Castles in the air - they are so easy to take refuge in. And so easy to build, too.

आम्हां घरी धन शब्दांचीच रत्नें | शब्दांचीच शस्त्रें यत्न करुं ||
शब्द चि आमुच्या जीवांचे जीवन | शब्दें वांटूं धन जनलोकां ||
तुका म्हणे पाहा शब्द चि हा देव | शब्द चि गौरव पूजा करुं ||
- abhang of Tukaram Wolhoba Ambile of Dehu

There's No Freedom Like That of a Child's Imagination

கடலுக்கு உண்டு கற்பனைக்கு இல்லை கட்டுப்பாடு

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

सिद्धार्थ

क्या मेले के गुब्बारे कभी ख़ामोशी की तलाश में भटकते होंगे? क्या पूनम का चान्द कभी अमावस की आस रखता होगा? शहर की बसों ने कभी ढूँढी होंग किसी गाँव का रस्ता? क्या सागर की मछलियों ने एक दिन किसी वीरान कुएँ का ख़्वाब देखा होगा?

मैंने न तलाश की न ख़्वाब देखे हैं,  इन सियाही की लकीरों में मैं कबसे गुमशुदा हूँ|

पीपल वृक्ष —
एक त्रिकोण पत्ते
में समक्ष भू

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Tall Tales

My first public storytelling performance. Tickets Rs 750, at the door.

The Barking Deer, Mathuradas Mill Compound, Lower Parel, Mumbai.

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Hath not a Jew Organs?

Characters
Mr. Nallasivam Chettiar (NC) Businessman aged mid-thirties
Mrs. Parvathammal Chettiar (PC) Wife of above, thirtyish, traditional outlook
Judge (J)
Attorney for Mr. Chettiyar (AN)
Attorney for Mrs. Chettiyar (AP)


[FAMILY COURT ROOM.]

J Right! Now that both parties are present, plaintiff may please state case. Cut to the point and no sentimental drama please.

AN Sir, plaintiff presents a case for seeking divorce from his estranged wife Mrs. Parvathammal Chettiyar on the grounds of incompatibility and mental harassment. My client and the defendant are married for seven years without issue. Two years ago, my client met with a serious accident leading to damage of his right kidney, requiring organ replacement therapy. After a suitable blood-related donor was not found, my client agreed to accept a donation from his wife. Since that time the defendant has continuously caused harassment to my client by constant nagging and reminding him that it was she she who saved his life and that he was therefore obligated to her.
(Pauses, sips water)
The constant nagging and demands for increased attention over these two years have played upon the peace of mind of my client, and he is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. These have caused him to be distanced emotionally from an unloving wife, and he is unable to sustain such a relationship that has lost all meaning. Therefore he seeks divorce from his estranged wife so that he may find love and peace of mind elsewhere. He is willing to make a reasonable settlement as arbitrated by the court towards alimony and maintenance for the rest of the defendant's life. This is the case for the plaintiff.

AC Sir, defendant accepts the case of the plaintiff with conditions. My client Mrs. Parvathammal Chettiyar is a reasonable person, and agrees that a loveless marriage is of no meaning. She is willing to accede to divorce, on the condition that Mr. Nallasivam Chettiyar shall return the kidney that was donated to him, along with proportional damages towards compensation for the physical and mental trauma caused to my client.

NC That is a most preposterous and unreasonable claim Sir!

AP Surely not, Sir! My client is a lady of scant education, who only recognises the ancient Indian tradition that it is her wifely duty to sacrifice her life to save her husband's life. In return, all she she expects is that he be faithful to her. Instead he has violated the sanctity of their marriage by taking up with another woman, and seeking to divorce my client in order to marry her. Such an action is mala fide to the spirit of marriage, and therefore the sacrifice of my client has been negated.

AN Ha! Mala fide indeed! Come on, Sir, infidelity is a problem in all marriages. And what is fidelity? Sticking to a person who does not love you? Just because Mrs. Chettiyar gave him the kidney, has she become his owner? My client does not refuse to acknowledge that he owes his life to her, but does that mean his life is pledged to her?

AP Sir, you must note that the act was a selfless one in the first place. Instead, her undiminished devotion towards her husband has been cruelly rewarded with selfishness and infidelity, which is disgusting to say the least. oHhhhIt has caused her tremendous anguish and pain, and yet she acknowledges that their matrimonial relationship is over in all but law. Mrs. Chettiyar is therefore willing to give him legal release. However, she endangered her life by having donated her kidney. Therefore it is only reasonable that the plaintiff enable her to pursue a life of complete health by returning the kidney. He has no right to retain it by virtue of having voided the marital relationship.

AN Defendant keeps repeating the same thing over and over again. By his logic, every spouse who donates an organ will get the right to keep the other as a slave. He or she can then claim legal sanction to ill-treat the recipient. She can nag him, verbally abuse him, refuse him sex, show him down in front of neighbours and in everyway interfere in his normal life. All this and more has been perpretrated on my client by the defendant. Where did all the so-called ‘selflessness’ go? It was for pure profit, sir, the defending party is trying to get this court to validate their idea that a whole soul can purchased with a mere organ.

AP Sir, the plaintiff’s case is verging on imbecile and completely hypothetical arguments now. They are trying to mislead the court by inventing outrageous claims. The fact remains that the plaintiff has violated the marriage. Therefore, if he wants release, he must return the kidney. We repeat, his action is mala fide.

AN Sir, all this is nonsense. His actions cannot in any case be considered mala fide.

AP (emphatically) Yes, they are mala fide.

AN (emphatically) No, they’re not.

AP (voice raised) Mala fide, mala fide, mala fide!

AN (voice raised) Bona fide, bona fide, bona fide!

AP (voice raised) Na dhin dhin na!

AC (voice raised) Dhin dhin dhin na!

AP (voice raised) Na dhin dhin na!

AC (voice raised) Dhin dhin dhin na!

J (Shouting) Quiet! Stop all this nonsense. Now, attorney for the plaintiff, do you have any argument to state why your client should not return the kidney?

AN Sir, we have here scientific evidence to prove that though the donated kidney did belong to the defendant, it now biologically belongs to my client. Kidney cells die after wear and tear, and are replaced by the stem cells of the host. Over the period of two years, all the original cells of the donor have been replaced by stem cells of my client, and the kidney is therefore now his own tissue. We have carried out a DNA test to prove this point. Thus it cannot be alienated from him on the pretext that it did not originate within his body, and besides there will be immense medical problems to try the preposterous notion of 'returning' the kidney. Instead, my client is willing to pay a generous maintenance that will take care of all the defendant's requirements, including future health problems that may result from her having given him a kidney.

NC (Pleading) I'll pay amount of money, sir, please rid me of this terrible nag!

Parvathammal CHETTIYAR (Agitated) Aiyo! Nee naasamaa pova! Ava nalla iruppaalaa? Nee saava! ava saava! Aiyo! Aiyo!

[OR ANY OTHER VERNACULAR RANT INTENDING TO SHOW THE UNPRIVILEGED NATURE OF MRS. CHETTIYAR]

JUDGE Quiet Mrs. Chettiyar. Counsel for the defendant, have you anything to reply?

AP Sir, all we wish to ask is, does a biological fact bind the hands of fairness and justice? Can any act be justified because it is biological? Men have a natural tendency towards murder and rape, so does that mean rape and murder can be made legal? Is there no moral obligation of the law? Will the law allow a woman to suffer because it is a biological fact?

AN Sir, Now the defence is trying to climb the moral mountain and claim a position of great virtue. It is no use being sentimental. It will be practically impossible to try to transfer my clients kidney to the defendant. There will be severe immune reactions. We can call in a qualified surgeon to testify, if deemed necessary by the court. It will only endanger the life of both parties involved. Instead, my client is willing to negotiate a generous settlement.

[Nallasivam CHETTIYAR BECKONS HIS ATTORNEY AND WHISPERS SOMETHING]

AN Sir, my client has just offered to pay for an operation to provide a kidney to the defendant, including the cost of surgery and post-operational care, whatever it costs.

[AP WHISPERS TO Parvathammal CHETTIYAR]

PC (Screaming) Aiyaiyo! Aiyaiyo! Ennai enna cheyya solraane! Nee naasamaa pova! Naa enna cheyya? Naa enge pova?

J Mrs. Chettiyar, I warn you again. Please calm down.

AP How can she calm down, Sir? The plaintiff has just made the cruellest suggestion he can make to her. According to her knowledge ofd the traditons that bind her, he has just suggested to her that she give up her chastity. How can she receive an organ from another man? It is her marriage duty to share her body with that man only, and she did that literally. Now he suggests she share it with some unknown person. He has again violated her dignity, right under the court’s eyes. We will not let this go unpunished, Sir.

J Punishment or otherwise, you leave it to me. Attorney for plaintiff, what do you respond to this?

AN (Whispers to Mr. Chettiyar, then faces up) Sir, again the defence is trying to make sentimental statements since they have no grounds on which to refuse divorce. Mrs. Chettiyar is free to receive a kidney from her mother or sisters, who are her blood relatives. Such donations are free of complications. We have definitely not insulted the dignity of the defendant.

[AP AND PC WHISPER AGAIN. PC STARTS CRYING INCONSOLABLY, MUTTERING SOMETHING INCOMPREHENSIBLY]

AP Sir, now my client says that this tantamounts to beastly greed. Now that her husband has ruined her, he also wants to ruin her family also.

AN (Shocked) This leaves me speechless. The defending party is not allowing logical debate at all now. Nevertheless, we stick to our stand. It is medically impossible to ‘return’ the kidney, so we will help find a suitable donor and undertake all the expenses.

AP Sir, I wish to ask, can money replace a kidney? Can a payment for impaired health substitute for the health that my client had foolishly sacrificed in the interest of the plaintiff? Can a man violate his domestic life and atone for it with money?

AN We suggest to the defendant that she take a break for sometime, and think rationally. One must have a pragmatic attitude in life. What has happened has happened, and now one must move on. So they may kindly stop harping on foolish sentiments, and negotiate a settlement. The sooner the better.

AP My client has been a dutiful Indian wife, steeped in tradition. She was an unselfish slave of her husband for so many years. I suppose that in the plaintiff’s eyes that includes unquestioned surrender of her vital organs. He is a cold, cruel man who thinks nothing of abandoning her for another woman.

AN (emphatically) Be practical, Sir.

AP (scornfully) Practical yourself!

AN (voice raised) Thath thath tha ri ki ta!

AP (voice raised) Dhith dhith tha ri ki ta!

AN (voice raised) Thom thom tha ri ki ta!

AP (voice raised) Nam nam tha ri ki ta!

J (Shouting) Quiet! (Calmly) I get your arguments now. Anyway, both of you please state your final stands, and then I’ll I’ll make the judgement.

AN (Whispers to Mr. Chettiyar, then faces up) Our case is simple. Despite all the nagging and nasty behaviour of the defendant to my client, he offers a settlement with generous maintenance and also offers to completely pay for an organ replacement operation, in return for an amicable divorce.

AP (Whispers to Mrs. Chettiyar, then faces up) Sir, we shall not budge from our position. My client wants the return of her kidney, and will release that man only then. He can get a kidney from his new wife, surely she will be as dutiful? That is all our case.

JUDGE I have never come across a case like this. This man has had a troubled marriage, lost his peace of mind, and wants release from his troubles. He may be justified. There is no point in such a marriage at all. It cannot be considered that just because a person has saved another’s life, he or she gains a right to possess him or her.
(Pauses)
But this woman has sacrificed the most vital part of herself for the health of this man, but realises that it is her final wifely duty to make him happy by releasing him. But does she deserve to have her kidney back? Biologically it belongs to him now, but she had donated it in complete sense of wifely duty as she understands it. In her view, she has been betrayed. I cannot argue with that. What judgement do I make?
(Stands up and addresses audience)
August listeners and watchers of this scene, I am really stuck on this issue. I feel it will be an injustice either party if I make a judgement one way or the other, but the judgement has to be made. But I think I can count upon the audience’s collective wisdom and understanding to make a conscionable judgement. Therefore, I shall leave to you the judgement. Does the kidney belong to him or her?


CURTAIN/ BLACKOUT

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Depression and the brain

Far too much of how we see our bodies had been influenced by religion and spiritualism. While we may slowly come to accept that there is nothing such as a soul, we still think that there is something such as the mind, somewhat detached from the corporeal self. Too many otherwise rational people think so too; it is hardwired into our languages.

There is no such thing. There is only a brain, an organic thing, made up of hundreds of thousands of interconnected neurons. A very material thing, flesh-and-blood, as fragile as the rest of the body. Just like the liver (the other very complex organ), the brain can suffer disease and disorders. Some, we're willing to understand, like infectious diseases or cancerous growths or developmental disorders brought on by genetic defects or childhood accidents. Some others, that manifest as behavioural problems, we resolutely refuse to acknowledge.

But behaviour is only the symptom, the real disorder is the imbalance of nutrients, neurotransmitters, hormones in the neurons or the matrix surrounding them. These require treatment with medicines to alleviate the root cause (though we sadly cannot eliminate them completely in many cases) along with counseling and monitoring to alleviate the symptoms. At no point can we separate the two.

Insensitivity only damages the patients further. They are suffering from anxiety or low self-esteem or obsessive or paranoid behaviour not because they are acting consciously, but because their brain (and not the non-existent mind) is ill. It is just the way one avoids certain foods or behaves in a certain way when the liver or stomach or lung is ill.

We understand that a pregnant woman's craving for sour things is a consequences of the physiological changes affecting her entire body including her brain. We are able to distinguish this as an involuntary craving, not as conscious desire. Agency is not imputed to such behaviour. Depression, anxiety disorders, SPD, etc are also because of such physiological changes.

If you see someone behaving oddly, and for a sustained period of time, you have good reason to believe that they are ill and need psychiatric medical attention. What they don't need is your empathy, which though well-intentioned and sincere is not useful. Do you empathise with a jaundice patient or do you give them liver medicines?

And they certainly don't need your sympathy, or advice for positive thinking. That it's mostly fake and only serves to alienate them further. The brain though ill, is not entirely dysfunctional. It can still sift your words and behaviour, and catch whether you're being an insensitive idiot or not.

Believe me, I have been to the brink and back. Positive thinking did 1% towards bringing me back, counselling and physical de-stressing perhaps another 20%. The rest of the job was done by paroxetine, in gradually increasing doses.

Have you heard of anyone battle cancer or hepatitis or a common cold through 'will-power' alone? Without chemotherapy or surgery or other medical intervention? You may wait out a common cold till it goes away, but had anyone ever willed it away? If anyone says so, I'm willing to give them a chance to prove it publicly, by letting them have the disease again.

In the same way, you can't 'battle' depression or anxiety disorders by 'steeling your mind' or 'thinking positive' or whatever other phrase that's fashionable. You need to get the patient to hospital. Positivity helps, but treatment and professional counseling help even more. And keeping a sensible silence for the duration of the treatment helps best.

So next time you see someone with depression and want to help, do me a favour. Make a bonfire of all the will power and positive thinking books to keep the patient warm, burn all your fake sympathy and useless vocabulary in it and call an ambulance.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

K Ramesh – from moment to moment

This interview was published in the online blogzine GLO-TALK on Sunday, July 20, 2014.

Haiku by K Ramesh reproduced by permission of the author



In this issue, I interview one of India’s earliest recruits to haiku and tanka, K. Ramesh, who began writing in these genres since 2000. Currently teaching at Pathashaala (an initiative of the J Krishnamurti Foundation), he has balanced teaching and writing, not just Japanese forms but also free verse. He has brought out two anthologies, and his haiku are regularly published in haiku journals of great repute.

*

Raamesh: How exactly did your journey in haiku begin? You state in your interview with Ramesh Anand that the internet played a role in discovery and adoption. How big was the role, and how has it evolved today?

Ramesh: My interest in literature started when I was in college. I used to read the works of D H Lawrence and existential writers like Albert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre, both in Tamil and English.

It was writer Sujatha who introduced me to haiku. He wrote many articles on haiku in Tamil literary magazines. The poems of the Japanese masters he used in his writing spoke a lot of the significance of the 'aha moment' and brevity. It was at the same time that I started writing poetry. I was thrilled when my first poem was selected by Nissim Ezekiel for the magazine Indian Pen. In the year 2000, we got an internet connection in the school where I worked. I started searching for articles on haiku and haiku magazines as well. This search led me to the practice of writing haiku. My first haiku was accepted by Ai Li, editor of Still, a haiku journal published in England. From then onwards, I continued to send my haiku to editors all over the world, and my poems began to appear in journals periodically. I am happy to mention here that some of our (Indian haijin's) works have appeared in the anthology titled 'The First Hundred Years of Haiku' brought out by Norton Publishing Company published in 2013.

*

carnival over . . .
a little girl's sandal
among footprints

(The Heron's Nest, September 2012)

*

Raamesh: You have written across the many styles of haiku popular today — shasei, gendai and contemporary ELH among others. Do you have a preferred style?

Also, different journals (and their editors) have different sensibilities; you’ve said before that one cannot stick too close to any one journal. So do you write with an aim to submitting a particular haiku or tanka to a particular journal, or do you decide that afterwards?

Ramesh: One doesn't think of styles while composing a haiku. To me, styles do not matter so much as the recognition of a mild surprise and the urge to jot down the cause of the experience. The writing works if I am really touched by something I witness and I then write. What I do after writing is craftsmanship. It comes through practice.

*

summer morning...
a garden lizard drinks
the dewdrop on a leaf

(The Heron's Nest, June 2014)

*

Raamesh: You have stated many times that the teachings of Jiddu Krishnamurti have influenced you a great deal — you cite him saying “He considered 'looking' an art in itself”.

How difficult or easy was it for you to reconcile JK’s outlook with the haiku sensibility?

Ramesh: J Krishnamurti emphasised on this question: can you go through an experience completely without an experiencer? This manner of looking also works when we are in a state of observation as a haiku poet. I feel haiku moments happen when the mind is open. When we are fully present while we go through an experience. There is a possibility of becoming acutely aware of the moment.

*

sunrise...
I let the fish
bite my toes

(Soap Bubbles)

*

Raamesh: Teaching and writing are often in conflict with each other, each requiring complete dedication and different skills. How have you balanced these in your life? Has your writing influenced the way you teach, or vice-versa?

Ramesh: As a teacher, I have begun to believe in facilitating a learning process rather than teaching per se in class (the chalk and board). The teacher creates room for students to engage in exploring, thinking and raising questions. I feel it's the same when it comes to composing haiku. It is the cause of the experience that stands out, which resonates in the mind of the reader. The poet is not there anymore!

*

evening calm...
the sound of pencils
sketching on the cliff

(From Pebble To Pebble)

*

Raamesh: You’ve said in your interviews and essays that you love walking and bicycling, especially around nature, and that that’s where you get your inspiration from. Do tell us some of your most memorable walks or bicycle trips.

For many of us in urban areas, this is a dream at best. So what would you advise us to do?

Ramesh: I do enjoy cycling. But they are not exotic trips. I used to go from my house to the beach and back.

I do not recall any memorable trips. But there were moments in the cycle trips that were memorable, and those have become haiku:

My advice: if you drive a car, often you get to see only other vehicles, new models or old in front of you. If you are on a bicycle, you can pedal by the side of the road, you get to see the bright flame of the forest; on a low branch a golden oriole; or get the scent of fresh loaves as you pass by a bakery. Also, you find a new rhythm in your life. Occasionally at least, leave your car behind, tap your bicycle seat and go pedalling, whistling a familiar tune. I am sorry if it sounds like an advice! :)

*

village in the hills
a monkey looks into
the bike’s mirror

(First Published by Frogpond)

*

Raamesh: You have published several books of your haiku, and been translated into many languages (including Irish!). How has your experience been? You’ve also said that you don’t send your work to haiku to journals as much nowadays. So for those conflicted between publishing their own anthology and submitting to journals, would you share your experience with both?

Ramesh: My works have appeared in magazines published in India and abroad. Only two of my haiku collections have come out:

1.      Soap Bubbles
2.      From Pebble To Pebble

My first book, Soap Bubbles published by the Red Moon Press, was launched by author Shreekumar
Varma, and it was Glory Sasikala Franklin (the moderator of Glorioustimes) who sponsored the event in
2007. I take this opportunity to thank them again for supporting my literary endeavours.

It is necessary to send your works to high standard haiku journals because your poems get rejected. Rejection helps. You learn to write. However, it's not good spending time reading e-journals to the extent that you miss a beautiful sunset! It's better to walk around with a small notebook and a pencil.

*

cool evening –
a fish nudges a pebble
in the aquarium

(First published by Tiny Words)

*

Raamesh: Apart from haiku, you also dabble in free verse. You’ve mentioned that the two have different idioms – haiku restrains you from expressing emotions directly, while in a free verse you can pour them out, er, freely. Many poets I’ve known have had difficulty with these different mind-sets, sometimes keeping them in separate mental silos. Do you do the same, or do you let them cross-fertilise each other?

Ramesh: The practice of writing haiku has taught me how to write with restraint. I write the same way when I write free verse, preferring imagery to metaphor.

*

slight breeze . . .
the silent spin of
wooden wind chimes

(The Heron's Nest, March 2013)

*

Raamesh: You write both tanka and haiku. Though both are derived from Japanese literature, many writers write either one or the other. How have you managed to write both (and extremely well in both genres at that)? How do you ensure that your tanka is no more than a padded haiku, or that your tanka isn’t a haiku split over 5 lines?

How do you choose whether the subject material is suitable for tanka or haiku? This would be a great help for those early in their writing journey, trying to choose between tanka and haiku.

Ramesh: Tricky question! I am still learning the trade! ...and it will always be so.

One thing is clear. In a tanka there is room to express your feelings directly. We can be subjective. In a state of sensitivity and attention, if we get inspired, there is a possibility of the muse visiting us. The poem takes its form; later we can use our tools of craftsmanship.

*

searching for coins
in my pocket -
red seeds
collected by
my little daughter

(American Tanka issue 11)

*

Raamesh: Finally, what is your advice for a young writer starting out on haiku? Do you recommend they learn all the rules first, or do you recommend they plunge into writing, learning the rules on the way?

Ramesh: Both. He or she has to become familiar with the genre. Reading the masters will really help us get a perspective on the form. As far as writing is concerned, I believe in the words of the Tamil writer Sundara Ramasami. He says, "Write, that is the secret of writing."

writing on the porch...
a moth's wing touches
my hand

*

Raamesh: And with that our interview comes to an end. My best wishes.

Ramesh: Thank you for your thought-provoking questions, Raamesh! I enjoyed responding to them!

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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Angelee Deodhar – A life in haiku

This interview was published in the online blogzine GLO-TALK on Monday, June 30, 2014.

Haiku by Angelee Deodhar originally published in Mann Library’s Daily Haiku, March 2013, reproduced by permission of the author.



Haiku has been as misunderstood around the world as it has been famous. To most, it is a 5-7-5 verse in 3 lines. In a series of interviews with haiku poets from India, I'd love to break the myth, and bring to you the depth and beauty of this form, expressed in just three lines.

I begin with Dr. Angelee Deodhar. An ophthalmologist by profession, her first passion has always been writing. A chance reading of Potpourri, the American poetry journal, brought her to haiku in 1989. Like a poet who finally found her calling, she took to it immediately. Besides haiku, she is also an exponent of the haibun – a form that brings together the experiential essay and the haiku into a symphony of emotions.

She has led from the front in translating the works of Japanese poets into Indian languages, and has promoted the development of the form in the Hindi language. Interspersed with the questions are Angelee's haiku (reproduced with her kind permission).

*

RGR: What made you think haiku was your calling? How were your initial years writing haiku? You state in your interview with contemporary haiku master Robert D Wilson (Simply Haiku, Winter 2006, vol 4 no 4) that you struggled with the perception among Indian writers that it was no more than a 3-line poem, ignoring its unique semantic construct, objectivity, and sense of the moment?

AD: I had never heard of haiku till I was in a hospital bed in 1989-1990. So if it was a ‘calling’ I certainly didn’t know it existed. I was familiar with English language poetry and had written longer poems and short stories, but then I discovered haiku – It was love at first read and that affair has continued.

I wrote to the Japanese Embassy in Delhi to get an idea of what haiku was. They Xerox-ed a couple of pages in which I found Mr. William J. Higginsons’ address and wrote to him. He very kindly sent me a signed copy of his Haiku Handbook. Then I got a copy of Lucien Stryks book ‘A cage of fireflies’ as a gift from my husband. Many months later I was fortunate to come across Ms. Liz Fenn who ran an international haiku library (at the Haiku Conservatory, USA) from which one could borrow a book, read it, and send it back by post. She was very kind to me and sent me several books free of cost. I studied from them, noting down passages and haiku and then sent the book back.

Meanwhile, I tentatively started sending out my three liners to various journals. Those days one had to correspond by snail mail and send a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) and wait for several weeks for a reply. Here I would like to mention several editors who published my work: Patrick Frank of Point Judith Light, David Priebe of Haiku Headlines, Ken C. Liebman of Frogpond, Robert Spiess of Modern Haiku and several others. There was no one in India whom I could turn to, write to or discuss anything as ELH was unheard of.

Then in 2000, came the World Haiku Festival organized by Mr. Susumu Takiguchi in London and Oxford which is where I met a number of wonderful haijin from several countries. My haiku world blossomed and I heard of R.H. Blyth for the first time from Ms. Ikuyo Yoshimura. I met Jim Kacian, Max Verhart, Ion Codrescu,Visjna McMaster, Phillip D. Noble,the late Martin Lucas and several others. Still there weren’t many books to consult. I bought one book here, one book there and added to my haiku library as best I could. Some haijin were kind enough to give me their books.

On my return from England, I met Prof. Satyabhushan Verma the exponent of haiku in Hindi, who had published several haiku in an inland format from 1979. Many Hindi haiku groups sprang up,subsequently, but the credit for the first haiku club in India goes to the Late Prof. Satyabhushan Verma and to think I knew nothing about Hindi haiku either! Such ignorance!

*

meeting new friends
a flight of pigeons
rain-wet pavement

*

RGR: We all evolve in our writing, as we do in life. From 1989 to 2014, do you notice any changes in your writing style? Looking back at your early work, would you think of revising it now?

AD: In two and a half decades of learning about haiku I have understood one thing, that all writing is a lonely calling – to write a passable haiku one must be alone much – observe and respond from a felt depth. My earliest efforts were just pretty three liners and although the editors were kind enough to publish them, I feel they lack a lot.

I have never looked back to ‘revise’ an old haiku. I write spontaneously about what I see or feel, and work/rework that haiku till I find it works for me and catches the moment. I learn every day.

*

bonfire festival –
all the songs of my youth
sung by grandchildren

*

RGR: What is your haiku secret? What keeps you going, through the hundreds of haiku you've written. It's hard to choose one's 'best' haiku, but were I to force you to choose, which would it be?

AD: I don’t know if there is a secret formula, but I try to live in the now of every waking moment. I listen, observe, interact and then respond with a haiku/haibun. I do not have any favourite haiku but I will share my jisei (death poem) with you

                      water worn boulder
                        so smooth now
                        against callused feet

*

RGR: The environment has changed too – there are many more journals today, and haiku publishing (like all else) has moved from print to web. Has the resultant abundance of journals made it easier for people to write and publish haiku – or do you think it has led to compromises, as editors scramble to fill volumes within the deadlines?

AD: Yes, in the last couple of decades things have changed drastically, some for the better some for the worse.

Firstly, the web presence of haiku-related material has mushroomed, to say nothing of Facebook groups, personal blogs, etc. While this plethora of haiku-like material is available at a click to everyone, it has led to just about any short thing – one word, one line, two lines, or three lines – being passed off as a haiku. This is distressing.

Secondly, neophyte haijin are not responding to genuine experiences, but are writing desk-ku. Their absolute desperation to get on to any blog or site is obviously detrimental to the quality of the genre, which deserves deeper study and contemplation.

Thirdly, however, there are some fine, erudite free resources (too numerous to mention here) from which one can learn a lot. Online haiku, haibun and tanka journals are excellent places to learn from and the editors are trying their best to give a fair representation of the work they receive, most of which is very good. In that way present day haijin are very fortunate indeed. Still a book is a book…now Amazon, Flipkart etc are carrying haiku books which one can get easily.

*

in sudden squall
the gently swaying
abandoned swing

*

RGR: Not content with being merely a masterful poet, you have made translation a mission of your literary career to translate ELH and Japanese haiku into Hindi. When did you conceive of this idea? Did you have any qualms and insecurities as you started on your journey?

AD: I wanted haijin writing in Hindi to understand the basic concepts of ELH, going beyond the 5-7-5 form, and hence the translations, the bilingual site of Haiku Sansaar and the English pages of Haiku Darpan.

*

As regards my jump into the bilingual haiku pond of translations, with my first book about Masaoka Shiki I was filled with trepidation. But it was favourably received specially by Hindi haijin even though the translations were not in the 5-7-5 pattern. I conceived of this idea in Ogaki, Japan when I met Ms. Minako Noma who had translated Shiki’s haiku from Japanese to English.She very kindly arranged to get me the permission to translate Shiki’s work into Hindi.

The funds for this book came from my aunt, a saadhvi and the credit for assistance in translations goes to my late husband Dr. Shridhar D. Deodhar who had excellent Hindi.

*

-in the monastery
rising above the plainchant
a warbler’s half note

*

RGR: You have made publishing an act of selflessness – giving away precious works such as Ogura Hyakunin Isshu and The Distant Mountain to students who seek them. Why have you chosen not to profit from your work, even as many haijin in the West and Japan have opened successful haiku publishing houses?

AD: Since I had had a rough time trying to get books on haiku, I decided to make my six bilingual books available to everyone in India and abroad. Here again the generosity of finances and time given to my efforts in translation go to my husband and the secretarial work/editing to my son. I was given emotional support by a lot of haiku friends worldwide. I must mention the generosity of Jim Kacian who sent me a sack full of books which I shared with friends.

*

sharing an umbrella
your wet left shoulder
my right one

*

RGR: Looking back at your quarter century, what are the mistakes you made? What did you do that you would advise a beginner (like this interviewer) to not do?

AD: I would have liked to learn Japanese and also come to know about haiku in my school days. To this end I have tried my best to get haiku into the Indian school syllabus.

My advice for what its worth, would be to write every day, everywhere, about everything – a phrase, a fragment, a word and not worryabout its publication. Read, read, read every day.

*

an I.V. line
anchors me to the monitor
thoughts still wander

*

And lastly, we wish you a long career still ahead of you.

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Monday, June 09, 2014

Ten things you unfortunately can't do in the new Mumbai Metro

1. Board the train at the carshed
2. Board a train before it stops fully
3. Hang from the footboard
4. Fight for the fourth seat
5. Form a bhajan mandali or play cards
6. Paste Baba Bangali posters
7. Ask someone to put your bag on the rack, squeezing it impossibly between 15 other bags
8. Rush to board the 'video coach'
9. Spit paan out of the window as the train passes Thane creek
10. Travel by the handicapped section pretending to be deaf

11. Bonus: Contort your body into amazing shapes to get a foothold and a handhold

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