The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún, by JRR Tolkien

The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún is an English rendition of the Poetic Edda, through the writings of Snorri Sturluson in the 12th century. It’s a heroic tale of Sigurd (also known as Siegfried), a warrior held in high regard. The book has been edited by Christopher Tolkien, though the introduction by JRR is proof of a master philologist at play. It’s a little known fact that he taught Old Norse in his preliminary years as a professor. We all know him as the father of modern High Fantasy, he was in reality, much more. But I digress.

The tale contains many of the inspirations for Tolkien’s later works. Be it “the sword that was broken”, a feud between two brothers for a red-golden ring or the slaying of a mighty dragon jealously guarding a cursed treasure hoard, the Poetic Edda can be taken to be a great inspiration for the Lord of the Rings Saga. Indeed the name Middle-earth is a loose translation of Midgard, which denotes earth in Norse mythology. It’s a rich & rewarding book for any Tolkien fan opening the paths to Norse mythology for the uninitiated, while being a (very) loose historical account of Scandinavian & Germanaic history from the Age of Heroes.

मधुशाला, by Harivansh Rai Bachchan

As soon as I read this poetry collection, the first thought that came to my mind was: Why is this not a part of our school curriculum?
I’d agree that a poetry collection about a मधुशाला (liquor tavern) is hardly suitable for the schoolchildren. But the way Mr Bachchan relates a मधुशाला with our day to day lives is nothing short of phenomenal. From not-so-oblique digs at communal differences to the powerlessness of man against an overpowering addiction, there is so much in these lines that even the best moral stories of our times fail to capture. All this and more, with reference to a मधुशाला.
Some of the many absolutely memorable lines of this composition are as follows:

मुसलमान औ’ हिन्दू है दो, एक, मगर, उनका प्याला,
एक, मगर, उनका मदिरालय, एक, मगर, उनकी हाला,
दोनों रहते एक न जब तक मस्जिद मन्दिर में जाते,
बैर बढ़ाते मस्जिद मन्दिर मेल कराती मधुशाला!

Days Bygone

Recent advertisements of food products (read Maggi, Paperboat, etc) play heavily upon the nostalgia of tastes experienced in our childhood. These are certainly powerful ads, but how far are they able to deliver what they promise?
I speak from personal experience & leave it to the reader to decide whether he/she feels the same way. When I remember the taste of a Frooti or a Maggi from my childhood, the memory includes the sweet taste of freedom, of a special occasion, of eating something different than what I tasted everyday. What I remember is no only the taste, but the happiness associated with it. Same goes for eating a mango or a sugarcane. If someome were to sell me some sugarcane juice now (or Paperboat Aamras, for that matter), the image evoked in my mind includes the days when we used to engage in with those sugarcanes, or when summer storms made mangoes fall from the trees by the dozens.
What they are trying to sell now falls far short of the images these images or advertisememts evoke. I daresay its not in the power of any company or product itself to deliver what is being promised now.
While I appreciate the marketing itself, I feel compelled to wonder:

Whither went the days bygone,
Whither went the sweet smell of the midsummer morn,
Will I ever ever taste that freedom unshorn,
Or must I wait forever in an attempt forlorn?

Wanderlust

Should I go just for the sake of going?

Or do I go away for good, for staying

 

No matter where I go or where I’ve been,

A whole world remains to be seen,

A wanderlust too deep to redeem,

I want to be, where no one has been.

 

Living my life without a reprieve

I shan’t know till I don’t leave

But then, how could I believe

That out there is a world unseen.

 

Living with a job, my friends, my family

When I am tired, and weary

When the world seems bleak, and dreary

Here lies the escape I turn to verily.

 

If ever there lies before me an adventure

That invites me with a welcome gesture

Do I go away for good, for staying?

Or should I stay back & be better off not knowing?