A shower with Kafka

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In the shower with me was a small insect that has been living in my bathroom for the past three days. I know this because at night I can hear it scream a soft, sharp sound. The first night, I thought it was a black spot. Then it moved in circles.
I was standing under water, naked, as this insect started walking around leisurely, not taking any notice of me as if we had been lovers for years.
As I stood there watching its every blurred move, I thought I must now write about taking a shower with Kafka.

The Portrait of a Writer’s Mother as a Poet

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My mother, me, and our landlady whose husband was rumoured to have died on their wedding day. Holi, sometime in the 1990s.

Sometime this month, it was mother’s day. Everyone wrote about their mothers. I didn’t. That’s because it’s impossible for me to write about my mother. Here’s one of her poems you can read instead. It’s about marriage. This will tell you why we mostly get along.

MAN – WOMAN 

They come together
Against nature
And call it natural

They’re not made for each other
And live together forever

They declare their love
From the hearts filled with hatred

Before history,
They’d once entered a cave
To seek refuge from the rain

It’s not known who lit the fire
Who roasted the meat
But in the morning
They were found as they are today
They’ve been silent ever since

They silently love and hate
Silently build houses and wealth
They spit outside the room
Inside which they exchange gifts

He is tired of taking
She is tired of giving
Yet, they silently transact bodies

In the last hour of the night
The jungle is remembered
The rain, the dance
The trees flowing with fruits

Those days have vanished
Leaping like a deer
The cave remains
Decorated with potted plants
And piped rains

Boxed fire
Canned food

The partner leaves to hunt
With weapon stuffed inside the wallet
Which is rarely used, frequently displayed

The animal is not carried on the back anymore
They enter together, the hunter and the hunted
Making it impossible to tell who is the dead

She thinks, this time, he won’t return
The idea of freedom thrills her as she
Waits for his corpse, and yet
He returns, each time

Right when he is only ten steps away
She starts laughing
Then curves her body
Fills her eyes with tears
And says how much she doesn’t want to be alone

Right at a distance of ten steps
He messes up his hair
Stops humming
And takes her into his eager arms
To kiss the lips that have been kissed
A thousand times

Neither looks into the other’s eye

I will say it again
It’s against nature that they come together

I will say it again
They’re not made for each other

I am saying it again
He is tired of taking
She is tired of giving …!

 

(translated from the original Hindi by me)

Back to Square One

snakes

The ancient Indian board game of snakes and ladders was once used to teach morality to children: ladders represented the virtues; snakes represented the vices that must be avoided if one’s soul is to be released.

On the modern Indian boards, there are 100 squares, and right on the 99th square lies the biggest, the most dangerous snake. Anyone who has ever played this game knows that it just cannot be escaped. Right when you think you’re about to reach the end, win the game, attain liberation, the last snake will bite you and take you back to the beginning.

The last snake is Eros.

We cannot win this game. Let’s go back to square one, my love.

Gravity

Simone Weil writes, “What is the reason that as soon as one human being shows he needs another (no need whether his need be slight or great) the latter draws back from him? Gravity.”

I know, then, what it is to love, but not what it is to be loved.

Unwept unwed unloved I go
– Anne Carson, Antigonick

L’appel de l’obscurité

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In rural Bengal, if you hear your name at midnight, you must pretend that you did not hear it. For it is nothing but black magic. It is called The Call of Darkness, it invites you to your ruin.

Similarly, it seems, there is on the path to your self, a strong call inviting you to become everything you are not. It is hard to ignore this beautiful, seductive voice that offers the world. I call it The Call of the Persona.

Conversation with an astrologer / 2014

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Near the building that calculates time and space, there is another girl sitting inside a room with an astrologer. Time of birth, without which nothing can be known, must be accurate. What does the future hold?

“Einstein’s theory of special relativity created a fundamental link between space and time. The universe can be viewed as having three space dimensions — up/down, left/right, forward/backward — and one time dimension. This 4-dimensional space is referred to as the space-time continuum.”

“I can’t quite understand why you will do such a thing?”

“Do what?”

 “Just try to stay away from foreigners.”

“If it is destiny, could I really stay away?”

“Wear a yellow sapphire, minimum 6 carats, on your index finger.”

“And that will change everything?”

“It will change nothing.”

“Then why wear it?”

“Why take an umbrella in the rain?”

“What is it?”

“You will not have a wedding in this life. Something akin to marriage, an unusual structure that lasts a lifetime. But there are children, grandchildren even.”

“An unusual structure? What does that mean?”

“It’s not possible for me to tell you any more than I know.”

“Why is it?”

“Rahu. The presence of a shadow planet in your 7th house. Something karmic from your last life. There is nothing you can do. “

“Nothing?”

“Nothing.”

Words on love that don’t make any sense / Part one

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In a village of northern Thailand, uncooked blood is mixed with chillies, salt, and lemongrass to remove the gamey flavour and served uncoagulated in a bowl. The doctor prescribes it as a cure of every undiagnosed illness. “Two times a day, until you’re addicted.” Rx.

By mistake an ancient dictionary in an ancient library is discovered. Night after night after night is spent reading it until the forbidden word is finally reached.
See also, nox.

“Dear students,” the doctor is heard addressing a classroom, “just because there is no visible injury on the body doesn’t mean the patient is fine. Sometimes the wound is inside.”
Sir what if it just cannot be found, the cause of illness, what if it doesn’t even show up on scans?
“Then I suggest you ask the patient to fall in love. It’s state of the art. A little invasive, but reveals everything.”

In an undiscovered village, cans of coca-cola are used to declare love. Addictive, fizzy, somewhat sweet, a little poisonous. Originally intended as patent medicine.

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Describe it in three words:
Eternal, like Vermeer.

Someone has placed quartz crystals on a Gaelic shore at midnight to catch me like salmon.

Henri Matisse, in his lost interview from 1941, “A man who pretends to have typhoid isn’t dangerous; it’s the one who does they’re afraid of.” It’s not love unless the world is afraid.

Hello, my name is Pasolini. You must be Pino the Frog. There are no witnesses. Let’s begin.

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