Independence Day

 

I have been toying with the idea of writing a series of shorts inspired by sea shanties – and, for quite some time, I wondered if I should, because really, what do I know, what right do I have to write about the world that is not mine?

But I looked at the sky with a little bit of wine in my glass and I wasn’t sure anymore which part of the world belongs to me and which does not. Its every part, its every song is mine.

The world is mine.

Mine.

And yours.

 

 

Words for and about my father

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My father, the ever controversial, the ever outsider of the Hindi literary scene, is once again part of another controversy. I usually keep to myself, never getting involved in any of this, I don’t usually even talk about my parents and their work. However, this time some people have ‘threatened’ him that they will reveal his real self to me: the charges are that he is a misogynist,  a sexist writer, a problematic man, etc, etc.

I know the tricks of his trade. He is a provocateur. He enjoys writing things that will anger people. But I am not here to defend him. I don’t fight other people’s battles. I am here only because I have been mentioned.

The kind of freedom I’ve had growing up, I now realize, is almost unheard of. My life, my views, my writings have always been free. So, I am here to reciprocate that privilege: he is free to write whatever he wants without worrying about what I will think of him.

To honour his freedom, because he has always honoured mine.

 

Illusion of choice

In this old Bollywood song, the hero is torn between two women, two worlds, two philosophies: the good hearted, simple, and sweet Nargis – and the charming, manipulative, and seductive Nadia.

The hero only thinks he has a choice.

Any choice he makes will lead him to the same woman.

I am both Nargis and Nadia.

This is the alchemy of love.

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