Tuesday, October 18, 2011

THE FINAL KISS

A drizzle of droplets dribbled by,
Fading away the candles fair,
Stood on to the coffin's head,
Where you,my friend slept in peace.

Dressed in gloomy white you lay,
An angel at her well-earned rest,
Brief was time and hard was life,
But perfect were the moments you spent.

Life was a cross hanged on your neck,
Like the one in your folded hands,
But the vim with which you met
The questions of life made you great.

Never did fate smile upon you,
Ever did friends ignore you,
But I think the time has come,
When God cared to look at you.

Oh! dear look at them cry,
Whom at death-bed ignored you,
They weep their hearts out,
Soon to be filled again with blooms of joy.

The way you filled my paths with love,
Made you a good pal of mine,
Never will I forget how you cared,
Me, who had only pains to bear.

The deafening silence your mind conveys,
Like sword pierces my inner soul.
Ah! I feel the world around me,
Collapsing into grains of sand.

Now, with tears streaming in my eyes,
Let me kiss you for a final time,
Time to move on to a heavenly world,
Where, May your soul rest in peace.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"French And English"


Go through this essay by one of my favourite writers. I admire the wit and the way he use the language. He has an affection for long sentences but they are nevertheless, complex or intricate.

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It is obvious that there is a great deal of difference between being international and being cosmopolitan. All good men are international. Nearly all bad men are cosmopolitan. If we are to be international we must be national. And it is largely because those who call themselves the friends of peace have not dwelt sufficiently on this distinction that they do not impress the bulk of any of the nations to which they belong. International peace means a peace between nations, not a peace after the destruction of nations, like the Buddhist peace after the destruction of personality. The golden age of the good European is like the heaven of the Christian: it is a place where people will love each other; not like the heaven of the Hindu, a place where they will be each other. And in the case of national character this can be seen in a curious way. It will generally be found, I think, that the more a man really appreciates and admires the soul of another people the less he will attempt to imitate it; he will be conscious that there is something in it too deep and too unmanageable to imitate. The Englishman who has a fancy for France will try to be French; the Englishman who admires France will remain obstinately English. This is to be particularly noticed in the case of our relations with the French, because it is one of the outstanding peculiarities of the French that their vices are all on the surface, and their extraordinary virtues concealed. One might almost say that their vices are the flower of their virtues.

Thus their obscenity is the expression of their passionate love of dragging all things into the light. The avarice of their peasants means the independence of their peasants. What the English call their rudeness in the streets is a phase of their social equality. The worried look of their women is connected with the responsibility of their women; and a certain unconscious brutality of hurry and gesture in the men is related to their inexhaustible and extraordinary military courage. Of all countries, therefore, France is the worst country for a superficial fool to admire. Let a fool hate France: if the fool loves it he will soon be a knave. He will certainly admire it, not only for the things that are not creditable, but actually for the things that are not there. He will admire the grace and indolence of the most industrious people in the world. He will admire the romance and fantasy of the most determinedly respectable and common-place people in the world. This mistake the Englishman will make if he admires France too hastily; but the mistake that he makes about France will be slight compared with the mistake that he makes about himself. An Englishman who professes really to like French realistic novels, really to be at home in a French modern theatre, really to experience no shock on first seeing the savage French caricatures, is making a mistake very dangerous for his own sincerity. He is admiring something he does not understand. He is reaping where he has not sown, and taking up where he has not laid down; he is trying to taste the fruit when he has never toiled over the tree. He is trying to pluck the exquisite fruit of French cynicism, when he has never tilled the rude but rich soil of French virtue.

The thing can only be made clear to Englishmen by turning it round. Suppose a Frenchman came out of democratic France to live in England, where the shadow of the great houses still falls everywhere, and where even freedom was, in its origin, aristocratic. If the Frenchman saw our aristocracy and liked it, if he saw our snobbishness and liked it, if he set himself to imitate it, we all know what we should feel. We all know that we should feel that that particular Frenchman was a repulsive little gnat. He would be imitating English aristocracy; he would be imitating the English vice. But he would not even understand the vice he plagiarised: especially he would not understand that the vice is partly a virtue. He would not understand those elements in the English which balance snobbishness and make it human: the great kindness of the English, their hospitality, their unconscious poetry, their sentimental conservatism, which really admires the gentry. The French Royalist sees that the English like their King. But he does not grasp that while it is base to worship a King, it is almost noble to worship a powerless King. The impotence of the Hanoverian Sovereigns has raised the English loyal subject almost to the chivalry and dignity of a Jacobite. The Frenchman sees that the English servant is respectful: he does not realise that he is also disrespectful; that there is an English legend of the humorous and faithful servant, who is as much a personality as his master; the Caleb Balderstone, the Sam Weller. He sees that the English do admire a nobleman; he does not allow for the fact that they admire a nobleman most when he does not behave like one. They like a noble to be unconscious and amiable: the slave may be humble, but the master must not be proud. The master is Life, as they would like to enjoy it; and among the joys they desire in him there is none which they desire more sincerely than that of generosity, of throwing money about among mankind, or, to use the noble mediaeval word, largesse - the joy of largeness. That is why a cabman tells you you are no gentleman if you give him his correct fare. Not only his pocket, but his soul is hurt. You have wounded his ideal. You have defaced his vision of the perfect aristocrat. All this is really very subtle and elusive; it is very difficult to separate what is mere slavishness from what is a sort of vicarious nobility in the English love of a lord. And no Frenchman could easily grasp it at all. He would think it was mere slavishness; and if he liked it, he would be a slave. So every Englishman must (at first) feel French candour to be mere brutality. And if he likes it, he is a brute. These national merits must not be understood so easily. It requires long years of plentitude and quiet, the slow growth of great parks, the seasoning of oaken beams, the dark enrichment of red wine in cellars and in inns, all the leisure and the life of England through many centuries, to produce at last the generous and genial fruit of English snobbishness. And it requires battery and barricade, songs in the streets, and ragged men dead for an idea, to produce and justify the terrible flower of French indecency.

When I was in Paris a short time ago, I went with an English friend of mine to an extremely brilliant and rapid succession of French plays, each occupying about twenty minutes. They were all astonishingly effective; but there was one of them which was so effective that my friend and I fought about it outside, and had almost to be separated by the police. It was intended to indicate how men really behaved in a wreck or naval disaster, how they break down, how they scream, how they fight each other without object and in a mere hatred of everything. And then there was added, with all that horrible irony which Voltaire began, a scene in which a great statesman made a speech over their bodies, saying that they were all heroes and had died in a fraternal embrace. My friend and I came out of this theatre, and as he had lived long in Paris, he said, like a Frenchman: "What admirable artistic arrangement! Is it not exquisite?" "No," I replied, assuming as far as possible the traditional attitude of John Bull in the pictures in Punch - "No, it is not exquisite. Perhaps it is unmeaning; if it is unmeaning I do not mind. But if it has a meaning I know what the meaning is; it is that under all their pageant of chivalry men are not only beasts, but even hunted beasts. I do not know much of humanity, especially when humanity talks in French. But I know when a thing is meant to uplift the human soul, and when it is meant to depress it. I know that Cyrano de Bergerac (where the actors talked even quicker) was meant to encourage man. And I know that this was meant to discourage him." "These sentimental and moral views of art," began my friend, but I broke into his words as a light broke into my mind. "Let me say to you," I said, "what Jaurès said to Liebknecht at the Socialist Conference: 'You have not died on the barricades.' You are an Englishman, as I am, and you ought to be as amiable as I am. These people have some right to be terrible in art, for they have been terrible in politics. They may endure mock tortures on the stage; they have seen real tortures in the streets. They have been hurt for the idea of Democracy. They have been hurt for the idea of Catholicism. It is not so utterly unnatural to them that they should be hurt for the idea of literature. But, by blazes, it is altogether unnatural to me! And the worst thing of all is that I, who am an Englishman, loving comfort, should find comfort in such things as this. The French do not seek comfort here, but rather unrest. This restless people seeks to keep itself in a perpetual agony of the revolutionary mood. Frenchmen, seeking revolution, may find the humiliation of humanity inspiring. But God forbid that two pleasure-seeking Englishmen should ever find it pleasant!"

-- G. K. Chesterton.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Risking Life or Journalism

Janine was one among the top female war journalists at present. She has covered almost all the wars during the last two decades. Here is a fine piece from her about her life as a War Reporter.........


Love and War
Janine di Giovanni: She is the author of the forthcoming book “Ghosts by Daylight: Love, War, Redemption.” 

MOGADISHU, winter, 2002. The sun was beginning to drop as I climbed the roof of my guesthouse and began the finicky task of setting up my satellite telephone.
From the roof, I could hear the call to prayer from a nearby muezzin. It was the time of evening between twilight and night — what the French call “entre le chien et le loup.” I took out my flashlight and began to phone the other world.
The other world was where I lived when I was not on the road more than three-quarters of the year, in war and conflict zones. The other world was my second-floor flat in London, my family in America, my friends scattered across Europe.
The other world was where I thought about the future, about bills, options, choices. It was a place, unlike war zones, that terrified me.
The first call was to a friend, Julian, who had left an urgent message.
“Sweetheart,” he said gloomily. “Sit down. I have some terrible news.”
The day before, he told me, one of our closest friends had taken a gun, pointed it to his head and fired. I held the phone steady in my hand, pointing toward some remote satellite in the sky, and thought about his corpse, unmoving and still. It was impossible: Juan Carlos was the most vital person I knew. Like me, he was a journalist who had reported war for many decades. That night in Mogadishu, I mourned my friend alone. I cried, not just for him, but for all the evil we had seen: the mass graves, the rape victims, ethnic cleansing, the sewer in East Timor where a dead man, purple and swollen, floated in dark water, the relentless, constant misery.
The images never seemed to fade. Neither did the suffering. That day, I’d been to a hospital that didn’t have enough beds for those who suffered bullet wounds. People lay under trees, groaning with pain. I sat for hours with a little boy who had been blinded by shrapnel during a firefight between rival clans.
I wept not for the little boy and for misery in general, but for myself, too. As a war reporter, I’d been in various danger zones for more than a decade. I was exhausted. I had not experienced motherhood, or a routine domestic life. The female combat reporters who served as role models for me, Martha Gellhorn and Gloria Emerson, never gave birth; both died alone. I did not want to end my days that way.
My life was the opposite of cozy domesticity. I slept with a pre-packed bag with clothes, and had a wardrobe consisting of “winter war” (Chechnya, Balkans, Afghanistan, northern Iraq) parkas and boots and “summer war” (Liberia, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Guinea, etc.) baggy shirts and trousers. I had a collection of Middle East and “strict Islam” head scarves, abayas and kurtas. When I went on the rare holiday with friends who had children, I listened like an alien as they talked about schools and real estate.
The next day in Mogadishu, the teenagers with AK-47s I had hired to protect me, heard of my sadness. One by one, they brought me little presents: a lighter, a seashell, a single cigarette, and offered words of condolence.
One told me we were all on a train to death. “In Somalia, it just happens faster.”
In the middle of this trip, I had another astonishing telephone call. It was from Bruno Girodon, the French reporter I had met and fallen in love with in Sarajevo in 1993. We parted after a brief affair. We met again during the war in Algeria in 1998. That time, the love stuck. I felt I had met someone who spoke the same language, who shared my compulsion to follow wars and disasters, who knew what it felt like to come home at night feeling ashamed to be human. But our lifestyles didn’t seem to promise much of a future.
We had broken up in Tora Bora a few months earlier; he retreated to his home in Abidjan, where he was covering the violent conflict in Ivory Coast. I wandered through Africa — from Nigeria to Zimbabwe to Kenya to Somalia — with a single bag.
Somehow Bruno tracked me down. He was in Rwanda when he reached me in Ivory Coast. He’d made a decision.
“Let’s get married,” he said over a crackling satellite wire as I watched the sun drop in the sky, leaving darkness, stars and the pop of gunfire. “Let’s have a baby.”
Two years later, I lay in a grimy French hospital drugged out of my skull. A doctor handed me a still and quiet baby who had arrived seven weeks early. (I had been working in Gaza when I began dilating at 21 weeks and was ordered on bed rest.)
“Is he dead?” I whispered, looking at the quiet form. “No, he’s not dead,” said the shocked doctor. “Hold your son.”
And so Bruno and I — two very wounded souls who had seen truly terrible things — began life as new parents. We believed the baby — who laughed and smiled and was utterly untouched by coups d’état and genocide — was our redemption. We called him Luca, the bringer of light.
Family life in Paris seemed a miracle. Water that ran out of taps and was not contaminated! Working phones! Doctors who had antibiotics and painkillers!
For some time, there was great beauty. Then it all started to grow dark. Baudelaire wrote of ghosts in Paris that tug at your sleeves. The ghosts of our past started pulling at ours. I was haunted by the awful feeling that, no matter where I was, something catastrophic had just happened. I watched for flares in the sky. I listened for AK-47s and turned on the radio to BBC for news of a coup d’état — in Paris.
And Bruno began to have nightmares, and to drink heavily. A devoted father, he stayed up all night to take care of the baby, and never seemed to sleep. He played bizarre video games, all about war and destruction. Terror, the kind that freezes your stomach, became an odd presence in our lives.
Civilian life was tougher for us than life together under bombardment. Why did we function better in a world in which death was constant, where we saw men with hands tied behind their backs, naked, in our front yard after death squads had done their dirty business? I don’t know. But Bruno and I both operated best in a war zone.
WAR reporters may not be ideal parents. In 2010 alone, 44 journalists were killed worldwide. Of these, 6 were killed in combat and 11 on dangerous assignments. Many more have been wounded or narrowly escaped death.
As I write, Bruno is in a military hospital in Paris recovering after being shot in the face by a sniper in Tripoli. He has a hairline-fractured jaw and has suffered hearing loss, but he is all right — and is healing. But this will not stop him. “I felt so alive,” he said when he described the moments before he was shot. And I am going to Libya later this month to continue his work. I don’t work the high-risk assignments the way I used to, but I still go to places I probably should not.
In fact and by choice, except for short, sharp assignments I can finish in five or six days, I’ve been home with Luca for five years. This was my response to parenting advice I got then from Ahmad Chalabi, a controversial Iraqi politician when I was in Baghdad, and Luca, then 4 months old, was at home in Paris.
“There will always be more wars,” he scolded me. “But if you miss Luca’s first tooth, or his first step, you will never forgive yourself.”
I took his advice, missed Falluja and Afghanistan and Gaza, and instead learned how to bake cupcakes and enroll in children’s art classes at the Louvre. Eventually, the pull took over and I went back.
As I was leaving for Benghazi last spring, Luca turned to look at me as he walked down the stairs, hand in hand with his father: “Mama, can’t you go somewhere less dangerous?” It did and always will break my heart to say goodbye to Luca. But I still went.
People often ask why I still do it. When they do, I think of Dili Babu, an Indian boy I wrote about when Luca was an infant. Dili Babu was dying of AIDS. He looked like an injured sparrow. I spent hours on the floor with him, feeding him bread and water. I wanted so badly to take him back to Paris with me, to make him better, to will him a better life.
For months, I kept a photograph of Dili Babu above my desk, next to one of sunny Luca, and I wired money to a bank in Chennai for his treatment. Then one day, the director of the orphanage sent me a message: Pray for Dili Babu. His soul is no longer with us.
I am not sure that what I do as a mother always works. Like every parent, I try. I make huge mistakes. But my son is loved, wanted. As cinematic and passionate as it was, my love affair with his father could not sustain itself, perhaps because of the damage we have witnessed. We parted with sadness and immense love.
And there is Luca, bringer of light, promise, redemption.


@Copied from The New York Times

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Facebook as a narrative tool........

Ian Shapira is a features writer on the local enterprise team. He joined the Post in 2000 and has covered schools, youth culture, criminal justice, and technology. In 2007, Shapira was on the Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings. 


How brilliant he weaves this story using Facebook as a narrative tool. Just read it. Thanks

A Facebook story: A mother's joy and a family's sorrow


Even before Shana Greatman Swers got pregnant, the 35-year-old married consultant had a habit of posting on Facebook about nearly anything. She loved writing about her husband, Jeff, her friends at work, and the prospect of having a baby. People who knew her followed every turn on the social network, starting when she wrote on March 10 that "Shana Greatman Swers and Jeff are thrilled to announce to the world that little baby Swers will be joining our family this September. Good thing we bought the bigger house!" But the chain of messages that the Gaithersburg resident wrote over the next eight months would ultimately become a modern interactive narrative of the joys of pregnancy and the harrowing uncertainties that develop when medical complications set in. Even in her toughest moments, she tapped out Facebook updates from her iPhone to relatives and friends -- a mix of people from George Washington University, where she went to college; the Corporate Executive Board, her workplace in Rosslyn; and her old buddies from back home in California. With permission from the Swers family, The Washington Post has edited and annotated her Facebook page to tell her story from pre-baby date nights to a medical odyssey that turned the ecstasy of childbirth into a struggle for life.
Shana Greatman Swers
Shana Greatman Swers My fabulous husband just brought be some Rita's. He knows how to keep a pregnant lady happy!
iPhone
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Andrea Billups likes this.
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Andrea Billups Hold that puppy in until Sept. 17. :-).
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/metro/facebook-story-mothers-joy-familys-sorrow.html?hpid=topnews

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Details open the window


Readers want a picture – something to see, not just a paragraph to read. A picture made out of words. that’s what makes a pro out of an amateur. An amateur writer tells a story. A pro shows the story, creates a picture to look at instead of just words to read. A good author writes with a camera, not with a pen.

The amateur writes: “Bill was nervous.”

The pro writes: “Bill sat in a dentist’s waiting room, peeling the skin at the edge of his thumb, until the raw, red flesh began to show. Biting the torn cuticle, he ripped it away, and sucked at the warm sweetness of his own blood.”

Again:

“Manu was tired,” the reader arrives at a mental dead end, left with no imaginative opportunities for envisioning. Compare this to a description such as “Manu shuffled into the kitchen, yawning and blinking. Collapsing into the chair, he closed his eyes, crossed his arms for a pillow, and slowly tucked his head on to the fold.”