I am wearing a long, big, light, loose cotton shirt. It’s 10.15 at night, I didn’t go to work today and showered only an hour ago. I slipped into my pajyama, and for no reason whatsoever, decided to wear a full blown shirt with it’s full sleeves folded up. If Death is somewhere round the corner, lurking, keeping an eye on me, as it apparently does on everyone, I want her to know that this is how I would like to meet her. In a shirt that doesn’t go with the pajyamas, the time of the day, or the occasion. I am adequately calm and curious. There is the necessary detachment but also tingling sensations of mischief and melancholia. That sounds like an Adichie novel, no? I like it when life sounds like something that she must’ve written – loopy, not snappy; like rain on rivers – a bit chaotic but nothing unusual; a rare awareness of details and romantic visions laced with comedy. I fell in love with her, when I fell in love with you. You need lovers to fall in love with some books.

My heart broke a little today, when you said ‘Ceiling’. I realised I hadn’t thought of Ifem and Obinze in a long long time. I hadn’t thought of their banter, their pain and their politics. I hadn’t thought of the choices they made, the risks they took, and the lives they led. I hadn’t thought of the rhythms in which their story moved- like an odd sea- tumultuous on bright orange days and serene in the darkest of nights. My heart broke because not thinking about Americanah as frequently as I would, meant that I hadn’t thought about you – not enough.

I was buried between your thighs when you whimsically let that word slip, looking up, perhaps at the ceiling fan. We were cramped for space but inside you, I was comfortable beyond measure. You were perhaps looking up at the vastness beyond the ceiling – you never needed the sky to imagine. Our Americanah. We had to get here like this, and like this only. You were tired and sleepy, I was my usual jumpy self. We were about to start working on our separate assignments, and I wanted to steal a kiss. I played-cute, pulled your laptop aside, and leaned in to kiss you. You kissed me back, with the fullness of your lips, the tautness of your fingers and the deftness of your legs which coiled and clasped and pinned mine to the bed.

Perhaps I am calm and inspired tonight, because we had sex – finally after a long time (or at least what felt like a long time). Hopefully it’s a little more than that. That it isn’t about having sex after a long time (because the last time wasn’t all that way back, no?) but about having had sex without stepping over each other. That when I leaned in to kiss you, my dick wasn’t making plans. That I wasn’t whining like a child in a supermarket forcing you to behave like a parent. I felt like a lover today. I felt like that yesterday, day before, and the day before that in varying degrees. When you were speaking about the first time you went to the Cinema and watched the romantic adventure of Jack and Rose at the edge of your seat, and I blushed in front of a suspecting audience. When on a date night, reeling under carefully made pegs of whiskey, you asked me about the strange women I have fantasied about and I stuttered in awkwardness. When you asked me if I kiss you to write poems or write poems to kiss you and I kissed you. I felt a little less like a lover when we fought, again, over the same old useless binaries of desire-distance, romantic-mundane.

I wasn’t fighting today – not you, not my own pleasure, not the belief that what’s happening is what is meant to happen. That you are here with me, as much as you can. That I am present, as much as I can and that’s ok. It is beautiful to measure out vastness in little steps of delight. It is beautiful to think about Ifem and Obinze kissing by the bookshelf and leaving it at that. It is beautiful to write again without the compulsion to turn it into poetry of oomph and aah.

There is a lot more that I want to write. Write for instance, about why I find it hard to write when I am in pain and anxiety. I want to write more, so I don’t take this for granted. I want to keep writing to keep hoping that this is not a fluke shot of inspiration and love that came through only because today my dick was sated. I want to keep writing while I feel beautiful, so that I don’t stop writing about beauty when ugliness strikes.

I want to keep writing, because I want to keep loving.

 

Alice Neel_Sleep

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tongues on the terrace

 

Today,
I woke up
Reeling in your scent
That stuck to my skin like
Humid sleepless nights

Last night,
Was cool and breezy
Your hands were warm
And your fingers moved
And grabbed and scratched
As if to summon
Those happy roving ghosts
From many moons ago

All the private rooms,
Were taken last night

While the naked moon
Mocked our clothed bodies
Our tongues on the terrace
Didn’t give a damn

They spoke with utter
Shamelessness
The language of lovers
Who crossed rivers
And saw visions
Drowned and died
Lost all sanity,
And cried in joy

Our ambitions however, weren’t so lofty
Our intentions were carnal beyond repair
We liked playing sexy, and we played endlessly

“Somewhere, they say
She is churning the universe
Or weaving it’s fabric
Or lighting the fire
In the middle of sky
To cook up a world of pleasure”

“Enough of these
Cosmic platitudes
And useless ghosts
Stop the chase
And taste it now”

You craned back
And looked at the sky
I crawled under
And took a deep dive

Today,
I woke up feeling
Salty and sticky
The taste you left
On my tongue last night
Had spread to the rest
Of my body

 

clothesline on trrace

bworks1
the third body, Peggy Ahwesh

What if we stop believing in nation-states, where would we go? Will I move out of India? Or will India move out of me? If there is no other nation-state for me to go to, will all of us then be refugees? Who might decide the place for us refugees, will we have a Refugee Council?

Will we remember a myth after it dies? Does a myth become more powerful after it dies? Must we find a way to record the myth of the nation-state so it never gets powerful again? Will the Refugee Council create a museum of relics, what will they preserve and what will disappear? Poof

What if the end of the nation-state will simply mean a topographic change? Maybe a new layer will be added, from stone-sphere to…film-sphere. A scrotum for the nation-state. Or perhaps, we will levitate. Freed from the lie of the nation-state we will rise a foot above the lithosphere. Maybe Yudhishtra was onto something there.

What if cyberspace is in this new film-sphere? We will float a foot above in cyberspace. What if cyberspace becomes the new nation-state? And we no longer remember the nation-state so there’s no way of knowing that cyberspace is the nation-state. We are then in a vicious circle, rooted in the same spot, riding an elliptical to nowhere. And losing no weight.

What if in cyberspace I am not a cyborg but an Indian? What if Adam and Eve’s cyborgs meet and rewrite genesis. Will Genesis change because they are cyborgs or will them being cyborgs be a mere distraction so we don’t see that it is still Genesis?

From a foot above will film-sphere look that much different from stone-sphere?

When Ariadne sat down to write, no story would come. They were right there, there was one fully finished sentence, an almost complete dream, an incident too good to be true. But when she sat down to write, they just weren’t there anymore.

Her mother said if she didn’t pour water over the vessels after she ate, her heart would dry out. Would her memory dry out too? She routinely left the vessels at the edge of the sink. Somehow the turning on and off of the tap was too much of a chore.

In the nights when everyone slept she crept back downstairs to search for a snack. Her mother always said that if you ate at midnight, the banshees would get into you. That was when they ate, you were not allowed to interrupt that. Those were the times she always believed she could write, in the dead quiet of the night. The snack was to fill gaps between empty sentences. Had the banshees crawled into her? Because the sentences never came. It was one gaping gap.

 

Ariadne was a Greek name. I’m not sure why that was the first name that popped into my head for a character. Why Greek? Ever since I began writing stories, I have always been reluctant to write characters with Hindu names. They just didn’t sound right in books. Indian names appeared in books that sounded weird in English. The names had to be English too. But Greek came out of nowhere. There is something about beginning with Greek that sounds like I might also descend into Genesis.

Two times two was always four. I had a problem with that. Ariadne could also have a problem with that. Sometimes i feel limited in writing my characters out. They can have no interest in Math or Science as I don’t understand them myself. They can have no understanding of Indian languages, poetry, literature, even to a large extent popular culture because I grew up with images of blackened chimney tops and Oliver Twist picking pockets.

How does one understand when one is writing anyway? Is there a hint to be found somewhere that the story one is writing is not utterly dumb?

 

Who would believe what my mum said? I don’t and I routinely scoff at her. Yet, in my dreams all my vessels have dried out. As if vessels could dry out. But somewhere in my mind it means that I will dry out, die of a slow, lonely dryness. Like a withered plant that has nevertheless stayed in its assigned plot at the corner of a window that never received any sun because it didn’t face the east or the west.

 

If Ariadne were a woman, would she have long hair like I do? I could make it curly at the end and leave it to the knees to stop them in their track.

 

My mum says if I leave my hair lying loose and strewn over my back, banshees would swoop in and live there. I imagine swinging women moving fluidly like Tarzan from strand to strand or twisted bodies stuck in a braided twist. Couldn’t I wring them out or drown them in the shower or lather them in a soapy massage? Death by shampoo. I’m sure mine are toxic. When I see hair fallen and strewn on the white tiled floor I imagine I have wrecked homes like demolitions of illegal buildings in Bombay. Illegal buildings, illegitimate owners.

Perhaps I could write a thought piece on superstitious old women in modern India- double shifts and twisted minds of the working class woman. These stories come out only in hushed whispers, when you sit down to write you cannot divulge such secrets.

 

Ariadne could be a modern Scheherazade or an Indian Eva Luna – since i borrowed the term modern scheherazade from her in the first place. A magic realism novel, postmodern, postcolonial piece de resistance.

 

notes

LoSHA happened almost right after I read Coetzee’s Disgrace. One of the names on the list was someone I had known. The moment of LoSHA I will remember and have referred to as the moment the heroes fell. This was a hero that fell. And many more did right after that. In the many conversations of quiet anger, disgust, violent outrage with friends during the time, I spoke about Disgrace as well. At the time I had many an imaginary conversation with the hero where I hand the book to him or speak of it as if he must have read it and is common knowledge. “You are in that place aren’t you?”

All the while I suppose in some sense I was hoping there was a sense of confusion(unwarranted) or ambiguity about sexual relations which men who are heroes will definitely have, since I have met many that are not who also feel just as confused. I let him have the confusion. I supposed there would be greater understandings in store for him in the near future, which will be far more disquieting, which will make the episode of LoSHA not simply uncomfortable, no more confusing, but sown into the skin. An ugly scar on the hero- almost villainous. I realise of course that this was all part of some wish fulfilment where I dreamt of the hero still somehow finding his way back to the pedestal, tougher. Such is the power of heroes. Soon I found out that no such thing had happened. The period of silence after LoSHA was no moment of reckoning, no vigorous shaking of the flawed heroism, no memory in flashes of similar conduct. It was stupid delusion. When he finally spoke he denied it outright.

But that’s not why I’m thinking about Disgrace today. I’m thinking of it after a few class discussions on the visualisation of rape. The only woman and the teacher in a class of ten, I was recollecting my constant nightmares of the Kerala police in Malayalam cinema. A decade worth of films that glorified the machismo of the hero, with a rape thrown in for added effect. Almost always by someone in khaki. It has continued in spurts with extremely uncomfortable scenes, that disgust some and titillate most and serves little other purpose but of recurring nightmares. Violence and the woman’s body has gone hand-in-hand with the sexualisation of the woman’s body. It was similar for me reading Sidney Sheldon books and finally having to stop after four consecutive books with a rape thrown in rather mindlessly. What is this thing about rape being visualised as an inevitability?

This is interesting when I go back to Disgrace and the two episodes of sexual assault. The quiet inevitability there. I’m using the same word, ‘inevitability’ but here the discomfort came from something else- the decisions made after that. There is a resignation somewhat. What is this resignation? It’s not Pink(movie), not about justice, but resignation. This sounds like a passive word, but there is a sense of breaking. Similarly with LoSHA- a sense of breaking. Not emancipatory or revolutionary, yet a breaking. A small little nerve that tears. Atleast that’s in a private repercussion of LoSHA. It’s not fear and nightmares, it’s not liberating or particularly about fighting. The articulation or the language in its lack of description that the act of visualising- for the reader, the spectator- causes a disturbance. Unexpected interference as disturbance.

notes

Frequently, I wonder if there is some undoing of the political in the understanding of this blog. It started off as wanting to be a radical form of writing for two women, trying to unravel some of the complexities in their understanding of Self and the World, sometime Love and the Family. The idea of anonymity also came from that space. We discovered soon that the anonymity of this space triggered a very different kind of writing and the political, sometimes brash voice that we hoped or foresaw did not happen at all. Instead the writing over time has become more quiet, more everyday. The World has become smaller, the Family fictional, the Love more difficult and written in hushed whispers and coded letters, the Self began to see autobiography as something entirely different.

With time we began to value this form of writing, perhaps appreciating that the anonymity is allowing for us to write the way we really want to and a more apparent political agenda seemed more forced. It has however rankled me from time to time that this space masks a little too ‘beautifully’ the various turmoils that is changing the Self in difficult ways. The periods of silence on the blog is usually when there is no sense of calm to transpose the writing into finding a nuance in some obvious political terms. What do I mean by this? I mean to say I don’t want to call Gender or Caste to explain how difficult it is to be with the  Family. Not because that is not what it is, but that popular writing has turned those terms into a miserably misunderstood, poorly articulated sloganeering which has done a lot more harm than good.  Yet, when this translates into easy conversation with a man which becomes my only space for discourse it makes me uncomfortable.

Blogs as autobiographical writing has so much potential in allowing a conversation with the Self. What then am I undoing with this beautiful looking blog? I wonder if its aesthetics, which is where we thought the political would be apparent is not so much dialectical as it is convenient. Convenience in having not to articulate in more uncomfortable ways.

What would I write about if I weren’t living at home?

What would I spend my money on if I weren’t living at home?

Where would I be on an evening of clear skies, if I weren’t at home?

What would nights look like if I weren’t living at home?

Who would my friends be if I weren’t living at home?

Would I eat the mangoes before they began rotting if I weren’t living at home?

What would I eat if I weren’t living at home?

What would I wear on a balmy summer morning if I wasn’t living at home?

Would love mean something different if I weren’t living at home?

What are little girls made of?

1325

 

 

 

I’m afraid of snakes. Real, imaginary, the word snake, the one on television, a hiss, a rattle, a rustle in the bushes, wet places, green wet places, ceilings they can drop from, trees they hang from, a pond or a lake, a pond which is green, wells, mossy wells. I don’t like the word ‘slither’.  Lizards remind me of snakes. They are like little snakes that live with me. That can fall with a splat on top of me. That leave tails behind the way snakes leave skins behind. Once when I was in a college hostel in a very wet town, a friend brought home a snake skin. They say, a snake will come after the snake skin. Do they smell it? Can snakes smell? There’s a small snake in the studio, in a tiny bottle of yellow liquid. Coiled- i don’t like the word coil- and head upright, tongue out. Is it real? Is it dead? Can it come back to life? I try not to look at it, but I can feel it stare at me. There is a hard disk in the cupboard I have not touched for a while now.

I don’t like the water, bobbing up and down does not look or sound appealing to me. I can’t bob, I like firm ground beneath my feet. That said, I don’t like wet ground, slush, mush, slippery and slimy. When I was a child I hated my mum giving me a bath, she used cold water and poured it over my head with a large mug. I screamed even as she hit me, pinched me, scratched me with overly long nails to keep me from slipping out of her hands and out of the bathroom. I remember that particularly incompassionate side of her and am still wary of it. When I started taking bath myself, there were many days when I would pour the water on my feet, an entire bucket of it to create the illusion that I was taking bath. If it was upto me even warm water couldn’t induce me to pour it over my head. I wonder if it was because of that instant where I had to close my eyes as my ears and nose filled with water. Then it felt like I might as well have been drowning in the sea- not that I had seen the sea back then. But sea- vast, deep, endless, harsh. I still cannot swim. I did own a swimsuit for years however, which I frequently tried on when no one was home.

Now however there seems to be no occasion for fear, simply a persistent bubble rising and falling perpetually in the pit of my stomach. A fear with no name and sound, I cannot cry it away, I try yelling it away and then the rage becomes a fear. I don’t seem to acknowledge fear as much anymore, but I recognise it as a constant.

 

*painting by chaim soutine- carcass of beef

raw mango dreams, again

When it rained finally it was a thunderstorm. Upstairs the dance class had stopped abruptly at the first sound of thunder. It mysteriously coincided with a sound I remembered well, a stick flying across the room and landing like a lash across bare ankles. The wooden stick rapped in a rhythm of one-two-three one-two-three for nearly a half hour before the first step was out of place. I thought of the girl, sweating profusely, a drop hovering over an eyelid, miserably trying to catch up with the rest. Dance, as if the rains needed anything else to set it off. What happened first? Did her step falter because of the thunder or the thunder came as if in casual annoyance at the mistake?

None of the lights were turned on in the house, no one had expected the darkness to come on so suddenly. I stared at the fan expectantly for over seven minutes before the electricity went off. Seven minutes of thunder, lightning and the shrill sharpness of the wind. Even the trees refused to dance in the wind. Not a drop of rain yet. They should continue dancing, maybe then it will rain. But the darkness had stopped everyone in its step, motionless. The fan stopped with a low dull creak and then the distant sound of a generator in the factory nearby. No one would go home until it rained and stopped, so they would continue working into an evening swiftly turning into night.

Creeping across the wall hesitantly, a lizard made the first sound which was immediately engulfed with a new round of thunder and lightning. The mandate was clear. Silence. I looked outside and could see only blackness, no light filtered through except when lightning struck. It hadn’t started raining, so I saw no need to shut the windows. The air was so heavy, if I completely stopped breathing I could almost hear the puddle of sweat the girl above had left. The wait for the rain came with an unbearable thirst, I finished half a bottle before good sense kicked in. I could not brave the rickety narrow staircase that led to the kitchen to get more water. Once the rain started it would not end for hours, perhaps the whole night. A rain that held everyone captive even in its absence.

Abruptly, the ceiling fan moved for twenty seconds before it stopped. Again the dull creak of the fan giving up, again the roll of thunder. I looked outside and saw that the lizard had managed to crawl outside through one of the three holes in the mosquito mesh. The air must have been too heavy inside the room for the creature to stay alive till the rains.

I tried keeping my eyes closed, in a desperate attempt to doze off and forget about the heat. When it would start raining, the heat would break and I could sleep through the night without staring at the unmoving fan achingly. It must have been a few hours before I woke up, or perhaps a few minutes, I couldn’t tell. No sign of the rain, and the thunder and lightning had stopped. I didn’t know whether the darkness remained because of the heavy clouds, there was no telling of the time. The factory workers might have been long gone or perhaps the generator had stopped working, because the silence had impossibly increased. I made a rash decision to drink the rest of the water, I reasoned it had to be late into the night and I would fall asleep again and wake up only in the morning. A morning with electricity, the cool weather after the rains and water.

The last dropped of water and it rained. Not a drizzle first, after a few hours of warning it had come in a downpour. It brought with it the thunder and lightning which had disappeared. I wondered whether everyone had stayed in the same place all night long, dancers frozen in motion. Would they dance now that the silence had broken?
I looked out of the window again, the night suddenly lit with energy. I would have missed it if I had looked out a split second later, because that’s all it took. A flash of lightning and the branch broke. I caught a brilliant green, a single mango attached inseparably to the branch. They say if you dream of raw mangoes, you are impatient.