Friday, 29 February 2008

With our meeting

Pic by the author; for more please visit Picturesque

The distances have been bridged,

New ideas have taken wings

With our meetings

Exactly the way

A new story begins

History is made

and destinies change!


Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Rumi & Whirling Dervishes in St. Petersburg

Pictures by the author, for more PICTURESQUE

On Sunday I was invited to an evening with the poetry of the great poet and thinker 'Rumi' and watch the whirling dervishes dancing at the auditorium of the St. Petersburg hotel. The location could not be a better place as the hotel is located on the bank of the river Neva just opposite the place where the famous battleship ‘ Avrora’ stands after its retirement. The occasion was the 800th anniversary of the birth of the great poet and sufi Mowlana Zalaluddin Rumi. Though Rumi was born on 30th September 1207 in Wakhsh in current day Tajikistan , he had migrated and settled in the town of Konya in current day Turkey. In this town he wrote his divine verses and founded the 'Whirling Dervishes' sect that aim to be one with the Almighty by whirling endlessly.
The event was organized by the Eurasia Dialogue, the municipality of the town of Konya with the help of the Committee on culture of the St. Petersburg City Government, the Russian federal government and the UNESCO.
What was really striking at the performance of the whirling dervishes was their white attire cocooned under a black veil and long sandy colored caps. When they started whirling with the recital of the Rumi’s poems, a surreal spiritual ambience set in the hall. Their elegant movements in white dress that spread out below the waist as white roses bloomed upside down, turned them into angels of love and peace . Their face lit up with the inner light of faith and purity. They forgot their ‘selves’ and got merged into the infinite eternity. I learned there that these rites are called ‘Sama’ and they aim at the union with the Divine.
Here I am leaving you with some pictures I took during the ceremony of ‘Sama’ and a poem by the great poet ‘Rumi’ .
A poem by Rumi
The day I've died, my pall is moving on -
But do not think my heart is still on earth!
Don't weep and pity me: "Oh woe, how awful!"
You fall in devil's snare - woe, that is awful!
Don't cry "Woe, parted!" at my burial -
For me this is the time of joyful meeting!
Don't say "Farewell!" when I'm put in the grave -
A curtain is it for eternal bliss.
You saw "descending" - now look at the rising!
Is setting dangerous for sun and moon?
To you it looks like setting, but it's rising;
The coffin seems a jail, yet it means freedom.
Which seed fell in the earth that did not grow there?
Why do you doubt the fate of human seed?
What bucket came not filled from out the cistern?
Why should the Yusaf "Soul" then fear this well?
Close here your mouth and open it on that side.
So that your hymns may sound in Where- no-place!
Schimmel, Annemarie. Look!

(Source of this poem:-This Is Love: Poems of Rumi. Boston, Mass.: Shambhala Publications, 1991.)

Monday, 25 February 2008

Reading Gogol in the 21st century

Pic by the author, for more visit PICTURESQUE
I am already more than six months old in St. Petersburg living on Vasilivsky Island and working not very far away from the Nevsky Prospect but I could get to read the two most haunting short stories I have ever read- 'The Nose' and 'The Overcoat' by Nikolai Gogol just yesterday.

'The Nose' is surreal and bizarre story of Major Kavaliov who finds one fine morning that his nose has disappeared. He does not believe it at the first instance but the reality slowly sets in. He goes out in the city streets to look for his nose and to register a complain with the chief of the city police about his lost nose. At Kazan cathedral he finds his nose praying dressed in the attire of a state councillor which is of higher rank than a major. He is awe struck and gingerly approaches his nose to return to its right place but the Nose refuses to even recognize him. Baffled he goes to a newspaper office to put advertisement about his lost nose but the newspaper office refuses to entertain his request fearing loss of credibility for the newspaper. Finally the major mired in hopelessness retires to his apartment but there is a knock on the door and a policeman comes up with his dried and dead nose. Major Kavaliov calls the best doctor to put his nose back but the doctor declares it impossible. The major drowns in despair but in the morning he finds his nose intact as it always was. He goes around in the street courting women once again with a new vigour.

'The Nose' has many conotations. It is surreal, it is satarical but most of all it is about faith. The dates 25th March(when the major loses the nose) and 7 April (when he finds the nose) are the same day acrroding to the old Julian calendar and the new Georgian calendar and that day is celebrated as the day of 'Ascension' by the Orthodox church.

The Overcoat is a masterpiece and has all the elements of a great story. It tells about the society's obsession with the small material things, ranks,medals, social status etc. and the pervailing spritual vaccum in our lives. His tales become even more relevant in our times as we increasingly encounter material forces clapsing us all in its jaws. The Overcoat is a mirror for the humanity where we can see our indifference , atrocity and apathy to the fellow human beings because of our obsession with material things and lack of spritual consciousness.

The protagonist of 'The Overcoat' is Akaky Akakievich, a copying clerk who is a bald, middle aged, mediocre, unmarried St. Petersburger. Everybody at work makes fun of him and he always finds himself in wrong places at wrong times. He is almost subhuman in his old tattered overcoat and has only one desire i.e. to get his overcoat repaired but the tailor refuses to do the job and insists that Akaky Akakievich gets a new overcoat. With this begins the year long preparations for stitching a new overcoat- selecting the material for the overcoat, comparing prices, selecting the material for the collar etc. Akaky Akakievich saves money and invests all his energy to get a new overcoat and one fine day when he gets it he finds himself on the top of the world. His colleagues at the work do not take lightly to his share of happiness. They insist that he should throw a party to them and when he shows liitle interest in doing so then one of his juniors decides to throw a party and invites him to add some insult to Akaky Akakievich. Reluctant Akaky Akakiviech goes to the party but does not how to behave himself as he had never been to a party. While on the way back home his new overcoat is taken away by some hooligans in the street. Akaky Akakiviech is shocked and can't believe it. He goes to the police but of no use. The overcoat that lit up his life for a moment is taken away. His only light of life, his only hope is robbed and he catches high fever and dies after a few days. His ghost appears in the streets of St. Petersburg and snatches the overcoat of a high official who had burst over him when he had gone to him to complain about his lost overcoat.

Gogol was born in Sorochintsy, Ukraine on 1st April 1809. He moved to St. Petersburg in 1828 where he worked as a civil servant for a brief time and later as a history teacher. He wrote 'The Nose' between 1833-34 and 'The Overcoat' in 1842. He wrote his great play "The Government Inspector" in 1836 and his novel "Dead Souls", which he wrote in Rome, was published in 1842.

Gogol's work today seems to be of great importance to me and I'll read his other works soon and post reviews.

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Friday, 22 February 2008

To the dreamland and back

'To the dreamland and back' is dedicated to all those who are ready to give up all they have to travel to their dream lands and make money without being fully aware of what the dreamland has in store for them. This poem is an attempt to throw some light on the grim realities of international migration for the young people with little or moderate skills, without their families, friends, familiar culture and food in a foreign land. I hope that young people will invest their energies in building their villages and towns and making them better places to live and work.

Thirteen souls
left their homes,
left their villages to make their dreams come true
They gathered at the ‘Railway station’
They sat in the Bogey no.13
with dreams in their heads
and hopes in their hearts;
and travelled two nights
thinking of the bright days in El Dorado ;
Finally they arrived in New Delhi
Where they met another thirteen
At Paharganj
Brought from the villages of the north
By the scheming agents-
The dream-merchants ;
They ate , the played cards
And nursed their dreams
While visas were arranged;
The agents took their time
Ran here & there and everywhere
While the 26 nursed their dreams;
Finally visas were ready
Air-tickets were booked
There was joy among the dreamers
But now they had different routes;
The routes to Europe
The land of prosperity
The land of opportunity
Passed through different lands
Delhi-Kiev-Germany and so on;
The agent had assured them all
Employment with thousand bucks per month
In restaurants run by his friends;
But immigration was tight
And plans went wrong;
The agent was at loss
And fled with their air tickets and cash
They were left at large
In a dark hole in the city of white nights
With nothing to eat, nothing to drink
And with no money to buy anything;
They found they had not paid the rent
When the young land lady with a bottle of beer
Knocked at their door, shouting…
‘pay me rentttt…, renttttttttt…pay me zenigi...zenigi...’
Or else my boys will tear you tomorrow;
They were scared and terrified
They called for help
Searched for the disappeared agent
In the babble of drowning voices
But help was far…
The night fell
And the her boys arrived
‘Boys with vodka’
They drank and enjoyed
And she screamed with wild joys;
Then the fell upon the ‘dreamers’
Like hungry wild panthers
Bled them one by one…
Their violent screams filled the black space
But help was far
Hopes were shattered,
Dreams ruined
And they could not even go back home
Without ‘exit visas’
They had overstayed
They had broken the law of the land
And they awaited deportation;
A good Samaritan,
A fellow countryman
Came out with help
Offered them rice and breads
Offered them a place to live
Gave them dignity;
A fellow countryman
A good Samaritan
Helped them with exit visas and deportation;
A month passed by
They returned home
With mental scars
Hopes dashed
Hearts broken
Dreams shattered
Debts to be paid;
But they returned home
With steely determination
To build their lives,
Build villages,
And to build a new India
The India of their dreams.

For more pics you may visit PICTURESQUE

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Monday, 18 February 2008

The First Century

Black, brown, white and yellow,
Different colours but one truth-
We are all humans
And the whole earth is our home;
A new millennium is beckoning us
At its dawn
And we must listen to
Its clarion call-
“All for one and one for all”;
Let’s make twenty first, the first
Century of ‘one earth, one humanity’
A century of peace & prosperity
A century to transcend all the barriers of the past
A century with a new beginning, a brand new start;
Let’s make twenty first, the first
The first century of humane-nity.


Thursday, 14 February 2008

Ganga and Volga

Ganga and Volga
Lifelines of two mother civilizations
Flowing in silence since centuries
Without a word
on making and unmaking of humanity
Whispering to each other
Go on, go on, go on!
Wash away the sins of your children,
Purify them once again,
Give them life
Bring them wealth
Bless them again and again ;
Ganga and Volga
Two sister with different destinies
Flowing in silence since centuries


Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Wishing a bend!

Tied to a pole
That stands still
In stagnant waters
Looking at the river
That flows by
With noise and roar ;
Wishing a bend could appear
In the river of life
And the strength of its streams
Wash away the years of stale
That’s suffocating the soul...


Thursday, 7 February 2008

Moments of Eternity!

The waves of time
Brought you to me;
The waves of time
took you away;
I know…
I’ll never see you again;
But let me thank you
For the few moments of eternity!


Friday, 1 February 2008

Tilting at Time

O' Time, stop for a while

Let me absorb the fullness of the moment

It's richness,

It's all hues and colors,

Stand still!

Don't move!

You rush too fast...

I can't catch up with your pace,

Slow down!

Wait a little!

Let me move on...