Wednesday, November 25, 2009

flesh, ashes and dust

Suja got acquainted with the fact that pain was personal very early in life. She learnt it first when the nurse poked around her tummy until she found out where exactly it hurt the most. The nurse kept jabbing her finger around asking her if it hurt, like she had to search the place out – like she didn’t know where it hurt the most. But how could the nurse not know where the pain was? Especially when it ached so much, surely it was horrible enough for the nurse to see it, if not feel it. Surely pain like this loomed over the world like a black cloud, so that the whole world would know that she, Suja was in Pain! But no such thing! Why, the nurse even seemed mildly irritated at the pain.
That was the first time Suja realized that when something really hurt, only she could feel the pain. The other people didn’t even know where the pain was, forget feel her pain. Suja quickly learnt the parts of her anatomy so that she could tell the world about her pain. “Amma, my stomach is paining.” “Amma, my leg is paining.” Stomach pain worked well when she wanted to stay home from school and leg pain worked best when she wanted appa or amma to carry her.
But when amma scolded her and when Tinky died, even Suja couldn’t tell where the pain was either. She hurt all over. Nor did she want to share the whereabouts of her pain with the world, though she did tell amma why she couldn’t eat when Tinky died. “Amma, I can’t eat amma. The top part of my thamuck is paining.” “Amma why did Tinky die, amma?” “Because God called Tinky, molle.” “But why did God call Tinky if he knew Tinky would die if he called Tinky. And Tinky was my dog.
Amma picked her up and held her close. Amma never poked around for the place where it hurt, but she always helped make the pain somehow bearable. That night as she made her peace with God regarding Tinky issue, she asked him to take the pain away and asked him never to call Amma like he called Tinky. But the next morning the pain didn’t go away, unlike her leg aches and stomach aches. Two fat teardrops rolled off her nose as she thought about her dead dog and the way he used to smile his ridiculous smile at her. That was the first time she made her acquaintance with the kind of pain that remained. The kind of pain that the night didn’t and couldn’t steal away from your body as you slept. The kind of pain that sometimes stole your sleep. The kind of pain, that sometimes, nothing could heal.

As she bounced between the opposite sides of consciousness and unconsciousness, the pain was a disturbing droning that didn’t let Suja collect her thoughts. She was supposed to be worrying about something, so worried that she could feel it rolling about in her mouth, like a taste you tried to remember long after you’ve swallowed what it belonged to. “The baby”, she remembered and her hands struggled to feel the familiar bump. But they didn’t cooperate with her intentions and one of them had the definite weight of humanness in them. Someone was holding her hands. “Ravi…?”, she wanted to ask about the baby, ‘Was he safe? Did I kill him by being so careless?’ But she couldn’t, her tongue wouldn’t budge from its heavy stupor. Even Ravi kept moving around in the spectrum of her vision like she was looking at him through a kaleidoscope. “How did I fall? Where did I fall? Did I kill him?” At this, the pain stopped being a dull droning but turned into a very evident jagged edge that slit somewhere deep inside her being. “Is the baby coming?” she wondered and made yet another failed attempt at feeling for the bump.

Ravi’s lips moved, like he was telling her something. “Must pay attention, he’s probably telling me something about the baby”, thought Suja as she wrestled with the heaviness in her eyelids. The droning and the humming again. For the briefest second, like a revelation, clarity cleared the smoke in her disjointed senses and she caught on what Ravi’s moving lips were saying. They weren’t saying anything at all. Ravi was singing to her. Ravi always sang to her when she couldn’t sleep. And sleep was especially hard during the course of her pregnancy. That one moment of clarity was a wet towel to her feverish delirium. “The baby is fine”, and she let the pain drone on and stopped worrying about the taste in her mouth. But she would have, if she realized that it was blood that left its metallic taste in her mouth. And that Ravi was singing to keep himself from crying.

It was well into the morning when Suja gained consciousness and instinctively her hands flew to her stomach. It was empty, she knew that before she even touched the place where her beloved bump used to be. The emptiness in her was like a broken pane on which scraps of hopes and dreams clung on to with the desperation and tenacity of patches of moss. “I killed him”, a sob got stuck somewhere on its way out and her body shuddered from the impact. Strong hands of hopelessness had her pinned down to her bed and they poked and probed, jabbing her where it hurt the most. Jab, jab, poke, poke. Warm human hands pulled her away from the smothering blackness. Saving her.

A summer’s night, so many summers ago, the warm touch of humanness. “The up part of my stomach hurts” “Amma why did Tinky die?”Amma’s soft, cool hand on her cheek. Amma’s soft, cool hand that had long withered away to dust in the heat of the furnace fifteen years ago. “I killed him.” Ravi’s firm, warm hand touched her cheek; no less gentle, no less kind, no less loving. “I killed him.” “No, you did not. The accident did”, Ravi half sighed, half gasped, like his lungs couldn’t decide whether to contract or expand, exhale or inhale. His hand travelled down the bed like a blind five-legged spider, seeking for hers just by the sense of touch. They were both blind spiders, seeking each other in the darkness, groping around, reaching out for each other – through the sense of touch. Each seeking each other’s pain. Trying to find it, to compare wounds and heal somehow. Seeking the sorry comfort of empathy.

Suja, numb, traced shapes on her husband’s head as he sought respite in her warmth. Each repeated movement of her finger was like carefully flicking back the pages of time. Behind her eyes that stared fixedly into space, she replayed the events of the last evening.

Vishnu was a handsome boy and when he smiled, his eyes crinkled so small but one could still see the warmth they emanated like the rays of sunlight that stole in through the gaps in her roof on summer evenings. He had just stepped out to meet some friends. And he’d kissed her before he left for letting him take the car. “Amma you’re such a dear!” Suja heart tore. Strange how the sweetest memories develop jagged edges just by the altering of circumstance. A dirty, mean trick like stealing from a blind beggar; like a thorn in a rose. Suja was the one who answered the phone. She heard it first, but she didn’t tell anyone. She couldn’t. She had passed out, clutching at her stomach.

Ravi’s tears made a wet patch just beneath which her heart unwillingly pounded on. Her own tears slipped down silently mixing with the wound on her lip. Bitter and sweet. She wrapped her arms around Ravi and he tightened his embrace. Suja knew that pain was very personal and no amount of prodding and poking would help determine the exact point of the origin of their pain, nor would it help to feel or partake of each other’s pain. Suja also knew that this pain would not go away. But for now she would hold Ravi close and try and bear it.

(i wrote this story a long time ago when my aunt had a miscarriage. and she had been longing for a baby. she still is. somehow losing a child seemed significant then, though many good women i knew attended their children's funeral. call it a prayer, call it a requiem - this is my little something for all the mothers who have had to bury their babies.)

Friday, November 20, 2009


Dreams live in snake pits
The diamond nestled in their fangs.
Put your hand in, the snake will bite;
Don’t put your hand in,
Your heart will bite.
The poison will course your veins, nevertheless.
Bite the wound, suck the poison and spit it out.
But there’s no way,
To eject the poison
Of a dream gone to rust in your blood.
There’s no way
To get the dream out of your blood.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

acquired immunity

“I’m sorry, but do I know you?”
“Yeah, we spoke. Remember?”
“Did we? I don’t seem to recall.”
“Well I’m not surprised. I’ve changed much since we last talked. So how have you been?”
“Well, what if I have changed as well and I’m not entirely too kicked about talking to you?”
“Oh. In that case, I’m sorry. But it is a pity cos I have changed for the better since we talked.”
“Oh really? And who is to vouch for that, may I ask?”
“Well, for one thing you would remember me the next time we spoke”
“(shudder) I certainly hope I won’t.”
“But that is just being plain unfair.”
“No it isn’t. It’s resilience. I’ve learnt to fight back.”
“Intriguing. And what is this that you have learnt to fight back against?”
“Disappointments. Angst. Agony. Hurt. None of them can affect you if you don’t remember.”
“So you’re telling me that you don’t remember anything at all?”
“No. I mean, yes, I’m telling you that I can remember nothing at all.”
“But that’s just ridiculous. What about happiness, joy, childbirths? You don’t remember those either?”
“But how can you possibly do that. How can you leave those behind?”
“Oh I can.”
“And love? What about love?”
“Love? (Laughter too shrill to be icy) Love is just foolishness. Anyone can afford to leave foolishness behind.”
“Ok forget love like romance, flowers and sex. But what about love like romance, flowers and sex?”
“Hmmm? What about it? Those are just tangled weeds and smoke. What they do hold against the cold sweetness of indifference?”
“What about longing?”
“That? Do you know how easy it is to jam every emotion in prescription pill bottles? Their caps are so damn tight, to keep them child proof.”
“Somehow, the sight of pill bottles make me feel cold and clammy inside.”
“You’ve got too much emotion going on with you. One day you’ll realize that they’re nothing but deadweight. And you’ll abandon them like old friends.”
“Your analogies are disturbing.”
“There you go again. Are you going to be this dramatic through out?”
“And these pill bottles, what do you do with them?”
“Oh I bury them. Oh I know that they poison my well water. But it’s certainly better having my blood poisoned and turned to lead by having their contents inside me.”
“Their contents being?”
“Oh do you ever let off asking questions?”
“You have dirt under your fingernails.”
“I know. That’s my talisman. To remind me that it never does to be weak.”
“Will you give me some?”
“That is just plain disgusting. Why?”
“Because that’s all I can claim of what we used to have.”
“You have nothing to claim. There never was. There never will be.”
“But that’s a lie. You know it is.”
“My dear, I’m sorry but I didn’t get your name.”
“It’s George, Mrs. Alberta George.”
“Mister George, I’m terribly sorry. But if you’re trying to stir up some kind of emotional past, you are wasting your time. Because what was left in me is dissolving right now in the fathoms of my well and sticking to the tendrils of my dahlias’ roots.”
“But how did it get to be this way? How can you be so remote, so unfeeling, so unaffected? It’s inhuman.”
“My dear, did I not mention prescription bottles? They hold little pellets of resistance. Resistance against disease, against infection. Defense. And keeping you out is no more inhuman than resisting those viruses that cannot wait to invade my body and make me awfully sick. It’s no different from keeping a cold away.”

He left in a hurry. But not a moment too soon. One second more and I’d have reached out to keep his face from falling into a million pieces. But he’ll be over it soon enough. Even if I never will.”

(I was wondering how it'd be if there was some kind of emotional suppressant. And thus this post. thanks to a certain pink person for showing me how interesting conversations can be)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Of falling stars and pockets

Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Never let it fade away
Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Save it for a rainy day

Even the worst days have something to cherish about them. Something good. A perfect sunset, an old, old friend calls after ages, a sudden shower of rain which awakens the dormant senses of the earth and cleanses you within and without. Somewhere, somehow the world is never bereft of beauty at any point of our existence. Yesterday had to be one of the worst days I’ve had in my 26 years. As most 26-year-really-feeling-olds are, I’m plagued by the insecurities of existence – career, marriage, children, where is this going, will I-won’t I, have i-haven’t I, will we-won’t we, I’m sick of this but am I brave enough to let go this, maybe-maybe not, I’m running out of time, if I’m not behind the wheel, who is! And yesterday all these questions decided to form a psycho-tsunami inside me. And everything I knew, invested dreams in, wanted, hoped for teetered on the edge of a precipice of infinite fathoms. I was weighted down by the overpowering hand of hopelessness and GOD IN HEAVEN I wanted to curl up something, anything and smoke it for the desperate life of me. (Ha ha, bet you thought I wanted to curl up and die) But smoking is not an option, thanks to my severe allergies. To make things infinitely worse I had a constellation of pimples taking shape on my forehead. Feeling low and feeling ugly is by far an unhealthier combination than Mentos and Coca Cola.
Salvation comes pink and beautiful in the form of someone who I have grown very fond of in the recent future. My own stranger buddy tells me that the director of a film I had reviewed in the previous post has commented. eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
From there my day took off. How often do you get a director taking the time to tell you thanks! It was overwhelming. It was brilliant. It was heady. My own falling star. God couldn’t have engineered yesterday any better. Well it could have, but let’s not pee on my parade shall we. So it’s eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee and more eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee and still more eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Happieeeeeeeeness!
That felt good. And so I’m pocketing this little bit of starlight, because I want to remember good things can happen even in the worst of times.

For love may come
And tap you on the shoulder one starless night
Just in case you feel that you wanna hold her
You’ll find a pocketful of starlight

Some of us call it prayer. Some of us call it optimism. Some of us call it a cigarette. But there’s something that takes us from stage one to stage two. Whatever be the catharsis crutch, it’ll get us by. Our own pocketful of starlight.

For when your troubles start multiplyin,
An' they just might!
It’s easy to forget them without tryin,
With just a pocketful of starlight!

Sooner or later life’s going to spit on my face again. Something’s going to make me cry. But like the rest of the world, I have to keep pace. To stop thinking that things aren’t fair and make the best of it. Like someone once said, you can’t recreate what just might have been. And until this very moment I was kicking my own ass for a lot of things – to count them would be a litany of absolute silliness. What I need now is to teach myself to love with arms wide open. To thank with joined hands. To smile with an open heart. And to embrace life tight, like it’s the one gift I’ve hankered for all my damn, well, life! To remember that I’d rather be hurt than live in the cold preservative comfort of complacence.
So this is my way of keeping this fistful of starlight so that I might remember that there’s always some reason to go on. That I’ll get to the end of the rainbow yet and I will find my pot of gold.

Enjoy this song at:

I promise you, it’ll be worth your time.

Monday, November 9, 2009

a fresh brew

This is a request to the good people of Kerala who presently reside in Kerala. Please go watch Kerala Café, in cinemas now. It’s a brilliant, brilliant breakaway from the embarrassment we call Malayalam Cinema these days (A precious few masterpieces not including). A brief yet thankful lapse from the superstar cult. All of 10 short films, Kerala Café is a celebration of talent, humane, the glorious mundane, poignant moments and heartrending insight. The film is bigger than every single fragment in itself – the directors, the actors, the stories and the hundred and one places where your heart just skips a beat. I’m not exactly someone to comment, since I barely watch Malayalam movies and I think Mohanlal in the post-Kilukaam era (leaving aside Devasuram which was brilliant extraordinaire) became the overweight middle-aged uncle of Malayalam Cinema. And he has no one to blame. He decided to ride on his superstardom rather than deliver Talavattom-esque stellar performances. But that's just further proof of the decadence of Malayalam Cinema and here's what I thought.

Right from the opening of the film, you sort of warm up to the whole "feel" of the film. A railway station café, where people share tables if nothing else. A reststop of brief acquaintances, forgotten sooner than the aftertaste of the coffee and masaladosa fades. But nevertheless a backdrop to countless sleights of circumstance.

Padmakumar’s NOSTALGIA, the first of the ten short films, makes everyone think of their NRI relatives with a sardonic smile. Dileep slips in with ease into the role of the arrogant, full-of-himself, constantly dissatisfied, I’m-the-centre-of-the-world NRI in this film which is a reflection of our own dissatisfaction with ourselves.

Suresh Gopi redeems himself from the “Just remember that” and his infamous thickly accented English which make the new-gen snobby Malayalee (including yours truly) want to relinquish all associations with him in LALITHAMHIRANMAYAM. Though Jyotirmai and the pretty girl with straight hair (Dhanya Mary George) own the film, he is at least a decent, if not, excellent prop to the story directed by Shaji Kailas who surprisingly has delivered a rather sensitive rendering of an extramarital affair.

ISLAND EXPRESS by SHANKAR RAMAKRISHNAN to me was sort of the catastrophe it was about. Half way through the movie I was wondering why I couldn’t understand anything – it was in Malayalam, and yet it felt as alien as whatever language they speak in Czechoslovakia. Bizarre doesn’t begin to describe it. Those who did understand it enjoyed it enough. So you have my sincerest “All the best”.

OFFSEASON by Shyama Prasad left me with no clue whether I liked it or not. The visuals were gorgeous, picture-postcard-perfect and Suraj Venjaramood was funny enough. But God, I was disappointed especially since I’ve always associated Shyama Prasad with “the magic touch”. No magic in this one.

In AVIRAMAM Siddique’s film with Shweta Menon ripped me apart. I mean it was an ordinary enough theme. But the characters lived, breathed and bled. So convincing that you reached out to the story and you begin to wonder where did you take that wrong turn that lead to this jaded existence. Directed by B. Unnikrishnan.

Mamooty..aww I love this guy. He’s just so incredibly handsome that it’s not funny. In the Lal Jose directed PURAMKAZCHAKAL, he brings out with brilliance the one hundred and a million reasons why a random person could be a co-passenger from hell. Very sensitive. Very beautiful.

Saleemkumar can be as ridiculous as he can break your heart. The Anwar Rasheed directed BRIDGE was a story of small, seemingly insignificant losses and how lives slip through the cracks in the pavement of life. Whether it’s an old mother who has outlived her purpose or a little kitten who is yet to fill its space in a little boy’s life.

Anjali Menon’s film HAPPY JOURNEY with its subtle humour and excellent characters is a brief release from the other poignant-heavy films. It leaves you refreshed and of course, it comes with its fair share of insight, which primarily is to cherish your life like it was the last day on earth. Revathi’s film MAKAL though it was a tried and tried even more theme on child prostitution and predictably lots of tears, it made me spare a thought for the plight of those countless people who go unaccounted for. You’re left with a strong feeling of discomfort for having an easier and better life, which you take for granted nevertheless. Finally, the movie that really KICKED ASS was this movie called MRITYUNJAYAM by Uday Ananthan. It’s spooked me out so much that I was so convinced that my house was haunted that night, that I was making 3am resolutions to give my family priest a call.

On the whole it’s a gorgeous movie.

Please go watch it and give our dear film industry reason to experiment for the better and do more films like Kerala Café.

Friday, November 6, 2009

salvaged nothingness

Once upon a time there died a man. Though he went through the motions of life, he lacked one essential trait- he was not made of flesh and blood. He needed neither food nor drink and he would come out, just as he went in if you placed him in an airless cavity of the earth's bowels…….
Ram was ordinary in every sense of the word. He had to work to satisfy the demands of this stomach. He bled if you pierced his skin. His eyes watered if smoke or dust entered them and his legs ran if and ever his brain urged him to. But his heart was weak. Not as in the muscular organ that pumped life into you, but in the context of faith and conviction. Though the "mill" that he was a "run" of, churned out many like him into the world, he believed he was special. He believed that he was extraordinarily stupid, extraordinarily ungifted, extraordinarily common and above all extraordinarily detested. But he was just ordinary, painfully ordinary; and no one has strong emotions about ordinary, most of all, detest. Ram was so ordinary that no one noticed him, a fly on the wall. Actually, not even a fly on the wall, given today's sterile conditions that any winged creature causes such confusion and commotion as a dragon's visit would. Women would rather yawn than speak to him. And men, well, men would rather go to the toilet. It isn't a sin to be ordinary, but it's a sin to stick to its heels like a piece of shit that sticks to the underneath of your shoes.
Ram let the coils of self-pity fall around him and it was in its suffocating embrace that he slept, dreaming his grey dreams. Everyday, he would read the papers and remember nothing about the 12-year old who got raped and killed or Iraq or the farmer suicides after he was done with his morning coffee. He would do morning puja without actually making contact with God. His thoughts were black spaces where beetles of jadedness bumped about blindly against the glassy surface of his eyes, like the bird that entered Tom's ear in those Tom and Jerry cartoons. Words of devotion bereft of sentiment fell like dung before the image of love. One day the coil of self-pity got a little too tight around his neck and as suffocation always does, it blocked out his ears. His ears were blocked to the voice of God. They found his body on the railway tracks the next day.

I didn’t have to do it, you know. But I did it anyway. Why? Cause I didn't want to struggle. I was the lazy butterfly whose freedom was the result of the effort of an external source. I didn't fight my way out of my protective larva skin; someone assisted my way out- made it easier. But maybe if they hadn't I would have appreciated my freedom better. Maybe I would have given my life a second chance- maybe struggle would have saved me. But my chances have gone b y- no more second chances.
The curse of death is binding and complete. The scorch of a soul's torment isn't something the flesh would understand. Endless nights of insomnia and nightmares you can't wake from, reaching out to you with gnarled, hairy fingers; decomposition within inches of your face. But this isn't half as bad as being the fetid smell amongst the living. I see their lips twist in disgust, their only acknowledgement to my presence. The fly on the wall degraded to a bad smell. But at least they acknowledge the smell. The bitterness of a bad death isn't something expressible in quantitative terms. It would make a body crack, coming out like worms, eating you inside out and outside in. but a soul, what does it do to a soul of uncertain material? It does what you do to a stubborn bag of potato chips that just won’t open. It wrings it, it punches holes, it pulls it, it tears it, it scratches; only, the soul never rips open- the struggle continues. And the word " suicide" from living lips makes you feel the wheels of the train, mashing your body, reducing you to pulp- your last scream, "Oh God!!", knowing that not even He is listening anymore. Knowing that you cut the tie that binds. Knowing that you cursed yourself- took out your tongue and put worms in its place. Took out my heart and put filth there. Took out my God and placed decay in His place. To hear " suicide" from living lips switches on a hundred and one bright lights blinding your eyes - hundred and one bright lights of a hundred and one oncoming trains. "Move out!" "Run!" "Get off the tracks." You scream, till you think your lungs will burst, and blood will spurt out from your mouth. But neither happens, because you're dead, remember!?
The agonies of life are certainly difficult. But I'll tell you, living the agony of your death is, by far, worse.

(This is a really old story, written like 4 or 5 years ago. I seem to running out of stuff to write. Till then, recycle i will)