you’re beautiful

how do you response when someone says you are beautiful? for your consideration, first, this person is a guy. quite young. a stranger who happens to be near you. (meanwhile, you are actually more of a stranger, compared to him as he is a local) You may think he is just flirting. It’s nothing serious. Or you may also be flattered. You blush. You think it is a damn fact. You can as well say thank you, assuming that his statement is so blunt. The Indonesian way would be to say, « Oh, really? » It’s a way of showing a surprise.

But circumstances count. The location was a palace. To be exact, Lake Palace in Udaipur. It is a romantic place. The luxurious atmosphere really gives you a thrill, teleports you to another time and space. You’re feeling like a queen? Most probably.

lake palace

lake palace, udaipur, rajahstan, india

But does it all matter? The signified of the word beautiful is complicated, at least for me. I always find it difficult to explain the meaning of my first name. The first thing that comes in mind is ‘beautiful’. But I usually add ‘lovely’, just to avoid constricting it to visage beauty. I hate to say that my name means beautiful. It’s like saying I’m beautiful. Although my mother may mean it when she gave birth to me.

Belle, bela, جميلة, सुंदर, now the word has become an empty signifier. Too many people have said it. It is floating, waiting to be grasped by someone who really means saying it. Only this anchoring matters.

when dryness gets to the extreme

i remember my friend said, around march–just after the chill of winter was fading, « I love the weather, coz my hair stays good. » So, as the weather was dry, the scalp didn’t turned humid. you don’t need to wash your hair so often. and you know washing hair is such a big deal for indian girls, because they have to oil the hail first and leave it for one to eight hours–during which you are confined to your room as you look very ugly.
so nowadays it’s been hot. super hot. temperature reached 44 degrees. can’t imagine what july would be like. but the heat is different from that of jakarta. it’s very dry here. whenever i walk pass any open ground, it smells like either grass or soil. or shit or trash of course. strangely some trees have the effect of falling the leaves, leaving only the flowers. like the yellow one in jnu main road, from t-point to ad block. if you walk along the road, feels like being in a wedding hall.
and dryness bring patched land. and the jungle of jnu turns to be … a desert.
last night after watching the premiere of pirrates of the carribean, we were sitting in the lawn in front of lohit hostel, chatting over a cup of chai. planning our next trip (to rajahstan, guys!!) when the winds started blowing from every way… clouds of dust was floating. we had to cover our face in order to keep breathing. it came several times. unfortunately i didnt hv any dupatta to cover my hair. it got so entangled and dusty i know not how to clean it. the wind blew us to a desert… maybe rajahstan, maybe africa

such a suck day

always, always cant get good quality sleep whenever i have to get up early the next day. such as yesterday morning. i woke up on time, even before my alarm. my roommie can always wake me, not intentionally.. but even the sounds of small things she does.
then i finally got the call of the cab. worked. had coffee (i know.. i shouldn’t have). got trained. i asked for a hardcopy so that i can read more conveniently, especially to know the qualifier questions which will terminate the survey (mati kutu). but N.O. didn’t give me. i was alone. the two boys didn’t show up.
then i had to find the leads myself. tiring. got lost. dialled so many numbers, got transfered, got blank appointments. everybody told me to send email instead. internet resing. breakfast was some south indian vada n sambar and the pale chutney–of which the combination just stirred my stomach… 😦 but sandwich wasnt there yet.
i don’t understand BPO thing. in a website we got some links of BPO companies. but either the number is indian or singaporean or nil, or the companie had gone bankrupt. or they didn’t provide the service that the survey is concerned of.
so lucky i got a good car to go drop us. but those stupid guys took so long to show up. then one of them, who sat next to me, was acting as if he were the cutest guy on earth. the guy sitting in the front didn’t know how to put on the seatbelt. the geek next to me stupidly opened the window while the AC was running!! i didnt even care what excuse he gave. i had my earphoned… i don’t really like AC, or something. oh my god… cant u feel it’s 44 celcius degrees outside! you’ll get only hot wave! so ‘kampungan’! sorry to say… i just had a bad day. didn’t get any survey

therapy in the usual way

sooo.. today’s a holiday not only in indonesia but also some parts here. at least my center/department. i went because i needed to get clearance form for my certificate (yes, i have completed M.A.). but then i called the guy, he said they are on vacation. hmm. well at least i got mango shake from the usual place. then i got AC in the library. didn’t manage to read Dante’s Inferno or Czechoslovakian short stories. but took nap for about 15 minutes 😛

then of course my friend wanted to go out. somewhere, anywhere, at least to escape the furnace of delhi (44 celcius degrees). so we went to a mall, nearby. the first stop is big bazaar. a kind of Matahari or a little carrefour. we scanned d clothes section, furnitures, mobile, soaps.. and went down to the supermarket. quite a comfortable place, you can say. the good thing you can see a ot of imported stuffs (from thailand or indonesia!) and learn some names. such as the types of mango (alfonso, etc), also the vegetables (brinjal, bottlegourd…). i bought ‘oyong’. it’s a kind of gourd, but i forgot the hindi name. my roomie said its ‘jingga’. anyway, its just 26 rupees per kg, n i got less than half kg for 5 pieces. i got pudina (mint) powder, but didnt get gur (molasses, jaggery) for my rujak (fruit salad with peanut sauce). i bought canned salmon also (hmm… fish is quite rare n expensive here).

to the department stores (they have pantaloon, lifesytle, shopper’s stop), i just accompanied my friend in the men’s section. he tried on pants, t-shirts, shirts, suit, etc… really, this whole day it has been like living in jakarta. with family.

moving on to the next mall, right beside it, we were of course tired and needed to stretch our legs. we sat in the food court and bought something to eat. these days our meal-taking has been incredibly irregular. again, the heat doesn’t only make headache and hurt your eyes, but also kill your appetite. from the food court, we came to a bookstore, then fashion outlet… so i would call the day a therapy day, to discharge loneliness and stress. before coming back to misery.

women’s faces i’ve seen for the last two years

for Langston Hughes

Didi, cut your hair short when it starts having split ends

Didi, erase that sindhur if it starts tainting your nose

Take off the churi if you want to show your dragon tattoo on your wrist

Crush that anklet if you don’t like the sound of the bells dictating your steps

Don’t listen to others when you’re more comfortable with your cuurent status, complicated or single

puisi di hari sempit

kurta hijau-coklat spring collection
membawaku ke dunia permainan warna rosetti
kelopak mata bunuel yang tak angker
cuma goresan dengan alat pangkas sehari-hari
ya aku terjepit di revolusi langston
dan teriakan stalin
di laut conrad dan kanibal congo, di satu sisi sungai
yang mengalirkan benci-penyakit kurtz
dimana perkosa adalah senjata
coltan, bahaya turunan generasi benua
perut terbelah dan syukurlah ini kisah nyata, hobbes
membawaku pergi dari lapangan bersampah
topan dedebu, balapan merak
potongan nipis seperti mika, potongan bungkus teh berkarakter aneh
kembang yang enggan kering
tidak ada musim gugur di new york-nya billie
tidak ada akubisadapatkalauakucoba
ah tidak sayang, hari ini panjang
separuh siang
menggigil seputaran fan
seseorang mengangkat topi untukku
untuk cinta yang bertahan
tak roboh tertekan
seperti tempelan
chef-chef membubungkan sawi
tertawa memamer gigi
pada foto kalender taurus
suatu sore di alir cheonggyecheon tanpa kental ornamen salju
dan aku bayangan di ujung sana
diapit gitanjali
tanpa suara
cuma langkah
verve menggelincir
rekatkan semua yang tercecer, darling
sudah cukup aku tercacah

Comparison of Poetic Language Theories: Indian and Western Traditions

Indian theorists developed some concepts regarding the value of poetry and what differ poetry from scientific writing. The concepts include rasa, alamkara, riti, dhvani, and they function to bring up the soul of poetry. The concepts are interrelated and serve as common ground for philosophical view of man and nature and the process of creativity (pratibha).

Alamkara, which means figure of speech in Sankrit, is the principle of poetic beauty. It scrutinized poetic expressions that impress and leave memorable expression onto literary readers. The main classification of Alamkara is based on sound (shabda) and sense (artha). In Natyashastra there are four figures of speech, Upama (simile), Rupaka (metaphor), Dipaka (illuminator) and Yamaka (rhyme). Then the fifth category appeared, called Lakshana although it disappeared slowly.

Kashmir thinker Anandavardhana is a leading commentator on alamkara. In Dhvanyaloka, he analyzed the functions of language and the content of poetry. The key term here is dhvani, or suggestion. It refers to the ‘resonance’ that is built in the reader’s mind about unstated or implied meaning of words.  According to Anandavardhana dhvani is the core of poetry. This expression can be seen in the idiom, form, matter-content and emotional context. The alamkara became denotation (abhidha). A poem’s beauty should meet the following conditions: (a) alamkara should be aimed to suggest rasa; (b) it is born coinciding with the poet’s delineation of rasa; (c) it is natural and simple, and (d) the poet should keep making it effective. The suggested meaning is always more intrinsic than that is stated in the poetry. Rasa can only be evoked by suggestion. All the mental states which give form to dhvani apply to Rasa. Therefore the beauty of poetry is determined by Rasa. Other faculties such as structure and diction come after Rasa. Anandavardhana showed that literary units such as syllable, word, suffix, pronoun, conjunction; also sentence, episode and the whole work can be beautiful when the rasa is observed (Datta: 815).

In response to dhvani theory, Bhatta Nayaka (10th century) rejected the idea that rasa can be inferred. According to him, Rasa is neither located in the character, the actor playing the character, nor the spectator. The relationship between the spectator and the character depends on imagination (bhavana vyapara). What makes poetic experience special is that because it has not only abhidha, but also the power of generalization (bhavakatva). Therefore aesthetic object and subject are freed from individuality, which is called sadharanikarana. Enjoyment (bhojakatva) is another power of language. This power allows the spectator to relish the experience in a poetic creation at the aesthetic level, rather than at the practical.

In Western theory, the appeal of poetry is discussed by, among others, literary critic I.A. Richards. The first experience in reading a poetry is that hearing the sound of the words, and then building up images in our mind. In poetry, words are mostly ambiguous or contain different meanings, and this triggers our mind to work more laboriously. This is the difference between poetry and scientific writing. A poem comprises, what Richards calls, pseudo-statements. The poet utilizes words as his or her interests come into his consciousness in appropriating his or her experience. The functions of words in poetry and words in science are contradictory. In the first case words chosen among innumerable possibilities can better describe something. In science words are limited by logic and therefore must rely on truth. Truth is something that has been verified and accepted. To scientists, pseudo-statements are unacceptable because they regard them as false.

In “Poetry and Abstract Thought”, Paul Valery says that “poetry is an art of language”. Language is a means of communication. It has phonetic and semantic functions. But a poet, with his or her intellect and aesthetics, can transform language into a certain state that will affect the readers. Valery compares poetry and prose by saying that they are like dancing and walking. Unlike walking, dancing has no goal. Its end is in itself. Language in poetry is understood by the reader through its meaning. So the role of a poet is making the bind between the word and the mind closer.

Work Cited

Datta, Amaresh. The Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature Vol I (A to Devo). 2006. Sahitya Akademi.

Richards, I.A. Science and Poetry

Valery, Paul. Poetry and Abstract Thoughts

Bhartrhari’s Vakyapadiya and Jacques Lacan’s Theory of Subjectivity

Bhartrhari (7th century AD) is the leader of the grammarian school of linguistic philosophers. This school focused on the problem of language and meaning. Bhartrhari’s main text is the Vākyapadīya (Of Sentences and Words), on Sanskrit grammar and linguistic philosophy. This text became the basis of Sphota theory in Sanskrit linguistics. Meanwhile, Jacques Lacan is a prominent psychoanalysis theorist. His famous line in “The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious; or Reason Since Freud” is “[p]sychoanalysis discovers in the unconscious … the whole structure of language”. He also talks about the role of language/ signification in the structure of material reality.

Bhartrhari views language in a holistic way. This means that language and the universe referred by it cannot be separated. There is no independent meaning as meaning is inherent in sphota. He also believes that all knowledge is ‘penetrated’ and ‘illuminated’ by words. thus “all knowledge is linguistic, and the distinctions of objects are traceable to distinctions among words.” (Britannica)

Further, as regards the question of the bearer of the meaning of a word or a sentence in Indian philosophy, the grammarians postulated that the word is the bearer of meaning. Thus the word becomes the sphota. When the addressee hears a word, his or her perception quickly removes possible misunderstandings. From one unit of sound to another, the hearer tries to grasp the meaning of the word.

There is causal relation between the word and the object. The object that exist within the form of the word is the cause while the externalized word is the effect (p. 18). This is also mentioned in verse I.44, “[i]n the words which are expressive the learned discern two elements: one is the cause of the real word which, the other, is used to convey the meaning.”

In the grammarians’ theory of word monoism, a sentence is neither a group of words nor an ordered collection of them. The sentence-sphota is the main unit of meaning and a word is an abstraction from a sentence. There is no reality other than consciousness.

If we are to compare Bhartrhari’s concept of language and Jacques Lacan’s theory of subjectivity, we must look into the idea of consciousness. Vakyapadiya verse I.41 says that ‘[o]ne who has recourse to Tradition which shines uninterruptedly like the ‘I’ consciousness cannot be diverted therefrom by mere reasoning.’ Here the subject has the sense of ‘I am’ which cannot be undercut by the authoritative person’s influence. This is because the sense derives from spontaneous and eternal consciousness. Tradition also cannot be violated by rules. It is considered as the right and therefore universal for cultured people. In Lacan, how the subject forms its subjectivity relies on the ‘authoritative person’, or the Law of the Father. Once he acquires language, he identifies that he is a separate entity, different from his reflection on the mirror.

There is also a metaphor about reflection in Bhartrhari which we can compare to Lacan as well. The gross sound, or nada, is a sequence of sound. It suggests the word (sphota). The sounds produced by articulatory organ create the sense that sphota comprises some parts. The relation between sphota and nada is like a reflection, for example the reflection of the moon on the surface of water. The relation is due to the movement of the water. But even if there the reflection does not move by itself, it has the quality of the movement. The word also has the qualities of the sound—short or long, slow or fast. According to this view, the reflection is identical with the object. In Lacan’s mirror stage, there is a question of the difference between the ‘I’ and the ‘Other’.

Bhartrhari believes that a person is born carrying linguistic intuition that he or she inherits from  the previous generations. He imagines a prototype of language that expresses and shapes itself according to the culture. This linguistic intuition is perhaps what Lacan means when he says that “we cling to the illusion that signifier answers to the function of representing the signified…that the signifier has to answer for its existence in the name of signification whatever.” Lacan says that “no signification can be sustained other than by reference to another signification” and so “there is no language in existence for which there is any question of its inability to cover the whole field of the signified.” Bhartrhari goes on to say that all knowledge depends upon the word and that a child knows this because of the residual knowledge from its previous birth (I.121). So Bhartrhari assumed that the word, or language, can cover all knowledge.

Another thing that can be compared in terms of signification is that Bhartrhari views that before the signifier (the name) is connected with the signified (the named), it is connected with its form as the meaning. Developing Saussure’s theory, Lacan proposes that we must pay attention to the reference of significations to one another, rather than assuming the correlation between the signifier and the signified. That the signifier functions to represent the signified is only an illusion, metaphysical.

Comparative Analysis between Bhatta Nayaka’s and Shri Sankuka’s Rasa-Sutra and Two of T.S. Eliot’s Essays

Bhatta Nayaka was in the tradition of non-dualism school. Bhatta Nayaka’s theory regarding the interpretation of Braharata Muni’s Natyasastra marks the shift of the locus of rasa from the characters, as believed by critics up to the tenth century, to the spectators.

In term of the relation between the phenomena of literature and its effect on human emotion, the formalist views that rasa is manifested in the characters. This is because the formalist focuses on the text. However, the question of how the spectators perceive rasa arises. Bhatta Nayaka critiqued the formalist’ view by focusing on the spectator’s subjective experience while engaging with literary work. Abhinavagupta says that according to Bhatta Nayaka, rasa “is neither perceived (prati), nor produced (utpad), nor manifested (abhivyaj)”. The key to his concept is bhavana, a particular combination of determinants and consequents. Rasa is inherent in the text. It matures into art, more objectified experience. In drama, the spectator’s experience is internal. Rasa occurs when the spectator becomes one with what he is watching.

Shri Sankuka interpreted that Rasa originates by anumiti i.e. inference. According to him art cannot be an ordinary imitation but a kind of an indirect Inference. Hence the sthayi bhava of the character, which is inferred by the actor, is called Rasa. Sthayi bhava cannot be imitated because an actor does not himself experience the pain of the character. There is a distance between the two. The actor must create, by his ability, a mental state in order to act on the stage. Thus Sri Sankuka interprets the Rasa Sutra to mean that the basic mental state inferred from vibhavas and anubhavas. Meanwhile, vibhavas and anubhavas in T.S. Eliot are emotions and feelings. The text or poem is a transcript of personal feelings. The process of the fusion between feelings and emotions determines the artistic level of the poem.

Shri Sankuka put the stress on the role of the spectator. As he is trained in Nyaya school (logician), he viewed rasa not from the perspective of the production of aesthetic object, but rather the matter out of which the aesthetic experience comes. Everything is made of a form; therefore the self is the substance. But in Eliot’s “Tradition and Individual Talent”, a poet is a medium of channeling and elaborating tradition. Eliot argues that a writer cannot be separated from the literary tradition before him. He has “a consciousness of the past”. A poet must embody, in the context of English literature, “the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer” while expressing his present day spirit. However, this does not mean that the poet surrenders to repetition. As he creates, he appropriates the established literary traditions. His work will change the way of seeing the works of art that preceded it. This is what Eliot calls ‘impersonal theory’ of poetry.

Eliot’s disassociation of sensibility also appears in his essay “The Metaphysical Poets”. The term refers to the way in which intellectual thought was separated from the experience of feeling in late seventeenth century. This is contrasted to the group of poets in the sixteenth and early seventeenth century, who “constantly amalgamating disparate experience” and therefore express their thoughts through the experience of feeling. In “Hamlet and His Problems” Eliot presents the concept of “objective correlative” in this essay. The expression of emotion in art can be achieved by a set of objects. Then a particular emotion is evoked through the presentation of its correlated objective sign and the author is depersonalized. The sign, rather than the poet, creates emotion. We can hear the echo of this theory in “Tradition and Individual Talent” as well when Eliot says that “The business of the poet is not to find new emotions, but to use the ordinary ones and, in working them up into poetry, to express feelings which are not in actual emotions at all.” The poet is objective in the sense that he is not expressing his personality in his poetry, but rather escaping from it. Writing poetry must be done consciously and deliberately. It requires tranquility. Meaning is distorted.

Moving on to the spectator, in Shri Sankuka’s theory of rasa, the means of knowledge is perception. Knowledge must be transformed into inference. We also find the notion of reproduction, that what the actor reproduces has to be cognized. This is due to the distance of the spectator. The objective cognition has to become a part of the spectator’s consciousness. It cannot be directly perceived either through language or movement.