Poetic Injustice

Is there something like poetic injustice?

The red effluent emptying into the sea through a pipeline is not a chemical; it is waste from a fish cutting factory a few hundred meters from the shore at Kadike beach, Udupi dist. If you want me to spell it out, it’s fish blood. And bits and pieces of fish too, I guess, my clue being the crazy number of eagles hovering around the point where the waste is flushed into the sea. Every now and then, they swoop down to pick up tiny pieces of cut fish that must’ve gotten flushed along with the blood.

After observing them for almost half an hour, I’ve decided that not only is this a case of poetic injustice, like I pointed out, but also one of rendering the eagles lazy, almost domesticating them! I stood for a few minutes exactly under the cover of eagles in the sky -they were flying pretty low and their white heads popping out of speckled coats looked awesome from below- but none was bothered by my presence; their eyes were all on what the pipe was spitting out.

The pic above is of one of the two pipes that connect the factory to the sea. Ambling along the beach, when I first spotted the red effluent though, it wasn’t gushing out of this pipe but what seemed to be a cloth embedded into the sand a few feet into the sea (see pic below). My detective senses went on an overdrive and I imagined all sorts of things… especially given the fact that there was news just the previous day of mutilated parts of a lady’s body having been found in Mangalore, not far from where I was.

‘Could this be someone’s mutilated body part?’

I shuddered at the thought.

A closer look revealed that my imagination was indeed fertile, thanks to the innumerable whodunits I watch on TV! The cloth was just a shoddy job at camouflage -it covered a pipeline that carried the effluent to the sea. I sighed in relief, but was soon angry at the mindless pollution being caused, no doubt by some chemical factory nearby. Seeing a local strolling along, I stopped him and asked him about the effluent.

That’s when I was told about the fish cutting factory.

My anger immediately dissolved into deep sadness at the irony of it all… imagine you are the ocean; how would you feel when the blood of your own children were drained back into your lap? Tears collected in my eyes as I looked at the waves lashing against the shore -a desperate ocean trying to collect every remaining bit of her children and pulling it into herself… back into the womb from which they’d all once emerged.

Yet, there is a counterpoint to it all. Yuval Noah Harari says in his book Sapiens that it was the Cognitive Revolution that made homo sapiens a successful species. I agree. The power of imagination did set us apart and it is that power that makes me imagine the sea to have a soul, to feel like I do, to react like I would. What if I did not imagine? What if the sea was merely lashing its waves ‘coz that’s what nature, as explained by science, makes it do? And the fish? Well, they do not have cognition; they might suffer physically as they gasp for breath and die, but they don’t grapple with concepts like ‘was my fish life purposeful‘. They just cease to exist.

And that brings me to the part where I realize how important a part language plays in our cognition. When I asked the local about the red effluent, his words were crude – fish cutting was the exact phrase he used. And it is his choice of words that has made me write this entire piece! What if he’d said fish processing? Sounds more mellow, more peaceful, more acceptable to the emotional bit of our brain, doesn’t it?

Note: What I’ve expressed above was typed onto the ‘notes’ app in my phone in one flow -from start to end. I haven’t edited it; it felt more authentic to present my thoughts in the exact same sequence they occurred to me as I walked along the beach… all in the space of fifteen minutes!

Secret Secrets

S-E-C-R-E-T.

What image does that six letter word conjure in your mind?

A whisper?

A conspiracy . . . Secret Society?

Rumour mongering? Gossiping?

I remember the nursery rhyme that went ‘Seven for a Secret never to be told’. It does have a sinister, hush-hush aura about it, doesn’t it? On the other hand, it’s also funny how much stress a single word can thrust upon you, sending you into an emotional whirlwind if you are the melodramatic kind. If you’ve not been made privy to a secret, you feel betrayed, your very faithfulness is under the scanner. If someone has indeed deemed you worthy of sharing a secret, you feel elated, proud and trusted although that’s no guarantee that you’ll not, in turn, share the secret with someone else, making the whole thing redundant.

Which begs the question -How many people need to be involved in this verbal transaction for it to qualify as a secret? A quote by Benjamin Franklin goes:

‘Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead.’

Does that mean a secret is a one-person thing? Is it possible for a person to successfully hide it from the world without choking? And do secrets really die with a person or do they assume a life of their own even after the person bearing it is dead? Well, I truly don’t know. But I do know what you can do to try and wriggle out that secret from me! Here’s  a poem by yours truly enunciating just that:

Secret

©Priya Narayanan 2016, All rights reserved

Pour me a drink.

My stories are in the bubbles
that rush past. Fleeting, floating,
rapturous, rumbustious –
my stories are the ones
that kiss your lips
and tingle your senses
before common sense prevails
and strangles each story
lest you gulp them down
and become one with them.

Pour me a drink.

My stories are in the ice cubes
that float like fish
in the koi pond
where you come to feast your eyes
on the streaks of golden orange,
your passionate gaze
causing them to sink to the bottom
from where only a coin diver
can collect them again –
if he has faith that they do indeed exist.

Pour me a drink.

My stories are in the numbness
of my tongue –
my otherwise wagging tongue
that is now paralyzed into silence.
Can you hear the stories
in my silence? Can you see
the stories in my eyes,
where the pupils
have been replaced
by the moon and his darker twin?

How long does it take for a story
to travel from the eyes and the ears
to the tongue?

Pour me a drink
and I might let you into my little secret.

Winner of the OWAQ poetry contest held by anoshoflife.com

Do you have a secret? Have you shared it with anybody? If so, what has your experience been? Do drop in a note in the comments below.
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