Year ends, Durga Pujo, my birthday makes me nostalgic. My nostalgia has always stemmed from melancholy, a sense of loneliness amidst the festivity. This time it is both the Pujo and my birthday that makes me nostalgic. Nostalgia is a doluble edged sword because what we remember from long ago is usually tinted with our own desires and wishes. And then there are people who read too much into what you wrote. If you post on social media some random friend will ask you what’s wrong. If you write a blog someone who follows it ( surreptitiously) will be offended. Someone else will wonder what is going on with your life. The thing is being a romantic has its perks, I can look at things with tinted red eye glasses but sometimes when I look back at life I see it through some sepia tinted glasses. And in that not everything is bright, some are yellow with frayed edges turning grey, like a flower kept inside a book for long loses its color and becomes the color of the old pages of the book. That’s what happens to our memories. I find it hard these days to differentiate between one memory and another , often my mind meanders through different timelines in my life. Perhaps that’s what it means to grow old.
Recently someone said to me that they were suddenly made aware that they were 31 years old. I chuckled. I found it funny. I tried to think how old I feel. I always thought I would feel like 18 but turns out being 18 wasn’t all that good, although Bryan Adams still tries to convince me. But I feel myself to be at that age between 25 – 26. That time when I had made my shares of mistakes and I had thought I would never repeat them. You see now I know that I would repeat them and I also know I would survive them. So, now my knowledge makes me stronger to say yes when I know saying yes means facing yet another heartache. Over the years life has taught me more lessons about heartache that I cared to learn. In fact I still feel they should include Relationship as one subject instead of Trigonometry at school. I mean sin, cos and all those theorems sure as hell didn’t help me when I needed it. May be some do’s and don’t’s would have helped. But the now 30 something 26 year old likes to feel the small thrills of old music, old pics, old friends , New people ( read interesting folks) and that doesn’t make this a bad time of my life either.
I suddenly realise I do not have the same fears of a 26 year old. And that can be liberating. It can make you feel blissful, take off a few burdens from your back, let you breath easy, enjoy your life, take it easy, smile more, and like someone said just enjoy.
I mustn’t forget it does make for wonderful day dreams too.
So here I am turning some 30 something having started this year feeling like 40 something ( bad influences ) now I’m back to myself. I am still the same, somewhat less damaged and confused, somewhat eager to be the oldgirl ( living up to her nickname and self image), who was “adulting” for a while. What is life if not lived in madness, Passion, in search of love and meaning of life? !
As I bring home this 100 days of scribbling blog, I am again beginning to look inwards than outwards for my inspiration to write, to live, to love… and in borrowed words,
“To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
I am coming back to the 10 favorite book review today. I return with one of my very early favorites, Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. I believe this is the book that got me hooked onto Indian writings in English. I also believe that the first time I read it, I was not at the appropriate age to appreciate the true genius of the writing. It took me several more readings to come close to the core of the book. But today I will do a short post on the words that pulled me to this book and made it one of my favorite.
But if I plunged into that bit head first many would be at a loss, so I shall, how do i say, begin at the beginning, from the Book one of Midnight’s Children entitled “The Perforated Sheet”. What is this perforated sheet? Well, the history of Saleem begins from the first time his father Dr. Aziz met his future wife. Their first meeting went something like this.
Into a spacious bedchamber that was as ill-lit as the rest of the house; although here there were shafts of dusty sunlight seeping in through a fanlight high on one wall. These fusty rays illuminated a scene as remarkable as anything the Doctor had ever witnessed: a tableau of such surpassing strangeness that his feet began to twitch towards the door once again. Two more women, also built like professional wrestlers, stood stiffly in the light, each holding one corner of an enormous white bedsheet, their arms raised high above their heads so that the sheet hung between them like a curtain. Mr Ghani welled up out of the murk surrounding the sunlit sheet and permitted the nonplussed Aadam to stare stupidly at the peculiar tableau for perhaps half a minute, at the end of which, and before a word had been spoken, the Doctor made a discovery: In the very centre of the sheet, a hole had been cut, a crude circle about seven inches in diameter. ‘Close the door, ayah,’ Ghani instructed the first of the lady wrestlers, and then, turning to Aziz, became confidential. This town contains many good-for-nothings who have on occasion tried to climb into my daughter’s room. She needs,’ he nodded at the three musclebound women, ‘protectors.’ Aziz was still looking at the perforated sheet. Ghani said, ‘All right, come on, you will examine my Naseem right now. Pronto.’ My grandfather peered around the room. ‘But where is she, Ghani Sahib?’ he blurted out finally. The lady wrestlers adopted supercilious expressions and, it seemed to him, tightened their musculatures, just in case he intended to try something fancy. ‘Ah, I see your confusion,’ Ghani said, his poisonous smile broadening, ‘You Europe-returned chappies forget certain things. Doctor Sahib, my daughter is a decent girl, it goes without saying. She does not flaunt her body under the noses of strange men. You will understand that you cannot be permitted to see her, no, not in any circumstances; accordingly I have required her to be positioned behind that sheet. She stands there, like a good girl.’ A frantic note had crept into Doctor Aziz’s voice. ‘Ghani Sahib, tell me how I am to examine her without looking at her?’ Ghani smiled on. ‘You will kindly specify which portion of my daughter it is necessary to inspect. I will then issue her with my instructions to place the required segment against that hole which you see there. And so, in this fashion the thing may be achieved.’ ‘But what, in any event, does the lady complain of?’-my grandfather, despairingly. To which Mr Ghani, his eyes rising upwards in their sockets, his smile twisting into a grimace of grief, replied: ‘The poor child! She has a terrible, a too dreadful stomachache.’ ‘In that case,’ Doctor Aziz said with some restraint, ‘will she show me her stomach, please.’
So gradually Doctor Aziz came to have a picture of Naseem in his mind, a badly-fitting collage of her severally-inspected parts. This phantasm of a partitioned woman began to haunt him, and not only in his dreams. Glued together by his imagination, she accompanied him on all his rounds, she moved into the front room of his mind, so that waking and sleeping he could feel in his fingertips the softness of her ticklish skin or the perfect tiny wrists or the beauty of the ankles; he could smell her scent of lavender and chambeli; he could hear her voice and her helpless laughter of a little girl; but she was headless, because he had never seen her face.
These words haunted me for the longest time, the idea of a bygone era where a man and a woman fell in love with each other, one part of body at a time. It seemed romantic and old worldly and to the teenage mind already bubbling with anticipation of love, longing and romantic thoughts this seemed to be the epitome of Romance, the kind one can only read and never experience. For many years my idea about love had been based on loving someone in such a manner as to be able to love every part of them.
The importance of that perforated sheet with which I began this post is yet to be discussed.
The perforated sheet through which Aadam Aziz falls in love with his future wife performs several different symbolic functions throughout the novel. Unable to see his future wife as a whole, Aadam falls in love with her in pieces. As a result, their love never has a cohesive unity that holds them together. Their love is fragmented, just as their daughter Amina’s attempts to fall in love with her husband are also fragmented. Haunted by the memory of her previous husband, Amina embarks on a campaign to fall in love with her new husband in sections, just as her father once fell in love with her mother. Despite her best attempts, Amina and Ahmed’s love also lacks the completion and unity necessary for genuine love to thrive. The hole of the perforated sheet represents a portal for vision but also a void that goes unfilled. The perforated sheet makes one final appearance with Jamila Singer: in an attempt to preserve her purity, she shrouds herself completely, except for a single hole for her lips. The perforated sheet, in addition to preserving her purity, also reduces to her to nothing more than a voice. The sheet becomes a veil that separates her from the rest of the world and reflects her inability to accept affection.
Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children has many other motiffs, symbols and themes but one blog post will not do justice to them. I hope to write about them some time in the future but for now I leave you to ponder about the moment or moments that made you fall in love with you Lover. Was there a ‘perforated sheet’ that played an important part? Did you try to love someone in parts?
Only One Hour to Live
If you had only one hour to live, what would you do? Would you not arrange what is necessary outwardly, your affairs, your will, and so on? Would you not call your family and friends together and ask their forgiveness for the harm that you might have done to them, and forgive them for whatever harm they might have done to you? Would you not die completely to the things of the mind, to desires and to the world? And if it can be done for an hour, then it can also be done for the days and years that may remain. Try it and you will find out.
– J. Krishnamurti, The Book of Life
Supposing it had been Gerda who had followed him tonight. No good saying people didn’t do such things. As a doctor, he knew only too well what people, high-minded, sensitive, fastidious, honourable people constantly did. They listened at doors, and opened letters and spied and snooped – not because for one moment they approved of such conduct, but because, before the sheer necessity of human anguish, they were rendered desperate
The Hollow. Agatha Christie
What is it to be Human? It is to be fragile, it is to have doubts and fears. If those doubts and fears drive us temporarily we are capable of all actions that we would normally shirk from or frown upon. But the anxiety, the worry that drives our mind insane sometimes can make us take the less trodden path. That is when we listen at doors, peep through key holes or go through someone else’s phone log and chats. The little quote is from a 60’s novel yet it rings true for us even in this day and age. An age where modes of communication have increased, our lives have become more public, at the same time we have more to hide, more secrets and more people who want to know them. The readers may argue not all spying, snooping or opening of mails and phone messages stems from anxiety, fears and doubts. They are right, because there are a variety of reasons people may resort to these behaviors. But I am only analyzing the emotional push that sends our sense of propriety, sense of personal space into a turmoil and we find ourselves clawing and clutching at straws to feed the demons in our head bursting to come out. And what happens after we have managed to open the mail and read it, disappointment, Because unfortunately, there is always something some one wants to keep private. And when it is discovered all hell does break loose.
Has anyone tried this exercise, opened the phone messages and wondered which one’s we would not want certain persons in our life to see. There must be a few! Strangely, something prevents us from deleting them. Doesn’t it? As if we like taking this risk. I don’t know what are the complex emotions that work behind our inability to remove things which are ‘secret’, because we hate letting go, because they are reminders of time gone by? I do not know.
But the impulse to check on someone else’s life, to see what they hide, (we all hide things), is sometimes unbearable, it pushes through the other senses that stop you, it curbs the conscience and suddenly you find looking into something you should not be looking at.
Perhaps in this age of cynicism that we live in, we cannot expect anyone to understand the predicament through which one suffers before finding one’s hand’s in the proverbial cookie jar, but the quote from Agatha Christie touched me in its basic understanding and elaboration of the human nature that worked behind these spy like actions.
Do you often spy on someone else? Tell me about it.