Immersing the Goddess

I carved her out of my many dreams
She was my worthiest creation
She improved with every molding
and I reveled in the modeling

I gently twisted and turned the clay
till she grew more expressive each day
And added the many tiny touches
as well as myriad colors to my brushes

I grew obsessed with my possession
that had begun to possess me
I never ceased to add more and more
and I never ceased to adore

One day, I decided to bring her to life
so she could inspire me forever
But, it was a Goddess and not real
they warned me dreams were unreal

I anguished through the nine nights
Or were they nine long years?
I let go and clung and again let go
till I was consumed by fears

Finally, in a fit of bleak desperation
breaking through all the bondage
I carried my Goddess to the ocean
and immersed her into oblivion

 

On Killing a Tree by Gieve Patel

drytree

“On killing a tree” by Gieve Patel is a great example of a really good poem. It was prescribed in our school textbook and some of you might have read it earlier.

Though it’s very difficult to quantify the merits of a poem, one unmistakable quality of a good poem is that it has at least two levels i.e. an obvious meaning and another symbolic meaning. Some poems might have multiple levels! I think this is one of them. Here’s the poem, and I’ve provided an explanation later on. It’s a simple read.

On Killing a Tree – Gieve Patel

It takes much time to kill a tree,
Not a simple jab of the knife
will do it. It has grown
slowly consuming the earth,
Rising out of it, feeding
upon its crust, absorbing
years of sunlight, air, water,
And out of its leperous hide
Sprouting leaves.

So hack and chop
But this alone won’t do it.
Not so much pain will do it.
The bleeding bark will heal
And from close to the ground
will rise curled green twigs,
Miniature boughs
Which if unchecked will expand again
to former size.

No,
The root is to be pulled out –
Out of the anchoring earth;
It is to be roped, tied,
And pulled out – snapped out
or pulled out entirely,
Out from the earth-cave,
And the strength of the tree exposed,
The source, white and wet,
the most sensitive, hidden
for years inside the earth.

Then the matter
Of scorching and choking
In sun and air,
Browning, hardening,
twisting, withering,
And then it is done.

There are 3 levels to this poem that I could detect:

Level 1: Gives a physical description of the act of killing a tree and all the steps involved. This the first level.

Level 2: The tree symbolizes negative memories and rigid traditions that are as difficult to “kill” as the tree.

Level 3: There’s a reference to the environment and conservation. Despite the fact that it’s really difficult to kill a single tree, man is succeeding in killing multiple trees, wiping out forests and creating an environmental disaster!  🙁

 

Sadness of the Moon – A poem

Remembered one of the beautiful poems on the moon “Tristesses de la Lune” (Sadness of the Moon), by the famous French poet Charles Baudelaire (1821 – 1867). It’s interesting that most of the famous poems on the moon are sad, romantic ones. This poem is from his collection of poems “Fleurs du Mal” (Flowers of Evil).

After reading it again today, I was so enamored by it’s exquisite beauty and inspired to translate it. There are many existing translations, but decided to try my own  🙂

Learnt French a long time back and am out of touch, but luckily, for a decent translation one needs to be more proficient in the language you’re translating into (English). Have done a simplistic and figurative and not a literal word by word translation.

The original poem is simply superb in it’s imagery and emotion, and my translation can never equal it. However, it was great fun trying, and using all my poetic license :):)

Hope you like it. Also pasting the original French version for those of you who know French.
————————————

Tristesses de la Lune (Sadness of the Moon) by Charles Baudelaire/Translated by Aparna Rao

Today, the moon resembles a pining beauty
dreamy, languorous and distracted
lying amidst the pillows on her bed
trying in vain to fall asleep

She sighs in despair
on soft heaps of cushions
and turns her eyes to the floral clouds
rising in the sky

Lost in listless languor
She sometimes lets a teardrop fall
on the earth

A fervent poet, also unable to sleep
grasps the teardrop in his outstretched palm
as if it were a sparkling opal
and hides it in his heart
————————————–

Tristesses de la Lune – Charles Baudelaire

Ce soir, la lune rêve avec plus de paresse;
Ainsi qu’une beauté, sur de nombreux coussins,
Qui d’une main distraite et légère caresse
Avant de s’endormir le contour de ses seins,

Sur le dos satiné des molles avalanches,
Mourante, elle se livre aux longues pâmoisons,
Et promène ses yeux sur les visions blanches
Qui montent dans l’azur comme des floraisons.

Quand parfois sur ce globe, en sa langueur oisive,
Elle laisse filer une larme furtive,
Un poète pieux, ennemi du sommeil,

Dans le creux de sa main prend cette larme pâle,
Aux reflets irisés comme un fragment d’opale,
Et la met dans son coeur loin des yeux du soleil.

 

My Last Duchess – A poem

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Today I’m posting a poem written by the prominent English poet Robert Browning (1812 – 1889). He was a master of writing dramatic monologues and many of his poems were passionate, violent, ironical and had historical settings.

He was also a very emancipated man (I’d rather use the word “emancipated” instead of “feminist”, because the latter has some extreme connotations) and had broadminded views. That’s evident in this poem “My Last Duchess”.

His real life love story was also very interesting. He met Elizabeth Barrett, an acclaimed English poetess and started corresponding with her regularly and eventually they fell in love and had to marry secretly because her father disapproved of their relationship. Elizabeth was also six years older than him and had poor health, but despite that their marriage was a happy one!  🙂

They moved to Italy and lived there till she died, that explains why many of his poems are set in continental Europe including the one I’m posting today. Elizabeth initially achieved more success with her writing than Browning did, but it’s believed that he encouraged her without feeling envious, and her success increased even more after marriage.

Coming to the poem “My Last Duchess” – it’s a dramatic monologue by a Duke who has just lost his wife (the Last Duchess), and is planning to remarry soon. He’s talking to a man who’s a visiting representative of his future wife’s family, and showing him all the expensive artifacts (paintings and sculpture) in his mansion.

The poem starts with the Duke showing the man a portrait of his ex-wife painted by a monk called Fra Pandolf – “That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall, Looking as if she were alive.” He then talks of how passionate her glance (“The depth and passion of its earnest glance”) is in the portrait, and tells the stranger that she had such glances for everyone she met:
“Such stuff was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart—how shall I say? — too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.”

The above verse talks about her personality, and he says that she was too friendly and an easily impressed person who was generally affable to everything around her – not just people, but even nature (bough of cherries, white mule). He clearly disapproves of her affability, because he thinks that she does not respect him or give him importance by being so – “as if she ranked, My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name, With anybody’s gift.”

We now get to know that he’s an unreasonably jealous and controlling man when he says “Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt, Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without Much the same smile?” He disapproved of her smiling at anybody but him!

Next comes the most shocking statement: “I gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together” – he reveals that he got her murdered because he didn’t approve of her behavior! After this shocking statement, he’s totally unruffled and coolly discusses the dowry he expects from his future father-in-law, clarifying that the lady is his primary interest and not the money.
“The Count your master’s known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretense
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object.”

And lastly he ends by asking the man to take a look at the statue of Neptune in his collection “Notice Neptune, though, Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity” – this signifies that to him, his wife and the statue have the same value, both are objects.

The irony throughout this poem is very apparent – how the Duke has absolutely no remorse over having his wife killed, and is cold bloodedly discussing dowry. It reveals the totally different standards set for men and women in that age in Europe. This poem is still somewhat relevant in modern day India, where we have awful attitudes and behavior displayed towards women many times.

———————————-

My Last Ducchess – Robert Browning

That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now; Fra Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said
“Fra Pandolf” by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek; perhaps
Fra Pandolf chanced to say, “Her mantle laps
Over my lady’s wrist too much,” or “Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat.” Such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart—how shall I say?— too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, ’twas all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace—all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least. She thanked men—good! but thanked
Somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech—which I have not—to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, “Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
Or there exceed the mark”—and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse—
E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will’t please you rise? We’ll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master’s known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretense
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay, we’ll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

Reference:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Browning

PS: Attached a photograph I took of a photograph in the Burlesque Museum in downtown Las Vegas, USA.

The Night Sky

eclipse

I walk into the darkness

beckoned by the heavens

and look up at patterns in the sky

moving along in slow motion

from East to West

imposing Scorpius, unmistakable

with his menacing tail

a veritable nightmare

then I spot Jupiter

alone yet unflinching, spectacular

the many faint glimmers

I try to resolve with my naked eye

lost galaxies, dying stars, clusters

the vast probability

has many a possibility

as I calculate

Lo’ all begins to get hazy

in the spreading light

of the rising moon

and I retire

hoping tomorrow

to rise earlier than the moon

 

PS: Wrote this poem long ago when I was in college, and interested in stargazing. Used to meticulously keep track of the moonrise and moonset times, because one can stargaze only when the moon is not around – the moonlight obscures everything else.

Lovelorn

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My words will never reach you
neither will this trembling voice
Nor will this anguished message
ever ruffle your serene poise

While I, lost in lovelorn despair
will pine and pen into emptiness
and pour my deepest passions
into vacuum and nothingness

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

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The tiny sliver of Colorado river

carved the mighty Grand Canyon

And exposed layer after layer

of rocks and ores on it’s run

 

Millions of years of history

revealed by the landscape

A stunning swirling mystery

of trails, gorges and shapes

 

Words cannot really describe

the magic of it’s natural wonder

So impossible to transcribe

it’s beauty, charm and splendor!

My Travel Story

Life was weary
Days were dreary
Needed a break.

Checked out mountains
Looked up lakes
Booked few weeks.

Packed my bags
Took my flight
Was on my way.

Checked into cheer
Rooms with views
and yummy breakfast.

Road after road
Loved the colors
Clicked many pictures.

Colorful memories
of my journeys
My travel stories.

A Rainy Day

I remember the dark day
I stood by the window
watching the rain
while the wind howled mercilessly
and the trees shook their
disapproving heads
The streets were like rivulets
gushing to obscurity
with unlucky passers
scurrying through them

The pouring, pouring, pouring,
that seemed to know no stopping
brought back memories
that were forgotten and banished
It was again the consciousness
of pain, of never ending darkness
without sunshine
The rain reopened wounds
forcing remembrance

Rendezvous in the Rain

It was a beautiful monsoon evening
the breeze was enchanting
the flowers had showered
the earth was scented
the moon was rising
between the clouds
longing for you
I slipped into the oleanders
and waited in the shadows
amidst fallen flowers

I listened for footsteps
but only heard the rain
starting again
raindrops splashed
and turned into a torrent
the cruel deluge
heartless and inhumane
washed away my reverie
of a rendezvous in the rain

 

Know your “Personality”

“We learn from experience that men never learn anything from experience.” – G B Shaw

Above is a hilarious quote by Bernard Shaw. However, it’s not just funny, it’s kind of true and supported by psychology research! If you look back at your own life and find yourself repeating some of the same mistakes over and over again, you’re probably not in a minority.

That’s because “personality” researchers have found that most people exhibit a stable personality throughout life, and since most behaviors depend on your basic personality, you’re likely to repeat them over and over again in your life.

This revelation is kind of scary (I was disappointed the first time I heard this), but there’s hope. Even, if you can’t change your personality, you can focus on a few of your behaviors and try and actively change them. Before we delve into more of the behavior change part, I’d like to write some more interesting facts regarding personality.

It’s been found that almost all the attributes and adjectives that constitute personality can be grouped under five broad factors: Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Neuroticism, Conscientiousness and Agreeableness – these five are referred to as the “Big Five” personality traits. There are very reliable tests that people can take to find out their individual scores on these traits, and their personality. You’ll either get low, moderate or high scores on each of these traits, and the sum of your individual scores constitutes your unique personality.

Here’s what the traits broadly signify:

Extraversion: is pronounced engagement with the external world. Extraverts enjoy interacting with people, and are often full of energy. They tend to be enthusiastic, action-oriented, possess high group visibility, like to talk, and assert themselves.

Openness: appreciation for art, adventure, unconventional ideas and curiosity. People who are open to experience are intellectually curious, open to emotion, sensitive to beauty and willing to try new things.

Conscientiousness: is a tendency to display self-discipline, act dutifully, and strive for achievement. High scores on conscientiousness indicate a preference for planned rather than spontaneous behavior.

Agreeableness: reflects individual differences in general concern for social harmony. Agreeable individuals value getting along with others and are generally considerate, generous, trusting and trustworthy and helpful.

Neuroticism: is the tendency to experience negative emotions, such as anger, anxiety, or depression.

Taking this test and finding out how you score on these five dimensions can be very revealing. It can help you choose the right career, know what your strengths and weaknesses are and help you pick a few behaviors that you might want to actively change. It’s important to select only a few behaviors, 1 or 2 behaviors at a time, and not more. Because behavior change requires a lot of effort, and one has limited abilities in this regard. The actual Big Five test is around 45 minutes long and costs money, but there are a lot of free and shorter versions on the Internet that can give you a fair idea. You can search for them on google.

Here’s a good link: http://www.personal.psu.edu/~j5j/IPIP/ipipneo120.htm

Wish I’d known this earlier, got to know about it only a few years back. After I took the long survey and looked at the results – it was very insightful. I scored extremely high on “openness to experience” – and people who score high on this attribute are better off in artistic fields or writing, or any other field like anthropology that involves a lot of change of scene and creativity. Thanks to my personality, I wasn’t really cut out to stick to one subject and delve more and more into it, I’m happier skimming over a lot of subjects 😉

Also found out that I’ve a somewhat low score in “conscientiousness” – and people low in this attribute have a lot of difficulty being disciplined and sticking to goals and plans. However, you can try to correct that by working on making some good timetables and deadlines, and setting interesting goals.

To sum up, the last word would be one of caution: don’t ever befriend or marry someone thinking that you can “change” them. It’s next to impossible and if you try to – they’re going to be mighty unhappy about it.

Hopefully, this information was interesting 🙂

References:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Five_personality_traits…
The Big Five Personality Dimensions And Job Performance: A Meta-Analysis; Personnel Psychology; Barrick & Mount; 1991.

Personality and Performance at the Beginning of the New Millennium: What Do We Know and Where Do We Go Next?; International Journal of Selection and Assessment; Barrick et al; 2001.

Be Grateful to be Happy

Apparently, one of the easiest ways to find happiness in your life is to practice daily “gratitude”.

There have been several studies on the association between gratitude and happiness, and research has demonstrated a strong correlation between them. People who deliberately spend time on thinking or writing about what they’re grateful for every day, display higher levels of well being and are happier.

Just a few weeks of keeping a “gratitude diary” can make you significantly happier, and even spending time merely thinking about what you are thankful for – people, nature, beauty and other things around you on a daily basis, has the same effect!

We’ve accepted the fact that daily physical exercise is essential for our health and well being, maybe we should be adding some “mental exercises” to the list as well 🙂

If you want to read up more on gratitude, here are some good references:

Emmons, R.A. (2008) Thanks! How the New Sci­ence of Grat­i­tude Can Make You Happier. Mariner Books; Reprint edition.

Emmons, R. A. & McCul­lough, M. E. (2003). Count­ing bless­ings ver­sus bur­dens: An exper­i­men­tal inves­ti­ga­tion of grat­i­tude and sub­jec­tive well-being in daily life. Jour­nal of Per­son­al­ity and Social Psy­chol­ogy, 84, 377–389.