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







Ever since I have

no deadlines to meet

or face the tyranny

of a work routine,

everyone I encounter

looks askance at me,

appearing to say:

“You’ve all the time

in the world,

lucky you!”

Perhaps, truly,

I am working things out

for myself

and less for others.


The luck alluded to

appears valueless

as those around

are indifferent to

the invitations I extend

for perceiving

what is written between

the lines I have read

attentively, very attentively,

or the subtexts that I have heard

beneath the words uttered.

“You are growing old and stubborn,”

I am warned.


I also don’t wish

that anyone  who matters to me


the memorable lines of a great book,

or the frames of a wonderful film,

or the strains of imaginative music

that transports me, now and then,

to nirvana.

“That’s all fine for you,

but leave us alone,”

is the constant refrain.


I remain therefore

alone in my happiness

and understanding

which transmutes gradually

into a strange sorrow

as what is happiness or knowledge,

I ask,

if it is incapable of being


and which I am unable

to convince others

to partake

since some things wonderful

and worth looking into

are really being

missed ?


p16 (c) pradeep gopalan







Pay heed

to the signals

the body continually


no one has blindfolded you.



when you are nudged

off and on

by your hoarse voice,

by untimely yawns,

or by tired eyes,

or aches in your joints,

or when pain jabs

your heart

or radiates down

your arms

and the pores

give way to sweat.


Pay attention

to what you are

not eating;

ignore the junk

you have gulped so mindlessly,

and in a hurry.


your food habits:

whether you eat to live

or otherwise

eat only when you are hungry

and embrace

what’s more wholesome.


Don’t sit for long,

climb stairs,

get some fresh air.

smell roses,

walk, run, perspire.


Don’t pass out

in your office

with your shoes and PC on

(no one really cares).

Many things

besides “work”

must engage your attention:

health first,

followed by

several other things

that you always

wanted to do.


When every tomorrow

is something

you look forward to

and not just another day,

you are truly

paying attention.

(No medicines required).


p15 (c) pradeep gopalan







Portions of your script

are already embedded in your DNA;

the rest is entirely for you

to improvise

as you are thrust on the stage

where actors and audience

are both performers :

everyone’s role is neatly cut out.

There is no green room for you

to change costumes or rehearse:

think on your feet and play.

Don’t rely on prompters:

most likely they will mislead


The role gets challenging

by the minute, by the hour;

mid-way if you have found

your metier

you can change your role too

(as many others are changing theirs).

If you have stumbled once

you are offered a second chance:

but that’s all you will  have.


Sometimes the lights go out

but they return surely.

By then the stage would have changed

for you to adapt.

All of man’s seven deadly sins

are at full play here:

you needn’t be a sinner or

for that matter a saint.

Trust your instincts

and as the great playwright advised:

To Thine Ownself Be True.

When your time comes

you’ll  just leave: no cues here.

Only make  sure

that you’ll have brought the stage down

with the audience hungry

for an encore.



p14 (c) pradeep gopalan












The laughs that Wodehouse raises

by simply bringing together

Bertie Wooster and Jeeves

actually drives a truth home:

from one’s first cry

when out into this world

until one’s last breath,

the search always has been

for mot juste.


Can a thing or experience

only be described

by what it is not

than  by what

it really is ?

Neti, neti – not this, not this,

is the constant refrain

even in Upanishadic debates !


One needs only to be truthful

to say what one means

and mean what one says:

authenticity then

will perhaps prevail


the constant presence

of subtlety, nuance, and

ambiguity as fellow travellers

in one’s struggle

for expression.



p13 (c) pradeep gopalan



Something has to happen

at the end of a wait.

Milton mused about waiting

six centuries ago while

introspecting about his blindness

and nowadays Buffet

continually exhorts

investors to endure

a long term wait

to realise their bounty.


Lovers ponder with impatience

the sweetness that will ensue

after the waiting ends for

their first rendezvous

even as one of them may

search hard for credible excuses

for turning up late.

Artists are forever in wait

for inspiration to strike

or arrive

knowing well

that creation is

at the summit of waiting.

One has to wait for answers

to  life’s questions,

particularly hard ones,

that even a Google search

may not yield.

Yet, holding the handmaidens

of patience and silence

in life’s waiting rooms

one can witness

how wounds heal,

seasons change,

growth happens or

bad times abate.


Privilege or power

cannot err in testing the patience

of people who are waiting :

chaos will only ensue,

sooner rather than later.

No waiting is essential

to do good or render help

to those who need it:

here one must act impulsively

and without much ado.

Focus on efforts, the Gita says,

don’t be so mindful of results.

Everything happening

or evolving

has a process

time takes care of,

hence do not demand

premature outcomes.


Don’t be so sure

that waiting rooms

at travel stations, hospitals, or offices

will help one endure

the waiting:

carry music or

at least a book with you.

Sometimes, even if the

wait was hopeless ,

it would have been

time well spent.



waiting is all

one can and has to do.


nothing happening

is also an outcome

even when one suspends

the need to wait.



p12 (c) pradeep gopalan










Didn’t need the alarm

to rise at five sharp

nor an admonition

to complete the exercises.

The fasting blood sugar was

just lovely and

nothing in the newspapers

left one depressed.

Only got four clues wrong

at yesterday’s crossword,

and the FM was playing

one’s favourite tunes.

Didn’t forget anything

on the errands I ran, and,

the reversing on the parking lot

went perfect

on a single take.


The wife didn’t complain

of a bad hair day or

shoulder pain, and

surprisingly, for

the first time,

the maid rang the doorbell

punctually at eight.

By late afternoon,

the Sensex had tanked

1020 points, on global cues,

as the analyst explained,

and the wonderful mood hitherto

was beginning to wither.

No, I didn’t want the

the world to determine

my state of well-being.

I switched off the telly

and removed Mary Oliver

from the bookshelf

and began reading

The Wild Geese:

it was pure nirvana

and by the time

the sky turned slowly


pleasant surprises


the son was home

by six-thirty.

After a long time

it was a family dinner

at eight.

It’s time now

I think to let you know

really why it was

such a perfect day:

for a change,

one had switched off

the cellphone

quite early at sunrise

just as the vibes

of  a good day

was in the air.



p 11 (c) pradeep gopalan