Monday, May 18, 2009
All that registered in my boggled mind were a series of unconnected images and sounds as I flipped channels and ate soft cubes of cheese. A teary daughter-in-law tremblingly trying to convince a terrifying mother-in-law of her chastity, a B&W couple under a bush smooching and defying all logics of evolution a bunch of dinosaurs attacking a mighty gorilla who had a sparsely-clad female clutched between its paws. Blink. Blink.
My eyes were brimming after that continued dazed stare. Whenever the screen darkened I saw my reflection, curled up on the sofa, bleary eyed, one hand stretched out, holding the remote, a static frame.
They were showing Koyaanisquatsi again on MGM. I have seen this film umpteen times but I’ve still not got tired of it. It is one of those films that makes the whole film-watching process almost a transcendental experience. Its always telecasted late in the night when my mind is already whirling from gaping too long at the stars and then at the flashing images on the TV.
Night time at this place is awesome because that’s the only time I’m perfectly alert and tingling with energy. And its easy to remain anonymous in the dark. When I was living in that city beyond the ghats I loved those twilight walks through the shady tree-lined paths. There were no faces, no eyes, the downy afterglow swallowed the disgusting soul stench, the scowls, the irritations, the melancholy…
Only dark shapes outlined in orange walking past like floating nothingness, negativity, faceless human-shaped black holes.
Here people are terrified of the dark, after 7.00 they huddle inside their homes, over their Tvs, kitchen and home works. Nights are cool, lonely and scented with so many different fragrances. There’s a little open place on the terrace shaded by the leafy branches of the banyan tree from there I could watch owls.
This place is stuck in the 1940’s. Huge papaya trees and wild creepers grew among tiled roof buildings reminiscent of the colonial times. The only new building, a towering 10 floor construction, has been abandoned half way through and now houses hundreds of owls and bats. After a couple of hours there, I go back to get my head woozy with disjointed images.
Koyaanisquasi is pure cinema, no plot, dialogues, just a fascinating series images in slow motion and time-lapse photography (not sure if that’s the exact word) and a haunting background score.
I switch off all the lights, crank up the volume and sink into a stupor. Sometimes I switch to looking at the tiled floor where I can see the gauzy, reddish reflection of the screen. Images appear warped on the uneven floor, streaked by shadows, it quivers, shifts and moves.
After the constant shift from the TV to the floor and back, I feel that the whole area has becomes one massive theatre where images are played twice simultaneously.
That night I dreamt that I was a rich, stunningly beautiful heiress who has dedicated her life to the study of reflective surfaces. In my lab were innumerable specimens through which I saw weird and strange things that cannot be seen with the plain eye.
Next morning, while I was digging for earth worms, I unearthed seven small square mirrors from under the tamarind tree. They were wrapped in a blue silk cloth that was hardly faded, even the mirrors were sparkling like new. The ground had prints of a bird’s foot.
The day started off with the usual doze of depression, cynicism, scribbling, online job hunting, cursing the almighty and people-watching. One advantage of being jobless and single is that I have all the time on earth to do whatever I want within the limited space of my home.
And after exhausting all possible ways of spending the morning I turned to the mirrors wrapped in silk. They had a slight smoky grey hue and the reflections had an odd misty appearance as thought the little worlds trapped inside the mirrors were cottony, dreamy realms of the spirits.
It was a no moon day.
The next day it rained in the afternoon and the neighbour’s dog ran away.
The dog was quite old with a pathetic name ‘Cutie’ - a name that could make anyone feel morose to the point of committing suicide. Its owners uses that special baby voice to talk to the dog - a nasal squeal, ‘Cutieeeee’
They always had dogs, my next-door neighbours, and all of them mysteriously disappeared after a year.
Cutie was not a particularly remarkable dog, it once ate all the balloons on the Christmas tree and that’s just about the only interesting thing that happened in its life I guess. One bite, the balloons popped, and it swallowed the rubbery pieces.
The little boy who owned the dog was in tears, we decided to go and search for it. The afternoon sun washed the trees and houses in a yellow glow. Water lay in muddy puddles everywhere. We splashed through the water yelling ‘Cutie…..Cutie….’.
The boy went home sobbing. The puddles gleamed under the rays of the setting sun and the dark reflections of the cloudy sky moved on its surface. The reflections had an illusion of depth, if I stepped into it I’d sink into an inverted cloudy sky where rain went upwards and trees grew downwards.
Behind my house is an empty plot crowded with lots of bushes, trees and weeds. It was separated from our backyard by an old, crumbling brick wall covered with creepers and large red ants. It always wore a desolate appearance, water lay in pools everywhere.
There was a moment among the bushes and then a wet nose emerged to lap up the water. ’Cutie’!
I climbed over the wall and it ran to me with a small ‘woof‘. The poor thing was drenched I saw my own distorted image reflected in its melancholy brown eyes.
They gave it some meat and rice and a basin of water. Cutie finished the water in two minutes, lapped up its own rippling reflection until its tongue rubbed the surface with a wet noise.
The next day I broke the mirrors. The moon hung in the sky like a pale curved shard. I took the mirrors and a large hammer, placed them in a line and smashed the surface. Hundreds of tiny shining fragments lay and in it I could see my cloudy reflections like many shadows. Breaking mirrors, they say, brings seven years of bad luck. According to some legend, what is reflected in the mirror is the soul of a person and by breaking a mirror the soul is destroyed. It takes seven years for the soul to grow back and hence the bad luck.
My soul, broken seven times in the seven mirrors lay under the ghostly moon light. With each crack the thin filament between the seven mirror worlds and the night split open, releasing all its spectres and phantasms into dark, damp atmosphere.
There was heavy rain and the next day minuscule peach coloured mushrooms grew among the shards.
I dropped my bottle of green ink. The chairs, the window and the world outside appeared on the dark surface but not my own face. I felt I had ceased to exist.
I left the little mirror bits for an entire moon circle to absorb the moon light. Each night I went to look at the fragments of my dead soul shimmering softly, soaking the moon beams and the velvety air of the night.
On the full moon day, Cutie ran away again and never came back. Cutie's old basin was leaking badly, it couldn’t hold water for more than a minute so they threw it away.
Under the corpulent moon, the fragments came alive, sighed and gave out a subtle scent. It rained again the next day as I buried my soul under the tamarind tree.
I did not recognize the blinking, sleepy, messy haired woman staring at me out of the bathroom mirror. While clearing her old sewing basket my grandmother gave me a dozen tiny round mirrors to sew onto my old jute bag.
The moon disappeared once more. It was a soulless cloudy sky, soulless voices arose from various televisions, someone was frying some soulless chicken to fill a soulless stomach. It was a soulless world full of soulless people. I heard a glass shatter and a soulless wail.