Notes from the underground
The home of my dreams-
Soft fleeting tears.
Marigolds in bloom.
I do not know how I began to tell this story. Why did I begin? It is nothingness, a deformity in my subconscious. It is just a pointless pursuit. It began where I don’t know, but right now, I am sitting in front of a Policeman and a State sponsored Psychiatrist.
I know him- Rustom Mistry, yes, that’s his name, I can see the Faravahar glittering in the light. “It’s to remind me of my true purpose, at least that’s what my mom hopes.” He’d told her when she’d asked about it. The winged disk and the bearded human motif looked very appealing to me, but today it seems scary. The purpose of my life, it’s fucking over! Not even the Faravar can save me!
He is asking me all these questions, with a very stern face. But believe me; I cannot understand what he says. For the life of me, his words are a jumble. I am trying to answer, but nothing. My jaw muscles have gone on strike. It’s like I never knew the powers of speech. I am unable to communicate and totally enervated. Have you ever heard a singing bowl? The sound of it keeps reverberating in my mind, suddenly out pops the Tom and Jerry tune in my mind, some heavy programming by Disney!
I have been forced to shut down, just like when you hold the power switch of a computer and just manually shut it down, you do not take the trouble of performing a proper shut down. My consciousness is the black screen, the product of a forced shut down.
My wretched eyes see everything. Rustam’s impassive face. Yet, the trace of anxiety makes itself known, which he suppresses with dutiful vigour. I sense that I’m watching him as different Ninas. Complicated emotions are tormenting me.
Ting tong! The bell rang. I was dressed in this gorgeous little black number from Yves Saint Laurent, also boasted of wedged heels from the same make- black luxurious suede. I was waiting for him.
I opened the door. Dr. Misty stood there. Ah yes, he was complete with the clichéd bunch of roses in his hands-blood red ones. He was speaking as clear as a bell, trying to implore me with his eyes. He also said something to the effect that he had wanted me for very long, but never had the guts to speak up. He told me he thought about me and was becoming obsessive, like I was under his skin. A chance is what he wanted. He throws caution to the winds and hugs me. The next minute I am in his arms, his lips are on mine, trying to get inside my mouth, as if snaking in to touch my soul.
One of the Nina’s (I have many Nina’s inside of me, fuck!) look at his lips, those same one who were trying to part her lips, to explore her very being. Those lips were now moving, creating geometric shapes, like the shapes formed when a kid blows bubbles from that god-awful soapy liquid.
Like dews of dawn.
Ghosts in time.
So the shapes his mouth is now making also disintegrates like the transient bubbles. Nothing elucidates impermanence as this act of blowing spherical shapes in the air which disintegrate in a few seconds. Poof! They are gone. New worlds created and destroyed, at the blink of an eye-lid. The bubbles form words. He’s asking me why I am here.
Why is anybody here? There is seriousness to his voice as he asks me why I had gone to Lilavati last night? Obviously I did not reply. I could not. I was physically unable to. Trauma I think is what did it. “Can you tell me why you stabbed this man repeatedly?? You killed him…” he was shoving a picture of a smiling face in my hands.
I have on tight mini-skirts and leather boots that are a few inches above my knees, very dark and Gothic make-up and I have on a wig, a short trendy wig. I try to touch it. Someone watching me from afar would notice a shaky hand moving to touch the hairline with no definitive purpose. But the purpose was known to this man- Rustam. “Why do you have that on?” He asks pointing to the wig.
I sit silently, looking down at the blood drying on this super expensive pair of boots that I bought online from some German fantasy leather footwear company, as a gift for my sister. They were splendid in their craftsmanship- the Germans definitely know how to design and make things. Other words from his mouth also manage to surface briefly in my consciousness. Word association! I normally think of a word when I hear a word. One word brings about the memory of another and so on so forth. The story is never ending. This has been a most fascinating way to tend to burgeoning ideas. Words like “life-support system” made its way to my subconscious. A sting of incredible pain jolted me into nausea. I’m throwing up all over the table, my clothes my shoes, my heart rate through the ceiling, my body drenched in sweat.
Rustam signals to the police behind the mirror to send in lady constables. Two stout Marathi female cops burst into the scene with some medical aid. “Kai zala?” They lift me up, try to stuff water down my throat, wipe me up and revive me. But I almost faint, the pain is too oppressive. I would have preferred to be Mary Antoinette, marching to the guillotine.
Muffin, your softness is what I seek; where are you baby? Come to me, there’s nothing I need more than your purrs and rubs.
And then I saw his face.
The face of cobwebs,
Disintegrating like the quarks in an atom,
Rustam is looking at me and I think I know what’s going through his head. My beaming face, obviously enamoured by his intellect and sophistication, sitting in the first bench, listening to him talk about Jungian Collective Unconscious, yes that memory is surfacing in his mind. It was a less complicated time. We were infatuated with each other.
But now, everything has changed. Today he stands in front of me as an inquisitor and it’s a witch hunt. A murder! He is supposed to uncover the darkest depths of my mind to know how I could commit such a hideous crime. No sorry- Hideous crimes and now I sit as dead as a doornail.
Dr. Rustam Mistry will be questioned about his diagnosis. He will go with the catatonic stupor characterized by motoric immobility, mutism and catalepsy, followed by the rare bout of nausea, blah fucking bloo.
Frank came to meet me and my mind kept repeating, A hope which is now forever past…A love so sweet it could not last,
Was Time long past…it just broke my already broken heart.
The police officer informed Rustam about his arrival and was asked his professional advice on whether Frank and I could meet. He did consent to our meeting and was there right behind the mirror to observe every subtle emotion that was there or wasn’t there or the ones he just thought existed.
Jail or any form of detention centre is hardly the place for lovers to meet. But Frank just held my hands, kissed them so very tenderly and whispered something about star stuff contemplating the stars…it was a Sagan expression we both loved. Gorgeousity! Star stuff, contemplating star stuff…Malana cream and Sagan. Ah!
When I hear these words I am reminded of another life, in another world where
I remember saying that we are made up of star stuff and he took my chain of thought and elaborated on it. “We’re star stuff, contemplating star stuff…” “As above”, said I and before I could complete my sentence, he covered my mouth and completed, “So below”…for me. We kissed, long and deep, like a Russian Kiss which explored not just my physical body but ignited a fire in my soul, it lasted the whole night. That night was like an eternity!
Frank sobs softly. “I will not give up on you or us…” My heart sobs with him, but I am catatonic. I want to ask him about my cat, Muffin, a majestic British Blue male, two years old and my baby. I want to hold him in my arms, his purring body close to my heart as he nibbles my nose with affection. He is missing me. Two most important males in my life, both from the Great Britain. An irony? The Angrez have not lost their hold on us. Anglophiles formed the part of Bengali society I called my family.
The vilayat, complete with toilet papers to wipe your arse. Who cleans their arse with water? What savages? Don’t forget the knives and forks, eat with your hand and in a jiffy you’re the outcast, chi chi, eating with your hand, as if somehow the toxicity of the hands were confirmed and verified by science.
I’d seen this documentary on Satyajit Ray, where he speaks of how the Western world took to Pather Panchali. He spoke of how some American women had been forced to throw up after watching Indir Thakrun eating with her hands on screen. What a bunch of barbarians, thought the pretty, sophisticated mems.
Okay I might have even fought super hard to be this sexy, sophisticated Angrezi lassie, if so many people around me had not made it their lives’ mission.
They are everywhere, singing Psalms in Convents at the crack of dawn, wearing micro mini, chote chote mini skirts with tank tops, as if showing skin is a sign of emancipation from old oppressive customs; these creatures were allergic to anything that screamed desi, like vampires to sunlight.
Imported goods, imported bathroom fittings, imported brains?
It’s not that I refuse to answer Frank. Believe me, I want to. But my mouth just refuses to speak, my eyes just sank deep into their crevices, my tongue just hangs there like a limp rag; I feel my brain is losing control, like a general who loses his soldiers due to some internal mutiny. The general, my brain has lost power, its reign is over and each of the organs has taken control. But this time, they are not working in harmonious synchronization, they have developed individuality. Screw individuality! Each behaved in the way it wanted to. All they seem to want is to not respond. So there you go, there was no response to Frank’s entreaties. Was this real??? Frank’s face, his tears, Rustam’s face, his stern look- it feels like cardboard scenery, in fact I have the taste of saw dust in my mouth.
I want to thank Frank for caring after my boy Muffin; in a sense he is the be all and end all of my existence when it comes to matters of the heart, and the only male in my life for so long. Thousands of years ago, the Egyptians worshipped the cat in the form of Bastet, killing a cat was punished by death and if a cat died, it’s family would shave off their eyebrows; well, seems like cats have not forgotten that and my Muffin certainly deserves worship.
Anyway Rustam is watching!
Little does he know that a woman is looking to meet me, her name SAPNA VERMA, the wife of the man I had brutally stabbed to death. He had multiple lacerations, a punctured abdomen and his testicles were chopped off. Such gruesome acts were only seen on telly in serials, where you get to see how evidence is collected which ultimately points to the guilty, no matter how much camouflaged the identity of the killer is. My DNA was everywhere in the crime scene, the CSI guys would not break a sweat in proving that it was I who did it.
Anyway Sapna has walked up the Police Officer who’s called Rustam. I have to meet her, she said. Rustam’s apprehensive, but then he sees Frank exit my cell. Sapna follows his glance and instantly approaches Frank demanding to see me, this bloody witch who she would have gladly burnt at the stake.
She enters my cell. Her eyes confront the pale corpse in front, my practically lifeless body. I must say, a shocked expression registers on her face as she looks at me from head to toe. What is this phantasmal entity, she must be thinking. How did this weakling kill my husband? Little did she know that when your mind is set, you can achieve anything- nothing is out of reach? I could have killed him over and over again, a hundred, fuck it, a billion times if I had to. It was like the most important exam I had to take, an exam which would ensure my demotion in the karmic law.
Lines from my poem are swimming in my consciousness; as a writer, one has the ability to randomly switch off and travel to other realms. Yes, it’s officially true, we have super powers.
Dadu would not approve. He was the type of man who would not take a shot at the enemy even if his range was clear and the bullet would definitely find its mark. He was an obsolete man in this world, an outdated DOS operating system. He was more interested in questions like who am I? Where did I come from? He preferred to ponder on such things. Self enquiry, he called it. Dadu I was screaming, who am I? The answer rang loud and clear- a killer. I had killed a man.
Sapna is pale-faced looking at me. “Are you her friend?” She asks Frank hesitantly. Frank nods. I’m not looking at them, but I know exactly what’s happening. At that precise moment I’m observing a spider spin its web. Is it spinning the web to catch a prey? All webs are not spun only for nutritious titbits; some webs are spun as hobbies, as works of art. To create something without any utilitarian purpose, but to create just for the sake of creation! What’s the point of that?? Some common-sense lover would say. Nothing honestly. Right? Wait, I think I see a tiny movement in the web. Is there an insect? Or is it the wind? Or is it my fucking imagination.
Ah! Imagination! It’s what always got me in trouble at school.
I was reprimanded for having too much imagination! My skin crawls to think of the parent’s-teacher’s meetings that Dadu had been subjected to over the years. Sheer torture for both of us and of course for the teachers!
They were just trying to help me through life and look what happened! I went ahead and killed a man. How horrified they would be. I imagine my Algebra teacher, Miss. Kalpana, a hard martinet in her late 50’s on the witness box, telling the judge how she knew I will be in trouble some day. It’s her fault, it’s her imagination.
Imagination is the culprit.
Lines from my poems kept ringing in my ears. STOP!
Back from these lines assaulting my consciousness, poetry is truly my life breath. Only if reality could be poetry, then I might have had a chance to do it differently.
Anyway, by now the shock has transformed into anger. It’s quite amazing to note how humans can translate any emotion into a show of anger. I think it’s a shield they hide behind- ANGER! Anytime you are unsure of how to express yourself, just display anger. It’s safe and effective! You can block off the more painful introspective thought processes.
So Sapna Verma takes the easy way out, she opts for anger. She musters all her strength and strides up to me. After a stare at my impassive, immobile face for a few minutes, she can control herself no longer. The oppressive silence envelopes the room like a thick cloak as all wait with bated breath. Then a slap almost knocks me off balance, but somehow my body refuses to be floored. I have no clue how and why. I just sit there. The sound of the slap is unnerving to Frank and Rustam behind the supposed glass, watching everything. But I feel nothing. Then funnily enough I hear the chorus, “I feel numb,” yes U2, and I understood what numb means.
You go through life, learning new words, understanding their meanings, but actually you understand nothing. The words are nothing but words unless you have the pertinent experience stored away in the depths of your being, which leave permanent imprints on your brain and yes, then you understand the word. Not till then.
Rape, murder, death- all these are words which are very much a part of our regular vocabulary. But how far do we understand them? We honestly don’t. Ask the young college student what rape means; presuming she has never been violated, she will have only a vague understanding of the term, maybe from movies or books.
Mine was from Monika Belluci’s incredible performance in Irreversible. But ask a rape victim what that word means and you will be shocked at the difference of understanding. The same word, but completely different levels of comprehension! Experience is what makes us learn new words, not just simply by glancing at a Thesaurus, but by learning through life. I understand the words Death, rape and murder, they have closely associated themselves with me, like the hanger-on friend you simply want to avoid.
Sapna is breaking down, her anger dissipating as quickly as it had arrived. She comes really close to me; I can smell her Chanel 5 perfume and minty breath. “Why did you kill him?” She asks. Very predictable question! You already knew that was coming right? But get this; she then murmurs something totally unexpected. After a moment’s hesitation, she whispers, “I’m sorry…I know what happened…with your sister…” now this should have definitely instigated some reaction from me, she thinks. It did, in the subconscious. But consciously I’m fucked up, incapable of any expression. I sat like a chopped up tree log, destroyed and cut down. If you apply the crescograph on a chopped up log, it’ll be interesting to see what level of consciousness remains.
I felt like writing but my physical body was pretty much worthless.
Poetry will not erase this woman’s troubles and nor will it answer her questions. Will it? Is poetry even useful? Or is it as worthless as me?
Sapna is troubled about an image that plagued her mind. Her thoughts travel to a certain day when she had looked through a crack on the door panelling. She’d seen her husband on the floor, howling with immense pain. A newspaper lay crumpled by his side, which displayed a beautiful girl. But creases had formed on her face as the newspaper sat wrinkled, but the smile was infectious.
It’s bewildering for her to see the physical similarly between the haggard girl in front and the face in the newspaper, but there was a slight difference. Not to mention that the girl in the newspaper was smiling, brimming with life and this girl in front was as lifeless as a cadaver. Still that was not it. There’s something else and I might have been able to help her, if not for the mutiny of my organs. Ridiculous!
I think the stark imagery of her husband’s painful explosion that night is a bit too much for Sapna to handle. Her head begins to swim and she’s about to collapse. But Frank provides support, the rock solid man that he is. Sapna is thankful for this support and the warmth his huge frame provides that she just holds onto him, his aftershave wafting in the air, tinkling her nose. For a moment she forgets where she is, holding onto him seemed the most natural thing. And then the tears came, they breake the floodgates and storm in like huge tsunamis. Sapna’s outcry sounds like a hurt animal and then she says these words. “But why kill him??? You can’t take what you can’t give…only God can take a life…”
Naive humanity! Who is this anthropomorphized God? What kind of a God will intervene- he will create and then destroy! This idea never agreed with me, in fact it nauseated me, every time people spoke about God like “He” was their personal problem solver. Of course I indulged in that odd prayer or two before my results; they were like placebo. And remember God has to always be referred to as HE!
Dadu used to say that Bengalis are a matri-bhakta culture; to them the mother figure is as important as the father, if not more. God to me could not be a He or a She. This was crystal clear in my mind even as a child. I gave it a lot of thought, but nothing made sense.
Gradually I began to avoid the word God. God in the sense society spoke of the idea. Man cheapened this transcendental concept. It is beyond human understanding. With our dwarfed intellects we can never grasp this idea; it’s a waste to try. “Nothing in life is a waste,” another one of Dadu’s lines! Dadu, Dadu where are you? How come our times together ended? You would say, “Nothing ever ends and similarly nothing begins, it’s just your perception which keeps you chained to such ideas of beginnings and ends. You are eternity in yourself…”. I would do anything to lie in Dadu’s lap or cuddle Muffin.
I hear Dadu’s voice- it’s crystal clear, his smell wafts in my consciousness- Asatoma sadgamaya, tamo soma yotir gamaya, mrityrma amritam gamaya!!
These words they play with my consciousness, Dadu enunciates them so well, so crisp, and so effortless, it sounds divine. He said that Sanskrit was the language of the Gods and there was never a doubt in my mind when he spoke it. He made the language godly.
He spent much time explaining this shloka to me- from Unreal take me to the Real, from darkness take me to light, from death take me to immortality!
Everything about this situation my friend is unreal. No you do not understand, a murder, by my hands? It is unreal. I respect life; harming even a fly hurts me. It’s no charlatanism! I do not care if you don’t believe me, it’s not important, not trying to get you to come to my side, I’m just telling you of how things are, no embellishments, no B.S.
It was basenter dupur bela, a spring afternoon; we sat near Dadu, in our living room. It was a Sunday, a lazy Sunday. Dadu had a ritual with us; he’d read to us, from the Vedas, from the Tantra texts, the Upanishads and the Bhagavadgita and explained certain parts. Zeenia was less open to this idea as she grew older; she preferred to be on her phone or laptop.
Dadu did not scold her, forcing his opinions on people was not what he sought to do when he read to us from these ancient texts; he wanted us to be connected to our roots, discover what our ancestors had left behind.
I enjoyed his company immensely, his stories interested me on many levels and he brought out the different characters so vividly; this led me to form a fascination for the human psyche. Come to think of it, it shaped my future; I decided to take up psychology honours. My parents has both studied English in college; when I was a kid, I knew that I would probably end up studying it too, but eventually studying the human mind became an obsession.
Anyway, that afternoon it was the Bhagavadgita.
The lines ring loudly in my ears, but in it the concept of Arjuna having to kill all his relatives is what bothered me. But dadu, how can Arjuna kill all these people? Especially Bhishm, his gurudeva, and all his cousins? The thing that plays in my mind today is a question little Nina asked him, Dadu but how can anyone kill?
This question, it’s mocking me, this question’s alluring me, and it begins to take many forms, grotesque, grave, gruesome, until it begins to drive me crazy. All this angst in my mind, but if you look at me from afar, I’m carved in stone, an effigy created to be burned.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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