Reading: Breaded Fish by A.K. Ramanujan

The Indian poet A. K. Ramanujan (1929-1993) wrote in English and Kannada, a rich language of South India. He considered himself to be the hyphen in “Indo-American” and was a respected teacher and a wonderful poet. As you can see here, in my imagination this poem has a specific Indian ring to it:

Breaded Fish

Specially for me, she had some breaded
fish; even thrust a blunt-headed
smelt into my mouth;
and looked hurt when I could
neither sit nor eat, as a hood
of memory like a coil on a heath
opened in my eyes: a dark half-naked
length of woman, dead
on the beach in a yard of cloth,
dry, rolled by the ebb, breaded
by the grained indifference of sand. I headed
for the shore, my heart beating in my mouth.

A smelt is a small cold-water silvery fish; migrate between salt and fresh water (do you think that is significant?) When I hear fish ‘n chips I think of Britain, the former empire that colonized Ramanujan’s India. Who was making the breaded fish for him, I wonder? It could be a fishmonger, it could be Ramanujan’s mother.

And which memory distracts him from eating? The dead woman (length of woman is poetically interesting) on the beach, looking like a breaded mermaid. What is gained by the crude analogy between the breaded fish and the dead woman? Was she molested and left on the beach (I am aware of India’s rape problems)? And when the I in the poem remembers, why hasn’t he notified the police? Why was the I at the fish restaurant? Or perhaps the memory is years old and brought up by the appearance of breaded fish, just like a face and a song brought up the memory of terrible events in Netflix‘ recent series Sinner.

What do you think Ramanujan is trying to say: Is the lyrical I the perpetrator, or a witness?

Reading: Breaded Fish by A.K. Ramanujan was originally published on Meandering home

Reading: Kanheri Cave by Dom Moraes

Dom Moraes (b. 1938-2004) was an Indian poet, widely regarded as foundational figure in Indian English literature. He was Catholic and struggled with alcoholism. I read Kanheri cave, I think it gives a good impression of the man’s writing:

Kanheri cave
Over these blunted, these tormented hills,
Hawks hail and wheel, toboggan down the sky.
It seems this green ambiguous landscape tilts
And teeters the perspective of the eye.
Only two centuries after Christ, this cliff
Was colonised by a mild antique race
Who left us, like a faded photograph,
Their memories that dry up in this place.

They left no ghosts. The rock alone endures.
The drains and cisterns work, but wrecked the stairs;
Blocks are fallen: sunlight cracks those floors,
And fidgets in a courtyard where a pair
Of giant Buddhas smile and wait their crash.
Then temples, audience-halls, a lonely tomb.
I touch its side. The stone’s worn smooth as flesh.
A stranger dangles peaceful in that womb.

Worm he will be, if born: blink in the sun.
I’ll crawl into his dark; perhaps he’ll climb
Beyond the trippers to the final stone
Plat of the hillock, there to grow in Time.
Dry pubic ferns prickle the bitter sand.
Hawks in a hot concentric ecstasy
Of flight and shriek Will wake his Vision. And
When the clouds lift, he’ll glimpse the miles-off sea.

“Deeply nestled among the tranquil surroundings of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivali in Mumbai, are more than 100 Buddhist caves popularly known as the Kanheri Caves. Kanheri comes from the Sanskrit krishnagiri, meaning black mountain. Buddhists settled there in the 3th century AD, but I couldn’t find anything about the antique race. The imagery of the hawk and the teetered perspective.

Inside the caves, the poet takes stock of the rocks that still endure but are riddled with decay. The stone’s worn ‘smooth as flesh’, womb-like.

And the stranger is born and some complex transformations take place. He will be a worm, blinking in the sun, taking the place of the poet, who instead climbs to the final stone beyond the trippers (tourists, not consumers of psychedelics)?  In Time the cave system would be reduced to a hillock, overgrown with those pubic ferns. Then the hawks return and somehow seem to remember something: they are shrieking in ecstasy. The clouds lift, the sea becomes visible again. The antique race has left no ghosts, but there lies a Vision buried in these caves, a vision that can be woken.

Reading: Kanheri Cave by Dom Moraes was originally published on Meandering home

April 1-3. Sweating out India.

I stay in Delhi a few more days and feel weak. It’s time to rest in the room and dream of more active times. There is really not much to say about these idle days. Yeon is visiting her friend in Hong Kong, and I just stretch on the mattress sweating out whatever harm the unfamiliar microbes may have caused.

There is a night out while I still feel weak, and I get shamelessly milked by my new friends, who order me a cocktail without even asking. It is time to say goodbye to India. I promise to cherish the brighter memories, such as that of the brilliant boy in the south, Janashekr, and the other children in EphPhatha Orphan home.

Missionaries of Charity

Missionaries of charity, Calcutta

Kolkata, India. March 25th, 2010

Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of charity offer volunteer opportunities in the poorest parts of Calcutta and other cities for every visitor who is willing to help.

We donate food for the orphans resident at the center.

Name Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa), Calcutta
Aim The Mother Teresa of Calcutta Center is a non-profit organization established and directed by the religious family founded by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, the Missionaries of Charity.
Since Mother Teresa founded MC (Missionaries of Charity) in 1950
Staff 40 sisters, 30 candidates, about 15 volunteers work here, they stay somewhere between 2 weeks and 6 months

Donation 5,000 Rupees (111 USD)

We don’t need to search long for a Cause in Calcutta. Everybody associates this city with charity, because it was in the streets of Calcutta that Mother Teresa began her mission. Now, more than a decade after her passing, her organisation, Missionaries of Charity, is represented in far over 100 countries. We visit the “Mother’s House” where we have a glimpse at her tomb, a simple marble square decorated with flowers. It is explicitly allowed to take pictures of the grave. We ask whom we should talk to if we would like to make a donation and wanted to be shown around, and they send us to another building.
It is one of the orphanages run by the organisation, and they are just enrolling volunteers. Dozens of foreigners have flocked to the building and await their turn patiently on wooden benches in the courtyard. Everybody is accepted here upon presentation of their passport. No need of police clearance, application forms and fees, proof of experience in interacting with ovc’s – it is working according to what we have in mind. The volunteers are sent to orphanages or centers that take care of the fatally ill and destitute in high density areas, where they help out with all daily chores and basically relieve the burden of the nuns.
We talk to some volunteers about their work here.

“The Mother Teresa of Calcutta Center is a non-profit organization established and directed by the religious family founded by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, the Missionaries of Charity.

The Center’s aim is to serve as a centralized and authoritative source of information on Mother Teresa, to facilitate the spread of authentic devotion to her, and to safeguard her words and image from misuse or abuse. The founding of such a Center was first proposed by the Office of the Postulation of Mother Teresa in 2002 and is a development of that Office’s work of supporting authentic devotion and knowledge of Mother Teresa. “

We conduct a short interview with Eliza, a Canadian lady in her fifties volunteering here.

How did you find out about it?
-It is very well-known. This is my second time here, and I know about it through word of mouth.
How long will you be in India?
-This time I spend one year here, for travelling and meditation. It’s my fifth time in India.
What was your first experience like?
-Here in Shishubavan I worked with children for ten days, feeding and changing them, and giving physical therapy. My first time working for Missionaries of Charity however was in Khaligat, and that was a very special experience. I worked with adolescents there.
What is it that makes it special?
-The motto “do all you do with love.” They don’t ask special questions, no training is necessary, you are asked to do all sort of things. In Khaligat I ended up giving out medicine and massaging them.
Do you encounter any language problems?
-Often they don’t speak English, but we can use sign language. Or just hold hands, when emotional support is needed.
Have you done volunteering in other countries?
-No. It is not easy to find ways to do it.

Missionaries of Charity was originally published on Meandering home