Friday, October 14, 2005

It is my last-but-one night at office, and I have a late shift. A very late shift. Isn't that glorious. Seeing that the pages (1&2) supposed to arrive from Delhi haven't shown any signs of appearing anytime soon, the message for me is all too clear: I will see the dawn break yet again. It sounds so romantic. But actually is the drabbest thing on earth: I will not breathe in the fresh air with pleasure, my ears will not register any joy at the sound of birds: I will sink into a bed half-dead and wake up perspiring at high noon.
I suppose I will hardly miss office, but then, one can never trust nostalgia: it can romanticise anything and everything. So my long nights may become exciting adventures in retrospect, and the various uninteresting to downright repulsive colleagues (e.g. the one who had 'tummy ache' today and persisted in airing the gory details) might be transformed into charming comrades. Especially as one has the tendency to think that the soup one is currently in, is the worst that one has ever been in and everything before appears to have been much better (well, at least I do.)
So, in general, I am suspicious of nostalgia: but then there are exceptions. There are wonderful moments one remembers as wonderful moments, of course. And the validity of retrospectively romanticising more ambiguous experiences is that all those bits of the episode that pass by too fast for grasping can be relished and reconstructed amply in memory.... like the way I can imagine past evenings in office and narrate them far more exciting than they seemed then (viz. the post before the last one.)
But... and I know this is dicey territory... I think I am far better at narrating in poems rather than in prose. Like this one afternoon before the exams I spent lazing and studying at a classmate's flat in Delhi... it became the poem I quote below, and all the narration and reconstruction was even more pleasure than I could remember of the afternoon itself. Or, let's put it this way: the two were far different pleasures.

Study at my friend's

And then, that cocooned day
During hot afternoon, cushioned study
Lazy-eyed, soft –
I went out to look beyond, and
Expected relish at the drag behind
Through conversation.

It was silent, the way dry leaves
Glittered, top-most branches
Twirled hands, slightly,
While white rubbish gleamed
UnexpectedIn a bare park up front
Its stretched face toward light.

Here, evenings are parched and yellow.
Yet I saw the story played
Out inside, the paused gestures
And quiet emotion
Of purposely lengthened talk as
Conscious as topicless,

In a fragile, shadowy skein of moon
Holding off
The expected smog

To make but a blue sky pretty:
But beauty enough was condensed

As was limitless, which
Rooted me for sometime in a glance

And the moment held me back some
Minutes more.

- AD

Friday, October 07, 2005

So: I am nodding my head vaguely at about ten minutes to two and thinking what the hell to write. I am tired, my throat is sore, I am in dire need of sleep and I have been editing copies for the last eight hours. I have become some kind of grammar machine. Drained and spaced out I may be: but I challenge the reader to spot any spelling or grammar blooper on this post (colloquialisms don't count). I know this is sad. I hope journalism won't turn me into a machine who has dreams filled with headlines and blurbs and straps and spell checks and Quark Express files. Or worse, I may metamorphose into some kind of Lynn Truss acidified and with all the sense of humour removed. The horror of it.

Oh well. The week was quite a week. Yesterday. Scene I: A tiny guy with moroger-jhuti kind of hair (this old friend used to lovingly call it the pseudo-Elvis puff) and carrying two rather large bags stumbles as he tries to descend from a minibus at Dalhousie square, and falls face-down on the street. He sees the grainy tarmac close-up, he sees the black sky above and he sees the huge bus-wheel roll past, a foot away on the side. For three hours later, he nurses this arm pain and a freaky feeling inside that is somewhere between utter awe, utter terror and utter emptiness.

Day before yesterday. Scene II: The tiny guy sits wide-eyed before a comp terminal, typing away furiously and opening random sites on the side. He is speaking to a certain young gentleman who seems light-years away in Bangalore but who (the last time the two of them had talked PROPERLY) had been just inches away. That was five months back, and now the tiny guy feels a weird mix of pain, longing and pragmatic self-assertion which demands a deliberate cultivation of indifference. Oh well... everyone knows ex-s are painful stuff, howevermuch one may say one has got over them and has moved on.

Thankfully, it is not that there has not been ANY progression in terms of emotional growth and maturity. I am much wiser: so I say, and pat myself on my back. Evidence: This passage from a mail I found myself typing out to another old friend of mine. "AND listen, there is exciting news: A girl has a crush on me and I have a crush on a girl. Unfortunately enough, the former and latter girls in the sentence are NOT the same person. Get it? So what happens everyday is that the 1st girl (from my class) makes big letchy eyes at me (she knows all about my flexible sexuality) and I try and catch a glimpse of the 2nd fabulous, VERY intelligent, sincere, nice, and EXTREMELY HOT girl who is from some other class. Oh well. THAT is quite hopeless. the latest I heard is that she (the latter one, of course) is going to some god-forsaken place on vacation with two interfering males. As always, life has not been fair to me. *weep, weep.* "
See how adolescent I can become at will? Now THAT is what I call maturity. I am happy with my (so perfectly apparent to the reader, I'm sure) controlled and planned emotional trajectory. Soon enough, I may become this terribly agonising agony aunt with All the Knowledge You Need about Relationships and their Aftermath, and coupled with the acidified Lynn Truss transformation, will provide perfect material for a new-age Ovidian tract.

But as the night progresses, I am talking more and more shit. So I will sign off. And as and when the dratted office car comes, go home and go to sleep. And dream of straplines and heads and blurbs?

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Godddddddddddddddd..............................

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Something like this (scroll down to observe the entity called a poem that I am referring to) comes from too many trips at too unearthly hours, down familiar streets made totally and freshly unfamiliar by night - an experience that any sub-editor after a long haul at the desk knows only too well. Hmm… I see that after but four months at this damnedest job, I am already speaking as if I am anything but a rookie. And to think there is just two week of it left. The Indian Express people are understaffed as usual, but this time I SHALL NOT stay back for another month. No way. But I will, strangely enough, miss some aspects of the job (most of all the money, three guesses for that one.) But there are these weird moments… sometimes of a lull amidst the work in office when conversation stops, the sports people tilt their heads and laugh but I can’t hear what they say, the guy I have a sort-of fancy for (but then he’s STRANGE) looks askew and completely vulnerable and lost and not himself, Rupa-di (the other trainee sub) stares intently at some errant page that has probably gone and hung itself for good, and our little zoo is perfectly paused as if on the brink of some revelation. But then a packet crackles or a phone rings… or another batch of coffee is here, and one starts as if on a new paragraph.
And there are those exhausted rides in the car back home… cool, drowsy, silent: the town is marvellously changed from day in ways I never knew it could be. It is easier to let go of everything then, from body to waking consciousness - just as the town has.


People sleeping, sprawled on cold cement
On dust and hot dirt. Body broken up
In happy bits
On a cool spread of white…

I pause, hiccups stuck in my throat
Eyes on the patterned pavement lit under the last halogens
Of night,
Eyes on a fresh puddle of rainwater
On glistening tinfoil, garbage and grass

Mixing with hair… I watch, completely tense
Aware of my own tips and ends

How past borders
And markings-off, deprived yet skilled,
Those bodies make it all their own
Under neon,
Beside downed shutters and spare trees.

To think, beside
Moving feet and whirling wheels,

May I lay myself down once? In a pool
Of parts let free of gazes? May I dissolve
Without a pillow? Without shame?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Well... here goes the 'poetic fancy'
bit of my blog-writing (ref. post no. 1). JU people: I promise that this was not inspired in any way by the jheel-paar cleaning drive experience.

The Swim

One moment and
You’ve looked past that
Old grey large building
And thought out what
May be that pond beyond,

And calculating distances, feeling
The irrepressible loneliness
Of those scattered, floating clouds above –

It takes but another
(Moment, that is) to consider
How new or old may be that giddiness;
As you race and pause and embrace
Finally, with relief, the release
That will be all to feel
Once one’s drenched, one’s
Gone under.

I was, in my childhood, an inveterate water-hater, there was once this (retrospectively hilarious) scene by a swimming pool where the trainer was trying to persuade me to the deep end while I was persisting in trying to climb up the wall, a tug-of-war that my undoubtedly well-meaning mother also joined in but which was seen by me as the gesture of ultimate rejection and betrayal.
Since then, the effect of water-shimmering-in-the-afternoon on me has been mixed: the still languor of the atmosphere, that very old fear at the pit of my stomach, added with a sense of anticipated thrill that I only tasted much later, after many failed training sessions. Swimming, in the closed community of this small town I grew up in, was a competitive activity entrenched in the process of a collective growing up: most of your friends (not to mention their parents) knew whether you could swim or not, just as they knew your rank in class and (if you were a girl) whether you could dance/sing or not. It was one of the rungs in a proper induction into both masculinity and femininity: one hallmark of a balanced upbringing for both boys and girls (balanced between studies and a right dose of extra-curriculars, that is.) It was not gendered like a lot of other things were, but still a locus of heavy competition, where rivalries and friendships mixed in the shared pursuit of growth. But also, it provided a rare space where girls and boys could freely mingle and talk: and for me, that was doubly beneficial in the way I could chat with girls without surveillance and the awkwardness of any expected pattern of interaction, (merely because we were supposed to be swimming anyway), and also surreptitiously and cleverly glance at sleek male bodies climbing out of the pool.
It is weird, when one thinks how swimming can be an activity of personal freedom in the sense of an easy and willed movement that can never be totally moulded or taught from outside, that it could become so social an activity in our town the way it did. Isolation and swimming became associated in my mind much later, when I was in my late teens, and was allowed to go alone to the pool when not many others would be there.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Where do we begin?

With an explanation of the blog name, I presume, lest I be accused of deliberate obscurantism. First things first: I think I am going to be a rather bad blogger. I only feel like writing when I have to rant against someone or something, or when I have poetic fancies and need to off-load.
Neither of them are attractive prospects, I guess, for the reader. But let me give myself some credit for the time being and see how this shapes up.
Onto Lacan: I know that being but in the first year of my M.A. and having read about three or four essays/extracts from Lacan, I'd sound rather 'echore paka' (this lovely Bengali phrase meaning precocious) if I presume to present a formal critique of Lacan here. But the reaction to him comes as one from the guts: I'd have major problems with anybody who presumes that something as protean and as unfixed, as socially contingent as Language can be pinned down analytically in a principle like the law-of-the-father. That precludes the possibility of viable alternative, contingent or simultaneous subject-positions vis-a-vis language, except 'man' and 'woman'. As someone who has - for the past few years - negotiated with terms like 'gay', 'bisexual', 'effeminate', 'boy', 'man' etc. and managed to retain some working sense of selfhood (I hope), may be I have a right to claim that Lacan was wrong, or at least fell short of the radical possibilties of a post-structuralist attitude to language. Incidentally, there are excellent and perceptive critiques of Lacan by the likes of Kaja Silverman and Judith Butler. Some useful web addresses on Lacan I found: