So in principle, this is like an elaborate caption that got out of hand. Me being me decided why not make it into a post? So let’s dive in! If we talk about how Life progresses and how important networking is, we are not surprised when we make connections or whatever that may be. But that makes me wonder… what about recollections? More importantly, what about reconnections- with people who we have left behind? We speak in glowing terms about networking, and please ask me about it- it is very crucial, and everyone should do it as a rule of thumb. But that is not the point here. My question is- why don’t we talk about reconnecting in similar terms? Is it not profitable enough to find ourselves in people and people in ourselves? But who is worthy of that? I have an answer for you, my friend- I think everyone will hurt us at the end of the day, and it is on us to decide who is worthy of that. By all means, I don’t mean to glorify toxic behaviour, but you understand what I mean, right? You are smart enough.
We humans are not perfect by a long shot and hence have made mistakes or done things that perhaps will now make us go red with shame. There have been people who we have left in the wrinkles of time as we have moved ahead, stomping and stamping our way through it, hoping to make our mark in this fabric called Life. What if we decided to take a step back? Turn back the clock and retrace from where we started. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we did that? Or a waste of time? Does everything have to do with padding CVs or something else can be done for padding the soul as well?
Retracing is not an easy task! It’s foggy! It gets really dark and has wild monsters! The Monster called Past. And when you go near that Monster… it doesn’t eat you, it doesn’t bite your head off, it doesn’t charge at you with swords, it stands naked in front of you as a Mirror shining brighter than the day itself. A mirror that doesn’t reflect your present but shows your Past. Now tell me, my friend: You have made a life for yourself, right? You have become someone. Is this someone willing to stand in front of the mirror wrestling with the naked Past and saying that maybe you could have forgiven some things or maybe you should seek forgiveness from some people going back in the wrinkles of time? Or maybe not. It’s like finding seashells across the seashore. You never know in which crevice or hole you might find a glimmering halo waiting to be picked. Will you not bother to step back and look down or is it too beneath you?
It is interesting how memory can be deceiving. Some people also call it recency bias. I am not a man of technical terms contrary to popular belief. When I look back to a post I had written as a blue-eyed kid just out of school, it is rather curious. Looking at my then fresh Past with rose-tinted glasses, I saw it in Black and White, but we all know Life doesn’t operate in Binaries now, do they? Maybe some things were good, and something is burnt, which is precisely the essence of it all. Then what do we do when we go back? What do you do to find yourselves again? Where do we find ourselves? We perhaps could find ourselves but in the people whom we had left behind!
I remember, like any other kid, I was fond of listening to stories. One of the stories that mattered to me the most was the story of us. Our family. As the only child in a family of many elderly people, I sought ‘refuge’ in the tales of their childhood to form an imagined community of mine (don’t read too hard on the phrase-you know exactly which one I am talking about). The idea of an ancestral line, a story, these shadowy figures in the pages of my mind, became my own history and my community, if you will. Even during my so-called adulthood (I say so-called because my mental age has not evolved after 4) I keep coming back to these stories more so because some of my family members including my grandfather had studied English, the subject I have received my most training in.
One fine evening when we were sipping our regular black, I popped the question to my father: “Where are we from?”. He took a slight pause, fixed his glasses and curled his lips as if for a performance well-rehearsed for ages and blurted out: “ Jessore district, Narail subdivision, Sripur thana, Jnoka gram. “
With a brief chuckle, he nodded and went back to dipping a Parle-G. I prodded further.
What does this all mean?
“As far as my memory goes, this is where we are from.”
So why do you need to spell out the complete address and not just the place?
He took another, rather dramatic, pause and resumed, “You see, I have always read about this so-called origin place of ours in official documents which my father had shown me. So, it is not a physical location as it is this form of abstraction, this data entry, which supposed to be of some significance to us….”
Then he went on to tell about the famed Durga Pujo, which also took a trip along with the family over the invisible lines which would become ‘the’ border someday in the future. Amidst the idols and the pujas, one artefact that he mentioned really stuck with me. He said that the bedi is very significant to us. Quite naturally, I asked why is that the case. He added that it has been with us for around 150-200 years!
He casually went on as if he was talking about bread and butter:
“It was during the late 1920s, my father came to what we now call India from what we now call Bangladesh to pursue his higher education. His scores were amazing, and he was destined to become a doctor, but fate would have it otherwise. My grandfather could not bear the expenses for the length of the medical education and had to sacrifice that option. He then turned his attention towards Scottish Church College and graduated from there in English in 1931. The degree took less time, and hence he could apply for jobs early.”
While his education continued from here, the family would uproot itself just after Independence along with the bedi and the spectre of a hallowed Durga puja looming in the collective minds of the travellers. The first stop was over at Canning street in Kolkata and then to 1 Kailash Bose Lane at Howrah. The Durga pujo restarted at Howrah on the same bedi without the idol. It was impossible to carry the entire thing over from Bangladesh.
Finally, in 1952, my grandfather bought a plot in his relatively unknown area called Uttarpara. We moved here, and so did the Durga pujo, again.
The ritual went on from ‘52 till ‘68 until it became challenging for my grandfather, who had just retired, to carry on everything while supporting his vast family and other beneficiaries. It had to stop. There was simply no two ways about it. Now, I am not the one to believe in whatever, but tragedy struck immediately. Within three months, two of my jethus, aged not above 15 and 30, died of drowning and suicide. Was it a curse? Was it something else? No one had a clue. Should the pujo have been restarted? Not possible! The pujo was such a central thing to him that he even designed his house on that idea and his children still hurl a few insults at him because it gets very taxing to manage a house like this.
Some time passed, and my father, a young man then, had decided to clean and re-polish the moth(and time)-eaten bedi. He had a scuffle with a person who wanted more money for the job and turned him away. Now, I am not the one to believe in whatever, but the guy returned the next day claiming that he has had a vision from God and then proceeded to work for 2 more days with his son!
Not only was it about the Durga puja, but about her daughter Saraswati as well. We had stopped celebrating the sole arrival of her daughter as well until after I was born around the year 2000. As you can see, we have literally moved through the ages, and changes are indeed the only constant in life. Still, maybe certain things stay and keep everyone around them connected. Maybe the bedi was and still is, like that for the Roys’ of Uttarpara, a metonymic reminder of our collective unconscious across borders.
Curiously enough, the bedi was made out of kaanthalkaath, and just in front of our thakur ghor we have a kaanthal gaach standing right across the window. It is indeed curious how signifiers of community history are scattered around us, consciously or unconsciously.
Tap on this button and a map will open up where you can retrace our journey from Narail to Uttarpara retrace our journey
thakurda paternal grand father
thana police station
bedi the platform on which the holy idols (here) rest
pujo bengali way of saying ‘puja’
jethu father’s elder brother
thakur ghor the room of worship/gods
Writer’s Note: This article was my half of the assignment on Oral and Community History post-workshop on the same by Farah Yameen for the course on Foundations of Digital Humanities taught by Dr. Dibyadyuti Roy at IIT Jodhpur. The other half of the group project was done by Lavanya Dahiya. An earlier version of this thought was presented at the Intach Hooghly webinar on ‘Domestic Heritages’. You can find it here (I start from 1:36:22). I am very aware that the story comes from and talks about people in privilege. I am also aware of my heteronormative bias if that might have come into the picture. The point of the work is to take the discussion forward towards capturing further the stories of the less privileged demographic, in and outside the family.
The year was 2016. There wasn’t a pandemic around. People thought they had a semblance of what regular life was. I remember that time particularly well for reasons I might not well want to visit, but here I am. That was a point of transition in my life: from junior to senior academy. In junior academy I was made to learn- I mean gobble- everything on planet earth. But here I was tasked with the great decision of selecting something to determine my career. I felt like a superhero… Captain Underpants. Nevermind. My interest lay in the delicate yet ancient art of sword fighting. We were taught a great deal of that in the junior academy but the problem was somewhere else. While most people focused on the makings of the sword, I had my eyes on understanding the know hows of actual fighting techniques. People told me it had no scope. Being rather amused, I told them I was not interested in becoming a sniper either. It was a very binary case of ‘either-or’ where one could not really focus on both aspects. I have heard people trying to merge the two but it has led to them being sidelined by both the factions to be honest. I wanted to learn the art because I enjoyed it and I thought it would be fun doing something I love. That, my friends, was the first mistake.
There were only a few proper coveted Elite city places which specialised in such training. Now the question was, how does someone get in? How do you prove your… ‘metal’? Hehe. Some places banked heavily on how I performed in my junior academy. The criteria were mind-boggling and it seemed to me then that only some aliens got into these places. I hear 79 people are eligible this time. I wanted to be there, amongst the chatty elites who wear their identity cards even when they go to buy milk from a local shop. I wanted to be that. I couldn’t. I had to put all my cards on something called the entrance tests. These were supposed to uphold the bastion of error free judgement. Getting through these, it seemed, was like being purified in the blood of the lamb as we used to chant in the junior days. Thanks to my brilliant score in the last exams, I could not qualify for that as well. But when I did sit, the experience was rather curious. Some wanted you to dance in front of them without the swords while justifying via huge columns how there was simply no better way of judgement. No biases there. Certainly not! I did get into one place but I had to leave as it resembled a spiritual army more. It was only later that I came to know that it was indeed the norm. Only that most don’t have uniforms. In Spite of that, I managed to land a place which was the best option for me at the time. I simply could not let it go! The actual game began thus.
On entering the academy, very early on, I realised that I needed to possess something called the ‘coin’. What were these coins you ask? These were needed to buy excellence. Let me explain. During the ancient days, someone displayed amazing moves with the sword and floored everyone with their skills. Since then people have been trying to emulate them disguised as trainers. The funny thing is, they try to emulate the same without having held the swords in the first place. Funny. What begins thus is like an absent presence of the elusive notion of originality. Everyone says you have to be original and show your moves but what actually is needed is the shadow coins available in the secretive locations of middle earth where you do not look at the performance or hold the swords for yourself, but look at the shadows of the same on the walls and try to dance in the same manner. What comes out resembles less of swordplay and more of the moves you make after having one shot too many of that good ol’ alcohol. A glorious mimetic metaphor! Some curious creatures went a step forward and imported these coins from the International markets which were apparently written by swords-people themselves! Hah what fools!
What actually mattered was for how long you could dance like an incel in the exam hall and not what moves you actually displayed. Because it is always easier to run a timer than to actually look into the moves. Are you crazy? Who will do that much work? So this system went on and on and on until the people themselves were converted into hollow spectres of something else entirely. No one knew what people expected. The people did not know what to expect. A Derridean dream! People used us as case studies to teach Marx’s notion of Alienation in the classroom. How cute. But, what if some of us managed to escape emulating the last scene from Shawshank? Was the battle won? Do we actually get our swords then?
That is not the point. The point is not if you can swish the sword or not. The point is whether it is made accessible to you. What is the point if it is kept in a glass case and you are only allowed to view it from afar while the seniors scream about breaking things down so much that you wonder if you are in the academy or at a construction site? Some might escape and think of these as banal issues. When I went into a different academy with my battle marks intact, a peer with a double-edged sword saw me worrying before another evaluation and asked me to take a chill pill saying“ Who worries about this stuff man? Just have fun. Do what you love. How do these marks matter anyway? “ I did not respond. Maybe it did not. Maybe it did. I thought about my days in the shadows. There were still people in the shadows. What about them? Will we always be in the shadows? I stood there like an angsty teen at the end of a Joyce short story waiting for my cue of epiphany thinking about what my uncle said to me about Diabetes before dying: “ It might not seem as threatening but it kills more than Cancer. It is a slow poison. “
I finish my dairy entry and look at my sword collection. I am on the other side of the table. And everything has remained the same.
This piece comes as a fictional reimagining response-ish thingy to Sumana Roy’s article titled The Note Economy
Welcome to Empirical Tours and Travels. Our tour guides like to mark important words in red so if you have not been paying attention to the red words please do so right now. The writing cannot be more on the wall. Trust me, it is important and it will come back again. I know. I used to live here. Years and years ago.
Lets see what journey Fate has in store for you this time.
Welcome you all and thanks for coming along in this fascinating yet weird journey with me. I do not know why you signed up but I am sure as hell glad that you did. This is where we start the journey… right at the heart of an oriental fantasy! No… no… this is not a theme park… it exists alright but I would not tell you where and how it exists. Why should I tell you? Is it my responsibility? I am a tour guide. Let me be! I am not your tour guide okay? Come along. Come along. We are getting late…
Look around the room and take in all the marvelous beauty but please limit yourself. Do not take more than you can handle. Believe me I know. If you do that today years down the line you will never hear the end of it.
Now that you have finally made some effort to come outside the initial welcome gates; I present you… more gates… AHAHAHAHAH! Did you really think I would make things simple for you huh? Hell no. Now, choose where do you want to enter and what do you want to do with it? Remember, whatever you choose it is irreversible I cannot do anything with it later on no matter how much you cry about it okay?
The illusion of choice my friend is a dangerous thing in life. You think you have a choice but more often than not you have nothing. Don’t mind me. Choose away.
Wow! You really did take a long time to choose huh? You finally did it so congratulations… I guess. Before you proceed to experience whatever on earth this is… I would like you to meet the royal guards of this trip who are going to take care of you. These highly committed men are filled to the brim with excellent manners and great skills of protection. You will never ever feel threatened because you are here to be saved and please never ever forget that. Even if you do, we will constantly keep reminding you.
But, why are you in such a hurry? Where do you wanna go? Where do you have to be? Chill out mate. Get it? Chill out? Chilled Beer? No… okay. But please allow me to be hospitable to you guests, please. I know you are in a hurry to leave but we would like to give you our full treatment. Our hospitality is world class you see! We offer you our best in-class chilled beer. Please feast on it. Do not refuse. It is important that you stay drunk throughout this trip. Do not worry, it won’t harm your choice.
Ah well well well… looks like the decision you made back wasn’t very unique at all. You thought you were very smart but you ain’t tho! I am sorry but you have to travel like that. Suffer for you choices! What else can I say it really encapsulates the mood of this place. Well… I am just a tour guide… meh. I do not want to compartmentalize people I do not think I can resist the temptation here.
What? You already want to go back? Why would you give so much effort, pay so much money only to go back and look at… what… monuments? Are you absolutely sure? Okay.. its your money after all. If you want to stay in the past so be it!
But if we are to go back now how do we do that? Wait… let me go and ask that gentleman.
It seems, my friends, as I was told ” the empire was no longer here!”. He pointed to a place far far away and told me to go there and visit the empire if at all I wanted to. I do not think it even exists now to be honest. If that is not a tragedy, I do not know what is. Wait… I think I should search a little more. How can I give up on something I hold so dear? Fuck you trip man!
Oh my God! The cracks are really really starting to appear now. There is a very good reason perhaps why the empire is not here anymore…run for your lives! Or maybe not, that was years ago. What do we do now? Where are we supposed to go now? What are we supposed to do now?
Oh wait, you found something you want to see? You saved me. I am not a failed tour guide anymore.
But hang on… what is there… to see?
Are you sure you wanted to come all way for this? There is nothing here! Maybe that is why you wanted to come, because of the nothingness! So, was that the journey all about for you? To end with a whimper in the void?
The writing, literally, could not be more on the wall for you folks anymore. Is this the kind of history you wanna write? A’ight cool. Your history. Your call.
This piece comes as a combination of two instincts: one subconscious, the other much recent. I will of course elaborate on the former, but let’s come first to the immediate one. The immediate impulse for writing this article comes from this piece by Feminism India: Why Do Our Schools Criminalise Love? | Feminism In India, and as usual I have very strong thoughts regarding this matter. So, hang in there! Tis gon’ be a bumpy ride.
I remember it was class 3 and we had just gotten familiar with the holy duality: that of the boyfriend and the girlfriend. Even though the ruminations of the third standard from people on the verge of marriage seems pre-historic, but believe me, it is not that old. The more things change, the more do they remain the same. So, where was I? Ah yes, Love in school. I remember the first wave of scandal that brushed all over us was the unchartered territories of pre-pubescent chaos. But, well, like all nasty children we managed to dodge and tackle through the whole game with the best of abilities at hand. A particularly hilarious incident took place when a friend of mine was told to stand up and describe what a ‘boyfriend’ is. I still remember the horrified reaction. As Mother Nature would have had it, he would go on to have a long and stable (?) relationship. Sweet Sweet Irony!
For the sake of ease and domestic peace, I will limit the discussion here to the realm of the school and will not drag the domestic sphere into the equation. You, on the other hand, are free to draw your conclusions to the end of time and space. Oh yes, I hope the colossal amount of idiocy that pervades in the public sphere (such Habermas much wow I know right!) ala social media does not read this as a matter of teacher bashing and school shaming. This is an all-pervasive issue and demands training to handle the same. If you have had the misfortune of knowing me, you know how much I am indebted to my teachers. So, yes, keep off the bullshit.
Before trampling on the issue of the revered V day, let me dwell on some other issues first. Why should the onus of discussing humane issues like love and relationships always fall on the English/Arts teacher? What perverted Bollywoodization is this? The Arts/English teacher is supposed to be this parental figure/friend while the others, especially the honorary Science folk, wallow in thein vainglorious bareness? The attitude percolates to the realm of the students as well who think that tackling a particular problem is equivalent to saving humanity. Is this the manifestation of a grudge of the ex-Science student who could not trod the paths of some random-alphabet-acronym-ed Engineering college while draining the hard-earned money of the family like the USA was supposed to drain the swamps? You bet it is.
The point here is not to draw generalisations but to point out at a much greater problem. It is not uniform or homogenous in nature. In fact, one of the most liberal and fun teachers we had was an old guy who taught us Maths. One fine morning, when he was going on about his usual, and often solitary ramblings about some weird equation, another teacher from the so-called liberal sect waddles into the classroom and complains how a person was seen sitting on the lap of another. Our guy lets out a smirk and replies: “where would one sit then?”. He won it that day.
The other point of paradox emerges out of the curriculum itself. I would like to point out these two texts in particular: As You Like It by William Shakespeare and Srikanta by Saratchandra Chattopadhyay. Being in the classical comedic vein of Shakespeare, the play deals with love in its variegated shades. What is even more important is the later. Srikanta had one of the most delicate yet beautiful depictions of a relationship I have ever seen. It was the relationship between Srikanta and Piyari Baiji. Piyari Baiji was a single woman with a child. To put cherry on the cake, she was a performer. I do not need to elaborate on the connotations of what that meant in the early twentieth century. At the end of the first part, if I remember correctly, both, despite being in love with each other decided to part ways as their lives were so vastly different. It subconsciously taught a great virtue of love then, which I now understand: the art of letting go. We were supposed to understand, memorise, and regurgitate these ideas in the broad questions and what not! But, of what use are they if one parades with the same colonial jackassery? The severe irony emerges from here. You are meant to understand love in these texts, write answers when are only 13 years old, but you are not allowed to do what you understand. Oh, the horror!
Then comes the pretext of me writing on this day! The V day! I remember the staff turning into MI6 agents to scour the bags of the students and confiscate the tokens of love they had curiously smuggled to gift their beloved. When we look back, we might be quick to dismiss those days. I would say please do not disrespect the young but very very real emotions. Respect it for what it was. Then what is love anyway? I am sure we will look back at the relations we are in now after 40 years and say well that was nothing! So, in the illusive idea of understanding Love, do we forget to Love in the first place? I say we never understand Love. We should never try to understand Love. For it is different every time. We never understand Love but Love anyway! That is Love.
I do not have contempt for the teachers because they are from a different age. I feel sad for them. Maybe they will realise. Yes, sure teach all the meaningless equations and the obscure Elizabethan dramas you want to! But also teach Love, Basic Empathy and Consent. My contempt is towards the idiots of this day and age who continue to engage in the same ordeal despite knowing better. Please Love and Let Love. There is too much Hate anyway.
Last but not the least, if you think I am suggesting to let everything go and let them engage in limitless orgies (which can wait till College ofcourse), please consume bleach in regular intervals and patiently wait to come to your senses.
But why do we read or write anything? Is it to experience by not experiencing at all? Yes, I know that is a paradox. Or is it something totally different? But why do we read or write anything? Is it to experience by not experiencing at all? Yes, I know that is a paradox. Or is it something totally different?
Do these words make any sense?Why are you asking me! You wrote them after all. I distract myself. Where was I? That is the question. I was nowhere. I have nowhere to be. I just am. And that… is the tragedy.
I was walking down the street this evening badly in the need for an answer. I moved from pillar to post in the search of it, but no one was willing to provide me with anything. They just said ask that person and vanished without a trace. Yes, I am not joking they just vanished. I was shocked by that as well. I went past the haunted lanes and by lanes in the search of answer but failed.
No one knew who sold the fried chicken. I wanted the chicken god damn it.
Did I see the wrong advertisement? Or I am always at the wrong place. Maybe the latter. Stories are curious. So curious. I look at these masks through the faces. Or the faces through the masks? I do not know. I cannot tell the difference. All I see are stories. Stories waiting to be told but no one to listen to it. I see the face of a bewildered old man waiting for someone with a stick. Who is he waiting for? A friend? Death? I do not know. I do not even ask. I like seeing people wait. His eyes had the anxiety I am very familiar to. The anxiety of a failed artist. So, will failure always plague me then? Oh no! The old man looks at me and angrily walks away. Perhaps he heard me.
I keep having my chicken. Delicious stuff!
While chomping hard I hear a kid crying in the distance. The faint rebukes of the mother simultaneously swim into my ears. It seems she cannot write. She cannot distinguish between the letters. She is mixing them up. I rise to give her a high five and realize she is a little too far away. Aren’t they always? But yes, same problem here kid don’t you worry those letters have a mind of their own. They are funny.
It seems my bowl of corn is almost over. I am still hungry.
I get up and try to search for something else. I could see myself from the rooftop running across the length and breadth of the of town to find something. Finally, I stumbled on an ice cream parlor. They sell fried ice cream. Huh! Curious. I see no oil. Well, what do I know about cooking? I hear a voice so close to me that it almost feels as if I was the one speaking. Or maybe I was who knows. Who wants to know? The words told me everything and nothing at the same time. I felt full. I paid the bill at the library and left for the sea.
I saw some words there which made no sense. I was frustrated. I said “But why do we read or write anything? Is it to experience by not experiencing at all?” I do not remember what happened after.
Now that most people are seem to be aware of this gem, it seems a right time for me to re-hash my film formal exercise into a post. bCoZ cOnTeNT! So, here we go! Because why not? I promise to return to storytelling very soon!
Directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery and Produced by O. Thomas Panicker, Jallikattu is an experience it itself. I will only be talking about a miniscule of the whole experience. The sequence ranges from 1:46 to 5:51 which has a stellar 67 shots in total (yes I counted!)
The chosen sequence is the opening sequence of the film and it proceeds with a metrical montage, coupled with a rhythmic score of people in a village waking up to go about their daily lives. This symmetry of human existence has been juxtaposed with the movement of insects in the nethers of the forest.
As I have pointed out, this is the opening sequence of the film and as Plot has everything to do with causality, what this scene primarily does is to set the mood for the chaos that is about to follow during the buffalo chase. From the point of view of story, nothing noteworthy happens as it is only a bunch of people waking up. But, the way the montage is presented with the score and parallels to the lives of the insects, it gives an indication to the viewer that there are larger powers at play which is not limited to the human. And that is exactly what happens in due course of the narrative as it totally blurs the line between the human and the bestial by questioning the notion of ethics.
The opening sequence sets the mood for the chaos that is about to unfold. Traditionally, opening scenes or sequences are meant to work as exposition to the central issue or the characters. In this film, it is absolutely not the case. What this sequence does is to expose the prevailing mood of daily life, which in spite of appearing to very symmetric, is actually lingering on the borders of pure mayhem. The sequence works on a tripartite division: human, macro and micro. In the section of human it features a metric montage of people waking up to the score of a ticking clock. Every alternating second shows the close-up someone opening their eyes accompanied by the sound of the release of breath. This part transitions, after focusing into the l movement of the neck muscles of an old person on taking the first deep breath after waking up, into the l domain of the micro or the lives of the insects. A similar technique of l montage is used, but it is not as metrical in nature, to show ants, worms etc. going about their own daily business at the crack of dawn. The opening sequence thus ends with a metaphorical zoom out in the domain of the micro where we get to see a lengthy shot of the sunrise. This l juxtaposition of the micro, macro and the human in the opening scene is crucial so as to understand the larger theme of the film which is trying to show, through the actions of humans, insects or Nature in general, that if need arises there is absolutely no difference among a human, a buffalo or an earthworm.The central notion of the film is to question the artificial notions of ethics, morality and rationality of the human being, who think they are higher than everyone else, but can be equally ‘bestial’ if need arises.
Most of the shots are still shots and it only zooms out and pans a little while showcasing the sunrise. While showing people waking up, most of the screen space is filled with their faces so there is not much space. While showing the insects, the back, fore and mid grounds are all in focus mostly so there is nothing off screen per se. Same goes for the shot of sunrise. As far as the colour is concerned, the scenes of the outside world are seen with a tinge of blue to signify low light at the crack of dawn. The faces however are seen high contrast, probably with the use of a top light, to focus on their facial features.
The metric montage coupled with the score of a ticking clock and its tripartite division shows how the worlds of humans and other beings are almost same and foreshadows how similar their nature can be. The sound design and the background score in this film are excellent throughout. In this particular sequence there is only score and no dialogue with the sound of the ticking clock which gathers pace later on. The colour contrast while showing the faces is crucial as it highlights, in a zombie-ish way, how mechanical the lives of these people are. Compared to that, the movements of the insects are seen to be a little less mechanical. It shows how humans are a slave of time.
This is not the name of a course or a reading in a course offered by the School of Literary or Cultural Studies. This is more of a testimony of my Writing. I would not be talking about the birth of Writing in a socio-historical or a so-called ‘anthropological’ sense of the term. I’ll be talking about it in my own personal capacity and how Writing was born to me or how the Birth of Writing happened to me. As many of you might already know, I have been writing in this space for the last five years now! I have grown a lot, learned a lot and most importantly, unlearned a lot. It has been a life-altering experience and I will never ever do anything thing differently if given the chance. Here, therefore, I would like to talk about my transactions with Writing and how it came to define me.
When I read about the origin of creativity, all I read about, mostly, are words of divine inspiration or some out worldly experience being the genesis. But for me, I’d say, the beginnings were not so rosy at all.
I met Writing as result of an act of Violence! Yes, an act of Violence.
I’m very conscious as to the connotations of that word. I remember being a school student, extremely excited to get my words out in the public domain after realizing that I could write a word or two. I had already seen my friends write regularly in the hallowed pages of the school magazine. I remember my mother requesting me to put out something but I did not really care. I believe that there is a point of time in life when maybe we’re all supposed to meet each other; even the qualities meet you at one point of time. I met Writing, one could say, when it was probably too late! I was lost in the talent hunt fiascos of high school. The gyrating opera of ‘Exposure’ as an illusory cover for unpaid labour was starting to unfurl in its naked glory in front of my eyes. I thought I would never be able to create a niche of my own in this dark comedy.
Then it happened!
A glorious opportunity seemed to tumble down and stop right in front of my feet like a no contact delivery from Amazon. It felt like a godsend. It felt like a miracle. My fault? I was not really aware of the politics that Writing entailed. I remember sharing my first write up with some close people even before submitting. That was my mistake!
I thought Writing was meant to be shared. Now I know it is meant to be owned.
The fruits of my labor got rejected (As I naively mentioned that I had made others read. Plagiarism, however, is a monster I met much later.) Much later did I understand the deep waters I was engaging myself in. It didn’t feel as if my writing was rejected; it felt as if someone rejected me. Seldom have I cried as hard as I did that day. It kick-started a brew. A fire rising from the deep fissures in the nethers of my heart. And one day the brew got too hot to handle. The day was 26th August, 2015. Five years ago.
Since then, I have always tried to write my heart out and think aloud as much as I can. And No! writing in a journal does not have the same lure to me as writing in a public space does. For some people, writing is a very personal act. For me, it is public. I write because I want to make myself heard/read. Just like an artist who paints for others to see. I think of the online space as a kind of an e-c(h)osystem which enables more people to read and also a place where a text can easily morph and meander its way to find and cling onto myriad arbitrary symbols. And then, when it will walk back to you, though they are your words, you might never be able to recognise it.
Thus, thepenarchist was born. Not out of love, but out of anger and a desire to make a ‘mark’. To cause anarchy with the ‘pen’, when the ‘pen’ was not even there. The pen is the hand. It is very interesting you know, using the word ‘mark’ in the context of a virtual space. It would have been understandable had I used it for writing in a peace of paper as it would have literally left a mark on the pages following it. Metaphorically however I feel, the internet to be an infinitely e-lastic (and not plastic) place which will keep increasing no matter how much someone drags it by the ends. This e-lastic place also leaves a mark, a digital mark for that matter, not only on the next page of your notebook, but on the whole tabula rasa called the internet, where it is universally ephemeral and ephemerally universal at the same time. A beautiful paradox. It all began as ‘roywritesblog’, but I believe ‘thepenarchist’ was there all along. It was me who found thepenarchist a little bit later, or perhaps it waited for me. The existence of thepenarchist was forged in fire and it must keep burning in order to sustain itself. If that is what is needed for Writing to live. So be it.
Hey stranger! How are you doing? I haven’t seen you for a long time and was just wondering how are you. That is why I thought of checking on you. So, tell me how are you doing? Do you remember the last time we went out together? Do you remember that it was almost about to rain but it didn’t? Do you remember the breeze that was sweeping across our face like an artist’s brush trying to paint the emotions into a new colour? Do you remember the last time we were about to have a cup of tea but didn’t? You don’t? Okay.
Isn’t it curious that in the huge scrolls of our memory, the things that we didn’t do makes a mark ever more prominent than the things we did? It’s funny how life works in mysterious ways! One would wonder that walking by the lanes and by-lanes while taking photographs all the way and documenting or archiving the experience as if it was an archaeological site per say goes unnoticed and unremembered by the times to come, but, it is only those moments that we forget to photograph or document that haunts or replays forever in the thoroughfares of our mind! Do you remember the last time we went for a walk together at three in the night when everyone else was fast asleep? Do you remember the last time we had a plate of fries even when we were full? You don’t? Okay.
Now, when I sit looking aimlessly out of the window, it is these mundane activities that seem so extraordinary with an amount of mystic charm in them. Who ever knew that something like taking a walk with a friend would be something so coveted! We have always learned that perhaps the most valuable memories or experiences of our life will be that super expensive trip, that road trip, that flight or that foreign trip which will blow our heads off in excitement! Because that was the fantasy that we forever dreamt of living, right? Who knew that life would come back to bite us all in the ass to remind that it is perhaps not the economic grandeur or the luxury that determines the value of a memory, it is perhaps living in the moment, hand-in-hand, laughing and smiling with the ones you love beside you. That is why I believe everything has a particular memory to it! Be it the touch, the smell, the concrete, everything which can be felt has a feeling to it; has a memory in it. Yes, even concrete! when I walked with you under the bridge waiting to discover the best sandwich or, along the most decorated street to find a solace of our own; we created a memory, a memory which stays there. forever! And whenever you go back, in whichever circumstances you might be, all the moments that we have spent together starts playing in the video player of mind. But, the memory changes as we move on. We imagine new things which perhaps did not even happen. So, what happens here? Do the files get corrupted? or do we? Now you tell me, dear stranger, do you remember when we did all this? You don’t? Okay.
Do you remember that day when I was down and you decided to take us on a trip? I hesitantly agreed but and I am so glad that I did! Do you remember how we discovered our favourite restaurant that day? Now that we are locked, we feel the pain in our hearts, a desperate longing to go back and re-live those moments again! Who knew those chaotic days would be something so coveted? The mind plays stupid little tricks on you you know! When you are away thousands of miles away, you long for your roots! You long for the place which made you; but, when you return to the roots, it is the distance, it is the journey, the new experience that seems more appealing to you now. What mystery is this? What charm? What crookedness? What concoction is being prepared in our hearts that makes us want only those things which we don’t have? Why can’t we ever be content with what we have? Why should life be like this? Is this the mystery of life which the philosophers have long sought and failed to find? Is a life worth living only if there is something unattained? A last untasted dish or, a non-experienced experience? Where even during the last breath shall we be hopeful, hoping that one day we will have that! Knowing very well that one day will never ever arrive. Hey stranger, how are you doing? Do you remember us talking about all of this the last time we met? You don’t? Okay.
It isn’t necessary to put words in bold or neon to make someone understand that conflict is perhaps one of the defining features of the human condition. The fact that we, as human beings can enter into conflict with other people, resolve them and move on without biting each other proves that we are as capable of aggression as we are of compassion. I know that this idea of tolerance as in the acceptance of difference or diversity is being challenged by the day. Events around the world make us rethink if we qualify to be seen as people after all? How can the same person, who claims to be sane be the source of such vitriolic hatred in times of conflict? It is in these junctures, that in my personal life, I try to be as self-reflective as possible. Not all conflicts can be resolved over a cup of coffee. Conflicts in real life tend to be fatal, literally. Therefore, whenever I see people at arms or trying to one-up each other, I try to reason by appealing to both their intelligence and their sense of empathy. I make sincere attempts to reason with myself to see both the sides of a dispute. Though this does not work out mostly, I strongly believe that in the end honesty is appreciated by both the dissenting individuals and groups. In a patriarchal society like ours, most of the conflicts stem from the ever fragile male ego. The inherent toxicity leads certain men to prove that they are no less, which leads to all sorts of mishaps. It has its roots in the upbringing where boys are told not to cry or asked to play with guns and not dolls. It is this inherent relation of identity with power from such an early age that makes them blind to the feelings of the ‘other’. That is why when they come into conflict with others they cannot let go of what they want which gives birth to violence. Be it acid attacks or petty gang wars, they stem from an attitude of not tolerating conflict or difference. I feel that this is the most important lesson that I have ever learnt, which is to respect opposing beliefs (to a certain arbitrary degree). Outside institutionalised education, it is Life which teaches us the most via interactions.
During the later part of my school life, I joined the classes of a rather popular teacher whom I expected to be no less than the usual run of the mill. To my great interest, my teacher did not fit that model. As I started opening up, we would often end up talking about anything and everything other than the venerable ‘subject’. We have had fiery debates and one such long-standing debate or a conflict of interest has had a long-standing impact on my life. He pointed out that our ‘English Medium’ generation is losing out on the immense beauty that regional literature has to offer. The problem lies in our orientation to our mother tongue. Since forever, we have been subtly taught to treat something ironically named as the ‘mother-tongue’ as something secondary. This treatment can only be justified if the other language was called ‘father-tongue’. The syllabus also, it seemed was very politically designed, as it contained mostly obscure texts whereas the English counterpart was much easier. The generation growing up with the illusory blanket of ‘Globalization’ must be encouraged to love their roots. This was my argument in response to my teacher that the syllabi were very politically designed to veer the students away from their mother tongue. He did agree to my proposition, but also replied that if we, do not take responsibility to start a culture which would lead to the re-popularization of the regional culture, then, who will? These words rang deep inside the chambers of my heart and made me re-think on whether I been too complacent! I saw a new window of perspectives open in front of me. Then I understood, all we needed was a little push. We did not have that. The fact that I have to resort to English as a medium of communication for this subject is very apt and deliciously ironical drives the point home even further.
As I said earlier, not all conflicts can be resolved with such ease. Certain conflicts are manufactured and installed in the social psyche to keep the hate factory alive. Such a conflict is that of India and Pakistan that has to some extent shaped our identities. With the wave of nationalism currently prevalent, some people would go so far as to say they are Indians just because they are not Pakistanis. Same was the case with me who started with ‘demonising the other’. I remembered distinctly that it started with cricket. It always starts with cricket. Any random Indian mobile cricket game would instantly pit India against Pakistan. This is how violence and conflict are kept alive through the micro spaces of culture. Whenever there is any national issue or religious tension, people indulge in the common rhetoric of hate. The idea of conflict is built into the human condition but that cannot be a basis to say that humans do not lean towards resolution. Resolution is also a part of human nature. The need for normalcy in a liberal democracy, no matter how much of a free fall it is in, is as important as the existence conflict. Unfortunately, more often than not, the hunger for the violence of conflict supersedes the need for resolution. Let’s try our best to douse the fires of hatred in whatever small way we can while weeping and bleeding somewhere inside for the sake of humanity.