Monday, March 24, 2014

The Plum-headed Parakeets of FRI


Forest Research Institute at Dehradun is great place for a walk, and the museum here is a definitive reference on how to design one. You walk through the campus and a patch of forest to reach a river and a village. You will not miss the shrill excitement of Plum-headed Parakeets, they are everywhere. Plum-headed Parakeet (Psittacula cyanocephala) is a parakeet endemic to the Indian Subcontinent. The above is female who is greyish headed while it is the male below who has plum red purplish blue head.      

Siddis: the African Indians 

Not many are aware that there are African Indians and are very much part of this country. They are referred to as Siddis and categorised as tribes. I was at Hubli, towards the forest of Western Ghats, about an hour and half in local bus is Yellapur where there is a large concentration of Siddis. I haven’t really spoken to African or people from African origin, except some cursory lines here and there like an African student asked me about some address many years back so on. Though I have seen them in news, movies (particularly Hollywood, the Afro-american) and documentaries, my interaction were next to nothing. So imagine my predicament when a young man, who very much had negriod features and looked like any other African, calls himself Ganpath and speaks in chaste Hindi with a hint of Marathi!! Mr.Ganpath, a law student was to take me around and answer my queries, though he admitted he doesn’t know much about Siddis. After lunch we caught a bus to Gulapur about twenty km interior. We met Mr Krishna, a middle aged man who lived in a modest house, there was poverty all around. He was watching kannada news and seemed quite irritated when I asked him about Siddis, he pulled his hair “This curly hair and dark skin is what we have got, otherwise I don’t know anything about Africa. Why we came here? Why are we are here? I don’t know anything. We don’t know anything about our background”. He continued ogling at the TV. I felt quite sad. Most Siddis live in impoverished conditions their main source of livelihood is agricultural labour.  Few among them own pieces of land while others live on encroached lands.  Some work as watchmen, security guards, truck drivers, masons, logs cutters, and similar occupations. They lost their distinctive culture and even language in course of time after they were brought as slaves to India. 

There is a negative image of Siddis among all groups irrespective of their religion, whether Hindus, Muslims or Christians. “There is not much social interactions between Siddis and non Siddis of the same religion. Inter marriages between them is nil. Therefore belonging to different religions is not positively detrimental to Siddi identity” (from In the Search of an Identity: An ethnographic Study of Siddis in Karnataka by Kiran Kamal Prasad). I was reading somewhere else that “when they are invited to functions & ceremonies such as marriage, etc, food will be served separately and they will be made to clean vessels & floor after serving the food. Wide spread ragging because of their distinct physical feature often one of the reasons for discontinuation of their education. The illiteracy, school dropout rate, child marriages, child abuse, neglecting girl child education, teasing Siddi children in schools and social discrimination on the basis of race still continued.”

Siddis are quite enterprising people and known for their fierce skills, the reason they were recruited and finally ended up as slaves. Siddis have distinct negroid features, they have migrated from Africa as slaves, one account hold the view that they were brought to India by Portuguese in 17th century while other account (Russel &Hiralal) puts it at 15th century, some even think 8th century. Siddis are predominantly followers of Islam but there are also Hindus and Christians. Clearly they adapted to the local convenience and survival demands, but it is interesting to note all the Siddis show a marked similarity in beliefs in animism and spirits. Largest concentration of Siddis is in Junagadh (Gujarat) while in north Karnataka the Siddi tribes are mostly followers of Hindu pantheon and speak a mix of Konkani and Marathi. The community has lost touch with its roots. They have lost the knowledge of African languages and traditions and have adopted the local culture and religion. An instrument ‘mugarman’ used by the Siddis in Gujarat bears a distinct resemblance to Ngoma drum used in Zimbabwe even today (Helmut K. Anheier). 

There is a reference to Siddis as ‘Habsh’, in local it came to be referred to entangled hairs but gradually it started to mean untidy and now a derogatory word. I gather the Siddi term got consolidated after this group was declared as tribes by the government. Incidentally Habsi tribes are largest tribe in Oman, and that Banu abs is an ancient Bedouin tribe the descendants carry tribal variation like absi, abzi so on, we have Abyssinia locally Habesha, now it comes under Ethiopia. Habsh most likely came from Ge’ez, an ancient language. The origin of siddi term is quite murky but I will stick to the view that siddi is as respectful address that is commonly used in northern part of Africa, and later came to be referred as honorific title. Another possible origin could be Arabic word ‘Saydi’ meaning prisoner of war or captive, there is also a word ‘Sayyid’ a title of aristocracy or masters. 

I met one elderly woman (Ms lekshmi, I noted that naming of people here have fervour of neo coverts), who laughed a lot while trying to recollect something about their past. She said their forefather escaped from slavery and moved from jungle to jungle before they decided to settle down here. Here she sings few songs, that very likely were passed on for generations (visit me at to listen to this).

Besides Karnataka, Siddis are also found along the Western Ghats in Goa, Diu, Maharashtra and Gujarat, and in Hyderabad. The main concentration is in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka and Saurastra region of Gujarat. While the Arabs traded in Abyssinian people as slaves, the Portuguese traded in people from east Africa and Mozambique. There are accounts of inhuman treatment but there are also instances of some rising to the position of generals due to great gallantry particularly in Janjira islands (of Kolaba district). After running away from bondage they settled in forests braving all the wild animals and disease. In many villages they were the first settlers but lost out to others mainly because of cunningness, like for instance the ‘Havyak Brahmins’ who conned them into bonded labours. 

A significant event for Siddis happened in 1989 when thousands gathered in Yellapur. This was earliest attempt to bring Siddis from all communities under one banner for mobilising their demands. It is this effort that saw to it that Siddis in Karnataka were declared as ‘backward tribes’ in 2003. The contributions of Siddis in the field of sports also need to be pointed out but somehow due to official apathy fizzled out.

Baobab: the African tree

Baobab tree (Adansonia digitatais) is an amazing tree, it is also referred to as ‘upside down tree’ for its characteristic appearance because of its thin spreading branches and huge trunk of a stem. They are adapted to store huge amount of water, originally from the arid region of Africa, some hold the view that these were brought to India by the Siddis. I am not able to authenticate it. These are wonderful trees and quite unique in many ways. There is one in Lalbagh (Bangalore). Recently I happen to see 400year old Baobab near Golconda (the picture herein), it is quite well maintained. Its stem looks like an elephant foot. There is also a rather rare sight of three giant Baobab trees bunched up together in the outskirts of Hubli (40km, Savanur). They are believed to be about 1500 years old and were barricaded. I tried to pluck the fruit but couldn’t. The fruits of these trees are supposed to be wonder fruit in terms of nutrition value.
From my scribble pad…

The halt
Soon we too will be silent.
Like every silence that waits
in relapse.
Soon these hectic schedules will halt
and the enactors will hush.
The time will still.
For the implicit to unravel
the mighty march of all that was irrelevant.
Gently we step down the altar
to the bin of wonder
and astonishment that awaits all the while.

Terror show
An accord with ourself is vital,
If for nothing but to retain veracity of the account. 
The mounting keenness of hate that gradually works upto its reputation 
the streets have seen it, so have the homes. 
It doesn’t lurk as is assumed but is very sure of its intent. 
It has no counterclaims or questions. 
It works in absolute freedom as willed 
and enters at the opportune moment 
when doubts are about to be announced
contrition is to take its place. 
In the aftermath, the aesthetes can conciliate,
atleast the absolute terror has the splendour 
that a brilliant day cannot match.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Southern Grey Shrike: the sentinel butcher

The Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis) is generally found towards the western part of the country, stretching to gangetic plain till Bihar and western part of Maharashtra. I saw this one on the outskirts of Sambhar lake. I quote here these compelling lines by M Krishnan (from Birds and Birdsong)... “I watch him narrowly though with a pretence of indifference, for he interests me. He is a pale, clear grey, with a murderous looking hooked bill, black mustachios, a big black cheek stripe and black and white wings and tail. His square, top heavy build is balanced by the length of his tail, and he has a ruthless, efficient look. The lesser shrikes live amidst cultivation and greenery, by themselves no doubt, but tolerating neighbours. The Grey Shrike scorns company, and retires to some patch of desolate thorn where he can be alone. He sits upright and still, and wears an air of unconcern. At times he fluffs his plumage and humps his back and seems to go on sleep –but no bird is more awake. Something stirs in the brown grass twenty yards away and he pounces down to the earth, to return to his perch with prey securely clutched in his claws. He hold it down with his feet and batters it with his great, hooked bill, and then he eats, not greedily as other birds do, but bit by bit…Shrike will eat anything and everything they can catch and conquer. They have the habit of impaling their surplus catch on thorns -against the lean time…” 

Society to Save Rocks
I was in Hyderabad, and was flipping around to find something interesting to explore. I came across a note on walks conducted by a group called the Society to Save Rocks. I really was quite intrigued by this one. After spending precious few hours I was able to locate their office in Jubilee hills (except Bangalore or Mysore no other city in India probably has proper system of lanes and houses numbers, they are always haphazard. Finding an address, like most things in this part of the world, falls in the realm of providence). I was very soon facing Frauke Quader, the ‘Rock Woman’ of Hyderabad, originally from Germany she settled in Hyderabad in early 1970s. She is also the founder member and secretary of Society to Save Rocks. Next half an hour or so I was engrossed in her world of rocks!! 
 Society to Save Rocks is a first of its kind NGO which was set up in 1996 by concerned citizens and rock lovers of Hyderabad, since then has expanded to include many other citizens, from students to housewives to businessmen and bureaucrats it has about 300 members now. The society aims to promote the cause of protection and preservation of rocks, and emphasis the crucial role rocks play in protecting our delicate ecology. Besides conducting awareness programs and regular walks, rock painting exhibitions, cultural shows and concerts, the society advocates the integration of rock formation into the architecture. Consequently many corporate houses, hotels and bungalows have made rocks part of their interiors. Because of the initiatives by Society to Save Rocks Andhra Pradesh is the only state in the country where rocks are under government protection as natural heritage, under this 26 rock sites have been notified. Also the Municipal Corporation have coordinated with the Tourism department to develop rock gardens in the city. People are being sensitised about this unique heritage and you could see many homes in the twin city, instead of dynamiting the rocks, are painstakingly chalking out plans to incorporate rocks into their homes. It is not very uncommon to see houses with boulders inside, as also in the parks and gardens. The society has also given individual identity to several rock formations by naming them after the things they resemble, like for instance, Mushroom rock, Elephant rock, Mother-child rock, Giant Laddoo rock so on. Religious structures like temples, mosques, tanks, monuments etc. have been saviour in many cases as people avoid destroying rocks around them.   
Despite these efforts and initiatives rock sites continues to be degraded and systematically destroyed by realtors, contractors and rock cutters. Economic boom and urbanisation saw destruction of many rock formations in and around Hyderabad to give way to high rises. Many of the finest rock formations have been flattened; many hills are disappearing that includes the Banjara and Jubilee. It is estimated that only about 5% rock formations are left in Hyderabad city.  But despite all these the city can be proud for being the only city in the country where rocks are protected as natural heritage. 
The granite rocks in the deccan region are among the oldest in the world and came into existence about 2500 million years ago, these were originally molten magma pushed from the centre of the earth upward into the crust where they slowly solidified and with millions of years of weathering have acquired the shape that we see now. These metamorphosed rock formations that in their myriad forms and contours lend an awesome natural beauty to the surrounding cannot be recreated and once they are lost, these silent sentinels of passage of time are lost forever. Apart from loss of aesthetic value, if these boulders are destroyed, the terrain would become flat, in the absence of these rocks, that acts a natural channel for ground water, the rain water would just run off. Rocks do not just represent themselves but also have a unique ecosystem, with its flora, fauna and microorganism that is dependent on it. A study done by the Society found 90 species of birds breeding in one of the rock sites and adjacent areas.
I was reading a book Rockscape of Andhra Pradesh (by Narendra Luthra) that the Tourism department of AP has brought out in collaboration with Society to Save Rocks. In 1933 when Rabindranath Tagore came to Hyderabad and happen to stay at Rock house (of Nawab Mehdi Nawaz Jung) in Jubilee hills “he was so fascinated by the place that he said if he didn’t have his Shanti Niketan to care for, he would have liked to settle down here.” He was even inspired to write a poem titled ‘Kohsar’ on the rocks. The translation…
From the distance thou didst appear
Barricaded in rocky aloofness
Timidly I crossed the rugged path
To find here all of a sudden
An open invitation in the sky
And friend’s embrace in the air.
In an unknown land the voice that
Seemed ever known
Revealed to me a shelter of loving intimacy

Even when Gunter Grass visited Hyderabad he preferred to see these prehistoric rocks than manmade structures like Golconda fort or Charminar.
I wasn’t in Hyderabad for too long to explore the rocks but yes some places where there are some wonderful rocks that comes to mind is Mahabalipuram (the picture herein I took sometime back), Ramanagara (on the outskirts of Bangalore, famous for Sholay movie) as also Hampi.

From my scribble pad…

Prehistoric rock paintings
Rudimentary weapons
the intent sharp as the charcoal dark
red ochre adds the macabre.
TV channels replicate the scenes
Streets, gallows and homes
cruel, brutal and the horrid
debate for explanations
that the prehistoric didn’t seem necessary.
The dead still jerk for the last breath
Reasons to kill very much the same.
Clouds unconcerned as much as every creature
on earth and expanding universe
to the plight of profits and losses
and recipe of appam stew. 


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The thrilled Black Redstart

 Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) is a very common bird during winter, and tends to flicker its tail a lot. They are just thrilled! Spotted this one in the interior of Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary.  

D.R.Bendre: Singing bird is throat of the tree

‘Tis but a likeness of the Dream Divine
Envisaged by the Peace of Buddha when
It sat in penance on the Everest
Of Buddha’s Grief and glimpsed it in the cave
Of contemplation deep; the only blossom
That ever the tree of joy bore on its blossom.

I was at Dharwad and within the city is located DR Bendre National Trust next to his home. The Trust also has a sort of a museum of Bendre that has collections of pictures and lines from his poems. What put me off was indication of him being ritual driven that too in the fag end of his life, it surely is not sign of enlightened soul. I have read about Bendre sometime back and recall that he carried the reputation of spiritually inclined and mystical in his expressions. Influenced by Tagore and Aurobindo, as also Emerson so on I was looking forward to know him better. But these references cautioned me. 
Lines on Tagore…

With war of words we are weary:
Our cheerless life was dreary.
Master! You gave us light
And songs of deep delight.
Such grand, prophetic utterances
And song of deep deliverance
Are God’s gift to you.
Your peers there are but few.

I had bought a book The Spider and the Web (GS Amur) –lots of typos (errors are crime). Two others book I went through were DR Bendre: The Poet and Poetry (Kirtinath Kurtkoti) and Bendre: Poet and Seer (VK Gokak). The latter can be considered a definitive reference since Gokak had over the years become, from a disciple to close friend and confidante (“Bendre was a very near phenomenon to me”), further Gokak too like Bendre has been awarded the highest literary award of the country: the Jnanpith. His writings are lucid and gave insight into Bendre. I must add, most blogs take me about a maximum of four days, in rare instance a week (travelling and taking pictures of birds not included), but Bendre had me in deep quandary. I was troubled and confused, on the one side he is compelling while on the other he seems to be carrying the burden of tradition, indeed an enlightened soul would have seen through it but Bendre seemed hopelessly enmeshed and increasingly intellectual in his deal, but remarkably he does reflect universality and hint at Upanishadic excellence. When Bendre saw Ganges he exclaims standing on bank “How can ever one compose a song comprehending the river which Siva’s head could not compose?” Gokak mentions this in context to Bendre “overwhelmed with the sight of sublimity of nature”. I find this quite confusing why sublimity of nature has to be through religious myths? Why the river cannot be seen as a river? But then I realise Ganges hold on Hindus and poet’s burden of ancient tradition, one need to add that through this he does bring out overwhelming difficulty in putting words to wonders of nature. (I guess you need to be too much entombed in temple squatter’s worldview to understand these subtleties, which Gokak could, insignificant me cannot and will not, liberal Karnad can. I am wondering what is common here!! I am also wondering why Dalits or Tribes don’t find mention in Jnanpith award list. Some narrations are difficult to plug in, that difficulty is also a choice!).   

Dattatreya Ramachandra Bendre (1896-1981) is one of the most prominent Kannada literary figures and for many years was instrumental in determining the course of history of Kannada literature. He wrote under the pen name Ambikatanayadatta, and was arguably the foremost inheritor of great poetic traditions originating with Pampa –the adikavi. Bendre was in a way renaissance figure of sort in the resurgence of Kannada literature, ‘a mix of passion of folk and sophistication of tradition’, he united the bhakti and gyana, lokik and alokik. He initiated many publications and even started a group of literary friend (Geleyara Gampu, popularly Gampuians) that expanded to include young talents, their intent being commune. VK Gokak was a student when he got attracted to this group and maintained  a lifelong association. Here he narrates his first meeting with Bendre, he had taken his poems for his reaction. Bendre listened with patience, even approval. It was after giving me a full hearing that he began to speak. The discourse lasted for more than three hours. Mrs Bendre was impatient with long waiting since it was high time for dinner. But Bendre’s imagination had soared, in his characteristic way, past the kitchen right up to the stars. My soul was suspended in the web of his philosophic talk. And when we rose to depart, I was a changed man. I feel my soul will remember that talk long after it has ceased to be a denizen of earth.  
Bendre was driven by passion that found expression through religious symbolism and deep insight into nature of things. His poems very immediately moves from apparent to profound, the dexterity is breath taking, though my awareness is based on translations but the commentaries by eminent scholars gives an insight into ‘peculiar genius’ that was Bendre. For Bendre conflict between good and evil is a human conflict based on ethical values but from divine point of view the problem of good and evil doesn’t exist. The problem of being and non being, on the other hand can be solved on the divine plane. There is Nietzsche here, this is where greatness of Indian thoughts finds expressions. Bendre says “be a seeker then come forth with your songs”.

In one poem Shravana Monday he brings out images that have metaphorical relation with each other. ‘The devotees singing the praise of God, and caught in rhythmic pattern of their song, are like the fish and koel, trying desperately trying to reach another order of reality through faith which is instinctive and natural. Their sorrow is not personal grief but existential anguish. What they have is simple faith which is irrational, and they are simply waiting for the breaking up of the pattern so that a new pattern of reality may emerge’. Some of Bendre’s poems are difficult to comprehend and needs further study, the nuances takes time to reveal. Poetry, according to Bendre, escapes or should escape the tyranny of meaning which is commodity of market place. That culture which insists on verbal meaning and is intolerant of any other value is decadent. In moments of creative ecstasy, he finds words can only profane his meaning “These tremulous strains hit beyond the heights and find the windpipe to be too small to pipe them. How can I ever utter the words that the tongue can never reach?”

Something strange rose
On an unknown horizon
And crept into sight.
It took form as creation
In the pupils of the seeing eyes.

Words build the theatre
With emotions playing the role
Of actor. They reach
The hearts of people
Giving them strength and joy.

On each bough and each
Twig, a different kind
Of flower. The origin is one
But the names are many.
You and I are the source.

Names must name something
To have the stamp of the real.  
(Seeing and Creating)

 In another instance he mentions poetry as place of violence in creative endeavour, violence here means ‘the power to destroy in order to purify’. Purify? I haven’t really got that one!! He does however strive to show the need for objectivity in art. “Leave my suffering and my delights to me. But I will give you the poetry of my pain, the melody of my mirth. And if your heart melts at the strains like sugar-crystals, will you not permit me to taste its sweetness?” That surely is quite a charming take. 

Some of his poems translated from Kannada…

The Evening

The face of the sky was bitten pink by the queen of colours,
Then it was evening.
Near the edge of land, the cloak of mist had fallen
carelessly, And was now and then rising with the wind.

The quarter moon, like a chogachi flower, ha slowly
opened. There was silver above.
The stars like jasmine flowers
Were scattered in the hair of the night.

The round, big eyed girl with a big belly
Was returning home with her pot of water.
The path to the well, like a small kitten
Was following her, tangling her feet and falling behind.

The cool rain wind was stealthily playing with her saree
And out of fear, often, would let it go.
A parrot from a heart was following in the shadow,
And was unaware of what it was doing.

This poem The Bird of Time has become my favourite…

The Bird of Time

The Bird of Time is winging, winging.
Above, around, below,
By leagues and leagues, with leaps and bounds,
In the twinkle of an eye,
The Bird of Time is winging.

Dark and grey are its tailward ends,
Bright and flashing, feather on feather
Ruby, gold and colour on colour
Beat its wings on either side.
The Bird of Time is winging.

Its body is of rain burdened sapphire clouds,
As if the skies had taken wings.
Hooded with a diadem of stars,
The very sun and moon are its eyes.
The Bird of Time is winging.

Threshing thrones like ears of corn,
It makes a meal of empires, princedoms.
The mainlands drift and continents succumb
As it pecks at the world’s imperial crowns.
The Bird of Time is winging.

Dusting the writ forehead of ages past
And opening fated eras wide,
It brings to birth with its flaps of wings
The children of a new seed time.
The Bird of Time is winging.

Flying past Venus as by a village
And past Mars, sucking him dry,
It soars and sings in the very courtyards
Of benignant Mercury.
The Bird of Time is winging.

It touches the fringe of the very quarters
And stretches its beak beyond their line
To hatch or hew its egged universes:
Who can know its dark intent?
The Bird of Time is winging.

The butterfly

The wings of a butterfly,
Have you seen them, sister?
Poked with beautiful green spots,
Smeared with turmeric;
Bathed in pure gold,
With silver rice scattered all over;
A circle of vermilion
Running round a brilliant spot;
Its wings are of the cream of the wind
Not one, but so many,
Who made them all?
What colours!
Suggesting the bright feathers of a peacock!
Nicer than silk are the delicate wings,
So nice, I am afraid to touch.
They dance all day to a mad tune,
And fly away, with the wind.
Fly away –wither?
Perhaps to the enchanting gardens of paradise.

The Sunflower

What haughtiness! What audacity!
It stares into our eyes.
It drinks the liquid heat of the eye
Of the sky and creates

Thirst for light. Look how the sunflower
Stands! Like the world illuminating
Sight of the Girnar top or Kailasa summit,
Like a lion with pericarp face
And petal mane, looking imperiously
And saying; this is divine
Initiation. Like the meru pillar
In the flower it stands

The heart always looks up
When it aspires for the great. 

Wise saying

Lines of friendship on the foreheads of parrots.

Different forests, different houses
Different kinds, different sounds.

When they see wings
They come together
And claim friendship

They take to wing suddenly
And suddenly they descend.
They spend their days where they can
Would I ever see such people?  

In the last days of his life he was immersed in numbers, numerology. No doubt Bendre was a compelling poet but I am sorry these interests cannot be supported. Numerology is absolute nonsense and occupies attention of wasted mind. These mumbo jumbos have become quite popular these days, only reflecting resurgence of market supported nonsense feeding on insecurities of people, there is a feverish race to reach the lowest denominator. Numbers are facts, a convenient representation for calculation, there is nothing sacred here (even Ramanujam’s number is explanation of fact that his brilliant mind was able to conceive). And therefore there is nothing to intuit knowledge into it; Bendre even attempts A Theory of Immortality through numbers!! I reckon when one is immersed in traditional way of things, while social reality of discrimination is conveniently bypassed, these superior bearings find outlet in these speculations, this too is ancient tradition. Bendre just lost it, nothing much. But then in Indian traditions these are philosophical speculations, they are quite adept in fitting these craps into narrations of greatness.

I was reading The Open Eyes –A Journey through Karnataka by Dom Moraes (some brilliant illustration by Mario Miranda). There is a passage on his meeting with Bendre, quite hilarious one that. Dr Bendre is a small, bespectacled man, frail, but, despite his years, incurably active and incurably talkative. As soon as we arrived, he deposited me in a chair and pointed triumphantly at a blackboard. ‘19’, he said, ‘is your number. Look. It is also mine.’ Chalked on the blackboard was a series of dates, the first of which was 1919, ‘That’, he said, ‘was the year of my marriage.’ The next date was 1938….and 57 is 19 multiplied by three.’ The date under this was 1976. ‘In this year we met,’ he said triumphantly. ‘And 76 is 19 multiplied by four.’
He therefore clearly supposed our meeting to be one of the most important points in my life. The next date was 1995. ‘This,’ said Dr Bendre, ‘is multiplied by five, and this will be the acme of your career.’ By this time I was feeling extremely bemused. ‘I come from an old Vedic family,’ said Dr Bendre, ‘and for 60 years have pursued the science of numerology.’ He added, ‘Apart from the number 19, I was born with number four. That is why the English translation of my poems is called Four Strings.’ He pointed to German isotope chart on his wall. ‘The letter C,’ he told me ‘is 6. The letter N is really 7. The letter O is 8. O is nonsense: 8 is sense. C is nonsense. 6 is sense. 7 is sense. Nitrogen is nonsense.’ I sat and looked at him in utter incomprehension, nodding my head politely from time to time. He asked me if I understood him.
Since, had I said I did not understand him, I would have perpetuated another waterfall of words, I said I did. He then took me around his library, which is immense. There are thousands of books stacked in wooden shelves: books in all languages. While we inspected them he told me, ‘Pythagoras said 50 minus is 3 square + 4 square, and this makes 5 square. Three squared is the child, five squared is woman: 25 is man.’ I said ‘Ah.’ Dr Bendre continued, ‘We are in Milky Way. The truth of the seasons is not in the solar but in the polar centre. We have to shift our minds to the Pole star which has 28,000 cycles. It is in front of my house sometimes. I know it is there; I know I am here. Men may come and men may go.’ I said ‘Ah’, once more…
Though I had had little opportunity to read his poems, apart from the small English translation…I no longer had any doubt that he was a great poet. Only great poets have such interests and ideas as Dr Bendre has. 

And that, I believe, is sarcasm not a compliment.
I have been confused about Bendre, clearly our man ‘from an old Vedic family’ just couldn’t come out of his little mesh, despite grandness of his poems, it is the arrogance and legacy of surety of one’s place, as prescribed and entitled by his tradition, that led him to the path of ‘numerological’ degradation. Some writers point that these need to be further studied!! Sure in the meanwhile I did some check, Bendre and Moraes died in the year and date that has nothing to do with number 19, well I guess nothing can be more important than death in a person’s life!! The tragedy is India has tradition of tolerating nonsense and they tend to intellectualise these with inputs from science, and then create some kind of philosophy few centuries later it becomes tradition. It doesn’t even stand basic scrutiny but still they cling on to it. Few cursory flips will tell that most of Vedas are crap; it is Upanishad that touches the subtle. Great people like Buddha, Kabir, Guru Nanak…saints and seers could see this, they weren’t part of any miracle nor claimed any entitlement. Gokak assertion of Bendre being a seer is questioned on this very ground.          
Simple living is no big deal, it can be a habit. It is the mind that needs be sophisticatedly simple, effortlessly connects to realities of surroundings, hence compassion, hence creativity. There is no claim to grandness here. I was confused about Bendre, now I know the reason.  

From my scribble pad…

Morning Mandala
The eastern clouds assumes pattern of its choice
A pause.
A meditative silence.
Little hues of orange, some tentative red, lots of golden yellow
is slid in photon by photon onto the blue canvas.
It grows in splendour
Builds up gilded palaces and choicest conceptions
magnificent citadels of imaginations
and perfecting ideas.    
The blinding brightness of realisation.
An invisible hand wipes away
the moment’s glory
in a snap restores the fragile
back into the frame.