I have nothing to say. So listen to my breath today.
Breathing. Pulse points. Heart beats. Speak.
Care to share my silence with me?
I used to like circles for other reasons – the fact that they had a centre, a circumference, no angularities, nothing sharp that would stick out and poke.
I was wrong. Circles hurt. You move from the centre towards a point, you travel through a bend; it can get heady but you are curving along the route, seeing things from a different perspective…you don’t know what comes next; there is adventure, surprise, trepidation and the sheer joy of being unable to comprehend the next step.
It doesn’t last. The centre remains the same, the circumference too may not have changed. You end where you started. All you have discovered are too many bends.
I think I will go in for squares that take you long from one place to another and, even if there is a sharp turn, the journey is a straight line. You can move away to extend yourself to a rectangle. Or take a risk and reach a peak to make a triangle. At least there is clarity of height and depth; of ecstasy and agony.
Circles deceive with their moon-faced innocence. Circles look like they won’t cause pain. But have you been hit by a soccer ball?
And are circles really complete? No. Peel an orange. What you find inside are separate slices. Cut open an apple; you have to discard the seeds.
You throw away what creates.
When you come round full circle, it only means something dies.
He: aap ke haseen rukh pe aaj naya noor hai
She: babuji dheere chalna, pyaar mein zara sambhalna
He: main pyaar ka raahi hoon
She: ishaaron ishaaron mein dil lene wale bataa yeh hunar tu ne seekha kahaan se
He: pyaar par bas to nahin hai mera, lekin phir bhi, tu bataa de ke tujhe pyaar karoon ya na karoon
She: ye lo main haaree piya, hui teri jeet re
He: bahut shukriya, badee meharbaani, meri zindagi mein huzoor aap aaye
She: chain se hum ko kabhi, aapne jeene na diya
He: chal akela, chal akela, chal akela
She: jaaiye aap kahaan jaayenge, ye nazar laut ke phir aayegi
Some things do not have to return for they do not leave…It isn’t about creating legends but what touches us…
dil ki awaaz bhi sun, mere fasaane pe na ja
meri nazron ki taraf dekh zamaane pe na ja
“Ghosts become ghosts after they die.”
“They said I had killed them.”
“Then why are they accusing you?”
“Because they say I did not notice they had died. I did not mourn loud enough.”
“You notice everything, so how did this escape your eyes?”
“I thought they were still there…they continued to haunt.”
“Now you know they are gone.”
“Yes, but they have returned to threaten me.”
“What is the threat?”
“They say they will never leave me.”
“That is fine. You are anyway haunted by their memories.”
“Memories are not ghosts; memories are my embellishments.”
“If ghosts are not real, then why fear them?”
“I don’t fear them. I just don’t like threats.”
“You want them to leave?”
“I am not sure…”
“Because they may take away the memories too now.”
“Why are those memories so important?”
“Because we can select memories, not ghosts.”
“Then why don’t you threaten them?”
“What should I say?”
“Tell them that they are alive.”
“Why will they be afraid of that?”
“They will lose their identity.”
“Ghosts have no identity; they are residues.”
“Residues have an identity – they thrive on being the remains of something.”
“Is it possible to kill ghosts?”
“Then that would be double murder.”
“I want to be free.”
“Your freedom is self-destructive. You would be Icarus, you’d go too close to the sun and melt your wax wings.”
“I’d fall in the sea. Ghosts don’t come underwater, do they?”
“I don’t know. But what would you do there?”
“Become a mermaid.”
“What will you gain?”
I knew there was a buzz around Republic Day this time. But what I read in the supplement of The Times of India made me recoil in horror. Here follows their list of 'do it today' things; I give my version below each...
IF YOU LOVE INDIA, SHOW IT!
I am not answerable to an organisation to display my love for anyone.
Wear a tattoo with Indian colours. There is one with today’s issue of The Times of India itself. Go on, wear it!
What if you don’t read the TOI? What chemicals have been used for these tattoos?
Get your face painted in the colours of the Indian flag
Why? Is there a competitive sport taking place? Is this a circus?
Pin the Indian flag on the wall or a globe
There are many slums in this country – no walls and no models of globes.
Wear the Indian flag on your lapel
Is this even for those who wear revealing clothes? Won’t that be an insult to the nation?
Wear a tee which says ‘I Love India’
You are assuming all Indians wear tees; a friend told me about how he went around wearing a tee that said, “F… me”. No one did. So?
Make a patriotic song your ringtone
And then it gets cut off mid-tune when you answer or disconnect.
Hoist the national flag in your apartment/ housing complex or office
No slums wanted?
Sport a flag on the dashboard of your car
All Indians have cars? And are they loving Indians only if they have cars?
Sing patriotic songs while you are with friends and while you are travelling. Soon perfect strangers will join in too!
And what will it reveal except that most Indians are not trained in music and cannot hold a tune?
Send people messages wishing them a Happy Republic Day
And make the cellphone companies richer?
Be a part of the Times of India PDA programme in the city to show your love for the country. You can visit Atria, Worli, R Mall, Mulund, The Hub, Goregaon today (12 noon to 8 pm). And Atria, Worli, R Mall, Mulund, The Hub, Goregaon on January 27th and 28th (4pm to 8pm) to be a part of the PDA movement that is taking place all across the country. At these locations, you can get tattoos and paint your face in Indian colours. You can also pin an Indian flag on the globe to mark India’s increasing presence on the world stage!
Oh, get the hell out of my way…just tell us who has sponsored the whole 'Public Display of Affection' tamasha, how much you are getting. Give us or at least the Income Tax authorities an account. Forget the world stage. Be honest on our own stage.
With 'friends' like these, India does not need enemies. Stop this sponsored time-pass for a day.
I smile when I recall that scene. Just when I begin to think I am being smart, I do something stupid. I am told life is for the sharp cookies, so I stand before the mirror, squint my eyes and tell myself that I will show them the stuff I am made of...
And then I goof it all up.
Another scene...after the girl he loves/is concerned about leaves, he goes to the water tank; there is a red flower floating in it...he looks in and splashes some water on his face. For those few moments, he is a mere ripple, faceless, without any identity.
I have splashed my face often, seen the ripples, the facelessness. I sometimes want to erase myself, but even in the dark I can see the ashes.
There has got to be a burning flame somewhere.
This is just getting too cute. Shahrukh Khan has the potential of being a good host of Kaun Banega Crorepati, but he is trying too hard.
It isn’t about whether he is a worthy successor to Amitabh Bachchan or not; Mr. B is history, SRK is now. And I don’t like Mr. Now.
First there is the business of creating this oh-so-funky signature song – all hip-hop and bling-bling. This is not a silly game show where you point out things in boxes, okay? This is about general knowledge, even if it is to rate actors according to the number of endorsements for undies and chyanwanprash they have done.
SRK’s vulnerabilities (saying that he is nervous, asking a silly contestant whether he will sign him instead of George Clooney for a film) are too staged. Where is the spontaneity, the k..k..koool factor? Replacing “Lock kar do” with “Freeze it” is about the only real cool thing. But a participant choosing to say, “Kulfi jama do” is so back-of-the-beyond.
The usually suave and sensible producer, Siddharth Basu, should have made certain that there were no jibes at Bachchan. Not because he has to be revered, but because it is a waste of our time. And so defensive. The show started with SRK saying that he wouldn’t speak in shuddh Hindi and gave an example from the B repertoire. He wants to talk in a language that you and I can understand. So talk, no…why give explanations? We know what is understandable and what is not. Funnily enough, for all his efforts, his Compaq Da, Compaq Garu and Compaq Chowdhary are throwing up queries in very high-falutin Hindi. Then what was the big deal?
And there was no need to tell us that people were wondering what he would be dressed in and then informing us he would wear what we want him to…damn, he wants to be some puppet? It is one thing to try populist moves but, really, when a star goes on about being at the beck and call of the audience we know he is begging to be accepted. Wear what you want, as long as it does not hurt the eyes as that red tie, white shirt and grey suit did. It reminded me of my school uniform. And he does address the TV-watching audience as “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls”….that is how Father Rodrigues addressed us.
Now comes the massage bit. SRK offered his services to the contestants to soothe their nerves. The first time he went ahead and did it, fine. Soon enough a contestant who was a complete dullard and was thinking over one question asked him, “Thoda massage denge?” And the good host got up and stood there pummelling his upper back.
Where is the dignity in all this? I can understand being human, being nice, being friendly…but this is sickening. What happens when a female contestant comes in?
I mean it when I say that Shahrukh Khan can be a better TV host than he has been an actor, but will he stop hamming it here at least?
And when will grown-up men (that includes Mr B in his host avatar) stop portraying their fear of their wives? It is just so outlandish and outdated. Real guys don’t get frightened of their wives and keep referring to them, but then real guys are not out to save their marriages or at least the façade that passes for it.
So SRK, instead of asking people to freeze it, turn on the heat. 'Just chill' does not quite become you.
Brutal writer, they say.
Eat my venom
Burn your lips
Push your tongue into my pores
Taste the pus that oozes out
Then you will know
Who left the wound to rot
To enter slashed wrists
Pins fell out of eyes
Sleep sneaked out of dreams
Work your way
Through written reams
Eat my words
Cage the birds
Water your potted plant
Call it happiness
Can happiness be broken?
Run away from the mud
Leave a little token
Kill me before I die
Flower of the wild
There was this sentence in the film about how people risk everything for a dream no one even knows about. What have I risked? What have I dreamt of on such a magnificent scale?
Yet I felt like Maggie with the bloodied nose, the black eye and so many bruises, within and without. Finally, when she is in bed, a vegetating form, she asks for death. And she gets it!
Here one asks for morsels of life and one has to flail one's hands about, carefully push the toes ahead to make sure there is no precipice.
What the heck is that?
Hold. Grab. Hold closer. Run. Look back. Run. Return. Hold.
I don't know what I am saying.
I like meditation. It is no different from what I often do. Lie down and look at the ceiling. On a good day I manage to shut my eyes and imagine I am looking at the ceiling. On a great day I spot cobwebs.
Shopping. I love shopping. Went to the mall and bought nothing. This is a first for me. I have conquered one desire. I ache for that mirror-work on the neckline poncho, I feel it was made for me, the me I should be -- it is colourful and bright. I want it. But one has to go to the mall. I want to go nowhere.
Talk to someone. I talk. Everyone is deaf. So I talk like normal stuff...hey, seen that film? went for a jog? what did you have for dinner? I am not bad at it. I can discuss someone else's dinner for an hour or so.
The other day I decided to meet some new people, two women. Nice people. Discussed clothes. Other women. Food. Other women. Make-up. Other women. Men. Other women. I kept quiet for the most part, opening my mouth only to eat. I did not know those other women. Come to think of it, I did not even know these two.
So, why was I there? Because I was told to socialise. To come out of my shell and meet people. I met.
Everyone seems to want to die. But for that you need to have a life-support system that can be removed.
Think of those who are worse off. Yeah sure. It don't work. When I order a Lobster Thermidor and it turns out not so right, I am not thinking about the hungry millions. Neither is anyone else. I am thinking about how much it has cost, how much time I wasted and how a charming evening has been spoilt rotten.
So when I feel rotten I am not thinking about others who feel rotten. I am not even feeling my rottenness well enough. It takes a while (years in my case) for it to sink in.
Write. Get it out of your system. Clean your room. Throw away junk. Rearrange things. Go out. Have fun. No, no, not that belly laugh over jokes. More than that.
It all sounds very depressing.
I want to be a boxer with a bloodied nose. I am already in the ring aiming my fists in the air.
“And then you say you wore a crown of thorns? Is that all you found in the flower?”
“Both are metaphors.”
“I understand that, but why could you not wear a crown of flowers if that is what you picked?”
“It was too misty for me to see what I chose.”
“No, it means you make wrong choices.”
“What is wrong about thorns?”
“It is a negative thought.”
“What is negative about that? They exist because flowers do. They protect the flowers.”
“What can one get out of thorns?”
“No one expects anything from thorns.”
“Then why make it into a crown?”
“To wear a burden of ‘no expectations’!”
There was a man across the table drinking beer. He was alone, so he started watching. A group of hip youngsters was on our left. They were mindlessly shaking their heads to music from the 60s. I had loved this particular place. But you cannot make Delhiwallahs give up their fake snobbery. They flash money. On another day a boisterous group had converged to eat and drink and talk on mobile phones. Their talk was loud. One of them was saying, “Arre bhai, we are enjoying, come, come, you also come join us, we will do dhamaal.”
Suddenly he noticed one of the group amble towards the aisle and shouted, while the phone was still not switched off, “Oi, wherrarryougoing bhai?” The man shouted back in return, “Toilet lagee hai!” “Achcha. achcha, jaldi aana…” said the questioner and relayed this bit of news to the person at the other end of the phone, “Sattu has gone to toilet. You come. I will aks (sic) him to give you ring. Chalo now, I am ordering snacks…”
Despite this, it was one of the few civilised places because waiters did not hover over you, they brought the happy hours refills without being reminded and sold cigarettes at the rates you got them outside.
On my last night I had to be here. I don’t know how it happened but I started quoting Eliot:
"Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo."
I was in a trance-like state. There was a montage on the wall, its thick ink drawing curiously about what Eliot spoke. My friend and I decided to find ourselves in there. I pointed out one figure and said, “This is you…now tell me who I am.”
He found a face, alone, observing, but lost. I had chosen another one for myself, the woman holding the man as they danced, but she was looking beyond his shoulder not at someone else but into nothingness. “This is what I feel like.”
“But the other one is more poetic.”
I don’t think I said anything. Poetry is a state of nothingness.
We made our way out. It was not too late. A little boy was peeing against a wall. Reached the hotel and sat in the lobby. I started speaking about myself, jerky memories about a life stopped several times. He got a call from his buddies; they had been waiting for him, it was a weekend. I felt a bit awkward detaining him. I spoke to one of his friends, a Bengali.
He asked, “What is your name?
“Charulata,” I said.
“Oho, and where are you?”
“In Jolshoghor…” (the music room)
And then I listed out the names of Ray’s films, interspersing them with a few Bengali words I knew. He was too drunk to realise I made no sense.
“I would lhuve to meet you? What are you?”
“Meghe dhaka tara,” I said; it is a Ritwick Ghatak film and means cloud-covered star.
“You know Ghotok?” By now he was truly flummoxed.
He went on about several things and then he mentioned Ram Kinkar Baij. To his utter astonishment, I knew about him too.
I handed the phone back to my friend. He had to listen to the whole conversation that took place suffixed with, “You know, she knows Ghotok and Baij. I maast meet this girl.”
I laughed. I did feel like a girl then…
“We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.”
(T. S. Eliot, from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock)
Anyway, this is a picture taken outside Hanuman Mandir and here is something I penned after returning from Delhi…
Kissed by Mist
My breath meets the breath of the city
Calloused hands warmed on garbage fire
I try to see the faces
Everyone is on hire
Buy me, buy mine, they seem to say
I reach out to touch the mist
It has no price tag
Yet I ask, “How much for this?”
No one hears me
Woollen caps let the sounds drown
I pick up a flower in the fog
And cover my head with a thorny crown
Am really sorry for the rapid changes I am making...and thanks for the feedback, here and elsewhere. I feel like someone who has found a new gizmo and is looking on how to work it...you know the "for dummies" stuff...
“Why did you smirk when someone said that his New Year resolution was to be a better human being?”
“Because we have to first define what a human being is – is it just a species, or a characteristic, or an identity, or a value system?”
“Each one has their own definition, though broadly Homo sapiens are human.”
“They need not be human enough. That is the reason I do not accept this poppycock of good human and better human.”
“We always want to be better, don’t we?”
“True. Better at our field of work, better in grooming ourselves, better lovers, but how can we strive to be better human beings?”
“What is the yardstick we have? If it is based on principles, then would those apply across the board? If we want to be better than others, then we are trying to compete…competitiveness in the field of Being is not a human quality; it is despotic and demonic.”
“What if we want to be better than what we were?”
“Then again that begs the question – were we good enough and for what and towards whom, and based on whose idea?”
“So in your opinion there are no good human beings?”
“There are no bad human beings as well.”
“Then what about self-realisation?”
“That has nothing to do with following a pattern and notching up ideological mileage. It is a lonely journey.”
“You need to find the Self to be able to efface it, that is self-realisation.”
“And would that not amount to being a better human being?”
“No, for there are no benchmarks, no trails to follow, no signs, no rivals, no wayfarers. There is no good and no bad. You are not even competing with yourself.”
“Then why call it anything?”
“Realisation means understanding and acceptance of that understanding. You could call it by any name or leave it nameless.”
“So would you strive to be nameless?”
“I don’t believe in such striving. It must happen naturally. I often forget myself. The name is only a tag, like animals being branded. I might as well then want to be a better animal than a better human being.”
“Then you would have better beastly instincts!”
“Instincts when married to thought are perhaps even more enlightening than rationalisation.”
“With no room for logic…”
“Logic takes you from Point A to Point B; instinct takes you from one point to several.”
"Does it have a purpose?”
“Must everything have a purpose?”
“One can’t be directionless.”
“Who decides on directions? With one gust of the wind even the most rooted tree can fall. There are no directions.”
“This sounds like madness.”
“It probably is. I call it madness honed to near-perfection.”
"I am home!" I sent out a couple of messages.
"Good for you," was the response.
Yes, good for me. Good for everyone. For lives I have tainted and lives I have left untouched.
Have you ever felt your blood ache? No, of course not. You are normal. Your wounds hurt, your bones pain, your eyes cry. Your blood only courses through your veins and pumps your heart, every beat of it a boon of liquid red.
My blood aches. And when it does, it gushes forth from every orifice or it congeals so hard that I need a hammer to break through it.
I reach its centre...a hollow greets me. The ache is a shell. An empty shell.
Oh, how could I forget? The year has just begun. I am sure it will bring wonders to all of you, to all of us...I must say nice things, lovely things, smell the roses, cover myself in satin sheets...okay, for the sake of tradition I touched a rose. It was a yesterday rose, so it drooped. I ate a petal. Happy?
Then I looked for a satin sheet and covered myself. I spotted blood. Happy?
The sheet aches. Blood is a good teacher.
I am a bad student of blood. I sit by its side and draw out a map where there are no roads. It is a map to tell me that there are places but no space. My throat constricts. I rush to cough out pleghm.
A globule of blood comes along. For that moment I begin to feel its pain. It has no choice but to lie trapped within me.