Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A reticence to light

No one knew at what time exactly Pali was born. Her mother knew only that the birth had happened at twilight, on the terrace of a small building during an anthakshari session.

Pali happened at twilight, in that period of the day’s schizophrenia.

She was born a girl of twilight, a girl of quiet. As a child she sat in sand pits while the sun slanted over her and insects burrowed destinies in the soil.

Mia, her mid-western aunt, settled and camouflaged in Mid-Western USA, took photographs of strange Pali when she visited. Her affinity for Pali came from the thick belief that Pali’s silence indicated her intelligence and the likelihood that she would be great someday soon.

The child’s first visit to Gogo Library was, really, a mishap on the part of her USA aunt, Mia. Mia had problems, see. Mia ,with the moody and recalcitrant fiancĂ©e, a PhD thesis to draft in two weeks, a bony body to be made sensuous for the wedding.

And on that tight quick November evening, her problems bludgeoned some part of Pali to a hot, uncertain edge.

Pali was sent to Gogo Library to pick books up for her aunt. (The thesis was going awry! And Mia needed a smoke and a pedicure and some time away from her pernicious fellow. So many things and all this muddle and it was just convenient to send Pali out to get the books she needed.)

They are heavy books, Pali was told. Get the Library Uncle’s help in finding them.

She entered Gogo Library with the awe that accompanies young people on first time missions to places many times their size.

There was no counter, no bellied Baba she could turn to with her list of books. The Library was a block of cement, shaped like a beaker: a beaker block of cement. At its centre was a quadrangle with leafy plants and the hum of a disturbed insect. Spawning forth (and sideways and backwards) from the quadrangle, was a tapestry of passages, runnels of time and distance that opened into airy, but still dark rooms.

It was a place built in a reticence to light. Windows lay pat against the walls, and though open, had thin green sheets over them, so that the floor was like a turquoise moor. Above the windows were thin orifices through which light staggered in, fondling air-motes.

Pali’s first impression was the darkness. It wasn’t that she had an aversion to darkness, only that the library managed to remind her of the intestine in Human Body Series 1 at school. The image of the intestine from that book haunted her like a congenital affliction, giving her dreams of warm stretches of dark poultice. And this library, see... it was dark and warm.

Studied from the quadrangle, the library did not look like a library. It had no books. Only the passages and their ante-rooms yielded to search, for they were stuffy, like an oedema, with books.

Pali was not afraid, not as long as she stayed in the quadrangle. She sat at the rim, feet dangling, and called a “Hello”, young and quivering and polite. With just enough scare in her voice to get noticed. Oh sure enough, from the swaddle of library, a person was brought forth: a big man who came to Pali with the ample machinery of belly and moustache, and made for her instant relief. He twinkled, maybe in kindness, maybe blindness, frowned through her list, got a tall stool and entered a corridor.

She waited in the quadrangle for a time, and as she sat there, she began to notice eerie things like the gnats on the windows and the one half of lizard jerking in a sty of blood. So she followed the belly-man.

But corridors have a way of seeming endless. And this girl Pali, well... she was a girl. To get rid of her settling dread, she started to skip. Skip skip skippity skip; she skipped like it was her mantra, like her steps were the rudraksh. Finally, and without climax, she skipped into an airy, but still dark ante-room where the belly-man was sitting wordlessly beside a boy with eyes like sceptres.

Sceptre eye Sceptre thrill, Pali was obsessed by the desire to scream or say something loud to axe that silence. A girl of ten, right? And all this hogwash about axing things. Plus, it turns out that you are right, that she didn’t do anything, didn’t even run. She only tilted her head, looked for one trusting moment towards the boy, turned and huddled out.

Years later, in the semi-light of her shrink’s apartment, where her thoughts appeared hygienic, Pali was told that the root of her nightmares - those lesions that kept her from sleeping more than an hour at a stretch - lay in Gogo Library. Pali had known this for some time, of course. But it had seemed necessary to pay someone to know it for her.

How should she redeem it, she had wanted to know. How should she find second grace? He had answered with the expected, in the expected tone and phrase. She was to go back, revisit, and walk down the corridor again to understand the irrelevance of that once-felt-fear.

Gogo Library was transformed now. The green screens were cleaner, there were more people; a smart-looking woman in a skirt was located at a desk with great files. New fluorescent lights worked like a maestro against the animal dark that Pali had been witness to, and the library was brisk (strange layout notwithstanding).

“A decent place,” said her mother, who had gone with her to the Library. They walked down each corridor, examined each book-vault. Her mother clapped her hands and said “It’s over. We’re done! Now we can put it behind us, whatever it was.” As if she had just pulled the finishing curtain and provided the canned applause.

Pali had felt a curious release, but she knew it was not over.

Day after day, she visited Gogo Library, her mother trilling to friends about how well Pali had coped, how she had found the lungs and heart to confront her fears (It’s the schools, I tell you, they put the fear of God in little children: make them hate libraries, hate books.)


Pali knew it was him not very long after she saw him for the second time. His sceptre eyes followed her all around. She looked at him too, always between the shelves or through the wedges in the carrels. He was the library attendant, tall and gangly like a tuber.

Their point of contact, for they had to have one, was a shiny addition to the Library: something about Calculus and Cosmotronics. She would walk to the shelf, raise her arms in an arc, lift the book off the metal, and hold it to her chest. She would leave it on her desk for him to replace. And in due course, when she left the Library at dusk, he would take it, swivel around the chamber in wary circles, and hold the book to his warmth.

This ritual continued. And they were drawn to each other like moths to a flaming pit. Somewhere, I suppose, something had been exchanged; and they had traded trust in one arid, mutual moment.

Then one evening, when Pali was at the Library, and everyone else in her room had left for home and family, the boy-man with sceptre eyes entered. This time, his entry was different from every other time, and Pali sensed this from the choppy eyes that sought her.

She waited.

I could end this story right here, but I will not. For what happened next intrigues me.

As Pali waited, with fear and longing and who knows what else, the boy-man started to close the windows of her room. One by one, he lifted the green drapes and drew down metal shutters, closing them in. It was at this point, roughly, that something inside her was lit with the boldness of understanding, and she screamed a scream that was in some sense overdue, and in some sense not.

Then she ran out of the room, out of the Library and never returned.

It was in this way that Pali and boy-man, two childlogged human creatures with bullet-point histories, became adults.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Forget Marks Forever

My face is spot country, she said, as she rummaged her fingers through her hair.

No-go, he said, and blew air into his drink. The air went bumpity into the liquid, releasing a drill of bubbles.

Don’t you sense, Mukund, that I am aggrieved and would prefer it if you didn’t resort to unkind hullabaloos of words.

Well. You call me Mukund. Do not brave on about kindness when you call me by names like Mukund. But anyway, this napkin is snot. Why do you care that it has Forget Marks in blue all over it? Tell it to avaunt, and quit thy sight. Macbeth said that to a ghost. You’ll be saying it to something equally puerile.

Mukund. The ghost was not puerile. It was subtitle to Macbeth’s livid guilt. If emotions make a man, then the ghost was as real as the emotion it serviced. The ghost was as real as Macbeth.
My unhappiness about spots is not puerile, for to me
these spots are testimony
to the fact that I have no control over my material.

But you have control over what you think of your material.

That is such cock.

Why not call me Macbeth? Why Mukund?

Because you’re not tragic or epic or a part of my deadly design.
And that is why I like you, more or less.
Besides, I’m not calling you Mukund. I’m using the name as the precipitate, for I feel that it is just stout enough for this atmosphere, for the lights and for the food we’re eating.
It’s like a short, dumb, angry plant. Rooted like.

And that’s how you want me?
Short dumb and angry?

No, I don’t want stout. I don’t want stout or sturdy or any of this. But this is what we have and we must make do. This frame this frame, I feel myself despairing. Despairing in shy, unhealthy ways. It’s too firm, this life we have.

We aren’t complacent, you know. Even if you've had yourself believe that we middle, that we are framed. We do – as you say – anger over. Isn’t that sign of salvage - a sign that we are not entirely lost to rootedness?

Yes. In meted ways we show anger. Meted, muted, in quantities just amusing enough to last our lifetime. But what of this anger? We don’t remember – not in obsession, or clarity – where it began. It’s like a fog of lather without the soap. It distracts us and fucks with our eyes, but tells us little of our source or voyage. Or non-voyage: our stasis.

Ah the check's come. We end our day in pleasant irony.
My sweetheart... My tube of jelly... We have facts.
And the facts come by way of
bills, jobs, furniture, blinkers.
Facts are only ever born of frames.


On the happy occasion of your birthday

the music in my pious player
tells me that I

must pay my love for you
in love-words that part their
price at your wall;

It is appropriate that people in love

Say things
that are beautiful enough to endure the groin of contact.

Oh mercy
my words are septic with longing.
So filled with the sore and sausage of my internals

(plump and gruesomely young)

that they roll like biased marbles
towards my oesophagus

But maybe with words we can finally have a morning
And not this backward counting
Act by act, plight by plight,

Slow like the movement of thighs.

With words we can buy new sight
To get by in our atrophy of living
And share the vision of a foetus in its binding calm.

So I try for words as one tries for the only thing there is in the midst of this
eternal building

And this is my wordy tribute to you.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My Vague Entrails

This is a young blog. And my relationship with it is still exploratory, nascent.

And I find that what thrills me the most about it is its way of not showing me up by name or appearance.
It seems to offer the cartilage between distance and engagement, so I can be at once veiled, at once naked.

Within this single medium, I can subdivide. I can be he or she or He or She.
I can congeal into wet shining slurry: breasting words into hiccups that fill your mouth but mean so little.

And in the trekking dark of it all, I can hold your hand and let you believe my hand is not a hand.
That it is moss or a sheep or a bidet. That it is moss and a sheep and a bidet.
Because you cannot know what my hand feels like.
You cannot know that I have a hand.
And I can remain in this suspended colloid of words, never to be removed, or dried, or formulated by levels of science unknown to me.

Unless of course, the Internet really is Big Brother, with blogbusters as myriad as megapixels.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Flexing Poetic Muscle

I arrive like an army with a sudden objective.
Like an army with an occupationally
An occupationally indifferent lust
for creative spoil.

And I'm sort of
running on a track
around imagined kill.

Except that the kill's in the centre,
And I'm on the encircling track.
Encircling, concentric,
With the kill just farther than a couple of inches.

So I think
maybe I ought to give up on the
idea of predator and prey
And simply gaze,
with no objective to grab or to tame
Or to make it keel over and respond to names
I call it.
* * *

Not to give things a name
is what a poem is
or along the way...
No killing,
just the imagining one might say.
The futility and staying power
of doing the concentric.
* * *

The first poem is the muck I wrote for a Creative Writing exercise.
The second is my teacher's response to the poem I wrote. I like the last two lines of hers.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Yesterday's Sins

So accustomed was she to stories with twists in the end, that when she put down The Buccaneer’s Arm, she could scarcely believe it had no twist. Therefore, she picked it up again, revised the 547th and 548th pages and looked for a twist.

She yearned for this twist, this recapitulation, this surrendering of her imagination to the vital, bruising command of another’s.

All in all, she confirmed, it wasn’t a good story. Sure, the language was fine, and some of the images had her reeling, but what was the plot? What was it about? She couldn’t say.

Miriam Miss had told her in her Creative Writing lesson that a good story was one that left you with a message you could learn from. A moral. Maybe even a theme, children, that arches above you like the sky and sings to you like the birds in it.

This story had no message, and if it was singing, it certainly wasn’t singing to her. It had given her the unexpected, but in a quiet, deflating sort of way. No Thrill, no Gasp.

Leaning back against the chair in her slowly darkening room, she decided that the air was stale. She needed out. This was a decision taken with the finality of one who has been coached in the culture of fullstop-making, in the culture of ineluctable truths, blue skies, white doves, bright classrooms.

There was a mild sting in the air outside that is sometimes the result of soft rains and moist deciduous leaves. It was raining a little, and she felt joy, thinking of the similarity of her condition to the poets of far-away; Shelley and Wordsworth and Coleridge had indeed taken long mournful walks in the rain.

She walked and she walked and she walked. And her mind filled with the words of some illustrious poem, words that she remembered perfectly. She even recalled the placement of the words, with their divides and semi-colons. Then she looked up, seeing the pigeons all aligned and drowsy in the trees, dropping their nuggets of shit.

She sighed, and the wriggling uneasiness of that book was set aside in some biding, quiet corner.

Presently, a light fog descended, obscuring the pavement lights. She didn’t mind very much. It was that time of day and year when people are indoors, watching the news, sipping coffee, rubbing their necks, cutting their toenails, talking. And she felt pleasantly, intelligently, alone.

Five minutes later, she came across a blur of black against the shifting light in front of her. It was curious, this black awkward form, so alone in that wilderness of light. So Endearing. She quickened her pace, wanting secretly to catch up with this person and see him as she saw herself, lonely and intelligent.

She did catch up with him, for she was a girl of steel will.

Then there was that moment of blunder, of trepidation. She was suddenly afraid. What if he were nasty? What if he misinterpreted her move?

But she was a girl of steel will. As her strides began to match his, and her short quick breaths aligned themselves complementarily with his stretched long ones, she was suddenly confident. And fairly soon, they were walking side by side. She felt that joy again; the joy that comes from knowing that one is doing something of promise.

“Hello,” she said, “are you from the University?”
He looked up and to the right, at her. He smiled and said in failing English, “No Madam, I am working in Sri Krishna Sweets. My parents is here.”

She, more on edge now but still cheerful, said, “Oh that’s nice. I like Sri Krishna Sweets. It must be quite a walk for you, though, everyday, mustn’t it?”
But she suddenly realized that her pitch was wrong and her words were wrong and she couldn’t see the logic of what she was doing.

There was silence and they both walked in companionable fashion, and some of the earlier comfort was restored. Then he asked, “Why you are walking alone, Madam? It is raining and you are not having jerkin.”
She, not fully comprehending, said, "Oh I like walking. It’s a pretty walk. I like to hear the birds in the sky sing.” She had adjusted the length of her sentences to this odd little situation.
But he, despairing now, his words erupting in clutches, said, “But you -- are not having jerkin. You are white.”
She frowned, grappling unsteadily with this new agitation. What was a jerkin? Why was she white? “Oh!” she said,
“Oh oh. No. I don’t have a jacket. And this isn’t really white, what I’m wearing.” She was smiling again.

But he was still in the throes of something stupefying. He stopped, jabbing his arms in the air, and removed his black windcheater. He said, “Take” in a tone of finality. She understood finality. But she didn’t want the jacket.

She said, “No no! I’m wet already. What difference will it make to me? Please. Keep it.” And as they stood there, two abject, flailing creatures, the air was reconciled, and that moist deciduous smell entered their simultaneous consciousness.

They walked on. In silence. And they looked at each other occasionally, never at the same time. At the circle, where their paths were to part, he asked for her number. She said, with no regrets, but with a smile, “No.” And they left each other.

She returned to her room in a state of inspiration. In a state of respiration. And perspiration. And she wanted to write this thing down and convert it into a lovely story that would floor Miriam Miss and punch her classmates flat in the face with its horrific brilliance. But as she sat, and pondered, there was
From this experience, she could extract no structure, no monolith. It only arranged itself to her in a series of vacant disparities that looked at each other occasionally, never at the same time.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Bus Journey

She had seventeen miles of bus journey unfinished.

Seventeen miles can be very long when you are travelling by bus through dark places and when the television in the bus is on mute.

She had a queer bored ache in her. There was little to do and no light to do it by. Bunching her body against the window, she pressed her mouth to the glass watching it blush with steam. Then she extended her tongue, tracing wetness.

Her cousin would speak of the eggs that were planted on bus windows by flies, about how they hatched in the comfort of saliva and how we should never ever ever lick the windowpanes, no matter how cold or dark the bus was. Sometimes the cousin would twist her ear while she grimaced in pain, and say ‘This is how the flies in your stomach know they are not wanted.’

The route to the University was long, scarred by the myriad interruptions of lone telegraph poles, highway villages and water pumps with gatherings of bony women. She usually liked the route; she liked looking out of the window as faces and scenes lopped off into epic and meaningless movie reels.

But that night, it was black. Brassiere black. Black, mind you, and not pink or grey or brown as dusty village evenings sometimes are. And there was nothing to do.

And suddenly, as if sponsored by her stretch of want, there was light just beyond, across the street. It was a marriage function, and an elaborate procession had stalled outside an arbitrarily gaudy hall. She saw cymbals, electric lights, drums, men in white and green, women in every colour, angry wailing children and old old people with dry eyes, wet mouths.

But as the bus passed this, as it passed this brazen piss of light, her eyes changed focus in the way that eyes do when they sense that something around them has altered. Her sight turned instead to the reflection on the pane of her window. And she saw that the man on the seat across the aisle was staring. She had not looked at him before this, as she was in the habit of not looking at men she didn’t know. But she had heard his shrill peacock voice as he asked the bus fare. It had changed the air somehow, that voice. And after, he had sung a familiar Urdu song, one that they would sing at morning assemblies in school.

And the staring transported her back to the time in boarding school when she was brushing her hair in the room, standing across from the mirror, watching appalled as ratty brown strands snapped and fell to the ground. That time when the boy had entered from behind, the little boy who walked up to the mirror, licked at her image, licked the neck and the face and kissed the hair. She, looking up, had only noticed the saliva, thinking of the fly eggs that must have penetrated his blood and hatched in his stomach.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


and somewhere, lines were drawn.
and gosh, all these litanies, these songs.

these lines, poor things
with no one to quiet their misgivings
their parallelisms.

with no one to teach them the poky ways of bending some.
no one to say in verse of gauged symmetry
that horizons aren't lines
and that as they lie, sponge-like, they sublime
so there's no each or other.

and after all
there's no need to be so straight about things.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

hand-me-down experiences

So for many months now, I've been dreamless. But last night I dreamt that monkeys were raping human women. There was nothing graphic in the dream; nothing perverse even.

It seemed the natural thing for them to do; to turn from senselessly, indifferently, raping male and female members of their own kind to doing it to a different kind.

I wasn't being raped.

And I couldn't identify any of those who were being raped.

Everything was anonymous and figures had turned landscapial - as if there was nothing the human verge hadn't experienced and made ordinary.

Funnily, I didn't wake with that jolty feeling that accompanies vivid, weird dreams.

I'm not about to do some sort of Freudian analysis or issue myself for dream-ironing therapy, but since I don't night-dream so often, I thought I'd think about this one I've had. But like most times when I get my thoughts to purposively attend to something, I blocked up and suddenly all I could remember was Auden's "The Shield of Achilles".

And so I feel sometimes that every experience I have for the rest of my life will only be understood by the things I've read and the skin I was given to feel them. This bugs me.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

To Loving Learn

I am the occurrence of salt, slime, wist, will, living, repulsing, all within the chassis of my skin.
I am the occurrence at-once of all these things, but all these things in changing minglings.
But what is this I say?
It is but the shying cry of Know Thyself. It is but this cry, sublimated, made personal and projectile, uncreased on virtual paper like the rain is uncreased by the windscreen wiper.
And I am my own peculiar advantage.

Why we must oxidise

We're terribly asunder, aren't we?
God, Naina, I have no idea what you mean, but I'd really like to get home and shower. My skin's rubbed with the smell of beach.

You know what's happening to our relationship, don't you? It's oxidising.
Why on earth would it oxidise, Naina?
Because that's what relationships do. They oxidise, go black about the edges and start to smell like blood.

Why do relationships do that?
Because it's the only way they can breathe.