Thursday, October 31, 2013

Farewell October

It is winter suddenly. The indifferent autumn air has given way to colder nights and desiccated days. Roadsides are dotted with carts of bhutta (roasted corn) sellers. The thin wisps of sooty smoke rising from a makeshift fire-pit clouding the vibrant yellow and green of the corn cobs. The domestic scenery includes bottles of thick shea-butter lotion, pairs of socks, and curls of steam rising from teacups. A sudden lull drapes the evenings, which come quite early now, and time appears to freeze after a point. It is that time of the year again when food and festivals surround you for a good three months, out of which a month ends today.  

It is also the time when I enjoy my reading hours the most. Perhaps it's the quietude, perhaps it's the enveloping bubble of coziness. Once again I ended up being moved, almost driven to a state of emotional numbness by one of my most favourite authors, Jhumpa Lahiri. That there's no end to her brilliance, we all know, but her latest release, The Lowland is much more than just a novel. Interlacing history, both personal and political, and the much-explored themes of marriage and the parent-child relationship of her narratives, she builds the plot with a deftness that could only be hers. At once engaging and disturbing, it has moments that make you put down the book, sit back for a while and sometimes, suddenly burst into tears of surprise. There are lines in it which command that kind of an emotional commitment from the reader, that carve out a certain you. There are people in it who might be you or me, their defeat ours. There's a remarkable shift in Lahiri's prose - no more the lyrical, graceful style; this time she keeps it crisp and very much to-the-point, and perhaps that is why it hits you harder. 
Writing this post immediately after an hour of having finished reading the book, leaves me somewhat rattled. May be I'll attempt a coherent evaluation sometime else. Today I just want to remain lost in those windy, deserted beaches of Rhode Island and dwell upon the unintrusive, lifelong love that a father nurtures for his daughter. That and the newness that the change of season has ushered in.  

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Let everything happen to you

"Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final"

~ Rilke

There couldn't be a truth truer than this. How many times I've checked upon a certain feeling, rehearsing its details like school lessons, only to later realize the sheer flimsiness of it all. To have nursed its sapling only to witness its green wither away gradually. To have wasted moments, sometimes days, holding on to it. Moments of epiphany crumbling into morsels of dust and nothingness.

No feeling is final
. Rilke knows. He always did.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Phailin's Durga Puja

I was home last week. But so was Cyclone Phailin, and there started the drama of it all. What had been dreamed, hoped, and rejoiced about since the last one month, all started to fall apart like the places and people that were exposed to the wrath of the brutal storm. As if being stranded in a place without electricity for three days and not being able to make that journey for which you had planned days ahead wasn't enough, I also had to fall sick. After somehow managing to waddle through the waves and howling winds, we finally reached home only to be in the throws of a bad bacterial stomach infection. The festive season which starts with the Durga Puja had anyway become dim due to Phailin's threat, and there wasn't much that I could have missed celebrations-wise.

Still, for someone who was visiting home after more than a year, it didn't feel right. My days were robbed and the stay at home was cut short by forces beyond my control. Amid candle-lit nights and overcast days, streets strewn with uprooted trees and disheveled decorations from Durga's pandals, I felt cheated. I know, my litany of woes are mercilessly self-centred and indecorous when compared to the immeasurable grief of the cyclone-ravaged people, but that's what I feel. Other than a handful glimpses of the puja on the tenth and the final day, I have got nothing this year. And that's what I shall give to you.

Durga in all her golden glory, punishing the sinners and yet smiling through that veil of radiant calm. The idol of Ardhanarishwar, literally meaning 'the Lord who is half woman'. Shiva and his consort Parvati, another avatar of Durga, come together symbolizing the inherent androgynous nature in a human being. Having never witnessed its presence in the pandals before, it came as a pleasant surprise. Childhood revisited it was, for every corner and every turn of the town reminded me of the joys of many a Durga Puja holiday. And it was almost a decade since I had been home during the pujas. So homecoming it was, in some way at least.  

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