THE PLAN~~Frank meets Nina in Bombay

I watch Nina listening to a lecture. She looks at the lecturer, with a longing on her face, but she does well to hide it; scribbling a haiku on her notepad, she tries not to escape to the land of imagination where he’s undressing her.

Her haiku reads something like this-

Songs of the fallen leaves

Autumn’s introverted smile

A longing.

The lecturer has finished, the class disbands. Nina saunters up to him, her face glowing.

He turns back to look at her. He’s much younger here; his face looked hardened in the future, in the Police Station. His face had lost its softness, its compassion while he will be looking at her through that mirror in a few years. But right now, he’s younger, happier and obviously fascinated by this young woman in front.

“Good day Sir,” Nina is all chirpy and excited. “I was just going through your essay, Dream interpretation, ancient and modern, it’s very well written and it opens a window of Jungian dream interpretation into practise.”

“Thank you, it was a study of his seminar of 1936-41; it is a must for anyone interested in dream work and the legacy of Jungian psychology.” He smiles back at her, so youthful, so peppy; he wanted to reach out and touch her, instead he nodded politely and walked off.

Nina walks in the other direction, a wicked smile plays on her lips.

What a love story this could have been, but it was not meant to! There was a vital piece to the puzzle of Nina’s life and he was in London at this time, his name was Frank.

A photographer and documentarian, Frank was at this very moment trying to get his papers in order to travel to India.

He had always wanted to visit this country; his father had driven to India in a bus during the 60’s, his parents had met there and had him in Pondicherry.

Frank had returned to England when he was three or four, his parents divorced and India was a taboo subject never to be brought up again.

Ah the beauty of Auroville, the meandering pathways as he rode on the bicycle with his dad, the plush, green foliage, the smell of incense and camphor in the air, the smiling faces- all these images haunted him. He tried to suppress these memories, those smells, those colours, but his brain stubbornly held on to them.

Now that he was a grown up, those memories began to trouble him overtime and this time there was no suppressing them. He tried very hard a few years ago; his then girlfriend Helena was all up for it, but when all things were almost arranged the H1N1 scare blew out in full force in their faces.

He would’ve still flown to India, but Helena did not want to risk her life, as she so eloquently put it. “I don’t want to go to a filthy country with Swine Flu at large, are you crazy.”

Frank had to back off and shelve his plan again for the umpteenth time. Life has one definitively quality- it goes on; and so it kept on going until one day everything between him and Helena was over. Those memories flooded his conscious ful force- Auroville! He remembered how the matrimandir glimmered in the sun, the deep silence in it. At that moment he was transported to that white marble room where his parents meditated every evening.

He moved into a studio apartment and got busy with work. During an exhibit from a fellow photographer who shot amazing portraits of holy men or sadhus in Varanasi, their long, flowing beards, hair longer than their height, the wisdom in their eyes, the unfathomable mystery surrounding them that Frank could not wait any longer. It seemed like one particular image of a sadhu, very young, athletic, golden fair skin and piercing black eyes, with cascading copper hair spoke to him. Frank did not know what he heard or rather felt as he gazed at that image, but he knew he had to have it. The deal concluded, that photograph in his hands, he made up his mind. Yes, India, I am coming, do you hear, Mom, dad, I’m going to India, he shouted standing over the Thames in the dark of the night.

He decided to immediately start the process; the paper work at least. It’s true that what you’re seeking is seeking you too.

The same photographer whose mind blowing work had inspired Frank and from whom he bought that photo which hangs over his bed, which he looks at constantly and feels this feverish longing for who knows what, invited him to the Indian Embassy for a gathering.

There he met Dalia Chakraverty from an N.G.O in India; they were doing some great work with street children in Bombay and she was here, in the U.K. to raise awareness and get some funding.

They got talking and he expressed his desire to shoot their work which can greatly aid them in their quest of looking for funding. She was thrilled to have the work of the NGO documented, and gave him an email address which said Ninaray@gmail.com.

Little did he know that this was the moment of reckoning- life as he knew it would be over? A flood of poetry would soon inundate his life.

Dalia told him to contact Nina when he visits India, no they could not pay him much, but Frank didn’t care as long as he had a tiny support system in Bombay, he could make a photo-doc on the street kids for himself; He wrote to that address as soon as he could get to a computer. Nina and Frank began to exchange emails on a regular basis.

He discovered that the NGO did some truly amazing work, they teach inside a bus. Nina is one of the programme-heads besides being a severely talented poet (he had already googled her and visited her website and Facebook page, read her poetry, saw her photos in literary festivals; she looks after a few areas and also teaches, writes dramas, holds workshops and seminars.

She sent him clips, of herself in this unique classroom.

The first time Frank saw her, he was pretty excited. He even scolded himself for feeling something in the pit of his stomach, a feeling he had had when he was twelve and had seen his first crush change in the country club. No, it felt way stronger. It hit him hard. He felt himself get enlarged and found bliss as he touched himself.

He had a stronger feeling this time of butterflies in his stomach, yes definitely much stronger than he’d ever felt before as he watched Nina intently.

Nina, dressed in a salwar kameez,(Indian traditional clothes have a certain allure, he thought) has a puppet of a crow in one hand and a puppy in another. The bus is full of children, some snotty and dirty, some cleaner, better dressed, some have smiley faces and some look like they’re out of Juvenile prison.

There are around sixty-five of them there; quite a number!

Nina performs this puppet show, she asks questions in a naive, puppy voice, questions like, why must we go to school for a math test, when we can play gilli danda? The crow scolds the puppy and replies why education is beneficial. It’s all conceptualized, written and directed by her; can this woman be more of a creative force, he thought.

Although the whole show is in Hindi, Frank understands by way of gesticulations, voice modulations, body language and expressions. He laughs heartily; here is a woman who is funny, caring and very desirable.

He forcibly tries to divert his mind from her, but it’s impossible. It’s like the blood in his veins is like the tide and she’s the full moon.

He cannot stop from watching the clip over and over, until the tune, the words and her silken voice are all embedded in his psyche, and the same with her poetry.

There was a video on her channel; it was in Sunderban, the largest Mangrove eco-systems of the world and the home of the Royal Bengal Tiger. She was in this raft going over the turbulent Matla River just as the night descends. Reciting it herself, she almost takes him to that land of magic; her voice rich with emotions. Her poem is called The Magic Lantern.

The rustic landscape,

The babbling brook,

The trees of hoary antiquity shook,

The phantom shapes,

Shadows cast by the lantern on the mindscreen of my brain.

Beautifully insane!

It’s better than any film in which I could escape.

The magic lantern projects my thought foolish,

My hopes futile and my dreams hollow.

The reality I cannot swallow.

I could forget everything and sway on this raft forever,

On the drunken Matla river,

Watching the films I create,

Each time it’s a dream destroyed,

Over and over again.

Her voice echoes in his mind constantly; he could listen to it for days.

He goes to sleep and dreams; once he’s in that raft with her, watching the sunset on the Matla River and then he dreams of himself as a child on that bus, she sings to him, no one else can hear obviously, they’re studying. But he can and she sings to him, and she wears only a diaphanous cloth, a wet saree? Fuck, talk about clichés. He could see her nipples, the hair in her pubic region and all he wanted to do was make love to her. He was twelve all over again and his organ was hard and stiff. He awoke groaning to see he had wet his boxers, he smiled, and it had been ages since he had a wet dream.

Formal it was between them, but gradually as time flew by, they developed a friendship. One day they would meet each other and that day is not far.

Paper work and red-tape always takes time, and Frank waited with bated breath; it would soon be time to experience India, the India of his childhood again, and this time he had made a special friend. The shoot was also exciting, how often does a photog from London gets to shoot impoverished juvenile delinquent street kids in Mumbai? A rerun of Danny Boyle, eh?

He loved the way Nina called it Bombay, just like he had heard in his childhood, Bombay, the city of dreams, Bombay, the city of tears!

Frank finds himself seated at the Heathrow airport one day, yes, the moment is finally here!

He climbs into the aircraft, sits down at the window and tries to surf through a Better Photography edition. He keeps turning the pages, not reading a line, not registering a single image, just thinking; he keeps visualizing the meeting with her. He keeps going through this meeting a thousand times in his head, with slight variations; what sounds intelligent, what could possibly attract her, all these thoughts are running through his mind, but he knows that in order to get her attention he must first be himself.

Just relax, he kept telling himself, speak to her about common interests; we’d definitely have common interests.

His stomach feels like jelly, the plane is doing some sort of freaky circular manoeuvres; they’re waiting for a signal clearance.

His head’s spinning he feels excited like a two year old; the food served had been terrible and not a morsel of it had gone into his mouth. He could hear loud rumbling from down there, yes, he was ravenous.

What did he expect? It had been years since he had waited to come to this very place. The airhostess was announcing something in Hindi and although she had huge teeth and was covered in makeup, she still looked pretty to him, adorned in a red saree.

He could figure out what was being said, but the sound of this not-so-alien language, felt oddly comforting.

He did not have any relatives here, he did not have a home here, the only person he knows here is Nina; yet, he oddly felt at home.

The aircraft landed at Chatrapati Shivaji Terminal and it was some 38 degrees, translation- it was hot!

He managed to take a swig of water and disembarked from the plane. He suddenly saw himself in the mirror as he was going down. He looked silly, smiling from ear to ear. The rumbling in his stomach had settled down. Hunger? It was as if he’d never heard that word.

After picking up his luggage, he goes to grab a taxi. Now the city hits him straight in the face. It’s loud, it’s colourful and then it became really stretched and contorted, like looking through a fish-eye lens.

He tries to take in the sights and sounds, but it’s a bit too much; he’d expected something totally different.

He remembered Auroville briefly in his mind’s eye, but he was not prepared for Bombay. Yes, he’d seen pictures, he’d done all the research on Youtube, but the images, the videos, nothing could prepare him for this!!!

The whole city, he felt like he was making love to it, it’s intense, totally insane, like a forbidden tryst with someone closer than the breaths, yet, at the same time totally alien, like from some other universe!

In the creative circle in Western Europe, living and working in India has a particular kind of misplaced glamour attached to it, a special sparkle that had people crowding around Frank at parties.”You plan on living in India? You were actually born there!!! Wow, really? What’s it like?”

The closest he ever came to answering that question is that it’s like being in a very intense, extremely dysfunctional relationship and that had them in splits.

He had tried to evaluate his emotions, on one level was this immense attraction, then again somewhere there was a deep aversion; how was he going to placate this schizophrenia of his brain? How was he going to exist in this polarity? Time to drop all pre-conceived ideas and notions!

I have known Mumbai, previously called Bombay, intimately, it’s one of those cities, dark and dank, yet budding with life; I’ve seen terrible things – a child of not more than three fall under a train, sliced to pieces, little children with ears that have been chopped off and disfigured, eyes stabbed with hot coal, old, frail men sitting in the rain nursing half-limbs while they beg, infants and their filthy mothers covered in flies, caked in dust nursing on the pavement, beggars with no limbs weaving themselves through traffic on broken trolleys which did not even have all the wheels functional, sweaty men in lunghis working with their nimble hands in tiny corridors with no fans in sky-high temperatures. I’ve seen ghastly things, of gang rapes in buses and local trains, corruption in the Government, bureaucratic red-tape, environmental abuse, and bloody encounters by corrupt Police officers. Time has seen the devastation that is Bombay!

I have also seen the glitz, the glamour, the hard work of actors and artists, films being shot under much stress with sweat and blood, haunting background scores composed, marriages consummated people in love singing in the rain. I have seen life; I have seen death and lots of filmi-giri!!!

Anyway, this poor firangi hops off the taxi, and checks the address on his smartphone. Yes he’s in the right place. He sees the NGO board reading ASHA.

The time has finally come; he’s going to be face to face with her. He feels those butterflies again; he sternly chides himself, stop this shit, you’re no twelve year old, you’re a grown man for heaven’s sake.

He enters through a small gate into the NGO, it’s very noisy like an Indian bazaar, little kids, preschoolers, teenagers, are all seen hovering around. Some are in classes, some are waiting for their checkups outside a tiny door with a red cross, some are playing in a tiny courtyard, some are discussing their studies; Frank is swamped with sights and sounds.

It’s too distracting! He walks up to the tiny desk which says reception; the woman in the desk is having samosas and chai. She looks at him through her glasses, yes, what do you want?

What did he want? The image of Nina comes to his mind, which is correct on so many levels, he smiles to himself.

“I’m here to meet Ms. Nina Ray, we have an appointment.” He sounds all professional.

“Oh yes, she will be here shortly,” says the woman in between munching her samosa and sipping her tea. “Sit down.” She beckons to a wooded bench.

Sitting down, he watches the children, he should probably be checking his emails go on Facebook, but no, he watches, there’s so much life in them, dreams of tomorrow in their souls that it touches a chord in his soul. The world has not managed to crush them, that’s the beauty of children, they are the agents of tomorrow and today can never have a hold on them like it can on adults.

Out of the blue, a brilliant idea strikes him. Why not involve these kids in a photography workshop? These children can explore their creativity through photography, what better way to find some meaning in this meaningless world?

Pick a group, hand them cheap digital cameras and make them take pictures, of anything and everything, of the world around them, let them show him what the world looked like through their eyes. He was sort of visualizing this project when Nina walks in.

Nothing could’ve prepared him for the first look, kind of like Bombay. What eyes, the look in them is of so much wisdom is his first thought. Of course she looks even better in person, there’s no doubt about that. And her smile? She smiles at him and he realizes that he’s just gawking at her like an idiot.

Her smile is so radiant, so calming to his frayed nerves and the world makes such a big deal about the smile of the Mona Lisa, seriously they need to see this smile. Then he decides that not only her smile, her whole aura is so luminescent, she’s actually shining.

Smiles are exchanges and small talk begins like any other people who’ve just met; but in all this peripheral niceties, there seemed to be an odd familiarity about them. They seemed to settle into an easy going friendship soon enough, and Nina’s ecstatic to hear his photography workshop idea.

She has work to do, she tells him; can we meet later?

Oh, I thought I would just follow you through the day and observe the whole process. Shit, please let her not send me home, he thinks gloomily.

Ok if you’re not jet lagged or tired, sure come along. She replies.

I think I see a brief moment of excitement in her eyes, they light up like shooting stars for that brief second, or did I just imagine it? Is she happy to have my company? Probably not, but maybe, just maybe she likes me, a little bit, his thoughts are in overdrive.

Nina takes him to the play area, he can see little children painting the walls, some mixing paint.

They become ecstatic to see Nina. They immediately surround her and begin to drown her talking ten to a dozen.

She can barely hear anything in this torrent of words, but she’s trying to listen with a lopsided smile and at the same time, she’s trying to shhhh them. One at a time, she tells, chup hojayo.

With mischievous smiles on their faces, the kids quieten down and begin to talk to her in giggly voices. “Why are you so late miss?”

“We’re almost done”. “We waited and waited.” ‘You did not even select the colour.”

Nina smiles, ruffles some of their heads, pats them on the back, squeezes some cheeks, all these displays of affection are so effortless on her end that it endears him. It seems to Frank like she’s indeed their older sister. And the love she has for them is evident in her face, her voice and the time she dedicates here.

“Ok bacchon, now that I’m here, let’s get this thing going, shuru karein, shall we?” She rubs her hands in glee.

The children are gleefully smiling and prancing around her in animated enthusiasm.

She looks at him, “Helping out?”

He nods, it strikes him now; she’s so full of life, so full of compassion that his heart aches to hold her. Maybe some of her infectious nature would rub onto him, his bleary, dull, cold existence would be over and therein would begin a journey of colours, scents and feelings- all things missing from his life.

She’s so different from the women back home; he’d never met anyone like her before. Her compassion, her exuberance, her innocence, they are called out to special parts of his brain; not the more primitive side assocated with thirst, hunger, sleep and sex, but it quietened his right parietal lobe.

Our Angrezi babu is not one of that mumbo-jumbo metaphysician wanna-be, new agey, hippy-types, spouting OM SHANTI, wearing rudrax beads. He would’ve landed up to be one such person humming Jai Gurudeva, Lennon style if his parents wouldn’t have divorced. Where did all that spirituality lead them? To a divorce, so Frank never bought into that vibe. In fact this entire gander about spirituality with the new age movement in the West got him bored, even angry at times thinking of how he could’ve still been in Auroville if they actually understood what it all meant, but for the first time when he met Nina he understood, if only briefly what it meant to have a spiritual connection with a total stranger.

He quickly nodded yes, as these thoughts were going through his mind; she did give him an odd look as if she could read his thoughts in the bubble over his head.

Nina goes to an old iron cupboard, which had been repeatedly painted over; it houses the coats she wears while painting. She puts on one and gives him the other; it’s really tight and dabs of dried out, washed off colours still form fractals on it, it is small for his 6 two and a half, athletic frame, but he puts it on anyway amidst giggles and laughter from all present.

They begin to mix the colours; it’s all bright and shiny. Mixing colours could be so much fun was a new revelation to him; the children laughed, Nina is saying all kinds of hilarious little bits which has them rolling on the floor continuously and then she has to feign anger to get them back at doing what was assigned.

Even though the kids had put the very first coat of paint, it still needed an expert’s touch. Nina begins to apply another coat over it with straight neat strokes, she hands over a roller to Frank who begins to dip it in the paint and follows her lead. They paint the Sun, the moon, the clouds, torrents of rain and soon the room looks colourful with its bright yellow Sun, pale luminescent moon, clouds shaded grey and blue, it looks wonderful; what a joint effort!!

The air smells of plastic paint, sweat and smiles and giggles; there’s no short of excitement, especially when it’s time for a break and vada pao with tiny mud cups holding cuttings of chai is served.

They all wolf down the food, and so does Frank, who had been told repeatedly in the U.K. to never touch food from the streets, but here with Nina and the kids, he didn’t even stop to think of all the cautionary tales he had been fed.

It all seemed very natural, very organic to him; like he’s always been here, in their midst, sharing their carefree hysterics and just having fun with them, painting dilapidated walls while snacking on Indian street food. He had somehow in such a short while become a part of this, this sincere love, this camaraderie Nina shared with children who were from the streets. She was truly a special girl.

Frank remembers the camera in his bag pack, the day is over and he wishes he’d managed to get some shots of the day. His resolution to work with these kids becomes stronger, yes; they’re definitely ready for a photography workshop. Who knows, maybe he could speak to the galleries back home, if they’d be interested to host a show of photographs from these children.

It is now almost evening; Nina says her goodbyes after reading them all a story, her leaving brings tears to their eyes and she kisses and hugs each one of them and promises to be back soon.

Frank also says his goodbyes and he is sent off with hugs and smiles like he’s been coming here forever; and even he has to commit to the children to return with Nina as soon as possible. A little surprised, he notes how actually he feels like coming back soon to work and play with these children.

They climb onto an auto rickshaw from the N.G.O, and Nina asks him where he would like to be dropped. He’s a bit stunned; he’d expected a meal and some time spent together with her. He tries to politely bring it up; maybe you can show me the city a bit?

Oh, she seems surprised, you’re not flat out tired, and you still want to go somewhere. She laughs. He laughs with her, “I’m insatiable you see.”

“Ya I see that,” she’s got a wicked expression.

“Juhu beach chalo,” she tells the rickshaw driver.

They ride off into the land of dust and smoke that is Mumbai, the rickshaw stops at traffic signals where beggars and transsexuals come to beg for money.

Teri jori salamat rahe, coos a transvestite and makes strange gestures with her hands, she even reaches out and cups Nina’s face; instead of cringing Nina gives her a ten rupee note and smiles.

The transvestite blows a kiss and moves on. “What did she say?” asks the curious Frank.

“Oh nothing, it’s just an age-old strategy to get some money; she blessed us.” Nina has a lot of explaining to do.

“In this country, the blessings of a transvestite are supposed to hold good, you know, and she said that we’ll be very happy together.” Laughs Nina.

Oh, it finally sunk in. “She thought we are a couple.” Frank’s already in dreamland.

“Apparently so.”

Only if that were true, he thinks. Only if he could kiss her and hold her, if only he could be a child again; a burden would be lifted off his shoulders, but could that be possible?

I’m getting ahead of myself; he scolds the excited voices in his head. Shut up and just be.

They come to this open beach, it’s Juhu Beach she tells him. After paying the rickshaw off, they walk towards the numerous shops selling pani puri, chole batura, ragda pattice; they find a vendor and she orders pani puri.

“You ate the vada pao earlier, all’s well with your system.” She asks him.

“Yeah, I think so.” He replies.

“Are you brave enough to try pani puri?” She’s simply teasing him.

He beckons to the vendor to hand him a paper plate as well. Water filled puris are served with hot ragda to them, Nina eats hers while watching Frank who puts the puri in his mouth and then almost gags as the spicy tamarind water full of green chillies is too much for him to handle.

Spit it out, she tells him, but no, he just wants a minute or two as his mouth gets used to the stinging sensation, he gobbles down the other puri which has been waiting in the vendor’s hand for some time. One after another he downs the water filled puris like he’s been doing it all his life.

They finish two plates each, their stomach’s on fire. Nina points to the Golas. “Popsicles,” she tells him.

“Let’s get one,” he nods.

They each get two golas; on her suggestion, he tries out the kalakhatta flavour.

As his tongue licks the ice and syrup, he finds the tangy taste of the gola really appealing; he tries to make sense of the taste, it kind of tastes like a version of Coca Cola with black salt and lemon she tells him, but it’s not as poisonous as a coke. The added colouring will not kill you; the water might, only if Malaria or Dengue doesn’t do the job before. They burst out laughing.

Nina wipes his mouth with a tissue and their eyes meet; although its casual, although it’s just a glance, he feels something happen between them, an eternity compressed into a moment. He’s sure she felt it too, but you could never say that from her face, she wipes her own mouth and tragic-comically points to her mouth which has turned black from the colouring. She opens her mouth and rolls her tongue out, it’s black and he just that. She nods and laughs, it’s the same.

They walk on the crowded beach, my god; he’d never seen a beach quite so crowded. The air is pregnant with the smell of salt and fried food.

The sea is a peculiar colour, neither grey, nor blue, nor green, as if on this day it has not made up its mind. The sky above is a curtain of pollution and smog and there are hardly any clouds above. The Sun is dazzling in its brilliance and getting a heat stroke seems very probable for poor Frank.

There were only domiciles and huge skyscrapers in the horizon, not much of a sea-side view, but what could you expect in the heart of Bombay suburbia. The sea is more of a hiss than a song, and it swelled silently, but the diminutive waves seemed to be juveniles, not sure of themselves as they crashed and rippled half-heartedly. Clumps of garbage are washed up on the beach, a dupatta here, a discarded shoe there, broken glass bangles, the head of a plastic doll!

The real estate here is one of the most expensive in the world, but the sea will definitely cough up garbage every now and then. The beauty of Bombay! The beach seems endless from where they stand, nestled by the shores were highly priced bungalows, mostly owned by Bollywood celebrities.

Cawing crows are scavenging and flying overhead in huge numbers, harassing the beach-goers in their search for scraps. Tongues rolling and stomachs growling, the stray dogs come wagging their tails when they see you take a bite of your food. Ah the masti of Juhu beach!

There were people strolling around eating, kids playing, shrieking their lungs out; women in bright sarees dazzled his eyes, glass bangles tinkled in their hands and they just walked up and down the beach.

Women in burquas, all covered in black also walked up and down with numerous kids of all ages. He could not imagine how they tolerated the heat under all those clothes.

“What’s this? Does no one swim?” he asks her.

Nina nods her head, nope Mister. This is not your typical Baywatch scene.

“So Indian women swim in sarees?” he’s very surprised.

“I don’t think they’d ever swim here, in front of so many people, it’s just not our culture here.” She says

“Do you swim?” he asks cautiously.

She gives him a glance, smiles mischievously and pulls him towards the sea.

“Why not? Let’s swim.” She responds

“No, no wait,” he’s shocked. “I have all my equipment.”

“Oh that’s your problem.” She’s run into the sea, fully clothed.

People are looking at her, some are pointing, youngsters are laughing; she’s managed to get everyone’s attention.

Frank was captivated by her bashful innocence; he kept his bag with the pani puri vendor and ran after her.

They swam near each other, never close enough to touch, but he felt as if her presence enveloped him and it felt wonderful.

A policeman pops up to watch what’s happening, people crowd around the beach to watch them as if they were about to perform a duet, Bollywood style in the water.

Well after a little bout of swimming, their hearts jubilant, they make their way back to the beach. People are smiling at them; some folks are obviously disapproving, especially elder women.

“Yemaya assesu, assesu Yemaya, Yemaya olodo, olodo Yemaya…

Nina hums so softly that he had to crane his neck to catch on, the background noise is no help of course. Her soft, mellifluous voice in its pure magic transports Frank to some other realm altogether.

“What was that? The song?”

A smile lit up her eyes, “Oh it’s from the Yeruba tribe in Nigeria, it’s an ode to the goddess Yemaya.”

“Yamaya?” Frank has never heard that name, but yet, he felt like he had.

“This chant celebrates the journey of the river to the Sea and the final annihilation of its personal identity to be merged with the great ocean, it’s an allegory, the journey is actually of the soul to be immersed into that one supreme truth…beautiful and so poignant…whenever I’m near the sea I sing this song, don’t know why it reminds me of my mother, although she never sang it, I don’t even know if she’d heard it, but still somehow it brings her to me, in a small part, but it does…” Such intensity in those eyes, Frank wants to kiss her, but he says or does nothing. He figures, she’s lost her mother, but somehow he could not say “sorry” the way most people do when they realize that the person in front has lost someone important to them, but in this case, the sorry would seem so superfluous, silence spoke volumes instead.

She continues, “it’s so strange, this reality, the meandering river seeks the sea as the soul seeks the truth, but in both cases, the individual ego is destroyed…the river exists no more, it is the sea, but then the sea is also the river, they’re one and the same…I long for my sea…” a sigh escapes her lips and in this dreamy state she’s oblivious to the crowds staring at them as they stroll leisurely towards the vendor’s stall.

Frank collects his equipment from the vendor, and looks at Nina for some clue as to what would be their plan of action next.

“Shall we take a small walk,” she asks smiling.

By now, there are stars in the sky; the moon is a smiley face and it’s her face he sees in it today.

They walk all wet and soggy; the wind’s quite strong and is doing a good enough job of gradually drying them.

They walk to a small restaurant and order masala chai. Nina opens her bag to take out a cigarette and out pops a book. It lands on the sand and Frank retrieves it.

He looks at the novel- THE TRIAL, by Franz Kafka.

“Are you wondering why I have that book, besides reading it of course?” She reads his mind. “Have you read it?”

“Yes, ages ago,” he replies digging into his memory.

“I love the way Kafka deals with our dual nature…our propensity towards evil and our struggle between intellectual introspective reason and self sacrifice…” her voice sounds like a lute with magical qualities to it and he feels warm in spite of being soaked like a wet umbrella; he’d never known a woman to explain Kafka to him.

She continues in her velvety voice, “Imagine to be executed in the state of ignorance.” His face is a blank, for the life of him; he cannot seem to remember a single line from any of Kafka’s work.

She knows his dilemma, “Well, The Trial is one of Kafka’s best known works, it tells the story of a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote inaccessible authority and the nature of his crime never revealed to him or to us, the readers.

“Oh my, so you don’t know why this bloke was incarcerated? That’s tragic aye?” He is surprised.

“Nope, I don’t and yes it is tragic but there is a dark humour to it. Imagine being put away by the Government for something you’re not even aware of, how scary is that.”

She’s toying with the book and sniffing it.

Frank watches her.

“I sniff books; they take me to different places in my mind. They remind me of different things. They memory capsules; say today page 27 may remind me of the first time Dadu( my grandfather) took  me to the Kali temple at Kangra valley, then again tomorrow it might remind me of the day I submitted my paper on Cognitive dissonance. Today PAGE 49 may remind me of the Coffee House in Calcutta and tomorrow it might remind me of the shelter and the fudge we ate from Lonavala.” She smiles

To him it all seems like a film, he feels like the viewer, watching this beautiful screen siren playing her part, the intellectual and the beautifully sexy, only this time, its slightly different; he, the viewer is being allowed to participate in the film.

He is a part of the film and yet, he’s just a viewer, watching the exposition in a dark, cold theatre, it’s surreal, his very own Un Chien Andalou. The moment is so rare, the breeze, the smells in the air, the background sound of the waves crashing mingling with the excessive honking creates a kind of symphony for him, and it’s not offensive anymore. But then again, he tries to concentrate, she’s saying something, but her words are not making any sense to him. The film suddenly seems like it’s in a foreign language and there are no subtitles.

The moment is escaping, he wants to hold onto this feeling in his being, this feeling of dreaming, yet, awake, and he wants this moment to stand still. But I do not wait for anyone, I must pass I must flow like a river, you can never touch the same bit of water twice, remember the flow continues and will never remain in one place. Time and tide wait for no one!

The channel changes, suddenly it’s back to English again and this time he can participate in the film again. But what happened to all that time he was lost in this dream, looking at it through the lens of his unconscious?

“Society is capable of reducing a human into an insect and lesson number two- humans are selfish and self absorbed living in a world of give and take.” These fragmented words came to settle in his ears.

He looks astonished, so she shakes her head and asks, “Were you not listening? I was talking about the most important lessons in Kafka?”

Frank orients himself and nods.

She bursts out laughing, “I promise to stop, no more Kafka okay…”

He smiles sheepishly.

“Enough of my banter, tell me about your exciting life, anyone special back home?” so at least she’s curious about that aspect, it gave him a boyish hope.

He shakes his head, “People scare me mostly.”

“Hell is other people.” She retorts. “Sartre hit the nail on the head.”

He can certainly relate to that.

The walk on the beach with a crescent moon and twinkling stars to keep them company becomes a special memory to both the protagonists, etched into their minds forever.

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The Plan ~~ A Novel by Tinaheals

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.
Evanescent worlds,

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,

Of nothingness.
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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the_twins-1382139739m

The Plan~~A Novel by Tinaheals

 

Help me Publish!!! Email ~ tina@tinaheals.com

http://www.tinaheals.com

Rajani and the twins moved from their gigantic ancestral home to a modest apartment,

He continued working, but had lost interest. Only two clients remained with him, the rest hired his son who now also usurped his office. So with a very modest salary he began to educate and care for his granddaughters. He became father and mother, friend and teacher; he became their anchor in the stormy sea of life.

It would be time for weekly nail cutting, ear cleaning, hair oiling sessions; amidst squeals and protests, he would pacify them singing, shohe na, shohe na, kande poranooo with dramatic eye movements and wild gestures, especially when they tried to tell him to stop, that had them rolling on the floor laughing.

Slowly but surely, the trio began to put the past behind them and move on. The girls taught him to laugh again, to live again; life had given him a second chance to bring up his two girls again, he just wished Sita could experience this life with him.
He took them to Benaras, BodhGaya, Hrishikesh and Haridwar; they went to so many places in their country, even remote ones where tourists don’t usually set foot.
They’d be lost in the world of Hanuman as he destroyed Lanka, they’d be crying as Ravana abducted Sita, they’d be deeply moved when Karna would be going to battle against Arjuna knowing he’d lose, they’d be fuming with anger when Duryodhana insulted Panchali and time would fly as dadu would read to them the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Bhagvadgita and other sacred texts. The way he could tell the story, the simplicity, yet, the profundity in them, deeply touched the girls. Even while imparting knowledge from the Upanishads, he tried to make it as palatable as possible for the children, tell me how do you explain Tat Tvam Asi to seven year olds, yet not only did he try, it’d be fair to say, he succeeded too.

He could see his daughter Mita in the girls, different attributes of her visible in each girl.

He loved Nina’s poetry, she had rawness to her emotions, something primordial to the way she described reality even in that young age; surely poetry was to be her meditation and so it was.

The chotto ektakar shingara and the radhaballi,

Breathing furiously.

Inhabiting my Sundays, my frenemies.

She’d written this haiku, barely aged seven and it made him laugh. She’d captured something of Kolkata in those lines; she’d grabbed a slice of their times together as they strolled down Sarat Bose Road on sultry lazy Sundays.

It’s absolutely true that nowhere except Kolkata do you get that tiny shingara or samosa for one rupee, it has peas in it and the Bongs cannot have enough of it. And what of the Radhabollobi? Try it, you’ll see. You may get acidity, but it’ll be worth it, vouches every Bengali.

Rajani loved these girls like he had loved their mother, but being a very enlightened soul he treated them all alike, even Arunava, but at times he was left wondering as to where he went wrong with that one. But Mita was his pet; he had a special soft corner in his heart for his eldest.

None had his spiritual depth except Mita and this bonded them immensely, every time he saw her, his heart wanted to embrace her. Khuku, he called her, his little girl and she was so much like him.

“Aye khuku aye…” he would play this song in the gramophone and Hemanta’s voice would flood the house.

She had his striking peaches and cream skin and almond shaped eyes like the goddess Durga, with abundant tresses swimming down to her knees and an hour-glass body which was as ageless as Time itself and looked like some Kumartuli’s sculptor was sculpting Maa Durga from clay. Shakkhat Maa Durga, people would comment.

Yes, she was breathtaking! Her intellect was sharp; she was thoughtful, critically questioning and deeply analytical. Many an afternoon was spent in discussing literature, philosophy, poetry and the scriptures of all religions. Her father enjoyed immensely the display of perspicacity while she explained some particular issue, idea or philosophy, her face shining red with passion and emotion. What radiance! Then she fell in love with Shubho at Scottish Church English honours class.
It was an exam. John Osborne’s play, “Look Back in Anger”, was the monster in question and 100 marks were at stake. Mita had not studied this play and her paper sat blank. She spotted Shubho in front scribbling away with immense concentration. She poked him a few times. He looked back and couldn’t take his eyes off her. In a state of suspended bliss, he handed her the paper. She took it with a squeal of laughter which thrilled him to the bone, and began to rewrite it in her words.
Now let’s fast forward, SHUBHO and MITA are married in Kartik purnima, the full moon beckoned a life of abundance and plenitude for them.

As Mita adorns Shubho’s neck with the baramala and the shubhodristi happens where they gaze into each other’s eyes, it’s like a dejavu. The breeze outside caresses his hair while he stands there looking at her, she’s carried on a piri by her brothers, uncles and cousins and her eyes are between two paan leaves and in that moment they both knew that no matter what life would bring it would be worth nothing without the other.

Mita gets pregnant which turns out to be pretty complicated with twins sharing the same amniotic sac and placenta, throughout the seven and a half months, she’s under strict supervision and spends much of her time reading, writing and talking to her daughters. During the course of her seven month pregnancy she almost dies twice and the lives of the twins are threatened, but she manages to trick fate into submission.

These girls, they had to see the sky wearing the bright blue cloak of a spring day, they had to experience the rain on their faces, caressing sometimes or slapping away, soft some days and as pokey as thorns on others. They had to see the cheetah run, they had to eat tangra macher jhol, oh, life in its complexity and multitudes had to be experienced by them, she thought.
Karma my dear friends had other plans. Mita and Shubho die tragically young, leaving behind only Rajani to take care of the twins. Their disappearance happened in Kedarnath temple during an annual pilgrimage they always undertook.
Rajani had to don the parent costume once again, this time for Nina and Zeenia and he was determined to play the role to perfection this time. As perfect as it could be! So now to get back to the story. Dadu is what Nina calls Rajani, the Bengali appellation for grandfather.
As she sits in front of this dead body, she thinks of her dadu. He would know what to do; he always knew what to do. Such were Nina’s thoughts. Delusion arises from anger, Dadu told her one day as she was furious with Joida, the Oriya driver who had not given her a minute to stand and chat with her friends after her Rabindra-sangeet class at Dakshini, to top it off he had the gall to speak rudely in front of them.

The dominoes fell,

The words like torrents

It was inevitable.

She’d written this haiku she remembered for the occasion.

Joida loved her as his own daughter and that was the excuse for the harsh treatment. She had almost wanted to slap Joida. But Dadu intervened. “Little one your mind is bewildered by delusion. You think that Joi is being pushy, but actually he is just trying to protect you. See, you lost your reasoning as your mind was bewildered…and one falls down, when reasoning is destroyed.” Dadu fell on the floor dramatically.
That made Nina smile even in her malaise as she sat in limbo, with dried blood on her hands. She deliberated with the thought of saying, “Out, damned spot,” but then decided against it. The dead body just lay there. Her hallucinations where he wakes up as some terrible ZOMBIE in a B-Grade film and chews her down bone by bone is funny, she observes. I can have funny thoughts, even in this scenario.
Then she notices that there were many parts of her, or no, there are many Nina’s inside of her, ambiguous and confused, each thinking that random thought while observing the others and then she notices that there is a Nina who’s also observing, but she has no thought as the others did, no opinion. She just watches. Not for the first time Nina could distinctly hear the separate voices- how diverge, how contradictory, how ironic were they, but this time there was a force to them that was lacking in the past. She tries to swallow, but her tongue sticks to her insides, parched and dry, it desperately needs some water.
The young housekeeping attendant is right outside Nina’s room and would have turned away, but a trickle of blood manages to seep outside. The attendant examines it carefully, and then thinks of what to do. Should he go and inform his supervisor? No he decides against it and taking a master key from his supply trolley, he puts it in the key hole and turns it.

The scene which greets his eyes chills him to the bone and a blood curdling scream escapes his lips shattering the quiet of the early morn. He looks ridiculous, scared out of his wits, barely coherent in his thoughts, he looked like a two year old who had seen a ghost in a Paranormal series on telly.
It’s Nina who surprises me. She didn’t even bat an eyelid at the shrill shriek. She just sits there, stares at her abyss. What did she see?? The abyss staring back??

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Image is not mine. Not my copyright.

Prologue~The Plan, a novel by Tinaheals


Publishing parts of my novel…help me publish!!! Fund me!!!

Prologue

The hunger in her soul, the song in her eyes, and the vibration of her heart called out to me from the hologram.

What hologram? The one you exist in my friend!

It’s the cosmic television, like the one you stare at for hours every day. What else do you do when you return home from work after a long tedious day? TELEVISION na?

That same kind of television; imagine it in a slightly grander scale, nope, maybe not just slightly, imagine it to be grander on an unprecedented scale!

A cosmic television! Aha!

You experience me and your three dimensional space as you do images on the T.V.

Listen listen, at this level, everything there is, was or could be exists as a super-holographic sequence. Everything exists simultaneously. The albatross of doom over your head?

Forget that bird, listen carefully. These lines exist now and have always existed, in a sense I have always been talking to you, you in the hologram, me in it, sometimes out of it, nope I’m in it too; she is a hologram.

I don’t know quite how to explain it,

Something in her craving for truth, something in the way she depicted existence called out to me. A very abstract, unquantifiable sentiment entangled the abstract in me. Things don’t usually impact me as they do you.

I am myself an abstraction concretized!

This Book of Life and Death may give you some answers. Are you looking for answers? If not then bandh karo and chalo.

A story it will be, yes definitely! Let it oscillate in your mind. Let it do the disco dancing.

The ouroboros of a story, without a beginning or an end!  Now you’re confused. Don’t be it’s just a story or is it? But while observing this story, remember, I take the artistic liberty to leave anything out, the very subtle nuances, the finer intricacies are often not done justice with words; soak the emotions up, let them begin to ferment in your mind and sprout ideas, thoughts, actions like a bean when soaked in water overnight; such strangeness does exist and such a strange narrator may or may not.

Time, time, time, cut its throat,

Ambiguity personified.

Derelict dreams, dysfunctional dilemma.

In the beginning was the word and then I appeared as the silent witness of all this mess, , the frequencies or sound in the light and the vibrations or light in the sound.

Mighty civilizations have appeared and disappeared without a trace, Zeno’s paradox has been thought of, if everything has a place, then place must also have a place, yes or no, to ad infinitum; the megaliths of Puma Punku have been built but now lie scattered as shattered memories of a bygone past that no one knows anything of, the dinosaurs have roamed the Earth and have been destroyed on the Western Ghats, the Kumari Kandam was lost to the sea taking with it a chunk of land from what you call India, and of course emperors, maharajas, kings, Prime Ministers have been assassinated, dethroned under my watchful gaze.

Listen to this, it’s her poetry. These few lines she wrote that had this stark honest, raw and original feel to it, yes, it made sense in all the nonsense and it made me want to collect this in the Book of Life and Death.

The human body is the war ground of Kurukshetra,

Reality lies is the five senses,

I see you, I hear you, I feel you, I smell you and I taste you!

In the world of dreams there are no differences,

I still see you, I still hear you….you get the gist!

The dream world is full of thoughts,

They are like drops from an ink pen, falling blot after blot,

They are like smoke from an incense, here one minute, gone the next.

They are like lightning, you see it for a nano second,

They are like thunder; you hear it, loud and clear, but then just the sound of the rain.

I am vexed!

These thoughts, they are my defence, my escape, my dream.

It was her grandfather, a kriya yogi, one of Babaji’s very own crusaders, who told her this truism as she crunched autumn leaves under her feet; the sound thrilled her to the very bottom of her soul- crunch, crunch, crunch!

Yes the human body is the esoteric Kurukshetra, more on that later. Who is Babaji? Even I don’t know.

 

Think about it, think long and hard,

Of the fragments, the notes all jarred,

The way things are designed, the way things feel,

In reality, there are no eyes, no ears, no mouth, no tongue, and no touch!

Is this a little too much??

Only electrical stimuli interpreted by our brain,

Do not ridicule this concept, do not think it insane!

You’re definitely wondering how you got stuck in here? Reading these lines and for what…do not despair my friend, it’ll be well worth your time, just read on, enjoy a writer’s psychosis.

There is no material reality,

I am asleep, I am dreaming, I do not realize,

That all is just perception!

These words they create just the sensation, an awareness of stimulation!

Now I wake up from this dream,

I seriously think I have entered another one,

The so-called real life, I hear it scream!

What is this life, but a dream? Do not for one minute think that your dream world is any more real than this solid physical world you inhabit, in fact the Sun, the Moon and the real you are all hidden away; it is every bit as real, yet, unreal. Makes no sense, it probably never will, but just read on…sapna, sapna, sapna…

Now this, it seems as true as my dream world,

How am I to know the difference?

My reality is blurred, it swirls and twirls.

This world is nothing but a habit,

Our belief, our dogmas, our prejudice!

A futile edifice, a worthless emphasis, an abject sedative

Of Nothingness!!!

Form = emptiness, emptiness = form
Emptiness is not separate from form, form is not separate from emptiness…all is nothing and nothing is all.
Whatever is form is emptiness, whatever is emptiness is form, you know that the atom that you’re made of is empty, yes, my friend, mostly empty. Hulk-like we stay in the understanding that the body is solid, but it’s not.

 

The brain is not the Perceiver or the Perceived!

Who am I?

What is this world?

Who are you?

Who thinks these thoughts?

Who is this ME?

Who is writing these words?

To what avail?

 

I’m just a ghost in the machine,

An echo of an echo of an echo,

Reverberating through time and space!

Who is this seer?

Who contemplates this Universe to be unreal?

Who has all these thoughts in the head?

Only questions and never an answer!!!

A man and his thoughts are indefinable, and why so, because in the beginning he is nothing. His identity is shaped by what he can conceive of for himself; imagine all the poets and novelists creeping through the alleys in the urban atrocities looking for inspiration, staring at hollow faces coveting their neighbours meals or wives, the morbid fascination to see accidents, CSI shtyle. The flâneurie you take, to clear your mind, but there are questions and more questions…how is the human reality carved out from this nothingness?

Yoni shariram- the form appears from the vagina of Gaia,

Of Dharitri, of Zemia, of Erde, of Terre…

She is the mother, the sanctum sanctorum of creation.

This human body is the cause of such conflict,

There is segregation, separation and destruction,

In her very womb, we have been tricked by addicts of violence.

 

For a split second during meditation,

Comes the realization-

It is the Atman,

Matter has no self governing existence,

All things perceived, interpreted and seen,

Is a dream within a dream, a dream within a dream…?

 

The Indian subcontinent is the setting. It’s an oxymoron really- the youngest country, the oldest civilization!

The Sapta Sindhu is the beginning point in this case, then mutated to the India you see today the children of Lord Macauley, yes, you; at one point it was taken over by the East India Company, it’s holy books misinterpreted, unbridled fabrication of its history by so-called scholars who sought to assuage the Imperial agenda. The modern Indians, good little examples of Macauley’s vision; Pygmalion of the British Raj, just perfect, innit?

Bapuji Gandhi, assassinated, yup shot through the heart by Godse, GOD SAY?? Subhas Chandra Bose taken out of the equation, “Give me blood and I’ll give you freedom,” his naares did not do him much good, Delhi chalo, a flop show. The resilient cries of Vande Mataram drowned to the gunfire of the English army; what else could be expected? The British crown required the Kohinoor, which was just a drop in the pond, but you see why they had to control Bharata. Silks, spices, treasures, ancient texts, secrets, UFO anti-gravity technology and what not!

And then the finale- the unrestrained Anglicization of a country steeped in timeless tradition and time-honoured culture where every Indian was made to feel ashamed of their skin colour, clothing, customs, mores, literature, traditions, values and hoary heritage. Brownies were good as kerani, slaves, considering themselves as babus, who were created to suck up to their English civilized lords, the great white civilization.

Sycophants gathered in large numbers to appease the egos, fill up the stomachs and pockets and offer their heads and arses (maybe not literally, bloody buggers) in return to the Angrezi Babus. For what? Goods, ideas, concepts from vilayet! Aha! What amazing things they had and yes it was deemed to sell off the country piece by piece for these lovely things and for progress.(???)

 

The body of ancient Bharatvarsha hacked to create Pakistan and Bangladesh, its bleeding remains termed as secular India.

A new era began with the corporate takeover and rampant Americanization, you’re all living in America, HAARP and underwater nuclear detonations creating Tsunamis, the death industry of Macdonald’s and KFCs, fast food bhaiyaji, engineered famines with the Monsantos of the world, Islamic jehadis and Durga Vahinis, unrest and suspicion, religious intolerance and forced conversions, death and destruction, Nehru’s dynasty and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s legacy of khadi and molestations, Congress under an Italian and BJP under the butcher of Gujarat as the country jostled and elbowed its way into the twenty-first century to sit at that table with the big white boys; witness, I was to it all and will continue to be….

The H-Bomb at work almost destroyed what you humans built, but do you seriously think this was first time in history that such a disaster occurred- nuclear weaponries have been used before in this very subcontinent. Yes my friend…Now I am become Death, the destroyer of world, yes Opperheimer, you can be the key to destruction of your world in your times. I have seen it happen and we’ve all been destroyed by it until another dawn awakens to the call of the creator. A new hologram is fractalized!
The watcher must now be a narrator and I must say it as I see it, Time for you right now is anthropomorphized.

Impatient kya boss? What about the story?? It’s coming, wait for it or you want it instantly. In this age of instant coffees and instant karmas, do you want an instant story as well?

Let’s do some akkar bakkar for a little bit more; arre don’t be so grumpy, chumpy. Humour me. Tick, tock, tick tock, it goes on and on in your psyche. Think hard, who am I?

Got it? Or no? Well…

You are in fact my slave, from the aam admi to the Prime Minister with his acche din slogans, from Mr. Mukesh Ambani cocooned in his billions of dollars Antilia, to the hungry beggar on the street. I rule your life, your little everyday existences.

I keep everything from happening at once. You can’t even imagine what chaos that is. Measuring me through the clock or your wrist watch all day, do you now know who I am, can you at least guess. I think you’ve got it, so do you know me?

But of you, I know all, every little detail.

Your little human condition, your little miseries, your tiny triumphs, your pathetic tears, your belly rumbling laughter, does have a way of making the world go round the Mulberry bush, you get the drift?

Well I have all the time, so let’s begin.

Funny concept, can time have time? Can an infinity be greater than another infinity? You smirk, but trust me the world is far magical than you have been made to believe, haan ji haan, sure it’s about cheque books and Kaun Banega Crorepati, but it’s also about altered states of consciousness, states you cannot ever envisage. Life is not about black and white or green and red, it is shades of colour you cannot ever hope to see with your eyes, life has colours you can never hope to smell, taste or touch. Yes colours can be felt in those ways, just not in your world! And in some worlds I am not as relevant as yours, and in some I have no relevance! I do not exist!

Do not go all freaked out on me, can you not imagine TIMELESSNESS; but it exists, I warn you, especially those OCD freaks out there, desperate to control everything.

Enough of meandering….
So who am I? Let me formally introduce myself. I am TIME and as promised I do have a story, a juggernaut of a story, an unstoppable monster and you’ll be forced to submit like wide-eyed little chunnu-munnus listening to your nanis at bedtime.
 

Twins. Rape. Murder.

Bollywood, breast augmentation, brainfart.

Poetess, plastic surgeon and the Sleeping Beauty.
Titillated?

Come on now, I know I have you! A violence-loving society like the one you’ve built starts salivating at all these contextual concepts when thrown at you. Murder is sweet, but mutilation is sweeter.

Blood and gore thrills you, outrageous humiliation of the body sends tingles through your spine, so stop this bourgeoisie sensitivity where you appear dismayed by such plots, but deep inside you can’t wait to curl up with your Sidney Sheldon! or Shobha De!! or Chetan Bhagat!!! by your bed side, reading about sex, rape, murder, call centres where Arun is called Aaron leading to a suppressed pathological schizophrenia, cheating on your spouse, wife swapping with keys and other new born urban atrocities.
It’s not every day that TIME tells you a story, a story about infinite probabilities.

A bit about me, saale, haramzade, time waste mat kar! A note in the Book of Life and Death!
I have existed for eternity. To you the word eternity probably will have some signifier, what can a finite mind grasp of the infinite?? Still I ask you to think about it. Think of something that never ends. Is that even possible, you ask?? The cogitation must never cease.

You think, therefore you exist, right??? Or you eat and defecate, therefore you exist, or is it copulation which cements your existence?

But what is the point of a process if it never ends; you will think to eternity about one question or be involved in sexual intercourse for all times(it’s not even a possibility) or eat yourself to death.

Does that mean you exist or not? Is it just the process of cogitation or copulation that makes you “exist” or is it the cogitative/copulative subject that’s important?

The journey or the result? A particle or a wave? Or a bubble?

Haramkhor time, procrastinating must have been my invention.
Mankind has managed to fall from an incredible level of sophistication to a dark age of barbarianism, like the age you’re an inhabitant of. It is a cycle- civilization and destruction!
Anyway, even though you did not exist, TIME was always already there! There is no escaping that idea.
I was born too you know, not as a babe from a mother’s womb, but as a concept from your mind.

To let you into a secret, I did not always exist. All I know is that this visible world is finite and periodical and so am I. I exist because of you.

I am born and then just like you gone with the wind; believe it or not, you and I are same in this way- WE ARE MORTAL!

This cycle of birth and death of TIME is the alpha and omega of recreating worlds. So in truth, you and I are finite, but IT, infinite.
A linear sequence of events is how you’d describe Time, but what happened when you were not there to count, the Big Bang baba? How did I exist?? So in a way, my dear friend, I exist in your memory and expectations, so essentially I live with you and die with you. Do not think this idea to be so far-fetched, even I can be put to death in your mind! Baap re baap, yes sir! I am fearful of my obliteration, of my extinction. I am born from you and I die with you.

I am your slave!
Well now I have your undivided attention to be sure. You humans love to know you are important in the equation. Am I right? But then you are, right?? God’s greatest creation. Hah!!
A plastic surgeon. A Poigant poetess, Phd student. A wannabe Bollywood starlet. No it’s not one of those haikus she writes.

Cadence of morning breeze-

Lofty silences-

A cup of tea.

Haikus she writes…
Yes I know Bollywood, the Bacchans, the Khans, the Kapoors, I hear the little whispers here and there, I see the deals done under the table, I know of the clandestine fornications in the back seats of SUVS, I know of which homes were wrecked by whom, and all the jazz! That’s some serious junk info. I’m the official knowitall bhai, for now I’m Mumbhai.

The Book of Life and Death is not a conventional book as you understand the definition, it is ever changing, an entity in itself, capable of conscious thoughts and feelings.
This story has come to my interest inumerous other worlds I inhabit.

Yes, you are there too and if I look, I will find you. The difference between you and them is that they know about these worlds, their consciousness shifts from one to one and they have observed me observing! Maybe it’s my imagination. In the many-worlds that exist, all the possible outcomes of a quantum interaction are realized.

You know all that you see around you, the world, the stars, your family, your lover, the Universe, it’s actually not just a Universe, and it’s actually a multiverse. Imagine the hairs on your skin, your world is one such hair on the body of abstract space, the evolvement happens in a deterministic style, embedding all thinkable possibilities within it.

So these twins- NINA and ZEENIA are moving through the arrow of time. They are moving to a fixed point, in one reality and to another point in a different world. Momentum and position are never constant, they’re all probabilities. But you get an omelette from an egg, not the other way round, the same way radio waves disperse from the antenna, never converge into it.
So now finally let’s cut to the chase and begin at the beginning. Not the conventional beginning point, but the very beginning of our story.
to be continued….

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http://www.tinaheals.com

tina@tinaheals.com

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This is not my cover image. Image is not my copyright.