Monday, 8 June 2015

Gardener

Imagine yourself in a foreign land--known to none other, not even you--and that land is the rough jagged terrain untrodden by aught but your ideas-- that land is your mind.

All your life you have cultivated this land with your own weak and trembling fingers. You have torn out the weeds, bloody weeds that threatened to desecrate the sanctity of this land. You tore them out with no gloves nor thimble, you tried to make that land ordered and well-tended. Then that land sprouted nothing for years, until one summer, there was an acre of green grass. And you were happy.

Gradually, that land found flowers and seedlings. It became ordered, beautiful, a garden of pleasure--all cultivated by your pain.

Then there was a storm.

That storm undid all your good work. The flowers were wasted and dead, the leaves dried and withered. The terrain was muddy...and a week after, the weeds sprouted again. Where were your neat ideas? Where were your well cultivated thoughts? Indeed, you found nothing.

Your mind, your very mind had let you down. You stared in dismay.

In Bengali, we have one word that can mean both heart and mind, it's mon. From the Sanskrit manas, which is both heart and mind and also, overwhelmingly so, consciousness.

Then you think--do I have no power? do I have no control?--you are a weak gardener, you have failed your acre of green grass. The grass turned brown, the weeds with their bloody roots... but somewhere, the social theorist whispered...roots are always bloody.

I know I can write--I write when my consciousness fails me, when it plunges into that space between the stomach (the Bengali's treasure, pride, legacy) and the heart, I feel the letters form, and I calm down. I write. But can I speak? Can I represent myself? Can I say: yes, these indeed are my thoughts. This is my knowledge. This is my belief--and that perhaps is my glorious error.

Then from the void: Be not a gardener but a cultivator. Be of use, do not aspire for prettiness.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

2014

Sometimes time makes me cringe with disbelief.

Let me, for example, take the year 2014.

I wrote a research paper that began as a piece of putrid turd. Eventually it had to see six drafts before it sublimated into something less than faeces. In the process of writing this paper over and over again, I learned how to read, write and think.

In the summer of this year, on my birthday, a slightly obscure friend of mine, somebody who made me sigh in frustration and shout in exasperation, killed himself. This singular event changed my life and made me question everything around me. He was around 30: an age that is acceptably young, but not young enough. Not old. I revisited letters and exchanges that alone remained of our friendship. I realized that what I had mistaken as self absorption was indeed a strain of inherent self destruction, a melancholy that nothing could take away.

How is it that people who are engaged in intellectual activity read texts with more dissection, interest, passion, engagement than the people that surround them?

How do we understand hermeneutics (oh that wondrously baffling word) as a circle that brings together stories, words, writing, speaking, loving, feeling---books, texts, lives and people--? Humanistic scholarship: how often have even Erasmus or Tagore made me bang my head against the wall?


September 2014.

A month after the tragic and premature demise of my friend, my alma mater burst into flames of anguish and horror. And it was a microcosmic reflection of what ails the state of West Bengal, and by extension, much of the country. Sexual assault. Being hushed up. By political powers. Administration being appointed to love, uphold and perpetuate evil state agenda. Misusing its power. Using violence against students who are on the side of justice and right.


What I don't understand is, who are these people who form governments? Have they no conscience? Is it possible that their hearts and minds are so full of violence, hatred and injustice (even if for example, we don't bring overall ideology or the official party line into this.) Some people have argued that the students should not spend so much of their time and efforts away from their spheres of learning: but how can you learn, when everything is so rotten, debased and wrong? How do you turn your attention to worlds outside your own, when your own world singes you with hot and burning flames of violence, coercion and shame?

If all knowledge operates within spheres of power--and that has been established well by know--if we all embrace our designated spheres of discursive activity, then should we not acknowledge the fact that we are aware of what we do? This honesty can perhaps make us better scholars, teachers and students. 

It is with this conviction that I believed that awards, prizes, and degrees are external markers (and in some sad cases, incentives) for learning. I was also convinced that it is time that India rejected and fought with terrifying conviction the struggle against sexual violence, discrimination and inequality. 

The fight in Jadavpur continues. Let it be the last bastion for the hopeful, for the optimistic, for the idealistic.

No science, no social science, no humanities, no education can take place in a world which is premised on violence, destruction, and injustice. The mind and the heart can imbibe no knowledge in such circumstances. God knows I resented much about the Indian education system while I was in it, and it is deeply flawed in more ways than one. It also however taught me that the individual's relationship with knowledge is non-instrumentalist in ways it is hard to grasp. That knowledge teaches compassion, empathy. That while we struggle with differentiating the universal, and critique totalizing tendencies in the best of minds (dear Foucault, Spivak stabbed you there, didn't she?) there is some common ground in all of us humans...

we who eat, live, dream, drink, die...

I wish my friend had lived one more month. I wish we could recall the souls lost in the annihilating spaces of their own troubled minds.

It is struggle that defines us. A struggle in time. And a struggle against time.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

confession

For a very long time, I had no courage to really write. So I wrote in bits and pieces, scraps, fragments. I wrote little things on social networking sites. First this humble blog, and then stupid facebook, where I could put up pictures of myself in dresses and drag, showcasing my humbly flamboyant self to the world. I am tired of all that now.

I am tired because the time has come to really write. The time has come to tell the story of Bengal, of India, of South Asia, of the world as I see it. I can see the canvas, I can see these tremulous characters write their own destinies using my humbly arrogant self as a means to language, as an instrument to be represented. And I am afraid again. This time, really afraid.

You see for me, literature is the life I have carefully constructed and can carelessly destroy. It is the path to the thousand worlds I'll never see. I don't care whether I end up seeing these worlds or not. I do not know the day when language came to me and said, "Ahona, will you use me, you humble beast, will you dream me in technicolor and splash the sepia of history on blank pages, will you type it out with your best intentions, and modesty, and will you then do justice to lives which will otherwise fade into oblivion, because they have no space in the footnotes of the books you read."

And I said, yes, one day, I shall.

But I forgot. I waited. I waited too long, and magnolia threatens to become cypress. The smell of acrid and sweet death once more has come back to me, in the form of a quarter century.

Therefore, I have started. May I infuse the sepia vignettes of history with some passion, and some emotion, and some devotion. And may you, reader, love me more than you have ever before.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

gaps

My turn has come, she said, my turn has come to write the long parable of...
and she started to write it, and it began and ended with ellipses...
and she tried...
to construct...but the spaces and gaps
pauses, clauses (mostly subordinate)
 and
tenses
got all mixed up.


It was meant to be prose,

but whether it can
turn out to be
poetry

who knows?

Monday, 13 May 2013

Dimma, come back to me, Dimma. Who will tell didibhai stories? Who will make posto borar chutney? Who will laugh with those teeth like pearls? I can't live in exile for so long without all of you. Come back to me, look I am a fat child rolling about in the sun and reading Agatha Christie. Won't you kiss my forehead and smooth the creases on it, and say, "Didibhai, let me tell you the story of the Happy Prince!" Won't you tell me about ghosts? And poetry?

Who will be as stern to others and giggly to me as you, Dimma?

No, no, no.

I love you love love love love you you you and I'll not cry just because I'm a mature young woman in exile. I'll be a poet instead.

Monday, 6 May 2013

urgh

I fell in love with you, it was complete infatuation. I fell in love with you the way children love the first taste of something sweet, I fell in love with you the moment I saw you, the moment I saw you-it was you I loved. I loved you so fervently with so much devotion and desire that every time I breathed in air, it hurt because breathing is a solitary practice. I breathed you in from a distance.

Until I met you.

When I met you, I was shaken to the very core of my being. I felt as if the earth had swallowed me up, and through earth-tinted glasses, I beheld the sky. It has been a long time since I saw you first, and even now when I remember how you looked at me, I tremble when I behold the sky. As a man beholds a woman, the sky is my lover. As the sky beholds the man, you forgot me.

Eternity trickles by. When I met you, I thought time was continuous and never ending and I thought we are alone and we wait, we wait because summers are endless and summer follows summer follows summer, interspersed with some inconvenient winters. And I thought, perhaps some summer, we will perspire into meaning, as we once had or could have had.

And now I think, perhaps I never met you.

But how does it matter, when the leaves turn golden and then from gold to pure dust and then dust shivers into snow and the snow melts to water, and then suddenly, one morning the sun trickles down into my face and I look out of my window and see not bare branches of solitude and endurance but green green green green green.

And I think, yes green green green until I drink all the coffee in the world and smoke all the poetry out of my veins, and occasionally digest some wine, perhaps some smoky steak, and words words words, everywhere words, trapped in glass cases of words, on escalators elevators motors of language travelling travelling travelling through time.

So then, I suppose, it is immaterial to want to gaze into tired yet brilliant eyes, myopic mellow moody...blinking thinking sinking- I suppose now that half the sky is orange and the other half is blue, I suppose I should never ever think of you.

But how 
how can we control the promise of summer
of green and desire and life
and sand and water
and sky 
and all that
all that
which one 
wants.

Friday, 29 March 2013

What ho, Bum!

Hello.

Today I spent all day being a bum. I got up in the morning and bummed around till afternoon. Then I bummed some more. In the evening, the sun was shining on my face so I could barely move. I lay there on my couch, looking at the sun. It was a lot of fun.

I also discovered this poet called Michael Robbins. One of my friends gave me this book so that I would not look like a bored bum while having dinner alone in a restaurant. My friend did not join me for dinner at the restaurant, because that would make two bums. He doesn't think the bums of the world should unite.

Michael Robbins I disliked at first until I realized that every line that he writes is a clever allusion. Gee. Who would have thought. He made me want to eat more katsu chicken than I usually do.

I really need to stop bumming around today. The first step towards this is to stop writing this post and get back to proper writing. This may not happen because I am sleepy. Do bums sleep, is my question. Michael Robbins would say, I have miles to go before I fart.

Goodnight folks.