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Archive for December, 2008

judgment-paris

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Descartes said, ‘I think therefore I am’. Is thought all that defines man of his being?
Self of man is rooted in the very consciousness of his or her world. Even in the womb a child is conscious of a world, which is part of another world. Its floating world is kind of a reality. It may not think or know of a far wider world lying beyond. Even so it is in development, a growth process beginning and end of which no one may determine for certainty. A newborn enters the world with little control over its body and having no thinking faculties so to speak. Is not the baby still a being in its own right?
Ability to think alone does not define the essence of a being.
2.
With great advances in our understanding of physiology we may now put the origin of thoughts, movements as belonging properly in the realm of physiology. Similarly a foetus linked to its mother by an umbilical chord while within the womb is a matter of physiology. But what makes it draw air in its lungs the moment the umbilical chord is cut off  belongs to something else. What gave it a foreknowledge of a world that must be breathed in?
A baby has already certain experience of the outside world and it is picked up through the medium of its mother. By the same token we are conscious of a world, an inner world through the medium of our corporeal bodies.
Thinking only gives a handle to what impressions we may have of other worlds. It cannot however prove its existence or disprove it.
benny

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I do not think I had since I came to a man’s estate ever held Christmas as any day special from other days. It was thus through the period while I had unchurched myself or while I was part of it. Of course it has nothing to do with my belief or lack of it. I feel His presence too well, and it is an every day thing, to think of giving only one day for such things that are so vital to my conscious life.
On the day of Christmas I attended the service and the passage chosen for reading made me reexamine the relevance of Christmas.
1.

Christmas celebrates the advent of Christ: Relevance of the event is that it was a sign. Its origin? Isaiah 7 has an interesting passage where the prophet says,‘ The Lord himself shall give you a sign;…’ The sign originated from the mind of God, having no space or time constraints. Considering the prophet lived some six centuries before the actual event it does not lose its importance. I shall give the immediate context to which the passage refers to in the section 3.

2.

The second part of the verse reads as follows, ‘…Behold a virgin shall …bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel’.(vs.14) Immanuel means ‘God amongst us. Whether we subscribe to God as Truth in a secular vocabulary or as ‘Father in heaven’ as the Lord prayer teaches us, the fact is inescapable. Our world and Cosmos is shot through with His knowledge and in the heart of which he remains as the Lord redeemer. Whether in our physical bodies, or redeemed from the corruptible nature of mortality, Immanuel is exactly what the term means. He is among us, among the skeptics and believers alike.

In short life and death may be two states of being and non-being(as believing or disbelieving are), our relationship to God remains unchanged. In this context consider the Pauline verse ‘that he might fill all things.’Eph 4:10. Neither heaven nor hell shall keep the meaning of Immanuel any less relevant.
3.
Prophet Isaiah lived at a turbulent period in the history of Judah. King Ahaz was a wicked king who worshiped idols and did things hateful to God. Even as Syria and Israel conspired together to destroy Judah the king didn’t call upon God. It was under such a circumstance God chose to send His message though his prophet. King Ahaz is typical of modern man who doesn’t care to think God has any role to play in his life. He shall be God, the absolute whether you like it or not. Immanuel for me goes beyond any particular day.  It is an everyday thing and I feel that proper office of man is to give a good account of himself as best as he can, even under the most trying times.

benny

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Decadence of Rome can be summed up in the adage ‘All roads lead to Rome’. The empire was only concerned of taxes, luxury and essential goods streaming in from every road. The wealth of course went into the state coffers and into the pockets of a few families. The empire wasn’t concerned as much about the poor,  workmen and slaves while the few had too much of power, riches and privileges.  The sting of such sweet life that a superpower nation offers to citizens is a price too dear. It saps the moral fibre of each member of the select few. Rome’s fall was hastened by their flouting of some simple home truths. Character of every citizen must add up fairly even handed and nation’s health is made by just laws. Rome allowed certain group uncontrolled power to run the empire.
The same we see now in slightly modified form, noticeably in unrestrained free enterprise of finance. Those who have mishandled the trust of a nation shall gamble away unrepentant, if they get another chance. A gambler’s compulsive nature they will show. Recently I read of some US banks warning that they may not be able to give a proper account of the bailouts they have had. What with such a crisis in consumer confidence at the present we expect the Banks would treat any bailout as manna from heaven. Instead we have here an example of custodians of Nation’s financial health making a mess of money given out to them.  I can only compare it to the expression, ‘ casting pearls before swines’. It is, I suppose, rooted in human nature to be lackadaisical of whatever freely given because of some deeply ingrained wrong habit. The man  in the receiver. A child who gets always into trouble may be helped by another. If such help has come unstintingly it is almost certain he even when old shall go on making mistakes. He may even by experience think the world owes him at least that much. Is it not a moral sickness? Similarly one who has always had support of his class and some who are powerful develop habits that can only spell disaster for so many. The custodians of nation’s wealth having handled money in a very-free- for- all- and- greed- is -good atmosphere are more likely to be less than scrupulous on the commodity of trust in particular. Mr. Bernard Madoff  knew he could get away with his alleged ‘swindle’ under the cloak of philanthropy.  Worse still he knew the regulators would not find him out.  Yes in an insulated bubble of greed the regulators, politicians and crooked capitalists are all patriots of another kind. They beat the drum and wave the flag of their country.  The ilk of Alan Greenspan, Cox, from their positions of  trust and  responsibility  all assure the nation’s wealth is showing great flexibility. Which nation do they serve? These serve a land where money is the only constitution and rule of law is proved by profits. Whereas patriotism of the common man is paid in blood, tears and sweat. When such things become well entrenched in nation’s life remember Rome.
Playing within the system to which only a few are admitted is sure to come unstuck sooner or later.
benny

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Hitler’s Third Reich was built up on the foundation of hatred. It was meant to endure for 1000 years. But it could only manage 13 years. Why? Hatred consumes much more vital resources in human and material terms so much so it cannot be cost effective. Jihadist elements who employ female suicide bombers or African militia using child soldiers are spendthrifts sacrificing their future for the present gains.
2.
It takes money to make money. Right? How is it that those who have made money want more? Greed seems to keep man as though he has got ants in his pants. He may wheel and deal as though ants are out to get at him but do you think he would be able to amount to much? Greed consumes as hate. We see both working overtime these days.
While on the subject of greed I might speak here of  two great philanthropists who lived to give away their wealth wisely and for making at least some difference to people who needed a push at a time they needed most.  Carnegie and Rockefeller had greed in their blood. But life experience gave them a certain kind of infusion to make their vitality achieve something else. It was not wealth per se but by it they could put various aspects that made their lives an uneven weight of struggles, achievements, tears and happiness on a single standard. Wealth for them was the means. Consider now a man far less endowed say for example Johnny Appleseed, was not his contribution to the world as vital as anything that Carnegie could achieve with money? Johny Appleseed made the difference because of something that is rooted in life: he cared.
Life thrives on soils where wealth, science, technology, arts literature and people are all means to make the world richer. Richness comes from love that can be used in right proportions so each aspect is helped by other parts .  For example, wealth funds science and research in turn leads to technological innovations. It can either lead to terrible weapons to wage war or serve as the means to wean the childish notions of man for self- aggrandizement. For the latter, arts and literature act as an ennobling incentive. In this what is the place for religion, one might ask. I shall discuss this in another post.
In this post we are considering only the aspect of life on a finite mode, where wealth is not cost effective if it is not allied with love.
benny

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Chapter-6
Second Chance

Agostino would hear none of it. He insisted Immanuel stay with him till he was well enough to continue his journey.  “Why must a child, you are indeed a child, and why must you take up such a hardship?” He replied that he was sent to seek out children whereever in need. He would have said further.
“But you came to Cloud Peak to look up an old man!,”
he cut in with evident relish.
“You are a child too. Otherwise why would you have carved dolls?” Turning to other topics he said in the end he felt in him a kindred spirit. “My father was a carpenter and…”his voice trailed off as if his past  came in a rush. “Oh to be here. As if I am among familiar things.” He held his hand out and asked if he could hold his doll for a while. Shocked Agostino pointed to the welt in each palm that stood out horribly red against his tender skin. He was about to ask but Immanuel said simply ” Oh these are some reminders,- ‘I was wounded in the house of my friends.’
For a week he thought over. Agostino felt pain that such tender age did not leave the child much. On the day of leave-taking he said, “Here take all, each doll I give into your safe keeping. ”Immanuel looked at him searchingly while he added, ”Give them away if that would make you happier.”
Immanuel accepted them and before he left the old man he said, ”You are a good man. Leave it at that.”
Yes, Agostino felt that his age allowed him to let go. As his dolls.
It made him happy.
The End
Season’s Greetings to all my readers. I take time now to express my thanks to the WordPress team who is doing a great job and wish each one of them a great year.

I shall be busy for a while what with shifting house and building our own dream house. I may not be as regular with my posts as I would wish. Anyway let us see.

b.

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I Vitelloni or the young bulls is the third cinematic essay of Federico Fellini and it was a mature work as far as it reconstructed the trends of neorealism in his own personal idiom. At a time when critics tended to look at films dealing with postwar Italy from a Marxian point of view he was neither conservative nor reactionary. He was far too individualistic to look at social reality with labels. His mature films showed his heart was fully engaged in the creative process whether it dealt with social issues or his interior life. Here I am concerned with pre-felliniesque films.  I dare to think his training as a wandering caricaturist helped him to be objective and go to the essence leaving the claptrap of ideology to pamphlets. He learned what he required more from Chaplin than Rosselini. The social conscience of Chaplin was clothed in melodrama while his characters showed his own. It is pertinent to remember that his films in the early period are more autobiographical than derived from books of others. Between I vitelloni of 1953 and Amarcord of 1973 we can see certain characterisitics that show Fellini at his best. The first is a group caricature of four layabouts in a stifling beach town. It could well be Rimini from where Fellini escaped for Rome in the Thirties. In that sleepy provincial town the social stagnation that enervate I vitelloni has to do much with the economic distress of the post war Italy. Whereas Amarcord traces the rise of fascism in the way of behavior of a few of the town’s inhabitants. Unlike Chaplin who created the Tramp more as a peg to place his genius, Fellini was more in the tradition of a storyteller. His characters are there to delineate themselves and masks they wear are as such we all wear in the growing pains of finding our feet as and when needed. Alberto lives with his mother as Fausto is under the thumb of his feisty father. Alberto( Alberto Sordi) has no qualms of living off his sister but he makes it a point to show he is the man of the house. Fausto (Franco Fabrizi) on the other hand impregnates his friend’s sister and yet finds excuses for not doing the right thing. All these characters are other selves of Fellini who bear the torch lit by his personal vision. Antonia Shanahan, in senses of cinema, July 2002 writes thus, ‘As a veteran of the scripting team responsible for two exemplars of Italian neorealism, Roma città aperta and Paisà (both Roberto Rossellini, 1945 and ’46), Fellini was interested in moving toward a “cinema of Reconstruction.” After Paisà, he redefined his artistic credo to “looking at reality with an honest eye – but any kind of reality; not just social reality, but also spiritual reality, metaphysical reality, anything man has inside him.” ‘(1)( Federico Fellini, “The Road Beyond Neo-Realism, ” in Fellini, “La Strada”: Federico Fellini, Director, ed. Peter Bondanella and Manuela Gieri,-New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987, p.217.)
Fellini showed his genius in such films as Nights of Cabiria, La Strada and La Dolce Vita.

I Vitelloni follows the lives of five young vitelloni, or layabouts, and when the film opens the tourist season has come to an end with the choosing of the summer’s Miss Sirene. It begins with the end of summer, the “vitelloni” introduced in a long, narrated tracking-shot (clearly the inspiration for a similar scene in Goodfellas, and much emulated since.) In the ensuing excitement of the locals who predict great things for the newly crowned Miss Sirene, Fellini uses her innocence and trustful nature to show how the stifling provincialism has already claimed one victim. She (Leonora Ruffo) is the sister of one of the ‘vitelloni’. Moraldo has none of the qualities that make Fausto seem the undisputed leader of the group. As the film progresses we see the characters change their positions. Fausto’s supposedly leadership is shallow as he is unable to raise to the demands made on him. He is the first to leave for Rome but he comes back without being able to succeed there. While Sandra adores her husband and is blissfully unaware of his philandering nature. A telling scene in the cinema hall reveals to the viewer what she does not see. At the end of the episode we see her afraid and she may not have caught him out but she knows he has already gone astray. Far more serious is the way Fausto loses his secure job. He is able to lull his wife and his friend into believing a lie but we know that he would put his marriage into jeopardy sooner or later. Fausto has fallen from his position of adoration to one who is need of correction. Here we see Sandra and Moraldo show much more mettle in facing upto the reality. Shedding her starry eyed admiration for a feckless husband she is able to transform her credulity into a resolute strength. In the end she is able to make Fausto toe the line and behave responsibly. Meanwhile the would-be playwright Leopoldo (Leopoldo Trieste) continues to work on plays that are unplayable and Alberto (Alberto Sordi) who has taken on himself to keep the family honor in tact is helpless to stop his sister, Olga (Claude Farell), from eloping with her lover. Ultimately Moraldo breaks free from his self-imposed paralysis and moves on, leading to one of the most poignant farewell sequences in film history.
I Vitelloni was a hit in Italy upon its release, and it established his reputation as a filmmaker of world class. By the way the title became a part of Italian vernacular.
Fellini’s alter ego Moraldo we shall see in La Dolce Vita where he is of course called Marcello Rubini. I Vitelloni includes some of his most subtle filmmaking and most personal material. Loosely structured and oddly narrated, I Vitelloni is also an insightful and accurate representation of Italy in the immediate postwar period, full of references to the massive social changes underway. Fifty years after its release it is seen as a seminal film in Italian cinema.
Similar Movies
American Graffiti (1973, George Lucas)
Mean Streets (1973, Martin Scorsese)
We All Loved Each Other So Much (1975, Ettore Scola)
Basilischi (1963, Lina Wertmüller)
Amici Miei (1975, Mario Monicelli)
The Last Kiss (2001, Gabriele Muccino)
Y Tu Mamá También (2001, Alfonso Cuarón)
After Freedom (2002, Vahe Babaian)
25 Watts (2001, Juan Pablo Rebella, Pablo Stoll)
Movies with the Same Personnel
Ginger and Fred (1986, Federico Fellini)
The White Sheik (1952, Federico Fellini)
Intervista (1987, Federico Fellini)
La Dolce Vita (1960, Federico Fellini)
Fellini’s Roma (1972, Federico Fellini)
Nights of Cabiria (1957, Federico Fellini)
The Flowers of St. Francis (1950, Roberto Rossellini)
Nestore l’ultima corsa (1994, Alberto Sordi)
Ack: brightlights.com-Megan Ratner, all movie- Elbert Ventura
and senses of cinema)

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Chapter-5
Enter Immanuel

Winter was well underway and Agostino felt it all too keenly. His blanket was no longer adequate and with another thrown over it just about prevented him from freezing to death at nights. On evenings a warm fireplace with logs crackling in a blazing fire made him stare away from goblins of boredom. It became a constant struggle to attend to his daily needful things. He knew his age had finally caught up with him. He was old and worn out.
To be old and with so many hurts still unattended to took their toll: it made him perpetually sour and angry.
The more he glanced at his past, all those little hurts became more insolent and seemed to outstare him. When he was rough and ready he was relieved off his trusty axe. Why? He thought it made mock of his muscular strength.
“Oh I was young and strong of nerves to swing an axe”, his mind was ready with an excuse. ”But did you get a woman, a helpmate for all that fire in your blood?” No why? He was slowly building a cage about him and creepers with thorns were blocking the quietness of his existence. The Cloud Peak was beoming drab and dry!
No more he could bear to look at his dolls. It brought up his old annoyances again. Now and then he saw some children taking a peek into the house and scurry away in fright. They were still frightened of him. Even when he would have made peace it was not possible. The dolls were now ruined beyond repair.

Whenever weather permitted him he would cautiously step out and meet other folks to catch up with news; he took time out to attend a few funerals and visit the houses of mourning. From casual talks it was apparent those children who were once regular visitors to his house had gone each in his own way. Some were away in the fields, or in the mines; some had joined up in vessels or as apprentices to some tradesmen. A few like Polybus and Ciprian had joined with their fathers. Well Agostino could understand they were past the age of playing with the dolls. He had nothing to do with their going away. Yet whenever he looked at his dolls with this new understanding he didn’t feel at ease.
His dolls remained still ruined.
Being old his sleep was light; and one night he heard  scratching sounds that a cat would make on wood while filing its claws. He lit a candle and walked to the door.
To his amazement a little boy stood outside his head flaked still with soft snow. It had just began falling. He hurriedly opened the door wide urging him to to come in. The boy, hardly thirteen and shivering a little stumbled in. His clothes were spotted with slush; and his knuckles, the old man could see, were almost blue from cold. Agostino felt pity that he had not reckoned for guests lodging for the night. It was such nights as these his solitary existence showed its nothingness. He revived the fire, which blazed new with a whimper. Thereafter he was on the run to fetch his best blanket to wrap over him. The boy still held on to his valise which was light and he smiled weakly to say his name. ‘Immanuel’, he said. Agostino nodded even as he put some water to boil. Next he handed over his own shirt that was too large for the child. It was at least dry and its coarse weave could keep the cold out. Agostino breathlessly attended to his comfort as best as he could.
Soon a warm broth revived the boy who would have spoken but the old man shushed him and showed the alcove where a bed was fitted. The child weak as he was slumped and let the host tuck him for the night. Immediately he fell asleep. Agostino was not surprised: the boy was faint with cold and harshness of his travel.
He walked across and knocked at the door of the weaver whom among other neighbours had shown him proof of friendliness more often. Though unaccustomed to ask favours he flew to him. It was emergency. So much the weaver could well gather as Agostino mumbled his want. Instantly he fetched a loaf of bread and gave it to him. Silently he took off.
Agostino went tiptoe and hearing his steady breath he
let out a sigh of satisfaction. He knew the boy was none the worse for hazarding out in such a cold night. Silently he placed the coarse bread near his head.
“What is the mystery?” he asked himself as he went to lie in his bed. He just lay still unable to sleep.
When he had woken up he saw the soft morning sun swept half across the rush mat that lay in front of his bed. He had overslept! Quickly he went over to the next room. Immanuel had eaten off half his loaf of bread and he had arrayed the dolls on the bed and he was lost in thoughts with same expression he had often seen in those kids from the neighbourhood.
The doll-maker winced as the child squealed in pleasure. “This is marvellous!” The host was apologetic and in the face of such innocent expression his words trailed in despair. As far as he had seen they were a sorry lot callously reminding of a sorry episode.

The news had meanwhile reached into every nook and corner of that village. The folks had something to chew about. A strange boy had come in search of his father. They had heard from children of some dark secret that made the odd jobs man a queer body. What Ambrose, the imbecile had once bandied about revived. So the dark secret of the doll-maker was true after all!
A few children who had never been inside went to the cottage. To their astonishment a total stranger now had those dolls. He played as natural as though he owned them! They stood there mystified.
Immanuel broke off in the middle of his game and looked up to the children. He with a nod invited them over and soon they were into the swim of things as though their fantasies were one, made evenly matched by their innocence. Even when the host came in they simply continued with their ‘doll watching.’
Agostino made peace with children most of them he had never seen them before. And they, were under his roof as though they rightly belonged there, and accepted what was proffered and ate. They continued with their play.
The old man quickly made himself scarce in order to encourage children a clear field. On the fourth day Immanuel stopped as he made for the door and said,” We are among friends. Aren’t we?” He looked at those children who nodded in agreement. They never before had seen dolls so close. They looked at their host as though scales were dropped from their eyes. In their eyes they knew he was a harmless old man who were possessed with some uncommon gifts. In the presence of a child who sweetly played with the dolls the children knew the doll-maker was a wizard who could make his dolls so endearing. Did Immanuel by his sweet disposition clear the air as it were, or they were natural to believe only what their eyes had seen?
Agostino was going through some turmoil and he excused himself to prepare for the supper. Later in the evening, after the table was cleared the boy sat down waiting. He instinctively seemed to guess at something: What troubled the old man? He asked and Agostino in a tremulous voice that betrayed his troubled mind admitted he was sorry for his life spent foolishly creating some dolls. Ashamed he broke off to ask instead what made him set out through that rough terrain at such time of the year. By the candlelight, the face of the boy had something of an angel surrounded by the aura of innocence.
He replied, ”I came to see you.”
Agostino took a double take. His expression remained clear and sweet as he explained, ”I heard your name while I was in the fields; and during my voyage I heard some boys speak of you with the same affection. Glaucus and Felix are from these parts. You know the children  of the stone mason?” Agostino shook his head.
“Of course Ambrose you know,?” Immanuel persisted,”- and he was the cabin boy who attended me and we got around to talk. At one point he said how happy he was once. He was evidently homesick. And you know what he said next? ‘How those dolls made me feel whole and complete!’ The way he said it, he has some strange way of expressing himself,- nevertheless it was convincing, and it made me curious. So many others, why they look back to some dolls with longing and regrets? In all of them, without any exception, your dolls were so impacted. Why I wanted to know?”
Agostino could not believe. He never had thought his handiwork meant to another as much as it was for him. Neither could he imagine those dolls would have rounded off the childhood of any to perfection. In him what loomed large was his quarrel. Whereas his dolls meant something far more than he had imagined.
In short he and the boy seemed to be talking of altogether two different things!
Immanuel with a hand on his arm restrained him.
“You are a good man. So I wanted to come and tell you myself,” After turning towards the dolls, ”and of course see them myself.”
“These dolls are ruined!” Agostino shook up in sobs. He cried and he didn’t try to stop. The presence of the boy made it all seem so natural.
Before turning in for the night Immanuel set each doll on the work bench and setting Safiah against Deborah side by side he said casually, ”See these two have kissed and made up!” He made each doll kiss one another as though those dolls had a life of their own! Agostino looked on with ‘a wild surmise’ as the poet would say.
Some strange thought seemed to rake up the turmoil within and smoothen it once more. He felt joy welling, something new. It was truly felt.
These dolls were no more ruined than he was! In the presence of the boy his handiwork had broken the lie and showed things in their true order: What he did for those children was beyond himself and beyond every lie. He had
given to their drab childhood, a shine that no dark cloud ever massing over their lives could quite erase. A silver lining.
He felt elated.
That night he slept soundly as if nothing ever troubled his mind.

(to be cont’d)

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Certainty of our character is not something that we can recall out of the blue. It must be made part of our nature so certainty is a cumulative result of lessons we have learned by living right. The story of Samson, a Judge of Israel has an important lesson. Keeping company with Delilah he was forced to reveal the secret of his strength to her. He was so smitten by her that he never realized its consequences. Consequentially he was betrayed by her to his enemies. When Delilah told him the Philistines had come to take him he shook himself out his drunken sleep but found that his strength had left him. Character is in preserving the certainty of the promises that Life holds for each of us. Like Michelangelo’s case it needs courage, discipline and care to bring it to fighting fit. Moses was uncertain as to the circumstance that would save him. Only that he was certain the Lord of Israel would keep His promise.
benny

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Chapter-4
Agostino The Martinet

Agostino kept an open house. It was in keeping with the custom prevailed in that region. Even when he went visiting for three or four days at a stretch.
He vaguely knew where he had come from and of a few of his distant relations who still lived here and there. He took trouble to seek them out little by little. Having found those old souls took warmly to his rekindling their kindred spirits he made more frequently such visits.
Besides such visits sharpened his appetite for coming home: ‘looking up his dolls’ as he said. His dolls, twenty of them kept his house he knew. He learnt to tolerate the presence of boys and girls who dropped in as matter of custom and left by sundown. His critical eye as always looked out for trouble. Whenever he came in from his visits he looked out if the children were in best of their behaviour or not.
Once on his return he found children assembled about his dolls. They were fully into their game and it did not upset him as much as what his creatures: Marcos was pushed around and apparently had knocked Diana almost to the edge. Quickly he attended to them and said as if no one in particular, ‘Do not touch!’ That rule holds whether I am out or in!” Controlling his annoyance he laid on the table some titbits he had brought along. He avoided looking at any one in particular. Since he knew he had made the point clear enough he thereafter tried to act as normal.
After that irritated outburst there ensued silence. The boys were cowed and girls pale with nervousness.
The children soon went off after nibbling some roasted nuts and raisins. Polybus the bird-catcher’s son however murmured, after making sure he was safe, ”Augustine could be annoying!” Their fantasies where they played them out didn’t mean a thing. But the dolls were crucial to them. The doll-maker was becoming somewhat crabby to their taste.
After he had freshened up Agostino went leisurely over his dolls. These were his life-blood, the result of endless sweat and dreams. He was assured of his success in the manner children from the neighbourhood took to them. It always made him feel good. But his concern for their safekeeping also alarmingly grew. He always was alert that the creatures were not damaged by mischief.
” The children are for mischief,” the dollmaker asserted,” but not with my dolls!” He grew more watchful when his young admirers trooped in.
One night. In the middle of that night he got up with a start. And he had heard some stirring; and it came from the hall! He peeked and he stood stock-still, his heart thumping with excitement. Those dolls were not in their usual place. He turned around and saw them on the worktable. “My dolls are alive!” he exclaimed despite of himself. Yes, they were as natural as those children who for every afternoon had kept their vigil by them. They skipped and hopped across the chisel marks and looked over the traces of glue with the intensity of a child in real life. Three boys turned to Deborah and one offered a butterfly that had permanently settled on his forefinger. While Glacis held out a bunch of grapes from a little wicker basket he held in his other hand. Another showed surprise at Safiah a girl who showed jealousy at the attention Deborrah got from boys. It was so uncanny that shook up the old man. Agostino gasped.
They obviously overheard and they immediately went to their appointed places.
The doll-maker was elated but as he went back to his bed he was troubled. “The children served them as models! No doubt of that!” He was convinced.
Next morning he got up with a start, “What if the children were to serve them as bad example?” Agostino had poured his entire life and he knew too much was at risk. ‘He was certain the children under his roof had to be perfect in all manner. That much lay within his power. He was sure. “I cannot allow my life’s work to be spoilt.”
In the day’s to come Agostino showed much attention to their presence. The children noted with a sinking heart. His proffered glasses of lemonade or dried fruits didn’t lessen the rigor of his course in good manners. They noted he was more like a school master than as a doll-maker. They chafed under his crabbiness that didn’t take note of their spontaneity. The more he became a stickler for proper decorum he became as odious as a Pecksniff. ”Don’t do this, don’t slouch, sit up!” and thus went on his admonitions. He began noticing words and gestures that had hitherto escaped him and every slip in their manners was named. He didn’t so much intend to shame them but keep what was acceptable behaviour fixed in their minds. It was for dolls’ sake!
No one could understand why it had to be this way. Their fantasies they had for long tied to the dolls that in some way expressed their innocence and their childhood. Now the wet blanket of a doll-maker loomed large and so menacing! and their fantasies were in danger of being smashed to bits and pieces! In the days to come the children took secret council far away from presence of the doll-maker and they concluded that they had to shape up. They could not risk making him an enemy. In order to be able to play with the dolls, – these were their world too, they would do all to please their maker.
But their heart was not in it. So much was obvious to the doll maker in a matter of three months. He had let the children who were so well behaved and so considerate free run of the house as before. Each month he would be gone on visit and he noticed nothing amiss. How relieved he was as he came home as usual!
The dolls were as perfect as the first time.
Six months later he had retired as usual and in the small hours he was awakened by some alarm. Safiah was on a rampage and was astride over Deborah pummelling her left and right. Those two boys whose attention to the fair Deborah had snapped something in her, obviously. Agostino took their spirited fight as if transfixed. Soon the dolls took sides and a general brawl broke out. It was something he had never foreseen. It didn’t take much to lay the cause of their bad behaviour.
Agostino didn’t sleep for he was upset. He looked back at the delight that he found in their creation. ‘It was all for nothing!” He sadly shook his head. How they were spoilt was beyond his ken. Only that he knew those children whom he let in had contributed to their bad conduct. He felt deceived! From that point his anger built on itself by fits and starts. He was in a fury.
When those kids from the nearby lanes dropped in they were astounded to see the doll-maker barring their path. He shook his fists and spluttered with rage, ”Be gone!” They stood there shuffling unable to understand. But his fury and threats made them well understand they had better clear off. They went off.
(to be cont’d)

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