Wait! Let me think about Ginny, or rather, visualise him, but even before I see him, I hear him. The sound resounds in the far distance and the image is a blur as he bounds towards me. It is a sound from the distant past when the sun shone lazily on bales of hay stacked after bountiful harvests near the meandering, thundering, mountainous river. We would close our eyes on those warm, lofty nests and drift far away in a blissful daze. Now, I hear him scuffling his hind paws, eyeing those errant billy goats, and threatening that they were trespassing his turf and they better beware! The puffed-up chest, short and sharp barks, the head held high—the whole spectacle of bravado—was a front for his elfish stature as a terrier replicant. But with a regalia of his creamish, tousled coat and a big, wet, shiny nose—he would dare any stranger to ever doubt that.
Ginny was a vagabond who much preferred staying with us than at our aunt's who conveniently lived somewhere a wee faraway in another neighbourhood. Her family had adopted this little furball that had stumbled into a couldron of “red ant” as a puppy. Somewhere along the way, while transitioning into the braveheart of the neighbourhood (or the rabble-rouser depending on which side of the fence you were), this pocket Sherlock Holmes had decided that he much preferred the mysteries cooked up by my mum rather than those available elsewhere. Dead-of-the-night, everyone is sound asleep... Whoof, whoof! Scratch, scrrrratcch (on the door). No one seems to be aware of his regal presence! Horizontal Zombies!!! WOOF, WOOF, I SAY!!! Till this moment a ghostly neighbourhood, now slowly stirs with his incessant, indefatigable, magical incantations that surely seems to be working towards a crescendo that gradually awakens creatures from the netherworld. A sleepy head at home would finally squeeze open the door just enough to let the dark knight amble in, all the while vainly attempting to keep away the nightly draught that would sweep open cobwebs soaked in deep slumber. Woof! Where is my bowl? Sniff, sniff... is that a red herring? Where's the marrow lurking in this bone? Now, I know why the set up is all wrong-WHOO@#$$#%$#%F—"THE BOWL IS IN THE
I think, it was around this time, my alter ego DennisTheMenace (aka Lil' Prof. Moriarty), decided to resurface and entrap this nightly wraith that plagued my moonlit landscape. Ha! I knew that dastard pug feet was no less wily than Mr. Harry Whoodunny, who could just as easily locate cat poo than catch our four feet in his knightly errands. I needed to rope in a trusty henchman for the Canine Conspiracy-but was he trustworthy or much rather untrustworthy. Deciding that times were difficult and there was no time for idealism, my stooge of an elder cousin would have to do. We laid our trap elaborately; as Mr. Big Teeth would wander in for his afternoon siesta, we would coil a thread around his feet and tie him to the nearest bedpost till he confessed to all his sins and rid us of his abomination self. Aha, what ingenuity! The next day, my henchman and I sprung upon the nightly crusader and wrestling him back on all his fours, we tightened the knot around his paws. But, as we searched for the nearest anchor to tie the sprightly rascal, we learnt to our distaste that this maverick was also a contortionist in disguise and just as easily pulled away with the thread trailing behind... However much we pursued the pint-sized escape artist, he had now developed an uncanny ability to leave a trail of dust before us. Sucking in deep gulps of gravelly air, we finally decided to relent behind the smoke-screen of Ginny-dust-eat.
A few days later, I observed the Dust Devil running as fast but on three legs. I was wonderstruck till I realised that our attempts to pin down the escape artist had evidently left behind tell-tale signs. The thread, still stuck behind, had cut a welt in his skin. His gait was now more of a hop, skip and jump, and a cold realization slowly tingled up my back—everything I didn’t want to know about life as dad’s punching bag but was afraid to ask—seemed as much a possibility as the now moonwalking, canine Michael Jackson. Cold sweat breaking on my chattering teeth, I convened a hasty meeting with my now frantic henchman. Catching our furry nemesis and reversing his dancing habits was the only way from us becoming pirouetting marionette to my big fella’s tune. At lunch, we waited for Ginny Kelly to make his singing-in-the-rain entrance. As Genie-of-our-salvation made his exit, (awaiting till then behind the door), we surreptitiously crept behind and flung ourselves at him. My henchman was to pin him down while I removed the errant thread which would absolve us of our inevitable dreaded destiny. POOF! Whodunny had other plans and just as easily disappeared under the cavern of big fella’s resting place. Try as we might with all the charms we could muster: juicy bones, tender meat, grandpa’s socks, threats, cajoles, pleas, and even my precious stuffed Goofy—he seemed to be chuckling and reveling in the corner at our discomfiture. Just then big fella stomped in and we could see the flashback of the dangling punchback. Looking quizzically at us, he inquired what held our fascination with the world of undersides. WHOOF! WHOOF, WHOOOOF!!! came the answer. Before I could blink, my trusty henchman bawled—He made me do it, he did itttttttttttttt. And off he slipped… With perfect timing, now even Whodunny crawled out displaying his new found wobble. THWAAAACK!!! landed a halo of stars around my head, and with tears streaming I ran out vowing never to return again. Running away with blurry vision and a heart that had broken asunder to thousands of hopping, skipping and jumping wobbly pieces, I thought I heard a familiar pitter-patter of footsteps behind. I turned around to find a four-legged angel with a slight hobble following and beckoning me back with short, sharp barks.
In everyday life, drama as a word has many connotations to many people. When a recalcitrant student tries to make a scene, a teacher might refrain, "No Dramas!" Likewise, we talk about the dramatic episode in "House" when the protagonist Dr. House has to confront his inner demons. Similarly when bogged down by life's uncertainties, we solemnly state—all's life a stage and all men and women merely players.
What has been agreed about drama through the ages from Sophocles to Arthur Miller is that performance plays a key role in defining drama. Yes, Byron and Shelly wrote closet plays but then it has been argued that drama's role is to "hold as 'twere the mirror up to nature." In the words of Shakespeare, yes, drama begins with words which then correlate with actions but then what it finally upholds is the very reflection of the world we live in. It is in the immediacy that the complexities of drama juxtapose in its myriad hues: what is reality? how can we define it? how do we know real is actually real? are realities the same for all of us? is reality important?... the list of questions are unending.
Undoubtedly, all drama forms comprise script, actor and audience. Here also the nature of drama is debated. Bernard Shaw mulled over the importance of script stating that "talk" was the raison d'être of the dramatist whereas David Mamet would rather have the characterization develop by what they did. Moreover, Brecht envisioned his characters enacting a "social being" to alienate the audience from the characterizations. Whatever the nature of drama adopted, the structure that is adopted usually veers towards Exposition-Development-Climax-Conclusion that classifies a drama form broadly into comedy or tragedy. And in this, the drama form that has been most championed is tragedy with comedy originally conceived as relief in between plays. Nietzsche himself stated that a tragedy could excite, purify and release the entire life of people. However, Moliere in his satirical plays begs to differ providing not only comic relief but also some soul-searching into societal mores.
Personally, the nature of drama that I have understood goes back to my grand-uncle who is a theatre artist. In a supposedly "uncultured household", my tomboy grandmother fascinated with the theatrics and spectacle on stage would often visit plays carrying my uncle in-tow. While growing up, he forayed into theatre and enacted major roles in many local productions which provided him opportunities to act in movies too. He would often bring along passes for plays which allowed the whole family to attend the grand spectacle. This allowed the house to be steeped in a foreign culture that had been non-existent till then. Many years later, while being interviewed, my uncle paid homage to his sister for inculcating him with a life-long passion. Only now when looking back do I realise what Drama can bring into your live—sharing of life's experiences, bonding with loved ones and old wistful memories...
Eviscerating the grittiness of a battle scene, Wilfred Owen lays bare the deathly throes that envelope a battlefield. Having experienced war first-hand in WWI, the poem explores the glorified aphorism that "It is sweet and proper to die for one's country." Using harsh-sounding assonance and similes—Bent double, like old beggars under sacks—the poem unravels the supposed glory in dying in the battlefield for one's motherland.
Owen presents the poem as the battle scenes unfold with canon shells severing off body parts as fatigued soldiers trudge their way towards their eventual bloody demise. The poet uses the imagery of dying, death and destruction to paint a bleak and brutal picture of war wherein he underlines the futility of this mindless human venture. Painting the gruesome nature of war, he confronts and questions the conventional acceptance of war as a path to glory in this didactic poem.
When reading this poem, I explored a bit about Wilfred Owen and WW1. While researching, it was shocking to find that more than 20 million people died (almost the whole of present day Australian population) as a result of petty politics. Furthermore, Owen had a deep love for the language which is evident in this poem which he used in good measure to depict War in its futile glory. It was truly tragic that such talent was wasted as Owen himself was killed during the war. This tragedy is relived in his own words when he says, " My subject is War, and the pity of War. The poetry is in the pity."
Reading Janice Mirikitani's Breaking Tradition filled me with sadness. Even though written in 1970s, the inability to communicate between generations is as valid now as it was then. To a mother, perhaps the cruellest words are a child denying she is her progeny. She hears that familiar refrain and then is reminded of her own relationship with her mother. She uses the metaphors of three different rooms to lay bare the nature of their relationships: her mum’s neat and silent room steeped in tradition, her empty room filled with pettiness, and her daughter’s filled with smoke and haze. Yet, she was the one who wanted to break the traditions of otonashii and walk into the room of poetical madness and the miracle of survival. And yet, when her daughter does exactly that when breaking free—Mirikitani ironically finds herself far removed from the world of her daughter’s.
In this poem, Mirikitani draws words from both Japanese and contemporary American usage to contrast the lives of woman as experienced by her mum and her own daughter. Using words such as otonashi and obi, she paints the picture of her docile mother whose sense of individuality is silenced by the rigors of an ancient tradition, while in her daughter's life the room reverberates with the contemporary movements of salsa to the tunes of Madonna and the Stones. As she experiences lives within three generations, she herself finds her room filled with the sad melody of shakuhachi as well as music from aging guitars. In this manner, she finds herself torn between two worlds through the choice of words that define the rooms.
Woman throughout the ages have often had to live a life that is dictated and subjugated by tradition and social mores. This poem explores the pain and dilemma that woman undergoes whenever they suffer silently or break free from it. The poet acknowledges that there are no easy solutions for woman's emancipation and either way there is estrangement to experience which is reflected in her lines: "She (her daughter) mirrors my aging." In doing this, she underlines the perpetual double life that woman lives when trying to live life as "the second sex."
Stopping by a Café on a Cold Afternoon
Whose Café is this, I think I know.
His penthouse is in the city, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To sip his dark coffee once more.
The Barista must think it queer
To find me once more at his door
Between the mochas and the lattes
The darkest one of the year.
He gives his jug a shake
To see if froths a mistake.
The only other sight that greets
Is creamy crests and wispy flakes.
The Ethiopian is delicate, dark and deep,
But I have deadlines to meet,
And long to go before I sleep,
And long to go before I sleep.
(With apologies to Mr. Frostee)
Live to Find Something to Die For
Empty vacant spaces
brings lust to my eyes
or is it my mind?
I don't know
All I see is vacant spaces
Pouring out in nothingness
In front of timelessness
Doubting the step forward
I almost stop the move
Before it can express itself
as an imprint is left behind
a new space, unexplored
fills the vacuum non-existent
I think there’s something to
live to find
Something to Die For.
Oftentimes, we relegate people to the backwaters of pervading belief-systems by terming oneself the high-priest/ess of modern "isms." Defining ourselves by positioning on the shifting compasses of what is of current-fancy, we forge our identities and lay claim to the universal emptinesses. In such hegemonic landscape, Reader Response Criticism carves out an idiosyncratic diorama where life still remains defined by what is personally unsaid. The single voice still resounds and given credence in such a vale. In such a disjointed and myopic world, Chekov paints such a picture in "The Lady with the Dog". His world is not of obfuscation and shadows but delineates the truth that borders the world teeming in vagueness and obscurity. His themes, characters and narrative delves in the murky shadows that lie at the heart of human existence and draws forth slivers of light which till then were non-existent. In a post-modern world where cognizance is fluid and formless almost into oblivion, Chekov still harbours in his art-form to draw those lines that have been cast astray to define timelessness.
You, the Unicorn, a Pendant, a Mall and some flies in the eternity of an hour
Tiles like Horned Unicorn:
Sitting in a cafe you find yourself deep within thought when a couple sits next to you. As they settle down and without so-much-as-a-notice, talk nonchalantly as to whether to try the newest shot of caffeine to hit this part of town, you cannot help but eavesdrop on their publicly-aired conversation. The girl makes small-talk trying to clear the air of silence that has apparently been hovering uneasily around them for a while. The girl likens the mosaic created by the floor tiles to that mythical "horned unicorn." The guy airs his frustration while tersely outlining her attempts as nonsensical enterprise with no bearings to real life whatsoever. As he does so, the girl stung by the comment loses her desperate attempts at normalcy and recoils sullenly into her morose shell. Instantly recognising her slipping away from his distant self, her paramour then justifies that happiness is not just a figment of one's imagination but very much a happenstance if only there was no third-party between them. A murky brown puddle idles on the cups' bottom as the couple walk past the coffee-sodden throng. Suddenly, hit with the caffeine-buzz, you wake up from your suspended stupor with a heavy heart and then walk away as the fly on the wall makes its way towards your half-drunk coffee cup.
The Lady with a Pendant:
Walking aimlessly amongst the shoals of people darting past by, you unconsciously walk into the local mall as if funneled by a resident vortex you had previously no inkling of. Feet inextricably drawn by the ascending stairs, you end up viewing a glass-case showcasing attractions for those love-lorn. Next to you, a lady draws her partner towards the case and stand alongside. In her eyes, you can see the sad gleam to posses the gilded ring as she glances askance into his eyes. With a conflicted look, he almost seems to shrug—but was it just you imagining… In a fleeting reflection on the glass showcase, you see both their eyes converge on the encased ring within. As they hand-in-hand ponderously disappear into the crowd, you hear the hapless buzz of an entraped fly in the case frantically flipping up-and-down for an escape route that was non-existent.
The Shopping Mall:
Trying to get a closer look at the ring, you step forward only to find something probing beneath your feet. Curious, you move your foot aside to reveal the errant object—an antique pendant with two cut-out photos on each reverse side that had accidentally been prised open by your curious step. Picking it up, you immediately turn around and hurtle in the direction of the couple who have now been enveloped by the bustle in the mall. Shoppers gaze furtively when you try to make past them; while at the same time you unsuccessfully try to shout above the reverberating din. After about an hour, just as you had almost given up hope, for a brief second you see the back of the man's head and chase after him once more. Finally catching up with him, you tug back his hand while dangling the pendant towards him. The man apologetically excuses himself and declines ownership while it slowly dawns upon you that his companion this time around is no longer the one previously encountered.
Embarrassed and visibly confused, you now amble towards the mall's entrance. A mocking drone teases your ears and as you attempt to flick the bug away, your eyes remain transfixed on the insolent stare of a stranger within the pendant alongside the familiar gaze of the lady’s.
guess you must have delved deep within yourself as I did to prise open the question: 'What is Literature?" and 'Why do I want to learn about it?" Well, for me, it's always been a way of life for me--starting with the tales that my granny told me and now that I read books covering interests that fascinate me. For one, would I classify my "Teaching Maths in Primary Schools" and "Self-help" books as literature? Definitely not. For me, literature usually conjures up images of Tolstoy, Dickens, Kipling, Doestovosky, Hugo, Joyce, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Maugham, Conrad et al where the classical and neo-classical literati dwell and ponder on life and the art of living it. For me, the current bestseller and pulp fictions do not cut the mustard and only the rare and recent Gabriel García Márquez and his ilk with offerings that weave the engima of life into fantastical ponderings makes me wipe the haze around my sleepy eyes to let it roam delightfully amongst the pages once more. As the pages turn and worlds unfold, I find myself transported into far-away places and share lives with timeless characters with whom I share the lonely roads that are forever etched in my memory. Of recent times, when books with contemporary rele
Happy Readings!!! (or should I whisper "Carpe Diem!!!")