The girl with the bright eyes

<this very slightly edited piece was written by me in my diary on the upper bunk of the train on the night of 25th March, 2006. I still remember the face of the girl mentioned here in surprising detail.>

 

We went to a tour of North-East India from 16th to 26th August. On the night of the 25th, as we were waiting for our train, there came this little girl about 7 – 9 years of age, in a dark yellow (don’t remember exactly) frock and some black cloth wrapped around her neck, her hands looking for some silver kindness. She came and looked at me and I looked at her, and her hair was so black and pretty and her eyes so bright and her face so deeply beautiful (means deep inside) I couldn’t look away. What she might have grown into if put into a school, I thought. A good daughter, a strong friend, a caring person, a devoted and responsible mother. But she has already lost all hope of an educated and dignified life in the first few tender year of it. She has many years left before her, but I know that they are already hollow and dark. She will have to earn her living in the station, begging, or a paid job like sweeping, or a higher-paid job like prostitution.

She was a little girl with bright eyes and dark skin and in dirty clothes, with nothing to look forward to in life, although she did not know it.

She absent-mindedly looked around as she held out her hand in a familiar gesture. Not a coin dropped in it. She moved away. What was her fault, I asked. What was her responsibility? She did not choose to be born like this. Why? Who was responsible for her? God? Yeah, right. You inflict all the loose ends, the uncomfortable and incomplete duties, all the wrongs, the injustice and the things that shouldn’t be on that never-seen shoulder. What could that much-worshipped and revered almighty in the books and temples and prayers do for the girl with bright eyes and dirty clothes? I had an overwhelming desire to hug her till she choked, because I had neither money nor food, and that was all I could give her. How would she feel, being hugged that hard for the first time in her small life, by a stranger in dark green jeans and sneakers who had looked at her strangely while awaiting a delayed train at Platform 6, Guwahati Station, on a warm summer night? She would think me crazy, not normal. It’s unfortunate, what normal means. Normal means girls like her with lives hollowed out by poverty roam the dirty stations of India for bits and pieces of food and grow up with loud, harsh and raucous voices and occasionally get raped at night by people who watch too many Hindi movies. That’s normal, right? Unfortunate, innit?

I have left her dirty frock and bright eyes back by almost 45 minutes now. It’s a quarter past twelve, into tomorrow, my sister’s birthday. No birthdays for them, though. No one remembers which date that drunkard in the cheap white shirt and faded jeans raped her mom, who died giving birth to her on the hospital verandah. No tomorrows for them, either.

Here’s to a million years of the unchallenged reign of Normal.

 

1Life.

Problem

<don’t worry if you can’t figure out what I wrote about here.>

 

Stab it in the heart, right. Hold it there while it writhes and squirms. Hold it till it lets go, till the questions die, till the questions are killed. I can’t do this anymore. I have to find that way, that red exit sign. Or I break through the door, the wall. Will that look good? I’ve brought a nice sharp knife with me tonight. Are you scared? You better be. This knife’s got a purpose, did you know that? Everything’s here for a purpose, didn’t you tell me? Well, here is my knife with a purpose. It’s gonna see your end tonight. The Chamber will forever be closed. Yeah, hear that, I scream to the empty hall, forever!

Confine me. Don’t let me see it any more. I’ll shut the windows and pull all the blinds. You can’t stop me. I’ll light up this little room and invite my friends to dinner. If you try to stop me, I’ve got a knife. I haven’t brought a revolver because then death will be too quick. I want to see you writhe and squirm and die slowly, spilling your dark red poisonous blood all over my memory and making it a happy place. You can’t do this to me. I raise my voice. YOU CAN’T! I throw the knife into the darkness. It hits someone. A harsh, beastly scream. I fall to the floor laughing.

And then suddenly there was sunlight through the huge windows sprawling across the huge mosaic floor, and I saw her, and my friends, walking towards me from the other end of the hall. The shafts of sunlight through the nearest window made the pool of blood beside Nothing glow like burning charcoal. I had killed him in the night.

‘I don’t wanna remember nothing. Nothing,’ said Cypher, the traitor. He was very right in what he wanted. He should have died with honour. Give me a break, or I’ll take it.

 

1Life.

 

Problem

<don’t worry if you can’t figure out what I wrote about here.>

 

There’s a problem. Something’s wrong. Terribly wrong. It’s not too conspicuous yet, but I’ve heard it breathing quietly down there, under the bed, beneath the rug. Stifled, but alive and dangerous. There’s no way out. No red exit sign glowing in the dark, kiddo. Presently there’s no need for it, because it hasn’t woken up yet, but it will. I’m sure as hell it will. And then there will be no way out, no exit sign glowing in the dark for you to run towards. For me to run towards. I’m waking up a savage beast, while I’m inside its cage. I don’t know what will become of me when it’s fully awake and sees me meek and harmless, agitating it.

There’s no door, maybe, but I see a window. I can’t climb out through it, of course, but it lets a ray of sun in. It’s a phone number. An eight-digit phone number. I can’t even elaborate on it for fear the beast will sense I’m doing it and smell its way to here. Sorry, people, I would have loved to show my gratitude for the window and its ray of sun, were it not for my vulnerability to that beast, that problem.

I asked the number if there were any good hot air balloons I could get my hands on. Then I would take it along with myself up to the top of the house and fly up there amidst the blue sky and fresh breeze and never return here, and show the thing that I wasn’t meant to be another brick in the wall. Another of those quoted and featured-on-page-three ‘successful’ unmentionables.

I can sense it now. There’s a big problem we got here. Window, I need long talks. Over that table I wrote about in my diary. Some exchange of sunshine. Cure me of not being able to smile and smiling for being able to smile.

 

1Life.

Conversations with G #1

It had been a long day. Not physically, mentally. There had been internal warfare, and I was rather weighed down by it all. So I decided to pay G a visit.

I lay back on the sofa and closed my eyes.

In a minute or two, I felt the odd warmth penetrating through my skin. I say warmth, because I really don’t have another word for it. Let me assure you that it was not heat. It had nothing to do with temperature or anything. It was actually a cold sensation, but it somehow carried with it a whiff of accompaniment, a scent of friendship and assurance. Like your mother’s lap when you used to be younger. The feeling stroked me gently, and it was so peaceful I could almost feel it physically. And that’s what I translate into the warmth.

I opened my eyes, and there I was, in Oz, or Eden, or some such place. The horizon spread all around, unblocked, seeming to spread to eternity. The distant white haze slowly engulfed the blueness of the ground. The sky was an odd white with streaks of pale electric-blue, and cast a brilliant yet soothing light all around. Right in the middle of this all was a river, rather a stream, winding its way through the blue floor. Yeah, floor. You’d look at the ground and wonder who polished it so well. It was smooth and shiny like office floors, a pale and uniform blue. The river winded its way down the floor and into the distant haze on either side. I had been told that the stream began and ended nowhere. Which logically states that the ground never began and never ended, because the stream was flowing on it, and it was a very correct idea. That neither the ground nor the stream ever began or ended, and yet they existed so plainly in front of my eyes. And this was all, an electric sky, a smooth uniform ground and a stream. The place constituted solely of this. The simplicity of the world could give you a cardiac attack. But I was accustomed. So I did not panic when I suddenly saw a form materialize in front of me, a teenage boy of my age in T-shirt and jeans, slowly emerging from the haze.

I waited while he came up to me, and then when I could see him more clearly through the haze, I noticed this question-mark on his T-shirt, yellow on green. He saw me looking at it and smiled.

‘Hey N, long time.’

‘Yeah,’ I nodded. ‘How’re things going?’

He looked at me out of the corner of his eyes as he brushed some dust off his jeans and winked.

‘Things never go, do they? Nothing ever happens. It’s a circle, didn’t I tell you?’

‘You never told me,’ I said, a little irritated. ‘I knew. That’s how I came here.’

‘Sit down here and let’s have a talk,’ he said, noticing I hadn’t liked the credit-snatching.

We sat down beside the stream, on the blue ground. I put my fingers in the water. The water seemed to flow over them like liquid crystal. It was very soothing.

‘So,’ he turned and stared into me. Yeah, into me. That’s all I can do to describe his stare. ‘So,’ he said, ‘what’s the prob?’

I shrugged. ‘I don’t know. Something feels not right.’

‘Wo, that’s bad. Since when?’

‘This week.’

‘Is it the Abu Gharib pictures?’

I sat up straight very quickly and looked at him. His eyes were like two searching probes throwing narrow beams of light into me. I looked away.

‘Yeah, maybe. I’m feeling bad about it. But I’m not sure that’s the only reason I’m down.’ I looked at him out of the corner of my eyes when I’d said that. He was looking at the horizon. The ever-present faint indication of a smile hung on his face.

‘You know N, sometimes the solution of a problem brings about its diagnosis.’

‘I’m waiting for it,’ I said. And for one moment there, I felt that odd bond of thinking that I thought we shared between each other. Sometimes what we said would be incomprehensible to any other person present (although there never was a third person present), and yet we understood each other fully. It was very satisfying inside.

‘How long will it last?’ He said, turning to face me. ‘How long will the pictures affect you? A day, a month, till you get that new camera or that new bike or that new kiss from that new crush —’

I stood up. ‘Look G, you already know how I hate that kind of talk. I’ve had enough of you. I’m going.’

‘Hey, come on now. Please.’

That was the first time he’d said please to me. I looked at his eyes. They weren’t penetrating any more. And I dare say, I think I noticed a shade of sadness and disappointment in them.

I sat down again, slowly.

‘I’m not feeling right, N,’ he said.

‘Same reason?’ I asked, a bit surprised.

‘You could say that. But it’s a bit bigger than that. It’s more what they stand for, than they themselves.’

‘Meaning?’ I asked, realizing this was important.

He sighed and looked at the horizon again.

‘I understand you realize the importance of antagonism, of contrast, of opposites, of oscillations from one sphere to the other, of why there had to be light and dark and not light alone. Why men created the Devil along with God. I know, of course, that it all comes down to the same thing. You know binary of course? That two-digit number system of computers?’

I told him I knew of it.

‘So you see, all sights and sounds can be converted to two contrasting digits, two disagreeing, different entities. They combine in different patterns to produce all that is digital. The many comes down to the two, right? And you know too, of course, that two will eventually come down to one on a higher plane. Light and dark will merge, and <omitted>. [this clause contained a truth that many readers of this blog will dislike. Hence it is better omitted. For the time being, just be informed that there was truth in what he said in the last part of the sentence. The more intelligent of you may even correctly guess what he said. Sometime in the future, I wish to include it.] But still, on your plane, they are different, aren’t they? War and peace, kindness and oppression, the picture of a rescued animal and the pictures of people being tortured in prisons, it’s cyclical, no, rather like a wave, like telegraph wires. They come down and they go up. They sway between good and bad. The swaying is called life. It’s called existence. It’s called being, it’s called happening, it’s called possibility, what is true and present and exists and lives. It’s the bare swaying. And you need two positions to sway between. To exist. It’s like a circle, yeah. Goes around and comes around. I sometimes wish —’

He now stopped talking for a moment and stared straight at me, as if considering whether or not to tell me. He looked away slowly, again at the horizon, decided.

‘I sometimes wish it weren’t a cycle, you know. I wish it were linear, projecting towards something. To leave something behind would be to leave it behind, not to return to it again. The telegraph wire goes up and up and up and zooms around the sky and lunges towards the ground and flies around, not bounded by the rotation, the oscillation, the circulation, the swaying, free to be bent and shaped by fate and course of events. The future would always be a chance, a probability. After fifty years of peace no one would be waiting for war because they think the telegraph line has to sag. Because it doesn’t. There won’t be dark because there’s light. There would either be dark or light. There won’t be Devil with God. If there’s only one, people wouldn’t be able to tell whether it was the Devil or God. And there won’t be a new life-saving drug invention article on the Tuesday newspaper followed by Abu Gharib pictures the next Tuesday. I don’t have any idea what I’m talking about.’ He stopped and stared at me, smiling. I could tell he didn’t really feel like smiling.

‘It has to happen, right G? Without a cycle life and existence wouldn’t be infinite, would it? A circle ends nowhere if you begin from a point. A line does.’

He pointed at the stream in front of us and smiled.

‘You see that stream? It’s a line. Begins nowhere. Ends nowhere. Now let me tell you something. It is a circle, on a higher dimension.’ He winked. ‘Goes around and comes around.

‘Yeah, it’s right. A circle is always needed. A repetition. Genesis and Nemesis. Then Genesis again. That’s how the coding was done. That’s how everything falls perfectly into place. There’s no equilibrium position, just two extreme points. Like happiness at success and disappointment and frustration in failure. If a man achieves either of these, give him some time, he’ll slowly roll towards the equilibrium position. And then his instinct, actually the coding, or the voice, or whatever, induces him to start a new thing again, so that equilibrium is never reached. It’s always either of the two contrasting entities, never the intermediate. But since both these contrasting spheres always have equal participation in the journey of time, the whole thing remains in neither sphere; an intermediate.’

‘So I should stop worrying about the pictures?’

‘You could, because it’s only an event that maintains the equilibrium, but if you did, then there wouldn’t be protests against it, and slowly things would turn from intermediate position to one of the two spheres, the balance will be disturbed, and hence, it’s always good to do what your instinct tells you to: in this case, worry. You’ll be generating another chain of events to maintain the equilibrium.’

Once again, the answer was a paradox.

‘I wish you hadn’t told me all of this.’

‘It’d be like Neo telling Morpheus he never should have told him all of his.’

Now I had to smile. ‘I get you. Thanks. And by the way, N will do. Not the full.’

I no longer felt the need to be there. As if reading my thoughts, G stood up.

‘Hope I helped.’

‘Hmm…’ I said.

The atmosphere was growing oddly hazy, like it always did when our conversation was over. As if a thick fog had suddenly dropped from somewhere. In the growing blurriness, I squinted to look at him. A single glimpse of his smiling face on an electric sky background was all I got. My room was swimming back into view. Slowly it all materialized in front of me, tables, chairs, walls, T.V., and all that remained was a memory, as if I’d been dreaming all the while. I got up from the sofa and walked towards the bed with some real rest in mind.

And already, the questions were beginning to germinate in my mind again.

 

И.

Friend

Didn’t even know we were gonna be friends.
 That’s an odd statement; no one does.
 Didn’t even know why we became friends.
 No, I don’t really need a reason for that.
 To ask for reasons would be like starting a hobby of collecting dust off the roadside; I couldn’t finish. There are so many questions that only exist because they are not limited by answers.
 
 Like what makes you smile when you see me, when you hear my voice on the end of the telephone.
 What makes you say I’m a nice person. What makes you say I have eyes full 
 of words when I can see only two black pupils. Perhaps it’s a language only friends can decipher.
 Like which unexplained, unaccounted-for hormone is responsible
 for the way my heart sort of fills up when I see you. What makes me call you up with so many thoughts inside and yet I can’t speak up when you ask what’s wrong. 
 And somehow, the thoughts flow across the distance,
through the telephone lines and you somehow know. Thoughts can’t be spoken out.
             
 And they are not needed to be heard when you’re there.
                  
 
 All the times we spent laughing at each other’s jokes, the hour-long conversations that started with frogs and ended with foreign administrative systems. The days were so happy. 
 The finity of it all never struck me.
 Maybe that’s what makes these things special. 
                
 We don’t need a reason to be friends. 
 We may separate tomorrow, and yet we fight till the last breath to stay together today. 
 And I smile when I think, that tomorrow is still the future. We’re still in today.
 
 We are still friends.