Literature

The tiger and the lamb

12/100

       100 poems/52 weeks challenge’ 2018

Image result for plates by william blake

Plate 1 of The marriage of heaven and hell by William Blake

 

I drink flowers at night
hoping my heart
ticking like a time-tot,
may stay afloat.

Can you imagine seeing yourself without a mirror?

It is a delicious process,
but thoroughly uncivilized,
a body without water
and stars bitten off their twinkle–
tigers loom on its branches
and are orange in their eyes,
with a fire hot, in the cold moon,
unapologetic.

But sometimes
a lamb appears,
it is not soft and innocent
(it never is)
it is bleating, bothered
and afraid of being hunted
armed with a pocket watch,
maybe even looking for Alice.

Very often, when you would
try and find
your “real self”
men will tell/see you
either of these,
in their own romantic ideas.

But you are none,
and you are “none”;
Sometimes a whore, sometimes a nun.

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Dollhouse

11/100

       100 poems/52 weeks challenge’ 2018

Photographed by Tim Walker

Spark
on spinning wheels
and the factory of smiles,
half-a-doll of infatuation
half-a-doll of love,
oh perhaps, of Bovarian dreams.

I would have absolutely despised writing on
“smile”,
but ordinary things contain cosmic affairs,
and now my heart,
is merely a misspelled smile.

A gentleman sitting on the stairs
kind eyes,
the wind rattling behind the palace gate
that surrounds his soldier-shoulders,
kind eyes.

I say,
do fall upon “looks”,
for you can read
eyes, brows, and tips of woolen hair falling over the forehead,
and not
the words that often betray the book.

Dosage

17/100

       100 poems/52 weeks challenge’ 2018

Grahan

Image Credits: Grahan by Pulkit Kamal 

In the city of heart,
cold weather like an honest storm,
wrenching your face like
an old lady rowing a boat full of
people peopled by
forlorn eyes.

An irritant in the eye
and a knife in the navel
the curtains on the window
and dust in the mouth of the dead,
land, oh land, you Eliot’s maze.

To be doomed upon the platter of friends;
As soon as the starving ghosts sat to eat in the graveyard,
their food turned into the stones of sea,
my food, a pen.
Hunger is endless.

Another cold day of May,
a tree oiled by the witch under the Peepal
knocks
rocks
like a girl possessed by the devil,
and I am sleeping,
but not “sleeping”,
I simply can’t open my eyes.

But sometimes an odd spark in the wind,
brims me up
burns the fallow lands of my mirthless men
and for a moment,
just for a moment,
I can remember again.

Memory is a pill
One must take every night before bed.

A walk in the mountains

 

20171224_150830_Richtone(HDR)

The roads I have walked on; 24th December 2017

I believe nature has a grand door like death. You have to knock at it to start a conversation. So when you see men and women standing at dangerous edges, looking into the vast space with a thoughtfulness in their eyes, I reckon they are invited for supper by the all-seeing nature.

It must be an honor. But as a matter of fact, you don’t need to stand at “dangerous edges” to start a conversation. You might as well be walking past a garbage bin and may happen to see a tree with a color that seems rare and special and all sorts of magical and then, right then you are having what I have already called a ‘conversation’.

But it is not a conversation. It is foolish to see it merely so. It is a semiotic system rather obscure I would say. The more you are involved, the more you understand it.

On December 24 2017, I had a profound talk and I did not even need to open Tolkein or Keats–people who were much more benevolent in this discourse than I ever will be (Yes I was carrying the big mammoth Lord of the Rings on trekking!). Well, the profound talk began with a lot of cheerful cursing (in my third person monologue). You see, I am not really athletic and although I enjoy trekking, I’ve barely have had much past experience with it. But to walk alone was something brave I was doing. The ground fell miles and miles below beyond my right foot and silence was no longer a phantom as he is in the town.

It was a cloudy day and the outer anatomy of the mountain began to trace like a map in my mind. What clothes it had on? Winter. The cold brown dust and gnarling trees shooting out of the mountain like its nails, and still ever so glorious? It was strange to me. I pondered the meaning of beauty and what was my ideal for it. But it did not matter. Thoughts evaporated from my head, up beyond my woolen cap and were eaten by the sky that looked unreal. I guess, nature serves mind in its invitation. It also occurred to me that the mountains–over which I walked on and the ones in front or adjacent to it–were wrapped in ribbons, as if knitted in a sweater. On plains, the only way you reach the 4th floor of the building is by the mechanism of stairs installed inside the building itself. But isn’t it absolutely ridiculous that you may climb the sand hill beside a the mountain house and all of a sudden you are above someone’s terrace. And I kept thinking about ribbons. How the mountain lets you in. Upon it are fossils and scars of battles unknown. How long will it stand after I will die?

These are the questions, I’m sure, that you can easily pick up from a geography book but the walk, I think (in the spirit of David Thoreau) it is also about the science of interiority. What valleys run past your lungs and what river sings in your heart. So I think that the mountain is a ritual. To me it is a wall that you put your ear to, a wall thick as a world, and deep inside there is nothing but the beating heart that is life.  When you put your ear to it, your life begins to mimic it.

When I walked, I walked past the lumps in the dusty ribbon, the dangerous launch of a tongue that rolled out in a sheer power of the will of the landscape. Good small passersby who were small in an ironic comparison to the vast civilization of nature. And everything was so far but close. A man who clipped at trees for firewood, three roads below mine, was like a neighbor with a common wall. The waterfall near the dam roared at me from miles away, its icy blue like a pebble in the sand. Apart from occasional odor of watery caves and moss, there was no smell in the air at all. The cold bit the tip of my nose whenever I tried to look for it. I wanted to sit but was excited about what I may find next. Did I ever wanted to turn back?

As a matter of fact I did. The mountain behind was very primordial and my mind’s home for no man but Yetis. It was all buttered up in snow and glowed mysteriously in cloudy sunlight (sorry for unnecessary metaphorical suspense in the beginning there but that’s how I blog). It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. But sad to me (not in the poetic rumor that all beautiful things must be sad)  was the idea that I kept thinking this scene is like a drawing room scenery or an instagram picture,that I cannot translate  right there and then. Like my walk near the summer river and mild flower beds in June 2017, I  suddenly remembered having the exact same thoughts then too. A friend also echoed them without my participation. What weird urge to find something so magnificent and to somehow locate it in trivial matter of life? Yet I made peace with the urge. I tell you, you should too. You should forgive your friends who take too many pictures as you must forgive a friend who must decide to paint the land carried away by a similar urge. Thanks to my Visual Arts paper last semester, I can understand this urge better. Velasquez’s Las Meninas, for one, gave me the cleverest of all examples. Las Meninas had been a mystery to scholars for a long time. It is a painting interrupted. The painting captures the exact moment when animation of the maids, the clowns, the princess and a painting painter is brought to a sudden halt when the royal couple walks into the room. There is a mechanism to see them in this act too. Behind the subjects is a mirror which faintly captures King and Queen in this act of interruption. But wait a second, does it now? Most scholars disagree. The reflection in the mirror is the reflection of painter’s ongoing painting and NOT the royal couple. So my point is? My point (which I am borrowing from people who do long studies of paintings) is that truth is stranger than fiction. The royal couple are much more brilliant than a painter can ever paint (a painting is a mirror you see, so Velasquez is literally indicating to that) as is seen through the effect on the faces of the subjects interrupted.

Painting by Diego Velázquez, 1656

My point being? When I walk the mountains and take them away as a memory, I wish, I wish, It remained as glorious as it was when I saw it. It is a Shakespearean effort to capture the now-time.

This urge is the basis of ‘conversation’. The idea that you want to carry it in your hearts in its true form. But I think we remain what we are, foreigners. However, some people are less foreigners than us. Those who live and breathe the mountains and call it their home. Where villages have their own problems and celebrations and mountains merely happen to drop in the beverage they call life. The same is true for where you live. No wonder I love my city (in a landscape and people way) even when people escape to mountains and the problems never disappear.

My 24th December walk was profound. I encountered dangerous edges, a phantom mountain goat, hotel-running smart lady with  apple red cheeks, nice people from my own city, crunch of my own foot and the voice in my own heart. I think it is very important to hear this voice as it happens to melt into other voices and then you can’t tell which one is yours. Right now it is in the act of writing for me, but at other times it is in humming, cooking, jogging and even simply walking (not-that-simple-actually) upon the never-ending ribbons of the mountains.

 

 

Aligarh (2016)

 

I’m tad late down the line, when I successfully punch down the words that, this movie has moved me.

It has moved many and that is something to say, especially from where I come from. While being late in an opinion article on a movie released in early 2016 is indeed a shortcoming– but on the brighter-side, it does offers you a kind of long-drawn perspective into what people actually think about homosexuality in India.

‘Oh this is the movie about homosexuals’, straight people who have no objection regarding homosexual orientation whatsoever, will remark and turn away, busying themselves into other ‘important stuff of their lives’. Also, it is because love outside paper, is never really important. But hey, some would say, ‘isn’t it better than open condemnation of homosexuality? Fair bargain!’ But I’m sorry to say, for me this bargain is as fair as having to choose between Trump and Clinton for Presidential Elections 2016. (Somewhere in their graves, Plato and Machiavelli sigh together).

But I’m not here to complain about heterosexuals as to why they are so selfish and wouldn’t bother to care about others because that’s just real capitalist world and I am no naive. Here is my perspective though, when you see gay prides, movies, campaigns, there is a constant ‘othering’ going on. In doing so, you’re again out-casting these people but let’s say, in a more tolerant manner under which you don’t come with your burning sticks on their doorsteps but you contain it to a level where just thinking bad thoughts about them on a deep personal level is okay enough for ‘faggot’ jokes here and there. (Concupiscence much?)

I write to these people (because honestly, with time I’ve guessed, talking to the straightout-condemners is like talking to a cow) because they co-operate but do not fully understand. Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh for one, makes a lot of things clearer on this front. To give you a brief synopsis of the film: it is a true story of a Linguistics Professor in a University which can be best characterized with the word, Past. The university which stirs and scowls when the nostalgia is stripped away, naked into the savage of definition and configurations. Though the political parties that stand like fences to the University, ensure and are often successful in an agenda to drag in all fantastic escapist beings of past, if only to send them off into one final spree from life.

Two reporters break into the house of a reputed professor, find him indecently dressed in bed with an another man. Next, the professor’s colleague barge into the room as if they had been just listening outside the door in order to look at them with faces prepared with shame, pulling off the role of an over-protective father who had just caught his adolescent daughter in the act of sex. Further, the professor is suspended next day and guess, who is not the Department Chairperson anymore. The case moves up to court. Spoiler alert: someone dies.

The professor was an introverted man. He liked listening to Lata Mangeshkar songs and was used to dunk the whole world down, with one glass of gin. Fun Fact: Lata Mangeshkar is one of the most prestigious singers in Indian music industry (if I am allowed to make such a broad categorization) and she is known to refuse songs with indiscreet lyrics; if that helps you peek into the psyche of the man. Now to us modern people-that’s a code for conservationism. ‘Conservative’: I have fought this word the moment I stepped in higher-education. I do understand that this word tends to exist for the greater good but I find it rather blind. Here, you are shy–you are conservative. I mean for the goodness’s sake, it can be the bland old ecstasy of the tough revolutionary bloods who just want to demolish structures and wouldn’t have them lingering. Reminds me of Shelley’s Ode to the west wind. Another Fun fact: I found this brilliant article which interprets Shelley’s west wind as an alternative preserver of older structures rather being the regular sweep-away tide of change. Everything that is old should not die and that includes the men who never understood the freedom of sexuality as we did. And if a man wants privacy, wouldn’t talk about sex, isn’t your regular LGBT activist–he should be left alone to live rather than die. I’m on my own path of being a professor and anyone can tell you that it is often a solitary road that lets you survive as long as it is not stripped off the dignity which defines the path. You are not a teacher if your students don’t see you as one.

I think the man died the moment they  invaded their homes with cameras. If I am to return to my psychoanalytic ways, I’ll say it is a massive attack on the ID.

Have you ever wondered why straight people in Hollywood movies, when walked in on intercourse by outsiders, startle like crazy? If I begin to ask these questions, I’ll end with questions like why are we afraid of each other’s naked bodies and why can’t we walk unclothed? These questions aren’t crazy though, the society decrees you to think that they are crazy questions. For a naked-men society, the clothed men are taboos. The answer is fear. The drive that controls your sexual appetite is the same that control your fear. And now you see the connection. It could have been any heterosexual man who was threatened with a leak of a sex tape in a society which does not tolerate sex outside the confines of marriage, let alone heterosexuality.

But that doesn’t mean we should forget the homosexuality angle completely. Homosexuality magnifies sex, which heterosexuality has been accustomed to see in a stereotypical old way. When you are raised in a society which teaches you that your very root is a crime, you tend to start believing that you are wrong and not the rule-monster society because how can you fight your own nourishment? So there you have a man, who would not have this rule-monger-er society. He would simply remove himself from the very ‘sign’ and slip into this pre-mirror stage of no signs and no father to speak in true Lacanian terms.

Drag him back into the mirror and the result is always death. Both by society and self.

The last words of the man as in conversation with a colleague, described his plans about shifting to America, where he could ultimately enjoy a life of dignity. This is extremely eerie for someone like me, whose favorite is Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.Arkady Svidrigailov calls Raskolnikov before shooting himself dead, says he is shifting to America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her body without an armor

 

Body without armour is an armour itself.

I have been thinking about it from a long time. Across time and space, in different languages of various literatures, folklore and legends—when a female sheds her armour, the society takes a bow. You might assume, I’ve been writing it all inspired by the Game of thrones episode. You’re right. Emilia Clarke did a great job in being a naked burning, Khaleesi. But Kannagi from Tamil Literature and Kali from Hindu folklore are already her predecessors.

It is also interesting to note that this naked woman, when she is accepted by the society, instantly transforms into a mother figure. The male gaze ceases. It cannot objectify its own mother. It cannot sexualize it. And yet, it is her sexuality that rages when she stands naked as if ‘She eats up men like thin air’ (Plath). Her body naked, hair open, her eyes wide open, and her legs strong. But why must she become so powerful?

I have had the privilege to study a lot of feminist literature this last semester. I wouldn’t say it doesn’t come back to me now. I can make several connections and perhaps draw conclusions from these examples as to understand why female nudity, a taboo and perversion of patriarchal society, can suddenly become a power symbol. I will dissect the very heterosexual intercourse, if I have to, for understanding this.

When a women sheds, she is horrible to some, goddess for others. She is usually angry when she steps out like that and are later tried to be contained by narratives within the patriarchal discourse, in order to make sense of the event. In Mahasweta Devi’s Draupadi, Dopdi—a negated word for ‘Draupadi’, the wife of Pandavas from the Hindu epic Mahabharata—belongs to a lower caste and becomes associated with insurgency in North eastern India. However, she is caught by the Indian military and is in the process, repetitively raped by several men. In the morning, she is told to dress up and show up at the Chief’s tent. In a brave decision, she chooses to walk naked, ‘her blood matted upon her pubic hair’, becoming an unspeakable terror for the men around her. Laughing and slapping her thighs, she asks, ‘are you a man?’ for they could only unclothe her but not the other way around. Kali was Sati before she was Kali. For her husband, she mutilates her father’s party—if you like your mythology in simple happy terms—and literally danced the dance of death (Tandav) until her husband stopped her from destroying the whole wide earth because in Tandav, with each step, you bring forth apocalypse in the world. If you ignore bringing back the Kali into the patriarchal narrative, you’ll see, that her power is the most terrible of all the naked ladies. Her armour (if not clothes) is the collective set of mutilated body parts. Severed hands become her skirt and chopped off heads as her necklace. Yet we exclaim in awe, she is terribly beautiful. Her dance, her tongue, her hair black as the ravenous cloudy night, are also markers of sexuality that does not design itself upon the platform of male desire.

Kannagi comes from ancient Tamil literature and folklore. Like Kali, she is a goddess too, although she was born a human. As a human, Kannagi had a good share of injustice being done to her. Her husband cheats on her and has a kid with another women. Yet she has to leave with him, hoping for his loyalty when he finally decides to switch back to her. But most importantly when things finally start looking up, her husband gets executed on a false conspiracy. Bam—women have limits you know? So she rips off her breast and fire burns the city. Kings die, the empire collapses.

Danny from Game of Thrones, had two naked-power-lady scenes. The first is birth of dragons and the second is burning of several Dothraki men when they threatened to rape her or simply, decide upon her life. Immune to fire, she burns them down and emerges naked, the figure of awe. Her narrative as well is confirmed to the figure of mother.

To move away from mythology, Mario Vargos llosa’s Who killed Palomino Molero, the restaurant keeper’s wife challenges a harassing police officer into ‘raping’ her by undressing and making lewd gestures at him at the end of the novel, in an epic break from submissive-timid persona.

All these women place themselves outside normal structure when they do so. You might as well call them Unconscious personified. I’m not referring to Freud’s sharp division of rational and non-rational, rather, I would like you to read it as categorical (Super-ego) and non-categorical (Unconscious). When she steps out of society’s categories, she can manifest her sexuality beyond male gaze. Now as to why must men be afraid of it? The answer lies in heterosexual intercourse.

Heterosexual intercourse in a patriarchal society is phallocentric. ‘Penetration’, ‘Key’ ‘Digging’, such is the imagery implied in this line under which women are bound to be the object. However, this is inversed when she steps out of this structure. She is a horror show, a freak. Yet people bow to her in fear. This is because of her capability to invert society’s patriarchal taboos (Luce Irigaray actually argues that women do not have a properly developed Superegos in comparison to men who go through castration complexes) and instead of ‘penetrating space’, she becomes the ‘devourer’. Not to put it too poetically, but she is able to suck back men right from the space from where she put them out. Should it then, not turn men into infants, reminded by the astounding power of womb?

Ace.

 

The Faith Question

                                           Sergei Kirillov’s A monk at prayer

I remember arguing with a teacher upon the topic of defense of religion and how one should not be so much against it. It is actually like blaming your parents for everything wrong within your life. But then I also remember being looked down upon as an atheist (which I am not) at home and how I felt alienated from all those people who foolishly sat in front of stone idols, mumbling this and that.

Never was I, a fan of categories but nonetheless, as a project of self-awareness, I am really curious about the set of ideology that I will finally bank upon in the face of calamity. A survey claims, if you cannot challenge God with certain quantity of blasphemous words, you are certainly not an atheist. I say, why does deviation from traditional religious path has to be so violent? Not in my world anyway.

Russian paper for one thing has helped me solved this problem of identity that has started to pinch me lately.

Yesterday I finished Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Those who are familiar with the text will know that this is a story about a man (Raskolnikov) and his conception of the idea of murder which, based on sound logical arguments, excuses him from the guilt or responsibility of committing a murder of an old pawn-breaker woman. The argument of this gentleman, apart from his impoverished condition, is that, certain people are above law for they are going to be future law-makers and are hence, allowed to break penal codes as they like, be it in fact a murder. Therefore, the act is done and the blood is let. An innocent is also killed as an accident although not contemplated at all and almost forgotten by the murderer.

Crime is indeed a constructed category by people in the power. But this is not the only message that the novel is trying to impart. In fact, the question is: how is one able to live with crimes and if not, why not?

The answer is as simple as is the difference between theories and practical. Now, you know killing is okay logically (say you firmly believe in Darwinism), yet you can’t live with it at all. One thing this tells us about ourselves is that the mind is not a coherent entity at all. One part wants you to read this essay and the other part wants you to—I don’t know—play video games all day?

So again, you can’t murder someone and live with it. 

 

Blame your parents.

 

I am not even joking. If you are familiar with my old articles or if you are simply familiar with Freud’s ego, superego, and Id, you’ll get my point. When you were busy enjoying your childhood, your parents and other considerable elders, packed their boxes and came to live inside your head. When you grew up, you thought you can move away from them, so you left for a big city (sorry to make it sound so theatrical but it sure is fun to write) so that you can forget all about them and their nasty prejudices. But when self-reflexivity attacks, first to speak inside your head, is your parents. In a war between you and them, it is very seldom that they lose. You say murder is alright but they’ll only cry for Jesus Christ. But you can no longer separate yourself from them and thus your history fails your logic. 

 

And this is why being an atheist is the hardest job in the world. It is a constant inner torment of defying people and betraying people all around you (unless you grew up in a happy circle of atheist people which is rather rare, at least in my country). Then to paraphrase something from Dostoyevsky’s book, you can’t even wait for them to get smarter because religion is anything but intelligent or for the lack of better words, scientific. 

 

But is that all? What if we were to end religion at once and for all. Dostoyevsky very skilfully imagines this very world without any faith and without any  gods to worship & model after. This is done through Raskolnikov’s (the murderer guy) ‘nightmare’ (and man Dostoyevsky is some Stephen King when it comes to writing nightmares). The dream goes as:

Earth is invaded by very intelligent micro-organisms (By the way, this reminds me so much of Stephanie Meyer’s The Host, at least at first glance. Inspiration much?). These micro-organisms then go onto possess all the human beings on the planet and as this ‘infection’ flares up, everyone go on to become intelligent and insane at the same time. Also, every human being develops a personal sense of good and evil which is in disagreement with the sense of good and evil of the other. In other terms, the very gene of ideology ends and anarchy is followed through. (Read up Althusser, this book has so much of lit-theory analysis written all over it). Now that’s not very nice. 

 

Actually, the whole book is a very simple lesson in ethics (my favorite sentence to say in almost all blog posts). The question as I read it is: what if crime was not illegal as logically it should be not. The answer then is: society will not be able to exist. Because then everyone can kill everyone. Therefore, in order to preserve itself, society creates certain rules. These rules are fundamentally attached to ‘religion’, ‘conscience’ and ‘fear’ and her hence embedded in your superego. You cannot escape them even if you’ve got the brains. These concepts also preserve us from existential crisis and are helpful in maintaining the harmony of inner self. But it is also true that this is a very temporary harmony and that there is no logical way that you can prove that the reality of after-death or even entities like God exists (never absolutely). This also implies a factual reality that they do not after all exist.

 

Then comes the difficult choice. Can we live with this factual reality? For one thing, believing in this factual reality comes with a consequence of anarchy. I read this quote somewhere, ‘if there is no god, nothing any one does really matters’. I know…I know… good post-structuralism figured it out before me, but I’m just gonna say that I did prove that the machinery of religion is important or at least a structure which is similar to religion and requires blind devotion of the people. 

Leo Tolstoy had similar opinions. Simple faith, however stupid it is, can help both personal and public peace. Walking blindly is sometimes easier. But how long will this last?

 

I dreamt a strange dream during my afternoon slumber (I take my dreams very seriously). A man placed two cut-outs of landscape in front of each other so they looked like a single landscape dowsed in sunset (I think this is inspired by a certain music video of Rihanna and Calvin Harris that I happened to chance upon). An ominous voice preaching a deceased relative of mine in a comical Indian manner loomed inside my head. But the voice said what I myself had predicted, ‘the marriage is no longer the same tied-up knot’. Before judging me for an orthodox, please do go on to read my hypothesis i.e. marriage is the smallest unit of the society. It is disintegrating. This larger message here is that the society itself is disintegrating (and not as a result of the marriage chaos which is but, only a symbol of the whole). So I do wonder where exactly we are heading towards.

My answer is: Nothing is absolute in a time period. There always ought to be odds to cancel out the conception of absolute reality. You will always disagree with your parents.