Monday, 18 September 2023


Phillip Island, Melbourne


This isolation that enwraps me in a crowd. Holding me captive. Exiling me from the world. Or the world from me. An incarceration. That turns into an armour. Occasionally.

This desolation that fills within me. Volatilizing and then raining down on me. Soaking me. Drenching me. Seeping into my depths, empty them as I may. Relentlessly.

These heaving surges that crash against my shores. Dissipating me. Into umpteen pieces. Drowning bits of me. Carrying them away. Far away from me. Irretrievably.

These thoughts that storm into me. Whirling my emotions. Dashing them on the ground. Filling all my spaces. At last dwindling down to a word. Just a word. Irreducibly.

This word that remains. Unread. Unheard. Uninterpreted. Glare and bare, scream and shout, decipher and decode as I may. This word that’s me. Quintessentially.

A word falls apart
Syllables stray unspoken
Sounds hang together.


Tuesday, 8 August 2023


And to no applause.

The lone survivor.
Though lone, survivor.
Though survivor, lone.


Thursday, 13 July 2023

Arddhanagnar - The Half-nakeds


Book Title: അർദ്ധനഗ്നർ (Arddhanagnar)
Author: Puzhankara Balanarayanan
Publisher: Current Books

കൃഷ്ണൻ നായർ ആദ്യവരിയെഴുതി: "മൈ ഡിയർ ലിസ്സ്" അത്രയും എഴുതിയപ്പോൾ മനസ്സ് സ്വസ്ഥമായി. തുടർന്നെഴുതി:

"ഒരുമിച്ചൊരു മുറിയിൽ കിടന്നുറങ്ങി പാതിരാത്രി കഴിഞ്ഞപ്പോൾ പെട്ടെന്നെഴുന്നേറ്റ് ഉറങ്ങിക്കിടക്കുന്ന പ്രിയതമയോട് മൗനമായി വിടപറഞ്ഞിറങ്ങിയ സിദ്ധാർത്ഥഗൗതമൻ്റെ കഥ നിനക്കറിയാമല്ലോ. പലപ്പോഴും നാമത് ചർച്ച ചെയ്തിട്ടുള്ളതുമാണ്. അങ്ങിനെയൊന്ന് സംഭവ്യമാണോ എന്ന് എത്രയോ പ്രാവശ്യം സംശയിച്ചതുമല്ലേ? എന്നാൽ അത് സംഭവ്യമാണെന്ന് ഞാൻ മനസ്സിലാക്കുന്നു. പെട്ടെന്ന്, തികച്ചും അപ്രതീക്ഷിതമായി ഞാൻ നിന്നോട് വിട പറയുന്നു. സിദ്ധാർത്ഥഗൗതമനും ഞാനും ഒരേ തരക്കാരല്ല. പക്ഷേ, ഒരു വലിയ അന്ത:ക്ഷോഭത്തിൽ ഞാൻ ചെന്നുപെട്ടു. വിടപറയാൻ നിർബ്ബന്ധിതനായി. നിൻ്റെ കത്തുകളിൽ പ്രകീർത്തിച്ച അർദ്ധനഗ്നനായ ഫക്കീറില്ലേ? അർദ്ധ നഗ്നൻ എൻ്റെ മനസ്സിൽ കയറിവന്നുനിന്നു. അതുപോലൊരു അർദ്ധനഗ്നനാകണമെന്ന് എനിക്ക് ഉൽക്കടമായ ആഗ്രഹം. അത് സാദ്ധ്യമല്ല. പക്ഷേ, ഞാനിന്ന് അദ്ദേഹത്തിൻ്റെ  ആരാധകനും അനുയായിയുമാണ്." 

Some books make you wonder what took you so long in getting around to reading them. Especially when they were lying so close within your reach that you could have just stretched your hand out to pick them up. But you always thought they were downright serious works and you wished to spare enough time to do full justice to them.

And then one day you open one such book – Arddhanagnar (The Half-nakeds) by Puzhankara Balanarayanan – and no sooner than you begin turning the pages, you find yourself getting wrapped up in them. You realize that the book is unputdownable. You sit up late in the night reading it. And the first thing that you do in the morning along with getting your cuppa is getting back to where you left off reading the previous night. You don’t realize your coffee is turning cold. Indeed, you don’t even realize you are not drinking it in the first place.

And then after the brisk, marathon poring-over and the nail-biting finish, you feel the satisfaction of a good read and the contentment that you have, after all, done full justice to the voluminous page-turner packed with a plot that has kept you on the edge of your perch from beginning till end.

And to those who have not read the book – no, this is not a suspense thriller. This is fiction closely interwoven with the history of India during the times of the Raj and the Freedom Struggle. The history is true and the fiction could as well have been true. For, the story reflects the socio-political economic context of those times. Travel back into the era, and you will meet up with different versions of Velu Nair, Krishnan Nair, Sekharan, Madhavi Amma, Gouri, Elizabeth Trevor, Kurup, etc. who lived similar lives in similar circumstances.

The novel is about native landowners discovering too late that they themselves were owned by the (British) Empire. It is about Indian aristocracy vying with the English aristocracy only to lose their own inherent charm and integrity. It is about the different circumstances that roused the sleeping Indian out of their prolonged stupor to break away from the shackles of serfdom, to be bound to the cause of freedom. It is about the desi turncoats stripping themselves of their garbs of delusion to don the nakedness of truth.  

The author, Puzhankara Balanarayanan, has interwoven fiction and history so smoothly that there are no complicated, confusing knots, or loose, dangling threads in the narration. While the story moves you, the historical anecdotes inspire you even today – more than 7 decades and a half post independence. Take, for instance, the author’s step-by-step detailing of the Salt March – you, the reader, wait with bated breath as the "half-naked fakir" marches from station to station until he reaches the final destination  – Dandi. So what if you have always known the culmination and the aftermath of the Movement anyway? Adding to the reading experience is the author's exceptional expertise in building up climaxes and then taking you off on completely unexpected tangents.

Today, days after reading the book, this reader still remains caught in the web of the author’s spellbinding and powerful narrative.


Thursday, 6 July 2023

Saaramilla – It’s Okay

Book Title: സാരമില്ല (Saaramilla)
Poems by: Jayasree T.
Illustrations by: Basanth Peringode
Published by: Thinkal Books

I had been losing myself in the pages of Saaramilla (It Doesn’t Matter) when I came to and felt that I should put down here a few of my thoughts on this amazing book. However, I feel slightly awkward, writing in a foreign tongue about a profoundly beautiful collection of poems in Malayalam, my own mother tongue. But, as the poet says, it doesn’t matter. It’s okay. Saaramilla. I’ll do this my way.

Most of Jayasree’s poems in this collection are short. Some are shorter. The shorter her poems, the more powerful and potent they are. Let me throw in here a few of her verses along with a quick and free translation of them just so that I can connect with my non-Malayali readers as well.

ഒരു പുറം
ജീവിതം. (രാപ്പകൽ)

Much as light falls/there’s a side/that slips into the dark/in this whirl/of life. In this poem, Rappakal (Day and Night) the poet, in a brilliant stroke of a single sentence, brings out the laborious cycle of life and the passing of time. A few words put together connect the subtle contrasts of life. The lines are powerful and they hit you before you know it. The poem is like the tip of the metaphorical iceberg. There's massive truth submerged beneath the surface layers.

വരിവെച്ച് പോവുന്ന
നിൻ്റെ ഉൾത്താളുകളിൽ
പാഴ് വാക്ക്
വീണു പോയിട്ടുണ്ട്
വായനക്ക് കരടാവാതെ
അതെടുത്ത് കളഞ്ഞേക്കൂ. (വായന)

Another brilliant verse – Vaayana (Reading) – that made me stop short and go back to reading it again and again. Amidst the words/that line up/in your inner pages/a wasted word/of mine/has randomly fallen/pick it up and throw it away/lest it spoil your reading. The deeper I dive into the layers of these lines, the higher I soar in the skies of my imagination. This is the kind of poem that once written, a poet would feel content forever.

വെയിൽ പൊട്ടിത്തകർന്ന
കൂട്ടി വെച്ചാണ്
രാത്രിയുണ്ടാക്കുന്നത്. (രാത്രിയുണ്ടാകുന്നത്)

Raathriyundaakunnathu (The Making of the Night) presents a chiaroscuro with words – and yes, that's possible. Sunlight broken up/into bits of shadows/are picked up one by one/and put together/by the day/to form the night. The poem at once brings to mind a thousand collages of light and shade, each like a jigsaw puzzle, breaking up and joining back again to make a new picture. The poem ends too soon leaving infinite pictures forming and re-forming in your mind.

എത്ര ഇല വിരിച്ചിട്ടും
പിഴുതെറിയപ്പെടുന്നു. (കള)

Kala (Weed) could be a nature-lover’s lament. Especially my kind of lover who is perpetually fascinated by the weeds with their perennial blooms and die-hard foliage. Spreading leaves aplenty/blooming all the way/I am still plucked and tossed away. But rake the lines a bit, and you see much more than weeds lurking between them.

And so on and so forth. Jayasree’s poems have many such gems hidden in their depths. The poems are well illustrated by Basanth Peringode. The book is well designed and well produced by Thinkal Books. I wish Jayasree’s book wide readership and her pen more power and poetry.


Friday, 16 June 2023


South Bank, Melbourne

The horizon is a blotting canvas. The ink of the sky spreads in layers. The earthy hues roll out and halt all at once in blobs. And before the sun can dry out the misty sky and seep into the sopping earth, the twilight spills over in spatters.

Seasons come at their own pace, mostly alone or even in pairs. Sometimes they all rush in together, erasing entire patterns as they go, leaving a new picture in their trail.

Time often stands still, watching the art in progress.

Blotting canvas
Earthy dollops, inky skies
Spattered twilight.