Saturday, July 24, 2010

Yellow wagtails

The young and females of yellow wagtails vary quite widely. I am putting all yellow wagtails together, as you can see the above pic is that of a yellow wagtail while the lower one is that of yellow headed wagtail. A typical male is greenish above and yellow below. They are found on the ground preferably on damp grassy spots or pastures about the rivers feeding insects. These birds are winter migrants to peninsula from Himalayas.

Pictures were taken at Siruvani waterfalls near Coimbatore, only a part of the forest is open to tourists. Make sure you don’t go early. I was here by 7am but it opens only at 10, roamed around the village for few hours (next junction has some education institution, one run by Chinmaya foundation others by evangelist groups). To reach the waterfall you have to walk about 2-3kms through the jungle, tribal settlements could be seen. A man in two-wheeler gave me lift. He happened to be a toddy tapper based in Palakad, comes to Coimbatore once in 6months for ‘purchase’. He said he makes it a point to visit different tourist sites every time he comes to Coimbatore. These are only few occasions he comes out of kerala, he keenly observed some plants. I offered him some money on the way back (I tagged on to him since there weren’t anyone around, and had a lurking feeling of being unsafe, further it was suggested by the guards since elephants were common) but he refused, shocking considering how easily he could have capitalized the opportunity. Marketer would say “geez what the world has come to. No enterprise”. In West they encourage children to make money quite early; quantifying actions as labor for money, otherwise it is classified as voluntary. I guess they cannot live without classifying action!

Charles Bukowski: an endearing poet

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) lived a life of a vagabond, moving from one job to another before settling down at US postal service- longest steady job lasting three years!. A menial job but gave him ample time to write, poems were being published in different journals on a regular basis, a massive collection of 40 volumes of poems is what he left

As The Poems Go
as the poems go into the thousands you
realize that you've created very

His gravestone reads: "Don't Try", a phrase which Bukowski uses in one of his poems, advising aspiring writers and poets about inspiration and creativity. Bukowski explained the phrase
Somebody at one of these places asked me: "What do you do? How do you write, create?" You don't, I told them. You don't try. That's very important: not to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It's like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks you make a pet out of it.

Bukowski has delightful use of invectives, his irreverence vaguely reminds me of Kolatkar. Slur in poems are rare and needs deft handling so as to not reduce it to crass. I don’t recall bursting out into laughter after reading any poem in recent times. This poem 8counts did it. Charming!. Charles Bukowski has become one of my favorite poets. It is a great find thanks to internet. Oh by the way Bukowski was hell of a punter!!.

8 counts
From my bed
I watch
3 birds
on a telephone
one flies
one is left,
it too
is gone.
My typewriter is
And I am
reduced to bird
Just thought I‘d
let you

Having the flue and with nothing else to do

I read a book about John Doss Passos and according to
the book once radical- communist
John ended up in Hollywood hills living off investments
and reading the
Wall Street Journal

this seem to happen all to often.

what hardly ever happens is
a man going from being an young conservative to becoming an
old wild ass-radical

young conservatives always seem to be old
It’s a kind of lifelong mental vapor-lock.

but when a young radical ends up an
old radical
the critics
and the conservatives
treat him as if he escaped a mental

such is our politics and you can have it

keep it

sail it up your

Back to the machine gun

I awaken about noon and go out to get the mail
in my old torn bathrobe.
I'm hung over
hair down in my eyes
gingerly walking on the small sharp rocks
in my path
still afraid of pain behind my four-day beard.

the young housewife next door shakes a rug
out of her window and sees me:
"hello, Hank!"
god damn! it's almost like being shot in the ass
with a .22

"hello," I say
gathering up my Visa card bill, my Pennysaver coupons,
a Dept. of Water and Power past-due notice,
a letter from the mortgage people
plus a demand from the Weed Abatement Department
giving me 30 days to clean up my act.

I mince back again over the small sharp rocks
thinking, maybe I'd better write something tonight,
they all seem
to be closing in.

there's only one way to handle those motherfuckers.

the night harness races will have to wait.

This poem “As The Sparrow” is one of the best I have read in recent times. So is “Cause and Effect”, “A smile to remember”. How much I love these poems

As The Sparrow

To give life you must take life,
and as our grief falls flat and hollow
upon the billion-blooded sea
I pass upon serious inward-breaking shoals rimmed
with white-legged, white-bellied rotting creatures
lengthily dead and rioting against surrounding scenes.
Dear child, I only did to you what the sparrow
did to you; I am old when it is fashionable to be
young; I cry when it is fashionable to laugh.
I hated you when it would have taken less courage
to love.

Cause and effect

The best often die by their own hand
just to get away,
and those left behind
can never quite understand
why anybody
would ever want to
to get away

A smile to remember

We had goldfish and they circled around and around
In the bowl on the table near the heavy drapes
Covering the picture window
and my mother, always smiling, wanting us all
to be happy, told me, “be happy Henry!”
and she was right: It’s better to be happy if you
but my father continue to beat her and me several times a week while
raging inside his 6-foot-two frame because he couldn’t
understand what was attacking him from within.

My mother, poor fish,
wanting to be happy, beaten two or three times a
week, telling me to be happy: “Henry, smile!
why don’t you ever smile?”

and then she would smile, to show me how, and it was the
saddest smile I ever saw

one day the goldfish died, all five of them,
they floated on the water, on their sides, their
eyes still open,
and when my father got home he threw them to the cat
there on the kitchen floor and we watched as my mother

Bukowski wrote somewhere that "My contribution was to loosen and simplify poetry, to make it more human... I taught them that you can write a poem the same way you can write a letter, that a poem can even be entertaining, and that there need not be anything necessarily holy about it."

Don’t we all agree with that?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The ubiquitous Black Kite

One of the most abundant birds, these magnificent birds are effortless fliers, the distinguishing forked tails are used are rudders. They avoid densely forested areas and thrive along human habitation, it shares a parasitic relation. A fearless scavenger they make patrolling flights in circles with long leisurely strokes and short glides before sweeping onto the food, that is held with the claws and transported to the mouth in flight. Bigger pieces are savored at leisure after alighting on a favorite perch. In case there are several kites in the vicinity of food it leads to immense action accompanying typical shrill mewing screams (in Hindi they are referred to as cheel from these calls). They could be seen floating in the sky on a clear day, the reason paper toys are named after them.

Kumalau Tamali: The soul of a nation

Papua New Guinea (PNG) literature is considered to be one of the oldest indigenous creative expressions of Pacific. PNG consist of about 600 small islands with about 6million people, an organized and documented output began only in 1960s with education becoming popular.

By 1970s the antagonist atmosphere towards colonialism provided incubative atmosphere for many nationalist writings, these lines from one of the best known writer: Waiko (The Unexpected Hawk) captures the sentiments of a nascent uncomprehending traditional society and its attempts in understanding the technologically superior and culturally arrogant outsiders. After the police has burnt down a village whose people had refused to comply with a government order to move to become part of a single large village:

Son: Why do they treat us like this?
Mother: No one knows why. We do not understand them, and they do not try to understand us. But every tree has its roots deep down in the ground. Even their actions must have roots. I want you to go to school, so that you can dig out the roots. Do not hesitate to uproot their tree and drink their wisdom.

There is an interesting take on war between the Australians and Japanese in PNG by Vincent Eri in Crocodiles –one of the first novels to be published from PNG: ‘It seemed a silly idea that the white men and the yellow men should come to Papua to fight one another. Still, there was no clear story about the reasons why they were fighting one another’. How much I love these lines. Real history is about what people think about wars and not who fought whom. Another line I came across “Colonisers gave names to our land, they named mountains, rivers, seas and other landmarks as if we did not have any names for these places” (Tuhiwais)
These lines from Kasaipwalova's poem "Reluctant Flame"

Cold bloodless masks stare me, not for my colour
But for my empty wealth house and passion logic

Look how orderly fat and silent they float this earth
With their guns, their airplanes, their cyclone
Wheels and their bishops

It is quite a long poem with 200 odd lines and considered one of the most influential writings against colonialism around the world. In the same poem

Each day the weighty cover shrieks arrogantly
Vowing to crush and smother the tiny flame within that
I will call my ancestors and all the spirits of my
grounds and waters
Inside each mountain lies a tiny flame cradled and
weighted above
People will live, people will die
But the tiny flame will grow its arms and legs very
Until one day its volcanic pulse will tear the green
mountain apart…

Forerunner among these protests towards Australian occupation was poet Kumalau Tamali. Tamali (1947-2006) was born in Tawi, a little island on the south coast of the Manus District. He had a career as teacher and pastor. Even respected and restrained poets like him couldn’t avoid using violent expression against colonizers (there is so much of anger in these words) in The Bush Kanaka Speaks, he writes

The kiap shouts at us
forcing the veins to stand out in his neck
nearly forcing the excreta out of his bottom
he says: you are ignorant

He says: you are ignorant,
but can he shape a canoe,
tie a mast, fix an outrigger?
Can he steer a canoe through the night
without losing his way?
Does he know when a turtle comes ashore
to lay its eggs?

In the same poem, he continues

Every white man the gorment sends to us
forces his veins out shouting
nearly forces the excreta out of his bottom
shouting: you bush kanaka.
He says: you ol les man!
Yet he sits on a soft chair and does nothing
just shouts, eats, drinks, eats, drinks,
like a woman with a child in her belly.
These white men have no bones.

“Bush kanaka” was degrading reference to indigenous people. Evidences suggest that indigenous people lived in PNG for thousands of years. Writes Tamali after PNG wins independence from colonial rule I have come from 50000 years so they think. Others say I was born on 16 September, 1975. Let my arrows fly another 50000 years. Tawali’s poem uses innovative language, a mix of local in a carefree way. His poems also reflected his concern over the destiny of his land and country.

You are the baby that crawls
too long.
All the others are walking
what has your mother been doing with you?
Have you been carried too long?
Have you been fed too much?
... One day nobody will be around
and you will have to carry weight
if you can't
you will fall.

Niu translates as coconut. Tawali is not only speaking about the struggle of a young coconut shoot, but he is referring to nationhood, or Niugini, in Tok Pisin (an indigenous language). In an interview Tawali mentions "The word "niu" means coconut in my language. In fact you are right when you say that it's an allegory for "New Guinea”.

Tamali’s environmental concerns were well known, he writes: The crucial questions one may wish to pose are, should we open every commercially viable mine now ? Or, if we think of our forests, should we cut down every commercially valuable tree now ? For whom are we mindlessly and heartlessly doing this ? This gold, copper or log rush is not for us, it is for those who greedily want to devour our heritage, before we become aware of it. Our environment is like the outer layer of our skin. When we strip it off, we render ourselves vulnerable. Conservation and stewardship have their own merit. We would be wise indeed for our own good and the good of future generations if we did not open every mine and cut down every tree for commercial purposes.
Russel Soaba writes a poem on Tamali’s death that captured the mood of people of PNG…

A Tribute to Kumalau Tawali
His name is echoed over and over again.
Through a tribesman's heartbeat
Through the beat of the garamut
Or a crescendo of waves cascading along the shores of PNG

Sometimes you hear his name whispered
Across the silence of the ocean
Especially when the moon is high
And the turtles are on shore
Gently kicking sand in the air
But spoiling for a fight to survive

But most times you hear his name mentioned
In the classroom
And at orientation meetings
When a new batch of young men and women
Comes to colleges and universities
To study to learn and to write.

That is Kumalau Tawali.
And that is how he is known
Here in PNG
And all over the world.

In reality he is the soul of the nation.

Tamali’s other popular poem includes The Game Upon the Sand, Take This Flower and The River Flows Back

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Wire tailed Swallow

Wire tailed Swallow have a characteristic long wire like shaft to the outer pair of tail-feathers. Sexes are alike, except that the wire is shorter in the female. Top of the head bright chestnut ; sides of the head and neck and the whole upper plumage glossy steel-blue. Invariably found near water these birds are fond of canals, the above was spotted around the canal in Srirangapatanam (near Mysuru). They perch on power lines, bridge parapet and as a rule avoid perching on trees. They descend on ground only to collect mud for nest that is made under the culverts of bridge or under roof or under shelves of rock. These birds are also known to feed the young on flight.

Li Po: The living is a passing traveler

Li Po was an ancient Chinese poet (tang poet), he was referred to as ‘wandering poet’ as he traveled various places and wrote poems, later he found favor with imperial court but court plotter worked against him and he found himself arrested and sentenced to death that was later commuted to banishment. He became a Taoist, his poems reflected the nuances of human relation as also abundance of Nature.
He was a close friend of the poet Du Fu, to whom he addressed the following lines:

Here! is this you on the top of Fan-kuo Mountain,

Wearing a huge hat in the noon-day sun?

How thin, how wretchedly thin, you have grown!

You must have been suffering from poetry again.

Chuang Tzu and the Butterfly

Chuang Tzu in dream became a butterfly,

And the butterfly became Chuang Tzu at waking.

Which was the realthe butterfly or the man?

Who can tell the end of the endless changes of things?

The water that flows into the depth of the distant sea

Returns in time to the shallows of a transparent stream.

The man, raising melons outside the green gate of the city,

Was once the Prince of the East Hill.

So must rank and riches vanish.

You know it, still you toil and toilwhat for?

The Old Dust

The living is a passing traveler;

The dead, a man come home.

One brief journey between heaven and earth,

Then, alas! we are the same old dust of ten thousand ages.

The rabbit in the moon pounds the elixir in vain;

Fu-sang, the tree of immortality, has crumbled to kindling wood.

Man dies, his white bones are dumb without a word

While the green pines feel the coming of the spring.

Looking back, I sigh; looking before, I sigh again.

What is there to prize in the life's vaporous glory?

These lines from the poem Nefarious War

In the battlefield men grapple each other and die;

The horses of the vanquished utter lamentable cries to heaven,

While ravens and kites peck at human entrails,

Carry them up in their flight, and hang them on the branches of dead trees.

So, men are scattered and smeared over the desert grass,

And the generals have accomplished nothing.

Oh, nefarious war! I see why arms

Were so seldom used by the benign sovereigns