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Archive for January, 2008

Ode To A Tooth

Its been a busy, busy last few days and I just can’t get my mind working to think up something new to put in. So, I thought of the next best thing – putting in another old writing which I had uploaded in Aug 2007 on my previous blog in HmarNet. This one is a ‘poem’ (7 syllables in each and every line) that I wrote for my daughter after going through her poetry text book. In reply to my (usual) teasing that anybody could write a poem provided they had a subject/thought/idea they were passionate about, she challenged me to write one. So I came up with this one. Though she would not admit that it was good, she did look at it for an unusually long time (for her). The reason she gave for taking a long look was that she was counting the syllables to see if they really were 7. Duh!, as she would say. So, here it is:

You did try your best, my dear
But you’re gone, my faithful friend
You hung on there, for a year
But, my friend, it had to end

Towards the end, you stuck out
Like a sore thumb, as they say
Keeping you hidden, I vowed
Would make everything okay

My smile became a grimace
Yet you refused to back off
And give me back my old face
Which had its own charm, sort of

When the dentist took you on
You did not put up a fight
I brought you home, wrapped in cott’n
Worn out, forlorn, in the night

Sep’rated, and left behind
Abandoned, r’placed by a fake
Your mem’ry comes back to mind
Each time I wear my denture

Thirty years after I last wrote (or tried to write) a poem, I just had to write an ‘ode’ to my faithful tooth who had to leave me after more than 40 years of faithful and true service.

We went through a lot of culinary adventure, my dear departed tooth and I. Though not the whitest or best-looking tooth, it loyally took on all and anything and everything put into my mouth. I always thought that it would remain true and faithful till my dying days and never really took care of it. Most of the time, it retained a faint reddish-brown colour from too much paan and cigarettes. To my eternal shame, it looked really bright and shiny only once in its all too brief life. Looking back, I think that must have been one of the happiest moments in its brief life. That was the time, about 4-5 years before it left me, when I went to the Dentist and had my teeth properly cleaned and polished for the first time. Its too late for regrets now, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to make it happy at least once in its brief lifetime.

I was introduced to all sorts of strange and wonderful tastes by my tooth. From the small fish we used to catch in the stream that ran besides our village when we were children to big fish from the sea and strange creatures like octopus and squids, almost all kinds of meat to all types of green vegetables, they all passed though my faithful tooth. During its younger and stronger days, it also acted as a handy beer bottle opener which probably contributed to its untimely demise.

An artificial tooth has since taken its place. I am constantly reminded of my dear departed friend whenever I take it off or put it back on.

) (Tokyo 26 Aug 2007)

1000 Words

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. So, here is a picture of Mt Fuji from our new camera for which we (my son and I) had to get up at the ungodly hour of 6 in the morning on New Year Day to go to a place called Akihabara to stand in line for the shop to open at 9. To cut a long story short, when we reached the shop (after getting lost a few times) it was after 8 and we just managed to get one of the last tokens for the camera. With people having lined up from 5:30 in the morning, the camera was the only thing left. 😦 This is the only picture I can upload for the moment. For some reason, all the other pictures upload in ‘full’ which takes up too much space. Till I figure out how this uploading thing works, this is it.

Mt Fuji

Reading

There was a time when I used to read basically everything I could lay my hands on. From western/cowboy writers like Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey, Oliver Strange (the ‘Sudden’ series) to Harold Robbins, James Hadley Chase, Mario Puzo, Leon Uris, Robert Ludlum…… they were my constant companions. I recall once, during the height of my ‘reading phase’, making a list of all the books I read. Like most things connected to a ‘phase’, the list-making did not last for more than a month or so. But, as far as I can recall, the list added up to roughly five novels a week. No wonder I never really went beyond passing grades in school.

Apart from the time it took to read the novels (though I’m a fast reader), I look back and wonder at how, after finishing one novel, one always managed to get a fresh/new book/novel. The wonder of it all is that I do not remember having purchased any of the books I read in those days. We would just pass on the books we had read to the next person in exchange for an unread book. The other person would then pass on the book to another in exchange for another book and so on the system went. That my father and uncles and one of my aunties were great readers helped because I had a good source from where I could get books to exchange with other readers. Westerns were a great passion then and Louis L’Amour was (still is) my favorite western writer. I don’t know where my supply came from, but I think I managed to read each and every one of his westerns. Then there were those cowboy comics (‘Cowboy Adventure Library’, I think they were called), the war comics (‘War Picture Library’), the super heroes, Phantom/Mandrake/Flash Gordon (Indrajal Comics) and JS magazine which I religiously collected and read till it suddenly stopped. Then came Sun Magazine (weekly) with its posters of our various pop/rock idols which we religiously collected and pasted on our mud-walled rooms….

Reading, for me, has always been in phases. For some reason. There have been long periods, lasting from months to years even, when I don’t read anything apart from newspapers/magazines and then, suddenly, something triggers my ‘reading phase’ and I’m off on one of my reading trips where I jump from one book/novel to the next with hardly any break. I try to rationalize these phases by linking them to the amount of work or other preoccupations that I have in hand. Though my reading phases are linked to my office work and other schedules perforce, there are times when no amount of work or other preoccupations can pry me away from some particular book.

Then, a month after we landed in Tokyo, we discovered the Salvation Army which operates a huge ‘recycled’ (as they call second-hand/used materials here) store every Saturday from 9AM to 2PM. The store or shop is a huge hall half the size of a football field which opens at 9 sharp. People line up from around 8 in the morning to lay hands on the best bargains in town from TV sets, CDs, dresses, shoes, furniture, refrigerators, antiques, musical instruments to books and anything you can imagine which are sold at throw-away prices. Expats form the majority of the crowd with a sizeable number of locals as well as diplomats and, last week, I even saw an Ambassador browsing through the many offerings on sale. We have also become regulars at the shop, having already joined the diehard band of ‘Salvation Army Addicts’. The book section which boasts a very good collection of English books and novels is my favorite section along with their collection of CDs.

With one of my reading phases having been triggered by the Salvation Army shop, I have had the pleasure of going through a number of very good books during the past two-three months. Today being the first day of 2008 seems a good time to list some of the books I finally managed to lay my hands on and read in 2007:

The Grapes of Wrath & Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck made for enjoyable reading but somehow seemed dated and left me befuddled (if that’s the right word) at various points while reading them. But I can now boast that I have finally read these great novels written by the Nobel prize winning writer. Speaking of Nobel-prize winning writers, I also read VS Naipaul’s ‘Literary Occasions – Essays’ and fully enjoyed it. I had read his series on India (India: A Wounded Civilization) many years back which so precisely analyzed India and the Indian psyche and which I regard as one of the best books written on India. His ‘A Bend In The River’ was a novel that I stumbled on at a flea market in Maputo. Loosely based on real events in Mozambican history, it was another of Naipaul’s novels that I enjoyed.

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger was another ‘known’ book that I finally read. Frankly, I just about managed to go through it and it left me wondering what the book was all about. I also finally got a copy of The Shogun by James Clavell. As gripping as his other novels like The Taipan, I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, based as it is on Japanese history.

The Heart of the Matter, a collection of original short stories written by various writers from NE India including Mizo, Manipuri, Khasi and Assam writers translated into English was a true revelation and thoroughly enjoyable, proving for one that there is no dearth of talented writers (and translators) in the NE. I also finally got a copy of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray. Very insightful and made for an enjoyable read but I got sidetracked somewhere in the middle and haven’t finished it yet. Which, I suppose, means I would have to start from the beginning again to really benefit from the book. Because, in the meantime, I can’t for the life of me recall any of the advice the good doctor had very painstakingly put in the book for better relations between men and women. Further proof that men are from Mars? J

I also finally managed to read The Zahir, a novel by Paulo Coelho. After having been bombarded with recommendations of his previous novels such as The Alchemist from some friends, I found the pace and storyline somewhat of a letdown. Maybe I was expecting too much, I don’t know.

And these are some of the goodies awaiting me: Falling Slowly by Anita Brookner, Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks, East is West by John Delp, The Art of War by Sun Tzu…..

Happy New Year everyone, and happy reading.

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