Saturday, August 29, 2015

Askew

This is a poem that I wrote when I was approximately of the age 14. It has a somewhat tepid beginning and end, but a reasonably robust metaphor in the middle that sees it through. It was published in Sahitya Akademi's "poetry with young people" (all letters deliberately in lower case), edited and compiled by Gieve Patel.

Hopefully, more writing will follow. Mine's a rusty tap.

Askew

Most things don't usually make sense.
There's always that little piece askew
That makes everything seem wrong,
A facet of life. It is inevitable.

Then comes the struggle to make everything right.
We run around like clucking chickens
Pulling out those disturbing worms;
But with every worm pulled out
Two new ones appear.

And then the major question-
How to get rid of that troubling piece.
My answer is, there is no hidden way.
Embrace those tiny pieces;
Accepting them. They are something to puzzle over. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

!meoP

Witness the wetness of leaves,
See how the word world is splayed,
Furrowed with spirals and beams,
The earth’s mastication, its mulch and spit
Comes from something harder, softer,
Sharpening, lessening, leavening with grainy softness.
Darkness containing light,
Sadness containing the sigh of a joy of a child;
Infinite beauty, more and more of beauty
So much that it is sometimes sublime
Sometimes immobilising. Sometimes
The chiming of similar sounds, the wet feet of the rain
On and under my feet,
Is like the poetry of breath taken in and given out
Into an atmosphere, a sphere of fear
Which rears up in terror at itself,
Ducking and dodging its own spears
Erasing its arrears before they can be spelt
Or counted. Before they can be named.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

?meoP

Heterosexual
Meterosexual
Fettered, sexual,
tethered rampaging to a mast of desire
like an elephant in musth.
To shave or not to shave?
Is this ultimately as philosophical a question as Hamlet's?
Was Ophelia asking this in the privacy of her bedroom
to her maid who, visible in phases amid the shifting deep velvet drapes,
her hands glinting with scissor and razor blade,
looked on with envy, empathy, 
--jaded, helpless? 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Things we say

A month into my fieldwork, during a time of deepening confusion and what I would later recognize as despair, I received an email from a student at my alma mater. She represented an on-campus publication which voices the views of students, alumni and faculty from our department. She sought my reflections on the Masters program which I had completed and which she was still in the midst of: 
Did I enjoy my time at the institute? Were there things I would do differently if I could go back in time? What is life after graduating like? Did my education prepare me for the life I have begun to lead?

These were charming questions even to my muddled, fraught mind. Charming because they were naiive and almost unanswerable. They were questions that I too would have asked as a student – at a time when, seen through the prism of holidays, internships, and summer schools, life beyond university seemed to contain endless possibilities, when the horizon of the years ahead glittered, sun-like, with secrets. In my reply to these questions, I tried to refrain from platitudes, I tried to write the kind of answers that would have encouraged me as an earnest student with mutable hopes.

What is life like after graduating? Much like life was like during or before college, I said – just as resistant to summary definitions. Which was and is the truth. But there were parallel truths I could have conveyed. That my experience of exiting campus-life as I knew it, and beginning a PhD, has been nothing like I imagined. That I have had a first taste of how lonely one can feel, how lost and jaded. That I felt as though I had, without knowing it, been on a conveyor-belt headed somewhere, and that suddenly some part of me – a limb, perhaps – was dangling ragged off the belt, wizening me to how close I was to falling off, how close I was to dissolution.


There are things we say. There are things we are silent about – because they render us inarticulate, or because we feel that the mundane horrors of our lives would serve no purpose being told. What fascinates me sometimes, what holds me in its thrall, is the idea that someone who is herself fraying – whose thoughts are ill and confused – can proffer advice to someone at the other end of a cable, and quite possibly as distressed. What fascinates me is the idea that they can help each other. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

To query a word

The Oxford English Dictionary defines 'sentiment' broadly as the expression of more feeling than a particular object or occasion demands, but this is oddly circular, for who or what decides on the appropriate amount of feeling, or for which particular objects we may appropriately feel?
- Huggan and Tiffin, 2010, p. 195

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Document of Days


A white Labrador bitch occupies the first-floor veranda of the house opposite. Her name is Sony (or Soni?) – like the corporation, or like the teacher from Chhatisgarh who was humiliated by the Indian police for suspected collusion with Naxalites.

Sony the bitch is alone for most of the day, though she does have a view of the road, and of the arthritic mongrels that bay at her when she is in heat. Sony is, in fact, in heat at present – or so I presume, on the evidence of the number of dogs assembled before the house, their snouts training, like cannons, at her odorous body.

At ten p.m. another Labrador is introduced to the veranda. I hear a woman from within cooing at the pair, and I think of the inane romances in Kannada soaps – and how these stories are worked insidiously into our lives, so that even the prospect of two dogs mating is imbued gently with an awkward song, a leering dance.

The dogs are, as it happens, left to their song and dance. Sony, though friendly towards the dog, is not interested in giving him a view of her arse. He barks, protesting – at what? – her arrogance? her disinterest? Protesting, anyhow. The dog, as far as I can tell, is the first companion of her ‘own species’ that Sony has had in months (at least since her last heat). He will be gone in the morning, but will likely return if the owners believe that he has not done his job.

I’m tempted to feel sad for Sony the bitch. But I think – why, and on what basis? I am, after all, sitting in a similarly sized room across the street from the dogs – and am, in a sense, just as captive. I may have a view of the veranda but I know close to nothing of Sony’s thoughts, or what she feels towards the dog when she chooses not to let him mount her. In fact, these words – like ‘thoughts’ or ‘feeling’ – may not even be applicable to a bitch’s life. Who am I to feel sorry for Sony, or indignant at what I think may be her loneliness, her humiliating encounters with dogs and humans? Who sanctions these trivial interventions, these judgements about things moral or immoral, cruel or not cruel?

On some days, I think that all comparisons – and, thereby, all metaphors, similes, and the bulk of literature and art – derive from ignorance. The notion that one life is more advantaged than another, that the dog in the street is happier than the bitch in the cramped veranda – is conjecture. If I believe it, and you believe it, this is because our ignorance cooperates, for the time being.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Szymborska and note-taking

I once had to speak formally about the Denys Arcand movie "The Barbarian Invasions". Latent fastidiousness, was it, that got me to watch the movie four times before I spoke? The more times I watched it, the less I had to say, and after the last viewing I had only a few disembodied phrases I felt were still worth stating. These had mostly to do with how the film, whose culminating message was one of death/friendship/nostalgia, combined different forms of humour to pleasing effect.

The take-home lesson of this experience, for me, was that if one is to repeat something under the belief that this will somehow deliver "more meaning", documentation is quite crucial. I ought to have recorded my feelings subsequent to each viewing of the film. I ought, maybe, to have listed the extent to which a word, a scene, or a face, appeared intricately different each time it was encountered. The extent, I mean, of filigree. 

Today I read a poem by Wislawa Szymborska that made me think that perhaps each day is worth some kind of note-taking. Notions of calendrical time must be misleading at least insofar as the suggestion that each day is a repetition of the one before it because each is comprised of the same number of hours (minutes, seconds).

This is the poem.

Nothing Twice

Nothing can ever happen twice.
In consequence, the sorry fact is
that we arrive here improvised
and leave without the chance to practice. 

Even if there is no one dumber,
if you're the planet's biggest dunce,
you can't repeat the class in summer:
this course is only offered once. 

No day copies yesterday,
no two nights will teach what bliss is
in precisely the same way,
with precisely the same kisses. 

One day, perhaps some idle tongue
mentions your name by accident:
I feel as if a rose were flung
into the room, all hue and scent. 

The next day, though you're here with me,
I can't help looking at the clock:
A rose? A rose? What could that be?
Is it a flower or a rock? 

Why do we treat the fleeting day
with so much needless fear and sorrow?
It's in its nature not to stay:
Today is always gone tomorrow. 

With smiles and kisses, we prefer
to seek accord beneath our star,
although we're different (we concur)
just as two drops of water are.
--