to an extreme end ? Was it her father who passed on his obsessions to her ? (Did he perhaps pass on his poems as hers ?) What became of her ? Why couldn't she be like everyone else and bear him his grandchildren ? Amid these flurry of questions, one can even see the whole of his piLLaithamizh as a longing of a man who never had - or worse still, never would have - grandchildren of his own.

The divinity of children is a motif that springs up across religions. The non-judgemental nature of a child is perhaps a state that the one with a spiritual quest is longing for. Vice-virtue, good-bad, dirty-clean and such classifications clog the way up till the very end. A sample of this is one of my favorites


வட்டு நடுவே மலர்கின்ற மாணிக்க
மொட்டு நுனியில் முளைக்கின்ற முத்தேபோல்
சொட்டு சொட்டென்ன துளிக்க துளிக்க
என் குட்டன் வந்தென்னை புறம் புல்குவான்
கோவிந்தன் வந்தென்னை புறம் புல்குவான்.

Like a pearly tip of bud
Each droplet forms and drops
As my darling slowly walks up and
Hugs me from behind my back
As my Govindan
Hugs me from behind my back

It is a delicate balance that PeriyAzhwAr has passed (and my translation attempt has not) in managing to make you feel the beauty of the moment without evoking your disgust for the little child urinating as he walks to his mother. The poem works precisely because the non-judgemental nature of the child is communicated to the reader. The scene captured appeals directly and at the same time the child-like state (by extension the divine) sparks the reader's longing.

Now, how do we reconcile the child with the omnipotent ? Perhaps the child-like calm itself proceeds from the assurance of strength ? But aren't we traditionally accustomed to seeing strength in demonstration ? In the first poem that I quoted, PeriyAzhwAr doesn't bother reconciling. He depicts the seeming contradictions as they are and just lets us gasp. Imagine such a blood-soaked R rated line being sung to a baby!

Like every good poem reader one is expected to grab it and run away from the original context to make the poem one's own. Forget that he is singing to the Lord but just to any child without an avatar history. These innocent hands have in them a life ahead. What does life have in store for the child ? Not all the possibilities ahead are likely to be cherubic.Will he be guided by will or will he be just reacting to situations (there I go judgemental again !). Perhaps we can leave that all for later. All that is true now is that the child is learning to clap. The beauty of the moment rooted deeply in the present - the only reality. After all, what can be more transient that childhood?

It is inevitable my dear that you will go on to become a man - with all the trappings of adulthood. So what? Clap now!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ghoti Seauton

"Fish...saar" she responded to my inquiry with a toothy grin.
I knew my caterer math. They were supposed to bring in non-veg dishes only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This was one blue Monday and my colleagues and I were in queue holding our plates inmate style. As I prepared to move on, as I must, she added: "vegetarian saar". She was trying to be helpful but ended up being quite befuddling till she elaborated "It is made of paruppu (dal), shaped like a fish-head".

Now, I am not sure who the target audience was. To those who relished real fish, this was one bad joke. To chronic vegetarians, the very sight of a fish is a worse joke - not to mention bad manners: playing with food and all that. It is only those habitual vegetarians with negotiable moral values, like yours truly, who felt inclined to give it a try. Moreover in my case there was an additional motive. There seemed to be, on the caterer's payroll, someone who dished out - couldn't resist that one - ideas to justify his existence. So, a strong sense of fraternity compelled me to try it.

**

Following Fish is one of the more interesting travel books I have read in a while. Careful readers of this blog - all two of you that is - will recall that my feelings towards the travelogue genre aren't quite fond, which is also because I haven't tried many. I had heard about this book but wasn't really planning on buying it when I went to Landmark. It was the catchy book-cover poster with the teasing show of depth in the hold, that did it. Now after having read it, I'm quite glad I read into the mild metaphor in the cover-photo.

Through the course of the essays, the author Samanth Subramaniam, shares with us his : development of familiarity with hilsa, brief crush for a Mangalorean lady who homecooks a speciality for him, daytime toddy hunt across the length of Kerala and quest for the 'original' cuisine of a city made diverse by the layer upon layer of history and many more and so many such stories tangentially connected to fish. While the fluent writing makes for a breezy read, the book is also strewn with trivia and attempts to connect some cultural dots within each chapter, making the writing very appealing to me.
the very word koli translates to spider and fisherman because, as the historian
D.D.Kosambi explained, the fisherman uses his net much as a spider uses its web

(p 133)

Sometimes it is a throwaway piece like that, sometimes it is about connecting the Indus Valley ship building tradition to today's ship building in Gujarat, musing about how Portuguese cuisine sidestepped coastal Tamil Nadu and parts where the author slips in humour of the kind that make Jeeves' upper lip twitch imperceptibly:
Mackarel has a famously insistent taste but this fish was shy and reclusive, as
if it would have rather been at home with a good book. (p83)

I laughed out loud though. I was then flanked - or rather outflanked - by two curvaceous gentlemen for the better part of six hours on a Government bus from Samayapuram to Chennai. So I think I managed to laugh till it hurt - the next guy.

Each of the stories - essays has a rather staid ring to it - makes for engaging reading. The taste descriptions remind one of the stories of Naanjil Naadan - who is known to leave his protagonists mire in their existential crises for a while, while he dives into a digression of the local cuisine, nuances of preparations and taste. The portraits of the people, whom the author manages to make us quite familiar with, is perhaps the most lingering impact the book will make: the Mangalorean auto driver, who recounting his trip to Madras says, "these auto drivers always fleece you" and the skeptic who doubts the Gouds' fish-medicine so deeply that his skepticism solidifies into an orthodoxy of its own, the angler and the unionist who long for the days of yore in their own different ways and so on.

***
After bravely lunching on a dal-fish - which the world ought to know, was terrible even by my lenient standards - I climbed up back to the office. Sealed in, encucibicled and checking on news feeds and tweets and allegedly cogitating on matters of great pith and substance, I ventured on the ever recurring wistful fancy for a tangible/visceral way of spending, what are allegedly, the last of my best years.

Not wanting to spend my week's wistfulness ration on day one, I begin to dash off some words - my own dal fish - that will get a person or two interested in the real thing.

In reviewspeak that means : two thumbs way up.