Is it possible to ‘review’ poetry? Every time I sit to write about poems or stand to speak about poetry, this question confounds me. A friend sent a poem of his about 4-5 years ago and asked for my opinions. I read it, a critic would have perhaps trashed it owing to its form. I asked my poet friend if he had written what he thought of and what he thought like. He said yes. I told him it was good. With poems as with any other form of writing, I try to see through the feelings and the honesty in expressing them. If there is a match, I am up for more from you. However, if I find a mismatch or if I feel that the work has become a matter of form over emotions, I am turned off.

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“who hold the secret of a perfect barter…”

The Ivory Throne can also be imagined as a palace in Travancore with its many chapters as many gateways of the palace from where caressing breezes and strong winds went out and, in the palace bringing with it many a tales of origin, exaggerated orders, larger than life anecdotes, thrilling mysteries and many a truths.

 

“Two weeks after her sudden departure for California, Swami Vivekananda praised Joe’s detachment, as noted in a letter from Betty to Joe, written October 27:

He spoke of “Joe” and said you were the only real soul who had “attained freedom among us all,” including himself. You could drop everything, everybody and go out without a thought of regret & do your work, that you had attained this through thousands of reincarnations, he had seen it in India & here. No luxury counted, no misery (as in India) mattered – [you were] the same poised soul, etc.

“If I were a Devadasi.”

It is time to get transported into one of the most fascinating milieus and yet another brood of the notorious caste system – the Devadasis. We could have easily been talking about the age of romanticism where women dedicated themselves to deities and temples. As resonates through The Ivory Throne : “their lives committed in service of god, dancing and singing and preserving high culture in great Hindu temples of the land.” To add to the romance, imagine a vivid picture of the great shrine of Mahakala in Ujjain, which resounded with the sound of the ankle bells of dancing girls: The Meghadutam by Kalidasa.

There are times when while looking at a painting one is seduced into a different time and era. I often picture my silhouette in Kolkata of the 30s : a swarm of people moving at the speed of light, sometimes even passing through my silhouette yet the silhouette is held by the spirit of the times as if the latter were a painting. Let us float into the age of romanticism and call my perchance finding of ‘The Ivory Throne, Chronicles of the House of Travancore,’ a book by Manu S. Pillai, serendipity.

It was during the Bangalore literature Festival that I first heard of Bara. This book of U.R. AnanthaMurthy was discussed by a panel moderated by Chandan Gowda. Chandan Gowda indeed has translated this super short novella into English from Kannada. I had no idea what Bara was about during the panel discussion but what got me interested in it was the mention of a string of thoughts as experienced by the protagonist, an IAS officer of a drought stricken district.

Countries have habits. Our country has a habit of either believing too strongly in somebody or not believing a word of the person. Whether a person is truthful is a thing to be analyzed only much later when someone else who can have a greater command on our belief system appears on the scene. Many nations have a national habit of believing only their own. Other nations have the habit of believing anything that is imported. Few countries can maintain a balance between the two and analyze.

I like to look at a book as though it was formed like the universe (with all the conjectures) and grew and nurtured on the world around it. However, a book is incumbent to live up to this perspective.

Grapes of Wrath is such a book. It starts from the dust bowl Oklahoma and moves to California, tracing the trajectory of becoming and unbecoming of migrants, a family seen from close quarters by the author and the graph it scales. While it is the essential storyline of the book, Grapes of Wrath has been able to capture life as it is. I can conclude the book with this imagery: concentric circles, where, in the outermost circle lies nature, in the middle is the Manself (a word coined by the author to denote man and his desires) and within their lap lie the Joads (the family).

While browsing through the books on my bookshelf last night, ‘The Quran’ published by the Salaam Centre, Bangalore landed in my hands. I believe that each book that we buy or read gets a memory shot tagged to it. When we come back to pick those books again in distant future, we invariably travel time. Same happened with this book. I had to travel only a year back – 2015, Bangalore Book Festival at Palace Grounds. One incredible experience that I had thought of penning down and for some reason, completely forgot; it has come to this day that I write about it.

Haven’t we all wished to rewrite the fate of a certain fictional character because we thought they deserved better? Haven’t we all wanted to know what were our favourite characters thinking during the toughest of their times ?  While some of us create an alternate destiny  and let them live happily ever after in our heads, there also a few of us who write a fan fiction as an ode to our favourite characters. But then there are others who feel strongly about them that they can go on to write a full-fledged novel based on those emotions.