Monthly Archives: May 2014

Lives of the Poet

Dear Baptu,

I am sure you will enjoy this.

With Love,



The copy of ‘Memoirs’ by Pablo Neruda, which I possess has been passed on to me from my cousin brother. He also did not buy this copy as it was passed on to him, probably borrowed to him from a friend, possibly called ‘Baptu’ with love.
Baptu was gifted this book by his mother and the brief hand-written note in the beginning of this book is by Baptu’s mother. This one line note is filled with warmth which when I first read it, I thought (as a stranger to the mother-son), I must not intervene between this bond by reading or sharing it. But I could not let go of it and it keeps coming back to me with its blue ink and small fonts written carefully below the author’s bio on the first page of the book. I imagined how the duo would look like and the day when Baptu would have received this book. When this book changes hands again, I am sure in addition to the brilliant narrative of the life of Pablo Neruda, one would also touch upon this short yet beautiful feeling.

So begins this amazing journey through Memoirs of Pablo Neruda, a poet of Latin American descent who went on to win the Nobel Prize for Poetry in 1971.


From the very first chapter of my English translation version, the mysticism of his craft starts unraveling itself and the reader finds itself immersed deep in the poetic verses of his memories. He starts with a note saying,

In these memoirs or recollections there are gaps here and there, and sometimes they are also forgetful, because life is like that… What the memoir writer remembers is not the same thing the poet remembers… The poet gives us a gallery full of ghosts shaken by the fire and darkness of his time.

Perhaps I didn’t live just in my self, perhaps I lived the lives of others… My life is a life put together from all those lives: the lives of the poet.

With a bundle of memories, collected from the very first page, I may also get to live the various lives of the poet through his written words. His journey takes the reader through different countries and the events of the early twentieth century, seen from the eyes of a poet, along with the innocent first memories of childhood and adolescence.

The beginning is mesmerizing and I imagine being captivated by the poetic craft in which Neruda writes his life building years along the verses of ‘The Chilean Forest’ so that I can also feel what he might have felt when he wrote,

Anyone who hasn’t been in the Chilean forest doesn’t know this planet.

I have come out of that landscape, that mud, that silence, to roam, to go singing through the world.


Picture Courtesy: Ahranya© (The cover of ‘Memoirs’, Pablo Neruda. Published by Penguin Books)


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Filed under Biography, Memoir, Non-fiction, Poetry

The Mandela Story

What one finds in the Mandela story is the strong persistence for human rights and belief in the equality of all irrespective of their color, language or culture. Reading through Long Walk to Freedom, the autobiography of Nelson Mandela, one finds several passages and pages marveling with sheer persistence and power of determination that we as humans are capable of.
The majority of this autobiography was written, while Mandela was still in prison and was published in 1994 by Little, Brown Book Group.


In the final chapter of his autobiography, the 1993 Nobel Prize for Peace winner, Mandela writes,

I never lost hope that this great transformation will occur…I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there was mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion.

May be this was the power of hope that kept Mandela’s faith in the struggle against apartheid. He spent about 27 years in prison but that did not break his spirit nor did it lessen his belief in humanity. He writes,

Even in the grimmest times in prison, when my comrades and I were pushed to our limits, I would see a glimmer of humanity in one of the guards, perhaps just for a second, but it was enough to reassure me and keep me going. Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.

The autobiography also depicts not only the freedom struggle of the black and colored people of South Africa, but the sacrifices that the freedom fighters had to make in order to bring that much awaited equality of life and opportunity to all. They sacrificed the normality of life in which a person can enjoy the smallest of pleasures that life brings such as living with one’s family. Those who chose the path of struggle, sacrificed their personal lives and were

forced to live a life apart, a twilight existence of secrecy and rebellion.

Mandela’s story is a reminder that to achieve something worthwhile you have to pay the price for it. Freedom to live life the way one chooses is a basic necessity which is the first step in the direction to the philosophy of live and let live. Mandela realized this, when he wrote,

…to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others…

Those who seek freedom, have to keep walking in the direction where they can cast off the shackles of “hatred, prejudice and narrow mindedness” and become truly free.


Picture Courtesy: Ahranya© (Cover of ‘Long Walk to Freedom’, Published by: hachette India)  


Filed under Autobiography, Historical, Non-fiction