Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Indians

Yesterday (October 2nd 2012), something caught my eye while browsing the net. Majestic India would like to send Indians to Mars, and they have already firmed up a space program for it. Now initially I was all excited: at last we can now settle suspicions of whether the Vimanas so famously talked about in the Sanskrit epics had really come from the planet's Syrtis Major Planum or did they originate from somewhere else. But then Leman Pulut caught himself: do you know what this multi-billion dollar trip would MEAN to the Indian people? At a time and age when the masses there could not even afford proper goshe and salen? So Leman Pulut wrote in to the editor of that online Newspaper to give his two-cents, and they are kind enough to publish his writings here. For those too lazy to do some finger exercise, I am reprinting my thoughts here (first published in Syed Akbar Ali's OutSyedTheBox some time ago):

Leman Pulut (unregistered) October 02, 2012, 05:48
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People generally fail to grasp the mentality of Indians when faced with dilemmas such as the feed-the-poor-or-build-a-spaceship choice. You see, every time the exigencies of normal everyday life puts a pinch to the stomachs of these Indians, they are always reminded by the romantic pictures of cool cigar-chomping Sivajis crooning huge-breasted Aishwaryas and Karisma Kapoors (or whoever, not that I memorize any of them), leading them into a false sense of comfort and hedonism, never once realizing that the billions of dollars their leaders spend on Mars-trips or nuclear submarines could well be used to carve out some decent sewage networks or put food slightly more palatable beyond gheed-dal and okra curries on their plates.

In a society such as India, a film industry like Bollywood is of prime importance, opiating the masses into an ambient breeze of peace and romance and love and harmony. And what more does one need to lull out the pangs of hunger and pains of poverty other than love and romance? But it’s the people, and the man-made taboos and rites that they concoct up to drive wedges between them. Imagine, like the chinese, an Indian population close to a billion in number. What potential, what diverse and wonderful ways to light up (or destroy) the entire world purely from these numbers alone!

For one, that billion could just gang up in an appointed time, unzip and urinate in synchronicity, and you are talking about a billion litres of peewater drizzling away – enough perhaps to drown the entire Pakistan in a torrent of urethric aquaculture. Or they could do this: at an appointed time, jump up and down for a few minutes on the ground --- all billion of them, and cause a tellurian shock wave to sear across the globe on the other side and snuff out Toronto, pronto.
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But at this moment, let us all content ourselves with the deadening of possibilities of what a billion people can do should they get out of poverty, or what a few select cannot do although lullled by a false sense of Captain Flash wannabes.

Did I sound too harsh? No I dont think so. I sounded funny is what I is. Well anyway, unbeknownst to lots of people, the Indians are really a wonderful and colourful lot. During bad days, having an Indian around would certainly light up an otherwise melancholic and gloomy atmosphere. So here in this page, after a long absence from ths blogging world, (me and cousin Suman had to to go out hunting for some special hati kuman, you see), I present to you dear readers, some potpourri of Colours of Ranggulee of the Indians from India so me may get to know about them more dearly. I will intersperse throughout with some snippets of poetry from the Ramayana and Mahabhrata, the world's longest epic poems.

Mass transportations in India is based on the philosophy of Communalism: namely if it is comfortable, it should be shared out, and if it is discomfort, it should be distributed out.
Sharing is the main key...

...though that could very well be in areas of personal ease and convenience.

Neighbours lived in mutual kindness helpful with their ample wealth,
None who begged the wasted refuse, none who lived by fraud and stealth!
And they wore the gem and earring, wreath and fragrant sandal paste,
And their arms were decked with bracelets, and their necks with nishkas graced,
Cheat and braggart and deceiver lived not in the ancient town,
Proud despiser of the lowly wore not insults in their frown,

- The Bridal of Sita

What can one expect of a nation with close to a billion people? Talents. Loads of them. For example, the aural smoke exhalation feat shown here has not been attempted elsewhere in the world. When queried, the protagonist in this picture hopes to achieve something greater in the future: the same exhalations but through orifices that are not part of his upper torso.

Out spake Drona to the monarch in Hastina's royal hall,
Spake to Bhishma and to Kripa, spake to lords and courtiers all:
"Mark the gallant princes, monarch, trained in arms and warlike art,
Let them prove their skill and valour, rein the steed and throw the dart."
- The Gathering

In their own way, the Indians prefer their guests over themselves, and would make so much effort to please and make them feel comfortable.
The hospitality of the Indians can be found, if not in them, only in legends. Not uncommonly, every guest there is called a "VIP" and once you are one, you can be assured of getting a first-class treatment from your hosts.
Make thy peace with young Sugriva, nearest and thy dearest kin,
Brother's love is truest safety, brother's hate is deadliest sin!

 Trust me, monarch of Kishkindha, trust thy true and faithful wife,
Thou shalt find no truer comrade than Sugriva in thy life,
Wage not then a war fraternal, smite him not in sinful pride,
As a brother and a warrior let him stand by Bali's side.
Listen to thy Tara's counsel if to thee is Tara dear,
If thy wife is true in duty scorn not Tara's wifely tear

- The Counsel of Tara

Ponder well, ye gracious monarchs, with a just and righteous mind,
Help Yudhishthir with your counsel, with your grace and blessings kind,
Should the noble son of Pandu seek his right by open war,
Seek the aid of righteous monarchs and of chieftains near and far?
Should he smite his ancient foemen skilled in each deceitful art,
Unforgiving in their vengeance, unrelenting in their heart?
- Council of War

Spake Yudhishthir unto Bhishma, elder of the Kuru race,
Unto Drona proud preceptor, rich in lore and warlike grace,
Spake to wise preceptor Kripa, versed in sacred rites of old,
To Duryodhan and his brothers, honoured guests and kinsmen bold:
"Friends and kinsmen, grant your favour and your sweet affection lend,
May your kindness ever helpful poor Yudhishthir's rite attend,
As your own, command my treasure, costly gifts and wealth untold,
To the poor and to the worthy scatter free my gems and gold!"

- Feast and Sacrifice

Next Episode: The Chinese!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Political Poetry

This blogsite was set up to portray, as I have mentioned before, politics and political ideologies/events using poetry. The use of this medium to eulogize, lament and outrightly criticize the dealings of a group of men with another date as far back as the time when humans had began to write. It would be interesting to have a look at past cases of this. And because the subject is too vast, and the poets are too numerous, I can only afford to look at a few, something I am sure I am not doing justice to.

In the early days, poetry was used mainly for the purposes of religious worship or divine praise. Dante’s set of long poems is a clear example. And which poet could match the effort of Jalaluddin Rumi when he wrote the voluminous Mathnawi? But I would like to attract attention now to William Blake, a popular poet who not only wrote some of the world’s most profound religious poems, but did some illustrations for them himself. But is it true that he intended his poems to be purely religious in nature? In his famous poem “Jerusalem” he wrote the following memorable stanzas:

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green
And was the holy lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

This sounded very “episcopal” that could come only from some kind of Jesus freak or something. But some commentators argue that the words are actually a camouflage for the true meaning that Blake had intended: namely a very strong statement against the industrialization process that was creeping slowly into 18th century England, slowly replacing the country’s human workforce with machines and engines. The “Dark Satanic Mills” are believed to be the Albion Mills, the first big factory set up in Blackfriars Road in London, which later was burned down by its own workers. 

Bring me my bow of burning gold
Bring me my Arrows of Desire
Bring me Spear: O Clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariots of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

These surely sound apocalyptic, even “Armageddonic”.  But trying to build Jerusalem “in England’s green and pleasant land” gave it away: Blake wasn’t talking about building a religious center in England: he was advocating for a return to the old England that they all knew instead of ones made up steel and iron machines.
(There had been many musicians who tried to suit the poem’s tunes to some kind of melody in the past, but none as good as, in my opinion, Emerson Lake and Palmer’s rendition complete with Tubular Bells and Gongs plus Moogs to give it some eerie angelic/heavenly atmosphere. Listen to it here).

Compare Blake’s Jeruslaem with Joan Baez’s song of the same name:-

I woke up this morning and none of the news was good
And death machines were rumbling across the ground where Jesus stood
And the man on my TV told me that it had always been that way
And there was nothing anyone could do or say
And I believe that on that day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem.

Now THAT’S a political statement. Joan Baez is a very staunch anti-war activist ever since the Vietnam War, and one reason she was very popular was not only that her songs were very melodic and nice to hear (The haunting Diamonds and Rust, and the sad Sweet Sir Galahad ) but that her poetrical lyrics made sense and were loved by everyone. Listen to how she lamented about her own people’s mishandling of world politics that ring true even till today as we are now breathing:

God on our side

Oh my name it is nothin'
My age it means less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I's taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And that land that I live in
Has God on its side

Oh the history books tell it
They tell it so well
The cavalries charged
The Indians fell
The cavalries charged
The Indians died
Oh the country was young
With God on its side

Oh the Spanish-American
War had its day
And the Civil War too
Was soon laid away
And the names of the heroes
I's made to memorize
With guns in their hands
And God on their side

Oh the First World War, boys
It closed out its fate
The reason for fighting
I never got straight
But I learned to accept it
Accept it with pride
For you don't count the dead
When God's on your side

When the Second World War
Came to an end
We forgave the Germans
And we were friends
Though they murdered six million
In the ovens they fried
The Germans now too
Have God on their side

I've learned to hate Russians
All through my whole life
If another war starts
It's them we must fight
To hate them and fear them
To run and to hide
And accept it all bravely
With God on my side

But now we got weapons
Of the chemical dust
If fire them we're forced to
Then fire them we must
One push of the button
And a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions
When God's on your side

In a many dark hour
I've been thinkin' about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can't think for you
You'll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side

So now as I'm leavin'
I'm weary as Hell
The confusion I'm feelin'
Ain't no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
If God's on our side
He'll stop the next war
Actually the song/poem was written by fellow productive poet-songwriter Bob Dylan, with whom she had an affair once (days before she dated Steve Jobs). 


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mahligai Idaman

They say that Diogenes of Sinope, who mocked Alexander of Macedon, shamed Plato and disputed Socrates, had a residence made from an unused wine cask. Moses' was made of a single sheet of cloth propped up by a stick. Jesus Christ didn't even have any. On the other hand Tevye, the protagonist of Fiddler on the Roof, if he had one, would have his built with "one long stair case going up, one even longer going down, and one more leading nowhere just for show". Norma Desmond's on Sunset Boulevard was made of materials that built dreams. India's mukesh Ambani's cost a billion dollars, while Bill Gates had a private ... err... ocean life in his.


 And yet ... I can't help but feel that there's something missing in all these designs that these people have. It's easy for ME to say that: how would I have built mine? Well, that would be easier....

Diatas tanah zamrud bertaburan
Kerisik akik kerikil marjan
Kan ku bina mahligai indah idaman
Penghuni bintang menjadikan pedoman

Tangganya puluhan kamarnya beribu
Kehulu kehilir pelayan, pembantu
Bawahnya mengalir mata-air syahdu
Memperingati akan asal-usul ku

Lantainya ku sulam larat berlian
Bumbung menyepoi aroma za'faran
Dibela, dijaga, pembantu, pelayan
Agar mereka kenali siapa Tuan

Kan kubina dalamnya Raudah syorga
Objek cemburu Shaddad perkasa
Di barat di timur bandingan tiada
Idaman hati Raja, Maharaja

Namaku harum sebutan semua
Tuan empunya mahligai perkasa
Nun jauh dari sejuta hasta
Kerlipan emasnya menyakitkan mata

Akan kubina jeriji sakti
Memeluk kamarku setiap perinci
Berantai perak berkunci besi
Menjaga katil empuk tiada terperi

Dari dapur hingga ke anjung
Dari lantai hingga kebumbung
Akan ku kunci akan kupasung
Agar Azrael tidak mengunjung 

Leman Pulut