Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Discontented Tiger

A Parable   By Aubrey Menen

NCE UPON A TIME there was a discontented tiger. He was not only tired of living in the jungle – although he thought the jungle was indeed a very silly place, all trees, trees, trees; he was not only tired of having a striped coat – although he thought that stripes were a silly design, just a lot of brown lines on a lot of yellow; he was deep-down discontented with being a tiger.
     He put this point of view to three other tigers.
     ‘Don’t you feel dissatisfied with just being a tiger?’ he asked them.
     One of them yawned so as to show off his magnificent teeth. ‘Why should I be? Who has as lovely teeth as I have?’ he said. One of them pretended he saw something move in the grasses, and leaped thirty feet in one bound to find out what it was.
     'Dissatisfied?' He called back from among the grasses, ‘just find me an animal who can beat that leap.’
     But the last one was a thoughtful tiger and he put a paw on the discontented tiger’s shoulder and said, ‘I know just how you feel!’
     The discontented tiger was very grateful and said, ‘Do you really?’
     The other tiger said, ‘Yes’ in a sympathetic voice. ‘It’s a sort of empty feeling, isn’t it?’
     ‘That’s it. That’s just it,’ said the discontented tiger. Fancy you having it too.’
     The other tiger gave a shout of laughter (which sounded rather like laughing down a well) and slapped the discontented tiger on the back so hard that he fell over.
     ‘It’s nothing that a good hearty meal of buffalo won’t cure,’ he said, and all the three tigers started laughing together.
     The discontented tiger picked himself up, shook the dust from his coat, and said, ‘This is what I mean. Tigers have coarse minds,’ and he went off into the jungle with his head in the air.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Aubrey Menen -- The Prevalence of Witches Intro

Typist's Introduction:

I am including only the first para of Menen's first Novel, the Prevalence of Witches, first published in 1947. The theme draws on his stint as a temporary education officer in service of the British government, among tribals in a jungle in central India. In the process of trying to 'civilize' them, but it is the tribals teach who Menen and his British colleagues a lesson or two.  In the typical Menen satirical style the novel pokes fun at everyone, especially the British. 
      By the way, Aubrey Menen was born and educated in England and had a Malayali (Menon) father and an Irish Mother.
-- Sajjeev Antony. 21 March, 2014]



Chapter One

I HAD COME TO LIMBO because I had always wanted to possess a country of my own. I did not want a large country that would be bound to get me into trouble with other large countries, but one quite small, and preferably round. There was a time when I almost entered the Church in order to become a bishop and have a cathedral of my own : or, to be precise, not so much a cathedral as a cathedral close. The word 'close' gets my meaning very well. Someone whom I met in another part of India, not far from Limbo, once told me that he often wished he had the courage to pitch a tent in the corner of his room and retire into it when he grew cross with the world. For me, a tent would be rather too small : the Federated States of Limbo were rather too big. They were six hundred and fifty miles of clumsy hills and jungle : not tangled jungle but the sort where trees grow straight and the only confusion comes from clumps of bamboos that spread out at the top like shaving brushes. But I thought it would do. On the map it was as beautifully round as it was blank. For a thousand years the inhabitants had shot at everybody who came into it with arrows and their aim was usually adequate to their purpose of keeping people out; where the bowmen failed to get home, the mosquitoes did not. Once a year one Englishman visits Limbo, surrounded by clouds of insecticide through which can just be discovered the Union Jack. During this visit, Limbo is a part of the British empire in India. When the Englishman has gone, the various Chiefs of Limbo, sighing with relief, take off their trousers and go hunting again with their bows and arrows, the mosquitoes come cautiously out to bury their dead, and Limbo is safe for odd persons like me who are determined to live in a country of our own, even if it kills us.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Aubrey Menen -- Intro and Links

IT IS 25 YEARS SINCE AUBREY MENEN, noted satirist, essayist and philosopher passed away. 

True to his outlook towards life, he made no efforts to be remembered. Menen's protégé, the late Graham Hall, continued his mentor's casual attitude towards keeping memories alive. Hall and I were friends and whenever I asked him to see photographs or manuscripts of Menen he was casually dismissive. Aubrey Menen's books are now out of print, especially his Space Within the Heart, It Is All Right, The New Mystics, Rama Retold (the first book to be banned in free India), Four Days to Naples, Prevalence of Witches (a great first novel), Dead Man in the Silver Market, and hundreds of essays and satirical pieces.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Meeting Mother Teresa in 1971

NOTE:  In late 1971 Aubrey Menen traveled to Calcutta and met Mother Teresa as part of his covering the aftermath of the just-concluded Bangladesh war for the New York Times.
      Menen recalls that visit in his very last book, written in 1988, as he was dying of cancer. The book,
It is All right, is about his enquiry about the nature of death, and whether need to fear it. Penguin India published it in 1989, bundled with his previous autobiogaphical essay The Space Within the Heart.

(S.A. March 21, 2014)


Excerpt from
It is All Right

(Issued as part of Space Within the Heart pp: 190-192 -- Penguin India 1989

I WALKED ABOUT A QUARTER OF A MILE and then at last saw a battered notice. It had an arrow which pointed down an alleyway. I followed its direction and, sweating, knocked at a door. The paint was peeling from it in the heat but a plaque over the letterbox showed me that this ws the right place. After a wait the door was opened and I saw the first of those so-called ‘blue-nuns’ who are now so famous. This one wore a grubby white sari of the cheapest cloth and the blue stripe around its edges was tattered.
     I named the newspaper for which I was writing and I was allowed in. I was shown to a tiny room of which the only decoration was a large framed document with the Pope’s heraldic shield. I was told that Mother Teresa was at this moment at the airport and she would be home in about thirty minutes.