Ennui


I’m an old soul. I live in the moments between the moments, when life is silently transitioning from one event to the next. In the gaps when the air is quite still, there is no meaning and only a stillness which cannot be translated into anything concrete- that amorphous meaninglessness is the real truth and we only see it when the noise dies down for a few moments. Like when the first gust of wind is done blowing golden-brown autumn leaves to the earth and is waiting for the next wave to add to its carefully constructed piles. And when the psychedelic frames of images that burst in a crowded, loud room subside before the next boom begins to rise like a far-off train gaining momentum. Those undefined moments which can have no meaning assigned to them for humankind, betray what seems to me to be the deepest mystery of our existence- that there is nothing to behold ultimately, but that elusive silence we wish to run away from. Ennui can be our only real state of existence.

And when you ask me what I seek, when I’m done trying to fill the hollowness inside me with all sorts of things- music, books, art, thoughts, experiences and love- I’d still be burning with the same ennui that set me off in the first place. That fire will only die when I do.

Tipsy


Tipsy as the world appears today-
From this cancerous outgrowth upon which
I place myself fully knowing that soon
It will sublimely detach itself from my monotony
And bequeath its ethereal impressions to me
To my tangled affairs and my chaotic passions-
I know I’m not drunk on valor
Nor swimming in an absolute sea
I’m just swirling a hot wine on the tip of my tongue

Tipsy as the world appears today-
When the moon is bulbous, impregnated
With a brainchild stewing, bubbling, frothing
But caught in wispy circles of the uncertain present
Whilst I stand below to catch its sinewy spirit
And shed tears of love upon its bosom-
I know I’m not drugged by destiny
Or being played truant by some divine hand
I’m just my own random sentient being, waiting for the clasp that will release me

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald


There was something strangely appealing about the way this book laid down its groundwork and embarked upon what promised to be a tumultuous portrayal of a unique individual with an unknown obsession. The only problem is that the title of the book is so suggestively ambitious and the foundation so solid, that the rest of the book inspires a mere ‘meh’ from me.

The Great Gatsby claims to be a commentary on the ‘Roaring Twenties’ but other than a few sparkling and gaudy scenes, it falls short on the front. Once you have understood how all the guests that frequent Gatsby’s swinging parties possess false bottoms, there is nothing else to examine in their scanty conversations and their petty gossip about Gatsby’s origins.

The book also claims to be a love story about two damaged individuals who are destroyed by a materialism they could not sustain. As with most else here, you just have to accept this fact at face value. You never see the ingenuity of Gatsby’s vast fortune-amassing schemes or the freshness in Daisy, who is somehow said to have induced in him a passion so ardorous, he created an entire empire of wealth to host her extravagant demands. What was it that held these two together despite five years of separation? What trails did they undergo along their journey? What makes their love a love worthy of the narrator’s attentions?

Coming to the narrator himself, this story is told from the first person view of Nick Carrayway, a detached neighbor. The purpose, I believe, is that Nick’s cynical and objective assessment is meant to give the plot an appearance of beholding a distant phenomenon with an intimacy that an eye-witness can provide. But it fails even there! It is impossible to gauge the slow transformation of Nick’s sympathies from that of impersonal observance to that of hero-worship towards Gatsby. Indeed, there is no substantial reason for his shift because when Nick starts off with his suspicious interpretation of Gatsby’s murderous gaze, you believe him. But when he randomly becomes the vehicle of Gatsby’s deliverance, you’re left in the haze because you’re never told when and why you should like Gatsby.

Coming to Gatsby himself, I couldn’t understand what it is that makes him ‘Great’. I could not help but be as annoyed as Tom Buchanan, every time Gatsby called someone an ‘old sport’. The exposition of his past life is brief and leaves a bitter after-taste of incompleteness in your mouth- right from his explosion on the scene of decadence to the passion that leads him down that path in the first place. Who was Gatsby and why was he who he was? Why did Nick grow into his staunch right-hand-man? What inspired all the gossip and hatred towards him? Why was he damaged by his love and how did it consume him? Why should we believe in him? All unanswered questions.

This book was clearly a disappointment to me. I enjoyed the lucidity of Fitzgerald’s expression and the simple weaving of the plot. But the plot itself felt flimsy to me, the characters constantly fell short of expectation. What could have been a beautiful book capturing the essence of an epoch, came across to me as an exaggerated story about unrelatable characters.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding


What makes this short book such a delightful synopsis of human behavior is the slow unraveling of its characters’ well-thought out and planned systems. Lord of the Flies is a book about a bunch of schoolboys who are stranded on an island without grown-ups. They must fend for themselves until they are rescued. Slowly, they start to assemble their lives around civilized habits but inborn savagery soon starts to take over.

You can only either love this book or hate it. I was so enchanted by it that I finished it in a few hours, unable to let go. I became a part of the coral island which these little children co-inhabited. Having rated this book 5/5 stars, I wonder what rating I would have given it if I had read it as a schoolgirl. Its beauty lies in its simplicity. On the most basic level, it establishes primitive human instincts that we haven’t gotten rid of, despite centuries of well-crafted anthropological systems on which we live. We are afraid of the unknown. We are festooned with the ‘fight or flight’ instinct. Despite all our scientific discoveries, our flair for abstraction, our fascination with the charming unknown, we are scared. We will let our superstitions get the better of us, knowing as we do, that the orange-yellow flames are just a manifestation of combustion and not the wrath of an evil God. Knowing that our feelings of superiority are just nature’s way of helping us survive in a world where the odds are stacked against us. We fight the unknown by deluding ourselves. We pretend that the fantasies we hold are true. We give in to them. We defy what we know is good for us. We are unreasonable with our wrath and frugal with our love. We hold in high esteem the things that seek to bully us into submission, finding it easier to diminish our personal responsibility by piling the blame on another individual who may lead us so that we may blindly follow him, without having to decide for ourselves. We drown the voice of reason in the anger of our blindness, because after years of darkness, the light is unbearable to behold. And at the heart of this book lies The Lord of Flies, that dissent which is embedded within our hearts. We embrace Him because we are stunted and when a solution rises from within us, we grasp it with both hands without understanding.

This book was full of simple allegorical characters. I think every schoolkid should read it, discuss it and understand its implications. It was brilliant.

Most people would easily relate to one or the other character in this book. For me, it was the peace-loving Simon who sees through the vague fog of humanity’s unreasonable beliefs but is powerless to lead others away from it.

PS: So far I am really happy with the books I’ve read this year. It is my resolution to read far more insightful books in 2015 than I did in 2014. The purpose of this exercise is to not waste my limited resources on cheap thrills that do not contribute towards broadening the capacity and thinking-capabilities of my mind but on books that provide some sort of food for thought. It feels good to be doing well so far. Of course, I will occasionally turn to books which are purely entertaining, especially when I am exhausted by feeding my hunger for dystopia, but there too I will try to maintain some semblance of quality by consuming authors such as Ken Follett and Ian Rankin, for example.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo


Les Miserables is, above all, the story of Jean Valjean, who was captured for trying to feed his hungry sister and her children. His imprisonment lasts for varying time durations, as he breaks out again and again until he encounters a bishop who does him a turn so magnanimous, that it causes a complete change in his psyche. From then onward, his story is one of good against bad, where he always chooses self-sacrifice in the face of the safety of one little girl entrusted to his care by her unfortunate mother- for this girl, he becomes the light that protects her from darkness; her savior, her father and more. It is the story of his many conflicting thoughts, his suffering, his constant struggle. Along the way, we grow well-acquainted with many other characters- the young woman Fantine, who spends her whole life trying to provide for her daughter through the deep miseries she bears; Cosette, the little girl whose well-being is central to the plot; Marius, the noble and selfless young man who loves truly and wishes to convert a monarchy into a republic; Thenadier who will unscrupulously fall to any lengths to achieve his aims, Javert, who struggles with questions of authority and is thus unable to reconcile his personal agenda with that of the monarchy he serves; and several others.

There is something about the thickest classics I’ve read- you dust the covers and plunge into a vast, unexplored world. Like walking through wilderness, there is so much overgrowth when you start that you feel small and pale in comparison. But the further in you travel, the more captivated you become by the bits and pieces of beauty you find enclosed within its pages. Reading a classic is usually challenging- it tests your patience. But the rewards you reap are beautiful. Les Miserables is one such book. I started reading slowly, unsure of what I would find. It was so luxurious, richly scripted and well-crafted to the finest detail of its plot, that I was excited about how it would proceed. In addition to that, it painted a great picture of Paris at the epoch in which it is based- the story is mostly set between a ten year period and culminates with the July Revolution of 1832.

There is a lot to digest in Les Miserables. From complex character sketches to great descriptions of places and events to philosophical and political discussions, it paints quite a picture. The plot often takes detours at critical moments in the story, which goes to show how much patience you really need to proceed with this 1400-something pages sage. The imagery is rich. I was constantly lost within the passages of this book. There are many places where I could not help but disagree with Victor Hugo though, mostly about questions of God (for he chose all his terrible characters to be disbelievers of God and all his best ones to be deeply devoted to Him- which was rather linear and reflected his personal beliefs), but that was okay because it was written so long ago. There was a lot I was amused by- such as a long passage in which he ventures to mention ‘virginal’ Cosette’s toilette and then immediately plunges into three paragraphs about how unbecoming it is to disrespect the innocence of  a virgin by even merely drawing attention to it; or the passage where Cosette and Marius are conversing and Marius looks away if her dress lifts even as far as her ankle or if it plunges a little down her neck.

A book that makes you weep proves that it touched your heart. That is why I loved Les Miserables so much. I was crying when Fantine, Gavroche, Eponine, M. Gillenormand or the little Cosette suffered. I was very moved when Jean Valjean suffered. The characters of this story really touched me- Marius, Valjean, Fantine and Gavroche especially. I found the grown-up Cosette a little hard to bear.

Anyway, I know I will cherish this book and I do not regret having spent so much time on it. Definitely a great classic, every bit as brilliant as promised.

The Identity


My montage is incomplete
Without a stroke or two
Of you
You slide in and out of frames
You sometimes whisper in my ear
You perch comfortably on the top of my head
And repeat clandestinely, words I don’t know
Anymore

I smile in a sad, tired way
Fixing the straps of my shirt, fidgeting
For the room to know how deeply misplaced
I am- a fish thrown thrashing on a rocky beach
And they see I’m sitting under a private cloud
With a straight face as the rain splashes onto me

I had to sing until my voice was hoarse
That melody still whirls like autumn leaves around me
Merging into the sounds of my voice
And I don’t hear the words I spill into the universe
Just wonder how they shield me from people
And how I shield myself from you

I hope you don’t see the sad spaces I do
But I really want you to
These stories line whatever it is I am
My identity bloated by extremes
And fizzling under the need to explain
For you, I am different
For me, I am stained

I am a conflagration of conflicts
I am confused about the hole you are nestled in
Deep down inside my rib cage
Criss-crossing angry lines across my chest
Hold you prisoner there against my will
And the only way to release you
Is for me to give way to the flames

Like an archangel you watch the streets
I spit down on that very ground
And the men across the road are amused
I hug your invisible presence too
While it breaks away like burnt paper before me

I’m a writer weeping silently in the quiet night
Strange dreams keep me awake- mixed monsters are my muse
You see the halo around me- I think it died
And you are the carbon from the beautiful flowers we shared
My blackened hands dig deeper for the roots
I want to pull them out and leave them on concrete
And walk away

This Air, That Sky


Tell me why my
Punctured lungs are
Still
Swallowing the desperate air
I’m surprised-
Swollen under the filtered sun
-That they are not charred black

I thought the sky would kill me
At this point between
Pure white bushels of sun-streaked desires
To seek noble things and that
Silent hollow beneath
Filled with echoes from the future;
‘It doesn’t last, it doesn’t last’

But my blue veins tug my
Heart strings
Pumping through with agony, I take
A step closer to that voice-
I know I descend a little more into darkness
Every day
But I must
I would give it all up for a centre of everlasting truth
But there is none
And I float in reasonless space

Torn Wings


Every day the sky seems ordinary blue
People move in and out of artificial domes
The specks of black lie beyond their line of sight
Those birds merely trace arcs from dawn to dusk

Today for once the sky is chocked full of kites
The deep blue lingers behind layers of fast colors and patterns
Massive human mastheads swim across the entire sphere
The street noises drowned under ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’

This wondrous creation linked to the hands of humanity
Draws ever eye to lock gaze with its heavenly path
And down below those creatures of flight
Sketch their instincts on paths long-memorized

Today we will look into the horizon for signs of hope
Tomorrow sweep away the bloodied carcasses under an earthly rug
Today we will sing happily to see the strings string cuts
Tomorrow witness torn wings die with a complacent shrug.

– A poem to commemorate the beauty that this kite-festival is.

Nomadic.


IMG_20150105_184517

I do return

                Some days when
                The moon is bright
                And I am done

Adventure is

               A flickering light
               Extinguished by
               Cold, wet storms

And then
               I’ll leave
Because
               Where do I belong
If not
               In that space
Between stillness and motion?

I was always a nomad. Perhaps I didn’t see it. I stand alone on hope. Hope is beautifully tragic because I have no real cause to have it except a line of now-dead (and some alive) people who tell me how.

Blind


I could have picked up excuses
Dozens of them
Instead I chose the truth
The one that sleeps around my neck
I can’t let people near me without letting them see
Not near enough

They get a little stung too
Which is why they leave
Or I ask them to
I haven’t been deserted in a long, long time
I am deathly scared of snakes
In my dreams I am bitten
Circled around and betrayed

I can’t have people loitering around
The snake is still right here
Sometimes I don’t see her for days on end
And I rejoice
Then I wonder if the slowly spreading poison
Is just making me go blind