Friday, September 25, 2009

Rigor Mortis -- A story in many parts

Part III
(Go here for Part I and Part II)

She was also a naturally quiet child. She rarely cried, perhaps whimpered every once in a while. Her eyes would well and hold the tears in for many minutes until Sandhya noticed. Sandhya would then rush to feed her or check her nappy or hold her until she returned to her pose of quiet, wide-eyed contemplation. Sandhya loved her child and yet, marvelled at this little being that had sprung from her in such seething pain. Sometimes, mother and child would gaze at each other many minutes in the same wide-eyed stance.

One night, when she was two, she broke her silent spells with a slightly louder whimper than usual. Sandhya and Arun, both at the dining table, looked up surprised. Soon, she began sobbing, then crying, then wailing. The not-so-new parents checked her temperature, held her up to smell for sudden excrement, tried to feed her, failing all of which they resorted to the usual rocking and error. She didn't calm down for the next two hours. Exhaustion finally caught up, and she slept only to wake up the next morning with the same saucer-eyed calm. The night seemed to have been a dream.

Sandhya knew however. She knew that the baby hadn't cried for no reason. Shravana had visited the previous afternoon. And Shravana was bad news all over. She had come into the house, reeking of resentment and ire. She had poured out her woes and let her anger seep into the many cups of tea that Sandhya poured her. She had yelled under her breath at her husband, her job, her maid and the world. She had derided the government, lamented the roads and dismissed the possibility of any life outside of complaint. And then she had left. Sandhya jumped into the shower right after, trying very hard to peel off the layer of anxiety that she had left behind. She had scrubbed herself hard and rubbed two layers of soap into her peeling skin. She had found herself a bright yellow skirt and a white shirt, brushed her hair out until it shone and creamed herself to smell of tea rose and vanilla instead of the world in ruin. Incense let out smoke trails and the sounds of classical piano greeted Arun as he returned from work. The living room was allowed new doilies and the bedroom new pillow covers. Arun knew better than to question Sandhya's cleaning fits though. He showered and they sat down to dinner at which point Maya began wailing.

The anxiety hadn't left Sandhya. And it must have crept into her milk, she thought. And the baby.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sometimes one needs a corner. Or an attic under the stairs. Some darkness. Some candles. A match. A pencil. A few torn papers. And a story.

So quiet today. And so dark.

The nature of sorrow is immensely difficult to comprehend. It needs little reason and it comes to stay awhile. It is seductive and soft and demands no work. It merely asks that you stay still. I am still.
Song for the Rain

Monday, September 07, 2009

Ode to absence

Once there was a bar up a floor and a half in a decrepit corner of a city known for its decrepit corners. The building was hardly noteworthy, one among many structures trailing behind the capitalist revolution, refusing to abandon valuable land to the shiny mirrored surfaces of the new age. Greying, scarred, ravaged, it gave away nothing but evidence of its struggle to stand. Drenched in the sour, steamy odours of unfiltered tobacco, the room was dark but for dim, uncased candles and the flickering lights of bidi edges. Men scurried around cleaning, serving and taking orders. Some very young, most very old and none in between. Dusty elbows rested on dustier formica table tops. The shiny plastic laminate used to be better known as sunmica. Voices clustered and waned, only beer could be ordered and peanuts came unasked for. Voices waxed and waned, some clear and angry, others mumbling and unfocused. Some sat quietly, sipping beer and staring into air. Their faces were tanned and their fingernails yellowed. Now and then, one could see the distended, extended nail of a manly little finger, painted bright pink. An earlobe or two shone bright with pink stones and American diamonds. Men, everywhere you look.

This used to be a world of men. Men who walked out of the days of textile mills and construction sites and stock markets and into the nights of unlit corners in unwashed buildings. Their women laid claim to the shanties and chawls and apartments in other decrepit buildings. Their children played on the streets and in the corridors. Outside the city lay bare, neon lit and scurrying past.

The worlds have faded. Textile mills have moved, unions have been gheraoed and disbanded and decrepit buildings are making way for bright, mirrored, air-conditioned malls. I wonder what the new spaces of the working class are. I wonder if there is a working class anymore.

On a related note, check out Clare Arni's exhibit on disappearing professions in the wake of capitalist hyper-modernity.

On a completely unrelated note, as I was writing this, I was listening to this song....

The light is aptly seedy, the content a suitable critique of nostalgia?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Rigor Mortis -- A story in many parts

Part II

(For Part I, go here)

One heartbeat. Beating hard down the length of the small torso.
One pulse. Traversing the breadth of the miniature hand.
One breath. Sailing deep into the awakening lungs.
Such was the evidence of this life.

And she was alive. Delivered safe into the hands of a life we know not why and the mercy of a God we know not where.

Her name was Maya. This was of no importance however. Names as we all know only gain importance through consciousness. And she, was as yet, only partly conscious. She flailed her limbs, she opened her eyes, she cried out loud and she had a name. She was all animal except that she was named. Well, sometimes animals have names too. So really there wasn’t that much of a difference.

There was something about her though. Something that could only be touched carefully. With clean hands. Something so delicate it seemed almost like she would be erased if held hard; melt into the cradle and disappear into the tiled floor. When hands approached to hold her, she would fold into herself. Cringe. Diminish and hold still. This they would remember many years later. When she cracked.

The vagaries of time. The things people move back and forth in memory and recollection. Many years hence, they would say almost as if they had had a premonition, “Even when she was a baby, there was something about her.”