Friday, January 30, 2009

Crazy Little Thing called Love

Back in the 70s, there used to be this little comic strip in black and white that was all the rage. You couldn't open a newspaper or magazine without coming across one of its cartoons. The sentiments expressed were invariably sweet, simple and innocent, and left you, more often than not, in a smiling frame of mind. I don't know when exactly they fell out of public affection. Perhaps they were just out of place in the new times. But recently, as I was mulling over that age-old, complicated thing called love, I suddenly remembered those little cartoons and did a quick online search. Despite the numerous cartoon sites available, there was just one which offered Love is cartoons. But bingo, there was actually a community on Facebook dedicated to the comic strip. A few handpicked favourites I ripped off from there. Click on the collages to read the captions.

The uh-oh side of love...

The mmm-this-is-bliss side of it...

And my personal faves...

So what is love actually? How exactly does it work? Is there truly such a thing as a soul mate? Can love fade away over time? Growing up on a chick lit diet of Barbara Cartland, Denise Robbins, Mills and Boon and the like, I fed off all the oooooh notions of "falling in love." Then I got older, met all kinds of people, perfectly normal, ordinary people who'd never been swept away by some earth-shattering, all-consuming Wuthering Heights kind of passion but had settled into matrimony for the most prosaic of reasons. They're living proof that you can live a perfectly contented life with anyone if you set your mind to it. Love grows, see?

So my conclusion is, as with all things in life, you can't generalize here either. It's not the same for everyone. Different strokes for different folks.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Flowers along the way

“…that best portion of a good man's life,
His little, nameless, unremembered acts
Of kindness and of love.”

As we wend our way through life, I wonder how many little acts of kindness we leave in our trail. Little acts we don’t give much thought to even a few minutes later, even completely put out of our minds, but which mean a great deal to the persons on the receiving end.

As I write this, two incidents instantly spring to mind. Several years ago, I’d been called to attend a month’s course of training in a little town called Burdwan, a few miles away from Calcutta. The liaison officer at Mizoram House arranged a car with a house worker to drop me off at the railway station, and the worker, on leaving me at the ladies’ compartment, asked the women there to make sure I got off at Burdwan station. It was about an hour’s ride and quickly getting dark and many of the women got off before me. As I began to panic wondering how on earth I was going to get to my destination, we reached a station where this woman, young, petite, obviously not that well-off, pallu over head, gestured to me that this was my stop. She beckoned me to follow her and we manoeuvered past busy travelers, all in a hurry to get home. It was completely dark by then and there wasn’t a familiar face in sight. The woman quickly led me out the bustling station to a rickshaw stand where she spoke to one of the drivers. They asked me where I wanted to go and as I told them, she spoke to him again, waving me to get on. I thanked her profusely, quickly clambered up and she melted away into the darkness as we rattled off in another direction. A few minutes later, I was safely ensconced at the guesthouse. Had it not been for her, I’d have been helplessly floundering at the station for ages.

The second incident happened a couple of weeks later. I’d gone to Cal for the day with a friend and we were at Howrah to get back to Burdwan by the local train. As we waited in the train for an interminably long time, for some reason I got off for a minute. Perhaps it was to buy a bottle of mineral water, I don’t quite remember, but as I was caught up doing whatever it was that I’d got off to do, I heard the train hooting and slowly start pulling out. Hey, I thought, that’s my train. I ran towards it but couldn’t remember my compartment. And to my horror, the train began to put up speed and I chased after it frantically. Then through an open door, a face popped out and a strong helping arm shot out to pull me up onboard. It belonged to a strong, sturdy, young coolie who was with two or three other coolies. I thanked my savior with a huge, breathless smile of relief and thank yous in English and asked where the ladies’ compartment was. I then took the direction they pointed me to and was soon back safely where I should never have left.

These are just two of the most vivid memories I have of little acts of kindness done to me. I never got to know my saviors or their names, probably wouldn’t recognize them if I saw them again and they probably don’t remember me or the help they once gave me. But I shall always remember them and the kindness they showed me at times when I was desperately in need. It didn’t matter that I was a total stranger. I obviously needed help and they gave it.

Perhaps there are one or two people out there somewhere who might say the same about me. Here's a lovely song that totally goes with my state of mind. A Beautiful Life sung by Kim Richey. Lyrics by William M. Golden here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Meeting a Poet

Last week, I met the awesome Mona Zote, heir apparent to TS Eliot and all other elite poetic giants that I haven't even heard of yet :) Ever since I'd started my Mizo lit blog slightly over a year ago, I'd been in touch with her over the phone and email but despite living in what she once termed a one hoss town, we'd never met. I'd asked around, heard she was the daughter of a former IAS officer, worked, peculiarly enough, at the Income Tax dept, was a voracious reader and something of a social recluse. From my personal contact with her, I knew she also had a whacky sense of humour.

Last Friday, I finally had the opportunity for a face-off. I had sos-ed her for a new poetic contribution and while she was entirely sympathetic, didn't have anything new to offer just yet. She then suggested it was time we met up over tea someplace and I agreed though I must confess that the idea of meeting a mind as formidable as Ms. Zote's filled me with some trepidation. Perhaps she's clairvoyant as well because she firmly told me, "2 at David's Kitchen tomorrow and no reneging allowed!"

The next day she changed the venue to Silvermoon because they had "nicer momos." I got there a little late after first shopping for off-white curtain linings. As I made it up the steps and into the restaurant, slightly out of breath, I looked around for someone I'd never seen and had no idea how to picture. At one table, there were a couple of girly-looking boys and at another, a lone young woman busy tucking into her food. As I wondered if she'd reneged on me, the young woman raised her head and waved. And the rest, as they say, is history :)

I hadn't been too sure what to expect but Mona definitely isn't some head-in-the-sand or la-di-dah egghead. Yes, she's deeply into highly esoteric stuff, be it in lit or movies or the arts in general, and that ease with the intricate and abstruse explains her complex poetry. But she's also as into everyday stuff as you and me besides being wonderfully polite and well-bred. She loves tea and smokes like a chimney too. Yes, I had sensed that Ernestina, the "woman of the hills" who sat "pulling on one thin cigarillo after another" while lifting "her teacup in friendly greeting to the hills" was her.

Remarkably, there is actually another writer from the Northeast who reminds me a great deal of Mona. Mamang Dai is from Arunachal Pradesh but like Mona, she also writes from a world view, adeptly and skillfully fusing the ethnic, the universal and the personal into a highly individualised whole. While I haven't read much of Dai yet, here are pieces from her poem The Voice of the Mountain,

I am the desert and the rain.
The wild bird that sits in the west.
The past that recreates itself
and particles of life that clutch and cling
For thousands of years –
I know, I know these things
as rocks know, burning in the sun’s embrace,
about clouds, and sudden rain;
as I know a cloud is a cloud is a cloud,
A cloud is this uncertain pulse
that sits over my heart....

...I am the breath that opens the mouth of the canyon,
the sunlight on the tips of trees;
There, where the narrow gorge hastens the wind
I am the place where memory escapes
the myth of time,
I am the sleep in the mind of the mountain.

The best thing about these two deeply complex, highly creative women poets is not just that they're both from the Northeast but that they're personal friends. To Mona and Ms. Dai, may their tribe increase.

P.S. None of the above, the writing or the picture, either in part or in whole, may be reproduced anywhere, either in print or on the web, without my express permission.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

2009: Que Sera Sera

The Christmas tree and trimmings have all been taken down and packed away. A new year, a new beginning. Used to be that I'd get myself all worked up that a new year had come and what it might bring in its wake et al. This time I'm completely blasé about it all. The future's not ours to see or worry over. Amen.

What I've been feeling very strongly about over a fairly quiet and uneventful Christmas season though is that I want to live more for the Lord. Over the last few years, my enthusiasm for wholesome Christian living has ebbed disgracefully as my faith has dipped abysmally. I'm tired of that. I want to be reinvented, reinvigorated, reclaim lost ground and live less selfishly. In hindsight, I believe it was my faith that gave me whatever dignity I had. I'm tired of hobnobbing, especially online, with sceptics who disbelieve, and of unwittingly allowing myself to let their dissension and cynicism rub off on me. I'm a believer, been one since Christmas 1989 and I want to go back to remaining one. Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.

On a less tired note, yesterday I picked up the entire 5 seasons of Ally McBeal on dvd. I have no idea when I'll ever actually get to watching all of them but I've been dying to get a look in at the Christmas episodes with Robert Downey Jr. Specially the part where he sings Joni Mitchell's River so beautifully.

I also have this thick tome of papers I'm supposed to edit. A friend, or perhaps more accurately, an old acquaintance, asked me to edit some 157 pages of a manuscript for a book on Mizo history. Whole lotta reading to do. I wouldn't do it if it weren't for my interest in Mizo literature. Speaking of which, my Mizo lit blog has been stagnating horribly. I've sort of run out of steam on that. Going around begging people to contribute is just not that high on my list of priorities anymore. Specially when the feedback hasn't been quite what I'd hoped for. Oh well, perhaps this manuscript editing will throw up something new.

Here's to the next 365 days of whatever will be.