I want my lines

to surprise you always

by sending down your spine

shivers of awareness

so that

your eyes


their blind spots,

your ears


the sub-texts  of everything uttered,

your fingertips

gain courage

to feel the niches you’ve always avoided,

your tongue


the essence of tears and sweat,

not just  of forbidden taste,

your feet

tread on surfaces

neither rough nor smooth

but terrains unexplored,

your skin

welcomes the change of seasons,

your nose

sniffs out life-smells

of the seven ages of man,

and your hands

embrace the world


all fears and regrets.


p23 (c) pradeep gopalan



Those were times

when voices really mattered;

one paid close attention

to diction, tone, texture,

pitch, throw, and what-have-you,

discerning everything that rested  on the lines

that were uttered:

it was as if listening was an act

done in a province of the blind,

the attention span and awareness

quite simply absolute.


These days,

one listens only to reply

overlooking every nuance

in the voices one hears

and if one had one’s way

everyone would be reduced

to being only at the receiving end

as what only mattered

was the voice one held.


Nowadays when the clock

is sometimes wound in reverse,

the voice of Shankaranarayanan

emerges out of nowhere

with matchless calm and pace,

announcing, say,

a death or disaster in the headlines

of AIR’s Malayalam news at 7.25 am

as if reminding one to be equanimous

in all situations as the Gita exhorted !

One longs for those days in vain,

but hope returns soon:

one is reminded

there is RJ Sayema

still in our midst

to read with empathy

a Manto story

or those wonderful lines

from Ghalib or Nida Fazli

in a voice that appears

to epitomise

everything that is good.



p22 (c) pradeep gopalan







On the whole

he has three moles:

one, a wee bit north-east

from the right eyelashes;

the remaining two

are not readily seen.

Has astigmatism

but doesn’t lead

a double life:

on the contrary,

a very, very, ordinary life.


One look at his hands

will leave you disappointed:

he has only recently given up


Otherwise has a fetish

for cleanliness and order

and worships Marie Kondo.

Also aware that sometimes

it is better to be dirty and alive

rather than clean and dead.


Enjoys comfortable circumstances

and has always worked towards it.

Nowadays, one hears,

he is living off mutual funds-

not friends – get it right please!


He love affair now is with words

and hence will not answer the question

if he has philandered earlier.

These days he warms up to the likes of

Afterdark and Gridman:

his favourite c-word puzzle setters.


Except for a movie and a family dinner

every Friday, enjoys the comfort of his home:

difficult to seek him out on other days

otherwise than for urgent and unavoidable

household errands,

unless there is something like

a Kiran Nagarkar lecture

or a Pelva Naik concert

to be held nearby.


His bookshelf looks

suspiciously unread:

one title stands out –

How To Talk About Books

Without Reading Them.

Someone told him bluntly

that he is afflicted with


He has taken this charge

on the chin and

forgives the person


“he knows not what he says.”


He proudly proclaims

he is off Metformin

and on a regime

of diet and exercise.

Past sixty,

he is ticking off items

on  his bucket list.

Amongst the residual items

two stand out :

to immerse in the works of

e. e. cummings, and,

to publish at least

one slim volume of

memorable verse.



p21 (c) pradeep gopalan










I am formless now,

but absolute:

something I didn’t know

when I was out there.

Here I exist

purely as a unit

of consciousness:

I  imagine what I want

and become that.


Sometimes I am a string

gently depressed  in Raag Yaman

by Shiv Sharma on his santoor

or a note of longing

gliding out of Shreya Ghoshal’s throat

as she is singing Bairi Piya

or simply part of the colour mix

in the bodies of Lucien Freud

or a trembling line in a

Shakespeare sonnet:


Examples too many

to contain here.


In this state,

time of the day and season of the moment

are completely irrelevant.

Let me put it simply for you:

I am one with the beautiful world

I  presently reside:



p20 (c) pradeep gopalan





One always falters

at the first few lessons:

it is always baby steps

in all enterprises

of knowing and doing

before everything seems

so breezily natural.


Search engines may have

truly saved our time and energy

but don’t always be seduced

by the allure of their quick fixes:

they cannot tell you

how a rose smells –

you have to step out

into the garden yourself.


Skills aren’t mastered

in a day:

most of us may perhaps need

more than Malcolm Gladwell’s

ten thousand hours.

Patience is the handmaiden

of all learning.


The ultimate discovery

in learning  is this:

Not only is a little knowledge

a dangerous thing;

the more one thinks one knows,

one will soon discover

what an ignoramus one is.

True learning

humbles us all

because there is so much to know:

we cannot stop




p19 (c) pradeep gopalan




For every day one wakes up to:


New eyes

to view the world besides oneself;



that touch the pulse of life itself;



one never thought of;



for the senses that will never stop;


and above all,



that will outlast everything else.



p19 (c) pradeep gopalan









More than seven decades ago,

the most gentle of writers,

Edward Morgan Forster


respect for what is outside a book

should be inversely proportional

to what is  inside.


Mindful reading

is not for discovering

errors or typos

but to read between the lines;

to soak in the atmosphere

and muse with a curious

mix of detachment and wonderment

if everything between

the first page and the last

rings true;

if one is within the realm

of possibility.


Maugham had meanwhile alerted:

if every page in a book sparkles

one can be pretty sure

it isn’t a classic and

most certainly,

poorly reflective of life itself.

(Fantasies excepted)


Books on the shelves

and on the Kindle

are vying for attention.

While the clock will keep ticking


the heart beat will stop sooner

rather than later.

Hence, one has to reach

for only the best.


p17 (c) pradeep gopalan




When the hand moves,

words formerly in the mind

now submerged in ink

emerge out of the nib-edge afresh

to dry on paper

for others to discern

what one’s thoughts are.

If a nagging doubt persists

that words currently in mind

may fail to embody

both intent and expression

one has to only

stay still for a while

and defer release

until the most apposite words

have surfaced  to fit in.


p18 (c) pradeep gopalan