Friday, July 24, 2015

Kaleidoscopic Lives

Book Review

Title: Kaleidoscopic Lives
Author: Roji Abraham
Publisher: Quills Ink, 2015
Pages: 168

Even the most ordinary person next door carries at least one story within him/her.  Roji Abraham’s debut collection of short stories present some very ordinary people who are embodiments of interesting narratives.  The stories are simple but captivating. They are narrated in a lucid and straightforward style.  Yet most of them convey some subtle nuance of human life in a gentle but teasing manner.

A few of the stories such as ‘Chocolate Uncle’ and ‘Pilla the Thief’ convey some simple lessons about life without being preachy at all.  A few others such as ‘Shahab’ and ‘The Cab Driver’s Story’ inspire and motivate the reader to do something noble in life.  Once again, the author manages to do that without being preachy.  The protagonists of these stories strike the reader as real persons taken from one’s neighbourhood and that’s precisely where the charm of these stories lie.

The collection is not without its due share of crooks either.  ‘The Talented Cook’ presents a cook whose culinary skills are a perfect match for his ability to seduce women.  ‘The Cripple’ is about a fraud, the kind we come across frequently on the streets.  ‘The German Housemate’ and ‘The First Fan’ probe the inevitable mystery of the other as well as of human relationships.  Naiveté that characterises certain souls is dramatised eloquently in ‘Thai Massage’ and ‘Court Witness.’  The final story, ‘Till the Day I Die,’ is a moving tale with an uncharacteristic touch of tragedy and highlights the inevitable ironies of life.

Roji Abraham is a good story teller.  Only good story tellers can weave charming tales out of simple, ordinary characters taken from next door.  Moreover, he makes use of a highly readable style which will endure him to most readers.  

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Clown on the Trapeze

Each faltering step, each fall of mine,
Makes you burst out into laughter:
Because I am the clown in the pack
Because the motley is my birthmark.

Each swing of leotards on trapezes
Sighs in comic relief in the tail of my coat:
Because the show must go on
Because the Master is watching it.

Watching it is His way
Of creating and preserving;
Watching it is your way
Of playing for a while
The game within the game;
On a spiralling ladder
Of intertwining Venn diagrams;
With no place determinate
For the clown in motley:

Because the show must go on

Note: I wrote this poem almost two decades ago.  Both the show and the clown have changed quite a bit, and they go on entertaining those concerned in their own ways. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Inevitable Veils

The seats meant for the economically weaker sections in some Delhi schools are being sold at prices ranging from Rs 3 lakh to Rs 10 lakh, according to reports. Reputed schools including those run by religious organisations figure in the list of the culprits.  It is not clear whether the school managements are directly involved in the crime though it is impossible to believe that such rackets function in schools without the knowledge of the managements. 

When today’s Times of India came with many headlines about the above racket, I had just completed reading a short story titled ‘Pilla the Thief’ in Roji Abraham’s collection, Kaleidoscopic Lives.  The story is about Shivan Pilla, a very efficient thief, who later gets converted due to the affection shown by an elderly woman.  Pilla becomes a religious preacher after his conversion.  The people who called him a thief earlier now call him “Pastor”.  His reputation changed after he presented a ‘testimony’ at a religious convention.  The participants of the Convention were all ears as they listened to Pilla narrating his story. 

When I saw the names of some of the schools that figure in the Times of India’s reports on the EWS racket, Pilla and his conversion rushed to my mind without any rational connection.  There are religious organisations that do excellent works in trying to convert Pillas from a petty thief to a pastor.  Some of the very same organisations may figure in a list of racketeers too. 

How do we accept such contradictions?  The last thing I read before I went to bed last night was an email from a good old friend who recommended to me The Book of Mirdad.  I checked a few details about the book and came across this quote from it: “Ask not of things to shed their veils. Unveil yourselves, and things will be unveiled.” I am unveiling myself.  Trying to, at least.

PS. I promised Roji Abraham a review of his collection of short stories.  Dear Mr Abraham, I’ve managed to read only two stories so far.  Please bear with my sluggishness.  

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Path of the Masters

The following passage is extracted from the book, The Path of the Masters, by Julian Johnson who was a disciple of Sawan Singh, one of the Radha Soami Masters.  Johnson was a doctor by profession.  He was also a Christian pastor.  He came to India with the intention of converting Indians to Christianity but ended up converting himself into a Satsangi.  He wrote five books about his Master and the Satsang.  He died under mysterious circumstances in 1939.

The extract:

I can almost hear some Western critics say: “Why don’t Masters take measures to prevent the downward drift of mankind?”  The answer is that the Masters do not interfere with the natural order.  It has been on the program from the beginning of time.  These ages must come, as they are ordained by the Creator.  It is no part of the duty of the Masters to interfere in world processes.  Their duty is to help individuals to escape this melee of troubles.  And one thing we should always keep in mind – the Supreme is in command in this world and he will manage affairs to the best advantage.  We need not doubt it.  Just as certainly as the planets move in their orbits, so surely will this world go on as the Creator wishes it to.  No man or group of men can wreck the world. ... And in all this confusion and strife, the Masters are doing all they can for the world, while their chief attention is centred upon the relief of individuals who are ready to make their way up and out of the world of conflict. 

A personal reflection

I read this book a couple of years ago when circumstances conspired to bring me into contact with the troupe that follows the present successor of Julian Johnson’s Master.  I went through it again recently because of my present personal circumstances.  The above passage, particularly the last sentence, stared at me like a phantom.  The Master helps the individuals who are ready to make their way up!  I understood a lot of things. 

My review of the book: The Path of the Masters