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Friday, October 22, 2010

Word Pictures


Road from Banbury
a man spilled from his crushed car
dead eyes full of rain

This was the first Haiku I came across. I do not remember exactly where. It could have been in a novel with a Japanese setting like Shibhumi or Shogun Or it could have been in an article. Anyway, I was impressed by the vividness of the word picture and it found a place in my scrap book. It was like one of Namboothiri's sketches, minimum lines with the pen or pencil but so very vivid and eloquent. Who can forget his sketches of the barrel chested Bheema with his sparse and shaggy beard or of Draupadi or the many sirens of Payyan stories. Word pictures abound in Sanskrit and Malayalam poetry, like the "sancharini deepa shikhava rathrau…." of Kalidasa or "udan mahadevi edathhu
azhinja vaarkootnthalo nnothukki; jwalichha kankondoru nokk unokki"……of Vallathhol etc. But these are not stand alone word pictures and not drawn with so minimal words.

The man may have started his car journey from Banbury. It could have been his life journey too. The twisted metal of the wreckage, eyes wide open and filled with rain water, one arm, perhaps, flung lazily overhead, the fingers touching the road…..nature in the form of rain untouched, unconcerned.

The Japanese Haiku is a three line poem with 5-7-5 syllables. English Haiku has done away with the syllables restrictions as it is difficult to reproduce the Japanese style in a different language. There are other stipulations though. The first two lines describes/indicates the time and place. The third line expands on the situation. There are other requirements but brevity and vividness seem to be the principal concern.

a murder of crows

harsh clanging of temple bell

beat of wings in fright

A group of us frequent the 'moola sthanam of Vadakkunathan every evening. All of us are in the autumn of our lives although the hues of the fall colours differ in intensity from person to person. The years rest lightly on the physique of some of us with still supple joints and muscles. The loss of the grey cells has not been so acute in some cases. I am one of the first to reach our place of rendezvous. The security guard rings the bronze bell at the temple gopuram every hour. A group of crows flock around me to compete for the pea nuts I throw. It is six 'o clock and the bell rings six times. There is a panic flight of the crows. Years of hearing the bell ringing has not succeeded in subduing the primordial 'fight or flight 'urge. My contribution to the 'haiku' literature takes place.

It is about six months since mother died. Already the family ties have started loosening. I haven't gone to Ottapalam many times after that. It is only her many years that is leaving the door partly open. I came across this haiku recently.

mom leaves

the door partly open

her many years.

I feel the reminiscence mood catching up more often now a days. With an effort I try to recapture the present. It would be foolish to think about the coming winter years. Unnikrishnan had posted a couple of photos of Bharathapuzha in Face Book. It will take a hundred years for nature to replenish the stolen sand. But from the photographs the river appears swollen once again. This year's Vishu predictions says that the reclining sankrama purushan is accompanied by one of the seven primal clouds 'samavartha' which is a dense rain cloud with flashes of lightning. The rain predicted is 4 'paras' (aadhakam) which is indicative of excess rains or copious rains. 'samavartha' clouds are supposed to rain gems! Nothing like life giving water to wash off all your weariness and restore the green cloak for mother earth. Not surprisingly, there have been more frequent sightings of leopards, elephant and bison herds and our aerial guests. My haiku again.

dying river

freak long drawn monsoon

moulting for youth

Robin Sharma says that 'too many of us die with music still within us'. I want to ensure that not too many 'haikus' remain within me when the Fat Man on the buffalo eventually arrives. He might appreciate the consequent lessening of  load!