|Saturday, July 13, 2002||
the years I was an Editor of some journal or the other, I had to contend
with people on my staff who had a very lackadaisical attitude towards
the work assigned to them. Their motto was sab chalta hai (all
goes, why bother too much). It used to get my hackles up. There was a
very attractive and talented young lady who I had picked up myself in
the hope that she would make her mark as a writer and a poet and bring
credit to The Illustrated Weekly of India. After a few weeks of
diligent work, she became slack: came late to the office, was slipshod
in her work, went out for lunch for long hours with some admirer or the
other, and was the first to leave — even before the office closed. I
told her as gently as I could that she was not pulling her weight. She
tossed her head disdainfully and replied: "Cheh! why do you
get so worked up about small errors. Tomorrow whatever you or I write
will be sold to the raddiwallah." I lost my cool and spoke
sharply, "You say that once more, I will sack you." She
stormed out of my room daring me to do so. A few days later she again
made a faux pas correcting proofs. When I reprimanded her, she
repeated her formula of life, saying sab chalta hai. I lost my
temper: all her looks and gifts were diminished in my eyes. I gave her
the ultimatum as strongly as I could. "Either you put in your
resignation by tomorrow or I will send a note to the management to order
your dismissal." She resigned. She could have made a name for
herself. Hardly anyone knows about her today except as someone with
great promise who came to nothing. But she is at peace with herself as a
contented, fulfilled housewife. That is more than I can say for myself.
The choice is yours to make: if you strive for excellence, your only reward may be the satisfaction of knowing you did your best, or if you say why bother, it will make no difference.
American mod poetry
America spawns poets like fish spawn roe. What they churn out may not sound like poetry to ears attuned to rhyme and meter observed by classical poets and in an inscrutable way it is not prose but it is surprisingly fresh. One such poet is Ron Koertge, Professor of English at Pasadena City College in California. An American critic describes him as "the wisest, most entertaining wise guy in American poetry." My rakhi sister, Prema Subramaniam, who is a saleswoman with Barnes and Noble in New York, sent me Koertge's latest offering, Geography of the Forehead (University of Arkansas Press). The poem with that title made little sense to me. But some others did. For example a series of questions and answers:
What exactly is a thesaurus?
A thesaurus is like a thousand family
reunions, all in the same hotel, but each
one in a separate ballroom. A dictionary,
on the other hand, is like the Army where
everyone lines up for roll call.
I was particularly charmed by a child's prayer on Christmas Eve:
"If you exist," I said, "send me
Immediately Jesus appeared
in my bedroom.
I got off my knees. "You heard
He quoted himself: "Except ye
see signs and miracles, you will not believe."
"Be reasonable, Jesus. It's hard
to just take your word for it."
"But I'm here. In your bedroom.
Isn't that enough?"
"So is the pony outside?"
Koertge's irreverence is most refreshing:
I never liked being a Baptist: all those commandments, a fiery pit, and a heaven that — for all its glories — doesn't have pari-mutuel wagering.
But my Catholic friends aren't any happier. Ditto the Lutherans and the Methodists. I know too many uphappy Jews and Buddhists and one absolutely miserable Sufi."
Where are the vultures?
Where have all the vultures gone?
Concerned are the environmentalists
as dwindles fast the population
of the birds of prey.
In a scatter of putrefied carcasses
lying unattended, stench and decay
looms large the health hazard
the spread of epidemics for sure.....
But comes a piece of a good news
in the midst of such grim scenario:
In droves, of late, have been sighted the vultures
Perched as they are on the barbed wire fence
all along the border of the rival countries
Thanks to the armies put on the alert
on the either side of the border
poised for a bloody confrontation.
(Courtesy: Dr K.C. Prashar, Kulu)
The printer's devil almost created a diplomatic crisis when the German Crown Prince visited England in the 19th century. The London Times carried on its front page the headline: 'Visit of German Clown Prince.' The outraged German Ambassador demanded an immediate apology and a correction. The next day The London Times published: "We regret the error in the report of the German Crow Prince". Obviously the printer's devil was at work again but the German Ambassador wisely thought it best not to ask for another apology and a correction.
(Contributed by Roshni Johar,