Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Because Memory is a Bridge: Write... Edit... Publish...June 2017







It's time to return to Write...Edit...Publish... hosted by authors Denise and Yolanda, the sumptuous badges designed by Olga, and psst...prompt inputs by yerse troolee. Posting early to co-ordinate with Brisbane time. 

Gosh, I feel it's been ages since I was here last! The April challenge flew past and May and June I kind of tuned out, insanely out of routine. Kiddo's study leave/examtime is not good for mum's poetry writing, neither is Ramadan - the Muslim month of fasting, when working hours are reduced to six here. The males are home at unusual times, and I'm busy revelling in that rare commodity called family time, serving and being served coffee, and rather fattening snacks, at the oddest possible of hours. Oh, and we moved house, in the same neighbourhood, not across continents, merci bon Dieu for small mercies! School's out as of today, Ramadan's 3/4rs over, and summer's here, that's a bridge every year to go and visit family in India, we leave soon.  

The challenge for June is 'Bridges' and I'm back with a mixed up two-part post,  a bit of poetry, and mythology, and geology, and geography and folk traditions thrown in. Please read just the poem if you're pressed for time. Unless you're Donna, in which case you're requested to read the second, non-poetry, part :)

And I can't really think of the word 'bridge' without this song whooshing up instantly in the headspace. Because music too is a bridge...





Because memory is a bridge...


I see you leave for work from my window
and if you notice – as the glass is darkened –
you raise a hand, briefly wave as you go.
A shared language, carport, wall, to and fro
on the same bridges, but to different ends.


A gap closes the loop and rings a trench,
waves upwards like a tree and through its lace
drizzles peace and sunlight on the rusty bench.
We’re separated by feet, nothing strange
if a foot includes some lightyears in its space.


We meet again shopping at the same store
at some point in the vegetable aisle,
you raise a smiling eyebrow, somewhat more
than the morning - we’re closer, indoor - 
and I return that upswing with a smile.


There’s a scar on your pointer, looks quite fresh
and a film in your eyes I’ve never seen.
What bridges do we carry? burnt on our flesh
and behind us? the memories and their mesh,
past and present pixellated on-screen?


There’s no backstory that feels quite coherent
the arch of past as sparkly as a jewel.
Depends on where the sun’s at this moment
and where you’re sitting too, and the ambient
slant of shade and seat, there’s no one thumb rule.


I too have memories, feathery, and precious,
but I say nothing, keep them to myself.
Not everything can be shared between us.
We haunt the same cafés, but the baristas
turn to get separate cups from the shelf.


WC - 251


And because in real life I don't have the sense to shut up 

while I'm ahead, and also because Donna gave me the idea, I will now proceed to tell you about a mythical bridge, from the 2500 year old Hindu epic Ramayana


A childless king kills the only son of a blind sage by mistake. The sage duly curses the king - that he too shall die brokenhearted at the loss of a son. Many years pass, and after various offerings to various gods, his three queens bear four sons - Ram, Bharat, Lakshman and Shatrughna. All is marching well, everyone is uberhappy, the brothers love each other dearly - no trace of sibling rivalry. Lakshman especially idolises Ram, they are inseparable. They grow up and get married to sundry princesses, Ram to a very virtuous lady called Sita. 


Ram's stepmother, Bharat's mother throws a spanner into this idyll while Bharat's away. She demands the king appoint Bharat as crown prince and exile Ram for fourteen years. The king for some unfathomable reason, does not bash the evil stepmother's face in, but instead reluctantly proceeds to follow her wishes due to some pledge he had given yonks ago, probably in the first flush of love or youth or some other giddiness. 


Ram leaves amidst widespread gnashing of teeth and beating of breasts and general mourning. Sita and Lakshman go with Ram. The old king obligingly dies of grief as per curse. Bharat gets back to all this chaos and is incandescent with rage. He gives his mother an earful ('have you never heard Mataji, about uneasy and heads and crowns?! I had my spare-heir lap of luxury all sorted - what were you thinking of?!'), then rushes off and begs Ram to come back. But Ram won't let his father's pledge become meaningless. Bharat returns alone and rules as vice-regent.


Ram and family live off the land, nomads in the forests of Central India somewhere. There, one day, the sister of King Ravan of present day Sri Lanka (Lanka in the epic) invites the brothers for a...um...quickie. Ancient Indian society was obviously sexually far more emancipated than now. Anyways, Ram politely excuses himself on account of wife being present. Lakshman excuses himself on grounds of being married, probably because he didn't fancy the lady too much. She persists, remember she's a princess, not used to such churlishness, whereupon an altercation ensues and Lakshman, annoyed, notches off her ears and nose, adding injury to insult. She marches off home and demands Ravan avenge her forthwith.


Ravan abducts Sita in retaliation and imprisons her. Ram and Lakshman search for her, and get to hear she has been seen with Ravan. They meet and befriend Sugriv the ape-king, and he places his ape-army at their disposal.  One of his subjects, Hanuman, flies over the strait and brings back news of Sita. Ram and Lakshman prepare for war.  


The ape-army lays boulders on the water to make a causeway/bridge so Ram can cross to Lanka. There a terrible war is fought to rescue Sita. Ravan the wifenapper is killed. Meanwhile, the fourteen years of exile get over, Ram, Sita and Lakshman come back to their own lands and Ram is anointed king. They then attempt to live HEA but public suspicions about Sita’s character intervene (which body parts has she had grabbed by an unrelated male? did she consent?) and it all ends in separation and tears spiking the happy, as it so often does in real life…

The Ramayana is a religious epic, a story of good winning over evil. Ram is an avatar (earthly form) of God Vishnu, Sita is the corresponding consort Lakshmi's avatar and the whole bristles with other minor deities and their progeny. The Ramayan is, like most epics, chock-full of strangely misogynist, unfair portrayals of women, don't want to start on that...

Many traditions stem from it - Deewali is a celebration of the night when Ram came back victorious to claim his kingdom. Durgapuja is rooted in Ram's original invocation of the Goddess before battle. Several local adaptations and traditions exist in Nepal, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia.


Balinese wood carving of Ram and Sita



Source. The Royal Cambodian Ballet performing a dance-drama based on the Ramayana at the Bahrain National Theatre in 2014.

The causeway the ape-army built is called the Ram Setu (setu means bridge in Sanskrit and also in Hindi and Bengali). Mythology apart, the Ram Setu is actually a 50 km long chain of limestone shoals between India and Sri Lanka. Geological evidence shows it was a continuous land connection between the two - a natural causeway passable on foot. The sea channels deepened in the 15th century after a cyclone broke it up. Read more here


Source



Source 

Did Valmiki (the composer) travel to the southern tip of India, see the bridge and think to himself - right, just what I need? Or was it just a fortuitous fact he discovered afterwards? Come to think of it, mythology itself is a delicious seabridge, connecting us to our collective past.


Source: Pinterest


WC - 845



Read all the entries here and join in with your own -


49 comments:

  1. That's quite an involved folktale. Very intriguing.

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    1. Yup, mighty weighty too - 24000 verses, 500 chapters, 7 volumes in all :)

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  2. Where to start:
    Loved your poem. The truth of the final verse, sang and is singing to me. We are indeed individuals, with a very individual take on life.
    And I loved the second part of your post as well. You so often provide us with enticing bridges to largely unexplored cultures/mythology/people...

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    1. We drink the same sort of beverages but the cups are all separate and distinct, can't share those, even if we want to sometimes.

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  3. Hi Nila - I know about the landbridge between Sri Lanka and the Indian continent ... but I need to read your story in full and properly. The ageing process ... bridging the gap between young to old ... so many bridges we cross - our lives are full of them ... cheers Hilary

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    1. True that! Endless numbers of bridges to cross...

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    2. Hi Nila - the Ramayana is some tale ... "24000 verses, 500 chapters, 7 volumes in all" - amazing story line- and one that has been so influential in Indian and Asian life ... fascinating to know more about - I am a complete novice in this area. Geology I can understand to a point - myths take us to places beyond my realms ... one day I must know more.

      Certainly memories can bridge in a good way, a bad way, and often in a whimsical way ... when we will never know, but we can dream and try to comprehend matters beyond our reach ...

      Thanks for these - cheers Hilary

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    3. Mythology is entirely fascinating - not just my own but of any culture, basically how the ancients made sense of their own worlds. The Ramayana is of course the most ancient in India, and it's quite something to think that it is a living tradition still, unbroken for centuries, millennia even. Whole chunks of Indian theological history...I've treated the retelling with a bit of tongue-in-cheek, otherwise it gets all too serious and overwhelming for me :)

      Am so glad you found my post interesting!

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    4. Hi Nila - I did find your post interesting ... lots in your post ... and I really should 'study' mythology more - but for now it'll need to wait. Cheers and have a peaceful, happy weekend - Hilary

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  4. Love your poem. "What bridges do we carry?" Yeah, we all do.
    About the rest of your post: I read Ramayana a long time ago, translated into Russian. There was a book series published in Russia in the 1980s: Classical World Literature in translation. It had 50 books in all, from all over the world. I still own some of them, Ramayana included, although I haven't opened any of my Russian books since I moved to Canada. Too much to read in English. :)
    Anyway, thanks for the reminder of this wonderful epic.

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    1. It is indeed a wonderfully riveting tale, thousands upon thousands of couplets in the most complex of meters - got to treat it with gentle snark otherwise the very thought of the technical excellence overwhelms me :)

      I can so relate to your experience - it's hard to keep up the reading in my mother tongue too. I do write in it from time to time though, just so I don't forget...

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  5. Your poem was excellent. You captured so well that idea of fleeing connections, bridges to normal life, and yet so much is untold and will never be told. You always make me reflect on moments.
    And your story - wow. Quite a tale.

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    1. All connections I find are fleeting in the end, no solid bridges, all are precarious and fall apart. It might take years and years, but given enough time they do. Death, disaster, or just plain living gets every one of them...

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  6. I can't thank you enough for this. This post was really packed and enjoyable.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for being here.

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  7. What a delightful post. I loved the poem - it gave me a very warm feeling somehow. And that saga was quite something. Never heard of the land bridge, so that was fascinating. I like the idea of an ape army, though I wonder if they were hard to direct.

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    1. I haven't read the Ramayana lately, but from what I remember - the ape-army was dedicated and disciplined!

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    1. Fun to write too! Thanks for visiting.

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  9. Ah Nila; I am thoroughly entertained, and pleased. I loved the Ramayana story. You add such unique flavoring to the text. Compared to this write up, the original narrative must be boring :) This was excellent semi-HEA.

    And I did `mostly` read the poem. You have a flair with prose that makes poetry nearly understandable to me :)

    This was all so awesome. So glad you thought up this prompt.

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    1. Oh, pleased to know you enjoyed the mythical bridge Donna :) Your comment in your WEP article sparked the whole thing!

      The original is poetry though - not your favourite genre I know, and it's humongous. I've always read translations (I don't read Sanskrit) and they've always been in prose, I don't know I'd survive reading a poem some 400,000 words long, probably keel over after a chapter :)

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  10. Hi,
    I especially love your poem. It is beautiful. The meaning building bridges because that is exactly what our memory does. It builds bridges.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat

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    1. Hi Pat, you are so right, memory does build bridges, and no two people can build the same ones.
      Peace to you and yours too.

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  11. We haunt the same cafés, but the baristas
    turn to get separate cups from the shelf.

    Those last lines really got me. Some memories are just no one else's damn business. Loved the poem Nila. Also enjoyed the Ramayana story. I love when you insert history and culture that's so riveting to read. All the best.

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    1. In the Eastern tradition, the saqi, or the 'pourer of wine' often symbolises fate, God and/or the beloved. The tavern/inn stands in for the world, one's own or wider. I've extended that metaphor into its modern day counterpart :) Glad you enjoyed the poem. Thanks for stopping by.

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  12. As always, Nila, your poetry is stunningly beautiful. Thank you for sharing some very interesting folklore. I always enjoy reading about other cultures. It gives the reader insight to mystical world.

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    1. I am beyond pleased to see you Michael, and so very glad you enjoyed my post. Thank you.

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  13. Your poem took me to many bridges, times, and places. Caught against a sunset or sunrise, memories and moments caught in a time loop. Truly lovely!
    And that epic story of revenge, loss, redemption, love, and misogyny all rolled into one HEA - well what can I say? Time for a new take???
    Great entry for the June WEP Challenge, Bridges! Love the way this prompt has inspired! Thank you!

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    1. Time does indeed make us cross many bridges, and some we burn :) and some we leave intact in case we have to beat a hasty retreat :)
      I too am blown away by the entries this prompt has got - a total reading bonanza!
      Thanks as always for hosting and the support!

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  14. I'm always fascinated to read mythology from various places. The story of Ram and Sita is quite the epic! Interesting about the land-bridge...

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    1. Isn't it? It was formed millions of years ago as per geological evidence, must have been well known at the time of writing. Makes one wonder at the amount of travelling that must have been going on in ancient times with just animal power!

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  15. Loved the poem. My goodness, what a crazy story. Definitely a different kind of folklore than I'm accustomed to. =)

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    1. Ramayana itself is not exactly folklore - more religious tinge to it. Devout Hindus consider it as part of their theological history and heritage. But it has inspired many folk beliefs and customs and continues to underpin cultures of many different countries.

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  16. I liked your poem. Oddly enough it made me think of an article I read a few months back about people trying to find "lost connections". It was all about people using social media to try and find people they encountered in real life but never exchanged personal information with. Very interesting.
    Also, I loved your folk tale. I never knew about that bridge and enjoyed learning something new.

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    1. Technology has made that possible - to find 'lost connections' - for which I am thankful.The article sounds intriguing!

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  17. We all sure carry plenty of our own bridges that sometimes just don't connect. Need to make them like lego blocks lol

    Sure quite the tale indeed. Fun to see where myths came from and the real world aspects that stemmed them.

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    1. The image of a bridge of emotional 'Lego' blocks made me smile - wish we could! :) I really like digging up old tales and their journeys into contemporary times.

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  18. Loved the poem. Interesting take on 'Bridges'. Great job.

    The folktales is unique in it's way and very interesting also. Thanks for sharing.

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  19. Interesting mythology about the ape army building the bridge or shoals. And always a struggle for power between all the kings and queens.

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    1. Always a struggle - yup, right up into our time with modern day 'kings' and 'queens' - some bridges never change!

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  20. Thanks for sharing, I love reading mythology from other cultures.

    Love the poem as well, I've been meaning to write more poetry; I find it difficult, but I always love the end product.

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    1. I love reading/knowing about mythology too, the more the merrier :) Good luck with the poetry!

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  21. Hi Nila! This is my second visit. I needed to come back and take the time to dissect what you've written. And I enjoy reading the comments/replies. I've learned a lot more~
    The poem. Once again you've revealed the depths of everyday connections we take for granted. As always, love the imagery--'...its lace
    drizzles peace and sunlight on the rusty bench.'

    Love the mythological reference. That's intriguing. And complicated. Life is never simple, is it?

    Enjoy your annual sojourn to the rellies in India. What a blessed time that will be.

    Denise :-)

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    1. Hi Denise! You always are thorough about reading. And ditto me on the comments - they often provide great insights that would never occur to me otherwise.
      We tend to take our everyday 'bridges' for granted till something drastic happens, don't we? Life, as you said, is never simple.

      Thanks as always for being a super host, WEP is such a creative and fun confluence!

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  22. Excellent share! That's my daily dose of culture. Thanks! :)

    That's crazy about the cyclone changing the land like that. Nature is so amazing.

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    1. Yesss! I agree - nature is just beyond awesome, in the true sense of the word.

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  23. I used Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water in my post as well. Loved the poem and the folklore story.

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    1. It's one of those timeless classics isn't it? Superbly amazing lyrics and superbly amazing rendition! Glad you like the post. Thanks for stopping by.

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