Thursday, February 18, 2010

Argh, ugh, damn, damn, damn, damn

Blistering barnacles, thundering typhoons and murdering mimosas.

Damn damn damn.

Ugh, argh, double argh.

(Yes, this has become one of those ranty, boring, diary-like, teenage chronicles.)

Okay sorry, now we are done.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I am writing notes to Peter. And stop asking me if I am writing the dissertation. If you still want to know, yes I am. I can multi-task like that.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Staring at Photographs

Sometimes I am mad at my digital camera. For capturing a life so full. And emptying it.

My parents have an old red suitcase. It has stainless steel snap locks and is red. And it spills over with pictures. From three decades ago. And every alternate year since.

One random sepia tinged picture where my mother looks thin as a reed and innocent as morning light. One tattered polaroid with my father and his friend staring straight into the camera with a fervor I cannot reproduce in my most inebriated moments. And no pictures for the next few years. One can only imagine the life that slipped past the image. Until it regroups again in another photograph; black and white and not so yellowed this time around. Many unidentified children of monochromatic clothes and white teeth. I am in the middle and my teeth are bright too. My dress looks black and white, but I know that it was red. As poppies. Red was all I wore then. Then in the next set, we all look grown up and everyone around me is too. My parents look grown up. Even though they were probably then as old as I am now. The years look as though they are flowing gently. In my memories and in these photographs. These capricious accounts. These sometimes memoirs.

To say that I am nostalgic for the past is an oversimplification. I do long for a past. But not for its experience, not for its lives. What I am attached to, sometimes melancholically, are the suddenly remembered images and textures of the past. A texture and an image that are never available to the present. One only sees the present in the future when it has already slipped into the past.

The present is meaningless, a mere jujube. The present is the realm of the tactile and can be lived by any distracted person.

(Do read: "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction", Michael Taussig's "Tactility and Distraction" and Roland Barthes' "Camera Lucida")

Monday, February 08, 2010

-- The Storm, Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)

Try To Praise The Mutilated World

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June's long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You've seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you've heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth's scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the grey feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

-- Adam Zagajewski; translated by Renata Gorczynski

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Rigor Mortis -- A story in many parts

Part V
(Go here for Parts I, II, III and IV)

Sandhya came home shell-shocked. Not that there wasn't an easy explanation. She knew that children sensed things faster than adults. That Maya must have sensed Ranjeeta's mood. That she must have caught her staring into the distance frequently. Or seen her eyes glaze. She must have wondered about Ranjeeta's vacant smile. Any one of those gestures that adults dismiss as moodiness or inconsistency or a plain lack of sociality. Maya must have known better.

But nothing explained the violence of her reactions. Or her willingness to transfer Ranjeeta's pain onto her fragile body. And involuntarily at that. Nothing explained her sensate body. For Sandhya who had learnt to separate mind from body, Maya's inability to watch out for herself was scary. She feared for her child.

After that however, Maya returned to her quiet self.

At six, she was an unusually precocious six year old. When she spoke, she did so in complete sentences. Many days, she did not speak at all. She nodded when asked if she was hungry and shook her head when Arun wondered aloud if she had done her homework. Sandhya wasn't sure if she had a rich inner life or just an unflappable countenance.

Arun and Maya shared a unique relationship though. He would come home from work and sit next to her at the dining table. She would not talk. He would. One by one, he would narrate the inner workings of his day. The desk he sat at, the people he met, the students who dropped into his office, the flowers blooming outside the university. And Maya listened to him and beamed for the half hour that her father let her into his life. For otherwise, Arun was a self-contained man. To his daughter and to his wife.