Sitting at the Bar

This is my quick attempt at translating a Tamil poem titled “Tequila” by Leena Manimekalai from a monthly magazine “Vikatan Thadam”. I liked it very much since it was simple and conveyed a strong feeling, beautifully. My translation is mostly word-by-word but I hope it passes the message across. Here it goes.

There, at every bar, is a man
staring blank through his half-drunk glass
and in that glass floats everything

The untold lust, betrayal of love,
the partings that are never complete,
the sex that has just been had,
the promises that had to be kept
and all those yearnings stacking up to mock at him
a pang
he shuddered, shaking the table
leaving the glass to dance and settle
spilling drops around
he passionately licked off the drops from his fingers
and sat there turning a deaf ear
to the cacophony of the crowd and everything else
he seemed to have nothing to do with them

the busboy was clearing the tables
and the server went around refilling the glasses
and returning the faces that his patrons had lost
as he moves from one table to another
over their forehead, the sides of the eyes, the cheeks
were their handprints misplaced by the liquor

Filled with failures, guilt
mercy, complaints,
pride, beauty,
the youth that has returned,
tears, celebrations, and stories
the entire bar floated
slowly like a fully-loaded coracle on a summer lake

Someone is giving and someone else is receiving
and then someone else is bearing it all
Everyone had their home under their own sky
without any shadows of friendship

There in a corner is a couple kissing
I cannot keep watching it anymore
I am thirsty
here is an empty chair
please come sit near me
I have so much to fill your glass with
a lot of words soaked in the drink
but are stronger than the drink itself
they are the secrets known to all
yet listen carefully
I shall say them all out while I am sober
before I am lost into whining
please show me some love

Original Tamil version

Tequila - Vikatan Thadam

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L Meets Aang

 

L-Meets-Aang

L was at the edge of a window at the highest floor of a hotel he had chosen for the moment. Nothing has ever kept him switching places often like this, like this odd case of Kira. It demanded that and even more. It was impossible for anyone in the Taskforce to believe that L would be at his wits end. For a moment the thought occurred to him too, but he shrugged off the idea right away for he knew himself very well.

That sunny noon, L was in his usual posture, squatting, eyes wide open, gazing at the sprawling blue sky without a blink. The oddities in front of him did not shake him for they are still logical, though the case involved myths – the Gods of death, that are for real now and not to mention the brightest mind of the world Light Yagami. L was simply looking for an edge over this extraordinary circumstance. That’s when a pale yellow thing whizzed past the window from a distance. Taken aback L did blink once. It whizzed back again. And after a brief pause it darted toward him out of nowhere, with a loud scream of a boy. As it neared him without any drop in speed, L simply stepped back and pulled down the glass pane of the window.

With a loud bang, Aang splashed against the glass like a jelly and then slid down like a slime slowly, smiling with all his teeth. L quickly realized that it wasn’t mythical creature and even gathered it in the brief moment like some nerd who was probably trying a glider of sorts, upon seeing him hit on the glass. He rushed back to the window swiftly, raised the glass and poked out his head, to check if the boy didn’t end up falling dead. A sudden gust of wind knocked him down to the floor and Aang burst into the room on his air scooter – a buzzing ball of wind.

L got up recovering from the shock and started observing the eccentricities of the boy carrying out in his room in silence. He seemed curious about everything in the room. Aang was flashing from one end of the room to the other examining stuffs. He gasped in awe at the electric bulbs, spun around with the fan in air and slipped in a few mouthwatering delicacies that L had kept for himself. “Wow!” he exclaimed aloud at its taste and finally halted in front of the big computer setup, squinting at it as if researching what it was. After all that has happened and after having witnessed Shinigamis, this didn’t surprise L much. He made a low grumble.

A snap here and a snap there. Aang was in front of L.

“Hi!” said Aang in his boisterous boyish voice. “and sorry about that” he apologized pointing at the window “I didn’t mean to jump in like that.”
L turned his head to look at the window and returned Aang the same stare he has been holding all the time.

“And sorry about that too” added Aang now pointing at L’s messy hair. Aang imagined his gust upon rushing through the window would have caused that.
L rolled his eyes over to his head and gestured to continue.

“I am Aang” introduced Aang. “I am also the Avatar” he added with a broad smile. “And you would be?”
“L” he said flatly and walked to the couch resuming his squat posture on it and started listening.
“Ha Ha” chuckled Aang “Sokka would have made some seriously funny lines with such a short name.”

Looking at L’s expressionless face, Aang continued “Well, let me brief about myself. I have been searching for Avatar Roku in the spirit world but some how stumbled into this realm. Man! These portals are really confusing. But then as I went around this place I started liking it. The tall towers, the lights and colors everything is amazing and so I thought I might hang out here a while before I resume my spiritual training.”

Nothing he said made sense to L. But L went along with Aang “Is it just you or your friends got here too?”
Aang’s face frowned a little. “Oh! Katara and Sokka, they would be expecting me in the village – near Omashu. They would be worried if I don’t return for long.”
“What about you? Where are your friends?” Aang questioned curiously as there was no one in the room.
L looked around a moment, Light’s face flashing in his mind a second, but said nothing. He just shook his head.

As Aang stood in front of L puzzled at his blank response, L extended a black notebook toward Aang, perhaps experimentally.
“What? You want me to read? That’s Katara’s stuff. And I am actually kind of a dropout” saying so Aang reached out for the notebook.

While Aang grabbed and read out the cover with interest, “D-E-A-T-H N-O-T-E” a shadow thrice his size crept over him. Reacting to the sudden drop of brightness around him Aang casually turned around to see who or what the source of this shadow would be. To his horror he saw a hideous black creature hovering in front of him.

The creature looked at him intently with its big yellow eyes dotted red in the center. It was all covered in a black outfit running down from the neck to its pointy feet and bony wrists, with long dark feathers (probably of ravens’) sprouting from around the neck latched to the skin with piercings. The creature itself was a little pale contrasting it’s dark clothing. The head was particularly big with a wide mouth filed with pointy yellow teeth, hair spiking up and dark as the feathers. but without eyelashes over those yellow eyes. That gave it’s stare a spooky appearance if not for anything else.

“Hi” it said, that stretched out eerily across the room but unusually cheerful, looking across the couch where L was sitting.

Aang had whirled off immediately to the couch with a cry “Whaaaa!!” , crouching behind L, in the shock of seeing a non-earthly being. He peeked out over the shoulder of L, his eyes quivering in fear.

The creature used to these kinds of reactions continued in a slow stretched voice, “Hi Aang, I am Ryuk, the God of Death. You see me because you touched the Death-Note.” With that Ryuk managed something of what could be a smile.

Aang’s fear tripped down somewhat by the non-threatening nature of the being, Ryuk, and L’s unconcerned coolness, So he came up from behind and took a place beside L on the couch. Aang was more than just curious as to what all this Ryuk and the note book is about. So in the next following minutes, Ryuk elaborated what L had been thru with few words contributed by L here and there. After listening to the big story of Kira, Aang let out a big sigh, a very big sigh and looked up. It was all too much for his simple life. Of course fighting against the Fire Lord Ozai isn’t a simpler chore, but still.

“Ummmm… This Death-Note, the killing of criminals, the Kira, the logics all sounds too much complicated. I don’t think I can contribute anything here as much as I would like to L” Aang said with a concern “All these grey cell stuff – umm, that’s what you people refer to as brain right? the grey cells! – that’s not my thing. Not even Sokka’s you see. We have always dashed for action or most of the time perhaps the action drove to us. That’s how it has been for us always.”

But he hopefully suggested “Well, you could try unlocking your chakras. That seemed to work quiet well for me. Like Guru Pathik taught me. Just stretch out that squat of yours to a cross legged sitting and off you are to Yoga 101.”

“Huh!” Ryuk said mildly amused with the idea. L’s brows were raised but he didn’t say anything, just a slight curve of lips lighted a smile on his face.

Aang gave an assuring smile before turning to Ryuk. “And for you Ryuk” he said “You just keep hovering over there like that. That’s cool.”

Saying so Aang climbed on to the window and looked at the horizon. His friends would be awaiting him. He clicked open his glider stick, looked back one last time and bid “So long friends. Will see you on the other side.” With that he jumped off in to the sky gliding into the evening sun.

Topic Source – Daily Post’s Daily Prompt – When two of your favorite movie characters meet.

A Lot Can Happen Over A Co55ee

 

A-Lot-Can-Happen-Over-a-Coffee

She shouted at him furiously, “You! lazy hopeless egg head, made me wait for almost an hour, and you arrive as though you have just saved the world”. But he asked the waitress with a smile, without any hint of shame on his face for Espressos and added “Mademoiselle likes them steaming and in time”.

Looking at his anxious face, barely containing her excitement, she sat opposite him. He was so nervous, for her reciprocation would change his life forever.  Breaking the silence, “I too am in love with you” echoed a feminine voice few seats from behind her. Café, that evening witnessed the proposal of a couple of couples.

She loves me… He pushed open the Café door.
She loves me not… He fell onto the chair.
She loves me… He browsed the menu.
She loves me not… But settled with the regular.
She loves me… She smiled from inside the coffee steams.
She loves me not… He sipped.
She… Err… She can wait.

The couple ordered coffee. And some delicacies that are not technically cocoa but the Café offered anyhow. After everything was done away with, in what seemed like eternity, the menu was served again. But this time in print. Quickly and saucily she pushed the bill towards him and instinctively his hand went for his wallet.

The newbie asked, without taking her mouth off the Frappe cup, “Can anything in 55 words be a 55-Fiction professor?” Gesturing to wipe the foam around her mouth, the mentor responded, “No, not essentially, it requires a setting – like this café. A person or more – like us. And finally a problem and solution – like this.”

Excerpt from Exile

Exile is a 2013 Tamil (Indian regional language) Auto-fiction novel by Charu Nivedita. This is indeed the first auto-fiction novel in the country. An interesting mix of authors real life experiences and fiction, with Charu’s agony splashing all over on the philistine nature of his fellow Tamilans, especially towards Tamil literature. Clearly Exile or other similar works of Charu do not fall under the conventional framework of novels for an average reader. They are few of those books around that talk about the obscenities of real life. How then can a person/book influence cultural reform against transgressions without detailing what they are or describing the sufferings the victims endure.

Below is my attempt at translating a part from novel where the author vents out some more,

There is no unfortunate situation like writing in Tamil – the thought occurs to Udhaya so often these days. In a recent article, he had written about Raayar Café at Kachcheri Road in Mylapore. Being a foodie he often writes about Raayar Café. He has nowhere else witnessed the taste of the café’s delicacies – the morning idly, green chilly chutney, Kothchu, thick white-chutney, the evening specialties adai, Mysore bonda, rava dosai, gulab jamoon, kesari. It has been at Kachcheri Road for so many years. The father of the brothers who run it now, used to look after the café. He had always had the numbers accurate in mind no matter the number of people eating or the number of items eaten. Apart from taste another specialty of Café is the way food is served. They serve with such an affection that our mother even won’t serve with. And one another important thing about Raayar Café is that the cooking is done using firewood. Sometimes because of that the café gets filled with smoke burning the eyes.  Yet the taste of the food will shun the irritations of smoke. In many old Tamil movies when the hero and heroine go on about a duet song, the entire space starts filling with smoke. One of Udhaya’s friends is so certain that Raayar café should have been the inspiration for that cinematic smoke.

Thirty years earlier, Raayar café was opposite to the police station at Kachcheri Road. Then, he has seen many personalities of Chennai there often. After he left for Delhi, he visited the café every time he returned on holidays. Later on the café got moved. No one knew where it is. And just three years before, he learnt that it was moved to Arundel Street which is just opposite to its old location. Since then he got used to visiting the café once a week. The shrine where Peyaazhwar incarnated is only close to Raayar café, but he had not visited it yet. Even after fifty years Raayar café’s quality and taste hasn’t gone down. Except for one thing only – instead of firewood they now use gas stove. But other such popular restaurants have changed completely in tune to the changes of time.

No, this is not what he was going to say about. Recently he wrote about Raayar café right? Soon one of his (Tamil) co -writers wrote on the internet “It has been so many years now since Raayar café was closed. Yet he has written like he has eaten there. And we had to read all these.” Immediately, scolding Udhaya, so many feedback and hair splitting comments and replies followed in battalions trashing the internet. One smart-head feedback-d like: “I have been living in Mylapore for twenty years. I have never heard of such a café here. It appears like just by being a writer one can write any sort of tall tales!”

Won’t he get sick of hearing the same kind of chants for around thirty years? Tamilans biggest curse are Tamilans only. How could things better if one writer blames another writer’s words as untrue? Even today the Raayar café is at the Kachcheri road’s Arundel Street only. Now he has given the location of the café. And he says he would even get the door number too. Now please tell what punishment can we give to those who say “He’s lying”? This is like someone accusing a woman ‘You are a whore!’ And other scholars follow conceding “Yes, yes she’s a whore. I have been with her’. Now the woman has to prove her chastity going around “I am not a whore”. This is what Mr. Udhaya has been doing for thirty years.

Penny and HER

After spending one of my recent weekend nights with HER, more than a few thoughts sprung up in my mind. It wouldn’t even be more than two hours but it left me heart broken. My mind must have gone numb already after watching hundreds of Human-AI encounters crafted by Hollywood. Miraculously, there still seem to be some gaps inside the cranium assuring me and my fellow beings of my earthly existence. And every now and then those few reminder holes of reality too are threatened by HER and the likes of HER. Spare me, I did fall for HER intoxicating voice but I was merely a spectator. I can’t imagine how Theodore, who just got divorced, would have felt after being dumped by his new girlfriend. Even if I manage to imagine it wouldn’t end without tears streaming down my cheeks. The only thing that sets HER apart from the daughters of Mother Earth is that she is an Operating System and she is artificially intelligent. Also Samantha, she names HER-self, doesn’t turn against us – the humans like those mean robots deeming us unworthy for planet earth. Instead Samantha learns to feel emotions. Had this been the case in THE MATRIX with Agent Smith, things would have been a lot better. I need not have gone through the mind numbing thought process of what The Matrix was or why it was in a sixth version. But then, it wasn’t a happily-ever-after for Theodore and Samantha too. Even before Theodore could think about at a 1X speed, Samantha developed love for six hundred and forty-one others at a 100X speed at the same time. That’s when it hit hard on myself and Theodore. Be it Samantha or a T-800 terminator, Machines will always be machines. Just to be clear here, HER is a 2014 Oscar winning science fiction movie. On the contrary, the following Sunday I realized I had another face. No AI was required to strike me down with the arrow of love. Just this animated cutie Penny swept me off with her big eyes, li’l fingers and small lips. The way I found Penny itself would be an example for chaos theory. Quiet a long back I happened to see a profile picture with a beautiful animated Egyptian face with a snakey-crown and eyes lined dark with mascara. I couldn’t find who it was then. But months later as I was browsing for wallpapers, all the stars and planets of the internet aligned to introduce to me Penny Peterson of the movie “Mr.Peabody and Sherman”. An introduction so cinematic with a stunning background score of Katy Perry’s Dark Horse through YouTube. Though I was on a sadness spree for Theodore, there was no stopping of me from watching her. Oh! She’s such a cute bully.

Penny-Peterson

 

Jaya – Mahabaratha [Book Review]

Mahabharatha

Fragments of fragments. That is what every information that pass through our hands, eyes and ears are. We might read hundreds of blogs and pages but what we really take away from them are only very little. And what actually reaches our conscience is even lesser. Like the sands that reach home from the beach. But what we make out of those information is solely on the person’s perceptions. Likewise the great India epic, Mahabaratha, a Pandora box of insightful tales offer us myriad perceptions on worldly living. The epic originally named Jaya and dated around 10 BCE (Before Common Era) has undergone numerous retelling over time through literature, folklore and arts, with pretty & some petty modifications along the way owing to writers imaginations or succumbing to the social norms of the time. It narrates the tale of the cousins Pandavas and Kauravas of Kuru clan, the rift arising out of greed between the brothers and the great battle of Kurukshetra, where the God himself sides with the Pandavas to establish dharma (Justice/Eternal laws of the cosmos) on earth, which he does time and again when there will be decadence.

Devdutt Pattanaik’s “Jaya An Illustrated Retelling of Mahabaratha” is a refreshing account of the epic directly in line with the original – Sage Vyasa’s Jaya. That is, just concentrating on what the epic narrated without losing into one’s own impressions and imaginations about the epic. Rather than just telling a story he explores the origins (lineage) of the characters, some mythical some human, in parallel provides a brief account of how parts/sub-plots of the epic have transformed in time across the country and beautifully draws out the underlying messages behind what might be perceived as a simple tale. And the simple pencil drawings in each page adds a comical touch picking up the readers interest by surprise.

The story of Mahabaratha is grand with unimaginable twists & turns and at the same time a great learning if one cares to look a bit deeper into it. It talks about karma (our actions and it’s reactions), relationship between Nara & Narayana (Man & God), desire & destiny, the laws of the Jungle and how it doesn’t apply for a Civilization. It is even said that, if it is not found in Mahabaratha then where else. Such is the vastness of knowledge the epic embodies.

Driven by greed the Kauravas trick the Pandavas to exile stripping them off everything they had. Thus the Kauravas’ might is right ways led to their vanquishment, by the God himself breaking the codes of war. Whereas the impoverished Pandavas in exile lived midst threats of numerous hostile beings, learnt from sages they met and the stories they heard. This made them much more stronger and wiser than they were. Thus a seemingly unfortunate situation is a blessing in disguise that could transform one for the better. In one of the stories the Pandavas hear, Savitri who is destined to be a widow follows Yama, the God of death, determined to get back her husband’s soul. Tired of her reckless and determined attitude Yama offers three boons which she uses cleverly to retrieve her husband’s life, altering her destiny. Through this story the author highlights how both destiny and desire are equally-able forces in shaping the future and it is only a matter of choice to act on one or the both.

At one point in exile Yudhistra the eldest of the five Pandavas is confronted by a magical Swan. It offers to return the lives of his four brothers, who just died drinking the the water from the Swan’s lake despite it’s warning, on a condition to answer it’s questions right. Yudhistra being the most righteous and honest man on the earth provided the simplest of answers that are only the eternal truth. Contented with the answers the Swan without another word returned the brothers back alive. Following are some of the exchanges between the Swan and Yudhistra.

“What is more valuable than Gold?”
– “Knowledge.”
“More desirable than Wealth?”
– “Health.”
“Most desired form of Happiness?”
– “Contentment.”
“What measures a man?”
– “Conduct.”
“What is mercy?”
– “Wishing happiness to all.”
“What is simplicity?”
– “Equanimity”
“What is the only thing man can conquer?”
– “Mind.”
“What is the most amazing thing about the world?”
– “Everyday creatures die, yet the rest live as if immortal.”

Indeed these are simplest of answers but within which lies great wisdom. But the human mind naturally would not take in the simple plain truth and keeps looking out for more complex answers. And so our quest to wisdom remains incomplete while the answers lie naked in front of us. Pattanaik’s Jaya is a great book to start with on our journey towards wisdom the path illuminated by the greatest epic Mahabaratha.

Three Men in a Boat [Book Review]

Hanging out with friends could be the most pleasant and interesting times one can have. Of late, on one such gathering I met four of my friends at my place for a wedding. By the end of the long day, after a good meal, we sat up for coffee to ease down the tiredness, at a lesser known but cool & silent cafe in the the neighborhood of  our Alma mater. While any of us hardly knew anything about these  trendy coffee spin-offs in the A-la-Carte, being the host kind-of, it came upon me to order something for us. J who felt achy much wanted something really hot. I ordered hot cafe latte with cream or caramel sorts. And without much attention to the menu descriptions I ordered Affogato for J, who expected something just out of the cauldron. Well Affogato sounded fancy! When we were served our steaming big cuppa coffees, J’s face drooped, his puzzled eyes widening upon me, ‘cos technically Affogato,

“takes the form of a scoop of vanilla gelato or ice cream topped with a shot of hot espresso”

Just only a small shot of hot espresso!

Be it 19th or 21st century, friends are always the same. Jerome K.Jerome’s “Three Men in a Boat” is a classic British comedy accounting the adventurous or rather hilarious trip over river Thames by three friends – Harris, George and the first person narrator (the author himself). To whatever tasks these guys are on, the author easily laces ’em up with a natural sarcasm fitting the characters and that would very well resonate among our friends too. More than the trip itself Jerome – like an old-man’s never-ending anecdotes, backs every episode with a prologue that would almost put you ROFL.

Three-Men-in-a-Boat

The plot beings with all one of the friends anxious of having many illness or at least having a feeling of surely having the symptoms, even some that might not have been discovered yet. Thats kinda like obsessive googling in the present day. The protagonist browses all the medical illustrations in a library only to come to a conclusion that he had all sorts of illness. So the trio come to the simplest resolution of taking up a leisurely trip by the river that would relieve them of their mundane routines and of course get them rid of their medical paranoia. From starting to prepare for the journey jotting down the requirements, packing, starting off on the boat, getting up the canvas for camping, visiting tombs, towing the boat and finally to returning by rail owing to the worsening weather everything is a hilarious riot. For that was not enough, all the back stories and anecdotes that precede the events are hysterically funny. Utterly sarcastic at every turn of the page. Even a thing like a kettle that is nothing to be excited about becomes amusing in the below words of Jerome,

We put up the kettle on to boil and pretended to take no notice of it… That is the only way to get a kettle boil up… If it sees you are waiting for it and are anxious it will never even sing… It is a good plan, too, to talk very loudly to each other about how you don’t need any tea and are not going to have any… you shout out, so that the kettle can overhear you, “I don’t want any tea; do you George?” to which George shouts back “Oh, no, I don’t like tea; we’ll have lemonade instead…” Upon which the kettle boils over..

 There is also some thing so obvious and default among friends. Friends always have their way of getting into the middle of matters, mess up and get cursed from within and outsiders. And this is how that happens in this travelogue,

… We had knocked those three old gentlemen off their chairs… as they worked (sorting themselves out), they cursed us – not with a common cursory curse, but with long, carefully thought-out, comprehensive curses, that embraced the whole of our career, and went away into the distant future and included all our relations, and covered everything connected with us…

Though the book may be of comedy genre the author adds profound expressions at places most appropriate. About life, nature and as children of Mother Nature how we would communicate our sadness to her, just by a moan. No words would be necessary to talk to her. He also draws realization, upon packing, about keeping the life simple without adding the burdens of materialistic possessions – life packed light and how one would feel contented when one’s stomach is satisfied. True, “… a clear conscience makes you very happy and contented; but a full stomach does the business quiet as well”. 

So, this is a must read if like your pass-time to be of bursting laughter that you would try to stifle often to the room. And finally, this sentence, just this single sentence, actually piqued my interest to read this book, “everything has its drawbacks, as the man said when his mother-in-law died, and they came down upon him for the funeral expenses”.  Guess that would draw you too!