Musings of a Copywriter:
A nostalgic journey back into the past by Julian Matthews, set in Malaysia. Click here to read.
Nidhi Mishra takes us on a nostalgic journey through the syncretic elements of Lucknawi culture. Click here to read.
Debraj Mookerjee journeys into the heart of rural Bengal. Click here to read.
Anasuya Bhar journeys to her childhood recalling her experience of having an artists for a father. Click hereto read.
Young Shivam Periwal shows how it seeps in large parts of the world outside. Click here to read.
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Musings, August, 2020
Musings, July 2020
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Over years of reading, some authors are likely to emerge as your favourites for various reasons and occupy the venerated position forever. When an author enters your list of favourites, you tend to grow intolerant of criticism of his work or personal life, even on valid grounds. All the foibles are tossed aside as natural or unavoidable. There is no chance of losing respect once an author achieves that glorified status in the eyes of a reader. (Click here to read more)
(.n) a place which has a bustling atmosphere otherwise, has become deserted, abandoned and eerily quiet suddenly.
It’s a new-fangled word which I chanced upon quite recently, all thanks to the pursuits propounded during downtime and this inescapable lockdown. I took upon one of them to building my vocabulary. Though this word was a novel one, the sentiment associated with it was not alien to me. I just didn’t have a name for it back then. (Click here to read more)
Rohingya people, who have no identity of their own, are now facing another danger. The pandemic of COVID-19 took away one of the Rohingyas, who found shelter at a camp at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh on the wake of genocide in their own land in Myanmar. (Click here to read more)
Chicago O’Hare’s international terminal offers street theatre. I arrived recently at Terminal 5 to meet a friend, coming from Kathmandu, Nepal, via Abu Dhabi, UAE. Henry sent numerous texts once he landed as to where I might meet him and his luggage. He encouraged me to wait in the quiet of my car till he arrived. True, it was our nation’s busiest airport and often chaotic. But I refused. It was the drama of the arrivals gate that fuelled my 90-minute drive — not souvenirs that he brought back from his time in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Click here to read more)
Personal experience is always a milestone to reminisce in life as its memories evoke mixed feelings of euphoria or exasperation, depending upon the incident that wrought that at the first instance. Though this one occurred a couple of years ago, it flashes in my mind quite often, pushing me to set my thoughts on paper so that I could relieve the feelings I sustained and shift the same to readers for them to partake of the pleasure or pain such narratives impart. With this preliminary let me begin at the beginning. (Click here to read more)
When condemnation comes from a decorated officer with eight medals in his kitty, you are left without any defence. He throws one salvo after another, bombards you with criticism – your self-esteem blown up in smithereens. Being one of the most successful among all your cousins, his fusillade is not dismissed as the rant of a demented relative. Every single word he uses without caution is accorded profound respect. (Click here to read more)
Printed books by authors from around the world did not reach the market and the books that were about to be published got stuck in the printing presses. Thousands of literature festivals as well as book-tours were put on hold. As Nepal went into lockdown, all sectors and industries were locked down too. Citizens were seen returning home from east to west and from west to east, dreading an uncertain future. (Click here to read more)
I look up to find the evening sky stretch out like a canvas with a multitude of hues, change like a kaleidoscope of colours. It is the like the work of an artist, our Creator. I have often been startled by the beauty of life amidst my own fake despair. I do not have many concrete problems in life. Not the ones that could be touched with bare hands, seen with naked eyes. Not the ones that could be described with a flourish. Not as if problems could ever be explained. (Click here to read more)
The epidemic is almost over in Italy. After almost three painful months of lockdown and the loss of about 30,000 lives, the daily number of victims of the coronavirus is slowly dwindling to zero. In a couple of weeks at most, the epidemic will be completely gone. It is time to restart, but the damage has been terrible. (Click here to read more)
The fiery accents of orange-gold in the western sky had gingerly muted into a soft peach. Rich hues of champagne and pastel pink blended with the steely greys in the horizon. A flurry of various birds and their dark silhouettes dotted the myriad tints as they returned to their roosts. They cackled joyously as they flew overhead. (Click here to read)
A fleeting thought of grafting its small branch in my garden – with a concrete slab to perpetuate its memory – did cross my mind. And the epitaph recording the cause of its death: Amphan. Does a tree deserve to be immortalised? Does a tree become evergreen in history? Or it remains just like us ordinary mortals who come and go? Enlightenment makes all the difference. We are all uprooted from time to time, in so many different ways. The uprooted tree left behind a lot for me to dig up within. (Click here to read more)
The lockdown has, in various aspects, limited me to circumscribing through the daily routine, inside my house. It might sound odd but for the last few days, my timetable has been rudimentary and timed, something that has never happened before. I have returned to my old home at Chandannagar where I hardly stayed as an adult. There are the same old forces at work, ordinary things like burning the incense sticks, drying the towel out, filling the water bottles — not quite voluntary but somewhat of a meditational retreat, almost like a recreational conformity. Amid these circumstances, I re-watched Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma (2018). (Click here to read more)
The roads were clear of people and machines, covered with fallen leaves on both sides, leaving the centre untouched. The contrast of yellow leaves and black tar was striking, soft and fragile leaves against tough and durable tar. After decades one could delight in bird song, crystal clear, not buried under the noise of incessant traffic. Feast for eyes, feast for ears, heart’s delight. My feet walked me to the first grocery store. (Click here to read)
I am not a prolific writer at all. A lazy academic, I procrastinate at the very idea of sitting on my laptop or tablet to pen down a few lines every day as most writers do religiously. But, lockdown has eventually left me with little option but to find a way of filling twenty-four long hours over twenty-one days, which has now extended much beyond. And hence, I am here on my table. (Click here to read more)
Forecasts and news did not prepare us for the actuality of it all till it actually happened. We had taken all necessary precautions but what happened on the evening of the 20th of May 2020 rattled and disturbed a lot. Cyclone Amphan was moving slowly over the Bay of Bengal and was expected to make a landfall in the southern parts of Bengal and lash the city of Kolkata as well. (Click here to read more)
Non-believers have no God to thank when the virus dies. Believers have too many replicas to genuflect before once the pandemic gets over. This virus came with the huge potential to ensure the mass conversion of believers into non-believers across the world, across multiple faiths. But the virus is most unlikely to destroy the cells of faith. God has survived many such catastrophes and epidemics in the past. He is going to survive Covid as well. (Click here to read more)
I have always wondered, when I am not at home, do the inhabitants of my bookshelf come alive like those children’s playthings in Toy Story? Apart from what their titles bind them to narrate, do my books have other stories to tell? Is my bookshelf some sort of a universe in itself with each compartment and the contents – an entity of its own? Are there dimensions to a bookshelf that we, humans, are not aware of – something that is beyond our realm? (Click here to read)
I had never felt the need to move out of the city. Let me correct myself here. I had never felt the urge to move out of the city. All my friends were determined to leave the city after completing their studies. They had convinced themselves that there were no opportunities here. A better future, a dream career was only possible elsewhere. I did not buy this sentiment. I was not swept by the tide of majoritarian thinking. I was a loner marooned on the tiny island of my hardcore beliefs that withstood the winds of change. (Click here to read more)
It was the post on Facebook, in the early days, before, you know, before it got really serious. “Does anyone know of anyone actually getting this virus?” The question behind the question was something like ‘this is all fake news, all made up, this is not real’. In the comments section, her FB friends and followers were quick to respond. No. No. Don’t know. No. No. Don’t know anyone. As if to confirm suspicions. So, the poster followed up. Wasn’t it interesting that no one of her hundreds, perhaps thousands of friends, had themselves or knew of anyone with the virus? (Click here to read)
A fresh morning with a generous sun awaited me on the balcony outside. It was flooded with birdsongs — the caws of the crows, the chirps of the sparrows and the continual trills of a magpie. As my south-facing balcony door opened on a pond and a meadow that stretched up to the street lining it, leaving at least 90 feet to 100 feet in between, I had no dearth of morning breeze or late afternoon gusts of wind in summer. The time of this corona-scare was quiet and soundless. All these birdsongs, whoosh of a car-engine on the road 70-100 feet off my balcony were soothing to my ears. (Click here to read more)
“Walking is a pastime rather than an avocation.” Rebecca Solnit
In the weeks since social distancing measures were imposed and circuit breaker measures implemented in Singapore, despite having more time on my hands, my writing output has decreased. Have I been afflicted by the dreaded writer’s block?
(Click here to read more)
The world of advertising is already getting creative to give a positive spin to the image of corona virus. Digital media is flush with out-of-the-box renditions. These wonderful interpretations indicate we have the rare ability to mutate this symbol into something exciting. Despite its malevolent impact on human lives and livelihood, the image does not look threatening in isolation. When we look back a year or so later, we are likely to remember a lot regarding the pandemic including the lockdown. (Click here to read)
Who knew a repeat telecast of a mythological series based on the life of a man/God would set me on the road to new discovery about my own parents. When Ramayan began to be re-telecast on the national television, I had no intention of being glued to it. I am not a big fan of men who abandon their wives, even if they are the Supreme Being/Leader. So, it was a surprise that I ended up watching a whole episode of the series with my family. (Click here to read)
After almost fifteen days of this ‘lockdown’, I drew a long breath and took up my laptop to scribble away my thoughts. Know not why! Just a way of keeping myself busy, just a mode of whiling away the ‘time’ which otherwise might lie heavy on my heart, cannot say exactly why. Or maybe, being inspired by the ‘lockdown diaries’ penned and shared on Face Book by my friends! Cannot tell you the reason exactly! (Click here to read)
As I wipe the sweat from Pogie’s spotted coat, I think about what horses mean to me. Aside from their centuries of service to mankind, for the work they’ve done and the wars they’ve carried us into, I think horses bring out the best in us. I am especially an advocate of equine interaction for people on the autism spectrum. Horses certainly saved me. (Click here to read more)
I thought the sky is the same as the one I had seen from the rooftop of my house in Imphal on certain days when there were no clouds and the sky was exceptionally clear. But as I continued to look up almost breaking my neck, I twisted my head a little and wondered that it was the same sky yet it was different like a picture with filters. Spellbinding both though, in their own ways. (Click here to read)
Meanwhile, the students and teachers of FTII — Film and Television Institute of India — have been making short films exhorting us to stay at home. Bollywood stars led by Amitabh Bachchan and including all others, have made a comedic short wherein they’re all searching for Big B’s misplaced chashma or glasses — from the confines of their individual homes. (Click here to read more)
During the lockdown phase, I started taking interest in what did not interest me earlier. As a writer fond of observing people and the world outside, my operating space was restricted now. Everything inside the house began to draw my attention. The small, minor issues and objects assumed greater importance than they actually deserved. My appetite for keen observation was evident every hour of the day. (Click here to read more)
Inexplicably, a few moments later, it swerved violently to the right and hit a pillar of the Kochi Metro at high speed. The thud sounded like a thunderbolt. All of us looked through the windscreen with bulging eyes and open mouths. I braked as a black piece, probably a part of the bumper, ricocheted away and came to a stop just in front. I quickly moved the vehicle to the left, without looking at the rear-view mirror. Thankfully, there was no vehicle behind us. I parked on one side. (Click here to read)
Not only that, times of global turmoil when movement is restricted are ideal for slowing down and appreciating nature. As Alain de Botton says on his homepage, “You normally have to be bashed about a bit by life to see the point of daffodils, sunsets and uneventful nice days.” In these tumultuous and uncertain times there is an exquisite pleasure to be had in communing with animals and birds. (Click here to read)
Tsunamis of viral microscopic particles surge across continents to flood our cities, streets, and bodies. I stock up on masks, sanitizers, all that is anti-viral and anti-bacterial and watch my ‘home-store’ burgeon with a manic fascination ready to protest that I am not hoarding. (Click here to read)
Lockdown! Stay at home! I know not how long this period of incarceration will continue! More than a couple of weeks have already sped by! But believe me, days are not appearing long, neither the nights. The self, I was groping for in the closet of my being, peeped out and hollered to me, “So finally we meet!” (Click here to read)
Covid-19 seems far away from the district I live in. But deprivation has already set in. On my way home with a bag full of grocery items from the nearby kirana store (minimart), I was stopped by two masked women outside the park. (Click here to read)
Today my daughter came to me and said – ‘its evening, lets make tea’. A common statement but uncommon because it did not have a time stamp – as in ‘Its 5:30 pm, lets make tea’.
It set me thinking what a luxury it has been to be free of the ever-ticking time bomb. ( Click here to read)
Adelaide is half an hour ahead of Japan, and today while in lockdown in Adelaide I keep an eye on the clock so I can join a meeting over 7000 kilometres away in Japan. Ten years ago this would have been a scene in a science fiction novel (at least for me), but now I just have to click a link and I can participate in meeting in a distant place and in a different language. Until now my worlds of Australia and Japan have been hermetically sealed. It has been impossible to be simultaneously present in both, but this crisis has brought them together for the first time. I can sit in front of the screen and attend a meeting in Japan, with the comforting presence of my ageing Labrador snoozing at my feet in Adelaide. (Click here to read more)
Every day, at 6 p.m., I set out from my home in Kochi for a run. In these coronavirus times, I have marked out a route that runs parallel to the main road. For a few days, the cops, in khaki uniform, were stopping cars and two-wheelers but they left the individuals alone. I have started running after a decade. During those years, I was swimming. But the pool, where I swim, is closed. The lifeguard has gone home. The club is shuttered. There is a lone watchman in a blue uniform standing at the gate and saying, “Nobody is here.” (Click here to read)
Pakistan, like many parts of the world, has announced a lockdown in most of the country. In some of the cities, however, there is a partial lockdown. The district Kech in Balochistan is partially locked down (from morning till five in the evenings with essential services still open like groceries, vegetables, banks, medical stores etc). However, all of the educational institutions will remain closed till May 31, with a warning that the date may be extended, depending on future developments. (Click here to read)
Her multiple complications turned worse around the time the first case came to light. During her last medical check-up, she was diagnosed with aggravated problems related to heart, liver, and gall bladder functioning. Hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, and cataract left out as routine and manageable disorders. She heard the doctor warn her of fatal consequences if angioplasty was not done immediately. She chose to bypass it with a smirk that offended the doctor and he prescribed three new tests at his specified diagnostic centre to locate more illnesses residing within her. (Click here to read)
It started on Saturday, or perhaps even earlier on Friday, twenty-eight days ago, with tiredness and an odd tenseness in my body, which I attributed to stress. My husband returned to our home in Toronto from Pakistan on Monday afternoon and went into quarantine in our guest room. Our COVID-19 days had begun. (Click here to read more)
But the real reasons (and that is why I am linking it to the lockdown) was that I was mentally at peace since once on board there was nothing under my control. I was blissfully devoid of FOMO – fear of missing out on the chance of utilising my time better. There was nothing I could do high up there – no clearing long pending tasks like visiting the bank, replacing my torn handbag, arranging for a birthday party, getting my car serviced — in general all the tasks that I postponed with guilt while on land. (Click here to read more)
People, mainly the theistic type, are in a dilemma now. They are currently undergoing a test of faith of sorts. On the one hand, they feel they should not have been subjected through such a trial. Whoever had heard of man-made laws preventing believers from performing their daily mandatory salutations of the Divine Forces? Furthermore, at this time of calamity, if they cannot turn to the Divine for help, what else can they do? (Click here to read more)
I run a research group made up of more than 20 graduate students, and in a “normal” workday my job is to supervise and direct them on research activities related to opto-electronic devices such as solar cells and light-emitting diodes. I also teach an undergraduate course in polymer physics during our teaching season, with lectures two times a week. I would normally also go to conferences, although not every week. (Click here to read more)
Yesterday, someone shared with me a video by Serena Williams that went viral last year, where she is emotionally urging her little baby girl to grow up and take to a sport, ANY sport, but some sport. I remembered watching it together with my young daughter — in fact, many times over. (Click here to read more)
It is not easy to classify Julie Felix, who died the week before last, aged 81. Most of the labels don’t fit. Sure, you could tag her as a folk singer, as she had one of the longest careers in folk music, spanning more than half-a-century. The singer-songwriter was also a humanitarian and human rights activist, having been politicised in the 1960s and was active in peace and environmental movements. But to dismiss her just as a protest singer of yesteryear would be to ignore her much larger contribution. ( Click here to read more)
This feels so dystopian. The world today. The television streaming clippings of people, suddenly thrown out of work and asked to leave, to go back to wherever; just leave. Isolation is the keyword, it seems. Lock yourself in your homes, if you don’t have a home somewhere; in a drain pipe, a hole, a box anywhere. Just leave they have been told. They have been let down by the cities of their dreams, the people they worked for, the world collectively. Can we do anything about it? Nothing! And we hang our heads in shame, in our living rooms. (Click here to read)
Notes from Myanmar: Human vs Virus
Birds are at ease, showing no worries, looking down at the helter-skelter of humans, struggling and striving to survive under this ruthless virus’ attack. Before that, birds caused flu and migratory birds could not be seen easily. That time, people hated birds; they stopped bird watching for the fear posed by the threat of bird flu. Birds migrated from one end of the world to another, crossing boundaries, as was their natural tendency. Now, the Covid-19 virus is traveling almost throughout the world. (Click here to read)
Is it funny that every time Man thinks that he has it all figured out, Nature (or fate if you like to call it) just jolts him back to reality? Like Will E Coyote and his spanking new latest invention from ACME Corporation, it just falls flat and blows right on his face again and again, and Roadrunner always goes scot-free, scooting off yet again, screeching “beep..beeep!” (Click here to read)
Six decades later, in this grim coronavirus March of 2020, with my city essentially in lockdown and myself in something like self-isolation, I have to admit that I feel a little embarrassed writing about that bird. In fact, I feel as if I should apologize for doing so. After all, who can doubt that we’re now in a Covid-19 world from hell, in a country being run (into the ground) by the president from hell, on the planet that he and his cronies are remarkably intent on burning to hell. (Click here to read)
One thing that the tiny virus, which we cannot see with our naked eyes, has taught us is that mankind in its suffering cannot be bordered by economic, religious, cultural or political boundaries. As we all stand, in isolation, willing or unwilling to take up cudgels against a virus that has forced us to disturb, break and destroy the tenor of our lives, perhaps the time has come to assess our blessings. (Click here to read)
My college is closed, classes are off and examinations have been deferred. We need to go in only if and when there is a need. It is not a holiday as I keep telling all my students, it is a shutdown, done for the sake of social distancing and isolation. It is difficult convincing all about the seriousness of it all, how important it is to take precautions. There are many who dismiss it as media hype, as unnecessary, as India is safe, etc. Convincing does not seem to work, nor does rationale, some just refuse to see logic and reason. (Click here to read more)
Apparently, my 75 year old uncle, Kailash, is immortal.
His astrologer, the one whose perennially hanging VIP undies on the terrace are a Google Maps landmark, told him so.
I quote my uncle verbatim. “My Jupiter is in t he 6th house and even if I want to, I cannot get killed this year.”
(Click here to read more)
On Sunday morning, I hardly noticed that the Japanese Magnolia outside my study room window is in full bloom as it is mid-March. Every year, in late winter, some of the area trees do flower before leaves start to come. That is the first sign to remind us that spring is upon us. There is an undeniably joyous feeling to it and most of us get busy in planning flurries of activities after a long winter. But on Friday afternoon, at 3 PM President Trump declaring National Emergency had everyone put in a panic mode. He had to do it because of the growing spread of the corona virus across states as it is affecting 49 states now. (Click here to read)
As I write this, I am sitting at my workstation at home, a cup of hot green tea in hand, like any other day. But that is where ‘like any other day’ ends. My husband is working from home, no longer out on his weekly tour. The kids are no longer at school. We are watchful of every sneeze, alarmed at every cough. At least, three sanitizers would greet you on the way from my apartment, down the elevator to the ground floor reception. (Click here to read more)
Those familiar with the cult author Ayn Rand (she of The Fountainhead fame) will possibly remember her somewhat sobering thoughts on love: “After a point, YOUR LOVE for a person becomes more important than the object of love” (Capitalisation mine). What is love, or the easier poser: What do we make of the idea of love? That love is a compelling emotion, which is perfectly democratic and non-discriminating in affecting the bright and the otherwise, the poor and the rich, the old and the young and so on is an incontrovertible fact. (Click here to read more)