A Contradiction


Sometimes I wish I was small
More delicately built
Like girls are supposed to be
Sometimes I wish I had the body of the kind of girl who is
Petite. Beautiful. Tender.
So that I wouldn’t be so big next to other girls
So that I can feel tiny too.

Sometimes I wish I was big
Strong and hard
So I could walk down any dark lane
And not have to be afraid at all
Knowing that I could take on almost anything
Anyone who tried to hurt me, touch me
Feel me without my consent
So I can fight them on my own

Sometimes I feel like a contradiction.

An Essay on Somethingness and Nothingness.


I was a consciousness before I became anything else. It was not my decision to suddenly become something. I was happy being a non-entity in the void, suspended outside reality. It was a great way to exist. At least I think so. I don’t remember any more what it was like before I became a something. Just as I didn’t know before I became a something what it was like to be a nothing.

I bet this is confusing. I don’t get it either, most of the time. It is only in moments when I am in closed spaces, shut off from being something that I can recall bits and pieces of what nothingness was like. You see, for me to exist as more than a consciousness, I need someone who is already more than a consciousness to imagine me to life. To want to feel me, touch me, see me, hear me. I am not sure how it works. I know you can ask the same question backwards. Does the something before me needs something before it to bring it to life? And what is the first something that became more than just a consciousness, spreading to create space and time? Was there even such a first something, ever?

I know these thoughts can be confusing. They can easily confound you if you’re not used to them. Or if you don’t try to exist as nothingness. You want to know how I first became more than a consciousness? I am sure you won’t be interested but you should be because it’s probably how you became more than a consciousness too. I know it doesn’t really matter because one day you will pass on to nothingness again and forget what it was like to be a something. And then this whole exercise will be futile all over again. The crux of the matter though is that right now you are something. It may be just a brief and passing experience, but as long as you are surrounded by somethings, you are a something yourself. And that means you should know why. So I am just going to presume you care. Even if you don’t, pretending that you do makes it easier for me to a something. The first lesson about being a something is wanting to interact with the somethings around you. So that is what I am trying to do for now.

I was inside a hollowness where quiet and dark were the only things that meant anything to me. I sometimes wonder whether I was a nothing or a something by that point. It is my earliest memory and will continue to be so until I go back to being a nothing, but I am not quite sure what it is. I think I probably was a something by then because someone had thought of me already and someone was holding me inside them. But then I wonder, what about those somethings that pass on to nothingness without fully experiencing the sort of something I know now? Because the consciousness that I was at that earliest junction wasn’t really a complete something. It was like a half shadow something. SIlence and quiet meant I wasn’t allwed to fully interact with other somethings but on some level other somethings already were interacting with me. I am sure you will feel the same way if you stop to think for just a minute. In fact, I think you should do that now.

I will share a little secret with you at this point. It is possible to achieve some levels of that old nothingness even while you are a something yourself. You might uestion how I know this and I won’t stop you. Because I did, it would only mean I was trying to dictate your somethiness and you should never let anyone do that. Your something ness is uniquely your own nd it should remain that way. And the only thing to do that is to disappear into the nothingness once in a while

I know it sounds odd. You might take me up on this or you might not. It may work for me and mightn’t work for you at all. The secret is to imitate the nothingness as closely as you can. And to do that you just need your own unique somethingness and a plae where your interaction with other somethings is reduced to a bare minimum. It is hard but not impossible. That is why to achieve that nothingness while you are something is not completely possible. It is just something you can try to do and hope it gives you the time to be your own little something while you can.

You may wonder why is it important fo you to be your own something? Why is any of this important, since ultimately you are going to be nothing again and this achievement of yours will be futile then. That is not a question I can answer to your satisfaction. Perhaps while your somethingness is interacting with the somethingness of others, you can get disoriented and lost. This can lead to you forgetting that you are a something of your own. A blend of many somethings, even for a little while, can cause conflicts and confusion between blobs of somethings. But if someone is busy being something on their own without imitating the somethingness of others, that’s when they are truly free and can float peacefully in their somethingness. Also, I think it is harder to untangle a group of somethings when they are ready to become nothing again. This must be done and perhaps it can be don’t in just a  jiffy but that little jiffy will include thousands of other never-ending jiffies inside it. As such, there is no end to the jiffies that will be contained inside that one jiffy that it takes to untangle a bunch of somethings while they pass back to nothingness. I don’t think it can be a pleasant exercise for your somethingness.

Because while you are a somethingness, you can feel emotions. It is stupid at times, for me to think of how these feelings grow inside me. They trap me and evern though I know I am going to be a nothing soon enough, I cannot escape the feelings that my interactions with other somethings produce. How ironical it is, this feeling that my temporary somethingness has the power to make me feel emotions I don’t want to. Would I rather be a nothing than face the things that a something does? I don’t know

But I do know this. If you want your somethingness to be uniquely your own, you need to be able to escape into the nothingness for a while. This is because while you are something you are in constant contact with other somethings. If you don’t look for your nothingness once in a while, you will find yourself echoing the thoughts and feelings of other somethings. The best way to imagine this is to think of a room with infinite mirrors, each mirror will keep reflecting the same thing forever and ever. But if you can escape into the nothingness for a while, you will be able to find your own little thoughts and feelings there. What is it in the nothingness that creates this unique somethingness? I don’t know. I forgot, remember? I am sure you did too but if you didn’t, you should keep the secret with you. Perhaps that is your own special thought derived from your nothingness.

So the true trick is to know how to reach that nothingness. There are many ways to do this and you must find your own. For a little while you must create a faux-nothingness that will make you a something in your own right. I don’t really know why you need to do this. Maybe you don’t. But I really think you should. Otherwise how can you know whether you are a something or just a something wrapped in a bunch of somethings?

For that reason alone, I think you need to be your own something. If you are not, you may not be a reality at all. I am not trying to say I am a reality myself. Perhaps the feeling I get when I go to my faux-nothingness is itself a reflected feeling, bouncing of thousands and thousands of mirrors before it reaches me. In that case, my entire hypothesis falls flat on the floor. But if I really am escaping to my own nothingness when I feel I am, then that means I am my own something. I will fluidly pass onto nothingness when the time comes. There will be no untangling needed. There will be no painful realizations before the forgetfulness sets in. I need to escape that pain because that pain will only mean I spent all my somethingness being a nothing- a reflected something, but a nothing nonetheless. What a waste that would be!

Kafka On the Shore by Haruki Murakami


Kafka is fifteen when he runs away from home, from a life that has no meaning because there is no one to love him or teach him. He means to be the strongest 15-year-old in the world. Self-taught, self-cultivated and seeking the true answers of his origin while trying to escape his father’s terrible words which portend shades of a loosely Oedipus-based retelling, Kafka follows his heart to a quiet town and a library where he will meet his future in a head-on collision. At the same time, Nakata, a sixty-year old man who hasn’t left Tokyo’s Nakano Ward since an accident during the second world war rendered him devoid of all his skills to learn and live like a normal person, finds himself in the middle of a crime which then leads him to a task he must complete. The two worlds of these protagonists, who alternately pick up the narrative, must combine at some point as they travel towards each other but this meeting is not meant to be conventional.

The most wonderful thing about Kafka on the Shore is its surrealistic but easily smooth-flowing narration- like a dream the books lifts you out of your own life and places you in another world altogether. A world where cats talk, fish and leeches rain from the sky, timeless and ageless pimps produce philosophy students doubling as prostitutes, limbo exists in a town deep inside a forest guarded by two un-aged men from the second world war, shapeless entities try escaping from connected worlds and Greek tragedies may or may not take real forms.

It sounds like an extraordinary book to take too seriously and nobody can expect Murakami’s hypnotic words to seep through with clarity. In short, it is a book that may need to be consumed many times for all of it’s layers to be understood. But in Kafka’s agonizing reflections, his life-altering experiences, his metaphorical journey towards finding meaning and a place where he can both smile and cry safely, there is something so compelling and beautiful that it draws you through.

Whatever else you might take from this book, one thing is for certain- you can easily be filled with wonder, bewilderment and perhaps bits of passion but each re-read of this book will be a different ride than the last one.

Would I want you to read it? Most definitely, yes.

Spoiler Alert- Expanded Review for the Initiated

Murakami’s bold sexual flavours may add a layer of resistance to this book’s attributes. At certain points, even I found myself cringing with the sheer audacity of the liberties he took with the narrative until second’s later I found myself grateful to be in this strange, warped reality of things that sound taboo but haunt the living world around us whether or not we choose to be an ostrich burying our heads between rocks.

This book has the potential to make you something else- something more than you are. With Kafka, I was riding a wave of inebriation, thinking of all the possibilities that make it possible for us to find the real us, if there is any such thing.

In addition to Kafka, Oshima became the unusual hero of the story for me. The haemophiliac gay transsexual represents a safety anchor while Miss Saeki is the unsettling ocean for Kafka on the shore. Another interesting conflict was the  illusory, dream-rape of Sakura- the second half of the Oedipus prophecy.

Dozens of questions were left unanswered about the plot including the clear identity of the murderer, the issue of settling the mother and sister of Kafka’s childhood memories, the explanation of limbo, the purpose of Nakata’s journey, his ability to talk to cats, the interpretation of  what happened to him when he was broken, the bewitching image-ghost of a live woman’s past that Kafka keeps seeing. And a lot more.

Rest assure, I will be thinking of this book for a long time to come.

White Van


My town had always been a quiet little place until that winter.

Growing up as a nomad who shifted homes every few years, I spent my adulthood in a sort of haze: I couldn’t stick to any place or person for too long. But when I turned forty, I found the perfect town. It was far away from any big city, nestled in a valley between the crispest mountains. Fresh dew in the morning, hot sunny summers, intense rain and bone-chilling winters.

The town had everything I needed to think of life as a well-settled affair. Maybe meet a nice girl, take her out for a drink, put a ring on her finger. Who knows? I wanted to see where it would go. Maybe even quit the force some time soon. That was my plan anyway.

But that winter things were changing.

There had been abductions. A bunch of little children- four to five year old boys and girls were going missing from different parts of the town. Nobody knew where they went. But that wasn’t all. Most of them disappeared when they were out for a walk to the market or the playground with their mothers. And the mothers? They were found on the side of the road with their heads bashed in.

I listened to the report calmly, taking my time gathering the large pile of heavy boxes. These were police records of criminals or suspects or oddballs- piles and piles of files and sheets and photographs shipped in from different parts of the country for the benefit of the local investigation team. I was transferring them from one station to the other- from the out-of-the-way police shack to the team headquarters. Two abductions-killings in and still clueless about the identity of the murderer.

The only clue was that people had spotted a medium-sized white van leaving each murder spot, skidding over the frost-covered winter roads,  its windows darkened. Nobody knew who the driver was or what he looked like..

I stared grimly as I placed the last one of the boxes on the sidewalk next to my own little white van. A far-off vintage vehicle from another era but I still used it for everything. Time to start piling all these boxes up in the back. It was a shame this understaffed station couldn’t provide me an extra man to lug all these heavy files into the van.

It was time to get to work anyway. It was started to get dark and it was important to get these files safely to their destination before the pink skyline dropped into pitch black.

The road outside this station ran past a children’s  crèche and I could see a woman coming down the road, holding the hand of a little boy who was pulling along a little toy dog on a string.
As the woman came closer, I could make out her features. She had on a dark skirt-suit, her brown hair pulled away from her face. She was stunning. The little boy was lost in another world. As she came closer, she stopped and passed me a smile.

‘Need a hand with those boxes?’, she asked. The little boy paused next to her, his thumb in his mouth, and looked up at me with wondrous wide eyes.

I hesitated. ‘No, I’ll manage. These are quiet heavy.’

She raised her eyebrows at me. ‘I can handle it.’

I was amused. Sure, if the pretty woman with a kid wanted to have a go at it. I stepped back and gestured. ‘Be my guest’

She let go of her child’s hand and bent for the nearest box. Lifting it, she almost staggered backwards off the road. I held out a hand to steady her, reaching for her back in as nonchalant and unthreatening way as I possibly could. As soon as she got her balance, I pulled the box out of her hands before she could protest.

”Whoa, what is in that?’ she exclaimed, stepping back towards the kid.

I laughed. ‘Files. Criminal records mostly.’ I stowed the box into the back of the van and reached for another one.

She was quieter now, thinking. ‘So you’re investigating the mystery murders and abductions, officer?’

I straightened up and looked at her. She had pretty almond eyes, full of concern. I saw her protectively moving closer towards the little boy.

Í sighed. ‘Yes, we are. We’re on the case. You would understand, of course, if I can’t divulge any more information.’ Nodding towards the kid. ”Is that your son?’

She nodded, putting her other hand protectively on his shoulder. I spotted the wedding ring.

‘Look, don’t worry. Just take some precautions. No lonely streets and the likes of that, okay? We will have this murderer behind bars soon enough. It won’t take long, I promise you.’

I smiled at her and she smiled back. I looked at the kid. His eyes were still wide open.

An hour later, my own van was skidding across the slippery roads. I was almost there. With the radio turned up, I groaned when a favourite song was interrupted midway for a newsflash.

Another mother and child. Somewhere close to where I was coming from. All people on alert for white vans.

I reached the gates of the precinct. The guard on duty hesitated, then came closer and said, ‘Mind if we check the van?’

Í stared him down, irritated. You do know who I am, right? What on earth do you expect to do with my van except waste your time and mine?’

He seemed embarrassed. ‘I’m sorry sir. We just got news in of a third abduction and murder. A small boy coming home from his crèche with his mother. A woman in a dark navy suit. She was one of those adoption agency people. Perhaps you saw someone like that on the way?’

‘Oh. Well, I had no idea. I’m just driving in, as you can see. But if you’d still rather check the back of my vehicle, be my guest.’

‘Yessir. I mean, no sir. That’s quite all right. The guard stammered. ‘So, did you see anyone matching the description on your way??’

I flashed a big smile at him. ‘No. No, I didn’t.’

The guard just nodded at me in acknowledgment and I drove right through, whistling.

Note: This story passed through my dream, exactly like this, a week or more back. In the dream, I wasn’t participating in the story but sort of watching it, as though on a television. It was just one of those dreams which you can recollect vividly for a really long time.

I am in a Crater That’s No More


I’m in a crater that’s no more“-
Kafka on the shore

I don’t want your damaged little heart
To slice through mine like a sharpened knife
Caught up in that cool little spot
Of wisdom and talking for the very first time

You are made up of all those pieces
That existed in a world I left far behind
And your sudden call is a repetition
Of memories I have no strength left to find

It may almost seem like a warning although
You have no idea what you are doing
But nothing will work to stop the flow
Once this bleeding soul gets going

Perhaps I need a lesson in what works
And what doesn’t when it comes to life
But it’s almost as though my floating Titanic
Is heading for a collision against your ice

This strange summation is a warning
I might want to steer right clear of you
Since I don’t believe in prophesizing callings
And crying is just something little girls do.

I wonder if this happens to everybody. Intense periods of self-loathing which reduce the meaning of everything in life to a single point- am I even real? How genuine am I? What am I feeling? Is it the truth or an illusion? Am I lying to myself? To others? Am I following my heart or just mirroring the needs and longings of other people? Is there even an answer.

So to sum up this amalgamation of weird thoughts, I’ll just share words of wisdom my best friend told me:

Everyone has scars. It’s what you do with it. Aren’t you a better, smarter person with a scar? Don’t worry. The fact is, you will probably not forget it. But it won’t be a burden to live with. Just chill.

Before.


There’s magic in that moment
Suspended between pleasure and something so exquisitely twisted,
it can own me

I will surrender in a second
If only I didn’t know the pain
of this haunting roundabout
I’ve been on it before
A dozen times before

There’s horror in the shrieks and calls
of the happy monster climbed atop my shoulder
Good, sweet, silly, fearful memories

I will surrender in a second
And perhaps I never did know
How life can dwindle to a single image
I’ve thought of it before
A thousand times before

There’s reality intricately absorbed
On some quiet road down my soul
like a forbidden fruit- I need it

I will surrender in a second
There really is no need to know
If death or life awaits me
I have lain here, this way before
A million times before.

Song of the moment:

The Following Girls- Louise Levene


Amanda Baker and the Amandas- four teenagers with the same name who call themselves the Mandies and share hidden cigarettes in quiet corners of the school compound- like to think of themselves as girls far removed from the perfectionist, idealism-applauding lifestyle of their seventies school. Resonating with the structure and composition of Enid Blyton schoolgirls, the ideal Julia Smith of the Mandies world is a lacrosse and tennis champion and a prefect. As she wields her short, short skirts (excused due to her exemplary behaviour elsewhwere) and the gorgeous golden thighs beneath like weapons to be envied by the remaining plain Janes, the Mandies hate her all the more for her ass-kissing tendencies and for being such a do-gooder. But something changes when Smith sees Baker with a “fag” in her hand on the morning subway to school and decides to befriend her eccentric school junior.

 

The Following Girls is a book about the life in a school in the Seventies in Britain. Africa is being carved right up and Ceylon is now called Sri Lanka, which can be distasteful but the schoolgirls pen unthinkable slang phrases on the backside of the toilet cubicles, rate looks on a one-ten scale and ogle at the boys after dressing up for them (a “shag” in the evening and gone by morning). The model schoolgirl is a sports champion who, after having mastered a sufficient number of languages (Latin, French, Russian), not to mention the matrices, needlework and geographical formations of the world , will go on to become a trendy bi-lingual secretary, having chucked her sports shoes out the window. The Mandies are different though.

The Mandies want to do away with this sort of mentality. Invincible together, they prefer blurring the lines between activities allowed and denied in school. While they struggle to stay right on the fence and not have a complaint raced to their respective homes, their parents are busy cursing fate for the behaviour of their daughters. Exchanging batches, sticky handshaking the alumni and adding ”actress” to the career counsellor’s folder for pure entertainment- nothing is beyond them.

I randomly picked up this book off a shelf and was intrigued by its soul-searching blurb. Books about life dilemmas are currently a part of my to-read list and although an unknown gamble like this did seem a little out there, it had been a long time since I had gambled on a book. Most of my recent purchases had been well thought out.

I didn’t regret The Following Girls one bit. Since I had no idea what to expect, I kept wondering what would happen throughout. Would the impeccable Julia Smith turn her glib talk into a trap for Amanda Baker? Would the absent Mrs Baker who ran off when Amanda was three make a re-entry of some sort or the step-mother Spam become far more monstrous than a dream kitchen assembling, secret sherry drinker? Would Mr. Baker’s tempers turn over a new leaf? Would something colossal happen to Amanda?

Although the book didn’t create suspense or magic of that sort, it was a book about transitions and that made me like it. Would the real Amanda please stand up? As it turns out, life can be taken in little, manageable doses.

The only reason the book lost one star in my head was the fact that sometimes the acerbic tones of the Mandies seemed to fizzle through the pages so hard and fast that they seemed fictional. The whole reality fell apart in those places, even if I tried to see it through the eyes of disturbed teenagers.

Heavy on references, resounding with vintage recollections and tilted to match the skewed outlook of a 70s schoolgirl, The Following Girls is a book you can definitely read and enjoy.

The Children are Just Playing


The children were playing.
In the park. In a garden.
In the room. On the train
It takes just one sentence
For trails of witch-hunts
And ‘At Ease, Soldiers!”
And flashy fast mob cars
Or taking a briefcase to work
Or teaching a class full of kids
Or creating legions of spacecrafts
Or a paint-set of flying angels
And glow-in-the-dark monsters
And picture cards and nursery rhymes

It takes just one sentence
For tea parties and life-size dolls
And coloured paper trails
And balloons strewn across the floor
And skipping rope or jumping puddles
And paper boats or various balls
And pretend-weddings
Or shopping for thin-air groceries
Or killing terrorists behind trees

It takes just one sentence
For everything to fall apart
“Where are the children, did you see?
It’s almost time for dinner”
“Wait a moment, they are right here
They are just playing“.

The Serialized Deep-Seated Agony


1)

My! What a twitchy little thing you are!
-A misguided attempt at a little forgiveness
What harm is there, really
In choosing to admire her
Her begrudging little soul will
Only light up a little faster
With imperceptibly styled hair
And pointy boots
Which won’t- can’t?
Survive the first puddle
And who would refund the little treasury?

And it never is the same-
Meanings lost in translation
the tiniest flaws flare under a non-glow.
The very antithesis
of what I experienced before

‘You’re beautiful!’ scream self-help books
‘You’re magical!’ quip glossy dreamy magazines
‘Shake it off!’ insists the latest pop-music trend
But I sit with my head in my hand.

 

2)

And liberation isn’t golden-brown
In crisp, deep-fried buckets of fatty foods
Nor is it swimming hard and fast
At the bottom of a cup of bitter coffee
Sugarless, not because I owe it to my body
But because otherwise I would be floating, head bobbing
In the middle of an ocean somewhere in the Arctic.

Those inked girls who talk to you
About new-age liberation
Spending hours of days in well-stocked bathrooms
And hours of nights on beds besides well-stocked night drawers
I ask you next, what answers would you give me
To repel the ultra-slimming, ultra-fairness products
Apricot-peach-pineapple
Aleo vera-essential oils-your granddad’s 60’s-something vintage wine

Goodness, the nightmares never end
In bobby pins and pink puffs
Powdered fuchsia-rosy futons
And the ceaseless colour churning machine
Did chagrin never count for anything?
Are mystical chants and spiritual intonations back in fashion?
Someone will let me know on Buzzfeed whilst I
Rest my eyes for a little while

 

3)

And it’s not like we need to stay simplified
Who wants that?
With men crying foul and your own tiny broken internal recorder
The one that started playing when you hit puberty
Men are evil heart-breakers, non-doers, ungrateful pigs
Covered with tar of the vilest, stickiest sort
Because there are the Darcys in classics
and Meg Cabot’s modern men
Not to mention Mills and Boon

 

What a hot mess this is
Inside the body of your average intense marriage-baby-home-of-your-own loving
Little team player
What are the real men like and where and who is listening
In that space beyond Heathcliff
And the wide gap of darkness looking up at you
How do you judge a man? What do you make of him?

More importantly-
perhaps questions of life and death hanging in the balance-
Is love to be a grandiose, turbulent storm
Of tiffs and being taken in fury
I’m rubber and you’re glue
But I still want you?
Or an absolute, floating dialogue
with each signal consented for
Much like in a democratic republic

 

4)

And beneath the mistletoe
Where the good girl waits
Brutal honesty can be unappreciated
Tuck your blouse and fold your legs
Sit still like a lady and please, no fags
Be content with the way things are
We’re sorting through the issues
One painful point at a time

But someone needs to say something.
About what the men suffer. About what the women suffer
And how unnaturally natural it is
To think of this zeitgeist
As an unwelcome cherry to be popped

I cannot be fooled by what the world tells me.
I cannot be reduced to a one-line role in a play
I will be barking mad every single day I live
I will be spitting fireballs at passing cars
But somehow, that won’t solve a single thing
Keep your head about you, keep your head about you.
So that’s what we girls do.

Artificiality


They took away the only thing that held me
Cheap, clever girls with their red, red lips
Gloss, they tasted of mint
Hooked to the luscious body of an old maid
Dying within her
But on the outside she burns pink
Like a cherub’s cheeks

They panted underneath and I
Became a breathing edifice of horror
Oh! That absolutely enchanted look
Can it be that it’s not real?
Is it only just something painted on
By another senseless human being?

And so they told me I wasn’t really flying
Only like a kite held up by a string. But I
Breakfasted with those women anyway
Did you know they had things to do at dawn
Flying pantyhose and curled up wigs
A jumbled up rope lay on the floor, even.

I lit my first cigarette- the ash tray enlightened me
Of a clandestine venture in the deep darkness
But with sunshine and lit skies it wasn’t real
There were some children somewhere
Not here but gut-wrenchingly near enough
How was I to know?
It was morning and I
A creature of habit, a creature of the night.
I didn’t really belong here.

 

The more poems I have been writing, the more often I have started to feel- not judgmental or in any way emotionally associated to what the poem represents, but just like an objective, impartial observer whose only job is to express a certain viewpoint. So I often find myself in the shoes of an imagined character, often whipped up on the spot. This person can be talking about anything- an incident I might have actually had, but more often than not, one I imagine somebody having. In that moment I am on another plane. I’m someone else and it isn’t my job to question objectives or motives but just to put into words certain emotions this character might have undergone. Poems always have helped me think in shades of grey (not fifty). And so these poems- dark, serious, sarcastic, ironical or anything else- are just a means for me to be (or try to be) an impartial witness to the phenomena of people’s lives. Cheers!