Chopsticks: a debacle in one and a half hours

This has been on my mind for quite a while, but I have been procrastinating a lot about doing this review because how can you take the effort to sit down, glide your fingers on the keyboard, in the process strain your shoulders, to write about a movie so bad that it had your eyes and brain having a seizure?

Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but maybe I expected a bit too much. I mean, when the movie bears the promise of the talents that are Mithila Palkar, Abhay Deol and Vijay Raaz, you would be as stumped as me: what did I just watch?

What did I just watch or a nearly one and a half hour debacle that is Chopsticks. Also, title of your sex tape.

The movie opens with a naive, underconfident, travel agent, perhaps in her mid 20s – age matters because her antics will make you wonder which 20 something act like this – living and working in Mumbai, who listens to self empowerment tracks – I’ll kill them with success and bury them with a smile(kill me already) and has just bought a Hyundai, giving a detailed explanation to the sales representative why the numbers of her number plate adding up to 11 is unlucky. He is unable to help her out, quite like the capability of these actors with regard to the screenplay: nothing and no one can help it.

She goes to a temple to get her car blessed, and on that very day, loses her car! This much the trailers had told us, yes, along with the fact that she in her all naivete has voluntarily given her car away to be parked by this Tom, Dick and Harry who comes out of nowhere and says he’ll park it for her. Picture the scene: a crowded, narrow lane, with people bustling about with their business. It is evening and lit with dim street lights. Will you give your car away to any random person offering to park it for you in a place such as this? We think twice before opting for valet parking in a fancy, high end restaurant or hotel. A place like that? No way. But not Nirma Sahastrabuddhe. And now that I have mentioned her name, they have tried to pull a Virus aka Viru Sahastrabuddhe on her, because it’s a source of “humour” – “like that washing powder?” asks the policeman when she goes to the station to file a complaint. Sigh. Oh Bollywood.

Then, at the police station, she meets this another unknown man, who has been arrested for some crime who comes to know of her plight through some means, and gives her the contact of this man simply called “Artist”. After a lot of deliberation – oh you know, the chit of paper receives much camera panning, as she goes about her life, one eye on it, as day becomes night and then day again – she takes the plunge and calls him up.

Artist, oh! what do I say about him. Played by Abhay Deol, he is expected to be Hrithik Roshan in Dhoom 2 but is – I can’t even think of a comparison. Maybe like Ezra Miller as Credence Barebone in Crimes of Grindelwald: all hype but no show. Artist lives in a neglected under construction building, in a tiny bedroom cum hall, with an old fashioned TV and a fancy chair, and, hidden by a makeshift door of an aluminium sheet, there’s a grand white tiled, white paned kitchen, with Artist clad in white shirt and black pants cooking salmon (pronounced “sah-mon” he tells Nirma and us) while wearing shoes. For my desi heart, that was too much. Later in the film, when Nirma asks, “why do you always wear black and white?” – she has known him for exactly a day by the time she has asked that question –  he quips a philosophical, totally unasked for statement about how everyone stays in black and white but no one admits it. Talk about trying too hard. But this is just the nitty gritty of it. Artist has been described as a “con artist”. I guess he is, because the only person he is trying to con is us, the viewers of the film because we don’t see him live up to his job description. Rather, he should have been called a “chef/cook/culinary artist” because that gets more emphasis than his trailer ascribed “profession”. The only time some “con” happens is when he breaks open a safe for which he asks for the manuel, which is written in Chinese, whose exactly one line Nirma translates, which reads: this safe is impossible to break in and Artist proceeds to show otherwise. Yay.  

Anyhow, she gets him to help her find her car, that leads him to do the following –

  1. When stuck in a traffic jam, because a politician has decided to stop all hum drum and celebrate for some reason, complete with a band and his envoy of party members, Artist walks up to the band, whispers something in their ears, and they begin playing the National Anthem. The politician is shamed, everyone leaves because “once the national anthem is played, you can’t do anything else”, people whisper his name – “that man in white did that”, and Nirma is blown away. I can literally hear the Rin ad’s BGM play as he walks back to his car dressed in spotless white. But more importantly, how is this even happening in Mumbai? I am from Mumbai and I know for a fact that people there aren’t that passive to take any sh*t from any one. Including a politician.
  2. Introduces her to Chotu, who operates the CBI – Chiller Bank of India – and enlists the services of semi naked brown kids to count coins, and speaks of a network of beggars , complete with a Whatsapp group, who will help her identify the man who stole her car.
  3. More jokes on Nirma’s expense (see: detergent).
  4. Fooling Nirma into believing the real notes are fake as she buys an iPhone to be used as a bribe in return for her car and has the salesman chasing her through the mall only to find out that the notes are real. The point: none.
  5. Gives her a lesson on life about there being another option, always, as he has her dangling near the edge of the building when she complains of quitting her job as the only available option. Talk about hard hitting lessons.

Through these antics, we are also introduced to Vijay Raaz’s character, Faiyaz Bhai, a gangster who steals cars, bullies people into submission and loves his pet goat, Bahubaali. Faiyaz Bhai is the movie’s only saving grace. He is interesting, he is funny, he is mean, and he loves his goat convincingly. Conviction is important because that is what this movie lacks.

Cutting to the chase, Nirma finds out that Bhai has her car but it is still intact because the goat has taken a fancy to it. Artist and Chote are unwilling to help because it is Faiyaz Bhai. Nirma takes matters in her own hands, and a goat exchange, a chase through CST and an emotional blackmail which involves dishes cooked in goat meat and a speech on “this is how it feels to lose what we love” later, Nirma wins her car back. But not my time spent in watching this.

Yes, the movie does have a few good points…I think. Like the way she stands up to this another random guy who keeps asking her to have her WiFi checked for which she retaliates by cutting off the cable; her quiet resolve in dealing with her colleagues and the demands set by her boss – the former mock at her lack of polished English and refined social skills, and the latter is exasperated by her inability to work on herself. Me too, Zacharia (a sincere portrayal by Achint Kaur in her limited screen time); calling out the policeman’s casual response to her case that had she been the Superintendent’s daughter she would not have merited such a treatment; and teaching the Chinese how to eat biryani with their hands, instead of chopsticks.

I did try to think of the symbolism of the title. Why Chopsticks? In a scene intended to invoke a sense of “aww”, and hint at a potential romance between the two leads – more like naw – Nirma struggles to eat with chopsticks. After watching the entire film, and not even bothering to watch the entirety of the end credits which has Artist joining a culinary competition hosted by Sanjeev Kappoor in a cameo, and having his identity known on national television, I understand the symbolism of chopsticks: ye humse na ho payega aka I can’t.

His expression: why am I here?: says it all

“I promise I promise I promi – lol, you thought,” said my fragile sense of self to my reason

(this is part one – why? – read and you’ll know things)

Promises are like a stack of cards, the build up is a need to prove something, and just when you think you have fulfilled that need, that push that drove you there in the first place, it falls down, a wrecked pile right before your dimming eyes.

A few spectacular wreckages for your perusal.

  1. I promised myself for the – number doesn’t matter, it can range from understatement to exaggeration to near truth, or – wait, I am gathering time before I speak it out. I promised myself that I would not compare. There! It’s hard to admit such vulnerabilities because people with greater griefs will say and greater is a comparative, “shut up, there’s bigger,” again a comparative, “shit out there.” Or maybe no one will say that expect me to me, trying to downplay this sinking feeling I feel inside of me at the good everyone seems to be, the better everyone seems to attain, at the best that’s literally everyone out there, while I oscillate between nowhere and now here, here being mediocrity and obscurity, sometimes neither but – gah! You get the idea? Yes? Even if you say, nooo everyone is trying hard, as hard as you, it does not matter, because this feeling of sinking deeper within myself, of being tied to rocks of doubt, coming within touching distance of the bottom is unshakeable and no amount of glory and recognition and validation can shake me loose from this bondage. It’s as though every one, every one, seems to get what they want – the acknowledgment, mention, promotion – that everyone seems to be in motion – while I am one with the rocks at rock bottom, silently fading, unless a burst of inner motivation pulls me through and when I am done showcasing my worth, silencing doubts for a moment, I casually peep into the neighbour’s backyard and comparison greets me, and I am slowly pulled back and once again fall backwards into me, towards rock bottom, and then, it’s cycle repeat.

  2. I promised myself to stop feeling like shit just because I can and it’s easy. Like, how do I describe one of the crimes I commit on myself? When your screen is frozen or stays hung up on the moment, and you need to refresh you pull the top of the smartscreen down, see the circular loading, and it’s back to movement. I do that to me. Unfeeling, stuck up, prisoned to immobility or inactivity and the best way to infuse fresh life is to pull myself down and wallow in frenzied feeling. And it’s usually petty – like how we do this usually for social media apps, while scrolling through chats feeds stories, the only illumination is usually physical, sometimes internal – and when it freezes, pull down to resume action. It’s often times petty – silly things like oh she says she’s my friend and she does not follow me ME on IG, or stalk a former friend’s page to see he’s no more following you while you had unfollowed him first a while back, and ah! This is so so petty. Can’t believe I am talking about this, but when I am in the feeling, you know, like feet in shallow waters, it feels so…all important and all consuming, like cigarettes and when the high fades in five seconds only the stuffy odour of nicotine stays on your breath, lingers on your fingers, clings to your shirts, eats at your lungs.

  3. Which brings me to EGO. I try to not react and I had promised myself to be in better control of myself – with regard to the explosion of emotions, with regard to envy, insecurity, jealousy, sadness, anger, hate. And I fail, because I compare, because I am so good at putting myself down and being an utter asshole to me, and most importantly, my ego while my armour is also like a cancer that knows its vessel to well to devpur it from the inside. My mind is my ego, or my ego is my mind(?). It offers counsel. It is also cruel. That, it is hard to be a Moses and make the partition in the ocean of churning anger and self loathing and walk the solid ground of reasonable self assessment. Though perhaps nothing about Moses feels real, or maybe it’s all an act of faith, a faith I myself lack because the “facts” sprouted by my mind, like whatsapp forwards, feel like gospel truths while in reality it’s hysteria and fiction.


I know the truth and yet the pack of cards fall. Maybe because my hands quiver as the end comes in sight or they quiver right after the first rung is established or they quiver as I struggle to steady two cards by the head, when my own head is not steady, whispering failure before the venture could even take off. How do I then silence it? Grit my teeth and say “shut up!” or pause breathe acknowledge – like this – and then get back at it, regardless of the castles of sand that everyone seems to build and possess and master – they all fall anyway. No wait, that does not sound right. Like while a part of me hates how far up everyone seems, I hate me for hating them,  gahh! I mean – I need to stop –

One step at a time, girl, one step at time, one step, at a time and this is a step.

I have lost the will to speak of this any further and there’s still no resolution within. Guess you can’t really write and talk yourself into healing, recovering, and all that…I HATE IT WHEN PEOPLE ARE BETTER THAN ME. I HATE IT WHEN THEY JUST SEEM TO HAVE IT ALL, I HATE WHERE THEY ARE BECAUSE THESE ARE MY GOALS TOO AND SOMEHOW I CAN’T SEEM TO GET THERE BUT THEY ARE ALREADY THERE and screw you for telling me to look at their journeys and troubles – right now I feel like SHIT because they are a lot like me but I AM NOT ONE AMONG THEM!

Oh the stack fell? Good. I feel better now.

And that’s promise number four – I promised not to hate on those better than me, but rather seek inspiration.

(somewhere on the internet)

On a date with my Mind, I found that a) she babbles a lot b) she is fascinating c) words are a b*tch

(Edit: these words were written in a flow, as I followed my thoughts, trying to understand where and what it is leading to. Grammatical corrections, and minor edits took place only to make it comprehensible. However, the bulk of it remains the same.)

Starinh
First word, a typo. I don’t bother to correct because I don’t know where this is going and for the love of aesthetic. Modern art, modernism. Postmodernism? Post – postmodernism? Whatever.

As I write this – interrupted by my Grandfather – look up – look down – my Hindi – Marathi babble interrupting my previous stream of thought in English. Grandpa is back with his phone blaring, loud to catch my attention. Wait. It’s A Tik Tok video to battle migraine. Eat imli. Suck on it. Bye migraine.
I have a migraine. For the last 15 days.

Anyway.

As I was previously thinking, while I write this, my mind flashes the future: of me uploading this on Instagram, of people’s potential response – nothing much there. What is nothing much? Nothing. Much – the same old lacuna formed between expected expectation and anticipated reality.

Eccentricity is the norm. Discard the structure and lo, you have new art. If no one gets it, they aren’t – grandfather is back with imli which makes me gag and I type this, for a while with one finger, the other holding the imli, until wait, it’s back in my mouth and I type this with two fingers, but guess what? I wrote this whole thing with two fingers, but only a couple of words with one finger as I gagged and was compelled to have the damned imli in my mouth. My point – the mind is faster, it sees faster – gags on imli, a reaction the body captured faster than my words did here – and is always a step ahead, unless it goes so far ahead that instead of living in the step of the moment, it has already built bridges and watched its demise, and fancies apocalypse while in the reality it’s a stony path in Springtime.

Call to present – call – verb – action – imli – what’s this taste as my tongue turns Gordon Ramsay sending rapid communication to my head – I continue to shudder, the hard surface has become soft, I dare not penetrate it and lead to more juices spreading in my tired mouth – it’s khatta, if that description makes sense – Mom to the rescue, appalled by the huge size of the piece, saves my troubled taste buds their ordeal.

I re-read the previous line, wondering how to explain khatta. That challenge leads to my mind wondering how is it I describe the stuff my other senses note – while it self congratulates itself on its modernist or whatever thinking – my grandmother talks to the help in Marathi yells, my grandfather talks to someone on the phone in English yells, the radio croons to no one in particular, my mother bustles around the house trying to find a singular moment of silent space, or that’s what I think is happening.

I find my ears focusing on the sounds of the insects past the red curtains turned orange by the sunlight sifting through it, through the closed windows made of mesh to the insects perched under on below leaves. Summer sounds. Bright white concentrated beams of heat and light, spotlights heaped at once on the world stage, burning the spectators but the performers go unseen but heard – the Cricket Symphonic Orchestra from Earth.  

My eyes fall on the word khatta. I am obsessed. How do I describe it? Stare at the screen, twitch with the skin on my fingers, the one near the nails, my tongue swallowing the fading remnants of the peculiar taste, like the ocean swallowing a ruined civilization – will unearthing reveal plastic or metal or plain sand and dust? – this taste is like – mind leaves through the shelves of metaphors – Grandfather is back, enquiring about the imli and hopeful of its potential to cure – how does imli taste like? It’s like trying to describe how this Cricket Symphonic Orchestra sounds like. Words then are a poor substitute – on call with the love of my life, trying to resolve a conflict – words fail to capture the feelings – the coin drop feeling of the unwillingness to speak, moments where everything become silent because you don’t have words to bridge the gap – look at the word bridge: an image and a noun and a verb – you picturise words building a pretty little semi-circular bridge, something out of an animation, and you walk over it, across the stream of doubts and misunderstandings, meeting Clarity halfway or all the way like the treasure at the end of a rainbow. How do you describe in words the taste of this feeling, where wrapped in the sounds of the world around you, your mouth free of the ruins of an imli, your mind conjures an image of a person spread eagled staring at the fan, an emptiness that fails to convey the silence inside, because words are inadequate substitutes, the second hand informers, the bridge, but never the person, never the realisation, never the stream, just a bridge to fill the gap, yet never even the bridge or the gap because even they are shaped by (or the lack of) words, their essence lost except for the person feeling; a mere imitation, reflection in a pool, but never the real deal. Never the real.

Because how do you translate khatta in English except by saying that which is tangy? How do you describe the sounds of summer without the insects except by calling it a hum with softened sharpness, and sharped softness, and even then it doesn’t make true sense? How do you describe colors to the blind, the heat of the sun on the skin, the feel of ice on ungloved hands, the feel of gloves in hand, without using the substitutes of figures of speech? Figures. Why are they figures? Because they are the only real things in a shadowy language? The only noticeable strokes in an absurdist  landscape painting, like the blip on a blank page?

I stop to taste my saliva on my tongue and as I pause to reflect on their taste – the mind is aware of the concentration so far, and this interrupts the stream of thought – I switch from the despair of inadequacy of language to the challenge it poses to beat the limits of language to capture sensations emotions sounds that elude strokes on a paper, sirens tempting the sailor, but instead of numbing one sense with wax to defy temptation, I go bare and unprotected, to lose and let loose the self in the spiraling pursuit of the essence, the rasa, of language, and thus the mind’s ability to make its true self known in the act of transcribing itself in language, even if it’s only transcription and to find the true self is to find the centre of a poem – an unravelling, an end.

I stop now because

…I got bored of chasing the thread, all the way down.
Art by Elliana Esquivel IG account –https://www.instagram.com/elesq/

Time’s up

They call me a goddess
Holy, pure, ideal
Offering spilt white milk or cracked coconut split in two

They call me Draupadi
Holy, pure, ideal
An idea really
Holed in spurious worship

They call me Sita
Holy, pure, ideal
An inversion of letters
And I am Sati really – a pyre, a sacrifice, an obsolete memory

They call me Savitri
Holy, pure, ideal
Death defying
But for my husband actually
For if not for him, who am I really?

They call me names
Proclaimed holy
Declared pure
Screamed from rootless lungs as ideal ideal ideal

The ideal daughter
The ideal daughter
The ideal daughter
The ideal wife
The ideal wife
The ideal wife
The ideal mother
The ideal mother
The ideal mother
The ideal woman woman woman
Thrice repeated thrice affirmed
For every woman is but a role thrice replayed
Nothing more, nothing less.

Yet,
They don’t see the loony moon’s other side

The bloody thundering maddening rage of Draupadi
Stripped to the flesh
Pronounced a wicked vow to have her mane dressed and drenched in blood
Of the defiler of her honor
Before a dumb gathering
Where five men – her men – her claimants – disempowered shadows of masculinity – empty husks – while she rose from the shadows – defied blood, claimed blood – cloaking herself with the skin of her horror – god is within, so there was no Krishna to save, only she she she to rip the knave

The earth shattering Sita
Stripped of her feminine loyalty
By the questioning male gaze of the many many
Before a mute gathering
Her man – her children – their people – once bound under a tree by a man – once found under a tree by a man – raised no fiery storm, but was the calm before the apocalypse – raising the finger before her disbelievers, split the earth, swallowing her whole, an exit of her choosing, a theatre of her making – she was never dust to begin with, but an earthquake in the sea, subtle, insidious, unseen, a goddamn tsunami

The death seeker Savitri
Stripped of her identity
By and before centuries of patriarchy
Her man – a flicker – snuffed to soon – Death the wanton on the ride – He sought him, she sought Him, in the seeking, searching, pursued Death, like a hound on hunting trail – the trickster, the devious, she beat Him, with phallic language – fighting, spinning, weaving reason before unreasoned Death – the typical woman bound by tradition, shackled by its fundamental rendition- yet she’s the winner, the final say in the duel with Death – ideal who? the dealbreaker, that’s she

Oh! They don’t see
They don’t dare to see
For a woman lost
Is a ghost proclaimed
The madwoman in the attic
A horror enslaved

Still
They also call me Kali
The demoness
The insatiable
The deviant
Worshiped by the odd and oddities
Worshiped by the holy and holier than thee
A ghost and a goddess at once
At once free, ever bound,
An idol, a statue
Never an ideal, except for the women interrupted

Still
Don’t you know who I am really?
I am the wild anger of Draupadi
The sinister rage of Sita
The wily mind of Savitri
I am Sati, Durga, Kali
I am luxurious Lakshmi
I am serene Saraswati
I am fire, water
I am wind, earth
I am sex
I am masturbation
I am the haunted
I am hunted
I am the temple, I am the worshipped
I am a tag, a piece of property
I am the kumkum between her head, the mangalsutra around her neck, the toe rings in her toe, the bangles in her hands
I am the blood she bleeds, the blood they hate
I am the stain on their conscience, a blot on their complacency
I am the womb, I am the world
I am none of the above
I am all of the above
I am fear
I am fierce
I am fiery
I am here
Heaven and hell
Goddess, ghost, girl
I am a woman
I am the woman
Call me in any human tongue
Shame me in any human tongue
But my tongue won’t still, be stilled, be stifled by your hold
I’ll call you, name you, shame you
Because your time’s up
Watch me send death on your heels
See me dig your grave
Hear me pronounce murder on your filthy head
Because your time is up
That’s my silence choking off your incense sticks, your yagnas, your pyres and from the wafts I rise rise rise

I am a woman
A ghostly goddess
A goddess ghosted
A woman, the woman
Here I am
Your time is up.

Indian Woman
Art by Vijender Sharma.

 

A letter to the one that got away and a note for you who stayed

Balloons
Image: ‘La caiguda de l’Áliga’, Salva López

Dear you,
When Sylvia Plath spoke of kindness, she meant death; the kindness of no longer being; the kindness of being pulled out of the jet stream of life and poured into a space of peace and nothing.

Or maybe I interpreted that wrong.

 

However what I really interpreted wrong was you.
I interpreted your smile wrong.

I interpreted your cheer wrong.

I interpreted your words wrong.

 

I interpreted.

I was wrong.

 

I got it all wrong; all the variables in the equation, for now the only constant is your absence.


I wish I could go back in time and prevent your flight, your transition from now here to nowhere. Life tried to clutch at you, nearly grasping your sleeve, and yet you got away.

Plath’s Kindness – I interpreted it wrong. She was crying for help. A suicide note that the literature kids dissected, words that were like a train wreck for media fetish, a poem for a soul ruined yet lain for post mortem stare.

 

You were crying for help too. I didn’t hear. No one heard. Guess the volume of our earphones, always on full, turned your face to that painting by Edvard Munch – an endless soundless cry that none heard but everyone felt only when the shock of bombs hit.

 

That bomb in real time was your body hanging from the ceiling.

 

I wish it had collapsed and the ropes were not that strong. I wish the ropes binding you to this world were stronger. I wish you had not reached that collapse and gave in to the hole inside. I wish you had could have seen the wholesomeness of this life. I wish you had chosen life. I wish life had chosen you. I wish you did not have to make a choice. I wish…

But all I can say, despite the wishful thinking, is sorry. I am sorry for not hearing you, for not being there, for not being there to pull you back up, for not holding your hand before you let go, for not helping you save you from you, and for not doing anything. I am sorry. I am so sorry.

 

Sylvia left a death note.

You didn’t.

So I will do for you –  a note to the living existent.

 

To the ones who are here, hi. I know that you have chaos inside. That your world is a mess of troubles to navigate through. Yet, as lost you are, so am I, and so is the person right next to you. So how about being kind?

How about bearing a lantern born out of your own darkness and lighting up someone’s world, just a little bit, enough for them to know that they are not invisible and hidden in the dark but that light still shines on them and they are seen and noticed? How about attention? How about breaking free from our bubble and seeing everyone as reflections of yourself – sad, lonely, scared, vulnerable people. Not the Other – Hell is NOT Other people – but just another person, like you. Me. Us.

Yes?

To the living, I hope we can try, try to make someone smile, at least once in a day. For you never know how far that bend in the face can take someone away from the end.

To the living, I hope that we can try to share our love and hearts with someone and help them pass it on someone else and on and on it goes till there’s only love.

To the living, love is on the way. Hold on. It’s not over. Not yet.

Hold on. Please.

You are love.

Better hear it from me than at your funeral.

You are love, you have life, you are alive, and you’re here to stay and you are not alone.

 

To the living –  keep living.

 

Yours,

A friend.

 

Once you stop trying to entertain this imaginary audience and start living for yourself things should get a bit better.

Once you stop trying to entertain this imaginary audience and start living for yourself things should get a bit better.

– scarletrougelipstick


 

I am afraid.

Of nothing conventional like lizards, snakes, ghosts, or eerie silence of a dark night.

Nothing unconventional, with fantastic long names like that for number 13 and it’s associates.

Or nothing to do with death, or vertigo, or a cold slab of a body dead of excess water in lungs.

No. I mean, yes, I do fear some of these things. But that’s not the great reason of why I feel what I do.

I am afraid, because I feel I am a performer before an audience that I can’t see, conceive, feel. I perform on a stage so bright, as though all the lights of the world are on my face and I am too blinded to see straight. Where all the cameras and spotlight and attention – so much attention! – is on me.

Paper Towns
Image: Paper Towns

I am afraid for what will my unseen, unheard, un – audience think of me provided in the hypothetical event of failure, disaster, break in character, forgotten step, slipped feet, collapse and subsequent train wreck of a performance – a performance borne out of no practiced routine, a performance with no structure and preconception.

A performance – of?

I am afraid because I wonder, what will I find when I look inside myself, while the un-audience watches and stares and gapes and judges?

I am afraid for I don’t have the courage to either turn away my audience nor pull the curtains shut on my performance.

I am afraid for while I ask why do I even perform, I don’t know how not to.


Yet.

I spiral down the staircase, tumbling and bumping my head on the hard white marble – but if that be the case…

…why not slide down the banister?
If can’t turn off the lights.

If I can’t get off the stage.

If I can’t not stop the performance.

If not, then why not turn the lights, cameras, the gaze and the stare, at the audience?

Who are they?

I push the blaring brilliance onto the seats and what do I see: none, no one, nobody, no body, nothing, no thing.

That day, I gave my best performance. It was titled, “I am free”. And that day, I didn’t perform.
Not any more.


Finally, the solution to many of life’s deepest troubles is simple, human courage. The courage to look inward, to take those first bold steps, to find the thing you fear most and march valiantly toward it.

–  Beau Taplin  S i m p l e  H u m a n  C o u r a g e

 

Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply.

It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. I was so preposterously serious in those days…Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me…to throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling…

— Aldous Huxley,  Island 

I find myself in a temple today. Not those gawdy ones; those with lots and lots of fancy color, or lots and lots of artificial light, or well, lots of lots of lots.

This one was a relic. Ancient. Solitary. And that which has seen much. Borne much more. But still standing in spite everything, which in the race of time, is nothing.

How do I know this?
The refined elegance; the lightness of its being, even if it has emerged and is still emerging, from the depths of time.

*
It’s dusk.
Funny, how I catch myself in the zone at dusk.

I have come to a village. Don’t have a romanticized picture which that word conjures up. Village life is a simple life, but for someone from the city, it’s also a surreal life.

Monsoon has hit the place with abundant grace, you see, so the air is fresh and the sky is dainty and the excess green is gay and glorious. The soil is a happy mix of earth and dung and, cows and pigs and humans roam serenely, at ease with the aftermath wetness.

Of course, there, in the city, rainwater lingers on concrete roads or tar. In a village, this one at least, it merges with the earth, taking along with it the dirt of the walking world. This happens slowly, and hence, slush. Mud, sand, dirt, shit, soil and water. Slush slush slush. The splosh of wheels and sandals and shoes on this blessed mixture, and the pretty smell of rain-hit earth and this natural concoction, is an olfactory cacophony.

You see why I found it surreal? I am not used to this. Not used to such dirt and smells and sights. Not used to the sudden descent of quiet. Not used to the sudden dark. Not used to the narrow streets and the even narrower gaze that follows me: clad in leggings and over sized tees, and shoes, I must be quite a sight, just like the string of tractors and the crowds of cows and pigs and the rural ambiance is for me.

*

Eyes careful on the road, while simultaneously striving to take in the wooden houses, with their never painted, darkened wood – as if the passage of time were reflected on their countenance; the old men, the old women, sitting outside, on their haunches, watching a passing world with their time passed eyes; the sights and sounds of daily households, as I peer in, eyes-dropping, on their life – the five year old boy kissing his toddler brother; the family circling around an ancient TV, the adolescents riding their bike seated in threes, laughing and blissful in their youth; the worker returning after a day’s labor on his Honda; the girls in their salwars, all smiles, the rain being a happy intercourse; the mothers and their nagging children; a confluence of life no different from where I come from.

Still, the solitary simplicity made me feel less like me, and more like someone else. As if I was an anomaly that didn’t fit. Not that I felt lonely, or particularly homesick. Just out of this body. Like a stranger had occupied it, and this entity called I was somehow okay with it.

*

We – father, grandfather, and I – continued walking. Each turn of the street led to the streets getting quieter, and more diffident. As though the streets had long let out their once bated breath, and knew that life was not going to change. Better or worse, only time would tell.

We walk, the men reminiscing, the girl slipping downwards and downwards in her mental spiral – dirt, germs, where am I?, what’s this?, what am I feeling?

We walk, and then stop.  A temple, mostly overshadowed by a peepal tree, is before us.

*

Only when we enter, do I realize how old it is. A passageway, and a walk around the temple, and my eyes are in awe. The intricate carvings on granite, the grayish brown walls – like an elephant – constructed out of time and the human defiance of it.

We enter, and the cool smoothness of the black temple floor leaves me calmer – less agitated, more subdued. We had taken the entrance nearest to the deity, imprisoned behind a wooden gate, an array of prayer instruments before it, still lit, and still.

However, God was not on our minds. Not on mine.
The absence of humanity and its noise, amplified by the quiet in the temple, had me unnerved. The silence is…thick. A paste, but well mixed. No lumps. Smooth.

The noiselessness is not suffocating. You could say, it is. Just, is. As though it belonged there, in those walls, a welcome patron, agreeable and temperate.

Silence tread lightly, even if my mind never strove to. It could have smothered the temple under it, and none would know of the edifice. Yet, here we are: serenading to silence, and aware of every breathe, every carve, every labor of the human hand.

*
Dusk changes its palette; night and further stillness. Bats fly to someplace,  a pretty picture.

The external descent of the dark has moved, raised even, something inside. It’s odd, what silence and relics does to a mind.

The men speak of the architecture, the engineering, the skill of the people of then. I simply hear.

*

We leave, and I see the goliath of a peepal tree at close quarters.

I think of ghosts. That ghosts may not be nothing but the wisps of the things that were – and not necessarily something to be scared of. They haunt, for like all things, they dare to fight oblivion.

But then again, the wind, and the burning wood, and the resting humanity, and the rural seasons, seem to say : tread lightly, tread gently, tread like a ghost at peace, tread like a temple, like a tree: still and at ease, breathing time, exhaling reflections.

*

I see my reflected silhouette in the dirt puddles. Still at loss with myself but better.
I am okay now.
I am okay.
I am in the now.
I am now.
I feel light.
And I walk on light air, breathing light air, being light, in air, floating, soaring, far far far away from me and the crowd in me.

31908281_1991540591161609_7329758846249861120_n
Lightly, in spite reeling under the depth of feeling. Image: @kikkujo (Instagram)