Monday, February 10, 2014

When horses tripped on my mind.

A horde of galloping horses, this is what my brain seems to be sheltering right now. I've a book in my lap, while my legs are stretched over this poor coffee table, whose glass may give a cracking noise any day soon, such is the misery my legs put it to, every evening. 

While I fiddle with every paragraph of Unaccustomed Earth, of this story of Ruma  and her old Bengali father- who seems to have found love in old age while traveling in Italy, my mind wanders to Sahir Ludhianvi's unfinished documentary that I left paused on one of the many browser tabs. I'm imagining how the commentator in the documentary, who in the few minutes before I paused the video looked fairly boring, must be stirring up Sahir's affair with Amrita Pritam, a writer herself, and whose unrequited love for Sahir resulted in many tempestuous poems. While the love story of the two writers is winding up its way over me, like clouds hover those mountains in Lidder Valley after a bright sunny morning, I veer towards a write-up I'd read sometime back. 

In fact, a series of write-ups from the 'Marxist of Safa Kadal'- I just loved that story- perhaps anything and everything remotely related to Marxism gives me unexplainable joy- to today's more 60s story, 'The Saga of Aziz'. The writer of these stories is a Kashmiri doctor based in Dublin. The beauty about his writing and perhaps why it appeals to me more, lies in his huge Srinagar downtown overtone. Without blazing any sloganeering, the writer solely concentrates on subtlety of every day events. Having grown up in its alleys and labyrinths that entwine story at every nook and intersection, where long lazy wintry afternoons were spent on the pyaend, turning a discourse from polity to Pakistan's new tearaway fast bowler in a matter of flipping seconds, I , at times wish to write a memoir for Srinagar. The ancient city has seen so much over its history, plagued with conflicts that a deep sad melancholy has hemorrhaged deep into its many abandoned homes, homes that were filled with warmth once, like my own- but now left by families who have shifted to more prosperous parts of the city, while some left on that cold January '90 morning never to return again. The stories are restless, fidgety, a bundle of nerves. Srinagar deserves a glowing tribute like Orhan Pamuk gave to Istanbul. Some day!

Horses I had told you.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

V.S Naipaul

V.S Naipaul has been one author, I've been wanting to read since quite sometime. May be it had to do with my little conversation with a Houseboat owner, while feasting barbecue in my many shikara rides, one Kashmir summer. Naipaul had stayed in Leeward Hotel, I was told-  a hotel that moors in central Dal, nicely nugged amidst lotus blooming floating gardens. The Hotel now lays in decrepit condition though, housing the Indian paramilitary forces since last two decades. The idea of living in Dal for a year or so as Naipaul had, I was told, soaking the vivacity of our ancient lake, breathing its cleaner air, plucking lotus flowers and sipping coffee on a late summer afternoon, when the setting sun in capacity of its own virility, turns the purpled' Zabarwan hills into golden hues, gave me goose flesh. Living in Dal is a life with in a life. Though barely few kilometers away from the city central, yet there is a lifespan in between. Just when the shikira rows along the gentle paddling, and the city noise is lost somewhere in the air that you just breathed, you know Dal has welcomed you. Writing in such surroundings when you forget yourself over time, over people that you attach yourself to, over many inconsequential laughs that you manage in spite of the despair around, must be therapeutic  in every touch.


And hence I picked up my first Naipaul book- Guerrillas, few days back. The copy was old, and smelled just right. Naipaul as a writer is a rascal.That is conclusive. His prejudiced tone is visible every where in the book. But, the way he creates his story and the way he explains the bauxite laden air of Carribean Islands is in a literary sense, unparalleled. My advise- if you plan to read Naipaul, take him on a vacation. On a holiday, when you can drown your feet in a cold stream, when you can soak up sunshine while looking out through your hotel window, and birds plume away just as you look up in the skies. Naipaul will then be more understandable, more comprehensible. You have to read him, a para at a time, and then feel yourself in the center of the story. He is a rascal, he will have his way, more than often. 

The stories return, by the river Vitasta.

The airport was largely crowded that day. It was the season of weddings. Relatives, Delhi bound brides and grooms- shopping wedding trousseau were pouring out from the arrival gates: half bemused, half dreamy. The distant Pir Panchal mountains smoked, as they did from early morning. Early autumn showers had lashed the city. Thin white lines of smoke that became the color of mist blended with the pouring skies. Swam pools of water littered all around. Traffic was heavy too in this area. But the land showed its recent sylvan history. Here and there, among the clumsy army bunkers and modern buildings- hastily plastered, the tall wire fences, were still fields, vast grasslands that seemed ochre, and above which settlements laid. There tin roof tops silhouetted under the sun. Today, of course, they had simmered under the misty autumn smoke. It was as if the skies had lowered down and engulfed them.

Patchy asphalt on the roads was as common here as was the cheap copy of North Face raincoats, readily smuggled through Ladakh. Tiny rain droplets would harass the pools of water created, that stretched right in front of him. The swam pools were not the only ones suffering. His heart felt similarly too. The wait was long. Or so it seemed. His passive persistence under magically beautiful weather was beginning to wear off. He had already made a thousand plans for the day. Though the plans seemed to change every passing second. He was imagining their conversation, he was imaging her dress- a black and white shalwar kameez with a free flowing chunni, he was imagining that moment when their eyes would meet. In this claustrophobia of jostling men at the arrival gate, he was serenely alone. Nothing mattered. Nothing rattled him.

It was on one such day when she came to meet him.

                                               
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They were on the deck of the boat which was sufficiently lit by the bulbs, that hanged from the baroque wood craving- which is traditional and exquisitely royalist roofing used in this part. The sun was slanting on their faces- the hills-  whose shadows cast on the dreamy lake, gleamed. The light on the hills had altered, from midday dullness to the evening warm glow of sunset. Bashir the care taker served them cups of kehwa. The skies started gathering the evening clouds, when they took the stairs and sat on the roof top of the boat- where she spread her chunni and asked him to drown his head in her lap, watching the sun go down into the lake. It was the most beautiful evening. All the celestial lights were witness in this odor of flowers, while an elegy of separation was drawn deep in his heart. He kept quite. He was scared. Scared that she may hear this elegy. Nothing separated them. She kept quite too. Some evenings are meant to grieve, some to reflect, and some for savoring the togetherness. For them it  was an evening from which they wanted to gather a lifetime of memories.

The pale stars were sliding into their places. The leaves barely hushed in the westerly winds. Everything was still and sweet. Drifty clouds starting giving way to the lone bright star, when suddenly a fire cracker went up into the skies, making her face brightly visible to him. Her hair flickered. Like a cinematic script written with thought, the world was celebrating this union of lovers. It was that wonderful moment when, for lack of a visible horizon, the not yet darkened world seems infinitely greater—a moment when anything can happen, anything can be believed in.

It was one such evening when she came to meet him.