Monday, December 26, 2005

The Winter of Our Discontent

December, or perhaps more precisely, winter seems to me the time for melancholy. A time when a peculiarity of the cold forces open an invisible pinhole deep within. When something about the cant of the light, that tepid, raw sunlight of the late afternoon that sinks you deeper into you. When you reach out... for something - anything. The air, getting drier with every breath, crackles with yearning, a longing always only beyond reach and sight. And then you burrow further into yourself and smile.

Winter is a time of wistfulness, of discontent. It brings forward the shortcomings of the past and makes me desire better; more, as it were. My need for something higher is only intensified in the winter but more often than not... the yearning is entirely unidentifiable. I don't know why the soul feels so fragmented or what more it desires. One would think that I dislike this feeling, this disjunction. But somewhere from these random shards emerges a cut, a line... which brings a seeping... spreading... ubiquitous... joy.

(Don't you think joy is much more a happy word than happiness/happy. Something about the way it rolls and trickles into the crevices of your mouth, perhaps.)

There is a loneness, an individuality about the winter which other seasons do not allow you. The monsoon is, in my experience, so much a shared exercise. A game of monopoly, in the dark of a murmuring late afternoon; numberless cups of chai (tea) in smoke circles; walking out in the rain to find that one man selling bhutta (corn on the cob) - and everyone feeling entirely pleased with themselves. But it is only in the winter, in its incisive isolation, that you can truly belong to and indeed, dwell in, yourself. And strangely, its melancholy beseeches understanding but forbids sharing. How do you share something that you don't quite understand?

In a different vein, I also think the melancholy of winter accentuates the appreciation of beauty - in every way definable - and I've always wondered, in the most satisfyingly circular manner: am I truly more vulnerable now or am I merely over-reacting, surrendering to the hyperbole I am usually so inclined to?

There is this lovely, lovely song by a young Algerian singer, Souad Massi, that's been making me feel so deliciously blue. The song is called Deb - which means heart-broken - and is the title track of her second album.

You can find a brief artist profile here and an interesting review of the album here. Should you want to hear the song, you can download it here. Please let me know what you thought - and this means you, all you lurkers who refuse to speak though each post asks you to - indeed you, who I should like very much to get to know. :-)

One last thought. Not mine but Camus'.

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.
—Albert Camus


Anonymous said...

@extempore: "The fragmented soul , from its random shards, brings forth a clear line of seeping, spreading ubiquitous joy." Your descriptions are breathtaking, as usual.

However, every single emotion in this piecce for me identified autumn more than winter. The melancholy, the wistfulness of saying goodbye to bird, leaf and bough, the discontent of life about to fall into shallow sleep, the final attempt of the foliage to cling to vigor but falling in gorgeous color in the raw slant of afternoon light... everything speaks of fall.

Winter is the time here, when one is very glad of a warm jacket and mittens, while the glare of the snow can blind you for a minute, and the wind brings the blood rushing to your cheeks so that you feel like a rosy apple, very glad to be alive and warm and vital while there is the poised lonliness of waiting for life to flow again, for the sap of the trees to being flowing again.

While on Winter, I recommend wholeheartedly to you, Ursula K LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness. It is about a planet called Winter, and the story begins with a description of two people dragging a sledge across the ice, and it is the most lonely thing you'd have read.

Anonymous said...

If Faulkner was alive, he would have sued you over the title

aquamarine said...

Nice post, nice blog. I love winters, especially the first day of winter, when the landscape is bathed in vanilla ice cream! ANd about your quote, it happens to be one of many favourites.
Will chk out the number by the Algerian musician sometime.

Geetanjali said...

Oh you spinner of magic wbe,s your words just made me first real, unforced smile of the day! You write so damn well, I'm jealous ;-) (I can see that call coming...LOL)

You know that quote by Camus? It lies in my phone and ever so often I look at it and seek encouragement from it, but this time it aint successful in warming the cold recesses of my heart. This winter has been brutally cold...

Arjun said...

something touched me deep inside as i read the poised yet willing lonleiness that you commit yourself to in this season.
winter may be a lonely season - but it's what comes before spring - like the summer before rain!!

Aditya Barve said...

Extempore...Lovely, your naming those thoughts and emotions that seeps within one...The beautiful expression in such grand and yet subtle a manner, deserves a thank you, and I do Thank you. Now, here, with a force that I can gather through my words...

I used to feel sometimes that words limit ones thoughts and they cage them and sometimes diminish them...Thank you again for proving me wrong...

_Soulless_ said...

something about the cant of the light, that tepid, raw sunlight of the late afternoon that sinks you deeper into you.

There is a loneness, an individuality about the winter which other seasons do not allow you.

You write prose so masterfully. ^_^ Poetic in some parts, and altogether a breathtaking reading experience. It has been quite some time since I've had the fortune to behold prose that can command my complete attention till the very end.

Thank you.

Have a blessed new year. ^_^

transience said...

amazingly, incredibly said. i am channeling the summer within.

here's to a wonderful year ahead!

Parth said...

Back in play, wish you a happy new year! Interesting classification of seasons. Could it also be that the cold in the air permeates to the cold in the heart?

G said...

Great post, extempore.

Made me think of a Paul Kelly song "Every f***** city"...when he sings:

So I headed North/
until I got to Hamburg/
A chilly city suits a troubled soul


Casablanca said...

How meloncholic, yet how beautiful!

Stormy Zephyr said...

Very beautiful words! Wish you many beautiful moments in lovely winters and summers alike. And you would repay us back with your lilting prose, wont you?

Geetanjali said...

Alright then girl, we want replies to our comments and we want new post!

Casablanca said...

I second Gee! Forget the replies, but atleast a new post? Yes? No?

gd said...

Yes, yes... new post, please. I too am waiting.

Extempore said...

@Isis: Am glad you agree, my dear. I suppose you see this as autumn because Bombay does not have a "real" winter! :-)

@Anon: If Faulkner was alive, I don't think he'd care but Steinbeck, on the other hand, might have. The Bard would need to take it up with him first though -
Now is the winter of our discontent,
Made summer by this son of York.

The opening lines of Richard III. Thanks for dropping by!

@Aquamarine: Thanks very much! Do come by again.

@Geets: Thanks so much for your kind, kind words! You have no idea how glad I am that you got this! *hug*

@Arjun: I am glad, my dear, esp since you know what a real winter's like in Gurgaon! :-)

@Aditya: You do me too much credit, my dear. Thank you so much for such praise!

Soulless: Thank *you* - your poetry has been such a wonderful experience to immerse oneself's in. Thanks for dropping by and pls do come again. :-)

@Trans: With your energy, I can quite imagine just how glorious a summer that would be!

@Parth: Oh certainly, my dear. I hope Redmond was not too cold!

@Gaurav: Yes it does indeed - am glad you liked this one!

@Casablanca: Thanks love!

@Stormy: Thank you, am glad you liked it so! :-)

@Geets: Here, my friend, is your reply and there on the main page is your new post! Your wish, chere, is my command! :-)

@Casa: New post coming right up! :-)

@GD: This is your fault, you've not been pushing me hard enough or not been giving me enough to write! :-P

IdeaSmith said...

I so agree. Is it something about us sunnier souls that the chill puts a literal and figurative damper on our spirits? Personally I love summer best. But I'll give you monsoon if it is your mood. :-)