Monday, 31 October 2016

Writers & Readers

My terrible skills in community building returned to stare at me recently when I read these lines by Rochelle Potkar, whose poems I immensely admire. She writes that ‘within our inner cocoons, we may be dreamers, incubators, writers, editors, translators, self-critics, self-publishers, submitters. On the outside, we're fragmented into marketeers, platform-builders, PR persons, brand builders, event organizers.' 

It made me revisit the nagging question as to how essential is a community for expressionists - writers, performers, artists. Each of who seek acknowledgment as a reassurance to their aspirations. Sometimes that community comes all too easily. Try and remember how before the rest of the world came to know about you, it were your families and friends who first read you, or admired your art and returned a gesture of encouragement. But the moment we wish to expand the reach of our works, the task of building a community of audience becomes as important as writing itself. To me that community is a shape shifter, incomprehensible and moody. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all game for chasing a community. But it never comes easily due to the nature of what I often seek to write. I’m forever in the heart of chaos, from which it is impossible for me to slip out. Truth is, I let myself be a part of the suffering I write about, for in many ways it makes me feel relevant. It is therefore difficult to keep up a charming veneer, one that is more suited to draw attention.

I’m not even going to talk about the excruciating demands of my day job, or the physical limits of human body which permits as much or the unstoppable closing of eyelids brought about by physical exhaustion, the complete blankness of mind which is an inescapable corollary of fatigue when I’m looking to introduce a resolute character in my story, the distraction that I'm sometimes supposed to embrace just when I'm about to begin typing. I am even not mentioning the devastating consequence which that kind of failure to put down your thoughts on paper can mean for your self confidence. It has the potential of turning you neurotic and making you feel crippled and inadequate and even isolating you within a crowd. Maybe, wrestling with these demons is also a reason why I could never quite become a community guy. I end up getting so indistinguishably woven with intricacies of the things I write that it is often hard for me to relate to anything that moves or talks infront of my eyes. I'm afraid if it would come across as believable if I say that when and after I write, there is barely anything worth sharing left in me. With that kind of erosion it is difficult to apply my mind on the nuances of making my presence felt in any kind of community whatsoever. 

Even Rochelle has gone ahead to ask the same kind of questions to understand whose answers I have myself been grappling since a while 'Where is the time for community-building then?' she probes. ‘The bigger question being should we be creators or community builders? Or both? What should be the balance between creating, giving, and taking? And is creating a way of giving back, in itself?'  The answers, sadly, are already gazing at me. Someday, I’d like those answers to change. I’d like to find the time and the resources to become a community guy. Hop around. Share pleasantries and feel belonged.

Please do not mistake my admission as an allusion for arrogance. I’m many things, stubborn, livid and even delusional but arrogance isn’t simply my method. It’s just that I have no idea how to manage with smartness and consistency the projection of my existence. I've tried my hand at it and failed miserably. 

But I am alive to the reality that expressionists crave many eyes and ears and that I’m no different. An honest and supportive band of readers is an asset and the feeling of belonging that their admiration leaves in us is elevating to say the least. I crave it no less. 

My fellow creators, let me now part by saying that I’d rather have your precious support without soliciting it in any manner whatsoever and that I'd rather embrace your accolade if and only if my writings deserve it and not merely because of the formality of reciprocation. I hope and trust that it’s not too much to ask for or too disrespectful to confess. And if it so turns out that for my lack of chasing a community, my words are doomed to wander the vastlands of invisibility, I guess I’ll have to learn to take it without any qualm. Quid pro quo exists everywhere, I’ll explain to my struggles.

Much Love,

Saturday, 29 October 2016


I may have been a prince
To my mother
And a king to my wife
But all along O' Lord
For the alms of your grace
I have been nothing but a beggar
With my palms open and hands stretched

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Words From the Far East - Reading Murakami's Norwegian Wood

I was introduced to Murakami a little late in my life (about a year ago) by a friend I'd newly made then. When we met, one of the first things she was curious to know about me was the kind of books I’d read. Besides being a published author possessing a gifted grasp over the craft of expression, she was impressively well read. And she immediately got down to making recommendations, all the acclaimed ones, Pullitzer and Booker winners, Costa Books, and a few avante garde works. But to my surprise, shortly after making that list she got up and sauntered to the 'Fiction' corner of the store we were in and bought for me a book she had not mentioned in it, a paperback edition of (Haruki Murakami’sNorwegian Wood.  I'll come to the reason shortly.

The novel which elevated Murakami to literary pinnacle, revolves around the lives of Toru, Naoko and Midori. Toru’s young life is tangled on one hand by his intense relationship with Naoko who is living far away under institutional therapy and on the other, by his irrefutable chemistry with Midori, a fellow drama classmate. He constantly pines for Naoko who is herself battling depression after her boyfriend Kazuki’s suicide (who was Toru’s best friend as well). At the same time, he finds it almost impossible to evade the influence of his physical proximity with someone as vivacious and assertive as Midori. Though the latter seems to be the connection more likely to see the light of the day, Toru keeps running away to the other, more unpredictable end where Naoko waits for him in permanent melancholy. 

The atmosphere for the whole novel is set in the opening scene when the drifting notes of Beatles’ Norwegian Wood falls on Toru’s ear (who is then thirty seven years old) as his flight is about to land in Hamburg, Germany and prompts in him an agonizing recollection of memories from his days as a young student and his love affair with the beautiful but broken Naoko. He recalls walking beside her for the last time in the snow layered forests surrounding the mental institution where she was undergoing intensive therapy. Prompted by an aching fear that they're doomed to part one day, she elicits from him a promise that he’ll never stop loving her regardless. When her fears come true, the resultant misery turns very hard to get over, especially because you desperately look to lay the blame on someone for the mess but you can barely decide who it should be. Not very late in the story, Naoko commits suicide in that frozen landscape, suspending Toru's existence in sort of a half life. He moves ahead but a part of him remains forever relegated to that phase in which he'd spent his days with Naoko. He is given a second chance at love with Midori, a chance which he can neither fully embrace nor ever feel capable to completely let go.

In NW Murakami skillfully takes us on a journey through some of life's deeply dark experiences including the trying realms of love and longing. His characters teach us the disenchanting truth that emotional reliance may not be love, almost preaching against the notion which deceives so many young and old alike. Murakami's characters are often found negotiating with divesting circumstances in the story. And he gives us a memorable insight into their minds and hearts with his engaging narration.   The depiction of longing and physical intimacy is accomplished with delicate restraint, moments about the latter are sometimes cleverly made to suffer from a lack of a staged order, which is expected to exist between characters in love and that quite works in favour of the adolescent tone of the novel. 

Apart from the central characters, my heart went out for Hatsumi, the long-suffering girlfriend of Nagasawa (Toru's flamboyant, womanizer buddy). It was unbearably saddening the way Murakami has sketched her life. The following excerpt may suffice to tell you about Hatsumi and the reason why she holds that kind of position in the book.

Toru remembers:

“Watching her, I could see why Nagasawa had chosen her as his special companion. There were any number of women more beautiful than Hatsumi, and Nagasawa could have made any of them his. But Hatsumi had some quality that could send a tremor through your heart. It was nothing forceful. The power she exerted was a subtle thing, but it called forth deep resonances...what Hatsumi had stirred in me was a part of my very self that had long lain dormant. And when the realization struck me, it aroused such sorrow I almost burst into tears. She had been an absolutely special woman. Someone should have done something—anything—to save her. But neither Nagasawa nor I could have managed that. As so many of those I knew had done, Hatsumi reached a certain stage in her life and decided—almost on the spur of the moment—to end it. Two years after Nagasawa left for Germany, she married, and two years after that she slashed her wrists with a razor blade”

What made the experience of reading about Hatsumi so deep for me was the fact that I knew someone like her in my college days. Someone, I now realize why I never loved yet felt deeply affectionate and protective for. 

Understandably, NW opened up for me the captivating art of Japanese writing and made me read and adore 'Kazuo Ishiguro's 'Never Let Me Go' and his Booker winning work 'The Remains of the Day'

I remember, as my friend had held out the copy of NW at me, she'd said ‘You’ll love this and you won't ever forget reading it.’ I don't know what she saw and felt all of a sudden to have changed her mind and let NW intervene in her own list of recommendations of the Pullitzer and Booker winners. I guess writers always manage to see through, and I think that evening she saw through and understood the story I might have been waiting to read all this time. 

I still keep the book by my bed. Memories of many of its haunting passages unpredictably compel me to return to them. Rarely is it so that a book does this kind of a thing to you. Its impact on me has been nothing short of intangibly devastating. One reason for it could be the resemblance which substantial portions of the story bear with how my own life has turned out and the men and women I have come to know over the years. Perhaps that likeness makes NW more than just fiction for me.  Don't be surprised if it becomes the same for you.



Friday, 7 October 2016

Goodbye My Love

Nothing lasts forever
You don't know it the day
When you say that
It'll last forever

Till you hear the words spoken for you
The adulation showered on you
And the tiny bits of care that once made your day
Now before the feet of someone else they lay

Till you see the way once your hearts were fond
And the courage you brought for each other
Given away to make another's way
And make his life what once your's was

It's when you realize
That the one you wanted to see the world with
Wants to find it by another pair of feet
That's when you know it's time

When the rage wears down
When the anxiety of envy flows past
When the peace of truth returns
That it was never meant to be

It's time to tell yourself
Nothing lasts forever
Not even the promise hidden in tears
Or the sacred vows that define love

It's time to tell yourself
That you're happy for her
That you wish nothing but the best for her
It's time for you to open your secret closet

Gather the packet where you've hidden her unpaired ear ring,
The small smiling picture of the both of you,
The white piece of silk perfumed with her kiss
The memories they've sheltered

And offer them to the will of waves,
Send them to the heart of sea where
They'll pass eternity in company of countless
Tokens abandoned by time

And when you offer those memories to the waves
That's when you gotta whisper 
The voice of your soul and say
'Farewell and Goodbye My Love'