Something fascinating happened this month. I got a chance to help out with the script for a short film being made by my film-maker friend, Vinod Bharathan (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3250521/). I also got a chance to click a lot of stills which turned out to be surprisingly good as well.
Sometimes it is that inherent need to impress that is wrongly interpreted as kindness. Do you really think you are ready to die for your loved ones? Perhaps it is your fear of being lonely, unknown and unacknowledged and that makes you do all the nice things that make you a lovable person. Perhaps it all boils down to the simple fact that we are all self-obsessed, every act is defined by either a need to feel relieved, important, accepted or out of fear of eternal damnation, hope of greatness in heaven or in the next rebirth. Think about it. Unconditional love, universal compassion.... no one will ever know if such a person existed because he’ll never flaunt it, his life would not be in any book, he wouldn’t care to spread his message..... He would probably just live consciously and joyfully; loving and accepting this world as it is with his infinite discernment and wisdom.
Remembrance is a tricky area – a shape-shifting mass of grey mist reflecting at once a dove, a bowl of soup, a cat’s furry paw or the delightful last page of a book – all passing over a pool of still recollections.
Sometimes all I remember is a rush of smells, a long forgotten flavor or a maddeningly familiar texture.
Photo: Leaning against my Dad's old Rajdoot on a Christmas morning about 20 years ago.
Some of us have lost our minds
they lay abandoned on sidewalks
and freeze until they implode or crack.
like toys left out in the rain
faces bleached, clothes covered
in goblin excrement
their souls stolen by the cowering storms.
Some of us never find them again
They lay there, blue
running from their eyes
a grief-stricken blue rivulet
streaming down their rosy cheeks.
Some of us don’t want new minds
so we lie under the garbage piles
and see another kind of dream
of nylon hair and plastic limbs
We keep our mysteries simple. Our distances complicated.
At times it involve the folding of a leaf and whistling through it, or finding logic in the patterns on a turtle’s shell. (We left it in a shoreless lake engorged with jellyfishes, remember?)
The dawn outside the gates were unutterably beautiful, we danced like nobody was watching, we made love like nobody was listening.
And nobody was.
We were free, we escaped, we learnt.
Not everything was explicable perhaps. Through millenniums some things remained the same, others changed. The innocuous Sundays, the handfuls of over ripe grapes we ate, the tea we made (milk, sugar, cardamom) and our helpless laughers made up our incomplete backdrop, that room smelling of jackfruit, our helplessness, or harmlessness. But I said incomplete, it was incomplete. You blew the dust of my memories into the songs you sang at night, the music sparkled and I appeared in your arms, a shape carved out of your voice. I sewed you into my scent and sought your presence in the t-shirts I stole from you, sniffing, memorizing and agonizing. It was all incomplete. Hasty stories, fervent byes, and our conversations filled with the incunabula of many still-born plans.
Plans, a cornucopia of plans. Elaborate, intricate, scorching. I wonder why we believed that we could change the world, when we ourselves were only evolving, selfishly devouring each other, thriving on our identical lunacies excluding the rest of the world. What they sang defined our perfect little imperfect world, "....two lost souls swimming in a fish pond, year after year...."
But, how we dreamed! Still fathomless trance-lakes threading over infinite green and purple slopes of our dreamscape. Our irises were two pairs of rainbows splashing the world with iridescence. What we saw was beautiful, we touched each other and we were beautiful.
With you I lost count of the number of restless needs I clenched in my fist, I lost my footing too, flailed, then sunk into a vortex of stars. My bones grew pellucid fins and I swam across the universe to you. The pain was at times delightful, the happiness sometimes unbearable and the temporariness of it all was addictive.
The Tree of Knowledge remained lush and lonely in the abandoned paradise. It could only watch the sky produce a fresh batch of clouds each day and think of us. I think it misses us, but we don’t miss it. The bliss of ephemera is so much more precious that the monotony of eternity. We are free.
When your head turns into a dark cloud
or swell into a worm balloon
When the cards are reshuffle,
When all the broken windows are barred
and the glittering castle
sleeping in your eyes crumble.
laugh your cackling laugh
harden the nail paint on your face
forget the sinking feeling
and the moonless horizon
forget the ache in your throat.
Forget to remember.
Sometimes something as simple as a cookie case, a petal, a pencil sharpener or a scrap of news on an old newspaper can create a myriad cluster of thoughts, a sudden inspiration, a half-day worth of possibilities, a life-time of magic.
Trees does this to me all the time, I can never get over that feeling of saudade when I see a tree, especially a coniferous tree.
The cough syrup bottle broke yesterday. Through the broken glass pieces the world became amber-hued as though steeped in a sea of rich forest honey.
In those moments, memories of bygone longings come flooding by and I feel nostalgic about things I’ve never experienced, about a life that I never lived. In such instances I ask the dead poets to sing to me the purple song and colour the air with vaporous bliss.
Each night the stars percolate in through the roof and sprinkle down on me and I wake up with my face covered in dew-wet petals, little miracles left behind by the stars melting on my skin.
I live in a kitchen. It was built to be used as a kitchen, it was meant to be a kitchen. A cement counter runs all around, there is a hole on it for the tube of the LPG cylinder to pass through, a tiny window and a large sink. Yet it's no longer a kitchen, I live there, I revel there, I rot there.
The kitchen sink has inspired several stories, imaginings and promises in my head. The ever-leaky tap has filled my nights with vague terrors; the drip-drip-drip... measures my heart beats, gives punctuations to my musings and turn into bizarre sign posts and street lights in my obscure nightmares.
Some days the water stops and the dreamy songs rise from the tap's dry throat. The song lights up its infantile mouth as it floats out, a yellow curling ray of light that fills the room with music.
I pray to myself each day, to be light, free and forgiving.
My void is filled with whys
sequenced as a crescendo...
(why… whyyyyy, whaieee)
blooming until I collapse into myself.
Your answers, I long;
you reply with abstractions.
with apathetic bites, we finish the forbidden fruit,
half-eaten, fossilized and forgotten.
Amid our cautious tongues,
a thousand turbulent grasshoppers
scream for a cloudburst
(why…whaieee... why not?)
We all secretly long to be adored, to be given bunches of roses, to be gifted with mindless little whimsies, to have our barmy imaginings listened to. But most of the time we go through life shut up like a clam with a wound festering inside waiting to be healed.
Picture: A bit of a ferris wheel that I once glimpsed from my window when a fair came to town.
Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world,
for I would ride with you upon the wind
and dance upon the mountains like a flame!
- William Butler Yeats
Once upon a time I promised a little pine tree that I'll one day take it to the mountains and plant it there. I promised I'll take it out of its flower pot, its existence in the hot tropical heat and drive up the misty roads to where clouds are being born each moment. There I'll plant it among other trees and watch it grow, putting out shoots and roots as each year goes by and grow old under its green shade.
One day I will become one with it, with the clouds, the wilderness, the undulating peaks and that splendid stillness.
Photo: Tail end of the Wagamon hills, shot in March 2011.
Sometimes when present stops, dries up,
the past opens its flood gates and
overwhelms you with your own strangeness.
Your tongue tasted things differently then
but now the air outside tastes of habitation
of quick meals and torn wings.
I can never stop dreaming of the mountains
of the future that is being played out there
over and over, as the present rolls away
January becomes May
a crease becomes a wrinkle.
but I still work out the details
each night toying with a split, wiggling toe nail
like a lingering memory of a nightmare.
I am my own waking dream.
I make up people in my mind,
give them teddy bears, guns,
cloudy evenings, lunch coupons
then kill them softly.
Flinging bodies over violet cliffs.
Some die, others in dusty corners
to creep out of ears
and surprise me in real life.
There’s a dead rat on the road, flattened under a vehicle I suppose. It looked like a very realistic painting, a picture drawn on the rough tarred road, a picture slowly disintegrating, decaying, loosing the details.
Its face had a painful expression, mouth open, as though letting out a perpetual, silent ‘ouch’.
Each day it becomes more and more real. Cartoonish, as though death had given it a new life. Or maybe being nonexistent hurt too much.
The details were uncanny, the tail, the small paws, It was like a picture of a moment, frozen in the act of jumping, eyes closed, in excruciating pain.
Next day while passing by I saw that someone had stuck a half-crushed cigarette butt into its closed rotting eye. The stub stood up like a like a small, lensless, pupil less, popping eye. The rat looked like a caricature of an amazed, almost mind-boggled rodent drawn by an illustrator.
The buses here are killers, each day someone is killed, some smaller vehicle smashed by one of these buses. I wonder how someone can be so committed to their work as these private bus drivers and conductors are. One of these days I’m going to be flattened under a bus, stuck to the hot tar on the road, melting into a bubbling, decaying lump - like the rat I saw, a unidimensional, flat, cartoon image.
You remind me of a deformed digestive system
Or the warped brain of the Catholic god,
I envy your logic-defying abstractness
so resolutely defined by theories.
A boundary-free surface,
living, closed, in four-dimensions.
Your inside is your outside
You contain yourself within
and without yourself
In you, around you,
like a mouth turning inside-out
And swallowing the head,
hair, nose, teeth and all
and somewhere in between
starting all over, a deformed cycle.
You are like a precise explanation.
A hypothetical container perhaps but
you are a stimulant for unbounded phantasms.
A faceless creature from Cthulhu,
a fetus papyraceus or a mangled seraph.
You suck, twist and ejects universes,
and swallow a few silently.
a passage from one infinity to another,
an ceaseless vacillator of matter and concepts
not practically possible I read
but what a theoretical existence!
Hail Klein Bottle, Hail Geometry.
(November 23 2010)
*In mathematics, the Klein bottle is a non-orientable surface, informally, a surface (a two-dimensional manifold) in which notions of left and right cannot be consistently defined. Other related non-orientable objects include the Möbius strip and the real projective plane. Whereas a Möbius strip is a surface with boundary, a Klein bottle has no boundary. (Source: Wikipedia)
Two years of working night-shift meant waking up at twilight each day, lapping up a syrupy coffee, stuffing a very oily bulls-eye, two slices of toast dripping with butter and lustily and desolately sucking on a cigarette coated with Vicks before going off to work. I lived the unhealthiest of life-styles - a kind of escapism from the looming loneliness and inconsequentiality of my life. At 22 I felt like a 40 year old. It can even make you feel tad suicidal, this sunrise-turned-inside-out experience that I went through day in and day out. When people of my age were still in college or working, hanging out with friends, planning elaborate futures, I spent my days reading, dozing in between, building fantastic and bizarre impossibilities, getting paler and fatter in the sunless single-windowed room I lived in and at night I went to work, editing countless news reports and creating pages that masses consumed with frightening earnestness and sincerity that sometimes rattled me.
All the sleeplessness and semi-darkness of my room turned my subconsciousness into a lethargic, turbulent wreck percolating my dreams and spiking it with oddities. Everyday things appeared as peculiar and sickening objects in my dreams and seem to contain hidden, bizarre significances that I feverishly sought in my wakefulness. I sought absent answers by agitatedly clicking my golden ballpoint pen , which appeared as a golden feather oozing sticky alphabets in my dream. Each letter formed like a tiny blue ellipsoidal crystal at the tip of the feather, it then slowly grew larger acquiring the shape that defined it, a pure wobbling alphabet that sparkled in the eerie dream light before detaching from the tip and falling, falling madly onto the eccentrically patterned convex floor where it joined the other letters to form a exasperatingly incomprehensible message. I obsessively examined the dark flecks in my irises in the mirror with the light of a torch seeking the pattern of that strangely convex dream-floor within it. The medley of steel vessels that comprised my kitchen became a huddle of newborn galaxies clouding and clearing over an endless orange and red sky which, on waking, turned into the dusty wall of my room stained with blotches of blood from the countless generations of mosquitoes killed by the different tenants who lived here. Once the little rectangle of light that trickled in through the window turned into a geometry box I possessed many years ago and which got lost in time. Sometimes I craved with maniacal passion for such mindless things that I owned once for instance that red doll which I used to call Genie, the blue table under which I hid for hours playing solitary games, my first pencil box, the mango tree and the frilly white dress that I wore for my first holy communion. The sight of the clouds sometimes remind me of the transparent silkiness of that dress covered in shimmering pearls with intricate white flowers embroidered all over it. I can still feel with painful intensity the huge puff sleeves against my now flabby arms. The details, those details! the small tea-stain on the hem where I spilt tea during the post-communion breakfast at the hall near the church. The way it swished around my knees, the folds, the pleats, the pearly buttons and the adorable way it filtered light when I held up the dress against the sun, the crisp morning breeze that rustled my long gossamer veil and all the other sights of that wonderful and miserable day. Somewhere among these dreams and imaginings I existed soaring over the darkened ceiling as an owl, crawling through the searing wounds as a spider and then at the end of it all turning into a dust ball and going to sleep on my ice-cold bed.
In that room the inner universe is in mute and there is an unpleasant crackle in the air or was it inside my ear? some invisible bubbles bursting within the audio memory, releasing imperishable nightmares. If you make it a habit of waking up at twilight, then soon everything around you will appear pixilated, disintegrating and regrouping into a million minute, misty squares which became the basis of everything around you including yourself. It is like watching the world through a melting stain-glass window. I’ve formulated a theory for this oddity within me. My mind, my essence, my soul (whatever that is) was still in the past while physically I was a grown up, a woman, an editor. My mucous clotted nose refused to assimilate and convert the usual smells around me. The stench of half-rotten carrots, the tea bags, the deodorant soaked cloths, the cherry lipstick, pink candy-flavoured laxative and the all-encompassing misery was replaced by the delightful smell of the maroon ice-sticks consumed with such relish many many summers ago, the classrooms smelling of chalk, erasers and hankies, the rain that fell in a fine spray from the window, the bubble gums and other such countless, endearing smells that made me long to turn back time. But nothing happens, nothing happens, I feel like a screen saver mutely floating, watching the same office, the same chair and the same faces around front of me.
In the beginning I tried to fight it this state of existence, then I tried to like it, or atleast get used to it. Eventually I slipped into a languid acceptance of this inevitability, this boredom brimming and spilling and covering the whole room in its oily lethargy while inside me something was slowing dying, decaying, drying up. Each day I leave for work with a sense of being inside a train going in reverse gear over an immense vertical landscape diffused with inky blueness. All around me people appeared like charged cotton candy, crawling about, pulsating their desires and communicating their needs in muffled, sticky voices. Weeks and months slipped by and then one day I saw the books eating up their pages and excreting a pulp which was remade into another set of books. And the next day I found the answer I was searching for, it literally plopped on my lap from nowhere.
- A long time ago, I was 22 and was making stupid mistakes in an ugly city.
Falling in love with a dream world that exists only in the mind and the words of a man that I can never hope to meet in my life, who died almost a decade before I was born was the saddest feeling I felt this week. As I once stated, I don’t believe in God. But if I did, he’d be a Russian lepidopterist who weaves ethereal ideas with words. And this wonderful writer, this designer of a million little crystal heavens in each ordinary thing he comes across is the wonderful magician, Vladimir Nabokov. I had read his book, Lolita, two years back but because of the miserable condition I was in then, I wasn’t really concentrating on the delectable sentences, the delicious descriptions and the disgustingly marvelous character of Humbert Humbert. But last year, I re-read Lolita and then there was no turning back. I had fallen into that diabolically enchanting trap; I’ve fallen in love with a life I can never possess, with places that I can never see, with feelings that I am struggling to experience.
Each of his books is a unique world, limpid as a dreamy moonscape, of misty backdrops, endearing characters and such brilliant use of words, metaphors, and portmanteaus - a world so unutterably delicate and fabulous! Just like he chased his elusive butterflies, I chased his hard-to-get books, with the insane fixation of a stalker. After innumerable searches I finally found Pale Fire tucked between two dismissible ‘classics’ in a book shop and purchased it. All the way back I could feel the book’s gentle weight in my bag urging me to feel its cover, smell the pages and read..read? No, just sink and drown in that wonderland of words.
After Pale Fire I spent months hunting for his most elusive and most wonderful book - Ada or Ardor. How much I hunted! How I longed! For some reason it was then not even available on online bookstores. Each day, I read up notes, reviews and essays on Ada and at night I dreamt of that paradise that I am yet to attain. I almost cried in frustration when I found that the book was not available even in the fanciest book shop in town. But just as I was about to give up, I found a copy at a bookfair. Oh, the joy! The joy! I could hardly wait to get back to my dingy room. The dust and cobwebs on the wall were replaced by a filigree of coniferous trees through which rays of sun came through, the ground was a bed of wild flowers, myriad butterflies swum around me in the air flecked with sunshine, my bed turned into a sepia tinted attic in which two adorable children lolled about discovering more about each other, sighing with pleasures and agonies that they stumbled upon too early in their lives and the very air filled with their love, oh, that love! Its sheer aesthetic marvel fades everything else in comparison. I forgot time, I forgot the shabby reality buzzing around me and when I resurfaced I felt like I’ve been thrown out of Eden. I can read Ada or Ardor over and over and over, I’ve read each page atleast 3 times, drooled over the lines, underlined them, tagged them, read them aloud, wrote them down, mused, smiled and cried reading them, turned them into sun-catchers, into post-it notes, scrawled them over my wall, dreamt about them and even tried to live that sublimity. It has the two most charming, enviable and mad characters ever. I’ve eaten, slept, journeyed and died with this book a hundred times over.
The other books suddenly became easier to procure. By chance I came across Laughter in the Dark, Pnin, The Luzhin Defence, Annotated Lolita, King Queen Knave and The Real Life of Sebastian Knight and for the last three months I’ve been reading them. Never have I read anything with such obsessive passion as I’ve read Nabokov’s works. I’ve collected everything that I could get, spending my meager, dwindling salary on imported editions and second-hand books. I also managed to get his Collected Stories, a huge volume of stories that took me two weeks to finish but which was totally worth it. Today I finished reading his astounding autobiography, Speak, Memory – a slow, gliding journey into this fascinating man’s mind, to his fairy-tale like childhood, his years of exile which he spend wandering chasing ideas and butterflies. It was like sitting atop a rainbow butterfly while it fluttered over gauzy dandelions, soft ferns dripping with sparkling dew and over countless colourful vegetation before crossing a madly laughing stream into a mossy forest of creepers with scented petals floating all around you.
My journey into this timeless world has only begun, I’ve dug and dug and discovered all that I could find about Nabokov’s life. There is still many more of his books out there, evading my grasp like his butterflies once eluded him. For some reason, his admirers are few and his works are hardly available in shops. Books about him are rarer still. After much consternation I’ve finally ordered Nabokov’s Ada: The Palace of Consciousness via flipcart. A very expensive book in my standards, but something that I need as much as an addict needs cocaine. In the coming months I hope to get more books, but all this won’t be the same as being able to, at least once, meet this amazing man which I know is an impossible dream. But if I do meet him, I'll fall at his feet whispering "you are God"
Eyes sing, yellow sting,
blue numb, ripe plum
Aunt Julia, Anesthesia,
Toothpaste, closed gate
peeling skin, mannequin
lost lens cap,
footsteps going tap...tap
Perfect days, delirious daze
flirty pink tints
dirty sugar drinks
Classy seasoned sandwich
Watching the inevitable happen
poor heart - so badly misshapen
Confounding men, confusing women
Matisse, childhood fantasy
Dusty skipping ropes
A cache of mellow hopes
Chalky Christ and Rama
A shoe-box diorama
Soggy paper boats
Dreamlike turtles on the wall
tailing the white rabbit across the hall
Sprawling, doodles, spilling noodles
fragrant creams and stars.
Cackling crows, twilight glow
At night I escaped over the rainbow.