My three months of vacation in Alberta is coming to an end. There were endless number of things I saw, but a few have left indelible prints in the heart and that is what I have tried to put together in this illustration. These are a compilation of moments that may have changed me as a person. These are important.
I watch him on the reflection on my screen. On days he goes mad. Those days he breaks up things after a bout of binge drinking.I sit unperturbed, on my side of the bed watching the ISS capture the orb, fleeing. Yet, the blackness of space, largely reflects, the ugliness of his being.
It has been therapeutic for me watching myself from space. I do it not often, but mostly on such days. Usually nothing happens as I stare into space. The discs rotate, the earth revolves in the same grand old pace. Amazingly, today, an astronaut showed up. I couldn’t believe what I’d just seen. His large gloved fingers right there on my screen. He adjusted his gear, took a while, then he looked down at the lens and adjusted his smile. He believes someone’s watching the live feed, from the blue planet, behind his countenace, below his feet. It’s almost been an hour, I’ve been trying to catch another glance of the him. The man in a spacesuit. Sober and astute. I wait for another chance to screenshoot.
While all this happens at my corner on the bed, on the otherside of the room, I hear songs of regret.
You know, it’s good, sometimes, not to throw things just because they’ve been flung at you. Anger may be misplaced, love, however, finds a way through. Remorseful songs play on his playlist. Old songs burn his memories. His reflection now looks so pale and lean against the brightness of my mummified screen. These songs are killing him, he, who is already dead. I hear him gruntle as he retires, on his coveted side of the bed.
The man in a white suit reappears and I finally chance a second glance. A few screenshots then I turn off my tab. It’s been a long night for all three of us.
All of us floating, in spaces we make.
who’s more lonely today?
Is it the astronaut, is it me or is it him?
In the early hours of dawn, Meursault was me and I was him, facing the wall with perked up ears, unable to sleep. Hardened by truth yet smeared with human flaws, I waited for a wishful light. The rest of the world seemed so certain about life, about truth, about the right and wrong, about who deserved to be condemned and, who, glorified. When it came to the knowledge of how the world worked, I was a pauper. Freedom was an idea created by glossy men in their glossy suits, by religious patrons in their cassocks and saffron attires. Within the four gray walls of a prison, only a man could be trapped, a weak man, however, could be trapped without walls but a man whose strength lay in truth would forever be liberated from the claustrophobic human bondage.
My truth was my only freedom, freedom my only asset.
“The sky is falling!”
That was the only line that kept resounding on her mind. Nuzongmit lay sprawled on the floor, disoriented. What just happened, she wondered for a split of a second before she panicked. She could barely move a muscle. All she could muster was this one line from a colourful animation she had watched in school.
“The sky is falling!”
The music in her head grew more faint in it’s din as she managed to plug out her neon earphones. She looked around the thick black air in her room and felt nauseated. A fire somewhere crackled carrying the whiff of burnt meat and made her choke again. With all the strength that she could rally up, she lifted a broken piece of mirror that lay strewn on the floor next to her. Her pale, sinewy fingers trembled as she brought the mirror close to her face. She looked closely into it and tried to make out her reflection against the golden dying embers of the fire that was still lit somewhere in the hearth. She flinched when a soot stained face with bloody, grave eyes peered back at her from the mirror. Petrified, she dropped the glass and let out a muffled scream. Her tousled gray hair weighed heavy against her frail body. “Amla”, she called out but no one replied. She opened her mouth to speak again, but her parched lips bore no words.
Finally it all came back to her. Like a sudden flash of lightning blinding the night sky, she realised what had happened.
It was three in the morning. The old gong at the monastery had echoed listlessly in an empty valley. The moorish grasslands still smelt wet from the night’s downpour. In the dark light of an early, unexpected dawn, people clambered out of their houses, half clad, half asleep. Women latched on to their men, children clung against the warmth of their mother’s belly. The chill of the morning air bore a sinister grin that lashed against every inch of flesh that it found exposed. Bones and teeth clattered. The earth had twitched again.
Against the backdrop of the rush of hurried footsteps and terrified little moans, you could hear a dull buzz of the cicada among the thick magnolia trees. Nuzongmit pressed hard against the cupboard she was buried in. It was an old, ornate, wooden cupboard her Grandfather had passed on to her. She had never liked it. Her school had colourful little cupboards for children, where they kept their knick knacks. She wanted to colour hers as well but her mother was very stern about it. “This is Grandpa’s last piece of memory I will live with and you will not dare sprinkle a colour on it”, her mother had warned. Now as half of her lay buried under that wooden rubble, she could see that the latch had broken. How upset Amla would be!
She started to thud at the cupboard, gently first, so that her mother would not be disappointed but as time went by, her pounding became harder and vigorous. She had to find a way out. Outside the walls of that little house, nature was savage. Tonight it unleashed it’s barbaric instinct. With every shudder, the leaves danced to the horrendous tune, but unlike the other days, when it carried a faint fragrance of orchids and moist earth, of pine cones and warm cheese, tonight it was an overpowering stench of blood and grime. The caverns and cliffs had split. The boulders, shifted, tumbled, crushed and sat grandly, overlooking the debris it had created. Some yelled, some bled and some stood helpless in the black of the night. Some found their way to the monastery seeking refuge in a spiritual realm, like a dying soul seeking grace in its last gasp of breath.
Within seconds, just like it had started, not a flicker of wind stirred. An eerie silence enveloped the fringe of dwelling houses in this little hamlet in the North of Sikkim. The night lay dilapidated after a gruesome battle with nature but Nuzongmit’s little hands never grew tired of the constant pounding. For a second she heard someone call out her name in the wilderness and in desperation she called back again, “Amla”. For a flickering second, too petrified to speak, a rush of emotions wrapped up all that a few words could never emote. Death was relentless today, in a fallen debris of lives and she knew it.
Nuzongmit loved to paint the colours of nature, bright blue and green. The last painting that won her the first prize in school was where the neon sun overlooked the pink hills, the emerald rivers and the orange houses. They nicknamed her Rainbow after that and she was delighted. She had an unusually beautiful sense of colour, her teacher had remarked. Nuzong had once wanted to paint on the bone china cup that her mother treasured. “It is already chipped and old”, she argued but her mother gave no heed to her rants. “Things have more in it than you can see, Nuzong, just like our lives. While others see our patched walls, we see sunlight streaming in. While they see a broken roof, we sleep under a grand canopy of stars, so, where you see chipped china, I still see my mother pouring out the last of her rice pudding for me.” This said, Nuzong was silent. Her neon colours, wet in the palate, stared back at her forlorn face.
Her watch beeped four and she was transported back to beneath the cupboard again. The early trifle of sunlight peered through the virgin crack on the roof. In the light of the early hours, trapped where she was, all she could now see was a pair of distorted legs beneath a wall that had fallen. Her mother, she recalled, had been gathering driftwood from the river to set on the hearth. She must have returned, she must have laid down the wood and leaned, tired, against the wall, like she did every morning. Now she lay there, beneath the same wall, the place of her resting had become the place of her eternal rest. Nuzong looked at those colourless pair of feet. The nails were painted brightly red with the poster colours that she won in the competition. She looked at it for the last time and turned away. A tear trickled down her cheek leaving a dirty trail in the thick soot that painted her face.
An hour had passed. The Indian Army had moved in at dawn and young men from the village had volunteered for any help. Nuzong finally heard a humdrum of people. Each calling out different names, but for her, the only lips that bore her name was now sealed. She gathered her courage. “You are a brave girl, Nuzong,” her mother’s voice echoed. “Believe in compassion and don’t ever let go of faith. That will be your only weapon against a rude world”. She pushed with a broken limb and screamed.
“There’s someone here, quick, I hear a cry,” a military man in a green uniform shouted out to the volunteers.
“I heard someone beneath the rubble, you need to be careful,” he said. All Nuzong remembered was them sawing open the cupboard to get to her. Her mother could not have been angry now.
She was airlifted to Sir Thutob Namgyal Memorial hospital in Gantok, the capital city. This was her first visit to the capital. One fine day, she had hoped she would paint the capital. One fine day, she had hoped to capture nature in her colours, green and yellow and pink and all the colours of the rainbow.
Today, after two long days, she looked up from the hospital bed and all she had was a desperate urge to paint. She had found a new colour. Nature was not green. It was for her, all but gray and black. The same colour as that of her Grandpa’s old cupboard.
Neil Young’s deep undertone wakes me up from my presumptuous reverie as the train slows down. The yellow evening sun falls softly on hardened faces in New Coochbehar. Men here look like they were baked in clay. The women look prettier though! Women are always prettier. Their faces are all delicate pieces of art, chiselled at all the right angles. Even if her face has the spotted sag of a life of haunting solitude, no woman can ever be ugly.
The station looks deserted. There is still, almost another 15 minutes of daylight left. It is that golden hour any photographer would crave for. That hour of time when long shadows of short people give them a feeling of grandeur. The pride of a tall rose in a pedestrian vase.
The train jerks forward lazily with no intention of holding the mantle to its name, Dwarka Express. My earphones hold no defence against the constant clink of metal against metal. These metallic lines discern the truth of parallel lives, one inside the coach and the other on encroach. For hours I look upon closely into each shacks that pass by. The curtains of shame hang around, unsheltered, to provide some form of privacy from eyes like mine. I watch for a while longer, hoping to be as close to feeling their despodency. I watch and then like a pigeon who closes its eyes hoping that the cat can’t see it, I close mine. Cat because, poverty has a feline quality. It never lets the world see its shit. That instinct gives me a feeling that cats are more evolved than dogs.
Half clad kids, clad more in the stench of wastedness, wave out aimlessly at intervals. They know the drill. Everyday they follow the same routine. They know the timings of all trains that trespasses their personal space front and back. Reverse and forward. Forward is just as bleak as a face on a moving train is to them now, in reverse. Just one glimpse and then gone. No trace of memory retained.
I close down the windows half way. The glares on the horizon have stopped bothering me. Evening has settled. I am wondering why they say that the evening settles when it unsettles everything. Chaos takes precedence over calm. Everytime the joints at the coaches rattle, jumping from one track to next like my playlist, my mind is unrattled, my mind needs rest. I close my eyes again and adjust my earplugs. Neil Young is still singing.
For days I did not sleep. I just closed my eyes until the faint light of dawn rose upon me, wearing me off my fear. Night is not a good place to be. Night brings unimaginable horrors too bleak to be witnessed in light, the pure white holy light, devoid of a spectrum, that naive people believed in.
Before Newton introduced the ‘celebrated phenomenon of colours’, light and life both were thought to be just a mixture of dark and light. The colour wheel brought radiance into many gray lives. It lent a visual acumen making life a little more prolific and discerning. Theories spun around life percolated and meddled with strong foundations of belief that humanity rested on. Coming to think of it, if the mathematical tool like a fourth dimension never existed, memories would all have been but erased. My life would have been a dot, never connecting to any other elements in time. I would have been a moment, and so would you, in my heart. Reduced to an insignificant moment(not insignificant because we ceased to exist, but) because when everything gets measured in moments there would be nothing significant or rather the opposite. There would be no firsts or lasts, the first kiss, the last goodbye, just the endless hands of time grazing past into a blackhole absorbing all light, all the colours from our not so iridescent lives.
Could this be the existence of Absolute as an entity rather than a concept?
Would we view things without any relation to each other?
How would we view each other then?
Would it make us love or hate more?
Would we be happier? Or would happiness be illogical and sadness too?
Would beauty still be relative?
Would words be futile? Oh but words are!
The futilty of words can be measured by how time contorts it,
by how a singular concept believed by followers of religion and science can define and redefine a dot where it not just a dot but a dot stretched in all axial directions,
how the vantage point of one singular entity changes the perception of history and future,
And mostly how hung up words are on connecting the dots. They can leave impressions only across time.
I have written off so many people in the past as a page in my diary and so many people yet to meet have already met me in my mind, or so, my distorted perception of time tells me. Today, I write in a vague attempt to gratify my human urge to connect the dots. Writing can unleash an emotion which no grandoisely delusional moment can conjure. It redeems. It releases. It helps me repent.
Let my writing be my repentance.
It creeps in only at night, after all the voices subside. That is when you hear just you, like a whisper on a cold night that you can see from a distance but never judge. Softly, like warm silk, it grows on you, wrapping you into a comfort sheet. The voice talks to you, it is the same voice that led your heart to love. So misleading but so convincing. So sinking and so lifting like waves that break upon the same rock day in and day out. Noises subside and you watch the world in mute. The world is awake but mute. In your mind it is. Your sigh at constant intervals is the only sign that convinces you about you living. That, and a lonely dog, faintly howling in half sleep somewhere on an abandoned street on this cold night. Your mind travels there, to that street, that empty street where your footsteps echo against walls on both ends. The crunch under your tired feet tells you autumn has arrived and that the leaves are dying. Another bout of gloom sets in. Your voice is the only warmth you draw life from. Haste is not you. You wait and wonder and watch and wonder again. Your life had been an exhibition. You have been unmasked and ridiculed. You have been rightly wronged. You are a beautiful woman, a living goddess inside a dying hearth.
In shiny Mercedes that park out your door they hoard into your life without a honk. They become a part of you and in hushed voices that scream obsecenity, they climb on you night after night. Do you scream? Do they beg you to? Those sweet nothings that they whisper into your ears, do they mean a thing?
But you lie there, stretched out like a sheet upon a carcass, too scared to move, stained in someone else’s blood. The stench seeps in you. If only every man came with a statutory warning, a label that warned women off. But even then, what good would that do? Your life is a hobson’s choice- take it or leave it. You lay on that bed with no choices at hand. Yet, God has been good. Some kind men have come your way. Coming to unburden the feebleness of their character, they have shed tears on your shoulder. Rational, strong men cloathed in corporate suits now all laying on your scrubbed floor. The floor, no matter how hard you scrub, still feels dirty to anyone else. “Out, damn’d spot! out, I say!”, Lady Macbeth mumbles while she continues to scrub the dirt out of her. You are another figment of Shakespear’s creation. The muse for a thousand poetry.Dirt within as well as without. Your beautiful face is a curse you have carried all your life. Who would have imagined the destruction that beauty brings? Who would have imagined what course life would take because of your moon like face?
The moonlight filters into your room. So serene and so chaste. How could anyone compare you to the moon that lies so far away from dirty hands poking every crater? Your craters have been defiled. Husbands and brothers and priests and true lovers, fathers and cons and doctors and lawyers, all have come your way. Naked they lay on your bed, waiting to pounce like a cornered tiger. Even in their nudity you see the sham, the cover up of a virtuous life. Those that talk of changing lives and ruling the world, those who cringe at the very sight of you outside closed doors, those that keep their women away from you, those that call you a prostitute without the least realization that you have prostituted them.
A cauldron of lies emptied over hours of sleepless night when customers flock around waiting for turns. Each one smell different and you hide the smell behind your cheap perfume. They make you happy at times and at times you feel wanted. Behind that door you are a powerful woman. You make them forget the averageness of their mundane sustenance. You rule over many a which makes you feel important. Atleast you give God an excuse to have brought you there. But the moment you step out your bubble world you find your doom – the other woman. She looks at you and smirks. You watch her, hand in hand, with the man who begged outside your door the other night. You feel sorry for this woman. In her righteousness that lies between the parting of her hair, and hangs around her neck like a noose, she condemns you but you still win. Her insecurity and your profanity fit in like pieces of the same puzzle. Somewhere you still hear the dog whining in half sleep. You watch and you wonder like on any other cold night.Your lives, in a funny way are intertwined, like a conundrum without an answer.
Have you heard the sound of a heart break? In the midddle of the night…with your earphones plugged in…there’s that one song that strikes the right cord…crunches your heart….makes breathing hard…you pant…you run…memories chase you like shadows…you flee from the grasp of your past…that day your lungs shrivelled up and your tears wouldn’t stop…that night when she left…never to return…just a song that struck your heart…you see her pale face …you can’t hide from her…she watches you…the daylight is your refuge…you hide behind the blinding sun…scared to be found…scared to be reminded..there she is…now…in the heart of a sad song…in the beat of the right drum…she smothers you with her memories…you are stifled…the rush of blood on your head…the heart beats furiously…you still want to run…but she catches up…wherever you go…she had yanked your heart out of your chest…tonight she wants to do it again…she clutches your heart lovingly in her palms…devoid of blood…drained of love…does she feel the hurt? The wound is raw..it always will be…as long as she chases you in your memories…tireless run…your knees give up…you kneel in the face of love…your mother…she should never have left…she should have been here…with you…but she did…you grieve…you bleed and then with a jerk you throw off the earphones…silence engulfs…but she’s gone…darkness seems tolerable…silence is more soothing than music…a lesson you learnt tonight…you shut your eyes…it’s cold…dark…silent…the music will play again…someday…again…she will come back and hurt you with her memories…she will…someday…you know that…her face…every line on that face…you try to see it all…you are scared…that face may fade…every night…you draw those lines again…forgetting the face would be like losing her again…you draw every line again…every mole…every freckle…every wrinkle…you draw….you draw everynight…the song plays in your head and you draw deeper, darker lines in your memory…that is the last of her you will have…the smell from her clothes have faded away…but her face stays…scared of getting faded…you will never let it…every night you will play the same song and every night you will draw…
Practicality, that is what would have been hidden in Pandora’s box..and technology of course..irrational they may call me and I admit to it..to being this impractical, irrational being struggling in a world that has no space for emotions.
I wonder sometimes how people can do the meanest and the horrifyingly brutal things and then hide it behind a mask of practicality..is that what it is?
I find myself messed up in a web of differences..life seems to suck then but as I gather my way out of chauvinistic rationalism I realize that to be different is something to be proud of..it is an attribute worth cherishing here, where people climb on any bandwagon to look real..
A child enters the world with a mark of innocence but if we carry the same innocence into the lucidity of the grown up human race this innocence is unrightfully termed as foolishness.
The veil of science has shoved into my throat, bitter pragmatic gulps..so bitter you can neither swallow nor throw it up and yet my moral values, my ethics, my principles rage a war against the surrealism of realism.
I rather choose to be fantasized than comply against my will to sit amidst a host of irrevocable fanatics who believe that they are the real makers of the world and who fail to realize that the world is already there..readymade..all we need is to fill in our part of changes in our own small ways..
Sometimes when all around me seems flustered and empty words fail to pacify my lame soul, I miss the wooden beads around my neck- a rosary that I’d cherished for years, the same rosary that strengthened my conviction towards the uncertainties of life, and when I miss it, I am somehow reminded of an incident that burns in me a feverish desire to rattle the gates of Heaven seeking for answers.
I look up heavenwards as I did that day and question God about his queer verdicts. I question him that when three of his believers stood there petrified and emotionally drained and tired and exhausted, how could he possibly not change all that had happened into a nightmare that would pass away, how could he deny a second chance to a kid whose face now seemed so serene and so beautiful as he lay there beside us. Life changed tracks so fast; it was difficult for one to catch his breath.
I do not understand any of God’s weird plans but I still believe he deserved a second trial out of life to overcome his failings.
There are days when I sit back on the couch, the same old worn out couch that lies deserted outside the porch. These are the days that I find myself caught in a web of my own ruffled fate. Today, as I look at him again, a deluge of memoirs washes me off my feet.
Someone had truly remarked, “Life’s a tough teacher for it gives you the test first and teaches you the lesson later”. He failed in the first test itself. He must have desperately tried all night long to win this grimy battle with bloody cold death for when we found him lying unconscious in the morning, gasping for air, I can tell you that he had tried with all of the little strength left in his listless body. His half shut, dilated eyes still held a glimpse of many young dreams that are now abandoned…one small folly, a short-lived moment of ecstasy, an irrevocable mistake, a spark that ignited an unexpected flame turning all of his aspirations and all of his desires into ash. He had not lived half his age, had not witnessed the miracles in life and we had to huddle his body into a small wooden casket. It was so wrong of him to leave, so wrong of us to not have noticed the changes and so very wrong of God to not have given him a chance to amend his ways. The funeral pyre not only engulfed that lifeless body, with it what I saw burning was a mothers only hope and a sisters only pride.
My heart did not believe what my ears heard…the doctors could have been wrong. His friend carried him all along the way with a hope that he’d wake up and tell us this was just a bad dream…he never did.
It was a deluge of tears, tears that could have purged any soul but I had to fight back mine fearing being washed away.
This was when I took the rosary out of my neck and HANDED IT DOWN to comfort a friend’s regret and his helplessness. It was not just a string of beads that I’d passed , I’d infact passed over all of my beliefs, all of my strength and all my prayers to someone who seemed to need it more than I did.
They say there’s no distance on earth as far away as yesterday… The stifling pain was just so hard to bear then but when I look back now I see the pain is gradually being buried with the grains of time. The wound has been smothered with a balm of a new hope, a hope to see others trapped in the same dead habit claw their way out of the inviting abysmal pit of hell.
From the ashes I had waited for a phoenix to rise and show us the way but the phoenix never rose only to make me realize today that he stands among us not as a phoenix but as a crucifix around our empty necks reminding us to change our ways, telling us that even one person can make a difference, nudging us away from mere delight of our senses towards a life that is more gratifying.
He climbs up the stairway to heaven holding God’s guiding hands and as he climbs he’s watching out on us…guiding us too…