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The Goodbye Kiss

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picture courtesy- walldevil.com

Waking up to the familiar pain shooting through his neck

and a grumbling stomach put through endless tortures by time travel juice,

ignoring the mind numbing headache

his eyes transfixed to those rolling empty bottles effortlessly trying to seduce.

 

As his lustful lips longed for a sip of the poison

driving him ill at ease,

his parched throat let out a pained groan

begging for his thirst to appease.

 

Crawling his way to the well stashed bar in the living room

he felt like a stubborn and naive kid.

As he dragged himself thoughtlessly towards his doom

he yearned for nothing but from his burning thirst getting rid.

 

Right when he wrapped his fingers round the bottle of ill fame

to quench the thirst that understood no bargain,

he heard the voice of his deceased beau calling out his name

from a far corner of the outstretched garden.

 

Stumbling and falling every few steps on his way outside,

as he ran clumsily towards the voice of his sweetheart,

the distance kept growing with every step forward

and he felt his insides into a thousand pieces being ripped apart.

 

Screaming his heart out as he squandered whatever remaining zeal

he ultimately gave up on existance and the willingness to live.

And as if to quench his thirst and fulfill his dying wish

a drop of dew sitting atop a grass blade brushed upon his lips.

 

Thinking about finally joining his beloved in God’s abode above or under,

seconds before the soul’s departure he was washed over with bliss.

And counting his final breaths he smiled like a baby in deep slumber

letting the fact sink in that the dew drop was life’s ultimate goodbye kiss.

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Man’s search for meaning

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Written by Victor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning is “a classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust”. I still can’t believe that I laid my hands on such a remarkable and fantastic work. It is the kind of book that possesses the power to turn one’s life around. It would pick your broken pieces and give you the psychological tools to get the pieces back in place and redeem your life all at once. I feel like I read it in one breath. And now that it’s over I feel like I’m earnestly and almost thirstily breathing an air better than the one before I beheld the book. One filled with freshness and hope. It would make you appreciate your life and be thankful for the problems you have encountered, however brutal they once felt like. I highly recommend it to all the readers and non-readers as well. Good news for non-readers is that it is a quick read and would leave a chip on the back of your head, that would give a direction to your life.

Countless works have been produced in order to help us find the purpose of our lives and lead a life of meaning and example. But, only a few such as this have had the power to reach deep into one’s soul and impacting us in ways we had been promised. It is a book of modest volume and can be easily read in one sitting. However the impression it would leave on you would undoubtedly last a lifetime. Life is a one time opportunity, yet many of us give up when the times are tough. This book would, in many ways, make your problems seem too trivial to put your life at halt for. It would introduce  your own strengths to you. Trust me when I say that it is one of it’s kind in survival literature.

Victor E. Frankl was a professor at Vienna Medical School where he taught neurology and psychiatry until his death in 1997. He remains a much revered hero of many. And the book having sold more than 12 million copies, speaks for itself. It more or less, reminded me of Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl. What is common to both is their way of getting the readers emotionally involved and leaving us with the feeling that we have personally experienced some of their grief and hence we understand what they are speaking of. Along with the numerous accounts of the horrors faced by the author, there also are lessons of life spoken with such passion and positiveness in the face of unimaginable adversities, that leave the reader with nothing but respect and admiration for the survivor. One of the biggest lessons here is to deal with every situation with the best of your faculties, for we can’t control the situations but our attitudes. In Frankl’s words “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Spoilers ahead.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part comprises of an autobiographical story where Frankl gives accounts of his depressing and painful life at different Nazi concentration camps during World War II, including at Auschwitz. While the prisoners were treated like animals with no identity, many of them couldn’t stand the physical and emotional torture. Yet there were many, who kept the virtues of humanity flaming within and denied to become what was expected of them. They chose to stick to their lives as respectable humans with empathy and zeal. Frankl has presented many such instances where he empathizes with others and happily puts in little possible efforts from his side so as to help his fellow inmates. In the second part of the book he introduces to the readers the concept of Logotherapy and then onward we are introduced to numerous other technical terms and application of the therapy in different spheres of life.

Having a Psychologist in the family, I have come across some beautiful and astounding techniques of Psychotherapy. So, perhaps that was the reason I saw Logotherapy in a clearer light and absolutely loved the vivid descriptions of real life implications. However, it is absolutely fine if you don’t want to bother yourself with the statistics, therapeutic descriptions or findings included in the later part of the book.

If I am asked to give out my favorite parts, I would end up writing down the whole book here. For each page had something brilliant to offer. Laced with helplessness was a shimmer of hope, which kept Frankl going. At a point of time, a thought transfixed him. That love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. And he concluded that “The salvation of man is through love and in love.” While his life was falling apart he created his wife’s image in his mind with much acuteness and clung to it as if his life depended upon it. It was a beautiful and touching part.

There is nothing in the world, I venture to say, that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions as the knowledge that there is meaning in one’s life. There is much wisdom in the words of Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

Another part that left me awed was the story of Death in Teheran, and the way the Author compared it to the ill fate that his inmates faced later.

A rich and mighty Persian once walked in his garden with one of his servants. The servant cried that he had just encountered Death, who had threatened him. He begged his master to give him his fastest horse so that he could make haste and flee to Teheran, which he could reach that same evening. The master consented and the servant galloped off on the horse. On returning to his house the master himself met Death, and questioned him, “Why did you terrify and threaten my servant?” “I did not threaten him; I only showed surprise in still finding him here when I planned to meet him tonight in Teheran,” said Death.

While going through the photographs which had been taken at a different camp, the author stumbled across the images of partially charred bodies of his friends who had then thought that they were traveling to freedom, the night they were loaded into a truck and taken to another camp. But actually were locked in huts and set on fire. Frankl reflected upon the fact that how fickle human decisions can bring major impacts upon the destiny. How fate had toyed with him and the remaining prisoners who got to live.

In the whole story, there are umpteen accounts of death. Somewhere, someone is dying every once in a while. And yet, the essence of LIFE has been so well propagated through it. In the later part of the book where Logotherapy has been discussed, many other aspects have been brought to light. The meaning of life, love and suffering could not have been explained any better, in such short an excerpt.

And ah, what profound ending.

“So, let us be alert-alert in a twofold sense:

Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of.

And since Hiroshima we know what is at stake.”

INFERNO- The Journey Through Hell

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If you are a fan of Classics but not strong enough to ignore the new arrivals altogether, I think it is wise to set some ground rules so that your mind is spared the homicidal battles within. After finishing a new favorite, go back to an old one. Alternate your precious time equally between the two. Life is too short to miss out on all the great works that have been produced. You may thank me later nerds 😉

A week back, with the release of the movie starring Tom Hanks and Irrfan Khan I was taken aback by the fact that I had not read the book Inferno by Dan Brown. Needless to say that in readers community it is considered a deplorable crime to watch the movie first, keeping the book to be attended later. But then mixed feelings of regret and relief donned on me when I found Dante’s Inferno in the book shelf at home. Without any further adieu I hopped on the bed with a mug of hot chocolate and wrapped in my cozy blanket started devouring this epic work by Dante Alighieri written in the 14th Century. The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighiery, ‘INFERNO’ – A verse translation by Allen Mandelbaum. If you are a lover of poetry, you can’t ignore a work of such rare perfection. It is a book of modest volume, but I suggest that you read it for as long as you can. Absorb each dialogue with sincere admiration and a hawk’s eye. That is where the fun lies. Devour the fine details with the best of your faculties.

The Divine Comedy is an epic poem that was presumably written in the period 1308-1320. While Dante was in exile he wrote three volumes of it, Inferno, Purgutario and Paradiso. Inferno is the narration of the journey that Dante undertakes down the hell. Guided by the Roman poet Virgil, he fearlessly embarks through numerous circles of hell, 9 to be exact. Each circle represents a sin, and the damned souls are trapped there for eternity. The three beasts he encounters represent three kinds of sinners, the self-indulgent, the malicious and the violent. The circles or sins are of lust, anger, gluttony, avarice, violence, fraud, treachery, those who ignored the existence of Christ and those who confused others about the idea of Christ. As Dante passes each circle he meets people known to him as well as strangers. The dialogues they exchange are insightful I must say.  Each sin that has been described is exceptionally realistic and is explained to Dante either by Virgil or the sinners themselves.

The beauty of this book is that it is a dual language edition and comes with explanatory notes at the back. Don’t go on if you are not getting the plot. Read once, twice, thrice, as many times as you feel like. Take it slow and read with patience. If you feel like you are not just ready, drop it for a while. This is not another easy going novel you can take with you to read by the beach while your friends are howling around. It is the kind that you read in the silent confines of your room. Give it time and exclusive attention. Give it love, and it will reflect the same.

I’m screaming it loud and clear. VISUALIZE everything you read. Every single dialogue. That is one rule you have to strictly stick by.

Come, have a good look at hell.

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And yeah, don’t get all serious while reading it. I personally couldn’t help smirking every now and then. It is a blend of both horror and humor, so of course both are meant to be felt. There are times you will have a sinking feeling for yourself, but then you may have some fun imagining people you don’t like, damned to hell. Dante is brilliantly imaginative in devising ways for torturing his enemies. You may have your own opinions during the journey, which may make you question the perfection of Dante’s work, but it is absolutely fine. The uneasiness and restlessness that comes with it is absolutely worth it. This book is outrageously diplomatic, philosophical and political at the same time. Dante has sent to hell real people. Daring, eh? One thing that took me by surprise is finding his beloved teacher Brunetto Latini in hell, convicted of sodomy( canto XV ). Seems like God( as per Dante’s assumptions) wasn’t that open minded regarding sex during the 14th century. Homosexuality? Nu-uh.

Dante doesn’t cease to amaze the reader, despite the aforementioned scene or a couple others that may make us raise brows. But come on, it was written 7 centuries back. We can be sensible enough to ignore the difference in mindsets and enjoy the book as a literary blessing for once, right?

In case it makes you feel any better, in canto XX the fortune tellers were damned(*chuckles* which serves them so damn right) and were condemned to walk with their heads turned backwards, restricting them from knowing what lies ahead, since this is precisely what they had done all their life, creating fear of the unknown in the minds of people.

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It is the kind of book that gives you a bad hangover. The kind that nerds would kill to experience. Can’t wait to lay my hands on the other two volumes. Take my word for it folks, at one point in life you will be ready for this book. And when you are, it will be one hell of a read.

Tess of d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

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I feel ashamed to call myself a lover of classics, having wasted so many years of my life not reading the bewitching tragedies by Hardy. This one is a very evocative and powerful narration of a very sensitive story. However I am not obliged to say that this book got Hardy another fan. Viewing this book in the light of a literature enthusiast, I adore Hardy for “the way” he has portrayed the scenes, and not for “what” he has portrayed.

Nah, however skillfully written it may be, but the story line could have definitely been improved. For a person who prefers tragedies over feel-good novels, Hardy has compelled me to question my love for this genre. Do I have the heart to read more of his works and pretend that I adore him for his powerful yet heart wrenching works? Ummm, I don’t know. Perhaps that’s the thing about classics. You can never enjoy these unless you don’t give a brake to the feminist and idealist inside you.

Far from the madding crowd was Hardy’s first that I read. And I won’t exactly call it my favorite but I was definitely impressed by the subject matter, which was no doubt deep and insightful. Speaking of Tess of d’Urbervilles all I could appreciate is the justice done to the genre. A high tragedy indeed. Even though I am highly disappointed with this gloomy and depressing novel, I would still recommend it to readers who are trying to explore all possible genres. However I am good enough to warn you not to expect even the scantiest rays of sunshine here. All you can expect is knowing about two bastards( I don’t swear this easily. But couldn’t help it this time). Alec d’Urberville (the demon) and Angel Clare(he was no angel btw) and a helpless girl Tess whom the author tortures throughout the story by inflicting pain upon her in the worst ways possible. Hardy has mercilessly destroyed anything and everything that could have possibly made Tess’s life any easier, let alone tolerable. Even though I did not shed a single drop of tear while reading it, I failed miserably in controlling my raging anger. I was frustrated by the prolonged suffering of Tess. No matter what I would still applaud Hardy for daring to create a character such as Tess. Ever since I’ve read her I can’t stop thinking about her. I’ve been reading other books at a reckless speed merely to get my mind off Tess, yet to no avail. I feel like someone (Hardy) has hammered the details of Tess’s life on my (now throbbing)mind. I will never forgive any of the characters in the story for their cruel impact on my naïve emotions. I had not intended to write a review, but now that I have started I feel powerless against the urge of my pen to go on ranting all that I feel and had bottled inside for the fear of cursing or swearing too much.

The idea I had of British women of 19th century was somewhat different than that presented in Hardy’s. Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Northanger Abbey, and even Wuthering Heights have presented women of somewhat strong character. Even though they had their own turmoil, none was as helpless as Tess.  However she is not the one entirely to be blamed. Circumstances were the cause. Circumstances that were never in her favor.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

Tess Durbeyfield is a lovely girl born into an underprivileged family in Victorian England. Even though their family is not well provided she still seems content and merry(only in the first few pages of the book) until the quirk of fate decidedly turns her life to hell. Being beautiful both inside and out, she couldn’t help igniting flames of passion in the eyes of Alec d’Urberville to whom she had approached due to the pressure from her family to establish a connection with the aristocrat in the quest for lineage. The young man is a wolf, even whose ancient name is followed by a question mark. Call their encounter the incident that marked the doom. Just because of the one mistake she made of seeking out help from the d’Urbervilles, Tess is propelled by fate from there on to lead a life of prolonged misery. The course of events that followed sucked out all the innocence and confidence from the 16 year old child, who was naïve to such monsters walking in masks of reputed men. She had gone to the so called d’Urbervilles with a hope to save herself and her family, yet she came back ravaged and ruined. Ruined of her innocence and the belief in humanity. While she herself was a child she gave birth to one who was conceived cunningly by the man of no morals. The bitterness I had acquired by this point did not even allow me to sympathize when the baby died. I sighed. And then I hated myself. Hardy definitely knows how to play with the minds of his readers.

When Tess finally decided to move on and found work as a milkmaid at a happy place some 40 miles away from her home, I took the risk of expecting some happy turns to the story. But alas! Her beau Angel who claimed to be neck deep in her love turned out a hypocrite. On their wedding night both of them decided to confess about their past mistakes. And although Tess forgave him for the drunken nights of debauchery he had committed, the self-righteous and judgmental bastard Clare calls her sins too high to be forgiven. Tess is deserted callously. Even though she survived a few more years with the hope of reuniting with her hypocrite husband I feel that she was more dead than alive. Lived more in hell than on earth. Having taken up cruel manual labor unfitting for her fragile self, she intended to repay for the sins endowed upon her by her ill fate. With every passing day she was breaking down a little more. With herself as well as her family falling apart, and the wolf Alec( who had turned into religion and preaching in these years) who couldn’t keep his monstrous instincts away and kept urging her to come back to him, Tess finally succumbed to the situation and became Alec’s mistress. And lo, it is now that Clare decides to come back to her. Really, it took you so long dumb head to realize your hypocrisy and stupidity? Anyways, now that I was seriously expecting a turn of events I was left dumbstruck when the unexpected happened. Having received Clare at her door she felt nothing but helpless. If she had to reunite with her love, she had to do something. And she did. But I don’t blame Tess for I could empathize with the person whose life was mercilessly snatched from her. Never having got the chance to decide for her own life, I could very well understand the fact that her anger got the better off her and she stabbed Alec( who was mocking her then btw) right at the heart( I hope he died a slow and painful death). She finally lived the life she had always desired. In the arms of her lover. Even if it was for a short period of time. Until she was caught by the police and was hanged till death. Justice served.

And with Tess a part of me died too.

My heart goes out to that unfortunate girl and all those girls in India and worldwide who lose the right to live the life of their desire and dreams, because of such masked wolves who pounce on them fearlessly. Not just the rapists but I endlessly despise the cruel society that tags the victims and ruin their reputation by calling them impure and snatch away their right to live. And there are millions of Tess’s scattered round the world, living this tragedy for real.

 

 

 

The Winter Solstice

picture credits- favim.com

picture credits- favim.com

As I open my arms in the dark hours of winter solstice

I feel the cold hands of death brushing over my sensitive skin

gripping me tighter and tighter while my emotions freeze

denying me the basic right to fight for life while scorning my spleen.

Turning a blind eye to the paleness of my body

it keeps cuddling my frightened soul.

Laughing on the exactness of my life’s parody

death never ceases to highlight the trademark of its role.

Turning deaf ears to my muffled screams

it keeps tapping on my riven heart

watching me so helpless its appearance gleams

promising to slice every fragment of my frame apart.

After an endless struggle against the dominance of death

I finally seem to let go the fear it had instilled.

And as I am counting my final breath

I see myself at peace and my favorite longing finally fulfilled!

 

Perhaps Death Can Give Me What Life Could Not!

Soaked in the ceaseless rain

Pouring heartlessly from the endless horizon

Stretching far beyond my eyesight

I stand here watching the tides rise and fall

Allowing the painfully icy breeze to splash on my face

With the hopeless illusion as of washing away my pain.

My soul has been tired of being haunted by

The same livid sentiments

Trying every now and then to suffocate me to death.

All these years it has been crying, wailing, pleading me to let go of it.

But here I stand,

Still feeling your hold on my limbs,

Begging your invisible presence

Refuge to my tortured heart.

I dig my nipped fingers into the temples

Trying to ease the throbbing and pain

And drive away the confusion as of

Whether it is your intense love or immense hatred

That keeps us apart.

As I lift my eyes and stretch my sight

To the far visible divide

Where the still sky meets the stirred sea,

I see your face emerging out of the blues

Radiating an abundance of vitality,

Yet marked with grief.

Unconsciously I’ve started chanting your name

And my frame seems to be dissolving

As I walk through the soothing salty water

Allowing my waist to delicately cut through the waves.

As the night lapsed in peace and harmony

And the dawn breaks,

My moist eyes transfixed at you doubt my heart’s command

For what sorrowful eyes you fixed upon me!

I know you want me to live more

But tell me what life it is

Where my own soul condemns me,

My own conscience asks to dig a grave and bury myself alive

My own thoughts deny

to converse with me anymore

For they know it was the heartless, brutal, inhuman ME

Who sent you to that far off land.

How tranquilizing is the mere feeling of

Getting to listen to you calling out my name

After all these years of killing silence.

As I’m getting closer and closer to your sympathizing face

Floating half in the sea,

Half in the bending belly of the outstretched horizon

I’m recollecting all those brief but precious moments

When even for me life had its gleams of sunshine.

Once again I dream of reliving those moments

Letting your piercing blue eyes slice through me,

Caressing your innocent face,

Slapping you hard for leaving me alone to grieve all these years,

Crying on your shoulders

Allowing all my pain and anguish to flow away with my tears.

Maybe your face is simply an illusion,

Mere trick of the floating clouds

But I no more have the fear of the unknown

For at the bottom of the ocean my frame may stay

But my soul is destined to fly to that far off land where it can find yours.

With the ethereal happiness rushing through my nerves,

My heart is pounding like never before…

Perhaps death can give me what life could not!