Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ramtokto pokto is burning!

I've been wondering what to post next on my blog. Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. I said to myself, time and again, "Write something; your next post has been long overdue; do justice to your blog which you so passionately nurtured to life." But yet stood as it is, like the clichéd dorje tabue ku, same number of posts with the same number of followers; no tangible change came forth. And so passed the second month after my last post! 

I do not know if words engraved on the face of my blog could speak but last night they did. I woke up when everyone was long dead – dead yet breathing in their slumber. After 90 minutes of European Championship live action which saw some top European Soccer Guns misfiring and displaying the worst performance in many years, it was almost dawn when I hit my bag. And not long after sleep shut all my senses out, albeit superficially for a passing moment, I had words from my blog talking to me! It sounded like from across valleys and ridges, yet the message was loud and clear –  they were pleading for generosity in unison. They wanted me to pen down pieces and keep the supply flowing.

So, I have chosen today, of all days, to post a poem which I have written sometime in March. I was staying in Babesa then and was witness to the wild fire which raged and razed the distant Ramtokto hillside. The heavens did not open during the fire, but wept incessantly, after the flames had been doused. 

It was a sunny warm breezy day
With my mood a high gleeful gay
The sun was high over my head
and I lay like a man dead

But now the sun's gone
Did you take it John?
I looked into the azure sky
and wished I'd rather die

The sky was but filled with smoke
Surely now, the gods will holy choke
The shining steely globe
Was marooned like a man in robe

The hill on the other side was burning
Big black smoke it was churning
The red inferno set a stag on fire
Left a crippled doe in a need so dire

Limbs raced and dashed up the hill
It was akin to a military drill
Fought they hard, the battle
Able to save, they did, a few cattle

When the sun was down and dark
And when there was but not even a lark
I thought it was all dead and doused
But in the dark were some embers aroused

So it raged and burned all night
With not a drop of rain in sight
Inestimable creatures were maimed and charred
When dawn broke, the hillside was all but scarred

High above the heavenly cloud
Few wept and many cried aloud
Grieved were they, by the scars
Just a few miles from where ply cars

Inconsolable were their pain
Would have brimmed by their tears, a drain
Disturbed and distressed, were the gods
That they finally burst open, to the earthly lords...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Tinkle that still Twinkles

Reading has always fascinated me; it brought this huge world toffee apple right in front of me to be unwrapped layer by layer holding tightly onto its slender stick. And that I would do in any way it pleased me – sitting near the bhukhari on my woolly yak hide, saddled on a high bench in the front porch, comfortably upholstered in the ‘V’ of my favorite peach or willow tree and sometimes secluded among heaps of hay in the barn. In the winter, reading in the balcony with my back angled rightly to the sun was also one of my favorite spots. And in the summer, I would run in search of the best shade to flip my pages and enter a completely different world – a world of fantasy as much as reality.

As a young kid, I grew up watching my elder brothers involve themselves in binge reading in between the farm duties that a bucolic life in the village demands. Their out of the ordinary interest and passion for books created a conducive environment for me and before long I became a big fan of Tinkle Comics, Wisdom, Children’s Digest and Target magazine. I can still remember very clearly the days when my brothers would make me run errands for them, and in return I would ask for books to read. That much was my love for reading from a very tender beginning. And looking back, I am glad I began that way because it was the right way. 

From a very humble Tinkle beginning, I switched my taste to books with thicker spines and longer plots. Novels fitted in seamlessly and during my academic break, I would become a silent and lone figure among the trees, bushes, meadows and prayer flags, completely absorbed, heart and soul into the spectacle woven by others; unfurling these romance, thrillers, humour and suspense at my own whim and fancy became my daily ritual.

And back to twinkling Tinkle, I must indeed be very thankful to Anand Pai AKA Uncle Pai, the founding father of Tinkle comics for indirectly providing me with a direct wholesome combination of education and entertainment. The characters from his ‘immortal picture stories’ became my best literary friends and my imagination and fantasy world revolved around them. 

Today, some sixteen years after my maiden tryst with Tinkle, I would like to pay my tributes to the characters which were my best friends for a good part of my childhood years. 

First Suppandi – the village simpleton who misreads his master’s commands leading to a chain of laughing-matter for the readers. He was one of my favorites and he had me wondering if he had had a brain in his head. Suppandi led me to name my high school principal Suppandi, not because he was Suppandi-like in brains but because he brought fond memories of Suppandi…some Suppandic connection between the two! No offence intended on either though. 

Tantri the Mantri, the scheming minister, who never succeeds in his quest to depose Raja Hooja; in fact all his plans eventually boomerang. Towards the latter part of my reading days, I pitied him because he was that one guy who would just not give up. The proverbial ‘try and try, until you succeed’ never materializes here. Poor Tantri. 

Kalia the Crow is another favorite. I closely followed this intelligent crow’s adventures which includes saving his friends Keechu and Meechu from Doob-doob the croc and Chamataka the Jackal. As a young kid, I would think of every crow as the savior Kalia despite the nuisances and menaces it caused at times.

Ajay, the detective was also a great read. The youngest and smartest detective in town is always there just in time to solve a mystery with the help of his mentor, inspector Sharma. Ajay and Sharma would later thrust themselves in the picture when I would read the adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

How could I ever forget to mention Shikari Shambu. Shambu, a timid, blasé and sluggish hunter is often literally dragged by the villagers and his wife who believes that he is fearless and could take up daunting tasks. And providentially, he manages to survive and accomplish the task. I remember enacting Shambu – The Shikari scenes with my friends while out in the forest collecting firewood. Well, truly that Shikari has come a long way to tell tales. 

I also deeply liked reading the adventures of Nasruddin Hodja, a witty man who outsmarts people. His character is actually based on the Turkish Mullah Nasreddin and it brought telltale signs of similarities with our own Ap Wang Drugay.

The adventures of Kapish, Ramu and Shamu, Inna, Minah, Mynah, Mo – all equally thrilling characters – also kept me reading and reading. 

In retrospect, I owe each one of them a great deal for standing by me; for being my best friends through rain and shine and most precious of all, for leaving inside me an indelible thirst to read more.

So, dear friends, read and read because reading is much more than a pastime; it’s a friend of a lifetime, for you may leave a book behind but a book trails you like a shadow!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Beautiful Game

I had a rather belated tryst with games and sports, football in particular.  I developed myopia early on in life (too much reading in poor light solely attributable to the erratic power supply from Chumey Mini Hydel which then generated only 0.5 kilowatt of power) and that more or less kept me away from all the fun. I had this weird thick lens old man’s glass to care for and that literally barred me from the entire school playground spectacle. 

I knew something was not going right with my pair of eyes but every time the health people visited my school for their annual Eye Camp, I would cheat in the reading; by the time my turn came I would be ready with the letters in the right sequence on the Snellen Eye Chart – learnt by heart!  At the end of the day, I would be relieved for not having to wear the ‘dreaded’ glass for another one year. I would do this year in year out until when I could not remember the letters anymore nor could I read them at all. Everyone was surprised and few were upset when the first glass I wore had a lens reading of -3.75. Well that’s too high a lens power for a beginner and many inquisitively asked me how it happened. Well…it was my own creation and I lamented in the aftermath. It’s a strange feeling in retrospect – one of a kind which arises when you fail for yourself because you were short-sighted both in sight and thought.

Back to the beautiful game, football took the world by storm; it is now the most loved, played and watched sporting event on the planet. I became a passionate football follower after the 2002 World Cup. Every evening after dinner while the family would be engaged in their usual post-dinner chitchat, I would lay down my favourite yak hide around the fireplace and cut all those Ronaldo, Beckham, Zidane, Seaman, Ronaldhino, Rivaldo, Khan, Owen, Batistuta (you name them, I got them all) pictures from newspapers and meticulously glue them in my scrap book. I still have the memorabilia in one piece. Today, my 7-year- old nephew flaunts it with pride to his friends. During one of my most recent visits, he showed me his own addition with the likes of Rooney, Nani, Gerrard, Arshavin, Park, Ronaldo, Forlan, Persie, Messi, and his favourite Chelsea star Lampard among others. Every time he sees a new player, he finds a place in the book. 

I had my first taste of English Premiership football back in high school, which arguably is the best League in the world. Few live matches on TV and the next dramatic thing was that I had adopted Manchester United as the team that I would support. Today I follow the Red Devils with passion. Although a keen follower of football and the whole shebang, I took to the pitch only on countable occasions while in high school. And when I played, sometimes it was my eyes that got hurt, sometimes the ‘old man’s glass.’ So I imposed a moratorium on my football by keeping my pair of ‘windows to the world’ intact – just to be on the safer side.

Although football used to form a large chunk of class room gossip and interval debates in college, I rarely kicked it seriously. Once, we organized a game of football under the South Indian sun, I nearly had my shin in cracks, even though our local counterparts played barefoot. My Indian friends kicked and curled the ball with barefoot as good as we did with boots – even better; no wonder why they opted to play minus the boots when they qualified for their first ever World Cup in 1950. Regrettably, FIFA turned down their request.

Football is all that I look forward to during my weekends. A Manchester United game makes my weekend spicier although it disappoints me when they drop points or exit a Cup competition. Most often than not, it is ‘a heart in mouth’ moment at the edge of my seat.

For all the joy and passion it weaves into a billion hearts the world over, here’s wishing a great year of football both on the screen and on the pitch. Sincere condolences to all those hurt in Egypt – well that was war, not football, to quote one of the Al-Ahly players.

Monday, January 30, 2012

An Insomniac night

I simply could not fall asleep last night. I tossed and turned for what seemed like an eternity. I tried to focus on each pint of oxygen I inhaled and exhaled. I let myself out of the four-walled confines of my bedroom and floated aimlessly into a far away meadow. It was lush green surrounded by giant oaks with trunks as huge as you could imagine. I was to seek refuge in its aura, in its captivating scenes. With the wind playing its tune in the rustle of leaves, I longed to slumber till the morning sunrise. But not long after the crackle of leaves, I was staring blankly at the ceiling - once again. Sleep was still a million miles away and I was losing precious patience.

For each labored effort I made to drug myself to sleep, I was greeted by a much stronger, opposite reaction. At the end I was as wide awake as a startled doe. I thought about office and worried getting late to work. I checked the time. I recalled hitting the sack ages ago. The clock was ticking way over to the other side of midnight. The hand on the wall clock was hitting incessantly and, at one point, I thought I was going to be put to sleep by its monotonous ticking music. But the ticking sound and twinkling stars were all united in their conspiracy to keep me awake. Even the window pane and the zinc sheet on the roof creaked in the chill just to keep my sleeping senses awake and alert. And here I was again…staring dreamily into the dark with a million hazy thoughts in my head.

I was completely defeated, battered and bruised in my battle to enter slumberland. I do not exactly remember but as far as my memory could go, I have never had such difficulty at bedtime. When I was in college I never use to come home during the short Christmas break. It used to be a very short break, so I thought why make it shorter by spending three days inside a metal snake chugging almost the entire length of the Indian sub-continent. During those ‘free’ times I would become an Owl - staying up way past midnight, watching movies and then going to bed just as the sun would come up. But otherwise I had always been a morning Lark although at times situation would force me into becoming a Hummingbird. So now what is the problem with me? Like I have said earlier, I was never an insomniac.

After trying out almost every conceivable solution up my sleeve, I visited the loo, came back and downed a glass of water…and with it all my impending sleepiness. I was back to square one coaxing sleep to get the better of me. But like a nagging child, it simply would not heed my request. It wanted to play its own game…in my bed.

Of late, something unusual has been happening to me - totally out of the ordinary and uncharacteristic of what otherwise used to be a dead man’s sleep. As soon as I lay my head onto my pillow, instead of sleep smoothly sweeping over me for good, nostalgia slither in - uninvited and uncalled for, creating space aplenty for wakefulness. And when you’re deprived of a much-needed sleep, you do not know what you are going to do next because it is dead of the night and there isn’t much life around. So all that you can do is keep your sleeplessness to yourself and pretend you are sleeping like a log. Deep inside and under those layers of blanket and quilt, you’re still very much alive and active. And that’s something very atypical! And that’s when man become ghost.