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Found this picture on tumblr which led to the following post:
Irony of humour with a pinch of sadness, this.
Kind of brings me to the random thoughts floating in the head as the car flew again on the highway today. I think I am particularly in love with the possibilities in the brain esp when on the move, mostly in the dim glow of the nightly travel. Today(night) was no different. As we drove past the others, my head swam to conversation with a cynical friend one afternoon. According to this friend, one doesn’t have to seek value everywhere and with every interaction. Same thing another cynically inclined friend had said to me. I cannot accept the concept. Nada.
As things go in the flurry of life, I had once tried to make peace with it thinking that I need to learn to accept that some interactions just won’t add value to any life which lead to another spin of thoughts. However, trying and testing the fantastically great number of friends / people I have had the fortune to meet in the past 24 years of existence brings me back even more strongly on my belief – every human interaction has the possibility of it being value creating.
One must not understand this view point as foolishly idealistic / optimistic. I do not claim that all these people will be haloed angels showering you with love at all times. They can maybe but, won’t. Some might be outright negative, some might be quietly indifferent, some manipulative! However, point is, having them around has always brought out some good thing or the other in me. Of course, that also depended and continues to depend on whether I’m open to understanding, realising, accepting and learning or no.
I think everything changes with a smile. Even the annoying aunty in the local.
Bed post. Bombay home.
There are small parts of every day that one goes on ignoring, walks part without paying too much attention. In our mad, mad race to always be somewhere, to do something, we forget the small things. The little observations which won’t get you anywhere, which won’t get you a prize but, which would remind you time and again, what it is to be alive.
The other ‘post midnight – before sunrise’ time, which is usually spent reading, writing or simply staring at the ceiling I was waiting for time to go by as my time to get home came closer. Well, not really waiting but, reading was a slightly difficult pursuit that night. I love watching the strange little glowing reflections as well as shadows the lights in my room cast on the wall as they dreamily sway with the fan. While staring at the reflections and reflecting (haha) on things in life, I noticed this bed post. I’ve been staring at it all through the numerous months that I have owned it but, it was only that night that I really looked at it. I termed it as the ‘zonked out man with a curved moustache’.
Last night was a comeback to ‘silly’ little things again with a barefoot walk on cold grass in December.
Point is, I agree when the saner, more practical part of my head tells me to watch where I am going, to always be in the know but, the point here also is to let go at times of the things out of one’s control, to consciously make an effort to just stop running for a bit and just savour each small / big, thing, experience or old / new person in your life.
I sit across from you.
Often wondering to myself,
If you saw me?
You were always with her.
The woman with red lips.
Or was it a gaudy lipstick?
Were you with her
Or were you just friends?
Did those lips paint yours red too?
The red paint
Brought dread in me often.
He used to wear it sometimes.
My father would make me let
Him paint mine red.
How do I tell you this?
How do I come and sit next to you?
How do I tell you to save your pink from her red?
Red has always scared us.
The Great Punjab Hotel, Bombay.
This building is my favourite building so far. I’ve seen the other old ones and the others with rounded corners as well but, this building is just so beautiful that every time I go past it, I cannot take my eyes off it. Mind you, I’m no architecture geek or even an enthusiast but, I think time has made me one. Or rather, incidents have made me one. The thing about history is that traces of it that can be seen live are in the form of buildings, some as beautiful as this one.
In the more modern or Euro-fetishised ways, this building won’t stand a chance at even being compared with those pseudo-Athenian buildings (like the exhibition hall on the same road as this one) but, its more about what they talk about. This building, I think sums up what I love about Bombay and what I know Bombay to be. It is old, decaying and untouched in places and still stands in a glory that is unfathomable. The kind of old that Bombay has spells more starkness, more reality than other monuments or buildings in other cities one has seen before. Old here is real. Its dusty without any need for a refurbishment or any plastering for the eye. Old here exists as it is irrespective of the fact whether the eyes that glance at it are really looking or are just closed.
The picture’s from one Saturday when the entire day was spent walking in town with the heart leaping with joy at the sight of every old building – be it the Fire Temple at the end of the road or the library across and also ignoring the fact that I cross them every single day. I remember spending more than an hour sitting at the bus top right opposite this building. I really do love everything about it – the giant and old (not necessarily decorated) facade, the many balconies with each room, the blue plaster on each balcony, the singular wooden chair in each balcony as if there would never be 2 people sitting there!
The one piece of news that’s making the rounds internationally this morning is the death of Robin Williams. Reading about his death, the only thought that came to me was how well fitting was his death into the cliche – a comedian succumbing to depression – the contradiction innate to human life. For someone, who really doesn’t keep herself updated with news around Hollywood or Bollywood, it came as an utter shock (another typical reaction, I’d like to believe!) that someone with a persona or rather, image like Williams succumbed to depression of all things. Yes, alcoholism and other addictions are common weaknesses (if not vices) of people in such fields but, there is always some sinisterity and mystique built around deaths such as Williams’.
While reading an old interview of his, where he is known to talk more in detail and lucidity about his battles with addiction and depression as opposed to an upcoming film, I came across these lines of his on the American grief industry
“I think people want it. In a weird way, it’s trying to keep hope alive.”
What he points out to is the difficulty and weirdness that comes with mourning in private or experiencing grief in private over a public figure. I believe what he says here, however, doesn’t only apply to public figures in their most literal interpretations. The way with grief is such or has been experienced in such a fashion that tends to dissociate the deceased’s public and private existence – reducing the private side to a glorious myth which then gets transferred to the public.
I cannot speak for others but, I know for one that even the way the Indian society deals with grief is similar to an industry that seeks to ‘mythologise’ the dead. Ignoring all ideas about death and the afterlife or any theories on reincarnation, the Indian way of looking at the mythology of the dead resonates with the proverb of hanging a garland over the picture framed and hung on the wall. That is to say that the grievers tend to make an altogether rosy image of the dead. Not that it is a bad thing, one can always understand it as looking at the glass as half full. However, what I find intriguing is the different attitudes with which people treat or react to different types of death. That is to say, the dead is perceived as it is if they die old and have seemingly lived a full life. If, however, one dies at an age or stage of life which is perceived by the masses as young and (an) unfulfilled (life), There will always be a mystery around relatively young deaths.
What drives people to glorify the dead only of course, after one dies, is seemingly difficult to point out. Is it the prospect of their own death looming someday that scares them or retribution? Or is it the fascination of stories? Who knows!
While some stories are hungrily devoured, not giving the characters a rest nor the plot, there are always those that are meant to be savoured one page, one instance at a time. Memoirs are such. They are meant to be enjoyed gradually, like sipping wine and reveling in the slow warmth that the liquid releases once inside the mouth.
Pamuk’s memoirs in ‘Istanbul’ of his having lived the city, identifying the characters of Istanbul as a collective entity rather than a sum of masses is what is the most striking style of writing. From what I believe, writing comes out best when it comes not from a superficial, pseudo-academic understanding of the subject, it being the city here but, from living the subject. One must note here that I do not, in any way, intend ‘living the subject’ to be a deeply philosophical insight but, merely as the writer’s style to note the simpler facts about the subject as opposed to glorifying the external. For one to write a more honest account like Pamuk’s, I believe one needs the time and openness to experience and immerse oneself in the colours (might be grey!) of the city one wishes to write about. Then, there’s also the fine difference between letting the city naturally, gradually, inundate the writer with its pace on the one hand and the deliberate attempt that many mistake to be natural in order to ‘save’ time and believe themselves to have experienced the city. Maybe the latter is the first step towards the former, more nuanced style of writing. However, I do believe that it is the ability and openness of one to really ‘see’ things that bring out such memoirs. Probably, its this slow-cooking of observation and experience because of which Pamuk’s analysis always has a lasting impression on the reader.
Anyway, the point behind this post isn’t to analyse the entire memoir on Istanbul but, to merely record the connection I draw between a part of Istanbul (both, the city and the book) and a poem I recently re-read. This is a poem by Omar Ali, who generally wrote poems on Bengal, reading which again today reminded me what Pamuk calls Huzun in Istanbul. This poem called ‘The Lonely Man’ is, in my opinion, one of those literary pieces that aren’t meant to be analysed from a strictly academic understanding (I’m sure they still will end up doing that!). Instead, Ali’s writing is meant to be just read and without any ‘expert’ analysis, the reader can understand what was meant to be conveyed lies in the simple words he uses. Reading the poem, all I was left was Pamuk’s huzun, re-emphasising the beauty of honest expression. Read for yourself-
He was sitting alone:
with a tear – stained face.
I asked him: why?
He looked at me silently
and kept quiet.
I asked him again: why?
again he looked silently
into my eyes
and said nothing.
Then he got up and went away
leaving behind his silence