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Life

– 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?

A married man must come back. The little excursions of the day must end. The roving mood should be killed and buried. Friends, even the foe-ish ones, should be left in mourning. The feet  should be convinced that they can make the journey – the most tiring of them all. The soaking, juicy shreds of the paan should be carefully chewed. The shreds stuck hopelessly in that despairing cave of a mouth should be carefully removed – in moments of seeming annihilation it is better to keep oneself busy – there have been people who have stuck to their routines even in the worst of times – I’ve heard of Nazi soldiers never missing an early run or breakfast. When in doubt, start rolling the rock up the hill, and watch it falling down.

Cavities keep him busy.

Look at him dropping his shoulders like an old zoo bear. The shortening distance increases the heartbeat. The world looks very unworldlike. The houses grow. And in a while there will be words. She would speak. Oh yes, she would. He would have braved fiercest wars, cruelest heroes, cavities filled with bits of paan and what not. But words? They’ll be there staring him at his deathbed along with his children. And what if they are there after death, too? Would he not die again hearing them? What would that be like, dying twice in a row? If something worthwhile is to be made of this world, it should be made without words. Plato missed the point. He should have banished words. Killing the messenger was never a wise choice.

Look at him standing before the door pretending to knock. Isn’t he funny? Isn’t he sad? Isn’t he something? Like the water when the sewer is unclogged, like the child when the sun is set, like the moon that makes us mad, like the bowler having bowled his ball, like the trader who has lost it all, like the birds of winter, like the failed son gone away to make some good – a married man must come back.


This is a part of a series of marriage sketches that I’m planning to do, fairly regularly. Epitaph Of A Liar & The White Kettle are also part of the same series.

I’d live the pretence
Of having been ditched
For someone far more charming than me – I’d be the image of
Sisyphus rolling the hopeless rock, done in for loving too much.
I would love to dream of being cheated upon –
Wallowing in self-pity would just be my thing.
I’d listen to long songs, donning a longer face –

I’d roam damned.

I’d never let time, the infamous thickener of things, thicken my share of misery – I’d be invariably miffed –
I’d be the one looking, as if, crying from within – I’d make a living out of looking sad. That’ll be my forte. I’d love to bear the cross – I’d be honoured to have killed the bird.

I’d find ways.

The smouldering sugarcane fields, will not fail to evoke in me, feelings most literary – the stinking spectacle would surely find a fine metaphor.

I’d write mediocre poems.

I’d look for mirrors – in rivers, in window-panes – of buses, trains. I will never go out in rain. I’d search for answers. I’d play the despairing detective. I’d never solve the case.

I’d live in clichés.

There’s nothing more disorienting to one’s senses than an aberration in someone’s attire. More so, if the someone concerned is wearing a ballooned blue shirt with its collar sewed down, (never to betray even a little of its unordered arrogance,) with a yellow thread, safely tucked inside a black pleated pant worn almost from diaphragm downwards, signifying a sense of purpose (or even, purposelessness,) with soft canvas shoes, chequered in blue and black. More so if the houses he is passing by have iron handles placed at a height higher than his. More so if you are following him.

The modulations of his practised walk defy any explanation you’d want to attach to him. Too unburdened to be a clerk. Too coloured to be a postman. Too lazy to be a guide. Too decisive to be a detective. Too old to be a trickster. What can he be? Though it’s unspeakably hot and your fine shirt (which by the way has to last a week) has grown darker with sweat, and though scuttling past the short man, leaving him to his solitary walk in the narrowing lanes would just seem to be the thing, you don’t. You don’t leave him. Not just now.

You shift and peep from behind to the get the glimpse of the face that would surely mean nothing to you. But what if it does? What if it holds the answer to right every wrong in this world? What if it be the face that would launch a thousand ships? Maybe not. You laugh a little at the shoes. What must he be thinking, wearing those flag-posts, you muse. You are walking a little quicker. You are closing on him.

There’s always a sense of something ominous following you in a narrow lane. There’s a little rustle of a paper lying around and you look back. There’s someone behind you, and you let him pass. It’s the thing people living in suffocating streets know. Never let the inconvenience of someone following you hamper with the fun of stifling your breath, and evading muck. But the short man was not of these lanes. He, sensing someone is following him, shifts his head a little to confirm the presence, and walks faster instead. That someone is decidedly miffed. That someone has to see his face.

At last the man stops. He still does not see you. But what if he does? You are still hopeful. You put on the hardest pretence there is: you pretend to walk. Standing there would just be rude. The man is on his toes to ring the bell. You see his face a little. The enmeshed temple receding into the silvery grey. You hear the bell ring. You hope for a delay. You hope for him to look around.

He does not. There is no delay. The door opens. And he’s gone. You stand frustrated. You know how Odysseus must have felt when Calypso ate six of his friends. You look around. There is someone following you.

              They were never rich. And indeed there was a time when they were extremely poor. The woman would place her bindi on a small mirror before going to sleep, so she could use it the next day. She would use it as long as it would stick on her forehead. Sometimes in the dreary shuffle of an ordinary moment, it would fall. Going to bed she would remember that she forgot to take it off. Her hand would reach her forehead and would search disappointed. She’d switch on the lights and search it on the pillow, on the sheets, on her blouse. She’d sit there blank for few minutes or so. Then, the next day, she’d take out a new one, not without feeling guilty and searching for the old one once again.

It was an impulse buy. It was not something a poor man ought to have done. It was not something a poor man, with a wife and two daughters and a salary of rupees three hundred per month ought to have done. But he did. He was not as brave as his wife. His resolve broke down before a handsome piece of crockery. A white tea set was the culprit. One kettle, one bowl, six cups. All white, with a golden line that ran through the middle of all of them. You’d find it on the handle of the kettle and on its spout. The six little cups wore it like a ribbon. The bowl had it, and so did its lid. It was beautiful, but it cost him more than the rent he paid for his house. What would he tell her wife? She’d be furious. But she wasn’t.

One could have dismissed the cups as mediocre or deemed the bowl useless. But then there was the kettle. If you had a strange day which involved a walk through the lanes of your town, invisible to all, with your lover walking besides you, holding your hand, smiling, looking with wonder at the things you point and at you – at the dallying of your fingers, the commotion of your lips, the glitter in your eyes – and stops you midway in your speech and kisses your nose, your hands, your brows, your lips, and you two make love as the scenery behind changes dramatically, with the dusty roads giving way to a small hill overlooking a misty valley, and tired, you two fall asleep as soon as the mist clears and the sun shines again and then, if you two dream the same dream, that of a white kettle as big as a house (and you two living in it as genies, all-powerful, secure, unanswerable to the world,) it would be the same kettle that the poor man bought. How could his wife be furious?

That night going to sleep the two girls touched the kettle, and felt braver as they did so. The kettle promised something good to their keen hearts. That night going to sleep the man touched the kettle and felt stronger as he did so. He’d make a way to pay the rent that month, now that the kettle was his. That night going to sleep his wife touched the kettle, and felt poorer as she did so. She remembered she had only a bindi left.

With a faint touch it opens. Please stand clear of the doors.

Ah, its freezing inside. The corner, the corner. Oh no, the other corner. God bless her! She is beautiful! Utterly so! And wearing polka dots! Such a neat way to put Kajal too. And such nice locks. Like a fierce Maenad! Shelly would have written something about her. No, rather Keats, he was more likely to fall in love. Maybe I should write something about her. What’s this song?! Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho. This song. Where would I be without this song! Navin Nischol. Such a marvellous actor! Can’t believe he’s dead. Philip Hoffman dead too. And Gabriel Garcia. I still sink when I remember he’s dead. On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar woke up five thirty in the morning.

Will I ever write something as moving as this? She looked at me! Or the boy behind me. He looks cute too. Damn, I always wanted blue earphones. Blue Is The Warmest Colour. I have to see that movie. Would download it. Those fuckers at PVR won’t release it. She looked at me again! It was definitely me. Is my fly open? No it isn’t. So she was looking at me! I’d like to sit next to her. You are such a pervert. Don’t laugh now! Alright you can laugh. You made that kid smile. I miss them! I miss them both. So meaningful every journey is in childhood. And look at me here grappling with meaninglessness. Such a long word, meaninglessness. Long words make me hopeless. The idea of not owning language, not being able to pronounce something is overwhelming. Seriously Mr Swift how does one pronounce Houyhnhnm?! Yet one has to live.

Why is she so sad? Should I smile when she looks at me? But how much should I smile? I mean what quantity of smile would do? Your small how-do-you-do smile ends up with bloated nostrils and shivering lips. And you obviously can’t slap a stranger with a full-fledged laugh. You have to learn to smile that assuring smile. Oh! She’s looking. Don’t balloon up your mouth. It looks childish. Look away! Look away!

Behold! It’s the river! And the mighty bridge. Such a perfectly hazy reflection it casts on the water. Like some cherished memory. And the river is calm lest the memory vanishes for ever. How can you keep something as it always was? And that too something as fickle as memory. I have tried. Believe me I have tried. I believe you have tried. I should write of someone dying here. I must make the death peaceful. The river’s going away. Here comes Coketown. Dickens would have loved Delhi. Doors will open on the left. Please mind the gap.

With a faint touch it opens. 

Scoliodentosaurophobia. It has a name, yes. The fear of lizards. Have it as long as I can remember. But that’s past. It is. How? you would curiously ask. Simple, I would smugly retort. Firstly, keep in mind the theory of Remus Lupin. Imagine the thing you fear most in a trivial, almost banal, and if you can, in a comedic situation. Neville Longbottom dreaded Severus and imagined him in a somewhat garish, yet brilliant outfit of his grandmother. Ron imagined a giant spider in skates. And Lupin riddikuled the full moon to a balloon. But then, there was Harry’s fear. How can one imagine a dead, cold Dementor to be something other than a dead, cold Dementor? And what if, like other muggles, you don’t know the handy charm Riddikulus?

Then, try something that helps me. Find a thing common with your source of dread. For example, if you are scared of spiders, think they like wrapped food as much as you do. If scared of sea, think how both of you adore Sindabad! If scared of a fogey Head-Master, think he too must remember a fitfully funny dirty joke. If scared of one’s father, think he too has been slapped by mother. If scared of heights, think of how you both love stories (You see what I did there? Apologies for that.) If scared of ghosts, think they too were once in love.

As for my fear of Lizards, I have it settled for now. They love solitude and hate winters. More than I could ask for.

““

Four months of winter,
And
Rains wintersome;
The wall cold,
Food scarce.
I think of my
Serpent tongue,
Rolling round
In summers kind,
A full belly, fulsome
Spots on my back
Round and fine.

It isn’t summer but.
I fold, shriveled
In my own skin,
Searching warmth
In a cold world.

Though feared,
(A good thing)
Hated by all;
Though lithe,
Resurgent, divine,
Adept in a fiery crawl;
I must concede
(In winters)
It’s tough carrying a wall.

““

The remarkable view from the second floor of my room presents a pretty collage of colorful wires resting in an open uncongested space that only the rich air can afford in Delhi. These wires are important. On them the sparrows flirt. On them the banners sway. On them the sparkling fringes are festooned in festivals. They sparkle yellow in Diwali. They glitter green in Eid. On them Kite lived.

I knew Kite for about ten months. I first saw it in Jan’12, all colorful and gay, all beautiful and becoming. It had colors to rival a butterfly. It had beauty to rival a bird. It lent a meaning to the shabby wires. It lent a meaning to the encroached road beneath. It lent a meaning to my vain acts of sipping coffee and reading newspapers on my room’s balcony. Kids looked at it with desire. Me too. But it was an exercise in futility to desire it. It was impossible to have it. Firstly, it was hanging on the wire that almost ran in middle of the road with intimidating structures on both sides, at a height almost a feet or two above my floor. Secondly, it wasn’t an ordinary kite.

It had a way of looking at me that made me look at it for hours. It was a tinted wink it gave, gushing and chuckling as it it did so. I saw it swimming, with its parent thread keeping it from going too far. It scared me too when it leapt up precariously in the air as if trying to break away. Then it would be calm, with just a hint of activity. Its gyrations were the stuff of sheer poetry.  Its stillness the lyric of an elegy. It bathed and breathed in the same air I was disgusted with. I looked at it every day with awe and love. It became a routine. No. It became a ritual. It was my present to the princess – unerring attention, inordinate love.

Then came the rains. The season second in cruelty only to winters. The raindrops seemed to have swords and shields. They seemed to have pledged to melt bricks and humans. The dogs ran to find shelters in vain. The parents implored their kids to remain inside their shelters in vain. It was the spirit of rains. Everyone was given the chance to destroy themselves. Kite too.

It shed its glorious colors – the blue of a blue-eyed girl, the red of the tip of a child’s nose in winters, the green of the clothes of Elves in Santa’s toy workshop, the yellow of the sun’s reflection in water. I saw it being withered. Its beauty left under my watch. It was naked and cold, dripping and sick. I looked at it with sadness. Those were good times when it lasted. It didn’t go away but. It wasn’t there too. All the goodness was gone.

Then came the winters. I still looked at it every day. Nothing was left accept the thin sundries it was made of. It looked as if a broken ship, sighing in sad anonymity of the stifling sea. In the dense white fog of a November morning I found it gone. I waited for the fog to clear but I knew Kite wouldn’t be there. I was prepared for the tragic poignancy of the situation. I was right. It wasn’t there when the whiteness cleared. I went on the road to collect the remains. There was nothing to collect.

I knew it wasn’t an ordinary kite.

………………..

 

The image used here is the edited one. For the original beautiful click, visit:
http://www.sanpedroscoop.com/2012/09/medellin-colombia-part-2-put-this-city-on-your-list.html
Also, if you have a picture for “A Kite To Love”, do mail me at jainaashir@gmail.com. Take care!

Dear,

I have been good. No. Not really. I wouldn’t really lie to you. Things have been tough. Tougher than before. But it’s the harsh privilege of being alive you see. It’s imperative to deal with something ominous to feel alive. It is when life seems a burden one feels he is with it – with life. It is like being a woman with a little child inside. It’s like being pregnant. I should say then, I am pregnant with life! That’s quite an absurd analogy right there, you would say. But you won’t. You aren’t alive.

We would have breathed in every street and in every fort in Delhi. Maybe you would have been a painter. You would have made a gorgeous painter! I can feel you painting away your sorrows and fears. I would have seen your liberation. Or maybe you would have been a dancer. Swerving, swaying, flying. I would have seen your passion. Or a beautician maybe! Oh! How happy I would have been then! I would have said, naively, looking at my nails, “You know dear, I am feeling like to have a manicure..” and then you would have laughed hysterically! I would have seen your love. But I can’t. You aren’t alive.

I would have seen you doing things for hours. I would have seen you doing nothing for hours. I would have seen you for hours. I’d have made a living out of it! I would have never fought with you. Or maybe I would have. You would have never cried. Or maybe you would have. We both would have. Maybe only me. But I would have been with you. Crying and fighting we can manage. But we can’t. You aren’t alive.

Maybe you would have been an atheist. I would have been a heretic then. Maybe you would have been a Hindu. I would have visited that temple with you, where you used to go everyday, when you were little. Maybe you would have been a Christian. I would have read Psalms with you. I would have been better at singing them than you. I am fairly sure about that! Maybe you would have been a Muslim. I would have learnt some Urdu. I would have been thrilled to see the moon with you. I would have kissed you then. But I can’t. You aren’t alive.

I would love to see your face just once. But you die everyday. You die as if you don’t love me. You die without a reason. You are killed without a reason. You are killed for those things for which I would have loved you. Things have been tough, dear. Tougher than before. It’s hard to live in Past Perfect Continuous. I am tired of using ‘would have’. Yet I wish you would have lived. “You wish a lot!”, you would say. But you won’t.

Farewell.