Poovar – Of Mangrove Trees and Hidden Surprises

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Quaint little towns dotted with eccentric houses, sleepy fishing villages gently swaying in the tropical breeze, serpentine backwaters with towering coconut trees, lush mountains peppered with tea gardens and fragrant spices wafting all over; the majestic state of Kerala is the closest I have come to experiencing paradise. For obvious reasons, Kerala is one of the most talked about holiday destinations and internet is swamped with countless pictures of every popular spot in the state. While I was planning my trip to Kerala, I was a little worried that this information overload would scrape off a bit of sheen from my experience. However, when I landed in the rain-kissed, lush green Cochin, I realized that my virtual tour was no match for the sight before me at that moment. Needless to say, my stay in Kerala was serene and picturesque as expected. However, I happened to stumble upon a gem of a place which was not on our itinerary and it convinced me that this state has magic in every nook and every corner.

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My family and I were returning to Trivandrum from an early morning trip to Kanyakumari and Suchindaram temple and were tired and drowsy. Our driver stopped at a fishing village near Kovalam and told us that our trip would not be complete without visiting it. Fresh from our excursions to Munnar and Alleypey, I was unsure about what more this little village called Poovar could offer and thus thought that we could give this is a miss. But my father had different ideas. Having lived in Kerala for a number of years, he has a sentimental attachment to this place and is well aware of its ability to spring unexpected but very pleasant surprises. We agreed to take a boat ride on the backwaters and could not believe our eyes, thus adding one more item in the long list of things I should thank my dad for.

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I felt like someone had taken notice of my wish to visit a Marquezian village and had transported me there. As our boat powered towards the gateway to the estuary, my jaws dropped as we saw mangrove tress flanking the narrow strip of water. Time seemed to have stood still and everything else was forgotten. We sat back and sighed happily as we sailed across the marshy, muddy water and took in the chirping of tropical birds. Every now and then, we would spot a kingfisher or a crane. We passed a few fishermen spreading their fishing nets in the water. As our boat tore through the humid, sultry air, a beach with golden sand appeared before us. I was enthralled as the spirited waves crashed against its pristine, golden shores went back to meet the sea. A few feet away from the beach, stood a rock with an underground church and on the banks, were a few floating restaurants and cottages. We spent around ten minutes sailing around the beach and then the boat turned to return where we had started. It was time again to return to the swampy marshes and muddy water reflecting the shadows of mangrove trees hovering above. For a moment, I felt as if I were in the swamps of Amazon and an alligator would leap out of the murky water. We spent around an hour and a half on the backwaters and with a heavy heart alighted the boat.

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Travelling is not merely checking off exotic places from a list. Travelling is meant to surprise, to astonish, to stir one’s senses. It is a profound way to teach us that the the world is vast and it’s treasures are limitless, much greater than one person and their ambitions and problems. As I was returning from the lake, my philosophical side kicked in. I reflected about how unpredictable life is. I was expecting a quiet ride back and one turn was all it took for me to gather a memory I would treasure all my life. And also, dads are always right!

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Reading the Old Fashioned Way

As tech savvy as I am, I find myself frequently embarrassed by my level of dependence on technology even for trivial matters. Technology is definitely a boon, especially to our frenetic, time pressed generation. Sadly, this boon comes with a price; it is making our lives somewhat bereft of charm. When I was younger, I was under the impression that automating our daily lives was a good thing, scoffing at adults who chose to slave away, go that extra mile to ensure that things were perfectly cooked or cleaned while the same or perhaps better results could be achieved by machines. But as I grew up and was introduced to the realities of automation, I understood that mastering it would make my life easy but will not necessarily satisfy me. For, my lifestyle would be so synthetic and generic that one would think that it just hopped off a very well oiled assembly line. At times, I get amused by the desperation with which we are ready to replace all our activities and interactions with something as inconsequential as a touch of a button. What is even funnier is that we are so far ahead in the automation time line that the idea of something being hand made is now a novelty and seen as a dying art.

In most areas of my life, I have allowed myself to become a slave to technology. However, there are a few aspects which I consider too sacred to let technology invade it. Reading is one such aspect. I love to read and frankly, new developments in this area makes the act a lot less charming. I have tried reading novels on phones and tablets but like an insatiable romantic, keep returning to the good old paperback. A lot of friends tease me saying that I read the old fashioned way. To them, an ebook reader is the perfect gift technology could present to me. It does solve a lot of problems, the biggest one being that it saves space. My house would be a lot less messier if I bought myself a Kindle. But it is just not the same, is it? I love my Ipad and the fact that it is so sleek and stylish. But I hate reading on it. I read the entire Game of Thrones series on my it but the entire experience left me underwhelmed. In the beginning, I was baffled by my aversion to reading on my many gadgets. In fact, when I bought my first smart phone, I was sure that I would love reading on it. I quickly realised that I was highly mistaken.

Even after so many years of reading novels, I continue to be in awe of literature. Lately, I have come to realise that the pleasure comes not only from reading the wonderful words written in the book, but also from holding the source of the said wonder. There is a lot of magic packed in the pages of books. The smell of a new book, the pleasure of the paper brushing against my fingers, the wearing of the spine as I progress through the book; how can a gadget replace that? I love buying books and take a lot of pleasure in building my book collection. At times when I cannot sleep, I just go to my bookshelf and just gaze lovingly at my books. It is therapeutic indeed. Scrolling through a list of titles on an LED screen does not provide the same thrill. Not to mention the immense strain in puts on one’s eyes.

My books are like my friends who have joined me at various stages of life but never left me. Their pages are the confidantes of my many emotions I had while devouring them. I recently finished re reading “Love in The Time of Cholera”. The words of Marquez capture inexplicable magic but the pages of my copy of the book also capture my astonishment at his genius and sincere sadness at his death. Just as the pages of “The Great Gatsby” preserved my grudging sympathy for Jay Gatsby and the pages of “Jane Eyre” recorded my resolve to adopt a certain brand of feminism.

As much as I fight it, the process of reading is evolving with the changing time and will reach its consummation. Perhaps the next generations will see books as a relic of the time gone by. They will never know the pleasure of holding a book just we will never know the pleasure of doing so many other things. But this is the price we pay for evolution.

Written in response to Daily Post – Handmade Tales

 

 

Dear Future Muse

Dear Brooding,

No female lover of literature can hate you, can she? You have redeemed countless flawed men and made inner angst desirable. While dishing out fictional men, you are the secret ingredient that makes them delectable. I would call you a trope but it is hard to miss the fact that you work your magic every time. Heathcliffe, Mr. Darcy, Hamlet, Mr. Rochester, Jay Gatsby; can you sense the pattern in my list of favorite literary men?

As ubiquitous you are in literature, you are rare to find in real life. May I ask why you have kept yourself confined within the warm cocoon of the pages of classics? While I am unsure about my personal ability to deal with the intensity of such a man, it sure would be fun to meet a real life Byronic hero.I am sure every woman would want to uncover the mystery behind those aching yet smoldering eyes. I don’t know what you are afraid of. I can assure you that you are as fashionable a trait outside the novels as you are inside them.

Before you get excited and prepare to present yourself to us, I would like to remind you that you are not very appealing when you work alone. So, please bring your friends – enigma, wealth, intelligence and passion with you. Otherwise, there is no point. 

I hope you consider my request and don’t make me wait too long. I am in dire need of a muse, you see and time is running out.

Yours,

Desperate for a Muse

No prizes for guessing. My word was “Brooding”. Picked up from The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing.

Written in response to a prompt on Writing 101 – To Whom It May Concern. The challenge is to pick up the nearest book and flip to page 29. What jumps out at you? Start there, and try a twist: write in the form of a letter.

 

 

 

Being Jane Austen

I admit, it is a daunting task to decide which famous person I want to be for a day. Having being preceded by countless generations of inventors, thinkers, artists and leaders, there is just a surfeit of personalities to choose from. The world we live in today is the culmination of the achievements of these famous people and I, like any other well aware human being have an array of favorite personalities I would want to be. However, I would like to take a moment and consider the time we live in now and what being famous entails. In my opinion, fame should be related with real achievement and endurance; two attributes which present themselves only after some time has passed.

I am a bit of an old soul and have always nursed a wish to travel back in time. It would be fascinating to see the conditions we have evolved from. Perhaps this is why I love to read. In the absence of a time machine, a book is the next best thing which can make one explore our past. Literature is the reason why I am well acquainted with Victorian London or the Jazz Age. Though, there are countless accomplished authors who made this possible, the personality of one stands out for me.

My first tryst with Austen happened when I was 15. Emma was the first novel I read and since then, it has remained on my list of top 5 favorite books. I slowly devoured all her works and was truly starstruck. The most remarkable quality of her work is that a reader wants to revisit them time and again, despite reading it from cover to cover. I did the same when I was in my early twenties. I was a bit more mature and was able to sense the biting social commentary beyond the gentle comedy and romance. This is when I started thinking how hard it must have been for Austen to establish herself as a writer during that era. A woman showing a male dominated society the mirror, I would definitely travel in time to do that.

Whenever I read her novels, more than once I find my mind straying to the fact that she never married. She never experienced enduring love, except for her doomed romance with Tom Lefroy. Yet, she wrote about love and romance with such fervor that I want to bow to her imagination. Writing should be self exploratory. But when a story teller gives you an accomplished work which is not drawn from their experience, they are truly worth their salt.

I find Austen intriguing because so little is known about her private life. She lived a simple life, in a close knit family. She received only one marriage proposal in her entire life, which she turned down. She never moved in the same circles as other writers of her time. Most of her fame was achieved after her death as her novels were published anonymously while she lived. However, she remained utterly dedicated to her craft throughout her short life. Her life was as charmed as it was nondescript.  I wonder if she knew about how accomplished she would go on to be. I wonder if she realized that she was setting impossible standards for men for centuries to come; that her novels would see millions of women through lonely evenings.

I wish I could live her life for a day; be bound by social conventions and gently breaking them at the same time, be a quiet iconoclast. Above all, I would love to be known as the woman who gave Mr. Darcy to the world.

Written in response to Daily Prompt – Instant Celebrity

Window of Oblivion

 

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A few weeks ago, when my dad was visiting, he left his pen here. It’s a nice pen, though nothing extraordinary. It is black in color and has that sleek and elegant air about itself which most expensive pens project these days. On the night that followed his visit, I found the pen lying on the table, next to a book of poetry. Almost on a whim, I fished out this little notebook made out of hand made paper my dad had once got for me from Thailand. Since that night, I have been penning some of my favorite poems in that note book every now and then. I don’t have much recollection of my thought process while I started doing this. Probably the sight of a pen stirred up a sense of novelty, since I hardly use any between typing on my laptop, Ipad and smart phone. But I am glad that I did as this exercise is pleasantly calming and stimulating. I plan to fill all the pages with all my favorite verses ever and keep the note book with myself for the rest of my life. It would be kind of a ready reckoner of comforting, inspiring and passionate words.

I thought of writing down a couple of verses from Pablo Neruda’s vast treasure today. I decided to start with my favorite from this great poet, “Poetry”. I remember when I had read this poem for the first time, I was bewildered with the helplessness as well as candor with which Neruda had awakened and submitted himself to creating soulful poetry. He had found his calling. I learned that poetry is much more than knowing one’s rhyme and meter. It is about being captivated by the joys, tragedies and mysteries of life and discovering it’s beauty and wonders. Here is my favorite part of the poem.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering
that fire,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
nonsense,
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
unfastened
and open,
planets,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
riddled
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

Neruda’s words seldom fail to inspire me to find poetry of my own. I had once clicked a photograph of a window in a decrepit and largely forgotten fort in Patiala, Punjab. It’s obscurity had made me sad for a while. I penned these lines today when I saw that photograph again. I call this little poem “Window of Oblivion”

Abandoned walls, the tales cast away.

My glory forgotten, to time am another prey.

Nights of mirth, those days of thunder,

Swallowed into space, silent, unremembered.

 Birds scrape away my beauty, my lone solace.

My visage being plundered, oh what a disgrace.

To history I submitted, but was shunted from its vision,

Lost in its mighty pages, thrown into the window of oblivion.

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