– The moon’s so full of itself.
– Is it a saying?
– It can be.

There was a saying in my village which I can’t remember. It had something to do with birds. Or fishes. And it was probably about lies and love and being good. And it was a taut, witty, eloquent saying. One that you would say when you are not mincing words and are really saying something that requires saying. And it was brief too – five or six words of sheer wisdom. And everytime anyone said that saying I would retort with a saying of my own, a dirty reworking of that old saying, which went something like, ‘If only birds (or fishes) could do that.’

It was as real as a saying could be. And it was true. And like every other truth it could be laughed at. And it also taught you a lesson, if you wanted to learn. And even if you weren’t keen on learning it could be kept as these things are kept. And if only I could remember it, I could tell you a story based on that saying, which was again, a very good story. Enriching and all. That saying was the moral of this story. And it wasn’t a far-fetched moral and it wasn’t a far-fetched story. It was all very simple and very truthful. The story deftly vansihed to leave a glowing, pure moral behind that everyone could agree upon. And it did that at the very end – when you would have just begun to think it was a story without a moral, it gave you one.

And even after you knew it was an old childish storytelling trick, you knew it was an old childish trick of a seasoned storyteller. A great storyteller. And a great story. Something about birds. Or a bird that dreamt of a fish or being a fish – something like that. And it was so true. And you could perfectly see the moral. There was no separating it from the story. The moral was the story. And the saying was the moral. It was something about flying and swimming and it was very real and tangible. A tangible material truth. If only I could remember the saying I would have told you a great story.

It is the night of a plateau overlooking a plain
Of small stars short trees little pain
Of numbered dreams fathomable main

And the cluttered clouds – medium sized –
Promising a moderate rain.

It is the night of feasible promises
Of minor gains and minor misses
Of hand-holdings and forehead-kisses

And the rambling radio – fairly prized –
Playing whatever it is.

It is the night of nothing special
Of a burnt rope and a blunt scalpel
Of a divine absence solid dull

And the mumbling silence – organized –
Saving the raving skull.

– Look over there. That’s the invisble man I wanted you to meet.
– Where is he?
– Over there.
– He’s beautiful.

In Kabuki, a traditional Japanese dramatic form, there are stagehands or Kuroko who wear all black. They are supposed to be invisible. The audience shares the illusion. They run around the stage handing props, moving scenery, becoming things. They are the waves in a sea (they wear blue for it). They are the wind and the night. They are the fire and the fight. They are the birds and the sky. Rather, they are the idea of them all. And one isn’t supposed to see them. They are invisible.

(A woman sits on a boat marvelling at the flying seagulls. The rower calls them common birds but she scolds him for calling them so. She calls them miyako dori – the capital birds. The birds of the poem – the poem of the poet journeying on the same river, Sumida, and singing of the same birds. She asks the birds if her missing child lives. The birds are invisble)

The stagehands do not take part in the central action. They are not the woman or the rower. And they are not the missing child. They may be the river or the boat – at least the idea of the river or the boat. They do not speak. They are trained to give away nothing. They watch the story unfold. They watch as a clock. Silent and moving. They are there. If you only see them, you cannot see the play. You would be looking at the boat instead of who is in it. And you would miss the action. You’ll miss the plot.

But you will see the invisible.

‘You had a father: let your son say so’

~ Sonnet 13, William Shakespeare

My father wasn’t a great man. He was a great illusion of a man. He was an amazing failure. There wasn’t a thing he hadn’t failed miserably in – education, business, marxism, physics, sex. And I am not being too harsh. To say nothing of him would be harsh. He had notions of greatness which if he would have ever got chance to execute would have proved not to be that great. He was a product of an age which had made a sheer profitable business out of thinking out loud. Not a thinker – though he tried hard at it – he was just loud.

I rememeber my father one time when my mother was talking to herself and I was playing hard to get with the bees. And the evening was pouring down heavily. And sky was all betrayal and despair. And the meaning kept disappearing. And the dogs were desperate. Unreason ruled. I remember my father. If foolishness had a face and it wasn’t beautiful it would have looked like my father. Though he was not ugly. His face was all chin – and foolishness. I remember him becoming his torn tweed jacket, making pretty foreground to the shit coloured Government quarter, and almost thinking out loud: I am moving to Kashmir. Delhi disappoints me. My mother kept talking to herself. I continued playing hard to get with the bees. He went inside. And he never left.

Whatever be the failures of this civilization, a failing, desperate man beats them all. I remember my father, his nose upturned to call the rain, his hairy ears deaf to the point of being utterly noisy, his eyes losing the power to pretend, his lips never much there. I remember him a painter’s dream. And a writer’s muse. And a sculptor’s nightmare. I remember my father. That’s enough accomplishment. Isn’t it?

“Ubi sunt qui ante nos / In mundo fuere?”

“Horses were visible back then, unlike now when you can only talk of them. You saw them in their mild gallop. You saw them almost stop, and thought them thinking. You saw them munching – all properly civil – not a straw straying to the improper. You saw them smoking in winters, outside the railway station, tied to their wooden buggies. A train would rattle past to find them unfazed. People would come and children – who tried to look directly in their eyes and grazed their little hands on their velvety-rough sides which receded at their touch, sort of, and found then the children a good distance away – would too. The horses though, you would see, continued breathing heavily, thinking and smoking. And looked – not trains, not kids – not near. And you could see them not there – not present. Just breathing out of a wild fantasy in a morose winter. And it would rain. And they would have distinguished each raindrop from the other – beacause they could – a good time before they would actually fall. And they knew that they knew something which the train, the people and the kids did not know. It was a conscious knowledge. And they were a winter away from finding the truth. And they found it every winter – had been finding it since ages. But then, one winter, they could not find it. Or maybe, maybe the winter was lying. But nonetheless it proved tragic for the horses. The train, the people, the children – why don’t they all stop! – everything became a poignant nuisance. And without the truth of the winter everything was a farce. A loud, moving, substantial lie. A well crafted, historical lie. A big, engulfing, tearing lie. And soon there was nothing they could do but leave for ever. And that’s what they did. But was it at all necessary? The whole vanishing thing, I mean. Was it? Perhaps. It surely seems a lot more difficult and shameful, you see, to have lost the truth when you are a horse.”

“They are still visble.”

Let me tell you a story.
Let me digress.
From what?
From the plot.
There is no plot. You didn’t even begin.
Let me begin.

I once killed a butterfly. Develop your characters. I once killed a beautifully big butterfly. Describe the butterfly. I once killed beautifully big butterfly that had colors to rival anything that had colors. You seem disinterested. I once killed a beautifully big butterfly with a face like that of a child, and with colors so pronounced that it seemed they would drop off the surface of its wings. You just killed a child. I did not. I killed a butterfly. That had face of a child. No, not ‘had’. It had a face like that of a child. It’s a simile. Nothing’s a simile. Psychologically, you just killed a child. You cannot fool a reader. Come on! You want this story to be about the travails and tribulations of a man on a child killing spree? No! God, no one’s killing children here. This is a story about compassion and morality. A story of a young boy. Then why are you killing butterflies. How is it compassionate and moral? And boys are young. There’s nothing as a young boy. Shut up. Because later, the boy would see the dead butterfly on the ground and would realize that he had made a horrendous mistake and would take a vow to never kill butterflies again. You think your boy is capable of such a vow. He was quite into killing that butterfly. He was explaining the colors on it better, and with more lucidity, than a psychopath. You told me to describe the butterfly! You told me I was disinterested! But I never told you to describe it like a psychopath. Okay. I once killed a butterfly and — Don’t kill it in the first line itself. Let it fly. Let it show its colors. There was once a beautifully big butterfly with colors that seemed would drop off of the surface of its wings. And your boy kills it? Yes, but it was an accident. He was trying to get hold of it. He wanted a closer look. Your boy’s a psychopath. No, he is not! He’ll repent later. Later. And untill then, he’ll be on an unstoppable killing spree. There is no killing spree. He accidently killed a single, tiny butterfly! Do not lie. You told that it was a beautifully big butterfly. I don’t rememer you saying it was tiny. And who knows that it was the only butterfly your bloodthirsty boy killed. What do you want me to do? I just do not want your boy to come off as a ruthless, cold murderer. He will not come off as that. He kills a butterfly and then he repents. That’s the story. Then its not a very good one, is it? The world will collapse if there is one more story of a repentant murderer. Make your boy a saviour. A saviour. A moral, compassionte man who tried to save a beautifully big butterfly, and it was pouring down heavily, and the butterfly had one of its wings stuck in a thorn or something, but, unforunately, despite his best efforts, he could not and — But! — Or wait, he did. He did save one butterfly but could not save the thousand others in that surreal garden where butterflies somehow die. But. Do it! Are you sure about this. A story about a boy out to save butterflies of this planet against all odds? I have never been surer. Okay. Begin. I once saved a butterfly. Develop your characters. I once saved a beautifully big butterfly.

I was in love – in the very middle of it. And not that love that depends on weather – hot in winter, cold by summer, not even there by the first rain. Independent, weatherproof love – if you can call it love. Some times – a very seldom ‘some’ that – one lives. Lives through the lack (bear with me, I ought to make sense sooner or later) – lives through the lack of a higher meaning that words do not possess, can never possess – lives through without compulsions – lives through without compulsions of gender – lives through like wood – lives through like wood in tree. Lives through – ah! I am still not within the reaches of the place where they make sense, I see. Let me try again.

I once heard of a man who died sky-diving – in the very middle of it. He jumped, and in the blue nothingness that lay before him, his heart skipped a beat, and soon afterwards there was nothing for it to skip. Jumpquick, flysilent death – a death Faulkner would love to write of. The man died in flight. Rudderless, breathless, meaningless. Imagine, high above the ground, just before the end, there must have been no words. And not those words one speaks. Not the suface words. Surface words have vertigo. They are scared of heights (or why would they leave you when you are on the top of a blue cliif, overlooking a brook, that you can not look because of the wooden wet white fog?) Surely, there must have been no words just before he died. Not even the unspoken ones that substitute for the soul. I was that man when I was in love with her. Not like him in his jump, or in his flight but like him just before his death. Sense still eludes, I know.

She was too old not to be beautiful. I was too young not to be mad. What took me in? Her wrinkles went beautifully with her smile. That’s one possible explanation. There must have been something else though. What took me in? Her eyes! her eyes, it seemed, had always a drop or two to spare. She’d cry whenever I’d made her laugh and I always did so. A precise, substantial laughter. A kind of a laughter one could weigh in kilograms. That seems it. But no. What took me in? Perhaps the way she kissed me. It was like kissing Buddha – if only he was into passion and kissing! It was like silence, her kiss. I’d come close to her, trembling, and she would be as still as a winter’s night. And I’d bring my leviathan nose close to her puny one. And like a little explorer, her little nose would trace the plain contours that made my young face. And then’d she’d kiss me. And like a young fool, I’d cry. If only I could have said something. But words are also scared of love. So, perhaps the kiss? No, I don’t think so.

What took me in? Maybe – maybe – it is something I can never remember.

I wish I could have made sense.

The great stretch of despair that makes this world requires a place to sit – to let it all seep in –  water in throat – knife in  blood – death in life. A place where a soul sits – that kind of place – that kind of sitting. The shivering bloodless legs of the aging civilization demand an immediate statis. The storm helps. The hunger helps. Despair always helps. Helps to sit down and take a close hard look and do nothing. People still walking is a disappointment.

The thousand year old darkness is still as dark as it was then. It still is fearsome and confusing as it was then. The sound of the rain still produces images it should not. The weather still changes for worse. We are still scared. Evolution has done nothing to our fears. Fear thus helps. Helps to sit down and understand and do nothing. People still standing is a disappointment.

You make meaning of words because people before you have done the same. You keep a constant vigil lest a word turn rogue. When you sleep the world wakes you up with a thud. Those are the sounds that could not be words and they keep falling like raindrops and producing images they should not. Most of the writing that goes on is not on paper and cannot be read. Words help. World helps. Helps to sit down and listen and do nothing. People still writing is a disappointment.

– I was looking for you.
– Well, did you find me?

The world carries on being behind your back – shameless boastful natural – as it did in front of you – as it always does. Nothing crumbles. The walls still are lifted by lizards. The pillow still sleeps like a child. The clothes still hang naked without you. Nothing changes with your absence – it isn’t even recorded – your absence – nothing melts expires burns (until it really wants to). Walls pillow clothes stairs road (you left for the other road) the other road – everything remains equally dead equally talkative – [equally talkative] with the space that you left when you left – which was there to replace you.

When you leave nothing folds – stops being visible – locks itself up – shrinks in a fission – mutates inexorably – waits for you to come back. And when you do come back nothing grows – grows back into view – grows back to substance. That is the beauty of it – beauty of a dead world – beauty of infidelity. Behind your back is a world that was never true – a cheat – a world that never did care you exist – a world profoundly disloyal – [disloyal] to your existence – to you. This world has voids better skilled to play you than you and it has an army of them. Your mere walk replaces you with a void more beautiful than you could ever be.

Voids follow you till you become one with them – [one] with voids.

It is a scary world you are living in – scary and disloyal – and sooner or later – sooner – it is bound to kill you – and me.

To be or not to be is not the question.

No. Not like birds. Never like birds. Not so small, insecure. Not so dependent on weather. No. Not like birds. Not so delicious. God, no! Not so beautiful. Not so in love. Not in flight. Not with wings – but who wouldn’t want wings? – and with so close to clouds and lightning, no, never! Not with a heart that beats thousandtimes a minute. Not so fast. No. Never. Not like birds. Not so loud, so singsongy all the time. Not of a flock. Not to be left behind. Never a slave to freedom. Not in poems. No. Never like birds – but wings!

Then like what? Something that doesn’t fly? Like a wall, maybe. Solid dust. Like the berlin wall. Fall for something one never stood for? Sounds sweet. Too sweet, rather. Not so sweet. Not like the Berlin wall. Never. Some ordinary wall, then? A normal red strip made of bricks and mortar and blood and sweat and piss. Cornerstone to every good fight. Literal possessor of the beyond. Marker of the civilization. Refuge of the rich. But too confusing. Yes, too unnecessarily confusing. When one is a wall, is there a wall shaped soul that runs through every brick and halfbrick and will one be the same wall when someone replaces one of the bricks with a brick from another wall? Or is there something of a central brick that has the soul and provides the moral nurture other bricks may require and will one be the same wall if that central soulbrick is replaced with some brick from other wall? What was the answer to Theseus’ question? Who can answer? Who cares about the soul of a wall? Who cares about anything? Maybe, and it may sound funny, they don’t even have a soul. Ha. Not so confusing. Not like walls. Never.

But if only walls had wings (but would not fly,) and if only they knew where their soul was, and if only birds were lesser bird and more wall, and walls were lesser wall and more soul and souls were lesser soul and more substance and they all three, one drunk evening, fall in love and decide to spend rest of the eternity together and –

But this entity, call it Walrus (I don’t know why), whose soul would it have? A bird’s or a wall’s? Or maybe the soul would be outside, could be seen – hiding a bird and a wall inside. Neat. No?