Friday, April 30, 2010

Fables Of Aesop - Translated By S A Handford

This is one of those books I picked up at Select Bookshop.
And again, one of those books I should have read long long ago.

The fables are short tales using animals of the jungle - lion, fox, wolf, serpant, buffalo, hare etc. - with an implied message. The message is not necessarily a moral.

This is explained well in the introductory chapter.

"Since the fable is essentially a popular genre of literature, it naturally reflects the ideas of ordinary people about the conduct of life. It has little to do with the ideals of virtue and the pursuit of perfection inculcated by the great ethical philosophers of antiquity. The virtues recommended by the fabulists are chiefly the social virtues which make life comfortable and redound to the credit and interest of those who practice them - loyalty, gratitude, moderation, resignation, industry and so on. Sometimes the lessons they teach are not really moral lessons at all, but merely counsels of prudence and worldly wisdom based on observation of people’s behaviour and degenerating at times into frank immorality - how to get the better of an enemy (or even of a friend), how to keep a whole skin by subservience to the possession of power, how to profit by other men’s misfortunes and mistakes, and in general, how to turn everything to good account for oneself."

The fables are so much like our Panchatantra. I thought they must have been taken from the Panchatantra like so much else in this world has been taken from India.

However, the introductory chapter suggests that the fables were older than Indian fables by which I think the author means Panchatantra though I am not very sure.

"As far as we can see, the fable was invented by the Greeks. it may well be the Greeks of Asia Minor, the country of the lion which appears so often in these stories and the traditional birthplace of Aesop."

From another book of short stories that I am currently reading, I understand that it is very difficult to establish with certainty the origin of stories. This is because stories in one land are found to exist in another land in a slightly different form.
Also, means of transportation existed in old times. So you can’t say who travelled from where to where and carried what stories with them.

As is said in the introduction to the book, the original fables did not have an explicit moral at the end of the story. Morals were later appended to these stories. From my reading too, in some of the stories, the morals in the end don’t really convey or coincide with the actual purport implied by the story. The real message is missed and another moral closer to the actual moral is stated.

"From the fifth century onwards, the Aesopian fable and the tradition of Aesop the storyteller became very popular, especially at Athens, as is shown by many references to him or to fables attributed to him - in Aristophanes, Xenophon, Plato, Aristotle, and other writers. We do not know whether Aesop’s own versions of any fables were written down by him or by any of his contemporaries."

Here are some fables from the book. Some of the below are just messages without the fables. Too much typing…

A very short fable, perhaps the shortest of them all, is my favourite.
A vixen sneered at a lioness because she never bore more than one cub. ‘Only one’, she replies, ‘but a lion’.

A lion fell in love with a farmer’s daughter and wooed her. The farmer could not bear to give his girl in marriage to a wild beast; yet he dared not refuse. So he evaded the difficulty by telling the importunate suitor that, while he quite approved of him as a husband for his daughter, he could not give her to him unless he would pull out his teeth and cut off his claws, because the girl was afraid of them. The lion was so much in love that he readily submitted to these sacrifices. But when he presented himself again, the farmer treated him with contempt and cudgelled him off the premises.

Do not be too ready to take advice which is offered you. If nature has given you special advantages over others, do not let yourself be deprived of them, or you will fall an easy preyto people who used tom stand in awe of you.
When one does a bad man a service, the only recompense one can hope for is that he will not add injury to ingratitude.

It is comforting to the wretched to see others in worse case than they are themselves.

Favours are frightening when they come from evildoers.

Those who stand up to a first assailant make others afraid of them.

A naturally gifted man, through lack of application, is often beaten by a plodder.- hare and tortoise story.

The servant spoke grateful words in the master’s hearing and ill when the master was away.

The most miserable of all are those who beget children in servitude.

Ass and horse with the master, ass requests horse to take some of the load, horse refuses. When ass dies due to overload, master puts all load on horse.
The strong should help the weak so the lives of both will be preserved.
This message is most appropriate in a capitalistic society. Where individual profits matter more than welfare of community.

The vainglorious ways of impostors only serve to expose their secret sins.

No one should be vainglorious in this life for it is insignificant people who live most safely.

I was surprised by this fable!
Once upon a time Hermes was driving all over the world a cart stuffed with falsehoods, wickedness and deceit, distributing a little of his load in each country. But when he came to the land of the Arabs, it is said that the cart suddenly broke in pieces and the inhabitants plundered its contents as if they were valuable merchandise, so that there was nothing left for Hermes to carry elsewhere. The Arabs are the greatest liars and deceivers on earth. Their tongues know not the truth.

Some people are so intent on dishonest gain that they fail to see when they are providing proof of their own guilt.

Even a naturally good man, if you slander his character, will often show himself towards you as black as you have painted him.

Uncontrolled rage often does serious harm to those who give way to it.

Zeus made a bull, Prometheus a man, and Athena a house; and they chose Momus to judge their handiwork. He was so jealous of it that he began to find fault with everything. Zeus, he said, had made a mistake in not putting the bull’s eyes in it’s horns, to enable it to see what it was butting. Prometheus’ man should have had his mind attached to the outside of his body; then his thoughts would have been visible, so that wickedness could not be hidden. As for Athena, she ought to have mounted her house on wheels so that one could move without any trouble if a rogue came to live next door. Zeus was angered by this display of malice and exiled Momus from Olympus.
Nothing is so good that some fault cannot be found with it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Turning Wheel

A turning wheel
Of repetitions…

Of the swelling of heart with ecstasy
And then the bleeding of it in despondency
Pulling of the arrow
Drying of the blood

Of exultation
Followed by desolation

Of reading the signs that lay strewn in the path,
Of wondering later what those signs actually meant
And why they were there in the first place,
Misleading all the time

Of leaping with joy one moment
And wriggling with pain the next

Of building castles in air
Of their crumbling down. And despair.

Of swimming
In a mire of eternal dichotomy,
Sometimes towards the shore of free will
Sometimes towards the shore of destiny

Of trying to be in control
Of being carried away

Of the heart conjuring improbable miseries
And then consoling itself

Of cynicism
Of optimism

Of turning away from God in anger
Of running back to Him in desperation

A turning wheel
Of the trammels
Of a travel
Of tantalization…

This Life.

Friday, April 23, 2010

When The Pythons Followed The Actor

19th March 2010, 7:30
Troupe : VODO

This play had two parts to it. One was based on the theme or question of what happens when there is last minute replacements of actors. Quite exaggerated and unreal but imaginative and humorous. This was based on Christopher Durang’s ‘The Actor’s Nightmare’.
The second half was a series of scenes based on works of Monty Python, humorous.

The opening scene showed a rather unassuming, thin, unshaven nondescript guy of medium height on stage that did not look particularly adorable.
As he walked the stage unhurriedly to the centre, there came a woman who announced to him that he was to replace another actor in the troupe who had met with an accident and the play would begin in a short while, and after announcing this, she walked away hurriedly, not waiting for the consent of the guy.

The play gets interesting when a woman, in her costume, an evening gown, comes to perplexed, confused guy and tells him that she would give him cue thrice, upon which he was to pull the zip on the back of her dress, upon which she would slap him.

Hearing this, the actor makes a hopeless face and the laughter begins.

The play within the play begins. The unprepared actor gives unexpected responses to the lady in the first scene. People on backstage come running to him every now and then, under some pretext and drop the lines into the actor’s ears.

It gets more and more entertaining as the actor shows his desperation, caught between his co-actor who is by now visibly irritated with the guy who doesn’t know his lines and the backstage helpers who don’t come to his help as often as he would like them.

The scenes change, ‘our actor’ has other co-actors to deal with and his confusion compounds. He begins to deliver lines from other plays quite out of context – like the line from Shakespeare – ‘To be or not to be, that is the question’.

By now, our actor who in the beginning seemed quite plain and common, has become a very cute, adorable fellow, having the audience in splits and at the same time their sympathy for his situation.

The imagination (whoever it may be attributed to) of all that could go wrong with last minute replacements and changes has produced good comic results.

But in some of the scenes, humour was lost on me since I did not know which plays these scenes were taken from – some scenes were obviously from famous plays as I could see that the audience was able to appreciate what was going on. To be able to fully appreciate plays such as these, you must have watched or read the famous plays. I mean, you must be really ‘close’ to theatre.

After this theme based play, there were the scenes based on Monty python’s sketches. Three of them, I think. One was the Pet Shop Sketch or Parrot sketch showing a lady carrying a dead parrot in a funny altercation with the shopkeeper that sold the parrot to her. His arguments to prove that the parrot was not dead but alive – that it was stunned, sleeping, resting, tired - and the lady’s exasperation were surely enacted quite well.

The next scene was the bookshop sketch by Monty Python – a lady walks to a bookshop and asks for a series of non-existent books by non-existent authors – like David Coperfield with a single p and not 2 p’s, Grate expectations with g-r-a-t-e and not g-r-e-a-t, expurgated version of a book on birds, and so on.
When at last, the shopkeeper finds a book that she asks for, it turns out the lady has no money. Now a really exasperated shopkeeper offers to buy the book for her. But it turns out that she does not know how to read. The scene ends with the shopkeeper reading the book aloud for her!

A really hilarious one by itself, and enacted well too. It’s just that a few lines were lost in the roar of laughter that the play evoked.

I thought the same scene enacted by Evam as part of their “Always look on the bright side of life” was a better job.

And there was the ‘Last supper’ with the Pope and Michael Angelo who painted The Last Supper with 28 disciples, a kangaroo and three Christs!

Good Show!

Monday, April 19, 2010


When all the world
Lay wrapped in
A blanket of darkness,
It was just a streak of lightening
In just a split second
That brought to light
With the confidence
Of a thousand suns,
Every line and every curve,
Every truth and every lie.

Doubt had no chance.

That smile of yours...
T ‘was better than lightening.
You covered it immediately
But it was too late.
I caught that expression
Of mockery & betrayal.

Yes, better than lightening
For it was a thunderbolt.
To ashes it reduced
The rosy picture of friendship and bonding

In that split second,
So brightly and so clearly shone
The sharp and bitter edge
Of your castle of friendship,
That all else became covered
In a blanket of darkness.

Doubt had no chance again.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Speaking Of Success - Mary Alice Warner

This is a book I picked up at Select Bookshop. Just Quotations.

Sometimes I worry about being a success in a mediocre world – Lily Tomlin

Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get.

Success comes in cans; failure in can’ts.

In Hollywood, success is relative. The closer the relative, the greater the success. – Arthur Treacher

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much – Bessie Anderson Stanley

There may be splinters on the ladder of success, but you don’t notice them until you slide down.

Many a man owes his success to his first wife and his second wife to his success – Red Buttons

On the door to success, it says: push and pull. – Yiddish Proverb

Success has the character of a cat. It wont come when coaxed. Franz Werfel

Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value. – Albert Einstein

To success in the other trades, capacity must be shown; in the law, concealment of it will do. – Mark Twain.

The men who pass most comfortably in this world are those who possess good digestion and hard hearts – Harriet Martineau

From the Taoist point of view, an educated man is one who believes he has not succeeded when he has, but is not so sure he has failed when he fails – Lin Yutang

People occasionally fall ill precisely because a deeply rooted and long cherished wish has come to fulfillment. It seems as though they could not endure their bliss – Sigmund Freud.

Love once-even love’s disappointment endears! A minute’s success pays the failure of years.- Robert Browning.

Success four flights Thursday morning all against twenty-one mile wind started from level with engine power alone average speed through air thirty-one miles longest 59 seconds inform press home Christmas. – Orville and Wilbur Wright (telegram to their father)

A man who has been the indisputable favourite of his mother keeps for life the feeling of a conqueror, that confidence of success that often induces real success – Sigmund Freud.

To play great music, you must keep your eyes on a distant star – Yehudi Menuhin

The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people – Theodre Roosevelt

To feel valued, to know, even if only once in a while, that you can do a job well is an absolutely marvelous feeling. – Barbara Walters

Success is important only to the extent that it puts one in a position to do more things one likes to do - sarah Caldwell

It is very easy to succeed in spite of poverty. It is difficult to succeed in spite of wealth – Arthur Brisbane

The fastest way to succeed is to look as if you are playing by other peoples’ rules, while quietly playing by your own – Michael Korda

“The secret of success lies not in doing your own work, but in recognizing the right man to do it”. - andrew Carnegie

The typical successful American businessman was born in the country, where he worked like hell so he could live in the city , where he worked like hell so he could live in the country – Don Marquis

We might all be successful if we followed the advice we give the other fellow.

Successful salesman is someone who has a found a cure for the common cold shoulder – Robert Orben.

There would be more incentive to success if successful men seemed to enjoy life more.

Personal success often involves a great social consciousness as well – George Gallup Jr, And Alec M Gallup

It is not the going out of port, but the coming in, that determines the success of a voyage. – HW Beecher.

Success is a rare paint, hides all the ugliness – Sir John Suckling

One significant activity that distinguishes high achievers from their less successful counterparts is their love of reading – and their corresponding lack of interest in television - George Gallup Jr, And Alec M Gallup

Success, as I see it, is a result, not a goal. – Gustave Flaubert

I dread success. To have succeeded is to have finished one's business on earth, like the male spider, who is killed by the female the moment he has succeeded in his courtship. I like a state of continual becoming with a goal in front and not behind - george bernard shaw

Success in almost any field depends more on energy and drive than it does on intelligence. This explains why we have so many stupid leaders – Sloan Wilson

Everything bows to success, even grammar – victor Hugo.

Anyone can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend's success. ~ Oscar Wilde

In the aging game success is dependent on a calculated program of resistance to society’s planned disengagement of its old – Barbara Gallatin Anderson
The successful revolutionary is a statesman, the unsuccessful one a criminal – Erich Fromm

It takes 20 years to make an overnight success – Eddie Cantor (attributed)

Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little – Gore Vidal

There is only one success – to be able to spend your life in your own way – Christopher Morley

New things succeed as former things grow old. – Robert Herrick

Next to Death, the most infalliable remedy for a guilty conscience is success

Last but not the least….

Nothing succeeds like success, and nothing fails like reading a book on a how to attain it.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ladakh - Day 5 - Nubra - Diskit

After Sumur, I waited at the bus stop for a bus that would take me back to Diskit. I found an SUV and he said he would charge me 50 rupees. And I hopped in.

I did not take the same vehicle back, in which I had come because the same taxi 2 way was very expensive, but only one way cost much less. But when I hired a separate taxi back to Diskit, he charged me only 50 rupees. Trying to guide you all with a budget constraint or wanting to spend wisely.

The drive back was quite scenic.

Though I had travelled on the same road a few times now, I saw some new sights, like the waterfall.

The cabbie took my picture from the waterfall.

Don’t know what plant this is but it looked so good glistening in the sun and swaying in the breeze…

Diskit is at an altitude of 10360 feet. It is the administrative headquarters of Nubra.
A hilltop monastery overlooks the settlement. As you approach Diskit, you can see the Maitreya Buddha statue under construction.

The Diskit Gompa dating back to early 15th century is Nubra’s most historic monastery.

“In the Gonkhang, one of the fierce deities with a large white head is called Gon-khar and he holds in his hands what is believed to be the shriveled severed hand of Galden-Tsewang, a Mongol invader. The Mongols had plundered the monastery but among their casualties was Galden whose hand the locals ripped off and then decided to preserve in the shrine of protector deities.”

Had I read this before (in the travel guide), I would have looked for it in the Gonkhang.

The handsome Karmapa.

From the monastery, you look down to one side and you see this neat edifice that is the residence of Dalai Lama, when he is visiting this place.

Dukhang with pillars wrapped in colourful silks and the usual parallel rows of seats for the monks has a Maitreya Buddha statue encased in a glass case at the head of the hall.

At this place we had a cup of chai, thanks to the cabbie who knew the Lama very well.

I am looking now in the direction of Hundar. Can you see the sand dunes there where I had walked just this morning? How the wind is playing with them

View of the Valley below.

And we returned.

Monday, April 05, 2010


“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly”.

I met her in a PG. On old airport road. In 2006.
In a crowd of nondescript, sometimes unbearable girls who lived there, there were a few sensible ones of comparable frequency I could make conversation with.
She was one among them.

Among the many things that we talked about - life, living, relationships, arranged marriages, skin and hair, the subject of career found a mention now and then.

She should have known she was discussing the subject with the wrong person. For I, was neither ambitious nor hardworking, nor passionate about anything that was remotely connected with work.
I was one of those intellectuals, expert in armchair analysis, who did not find the capitalistic, consumption based system good enough to spend her precious years adding value to.
But this post is not about me. It’s about her.

At 23, she had just changed her career path. She had moved from a call center to a company that designed websites.
She had a five figure salary, a friends’ circle, beautiful features, dressing sense, parties and film festivals to attend. She was having fun.

But she was not at rest. Often, she wondered where her life was heading and what she was doing with herself. I asked her, ‘What do you want?’ She could not point a finger to one specific thing but she felt something was lacking.

I did not take her worry seriously. I thought, this happens. When people have all they want and there’s nothing in wanting, their wanton mind, for want of something to look forward to, wants to dwell upon such questions. The problem of plenty, you see.

But every now and then she would wonder what next. After a few months, I heard her saying, ‘I don’t want to work for someone else. I want to do something for myself. I want to be on my own’.

I smiled. At the 23 year old who wanted to start her own business. Like I would smile at a child proclaiming to become an astronaut someday. Not because I doubted the potential of the child. But because of the casual manner with which the child stated its ambition without a full understanding of the long journey ahead of it and all the difficulties in the way. I smiled at the naivete of a child.

One foot still in her teenage, groping for identity, somewhat confused, still figuring out an ideology to embrace, she came across (to me) as a girl who had just stepped into adulthood, but not completely yet.
She was aware of this aspect of herself too. But nevertheless, she knew it was inside her. A big idea inside her small frame, just waiting for the right time to come out.
On the left panel that displayed several widgets on her blog, one of the quotes was “There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly”.

I advised her to wait. Until she had acquired the experience of years. And generally, the lessons of life.
I said she might not be ready for that kind of responsibility yet. Why did she want to slog and take risks when she could choose the alternate option of working within a defined role and have some time for herself. She could develop other hobbies and interests.

I had not, the slightest intention of dissuading her. I just stepped into her shoes (as we always do while listening). I just imagined, having to start a company myself, and all the sacrifices it would ask of me! And I shuddered.

Early 2008.
Just before we went to the Himalayas, she resigned. Recession was about to begin. She didn’t have a job in hand and no savings to fall back upon.
After the Himalaya trip, I hoped she would find a job.

But she didn’t.

Because, the caterpillar was hibernating.

And when all the world crumbled from the skies to the call of recession, the butterfly took wings.

To begin an Odyssey. 21st Century Odyssey.
And THAT, my dear, is the name of the company Ranjana Nair founded. The number 21 in Roman is XXI.
So XXICO stands for 21st Century Odyssey.
The interesting name and its abbreviation are both madam’s idea.

So I asked her to say a few words about how it all started…

“If you ask entrepreneurs, why they started their own business, the most popular reply you get is, I wanted to be my own boss. And 80% of the entrepreneurs you interview swear that there was some divine intervention when it came to the business idea and that seemed to disappear when you actually got down into executing that idea.

But in the end, the plunge - starting on your own is beyond all these reasons. Its an internal wiring done in your psyche to look for opportunity anywhere and everywhere. I chanced upon multi-touch, when I was working on 3-D animations and creation of augmented reality for a school in UAE. The idea of being able to do something new and refreshing and exciting got me hooked to it.

“The technology by itself is so exciting...all about touch and having no boundaries to what you can imagine of doing with touch technology.....
The mere idea of iphone excites people for the same reason.....if your interested you should read up on Bill Buxton...the god of touch technology..... its extremely interesting.”

So dear readers, please put your hands together for the CEO at 26.
Do check out her website to know more.

Send your prayers to her and send some assignments her way.

PS: One of my childish wishes has been to have at least one article starting with every letter of the English alphabet on my blog.
With this post, my wish is fulfilled :)

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Perfect Eight

Hope, was never there
It was I
Who hoped, that there was hope.
Finally the bubble burst.
I sat still for a while.
‘What is the date today?’, I asked,
As I usually do;
Wondering if the numbers added up to eight,
This time too.
‘It is the 26th’.
Indeed, it is the number eight,
The unlucky number,
With which I was born.

Hope, I now hope,
Will die, at last
And set me free
From its mooring
To go elsewhere.
Actually, nowhere.