Thursday, 12 April 2012

The 7th Symphony of Beethoven

This piece of music reminds me of my death.

And if that confuses you, let me tell you I did a very good job of writing my obituary and read it aloud over my coffin, just after they had finished scattering my ashes in the Ganges.

But it is really strange- since childhood, I have felt impending doom at every step. As if I will die very very soon. As if nothing nice is supposed to happen. This is why I am strange and bitter and an infidel and an ingrate at times. Because I can hear the seconds ticking near my ear, telling me that the sands run dry, making my throat run dry.

A long time ago, in a lonely house in Oxford near the meadows, my father played the second movement of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. And staring at the vast greenness outside, I knew things would never be so peaceful and easy again. That life would unfold less tranquilly, that ma was going to sacrifice something, that baba's forehead creased and nose crinkled when he sat down to read- he was not going to be a scholar. I knew it. Ma was not happy when she was alone and I had pneumonia. That night I saw my father standing near the French windows, illuminated by a smiling moon. He has come, mummy! I said, but he hadn't. He was away, and we were alone to cope. I also heard the 7th Symphony, but there was no music in the room. My mother chose to leave soon to join her husband, and hence gave up on what could have been a prolific and beautiful career.

And perchance I heard this music again, stumbled across it much later. It reminds me of profoundly uneasy things, both personal and political. For one, it was used in
The King's Speech, and it fills me with a sense of what England is: a magnificent civilization in perpetual decline, sad because it's like the monarchy; grand and impotent and yet significant because of its beauty. Senescence is sad, but the end must always be elegant, and England is elegant, isn't it? Elegant and elegiac like a pastoral, and in my life it has acted like a pastoral (albeit an expensive one).

I miss my father so much at times, and when I talk to him, I try to explain to him that he shouldn't have left England and academia, but his hair is so silver, I can't bear to reproach him. I wish he would concentrate on things more though: his brilliance is so spontaneous and ephemeral, he could have made it lingering like mothballs, but he didn't- it's always a whiff of Chanel 5, always.

And mother, I miss her too. But she kept telling me the sense of doom and the premonitions were rubbish. But I know she gets these strange feelings too. And hers are more acute, and mine aren't. Mine are vague premonitions of self destruction, I feel stifled and heady from the feeling of disaster at times. And sometimes this music used to play in my head, along with the 9th symphony, and Madhu malati, and Tartini's The Devil's Trill and the voice of Begum Akhtar.

But this music, this music is so apocalyptic for me, it reminds me of my death. Every time I hear this, I stage my own ending, an intense self-execution, not suicide, no not that, but an enactment of release, of passion and of delirium.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012


It has been a long time since I felt a mellow winter, a winter that was no winter at all, now that I've lived alone through snow and frost.

It seems like a distant life, when I wondered what it would be like to be kissed. The first kiss, in a hidden corner of the university, as a train sped by-thunderously, rapturously, drowning his heartbeat and mine. Far into the distance, some wretched boys clapped and cheered us on. A guard came and turned us away-furious, blushing. That day we had discussed de Sica, ethics, and desire. He was wearing an orange kurta and he had an orange bag. The first taste of tongue-unfamiliar, unwieldy,alien.

It seems like a distant life, Saraswati Puja. Heels, Flury's, my mother met him and liked him. I was 19 and I had a boyfriend and I wanted to be pretty (something I had never wanted before.) The first wearing of sari for someone else's gaze. Conscious of cleavage. Subtext, subtext, textile. Throat ran dry.

The first date we had-a quiz we did not sit for, peanuts, Calcutta, roaming endlessly, my feet hurt. Calcutta. Another city, another life, when will we ever go back? Perhaps never, never, we will never go back.

You did not amuse me, but I loved you with a fierce and tremulous conviction and determination, the worship of a child- and then you failed me, and my idol fell from his pedestal.

I looked for other idols, but they were all hollow, and I shed tears.
Years have gone by, and I no longer eat peanuts.
Calcutta is far away, and the coloured fountain, and everything costs so much money.

Somewhere along the line, the pedestal tarnished and crumbled away, and now I no longer need idols. Snow has gradually given way to spring-there is a chill in the air, but there's also sunlight.

And yet, we will never have those magical afternoons when we curled in each others arms and our eyes glistened with tears as we listened to strange, familiar, forgotten music and felt, felt, felt-as you forgot philosophy and I forgot literature-and we felt, felt, felt. What did we feel? What does youth feel? Golden, hidden, effervescent light- a light that was sepia before we knew it was slipping by...and my other idols have crumbled idly, everything crumbles, and there is no certainty

there is no certainty

except some kind of lost, lingering, (legitimate? perhaps not) love.