Places know us by name.
We who embark on pilgrimages...to forget, to remember, to know, to unlearn, to move away, to come back.
They know that we have paid our way to their doorsteps after saving up all the emptiness of our sorrows..
They know that they can be audacious and wear their superficial veneers
And we will wait patiently at their door..till the time they feel gracious enough to give......
...the blue mountain's gift of a drop of zen... the stream's boon of never losing the mud within...
the brash highways' blessing of a mist which will cloud insides...
Today met a place far beyond my years.... to be forgotten and to lose all that binds.....
Well, had the first brush with racism, officially.
Was wondering where it was, lurking within the multicultural sea.
It didn't come with chains and swear words or tattoo marks.
Nor was it brash or young.
It was in the shape of a feeble old man, in a route 21 bus.
Self was travelling with the usual donkey's baggage of camera and its relatives.There was a seat next to the old man. So asked him mildly, "could you please move a bit?". [He can move his legs a bit and self can get in.]. He got up with some difficulty and left the seat altogether, mumbling beneath his breath in the most mild whispering manner
"...coming here and making people move from their seats...young foreigners...they should go back to where they came from...[contd]..."
Was appalled, agitated and couldn't believe my ears for a while. And, the mumbling was going on at the same monotone. And, it was coming from a feeble old otherwise 'respectable' mouth, while the hand held a cane and the head had a nondescript cap.
A mumbling whisper, not loud, not angry-just calm placid tone,but perfectly audible to me.
Felt like shouting and then for some strange reason crying. Both would be pointless and even ludicrous. How do you shout at a man as old as death, hardly able to move? And how do you let a horrid old man with pungent hate in his tongue make you burst into tears in a route 21 bus?
It isn't the first time that anyone asked /requested me to go back to where I came from. In Bombay, amidst haggling about the fare, an autorickshaw driver lost his temper and shouted similar words. However, self was in no way appalled or agitated. The idea that Bombay should be only for people from Bombay [whoever they were] was a bit too comical to digest. How will it be, when no one, but 'the original inhabitants' of a city can enter it? The little republic of Bombay, cleaned of all 'other kinds of Indians'.
Carried the feeble old man's horrid little words through the maze of tube lines and ticket points.
May be, should have blurted out 'facts'. Is paying 2 times more than what the native students pay. Came in after all the paper eating regulatory Gods were satisfied. Is contributing to the recovery of English economy by renting an obscenely priced shoe box room and eating exorbitantly expensive [mostly] bad food. And, the old man's 'relatives' have come into 'my' parts of the world with zero papers and gun powder not too long ago.
But, how do you deal with some thing as intangible as hate with facts?
A land for one kind of people. 'Clean' the streets of every body else. Send back whoever came from wherever.
First.. .........Africans, Indians, Chinese.......
Then............Poles, Australians, Canadians ....
....................Normans, whoever else........
The day ended on a good note , after eating a perfectly made soul uplifting chicken biriyani [horribly priced of course] in a Bangladeshi eatery. Remembered the lines from an anti hate story.
"If 'we' all go away, what will 'they' eat?"
Probably, potatoes cooked in different ways.
I know, it is a beautiful spring afternoon in England with lots of sun.
And, I am cooped in my shoe box room, trying to create some thing productive out of my marriage with the computer.I guess if you go through the statistics I would have spent more time looking at the face of the laptop[conversing , loitering, arguing, occasionally slapping]. Have never ever spent that much time staring into the face of any living being.
Some how, the nice spring sun which irritates the tropical being in me [we like shades] brings back time spent at mom's house in a quaint little village in South India during summer holidays. The way the sun brings in the lethargy ..it sets the ideal backdrop to read Elizabethan or Victorian English literature stacked away in shelves. While cow chews its cud and the sea roars in a distance and the coconut leaves continue their drunken sleepy whispers in the wind, you go to the English meadows, and walk with Elizabeth Bennett in a rainy English afternoon.
In Rome, you should dress like Romans.
Well, easier said than done. Every place has its own idea of 'proper' clothes. In Delhi, if you wear the clothes that are proper in home town, you will be treated like a country bumpkin.
But in hometown, if you wear what is 'cool' in Delhi, you will be taken for a hooker. Similarly, Delhi's idea of 'traditional party wear' can make you the perfect drag queen in the wrong parts of London. And, London's fish net stocking look will be 'the hot call girl look' in certain areas of Bombay.
Normal human beings generally adapt to the clothing conditions of whichever place they are in. Probably, it is a bit like getting used to the weather, traffic rules and other idiosyncrasies of the new place. But, if you are a clothe sense challenged individual like self, things will be a bit more complicated. PS: Do not use the word 'fashion'. It is like saying 'mac beef burger' to a die hard vegetarian.
Today, managed to make a Tesco [one of the reigning supermarket deities of England] cashier laugh. Violet sweater, red kurta, grey thermals, shocking blue socks, brown shoes, green scarf and a call centre like headphone with a microphone [all worn in the most sloppy and dishevelled possible way]. That is what it took. The cashier soon said some thing polite and asked if self was talking [to some imaginary friend?] in skype while rummaging through the aisles for daily dose of bread etc.
Self heroically took that as a compliment in the interest of all the clothe sense challenged people of the world. Generally winter wear offers more opportunities to achieve perfect clothing dyslexia. How do you ever sit and colour co ordinate the 10 different pieces of clothing which are required to protect you from the perils of chilly weather? One can only wish for a socially acceptable body armour which includes all the layers of sweater and tiny irritants like cap, muffler, gloves etc.
Back in the cruelly fashion conscious Delhi, self tried the trick of buying everything in one colour to avoid looking like a rainbow art installation gone wrong. However dear friend and flat mate R put her put down. The decree of "You are not going to bring one more maroon coloured wretched piece of clothing into this house" was passed and the variety of colours returned to self's wardrobe with their immense clowning possibilities.
Probably, as long as thou give mirth to fellow human beings, all should be well.
This is going to be a very self indulgent rambling of a certain kind of gripe.
It is such a lonely process. Once the camera is put down and the sheer physicality of it ends. The sweat and pain now sits neatly on the computer, as different kinds of talking heads. The bits where the light was bad, the bits where you forgot to zoom in, places where it was out of focus or shaky.They all sit together and grin at you. With a glint in the eye, challenging you to try to edit them together into any thing worth while.
You know the filmed material has become a wayward child, quite teenagish, determined to go in the complete opposite direction that you have chosen for it.
And, no one will drop in with a 2rupee tea in a plastic cup and ask you to try to remove a few frames from every bit to see how it looks.
And, you feel responsible. As if you have passed your inadequacies on to the film, which had the potential to be some thing wonderful, if not for your blundering.
Your spring-that occasional burst of flowers, a little bit of fine sun. One of your rare moods when you don't feel like pouring over, turning every thing into a bleak dampness.
Your river side- full of worn out people in black in a funeral procession of going home from work.
Amidst all the classy and unclassy concrete which raises from all sides [some one called it 'architecture of high capitalism'], your water tries hard to not be some sort of fancy industrial liquid to awe the passers by. Bereft of the plains and hills and rockside, it is amazing, how it clings on to being water.
It must be hard being you. I should some times shut out the din of work and sit by your side, to listen to your story. It might do both of us some good. I am just a passer by, with no kind of ownership over you. It will be like talking to an absolute stranger. The days when I yearn for more than "what are you having for lunch" for a conversation, may be I should come and sit by your side.
I just have vague ideas about your ageless past. We are plain stupid, trying to pass our mortality onto the agelessness of land and sea by our attempts at writing 'history'. I know you have seen as much plunder, blood, disease and death as any other city . That is in the lineage of big cities, right? A concoction of blood and despair which brings in a new load of people with their colours of happiness and sorrow, to drench the city in one more colour.
The pale skinned men who sailed off from your ports to far off lands like mine...bringing plunder and murder in varying degrees..till the malaria and dysentery or some other gift from the tropics took them. You must have watched those journeys with the stoicism of immortality-knowing well that our human games of greed and hate and murder too will have to end, and we too will have to bow away from the surface of earth with as much dignity as we can manage.
I know, all your stories wouldn't smell of blood and despair. Like every city, you too pave your streets with flowers in spring, every bloom a sort of return gift for the kindness and love and laughter and music which fill your streets. The man who walks up to the woman in the bus stop and says with dignity that he needs to have a coffee and the respect with which the woman gives a few pounds, as if she was sharing one of the countless free newspapers in your streets. The man in the restaurant who gives out a dessert for free to a not so well off customer. The smile on the face of the old man who tries his best to find the way for a direction challenged new comer....
The love and hate, the despair and hope, the destitution and richness...all that which you keep inside. May be one day I should sit by your side and listen to your story
Came across this line by Mahmoud Darwish
It was such a lovely line that had to forward it to good friends who will find it in their inboxes at the crack of dawn.
Couldn't help vandalizing the idea around a bit. Would love to have a response if anyone stumbles upon and actually reads this post. Since the line has many dimensions had to vandalize it in many levels.
I want from love only the illusions.
One day would like to meet love the way it is.
Without the ghastly costumes they make it wear in the films, making it a sort of chrismas tree.
Have believed all the lies they told about it.
Love was a tooth fairy, a plastic Christmas tree bowing down with inconsequential plastic gifts.
Invariably it will have to go to the dust bin when the season ends.
Outside a novel, without magical realism to spell out the times of cholera, how will it look like?
Do you ever encounter it without an instruction manual of how to proceed? Almost everyone knows the procedure. Boy meets girl, girl meets boy, boy meets boy, girl meets girl. Then they are supposed to drive through the stars for some spilt seconds and then drive through gutters for some really long time before calling it quits or entering into a charity show of "all is well". Have never managed to open the instruction manual and an instruction manual about how to use the instruction manual wouldn't be a bad idea.
If you leave the product description out in the barbie stores, how will it look like?
A one eyed old woman who has gone senile?
A hunchbacked old man slipping into dementia, with a clear memory of some fictitious youthful times?
The discolored old shells the storm washed in with the corpses and the dirt?
I like you for letting me be.
Without draining, without possessing.
To just letting me exist in a very inconsequential way.
Your streets and lights and highways are so new for me-untainted by any memory.
I wouldn't know of beginnings. But you are perfect for attempts at non memory.
Your corners don't smell of old bits of mouldy conversations.
Your pathways are not guilty of the memory of things which never happened.
You smell of nothingness. Only a place which isn't or can't be home, would ever be able to be some thing like you.