Thursday, March 25, 2010

Trees are dear but Shama is dearer…

I have spotted Shama very few times, it is found in forest with streams and open glade, and is such a shy bird that the moment it sights any human in its vicinity it flies away (“gosh I had enough of these humans!”). Glossy black upper half and bright chestnut lower, it has long graduated tail, and is known for its melodious song. Generally seen feeding on ground for insects and fallen fruits, is the first one to take to flight on any hint of danger. This bird is similar to Magpie robin in many ways, except that magpie prefer open countryside and don’t seem to have any problem with humans (indeed I had a magpie robin chasing me some time back!). Shama though is a different bird, a forest dweller in colorful attire and an attitude to match. For me sighting Shama has always been a memorable experience, tricky part was getting the picture. Somehow I managed, it really doesn’t compromise on shyness!. O what a delicate looking bird, what a sight. But the camera cannot capture its music!!. Maybe if possible in future when I have more money (that looks unlikely, I am seriously slipping into debt!!), would record the sound too. It is quite challenging. I did have a cassette of bird notes, I bought it from WWF shop (Lodhi Rd Delhi if I got it right) quite possibly in 1998-99. There are also some excellent websites that do have notes of birds but again the problem is many internet café don’t have headphones. When they do have one you have forgotten about listening!.

Kuvempu a dazzling star in the sky

Kuvempu (real name KV Puttappa: 1904-1994) was one the most revered poets of Kannada language in recent times, his pictures could seen everywhere in Karnataka. He is been credited to have revived the era of epic poetry, is regarded as poet philosopher. He also gave Kannada language new words, phrases (this led to common people asking him to suggest name for their newborns!). Kuvempu’s amazing repertoire of literary contribution includes Sri Ramayanadarshana in which he gave different interpretation to the characters of Ramayana, a complete work of Ramayana in Kannada. He was awarded the highest literary award of the country “Jnanpeeth” for this effort. The picture herein is from manuscript of first page of Ramayanadarshana in Kuvempu’s own handwriting. His poems and talks on universal humanism are very popular among people.. He writes “The Religion of Humanity, the Universal Path, the Welfare of All Reconciliation, the Integral Vision – these five mantras should become view of the future. In other words, what we want henceforth is not this religion or that religion, but then Religion of Humanity; not this path or that path but then Universal Path; not the wellbeing of this individual or that individual, but the Welfare of All; not turning away and breaking off from one another, but reconciling and uniting in concord and harmony; and above all, not the partial view of narrow creed, not the dual outlook of the material and the spiritual, but the Integral Vision of seeing all the things with the eye of the Divine”.

There is a beautiful website on Kuvempu ( where they have posted an incident wherein Kuvempu explains the greatness of weaver bird, I really liked that one but the site has copyright so I wrote a email requesting access to that paragraph onto my blog, they haven’t replied, if it is affirmative I will paste it at the earliest (otherwise readers can visit the website, please read it really is worth it).

These lines from poems of Kuvempu that is translated from Kannada I got it from Sahitya Akademi (Bengaluru) library. These are not complete poems but few lines from each…

Darkness gives us glimpses of world far, far away
what the day conceals, the night reveals.
The splendor of the sky far exceeds the charm of the earth
Life is like the day, death like the night.
If life lights up this world, death illumines
the grandeur of imm
Is it life that is blind?
Is it death that has splendid eyes?

I like the poem “The tree’s shadow” a lot, it is an image we see everyday and haven’t given much thought about. That is where greatness of Kuvempu comes in (shadows are tied and tells me about my freedom!. Quite an incredible conception that one). I quote few charming lines from the translated version of the poem.

Look again!
The tree’s shadow
Is there lying there as usual!
This reign of regulations troubles me
like the curse of generations.
I am anxious to swallow and
and transcends these rules-

That tree’s shadow
like spilt ink on the green field
lies lengthily like an ill omen.
Its innocent silent speech disturbs
my soul with its wail and remind me
of the message of freedom
which I have forgotten

These amazing lines from “Clouds

Clouds? No not clouds but fairest spirits
are these, purest souls, like Christ, like the Buddha
beings that have been here, or will be,
moods from the high, meditation, earth’s bliss!

Kuvempu is someone I have started to like immensely
(Indian literature is so wide with so many languages that we really don’t know many of these great souls from regional languages nor do I recall studying about them in school [children in government schools in Karnataka do sing Kuvempu as part of morning prayer. Isn’t that wonderful?!). It is failure of the education system. It is a shame. There should be a subject on “knowing the literary icons” from different Indian languages, as also some amazing people from other countries, in schools]. The more you know about him more you know how great he was. His words are so vibrant that you don’t think he is dead.

I was in Mysuru (Mysore) sometime back and thought of walking to Kuvempu’s house early morning. Its about 4Km from bus stand and Mysore is one of my favorite cities (such a charming place that one) and a great place for morning walks. “Udayagiri”- Kuvempu’s home, was where he spent last decades of his life. This small poem I wrote the other day would have found appreciation with Kuvempu (I like to think that way!!). I was in Western Ghats a week back (I am thinking of making it a regular feature…but the travel in state buses can be back breaking!) and saw this sight early morning and had to express in verse, don’t know whether I succeeded. It is something that comes as impulse, like a lightening of words, from somewhere inside and lo they call it poem!. And yes I too like it…

Be still my heart

There are so many desires
that shrouds life
and then
the sight of butterfly
on morning glory
sunlight splitting through.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Same Thrush !!

In an earlier blog I had written about white throated ground thrush but the photos were not proper and I could have uploaded these new photos to that blog like have done with Red whiskered Mynas, Brahminy Kites, Magpie Robin and so on. Somehow I love these birds and so decided to put it in my new post. These are quite lovely but very secretive birds, they avoid flocks and are mostly solitary or found in pairs. A shy and quiet bird promptly flies away when disturbed and sits motionless for threat to pass before resuming its quest. The distinguishing feature of Orange headed found in the southern part of the country is two oblique lines on the white chin, as if they have put mascara. These birds prefer forest with damp shady thickets and that is precisely where I found this beauty. Seen rummaging on fallen leaves and debris, tossing them around to search for insects and berries. Then it froze to lookout for threat then it ran disappearing, appearing, disappearing, appearing in the woods and to new spot to rummage…it really was an ordeal to get these pictures but what great fun and I really enjoyed following this charming busy bird. With time and persistence I did gain some trust, it came quite near to say “hello you want to take my pictures do you?!!” and then flew away just about giving me few seconds to click the above pic. Moments of joy in birding.

Ruben Dario “the child poet”

Ruben Dario (1867-1916) was a legendary poet of Central America (loosely described as Hispanic), though born in Nicaragua his influence spread across nations. He was the forerunner of modernism in Spanish-American literature. A precocious child he started to write quite early and by the time he was 13 years was well known across the country as “child poet”. There is an incident that happened in1882 when Dario at the age of 15 had a chance to pursue a scholarship which would have given him the opportunity to study in Europe. However, after reading his poem “El Libro” (The Book) in front of President Joaquin Zavala and other conservative Nicaraguan Authorities, he was denied. The president declared his poems too liberal. He feared that Europe would further influence his liberal and anti-religious views.

Dario traveled across the Central American countries starting with teaching career at El Salvador and then working at newspapers (as also as member of diplomatic delegations and later as ambassador to Spain) in Chile, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and most importantly in Argentina. He also used these opportunities to travel abroad to Spain, France and so on. This was the reason for his influence across the countries as he involved himself deeply into not only on the cultural scenes of the countries he visited but also with the political leadership, his coterie of friends included heads of states and other dignitaries. He died at a relatively young age with alcoholism related illnesses.

These two poems of his I found in the net:

On the Death of a Poet

Only the Swans that day
Saw the high maker of our thoughts embark
And o the Lake Mysterious fade away
In the black ship that crosses to the dark.

The poet's robe was his,
Embroidered with illustrious fleurs-de-lys;
And laurel leaf and thorn
His sad prefigured forehead did adorn.

Afar God's City rose,
Where everlasting Peace her throne has reared
Above the poppy-meadows of repose;
And as the coat of his desire he neared,
He proved divine delight, knew grace untold,
Beheld the Cross uplifted and, before
That sacred Conqueror,
The fallen Sphinx, a corpse already cold.

The tree is happy because it is scarcely sentient;
the hard rock is happier still, it feels nothing:
there is no pain as great as being alive,
no burden heavier than that of conscious life.

To be, and to know nothing, and to lack a way,
and the dread of having been, and future terrors...
And the sure terror of being dead tomorrow,
and to suffer all through life and through the darkness,

and through what we do not know and hardly suspect...
And the flesh that temps us with bunches of cool grapes,
and the tomb that awaits us with its funeral sprays,
and not to know where we go,
nor whence we came!...

This I wrote the other day

Binaries in the brain

In the depth of the night
forgotten ones
don’t wait for summons these days
they come dressed for picnic
with handbags, caps and savories.
I sitting about the tree
dents in the grass
warmth in the air.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lesser golden back woodpecker

I have written about woodpecker in an earlier blog, woodpeckers have same behavioral traits except that they differ in their color and habitats.

"Enough for me to die on her earth"

Fadwa Touqan (1917-2003) was one of the best known Palestinian poet who expressed a nation's sense of loss and defiance. Though she started with non nationalistic poems (inclined to be more sensual and social) she acquired distinct nationalist fervor after 1967 Israeli occupation. Israel, however, was not her only foe. Arab society and in particular its treatment of women was her constant concern. In her autobiography, translated as Mountainous Journey (1990), she describes how Arab women were hidden in the household like frightened birds in a crowded coop. The war was blessing in disguise “When the roof of Palestine fell,” she wrote “the veil fell off the face of women.”

This poem ‘Enough for me’ quoted below is quite popular, I also like it but the line ‘child from my country’ spoils it for me. I guess Israelis and Palestinians live in a unique situation (its like animals born in captivity and how they differ from free), I feel sad for them, decades of barricaded world has created people who are getting abnormal. Even the best of them can be so narrow; it nevertheless is an excellent poem.

Enough for me to die on her earth
be buried in her
to melt and vanish into her soil
then sprout forth as a flower
played with by a child from my country.
Enough for me to remain
in my country's embrace
to be in her close as a handful of dust
a sprig of grass
a flower.

Political poems work within boundaries, it tends to take the truth from it and fall into jingoism that kills it beauty. However it does inspire people, take pride in their roots and give them cultural context for struggle against injustice. Moshe Dayan, the Israeli general, likened reading one of Touqan's poems to facing 20 enemy commandos!.

In turn Touqan was also inspired by the struggle against occupation

When the hurricane swelled and spread its deluge
of dark evil
onto the good green land
They gloated...
“The tree has fallen!”
Had the tree really fallen?
not while the red wine of our torn limbs

feed the thirsty roots,
Arab roots alive
tunneling deep, deep, into the land!

It was demanded by some men that she devote herself to political poetry. “How,” she asked, could they ask that when “I am shut up within these walls? I don’t sit with men, I don’t listen to their heated discussions, nor do I participate in the turmoil of life outside. I’m still not even acquainted with the face of my own country as I was not allowed to travel.”.

I liked this poem ‘Freedom’


My freedom
I shall carve the words in the
chisel their sounds
over every door in the Levant...
below the slope at every street
corner inside the prison
within the torture chamber.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The rufous babbler

Babblers are cantankerous birds, so loud sometimes that I don’t prefer them. Rufous babblers though are confined only to Western Ghats and these snaps also happen to be my first sighting of these birds. I spotted them inside the deep forest of silent valley. Unfortunately my recent visit to silent valley was not really an experience I cherish. You should book your slot before you reach here or wait for a day. The warden though a nice man was not keen on tourists, he had his views that I seem to agree with. Too many visitors spoils the place (kerala is a model state for eco tourism. This blogger also would like to point out the ‘Green Budget’ presented by the finance minister of Kerala Thomas Issac, it is a path breaking effort). But they could mention these in their website. Anyway next day I got a slot with bunch of men (who happened to be colleagues in a company) and two families who were touring together. All of them were keen on making noise and singing songs. I am not against songs, there are occasions this wasn’t. I don’t know but I think they thought silent valley is a picnic spot and were all rightfully disappointed!!. I took the occasion to walk away from them into the deeper part of the jungle, when I came back after an hour or so I was not only severely admonished by the guide but had 25 pairs of angry eyes staring at me for keeping them waiting. I managed a sheepish smile that though didn’t help the matter…ok let’s leave it there.

Rufous babblers created one big raucous when they saw me. They are dark rufous colored with grey forehead and a relatively longer tail. The iris is whitish that really give them a nasty look. Like other babblers they too are found mainly close to the ground.

Cesar Vellajo (1892-1938)

He was one of the most prominent Spanish American poets of the last century, an iconic figure in Peru. He was deeply rooted in his Peruvian Indian heritage. "A constant feature of his poetry is a compassionate awareness of and a guilt-ridden sense of responsibility for the suffering of others. He saw the world in piercing flashes of outrage and anguish, terror and pity. . . . A passionate, tragic poet, he mourned our loss of moral innocence and despaired of the injustice that moves the world" (Grossman). A witness to the devastation of Spanish civil war, he was imprisoned for is political activism. These lines from poem “The black messengers” is about the bewilderment and harshness of city life from his rural.

They are the deep falls of the Christ of the soul,
of some adorable one that Destiny Blasphemes.
Those bloody blows are the crepitation
of some bread getting burned on us by the oven's door

And the man . . . poor . . . poor!
He turns his eyes around, like
when patting calls us upon our shoulder;
he turns his crazed maddened eyes,
and all of life's experiences become stagnant, like a puddle of guilt, in a daze.

There are such hard blows in life. I don't know!

This poem “To My Brother Miguel In Memoriam” is quite a touching poem, nostalgia is something I avoid but when I read these it creates voids inside that takes lots of time to shed. Death as ‘going into hiding’ is a motif I strongly I identify with, long time back I used to think that way (there is a movie by Kurosawa…not able to recall the name, it has these wonderful images). I liked this poem and read many times in last few days. Everyday it seems to add new meaning. It feels good to know about poets I haven’t really heard about till now.

Brother, today I sit on the brick bench of the house,
where you make a bottomless emptiness.
I remember we used to play at this hour, and mama
caressed us: "But, sons..."

Now I go hide
as before, from all evening
lectures, and I trust you not to give me away.
Through the parlor, the vestibule, the corridors.
Later, you hide, and I do not give you away.
I remember we made ourselves cry,
brother, from so much laughing.

Miguel, you went into hiding
one night in August, toward dawn,
but, instead of chuckling, you were sad.
And the twin heart of those dead evenings
grew annoyed at not finding you. And now
a shadow falls on my soul.

Listen, brother, don't be late coming out. All right? Mama might worry.

What a lovely poem that one.

I wrote this few days back

When sun sets and we go back home
will we be able to answer the questions that wait for us
in the dark?
Questions furious of being orphaned
while we filled our cravings
stole, snatched and dealt
Questions that stab our conscience
accumulating lies and farce
that tie us in knots
force us on burning amber all night
and leave quietly in the morning.

And we live the days dreading the shadows
and another night

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Grey Headed Starling (or Grey Headed Myna)

Grey headed myna is almost similar Blyth’s myna (Blyth’s myna happens to be its sub specie, a website though claims Blyth’s mayna to be separate specie. That really is the problem with Net, you have to crosscheck with different sources to authenticate. A website is much true as its url!!) difference being the latter has head and underpart white also that it is much rarer and found only in Western Ghats. Upper plumage, head and neck of Grey headed myna is dark grey giving it a silvery look; underpart is rufous getting pale towards the chin that has white streaks. The bill is blue at base, green in the middle and light yellow at the tip. They are quite widely distributed and found in light forest and wooded countryside, extremely active and mostly arboreal they move in flocks from one tree to another. It is much smaller in size compared to ubiquitous common myna and is extremely shy and quite difficult to observe, it took me sometime to get these pictures. They feed on nectar and therefore can be noticed during blossoming of flowering trees. Figs, fruits as also insects are part of menu.

Mazisi Kunene (1930-2006) was a Zulu poet who actively participated against apartheid in South Africa. His books were banned by apartheid regime and he lived in exile most part of his life. He played a pivotal role in anti apartheid movement in Europe and was a member of ANC. Later he took up teaching career in USA. Kunene’s literary output in exile included the published epics: Anthem of the Decades and Emperor Shaka the Great as well as two further poetry anthologies The Ancestors and the Sacred Mountain and Zulu Poems. Upon his return to South Africa in 1993, UNESCO honored him with the title of Africa’s Poet Laureate. He published books in Zulu includes Isibusiso sikamhawu (1994), Indida yamancasakazi (1995), Umzwilili wama-Afrika (1996) and Igudu likaSomcabeko (1997). Kunene strongly held the view that African literature should be in the African languages. Mazisi Kunene Project has been started recently to educate and conscientising the younger generation about the value of indigenous literary work.

Respecting the ambition of Kunene’s to promote African languages I am first quoting the poem in original and then translation. I would love to have the script too. With technological advances I would be glad if it is possible to have the poem in original script and then translation in English; it is amazing to look at different scripts of languages around the world even though one may not be able to read.

Ngenziwa nguwe ukuba ngingaphezi
Wena okhulumela kimi
Wena ongihlaba ngophawu olubi
Uthi, “Sigqili sami culela abantabami”
Usho usunginike eyakho intonga
Intonga eyesabekayo athi angayithinta umuntu
Avevezele njengamahlamvu andninde kude nakude
Aze ayokufuna iqabunga, iqabunga elihlumayo
Athi ngalo ngithenga imifanekiso emikhulu
Ngithenga amalanga alandela ubunkanyezi
Ngithenga eyami inkululeko nobubanzi bayo

How will I ever forget you, magic leaf
Tormented as I am by your taunts
The prodding jeers and the branding iron
You command, “Slave, sing for my offspring!”
Burdening me with codes of torture that
Sow dread and paralysis to victims
Who tremble like forlorn leaves in the storm
I yearn for a budding leaf
Whose promise conjure possibility
As it scans a canopy of stars
Biding freedom, contemplating liberation
Will I ever forget encountering you
Magic leaf

Sabe sesihlala ezihlabathini ogwini lolwandle
Sabe sesibuka ukuwa nokuphakama kwamagagasi
Sabe sesilalela ukudlalisana kwezinyoni
Kona kwasekunjengako okwemimoya yethu
Yona inyoni’enkulu sayibona isiyikhwela intambama
Isikhwel’emafini amnyama isigoduka
Nathi laba sase sithubeleza ebusuku
Sesifumbethe imicabango ngekhaya lethu
Lona lase lisibiza lisibiza njalo kude eNingizimu

Our regiment haunched heavily on the pure sands of the sea
Watching without a murmur waves and spray on the banks
Inert and silent as the albatrosses gambolled on the dunes
United in spirit, in anxiety to strike the blow for freedom
Our sunset eyes espied a giant honey bird charting the route
Meandering along a silver line of those ominous clouds
An evident cue to resume our nocturnal march
Each man longing for the warm hearth of home
The silhoutte of the bird of liberty taking us South

Akayena umuntu lowo onganananelani nabantu
Yena ogodle lokho akugodlileyo
Yena osenqohe phakathi kwemikhulu imithangala
Esenguye ngokubalisa izimoto zakhe
Umuntu ngumuntu ngoba ebusebenzele ubuntu bakhe
Ngokuba ebubekele imihla ngemihla
Waze wabenzela nalabo ababusweleyo
Ngokuba nabo bangabomhlaba
Nabo bangabafazi namadoda alelizwe

Cursed shall be the one whose passage in this world
Evades humaneness, engenders greed and hoarding
Cursed is he wallowing alone in caskets of wealth and
Counting rosary beads of accumulated cars
To be human is to humbly cherish the sweat of your toil
In measured style of decency and appreciation
To be human is to consider the plight of the needy
As they also are children of the earth
Yes, men and women of this blessed land

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Gallinago gallinago the Common Snipe

Common snipe (scientific name Gallinago gallinago) breeds in Himalayas and found quite abundantly in Indo-Gangetic plain during winter, rare in south India. A peculiar looking bird with long beak (longer than sandpiper but smaller than curlew) they could be seen on the edge of ditches or marshes and when alarmed springs suddenly with a harsh call and mounts high in the air with rapid twisting flight. Mainly active in night they could be seen early morning or late evening too, very sluggish during noon. It feeds on the seeds of marsh plants and small molluscs, but a great portion of the food consists of minute worms and larvae obtained by boring in soft mud, the long beak is uniquely adapted for this and are furnished with sensitive nerves at the end and muscles which allow the terminal half to open when the base is closed.
The word 'sniper' originates from this bird, since it fly zigzag hunters had problem and those who could shoot down these birds were referred to as snipers.

A man named John Clare

Let me admit this I haven’t really heard about John Clare (1793-1864) before he is a spectacular discovery (thank the internet). These days I do spent substantial time on the net, I realize it can really give some nasty headache but the positive side is what excites. Doing bit of research on Clare was worth the effort he didn’t disappoint, the man really was one of the greatest. Son of farm laborer Clare was attached to nature and his poems reflect that connection, and alienation caused by disruptive changes that destroys these. Destruction caused by industrial revolution and agricultural revolution to the countryside deeply distressed him. Clare’s observations are always grounded in natural history, knowledge gained from wandering the fields, forests, and around the small farming village (in Britain) where he spent his childhood and young adulthood. He used many slangs that were common to the rural folks in his poems.

In Hilly-Wood
How sweet to be thus nestling deep in boughs,
Upon an ashen stoven pillowing me;
Faintly are heard the ploughmen at their ploughs,
But not an eye can find its way to see.
The sunbeams scarce molest me with a smile,
So thickly the leafy armies gather round;
And where they do, the breeze blows cool the while,
Their leafy shadows dancing on the ground.
Full many a flower, too, wishing to be seen,
Perks up its head the hiding grass between,--
In mid-wood silence, thus, how sweet to be;
Where all the noises, that on peace intrude,
Come from the chittering cricket, bird, and bee,
Whose songs have charms to sweeten solitude.

Grasshoppers go in many a thumming spring
And now to stalks of tasseled sow-grass cling,
That shakes and swees awhile, but still keeps straight;
While arching oxeye doubles with his weight.
Next on the cat-tail-grass with farther bound
He springs, that bends until they touch the ground.

The Thrush's Nest
Within a thick and spreading hawthorn bush,
That overhung a molehill large and round,
I heard from morn to morn a merry thrush
Sing hymns to sunrise, and I drank the sound
With joy; and, often an intruding guest,
I watched her secret toils from day to day--
How true she warped the moss, to form a nest,
And modelled it within with wood and clay;
And by and by, like heath-bells gilt with dew,
There lay her shining eggs, as bright as flowers,
Ink-spotted-over shells of greeny blue;
And there I witnessed in the sunny hours
A brood of nature's minstrels chirp and fly,
Glad as that sunshine and the laughing sky.

John Clare was seen as the “Peasant Poet” by big city armchair romanticist. In reality, his poetry was the only realistic poetry about rural life that was being written at the time, appreciation of which had to wait until the twentieth century. Clare himself had this to say of Keats: “His descriptions of scenery are often very fine but as it is the case with other inhabitants of great cities he often described nature as she appeared to his fancies and not as he would have described her had he witnessed the things he described.” In contrast to the magnificent music and movement of Keats, Clare’s poems were humble and direct. Compare these lines of Keats and Clare on birds:

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:

How curious is the nest: no other bird
Uses such loose materials or weaves
Its dwelling in such spots—dead oaken leaves
Are placed without and velvet moss within
And little scraps of grass and, scant and spare,
What scarcely seem materials, down and hair.

Clare did find his fame (Milton was his earliest patron) and was celebrated for brief period but insanity followed and last few years of his life were spent in asylum (vivid description of these can be found in This site also contains many of his poems), it need be added that poems written in this depressing condition of his were brighter and bear no signs of cruelties of life, in these last years of his life it seemed he had become calm “And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept: Untroubling and untroubled where I lie; The grass below--above the vaulted sky”. These incidentally were his last lines. I am ashamed of not knowing this magnificent man till now.

This from “Adieu”
I left the little birds
And sweet lowing of the herds,
And couldn't find out words,
Do you see,
To say to them good-bye,
Where the yellowcups do lie;
So heaving a deep sigh,
Took to sea....

His last poem “I am” is considered as one of the best

I Am

I AM: yet what I am none cares or knows,
My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death's oblivion lost;
And yet I am, and live with shadows tost

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems;
And een the dearest--that I loved the best--
Are strange--nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man has never trod;
A place where woman never smiled or wept;
There to abide with my Creator, GOD,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie;
The grass below--above the vaulted sky.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The bird from paradise

If there is paradise and if paradise is about all beautiful things then this bird is from paradise. One of the most beautiful birds I have seen, it is an amazing sight to see this bird that is quite appropriately named Paradise Flycatcher. The sheer contrast of colors in male makes it spectacular: white body and bluish black head and crest, streaks of black on the wings. Add to it long white ribbon like central feathers, so when it flies it gives an impression of floating in the air. A terrific combination of looks and grace of movement makes it one of the must watch bird. Also include the fact that these birds prefer pleasant setting like groves near water bodies that is not much disturbed by human presence.

This blogger has seen these elusive birds many times but after purchasing the camera found it quite difficult to photo it (I missed it on three occasions in dense forest of Western Ghats). It is extremely wary of humans. The female paradise flycatcher is quite common (chestnut color) and I have seen it many times if you walk further from Bannerghatta Park, it is here that I also got the glimpse of male one day, it vanished at the very instance into the denser part across the lake. Now a common habit of most birds is to have favorite haunt, they prefer certain trees and there is high probability to catch them on early mornings. So got up early morning next day to try my luck and reached here just in time to catch the male paradise fly catcher on the same tree, it seemed quite busy catching breakfast (being purely arboreal) and I got myself positioned on the shadier part under the tree. The branches of tree with shafts of morning sunlight and the bird flitting across as if some fairy, it felt like some dream. It was mesmerizing.

It is with extreme pleasure I write about Rilke, I was always very fond of his poems. He is one of the best.

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was born in Prague but was multilingual he wrote in German language as also in French, he had somewhat intimate connection with Russian language (traveling to Russia often met Tolstoy, had a seminal influence on Boris Pasternak). In his letters to a young would-be poet (1903-1908) Rilke explained, that "nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you to write; find out whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write." Rilke traveled throughout his life: to Italy, Spain and Egypt among many other places, but Paris served as the geographic center of his life, where he first began to develop a new style of lyrical poetry inspired by the visual arts (very much influenced by sculptor Rodin as also Cezzane).

Many of Rilke’s poems have strong element of infinite in it, a contemplative nature of being, when I first read I thought it must be by an eastern poet. Once you read Rilke it will stay with you forever that is the power of his poems, every time I read it they gives me immense joy. His collection is large, I am posting two of my favorite.

Ignorant Before the Heavens of My Life

Ignorant before the heavens of my life,
I stand and gaze in wonder. Oh the vastness
of the stars. Their rising and descent. How still.
As if I didn't exist. Do I have any
share in this? Have I somehow dispensed with
their pure effect? Does my blood's ebb and flow
change with their changes? Let me put aside
every desire, every relationship
except this one, so that my heart grows used to
its farthest spaces. Better that it live
fully aware, in the terror of its stars, than
as if protected, soothed by what is near.

Buddha in Glory

Center of all centers, core of cores,
almond self-enclosed, and growing sweet--
all this universe, to the furthest stars
all beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit.

Now you feel how nothing clings to you;
your vast shell reaches into endless space,
and there the rich, thick fluids rise and flow.
Illuminated in your infinite peace,

a billion stars go spinning through the night,
blazing high above your head.
But in you is the presence that
will be, when all the stars are dead.

The other day I wrote these

The price I pay

I write this on a paper that was once a tree
where birds reared their young
and pregnant squirrel saved its precious possession for leaner days
leaves with its miracle fed itself from sun
and ants never complained.

Roads I take are over the graveyard
of lives that couldn’t understand the reason
of massacres
and silently endure the humiliation
their faith in redemption
I don’t care

Food I eat are snatched or shamelessly borrowed
with not even a courtesy of acknowledgement
my pride is that of giver
my reasons are peace and compassion.

Home I built displacing living
gravel by blasting mountains
and all habitat on it
sand by quarrying homes
of species I am least bothered to even know.
Power to run my machines
by sucking lives out of valleys.

More I expand more i destroy
more I live more I kill
more I live more I die.
Still I hear no complaint or whispers against me
No bleating of chest or swearing revenge.
All I see are wild flowers bloom amid garbage
and sway in exhaust of passing vehicles
grass grow merrily on soot
paddy bird alight o so delicately on muck water
and dew drops spread its myriad morning magic
on all I can see.