Poems and maps

I just added links to a few pages I created. Neither the Google Maps nor the poems are mine. I added the maps because Calcutta (Kolkata) is my hometown and Singapore where I am now. And the poems happen to be particular favourites of mine. Clicking on the horizontal tabs at the top of the page will lead to the maps and the poems. (And so will the links underlining those two words.)

Day Bath

Valentine’s Day isn’t complete for long-married couples like me and my wife without the significant other in our lives. My wife in Calcutta (Kolkata) loved this poem when I read it out to her over the phone from Singapore. Both of us were thinking of our son, now in college in America. This poem took us back in time when he was a baby and loved being bathed by his mum.

Day Bath

By Debra Spencer

Last night I walked back and forth,
his small head heavy against my chest,
round eyes watching me in the dark
his body a sandbag in my arms
I longed for sleep but couldn’t bear his crying
so bore him back and forth until the sun rose
and he slept. Now the doors are open,
noon sunlight coming in,
and I can see fuchsias opening.
Now we bathe. I hold him, the soap
makes our skins glide past each other.
I lay him wet on my thighs, his head on my knees,
his feet dancing against my chest,
and I rinse him, pouring water
from my cupped hand.
No matter how I feel, he’s the same,
eyes expectant, mouth ready,
with his fat legs and arms,
his belly, his small solid back.
Last night I wanted nothing more
than to get him out of my arms.
Today he fits neatly
along the hollow my thighs make,
and with his fragrant skin against mine
I feel brash, like a sunflower.

Singalong at Novena church

I had a lovely surprise when after visiting the Potong Pasir and Little India temples yesterday evening, I wound up at Novena church. Two women singers backed by two guitarists and a keyboard player were singing Christian music. The congregation was singing along encouraged by the singers. The simple lyrics were flashed on a screen with background pictures so even those not familiar with the songs could join in.

I have seen evangelicals singing similar songs but this is the first time I have witnessed such a singalong by the Catholics at Novena church. I was moved by the music. I love the hymns sung during services, but this too was beautiful. The simple lyrics and the contemporary music touched a chord in me. The singers sang with passion and the congregation responded beautifully, raising voices in harmony. It was a religious experience, encouraging worship and devotion. I wish besides praising Jesus, the group had sung about Mother Mary too. Her turn will come. There will be prayers to her on Saturday when people from all over Singapore will gather at the church to say their novenas.

Freddie Mercury and other famous Indians


Clockwise from top left, the Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen, author Salman Rushdie, India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his mentor Gandhi, rock star Freddie Mercury, the world’s biggest steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar. They were the seven ethnic Indians featured in Time magazine’s 60 Years of Asian Heroes special issue in November last year. The feature on Mercury appears under his real name: Farrokh Bulsara. He was a Parsi born in Zanzibar to Indian parents, according to Wikipedia.

My son was surprised when I told him Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of Queen, was an Indian. Yes, he went to school in Bombay, I told my son, before going to Britain with his parents. 

I was chatting online with my son, who is in college in America. My wife, in Calcutta (Kolkata), also joined us. She was telling us about the Indian School Certificate exams now on. A girl she knows is sitting for the exams. One of the essay topics for the exams, she said, was "Money". "Money?" asked our son. "I would have written about Pink Floyd," he quipped. I was amused. Since going to college, he has been listening to music I loved.

That’s how I got around to telling him about Freddie Mercury. I happened to come across the Time special earlier yesterday and was telling him about the Indians mentioned there. He was so surprised to hear the Queen lead singer was an Indian that I forgot to tell him his favourite cricketer, Tendulkar, was also on the list. He would have been elated.

I am not a great Queen fan though I like their song, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, where they sound a bit like Elvis Presley. Mercury made a deep impression, though. I can’t forget seeing him on television as he peformed at the Live Aid concert in 1985. The picture here shows him at that concert.

Mercury and Rushdie

Was Freddie Mercury the model for Ormus Cama, the rock star in Salman Rushdie’s novel, The Ground Beneath Her Feet? Cama’s great love, of course, was a woman: the ravishing superstar Vina Apsara. Mercury was gay and died of Aids. But he also had a long relationship with a woman, according to Wikipedia.

I don’t know much about Mercury and it’s been a long time since I read the Rushdie novel. The thought just came to my mind when I read the Time article. After all, Mercury did go to school in Bombay, where Rushdie was born and which is vividly described in the novel. I had read that Cama was based on Elvis Presley and John Lennon. But he could have also been partly inspired by Mercury, who did have Indian roots.

A few of my favourite sites

The Observer last Sunday ran an article on websites that changed the world. Lifehacker responds by asking its readers to name the sites which changed their world. Google and some of the web-based mails were the hot favourites, of course. I couldn’t do without them myself. But newer sites are shooting up in popularity too. Here’s my own list of favourite sites in chronological order, following the time sequence in which I discovered them.

  • BBC: A great news site with a host of other goodies which promises to get more interactive with reader content.
  • The Guardian: Perhaps the most successful online newspaper site. I love the Comment Is Free section. This British newspaper may have a smaller circulation than The Times and the Telegraph but it’s a pioneer in online journalism. A must-read. 
  • The New York Times: I love it. The book reviews are great. Too bad I can’t read the columnists any more.
  • My Yahoo!: One of the earliest and best online news aggregators. One can get news and articles from all one’s favourite sites on one page using My Yahoo! feeds. I was using it long before I heard of RSS and XML feeds and it has got even better, offering a cornucopia of choices.
  • Arts and Letters Daily: The only place I know which links to arts and culture and literary articles from around the world.
  • Rediff.com: A good source of news from India. Also offers webmail and blogs.
  • Blogger/BlogSpot: I may use TypePad now but this is the first blogging tool and weblog host I came across. And not only is it free, it’s just been upgraded and now publishes as fast as WordPress.
  • The Telegraph: This is the newspaper I read for news from home — Calcutta (Kolkata) in India.
  • The Times: Thank goodness it’s no longer a pay site. Contains some of the most stylish writing and lovely blogs too.
  • Bloglines: I love this online news aggregator. In a way, it’s even better than My Yahoo! Unlike My Yahoo! page, where stories vanish as the feeds update, Bloglines stores the articles until one has read them.
  • Wikipedia and Answers.com: Free and indispensable.
  • TypePad: Of course, I love it. Lovely templates, great blogs.
  • Technorati: What’s there to say?
  • Flickr: Shutterbug heaven. Let’s hope it stays free.
  • del.icio.us: Just the place to save all the posts and articles one comes across — and pick up a few from others as well.
  • YouTube: Just started exploring the site after hesitating for a long time. And I have found some great music videos.

Here’s Chuck Berry singing Johnny B Goode with John Lennon in 1972.