Archive for the ‘neurons firing.’ Category
[juxtaposition by she who makes sing, the spaces in between]
there are spaces in between the disjointed and the disconnected and it is these spaces that give shape and contour to what is defined and angular. the without that defines the within. From in between bamboo stalk bars, words, बिदेशी, peer out like eyes above a fence, looking in or looking out. what is it about the petals of a flower, that when dissected, seem to create a pattern that was never there. moments that are fragmentary often do not add up to a larger picture, sometimes they remain just what they are: fragments. but patterns emerge, not of a unified whole, but of a series of ideas that shape understanding. like a sunflower sun that gazes down on the dissonant, like a childhood picture of happiness sliced in half.
is it enough to say this is beautiful? is it ever enough to say you are beautiful? beauty is an order, an assimilation of the disparate into an aesthetic whole. it is more profound to leave the fragments unjoined, separated like twins at birth. there is a different beauty in the spaces between what is said and what is left unsaid.
come, tear me apart, break me open. i shall never want to be whole again.
Some nights, he has a dream. More a nightmare than a dream. It tends to happen more often when the sky is black with rainclouds and the wind screeches through the windows. Those nights, when there is the dream, he is out of bed and halfway out the door before he realises he is not yet awake. This pounding of the heart, this shaking of the knees, this panic, all of it has become muscle memory. His body is attuned, through wave after wave of the ground rising up like a swell, and it acts without thought, without comprehension.
He remembers that time, a year ago, noon on a day towards the end of April. When the ground became sea and the firmament roiled like waves on an angry ocean. It was a minute, maybe less, but it felt longer than a lifetime. When he remembered how to walk again, he rushed outside and onto the streets, where the shell-shocked gaped like fish gasping for air.
That night, under a neighbour’s tarpaulin tent, while the neighbourhood men snored away their sleep, he couldn’t seem to remember if there had ever been a time when the earth stood still.
The next day, he went off to work, piloting his scooter in between debris and a mass of humanity with nowhere safe to go. He had only just stopped at Tundikhel to take a picture of the tents that had sprung up overnight when once again he found himself unable to keep his feet level. On the road outside the Old Buspark, where bikes speed past in the blink of an eye, a couple sitting, palms flush with the ground, had a microphone thrust in their faces. A brown lady, Indian, held the mic, firing rapidly in Hindi, staccato, “What is going on here? How are you feeling? What is happening? Are you scared?” A white lady held a camera to her shoulder, panning quickly for a shot of the jumble of telephone wires vibrating as if struck with a finger.
The newspaper office had moved and on the premises of the one-storey building that housed the Kantipur press, a war council was held. Like generals directing a battlefield, editors sent out reporters, all of whom brought back photos and stories of death and disaster. He himself received a space around a pool table, where a computer had been set up. He set himself to writing an editorial and then an article, for though there was still a ringing in his ears, he felt the need to commit his memory to paper. For, as recent events had impressed upon him, there is a hair-breadth between life and death and this distance can collapse at any moment, without warning, without omen, without thought.
That night, when he made his way home, the streets were filled with refugees, exiles from their own homes with nowhere to go. They huddled in the middle of roads, out on the pavements and in hurriedly put-together camps at any open space. The skies were dark and a hard rain fell throughout the night, as if to further beat an already oppressed people into the ground. Enough, enough, they said, but what capricious god would listen? It seemed as if the gods wished all their children to dance, first to a forced two-step, a zabardasti, and then to the rain, falling like bombs. Dance, dance, dance.
All these memories come unbidden the moment there is another tremble. The quake has carved its own Proustian memory in all who lived through it, he is no different. This trauma is collective and it is evident in the manner with which neighbourhoods flood with light and sound when there is even the slightest shake and neighbours huddle together, each asking the other urgently what magnitude, what epicentre. Breath now is always bated and like everyone else, he too waits, body always in a half-spring, air always caught half-way in the lungs.
For in a less than a minute, the world upends itself, foundations come crumbling down, lives end, and everything changes.
[Published on The Kathmandu Post, earthquake anniversary special, 24 April 2016. Title taken from Haruki Murakami’s original Japanese title for after the quake]
When younger, I wrote like a romantic, each sentence an offering of adoration. The words were clumsy and blunt. They described with ease the way things looked–the glow of cheeks after a first kiss, the longing ache of a lover upon parting and the hushed, borrowed desire of a love letter slipped quietly into another’s hand. Such incidents were portrayed with little grace and little subtlety. Writing, then, was simply a tool to win affection, a paltry sort of thing to mould and fashion as I desired, or rather, as she desired. In high school, I wrote a paean to an infatuation as a writing assignment and she swooned.
Then, I acted also like a Cyrano of sorts, writing love letters for lust-struck male friends who fell for young girls with agile ankles in high heels and tight thighs in short skirts. As teenagers, their feelings and desires were like everyone else’s, only they were too young to know it then. I came to this realisation early, when different people asked me in different voices to say the same thing to different girls. It was easy, made easier by the fact that I stole abundantly from Shakespeare. To this day, I regret nothing.
After a while, I became a depressive, writing pithy, short pieces that reflected adequately the inner turmoil of a insufferable teenager. Most days were spent wearing black, sitting in semi-darkness and writing sinister, gloomy stories where, almost always, the protagonist died. This was the easiest manner in which to wrap up a story and I beat it to death, so to speak. Murders, suicides, murder-suicides, blood and guts galore. This satisfied my inane desire for the morbid while also facilitating the expression of my own budding thoughts and feelings. It was a tough time, or at least it felt tough then. Looking back, I am exceedingly grateful that this phase ended as abruptly as it began.
Then, for a while, I was a reactionary. The influence of leftist literature and radical philosophy left me slightly insane and with a bad case of word vomit. I wrote polemics, haranguing the world from atop my pulpit of moral indignation. I espoused the virtues of communism and denounced capitalism as the most evil force in the world. This phase also paralleled my ignorant atheist phase, where I seized every opportunity to malign god and the religious. Being young and naïve, little did I understand that ideas cannot be hammered into minds, that the louder you yell, the less people hear. I did not try to cajole, inculcate and explain. I roared like a lion, like a dragon, like only the ignorant and stupid can, confident as they are in their own righteousness. I was a fool because I thought I knew so much, when in fact, I knew little or close to nothing.
Thankfully, this too ended. And now, I am sometimes a cynic, rarely an optimist, frequently melancholic and always reflective. This has been hard-earned and going by experience, it too cannot last. These days, I think before I write. I know what I am going to say before my fingers reach for the keyboard. I have ideas and I expand and build on those ideas. Finally, writing is a craft. It is not just something I do when I sit down at my computer or with a pen and paper and hope for inspiration. Gone are the days when I would simply write and let it all come independently, as if possessed. My muse no longer empties her bowels into my head. She teases me, drops a hint, leads me on a mystery. I follow her clues like a trail of breadcrumbs. And although I do not know the destination, I see the way.
There is still purpose to writing. I still write for others, sometimes to women I love and sometimes to women I want to love. I am no artist, no poet and no musician. What I can do is string a few decent words together to form a decent sentence. This is my offering, maybe my only offering. I will never change your life, I will never make you forget your cares and I will never inspire you to take on the world. But I will try to give you a moment’s respite from the bludgeoning of the world. I will try to give a glimpse into a life that is ordinary and thereby, show you that all life is ordinary. And there is great beauty in this.
I am not writing to get at a singular truth. I am not writing to change the world. And I am definitely not writing because there is money to be made. I am writing because it is the only thing I know. It is my only salvation; it is my bible, my bottle, my bosom; it is my life, my lie, my love. I am writing because this is the only way to keep the darkness at bay. There are wild hungry wolves out there and writing is my fire. Without it, living is unimaginable.
I write because I know of no other way.
I write because I am not a writer.
I write because I am a liar.