Saturday, December 13, 2014


Melancholia and Delight
Didn't go to the fair
They went their ways
As rapacious rainbows
Hid and surfaced
Sulking harmonica
Sent anonymous 
To Jack-in-the-box
Insomniac, imbecile
Rooted restless glue
Jugglers played the flute
Under wild midsummer
Raced the circus tent
Melancholia reached home
But Delight lost her way
Accidentally met the box
Fair came by instead
To complicated cube
Neon whirl


Can of an ocean haze. 
Rustle of a sand sheet.
Wind truant handkerchief.
Pocket rock surreptitious.

[November 8, 2014]

Clock Tower

Alone rushed
Kindred past
Didn't you know
That hours wait
Stillness stops by
Lazy they'd meet
In cloaked seconds
Fade out and cut
Clockwork love
Time for none

[August 14, 2014]


Somersaults of a wily noon
Tell you the toyest lie
Pieces of a twisted compass
Pointing south, skewed high
Tumble in the current
Where static sticks like magnet
In electric charge twines
Acrobat dream
Whirlwind deadlock

[August 14, 2014]

Perfect Ten

Streetened dust
Cast in bones 
Strange, hidden
Bitter, remains
Where reflections hang 
Upon tungsten shards
Flashes of faraway frolic
A dreamy iris watches 
Behind nose-pressed glass
Like a falling kite trapped
Whiffs appetise, famished, waits
Yellow fire, crimson smoke
Sprinkle salt, spices call
Whipped wounds on the side
Tossed and shaken
In a newspaper packet
Hate and hope
Served mint fresh

[July 27, 2014]


Windscreen winding
Roadside rising
Glinting asphalt
Twilight shining
Nets on wayside
Trees, wild, hiding

Stardust memories 
Of long ago
Revolving, forgetting 
That they met before
Whenever you crossed
Driving in rain
Losing and finding
Your bluest vein

[June 21, 2014]

Yellow 12

Yellow 12
Cut square and firm
Mountain pieces from ago
And fractions of a puckish sky
Wound in those stranger pines

[June 7, 2014]

Saturday, August 02, 2014


It stood still
When you fell
Held aloft
Silent, seeing
Snip a time-warp
It is pastime

Mending turn
Word alone
Yours or mine
Fighting light
A fraction run
Swapping veins
Steal a wish
Hang it dry

Saturday, July 26, 2014


There is that
A dream asleep
Flaming eyes
Crooked whim
Rouse the intrigue
Wrong, then real
Awake yet?

[Oct 6, 2013]


Gash cable. Vein-opener
Skin glider. Paperknife
Stone scissors. Glue lies
Word emulsifier. Deceit brush
Stamped faith. Sealed eyes
Wrangled wedges. Memory dust
And a branded truth tape

[July 19, 2014]


Shining hour | Routine high
A chair of lies | Holds fort
Indolent chatter | Canopies of pride
The jury confers | Curious ears
As the air fills | With snug delight
Farces huddle | In rugged bonhomie
Ringing lights | Clinking notes
The key witness | Honourable deceit
Under oath | Unwavering
Accused |
Wronged, it waits | Crushing faith
As the hapless clock | Grim, ticks
Verdict then | Drowning din
Truth is tied | In second place.

[Dec 18, 2013]

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Stage these words
They knock unexpected
Cobalt afternoons
To play and run away
A dream ice-cream cone
Caught in glittering eyes
On a rainy day
Out of breath, dripping wet

Stage these words
They hide in green rooms
As the cyclorama shimmers
Light and wind lashing
That golden sheen
On a brazen screen
They never truly show
Cast only a hint
Distant hazy, warm dewy
Shadows of the roles you play

Stage these words
They watch you rehearse
Behind the blinding white
Against limelight
Bared before all
Yet nobody will see
They filch your shoe
Just before curtains rise
Step along the wings
Fiddle with your mirrors
Stuffed suitcases
Rummage, fling, all over
Sword and scarf
Only to find, lay them back
Nimble, softly, one at a time
A lone checkered pocket
Stage these words
They spin to the tune
Out of step and frantic
Whistling as they go
In irreverent melody
Like the top swirls red
On the familiar terrace
When a door is left ajar
In the glistening streets
Edgy, drenched
Soon dusty, sunlit
Meet the bicycle bell

Stage these words
They confound actors
Prompt false lines, overwrite
Bioscope wordplay
Tell tales of fire
Still, rage, desire
Distract, deflect, inkblot shapes
Across the rustic fence
A crossroad faraway
Walk through the wild grass
When you turn back
Lock in intractable gaze

Stage these words
They block your way
Bystanders, passersby
Stun striding stilts, wanderers at will
Conjure train sets, break into song
Rough pitch, off-key
Watch a tepid sea dark
Crash more than once
Rocks and breeze
They fuse lyrics, old favourites
Waylay you, by the stairs
Dot, square, deal
Unscript what was to be
Strictly to script

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Raft ashore
Stumbles once
A dream rolled
Into a thin paper pipe
A blue bottle
Of liquid memory
In what is unsaid
Alive calls


That windscreen 
Blinked as he left
A distant second
Dishevelled, disarrayed
Bleary-eyed, stared
Tinted rain
In roads unseen
Waited, darkly met

Stranger storm
Called to say
This unknown pace
Brought blazing winds
Hoary lightning
Can't only be
Some different way

Milestones walk
With memories
Proud, they watch
Race petrol vapour
Trailing dust
Fading smoke
It’s Route-22
Cast away
Roadblock orange
Won't the highway
Ever slow down
Breathless stop
At the caution board
And wave

This hypnotic dashboard
Sings awhile
When gears and tyres
Confused, unwarned
Roll and gather sheen
And no one tells him
That he's been shadowed
Once before
That a dream cascade
Has been there since time
Under construction

One Hundred

It was to be. A dizzying whiff of words. Mixed in the air. Like a blue vein had cut through pale skin. Remembered. That golden, audacious sight melted every wall. Diffused the ink, brewed cold ash. The acidic cacophony of colour. Left a gash. Wrapped amid rising grass. As a withering yellow rustle trailed behind. Crept, knelt, and breathed low. A touch of a song rose from somewhere. Nebulous, hovering, falling. Drowned everything. Then that haunting ripple. Entered his fearful heart. Pulse pouncing. Impish, smiling, caught in an afternoon getaway.

Like the din of an evening's laugh. Ringing breeze. Hiding in a light-less, crowded corner. In confused rain, familiar banter, and a damning conspiracy. It was to be.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Reading Hegel: Reprise II

Reading Hegel: Reprise

Must you wake? When the ebb is out. 
A cliff watching. Bring a crumpled tale. 
Afloat. Lost happily. And shining.

Just published: South Asia edition of Reading Hegel: The Introductions (Edited and introduced by Aakash Singh and Rimina Mohapatra). New Delhi: Manohar, 2013. 

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Reading Hegel: The Introductions

G.W.F. Hegel 

Edited and introduced by Aakash Singh 
and Rimina Mohapatra

Bringing together for the first time all of G.W.F. Hegel’s major Introductions in one place, this book ambitiously attempts to present readers with Hegel’s systematic thought through his Introductions alone. The Editors articulate to what extent, precisely, Hegel’s Introductions truly reflect his philosophic thought as a whole. Certainly each of Hegel’s Introductions can stand alone, capturing a facet of his overarching idea of truth. But compiled all together, they serve to lay out the intricate tapestry of Hegel’s thought, woven with a dialectic that progresses from one book to another, one philosophical moment to another.

Hegel’s reflections on philosophy, religion, aesthetics, history, and law—all included here—have profoundly influenced many subsequent thinkers, from post-Hegelian idealists or materialists like Karl Marx, to the existentialism of Kierkegaard and Jean-Paul Sartre; from the phenomenological tradition of Edmund Husserl to Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida and other post-moderns, to thinkers farther afield, like Japan’s famous Kyoto School or India’s Sri Aurobindo. This book provides the opportunity to discern how the ideas of these later thinkers may have originally germinated in Hegel’s writings, as well as to penetrate Hegel’s worldview in his own words, his grand architecture of the journey of the Spirit.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


On a day it would
Cease to end
Time stopped by
On a dreamful frolic

Duped by a blemish
Shining lies
A tiny speck
Flung ashore
Under the watchful guard
Of an idle moon
You wait still
For the tempestuous one
In a stormy quiet
Disarming eyes
Edging ahead
Of that proud time
And all else that is 

Or can be.


“…by listening to the D major, I can feel the limits of what humans are capable of - that a certain type of perfection can only be realised through a limitless accumulation of the imperfect.”

Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami

Monday, September 01, 2008

Strange Lies

It must mean
That a bit of the real
The impossible song
An art unborn
Lives in me.

Cast far away
The fable dark
In what is unmasked
A disguise tortuously built
Now intently guards.

And you wait to hear
That truest myth

Of the time nigh
A truth that
Lies alone
Could speak.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Must you wake?
When the ebb is out
And the sand soars
A cliff watching
A swirl of a muse
Bring a crumpled tale
Flung in the stream
On a ring of ripple
On a deep dark night
Lost happily
And shining.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Walkway

Raining white
The streets are wet
Lights flash neon
A lone wish treads
Into a promenade

A seething rush
Tinkering tune
Truth of a time
Tangle of a heart

A moon that follows
The red car racing
And the wind drives past
The road listless
Raging wait
And mist shining
It’s stop time.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Messenger

Tonight gushes in
A song swirls
Prancing scarlet
Cascading in.

It glides
Stealing a glance
Under watchful eyes.

Lure it, dupe it
However may
It won’t tell you
If the vengeful rain
Will come tonight.

Saturday, June 07, 2008


Won’t you stow away this wavy ocean
On the sly; in a corner somewhere
When a deep dark sky is alone
When no one’s looking,
Only a dream gleaming,

The Hero

Brooding murky
Of a combat nigh
In brutal ruin
Gasping, weary, rising
From the crippling calm
He is
The hero
Raring to go, surely
It is not far.

Slumped in the field
He hears a clang
Of mirthful laugh
The sword blade glints
The victor
Stop he will, certainly
When it is far.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Do you not hear yet
That a throb of a time
Has been ringing ever since
Gazing at the searing rush in veins
Flooding alive each crevice
From a coast that’s nigh, but runs away often
Gleaming in a wondrous reverie
A battleground mutely waits outspread.

Along that wild black ocean
Stubborn, insolent, wrathful
As waves embark on a lone row
And you hone the burnished dagger once more
While raging flames swell to spew
Lilting, tunes dangle in a queue
Awaiting the rain; to cling to clouds
To twine with one other
Become that known song
But, hush, do not speak
The night is sure to rouse
Certainly still, secretly,
Steering this feverish frenzy
You shall come tonight destined
To meet, ruffled,
An earth ravenous of sky.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Drooping on a canopy
There sleeps a careless wisp of mist
A dark boat brooding, adrift
Silver waves hurtle on madly
Gliding under a quiet sun
Musing of a certain note
Over the gritty crippling stillness
Of the whiteness of the stream
Twinkling across a pale sky
Smoke-filled, rainy, distant
A scarlet lily is watching
In hiding, gleefully.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Invited to this flamboyant ruse
A clock ticks, time to begin
Guests have flowed into the glimmer
He must now ready to amuse
Cloaked in a robe of deceit
Cheering to this resplendent charade
Await a murky delight

On the anvil
Where listeners watch enthralled
Lies are dancing breathlessly
The trickster is weaving a tale.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


The rushed clap of the feisty ride
Sweeps the air with tingling jabs
Clucking and lashing into the gust
The carriage slithers into a sudden halt
A chance moment rolls in when
The cobbled lane kindles in fire
The traveller compelled to stop
A ravenous gaze fixed on
The foggy white twilight
Swinging in the golden crescent
Of a deep blue night
Silken in the moon glow
Starving for more

Saturday, December 01, 2007


This lone dusk is waiting
A sleepy time ambles
But hiding in a languid daze
It is wide awake, busy.
All day long
Quiet, where it lives
It has been warily thinking.
It has strategised
To trick
It has decided
To ambush
It sneaks in
Slowly behind
To strike
To deluge
It is storm.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Guest

Frosty heights of wilful winds
Will connive to stubbornly dance
Raging come in icy spells
Sailed a boat, meek at row

The lighthouse is a distant dream.
Away the ocean ebbs. Sunbeams
Miss the tide once more
The happy stranger was here.

Friday, October 12, 2007


What a burnt night it is
A youthful moon
Like a lark plays unfazed.
Tawny grasslands dark and wild
Sprint with every wind.
A glinting claw
Holds its breath still
Afraid it will echo.
Stars linger in the pearly sky
Nerves taut wait fearfully
While a heart pounds on
This quiet, rasping tonight—
Determined to avenge.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


A reverie of a crushing lilt
A rise that is all alone.
Rapt in a slow undoing
A forlorn fall that is alive calls
It is here.

Glimmering there waits a golden air
A dutiful clock is ticking bright
Though time refuses to stir,
Musing stubbornly of an azure noon; when
It was here.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Here to avenge, entered
Swinging, clinging lies
The insolent sneer
Sharpened its arms—
They were already here
Speaking in hushed tones.

Clouding shadows flocked in again
Looking for someone
And not a stranger that was.
In the muted glow of the street light
Perhaps threw once
A searing glance
At the dangling bit of a truth.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Woolly clouds snowing light
Warm cuddled a crimson urge.
A wrathful storm was lurking by
Gliding on a frosty trail.

Blazing arose, bewitched,
A violin tune cascaded him
The shutterbug was missing
When words came flying
Humming a little on
A folded newspaper boat.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

In Hiding

Indolent winds look on
A jade ocean retreats
Tiny mirrors sailing—
A million suns glisten
On the ripples float.
You shut your eyes
Wishing they stared.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


A sinister blizzard looms in.
Waiting to strike.
A quiet day is puzzled.
Under the dark spell
The sky prepares—

The squall turns a song.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Cast his steely eye
The sea on her side
She is the song
Of this frosty spell tonight.

Eyes on the sky
At the lone starry ground
Quiet, on he ambles

Dares a rapacious world.


There rages a cerulean waft
In the swaying scarlet fields.
On a blade of grass flutters a dream
Frolicking anguished,

Throbbing gleefully.

Brooding by the stream,
An unseen longing watches
That song striding in
Already far.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Skating on Sand

Asleep in a woodhouse afar
He seizes the sun
In his dazzling eyes
A wisp of a day flies in
Swimming in the verdant tarn
The moon razes the roof
A strand seeps somewhere
An indigo slice of sky,
On his dream tonight.

Lonely sandwaves alter ever.
Gusty, joyous, alive.
Flames leap out of the ocean
In hushed embrace
Glinting blades draw nigh
The wilted bough, bemused,
Recalls it will brutally fight

Standing frozen in time awhile
A dark icy night is blunted still.
Thinks of him
Who happily wrestles,
With cloud fluffs tonight.

He unknots them
His feet know no bounds
Shall live
Strung with being.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Dreamer

Burning noon, it is midnight.
The indigo fields lie open all while.
Zest in stone, face the rocky height,
Wild roses springing from sand.

The white ocean is ever so restive,
The night’s just fallen asleep.
And the moon is awake still.
Eclipsed in total radiance,
The dreamer wakes up.
Bleary eyed.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Bridge

Waiting on the high bridge
Out in the evening frost
Winds glisten, sprint past
And dark waters rush
Silvery beneath my feet
It’s a boat sailing in quietude
Rising on the ripples
Towering me, the moon
Behind the lone distant lighthouse
There is a mighty wave waiting
A star strewn sky looks on.
Must learn to wait…



Friday, November 10, 2006


The Storm


There was a line
Surrounding it, world
The conjured amid the mundane
Flowed in like light
Strings entwining
Colours so restive
The scarlet letterbox
Swung from a wire
It was a stormy afternoon.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


The azure of the ocean jabs him alight
Lying abreast the rocky shore
The muted ushers in din
The sandy air clangs on yet
Folding the moment into his toy
He watches the moon fall from sky.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Friday, October 20, 2006

Carnival I

The lunatic ambles on the lawns
And a hush seems to fall
Nip the white clouds
They’ll bring the drizzle tonight

The moon merrily glints
Over a quivering stream
Imbue this air in confetti
The Cheshire cat is winking still

Fireworks shower the sky
The juggler whistles a tune
Chrysanthemums at the window ledge
Jack-in-the-box in dream

A polka dotted dress around
Dash to those cheering claps
Sitting to fix a cherry nose
The clown laughs out loud.

Carnival II

Walking tall on those stilts
A spotlight twinkles bright
Swinging on trapeze high
Scarlet is this day

Gifts will soon begin to unwrap
Seize time in its eyes
It clenches in its fist
A pocket of fresh warm hope

The magic hat pops around
Amid din, a mandolin at play
Who’ll dance with me tonight?
-- the rabbit turns to yell.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Combat

Blazing flare leaping high
The burnished rock stubborn stands
The stony grit, clenching fate
That night was her sentinel

Steering might plunging forth
Waves that fight aloft hold
Yield to melt, a war calls out
There is fire in his eyes.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Sandy white, an unusual sky
It is a blue day
Horizon looms, the electric posts gaze
Sprinting still, he cries out
The secret cave is miles away

Slashing the tepid, the brackish waters
Leaps into the moist air
Racing on, p
assion astir, gasping
Smiles viciously
At the dark ocean.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Yellow

A breeze drew me.
The yellow flower stood out.
To embrace close
The tapering leaves
Were a dark hue
Wrapped around
Oozed as nectar
The white sap...
The yellow flower.

26 Aug 2006, Sat

Gossamer Speaks


The fish-eye hangs
Eluding from the heavens
The ruthless frenzy of the imagine
Draws her in
An arrow strung on the lyre
The canary begins to croon
Aflutter, out of sleep
Brainstorms rage loud
Draw the bow out
The ink waltzes on

Mind placid at once
An epic is born
Lamp aglow

Warm on yellow parchment

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Friday, June 16, 2006

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Brake free

Sundown on the highway
The asphalt vapour lingers on
While the symphony rises
An evening leisurely melts
It is a balmy drive.

The milestones sprint past
Ineluctably, the midnight is caught
Warped; it begins to rain.

Winds lashing against him
Half drenched, in trance awhile
Hair blowing into eyes
The taxi driver breaks into a tune.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Friday, May 12, 2006

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Night Out

Blown in the storm
A paper airplane zips by
Just as the mist sets in
A crimson scarf flutters atop the lamp post
A vagrant strums the guitar

Burning bright, the city lights
A lone skinny dog ambles
Across the pavement, moths flood the neon glow
The warm gust is still a little far off
Upon snug taverns rests

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Rising

The Wanderer

Beauty ablaze
The mountain stands resolute
Yellow sunshine floods the meadows down

Misty valleys caress the distant peaks
Sun and clouds play hide and seek
Hearing the stone speak

Wings stretched wide
Spanning the skies
The mind alight

Capture the dauntless majesty
Of the cliff aloft
Panning the horizon
the splendour of the mountain
Its sheer ferocity

At a window ledge
From the flitting chink
Wandering wild
Drenched in the glimpse of eternity


Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Play

The conch shell dazzles
Across the fine grooves
There is an unfailing sheen
As the play begins

At the ocean shores
The cradle begins to rock
A melody rises deep
And we fall asleep
When the dice is played
When the puzzle unveils
When the cards are thrown
And the dart lunges forth

Awash with sheets of crystals
There are leaves on the ground
From the emerald ponds deep
The blue lilies arise

The fine sands slip away
Stars rush from above
Who was looking for us this while?
There is gold dust all over.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A Tree

A tree beside the sandy
Holds up its topmost boughs
Like fingers towards the skies
They cannot reach,
Earth-bound, heaven-amorous.

This is the soul of man.
Body and brain
Hungry for earth
our heavenly flight detain.

Sri Aurobindo

The Tempest

March 2006

Monday, March 06, 2006

Nāgārjuna: Speech or Silence?

It is in impinging on a severe critique of language that the central upshot of the Mādhyamika method emerges. The rejection of language has its kernel in the idea of Pratītyasamutpāda and śūnyatā together, and witnesses an explicit articulation in the prasanga method of the Mādhyamika. Pratītyasamutpāda or conditioned emergence shows that everything is dependent on numerous contingent factors, modes and reasons, for their relative existence. All events come into being depending on their preceding conditions. So, none of them in isolation have independent essence or being. In characterizing all categories and all existents as finally “empty” or śūnya, what Mādhyamikas mean is that they are empty of “essence” or svabhāva. Śūnyatā is thus, the natural outcome of pratītyasamutpāda because upon the knowledge of the flux of reality, when one begins to unravel the object, one finds it to be empty of inherent existence or self-nature, devoid of any essential being.
In the Milindapañha for instance, Nāgasena poses as to ‘what a chariot is’ and then himself enumerates his proposals — is it the pole, the axle, the wheel, the reins etc? Or a mere conglomeration? And in refusing these unsatisfactory suggestions, King Milinda reaches the baffling conclusion that none of these individually or cumulatively constitutes the chariot, and that when it is unraveled to its core, it no more remains a chariot. The analogy can be extended to simply everything. It turns out that on analyzing reality free of any specific ditthi or perspective, we see that concepts characteristically fail and language distorts. Evidently, this is the harshest possible criticism against language, to deny its very function of even being able to express anything. Further, the method of reductio ad absurdum or prasanga is Nāgārjuna’s methodological core, in demonstrating that all possible perspectives [in language] about reality involve inherent self contradiction. The structure of the prasanga argument is four-fold, namely it is a four-cornered negation of the form of catuśkoti or tetralemma:
I. A is [sad]
II. A is not [asad]
III. A both is and is not [ubhaya]
IV. A neither is nor is not [anubhaya]

This formulation exhausts the limit of all ‘meaningful’ thought or talk. By showing that all four alternatives are equally inconsistent by explicitly drawing out their implications, Nāgārjuna is able to point at the absurdity of language.

In picking from here, in the Vigrahavyāvartanī, the Nyāya school puts forth a number of objections against Nāgārjuna’s emphasis on śūnyatā, since the very espousal of śūnyatā itself presupposes language. Since, śūnyatā is framed in language, either, (a) śūnyatā itself is not śūnya, which would make the proposition that ‘everything is śūnya false’ or (b) if śūnyatā is śūnya, then the proposition is insignificant, meaningless, trivial or worthless, for it is simply empty of substance. Nāgārjuna however resorts to a rather confident defence in denying entirely that he is offering any thesis or ditthi.

Thus, in Vigrahavyāvartāni, Nāgārjuna says:

“If I had any proposition (pratijñā), then this defect (dosa) would be mine.
I have, however, no proposition. Therefore there is no defect that is mine.” [#29]

In the claim of a ‘no-position’ view of self refutation, the role of language seems to be radically inconsistent. To the extent that the claim is that one is not taking any metaphysical position at all, Nāgārjuna’s philosophy is śūnya too. This emptiness, best shown through silence, is realized when assent is withheld from all four logically possible answers to a metaphysical question (yes, no, both, neither). This is suggestive of the primal absurdity of speech and verbalization [prapañca]. The silence that is entailed, can be seen as a deconstruction of language itself, since language, here, is both used and negated in the same stroke. Is there a way then to resolve the inconsistency at a basic level?

In the backdrop of contemporary ordinary language philosophy, there is a visible turn towards stressing on the pragmatism in language. In his classic work How To Do Things With Words (1962), J. L. Austin makes the significant distinction between ‘performatives’ and ‘constatives’ and highlights the role of speech act as lying not in describing anything but in the doing of things. Essentially, speech acts refer to acts performed when words are uttered. Thus in a speech act, one does not seek to describe or report anything. It is about what is done in the saying of something, such as an active function as affirming, reassuring, promising, commanding, threatening or praying. That is, the utterance performs a function. Thus in saying ‘I promise’ in suitable circumstances I make a promise; in saying ‘Hooray!’ I cheer someone.
Extending the idea of speech acts to Nāgārjuna’s method, one may argue that in suggesting the śūnyatā of everything, for instance, Nāgārjuna in the strict sense, is not just 'saying' anything. It looks like Nāgārjuna is rather engaged in doing [rather ‘undoing’] something. He is unravelling philosophical discourse to expose its inherent contradictions. He is also employing the speech act in affecting the hearer, since in claiming radically that everything is śunya, he annoys, puzzles, frustrates, and even disappoints the audience. It is transformative in its affecting the person or community in some way: purifying, healing, reconciling, protecting, informing, and so on. If the seeker of freedom understands the import of the utterances, then in the same act, she is also liberated, for she is moved, convinced, persuaded and then ‘quietened’. Nāgārjuna can thus defend his stance as using language in order to do something, not to describe anything (which is to be rendered true or false). In fact it is in the undoing of the theoretical effects of language that the Mādhyamika’s concern lies. Thus, Nāgārjuna’s use of language is possibly analogous to Derrida’s ‘writing under erasure’. The performative dimension of language then is something that seems fundamental to the Mādhyamika method. And on this interpretation perhaps, the apparent paradox of language and silence is resolved to an extent.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Alterity or Subjectivity

An anti thesis of Kierkegaard’s view that truth is subjectivity is found perhaps in the post modern philosopher Levinas for whom alterity or ‘the Other’ is the ‘nude’ truth which when confronted ruptures the self. Through the face of alterity God is reached. In his Beyond Intentionality Levinas says: ‘The face ‘signifies’ beyond, neither as an index nor as symbol, but precisely and irreducibility as a face that summons me. It signifies to-God (à Dieu), not as sign, but as the questioning of myself, as if I were summoned or called, that is to say, awakened or cited as myself’. Throughout the history of philosophy ‘the Other’ has been reduced to ‘the Same’ in its drive to objectify and universalize. For Levinas, the dominance of ‘the Same’ makes the universal the goal of thought.

So it turns out that Levinas is precisely against the same universalization and objectification that Kierkegaard is standing against. However, while for Kierkegaard the personal subject confers itself its own identity, standing as the primal individual; in Levinas, through language, it is ‘the Other’ that enables me to have an identity. Language is the basis which links us to other people. The signifier then is the opening up to ‘the Other’. It is in confronting the irreducible ‘Other’, seeing time as alterity, existence as alterity, the other person (autrui) as alterity, language as alterity, and God as alterity that we are led away from ontology, epistemology and reason, to the realm of ethics and religion. The shift then is from discourses that compel homogenous levelling to ones that heighten fecund encounters with the different Other.

However, Kierkegaard’s rigid persistence on the priority of the isolated individual per se can be made sense of, by the fact that his reaction is rooted in the context of the widespread, overpowering, overarching structures propagating universality, objectivity, abstractions, absolutism and stereotypes. Strictly speaking, one is just an individual for whom other’s existence occurs as a mere possibility, never a concrete actual. What exists comes first. It is my existence that is truly actual and concrete for me. It is therefore that Kierkegaard, in his solitary confrontation against depersonalization, anonymous public opinion, and mass consciousness, sought to become what he wanted to be known as: that individual”.
(Painting: Edward Munch - Despair 1893-94)

Sunday, January 08, 2006


"To see a world in a grain of sand
And heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

William Blake
Auguries of Innocence


The World and the Earth

Heidegger, Sartre, and Levinas all consider the ontology of art and the different ways in which art and language create new perspectives on reality. Heidegger in his essay ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’ claims that a work of art brings a world into view. He discusses art in terms of truth and his idea of disclosure. Heidegger’s draws upon the ancient Greek concept of truth as aletheia, which means ‘the unconcealedness of beings’. As a concept of truth, it is distinct from and logically prior to our conventional, Roman notion of truth as veritas or ‘correspondence with the facts’. For there to be any objects to make up states of affairs to which our statements can correspond, there must be the ‘truth’ which lets these objects first come to be.

Art is true, Heidegger claims, in that it lets us see the tension between concealment and disclosure. He calls this ‘the conflict of world and earth’: ‘world’ is used in the sense that any disclosure is the opening of a realm, e. g., the realm of sight, and ‘earth’ is the concealed domain from which the world emerges. The artwork ‘moves the earth itself into the Open of a world and keeps it there’. A Greek temple, Heidegger suggests, opens a world by creating a ‘relational context’, of ‘birth and death, disaster and blessing, victory and disgrace, endurance and decline’, and Van Gogh’s painting of a peasant’s shoes brings out the use-life which the shoes have for their owner, what Heidegger calls ‘the equipmentality of equipment’. We experience the aletheic truth of art as a form of ‘thatness’. We might not be able to say what it is about a work that impresses us, but that there is something there we are certain of. A sense of ‘thatness’ stands out, stops us in our tracks. This is consistent with Kant’s proposal that it is part of the experience of art for us to be motivated to find new words to describe the experience. Ultimately, for Heidegger, ‘the nature of art is poetry’. He proposes that art is truest, at its most aletheic, when it is poetic.
[From Cazeaux, Clive, Continental Aesthetics Reader, Florence, KY, USA: Routledge, 2000]

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Divided Line in Art

"Why are numbers beautiful? It's like asking why is Beethoven's Ninth Symphony beautiful. If you don't see why, someone can't tell you. I know numbers are beautiful. If they aren't beautiful, nothing is."

Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdös thus articulated his view on the sheer aesthetic of mathematics. Theories of art centrally rely on the idea of beauty which is usually characterized as the 'perception of balance and proportion of stimulus, harmony of form, rhythm or colour, fineness of artistic quality, candour, and originality'. It is the conception of such a symmetric, perfect, consistent harmonious world that the Pythagoreans conceived of through numbers.

For Plato, art is unreal appearance, because it lies in the realm of perception, changing, disintegrating in the world, almost like illusions. He says all this because he already has a framework of reality in mind, that is, ultimately reality is that which is invariant, spaceless, timeless, consisting of absolute essences. The unreality of art comes from the fact of its change, and further, from Plato’s view that what is seen is ultimately unreal. In contrast, mathematical truths are ever real because they are unperceived, pure and sublime, not vitiated by errors.

The object of art, like numbers, is abstract. In The Imaginary, Sartre speaks of the aesthetic object as the irreal. He points out that it is a mistake to think that the artist “realizes” a pre-conceived mental image onto the canvas. Rather, Sartre claims:

“What is real…are the results of the brush strokes, the impasting of the canvas, its grain, the varnish spread over the colours. But precisely, all this is not the object of aesthetic appreciation. What is ‘beautiful’, on the contrary, is a being that cannot be given to perception and that, in its very nature, is isolated from the universe.”

Further he says that the painting is simply an analogue for one to be able to construe the object of beauty, that is, the irreal whole. Clearly then Sartre has turned the talk around. He seems to be claiming that the real is in fact the physical painting. But certainly, it is not that we are engaged with when enjoying a work of art. That which is the object of our aesthetic muse is simply never the ‘real’ paint, strokes, grain of canvas, i.e. nothing of the physically perceived senses as colors, textures, etc. It consists in an entirely abstract, irreal object that is pointed towards by the actual painting. There may be nothing specific that can be pointed at to define a common notion of art. And yet, it does not follow that there is no notion of beauty or art that we can work with, which makes that what art is. This is exactly because some things do show up as works of art as against others.

What then is the criterion of art? In what way would be art accessible to us? How should we view art? If it is an abstraction, is it even worth nurturing? The question of the use value of art has been grappled with a phenomenal concern. In lashing out against such pragmatic anxieties, Oscar Wilde, long since engaged in decadent movements, famously quipped "All art is quite useless". He was, of course, a strong champion of "Art for art's sake" (l’art pour l’art) in defiance of those who felt that the value of art lay in serving some moral or didactic purpose, as social utility, etc. The view of art for art's sake reinforced that art was valuable as art, that artistic pursuits were self justified, and that art did not need moral justification — and in fact, was free even to be morally subversive.

Now, when does something turn into a work of art?

Marcel Duchamp, perhaps one of the most important influences the post-war art scene, co-founder of a Dada group, was one of the first artists to use commonplace objects, readymades, as the basis for his artworks. His controversial work Fountain is a clear case that interrogates the conventional notions of art. Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Can is another stunning break from convention, in constructing the idiom of the pop where his works profusely used dollar bills, soup cans, posters, soft-drink bottles, and garish nylon fibres. Art now seemed to have even lost the accompanying mark of artistic methods, tools and skill, employing techniques of commercial art and advertising, and thus giving a blow to the accentuated pretence of a high-culture versus low-culture chasm.

In a self styled remark he said, "If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There's nothing behind it." The “superficiality” is the point of Warhol’s works. He brings forth a certain anti essentialist position on what art means to him, in his emphasis on rejecting the narrative of the concealed reality of art, the work of art and the artist. No attempt is made at analysing the subjective pathos, the intention or emotion of the artist.

By the last account it seems that nothing apart from the surface and the objects was art. In a way, we come full circle, for art for Plato too is in the realm of the sensible, i.e. in the world of change. Yet in another sense this is perhaps the total antithesis of a Plato’s dream to separate the invisible/intelligible and the visible/sensible, to separate the world of abstract forms [such as Beauty] and particular objects that may be beautiful, to separate the mind and the body, to separate the original and the copy, and so on. Whether or not there are essences to art, as the form of Beauty [cf. Plato’s Phaedo] or some archetype of symmetry, harmony, etc., are questions that would simply be irrelevant on the pop account of art.

Extending this line, Jean Baudrillard brings in the imaginative notion of hyperreality to explain how things are, in his Simulacra and Simulation. The idea of simulacrum would roughly be ‘a copy of a copy which has been so dissipated in its relation to the original that it can no longer be said to be a copy’. The simulacrum referred to are signs of culture technology and media that create the reality that we perceive, surviving on its own as a copy without a model. The 1999 movie The Matrix was based on this view of Baudrillard’s simulated world as being more real than the ‘real’ world.

In The Transparency of Evil (1993), Baudrillard speaks of a situation called ‘transaesthetics’ in which the so-called independent and isolated spheres of economy, art, politics, and culture, inter-penetrate each other. He claims that art has entered all facets of existence. Thus, the expectation of the avant-garde for art to inform life [cf. Oscar Wilde’s quip ‘Life imitates Art’] has been, in many ways, already fulfilled. Yet, this precisely means that in the incorporation and proliferation of art in everyday life, art itself as an independent and transcendent phenomenon has vanished. ‘Reality is therefore just another TV channel’. Interestingly, Baudrillard makes use of Borges’ ironic fable of an empire whose cartographers create a map so minutely detailed that it covers the very things it was intended to represent. That is, the map turns out to be as large as the kingdom itself, to the scale! Now, when the empire declines, the map recedes into the landscape and there is neither the simulated copy or representation, nor is it the originally real that remains – but just the hyperreal.
This appeared in Vista 2005, Fine Arts Society Journal, St. Stephen's College.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Window

The ivory porcelain
Stands over the mahogany table

Across the window
Sticking onto glass panes
Glistening film of a clear curve
The shimmer lingers on

Blooms of lilies sway
Rock in the frosty breeze
Dew like gold dust

Even as I stray radiant
Into warm velvety shadows
I swim
Into the kingdom of delight.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Van Gogh

Shoes, 1888
Oil on canvas

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Lewis Carroll
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005



Through light grey
Pencil marks
I browse, I flip, I search
Forward and back
And in the margins
I survey close
Hard. Again. Harder
Utmost focus
Concentration of walking a tight rope
Drops of glistening sweat
Garland my brows
My veins turn taut
I get desperate
Irritated, annoyed
With a sense of loss
It keeps echoing
‘why is it evading me?’
Moments pass
With renewed vigour
I search afresh
Give it a last try
Scrutinize, probe
Deep, deeper
I check thoroughly
And then
In a sheer moment
As it stares blunt
Blatant on my face
I overlook it
I turn the page
With no sense of loss.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Playing the Lilt

Lilt of mind in the ascent beyond
I am the voyage

The blossom springs
I turn inside
In the emerald lake
As the swans glide across
In a slender arc
I weave gold
In the flowing crimson silk
The threads twirl
While the lotus unfolds
At the game of chess
I make a move.

Friday, November 04, 2005

"Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past."

Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same.

A fourth dimension of aesthetic sense
Where all is in ourselves, ourselves in all.

(From The Four Quartets: TS Eliot)

Waiting for Godot

VLADIMIR: We can still part, if you think it would be better.
ESTRAGON: It's not worthwhile now.
VLADIMIR: No, it's not worthwhile now.
ESTRAGON: Well, shall we go?
VLADIMIR: Yes, let's go.
They do not move.

Waiting for Godot
Samuel Beckett

Friday, October 28, 2005

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

To the real Jonathan Seagull,
who lives within us all.

Richard Bach. Jonathan Livingston Seagull

"It was morning, and the new sun sparkled gold across the ripples of a gentle sea. A mile from shore a fishing boat chummed the water. and the word for Breakfast Flock flashed through the air, till a crowd of a thousand seagulls came to dodge and fight for bits of food. It was another busy day beginning. But way off alone, out by himself beyond boat and shore, Jonathan Livingston Seagull was practicing. A hundred feet in the sky he lowered his webbed feet, lifted his beak, and strained to hold a painful hard twisting curve through his wings. The curve meant that he would fly slowly, and now he slowed until the wind was a whisper in his face, until the ocean stood still beneath him. He narrowed his eyes in fierce concentration, held his breath, forced one... single... more... inch...of... curve... Then his featliers ruffled, he stalled and fell. Seagulls, as you know, never falter, never stall. To stall in the air is for them disgrace and it is dishonor. But Jonathan Livingston Seagull, unashamed, stretching his wings again in that trembling hard curve - slowing, slowing, and stalling once more - was no ordinary bird. Most gulls don't bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight - how to get from shore to food and back again. For most gulls, it is not flying that matters, but eating. For this gull, though, it was not eating that mattered, but flight. More than anything else. Jonathan Livingston Seagull loved to fly."

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Golden shores abound
The deep beckons forth
Shower of the waves
The kingfishers soar
The sapphire air rings with joy.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Kierkegaard's Passion

Kierkegaard's passion was not about a staunch, certain and blind belief in a truth called God. It was rather about clinging on to the uncertainty of it all post reflection, and to reaffirm one's authenticity in taking the leap of faith. If Kierkegaard is seen at the root of Existentialist thought, it is because of his emphasis upon the individual whose lived experiences are most important, and because of the strong notion of freedom that a person possesses in existing and making alternative difficult choices.
The dilemma is that individuals are not sincere if they do not attempt to reflect on the relation between themselves and God. But when they indeed do, it turns out that they can never be certain about the phenomena, because God can never become the object, and therefore never accessible to the rational faculty; God is, indeed, the eternal subject. When the individual subject thus confronts this dilemma, (s)he suffers from the agony of uncertainty. And yet this uncertainty must be held fast onto with the greatest passion. The uncertainty of the possible brings with it the suffering that a truly existing human being is conscious of, as a mark of taking upon complete responsibility of choice. Kierkegaard's remedy is hardly the average person's cup of tea. But for him the ethically responsible persons would turn 'inward' and go through this if they thought of themselves as being true to the spirit of Christianity.

Clearly, Kierkegaard's bitter polemic was both against the institutionalized religion of the Church and society which offered a platter full of absolutist, certain and dogmatic Christian doctrines, to be followed uncritically, scientifically and generally. In sharp contrast, Kierkegaard felt that in truth, we strictly are individuals who cannot be treated mediately or like objects at all. We must simply not be part of these sheep-like herds (as community, race, society, etc). We must stand out by being aware of our existence. Thus, Kierkegaard's other adversary was the worldview of the Hegelian Absolute, that totally subsumed the individual's subjective reality under the Objective Spirit or Geist.