The Creators

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Jacaranda dug into her string bag and pulled out a small, jeweled box. She opened it and took out three sugared balls colored like the rainbow. They seemed to have an iridescent glow about them.

“Here, take one each and chew,” she said.

“ Are you sure?” asked Gorge.

“Trust me,” said Jacaranda and she took one. As she chewed the pill, her neck shimmered like a rainbow, the glow spread to her body and then, she could not be seen anymore! Only the other two sugared pills remained visible. They seemed to be standing in mid-air.

“Hey! Where are you?” said Gorge.

“Show yourself!” said Jasmine.

“I can’t …not for the next hour anyway. This is the result of the invisibility pill. You both take yours, then, you will be able to see me. I can see you. We can start our hunt then. Hurry!” said Jacaranda.

Jasmine and Gorge picked up the pills and chewed. They too shimmered and disappeared.

“Hey, I can see you now!” said Gorge.

“Okay. We are all set now,” said Jasmine. “We should enter the building and look for Jasper, our technological self.”

Saying this, she moved towards the lift door under the rooftop shelter. She pressed the button. The lift came up. As the door opened, a man wearing a mind police uniform came out with a weapon and a radio. He could not see them. He was looking around but could see no one. He went back into the lift. The three of them slipped into the lift with him and descended into the building.

The mind policeman went back to Jasper’s office.

“There was no one in the lift,” he told the officer. The mind police seemed to have set their headquarters in Jasper’s office.

“It is strange that the lift should be called to the rooftop by no one,” said the officer. “Perhaps we should investigate. Kaspar, you keep an eye on things here. The rest of you, let us go up.”

Jasmine, Jacaranda and Gorge had followed the policeman down. They watched and heard the mind police. But the mind police could not see the three standing in the middle of the room.

Jasmine gestured to the other two to follow her. She stepped quietly into the corridor and ran down. Then she entered a room that seemed empty.

“Have they got Jasper?” Jasmine said in a loud whisper to the other two.

“How can we find out?” said Jacaranda.

“Perhaps, if we can get out of here, I can connect with the universal mind stream and find out,” said Jasmine.

“What if they spot your thought wave and come for us?” said Gorge.

“They still cannot see me. So, if I close my mind again, they will lose us,” said Jasmine. “Let us first get out of this building. Look for exit signs.”

The three of them ran out again. They were wearing rubber-soled shoes. As they walked past Jasper’s office again, they could hear voices.

“Why do you think the lift was called up?”

“Do you think that boy could still be in the building or has the girl got here?”

“No. It could not be the girl. She has that uncontrolled mind of Golliwog with her. JaJa cannot shut off her telepathic mind ever…”

“JaJa was not with her in the dragon cloud, remember. We lost them in the sky…property of the dragon cloud the Doom gang said…”

“Wonder if they are still in the sky above us…”

“Strange the way we lost that lot and the boy…”

“Will you shut up and focus on finding them if you value your necks,” said an angry voice which belonged to the commanding officer.

The three ran past the door. As they descended the staircase, they could see guards standing at the door. How could they step out without being noticed, eventhough they were invisible.

Again, the three ducked into an empty room near the exit. This time Gorge came up with an idea.

“You both run for the exit. I will drop something in this room and run and join you. That way when the guard comes to investigate, we can slip out. Do not wait for me. Open the door as soon as the guards enter this room,” said Gorge.

“Sounds like a plan,” said Jasmine.

Jacaranda and Jasmine headed for the front door. As they reached the door, they heard a loud sound. Gorge had picked up a glass paperweight on the table and dropped it. It had smashed to smithereens. One of the guards ran to investigate. Gorge was heading for the exit.

“Hey, you better join me here,” shouted the guard in the room. “There is broken glass all over. No one seems to be around. No one has left the room. It is bizarre. Please come fast.”

As soon as the second guard entered the room and the door was left unprotected, Jacaranda opened the swinging door and the three of them slipped out.

As they ran on the snow, which was coming down fast now, they could see their footsteps leaving marks on the soft white snow that covered the ground. There were round tables and chairs covered with snow in what had been the garden of the building.

“I think the falling snow will cover our footprints,” said Gorge aloud.

“I need a shelter to stand and focus. It is freezing here,” said Jasmine.

“Let’s go under that shed,” said Jacaranda. It was the shed for the parking the flying cars of visitors. The three went in and Jasmine closed her eyes for a couple of minutes. Then she opened them. Her eyes looked frightened.

“Quick, let’s run. I have blocked my mind again. The mind police has figured out that we are hiding here,” she said.

As she was finishing her sentence, the door of the building opened and the mind police started filing out. The three of them ran towards the building. The mind police continued pouring out of the door and running past them towards the parking shed. They, of course, could not see the invisible trio. The three of them slipped in through the open door without bumping into the guards and got into the building.

Again, inside an empty room, the three spoke in whispers. There were still voices of the mind police in the building.

“We need to pinge out to a safe spot,” whispered Jasmine.

“Where?” said Jacaranda.

“Have they got him?” asked Gorge.

“No. But they are angry to have lost all of us. They will kill if they spot any of us,” said Jasmine. “We will need to locate him from a safer spot. Let us go back to that favorite island of yours Jacaranda…the isle of wonder in magicland.”

“We need to hurry. It is past fifty minutes since we took the invisibility pills. The effect of the pill will wear off soon,” said Jacaranda.

Jasmine had the tongs in her hand. Gorge and Jacaranda held on to her shoulders as she clapped the tongs. They pinged. They were still invisible when they landed on the grass of a meadow on the island.

“We will lose our invisibility in few minutes,” said Jacaranda. “We need to find shelter once we are visible.”

“Before that, can we get rid of these clothes? It is warm here,” said Gorge.

“Here goes,” said Jacaranda. She mumbled something and the three were back to their normal war.

“Let’s make a run for shelter,” said Jasmine.

“I know there is a cave near the hill,” said Jacaranda. “We could use that.”

The three ran for the wooded area and then started walking towards the hills.

“Are you guys hungry or not?” said Gorge.

“Okay. Here is a sandwich for each of us,” said Jacaranda, swishing her arms and mumbling a chant. She handed them a sandwich and a packet of milk each. They ate as they walked through the woods in search of shelter. They came upon a stream with fishes of all colors, shapes and sizes.

“We are close now,” said Jacaranda. “ This stream will lead us to the hills and the cave.”

They walked for another half an hour and they were at the foothills. The stream fell like a waterfall from the hill.

“The cave is just there,” said Jacaranda.

The three of them walked towards the cave.

Safe in his hideout in the technological dimension, Jasper was worried. After dinner, he told Matilda, “Tomorrow, I need to try to contact this girl. Perhaps, I will leave our hideout for a short while, fly out to the sky and try to reach her again telepathically…”

“I am scared when you go out like this,” said Matilda.

“I have to for our baby’s sake and our sake try to find a final solution. I did not want to be caught in this crossfire. We have to find a way out. Don’t worry, I won’t be caught,” said Jasper.

 

 

Winning

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Unbeaten

Life, you have not beaten me…
Just taught me to caper…
Like a drifing paper
Floating in the strong breeze
Among life-giving trees
I lift. I flit. I fly
Till new horizons stretch out in the sky,
Lighting up infinite possibilities in my mind.
New songs of the rainbow I find
And then sing
To a new note, bring
Colours of hope and the dawning day.
Let us all be a part of this fascinating play,
Soaring with the rhythm of the new-born sway.
The moving finger writes and redefines a new way.

From the ashes of the past, I rise,
Rejuvenated, refreshed, eternalised.

The Creators

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Jasper ran down the cold steel corridors of the weather bureau, pursued by men in blue, the mind police. He tapped on a wall and pressed his thumb on what looked like a little switchboard. A door appeared to the staff washroom. He slid the door open and went in. The door shut and became like another smooth section of the wall. The mind police were confused. Jasper tried to reach out telepathically to the strange unknown girl who had been sending him thought messages earlier, warning him about the mind police. He came across a total blank. The mind police could sense he was around from and looking for Jasmine from his telepathic waves but they could not do anything because all their equipment had to be deployed in the presence of the person. The dream inducer was too slow a weapon for this situation.

Jasper, despite being from the technical dimension, had a strange sense of deja vu with the girl. He had machines read his brain waves to confirm the earlier messages. But the last few days he had been unable to reach out to her telepathically. However, the mind police had intercepted his messages. The mind police had a hunch that Jasmine might have a counterpart in the technical dimension and had traced him. The telepathic messages for further information confirmed their doubts. Jasmine had again blocked off all telepathic communication in fear of being traced.

The mind police had appeared in the technical dimension with exterminators, hoping to erase Jasmine’s technical self, Jasper. The security cameras had shown them entering the weather bureau, where Jasper had been working on an algorithm to keep the temperature steadily at 20 degrees Celsius. He had almost come to the end of the algorithm when he sensed a disturbance in his sense of equilibrium. His telepathic reader sent him warning signals by flashing a red light located at his desk. Jasper knew they had come for him. He rushed out telepathically telling his computer to shut down. But there were too many interferences, which would not allow his computer to function properly. It seemed there were other commanding mind waves. The mind police had managed to fog the security and machine intelligences with combined brain waves. They were really smart. Jasper was trying his best to block his mind from them. But, it was tough. He had been taken unawares. He tried hard to focus his thoughts on his next mathematical algorithm but it kept reverting to his situation.

The mind police had succeeded in jamming the weather machines. The outside started growing cold…people were zapped. Everyone was trying to contact Jasper. It would be easier to find Jasper if they were all looking for him. Jasper took out his laser knife and cut a hole in the wall of the washroom and jumped out in the open. It was growing colder and darker. Jasper had been forced to leave his communicator (a holographic phone) behind for fear of being caught. The mind police had pocketed it as a clue. Jasper skirted the edge of the building. He switched his jacket to winter mode and continued to move with caution. He moved cautiously, hoping to make it to his car. He had sent out a distress signal to his transporter with the remote. He did not know if it would come to his rescue. He saw a flash of red and silver against the glass and knew his transporter was flying to him. It had opened its doors. A robotic claw reached out and grabbed him. It seemed to swallow him like a flying saucer and made off into the distant sky. It became another red transporter, one among many that studded the sky.

The mind police realized they had lost him. They positioned their troops inside the building. The councillors in the creator’s dimension were really upset with them for persistently losing track of all the selves of Jasmine.

Most people had left for home. It was night and the wind was blowing strong. The mind police had put the setting at blizzard hoping that people would be forced to stay away from the office. That way the only person who could rectify the situation would be Jasper and he would be forced out of hiding to help his dimension recover. Jasper had become the chief of the weather bureau at the young age of thirty. He managed the weather of the technical dimension with gadgets made in harmony with nature. Jasper’s empathetic mindset, his telepathic gift and technical prowess had made him an excellent choice.

The mind police focussed on warmth indoors and sat at Jasper’s desk and inside the main entrance.

Jasper’s transporter whizzed into the sky and flew out towards his hideout in the hilly abandoned island. No one, except his immediate family knew about this hideout. On the outside, it continued to look like an uninhabited area. Jasper had moved his wife, parents, parents-in-law and baby into the hideout after getting telepathic messages from Jasmine. He had stocked it up with food and he already had a small self sustaining farm there, which could help the family survive for a good six months without contact with the outside world.

As his transporter flew over the ocean, he could see the gathering snow clouds. He flew straight at the mountaintop, which seemed to open like a gate at a command from his transporter and swallowed him up.

He was safe now against the mind police, he hoped. The landing pad gave way to a room full of computer screens and gadgets. His wife, Matilda, had been monitoring his rides while the baby played with his grandmothers in the enclosed courtyard.

“Good to have you home, honey, all safe and sound,” said Matilda.

Jasper kissed her on the lips and said, “Let’s hope for the best. They have got my communicator. That means I cannot link up to the office unless I create a new identity.”

“Don’t worry. Everything will work out. Come, let’s have dinner,” said Matilda.

“It is growing colder. I think they have tampered with the setting,” said Jasper as he followed his wife into the living quarters of his hideout.

It was quite a large villa concealed by foliage and hidden in a mountains island. In the middle of the villa was an open courtyard with an artificial unbreakable glass roof, which was now closed for safety. It let in the sunshine but the air inside the villa and the garden were controlled by computerized machines created by Jasper. Behind the villa was the organic farm managed by the family, again under a glass dome that could be opened or closed. Currently, it was closed for security. The temperature was always mild. It started to snow outside as the blizzard grew stronger. Soon the glass dome would be covered by snow and would become undistinguishable from the rest of the surroundings. The family was safe.

Meanwhile, Jasmine, Jacaranda and Gorge landed on the roof of the weather office. They did not know that the building was infested with the mind police as both Jasmine and Jacaranda had blocked off all telepathic communication for their own security. The wind was cold and it was starting to feel very cold. The three of them were shivering. Jacaranda started muttering an enchantment and, suddenly, the three of them found themselves clothed in weather appropriate clothes. They clung to the smooth glass top of the building wondering how to enter and find Jasper.

“What do we do from here?” asked Jacaranda.

“It is infernally cold and starting to snow,” said Gorge, his teeth beginning to chatter. “We need to get indoors.”

“The problem is I am scared to use telepathy and cannot get in touch with Jasper, our counterpart,” said Jasmine.

“We could go in invisibly. I have packed a set of invisibility pills, which can make us disappear for half an hour at a stretch,” said Jacaranda.

 

Book of the Week

 

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Title: Journey to the Centre of the Earth

Author: Jules Verne

Published in French as Voyage au centre de la Terre in 1864, Journey to the Centre of the Earth first appeared in English in 1871. Since then, there have been a number of translations and movies made of the original.

I have loved this story from my childhood for the uniqueness of the adventurer. Professor Lidenbrock, his nephew, Axel, and guide, Hans, journey to the centre of a volcano in Iceland in the footsteps of Arne Saknussemm, a fictitious, famous alchemist of the sixteenth century. Saknussemm claimed to have discovered the passage to the centre of the Earth through an extinct volcano in Iceland called Snaefellsjokull. Lidenbrock deciphers his writing in the ancient runic script and follows in his footsteps with Alex and Hans.

They discover a fantastic world. The interior of the earth seems to be lighted up by strange electrical impulses and has brown coloured vegetation( explained by lack of sunlight), streams, caves and an ocean. They discover bones of dead animals, mummies, strange plants and prehistoric fishes, some of which are eyeless. They sail on a raft in an underground ocean, watch dinosaurs battle and run away from a twelve-foot giant grazing a herd of mastodons. The spirit of the book is one of hope and adventure. While they ride on a raft of mummified wood on a hot solution of water and magma in hope of exiting the volcano by being thrown out with an eruption, Alex thinks they will surely die. The professor remains eternally hopeful. He says:

As long as this heart goes on beating, I can’t admit that any creature endowed with will-power should ever despair. 

The Professor is an eternal optimist who lives for his dreams. He does not pursue wealth or power as an end.

The three of them finally exit through Stromboli in Italy, thrown out by an eruption.

The book has an unusual and gripping storyline. There are some home truths that are spelt out by Professor Lidenbrock very well. Here is a sample I really liked.

Science, my boy, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.

This is a perspective that is borne true by discoveries made by greats like Steven Hawkins even today. That truth is a perception at a given point of time of a reality as perceived by a person and is mutable, that there are no black and whites in real life is so well borne out by this observation made by the professor.

We have had a number of Hollywood productions on this book and on this theme. I remember watching another movie called The Core. This had a journey to the centre of the Earth as well for different reasons. The scientists ride on a vehicle with a giant drill that  bores through the Earth to it’s centre as the planet has stopped spinning. People are dying and the weather is turning violent. A team, dedicated to help mankind, journey to the centre to help restart the spinning. The centre of the Earth is shown to be made of magma and is very hot. Some of the team die while trying to do the job. It is rather bleak.

Verne’s novel is less obvious, more gripping and less gory. Both the storylines had to do with courage and heroism. But, I found Verne’s story more appealing for it’s sense of values, creativity and adventure. It had a more imaginative approach and a sense of fun. If I were to reread the book or rewatch the movie I would select the book, Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

 

 

 

Beginning

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Stardust

In the galaxial world I float.
Dark, luminescent I soar
Through clouds of stardust.
Shooting stars whizz past.
I wish this eternity would last.
Auras of red and blue flash
As the distant nebulae clash
With the shine of the stars,
Making it into a fireworks night.
As I flit past the vast infinite
On my journey to explore the light
That gives this world it’s life.
Am I out there in the wilds
Of eternal space rides?
Or am I in the jungle deep
Of an unexplored reef,
With fishes that shine
Giving off luminescent light?
Strange shapes that lurk
In the darkness of the murk,
Oceans that lave
Into strange caves,
Caves that can be found on Mars
Among the far away distant stars…
And it all started with a few particles of dust
This fantastic, vibrant starburst
The ultimate creator of this universe!

The Creators

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As the day started to dawn, the hollow of the gnarled tree burst into flames of pale blue and silver. Out of it, emerged a swirling ball of mauve and magenta, which grew into an adult-sized Jacaranda. Jacaranda had arrived a little earlier than scheduled with a tiny string bag that held her belongings.

Jasmine, Jolyn and Gorge were breakfasting. Jolyn was in a better shape than before. She looked a bit sad but resigned. Gorge had convinced her that he was going as her knight to win a battle for her. When they finished the meal and stepped out, they saw Jacaranda and the dragon in conversation.

“Here come the seekers,” said the dragon.

“Hi!” said Jacaranda. The three of them murmured their greetings. Jasmine had on her knapsack and Gorge had been given a small backpack with snacks and some clothing by the dragon.

The dragon saw Jolyn looking sad. “Ah! My dear. Do not be sad. We really need you here. I need you to look after everybody in the house. You all also need to learn to use your telepathic skills while the adventurers are gone. We will form a telepathic communication club to practise our skills.”

Then tuning to Jasmine, Jacaranda and Gorge, he said, “Now, all you need is to ride the dragon cloud I will make for you. Jacaranda knows how to navigate the cloud through the skies. Incase, Dr Doom’s men do spot you, they can do nothing as the dragon cloud is impervious to spells, laser and bullets. The only thing that can pierce or destroy it is dragon fire.”

Saying this, the dragon raised his neck to the skies and gave three loud roars. Then he blew out fire three times and mumbled a spell…A golden dragon shaped cloud appeared in the sky and started floating down to the lawn. It stopped hovering just above the grass.

“Come get in, the three of you,” said the dragon.

Jacaranda climbed in. Jasmine went in a little warily as did Gorge. Jolyn stepped forward and kissed Gorge goodbye.

The cloud felt like a cold metal surface and gleamed as if with the rays of the rising sun. The dragon swayed his tail and turned around and whispered some soft words of incantation and the cloud started rising. The three of them looked down and waved. Jacaranda lay down on the neck of the cloud and it rose higher and higher. The other two watched amazed as the figures on the lawn receded and became tiny. The roof of the mountain seemed to have been replaced by the skies above the dragon lair.

As they floated out into the open, the sky was red-gold with the colors of the rising sun. The cloud almost looked like a part of the sunrise. However, a gunshot whizzed past their cloud as Dr Doom’s gang and the mind police on watch had spotted them. They had been on the look out for the group as Dr Doom and the counsellors were convinced that Jasmine and her multiverse selves were alive and well, even if their location remained unknown. If they had been dead, the counsellors would have sensed a disturbance in the universal consciousness. They insisted the guards stay alert. The guards were forever on a lookout. They worked in shifts. The mind police and Dr Doom’s men worked jointly. Dr Doom’s soldiers were smart enough to see the dragon cloud. And the mind police on Jasmine’s track could sense her thought waves and anxiety as they came into the open. Gorge’s anxiety too guided them to unearth the concealment. Jacaranda quickly stood up, mumbled some incantation and the dragon cloud encapsulated the three of them. A draft of wind seemed to blow them higher and further. The mind police hopped onto another cloud and started to follow them.

“Will the two of you stop being anxious? Learn to trust. Otherwise you will give us away. I know the cloud can turn invisible if we can all focus together. That way we can get rid of the mind police,” said Jacaranda.

“More easily said than done,” said Jasmine. “But we need to be bold and fearless. Gorge, breathe deeply with me and say Ommm from the pit of your stomach, like me. Repeat a few times. That always helps reduce stress and builds up the positive energy in us.”

“Would it not be easier to battle it out with them?” queried Gorge.

“They have tranquillizing guns which, if they can access us, will immediately put us to sleep. So, we should not think of a confrontation,”  Jasmine responded.

“Better listen to her. She knows them better than us,” said Jasmine.

“Okay,” said Gorge a trifle disconsolately.

Jasmine and Gorge started on their Ommms. Behind them, the mind police was shooting out laser rays to dissolve the cloud. It was difficult to be calm but Jasmine and Gorge continued in their effort. Slowly, they experienced a sense of calm. Then Jasmine, Jacaranda and Gorge held hands and focused on air…like they were a part of the breeze. They felt themselves sway…like a whiff of air. The cloud slowly faded out of vision even as the lasers hit the cloud. It floated on invisibly till the mind police started losing not just the cloud but also the thought waves emanating from the three of them. The mind police hunted for them for sometime and then went back to magicland as they had lost them. Eventually, focusing on the thought waves bore no results as the combined strength of their minds build a barrier against the police. Jasmine was excellent at concealing ideas and thought. They could not identify the thought waves of Gorge and Jacaranda clearly. They were forced to give up.

As the mind police faded out of sight, Jacaranda asked Jasmine, “So where to?”

Jasmine said, “Let us land on a safe dimension and then, I can pinge us into the technological dimension.”

“Safe, now what would be safe?” wondered Jacaranda.

“Perhaps we can land on that distant island,” said Jasmine, peering out of the cloud.

Jacaranda looked beyond and said, “That is the isle of wonder. A good place for us.”

“What is the isle of wonder?” asked Gorge.

“The isle of wonder is where gods, mythological heroes, dead souls who had great contributions come together over ages. It is an interesting place to visit. Their world is utopian. It’s lovely out there. We have to have special permission to access it. The only people who can visit freely are performers, artists, teachers and scientists. As I am a dance teacher, my accompanying guests and I are allowed entry against my pass. We can’t stay too long as the security coordinates visitors with the mainland security staff every week. So, we can only have a few days here,” said Jacaranda.

“We don’t need that much!” said Jasmine.

“It is a fantastic place. If we can evade the security by landing invisibly on a beach away from the security, we should be safe and we will have no record,”said Jacaranda. “I just love visiting the island.”

“Another time please,” said Jasmine. “If you can manage us an uncharted entry, it would be fantastic.”

“We could try the beach on the eastern side or the hill where Garuda, Daedalus and Icarus live. Daedalus is studying Garuda’s wings to learn the principles of making a pair of perfect wings.”

“Who are these people?” asked Gorge.

“Oh! These are all mythological creatures from Jacinth’s dimension. These myths do not exist in your dimension, is it?” asked Jasmine.

“No,” said Gorge. “Our myths are all to do with Gods of nature.”

“Interesting!” said Jacaranda. “We have creatures from myths of all dimensions here.”

“Garuda, Daedalus and Icarus are mythical creatures who could fly or aspired to fly high,” said Jasmine. “We study myths and history of all dimensions in the creator’s world. But others do not have that privilege.”

“We live it in the magic dimension,” said Jacaranda.

“I want something like this with living and real creatures,” said Jasmine. “And that is what everyone is upset about! And that is why the mind police are chasing us and threatening us!”

“I think I can fly us over the beach and land at the edge of the forest in the east. That should keep us away from the security’s vision,” said Jacaranda.

“And then, as soon as we are out of the dragon cloud, we will pinge into the technological dimension,” said Jasmine.

Gorge was watching the drama quietly. They started descending slowly and softly landed on a grassy patch.

“As we step out of the cloud, we will become visible and the cloud will disappear,” said Jacaranda.

“Wait, let me take out our pinging tongs,” said Jasmine. She dug into her knapsack and took out the tongs.

The three of them stepped out of the cloud into a grassy patch, held hands together as Jasmine clapped her tongs. They felt themselves squeezed and hurled. A rush of cold air and bright lights whizzed past till they landed unceremoniously on a cool, glassy surface.

 

 

Book of the week

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Title: The Good Earth
Author: Pearl S Buck

The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck, first published in 1931, was on the best seller list for two years and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932. It was regarded as a novel that created a bridge between China and the rest of the world.

Set in the early twentieth century, in an age of political unrest, we travel with the protagonist, Wang Lung, and his wife, O-Lan, through times of prosperity, famine and turmoil. Eventually, they become wealthy landlords themselves. Wang Lung even acquires a concubine. We see how despite remaining untouched by the political movements intellectually, the couple does profit from it. Wang Lung grows prosperous by robbing a rich man off his wealth. The rich man empties his pockets to the peasant in exchange of his life. Wang Lung and O-lan enter the home with the peasant hordes attacking the the rich man, instigated by followers of communists. O-Lan makes off with the jewels. The irony of the situation is that they do not know why they are robbing the man and they use the stolen wealth to recreate the lifestyle of the rich man themselves, back in their own home in the north.

Wang Lung, who started as a poor farmer with good values, is driven by poverty to pocket another man’s wealth for his own. In his world, people are revered for wealth and not for the process of acquisition. When Wang Lung’s son steals meat from a butcher, his mother cooks it. Wang Lung’s protests are feeble and ineffective for at the end he himself steals from a rich man to become wealthy. A rich man is seen as akin to God, untouchable and supreme.

It is a very life-like depiction of China, where even now, the common people are cut off from politics and events happening around the world. They only have access to what the Chineses media projects. The Chinese media continues to be the positive voice of the government. Even now, as through history,  people revere wealth and beauty to a very large extent. In Xian, you have the fabulous Huaqing Palace which was created by the Tang Emperor Xuanzong for his beloved Yang Guifei, initially his daughter-in-law and then his favourite concubine and consort. Not only did he marry his son’s wife but they had an excellent life together as he would write verses for her and she would dance to them, according  to tourist guides who love to relate this story to visitors like us.

Pearl S Buck grew up in China amidst these values and depicted them to the rest of the world with consummate skill. The story of Wang Lung and his wife are no less realistic than the other stories she has written.

There are things that are in common with Wang Lung and his dad and Scarlett O’Hara and her dad (Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell) …the love of their land, the strength, determination and courage to succeed and make it in this world… All four of them have these values. Both Scarlett and Wang Lung compromise the values they grew up with to fulfil their dreams and ambitions.

Pearl S Buck is not just a lucid writer but she delves into the psyche of the characters she creates. She  brings out the drama of the situations really well. I would put The Good Earth as a must read.

Quietness

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Silences

Listen to the silence of the walls.
Listen to the silence of the halls.
White, entrenched in quiet calm,
Singing a wordless psalm.
The sun reflected in the glass
Reaches out it’s radiant arms,
Mesmerises with it’s charms
Till reminiscences of the tall palms
Sing, sing to sound of the dancing waves,
In strange, unfamiliar octaves…
Dulcet notes that stir a happy song,
Far away from the rushing throng,
Where feathery, white clouds ply
On a benign, bright blue sky,
Where free of constraints of time,
The breeze rings out in chimes.
Lines flow from the stream
Of a long forgotten dream
And strange stirrings in the heart,
Create a shimmering world apart.
All this and more, it starts
From  meditating on the stars…

…Eternal, endless, initiators of  life…

The Creators

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8

It was afternoon, the sun was high in the sky. JaJa was snuggling up to Jasmine in a bid to get more candy. Gorge and Jolyn had returned from their excursion and were sprawled on the grass talking in a desultory fashion to Jasmine. Jacinth was writing still at a little distance, lost in her own make-believe world. Jamie was fast asleep, as if sleeping off the exhaustion of his whole lifetime.

Suddenly, the dragon snorted and shook his head. “I managed to contact Jacaranda,” he said looking at Jasmine. “She says she had been expecting you for the last couple of days. But yesterday, she stopped getting all communication from you. I told her you are with me and from my cave telepathic communication by anyone except me is impossible as I have created magical barriers. So, she is coming, coming very soon through cold fire…”

As the dragon communicated, the hollows on the gnarled tree flared up with a pale blue silver and magenta flame with started with a loud whooshing sound. Everybody, except the dragon, jumped up! Jacinth stopped writing and came close to the others. JaJa stopped fidgeting and even Jamie woke up with a start as Jolyn cried out, “Wow!”

The flames threw out a little magenta, silver and purple swirl rotating at very high speed. The swirl seemed to grow in size. As it grew bigger, everybody cowered behind the dragon. Finally, from the swirl emerged a young girl with multi-colored hair like a rainbow. The girl wore a strange costume, which seemed like an extension of the flame. She had on a pair of flaring mauve harem pants and a silver clinging top. On her hair and around her neck was a long turquoise scarf and on her feet blue green shoes with gold embroidery. She looked exotic. She had hazel eyes and thick black lashes. She was truly vibrant, though in features she did resemble Jasmine.

No one knew how to react and were staring open-mouthed.

The dragon said, “That was Jacaranda emerging out of cold fire! There is no need to be stunned…just plain old magic.”

“Hi!” she greeted everyone. “Good to see you well and happy Jasmine and thank you Mr Dragon. I wonder why people call you fierce! You have been most kind and helpful to all of us! ”

“It is a long story…some other time. Perhaps, Jasmine will tell you some other time. You both had better talk quickly before people notice you are missing. What is JaJa doing?” asked the dragon prince as JaJa started digging into Jacinth’s pockets in a bid to find candy. Now, JaJa had started treating Jacinth as her next caregiver.

“She is looking for candy. She is as hungry as are the rest,” replied Jacinth.

“Ah! You need is a larder and a kitchen!” said the dragon. “Then you are all free to eat and drink as you like.”He swished his tail and mumbled strange words. He closed his eyes and snorted three times. Then he said, “Go in and check. Near the left corner of the hall is a dining table. Adjoining it is the kitchen and larder, replete with food and drink. Get what you want! There will be other times to know Jacaranda. She needs to be very quick now and to return to work. She is supposed to have gone to a doctor for a quick check up, I believe. So, before her office checks with the school clinic, she needs to be back.”

Everybody except Jasmine, Jacaranda and the dragon went in.

Jasmine turned to the dragon, “I am truly grateful to you.”

“Hurry and talk. She could be missed at work anytime,” he responded.

“I am glad you are fine,” said Jacaranda to Jasmine. “I thought you were in the clutches of the mind police when I lost all contact with you yesterday.”

“Yes. Thanks to the generosity of the dragon prince, we are fine. We have decided to make this lair our safe house. The others will remain here while I travel to different dimensions to gather all our selves. It would be convenient if I had some help from you. Will you accompany me?”

“Yes. I will come. But we should have a few more in our team, I think…”said Jacaranda.

“Well, I could ask Gorge…if only Jolyn would let him go. Tell you what let us finalise the thing for tomorrow morning. We can start out at the break of day.”

“And I will give you a golden dragon cloud to make your escape into a new dimension…” said the dragon. “You will need a reason not to go to teach dancing at the school and be absent from home. What will you say Jacaranda to make things foolproof?”

“I could always pretend to have come down with zingpin at night and to have left for a rest cure. I told my class when it came I was feeling unwell and left,”said Jacaranda.

Jasmine said, “Hold on. I need to understand what you are talking of. What is zingpin and what is a dragon cloud?”

“You don’t know?!” said Jacaranda amazed. “A dragon cloud is a most powerful concealment spell. Concealed by a golden dragon cloud, you could go anywhere and stay concealed comfortably till you choose to reveal yourself. However, you can use this cloud only once. Once you step out of it, it dissolves. And zingpin is a contagious disease which weakens your magical ability. All people in magicland fear it above all other diseases. The only cure for it is rest in one of the four homes which have enchantments to help you regain your normal powers. So, except for my parents and the dragon, no one else will know the truth. I will be here at six forty five am sharp tomorrow and we will leave at sunrise. Is that okay?”

“Great!”responded Jasmine. “I will be ready to with or without Gorge.”

“See you all tomorrow. Give the others my good wishes,” said Jacaranda as she moved towards the gnarled tree. Putting her hands into the pocket of her harem pants, she drew out a little silvery powder from a tiny box, closed the box carefully and placed it back into her pocket.

She blew the powder in the hollow of her palm. Again she was covered in a puff of smoke and disappeared amidst a swirl of magenta, silver, purple and flames of pale blue and silver.

Jasmine stared mesmerized. The dragon called her back to reality with a, “Are you not hungry? Go join the others and bon appetit.”

Jasmine realized she was ravenous, smiled at the dragon and said, “Thanks. You are very kind and considerate.” She went indoors.

At the dining area, the others were eating. JaJa had finished her meal and was humming and swinging in a corner.

Everyone turned on seeing Jasmine. “Where is Jacaranda ?”

“She had to return. Will be back early tomorrow. What is there to eat?” said Jasmine , picking up a banana and peeling it.

“Come join us,” said Jolyn. “Sit here.” She laid a plate for her at an empty chair.

“Thanks,” said Jasmine.

She ate in silence as the others chatted. Even Jamie seemed to be calming don and settling in. She would broach the topic of their departure after the meal.

The meal ended. Jasmine said, “Jacinth, if I were to go away for a few days, could you take charge of JaJa and the rest of the team? The dragon prince would definitely help you communicate.”

“I guess so. But we could all come with you as we have been doing, you know?”

“No that becomes highly risky. This is a place safe from the mind police. The host is kind. He will be in touch with me all the time. It is better you all remain here. Jacaranda will come with me. And Gorge, if Jolyn will be kind enough to let him go.”

“I can come too,” said Jolyn.

“Please stay here and help by looking after everybody. That is something you do very well,”said Jasmine.

“Gorge and I have never stayed away from each other,” said Jolyn, looking appealingly at Jasmine and Gorge.

“I am always with you in spirit. If you need me desperately physically, ask the dragon to recall us and we will be here. It is safe here for you and the others. We can take care of ourselves. Don’t worry,” said Gorge. “ I would like to do this for us, for our children’s future, Jolyn. We will tell them these stories with pride and happiness.”

Jolyn had tears streaming down her cheeks. Gorge put his arms around her, pulled her close to himself and said to her, “Come let us talk in the privacy of our room.” As he left the hall with Jolyn, he told Jasmine, “Count me in.”

“I am happy to stay in the safe house…away from adventure with enough food, sunshine and rest,” said Jamie.

“That is why you can stay here Jamie.We all want you to be happy,” said Jacinth. “Jasmine, where will you go next?” asked Jacinth.

 

 

 

The Creators


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7

“What was that?!” exclaimed Jamie.

“I think we have hit the tabletop of a plateau,” said Jasmine.

“What plateau?” asked Gorge.

“Let us get down,” said Jasmine.

As they descended from the cloud to the plateau, they could see a steep mountain towering behind them. It had stalactite like growths. The ground was rocky, multi-colored, purple, green and gold. The sky above them was dyed a reddish gold with the rays of the setting sun. At a distance, the sea stretched out reflecting the colors of the sky. They could see a small black boat on the sea. Below was a lush green forest. It was beautiful.

They all stretched and Jamie sighed with relief. The group started looking around. They moved towards the ledges of the tabletop. JaJa was jumping. Jamie lingered behind the others and looked vary.

“How peaceful and lovely,” said Jolyn.

“We are at the portals of magicland,” said Jasmine.

Suddenly, Jamie, who was standing apart shouted, “Help!”He had been captured by a masked man who was holding him at gunpoint.There were about six masked figures surrounding the group. Each was pointing a gun at them and dressed like ninja soldiers in black.

Jasmine’s group stood frozen. Jamie was struggling and grunting.

“How dare you enter the domain of Dr Doom without permission!” boomed a loud fierce voice.

JaJa ran to Jasmine for shelter. She was beginning to whimper with fear.

A few more masked men popped out from behind the rocks. As the situation grew more desperate and the others cowered behind Gorge and Jasmine, another floating cloud came to rest near them. About twenty men in pale blue uniforms stepped out. They were holding weapons too but of a different kind. At the back of their shirts were written MIND POLICE in bold black.

“ Hand them over to us now,” said the leader of the group.

“ No,” said the person who seemed to be the chief of the masked bandits. “You need to meet Dr Doom first and settle the payments. None of your mind weapons will work here nor your tranquillizing gun or exterminator. This area has spells to immobilise all weapons except the ones made by us.”

“Our chief will come and settle that in a short while. Meanwhile, hand over the captives.”

“No,” came the sharp response.

The mind police tried shooting the tranquillizer and  realized the weapons were truly non-functional. One of the police ran towards one of Dr Doom’s crew and a tussle between the two ensued. Another of Dr Doom’s men shot a mind police member. He fell injured. The tussle grew more violent. The man holding Jamie turned to defend himself.

Jamie stumbled out of his grasp and ran to his own group.

Jasmine said, “Follow me. I know this terrain.”

The others ran with her while the two teams of captors struggled with each other. They slipped into a narrow crevice. A long passage lay ahead. Suddenly, they heard a shot and voices shouting, “The captives have fled.”

Jasmine put her fingers to her mouth,“ Shhh!” She motioned them to follow her. They all filed down a narrow passage and came to a part where the tunnel forked into four paths. The voices had receded but they could hear the search was on. They took the tunnel that seemed to have lain unused for sometime. It had delicate spiders’ webs all over. They ran down the narrow passage till they came to a red and gold door. They could hear voices in the tunnel now. They pushed the door. It opened. Inside was a huge red and gold serpent like dragon with gold wings. It breathed fire on seeing them.

The group moved to the farthest end away from the dragon, taking care to close the door behind them. They were terrified. And then, the dragon started to talk!

“And where do you think you are going?” asked the dragon in a sibilant whisper. “Do you not know I roast humans and have them for dinner if they infringe on my territory?”

Jasmine whispered back, “Please save us. We are running away from Dr Doom’s men and the mind police. They both want to capture us.”

“If you are Dr Doom’s enemies, I am your friend but it had better be the truth,” said the dragon.

There were voices drawing closer. Jasmine folded her hands in prayer and mouthed, “ Please.”

The dragon nodded his head and motioned them to hide behind him.

As the group crouched behind his huge body, they heard voices. “If they were stupid enough to enter the dragon’s lair, they are roast meat by now.”

Another said, “Are you sure?”

“No one has emerged alive from the dragon’s door ever. Why should they? Still if you are apprehensive, let us set guard against them at the fork in the tunnel and at the mouth of the crevice.”

“That sounds good,” replied the first voice. “ Our counsellors will be furious if we do not capture or kill Jasmine and erase the other’s memories or destroy them as well.”

Then the footsteps and voices faded and all grew quiet outside.

“So you are really hunted down,” said the dragon. “ You can shelter here till you find help.”

“ Thanks,” said Jasmine. “ You are very kind.”

“ I used to be a good prince, long ago, till Dr Doom turned me into this. My magic prevented him from killing me. It is rare anyone calls me kind. Most just fear me.”

“This sounds like out of a fairy story,” said Jacinth.

“So, who said fairy stories can’t be real?” asked the dragon. “In magicland anything is possible.”

“I am coming to believe anything is possible anywhere,” said Gorge.

“I still find the whole situation strange and unreal. I keep thinking I will wake up from a strange dream,” said Jamie. “ I am scared. I never wanted to be a part of an adventure.”

“But you are and there is nothing you can do. You cannot escape back to your own dimension either,” said Gorge.

Jamie did not look happy. He looked resigned and troubled.

“Are you all hungry?” asked the dragon.

The group nodded.

“Here!” Said the dragon with a swish of his tail. A table laden with burgers, chicken legs, cakes, candies, water and milk appeared out of nowhere. They feasted on the food. JaJa who felt rejuvenated after gorging on candy started to sing. Jasmine silenced her. Everyone was tired.

“Beds for you!” said the dragon with another swish of his tail, the lair grew in size and rooms with beds and attached washrooms appeared from nowhere. They all thanked the dragon profusely, washed and rinsed and turned in for the night.

The next morning, they woke to the twittering of birds. The cave seemed to have expanded into a huge home under a vibrant blue sky of it’s own. The dragon had worked his magic and created a mini-world for them.

The little group assembled in what seemed to be the garden, where the dragon sat guard.

“This is unusual magic indeed,” said Jasmine.

“I could do more in my hey days. I was the prince of magicland. Dr Doom was my court inventor. I liked him to make things for the benefit of mankind. But, somehow, he got attracted to black magic. I did not approve of his fascination for the black magic. He wanted power and wealth of unreasonable proportions. He also wanted to marry my sister, the princess Keiya. I was against the match. One day, he tricked me unawares. He told me that he wanted me to check out one of his gadgets, a spellbinder, a  gadget that would hold any creature bound in it’s spell for all times. When I entered it, he pulled a lever and I was trapped in this dragon’s body in this part of the mountain. He had cast a spell on me. Then he passed me off as an evil dragon who had swallowed up the prince and he trapped me in this liar.  He took away my kingdom, my sister. My family and subjects believed him. He painted himself a hero and everyone believed him. My sister even married him. As he became more entrenched in black magic, he exposed himself. He wreaked havoc till the others rebelled against his oppression and wicked ways. The good magicians combined forces till he was ejected from his throne and entrapped in these mountains. But he still tries to rule from here, I know,”concluded the dragon with a sigh.

“Oh God! I got carried away telling my story. You all must  be hungry. Let’s have some breakfast!” added the dragon prince. Again the magic table with plenty for everybody appeared. They all had breakfast.

Then Jasmine asked, “Your highness, can we help you in some way?”

“You all are running away from Doom yourselves. How can you help?”

“Perhaps, we will find a way… Let’s see. But, right now, I need to get in touch with Jacaranda,” said Jasmine.

“Why do you think of others here? Please do not leave. Stay here. I will create a wonderful world for all of us with my magic,” replied the dragon.

“Jacaranda could be in mortal danger as could my other selves be in different dimensions. The mind police want to destroy all of us because I wanted to create a multi-dimensional world. I am from the creators’ dimension and the counsellors are angry with me. They want to kill me and destroy my other selves as they see me as a rebel for not conforming to boundaries of dimensions created by them. Please help us. Help me get in touch with Jacaranda while the others stay here with you. This could be our safe house. What do you all think?” asked Jasmine turning to the others in the group.

“Might be a good idea,” said Gorge. “But I would like to help more if I can.”

“Sounds like a gilded cage to me,”said Jacinth . “But do we have a choice?”

“If the dragon helps us and does not hurt us and gives us good food, I do not care,” said Jamie.

“I have been so lonely that I would love to be understood and have company,” said the dragon. “But I need sometime to think how to get in touch with Jacaranda. I have to meditate on thought waves.”

And he fell into a quite slumber…

“Should we make a run for it while he sleeps?” whispered Jacinth to Jasmine.

“I do not think so. We should really stick with him. He seems to be a good and kind creature,” said Jasmine.

Jacinth acquiesced, looking a bit uncomfortable. She sat down on the grass,took out a little diary and began to scribble .

All this while, JaJa had been jumping with delight and chasing a butterfly from flower to flower in the beautiful garden of the palace.

Jamie shrugged,lay down on the grass at a little distance and dozed off again. Gorge and Jolyn went off by themselves to explore the garden further. Jasmine sat patiently by the dragon and waited. She gazed at a gnarled tree with hollows that made it look like a human face.