Search This Blog

Sunday, November 3, 2013



Langston Hughes, the Afro-American poet, was one among a few who sowed the seeds of Black Literary Renaissance namely Harlem Renaissance in Africa.  His poems present his miserable life in America.
The poem As I Grew Older is the self-expression of a black American who is destined to live under the shadow of whites in America.  Through this poem the poet aims to define the cultural identity of Blacks in America.
The poem is autobiographical in tone and it can be treated as a mirror to the life of Black Americans.  The poet too had gone through the bitter experiences of living as a Black American.
The poem puts across the strong message of social protest against the inequalities of our society.  It is a socially relevant poem as it stands close to social reality.
The poem can be visualized as a transition from infancy, the early phase of life to the stage of late life or the mature stage of life.  The poem begins with the freshness, innocence, optimism and purity of childhood.  When the poet was young, he was not conscious about the world outside him.  He was just starting to take off his wings and fly with his hope and aspirations of future.  But his dreams were crushed.  The repetitive mode of the poem is significant here.  The word ‘slowly’ is repeated several times and it was a gradual realization for him that he was ‘black’ and therefore denied everything in life.  Slowly he succumbs to his fate and accepts his defeat. While admitting his state of helplessness, he commands his hands to break through the wall of prejudices before him.
The poem possesses an ironic tone.  The lines “Break through the wall’ has a hidden protest in it.  He knows that it is inhuman to break the wall of social barriers hence the preposition ‘through’ is used to refer to his nearest attempt to cross the blocks.  He strives hard to evade such negative forces in life within the limited capacity of his situations.
Even though the poem does not follow a definite rhyme scheme the poet attempts a quite different style of writing.  The light shadow contrast and elements of social protest are all characteristics of his verse.
The poet has deliberately been selective in the use of words like ‘whirling dreams’, ‘shatter the darkness’, ‘smash the night’, ‘break through the wall’, ‘bright dream’, ‘dark hands’, ‘I am black’ etc.  The diction is much forceful to create a strong impact on the readers.
The number of lines in each stanza of the poem clearly depicts the transition or the stages of growing up.  The first stanza is composed of simple 6 lines.  He has used a plain and light figure of speech simile to compare his dreams to the bright sun.  Ignorance was a bliss or blessing for him in childhood. Brightness of the sun suggests the purity and freshness of his thoughts when he started his life.  The vitality and exuberance of the dream is carried out in this line.
The second stanza seems more complex with 11 lines.  While he grew up, he became more aware of what was happening around him.  In this stanza he uses complicated figures of speech.  The metaphor of wall symbolizes racism, prejudice and humiliations which he was forced to suffer.  All these impediments made his life more difficult.  Towards the third stanza the language of the poem becomes further complicated.  The stanza starts with a strong line ‘I am black’.  It was the final realization of the poet when he became matured.  Then he becomes hapless, hopeless and helpless before his plight.  He is forced to admit the surrender of his dreams before the white men.  He became a mere shadow which lies under the white people.
He uses typical words like ‘shadow’, which is a metaphor for his black identity.  The light of his dream replaced by a shadow is crumbled by the feet of whites.  He exclaims, “dark hands” and he knew the colour of his skin brought disgrace and humiliation to him.  ‘Dark hands’ is a metaphor of his attempts to cross the barrier or his mere trials to replace it which bore no fruit.  The poet brings in a contrast of night and day or darkness which is despair and the colour of his dreams which inspires him to live.
The title As I Grew Older assumes greater significance in the context of the poem.  As the poet comes of age, he discovers that he is only a shadow destined to live in darkness his social sphere has created forcefully.
In short, the poem stands close to life which is always beautiful with its pains and gains.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


The Curious Reader
Twenty Questions to Ashokamitran

    A postal interview with a writer?!!!
How's that idea? Ya, I was struck by such an idea when i wanted to have more of the writer Ashokamitran who brought the life and people of Gemini Studios before us with such vivid narrative in his book, MY YEARS WITH THE BOSS. I started collecting questions from students, friends and colleagues. I was able to collect Twenty questions for the writer. I knew that flying to Chennai and interviewing the writer has lots of practical and logistic(!!)constraints. So, i wrote a letter to the writer attaching these questions seeking his response. I gave a title to the interview, "THE CURIOUS READER:Twenty questions to Ashokamitran".  

Asokamitran’s response came on 12.12.2010. My jaw dropped when i found the envelope waiting, a shaky hand has penned in hurry his unfaltering thoughts on dull sheets of paper . 
Sir, thank you for taking pains to respond.

Here are the answers from him to the questions asked. He wrote:

Chennai, 04.12.2010
Dear friend,
Here are the answers to all your questions. Writing is best when it is for your own desire to create a cogent, intelligible piece. If it gets to be shared by a few others, well and good. But you can’t set a goal to yourself in writng. To be able to enjoy a well-written, engaging book or story is a piece of good fortune.
Yours sincerely,
I am not well at all.


1)      How did your upbringing/family ties catalyze your writing skills?
Family ties may make one reflect more intensely. But they have no direct link with the skill a child develops. Writing is not a lucrative profession or calling.
2)      At what point of time in the course of your writing did you experience total satisfaction?
Total satisfaction is an abstraction. With my own writing that eludes me. But one is happy that he records certain things to show with an impersonal readership.
3)      A story is normally woven around the yarns of a real life experience. How about your works?
All my stories are woven around either personal or well-known experiences.
4)      What factors in your work made you feel that they constitute the ingredients of a good story?
Credibility and interestingness. Credibility within the confines of your creative piece.

1)      Have you faced identity crisis or writer’s block?
There are moments of depression. But that shouldn’t be called crisis. We are human beings and are vulnerable to many personal or external forces.
2)      What makes you write?
There is a certain joy and sense of freedom when you write.


1)      You worked in a film studio for such long years and probably got an opportunity to know about the nuances of film making. How is that you never wanted to be an actor or director or script writer? Or is it that you were never fascinated by these things?
I like watching performances but I have enjoyed the written work from which the performances arise. This can vary from person to person.

2)      The filmdom is a make believe world, an unreal world full of artificialities and illusion. But at the same time film making is a serious affair and the final product the film touches the human heart. What are your feelings when you were in the studio and now? Did the work in the studio make you a philosopher?
There are serious people and frivolous people in every walk of life. Film stars need to be glamorous. Big strain. We have instances of cobblers, potters leaving great philosophers and saints.

3)      What would you like to be if you were to start all over again?


1)      Do you think that literature must lead (the reader/the writer) to spirituality?
Literature is not a must to spirituality. Great masters have always looked at literary men with reservation.
2)      What do you have to say about god, religion and spirituality?
A holy man is any day a more dependable human being than one who says he is not. Here again, nothing is a must.
3)      Do you think that writing is a way of unburdening oneself?
Writing is not a method of unburdening. That is escapism.
4)      What is the most painful thing about writing?
The physical act of writing. It takes one at least 100 more times than a thought in your head. So you are bound to lose quite a lot.
5)      Are there any stages to writing as far as you are concerned? If so, which is the most exciting stage?
With practice, you write more efficiently. But that may not be better writing. The love writing does in your head without you being aware of it.
6)      What do you have to say about the Indian writers in English like RK Narayan, Mulk Raj Anand, Raja Rao and Rabindranath Tagore or Indian writing in English?
Good writers. They wrote at a time when reading attitudes were not favourable to colonial creative work.
7) What are your political affiliations (only if you feel like answering)?
 50 years ago I would have joined Congress. Today I find the party making too many compromises, tampers very much with the citizens’ life.
 Why did you choose to write less in English and more in Tamil?
Tamil comes more natural because I live in a Tamil milieu. That much has to be done in Tamil writing. English has had (in prose) a 400 years’ stand and also the vigour of the American writers.
7)      What is the future of literature in the age of technology?
People will continue to write and read. The form may change.
8)      Which actor in Tamil film industry do you like the most? Why?
For the Tamil films, a savage like man is a hero, at least during the last 20 years.
9)      Any recent Tamil film that inspired you the most.
A mass entertainer, is ‘Badsha’ and ‘Tenali’ that weren’t bad at all.
10)  Any message for the budding writers.  
A matter of choice or priorities, writing as a profession is not lucrative. Can’t even support the writer, let alone his family.

  സന്തോഷ്‌  കാന ഒരു   പൂർവ വിദ്യാർതഥിയും ഇന്ഗ്ലിഷ്  ഡിപാർട്ട്‌ ർമെന്റിന്റെ സുഹൃത്തുമാണ്  - കവിതയും സിനിമയും ബ്ലോഗ്ഗെഴുത്തും  ഇഷ്ടം : ഇപ്പോൾ KV - PG ഇംഗ്ലീഷ്  അധ്യാപകൻ  - നേപ്പാളിൽ  : ബ്ലോഗ്‌ : SOMATMIKA :  


കള്ള വണ്ടി

മദിരാശിക്ക് കള്ളവണ്ടി കയറിയത്രേ
പല താരങ്ങള്‍ക്കും രാശി തെളിഞ്ഞത്.
പയ്യന്നൂര്‍ സ്റ്റേഷനില്‍ ഞാനും ചോദിച്ചു:

"മദിരാശിക്ക്   കള്ളവണ്ടി എത്ര മണിക്കാ ?" !!!

ക്ലാസില്‍ വികാരാവേശത്ത്തോടെ ഞാന്‍ നേതാജിയെ ഉദ്ധരിച്ചു:

"എനിക്ക് രക്തം തരൂ . ഞാന്‍ നിങ്ങള്‍ക്ക് സ്വാതന്ത്ര്യം നല്‍കാം".

ഒരു കുട്ടി എഴുന്നേറ്റ് എന്നോട് :

" സാര്‍, അദ്ദേഹം രക്ത ഗ്രൂപ്പ് പറഞ്ഞില്ലല്ലോ ?" !!!

തിരുപ്പതി ക്ഷേത്രത്തില്‍
പോക്കറ്റ്‌ അടിക്കപ്പെട്ട ഞാന്‍ പരാതി ക്യൂ കണ്ട് അമ്പരന്നു.
ദര്‍ശനാര്തികളുടെ   ചെറിയ ക്യൂവില്‍ കയറിക്കൂടി!!!

പള്ളിയില്‍ പാതിരിയില്‍ നിന്ന് അനുഗ്രഹത്തിന്റെ മധുരം നുണയാന്‍
ഞാനും കൂടി.
സംശയിച്ച് അച്ചന്‌ :

"ക്രിസ്ത്യാനി ആണോ ?"

അല്ലെന്നറിഞ്ഞ് മാറിപ്പോകാന്‍ ആങ്ങ്യം.
അച്ചന്റെ തിരിച്ചറിവിന്റെ ബുദ്ധി അപാരം !!!

വാരണാസിയില്‍ ദര്‍ശനത്തിന്‍.
ലോകരക്ഷകന്റെ രക്ഷക്ക് കാവല്‍ പട്ടാളം !!!
അതിശയത്തോടെ വേദനിച്ചു .

                                                                               -സന്തോഷ്‌ കുമാര്‍ കാന   


There is nothing more deceptive than truth. What truth? Whose truth? It is enticing, painful, bitter, sweet or sour, but is hardly known. To know is to understand it from one’s level of understanding and there comes the unavoidable element of subjectivity. Any opinion therefore, is self-dissective. To be born is to be lost. Art, literature and films have been evolving towards this understanding. In fact, the history of literature or art can be called as an evolution from single perspectives to multiple perspectives. It started with a satisfactory and complacent objectivity. So, in stories and films the speaker or the narrator or the writer gained voice over others and other voices were silenced. The readers or the audience were not allowed or expected to question the authenticity or credibility of the narration. The credible singular voice thus ruled over art and literature for years. And that’s very much in tune with the social and family structure. The conventional text   was like the joint family with more characters and singular perspective.The elder of the house dictating terms and the members of the joint family nodding to it without a frown and “they lived happily forever”! Exactly in tune with the disintegration of the joint family system we could see the emergence of Plural voice. The brothers, sisters-in-law etc. raised their voice against an issue which would have been swallowed or pushed aside for maintaining the “structure” of the family, keeping it intact. Now walls threw gaps often and the singular credible voice found it hard to mend them(the dialogue in Frost's Mending Wall). The structure of the text reflected it. Characters spoken about, pushed to the corners raised their voice and exposed the subjectivity of the narrator. The reader by now evolved brought them to lime light, turned others’ eyes and ears to them and they too felt the conviction in their words. The text that was a singular construct collapsed which was termed as DECONSTRUCTION. The text is bound to collapse; the singular voice is bound to lose its volume when the text fails to reflect what life bares. Then came up multiple narratives to percolate into the issue. RASHOMON was one such attempt and the movie VANTAGE POINT. In Malayalam, the film by Shaji.N.Karun, KUTTY SRANK shows a man from the perspectives of many women. In literature, Conrad’s HEART OF DARKNESS tried to show how truth is not a monolith. Multiple perspectives can be seen in Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Marquez and The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho.  

Is there an objective truth? Truth is elusive. The moment you see an accident, it becomes an opinion that is quite limited to your perception, common sense, intelligence, sensitivity etc.

At a traffic junction, if the traffic police/the centre is the truth, there are four different roads of riders and drivers watching it from four different angles! Or even more!! Multiple narrative/perspective in art and literature is like the traffic junction perceived from different roads and angles each having its own credibility and conviction.
The growing trend, not surprisingly, therefore, is multiple attempts to analyse a single event and for that very reason we don’t have epics nowadays. Literature and art is growing with life. It can’t be otherwise.
--Santhosh kumar kana

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Please read: 


This is a narrative on my body—its hue and tone, its not so curvy curves and its lines. This is also about a campaign that talks of one aspect which I mentioned above, skin colour. The Dark is Beautiful and live happily ever after campaign.
Should I start with a disclaimer that I do not support the campaign or state that it makes me uncomfortable? A better idea. Let me begin by saying I am a dark skinned person who has not been disadvantaged the way the campaign imagines a dark skinned person to be. Professionally I was not disadvantaged for being dark. And dark/fair/white/black men have found me attractive. But I have used fairness products in the past. My concern with the talk on skin tone is purely based on the reasons that led me to use those products.
Some questions first. Did I use the products purely because of their advertisement campaigns which equate fairness with success? No. Did I use them because people used to taunt me for being dark? Partly, yes. But most importantly, I think what prompted me to do the unthinkable act (as per the campaign) of using fairness products was the fact that I had internalised certain notions associated with darkness of skin tone. I had internalised the ‘logical’ reasons which spelt out why darkness was ugly.
I remember times when my fair skinned grandmother who was married to a coal dark grandfather told me to wash my face and put on talcum powder to look clean (note: not pretty but clean). There were umpteen jokes in my family about why some cousins were dark and others wheatish or fair. I remember times when I was told that I looked like construction workers. I remember times when I was told that the household help was prettier than me. I was also told not to behave or look like some dark skinned classmates of mine. Now, it was only after my adolescence that I realised that the construction workers and the household help in question were beautiful people. And most of my classmates were beautiful too. It was only in my late teens that I realised that there was nothing demeaning about a comparison with any of the above said people.
Cut to a post on the Dark is Beautiful blog. Kavita Emanuel writes, “Have you ever wondered where skin colour bias originated from? I have. And frankly speaking, there is no simple answer.” To say the least this statement scared the hell out of me. The naivety in Emanuel’s words which indicated the presence of an unknown force which had led to the worship of fair skin tone made me cringe. Is our obsession with fairness so apolitical and naive?
Unlike what the above mentioned post on the Dark is Beautiful campaign page claimed, my grandmother’s worries (and the worries of umpteen relatives and friends) about my skin tone stemmed from a specific reason, which I now recognise as caste or a casetist aesthetics. Knowingly, yet subtly these worries othered a certain body type. A Dalit body (generalised as dark, monsterous and undesirable). It was the resentment towards this body which I was made to internalise as a kid and a teenager, even as my body bore the trait darkness, generalised to be the mark of the other. The contradiction which I internalised was very much part of a violent casteist aesthetics which condemned with some hesitation and a patronising forgiveness a ‘flaw’ of the insider even while clearly demarcating the other clearly. “You can trust a Brahman who is dark skinned but never a Dalit who is fair,” says a common ‘upper’ caste belief which finds a mention in Lelle Suresh’s documentary Mahadiga. This statement clearly demarks the contours of a castiest aesthetics and also politics, I believe. While the statement establishes the Brahman or ‘upper’ caste person as a fair skinned being, it acknowledges certain aberrations in this generalization even while assuming that the aberrations were to be looked at with suspicion. Such is the grid of casteism and caste guided aesthetics in the country. The rubric of this aesthetics is guided, its mediated and its bound to be kept intact.
Is the central point now a question of a mindless obsession with fairness? Or is it a question of internalised aesthetics which is prescribed by casteist and racist bigots? What is the real enemy here? The cosmetic industry which capitalises on the obsession with fair skin or the fact that the obsession with fair skin springs from a lucid casteist aesthetics?
Yes, the Dark is Beautiful campaign is right when it says that there is a particular skin tone which is advantaged over the other. But is this aesthetic judgment experienced the same way by all people who are dark? Lets take for instance the flag bearer of the Dark is Beautiful campaign, a celebrity, Nandita Das. Can we forget the fact that calling a dark skinned person, a Nandita Das, Smita Patil or Chitrangada Singh lookalike is considered a compliment in this country? So the dark mass of people which according to the campaign is disadvantaged on the same scale is really a heterogenous entity where some are more discriminated than others. The caste of the person in question matters. There are multiple tones here, believe it or not. There are multiple voices, whether you hear them or not. bell hooks writes of colour caste systems to talk of varying hues of the black body. She explains that black women of a darker complexion are pitted against those of lighter complexion as part of a “politics of representation affirming white beauty standards as the norm.”  In the Indian context the colour caste system is even more complex. While ‘upper’ caste women and men are expected to be fair and their darkness is considered to be a betrayal, fairness among subaltern men and women is construed as a deceiving trait (bringing to notice the Telugu ‘upper’ caste belief mentioned above once more). Now is the politics of fair skin naïve? Isn’t it a result of larger demonising structure established by a brahmanical aesthetics?
I laughed when I heard the campaigner placed dark men and women on the same scale. Is the politics of colour caste gender neutral? I have heard fair skinned friends of mine say that they like dark men. “Fair men just won’t do,” someone had said. I always wondered what about dark skinned women? Will they do? When I was young, I was told that the bride should be at least two tones fairer than the groom. Women have the extra burden of being fair in ‘upper’ caste households, an aunt told me. hooks talks of gender and colour caste: “Dark skin is stereotypically coded in the racist, sexist, or colonized imagination as masculine. Hence, a male’s power is enhanced by dark looks while a female’s dark look diminishes her femininity,” hooks writes. She talks of Michael Jordan who is the symbol of black beauty and Tracy Chapman (singer) whose beauty is devalued.
I had written an ode to a dark man a year ago in this blog. I wonder what the Dark is Beautiful campaigners would have to say about that. Will someone write an ode to a dark woman, I wonder? I have noticed that even those who celebrate the presence of dark heroes in regional films or Bollywood do not find it disturbing that dark skinned women do not get the lead role in these cinemas. Why are our dark actresses (irrespective of their caste) asked to do roles of the vamp, the mistress, the sex worker or the underdog? Here my concern is not about why actresses like Nandita Das do not get lead roles or why they get ‘type’ cast. My question is about why fair skinned women are not considered suitable for these roles? What comes into play in the film industry’s discretion of assigning roles is casteism which cannot think that a dark skinned Dalit woman can become a lead character, be it an upper middle class career woman or an executive of a company. Are we still ‘victims’ of an apolitical skin tone bias? I guess the Dark is Beautiful campaign would want us to believe we are. Why should a campaign which assumes the character of a movement have the people associated with it believe that there are no substantial reasons behind the skin colour bias? Should we grow suspicious of it?
Anyway, when I look at the mirror after going through pages of Dark is Beautiful campaign posters, I laugh to myself. In my mirror, under a dim light I see the dark contours of my body, it’s not so curvy curves and its sometimes smooth sometimes rough texture and I feel the pleasure of feeling it. I am dark, among a lot many other things. That’s it. Take it or leave it.

Sunday, June 9, 2013



Divya Nair
Visually impaired Delhi student Kartik Sawhney has repeatedly been denied permission to appear for the IIT-JEE in the past three years because of his disability. However, in March 2013, he was awarded a fully funded scholarship to pursue engineering at Stanford University in the US. This is his story.

For three years in a row, he has been denied permission to appear for the IIT-JEE; he was told that there is no provision for blind students to take the competitive exam. But he did not lose hope and applied to universities abroad.
And in March 2013, Sawhney received a fully funded scholarship to pursue a five-year engineering programme at Stanford University. Once armed with this degree, he intends to "improve the condition of visually impaired back in India".
In this interview, the inspiring young man discusses the many challenges he's faced to come this far, what miffs him about the Indian administration and tells us what keeps him going.


Saturday, May 11, 2013






I am just as angry as Mr. Canada...As a high school teacher who's been harrassed and stifled for being innovative, I struggle to keep the hope for any real change. I created a very successful class and curriculum to help teens to learn about themselves and what education really means, discover more about the REAL world and their hopes and dreams, give them tools to change their outlook and overcome obstacles all with the ultimate goal of spark desire for their futures while learning about their options after high school. Fail rates are down, test scores are up but my school/district refuses to support it, make sure all students have access or even buy books for the class.
WHY? because I, a lowly teacher/widowed mother of 3, who feared not being able to help her own teens navigate their way to successful lives in this complex world, had the nerve to begin researching and developing a book so I would have something to help my children and then brought it to my classroom with great enthusiasm from students.
I was accused of only doing it all just to make money and teachers aren't supposed to do that!! I started a scholarship at my school with nearly all the profit I make on book sales while also helping my own children finance their college educations.
I know I am not the only teacher out here who is creating innovative solutions to the apathy and disconnected youth...The problem is no one out there with any power, pull or influence can see or hear us.
We are in classrooms with doors shut alone with students and the world is "too busy" to care.