The first time I opened my eyes
And  you were standing there
I saw a mirror whisper back
A face of scarlet fear

I didn’t know that one hello
Would strike me like a sword
And strings of silvery emotions
Would stir a lovely chord

And I knew I would forget you
In the haze of buzzing life
As the world was flaming, tearing through
My stomach like a knife

The men I saw, songs I sang
Echoed on the brink of night
Like twinkling stars, the stories I heard
Just lent a little warm light

The taste of coppery blood in my mouth
And I forgot why I was stranded here
A wave of pulsating memories gone
And it was hard to shed a single tear

On the crest of a new day
I met you in a dream
There was a vague anticipation emptying from the sky
And like a winter river I froze, prepared to say goodbye

The summer sun shines down upon
This flat and long city again
And somehow as my skin turns brown
I simply stock away the pain

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

“Little solace comes
to those who grieve
when thoughts keep drifting
as walls keep shifting
and this great blue world of ours
seems a house of leaves

moments before the wind.”

By far one of the oddest books I’ve read, House of Leaves was full of stories wrapped within one another. It transformed from horror to thriller to romance to drama with astonishing speed- growing, diminishing and distorting itself. Its text was unusually placed- a fact that sometimes annoyed me, sometimes made me indignant about all that lost paper. But then, when pages upon pages of text at one point required me to spin the book in all directions, I realized how ingenious the book was at that point; by making me turn it all around, it made me unsure about which way was UP, to begin with. And that aligned perfectly with its purpose.

House of Leaves began by giving me two sleepless nights. As I delved into the initial pages, a growing horror began to fill me. This is the story of a couple who, along with their two children, move into a house that expands from the inside, told through the analysis of a film that does not seem to exist, written by a blind man who would not be able to watch it even if it did, edited by another man who is fighting strong demons inside his own head.

I spent most of the book contemplating the story of the Navidsons- the couple in the house. They begin by measuring a small anomaly, that seems fixable: the difference of one-fourth of an inch in the measurements of their house taken from the inside and the outside. But soon the house has expanded into corridors and hallways on the inside, followed by winding staircases, rooms and even more hallways and corridors. The catch is that these insides absorb everything that is fed into them. Devoid of light and completely unconquerable by any object, animate or inanimate.And permeated by the ever-present deep growl running through its length and breadth.

It is strange how frightening the absence of everything really can be. We long for peace and love and freedom from tumult but the alternative is so much more frightening. Having to live monotonously with the guarantee of tomorrow cannot be a tempting prospect. The horror of House of Leaves lies in that. The endlessness of the corridors in Navidson’s house is compounded by the absolute lack of an objective or any sort of…conclusion.There was nothing to attach identity to. Not the way we humans have a tendency to lend personality to everything we see around us. The closure we seek through life’s constant struggles proves our need to be delivered from anarchy, our need to find order in the chaos and ignore everything that does not point to a culmination.  And that was the reality of this book, the very fact that made me feel temporarily disoriented, caught up within layers of my own thoughts and squeezed until I was unsure of everything, including myself.

And yet, a comical element overtook my fear when men with ropes descended into the growing darkness of the house. It was then that my fear finally dissipated and I progressed with the book more naturally, judging its flaws and absorbing its essence.

After a while I began to see how House of Leaves was just another book, open to my interpretations. The alleged writers- whether it was the blind old man or the troubled young one were dicey. One was plagued by his need to sound academic and officious whilst he quoted sources that did not exist and documented items picked up randomly. The other was haunted by a childhood brutally seized and a heredity illness coursing through his veins. These authors through whose eyes we saw the Navidsons, were ill-equipped to lay bare the whole truth. And that added another layer of uncertainty to the story.

As the story progressed, however, the comical angles lost themselves in its folds once again. There was a perversity in this book that halted my progress. I was forced to give it up for a while. I was rooting for Navidson as he traversed endless hallways with his diminishing resources. Did he take the blank identity of the house into himself or did the house adopt his blackness to create hollow spaces? And when his flickering flame finally dies, having eaten up everything he had, I hoped that was the end. But he emerged and persisted, which perhaps, means something of hope for humanity. But it was finally towards the end that I saw how this book’s heart did lie in a love story, because above and beyond the standard plot was the story of how a woman’s love refused to let her draw away into safety and a man’s love brought him out of the folds of adventure, allowing him to embrace the monotony of life, even if it came at a prize.

But some of the nuggets of the story lie at the very end. If you break through the collection of poems (which are quite interesting, by the way), one of the appendices will leave you with a bunch of letters written from a slowly spiraling mother to her son, whom she longs to hold and love and be with. Yet her insanity drives her further away from him, she sees his beauty adrift in a world of horror. As she gasps for air, clutches at straws and tries to make sense of things that make no sense, she recalls her attempts to put an end to the life she once beget, just because the horrors of life seem too much for her to let him face. And once you turn those last pages, your heart is left with a sense of despondency. The essence of those letters are still echoing inside me

The horror of House of Leaves will only stay with you as long as you let it. This is the sort of horror that scares me the most: nameless and faceless, fighting void is the hardest thing to do because there is nothing solid for your hands to close against and squeeze.


I want to grow cities and birds
And art and music
And rumbling thunder
And tumbling boulders

I want to raise citadels on mountaintops
And topsy-turvy rattling windows
On tiny walls
Where ivy and centipedes crawl across

I want to build towers
Watch sunrises from their isolated heights
I want to make the world
Like putty for a child

I want to make something
Out of nothing
And watch possibilities yawn open

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

I’ve read a number of books this year, but I haven’t been tempted into reviewing any of them as much as I have The Golden Notebook. The reason, I believe, is that this book has been driving me crazy for the past week- and that is how long it took me to slowly process it in its entirety. I am still so sure I did not get it but if somebody were to order me to read it again, I would perceive that as a nightmare.

And the reason I am saying this, is not because the book is not good enough to read- once, that is. There are a lot of different layers to it and as Doris Lessing says in her preface, when she receives letters from readers they each interpret the theme differently- some talk about the bitter relationship between men and women the world over, others mention the communism along with its good and bad and still others discern the pattern of slowly spiraling madness. She argues how we narrow down our interpretation of a piece we read- as both, readers and writers, we have a certain idea of what we are looking at when we behold a creation and we understand it best as something structured, with a theme running through it.

It is possible to recognize now, how this book tries to defy that structure- it is neither here, nor there but a collection of bits and pieces that come together to make something readable. How to draw conclusions from this mess is left to the imagination of the reader. The pattern of this book (and I only went back to the preface after I was done with the entire story) is in the form of a novella which is scattered through segments. You can easily read this novella, skipping the diaries in between and know what Anna’s life story is supposed to be. But between each bit of the novella, lies fragments of Anna’s life, told through her diaries. She has color-coded these diaries, perhaps in order to find some pattern in her drifting life. She maintains different colors to talk about different things- politics, writing, emotions and day-to-day occurrences. I think, like most of us, she is trying really hard to give order to the chaos.

And so she writes about the years of the second world war, which she spent in Central Africa as a budding white communist trying to fight the injustices of slavery by clinging to the idealism of a passionate political ideology. These were the parts I enjoyed the most. The description of a group of young white people in a world which is not entirely their own, struggling to work on the fringes. There is a beautiful laziness in this part of Anna’s diaries and I find myself caught up in the humid, bug-infested climate of Anna’s past.

When she writes about her writing, she creates another character- Ella, and delves into her story. To a great extent, Ella is like Anna, the protagonist. And this connection makes it easier, at first, to go into the fiction within fiction- Ella’s world runs parallel to Anna’s and her love life, which is the center of that plot, reflects five years from Anna’s own life.

But as you read deeper, the pieces start mixing up and when you are left with the last fifty pages, everything is so befuddling, you start to feel as though the book has crawled under your own skin. If this was its purpose, it succeeded with flying colors. The words are so crowded together that every time I put the book away and attempted to sleep, I found words and plots floating in my head- things that had nothing to do with the book or with me, but were entirely new ideas, most of which flitted past like they already do. But this was driving me crazy, more so than it was Anna, and for that reason, I was so glad when I turned the last page of the book and sighed with relief.

Doris’s writing style was a little crammed- words were nearly toppling over one another. I felt as though the publisher either wanted to save all the paper they could and so instructed her to put words as close together as they could go, or that she decided that since she wanted to defy the pattern of the conventional novel, this cramming was the best way to assist her readers in spotting the patterns. Whichever it was, the book gave me an eyesore.

At numerous places I found myself thinking, ‘Who talks like that?’, about Anna and a dozen other characters in the narrative. It is easy to let images form in your head when you’re reading descriptions, but for The Golden Notebook, every image I conjured seemed to give me a headache, imagined or otherwise.

There are gems of words and thoughts hidden within the folds of the endless paragraphs of this book. Reading the synopsis of The Golden Notebook is so tempting, one cannot wait to get one’s hands on the original. But if you really let the book get to you, and by that I mean, that you read every word and wait for it to sink in, you cannot come out of it without at least an angry gash across your soul.

So I would recommend reading this book at your own peril. I know that any reader is likely to hate or love this book. Or perhaps, like me you’d find yourself hating a book that taught you quite a lot, made you go, ‘oh how well she has understood everything I am likely to feel at that age’, when you read the bitter woman saga and filled you with a despondency that seems to have no basis whatsoever.


Re-addressed Letters

The artist writes out of an incapacity to live.

Dear K.,

To live, to love, to be. It is all the same. The ordinary mortal realizes that he is imprisoned in the walls created by the society he lives in. Every day, we see it in a thousand little things around us. How incompetent even the most well-aware among us really are, at spotting the signs that sing, oh you are entrapped by the time you live in, dear! You cannot run away because there is nothing to run away to! If not this, then what? If not now, then when? Perhaps this really is the best time to live but you can never be sure.

Time means different things to different people. For a person unencumbered by the urge to spot the cracks in her life, every settling autumn leaf is just another layer on the golden carpet beneath her feet. For me, it is one of a million signs of death and decay. Fortunately, I am living in the age of self-expression, self-love, self-devotion. Anything else would have been unbearable to me. Or at least, that is what I think. It is quite possible for someone like me to have existed a hundred years or so ago, with the docility of a housewife who was told in much stronger terms, that she is to stick to the kitchen and to children. And perhaps to aesthetic pleasures like clothes and jewellery and house-decorating. I would have been content with my lot, giving to art what art gives to me. Or perhaps, my inherent sprinkling of doomsday prophesying would have found other means of expression. That might not have been too hard during the great wars.

Anyhow, my point right now is that the passivity with which I traverse the streets of the world (and did not even recognize until very recently) could easily be a product of the strong pull literature and art and everything shrouded in enigma has on me. Or it could quite as easily be vice versa.

I am here, in a warp- in a room, in an anomaly. Living a dozen lives every day. Asking myself, how on earth will i distinguish myself from the mass of individuals once I step outside? I cannot define ‘me’ or seek self-interests without the most painful of efforts. This ability to fuse into the life that exists around me is a curse and a boon. I can feel those who try to be my bitterest enemies with the simplicity of a child. And I can let myself be destroyed by the pleasures sought by such an individual because I would not know what ‘I’ stands for and how I’m supposed to protect it.

From these dull realizations, I must turn to the thought that led me to this letter. Perhaps I do not have the capacity to live. How strange would that be, after twenty-three years of existence, to find my biggest fear right inside me! I have the capacity to write and to counter my fear and justify the space I take up on this planet through the written word. And yet, ominously I feel as though my hands are tied. The stories that gushed out of me during my teenage years were crushed.

I fear to create a setting because I cannot fully grasp the truths that intrigue me. And other stories fall flat before they can even lift off, made flaccid by the question: am I putting too much of myself out there? Is it worth it?

To call myself an admirer of art, a harbinger of unworldly emotions, is not too far a stretch of the imagination. If I am not a brooding figure, frozen into ice and thawed back again every single day, I do not know what I am. And it isn’t hard to see this, it takes just a little bending and twisting. Or maybe not even that. I perceive the universe from the center that is me and I am unapologetic about it in the dark. In front of other people, the whole farce falls to the ground.

And with these complications, I somehow watch the sun rise and fall everyday, wondering, how much more to go and why?



Dear K.,

Every time I behold something I admire that was created by someone else, I burn with envy. Why is it that this person who cannot really be that much different than I am, created something that makes me sob, love, worship it? And why am I not capable of putting the same energy into my own creations? Why does everything I make feel like a cheap imitation of an original that is locked up in some corner of my head or open to the world through the head of someone far more talented than I can ever hope to be?

Genius fades, if not supplemented by hard work. My genius is this flickering desire to write and that is it. I would question the origin of this genius if I did not know that I inherited it from my ancestors. Otherwise, I would tell myself it was a result of thousands of story books I was read as a child. Or years of convent education pounding Wren and Martin into me. Or the Enid Blytons and J.K. Rowlings of the world. Or the way I stepped into the world of good fiction and began to find my way through it, guided by a store of good literature. I know it isn’t just that. I know there is, inside of me, something more.

Something more. But I will not acknowledge it because I am such a coward, running from everything I should embrace. The most I understand about myself now, is that my happiness is directed by a brain trying too hard to keep suppressed memories locked away. And any attempts to open these locks will result in a splash of darkness I cannot partake. There is enough that comes from outside, seeping through the unguarded parts of my brain and gripping me until, like a good sentinel, my brain pries it away and I am back where I started.

Back where I started and entirely clueless about what is going on inside me. How can I hope to explore the depths of my artistic side if I cannot even face the demons of my own heart? There is no light in the world of art, only a pulsating glow to warm you, lest you should freeze completely, trying to embrace the ambiguity of life.



Dear K.,

A series of letters these are, for I realized I haven’t written to you like this in ages. What is this, then? A revival of the past or just a temporary comforter? I am hoping this would be a monologue explaining, at least to me, what it is that is blocking my path from that connection between reality and illusion that I found so much easier to cross in and out of before.

Something snapped inside me a few days ago. For the first time, I was clouded by the realization that hit all humans at some point in their life: what if I am unable to reach even one of the things I want to before I die? And these tall ambitions mean to include a lifetime of writing, some of it revealing in magnitude, a bucketful of experiences and some other passionate achievements.

I have heard how ideal youth is. How idle too, indeed! Given to building castles in the air and then living within them. Given to bursts of emotions before it realizes how the whole world has been fooling it, beginning with its own loved ones! Youth is nothing but a beautiful illusion. I creep in and out of its blanket. Sometimes I find myself armed with the maturity of a fifty-year old woman and then, within seconds, I am a young girl again, hoping to be everything and nothing at the same time.

But what I do need, above everything else, is independence. I cannot let the fifty-year old woman inside me win just yet. I know, someday she will take over me. And in sober grey sweaters and dulling olive suits, she will declare the world a laden wasteland and herself a beaten slave to it, seeking nothing but the happiness her children (or SOME children) deserve, just for being young. But she cannot win yet! There is too much to see and do before I declare myself beaten. There is too much to save. There is too much to know.

I am more afraid of mistakes, I know, than most people. Perhaps it is the fifty-year old talking. Perhaps it is the bruises I have already nursed or the many people who’ve tried to keep me imprisoned. And that brings me back full circle to the fact that perhaps- I am only capable of living through words. And incapable of anything more concrete than that. I might just learn to live with this fact. Perhaps my stubbornness and childish inability to see the world as anything but a facilitator (causing grief at every step), is meant to fuel this isolation. And so it doesn’t matter. Or it wouldn’t matter, if only people would just let me be!



Dear K.,

Could it never be enough-
The knowledge that I once was,
That like every other being I
Hurled headfirst through the night
And found sweet fruit dangling
And I was tempted into vice

Could it never be enough-
The knowledge that I once was
I built stories out of stars
I stuffed salt into my scars
I left a hole when I persisted
And was opposed when I resisted

Could it never be enough-
The knowledge that I once was
And ties of blood bound me
And my soul sought ecstacy
And when I perished and lay still
Men cried tears of blood above me.