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Kalam’s poems and his other missiles

Boredom threshold is getting lower and lower these days.

Already some of you may be feeling bored, wondering whether to continue reading this piece or not and fearing that it may contain more descriptions like ‘boredom threshold’.

No worry. Boredom threshold, to explain it in precise terms, is the ability of a person to withstand Abdul Kalam, the former President.

I know Abdul Kalam is honest and one of the nicest gentlemen in our public sphere (So no angry letters, please). I also understand that Kalam is an icon for the youths, providing much hope and inspiration, especially for them to try out outrageous hairstyles. But as a speaker on a public podium, Kalam was, without putting too fine a point on it, more outrageous. When he was in full flow, I think, defence missiles willingly launched themselves into enemy territory purely in an attempt at self-preservation.

I once sat through a 45-minute lecture of his without even beginning to grasp what topic he was on. It is not right to point out the fact that I was sleeping much through that speech. As sincere professionals on duty, we journalists doze off at every meeting (except the ones where they provide free food and thoughtful costly gifts) and not just at Kalam’s.

But quite unlike with others, with Kalam we unfailingly gave him a standing ovation after most of his speeches, when in reality we should have walked up to him and honestly asked: ‘Dude, what was that trip? Or were we on something?’

We didn’t do that because: Tick one of the below

1) His security personnel had an even more threatening and forbidding hairstyle

2) We were worried that he would break into another of his poems.

If you ticked the second option you are bang on.

Poems, not just Kalam’s, can bore the pants off you even in the best of times. Have you been to any poetry reading session? If you haven’t, I suggest that you do it at least once to know experience the rare feel of echo-chamber.

Yes, poetry sessions are solemn occasions where sentences from a book are read and read again simultaneously as if all those unfortunates who have gathered are equally unfortunate to be hard of hearing as well.

Why do poets re-read sentences? Because it’s impossible, in physical speech, to come up with bold typefaces or bullet-points attention-seekers like: ‘ ♦Metaphors Ahead’ or ‘♦Watch out: Similes Coming’.

But we can’t afford to be crass about poetic things. For, poems sensitively try to capture a universal truth or extrapolate a human condition through some carefully chosen random rhymes. Don’t ask me why poets should even begin to attempt to capture a truth that is already universal.

Wordsworth’s famous poem Daffodils carries four stanzas, each comprising six dense lines without much punctuation or grammar, on the beauty of the said flower. I don’t know what prevented Wordsworth from coming right out like modern-day youngsters and wax eloquent on Daffodils in the following manner: ‘Awsm’. And if he was in a mood for more detailed description, Wordsworth could have come to the nub of it even more brilliantly: ‘Daffodils rock’.

The point is nobody told Wordsworth, or, for that matter, any other poet, that he is: BORING. (Cue: Re-read the line, if in a poetry reading session).

The point is many people don’t realise that they are boring because we’re afraid to tell them so. But today (check the calendar) the time (7.30 a.m. by my watch) has come to emerge out of the closet and make a clean list of all that is boring:

Ok, right at the top has to come the Prime minister. Not just this Prime Minister. But all the Prime Ministers. And not just India’s. UN meetings. UN meetings when reported in newspapers.

Economics Lecturers. Ok, I know that’s unkind, especially when we are about to celebrate Teacher’s Day. So we will be fair: Remove the ‘economics’ tag. Poems. I know we have covered that elaboratively. But when it comes to saying things against poems nothing is ever over-elaborative.

Cricket is boring, unless of course it’s rigged. Ditto with Parliament sessions, even though it’s rigged for most parts. Barkha Dutt. And reality shows, because they have started to resemble Barkha Dutt, in that you know for sure that there will be some smiles, a lot of weeping and then you want to bomb the whole place (remember that’s what the Pakistanis did in Kargil when she was reporting from there. That bomb was probably aimed at her. YehDil mange More!).

Shashi Tharoor is boring because he is not getting into any more colourful controversies. Bal Thackeray and Raj Thackeray because their controversies are boring. Jairam Ramesh is boring because his hairstyle, if that’s the word, is really boring in comparison to Kalam’s.

The Constitution is boring because Freedom of Expression mandated in it allows me to say that. Law journals, advocates and judges are not boring, I say this because I know a prison sentence is indeed boring.

Ok, wait a minute. What about my humour column and me? Louder please. Now that you say it, let me stop attempting humour.

But poetry beckons!

Oh, verse to come,

But worse to some,

I pen you my salam,

And my yen is Kalam.

  • At the risk of boring you with regular praise, I must say that your column was far from boring, especially since it was shorter than usual in terms of wordage. So, you managed to keep an ADHD patient like me hooked to it till the bitter end!

    Apropos your view about a poet’s habit of re-reading the line, it is his way of keeping himself awake. Remember! the poor guy was possibly dozing to someone’s poetry when his name was announced. So, to wake himself up, he re-reads the lines. It is a vicious cycle, my friend from which there is no respite.

    A friend once described economics as “common sense made difficult”. Taking a cue from his thoughts, I can safely say that “poetry is prose made difficult”. And for scribes like us who find even prose difficult, what else can we do when faced with poetry but throw our hands up and look for divine intervention in the form of a bolt of lightning to strike the poet peddling his verse!

  • MN

    “Barkha Dutt. And reality shows, because they have started to resemble Barkha Dutt, in that you know for sure that there will be some smiles, a lot of weeping and then you want to bomb the whole place (remember that’s what the Pakistanis did in Kargil when she was reporting from there. That bomb was probably aimed at her. YehDil mange More!).”
    .
    Woah – that was super.
    .
    MN

  • K Balakumar

    @MN: Welcome back, it was getting lonely without your presence 🙂 And congrats man on your wedding 🙂 Indeed have a great married life.

    What a full blast of response. You sure read every word and comma on this blog, something which I cannot say for myself 🙂

  • K Balakumar

    @Raj: Thanks mate. Loved that line: ‘Economics is common sense made difficult’. Real LoL-worthy one 🙂 And let bolt strike all the versifiers.

  • I am always ticked off at the sight of poetry. Just an observation. But when it is sung dont we all enjoy them. I mean in these movie we say “whatte lyrics” but when it is written or read out, we feel it is boring. Isn’t it more to do with the way of presentation than the poetry itself?

  • K Balakumar

    @Venky: I don’t know. Actually, I’m no poetry buff myself. I took potshots at it in my typical irresponsible way, which is also the trademark of this column. Poetry has its moments. But the world will be a better place to live in with more poems but less poets 🙂

  • MN

    Thank you!!
    .
    I think responding to blogs is one of my many OCD – Obsessive-Compulsive-Disorder. In liue of visiting a shrink, I’ll read your blogs – I think it does the job for a fraction of the cost 🙂
    .
    PS: Are you going to start charging for reading your blogs – in the near future?
    .
    ~ MN

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