Visiting The Little Prince in Japan

By Rowena Mondiwa

 

“All grown-ups were once children…but only few of them remember it.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

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In the little resort town of Hakone, just outside of Tokyo, I visited a part of my literary childhood. The moment I learned that Japan has the only Little Prince Museum in the world, I made a mental note that I had to visit it should I ever visit Japan. That dream came true in June 2017 when I visited Japan for the first time. On hearing my Hakone plans, my friend from Tokyo asked me, “Why are you going to Hakone? Onsen (hotspring)?” Most people do go to Hakone for the hotsprings, to visit  the famous lake, or to see Mount Fuji if the sky is clear. The look of amusement on my friend’s face is one I’ve seen on many non-readers’ faces when I tell them about my literary aspirations, but that has never stopped me from my single-minded bookish pursuits. Fellow bookworms will understand my love of bibliotourism.

A few days after landing in Tokyo I took the Shinkansen to Odawara, and from there I took the bus to Hakone. The lady at the Odawara bus station nodded knowingly when I told her I was going to the Little Prince museum, and with gestures told me to wait until the bus driver calls the stop of Hoshi no Ōjisama Myūjiamu (The Little Prince Museum).

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Bookworms are strange, I’m the first to admit it. I’m compulsive and obsessive when it comes to my literary loves. Having literary experiences ranks higher than a lot of things in my life. With The Little Prince, this book goes back with me a long way; the love runs deep. I was 10 years old when I first encountered it, and I was immediately smitten, probably due to a mixture of the great pictures (to this day I believe that all novels should contain illustrations), the characters, the simple truths. It was also due to being a child, nodding fervently when the prince says, “Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.” I totally got that, being a misunderstood child myself. Now as an adult, I believe that book helped me keep my childlike curiosity and heart, and it’s a book that seems to have grown with me, one I have gained a deeper understanding of.

When I stepped off the bus in front of the museum, I realized I had picked the perfect day and season to visit. The sun was shining bright, and the flowers, particularly the roses, were in full bloom. The Little Prince museum was built as a sort of replica of a French village. It was, like I said, a perfect day to visit. The gardens were spectacular. We could explore the book and also the life of de Saint-Exupery

It feels cliché to say this, but I honestly felt like I was walking in the book. Books that really impact us as children, I believe, become a part of our souls. When the mind is still young, naïve and growing, with childlike curiosity and still not fully aware of the world, it is a mind that is malleable and fertile for new ideas and words. The first talking rose you meet you will probably remember, and subsequent talking roses won’t be as strange to you. When you learn that grown-ups only care about numbers, you vow not to be like that. At least I did.

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***

Rowena and I met in the great world of Twitter, brought together perhaps by a shared love for the written word. It was pure serendipity that she feels the same spiritual connection I have with The Little Prince. Perhaps more, because she travelled all the way to experience it!

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When I requested her for an introduction of herself to the readers, she sent me this: “Due to her Third Culture Kid upbringing, Rowena has always been passionate about culture, language, and communication. The arts are her passion and keep her grounded and curious about life. Other hobbies include nature, cooking, travel, and hiking.”

So now I learn that we share much more than a love for the written word! Nature, cooking, travel… And flowers. Isn’t it wonderful that social media enables birds of similar feather to flock together, even when they roost in different ends of the world?

***

Images courtesy Rowena Mondiwa 

Rowena’s blog: https://lesreveriesderowena.wordpress.com

 

 

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Split Mind

By Srilakshmi Srinivasan

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Mock me not, oh mind mine! 

My feelings are true. 

You are in me and belong to me, 

So why this shaming and why this hunt? 

You know my secrets, my sadness, and my weakness, 

You know my dreams, my joy, and my strengths.

 Then why? Why these obstacles? Why this doubt? 

When all I want is to get up and move on. 

Maybe, just maybe everyone has 

Their own goals, path, and secret doors. 

Maybe, just maybe they are not 

The same as yours (mine) ours anymore. 

Come along dear friend 

Let’s move towards light, 

Cutting through the dark tunnel 

To scale new heights.

Srilakshmi is, in her own words, ‘A doctor passionate about Kannada literature who just happened to translate one poem for you me.’  So it seems only appropriate that I include the original Kannada version of the poem. How I wish I could read it! 

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Though Srilakshmi and I are yet to meet in person, we are connected by a shared love for the written word. So when she generously translated a poem she wrote in her native tongue for me to read, I was more than touched.
Then there is the topic – depression and de-personalisation. My old friend, the dementor, seen through another pair of eyes. A familiar dark world captured in the few lines of a poem. Of course I made my ‘guest blog’ request; some voices have to be heard.
P.S. Srilakshmi’s daughter Srushti is a budding writer, and I had the occasion to publish her lovely little piece ‘Wonderland’ in a blog I have created for my students. (No, she’s not my student – she’s just young enough to be one. Read Wonderland here: https://minismenon.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/wonderland.
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*The image was chosen by the author from an article on the topic of anxiety and depersonalisation.  (https://healdove.com/mental-health/anxiolytics).

Jottings

By Naveen Kishore
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Collage by Sunandini Banerjee

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The conversations around you. Brittle and brisk. Without meaning. Words hurriedly strung together. Shoved into a tin can. Shaken. Made to rattle in short bursts. Like gunfire at close quarters. Tweets of fate. And happenstance. Like firing squads. Immediate. Transient. Relentless and vicarious babel. Grab and shoot. Who has the time? To think? Or breathe normally. The normal? Now a different shade of pale. Like running a hundred meter dash in less than 9 seconds. On shards of glass. Breathless. And bleeding. Gladiator sport. The kind that seeks out language only to thrust a sword into it. While the mob brays. For more bloodletting.

Slow everything down. Let your fingers grind to a halt. The forty-five on your turntable. Your skin scraping the grooves. Slurring the song. As if strangling the words. Almost.

Start afresh. Begin a new sentence. A long one. One in which with extreme patience and a strong dose of diligence you once again lay down the ground rules for language with a past history of elegance and a turn of phrase that makes you gasp with admiration for the one who has penned it with such élan and taste and wit and a sense of literary tradition passed on from writer to writer through centuries of fine writing where the meaning of words as they combine and mingle with each other takes precedence over mere ornamentation and where the complexity and density of a thought is chiseled to succinct and purposeful perfection in a heady mixture of fine prose or poetry or drama or whatever be your particular calling.

Now punctuate it. 

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Show them how things work. Or at least strew the air with hints. Let them be razor sharp. The clues. And full of wit. And irony. And the chutzpah that says it like it is. Up in your face. Like truth. So that no one believes it. As the truth. As nature. Both yours. Mine. And Natures. The way things appear to work in Nature. In life. Or on stage. Like the web that the spider weaves. Against the light. Visible. A work of art. Or a trap. Depends on who is admiring the spring like strands that shine and glint in the sunlight or turn invisible as they snare a fly. The strings on stage that create the magic of a floating cloud. An entire flotilla of white that suspends belief even as it is suspended in the air above the stage floor. Look carefully and you will see the nylon threads that like the spider’s web hold the white bags of polyester filled with yesterday’s news. Crushed and torn into different fluffy shapes. Light as the air they are meant to simulate. Be something they are not. Sleight of hand. Or a trick that the eye missed. The ones that do not bear muster close up but in the right kind of light. And colour. Glowing with gold and red and silver white. With spotlights that make no attempt at being hidden. Hung and patched. In full view. On metal battens. With exposed wires. Process. The craft of magic made visible.

The truth is always other than what it appears to be.

***

Naveen Kishore is poet, writer, theatre lighting designer, photographer, publisher – Seagull Books [http://seagullindia.com/]. 

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Image courtesy Naveen Kishore

 

When I thought of inviting some of the writers (and lovers of the written word) I have come to be acquainted with to pen down a few lines for my blog, the first name that came to my mind was of Naveen Kishore – a writer, poet and person I tremendously admire and respect. Not to mention the publisher of some of the most beautiful books in existence today.

I admit I was skeptical – asking the one who publishes Nobel Laureates and their ilks to write for my humble blog sounded preposterous even to myself. But I did, eventually, and Naveen graciously obliged with a casual ‘See if these ‘jottings’ work. Call it whatever you wish to.’

Today is Seagull Books’ 35th anniversary, and I can’t think of a greater honour than to be able to host his words on my blog. And Sunandini Banerjee, whose magnificent collages are the lifeblood of Seagull Books, has allowed me to use ANY collage I’d like! 

Could I have asked for more?

Dubai Diaries: Day 7 – Long long ago…

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Today is the seventh day of my 7-day marathon writing. As days go, however, today has not been a productive one: words seem to elude me. So I’ll just share what my immensely talented brother-in-law, Mani Menon, had commented when he saw my posts:

Mini, since Dubai is the common thread running in your musings, I thought you might be interested in what I have to post here…

Yes, I am, Manietta. I am a sucker for stories. Especially the ones that start with ‘Long long ago…’

Long long ago, in May 1970 to be precise, my parents, sis and I had gone on a sort of a whistle stop tour of some cities in Europe and New York in the US. As my dad had been employed with Air India, the trip was free! We had flown to Geneva on our first port of call from Santa Cruz Airport in a Boeing 707. Not being a long haul jet airliner, she had to land in two airports along the way.

The first had been a place that appeared to have been established in the middle of an ocean of glistening blinding sand. The airport was a nondescript structure with a few stalls selling magazines, tea, coffee, ice cream etc. After a stop of 30 odd minutes, we were off.

A few seconds into the air, the air hostess—as the cabin attendants were then called—had announced, “Those seated on the right side side of the cabin, can look out and see the township of Dubai.” Yes!! the word used was ‘township’. My mom and I had craned and looked down. Sure enough, there was a road flanked by buildings that had been erected purely to be functional. None of them could be described as a skyscraper!

Even after all these years, when I see or read about yet another dazzling skyscraper coming up in Dubai, my thoughts go back to that sultry May in 1970, when we had ‘visited’ this place…

The township of Dubai! Buried under a trillion giga-tonnes of chrome and glass. All this? Only sand, Madam! Long, long ago…

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Dubai then and now: Images courtesy Google

Through Mishran’s Lens

I’m yet to meet Mishran in real life, though he has promised to take me around the Nelliampathy Hills on his yellow bike if and when I visit my hometown of Palakkad, Kerala.

 

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Yesterday he sent me these photos he had taken just because. And graciously allowed me to use them in my blog. I did ask him to write captions, but he begged off. Just some random shots, he said, you can use them anyway you want.

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He did say though, that this dragonfly reminded him of me.

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Rusty, tired and a bit frayed around the edges – yet wouldn’t give up. I do see the resemblance.

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Thank you, Mishran.  Couldn’t have asked for a lovelier gift!

 

Musings

Written by Mrs Renuka Nandini: a great colleague, a lovely human being and a wonderful mom to two exceptional daughters, one of whom I have had the privilege of teaching.

Thank you, Renuka Ma’am, for graciously allowing me to use your snippets as a guest post in my blog. I’m honoured.

1.  ‘Poetry lover stabs friend for preferring prose’ reads the headlines….

If this trend continues, you better agree with whatever your friend says! Or if you have to disagree, make sure there aren’t any sharp tools lying around.

Just imagine, you and your friend go out for a walk, and want to decide whether to have coffee or tea or juice. Better agree to the friends preference or else… Or think about a shopping trip with a friend. Both of you have to end up with the same items, choosing not to annoy the other!

Because, who wants to be at the sharp end of a sharp object??

Moral : Know your friend well so you make informed choices… to avoid being stabbed – fatally or otherwise.

2. The news item ‘ bird steals camera, films flight’ had me thinking.  It states that the bird captured ‘ fascinating footage’ of its flight – all of 110 Kms! Wonder how long that took! You mean, the camera charge lasted that long?? So why is it that only when I want to shoot/ capture something for posterity that my camera quietly shuts down? Making me feel guilty for not feeding it enough… and frustrated because the moment has passed!

Now, back to the cheeky bird. Along the way the bird caught itself peering into the lens! Was it checking if the captured scenes were intact?

All you photographers and videographers, move aside please. Look for other professions – the birds are taking over. They get better view and better coverage – a bird’s eye view?

I wrote the following as soon as I heard the news of my young cousin’s death. He was just 38.

3.           Here today gone tomorrow

              The young life snuffed out

               By one of life’s vagaries,

                     The quirk of fate

                Leaving all near and dear in sorrow..

                             If only we can

                             Understand the ways of the Almighty

                             If only we had taken that one step ahead

                             To keep in touch more often

                              If only we could calm our troubled, sorrowful minds…..

                  May God give us strength to accept His decisions

                  May God give us the courage to bear the loss

                  May God give us the ability to get on with life

                  May God, in His immense kindness bestow His benevolence

                                To do our duty

                                To carry out His commands

                                To give our best

                                To help ourselves and others

Fakth aamcha!

A guest post (actually a comment) from Ruth Fernandes, my colleague at Daksada, and a human being I am glad I met! As a true Mumbaikar, Oops! Bombaywalli, she updates me on Bombay’s suburban train culture. (Re: Of suburban train culture – here and there, then and now…)

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Mini, I can promise you it’s still the same.. the only difference is that you don’t have to shout at the friend who is on the other side of the compartment.. you simply whatsapp a message to her. People are on their phones chatting, playing candy crush etc, but there is always one eye on the passenger next to you, lest you get pick pocketed, or someone jumps into the seat that is intended for you. We Mumbaikars are very smart.. the first question you ask a sitting passenger is where they are alighting. You then book that seat and then you tell the others that, that particular ladies seat is yours. In other words, don’t you dare jump into it, even if I am on candy crush!

Fasts & Festivals, needlework and other craft, shopping for nick -knacks or preparing the veggies in your bag for a quick ‘sabzi’ for dinner…. are all still the same. Exceptions though, are some good ones… your fisherwomen are forbidden from entering the ‘ladies’, ( you cant learn fisher folk swear words anymore!) vendors have far more exciting things to sell, like salwar khameez materials, saris, Chinese decoration items and the ubiquitous plastic covers for fridges and washing machines… you cant find these in Dubai, can you? Well, take a flight to Mumbai and jump into the ladies compartment of our Bombay Trains, or the Women’s Special which is a train painted in Pink, all for ladies… Only, fakth aamcha!, and shop for the uncanniest things possible.

And yes, what really bugs me, in Dubai, above all, is when people stand at the entrance of compartments, even though they do not want to alight… I always tell myself they are not aamchi Mumbaikars! Oops, Bombaywallis! We have learnt, it is now in our DNA.. ‘dont stand by the door, you will get thrown out!’
Ruth