Category: Art


Redemption – my first attempt at short story
In Uncategorized on May 5, 2009 at 10:37 pm
There are times when footsteps of the mind halt in mid-air, like those rain-filled clouds of July debating the downpour. Held only by a string of breaths that caress the restless thoughts, it just floats on aimlessly. Ana was walking along a path, in a park, lined by trees whose crowns had formed a vast green canopy. The park was stretched across on a vast piece of land, located at the center of the city. Most of the trees were old. Their stems were wide, gray and scrubby. Some of them were covered with deep green mosses, giving them a woolly look.
“They seem like tired hands of an old man, trying to hold on to dear life with whatever is left,” she thought. The sun was bright, and made patches of light on the dark gravel. A particular tree was in full bloom, with bright yellow flowers covering all its branches. Shaken by the slight wind, some had fallen, and lay scattered all around. She was careful not to step over any of these flowers. She always was. She could not help but smile, staring at those flowers dancing, and whirling with the breeze. They were beautiful, yes. And, for a while, she had thrown open the windows and one could see her soul sparkling through, like two large dews holding the sun.
She had slept fitfully last night. The night was warm, and humid. And, there were noises inside her head. Her eyes had held the specters of people from her past. Amidst the noise, she had seen them living the times she had long forgotten. She didn’t know they were still alive. But, last night the doors that had long forbidden her past to walk into her present, were thrown open by a voice she had come to like, and perhaps love. She had not seen the man. She had only heard him. His voice was like soothing chuckles of a quiet river on a warm sunny day. He had touched her like no man ever did. Every time he spoke to her, his voice seemed to creep into her coldness like the slow trickle of warm blood.
“Couple of days ago, a lady friend of mine was sexually harassed. She had a job out of town, and had to spend the night, with her boss, in a trailer. At 3.30 in the morning, he crawled into her bed and made suggestion about what they could do to pass an hour or so. She had refused. And so lost her job. And, now she wonders whether to let him get away with it, or take him to court . . .” she remembered him saying last night. And, that was it. Those words, riding his voice, had knocked at the very doors she had closed tight on her festering past. The specters were aroused, and had danced all night long. Celebrating perhaps their newfound freedom.
“That’s so common. It’s happening all the time.” was only she could say. But beneath those cold, indifferent words, hell was rousing storms. In the darkness of her bedroom, long after the voice had hung up, tears had flown like the rivers of the wild. And the torments that had lain latent in her veins rose to shred her apart. She had wished he hadn’t spoken to her about his friend. She had wished he hadn’t spoken to her at all last night. And yet, despite that wish, she was aware of this strange desire to be with him now. Just the sight of his face would have quieted those storms.
“How does he look like?” she wondered. “He has evaded all my questions about his looks. I wonder why. But what does it matter? I wish I were with him now. I wish I could hold his hands, and walk along this road, talking about these flowers and the wind that dances with them. Today it’s like the-morning-after – so quiet; the sun and a breeze like the sigh of a spent lover playing along. I wish I could see him.”
And that made her more miserable. The faint pain in her heart had refused to go away. She was drawn to its dull ache. Hands, flashed before her eyes, snaking into places even the sun was forbidden from. Feelings that were hitherto unknown, mixed with confusion had crept into her blood and ran riots. “Why are you doing this? What do you want?” were questions that remained unspoken. And in response the groveling hands had sneaked deeper into her tenderness. If you step on a loosely held piece of snow, they crack, and you tumble down the face of an avalanche. Perhaps the doors to her past were so wearied and beaten down by the winds of time that a little breeze tore it down like a house of cards.
“Strange is the nature of desire. Years ago, it had left me a feeling like a used rag. And at times, like now, it makes me want to snuggle up to someone, and bask in the warm sun by the riverside, where butterflies would flap their bright mottled wings silently, and the stillness of the moment would buzz like honeybees. I would sit by the bank, and dip my legs in the cool, crisp water. The pebbles, worn smooth by the ever-loving touch of the river, would seem to hold time in their hearts. O my, how I wish I could walk out of this skin and flesh, and wash my blood off in this clear stream, and be clean, again.
But wait! Could memories be ever washed – the memories of those touches that had sought pleasures in my softness? Could I ever shred them to pieces and throw them to the wind?”
A squirrel ran past her, and climbed the nearest tree. Halfway up the stump, it stopped and stared at her. Its furry coat gleamed in the streak of sun falling down, and eyes sparkled back a sense of innocence that was strangely heart-warming. She felt like caressing its skin. Then suddenly it scurried up along the stump, and vanished somewhere among the branches. The emptiness, however, remained lingering.
“And this is how the mind gets tired, running around with the waves of thoughts, trying to figure out, reason, measure, weigh, and judge. Ana, this is why men have always felt like flying. Because, in flying, there is a peculiar sense of release”, She heard him saying.
She was walking past the row of benches that were mostly occupied. An old woman was reading the morning newspaper. Her gray hairs fell straight down to her shoulder. She had her glasses perched up her nose. Ana walked up and sat beside her. She needed to talk. She needed a release.
She wished she were with someone else, with a past different than hers. “How about swapping yours with mine, grandma?”, she thought aloud. Or rather, the thoughts blurted out into words, tired perhaps of being stifled for years. The old woman was startled. She glanced up at her with a curious look, and smiled. Ana didn’t realize she had thought aloud.
“Is anything wrong, child?”
“Nothing, but everything, I guess. How have you been all these years? Must have been a truly wonderful journey all along. Yes, must have been. Else how do you explain your sitting here early in the morning, reading a newspaper, with this contented look on your face? I wish I were you.”
“And I wish I were you, my child! So young and beautiful! You remind me of my days I had spent in the lap of Mt. Kilimanjaro, so many years ago. Pristine white snows adorning the blue, scraggy rocks. At the base lay the vast rolling plains of African Savannah. We had been to Serengeti National Park. During the days that followed, we saw the primal nature of life and death.
There cannot be anything more beautiful on the face of earth than witnessing death stalking life, every single moment, and every single breath. It all seemed like a surreal world where violent passion for life reigned supreme. A passion, so raw and violent, and yet so beautiful. You could see this in every streak of blood that poured out of a struggling young gazelle.”
Ana was wonder struck. The old woman had spoken with such richness of vision that it all lay bared before her eyes. For a moment she was empty, devoid of longing, and poised like a drop of water hanging from the leaf blade after a heavy shower.
“Love life, child, for what it’s worth. The sheer beauty of every single moment could drive you crazy only if you stare back at what’s passing by. Moments come and go, taking away what you were in that moment and leaving behind what you could be the next moment. Why carry the burden of a lifetime when you could wash them away in this flowing tides?
You are born anew, every moment, from that timeless womb that wraps you and me.”
Ana didn’t know what to say. She only heard her breath. And saw a smile, through the haze of mist that clouded her mind, she had longed to see. It was he, smiling.
“Strange, how these voices can keep on going. I push them out of the door, and they start banging on the windowpane like raindrops, hitting the glass, and then flowing down in small streams. I listen to them for a while, and realize they wouldn’t stop. It’s the monsoon of my life.”
Blue green water lay stretched before her. The lake was not so big. It was beautiful though. On other days, people could be seen rowing quietly across the placid water. Suddenly, a kingfisher shot up from a dead branch sticking out of the still water, and floated in mid air, beating its wings frantically. And, then dropped itself into the water. Ripples went out from the place it had hit. Moments later, it emerged with a fish in its beak. The sun was breaking out of the trees.
Ana got up, walked to the edge which was lined with reeds, and grasses. Dragonflies were hovering over the water. She stopped. There was a peculiar silence out there. She listened closely hoping to listen to buzz of their wings. But all what she heard was a constant buzz of silence ringing in her ears. “Be careful, child. The water is deep in there, and the soil is still wet from last night’s rain,” the old woman warned her. Ana walked on along the bank. She was past everything now. She sat down by a rock, with her legs dipped in the water.
“There are things that we don’t need anymore, and yet somehow we forget to throw them away. They keep on lying around for years right before us. But we live our life as if they don’t exist. Somehow we get comfortable and familiar with their invisible presence. They become the part of our lives. And so essential they become that we would miss them if they cease to be.”
The fishes swam in and started playing around her legs. A smile broke lose and stretched like a rainbow around her pretty face.
The kingfisher flew out again into the open air, out of the woods.
Somewhere, in those same moments, a man shot his 35 years old wife and a 9 years old son at point blank range, and then killed himself. He had left a note for his parents stating the reason. He was tired of carrying his life. And so had decided to put it down.
And he did.
By a pool of blood.
//27th May 2003

(Found this draft in my archive, written 6 years ago…)

There are times when footsteps of the mind halt in mid-air, like those rain-filled clouds of July debating the downpour. Held only by a string of breaths that caress the restless thoughts, it just floats on aimlessly. Ana was walking along a path, in a park, lined by trees whose crowns had formed a vast green canopy. The park was stretched across on a vast piece of land, located at the center of the city. Most of the trees were old. Their stems were wide, gray and scrubby. Some of them were covered with deep green mosses, giving them a woolly look.

“They seem like tired hands of an old man, trying to hold on to dear life with whatever is left,” she thought. The sun was bright, and made patches of light on the dark gravel. A particular tree was in full bloom, with bright yellow flowers covering all its branches. Shaken by the slight wind, some had fallen, and lay scattered all around. She was careful not to step over any of these flowers. She always was. She could not help but smile, staring at those flowers dancing, and whirling with the breeze. They were beautiful, yes. And, for a while, she had thrown open the windows and one could see her soul sparkling through, like two large dews holding the sun.

She had slept fitfully last night. The night was warm, and humid. And, there were noises inside her head. Her eyes had held the specters of people from her past. Amidst the noise, she had seen them living the times she had long forgotten. She didn’t know they were still alive. But, last night the doors that had long forbidden her past to walk into her present, were thrown open by a voice she had come to like, and perhaps love. She had not seen the man. She had only heard him. His voice was like soothing chuckles of a quiet river on a warm sunny day. He had touched her like no man ever did. Every time he spoke to her, his voice seemed to creep into her coldness like the slow trickle of warm blood.

“Couple of days ago, a lady friend of mine was sexually harassed. She had a job out of town, and had to spend the night, with her boss, in a trailer. At 3.30 in the morning, he crawled into her bed and made suggestion about what they could do to pass an hour or so. She had refused. And so lost her job. And, now she wonders whether to let him get away with it, or take him to court . . .” she remembered him saying last night. And, that was it. Those words, riding his voice, had knocked at the very doors she had closed tight on her festering past. The specters were aroused, and had danced all night long. Celebrating perhaps their newfound freedom.

“That’s so common. It’s happening all the time.” was only she could say. But beneath those cold, indifferent words, hell was rousing storms. In the darkness of her bedroom, long after the voice had hung up, tears had flown like the rivers of the wild. And the torments that had lain latent in her veins rose to shred her apart. She had wished he hadn’t spoken to her about his friend. She had wished he hadn’t spoken to her at all last night. And yet, despite that wish, she was aware of this strange desire to be with him now. Just the sight of his face would have quieted those storms.

“How does he look like?” she wondered. “He has evaded all my questions about his looks. I wonder why. But what does it matter? I wish I were with him now. I wish I could hold his hands, and walk along this road, talking about these flowers and the wind that dances with them. Today it’s like the-morning-after – so quiet; the sun and a breeze like the sigh of a spent lover playing along. I wish I could see him.”

And that made her more miserable. The faint pain in her heart had refused to go away. She was drawn to its dull ache. Hands, flashed before her eyes, snaking into places even the sun was forbidden from. Feelings that were hitherto unknown, mixed with confusion had crept into her blood and ran riots. “Why are you doing this? What do you want?” were questions that remained unspoken. And in response the groveling hands had sneaked deeper into her tenderness. If you step on a loosely held piece of snow, they crack, and you tumble down the face of an avalanche. Perhaps the doors to her past were so wearied and beaten down by the winds of time that a little breeze tore it down like a house of cards.

“Strange is the nature of desire. Years ago, it had left me a feeling like a used rag. And at times, like now, it makes me want to snuggle up to someone, and bask in the warm sun by the riverside, where butterflies would flap their bright mottled wings silently, and the stillness of the moment would buzz like honeybees. I would sit by the bank, and dip my legs in the cool, crisp water. The pebbles, worn smooth by the ever-loving touch of the river, would seem to hold time in their hearts. O my, how I wish I could walk out of this skin and flesh, and wash my blood off in this clear stream, and be clean, again.

But wait! Could memories be ever washed – the memories of those touches that had sought pleasures in my softness? Could I ever shred them to pieces and throw them to the wind?”

A squirrel ran past her, and climbed the nearest tree. Halfway up the stump, it stopped and stared at her. Its furry coat gleamed in the streak of sun falling down, and eyes sparkled back a sense of innocence that was strangely heart-warming. She felt like caressing its skin. Then suddenly it scurried up along the stump, and vanished somewhere among the branches. The emptiness, however, remained lingering.

“And this is how the mind gets tired, running around with the waves of thoughts, trying to figure out, reason, measure, weigh, and judge. Ana, this is why men have always felt like flying. Because, in flying, there is a peculiar sense of release”, She heard him saying.

She was walking past the row of benches that were mostly occupied. An old woman was reading the morning newspaper. Her gray hairs fell straight down to her shoulder. She had her glasses perched up her nose. Ana walked up and sat beside her. She needed to talk. She needed a release.

She wished she were with someone else, with a past different than hers. “How about swapping yours with mine, grandma?”, she thought aloud. Or rather, the thoughts blurted out into words, tired perhaps of being stifled for years. The old woman was startled. She glanced up at her with a curious look, and smiled. Ana didn’t realize she had thought aloud.

“Is anything wrong, child?”

“Nothing, but everything, I guess. How have you been all these years? Must have been a truly wonderful journey all along. Yes, must have been. Else how do you explain your sitting here early in the morning, reading a newspaper, with this contented look on your face? I wish I were you.”

“And I wish I were you, my child! So young and beautiful! You remind me of my days I had spent in the lap of Mt. Kilimanjaro, so many years ago. Pristine white snows adorning the blue, scraggy rocks. At the base lay the vast rolling plains of African Savannah. We had been to Serengeti National Park. During the days that followed, we saw the primal nature of life and death.

There cannot be anything more beautiful on the face of earth than witnessing death stalking life, every single moment, and every single breath. It all seemed like a surreal world where violent passion for life reigned supreme. A passion, so raw and violent, and yet so beautiful. You could see this in every streak of blood that poured out of a struggling young gazelle.”

Ana was wonder struck. The old woman had spoken with such richness of vision that it all lay bared before her eyes. For a moment she was empty, devoid of longing, and poised like a drop of water hanging from the leaf blade after a heavy shower.

“Love life, child, for what it’s worth. The sheer beauty of every single moment could drive you crazy only if you stare back at what’s passing by. Moments come and go, taking away what you were in that moment and leaving behind what you could be the next moment. Why carry the burden of a lifetime when you could wash them away in this flowing tides?

You are born anew, every moment, from that timeless womb that wraps you and me.”

Ana didn’t know what to say. She only heard her breath. And saw a smile, through the haze of mist that clouded her mind, she had longed to see. It was he, smiling.

“Strange, how these voices can keep on going. I push them out of the door, and they start banging on the windowpane like raindrops, hitting the glass, and then flowing down in small streams. I listen to them for a while, and realize they wouldn’t stop. It’s the monsoon of my life.”

Blue green water lay stretched before her. The lake was not so big. It was beautiful though. On other days, people could be seen rowing quietly across the placid water. Suddenly, a kingfisher shot up from a dead branch sticking out of the still water, and floated in mid air, beating its wings frantically. And, then dropped itself into the water. Ripples went out from the place it had hit. Moments later, it emerged with a fish in its beak. The sun was breaking out of the trees.

Ana got up, walked to the edge which was lined with reeds, and grasses. Dragonflies were hovering over the water. She stopped. There was a peculiar silence out there. She listened closely hoping to listen to buzz of their wings. But all what she heard was a constant buzz of silence ringing in her ears. “Be careful, child. The water is deep in there, and the soil is still wet from last night’s rain,” the old woman warned her. Ana walked on along the bank. She was past everything now. She sat down by a rock, with her legs dipped in the water.

“There are things that we don’t need anymore, and yet somehow we forget to throw them away. They keep on lying around for years right before us. But we live our life as if they don’t exist. Somehow we get comfortable and familiar with their invisible presence. They become the part of our lives. And so essential they become that we would miss them if they cease to be.”

The fishes swam in and started playing around her legs. A smile broke lose and stretched like a rainbow around her pretty face.

The kingfisher flew out again into the open air, out of the woods.

Somewhere, in those same moments, a man shot his 35 years old wife and a 9 years old son at point blank range, and then killed himself. He had left a note for his parents stating the reason. He was tired of carrying his life. And so had decided to put it down.

And he did.

By a pool of blood.

//27th May 2003

Random Notes – Contd..

Yes, I was speaking of people – authors, artists, actors, singers, musicians, painters, sculptors and many more – who are compelled to speak out, write, create, produce, open the windows to their souls and let the world peek in.

The key is this – Sensitivity. Thoughts and feeling must sprout words, nourish them, boil them over on and on for months and years. And when they cannot be contained any more, they burst forth on the scene as a senseless mess or with a sublime effect. I know a great art when I see one. I know a great story when I hear one. It should and must touch, in a wordless nameless way something that is at the core of your existence. It should shake you and make you weep silently. Yes, even extreme happiness can make you weep. It should give words and life to all your unspoken emotions. It should stand up for you and proclaim for all your silent years that you have lived and wasted. It should tell you that all is not wasted; that in a way, your thoughts and emotions would remain etched in stone for the world to see.

That is the power of a great work of art; the power of a great story.

It is personal, direct, and moving.

Random Notes

My last entry was my second attempt at writing short stories. It didn't come out that well, but I managed to get rid of the flowery stuff that I had in my first attempt.

But seriously what is the hallmark of a good writing? How should the author compose his/her thoughts to form the underlying structure of a beautiful story?

It is essential to achieve mastery over one's thought and marshalling them in a way a General marches his army. It is essential to allow words to 'flow' – in a certain sense of the word. But before anything else, the author must – must – spend countless hours nursing and brooding and suffering the central idea that underlies a story.

It is imperative to stay pregnant with these ideas and thoughts, letting them swell with the juices of your emotions. And when it is time, the author would know. To contain and nurse ideas in the depth of heart is the precursor of a great work of art.

A work of art, regardless of its stature in the annals of human history, can never be 'created'.

They just happen. They grate on the consciousness. They make you sleepless. And then they happen. To people who are extremely sensitive to their surroundings, and feel disturbed by their sensitivity.

Out of this disturbance, arises the conflict, the drive to understand, and resolve. Some leave mid-way frustrated by the apparent lack of progress. Some are not equipped well enough to express that conflict, so they chose to remain a mute spectator of the drama that unfolds before them, appreciating the works of others, and finding resonance in them.

I was reading some collection of essays on socio-political topics by Arundhati Ray couple of weeks ago. She is such an accomplished writer that the distance between her thoughts and the words she chose to use was astoundingly minimal. She is one case in point. Spending her time and effort for the cause of homeless – what is the word that she uses to describes these tribe of men? – PAPs?, yeah, that's the word – PAP which means “Project Affected Persons”, she has responded to that “sensitivity” that troubles men and conscience.

Contd..

First Draft

Pallavi always avoided taking cabs after office. Her house was on the other side, in New Jersey, and she used to ferry across the East River to Manhattan every morning. She worked as an attorney with one of the biggest firms in the downtown, and had earned herself some name in all these 20 years she was with the firm. Twenty years!! It has been a long journey since she first came to the US with her husband and a baby girl, knowing little what lay in store for them. It was just the beckoning of a better life that brought them here. And mostly at the insistence of Akaash, who was a successful doctor and yet had given up on the ways of the society they called their own.

In the beginning weeks, she felt the drowsiness of the long lazy days, with no one around to talk to and practically nothing much to do. Every one seemed busy or too snobbish to talk to a strange, brown-skinned family that had come into their neighborhood. Slowly she had started hunting for jobs, and landed up with a call from her present employer. That was it, and she never looked back. She was busy with her job, and with every passing day saw her baby girl grow up into a young, delectable lady. Akaash stayed away from home, most time of the year. He was trying to setup something of his own. The days crawled into months and years and slowly she realized the sense of loneliness creeping into the cracks of what she knew as her home.

She was walking down the street running parallel to the East River, and the cool breeze woke her up from the reverie. It was seven in the evening and people around were returning home. “Americans are a strange lot”, She thought. “Their life and times are measured by the dollars they earn. Professional, yes, but strangely disconnected. They are here and now, but you can't touch them.” Walking down these streets she had always felt that gazes of her fellow passers-by bore through her, never stopping to acknowledge the existence they just casually trespassed.

On the way, she stopped at the Frankie’s to buy some rolls. She was starving after a particularly long day, and had skipped her lunch to cover up some details on a case. It was an interesting one; this Mr. Sloan, who had solicited her opinion on a matter related to a legal issue, was a man of excellent reputation. Suave, sophisticated, rich and elegant. And he was living a double life with another woman for past five year. And his wife was unaware of this alternate arrangement. Every month, Mr. Sloane would be away from his home on the excuse of a business trip and would spend time with this woman. And this woman, one Ms. Margaret, was ignorant of Sloan’s married life. And now this man wanted to keep away some of his wealth and properties for Margaret for her upkeep. And all these must be carried out in absolute secrecy to allow this man to continue living his ways. In due course of discussion, Pallavi suddenly felt like asking this man as to why he carried out such a dual life. Was he not happy with his wife? Was he in love with this woman, but didn’t have the balls to tell his wife? Was he in love with both the women? Or was it some weird college-boy fantasy that he was trying to live? Could you really, possibly love two women at the same time, sharing your life, your soul, and your body? Then she was reminded of a poet who once said, “I have never been aware before how many faces there are. There are quantities of human faces, but there are many more faces, for each person has several.”

She looked up at the harbor down south and felt an invisible weight settling over her frame. She has known this since the day Akaash went away. Disappeared. Her passion for work only went overboard to counter the void that he left behind. Humans have always unsettled her beyond a point. She has always felt incapacitated when trying to define the bonds that ties up human souls. Akangsha, her daughter, aroused in her this same strange and absurd feeling. At times when she would get back home late, she would tip-toe down to Akangsha’s room, and sit by her bed watching her lost behind those beautiful dreaming eyes. Her eyes were a lot like her own – big, sharp, and sexy. And there she would find a stranger lying in the skin of her baby. Bemused, she would softly get up and leave.

It was this ‘disconnect’ what Camus calls “The Absurd, which visited her so often these days. It would strike her at hours when she were busy arguing her case in court; or creep in slowly when she is signing the check for her luncheon; or amidst the sudden deep and loud horns of the ships or ferries pulling their anchors for some distant land. “Where do they go, all these vessels? Did Akaash went aboard one of them, and lost his way home? Oh silly me! How could he lose his way back?! He is a grown up man. But then where did he go? Was it some woman, then? Like this Mr. Sloan? I have never known him to be interested in any woman but me!! Or, was he just plain bored with me and this life? Wonder what happens to men with the passage of time. “

“’More belongs to marriage than four legs in a bed’. I guess we failed to find that ‘more’. And perhaps he is out there somewhere in this world trying to find meaning to his life he spent with me by being away from me. But I wonder why. The moment you realize that between the closest human beings there is an infinite distance, and it is humanly possible for us to live and love our lives across this impossible divide, you stop looking for meanings.” She still remembers the day when he proposed her for marriage. He was a charmer. And yes, she was more than willing to marry him. “When love caresses your heart, everything seems magnificent and humanly achievable. Anything. And everything. Days feel like being in cocoon: warm, moist, and tangible.”

Slowly the horizons descended into darkness, and the Manhattan skyline became lit with dots of light. There was a loud horn and one of the ferries set on. “It’s time then, isn’t it?” A smile spread out on her wan lips. She must have been sitting there for an hour now, by the East River side, on one of the benches. “Yes, it’s time now and Akangsha might be home.” She thought. She has always wanted to write something. But she never ventured beyond some mundane entries in her journals. But something in that sound of that horn and ferry vanishing into the horizon compelled her to speak. To write. To allow her plugged emotions to spill out on the pages of human history. It may not make sense. But she was beyond care. She just wished to let words seep through her being and walk away – Into the past or, into the future. Wherever. Whatever.

When she reached home, Jenny, her housemaid told her that Akangsha isn’t home yet. She went to her study, closed the door behind her, and opened her laptop. With fingers poised on the keypad, she stared into the screen for a long time, and then slowly and gradually allowed her fingers to dance. When they stopped, she found a quote from an ancient text from a Greek poem typed across the white screen: “O my soul, do not aspire to immortal life, but exhaust the limits of the possible”.

And thus began a journey into the future.

Into the unknown where even “The Absurd” becomes poetry.

Yes, and after all what is life if it cannot be lived in poetry.