Breaker of Chains: GOT Season 4 Episode 3


*Spoilers*

In the aftermath of the Purple Wedding (glee), King’s Landing is already picking up the pieces. Cersie mourns the loss of her favourite child but Lord Tywin is already one step ahead- planning the ascension of the new king, Joffrey’s younger brother Tommen by instructing him on the virtues of a wise king which, incidentally, revolve more or less around following the advice of your counselors. Cersie gave up on trying to get her father to stop insulting her dead son just a few feet away from his dead body and chose instead to appeal to Jamie, asking him to avenge their son upon Tyrion, on whose head she blames the whole business. Jamie however seems less inclined to blame his younger brother without proof or a trial and he reminds Cersie that Tyrion shares their blood.

And although they kiss for comfort, Cersie pulls back to grieve but Jamie exclaims, ‘You are a hateful woman. Why have the Gods made me love a hateful woman?’ and proceeds to rape his sister behind the alter where Joffrey lies dead, in a scene that makes you recoil at the incestuous horror of the whole thing.

Sansa, in the meantime, has been taken off the coast by Sir Dontos who accompanies her to Petyr Bealish whilst Tyrion, made aware of his upcoming trial, ponders helplessly upon losing his one potential ally in a way that makes him look guiltier- for although Sansa had the necessary motives to wish Joffrey dead, he does not consider her a likely candidate. Aside from that, the only other person Tyrion frees from blame for this particular assassination is Cersie, whose love for her children is renowned, making this a unique mystery for King’s Landing. Oberyn continues to be obnoxious but since he is to be one of the  three judges along with Tywin and Tyrell for the  trial of the king’s murder, he stands as the best hope for Tyrion. Meanwhile, Sansa’s escape makes her a wanted woman for the Lannisters.

At the wall the wildings continue their butchery and cannibalism and Castle Black prepares for the inevitable siege, which does not look hopeful so far. Given Jon Snow’s upcoming role, he still manages to give baffled expressions and do little in the way of preparing his fellow black cloak-bearers.

Davos is looking for newer means to fund his King since he does not lay the same amount of trust as Stannis does in the Lord of Light’s power to deliver. With Joffrey dead, Davos thinks their best bet is to borrow some gold from Braavos and trade that for an army, even though a bought army is not very honorable for Stannis.

Meanwhile Arya tries to appeal to the softer side of the Hound who still believes in dog eat dog (a valuable Westeros lesson anyway). Arya is cheeky and funny and very cute and lovable until you remember how she slashes through people with a sword and falls asleep every night muttering a list of victims she need to murder to avenge all the pain she’s borne. A lot of plots are going to start converging soon but that will have to wait for next season. Meanwhile Game of Thrones is still building up into a storm.

Daenarys has dug in her heels in preparation to conquer Meeren. Getting caught up in the slave cities continues to be her downfall when she should be sailing for Westeros. Even Tywin acknowledges her presence as a far-off threat for now. It will be long before that changes.

The pieces moved slowly today with little in the name of progress. After the assassination of an important character next week, these were necessary movements aimed at setting the scene for the next big storm. More next week with ‘Oathkeeper’, where the above stories will make headway (as per the promo). Until then.

Open Letters Part One


Dearest R.

I’ve heard that friendships erode and time frees us from many-a-pains and while I hope for this to always be true (because how else are we supposed to recuperate and revive ourselves in the cruelty of this world?), there are some things we wish to cherish forever. And while I know no words can fill voids of hearts, I also know that this is my one shot at making something lasting out of these 26 letters so that beyond our own memories and the photographs, something will remain for me to come back to when needed. They say as you grow older you go through life with your guard always up. And I have picked up this lesson, truly (partly thanks to  you, of course), although I despise it. But with you the guard is always down, my shield is lowered, I come as friend and never as foe. You can only be described in my head as that proverbial ray of everlasting sunshine that makes you feel warm and cozy on a cold wintry morning.

I know I tend to make things seem flowery and intense but beneath all of that is a whole treasure trove of pure closeness, madness, complaining (indeed even gossiping) that you and I have indulged in. I will always remember how we attempted to boil eggs in your kettle without adding salt and ended up with a kettle full of egg bits to clean (which you did, of course, while I sat and laughed until there were tears in my eyes). But then we learnt how to do it right and shared a dozen or so half-boiled eggs, sometimes eating them right out of the shells as we attempted to trudge through some last minute studying. Ever since then you were my shelter, my abode because I needed one and even when I knew no better, you were like a strengthening backbone, not the crushing hammer that others became. You were a shield and an armor all rolled into one. It may seem like an exaggeration but it wouldn’t be if you knew, like you probably do, that I owe a large chunk of my sanity to you. I would have crumbled to bits if you hadn’t stood by me every single time I needed you.

And we’ve had our lighter moments. It was in your company that I came up with some of the funniest things I do and you are one of the few people who have witnessed all those impressions, whether or not you liked them. From singing ‘Friday, Friday’ in the most irritating tone that I can summon to all the accents I have ever learnt and all those noises I love making for your benefit (or discomfort), memories I will cherish range from ‘Number Seven Seven- the song’ right down to our anthem

‘You think I’m pretty without any makeup on, you think I’m funny when I tell the punchline wrong, I know you get me so I let my walls come down’,

the song we chanted to and fro the bathroom with you limping on your broken knee and me slowing down just to keep you company. And of course there were those physiotherapy sessions when I held your hand through more pain than I could bear to watch but on the way back we stopped for ice-cream and laughed. I think that was when I felt closer to you than ever.

Countless starry nights on the swings will also be cherished. So will all the crazy scenarios we build up, us and M., when we’re together. But that is more a part of another letter than this one.

There was a time two years ago when I could not bear the thought of not having you around whenever I needed. Now I think I have managed to conquer those fears at least and learnt to slip into a sort of independence in which too, you had an important hand to play. You’ve been the one person who, I can safely assume, has never tried to squeeze any sort of personal benefits out of me. It makes my memories with you all the more cherishable and special.

You keep saying you’ll see me at my wedding next. I hope to goodness we don’t have to wait that long for a reunion. Walking back with you today, it struck me that we just might have to. The thought is not appealing, neither is the idea that any reunions we might have in the future will probably fail to recreate the magic that we share right now whether its in a group or solo. As I said when I began this letter, time works itself on us, clasps us in its grasp, changes us, builds us, breaks us. Who knows what we might become in a few years from now. I’m glad we live in the age of Facebook and Whatsapp and Skype because they are the next best thing. We both know that, of course. But next best just isn’t good enough. It will just have to do.

Lots of love

S.

Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 2: Weddings are Happy Occasions


*Spoiler alert*

There you have it. This episode was another one of those ‘hold your breath because something monumental is coming your way’ episodes. I don’t think I paid complete attention to anything other than the wedding celebrations at King’s Landing.

Bran has grown up and is getting more and more comfortable under the skins of other creatures, choosing to abandon his body in order to be free. He has also grown taller and bigger than ever before. These kids are going to go through their awkward teenage phase with this show. I was also horrified by the Theon-Greyjoy-slash-Reek scenes and Ramsay Snow is just a bastard in every sense of the word. Ramsay is set to capture Moat Caitlin; prove to his father that he has more uses beyond slashing private parts off people and reducing their dignity and self-worth into dust.  Meanwhile Stannis and his Red Witch continue to spread the love of the God of Light while his daughter tries to accept the faith-swapping as best as she could.

Jamie is learning how to spar with his left hand now. In a moment of fraternal outburst, he confesses to Tyrion how the whole world cannot find out that he cannot slay a pigeon with his left hand, let alone protect the king.

But all eyes on King’s Landing as Cersie ceded her acting Queen authority to Margaery; who takes up the stand with grace and her own brand of panache, making announcements on behalf of her sadistic beast of a new husband five seconds after the ceremony is over. Tyrion has to bear the brunt of King Jeoffrey’s jibes, of course, but he does so with a straight face after having sent away his whore-lover just hours before the ceremony, in order to save her from the cruel clutches of his father Lord Tywin.

The part I was waiting for on this episode was, of course, the climatic closing scene. With GOT, if you haven’t read the books, you can never know who is going to collapse when. The show has little empathy for its own characters and no regards whatsoever as to which episode is being used to bring about a wave of change. And so, the death everyone had been wishing upon a star for, was quite a welcome surprise for those who weren’t expected it. Joeffrey’s collapse and writhing in the arms of his crying mother and his subsequent death by sweet poison was a ‘Hurrah’ moment for all Stark lovers. Even as the Lannisters had  a sort of family huddle over the dying boy-king, Cersie was quick to raise her hand backwards at Tyrion, who through no fault of his own finds himself blamed for killing his king.

The death has opened up a dozen new doors for this season. The plot is going to thicken now. A lot of exciting changes are coming up, what with the scramble for a new king, the attempts of House Dorne and House Martell to bring out new equations with the Lannisters. Tyrion’s sacrifice was worth it though, just to see Jeoffrey die and Cersie cry. As for Tyrion, he is a big boy, bigger than the rest of them put together and he will find his way through. Sansa is off as well. Bye-bye King’s Landing!

 

 

Atheistic Objectivism and the World


To reconcile the teachings I have picked up in the past six years with the life I see around me is not an easy task.

It is not easy, for one thing, to confront the thousand ‘God’ references that I hear in a day, without cringing. How horrifying it is to me that most of the world believes in scraps of paper put together hastily, drawing conclusions about life and how to live it and about having a God, to the point that they will kill for it, fight for it, get offended for it, be granted special obligations for it and face no flak for it?

Even though I spent my teens thinking I could ‘talk’ to God- and not any of the mythological Gods from any of the holy textbooks that I know of, but to an omnipresent, almighty God who knows all and governs all, it scares me that such an idea should be harbored and drilled long and hard into most human beings. An omnipresent God who watches over everything, judges everything, knows everything, holds your fate in his hand and has the power to destroy you, can give away or give back anything and everything you own and yet loves you and does everything good for you? A God or Gods whose will you must follow by being kind and generous and selfless and giving?  A God whose heritage you must adore and adorn and glorify? None of this sounds tempting to me- it sounds scary and disgusting. It is as though, if there is a ‘God’, I must twist and contort the definition a million times around because I do not think any of the Gods described in any of the religions of the world can be benevolent and wonderful in the way they want us to believe. A God, to me, can only be a Master; a slave-driver, hedonistic, sadistic, envious and jealous.

It is regrettable for me to have reached these conclusions and yet I did, independently; not by former questioning but merely by a simple examination of facts. So simple, in fact, that it feels as if it was right there in front of my eyes, staring at me and I was too blind to see. Why, then, am I the one who will be prosecuted and asked to take my statements back, were they ever to reach an audience wide enough to want to condemn it? Why should I be an apologist? I already know that I am in a lot of trouble for being twenty-two and thinking this way. I am already a sinner and a condemner and a heretic in almost all the religions of the world. But more than that, I will be perceived as being unkind and insensitive and generally absurd for claiming the thing that stares everyone right in their face!

Why all the death and destruction over such utter nonsense? If we must live our lives by a code, the best way to formulate one would be through private assimilation. We do, after all, tend to do this anyway. I think I am a kind, loving and gentle person. I cry if I see hurt in the world, I treat lying and cheating and thievery as abominable (though not rigidly so) in my personal life and I try to strive for personal happiness without over-stepping into the boundaries of others, if I can help them. Those are good starting points on which one can build a successful and honest life without labeling oneself under any particular religion.

Think, then, of the natural posture one must adopt when one is supposed to ‘pray’. How fare more reverent is the human temple Ayn Rand’s Howard Roark offers in The Fountainhead? A monument where one walks in and feels uplifted, feels the magnificence of himself as opposed to that of a ruler at whose feet one must grovel for forgiveness. The only thing that is there in front of our eyes is the rest of the world which consists of other human beings all of whom are struggling, like us, to find meaning for seventy years before turning into stardust once again. Why then must we fight holy wars and create barriers; killing but not just killing, also hurting through words and actions, fellow human beings just because they were born to someone whose forefathers happened to be in closer proximity to a particular religion over another?

And the argument that my religion is peace-loving in its core, human beings have made it this way? It saddens me even more that this claim, with which I spent my entire liberal childhood, is not so true after all. All religious texts are interspersed with at least a sprinkling, if not more, of vengeance-seeking, weapon-yielding, mass-murdering Gods, not to mention all the atrocities faced by their women-folk. All Gods seem to have a sort of blood-thirst which requires great wars or genocides to be fulfilled.

I cannot climb on board the God express now, even as consolation or reconciliation with a loved one. Most humans are, of course, well-meaning in their love towards their own religion, non-violent in tolerance and just trying to lead good lives but more of them need to question the premise of God and stop looking down upon the fact that He is absolutely unnecessary and that the actual presence of such a creature gives us more reason to be scared than its absence because if a God is watching your every move and you are supposed to love him for eternity, you aren’t being given much choice about anything at all, which in turn goes right around in a circular argument to suggest that without the presence of choice and free will, how can this God claim to any of the good things that He says He is? If He exists, you are just a puppet and by the sheer force of logic, this becomes the truth.

I was never upset by these discoveries, of course. Over two years I built up quite a strong case in my head about which side of the coin I wanted to be on. I am quite certain of myself in this regard, at least. What still hurts is the fact that so many well-meaning people are walking about their daily lives believing ancient lies meant, more often than not, to make submissive and subservient followers out of them, a few thousand years ago.

How much more hurt and divisions and pain and destruction and death must we pointlessly face over something that is nothing? A puff of smoke is causing this!  A layer of nothingness is responsible for it. Who atones for all the people who died for nothing, except the fact that someone thought their interpretation of ‘nothing’ was better than anyone else’s? Whether you call it karma, misfortune, repayment, punishment or something far more creative and far less lucrative, the truth will remain that random murders have and occurred and will never stop unless each of us take it upon ourselves to examine the facts.

This famous quote from a Nazi concentration camp puts my entire case to rest for today:

My God why have you forsaken me?

To bend means to lie

If there is a god, he must ask me forgiveness

How to Make a Poem Out of (Almost) Anything


It’s National Poetry Month and to honor the occasion I want to share a little poetry wisdom on my blog.

I write a lot of poems. I scribbled the first words when I was seven or eight but I have a clear memory of the day I wrote my first ‘real’ poem. I was thirteen and it was for a talent competition. The poem was called My Blossoms and you can read it here.

It was in one of those aah moments that my fingers just typed up this first poem and I thought to myself at once, ‘How perfect’. And I never stopped after that. So I’ll share some poetry secrets with you because poetry is something people either love or hate. The thing about poetry is, it doesn’t always have to be rhyming words. Your poems don’t always have to be that perfect haiku or villanelle. You can just write freestyle. Poetry should be more about penning down what’s inside your heart in a way that uplifts you and lilts you than about being a perfect combination of words and letters. Though of course, if you are a stickler for words , you’re most welcome to make your poetry systematic and organized. Me, not so much.

So here’s my poetry secret 1:

Poetry is just soundless music

I have forever found music to be a source of inspiration for poetry and vice versa. If you’re listening to a song and you let the music wash all over you, you feel uplifted and rejuvenated. Music heals, sometimes mysteriously. It’s about how you can relate to a particular song maybe because you are going through or have been through something similar or else, just because the music and the words take you to the place you need to be in. Listen to the beats, pay attention to the words and let your heart and soul fly off to a land where you feel contended enough to write. Or saddened enough to write. Whatever floats your boat.

Here are a couple of songs, for example, that leave me in that trance-like subspace that I so desperately need for the best writing to some out of me:

 

Another useful trick of the trade for those times when you simply must write a poem and you can’t. Make a list of adjectives and nouns that you really like. Or else, just randomly pick up a magazine and open it at different pages, picking up the first words your eyes fall on (and skip the prepositions and conjunctions please). The trick is to collect a bunch of words and arrange them until a sensible pattern emerges. This was one of the first exercises I picked up on and it actually works.

Here’s one I found on a blog which is actually about this exercise. The blog is called A Bowl of Random Words.

And here is my poem:

The elm tree in the glade is my retreat
Fly away, you
You’re not welcome here
You will be called when I am gone
Dig the burrow then 
And you will find my traces

And here is another one:

And another poem:

The truth lay naked before my eyes
And I snapped like a twig in the heat of July
His fall from grace was terrible
A lifetime of love reduced to a trickle
I left the way I came
Turning invisible again

This exercise can be hard at first but it gets easier and you’ll be happy with what you’re writing soon enough. That is, after all, the ultimate aim.

Another useful tool for poetry is a classic visual aid: images of whatever it is you want to write about.

Use images to open up your mind

If you want to write about freedom, google ‘Freedom’ and surf through the images until you find one that sets the machinations of your brain running.

This, for example, is an image about freedom that I really like:

And a poem that this image brings to my head:

I flew
Over the city walls
High above oblong skyscrapers and wilted dreams
Far from countless memories pulsing through the crowd
Unaware of danger, flirting with adventure
The pink skyline could not tear me down
I was on the cusp of freedom

Images can do wonders for poetry and you can stare at something until it stirs your insides; you get goosebumps and before long, poetry will start to flow.

And another one:

Read lots of good poetry

Wordsworth and Keats are not always the easiest but if you sift through the treasure trove of poetry that the world has to offer, I am betting you will find something you will love. You do not need to understand all of it. Even if some of it makes sense to you, consider yourself blessed because the aim of poetry is to move something within you and if it succeeds at that even slightly, the poet has done a good enough job. This poem I read recently touched me deeply. I am sharing it here verbatim:

Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

(courtesy: World War 1 on the BBC from As I Please).

I googled the phase Dulce et decorum est, Pro patria mori and it means ‘It is sweet and right to die for your country’, which sent a shiver running down my back and left me feeling haunted.

All I’m really trying to say is that no matter who you are, you’ll find at least one poem out there in the cosmos that will make you love the fact that it was ever written and if you keep digging you’ll find more and more until perhaps at some point, you’ll be capable of bringing out some of your own hidden emotions through one.

The next secret works in much the same way as the universe does when it makes you feel poignant and emotional. It is simply that

To go out in nature or travel through a strange land or see places you have never seen- places of historical significance or cultural heritage which you cannot quite wrap your head around, is in itself an experience so joyful and revealing that your soul will rejoice and want to then express itself in some way. That is when you pick up your pen and pour out all the sites you saw and all the things you felt, touched, heard, smelled into a poem.

This secret will work, I am sure of it. Because when you are out somewhere, perhaps in nature or taking a walk through a ruin which holds a story and echoes with the screams of people who died there or with the laughter of those who lived there, you will be able to embrace feelings you didn’t think you had. Poetry can flow out of anything- and I mean even the ugliest of things. It’s just about what you want to write, what you want to feel and what you want to give out.

And so here is my very last poem secret of the day. I’ll tell you this; I have never really thought of myself as a ‘poet’ with just that label. And I cannot. But the important thing, I think, is not to think of being excellent but to think of being truthful to yourself and your life. That’s when poems come.

Write as much as you can. Practice makes perfect, of course.

Not perfect; not really. Nothing can be perfect. But with time you’ll see how your thoughts don’t coagulate anymore. Even if you want to write a hundred and one poems on quite the similar theme, write them! Nobody has to see them all. Share only your best work but keep the rest for yourself. The secret is just to write whenever the urge arises and sometimes even when it does not. The rewards of poetry are enriching and exquisite. You’ll see :)

Hope you liked the post and a thank you to all fellow bloggers from whom I nicked tips and photos. I hope I have put all the right credits in all the right places but if I haven’t, please let me know!

Happy National Poetry Month.

The ‘Her and Him’ Poem


Ironically a ‘She and Him’ pic.

Is that her? And is that him?
Are they together now?
Is she talking? Are they walking?
Are they holding hands?
What is she wearing? What is he wearing?
Where did they go? Who paid?
What did he give her? What did she bring him?
How much money did they spend?

Is she with him now? Wasn’t he with someone else?
Who broke up and when?
Is she crazy? Is he loco?
Did they have a good time?
Why are they smiling? Is she blushing?
What is that in her hand?
Are they happy? Are they soppy?
Oh my, so cheesy!
Go get a room, please
What’s with all this romance?

 

An evening walk with a friend and some good old food for thought! These words just fell out of our mouths; a fully formed poem aimed at people who make it their business to know the tiniest life details of everyone they ever see. It just made sense to write it all down when I got back.

Have You Never Been Mellow?


A summer field vision with yellow dandelions
Tiny feet happy to be home
The welcome ping of the microwave alarm
A cold, tall welcoming glass of lemonade
A book, low yellow lights and a couch
Pajamas and maybe a take out
An hour of T.V., a little music
A bit of fish-fish-fishing on the internet
A few smiles and a few big kisses
Contentment and then a good pillow
And shut-eyed sleep of the best kind.

How would you wind down?

Killers- Return of Game of Thrones Season 4 Review


Game of Thrones started out its fourth season by fingering into newer story lines with the gory massacre of The Red Wedding still pounding in the heads of its long term fans. But with introduction of the House of Dorne and the character development of a bunch of its star protagonists, there’s plenty in the new season to hold the attention of fans hook, line and sinker.

While Sansa and Arya both seethe, one in silent agony and the other in bubbling anger, from the news of their lost family members, up north at the wall Jon Snow presents his story to the Crows, leaving them to judge whether or not to let him live. He fondly recalls a few bittersweet  childhood moments spent with his deceased brother Rob, as he dons the black once more in preparation for dealing with the approaching wildling bands. A good fight is about to get underway- one which will end up turning some tables.

Tyrion spends some uncomfortable moments welcoming House Dorne into the folds of King’s Landing as the royal city decks up in preparation for the coming wedding- the third in a series of unions that have so far only unfolded with disastrous circumstances. Apparently, everyone in Tyrion’s life is bent upon giving him a hard time, including the people he would least expect it from. He spends a good part of this returning episode listening to rebukes and complaints and saying only the wisest things which seem to fall on deaf ears, in return.

Jamie is back as well- back to the loving arms of his sister, or so he thought. Back also to his watchful post on the King’s Guards where he has now undertaken the task of mastering ambidexterity by trying to be as accomplished a one-handed swordsman as his left hand would allow. Jibes from both his father and his king boy-nephew do not help, of course, but so far a begrudging admiration is all Jaime gets from us in this episode  for stoically dodging all rebukes thrown out at him.

And while Daenerys Targaryen continues freeing the slave cities and struggling to hold on to her adolescent dragons, a scene involving Sansa that will prove to be significant later, occurs at King’s Landing. Prince Oberyn of House of Dorne is out to revenge his sister upon every Lannister in the kingdom because, he says, it’s not just a Lannister who always repays all his debts.

And Arya finally gets a little slice of the action she has so badly needed since her first-hand witnessing of the Stark butchering. Arya’s quest is just beginning to get a hundred shades darker.

Overall, with the fanning out of new plots, this season started its strong build-up towards another epic series of episodes. The strong star cast continues to enchant, falling into the skins of the characters they play. Brace yourselves, for winter crawls ever so closer with Season Four.

 

 

Obsession


 

I thought moments like these suddenly appeared
In puffs of pink , flimsy, clinging smoke
Poof! And you are transformed
Into something out of a fairy tale
But suddenly, it seems this isn’t quite true
My vintage dreams confined to a poster
Plastered somewhere far, far away
Under the gigantic, hanging spring sky
When I feel as though even baggy shirts and old jeans
Add a little old-world charm to me
And wavy, tousled hair can be lovely too
So can loafers and curves and unmade-up eyes

Isn’t it okay to just be out on a summer day
Cycling under the heat and smiling into an old camera
Where you can’t delete the photograph, once taken
And an ugly smile or closed eyes would last forever?
Isn’t it okay to just let chipped nails last a few days more
Without rushing through the motion with the intensity
Of panic that would match the amount required for a national calamity
Or a natural disaster?
Isn’t it okay if laundered shirts are un-ironed
And I carry some unwanted holiday fat
Or gorge myself silly on cake with my girlfriends?

Why stop just there, then?
Why should it matter what I think or feel
When all the world wants is to pop their eyes out and see
It’s all about keeping up appearances anyway
Flash a smile, or your body
It’s just about the same thing because someone will come along either way
Your mind doesn’t matter, nor your soul
Just the constant, ever-glowing youthfulness
That induces women to go to lengths they wouldn’t dream of
For thirty seconds in the smoky haze under the spotlight
Until the next twenty-something comes along
And all the men look that way instead.

The Only Voices- Stories from War


When the dust cleared all the cities- Warsaw, Lodz, Cracow- had stories to share. Stories that pitted against their counterparts today reek of a hopelessness and horror, an emptiness and a stillness which makes it hard for you to believe that they’re real. Like Westeros’s medieval cruelty wonderland, the world that emerges from the fragments of stories that have poured out of the Germany-occupied-Poland of the early 1940s, it is hard to believe that such a whimsical, fickle world could ever have existed.

But the reality is stickier and messier because through the din, the only voices that ultimately reach us are those of the people who made it through. Not in one piece, because nobody could have survived the horrors of Schutzstaffel in one piece. Perhaps the reason Nazi Germany continues to be so fascinating, so terribly despondent and so inductive of faithlessness is that the horrors t beheld will never disperse or trickle to a mere stream. All of it just creates vivid impressions, images which are harder to erase even if all you know of them is through books and movies of recollections and the capabilities of a mind to create fiction out of half-known facts. Think then, of the people who ultimately beheld within their sight the scenes that make us shudder through the invisible wall of speculative imagination and fact-scourging. Think of the million and one things buried in the buzz of fleeting chaos as normalcy was slowly restored. Who do you turn to when the past comes knocking? Think of the possessions lost-  trinkets and heirlooms and movie stubs and pretty dresses and cosmetics and utensils and scrapbooks and toolboxes and  all the rest of it. Think of the half-roasted men and women, naked, shorn like sheep and marked not just on the outside with scabies but on the inside in ways that a good scrub cannot remove. Think of the children beholding scenes even adults cannot absorb without a rush of bile, of executions committed at the drop of a hat, of being thought of as a half-human, unfit for life and thus relegated to the slave bunkers from which survival would be a question of just ‘how long’? And most of all think of the walk of death all the way to an extermination chamber- a part of the Final Solution.

But the discourse adopted was so slow in revealing its absoluteness that it seems scary to look back now and think of how systematic it all was. And how horrifying. Here’s how it all went:

1) First there were the edicts banning Jews from enterprises, from certain areas and businesses. Starting as a subtle wave through the dark stillness of the storm yet to come, these orders were issued discretely- sometimes more outrageously but mostly in a subdued manner, and marked with a series of uprooting exercises that made people talk in hush-hush tones beneath the canopy of disaster but not yet strong enough to cause more than the occasional flare of panic before sensibilities flicked aside stories as rumors too fantastic to actually take place.

2) The slow cut-off was followed by the first raids and round-ups where people were asked, kindly to vacate their apartments within the minute. Left shivering to themselves, shriveled old men and women and children crying in their mother’s arms or separated- for there was no respite and all precious things were too be given up- jewelry, expensive silverware, gold, fur-coats, gilded watches. Nothing was impossible and complaints felt on deaf ears or on ears which turned make and slashed at you instead, forcing you to retreat. There were louder, more ostentatious attacks, buried hastily under the rug of complacency and fear.

3) With the growing war and distance, came the growling edicts and blaring announcements of ghettos where all Jewish people were supposed to report. Living quarters were cramped but properties had to be forfeited though anything you could carry off on your barrows and walk through the jeering crowds, could come. While on the inside, poorly constructed housing was established and privacy dismantled piece-by-piece, on the outside hate propaganda grew. As the ghetto gates closed, only labour and other skilled workers who were necessary to the war-effort were allowed to commute through. There was a lack of regard of any sort on the inside and the things that make life bearable were shut down, one after the other.

4) Then came the Kennkartes- identification issued to each Jew. If yours had a blue sticker on it, you were considered as safe and needed but everyone else was starting to get herded like cattle onto trailers going off to some distant place. There were rumors of places where mass-murders were executed and people didn’t return but there were official reassurances. Mark your luggage well, it will be sent on behind you. But the lies rang fuller because auditing and weighing was carried on in secret- rings and bracelets and clothes and even gold teeth still stained red were deposited to be auctioned off. Food inside the ghettos was scarce and existence barely sustainable but beyond lay a world of foggy concentration camps where things were worse.

5) Imagine the roll call because when they came to collect you at any time of the day or night, they flushed through the ghettos looking for potential victims. You were either of immediate use to them or you weren’t of any. Either way, there wasn’t much hope for survival because the flushing out was done without the least damnation about whether or not someone stumbled and fell, witnessed or withdrew. Dogs tore flesh and genitalia and breasts and pulled infants from their mothers and limbs until they broke off. The constant and gnawing fear of ‘you’re next’ was hard but perhaps it was worse to see your neighbours, childhood friends, parents, children, schoolmates, aunts and uncles shipped off into the unknown- to Auschwitz, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor, Treblinka.

6) And finally the emptiness would sting and if you were left behind, you were blessed but not really. There was work to be done and nothing would yet guarantee your survival through the harsh winter. If salvation was coming, it was never fast enough. And in the extermination chambers, people were asked to shed all their clothes and step into the light, following which they were pushed into mass, unmarked graves. Countless unidentified human beings with feelings and memories perished for the maniacal plans of individuals who bloated themselves into believing some false, half-concocted tale of Aryan superiority and here I am today, in 2014, unable to get these stories out of my head or lose the feeling that this world can never have a sense of justice whilst people perish, their stories abandoned, their truths untold, their existence turned into a betrayal.

 

Source: Mostly Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally. Review coming soon.

Also Wikipedia.