Sunday, September 25, 2005

Tagged II

“No… you can’t…”
“I must, Charlie.”

Lizzie gathered up the baggage and one potted plant that were the last five years. Life must now be elsewhere.

In mere minutes, she left, ignoring the pleas and tears of both their hearts that were strangling her resolve.

Leaning against the door, Lizzie whispered, “Goodbye, Charlotte, my love.”


This tag first began with Words Worth, who I believe, was merely getting back at me for a tag I passed on to her. The same meme was then passed onto me by Geetanjali yesterday. This seemed to me a reminder of my shameful dereliction of duty and so I sat down and tried my hand at a story in 55 words.

Before that, I'd like you to know that for a woman whose friends call her Wax, this was not an easy task. Sweet Christ, my introduction to this tag is now 93 words and counting!

However, I'd also like you to know just how much I enjoyed this tag. The distilling of expression is something I often forget about and sometimes outright fail to do. And lose so much meaning in the bargain. Much like writing a haiku, I believe this was. I know I am going to work on some stories and haikus later. But till then, I shall hope that I have done a decent job with this one.

And yes, this tag goes out to:
All you have to do is write a story in 55 words. Whats, whys, whens, hows of the story - your call altogether. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Maelstrom in the Mind

She was standing at the bay window in the study, watching the sky. All of a sudden, the colours changed from a nuanced, still blue to a raging, roiling slate, and a low, rumbling discontent sounded across the drum of the horizon.

The thickening shadows in the room needed some light. The small candle nestled in the window pushed through into yellow warmth as she slipped away. Slipped away into a blue-purple-white dream of nothingness.

Everything's a gentle, blue haze, shaded and stark... It is a peaceful place, this one... That's curious... shaded and stark! My pen needs refilling... As does the refrigerator... Let us go then, you and I, Where the evening is... Why should I cry for you... Something stirs, in the east, everywhere... What was that?

The real world is reeling me in like a marlin in the death throes of its defence.

As she crosses into the living room, a faint hammering rises louder and louder on the roof. Inside the room, he was sitting at the table, under the light of a cane lamp hanging by a finespun weaving of blue-green threads. He seemed like he was both working and irate.

Peculiar, familiar interdependencies... but then he's a peculiar, familiar sort of person.

"It's raining again." he said, a sigh in his voice.

"What of the movie?" she asked, resignation in hers.

A new whisper unfolds through me, sits up and streches its arms and takes breath. Looks around at everything. At the unaccountability of checks and balances that is my life.

"You cannot possibly want to go out in the rain. I won't get parking, the traffic will be crazy, and you don't have to drive. I do."

The indignation emanating from him was magnificent. Nothing short of it. She replied, "Yes, I suppose so. It does seem like too much effort."

It watches me breathe, as if to remind me not to forget how to.

He looked at her suspiciously then. Very suspiciously. After a moment, he started to speak, changed his mind and bent his head once more. She kept looking at him though.

The time is nigh to put together these scraps of wholeness and be unbound... from me.

She moved to the window, and while settling into the armchair with the rain and the book she was reading, she said, "No, don't worry; I am not mocking you. I think... I understand."

He looked up at her. And although he looked straight at her, it was sideways; a look you could call doubtful and distrusting. She didn't see but felt it instead. She smiled sweetly at her reflection.

Seek and ye shall find.

Her feet lowered gently to the ground. Her smile only rose as she picked up her anorak and slipped on her sandals. But he didn't register anything until the latch clicked open.

"Are you going home? The rain's still heavy; you could spend the night here."


"Where then...? NO! No and NO! In this rain? You have to be mad!"

"Did I ask you to come with me?"

I need no one else to appreciate this moment but me.

The door shut behind her. His confusion followed her from the house, like a cabbie dogging a potential fare. When she turned the corner onto the main road, she could still see him staring after her, wondering and questioning if this was, in truth, her.

The roads are indeed terrible and the traffic crazy. He was right. Maybe I am crazy... but maybe not...

And so it continued for the twenty minutes the theater took to arrive. The ticket line was serpentine enough to convince her that there were some others plucky (or foolish) enough to venture out. The line also seemed to take an interminably long time to move.

My first movie alone. No monster under my seat, drooling or otherwise. Sweet Jesus... the missed movies...

Her turn was suddenly up. She asked for "one ticket, back row, near the aisle, please."

"I trust you enjoyed the cab ride." His voice was dry... and unmistakably proud.

He looked far more wet than she did. There was a stub in his hand for a spot in the private parking lot around the corner. It would cost him twenty bucks an hour and this was a three hour film.

She turned back to the booking attendant and said, "Two tickets, back row, near the aisle, please."

After he bought popcorn (since she bought tickets), he looked her in the eye and said, "Thank God, you're not my girlfriend. You're not my headache." He smiled sweetly, almost falsely.


The strangest déjà vu... I have said this somewhere else to someone else in some other lifetime.

I must mention S, soul sister. With my thanks for the "scraps of wholeness." I
must also mention both the elder sibling and the reviewer. Thanks for your patience.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Muse Returns...?

I, Bag Lady

She is a bag lady,

rummaging among Garbage
For an unsullied memory.
There is nothing here.
nothing left to save... or hide.
It is time.
time now to find another blind alley.

Like a circle in a square...
there is no exit.

In the abrupt silences of her dead laughter,
I vow....
NEVER to be her.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Invictus, Literature and Neil French

My brother, a thorough advertising man, introduced to me the pleasures of the mind of Neil French. He said I would learn about a writing style completely different from my own. He was right.

Fascinating man, Neil French. According to Ihaveanidea, French has been a "
rent collector, account executive, advertising manager, waiter, singer, matador, beach-bum, pornographer, bouncer, debt-collector, concert promoter, nightclub owner, Judas Priests' rock-band manager, copywriter, art-director, creative director, film director, actor, television station owner, Worldwide Creative Director of Ogilvy and most recently, Godfather and Worldwide Creative Director of WPP."

I am overawed by the range of his experience. This is a guy you want to sit down and get bloody hammered with! But to get to the point, French is engaging and funny. And a thumping good writer! I would seriously recommend (if not outright insist on!) exploring his website.

The ad campaign closest to French's heart is the Union Bank of Switzerland campaign. And after having seen all the films, I can see why. To emphasize the base line of the campaign, Here Today. Here Tomorrow, famous (and outstanding!) actors read timeless pieces of literature that make your soul ache like only great literature can.

While exploring the films, I was introduced to this poem of William Ernest Henly called Invictus. It touched something truly deep within me and I should like very much to share it with you.


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole.
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Beneath the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody but unbowed.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the goal.
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

Please see Alan Bates read it. The download is about 2 MB and is called The Master of my Fate. In my opinion, this truly will be worth your time. And this is not the only one you should view. Check out all if you have the time but my recommendations are:
  • Alan Bates - The Road Less Travelled
  • Sir John Geilgud: Ulysses
  • Dame Maggie Smith: Discern
  • Dame Maggie Smith: Bag of Tools
  • Ben Kingsley: Ozymandias
  • Sir Paul Schofield: The Ballad of East and West
  • Sir Paul Schofield: The Sands of Time
  • Ying Ruo Cheng: Desiderata
  • Harvey Kietel: If
  • Harvey Kietel: The Man who Thinks He Can
You may not agree with this use of literature or even see the connection between the ad and the product. But for everyone who appreciates a piece of beauty well-read and articulated, these are a must see. I didn't really see the point at first but now... I think this is a fantastic campiagn and French has got some great performances from his actors. Do also read Neil French's note on each actor - very well written.

I look forward to hearing what you thought.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Serial Sunset

For the first time in twenty-three train journeys to Hyderabad, I realised just how much we tend to take beauty for granted. I stepped out to the door of the coach and stayed there for two hours.

These are my attempts to record the progress of the sunset, my favourite time of day. However, I do not think that I could express my endeavour quite as well Borges does:

Music, states of happiness, mythology, faces belabored by time, certain twilights and certain places try to tell us something, or have said something we should not have missed, or are about to say something; this imminence of a revelation which does not occur is, perhaps, the aesthetic phenomenon.

-- Jorge Luis Borges, from the essay "The Wall and the Books"






The last image would have been much more beautiful had my camera been able to maintain both sport and night modes at the same time! Oh well! :-)

Friday, September 02, 2005

En Route

This is something I must share with you, especially those of you who are planning to travel.

When travelling alone, never, but never carry Ogden Nash with you. The night before I left for Hyderabad, I came home past 3 a.m., posted about Nash post haste. Six hours later, I had slept (for what seems a nanosecond), packed, and then hared off to catch my train. While leaving I figured that after two miserable workdays and no sleep, I deserved some more Nash and picked up my Candy is Dandy.

And so it came to be that Nash and I boarded the train. We didn’t say very much for the first few hours, till about three in the afternoon. You see, I find it difficult to be coherent in slumber. Around three thirty, feeling more awake, I settled myself down to a long, relaxing read.

Unspeakably daft idea from the second I thought it. Nash is not one for light, delicate laughter – the sort you’d come across at a society do, yes? Nash brings forth a rich, deep laugh that bubbles from somewhere in your toes and by the time it has articulated itself from your throat, the world resonates with it.

While this is wonderful when you have your own space, in a train compartment full of my brethren (alright, alright, I’ll admit it – I am Gujarati) – is not the most intelligent idea going. Why being part of the Gujarati community is an embarrassment is going to make little or no sense to those not from India, so I’ll give you a brief bio.

You see, we’re mostly a business community from the western coast of India, with little or no sense of the fine, subtle or the beautiful in this world. This is not to say that we don’t have an immensely rich tradition of literature or no culture at all – oh we do! Though going by most Gujaratis now, how both literary and cultural traditions have either flourished or been appreciated is an utter mystery to me!

It seems a point of note that in the twenty-three trains journeys to Hyderabad in the past four years, I have never, ever, NOT met my brethren. I have also never been spared either being hit on or a lecture about how I am not a “good Gujarati girl” or whatever that means! Enough, I think because now I digress.

So there I was, laughing my unmentionables off and there they were, staring and gawping like I was Zaphod Beeblebrox! I tried, and mighty unsuccessfully I might add, to tone it down; to be a good Gujarati girl. I promise you, I tried. Finally, about one hundred minutes of laughter later, a meek voice from a corner of the compartment asked me what was so hilarious.

I must admit I was struck speechless because the question was asked in Gujarati and I had no way of answering lucidly. I still have not been able to understand why he thought I would understand Gujarati and I don’t like to think of the answers. All the same, I proffered the book to the man of the question, which he gingerly accepted – like he expected it to bite him. Mean of me perhaps but his reaction was almost as amusing as Nash. It was all I could do to hide another guffaw.

I think he spent about fifteen minutes examining and looking through the book. He even asked me a few questions about Nash – who he was, where he came from, if he wrote short stories and why this nonsense and not other writers who make more sense. I answered his questions with as much clarity as I could. However, He still looked incredibly confused about the whole thing and especially my most unseemly hilarity.

Was there a point in explaining this, elucidating and holding forth on the subtleties of Nash? No? Well, I thought you would see it my way. I shook my head and with a sigh, I closed Candy is Dandy, grabbed my camera and headed out to the door of the coach.

Good decision, that one. I got some shots I like – some shots that give me hope for my photography obsession. Those are up next. :-)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Beginning to Sort Through

I must excuse myself for being AWOL like this. I spent last week in my other home city, Hyderabad. And as it has been for four years now, I did not merely travel the 736 kilometres to Hyderabad. To say anything further along these lines would be trite and unnecessary and hence, I will begin to get to the point. :-)

The last time I left, I came back to Bombay and started E Vestigio. I thought going back would either reinforce what I had experienced the last time or prove me wrong altogether.

Neither one of these happened. And I am still not sure what happened precisely.

I know that this was an important trip. I recognize that I made my peace with some matters and picked up new fights with others; that there are things that died and were buried in the backyard of my soul; I know that I gained some new perspectives (though nothing earth shattering, I am afraid!) about people - who they are, where they come from, and why they treat one in certain ways. I also found out that consistent behaviour, especially of the good sort, is singularly lacking in most people, including myself.

But this isn't all I learned. Along with some other curious revelations about myself—the subject of subsequent posts, I believe—I discovered that in some matters, I am now able to commute from experience to expression quicker and with far more objectivity than usual.

I cannot seem to make sense of this discovery – though a plausible answer would be welcome – because I do not know which direction to work in. I cannot even seem to gauge if this has affected me for the better. And as usual, I may well be making a mountain of a miniscule molehill. For now, I am content with accepting this as a natural progression of the way of things are… whatever things may be.

I feel like these photographs. They are of a lake ahead of a town called Dhaund in southern Maharashtra. Weeds and other plants that live in water are bursting out and it is twilight. With the heavy rain we've had in the state, this erstwhile "pretty ditch" would have become a ripe photo op, had the train decided to be nice and wait while I took some pictures! Hence, you're not quite sure what is happening in the photograph, why there seem to be superimposed ghost images. Or you're not quite sure if you think the images are plain ugly.

Well, welcome to my mind right now! I do hope you enjoy the mess.