कामस्तदग्रे समवर्तताधि मनसो रेतः परथमं यदासीत |
सतो बन्धुमसति निरविन्दन हर्दि परतीष्याकवयो मनीषा ||
Thereafter rose Desire in the beginning, Desire the primal seed and germ of Spirit,
Sages who searched with their heart’s thought discovered the existent’s kinship in the non-existent.
— Rig Veda, ~ 15th Century BC
Looking closely at someone or something puts us in touch with ourselves, our own strengths and weaknesses, motivations and deeper stirrings, I believe. Similarly, looking closely at another culture then brings one closer to one’s roots.
Learning about some of the old traditions in the Japanese culture has brought a new light to some of the traditions which are observed in my family (and different parts of the country) to mark seasonal and auspicious beginnings at various times of the year. This morning I was reminded that today was the Hindu festival of Basant Panchami (or the Fifth day of Spring as per the Hindu calendar). A day to pay homage to Goddess Saraswati (wife of Brahma, the Goddess of knowledge, wisdom, language, music, all art forms, creativity, love and longing). The day also celebrates Kama*, the Hindu God of love and desire, thus becoming a sort of Hindu Valentine’s Day. This is also the day to initiate children to the learning of alphabets and arts. It also made me look into my wardrobe to wear something yellow. Continue reading
Ume ni uguisu, 1833 – 1836 Andō Hiroshige
– 紀 友則
The blossoms’ scent
Messaged on the breeze
An invitation to the warbler
To try and bring him forth!
– Ki no Tomonori
Attended a workshop on making card-holders out of Tatami-beri and Sanada-himo at the Japan Cultural House (which happens to be my spiritual sanctuary whenever I need to feel close to Japan). Whenever I am there, I feel Japan’s benevolent arms around me and my heart in a safe place.
A kiss on the forehead—erases misery.
I kiss your forehead.
A kiss on the eyes—lifts sleeplessness.
I kiss your eyes.
A kiss on the lips—is a drink of water.
I kiss your lips.
A kiss on the forehead—erases memory.
1917, Marina Tsvetaeva
Poetic first half of the day at the poetry club meeting. A new member of Russian descent shared a poem of her compatriot Marina Tsvetaeva who had apparently lived part of her life in Paris. I was quite moved by the poet’s tragic life story. The poem she shared (given below) was quite modern considering a hundred years have passed since it was written. Reading it I was as the poet herself, living out the poem in my head instead of reading it as a second person. Here is a loose translation done by the contributing member:
“In a huge city of mine – there is night.” 1916, Marina Tsvetaeva
In a huge city of mine – there is night.
I leave my sleepy house – to be apart
And people think: a daughter, a wife, –
But I remember one thing – night.
The wind of July sweeps – my way.
And somewhere through a window – music plays.
Oh, this time the wind will blow until dawn
Into my breast through chest’s thin wall.
There is a black poplar and in a window there is a light
A bell is ringing on a tower and the flower in my hand is bright,
And there is a footstep after – no one,
And there is a shadow – but I am gone.
The lights like strands of golden beads
A taste in my mouth of a nocturnal leaf.
My friends, release me from daytime bonds
And understand, that I am only in your dreamy world.
Today I didn’t get much time to practice Nihongo though I did watch a couple of videos on Japanese cultural do’s and don’ts and have ‘completed’ the Hiragana table! Woohoo! Will try and do the diacritics this weekend and hopefully start the Katakana next week. Something tells me that I would need to keep going back to the Hiragana practice to have it firmly rooted in my memory. Even now, some alphabets slip here and there if I surprise myself with a sudden recollection especially those I have learnt today. That being said, it is highly rewarding to recognize some of these alphabets in everyday life in whatever limited way Paris allows (this tea bottle label today and a Nissin Ramen packet yesterday, for instance). I should perhaps renew my visit to the Japanese quarter of the town one of these days along with my Japanese friend (whenever she is free). わたしは ベジタリアンです。Watashi wa bejitarian desu. Paris sun is shining on my Nihongo practice. It was nice to walk (in the rain and the benevolent winter sun subsequently). Joined a friend who is recovering from a breast reconstruction surgery for afternoon tea. All in all, a tiring but happy day.
Getting the hang of it… one step at a time.
“Every work of art is the child of its age and, in many cases, the mother of our emotions.”. – Wassily Kandinsky
Once again I allow immediate tasks to take over from the deep end of the emotions. Even amidst the routine, the dark and dank feelings and fears from the subconscious creep in to terrify me for a moment or more. Cook, clean and study and then indulge whatever comes. So it is. Back to the grind with cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping and studying. And then I am anxious about whether or not my approach to learning Nihongo will prove to be effective.
When I hear native speakers talk in educational videos, I am rooted to my spot. My gut ties itself into knots at not being able to understand them even though they speak slowly for beginners. When I hear myself repeat their words, it is as if I were someone else. I feel like a schoolgirl trying to learn some particularly challenging subject. A couple of days back though I heard a short video and could understand it in its entirety (after understanding the context and the word meaning to be fair). What a sense of accomplishment I had! Even before I ever thought of learning Nihongo, hearing it spoken (especially in old Japanese movies) was an orgasmic pleasure for my ears. This time around it was not only listening but understanding as well! A Double Whammy! A big O! もう一度、お願いします。ゆっくりお願いします。
Topping off the day with some poetry of Lady Izumi Shikibu. What can I say? I am speechless before the beauty of love and complicity.
To think alone is [not life].
If you were thinking the same thoughts–
You are you and I am I,
Yet between your heart and mine is no separation.
Make no such distinctions.