Friday, February 26, 2010

Verse or Worse?

On relocating to Mumbai in 2007, i got this job that’s quite interesting in its own way though the salary isn’t great. It involves editing, writing articles, book reviews and synopsis. This means i can browse, and sometimes even read books at work. I also get a chance to interview some personalities and travel once in a while.

But of late, i find myself often looking back with nostalgia at my teaching days in Bangalore. My old students have all graduated, some are in good jobs, some married, and some doing their higher studies. But in my mind, they remain those young students—sometimes irritating and sometimes amusing. Here’s a sample of a mixture of both.

While doing 18th Century Poetry (Alexander Pope) with the Literature students, i gave them a slightly crazy assignment to drive home the points we studied. I told them to compose a verse in Iambic Pentameter Couplets. They claimed to have understood what we did in class, but when they submitted their assignments it was disappointing.

So the next day, in order to challenge them, i put up the following verse on the board:

Teacher’s Woe

I tell my students “Heroic couplets write”
But come unheroic lines by oversight;
Forgetting even what’s an Iambic foot,
Like aimless arrows in the dark they shoot.
Whereas I tell them “Please Satire pen,
Your subject may be college life or men,”
They wander far and wide in dreamlands wild
Away quite off the mark and get me riled.

Why do these folks ignore what they are told?
Is it because their hearts are hard and cold?
But no, that can’t be so; they’re sweet and kind,
And yes, the reason is not hard to find;
It’s just because they find it hard to keep
Awake in class, for poetry makes them sleep.

They were quite surprised and asked, “When did you write it?”

“Last night, while cooking” i said.

It was my turn to be surprised at their next so out of the point question: “What were you cooking, Ma’am?”

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Travels, a book release and...

Due to laziness and busyness, i haven’t been able to update on my doings for quite a while. Well, 2009 ended and 2010 began with travels. November-December of last year we (hubby & me) went to Northeast—Guwahati and other parts of Assam, Shillong, Aizawl & Lunglei on a combination of work and other visits. On first of Jan we set out for Kerala on a week’s trip. And later the same month we were in Bangalore for three days. Right now i’m almost travel weary though we had great times in all the trips.

To avoid making it a long post, i’ll talk of only a few things that happened during these times. I had hopes of meeting some of the bloggers and the ‘elusive poet’ Mona in Aizawl but it didn’t work out. But i did meet another ‘elusive poet’ Lalzuahliana, who hid his face with a book when we tried to take his photo. But he’s really worth meeting and we had a good time discussing poetry.

Dr. Laltluangliana Khiangte invited us to dinner. One of the invitees was a journalist guy who, on seeing me for the first time, exclaimed “Hei hi maw Malsawmi Jacob!” (Is this----!) and walked out of the room. He came back only after dinner was served. Obviously badly disappointed with my looks!:(

And then on 28th Jan we had a book release at Crossword, Bandra, Mumbai. It’s a collection of poems, short stories and interviews of women writers in Assamese, Bengali, Garo, Manipuri and Mizo languages, translated into English, published by SPARROW and titled 'Being Carried Far Away'. Sadly, i was the only contributor present and had to read out my poems in Mizo and English. Some were quite fascinated by the Mizo language sound though they couldn’t understand a word. One of my poems i read is given here in Mizo and English. I’m quite nervous to show this, as some of you may snigger and chuckle at the poor translation, but here it is.

Kawl zawl Bungpui

A khi ral tiang mual lian,
Chhaktiang Kawl daiah khian
Bungpui a ngir an ti.

Belh ve ka nuam ngei e
Zing zin theih chang teh se—
Her chhuak ang maw, tur ni?

Hmasanga pi leh pu
An tuan chaina mual chu
Chul iang va fang ve i’—

Tuk zan siang an lawina.
Tawng i maw, an rauthla,
Chhingmit thla an zem si.

Fam chu chan lul suh u!
Zofate lung lentu
Chhak Kawl zawl Bungpui khi.

The English rendering (laugh if you must).

The Banyan Tree

On eastern plain afar,
In the land of Myanmar
There stands a Banyan Tree.

I would rest in its shade
(O, do notlet itfade!)
Could I take the journey –

Where our fore-fathers stayed
And worked, and danced, and played
I would a pilgrim be.

Could I make the visit,
Would I meet their spirit?
Here they come to haunt me.

Oh, do not let it die!
Don’t let it fall to lie!
The grand old Banyan Tree!

And then the icing on the cake is that my little book for kids titled 'Magic Mirror Stories' has come out at last. I started writing the stories for my son when he was about three or four, added girlie ones when my daughter came, and upgraded the age level as they both grew up. They have way outgrown them now but some kids just might love them. So...