Tag Archives: writing

Will be back soon: Gone Lookin’

Fear is a good thing[…]fear is what drives us to take risks and extend ourselves beyond our normal limits, and any writer who feels he is standing on safe ground is unlikely to produce anything of value.

– Paul Auster, “Invisible”

Dear Void,

I have felt fear this past nine weeks. A lot of fear. I smelled the sulphur breath of a dragon still many miles away but surely snorting in anticipation of meeting me. It was healthy until…

…I stopped writing every day. You may have noticed. The fear became stale and crippling. The sulphur had plugged my synaptic junctions.

My thoughts now stray so far that my hands are always playing catch-up without ever catching up.

So here’s a pensive pause.

I’ll miss looking into you, dear Void, but I need to look into finding fresh fear.

I hope you’ll miss me too.

I shan’t be long.

Love,
Sam

To feed on fresh fear
confidently go Pale Fish
to water’s surface

Pond (c) Sam Rappaz

On rewriting inspiration

 When you ask me to revise a poem you ask me to meet again the Muse who seldom responds to invitation. She comes in suddenly through the door left open, announcing Her presence with words that have never sat together before. She says what She has to say and goes quiet; goes away or gets broken down into elements of the universe that I absorb without an intent.

Where am I to find this forceful genius?

I’ve been told to look for Her in spaces in-between words and lines, rhyme and rhythm, movement and breaks, language and sound. But I don’t find my Muse there; I find a key in a foreign language to a map that She drew.

Is She hiding in the white glow that lights my keyboard when I switch on my workstation? So, I should work and work and work on my verses. Or, is She in the deep breath that helps me ease into sleep? Then, I should breathe and breathe and breathe with my eyes closed to trick her into appearing. Perhaps it’s She who is the trickster: a mirage; a playful spirit that whispers in my ear. In which case I am cursed with the burden of loneliness.

With or without Her it seems it’s going to take a lot of time to re-see a moment that no longer exists, to re-write it in a way so that it exists forever.

 

I am beginning to grapple with the abstract idea of “completion” in creative writing which seems even murkier when talking about poetry. I read recently that “a poem is not truly finished until it has been seriously revised” and also “be wary of a poem that appears to be finished“. Statements that, as an amateur with 8 weeks of formal education in poesy, I find contradictory.
I need to also say that the poems you have been reading on my blog are not “seriously” revised. They have been written quickly, in a matter of an hour to a few hours if the form is tough (the Sestina, which is one of the hardest forms, took me about 12 hours). These poems are here more or less as they came to me. Now I am considering that all of this work here is a) probably unfinished, which is not a bad thing as, Da Vinci once said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned” and b) not good, trite, tripe. It’s making me question the quality of my natural skill for this art form. Though at present I am depressed by the thought, I am hopeful that I can see this as something to learn from; that all this self-doubt will make me a better writer and that it is a natural process. I hope it happens sooner rather than later because my Muse seems to have gone into hiding for fear that I will doubt Her every word and I cannot sleep because thoughts only She can give birth to have grown louder in my head in her absence.
I have received only love from this wonderful blogging community, for which I am immensely grateful but this post is not about  wanting an ego-boost. At this point I just want to learn from you, specifically about the role of revision in your creative process. Any and all thoughts are welcome from everyone, poet or not. Who knows who might be inspired by your comment!

Here’s an example of the creative process of the great Walt Whitman,

Original Manuscript: To a Locomotive in Winter by Walt Whitman (1874).
Original Manuscript: To a Locomotive in Winter by Walt Whitman (1874).

Summary of the manuscript (from Boston Public Library)

Written in Walt Whitman’s own hand, this early manuscript version of To a Locomotive in Winter shows Whitman’s creative process as he revised and reworked the poem, changing words and even pasting paper overlays of new passages until he was satisfied with the result. This manuscript poem is dated February 23, 1874, but Whitman continued to modify the text and it was considerably altered when published in 1876 in Two Rivulets, a companion volume to the 1876 edition of Leaves of Grass. This poem was republished in the 1900 edition of Leaves of Grass, well after Whitman’s death.

Image Source and further details: Boston Public Library (CC BY 2.0)

Concrete poetry: A Battle-Scarred Red Admiral

This post is inspired by a wonderful photograph for a brave little Red Admiral butterfly taken by Derrick J. Knight. Its wings are tattered but that didn’t stop it from coming out to enjoy the sunshine. What a magical moment, made permanent on film! Thank you Derrick for sharing this with us. I also owe you the title of this poem. You will find Derrick’s post with the photograph here. I’ve tried to match the shape of the poem to Derrick’s butterfly to the best of my abilities (well, what an hour or so of effort would allow for at least).
 

Concrete Poetry
A Battle-Scarred Red Admiral (c) Sam Rappaz, 2015

 

Here’s what a full-bodied Red Admiral butterfly would look like:

Red Admiral (c) Driss & Marrion CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Red Admiral (c) Driss & Marrion CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

This is my first attempt at Concrete Poetry and it’s a tough form! Thank you Writing 201

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Day 4: Prompt-Animal; Device- Enjambment; Form-Concrete poetry

Limericks on being Indian in Switzerland

 

If I had a Cent or better a Franc
For every person who after they drank
Imitated the Indian accent
(As if it was sexy to be Saxon)
I’d be richer than all these Swiss banks!
Swiss currency (c) Keeps from Flickr. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Swiss currency (c) Keeps from Flickr. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

I come from a tropical land you see
A country that’s cottony balmy breezy
Then you put me on snow
And expect me to know
How to manage these blasted slippery skis!
(c) wplynn from Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0
(c) wplynn from Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

 

Whoever is the genius who thought up these
Innovative ways to communally eat melted cheese:
Bless you good soul
For now I owe
You a very cramped stomach indeed!
(c) Alexandre Duret-Lutz from Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
(c) Alexandre Duret-Lutz from Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

 

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Day 2: Prompt-Journey; Form-Limerick; Device-Alliteration

 

Meeting strangers on the Swiss rails

Here's my confession: I have travelled about 10 times around the earth on Swiss rails. Approximately 400,000 km. I have spent more time on these trains than I have with my friends and family. I can't go into the Whys and the Hows. It wasn't an easy life but it surely was an interesting ride.

I don’t drive. I have a driver’s permit, from India, but the day I received it my Dad told me that he would never let me take the car out. He feared that I wouldn’t be able to handle Indian traffic by myself, that I was too nervous. Also that the majority of the population behind the wheel is male and just seeing that I am female is enough for them to harass me. Thus, my license is now a decrepit old plastic card with my face on it, that’s turning white on the edges. It hasn’t seen the light of day in close to a decade. Practically speaking, I can’t drive.

(c) Jeton Bajrami from Flickr. CC-BY-NC-ND2.0
(c) Jeton Bajrami from Flickr. CC-BY-NC-ND2.0

I use public transport unless someone is kind enough to drive me to the place I wish to go. When I moved to Switzerland I realized immediately that I was in a privileged position. The standard of transportation facilities in this tiny country that has just 8 million residents is remarkable. The country runs on time (and on money), like no other place I have ever known. I had never before understood punctuality in its intended meaning until I started using Swiss public transportation, which is ‘Be on time indicated or get punched in the gut for missing the meeting.’ If the bus is to arrive at 8:04 and the driver sees you running towards the bus stand 20 meters away at 8:04 he’ll not wait for you. You are late! He will not wait because it is disrespectful to the people in the bus who were on time. He is doing his job by following the rules but you still feel like punching him. In these ways I learnt what it means to be Swiss – orderly, law-abiding, disgruntled by the system at times but still proud and very much adherent to the social norms.

My personal and professional lives in Switzerland were at two ends of the central railway line. I bought the GA/AGGeneralabonnement (de) or Abonnement Général (fr) – the brilliant and expensive travel pass for residents that let’s one use any mode of public transport to go almost everywhere in Switzerland. Some premium mountain passes and tourist traps are not covered but the GA holders get a discount. If used regularly the holder comes out the winner. The GA/AG card also lets one experience and appreciate (after a while) that those who hold this pass are under a self-imposed gag order. Also the reason why I call the GA the GAG pass. They usually take fixed lines at fixed times and hence there is no talking or ooh-ing or aah-ing. They work. Or sleep. Or catch up on the news. If a ‘foreigner’ or a teenager or a tourist is seen yapping away on the phone or chatting loudly about the beauty of the Swiss landscape during rush hours then s/he will be stared at. That’s the rudest thing to happen to you in a Swiss train: the Swiss death stare. I know because I have done it. I  have tried using my mind to get the person sitting opposite me to shut up, and it’s almost always failed.

The times I took the train outside of the main GAG hours (yes, that’s what I am calling rush hours) something remarkable happened. I ended up conversing with interesting strangers and also noticing the strangest of behaviours. If you, the reader, are from any other country you’d probably think I am making an Alpine mountain out of a Marmot hole. But you’d be mistaken. It’s normal in your part of the world to talk to people sitting next you in a bar or a bus or a plane. It is not so normal here. Swiss people respect privacy above all else. Why else do you think there are so my famous people living here? Along with the tax benefits they get anonymity. I feel oddities should be recorded. So here’s my collection of the best meetings I have had on the Swiss trains,

 

Never judge a book by its cover

I read, more than most but less than some. If I know I’ll be out of the house for more than 2 hours then I carry a book with me. I take books to weddings. It is no surprise then that I read on the train. It’s a normal habit. A lot of people read on Swiss trains. Nothing extraordinary. Except, the books I have read has led some very cool people to talk to me. The first book is Istanbul by Orhan Pamuk. It is one of the best memoirs I have read. I was so engrossed in it that I was unaware of a very handsome young man who’d been staring at me (and the book) for a while. When I looked up he had the broadest smile and told me how much he loved that book. He went on to suggest Snow by the same author and we had a very brief chat. It isn’t a ‘Wow! That’s such a cool story’ story admittedly . But it was the first time a stranger had spoken to me in a Swiss train. Until then I had always felt a little out-of-place and rather oppressed by the silence. I was too mindful of the social protocols and was always on edge. That man broke a stereotype for me that day. I began to relax more.

Some time later when I was reading an Indian author (I forget whom) a South Asian gentleman who was seated opposite me introduced himself. He wanted to talk about the book and the author. We started chatting easily. He was clearly a very well-educated man who knew his books. We started talking about movies based on books and then he asked me if I had seen (this was a few years ago now) Game of Thrones. I said no but that I’d heard of it. (HBO right? I love HBO.) He went on to tell me about George R. R. Martin and The Song of Ice and Fire. I wasn’t convinced, since I hadn’t read a fantasy novel since the Harry Potter series. He insisted I read it. I did and fell in obsessive love. We kept meeting on the train, we had the same hours it seemed and we started talking about new books, movies and TV shows. He introduced me to Anime, to the great Hayao Miyazaki. I would have never known the wondrous beautiful world of fantasy art if it wasn’t for him. I still can’t believe that this one stranger has unknowingly made my life so much richer. I am more open to new genres of literature because of him.

My final story is my most special. One Saturday morning I was stretched out on an empty seat in a largely empty train with Moab is my Washpot by Stephen Fry. fry_moabAn elderly Swiss gentleman walked by looking for a vacant four-seater. I suppose he wanted to stretch out too. I straightened up when I saw him but he moved by too quickly to have noticed. I kept the book on the serving table and was rummaging through my bag when I heard, “I know this man”. I looked up and it was the old man. He said, “I know this man who wrote the book. Stephen Fry. Funny man.” He asked if he could sit down and I couldn’t have been happier. I think he saw that he had shocked me with his confession. He introduced himself and went on to tell me that he had been in London for many years where he had the opportunity to work with Mr. Fry. He told me that he charges £10,000 per talk in a scandalised tone. “Such a smart man.”, he said. Yes, indeed. All I could do was nod vigorously trying to soak in every bit of information. I now felt so close to Stephen Fry. I was star struck.
Then the conversation went on to our daily lives and he happily spoke about his life in Switzerland, his social work,  his love for the quiet life in Bern and his distaste for the big money and bad service in Zurich. He bought me a coffee from the mobile snack bar! That one coffee has meant more to me than so many fancy meals in fancy places here in Switzerland. It was a random act of kindness shown to me by a Swiss stranger. A couple walked by whom he happened to know. They joined us. He introduced me to them and then I let the three of them catch up. I read for the rest of our journey together. Soon it was time for them to leave and as he departed he apologised for not having spoken to me more. I hope we meet again someday. There is always so much talk about this country being unfriendly to immigrants and passing right-wing laws. Whenever I get offended by such propaganda, the black sheep and crow ruining the pure white Swiss cross, I remember this elderly Swiss man and I reason my way out of generalisation.

 

SBB: Swiss Bafflement Bonus

A Swiss rail staffer who worked the mobile snack bar would always stop by my seat, blocking the path for those wishing to move around. He’d want to exchange pleasantries with me loudly to the annoyance of others. I would get the stare. At some point he’d leave and I’d cower inside my book and smile weakly at my neighbours. (He he. Sorry. He’s a friendly guy.) I guess he saw me frowning too often and decided I needed a friend. I can’t understand why else he’d do it!

 

The iPad guy

There was once a man on the SBB CFF FFS
Who loved to show off I must confess
He’d buy all Apple products in triplicate
And take off the dust jacket for effect
He’d then proceed to sit next to you
And open his bag as if on cue
He’d put one iPad on the ground discreet
Then wait for you to kick it with your feet!

Every time. Every single time I have met this man he’s done this. I have seen all the upgrades of the iPad at my feet. I couldn’t help but tell this tale poetically.

People never cease to amaze me!

(c) Sam Rappaz
(c) Sam Rappaz

 

I didn’t think I could ever put a positive spin on my lack of independent mobility. For a while I have been telling people that using public transport keeps my carbon footprint low. What it actually did for me is keep my human footprint really high. I would have never guessed when I first came to this country that the one place I would meet people not affiliated to any part of my life would be the one place that has no address, is regulated but sees no boundaries and all the while is very Swiss. It has been all about the journey.

Note: I was approached by the wonderful people over at meetingsbooker.com to write a post on my favourite meeting place. The Swiss rail stories seemed like a perfect idea. They are all true. This is not a sponsored post and all views are my own.

Writing an Anagram poem: Hirsute

H I R S U T E

You would need a shirt
to cover up at the beach. A true
layer of warmth sadly does not suit
any season. The daily rite
of razing what is sire-
d not of your own volition is sure
to rub anyone the wrong way. Tire-
some products, apparatuses for a suite
bathroom – are sophisticated but hurt-
ful to a natural hobbit from the Shire.

Explanation:

I am trying something new. Sometimes prompts and normal styles feel mundane and I need a fresh challenge to push my creativity. Enter, Terrance Hayes. He invents new formal constraints to write interestingly about very human subjects. I haven’t read his works (yet); just the one poem: Nuclear, which is a perfect example for an ‘Anagram poem‘.

These poems are adopted from the word games that we find in newspapers. The rules are:

  1. End words must be derived from four or more letters in the title.
  2. Words which acquire four letters by the addition of “s” are not used.
  3. Only one form of a verb is used.

Crafting this poem was a very enjoyable experience. I found it stimulating to have to speak about the subject with the words that are derived from the subject – there is something very Cubist about this affair.

I haven’t made any surprising inventions here (and hope to get better with practice) but I was surprised by how my thoughts could weave around designated words and still not lose their intentions. Is this what it means to be led by the horse and the road?

Update: Judy from lifelessons blog chose this as her prompt for the day (thank you so much!) and has brewed a brilliant Anagram Poem of her own, with a twist. Make sure you read it here.

Nananoyz from Praying for Eyebrowz has also attempted an Anagram poem and made the challenge even trickier. A brilliant composition. Have a look here.

Irrational

Not just a mathematical uncertainty
An exclamation of human emotion that
Makes one feel insensible, irrational.
I wonder how much it matters – this
Need to logically think, to unravel
Quandaries with a stick of a defined length
And set out the shapes in perfect geometry.
Where does it come from?
We are governed by laws of nature
That can’t be broken, only mended.
So given how we are slaves
To the very idea of order, wherefore
We believe in chaos? Oh wait!
Isn’t it the other way ’round?
There is a tornado somewhere that
Seems lost and confused – the sense
In its existence being questioned as
It rapidly turns on its eye to see that
It is here because of a butterfly’s
Innocent flights of fancy.
Ah! The rational irrational.
I wish I knew you better.

Explanation:

I had to write by hand for 10 minutes without break, to let my irrational mind free and help me address new topics in poems.

I found the outcome interesting. I don’t know if I like it but it is what it is. (The poem is presented in its unedited form.) I was structured by the word and wrote about irrationality when I could have written about anything! I don’t even fully understand what I wrote: some math, chaos theory, natural world and almost no human emotion (which is the very essence of what I would consider irrational). I took the most rational subjects to speak about irrationality. Am I such an academic? Please don’t hate me!
“I wish I knew better” now feels other-worldly, like my own conscience was asking me to connect better with my emotions. Mildly freaked but highly intrigued!writing-with-pen
Why don’t you try the same? Make sure you handwrite it. I got very different results when I typed – very uninspiring and wholly depressing.

When I see my portrait

Laura Zimmermann is a talented Parisian artist whom I know because of good fortune: One of my husband’s best friend had the good sense to date her or we would have never known this outwardly shy but inwardly bold and resolute young woman. She also has the distinction of being the only vegetarian French person I know. She’s more than an acquaintance. She attended my wedding in India in 2013. But sadly, due to logistics and lifestyles we have been just Facebook friends in reality. But all that changed quite suddenly.

I realised that she had painted me from a photograph, which she took at the wedding in India. I happened by it as I was scrolling aimlessly though my Facebook feed and it took me by surprise. This event by itself has mitigated most of my general disdain for sharing in social media. I told my husband about the painting and we decided to contact Laura through her man and ask if we could purchase it.

We have had two weddings, Mr. Pink and I; one in India and one in Switzerland. The wedding in India was with a heavy purpose, and not at all legally binding (hence we had the Swiss wedding). It was a religious ceremony and I wanted it done so as to introduce him to my culture and people in the most hectic, time-consuming and fun way possible. What else is India if not hectic, time-consuming and fun? Though we have thousands of beautiful photographs from both the weddings we didn’t have even one picture of us blown up and framed. In fact I have printed out just one photo on a normal A4 hi-bond paper in postcard format to put in a frame that could accommodate a picture much larger. Contrary to Beyoncé and Jay-Z we are lazy in love.

Now that the opportunity to put up a memory worth adorning our naked walls presented itself – in acrylic on canvas, no less – we couldn’t just let it pass. I found it rather poignant that it also happened to be the first original painting we decided to invest in. Not to mention it made us feel extra good to show support for an independent budding artist.

They came by one Sunday afternoon for an Indian lunch and to give us our painting. From when Laura unveiled the canvas from its bubble wrap cocoon to now, this very instant, I haven’t been able to get away with just a momentary glance  at it. It draws me in and each time at first I look at it as though it wasn’t me in it. This wasn’t a moment from my life. There’s something calm and content about that woman. Something angelic and reassuring. That’s not how I remember feeling at the time. All I seem to remember is the stress and the need to satisfy everyone else’s needs; to make sure none of the Europeans fell sick from all the Indian food and that none of the Indians felt abandoned because of all the Europeans at the wedding. That’s what I remember…at first.

Memory is a tricky thing isn’t it? It’s interesting how I forget that actually during the three days that the wedding celebrations lasted, on the inside, I was content and happy. I was satisfied with my life decision; happy about the fact that I was allowed to marry my true love despite him being of another race/religion/nationality; reassured by the presence of hundreds of well-wishers; calmed by the knowledge that I didn’t have to hide my relationship status anymore from anyone and finally I did feel united with the universe. All the elements that we were exchanging with our immediate surroundings, all of which came from the inception of the universe – cycled through planets, asteroids, plants, animals, people, dead relatives – were with me that day as I vowed to be married to my man not because a legal authority demanded it but because I needed my people to know, acknowledge and respect him as my chosen one. Everything was with me and within me as I made that decision known and I was radiating with everything.

I look at the painting again.

Memory is a tricky thing indeed.

Yes, the woman she has painted – THAT woman – is me.

Thank you Laura for helping me remember.

Painting by Laura Zimmermann
Painting by Laura Zimmermann. Photo of the painting (c) Sam Rappaz
Also, Laura is a wonderful photographer. I have used some of her images in a post that has won a blog contest. Read it here. 
Please visit Laura's website to see more of her brilliant work inspired by the people in her life and those she has met in her travels around the world. Link: http://laura-zimmermann.com

The Do that I Do that I Do so, well?

My café au lait which is too foamy for its own good sits hissing by the side while I silently waste my time on Twitter to find out what’s more important than Djokovic winning the Australian Open. People are sharing their blogs, inspirational quotes and there are other bits and bobs on there which on a better day I would have cared to click on. Not today. Today I am feeling admonished by my coffee: with every shush and hiss I can hear it tell me that I haven’t felt the need to “create” today. I knew this day would come, that ‘one day’ which can, depending on context and point-of-view, mean realisation of a dream or a nightmare.

So I open my WordPress Editor, switch on a playlist of one of my favourite contemporary Indian (pop and film) music composers; mildly surprised by how much his recent music is sounding like Christian rock, and here I am. The coffee is being drunk and heavy silence is being shut down by my long-lasting Logitech speakers. Today has not been a great day, so far. The scansion of my poem ‘A common love‘ failed and what I first “felt” I was writing in blank verse turned out to be in blah verse. Scansion? Blank verse?

Scansion: breaking down of poetic verses into stressed/unstressed syllables then grouping the syllables into a ‘foot’ (trochee, iambs etc) and then checking if there is a regular pattern to how the feet appear in each line which gives us the meter. The whole thing adds to how one perceives/hears a poem and can either exemplify a poem or destroy it based on the prowess of the poet. Scansion is of course based on interpretation and how one hears the syllables.

Blank verse: (preferably) non-rhyming, iambic pentameter, has emotive foot substitutions, with mid-line caesuras for added effect and interesting enjambments. It is probably the most sophisticated form of English metrical poetry.

This was my first formal attempt at writing anything in blank verse and I am not presumptuous enough to think that I would succeed; that in a few hours I could go from an amateur poet to writing like that Shakespeare chap or that Milton fellow. No, of course not. The other voice in my head is chuckling as I type this…because I “felt” I could do it. I stuck to the right syllable count and there are some interesting mid-line caesuras and enjambments (or so I believe). But I don’t have the iambic pentameter down. Will I ever? I. NEED. TO. have it down in less than 48 hours as that’s when my assignment is due.

Did I tell you that I am scientist? I have had an almost purely technical higher education. The last time I studied ‘art’ in any seriousness was NEVER. English was considered a fluff subject and social sciences a necessary evil. These seemingly innocuous subjects could pull down one’s GPA. The glorious GPA. In India we called it the total percentage – an oxymoron for a generation of, well, morons. Eat facts; Purge facts. The assimilation and digestion of these facts was encouraged just far enough to answer the “application-based” questions in the annual nation-wide central board examinations. I was inculcated into this band of buffoonery early and it’s not like I had a choice. No one ever has a choice in these matters.

When I prod my earliest memories of being in an “educational” institute in India I invariably come up with the scene of the annual parent-teacher meeting that was scheduled for the day when the final examination results was announced. I mean literally announced. We would enter our classrooms to find a list of names chalked out on the main board along with their respective total percentages. These were ‘The top 10 lists’ that went viral before such things were ever conceptualised. I say chalked out because for scores of children not seeing their names up on the board made the classroom feel like the scene of a murder investigation: their dreams and hopes had been killed off by the notorious evil of intense competition that they were somehow complicit in and their futures now being reevaluated and investigated in detail by persons of higher authority. Oh, the trepidation. Have you ever seen a six year-old have insomnia and indigestion because of stress? Please visit India in April and you’ll see millions of them.

In one of those evil annual meetings, when I was about 8 years old, in a prestigious school in Delhi an English teacher changed my life. Yes, we start learning early in India. I was distraught that I had placed 2nd or 3rd in the class and had missed out on the first place because of one percentage point or less. My teacher who smiled and handed my report card to my mother (who was very happy and proud of her child) looked at me with concern. She congratulated me on my rank and told me that I had done exceptionally well. She told me she was very happy with me and that I was an obedient child and very intelligent. The whole while I was looking at her wondering where I had lost marks that has costed me the rank. I wanted to see the other report cards. I am not good with praise so I was happy to have some critical points to mull over in my eight year old brain. She could sense, I think, that I wasn’t reassured by her generous compliments. Then she said something that pulled me out of my abysmal state with such force that I have over the years abstained from venturing into that dark cave of self-criticism and if I ever happened to find myself suddenly in that chasm then I would have the torch of her words to guide myself out:

She said, “Sampoorna. Always compete only with yourself.

Back then the biggest mystery of all to me was: How had she known what I was thinking? It’s obvious now that she was a good teacher who knew just what to say to make sure her student didn’t end up killing herself over that chalk outline. Perhaps what she didn’t know was that with those words she changed my approach to my education. (This time without the quotes.) I will never forget her, those words and that moment.

I have always loved science and have made a career out of a passion. But I have loved English and the social sciences too and it was probably because of my fourth-grade teacher’s wise words. I did well enough the latter subjects to keep my GPA high but did not go into them so deeply that it excluded me from the current generational agenda: Only Engineers and Doctors Allowed! That rant deserves its own post. However I competed with myself to know more about everything. I no longer looked for a blackboard, even a metaphorical one. I haven’t done so in a very long time. In the process I ended up having an illicit love affair with questions such as, “What is humanity?” and thinking thoughts way beyond my curriculum and career path such as , “Without language we would never have realised that we all have the same questions.” I can go as far as to say that my teacher’s wisdom has led me to be the mixed by-product of societal expectation that I am: neither an engineer nor a doctor but somehow both. This blog is also an extension of that self-competitive state which I would now rephrase as self-discovery. I am learning as much about myself as you are about me.

And now, how come a scientist ended up caring about scansion, blank verse, poetry? Because competing with oneself means learning constantly and creating something everyday. I am no longer planning and doing experiments but that doesn’t mean I don’t have an original thought to put to paper. And that brings me to my dismal day which somehow this post has redeemed. The itch to scratch out verses is returning. The evening is still youngish and I need to retry writing blank verses. I seem to suck at it but heck, who’s keeping scores?

Today's Daily prompt helped give direction to my thoughts: Teacher's Pet

The Garden City of Karnataka: A Tribute to Yeats’ The Lake Isle of Innisfree & Bangalore

The Garden City of Karnataka

I will arise and go now, and go to Bangalore,
And a small lodging build there, of mortar and brick made;
A terrace of flowers, jasmine champa magnolia,
I will peacefully tend all day.

I shall calmly watch sun set, for watching makes me breathe slow,
Breathing minty moments of orange clouds and purple twilights;
There morning comes on sudden, and noon a white blister,
And the tranquility encircles.

I will arise and go now, for in my heart always
I hear rustling coconut leaves caressed by tropical breeze;
While I stand in snow shoes, and in my winter coat,
I hear them louder more I freeze.

I said I would do it.
I read my early morning post and in my staggering state I seem to have wanted to write a tribute to Bangalore (a city in India) in the style of W. B. Yeats’ The Lake Isle of Innisfree. You may read the original poem here.
Yeats’ poem was inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. Innisfree is Inis Fraoigh (Heather Island), which is a small island in the west of Ireland. Yeats, an Irish poet, suddenly felt very homesick one day walking in London, as a water fountain in a shop-window reminded him of lake water. The Lake Isle of Innisfree was thus born.
My poem was inspired by Yeats and by my beautiful home many thousands of kilometres away. I dedicate this to one of my best friends from my teen-hood in Bangalore and who now lives farther away from the city than I do. You know who you are.