Of Cabbages and Kings

June 10, 2010

Bhopal

India is outraged about the injustice of the recent Bhopal tragedy related judgment this week. I gave up on the Indian news channels years ago but I am pretty certain that if I ever did get round to gritting my teeth and switching the television on, I would see Barkha Dutt and her colleagues all breathless and worked up about how the judiciary has wronged the Bhopal victims. And they should be. The senior management of the company that killed 25,000 people (and the numbers will grow as long as the poison remains in the earth and water in the region) gets a measly 2 years in prison. Chairman Mr. Mahindra seems to have had a successful career and is CEO of a Mahindra company. For an amount which is probably far less than their fortnightly expenditure, they are all out on bail.

The man primarily responsible? Warren Anderson is living it up in his $900,000 home in the Hamptons and is whizzing around in a Cadillac. He does not like being asked about the Bhopal victims.

Just so we’re clear, the primary damage in this case was done over twenty years ago. But both then and now, this case says terrible terrible things about the world. Apart from the corruption or utter foolishness of Indian politicians and the lack of courage shown by the Supreme Court (judge who was later rewarded with a glamourous post-retirement positions) is the utter and complete callousness demonstrated by the people who were, and still are, in a position to do something. Shame on you Mr. Obama. And shame on you, ‘free’ American press.

Someone told me that all this sordid Bhopal stuff isn’t really Obama’s problem, and that he is morally justified in shielding mass murderer Anderson. When educated people start talking about 25,000 deaths in terms of bureaucratic errors, it gets fairly apparent that the education system, the media all other institutions that influence public morality are beginning to putrefy.

Concentration camps were everybody’s problem. Slavery was everybody’s problem. Genocide is everybody’s problem. Terrorism is everybody’s problem. Mass killing of human beings is and has always been everybody’s problem.

This is where I would usually start talking about the UN Charter, human rights treaties, extradition and suchlike. All of that, though it does exist, just builds on an idea. And that idea was best expressed by John Donne:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee

November 8, 2008

Corona

Filed under: Poetry — Chinmayi @ 9:49 pm

Autunm eats its leaf out of my hand: we are friends.
From the nuts we shell time and we teach it to walk:
then time returns to the shell.

In the mirror it’s Sunday,
in dream there is room for sleeping,
our mouths speak the truth.

My eye moves down to the sex of my loved one:
we look at each other,
we exchange dark words,
we love each other like poppy and recollection,
we sleep like wine in the conches,
like the sea in the moon’s blood ray.

We stand by the window embracing, and people look up from
the street:
it is time they knew!
It is time the stone made an effort to flower,
time unrest had a beating heart.
It is time it were time.

It is time.

-Paul Celan

September 1, 2008

One Art – Elizabeth Bishop

Filed under: Poetry — Tags: , , — Chinmayi @ 7:44 pm
The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied.  It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

April 6, 2008

Phenomenal Woman

Filed under: Poetry — Tags: , , , , — Chinmayi @ 6:06 am

They should make make little girls recite this every day. God knows that they need it when they grow up!

Hats off to you Maya Angelou…

PHENOMENAL WOMAN
by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies
I’m not cute or built to suit a model’s fashion size
But when I start to tell them
They think I’m telling lies.
I say
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips
The stride of my steps
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally
Phenomenal woman
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please
And to a man
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees
Then they swarm around me
A hive of honey bees.
I say
It’s the fire in my eyes
And the flash of my teeth
The swing of my waist
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally
Phenomenal woman
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say
It’s in the arch of my back
The sun of my smile
The ride of my breasts
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally
Phenomenal woman
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say
It’s in the click of my heels
The bend of my hair
The palm of my hand
The need for my care.
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally
Phenomenal woman
That’s me.

January 27, 2008

And after months…

Filed under: I saw this, Poetry — Chinmayi @ 7:26 am

I have not stopped writing entirely. My boyfriend and I have a private blog which has now descended in unpardonable gooshiness and so I remembered that there was some of me up here.

A picture of from the last place I lived in…

bombay-the-initial-days-057.jpg

May 12, 2007

Against forgetting

Filed under: Poetry, Uncategorized — Chinmayi @ 6:03 pm

“For I am not the first, but the second
The scream of the first, the grief of the first, the love of the first
An eternal calling out to the first, a second.”

From ‘Against Forgetting’ by Manglesh Dabraal as translated by Annie Zaidi (available here)

January 13, 2007

And I wrote my happy songs

Filed under: Poetry — Chinmayi @ 9:07 am

‘And I made a rural pen,
And I stained the water clear,
And I wrote my happy songs
Every child may joy to hear.’
William Blake

From the Introduction to the Songs of Innocence

January 4, 2007

Married

Filed under: Poetry — Chinmayi @ 4:48 pm

I came back from the funeral and crawled
around the apartment, crying hard,
searching for my wife’s hair.
For two months got them from the drain,
from the vacuum cleaner, under the refrigerator,
and off the clothes in the closet.
But after other Japanese women came,
there was no way to be sure which were
hers, and I stopped. A year later,
reporting Michiko’s avocado, I find
a long black hair tangled in the dirt.

-Jack Gilbert

December 5, 2006

Law like Love

Filed under: Law, Poetry — Chinmayi @ 5:32 pm
Law, say the gardeners, is the sun,
Law is the one
All gardeners obey
To-morrow, yesterday, to-day.
 
Law is the wisdom of the old,
The impotent grandfathers feebly scold;
The grandchildren put out a treble tongue,
Law is the senses of the young.
 
Law, says the priest with a priestly look,
Expounding to an unpriestly people,
Law is the words in my priestly book,
Law is my pulpit and my steeple.
 
Law, says the judge as he looks down his nose,
Speaking clearly and most severely,
Law is as I've told you before,
Law is as you know I suppose,
Law is but let me explain it once more,
Law is The Law.
 
Yet law-abiding scholars write:
Law is neither wrong nor right,
Law is only crimes
Punished by places and by times,
Law is the clothes men wear
Anytime, anywhere,
Law is Good morning and Good night.
 
Others say, Law is our Fate;
Others say, Law is our State;
Others say, others say
Law is no more,
Law has gone away.
 
And always the loud angry crowd,
Very angry and very loud,
Law is We,
And always the soft idiot softly Me.
 
If we, dear, know we know no more
Than they about the Law,
If I no more than you
Know what we should and should not do
Except that all agree
Gladly or miserably
That the Law is
And that all know this
If therefore thinking it absurd
To identify Law with some other word,
Unlike so many men I cannot say Law is again,
 
No more than they can we suppress
The universal wish to guess
Or slip out of our own position
Into an unconcerned condition.
Although I can at least confine
Your vanity and mine
To stating timidly
A timid similarity,
We shall boast anyway:
Like love I say.
 
Like love we don't know where or why,
Like love we can't compel or fly,
Like love we often weep,
Like love we seldom keep.
 
- W. H. Auden

November 7, 2006

Marriage made in hell and heaven

Filed under: Poetry, Random musing — Chinmayi @ 7:27 pm

Poet Sylvia Plath first saw poet Ted Hughes across a room full of people at a party held for the launch of the  St. Botoloph’s Review (in which Hughes’ poetry was first published)

Her description of their first meeting:

”the one man in the room who was as big as his poems, huge, with hulk and dynamic chunks of words; his poems are strong and blasting like a high wind in steel girders. And I screamed in myself, thinking: oh, to give myself crashing, fighting, to you.”

”I was stamping and he was stamping on the floor, and then he kissed me bang smash on the mouth and ripped my hairband off . . . and my favorite silver earrings: hah, I shall keep, he barked. And when he kissed my neck I bit him long and hard on the cheek, and when we came out of the room, blood was running down his face. . . . Such violence, and I can see how women lie down for artists.”

His description:

First sight. First snapshot isolated
Unalterable, stilled in the camera’s glare.
Taller
Than you ever were again.
Swaying so slender
It seemed your long, perfect, American legs
Simply went on up.
That flaring hand,
Those long, balletic, monkey-elegant fingers.
And the face – a tight ball of joy.
I see you there, clearer, more real Than in any of the years in its shadow – As if I saw you that once, then never again.

 So beautifully odd and so oddly beautiful that they spent part of their honeymoon visiting the dark moors that Emily Bronte roamed, when Heathcliffe and Catherine were forming in her mind… Heathcliffe and Catherine, whose violent cruel passion was of the same spirit as the whirlwinds which held Plath and Hughes in thrall.

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