Archive for the ‘poetry’ category

The Masked Bandit!

20 May 2012

Here is a poem celebrating one of CME’s little known animals, which emerges at night and is harmless to man, yet people in their ignorance kill the animal on sight. All readers are requested to instruct family members, staff of their departments, and servants not to kill this animal.

TODDY CAT or PALM CIVET

You hardly see me on the ground,
I’m slickest of all the mammals around,
Late at night when everyone’s asleep,
Then CME’s all mine to creep!

Living in lofts of campus bungalows,
or holes in tree trunks far above,
Fruits, and insects are what I devour,
I am an accomplished omnivore.

I even eat some seeds such as coffee beans
that when excreted, cost beyond your means.
My scent glands give rise to an aroma nice,
called civet, which smells, just like basmati rice,

I’m harmless to humans, yet people fear,
me strangely;  kill me without a tear,
Pray be merciful and please let me be,
I’m just one of nature’s banditry.

Call me Palm civet or toddy cat,
Enjoy my company,
For larger mammals in CME you can no longer see,
For I too have my role like all the others
in our ecosystem’s biodiversity.

The palm civet – by Gustav Mützel (1927)

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Morning Walk

3 January 2011

A poem by Aditi Baindur

One day, I took off to the lake,
to meet a friend for a morning walk,
I spotted lots of coots and ducks,
and a single painted stork.

I hoped to meet my friend out there,
waiting under a tree,
it stood up tall, dry and bare,
my friend I did not see.

The tree trunk stood tall and strong
supporting each green leaf above
I marvelled at the care provided
to each leaf, motherly love.

I spotted a hollow as my eyes did roam –
What lived inside the bole of the tree?
To what little creature was it home?
A squirrel, a myna, a lizard, or a bee?

Just then I saw a little bird,
not far off from that tree,
fallen and hurt, it bled on the dirt,
I ran to its rescue, couldn’t let it be.

The mother came showering down
between me and the chick
I let it shepherd the little one away
while I did the vanishing trick

My friend came up just then
laughing and carefree
I hope you weren’t bored she said
waiting here alone for me

I said how can one get bored
there is so much around to see
nature’s bounty, mankind’s treasures
were all around me plenty!

THE SPOTTED OWLET (Athene brama) – Natural history in verse!

2 January 2011

by

Ashwin and Aditi Baindur

 

Spotted Owlet (Artist: Aditi Baindur)

 

When I go for an evening walk
along the tree-lined CME street,
there is bound to be an interesting creature
or two that I am sure to meet.

Sometime its a palm civet
or nightjar with chuff chuff call
mostly its just a little owlet,
grey-spotted but half foot tall.

Not just in Pune is he found
In South Asia wherever he can be
From sunny Mekran to rainy Indo-China
and Kashmir to Kanyakumari.

From sunny Mekran to rainy Indo-China, and from Kashmir to Kanyakumari

People in our North call him chughad,
Khussatia or even oodloo.
In Bengal he is called Kuture pencha
And in Sindh he is known as Chibiru.

Some foolish people think him a bad omen;
he is named after wise Athene.
Bobs his head to Brahma for his name,
in mythology he carries Laxmi.

The Owl (Ulooka in Sanskrit), seen at Laxmi's feet, is the traditional vehicle of Goddess Laxmi. (Click image to reach source. Reproduced under fair use).

An owlet pair are always found
on the signpost of 253B,
from where they are perched in shadow
but the lighted path they can see.

On this road they aren’t quite alone,
I find them on ‘most any tree,
every fifty yards or outside each garage.
We indeed have an owly colony!

The little ones of the field and garden
are welcome guests to their feast –
mice, centipedes, insects, beetles
even snakes and scorpions they eat.

Spotted Owlet and prey! (Owl Image:J.M. Garg, on Wikimedia Commons)

Their house is in in a little shelf
between the rafters and my bungalow roof.
From outside there is very little sign,
some pellets on the floor my only proof

that a quaint little family dwells in my bungalow
quietly along with me
and helps look after my interests
by eating small rodentry.

November to April is their special time,
to start a little family
beginning with four white spherical eggs
the fledgelings away in weeks three.

Fledgeling Spotted Owlets with squirrel (© Jagdeep Rajput / ardea.com)

A noisier pair I’m yet to find
so bold and confident are they,
chirruk chirruk they screech at dawn
and chirwak chirwak ending day.

I like the owlets very very much
though they watch me very closely!
Now he bobs his head, she turns hers around.
I’m sure they also like me!

NOTICE  –

  • Text of poem under Creative Commons 3.0 Unported.
  • Image credits – see individual images.
  • This poem appeared on CME Weekly on 25 Dec 2010. Copyright rests with author.
  • Information: Spotted Owlet. (2010, December 22). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 14:19, January 2, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Spotted_Owlet&oldid=403714746.

Image: J.M. Garg (from Wikimedia Commons)

Culture

25 February 2010

– a poem by Ashok Mahajan

Two purple-white rose blossoms shown one above the other amongst mint-green leaves.

I missed the chance to nose... a pure damask rose

A pile of brown manure to front and right in a meadow with a chestnut coloured horse in the background slightly out of focus

..merely with animal or human waste.

Bred among odours of ordure
I missed the chance to nose
A pure damask rose.
Now fully grown I realize
We were only taught to use
Green fields as lavatories,
And therefore I have come to associate
All kinds of hues
Merely with animal or human waste.

Pericrocotus flammeus

A tinge of minivet-scarlet
Is no reminiscence of that bird,
But of betel-spittle stains
Left by movie fans
On walls of cinema halls,
And by pimps and harlots
In red-light lanes.

Red betel nut spit stains on a tarmac road.

....but of betel-spittle stains left by...pimps and harlots in red-light lanes.

Siris leaves possess
An autumn flavescence immeasurably less

Than expectorations of asthmatic old men
Coughing doubled-up on loose
Squeaky string cots whose
Rans of twine
Are bro-
Ken as their thoughts.

A golden yellow bovine with blue-grey horns curved back and head lowered to eat grass. The fence of a zoo enclosure is seen in the background.

A takin-gold evokes... memories of some rare beast.

A takin-gold evokes
Not in the least
Memories of dawn or some rare beast,

But scats of stray dogs
Like pagoda heaps

Among scattered slippers
Of scores of worshippers
At a Vashnoi temple-feast.

Tourists note
Fresco-amber
in Ajanta art
I know this pigment from
pools of bovine piss
at any vegetable mart.

Fresco-amber from Ajanta art...

...than pools of bovine piss in a vegetable mart.

Ashok Mahajan, is an Indian poet whose “Goan Vignettes and other poems” provide a peep into the quaint, idyllic and sometimes  anachronistic Goan life-style. This poem, the first poem of the first section – ‘Eclectic sketches” – is one of the ‘other poems’.

Though the compilation is considered light-hearted by some critics, Mahajan’s poems are of more value to the common man who would better appreciate his short true-to-life vignettes of life in Goa as well as in other parts of India. May I add that I am biased towards him as he is a retired army officer, my father’s good friend and he fueled my interest in poetry, though I’m sure that he thought it was to no avail.

In ‘Culture’, he shows us how colours associated conventionally with poetic and literary motifs are equally well served by less salubrious examples in human life. Though the poet chooses his words carefully to avoid repugnance, his craftsmanship and choice of examples evokes graphic images.

The poet attempts to show us colours through Alice’s  looking glass – a new way of imagining colour. At the same time he gives us many ways to interpret this poem.

Is he indicating that  ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ are two sides of the same coin as in Kipling’s infamous line :

“For the colonel’s lady an’ Judy O’Grady, Are sisters under their skins”?

Or that good and evil are interlinked as in old English proverb:

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions”

Perhaps he mocks the futility of objects that people desire and upon which they bestow high epithets, echoing Daniel Webster’s words:

“One may live as a conqueror, a king, or a magistrate; but he must die as a man.”

I prefer to look at it from the earthy viewpoint of nature-watching. That the commonplace and unremarkable things in nature are as valuable or fascinating or worthwhile to watch as the rare, the unusual and bizarre.

The poem also obliquely draws my thought to a dialogue between the protagonist(s) in “The Last Samurai” – Tom Cruise (as Nathan Allgren a  disenchanted ex-United States Army captain) and Ken Watanabe, the samurai warlord Katsumoto. They talk about finding perfection in life and its virtues, symbolised by the cherry blossom : –

Katsumoto: The perfect (cherry) blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life.
….
Katsumoto: I also. It happens to men who have seen what we have seen. But then I come to this place of my ancestors, and I remember. Like these blossoms, we are all dying. To know life in every breath, every cup of tea, every life we take. The way of the warrior….
Nathan Algren: Life in every breath…
Katsumoto: That is Bushido.

A swathe of white cherry blossoms with carmine stamens hang from a branxch highlighted agaist a blue sky.

The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life.

Credits

  • All files from Wikimedia Commons unless otherwise specified.
  • Click images to reach source page on Commons or elsewhere.
  • Cherry Blossoms – Sakura CC3.0.
  • Takin – ‘stevehdc’ ( on Flickr) CC2.0.
  • Chestnut horse & manure – Malene Thyssen, CC2.5SA.
  • Rose – Ulf Eliasson, CC 2.5.
  • Cow & vegetable mart – ‘brotherscarface’ in webshots (unlicensed).
  • Ajanta fresco – Jonathan A. White (public domain).
  • Betelnut spit – Scott Zona on Flickr (CC 2.0).
  • Scarlet Minivet – JM Garg, CC 3.0.

A child said, What is the grass?

13 January 2010

In Indian schoolbooks, one often comes across poems by the British masters such as Keats, Wordsworth, Yeats and Hopkins. The American poets such as Robert Frost and Walt Whitman are rarely to be found. This is due to our colonial legacy.

The very first nature poem that was featured on this blog was Robert Frost’s “Stopping by woods on a snowy evening“.

Here now is one by Walt Whitman, who writes about a very common motif of nature, often overlooked,  over-trod and discounted – Grass.

Grass & wild flowers on a Russian river bank

Grass & wild flowers on a Russian river bank.

A child said, What is the grass?

A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child?. . . .I do not know what it
is any more than he.I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we
may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child. . . .the produced babe
of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow
zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the
same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people and from women, and
from offspring taken soon out of their mother’s laps,
And here you are the mother’s laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old
mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths
for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men
and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring
taken soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
What do you think has become of the women and
children?

A US Postage Stamp of 1948 commemorating Walt Whitman.

They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprouts show there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait
at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.

All goes onward and outward. . . .and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and
luckier.

Walt Whitman

A nature poem?  Not quite!

One could say that Whitman used grass to expound about the human condition much as Sylvia Plath used Mushrooms for her purpose. However Whitman goes much further. He uses motifs from nature and man’s experience of it through the senses to exalt the human body and materialism. This was in stark contrast to the allegory and spiritualism that had been the tone of poetry before him.

Whitman’s magnum opus, is of course “Leaves of Grass“,  an anthology of poems he first published in 1855 and kept revising right till his death. Incidentally, though this poem is from this anthology and is about the common plant we know about, the name of the book ‘Leaves of grass’ is not about that vegetation but, instead, is a play on words.

In the forgotten lingo of nineteenth century book-publishers, ‘grass’ is used to denote works of minor value. ‘Leaves’ referes to pages. The whole name is a mocking apellation for his principal thesis.

Read Whitman’s poem on grass, look for connections with nature, with experiencing nature and for allegories with the human condition. It was a bit strange to me as I am still not used to prose-like poems very much.

It may seem of little value to read about grass. But grass is one of the bases of the food chain.

Algae, grasses and other leaves and branches of other plants are the broad base of autotrophs who support all life in the world. Grasses such as wheat and rice feed mankind directly. Bamboo, a most useful plant, too is a grass of sorts.

All the same, thinking about grass in any way gives us greater insight to this common-place and under-rated vegtation than not thinking about it at all.

Read more about :-

Image credits – Click on the image to reach the source page on Wikimedia Commons.

Nature Poetry

8 December 2009

I realise that my posts are a healthy mix of types. A few genres of posts can be easily identified. Guest posts is one of them. So are poems on nature whether by the greats, others or even me. So I made a list for my readers’ convenience. Unfortunately I doped and made it on a post instead of a page. I have left this post intact as even if I delete, Facebook and Twitter have already reflected it!

The following nature poems appear on my blog  (latest posts first) :

Dappled things – by Gerard Manley Hopkins

2 December 2009

Clouds over Chaparral, New Mexico (Image:Greg Lundeen, public domain)

Glory be to God for dappled things! (Image:US Dept of Agriculture, public domain).

GLORY be to God for dappled things—

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889) (Public domain image)

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889)

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;

And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

Stippled trout. (Image:Mike Cline, public domain).

Stippled Trout! (Image:Mike Cline, public domain).

This poem was written in 1877, but not published until 1918, when it was included as part of the collection Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Sometimes we enslave our idea of beauty to that which society says or what our senses like. There is an unseen classical beauty in two-toned images. Observe how photographers adore black and white images!

...sometimes we enslave our idea of beauty to that which society says...(Namibi woman. Image:Yves Picq, License:CC-by-SA 3.0)

Every thing does not need to have a lush, sensual quailty.  Starkness, brevity, simplicity, composition, balance are higher qualities than a mish-mash of over-rich hues!

Gerard Manley Hopkins was a priest and an exquisite poet. In the appealing contrast of dappled things he found evidence of divine benevolence! Indeed of God’s grandeur – a phrase which he used as the title of another of his poems.

To Hopkins this would indeed be an image of 'God's Grandeur"! (Image:NASA, public domain).

But all poets are UP TO SOMETHING!

In Hopkin’s case ( as Wikipedia puts it) –

This  ending is gently ironic and beautifully surprising: the entire poem has been about variety, and then God’s attribute of immutability is praised in contrast.

Tools of the trade - Carpentry. (Image:LoKiLeCh, license CC-SA 2.5)

Tools of the trade - Carpentry. (Image:LoKiLeCh, license CC-SA 2.5)