Tag Archives: Literature

Writing Bhakti poetry- A first attempt

In our Indian Literature classes in College this semester, we’re reading a lot about the Bhakti Movement in India, reading the poems, talking about the poets, and diverging into various angles from here. My earlier post was about a Bhakti poem ‘The Paradigm’ that I really love, written by the Tamil poet, Nammalvar.

Our next exercise was to actually write a Bhakti poem. At the beginning it seemed impossible. We began by thinking what would be the craziest thing we would do if we were in love. No rules, no expectations, no holding back. It could be anything! What would you do?
There are a great many stories of what Bhakti poets did. They didn’t care about what the rest of the world thought of them, broke society’s expectations of gender, rules, and norms, creating their own relationship with god with no middle-man.

There is so much more to Bhakti poetry, and this post does no justice to the scope and beauty of Bhakti poetry, and the movement. Only reading about the poets, their lives, and actually going through the poems will give one a sense of what it has to offer, is my opinion.

I began writing, and within fifteen minutes, I wrote my first poem.
I wrote another one a few days after which I will post soon.
Here is the first:

Now

At this moment. here and now.
Nothing can stop me.

Not the racing bikes.
Not the barking dogs at my feet.
No, not even the staring passers by.

I won’t stop running towards you,
for nothing can stop me.

Not my parents, not my friends.
Not the rules, the codes and expectations.
No, not even myself.

I won’t stop running towards you,
for I know nothing else.

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The Paradigm

This semester in college, as part of our Indian Literature course we’re reading many Bhakti poems among many other things. It has been extremely interesting as I do know a few songs by Kabir and Mira, and I’ve always sung or heard them without really knowing what they mean. Also, I had never really stopped and wondered about what kind of people Kabir or Mira might have been, and reading their poems in class, we discussed these questions and more.

Here is a poem by a famous Tamil Bhakti poet, Nammalvar, addressed to Lord Vishnu.
What I really love about this poem is the fact that possibly everything one can think of as existing or non-existing, living or dead in this world or in our heads, is enclosed within these lines. Each time I read it, I try to think of something that wouldn’t fit under these categories, but it seems impossible.

The Paradigm

We here and that man, this man,
and that other in-between,
and that woman, this woman,
and that other, whoever,

those people, and these,
and these others in-between,
this things, that thing,
and this other in-between, whichever,

all things dying, these things,
those things, those others in-between,
good things, bad things,
things that were, that will be,

being all of them,
he stands there.

by Nammalvar
Translated by AK Ramanujan


Babycakes – A short story by Neil Gaiman

Here’s a short story a friend shared with me around a month back.
I just stumbled upon it again, and thought I’d share it.
When I read it first, I was quite disturbed. No doubt though, that he’s a brilliant writer.

Babycakes

A few years back all the animals went away.

We woke up one morning, and they just weren’t there anymore.  They didn’t even leave us a note, or say goodbye.  We never figured out quite where they’d gone.

We missed them.

Some of us thought that the world had ended, but it hadn’t.  There just weren’t any more animals.  No cats or rabbits, no dogs or whales, no fish in the seas, no birds in the skies.

We were all alone.

We didn’t know what to do.

We wandered around lost, for a time, and then someone pointed out that just because we didn’t have animals anymore, that was no reason to change our lives.  No reason to change our diets or to cease testing products that might cause us harm.

After all, there were still babies.

Babies can’t talk.  They can hardly move.  A baby is not a rational, thinking creature.

We made babies.

And we used them.

Some of them we ate.  Baby flesh is tender and succulent.

We flayed their skin and decorated ourselves in it.  Baby leather is soft and comfortable.

Some of them we tested.

We taped open their eyes, dripped detergents and shampoos in, a drop at a time.

We scarred them and scalded them.  We burnt them.  We clamped them and planted electrodes into their brains.  We grafted, and we froze, and we irradiated.

The babies breathed our smoke, and the babies’ veins flowed with our medicines and drugs, until they stopped breathing or until their blood ceased to flow.

It was hard, of course, but it was necessary.

No one could deny that.

With the animals gone, what else could we do?

Some people complained, of course.  But then, they always do.

And everything went back to normal.

Only…

Yesterday, all the babies were gone.

We don’t know where they went.  We didn’t even see them go.

We don’t know what we’re going to do without them.

But we’ll think of something.  Humans are smart.  It’s what makes us superior to the animals and the babies.

We’ll figure something out.

By Neil Gaiman


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