Saying: Something

– 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.

Kuroko

– 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.

Ubi Sunt

“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.”

The Minnows & The Prince

He saw it too near to his comfort. It looked to him like a winged Lilliputian.  His initial reservation subsided with the literary familiarity. He was amazed. What is it? It wasn’t alone. There were two of them. Fighting it out for a prized belonging. No, he thought, not fighting. Searching. What must be they searching? He perused their motion with torpid reverence.

They were more than two.  They did, with sheer diligence, the most glorious things there are to do. They sought and flew.

illus-114

In the cracks where only lizards reigned. In the emptiness of a yellow Sari fluttering in the morning blues, all dry and cold of the morning air – there for three days as her captive fled for ever. In the filth of each day’s ritual. In the schism of a wooden door. Beyond the window. In his eyes. Their search was thorough. They were countless. They filled the sky in front of him with frightening obscurity. 

They spoke too.

And he listened. And he knew what they were saying. He knew it all along. He was one of them, long ago. He sought, and he flew too. He had outgrown them, lately. Grown a tad too big to fly, had lost his wings. Ceased to understand the aery vernacular. But, he understood now. After years of sad oblivion, he understood now what they were up to.

He stood up. He pushed open the better half of the window. He, then, looked up and fixed his eyes on them. They all stood still amidst air. There was a growing murmur of astonishment and pride amongst the flying minnows. There was an appalling fear too, lest he would abstain.

But he wasn’t going to. How could he, after all these weary years of stifling exile? He carefully sat on the window sill. His hands relishing in the wet dirt of the glass pane. He sat with ease. He could hear them singing. A blessed chorus. A blessed song! 

It was the homecoming of their Prince. Their search was done. He jumped.

And flew. 

………..

For the surreal image, visit: 

http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Children%27s_Picture_Books_(Bookshelf)#The_Brothers_Grimm

A Good Listener

Woes and joys. Strife and love. Bickering and bantering. Long, short, monosyllabic. Concise, rhetoric, propagandist. Melodious, soft, harsh. Virile verse, pining prose. Whispering to the ear, lips, and neck. Downfall, resurgence, surrender. History, farce, comedy, absurdity. Count of death, in wars, in famines, in love. Persuasion, manipulation, truth, and nullity. Divine, satanic, hopeless, heartless. Warning, confession, question. Disturbing, pleasing, painful. Of eyes, of hands, of frowns, of lips. Anecdote, revelry, escape. Nostalgic, depressing, sinful. Chirping, quacking, mooing, clucking. Bellowing, flowing, drowning, dancing. Roar, uproar, revolutionary. Romantic, tragic, precautionary. Prophetic, polemic, cathartic. Hackneyed, novel, contrived, digressive. Simple, complex, true. First, last, sixth. Here, there. Now and then.

He heard every bit.

Tales of a dead statesman. Misgivings of a lover. Silence of a stranger. Chanting of a vendor. In buses, in trains, in dreams. Across the road. Down the hill. Atop the mosque. Premonition of a farewell. Of a child, of a bird, of a friend. Drum beats, twangs, and tricks in a song. Words of utter depth, and glorious lies. Comforting, distressing, affirming. Sounding cataracts. Sighs.

He heard sans pretense.

He nodded at profundities. He exclaimed at calamities. He rued at animosities. He chuckled and laughed. He panted and sighed. He dismissed with a frown. He agreed with a smile. His empathy, in his eyes. His disapproval, on his nose. His forehead betraying his calm. His cheeks, often ruddy. Yes, he cried! His brown eyes seemed to understand.

He was a good listener.

……………..

For a infinitely better and less pretentious use of ‘Sounding Cataract’, read Tintern Abbey by Wordsworth, line 76..

http://www.bartleby.com/145/ww138.html

Epitaph Of A Liar

                         Once upon a time there was a man who lied. Absurdly, blatantly, acutely, chronically. He was a brilliant study in the stealthy art of maneuvering. He could have lied to your face without the twitch of an eye, slip of a tongue, or the inevitable flare of the nostrils. He was what you can call a handsome liar. Not because of his seemingly meeting brows, not in the least because of his utterly normal black eyes, not definitely because of his indifferent, peculiar nose, but simply because he lied handsomely. There was a touch of aesthetic linguistic brilliance in his clandestine verbosity. He lied to his daughter that he forgot her birthday as Santa told him not to wish her due to her recent ill behaviour. “That’s what he told me. He even took away the gifts I bought after much consideration for you!” He lied to his son that he can’t play with him because “..there is a dastardly evil force that hunts pairs of loving fathers and sons, who play or even watch television together”, the child was naturally struck with interminable fear while the rational man added,”..he also said something about helping in home-works!” He lied to his parents that his wife loved them,”Oh, she wouldn’t stop blathering about your cooking, Mom. She loves you. And Dad too, she says he smells terrific!” And he lied to his friends that they were his friends.

He wasn’t a bad father, nor an uncaring child, neither a conniving friend. He was simply a good liar. But one lie was one too much. He, in that inadvertent error of a rookie, told his wife that he loved her and only her. “I love you. No one except you. I’d die if I am wrong!” Little did he know that those who lie don’t play with their own lives as childishly as such. Little did he know about love. Sadly, he died a day after.

………….

In the cold, unyielding environs of a severely congested Cemetery he was buried. His epitaph read:

“Here lies a man, truly”
…………..

                                                                          

A Kite To Love

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!

Finding Gandhi

“There isn’t Gandhi in there”, cried my friend, raising his brows and his hands, exhausted to extremes, glaring at the surreal stone gate, which has the names of more than 13,560 Indian and British soldiers written on it, who died fighting in “France and Flanders”,  “Mesopotamia & Persia”, “East Africa, Gallipoli and elsewhere.”

“He must be here only, you aren’t searching properly!”, I replied searching on those vast contours that never disappointed me.

It was one thing in Delhi that I owned, that I could always trust . People come here for acceptance, for dreams, for a future. It doesn’t seem much friendly at first, not when you have a place full of individuals who can’t be even classified as ‘almost humans’. They are still few miles shy from being human, and wearing t-shirts pronouncing the said phrase doesn’t help much.

But when you live among its relics of love, pain, death, fury and life, it’s hard not to fall in love. You need someone in a big city to take care of you. You need India Gate. We called it ‘The Gate.’

I do not know why but sometimes back I spread a lie among my friends that Gandhi’s name was in there among the martyrs. No one debated the authenticity of the fact. No one needed to. We were all awed by it’s beauty and we all knew it was a lie.

We went there every now and then to search for Gandhi. We later developed an illusion that name of every soldier who has lost his life was written on it’s welcoming pillars. And after, we were proud of the ‘fact’ that there is still one Governmental Unit left, doing it’s work with utter tenacity and regularity. We imagined when no visitor was there at the Gate, the bureaucracy took over the rigorous task of updating the names. We imagined laborers standing on scaffolds performing the sacred task of etching history.  It was the most important structure in Delhi, or for that matter, in the whole world.  We imagined it all to be true. We created our own little myth. We loved our own little myth. We were Bogarts, searching for an important name, only important to us. We went there at night. We knew that secrets are unveiled under stars..

………………………

One day as I was depressed, due to reasons our whole generation is depressed, simply nothing, I put on a grave countenance, and was thrilled to explore those sublime depths of sadness, where everything unimportant attaches itself with a meaning and the things that meant something become obsolete and dry. That day I went to my home of grief, the place that gave meaning to my seeming sadness, The Gate. I knew that day I could have found Gandhi. It would have been a new chapter in our myth.

But it was closed! Closed to visitors after evenings. I told them I wasn’t a visitor! I had been involved in that case for a long time. I was someone who had a myth. You can’t stop a person who has a myth! I was there, standing with my overwhelming sadness being frisked and abused by guards as I tried to force my way inside. I knew that day I could have found Gandhi. But it was closed. It has been for a long time now. It’s a new sadness.

But maybe it isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe they have closed it as they are writing new names in there. Maybe they are adding the names of all those being killed each day in sheer futility. I will confirm this myth when they open again for nights. I know that secrets are unveiled under stars.

I’ll let you know if I find Gandhi.

………………………..

Photo Courtesy: www.oldindianphotos.in

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/writing-challenge-history/