17 May, 2008

Summer Upstaged

Every time I walk onstage,
Matchstick figure taking an age
To go up, somewhere 1812 Overture
Is playing - whisper at first,
Then rising, soaring...like
An unbounded limit.
That's what I hear - alone.

The darkened dias and familiar ghosts
Flitting by the gloomy pillars.

"Presenting the phantom of the Opera himself!"
Sanyal booms and Fr. Boris, SJ grins
And grimaces himself onto the stage.

"It was the San Souci theatre before.'"
A once-portly friend never tires of proclaming;
I did a stentorian Bushism there once -
"The university of Tagore's works!"
Universality. Damn! Didn't really have to
Kick myself: there are always many
To return that sorta favour.

Basu and Kanti('Panty'!) in the spotlight - bantering away,
Tonks and I a year later, the very same way;
And of course old Agni's brainchild - the play.

Bunked classes to hear the piano, like
Devotees in some darkened fane
Arcane and ancient among empty seats:
Sometimes avoiding a terrible row
(Sometimes a comely teacher in tow).

"Aruni Roy Chowdhury, please come blackstage!"
I was right behind the silly bugger;
Chap's in the Defence Academy,
Silly bugger fore'er he'll be!

I'm beginning to admire the Bard (yeah, again),
Rolling my tongue aroung the apostrophes,
Still having trouble working things out
Especially the part about 'exits' and 'stage'.

When the party's over (really, so fast?), the job's all done,
And you're hanging back maybe for last "well done";
But the backslaps and bearhugs are done for the day,
All you're doing is being in the way.
It's time to put back the chairs and put out the lights
And close that door with the softest of clicks.

14 May, 2008

Lost (and found) in translation

"And the twain shall ever meet...."

I have spent a happy weekend translating Macbeth's soliloquoy into Quenya. The pointlessness of the venture inspired me all the more.

Entore, entore ar entore
Oiosintane pitya rangasse
Areltonnar aurelto,
Ana telda quetta onotima yaresse;
Ar ilya vanwe vanwa cale alnola
I malennar qualmasto . . .
Metta, metta! Nauca calma,
Cuile na nan vantalomin,
Larquen tyaro ya orme lumerya
Or i paca, ar sanvanwa.
Nyarna avaquetima i faica!
Quanta in lama, ar aha,
Tancole lusta . . .



(The accents/diareses/et cetera are quite beyond my patience to insert)


To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

-- Macbeth (V.v.19)

11 May, 2008

The darling buds of May





The month first puts me in the mood of May it be... Unlike my friend Tonks, no, I don't use it to fall asleep. It use it as an accessory for transcendental stimulation of the subconcious. It just looks like I'm dozing off, for pete's sake!

May Day of course is entwined with memories, both hilarous and sad. It was on a blazing, sweaty May Day that I found myself ascending the shadowy stairs to the spooky abode of Mr. Samuel Framroze Engineer for the first and second-last time in my life. The only FTCL (Piano) in India. He had a large dalmatian (Zeus) which had a curious affinity for Tonks' posterior as Engineer took his piano lessons.
I never asked him to play something for me. Never asked him anything much really.
He'd gone off Upstairs quite some time back. May Day brought it back to me. A fleeting touch in my life, not of any intrinsic importance. But his playing, his playing . . .

The second of the month was my maternal grandfather's birthday. Surely he's stinking of nicotine with the Upstairs-man, chain smoker that he was. It was also the birthday of film-maker Satyajit Ray. They shared quite a few laughs too, my mother tells me, these men that shared their birthdays. Whatever. That past is lesser than a ghost.
And on it goes, the fourth,the fifth, the minor chord, the major sixth....
The eighth. Rabindra Jayanti. I have spent one-third of my life every year in the programme on Tagore's birthday. Voiceover to the play, emcee to the programme. Cannot remember the time when I sat in the audience to see the performances in the college auditorium. This year: nothing.

I can see myself partially reflected in the window panes. Half-light and the rest the view outside. The mind can concieve of everything, everywhere and everywhen. The monoliths of the past, through the smoke-rings of my mind. Argosies of achievements (magnitude is relative to the scale of the observer, remember pray) floating down the uncharted seas of eternity. And the future a multiverse of possibility - to grasp and forge one's own path.
Yet, yet in the grand solitude of the gifted, it does not do to not value the present. The here and the now. The distant birdcalls, cars, scattered books. The taste of burgers standing the test of time.

Then take me disappearin' through the smoke rings of my mind,
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves,
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach,
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow.
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands,
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves,
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to.
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.

03 May, 2008

Gusts of glory

Sudden. Abrupt.

Hurried to the terrace, hauled by the violent winds, dust forming zephyrs, flinging around rubbish I hadn't noticed before.

And then, before I could savor it fully, it was gone. The lightning bared it's teeth a bit, and the wind was still a bit high. Is all.

Compliments. Rare.

I am highly judgmental. And perennially talking behind peoples' backs.
But guess what, I make sure I'm the first one to tell 'em all about it.
The source of the credo? A part of Asimov's Second Foundation. The First Speaker's words to a neophyte:

"It is possible to glean the true feelings behind even the most skilfully constructed mental shield. No, rather keep your mind open and visible to all, and learn to discipline your own thoughts before trying to obfuscate the vision of others . . . "

Words behind my back are so ... audible to me.
One speaketh: "Aruni's so - so frank about everything. Right on your face he'll say everything."
Another answereth: "So, isn't that something to learn?"

Made my day, that. *sheepish grin*
It is easy to confuse forthrightness with the bluntness of a cudgel. Through many buffets, I've finally managed to make the fine distinction. It pays to be a man for all seasons. As long as you want to.
There are many lives that I've touched that remind me of Dante's Trimmers. The one's that had 'trimmed' their sails to suit and follow every wind and tide that came their way. Ne'er held firm the rudder to steer their own course, forge their own destiny rather than ride on others' coattails (infinitely easier though it is).
They are the ones who are forever marooned, neither here not there.

02 May, 2008

No leave required

What does one say to a teacher who was widely reviled for her strict discipline and nagging behaviour, and as widely respected for her encyclopedic knowledge of her subject and an unwaveringly principled character? What does one say, especially if the recipient has passed beyond the reach of mortal voices?

Universally 'Maggie', Mrs. Mridula Goswami was a first class first in physical chemistry from Calcutta University, and teaching at Xavier's for ... ages. We were her last batch of 12s before retirement and definitely one of the worst mannered. This post is as much an obituary (unneeded) as a cathartic purgatory for the havoc we wreaked upon the poor lady's nerves.
Still, I remember the satisfaction at having gotten the second highest in chem. despite her notorious marking scheme.
She was battling cancer and passed away last week. Here's a toast (in test-tubes, mind) to her in wherever the teachers' Valhalla is located. Serenaded by rate constants and served by Avogadro!
Mrs. Goswami loved (to the point of swooning) Tanmoy's piano. I'm sure he would oblige for a last Traumarie in her memory.

01 May, 2008

on the waterfront (er...side)

A short break from the monotony of usual days. A much needed lunch out at the behest of a friend.
Waterside cafe almost put me back in my old mood - merrily mimicking fellow diners, among whom hags predominated (alas!). Not to mention pseudo-Victorian tourists.
I hate it when women are taller than me. Call me a chauvinist if you would.

Nota Bene: Tanmoy, have a care when you comment!

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