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Posts tagged ‘Beauty’

Of Seasons, Longings & Despair in Soviet Russia

Allen Ginsberg, in his biography, Ginsburg : A Biography by Barry Mills had explained poetry as something which was “not an expression of the party line. It’s that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that’s what the poet does.”  This meaning of poetry and the work of the poet comes out in all its vivid forms in a collection of Boris Pasternak’s poems, February, translated by Andrey Kneller. Boris Pasternak, the 1958 Nobel Prize winner who declined the honor under pressure from the Soviet Government, and whose work, Doctor Zhivago has been immortalized in every possible form of media,  was born in a well to do Jewish family (though the Pasternaks had assimilated into the Russian Orthodox Church for years) and had lived through the most turbulent years of Russian History – World War I, Russian Revolution, World War II and the Great Purge, had captured all this changing history of the land and her people and thought about it and then poured it into words of great beauty and resonance, in an act of making a private world, public!

BORIS_BESIDE_THE_BALTIC_AT_MEREKULE,_1910_by_L.Pasternak

Boris Besides the Baltic Sea, by Leonard Pasternak, 1910

February is a slim volume of only 110 pages but within it, are 27 pieces of powerful poetry, that touch upon a variety of subjects ranging from politics, the faith of Pasternak’s beloved Russia, Nature, Christianity and Love! The compilation begins with the said poem February, first published in 1912, and in sparse, terse words, Pasternak manages to blend in the pathos of the last dregs of winter, with mankind and poetry. I fell in love with the simple but powerful opening lines of the poem –

Oh, February, To get ink & Sob! 

To weep about it, spilling ink

One poem that especially was singed into my imagination, is apparently nameless, and powerfully captures the rule of Stalin and its destructive forces on a person and his soul!

The cult of personality is stained,

But after forty years, the cult

Of gray monotony and disdain

Persists like the day of old

Each coming day appears lackluster

Until, it’s truly hard to bear

It brings but photographic clusters,

Of pig like and inhuman stares.

The cult of narrow minded thinking

Is likewise cherished and extolled.

Men shoot themselves from over drinking,

unable to sustain it all.

There is a soul searing piece called Noble Prize, written, after he declined the honor which captures the raw anguish and pain of Pasternak on the stands he was being forced to take, by the very same country and government, he did not choose to abandon or flee, while all his family and friends left, believing in the ultimate good of Lenin led Socialist society! And here in lies the greatness of the poet, that despite all the angst and heartbreak, he ended the poem in hope and faith –

Even now as I am nearing the tomb

I believe in the virtuous fate

And the spirit of goodness will soon

Overcame all the malice and hate

Yet another poem titled Hamlet, captures the need to walk away from a predestined plot, to address something more urgent and ephemeral!There are lovely play of words in his poems about nature, from White Nights to the one called Spring Flood, to yet another work called Easter. His love for Olga Ivinskaya comes through in all the glory of meeting, falling in love and then when Ivinskaya was sentenced to Siberia, of longing, guilt and memories, in the poems titled as Meeting  and then, Parting. The fact that Pasternak was a student of philosophy is a fact that is never really far off in his poetry and in many of his writings,  he touches upon ideas of what is tangible and what is transcendental, especially in his poetry of nature. In Autumn, he says, 

The Lodge’s wooden walls now gaze

At us with grief and hopelessness.

We never vowed to break the restrains’

We will decline with openness. 

There are many powerful and moving things in this collection that shines like a beacon of what poetry is all about! Pasternak in this collection of 27 poems brought the Russia that he knew, with all its beauty and tragedy to life, painting on a vast canvass, touching upon the key notes of everything that constitutes mankind. And while I am wary of all translated works, simply because one does not know exactly what is lost is translation, even in essence, there is enough in this work to enrich your soul and your mind!

 

All About The Absence

Hello! Hello! I know I have been away for nearly two weeks without a word, and some of you have been wondering where I have been! To begin with, a big Thank You to those who have been checking up on me; I really really appreciate the concern and feel blessed to have people who watch out for me!

I was away on a road trip all across what is considered the Himalayan Desert at about 15000 ft from the Sea Level. The region around 10th century used to belong to the then Tibet empire and still retains many of its culture and practices, which are especially evident in the Monasteries that are dotted all over the region.The place is called  and is a unique natural phenomena of a desert at a very high altitude,  located in the north-eastern part of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. “Spiti” means “The Middle Land” in Bhutia language, i.e. the land between Tibet and India.

While Spiti River surrounds the valley, the region is in a rain shadow area and is devoid of the lush green vegetation that usually forms the landscape of the Himlayas. However the barren brown mountains in the backdrop of the clear and deep blue skies are absolutely awe inspiring and in their presence you are intensely aware of a power at work, which is much greater than those of the mortal man. And then after range and range of imposing brown mountains, there would be flash of green and all kinds of wild flowers and it would seem like some one had taken a crayon and painted the whole natural canvass.No wonder, Buddhist monks chose this region to deeply meditate and some of the most powerful monasteries of the Buddhism is located here!

I took this trip again with the absolutely brilliant Shibani and her team at Wonderful World and only they could have managed to infuse a sense of comfort when the conditions were anything but, provide luxury when none existed to begin with and ensure we get a feeling of truly experiencing Spiti and her culture with a well thought through and extremely considered plan. For 10 days, managing 12 women across adventurous terrain, Wonderful World, this time led by Pooja Sharma, ensured that we all got to do what we wanted and keep calm in face of crisis including when my flatmate and cousin decided to take photos anywhere and everywhere  delaying the scheduled arrival time. Pooja was also wonderfully patient in helping me navigate some of more challenging trails, which became challenging thanks to the 224lbs that I carry with me! This team remains a girl’s best travelling companion!

This trip was not meant to be  relaxing vacation, a day at the resort; it was arduous and difficult. Every day we would drive about 8 hrs or so and then hike some more km. As the altitude increased, air became thinner and simple tasks required more effort and sleeping at a different place each night and living out of the suitcase for 14 days was anything but easy! But this was one of those truly life changing epic trips and the majesty and the brilliance of the landscape sears your soul, until you find yourself introspecting and come away with a heightened awareness of self and the surroundings!

I know I will go back there and at some point, move to the valley to spend the rest of my life there. Until those grand plans materialize, I leave you with some pictures of its grandeur!

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P.S. None of the photos have been Photoshoped and the play of colors and shadow that you see is a complete natural capture!

Defining Style – An Alternative Perspective….

Now my regular readers know that I have NEVER ever blogged about clothes/fashion etc. That’s not me and besides, when there are so many books to read, why spend time on clothes. We all know that my maxim is what the brilliant Diderius Erasmus enunciated more than 500 years ago “When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes”  and in exactly that order! Clothes are to be worn and yes one did attempt to look neat and maybe nice; but that’s just about it. It has an importance but there are more important things to talk about! That is until, my all in one best friend/roommate/wisdom tree convinced me to write a blog on Style as a part of defining one’s sense of style in ‘A Style Of My Own’ blogger contest by Women’s Web and Trishla emart. I was as usual not particularly keen about it, but then this was about style and from someone who has gone from a zero to a hero and still battles preconceived notions of fat and dowdy in one sentence, this was as good as any opportunity to break some myths and re-define style, especially for those of us horizontally challenged.

I don’t want to go back in time, but to really understand what my idea of style is, I have to re-visit my childhood and adolescence. Born as a fat chubby baby, my parents could have easily made a fortune by making me model for baby food. Fair, fat with head full of black hair, when I look at myself aged 5 month, I must admit at the cost of sounding pompous, I was ADORABLE! However one realizes as one gets older that fat chubby Johnson’s baby model does not necessarily translate to equally adorable “Fat, Chubby Adult”. I spent practically all my teenage years in a miasma of insecurity and discomfort, always feeling out of place, with all the honor of a wallflower! As years went by, I became more scholarly, primarily because I loved books and studying; but also because books increasingly became a substitute for dressing up; a way of being superior to the generic “others” as well the route to escapism. Besides growing up in late 1990s, we still lived in a society where brains and looks were incompatible and if you had one of two, you could not possibly have another, and because by then I had understood every nuances of intellectual delight, I was happy to sacrifice style for academia!

Life however was set on teaching me an excellent lesson wrapped up in a surprise package. Graduate studies took me to at a bohemian university, where for the first time I began to realize it was ok to be me – eccentric, intelligent and fun! I met gorgeous women with brains of a genius who cared for their appearance but were no less brilliant! I met men and women, who looked ordinary until they spoke and became the most attractive people in the room. Most importantly, I became best friends with my flatmate and my style mentor who told me to look inside and beyond the 5ft 7 inches 120 kgs heavy girl and bring forth the funny, intelligent and confident kid! She asked me for the first time “Who says fat is not stylish??!!!”

Thus began my transformation with some very basic changes that would eventually became my mantra for style –

  • To begin with get rid of specs and let the eyes show – In today’s world of advance contact lens technology, it’s a shame to hide behind spectacles, especially if you have big eyes. Eyes are the reflection of one’s soul and heart and if you are a what you see what you get person’s, your facial asset will always be eyes. Bring out the luster of those eyes with natural color but do not overdo them. Highlight but not EMPHASISE!
  • Beautiful skin is the best make up – Trust me, no regulated beauty treatment is required for this one. I don’t do face packs or facial regimes. I try and eat well (preferably with some fruits in the diet) and get enough sleep. Meditation for 10 mins before the mad rush of the day does not only wonder for your inner soul, but also reflects in your skin! Add a bit of bright lip gloss and your are all set for the day!
  • Earrings make it happen – If you are going discreet, uncluttered look and that too with a round chubby face, then earrings are your thing. Long danglers with chic cuts, gives an illusion of having cheek bones on face with a long neck and taking focus away from potential double chins. (If you are chubby/fat/obese/horizontally challenged, you will know the importance of “the neck”!)
  • Get those colors – Black may be slimming color but it’s boring and it’s the pattern and not colors that bring attention to the weight. If you are even remotely plump, you should say no to stripes, circles, and bubbles and all kinds of geometric patterns. Simple elegant cuts with minimalist embroidery or print on bright colors take attention away from the body circles and hide the tires, giving an appearance of gracefulness and chic!
  • Saree is “The” thing – I wear sarees to work atleast 3 days a week – Saree is THE garment that highlights all that’s best in the Indian woman’s body structure and drapes away all those bulges. Come on, you all you South Asian ladies, our mum’s used to wear sarees to work, catch buses, do shopping and manage homes! One generation later, we feel they are cumbersome! Give it try and you will realize, nothing makes you feel as beautiful as nine yards of gorgeous cloth!
  • Feel the style inside you –Physically, I am still the fat adult weighing 120 kgs but I believe I am the superstar of my show. It’s not because people tell me that (and trust me! They doooooooo!) But it’s because I feel it deep down inside! 🙂
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