The island of Koh Rong and 2017 : wrapping the year up.

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On the first day of 2017, I was in Sihanoukville with my mother – it was also my birthday – and I suggested that we make a day trip to the island of Koh Rong. We took a tuk-tuk from our hotel and went to the port. Of course, everything was booked, but we finally somehow managed to find one large boat that would take us to the island. We bought the tickets, they were not expensive, and we started to wait on the port – the boat, we were told, was only an hour away. Sitting on the port, I started staring at the ocean and imagined that the water was time on which the world was floating : the idea was not mine, the elements of it were borrowed from the ancient Hindu concept of Purush and Prakriti. One hour turned into many, and as we waited, we realized that the boat would probably never arrive.

Perhaps it was synchronicity, perhaps it was something else, but the first day of 2017 foreshadowed the rest of the year accurately. I waited for many things that never happened – it was a series of failed attempts to reach the island of Koh Rong. At the end of it, I am exhausted and absolutely tired, almost broken but not completely – and maybe therein lies the solace. The year was unexpectedly difficult, it tested my limits and strengths, and I often found myself at unbearable low points, questioning the very things I hold most dear to my heart, without which – to me – life would lose its meaning and worth. At large, the world has taken a turn rightward, and India has plunged deeper into the depths of Hindu fundamentalism which has reduced Hinduism, a sophisticated and varied set of philosophies into one immovable, terrifying mass of anger and intolerance.

In the middle of all this, Philippe and I managed to (surprisingly) complete one year of RIC Journal. I also wrote a short piece for the Seagull Books Catalogue. One of my unpublished short stories –Autobiography of a Girl from an Undiscovered Planet – was shortlisted for the DWL award. I was just recently offered a month-long residency at the esteemed Sangam House – where I will be in January ’18, hopefully working on the novella whose subject has tortured and made me suffer greatly this year. One writer that has been a source of personal comfort to me during all this is Clarice Lispector, whose writings have managed to anchor me, helped me hold my own, and for that I am eternally grateful to her heart and pen.

Will it, then, be right to say that I do not believe in the things I believed in? No. I still believe, as I would, till the very end of my life. Emmanuel Macron, in a recent interview to Der Spiegel, talked about the importance of grand narratives in the 21st century – and though, I am always suspicious of politicians, and have no great knowledge of either European or Indian politics, I agreed with him on this point without any reserve. A rejection of postmodernist worldview is necessary to survive the ennui of modern life – to reclaim God, to believe in God not in a limited religious way, but to believe in God as something greater than ourselves.

To believe in destiny.

To believe in the cosmic metanarrative. To know that sometimes the boat to Koh Rong doesn’t arrive, but other times it does.

To 2018.

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Love letter of a fool

Do not be foolish, the world constantly whispers in our inner ears.
To believe in radical love, to think about what cannot be known,
to close our eyes in the middle of a busy street and remember our true souls, to pause when one should walk,
to not give up when one should, to trust when one should not,
to dream during death,

to play the piano with a phantom limb
to cook without fire
to remember the time before you were born

is to be a fool.

But

Beyond reason

God is.

Beyond your better judgment

I am.

 

Of poisoned bones

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I know a little boy back in France who spends each afternoon reading strange stories of bones, of bodies, of lives that some think have been left behind, some believe have dissolved forever into an uncertain sky, sometimes flickering unnoticeably into an invisible air. It was one afternoon that under the deep underwoods of olive tree, he found a centuries old bone buried, a femur, that belonged to who must once have been a beautiful woman and it seemed almost shining, like the most exquisite, the most ancient of all riddles. He took it to all the old people he could find, who had lived since perhaps forever, but no one could see anything, recognize any spot of any face they ever could remember. It signified to them nothing more than what it was, a fragile shard of calcium. But a hazel-eyed woman from the corner had whispered secretly into the boy’s ear that once, as a child, she had read in an unknown Latin that there exists on earth a light that may reveal all, even about ruins.

It was years later, walking in the cemetery close to my father’s house, that I’d found a piece of femur bone that had strayed far away from all graves. It was coated in wet dust, I was slightly hesitant to pick it up but it stayed there and after a few minutes, I just had to touch it with my fingers. I turned it many times, in different angles, hoping that maybe the warm sunlight will tell me something about it, maybe the moment of epiphany will arrive. It never did, as it never does, and so I threw it away casually further than where it was found. Had it been under the never-found light, it might have been seen that its white clarity, in places, reflected metallic yellows and that it belonged to the broken thigh of an aging queen who, in her desperation to keep her young lover around, had killed herself with aurum. Night after night, she drank a bitter elixir of gold chloride and diethyl ether as her body failed a little more each day, remembering the vision from her childhood where every summer was spent without idyll, eating ripe mulberries found at the bottom of neglected trees. She believed it preserved her beauty.

The woman who died of gold poisoning for her love, in a few hundred years, becomes an anonymous piece of bone. Sometimes, not even that. The bone your dog chews at the edge of your garden could be of a man you once loved, in another life.

The little boy knew already everything he was ever to know. In my dream, he is 6 years old and sometimes he tells me that in the decay is the extraordinary.


This was first published in the Seagull Books Catalogue 2017-18. 

How to recognize a man in love

A man makes a cup of coffee, and goes online. The world is on the verge of collapse.  Any day now, a nuclear war – the white cloud of extinction. Continents have turned into prisons. The city this man lives in will no longer exist in a few years, there will be an ocean where he is sitting right now. Injustice is everywhere, poverty is growing, the air is turning into poison, species are dying, a black hole will soon swallow all of humanity.

This man, after reading about the new horrors of the previous day, locks himself inside the bathroom and weeps only for himself. This man is in love.

Love stands alone

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In the old observatory in the walled city of a pink Jaipur, an 8 year old girl will find a torn page from a book that is thousands of year old. She will forget what is written on the page. She will forget that she even found the page.

Twenty years later, while walking on the streets of Delhi, weighed by a feeling of crushing black loneliness, the last words on that torn page will flash like an emergency sign in her mind: “…love stands alone”.

She will fall. There will be no one to see the fall.

The biology of love

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In Bengali marriage ritual, the bride is often handed a fish that is alive. The auspiciousness of the new marriage is  gauged by how long the fish is held. The longer you can hold it, the better your marriage will be.

Clarice Lispector wrote in The Passion According to G.H. “… did something truly alive collapse the morality I had?”

Love is what is truly alive.

Love is a freshly caught fish writhing in your hands. Hold it if you can.

BREAKING NEWS

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The 27-year-old reporter reporting on duty.

As far as the eyes go, there are only half-dead men with trembling hearts dressed as grooms outside churches. And even the men who had previously seemed rather alive quickly seem to be falling on the ground. The whole scene is as if out of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, except here men (and only men, not women) are transforming into these strange creatures dressed in suits ready for marriage, but thoroughly unready for love. If women approach these men to ask even a simple question, the heart of these men start beating faster than the speed of light, and they fall straight on the ground unconscious. If women as much as make an attempt to kiss any of these men, they will display signs of hallucinations (demons, monsters, satan, hell) and some even die.

This remains one of the greatest tragedies of the 21st century and (astonishingly) as yet unreported by media. The United Nations is soon expected to make a statement on this dire situation that threatens the very fate of humanity.