Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Musings from someone who sees stories everywhere.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Ah! Kingfisher

It was just the sort of morning when the chill is an added disincentive to emerge from under the blanket. But the relentless dullness won't let one sleep in. So I slipped on my sneakers and stepped out onto the concrete driveway that circles our apartments. Enormous dust-bunny clouds smothered the morning sky.

Morning walkers huffed by trying to shrug off the weight of the breaking day. The first honks and rumbles of city traffic, cries of hawkers peddling fresh vegetables, another predictable day until something marvellous happened.

Perched on a wall bordering an open storm water drain, I saw a kingfisher. What was it doing there, in the middle of tall apartments and commercial buildings? Did the all but leafless, bent apology for a tree offer it a proper home? Would it find fish in the murky waters of the drain?

Perhaps the bird knew better than I. It flouted its brilliant blue feathers in a flash of eternal optimism and pursued its urge to thrive in the unlikeliest of places.

Refreshed by the morning breeze, I tried to learn more about this gorgeous bird. The numerous varieties thrive in the Americas, Africa and Asia. The bird I encountered bore a striking resemblance to his English cousins, and his Thai and Florida kins, too.

This lovely bird has inspired artworks, cartoons, and even stamps issued by countries like Congo and Guinea-Bissau. And this morning, my bird by the drain inspired me to look beyond the brick and glass of the cityscape.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Across the Pacific by Raft

It's been a spate of days when the sun plays truant behind dark clouds, when colds and allergies dampen one's spirits more than the drizzle outdoors. The best way to beat that 'under the weather ' feeling is to embark on an adventure. And a good book can be that ticket to a break from humdrum routines. I first read this book in school, and it continues to hold my interest.

KON-TIKI, Across the Pacific by Raft, is a true story of intrepid explorers. On April 28, 1947, scientist Thor Heyerdahl and five other adventurers sailed 4,300 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean on a small raft to prove a historical hypothesis behind Polynesian folklore. Legend had it that the South Sea Islands were settled by a mythical hero named Kon-Tiki. Heyerdahl and his team tested this theory by replicating the flimsy log raft used by Kon-tiki’s ancient race to cross the Pacific. After sailing from Peru and braving three months on the open sea, these bold adventurers sighted land – the Polynesian island of Puka-Puka.

The narrative can get slightly tedious at times, with somewhat repetitive accounts of how fish jumped into the raft and became a meal. The author could also dwell a little more upon the inner lives and thoughts of the men aboard the raft rather than describe the many whales and sharks they encountered on the way. But patiently read the opening chapters, and you will be rewarded with a gripping saga of adventure and courage of men against the wild and dangerous sea. This classic has been translated into sixty-five languages and enjoyed by generations of readers worldwide.