Friday, February 19, 2010

Imagine All The People

Nisha never wrote about people she knew, though the prospect was tempting. There was too much mental baggage associated with them. For one she felt guilty about exposing their innermost thoughts. Conclusively she felt presumptuous in gifting herself the status of mind-reader. Most of all she was plain scared of how her inspirations would react. If they identified their literary counterparts, egos might be bruised. If not, she might doubt the accuracy of her portrayals.

To skirt these bumps, Nisha decided to rely on imagination. Her characters would naturally be based on experience-- nothing is born out of vacuum. But she would never mould any purely according to someone in real life. It was difficult, crafting complexities where memory was forced to take a backseat. Difficult not to get carried away down the familiar streams of character analysis. But she did it-- spinning layers are after layers, interchanging and rearranging them till the final result was always a perfect fit…
And because they were so completely hers, Nisha loved them passionately. Much like a first-time mother who can’t get over the magnitude of her tremendous feat.

Whoever read Nisha’s stories was deeply impressed. Especially by the characters. Readers found them so full of subtleties; yet larger-than-life, dramatic. The general sentiment was-‘Each character is quirky and entirely convincing at the same time. We would gladly lose ourselves in the maze of their mannerisms and secret thoughts.’

So Nisha was hailed as a genius all set to redefine the boundaries of creativity. She was gratified, and revelled in the world moulded by the sheer pulsating force of her whirlwind mind.
But secretly, she ached to see some more honesty flow from her fingertips.

‘You may be a genius, but you don’t have balls’, her soul whispered from time to time. ‘What more do your stories generate than a temporary intoxication? Glamour can do that too. Your readers would be equally taken with a palace-chandelier or a Pashmina shawl.
Convincing and sincere are not the same thing, my little escapist and until you’re sincere you’ll never disturb them.'
That’s what she wanted to do, really. Disturb them. Burst their bubbles with an ugly plop. Stab the cushions she piled around her stories. Reach into the fresh wounds and tear out great hunks of cotton wool- scatter them over the world and watch faces wrinkle up in disgust. No one likes rain that refuses to go pitter-patter on the window pane. But people do have a grudging respect for honesty- a respect she craved.

Did Nisha listen to that voice? No. She didn’t even turn it into a character, in case she was forced to recognize herself.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


At times you’re forced to meet
The hidden voices in your head.
Find out they scare you shitless,
Wish them damned and dead.

Your head is crammed most painfully
With unanswered ‘why’s.
Hot rage is spilling over
Through your nostrils, ears and eyes.

Rage at what? Oh everything!
Yourself, more than the rest.
For losing faith and certainty
In how you’ll stand The Test.

‘There must be some way out of this’
You growl and groan with passion.
There is- a way that’s not just clean
But never out of fashion.

Set out each conflicted thought
In literary streams.
Give every twinge of fear a place,
Don’t cover up with dreams.

Just pen it all down prettily
(There’s brownie points for rhyme.)
Make it sound intense enough.
And you’re absolved of crime!

Isn’t it supremely easy?
Isn’t it a load of fun?
Why do people moan about
How tough it is to Get Things Done?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Prode (An Ode in Prose)

Call it shallow, but the first thing that comes to mind when I think of her is coffee. Coffee, unabashedly hot, brewed in a jiffy by the ever-ready Shiulidi. Coffee, served in glossy solid-colour mugs that left no confusion about their appearance; so you could say ‘I want red!’, or ‘Gimme lime-green!’ without fear of tripping up on patterns. They came in multiple sizes, those mugs and we started out by switching between them. But ever since Rukmini said ‘Shiulidi, aaj amader jonno gaamla gaamla coffee banao’, we’ve been given the largest possible size. A choice which never roused complaints. Extra caffeine, extra energy.

Well, energy was a bonus rather than a necessity. Because our attention was always kept in rein. By the shelf at our side- spines of tenderly wrapped, intensely desirable books lined up to create art. By heaps of answer-scripts all around; gold mines each one, containing ridiculous gaffs by the Other School. Not like we tore them apart. If there’s one thing she’s taught me, it’s an instinctive jerk away from the road to uppity-ness.

And there was more to classes with her, so much more. Stuff that ran deeper than coffee and stirred emotions warmer than humility.

I remember the first time I met her, she asked me if I liked Dickens. I was hmm-ing and errr-ing when she interrupted with ‘See, if at this stage you don’t like Dickens…’
You shouldn’t be studying Elective English I anticipated, cringing.
‘… It’s perfectly understandable. How would you, if you’ve had classics stuffed down your throat when you were young and unprepared?’
And it was love ever since.

I remember the first Class. On Poetry. Then suspicious and uncool. Modern-abstract aantlami or decadently sugarloaded swill. Nevermind that half-my life was spent in laughing hysterically at Roald Dahl’s grizzly rhymes. Nevermind that when I was taught ‘My Last Duchess’ in class 10, I rushed home and read it out to Ma. I didn't even notice the response since I was going ‘ohmygod, OHMYGOD’ inside my head at the sheer subtle power trapped in each line.

What made me think I didn’t like poetry? Whatever it was, She dispelled it in a matter of minutes.

With her, I first realized the music of language. Heard the light trip-trap or the slow, scraping crawl of words across a page.
I learnt to respond to the writer and his work, to be teased and drawn into guessing games, to challenge them right back, to flit between sentences, pause at a break and look around in leisure.

And Rukmini was always there. Rukmini who?
‘One of your classmates will be joining us from next week. But I’ve forgotten her name.’
‘Sriparna? Supurna? Debadrita?..... Priyanka? Anumita? But there’s no one left!’
‘Na na... arre oi meyeta, kokrano chul.’
‘OHHHH. Must be Rukmini.’
‘Yes, that’s the one. She’ll be coming here too.’
‘I see.’
Rukmini, the only girl of my class I forgot to name while ticking off the students who could join us.

Rukmini and me. And She. We were all 3 together on the balcony, going into rhapsodies at a thunderstorm while Ode to a Nightingale waited patiently inside. I can still recall that scene.
The ferns- shuddering masses of darkness. A plastic bag whipped violently from ledge to pole. The swimming pool a glittering lake of chaos. Lamposts reflected in puddles- psychedelic strips of light. Gold never looked as haunting...
The aerial view showed a lot of things at curious angles. And each time there was lightning, amidst the constant flurry of rainspray, the whole landscape looked all the more surreal.

If that day was about silently soaking it in, the greater part was about talking our traps off. Between us, I wonder what topic of conversation was actually left alone. They spanned from Jim Morrison to Narayan Modi, homosexuality to the abysmal condition of the ISC. How trivial we were at times, Rukmini and me, how Intense and Indignant at others. Come to think of it, she was never indulgent. She always made us feel worthy of her respect. HER respect. Which wrenched the maturity out of us.

I can’t even begin to describe how grateful I am to her. I do like myself for who I am now. If I met me, I’d think I was really cool. But I know I have a shitload of flaws and some are positively despicable. Minus her influence, I would be one-tenth of what I am even now. And that’s a scary thought.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

In my next life, I will be an Arabian Princess gorging on dates and kebabs. A new and effective wave of feminism will have swept over the world by then, allowing me to have a harem of men. Though such easy promiscuity is sure to get boring after a while. When it does, the men shall be disbanded. (What a delightful word- dramatic, but official. See, I have royal tendencies already.)

Anyway, relax your ethical antennae. When it comes to my pet camel, loyalty will prevail. What should I call it? Tuglaq, maybe. Or Sandy. Forgive the hopeless lack of originality. In my next life, all that is to be redeemed. Belly dancing, ghazals, urdu poetry- I will nonchalantly juggle these arts. 'With one hand' I'd like to add, but then it wouldn't be juggling. Even exaggeration has its boundaries.

What has no boundaries is imagination. Am I glad for that :P