A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. ~Oscar Wilde

Archive for the ‘referencing moments’ Category

Translations and trans life

There are some tasks which are so difficult that the mere thought of completing them can paralyse. I don’t know whether the difficulty of this particular task has been built up in my mind to it’s incapacitating proportions, or whether the task is indeed very, very difficult.

For as long as I can remember, it seems from Nursery Rhyme days,  I have been a worshipper of Bengali poet and philosopher, winner of The Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913, the inimitable, the wizard of words and sorcerer of ideas, Rabindranath Tagore. I have long admired his poetry, even before I began to understand it, because I could recite it end to end without any idea of what the poetry meant. The words knit into each other so well, the rhythm flows so beautifully, that the poems wield themselves into memory easily and effortlessly. As a child I could, as now, recite his poetry, and more often his songs ( I have a flat line voice which does not lend itself to singing) and be lost in the rhythm and the flow paying no particular attention to the meaning. The words fit into each other in a lilting seamless jigsaw puzzle with such precision that if one was to be removed, a substitute is not possible. This is as true of his poetry as of his prose.

This is not to say that the works themselves were superficial or meaningless. In fact much the opposite. Tagore, above all, was a philosopher. His works major and minor, are all artistic philosophy at its best. This is why translating him is such a behemoth task.

It is a great pity, there is no translation of Tagore into English that I have read that brings me to within a hoi of the original. Dare I say it? Even Tagore’s own English translations fall woefully short of the magic his Bengali works invoke. Even the philosophy behind his works gets only partial justice, let alone the raw poetry and imagery of his Bengali words. There are many who do translate his works, and very skilfully so, but …. but….

As a person who can grow emotional over skilful use of words, and as a person who has always admired the power words have in creating images, I have long wanted to translate Tagore’s “Geetabeetan”, his collection of songs. First I had to mature much to even begin to do justice to the philosophy, and I do not believe I have the depth of understanding even now. I also feel that I do not have the power to create that poetry in English.

I feel, that in order to convey the songs of Tagore to a twenty first century world, I need to be able to transcend the century that has passed since his writing, and yet show the timeless beauty of his poetry. Many songs that he wrote seem to be written specifically for today, and yet there is no way I am able to bring this this to the world. I just don’t have the words. Nor the oomph. I have tried.

I often say to myself that if reincarnation is really a thing, I do not want to be born again. But perhaps I should. Perhaps, if I were born again, and I tried more single mindedly, I could actually translate Tagore into English, and pay due tribute to a human who has brought me overwhelming joy. In the meantime, in this life, I can continue to listen, hum, and sway to his songs, feeling their glory in each cell of my body.

What a pity, only some of the very few Bengali readers of this will understand why I am having such a fan girl moment.

In the meantime here are a few translated lines from Tagore’s own pen, for a small taste of the words that reach deep into the soul, the original of which is one of my favourite songs.

The World today is wild with the delirium of hatred,

the conflicts are cruel and unceasing in anguish,

crooked are its paths, tangled its bonds of greed.

All creatures are crying for a new birth of thine,

O Thou of boundless life,

save them, rouse thine eternal voice of hope,

Rabindranath, by himself

Rabindranath, by himself

Let Love’s lotus with its inexhaustible treasure of honey

open its petals in thy light.

O Serene, O Free,

in thine immeasurable mercy and goodness

wipe away all dark stains from the heart of this earth.

Thou giver of immortal gifts

give us the power of renunciation

and claim from us our pride.

In the splendour of a new sunrise of wisdom

let the blind gain their sight

and let life come to the souls that are dead.

O Serene, O Free,

in thine immeasurable mercy and goodness

wipe away all dark stains from the heart of this earth.

Man’s heart is anguished with the fever of unrest,

with the poison of self-seeking,

with a thirst that knows no end.

Countries far and wide flaunt on their foreheads

the blood-red mark of hatred.

Touch them with thy right hand,

make them one in spirit,

bring harmony into their life,

bring rhythm of beauty.

O Serene, O Free,

in thine immeasurable mercy and goodness

wipe away all dark stains from the heart of this earth.


Who knew? The rainbow exists!

Well.. well.. well… Is this my Rainbow Runner? I have been smiling for the last 20 minutes now! So cute! So totally what I had been thinking of! or part of what I had been thinking!

Tyler Dewit’s impassioned plea to the world of science teachers.

A little more about Tyler Dewitt:

“High school science teacher Tyler DeWitt was ecstatic about a lesson plan on bacteria (how cool!) — and devastated when his students hated it. The problem was the textbook: it was impossible to understand. He delivers a rousing call for science teachers to ditch the jargon and extreme precision, and instead make science sing through stories and demonstrations. (Filmed at TEDxBeaconStreet.)

Tyler DeWitt recognizes that textbooks are not the way to get young people interested in science. Instead, he teaches science by making it fun and fantastical.”


How bright is your dream?

Hello all


Here is the first post that made an impact on me today….



Good to start one’s day with such a thought.



“Narayan! Narayan”

Narada, the celestial bard prided himself on his devotion to Lord Narayan. He spent all day creating songs in His praise, and singing them lustily. He took The Word to the corners of the Three Worlds, and smilingly spread it everywhere, tunefully, rhythmically, cosmically.

One day, Narada was sitting at the Lotus Feet singing his latest poem, and he happened to open his eyes to look upon The Lord, and he saw Him smilingly shower a blessing. But, it was not for him, Narada, that the blessing was intended. Unperturbed, but curious, Narada bowed low, and asked “ O, Wise One! O Preserver from all evil, who is the lucky mortal You bless at this moment?”

The Lord smiled. “I have just blessed my greatest devotee of all time!”

Narada was astonished! Who was this mortal? He tried to go back to his singing, but the words stuck in his throat, and the tune fell flat. He wondered, who could be a greater devotee than himself? Was he not a mortal, who through his devotion had gained immortality? Had he not been given the boon of the ability to go anywhere in the Three Worlds, chanting The Lord’s name in prayer?  Did he not own the rights to sing His name through all eternity? Then who was this.. this usurper?

“My Lord, please! Please tell me who this person is? I would love to learn at his feet, so that I can become your greatest devotee! That is all I live for!”

His smile broadening, the Lord replied “Certainly!” He then furnished Narada with the name and direction of an obscure farmer in an insignificant village living in anonymity.

Grumbling under his breath,  at the audacity of a mere village non-entity, stealing his title of the greatest devotee, Narada made haste and appeared in the village within moments. He followed the man indicated to him from dawn to dusk. He made sure not to miss a moment of his day, and as he followed this farmer about his daily duties, Narada felt a bewildered anger rising within him.  After a whole day and night  of dogging each footstep of  this so called devotee Narada’s astonishment knew no bounds. He whooshed himself back to the Ever Benign Presence.

Folding his hands and bowing till his nose touched the ground, Narada tearfully asked the Lord, ”O Eternal One, please explain! This farmer arises in the morning, and even before he has performed his ablutions, he raises his hands in prayer and recites Your Name twice. He then rushes off, without bothering to perform any ritual whatsoever, and as soon as he has eaten something, off he rushes to his farm. At the end of the day, he comes home, eats a little, asks after his children and wife, and as soon he has recited Your  Name twice, he drops off to sleep.”

“Yes, “ said the Lord, sighing happily.

“But!!!!….” Narada fell to the ground weeping. “What about me, I spend all day singing your praises! I never do anything but glorify your name to all the Three Worlds! How can this.. this .. measly little…. be your greatest devotee?”

The Lord chuckled, and said, “Son, please do me a favour, and I will answer your question. Please take this bowl of oil and deliver it to my good friend Lord Brahma. When you get back from your chore I will answer  your question.”

Scrambling up, Narada saw that he was being handed a small brass bowl filled to the brim with oil.

“Mind! You need to go as fast as you can. It is awaited. Please make sure that you do not spill even a tiny drop, that will be a massacre”

Carefully accepting the bowl, Narada started to turn. The little bowl was so full, even the tiniest movement caused the oil to start spilling over.

“Take care, do not spill a single drop!”….

The Lord’s warning ringing in his ear, Narada carefully went to Brahma. Each step was excruciating, even a deep breath endangered the mission. Narada could not take his eyes off the tiny bowl of oil in his hands. His whole world became consumed with the swaying, swelling, almost overflowing bowl of oil. Sweat dripped from his brow, his heart pounded and each muscle quivered, but his eyes never wavered and the bowl remained steady. At his destination, Narada, trembling in his heart and feet, but steady in his arms and hands, passed the bowl to Brahma, and gasped, “I did not let a single drop spill!”

Accepting the bowl, Brahma gave Narada his blessing.

Tired but triumphant, Narada raced back to Narayan on winged feet.

“I did it, O Lord! I did it!”

Smiling and exhausted, he flung himself at His feet, and gasped, “Please, my Lord, please explain!”

The Lord Narayan, looked benignly down at the excited bard.  Quietly, He asked,  “How many times during the time that you had the bowl in your hand, and since, have you recited my name, O beloved?”

As Narada’s eyes widened and head bowed with understanding, the Lord smiled, leaned back, and shut His Lotus Eyes.

Mind over Heart and Soul

“I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.” – Vincent Van Gogh

If one’s last (thought of) contribution to Art, Humanity and Posterity is thus:

Does it matter if one has “lost” his mind?

If he can write such words about the above painting, has he lost his mind?

“They are vast stretches of wheat under troubled skies, and I did not have to go out of my way very much in order to try to express sadness and extreme loneliness…. I’m fairly sure that these canvases will tell you what I cannot say in words, that is, how healthy and invigorating I find the countryside.


PS: I am interested in your thoughts: Do you believe Van Gogh had lost his mind?

Kookaburra Sits On The Old Gum Tree. Er… Palm Tree!

Across from our  balcony is a palm tree. I have no idea why, in Sydney, people plant palm trees! This is NOT a tropical paradise! But more of that, anon!

Where was I? yes… across from my balcony is a palm tree with a hollowed out trunk, abut three-quarters of the way above the ground. I would always look at it thinking that some birds would surely love to make their nests there. Sure enough, late this Winter, a pair of kookaburras swooped around checking the real estate out. What they saw must have appealed, because come Spring they were continuously coming and going. My son and I had a vantage point: we would spend time -peeking at first, then getting bolder and standing on the balcony quite loudly discussing the new neighbours. We watched as the baby kookaburras peeped and cheeped, observed their grey down, we saw them grow bigger.

Very soon, the adult couple took to resting on the railing on our balcony. They would take it in turns to sit there. They would swoop down into the hollow and get on with their little household chores and then fly back again. Sometimes one or the other would come, and at other times they would both come. My son got busy with his camera, and they would sit there unabashed, while he crept as close as he dared to photograph them. What I found eerie was that they never, ever, made a sound.

I thought back to another house I had lived in. All Spring and Summer, we would have Kookaburras sitting on a particular branch, just above the swimming pool, sometimes up to a dozen of them, cackling away, cutting up the quiet of an afternoon. They sounded like old women, making fun of us and being quite rude about it, I felt. But these two, never uttered a single screech.

One morning, I heard some unusual activity in the kitchen and went in to discover my husband and my son quietly excited. One of the birds had flown into the kitchen, and past, and was currently sitting in the laundry.

And as I went in towards the laundry saying that this was unacceptable, adorable as they were, they were not welcome, inside, he flew out and sat on the kitchen window sill. On the inside window sill. Being a very rational person, and not wanting to hurt his feelings, I said, “thank you for your visit, now please go outside and sit on the balcony railing, please do not stay indoors.”

My son, who was busily trying to photograph him, said, ”Shush, you will offend him”

But after a moment the grey bird with a flash of blue flew out and sat on the balcony railing. I thanked him, and closed the window reflecting how easy it had been to convince a bird, but the males in my household?……

I was, of course quite charmed that I had these visitors as long as they did not set up parties of raucous laughter, and made my balcony uncouth with their poop.  Also, of course, I told my sister about it. As I was telling her about it, suddenly, I heard one of them sitting on its perch, chortling. I was taken aback at how “human” it sounded. I narrated this back to her( we were on Skype).

My sister is a Tarot Card ReaderAs I was quite happily telling her this charming story, and expressing my (grateful) surprise at the quiet of these birds, she suddenly started talking about animal spirits and totems, and checked my flow of narrative. She pointed me to a web link, and peremptorily ordered me to read it. Would not take “later” for an answer. So I did.

What jumped out at me was the line “The kookaburra encourages us to use laughter as a form of healing.” Now, I am not sick, or convalescent. But I had over the last few months or, even a year,  noticed that I do not laugh as much as I used to. Nor do I smile as much. There was a time, when I was always irritated, and if anything occurred to make me smile, I would consciously turn away from it, perhaps, due to circumstances, feeling that to succumb to laughter right then would be a weakness. Perhaps, that had slowly gelled into a non smiling countenance, and an inability to recognise the ridiculous. I had acquired the dubious distinction of being able to read Oscar Wilde from end to end, without breaking a single smile. Recently, when I speak to people, I have had to train myself to say to myself, “ And now, smile” because I keep forgetting.

But, for most of my life, I have laughed a lot. Falling off my chair laughing was a common occurrence in my life. As I read the web page, I remembered how, growing up in India, a song that had lived within me had been “Laugh, Kookaburra laugh! Kookaburra gay your life must be!” And I remembered that I would sing the song out loud, when I felt upset, and would feel better in an instant. It was perhaps not my favourite song, but it was one I often hummed far beyond my nursery days.

So, I took my sister’s/the kookaburras’ advice. That afternoon, I spent a few hours watching videos on YouTube. She pointed me to: Rowan Atkinson 

Which took me on to more. :

And “A Bit of Fry and Laurie” and many others.

I pulled down a couple of Georgette Heyer novels and read them, and when I reached the funny bits I forced myself to laugh out loud. Pretty soon, I was chortling and sniggering away at the life like caricatures and I even guffawed out loud at the TV show “Modern Family”.

I remind myself each day to smile, unnecessarily, and unpunctually. I laugh out loud, even if the joke is small. Laughter, and a sense of the ridiculous is a big part of me, and denying it had, possibly, frozen that part. I hope, that if there is any darkness within me that needs healing, the laughter is working. It has only been a few days, but my smile muscles don’t feel rusty any more. Thank you, Kookaburra. Thank you, Sister.


The birds are not very visible any more. Instead of their almost constant presence on my balcony I have only seen them twice since. Both times only for a flash as they sat there quietly, and then quietly flew away. I hope wherever they are, others are taking notice and allowing laughter back into their lives.

Yes, Dear Ornithologist, I know there may be other, scientific explanations for their arrival and departure. This is the one that worked for me.

The psychology of laughter.

The health benefits of humour and laughter

Referencing: Illusions, by Richard Bach

“Once there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great, crystal river. The current of the river swept silently over them all – young and old, rich and poor, good and evil, the current going its own way, knowing only its own crystal self.

Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the curr
ent what each had learned from birth. But one creature said at last, “I am tired of clinging. Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go and let it take me where it will. Clinging, I shall die of boredom.”

The other creatures laughed and said, “Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed across the rocks, and you will die quicker than boredom!”. But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks. Yet in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more. And the creatures downstream to whom he was a stranger cried, “See a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies! See the Messiah, come to save us all!”>
And the one carried in the current said, “I am no more Messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure.”
But they cried the more, “Saviour!” all the while clinging to the rocks, and when they looked again he was gone, and they were left alone making legends of a Saviour.”
– Richard Bach, Illusions


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