The story of Hensman Anthony Firingi and Soudamini~~

Anthony Firingi
At a kavigaan

There are love stories and then there are LOVE STORIES. You have heard of Romeo and Juliet right? Two young lovers, star-crossed, die because of unwarranted hate between their families.

But today, I will tell you about a love story that is way more spiritual and revolutionary than Romeo and Juliet. In fact, it is one that has touched such a raw nerve in my heart that I strongly believe I have experienced this first-hand in some way.

The love story that I describe is not of two adolescents, but of two extremely spiritually developed people. They were twinflames here to raise the frequency of the people. But again, their love was destroyed by pure xenophobia, bigotry, racism and hate. This is a love story seldom told and it is now time for people from all over to see the beauty of this union where even the devastating tragedy that followed could not dim or lesson the love involved in any way.

He was born in Portugal in 1786 and came to Bengal with his father who was a merchant. Now before I delve into the story of this young Portuguese musician(he must have been into music because you do not start composing such tunes and sonnets if you were not into it  in some way), let me expose the story of my beloved country circa 1800.

India was the most coveted country that the European powers craved to dominate. The Spanish, the English, the French, the Dutch, the Danes and the Portuguese were all vying for power in respective states. We know how the English managed to drive every one away and pillage, plunder and rape India for over 200 years. That is another story…

Let me set the scene for you. Hensman Anthony, a young lad, came with his father, a Portuguese merchant to trade in the port city of Chandannagar which was called Farashdanga. The Portuguese were on their last legs as they were getting hardcore competition from the Dutch and the French. Eventually the Dutch lost the plot to the French by 1825. The French managed to hold onto India till about the very end, but the British were definitely the undisputed rulers of the subcontinent.

So this young Portuguese lad is anyway on hostile territory where his people and country are on their last legs. He is no powerful English Officer, he is just the son of some Portuguese trader. There is competition and aggression from the other Europeans and from such a turbulent historical period came one of the greatest Shakta tantrics who wrote and sang some of the most moving hymns to the Goddess Kali/Durga.

How is this possible? How did a Portuguese lad learn Bengali? Not in the rudimentary level, but good enough to compose complex and intense poems which he performed in kavigans. Kavigans were literally poetry face off. Two poets would go head-to-head and spout their philosophy and tunes. The crowd would decide who was the more woke guy and they felicitated him.

This tradition of bard-face-offs have been discovered in most societies. It is not a product of Comedy Central. lol. Firstly, Anthony’s father was just a merchant, well to do, maybe…but then again, just a merchant and he must have wanted the young man to follow in his footsteps, not become some freaky bard who sang in Bengali. Like seriously???

But Anthony was more interested to escape into the heart of pastoral Bengal where he would play his lute and listen to the local poets sing passionately to invoke the Goddess.

Something snaps in his brain as he pulls a chillum. He hears the lingering words of the poet Ramprasad’s Shyamasangeet and it tugged at his heart in ways he could not understand. He would spend much of his time with the poets and other yogis he discovered on his travels. He begins to meditate and do sadhana.

Anthony also begins to learn Bengali, a language he falls in love with. Now let me mention here, that Anthony’s Bengali had to be really as good as any literate Bengali poet’s, otherwise he would never be allowed or able to compete, let alone win a kavigan.

Here was a man who learnt a foreign language to the expertise of the local intellectuals. Not only that, he began to compete with them, finally wining his bout most of the times, even with the most famous poet Bholamoira.

Bengali’s are extremely picky about their language and they are never happy with a foreigner being better at it than most of them. Kinda like the French. No one can speak French better than a Frenchman. But when the kundalini awakens, all knowledge becomes available.

Anthony had lived countless lifetimes in the heart of pastoral Bengal and he knew everything about it. The Bengali Brahmins ridiculed him for dressing like them, made fun of his devotion to Kali, teased him about Jesus Christ and the Church, to which he responded by saying, There is no difference in Christ and Kali my brothers…

Hello! Wtf do you say to a man like that? How does a European get here? This is not easy let me remind you. I for one know a woman from London who has lived in Bombay for over thirty years and she can barely say five words of Hindi.

And this is not like learning the language in a University and taking exams, then returning to your country and publishing books from there. Ah what a great Orientalist! Nope. This is no internet certification that now you are a certified Bengali poet.

This was raw, this was life, this was reality. He not only stayed and worked in Bengal, but he excelled at what he did in a foreign country he chose to call home. He lived in Bengal, amidst the Bengali’s and composed some of the most touching Shakta poetry they had ever heard!

And Bengali Brahmins were a closed, snobbish, gated society who considered Europeans mlecchas or untouchables. They would not even let Anthony drink water in their houses. My peeps, this is the situation in which this young man not only awakened his kundalini, but also gave us one of the greatest spiritual love stories to treasure.

I learnt of Firingi Kalibari when I was a child. My grandmother told me and I remember how enchanted I was to listen about a Portuguese man compose these sonnets and poems in Bnegali to the Goddess Kali. It always moved me to tears.

It was much later that I discovered the true greatness of this man. Now back to a history lesson and it is pretty macabre.

In Bengal, we practised some deadly misogynistic rituals….let Wikipedia dose you up.

Sati or suttee is an obsolete funeral custom where a widow immolates herself on her husband’s pyre or commits suicide in another fashion shortly after her husband’s death..~WIKI

My peeps, in less than 1 percent cases, did the woman actually want to commit suicide, but she was forced. By societal constructs, by tradition, by women like her mothers and sisters, enablers of patriarchy themselves. It was coercion. Nothing else.

Sati was ultimately abolished because of Brahmin reformers like RAJA RAMMOHAN ROY, bless his soul as it is his birthday today. Do you see how society has been burning women in different cultures, under different pretences since time immemorial!

Why did Sati even exist you ask? Because these Brahmin women could not find husbands. They were only allowed to marry a Kulin Brahmin of Bengali origin. So me love, because of my surname Mukerji, 300 years ago, I might have been burnt on my dead husband’s pyre. Yes, I am born in a Brahmin family and this is what they have been doing to my mothers, sisters, aunts and grandmothers.

Most of these women were forced to marry a single Brahmin patriarch, because there were no Brahmin men available. Bengali Brahmin aristocratic women were not allowed to even gaze upon a Brahmin, say from UP or Bihar. Forget a European.

My grandmother tells me how some English officers would come to meet her father. The women were never allowed to even glance at a European man. They lived in a different segment of the house anyway called ANDARMAHAL. She told me that there was an Englishman called Robert who really liked her. I think he sent her a letter through her maidservant and of course, all hell broke loose.

Not that my grandmother would have even reciprocated. You see, for them European men were strange creatures whom they did not consider as mates. It was literally that simple.

I am harping on the time-frame so you get a good understanding of how dangerous it was for Anthony to fall in love with a Bengali widow during such turbulent times. This is way more dangerous than the Romeo Juliet saga.

Anthony saves Soudamini from self immolation and takes her to his place. Now after laying the groundwork, I do not need to stress how dangerous an action this is.

Most of the intellectuals are pissed as he is doing so well in his kavigan face-offs. How dare an upstart European sing hymns to the Goddess? How can he have any knowledge of the Goddess? He is a Christians. And then he goes and rescues a Brahmin Bengali woman.

There have been cases of rape and molestation when European men and Indian women have been concerned. But I think this was the first time, in recorded history, a Brahmin woman consensually began to live with a European man openly, not giving a fuck as to what the villagers have to say.

They were twinflames who dedicated their life to awakening the kundalini, practiced tanta and even worked on developing the kali temple together. Their sadhana deeped and gathered a small following. This was no interracial love story of today where any person can get married to anyone as long as it is legal and sanctified by a court.

But here, there was no court, no law to allow a Brahmin widow to remain at the side of her European lover/partner. Their lives were plagued by attacks from the conservatives.

In the kabiyan competitions, Anthony’s rival poets often brought up Soudamini’s name to taunt and ridicule him. It upset him tremendously, but he learnt to take in in his stride.

This was 1830’s or so, it is now 2017 and not much has changed. Even today, in India, you can get attacked if you are in love with a man from a different faith or caste or whatever. I shared a video recently of a Hindu girl attacked by a woman politician for falling in love with a Muslim. So as you see my love, nothing has really changed.

At least they don’t burn us any more openly and call it sati. They would if they could. After all we need to be chaste and if we are truly chaste and not little whores then the fire would not burn us, would it? What Sita had to go through centuries ago, is very much an active wound in our unconscious.

Anthony and Soudamini were blooming in their creative, spiritual love nest they had created. Anthony had composed the AGAMANI SONGS, for which he became noted and this is like synchronicity on steroids because these hymns were written to Goddess Durga as she comes to visit Earth from her heavenly abode.

Guess what my love. That time is now. Goddess Durga or the KUNDALINI has just stirred and she is making her ascent at this time as I type. The Bengali’s celebrate Durga Puja now and it is the most important festival for them.

The Agamani Songs are to be hymned now and I think the spirit of Hensman Anthony is urging me to tell you his story. He wants you too know how much he loved the woman they took from him.

The world is truly cruel.

His wife Saudamini was burnt to death, for being a widow and re-marrying Anthony, who was a foreigner. ~~Wiki

There, that’s what the Brahmin puritanical conservatives did. They burnt her and their ashram while he was away. He may have returned home from one of his biggest wins to see his whole reality and the love of his life burnt to crisp.

Ominous, isn’t it? Soudamini was pregnant.

This is what bigotry does. This is the scope of fanaticism. As we head into the new Era, let us consider this as a cautionary tale. Maybe they took this karma upon themselves to show us what hatred can do. But in this there is a message…

Even after three hundred years, a random blogger/lifecoach finds this story to tell you at this very precise point in time?!? It means that hate did not win. Ultimately it is their love that won. It is their spiritual mission that is still standing as the Firingi Kalibari where millions of Shakta’s go to invoke the kundalini.

Love wins all my Beloved…

Find a man who will love you like Anthony loved Soudamini. Love a man who will go against all establishment to join with you in sacred union. Or else stay single.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Today I let go…

Today I let go…

I let go of your eyes..

Today I let go…

I let go of your smile.

For those eyes never twinkled for me.

For that smile never flashed for me.

Today I let go…

I let go of the unrealistic expectations I have carried for so long.

Today I let go…

I let go of ever hearing your voice call my name.

Today I let go…

I let go of the futility of my emotions…

Today I let go…

I let go of the craving in my heart for you…

Today I let go…

I let go of the impossible connection I thought we had.

 

We never spoke.

But I know we exchanged a million looks.

We never touched.

But I know exactly how your skin would feel.

We never even met.

But I know from the moment I saw you that you are the ONE for me.

 

This is ridiculous.

This feeling of such abstract love.

A love that never was and never will be.

I thought we had a chance.

But we don’t.

Is it because I held onto the notion of you for so long?

 

Which is why…

Today I let go…

I let go of everything…

 

Tell me…

Is it possible to love someone without ever meeting them?

Is it possible to feel so deeply for a stranger?

For someone with whom you have not even exchanged a greeting?

Is it possible to have such strong love for someone you might have seen in the crowd?

 

I remember the way you looked at me,

That one time in my dreamworld,

When you and me drowned in colours of red.

Embraced each other.

It was just a dream.

It was a moment of retrocausality.

I know you are my future which is why I held onto the past so vehemently.

 

I know that we are one,

Never separated.

Which is why today I let go…

I let go of wanting to be with you,

Because you are and will be, forever with me.

 

tina@tinaheals.com

The Eighth Dasamahavidya~~ Bagalamukhi~~Some musings!

There is an interesting story about the origin of Bagalamukhi, the eighth manifestation of the Divine Feminine.

Now time is broken up into different kalas to denote specific periods. During PURAKAL, there were extremely strong winds which denote chaos and confusion in the mind. Now to combat these winds which could potentially destroy all of creation, VISHNU, the GOD OF PRESERVATION began a strict penance to get answers. This was near some ancient river.

The reference behind the origin of Goddess Bagalamukhi is found in Svatantra Tantra. Once upon a time, a huge storm erupted over the Earth. As it threatened to destroy whole of the creation, all the gods assembled in the Saurashtra region. Goddess Bagalamukhi emerged from the ‘Haridra Sarovara’, and appeased by the prayers of the gods, calmed down the storm. You can see replica of ‘Haridra Sarovara’, as described in scriptures, at Peetambara Peetham, Datia, Madhya Pradesh, India.~~Wiki

But of course all this is ALLEGORY and PARABLE. Let us get to the metaphysics of it.

This means that the HIGHER SELF who is VISHNU aka KRISHNA in the BHAGAVADGITA began to awaken the kundalini with meditation. And after his sadhana was complete, he was blessed with the DEVI’S arrival from the ancient river. This symbolises the AWAKENING OF THE KUNDALINI and there she stood…the Goddess, as BAGALAMUKHI, the resplendent one!

When the kundalini awakens, she is truly resplendent!

As soon as the Goddess surfaces, the destructive winds quieten down. Again this symbolises the fact that as soon as the kundalini rises, there is no turbulence in the mind. The disturbing winds have been silenced! That is the power of the kundalini. She can break through this 3D awareness and take you to other dimensions.

However, there is another to the Goddess Dhumavati and Bagala in the PURANAS.

One day in Kailasha, Parvati approached Shiva to fetch her some food as he was ravenous. Now Shiva, like any other dude, took his own sweet time to get the food to her which is why she ate him. What is a girl to do right? Lol

There is great depth in this cannibalism. Parvati is the kundalini who wants to be fed meditation and spiritual awareness. Now Shiva who symbolises consciousness here, refused to feed all that to the Goddess or the Kundalini and in the process became the consumed.

If you do not feed your spiritual awakening, it will literally eat you up. As a human, as a soul. It will consume you with materialism and addictions of all kinds. And eventually you will be consumed.

Shiva is also the SUPRA CONSCIOUSNESS which is why Parvati’s body starts to decompose. This goes to show that the kundalini, which is the symbol of life needs the human body as much as the human needs the shakti of the kundalini. This links to the OBSERVERS PARADOX. This means that this reality is a hologram being projected from one unitary source. That is Shiva/Parvati or the two polarities. Call them what you want.

Now once she has turned black, Shiva tells her to remove her sindoor which means that she or the kundalini has now reached the crone stage. She is self sufficient, for she has consumed her Shiva. She does not require any balance of polarities, she has become one.

This is when the body turns to spirit, in higher dimensions. You do not need sexual union or a cock and a vagina. You do not need electrons and protons to repel one another for reality to be observed. You just need to realise your crone stage and take in your yang/yin. This is profound.

Dhumavati is the SEVENTH form of the Goddess or the Kundalini! The number seven is the spiritual path, the most unconventional path. Which is why DHUMAVATI sadhana is not done by just anyone. It can never be done at home. In fact, her beeja mantra can never even be uttered at home, or else catastrophe can happen. DHUMAVATI severs you from the samsara. Dhumavati means her form is of smoke which translate to she has NO FORM aja she is formless/timeless/space-less.

Her rituals and invocation can only be done in the charnel grounds.

Now the form of the eighth Goddess is BAGALAMUKHI who is in MANIMANDAPA which is located in AMRITASAGARA and is seated on a throne full of jewels. Jewels here signify spiritual wealth of the Kundalini which when awakened is seated on the metaphorical throne and we become Bagalamukhi.

BAGALAMUKHI is yellow.

In almost every culture yellow represents sunshine, happiness, and warmth. Yellow is the color most often associated with the deity in many religions (Hinduism and Ancient Egypt). Yellow is the color of traffic lights and signs indicating caution all over the world. ~~colormatters.com

It also represents clarity, purity,  freshness, happiness, positivity, clarity, energy, optimism, enlightenment, remembrance, intellect, honour, loyalty, and joy, but on the other, it represents cowardice and deceit and Bagala is the Goddess of reversals.

Bagalamukhi is also called Pitambaradevi or Brahmastra Roopini and she turns each thing into its opposite. She turns speech into silence, knowledge into ignorance, power into impotence, defeat into victory. She represents the knowledge whereby each thing must in time become its opposite. As the still point between dualities she allows us to master them. To see the failure hidden in success, the death hidden in life, or the joy hidden in sorrow are ways of contacting her reality. Bagalamukhi is the secret presence of the opposite wherein each thing is dissolved back into the Unborn and the Uncreated. ~~Wiki

Bagala is the shakti of Mars. The feminine or the yin or the kundalini shakti of Mars. Yes every planet in the tantra system has their devi or kundalini shakti.

In fact her invocation is the most comprehensive way to deal with any Mars afflictions or hard aspects. Believe me, without a strong Mars, it is impossible to move ahead and perform in this world.

Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati is considered to be the centre of Tantricism, where there is the presence of temples dedicated to the ten Mahavidyas. A few miles away from the Kamakhya Temple is the temple dedicated to the Goddess Bagalamukhi. I will explore Kamakhya in detail very soon in another article, but this is the very heart and Bengal and parts of the North where she is worshipped the most.

Baglamukhi is the eighth mahavidya, invoked for destruction of enmity, often mistaken for enemy. This is the Supreme divine force, believed to have been invoked by Lord Ram to destroy the demon Ravan with his descendants. ~~Wiki

And the saga of Rama and Ravana could only be dealt with after invoking the kundalini….

Much more coming up on all the dasamahavidyas…

http://www.tinaheals.com

 

 

 

 

Full Moon in Aries, 5th October, 2017: Wild, wild, wild thoughts~~~

Tinaheals

As if you were on fire from within.
The moon lives in the lining of your skin.” ~~Pablo Neruda

As we enter the Libra Season, we are faced with this fiery Aries Full Moon! And there is a certain intensity about this that is bound to give the best of us wild, wild thoughts. You can bet on that my love. The esoteric meaning of Aries is the BEGINNING OF CREATION, at the crux of which is SEXUAL ENERGY!

Symbolised by the Ram, Aries is the point in the ZODIAC/ the first sign from which the LOGOS or the SOUL begins its journey round the wheel of existence. The wheel of samsara!

Saṃsāra (Sanskrit, Pali; also samsara) in Buddhism is the beginning-less cycle of repeated birth, mundane existence and dying again. Samsara is considered to be dukkha, unsatisfactory and painful, perpetuated by desire and avidya (ignorance), and the resulting…

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New Moon in Virgo: 20th September, 2017~ Rhythm of the Roots~~

Tinaheals

Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.” ~Jorge Luis Borges

I invite you to enter this sacred space where fear metamorphoses into strength, where doubt gives way to bring clarity, where the rays of the Spiritual Sun illuminate the grime of our mundane consciousness…no separation, no duality…only one-ness…Virgo will help us get used to service to one and all and it’s polarity Pisces will help us transcend all ego. The ultimate mystical polarities- VIRGO/PISCES! My AS and my Moon sign. My Venus and Mars is also there, so Virgo is a zone where I need to find balance between my male/female polarities.

Study the GLYPH of VIRGO. The THREE LINES denote the THREE ENERGIES OF THE GODDESS as CREATOR, PRESERVER…

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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.

The Mansfield Story

BELOW IS A PART OF MY NOVEL CALLED THE MANSFIELD STORY.

IT IS ALSO DEVELOPED AS A SCREENPLAY.

HELP ME PUBLISH~ BECOME MY PATRON

 

CHAPTER 1

SHAMBHAVI’S POV

I am not going to pretend that I’m this master story teller, in fact I’m seriously beginning to question my choice of vocation as writer/ filmmaker. No HD has my film on it and the analogue era was before my time. I have made all these films, in my head. From script to post prod, I’ve created these monstrosities and they exist. Don’t know where, don’t know how, but they do. Mistakes are portals of discovery, right Joyce. Works every time, doesn’t it. But then you were seeking to be immortal, hence the elaborate subterfuge, but for me. I am the nothingness, the mistake. These films that I’ve made in my mind, over and over, lead me nowhere in the real world, for they don’t exist. Neither does she, but there she is, invading my senses, my ideas, my dreams.

I think of these bizarre stories and it’s not even that I write them, they write themselves. I’m just their victim. They laugh at me, they torment me, they wake me up at four in the morning in jest, they drive me insane tossing and turning in bed at night. They are my oppressors. Not always. There is a friendly angle to our relationship. It does exist.

To the world, I’m this depressed writer who types away for hours on end on her laptop, writing God knows what. I’m in the fraternity of paid-poorly writers who are paid next to nothing to develop content. That’s my day job, at night I’m batwoman! You wish right?

I write screenplays and then make my films over and over again. And then there are these surfeits I have to deal with, like my friends from these stories, they begin to cohabit with me. These characters, they decide to pop right out of the Final Draft document and strut their stuff in front of me. There’s a reason why I’m constipated. How do you drop the excrement off your body when someone is reciting to you, a fluke line out of Keats, or no Shelley, I think. The Romantics definitely. Or you have this beer bar dancer doing make up! She keeps wanting to know if she’s looking saxy, not sexy, but saxy.

How the fuck is someone to shit in peace? Then there’s this boxer, he’s got tuberculosis and I write about it. Bam! I develop this terrible cough and an unbearable pain in the chest. The next day, I go to clear my throat and the phlegm sitting in the basin has blood. What does the boxer do? He laughs at me.

Then there are these pregnant women. I don’t think I’ll get into that right now, but yes you guessed it right. My periods stopped coming. Who could be the father? There were three possible candidates, but no one I could discuss this with. Not like they were my live-in boyfriends. They were nothing, not even friends. I stared at the pregnancy stick, yes, two lines. It didn’t matter how many times I re-took that test, it was the same. Now I’m no fool, I use protection. So did it not work? Did the bloody condom burst? Am I… I don’t think I could bring myself to voice that word. PREGNANT!!! I was and I did what I had to.

Not only am I plagued by these people, but strangely the things I write come to pass. No don’t think of  it as some kind of gift, it’s a fucking curse actually. It might have been a gift if all I wrote about was unicorns and fairies, but here I sit in silence and type away. What do I see? The desperate situation we’re in, yes us humans. I see the pain, no I think it’s more like I am in pain. I suffer day and night, sometimes with reason, sometimes without. I’m just a sucker for pain and my heart is perpetually broken. These films that I make are extensions of my tragic self and the most persistent theme of them is suicide.

You can say that I have a morbid fascination for suicide. My mother committed suicide when I was four or five, her mother too killed herself and so did her father, so yes it kind of runs in the family. I’ve been subjected to hours and hours of counselling so I don’t jump off a high-rise or hang myself with a dupatta. Morons! As if those sessions helped.

You see to me suicide is an art-form. You’ve got to be an artist to kill yourself with grace. You’ve got to see the beauty in death and embrace it. You’ve got to worship the power you have, the power to decide when it’s over. There is no fucking God, there is just you and the choice is yours.

My mother named me Shambhavi, I have an abbreviated form that I’ve chosen- SHAM! Yes I’m a sham! I’m not artist, if I was then I’d have already created the master piece- my death! The suicide, but I am not an artist, just a writer.

There are these three projects that I’m working on- developing for filmmakers who are too lazy to write their own shit and need to hire morons like me. The boxer does tend to get on my nerves, otherwise I am actually pretty involved with the rest. They tell me what to write and I do. It seems to be working. Of course there are times when these directors feel the need to impose upon my feeble intellectuality and ask me to make corrections. Temper tantrums will be thrown, but somehow we manage. We don’t exist without each other. We need each other.

Then there are these turbulent characters that take birth from my mind. They wreak havoc on my life, depressed, suicidal, maniacal, it’s difficult to deal with them. There is no sense of closure, no sense of comfort with them, only angst is the best way I could describe the feeling.

I have also tried setting MSS on fire, but once they’ve been conceived of in my head, there is no annihilating them. They are a part of my life, actually these creatures are my life whether I like it or not. The only way I can get rid of them is to finally begin work on the masterpiece.

It was so strange, when I met her that night. She stood in front and for the life in me, I couldn’t fathom her identity. There was something so familiar about her. P.S- I don’t subscribe to God or reincarnation. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so alive as I did when I saw her.

Don’t ask me how I landed up there, but I’ve had such strange and absurd situations happening to me recently that I just let go and watched her. She was tiny and her hairdo reminded me some old flick on Joan of Arc. Dressed in all black, there was this pendant around her neck, a spiral in jade and it looked like a fern would spring right out of it. Waist-upwards she had this sphinx like quality, her short crop was unkempt, her bangs fell on her forehead. She blinked her eyes through thick glasses as she looked at me. It had to be me, right. There was nobody else there, just a cat.

She lumbered across the vast living room. I could see her legs did not carry her well and she was stooping. There was a fire in her eyes which I could see even through those thick glasses. She sat right in front with a cuppa tea. I was not offered any. We sat like that for I don’t know how long. I was looking to say something. “Hello, I’m Sham,” “Hello, I’m a sham.” But I said nothing.

There was something that caught my eyes- an old calendar that screamed 1922.

Okay officially I have lost it, I know it to be 2017, not 1922. That made me look around. The deco was very vintage English, complete with Victorian furniture and then there were books. Quite a collection! I could happily bury myself in there for the rest of time and not bother about those people who live in my head or even the person in front with her sparkly eyes. She was not old, maybe thirty, but she looked much older. Her body was bent out of shape and her face showed signs of physical pain. I could tell she was sick and ailing. I looked on.

That belligerent and witty tongue could lash out at me, but it remained mute. It could raise a tempest but the waters remained still.

“You know I want to be like those ballerina’s of Dega, frozen in their graceful posture…” Those were the first words that came out of her mouth.

A reply, it came quite effortlessly. Then I bit my tongue. Crap! I sound like an idiot, I thought. “But those ballerinas are frozen, there is no life in them. They’re dead, like dolls…”

She threw her head back and laughed. That sound awakened a primal part of me and the ballerinas of Dega were right in front of me, suspended in space. There was this one figure of a ballerina and right next to her was this strange woman whose face you could not see, hidden by a hat in black attire and they both seemed to be waiting. It felt like us, that moment that time. I felt like the ballerina, massaging her foot in eager anticipation to perform and she was like the chaperon, waiting for that moment when I would set the stage on fire, pushing my body for fleeting moments of grace that would captivate one and all. I do that every day. I push my mind so I could come up with that work of art that would have entire generations enthralled, now you see what a SHAM I AM.

She wanted to be like those ballerinas. Why? Did she not feel their pain, their exhaustion? Did she want to be frozen in time?

“I never leave the house anymore and don’t like having servants,” She told me.

“T.B is painful and in 1920 it is incurable and you also have gonorrhoea, you must be in severe pain, most of the time.” I replied.

“You speak as if you come from some other world.” You can tell the gutsy woman she is.

“I come from the future…” I burst out laughing as I said it. “It sounded like some corny Sci-fi that no one would go to watch.

“You mean the motion picture…” She sounded interested, but then who is not interested in film.

“It’s very interesting that you would bring up the motion picture, because I have this story that I’m working on and the protagonist makes motion pictures, but from a feminine perspective, you know…”

I knew. “You want to explore the feminine angle? You seem content telling us stories through the male POV, Point of view…” I had to explain as she had no idea. Feminism, not one of her strong points.

But then what do you expect from her in 1910? Seems a bit bizarre, absurd if you ask me. I reach out in my pocket to stroke my I phone 6. The screen is cracked, just like my life.

You do not abandon your husband in 1920, you’re a woman and your place is right by his side. There are no other options, do not seek them. She seemed to know about real people, not some theoretical characters, but people of flesh and blood. That captivated me for years. How does a woman of her class and upbringing understand the human condition that well?

How does a marriage last only a day? There are no answers to such theoretical questions? Are writers really so crazy to get married to see what it feels like? Is this research? What is a marriage anyway? There was so much to talk about, but we sat silent.

 

CHAPTER 2

MANSFIELD’S POV

The tuberculosis has drained all my energy, the pelvic pain is getting worse, but my dream portrayal must continue, if anything today there is a seeing that I have felt. It’s not writing, it’s seeing. There are moments when I see all black before my eyes, need to sit down and gather myself, but the imaginative process never stops, it’s akin to breathing.

Much of my work remains unpublished and there are days when I lovingly gaze at them as a sign of acknowledgement and appreciation. Writing or rather seeing is a need and it must be done. In fact this sabbatical from my amorous lifestyle has given me time to write and I am thankful for it for all my stories come from the depths of my being.

Bliss and other Stories has just been published this year and it seems to be doing rather well. But there is suddenly a story inside me. I don’t even know what it is, suddenly I see Maata’s face and her breasts like a motion picture, a silent film and once again I’m back in the Hippodrome and I see the audience. Predictable! Their hands, their heads, their expressions.

I dreamt a story last night, every little detail etched in my mind, down to the smells and sounds and I was a part of it.

I see her eyes. A dark melancholia! An intense hankering for experience in the world of echoes and shadows. Who is she? She could be my alter ego. Her olive skin glows like logs burning at the fireplace, her long, dark hair is threaded like the negroes. Her mind is where she lives, the outside world has no fixity for her. I remember gazing at the audience, why not, I was a part of them. In this story I’m a part of both- I am her and I am the audience.

This story about her, this absurd protagonist who writes these films. Could it be that she makes them? Lumbering away with that heavy contraption of a camera? Who knows in the future there just maybe such women? I’d have loved to discover that platform.

Story-tellers tell stories, it doesn’t matter what the medium is. I have been told my writing is descriptive, just like the way they do it in the studios in America. I could have gone there, but travel for me is not a possibility. It’s why I cannot even go home- New Zealand!! Oh my pain and pleasure.

I’ve been criticized, compared to Chekov, snubbed for my hankering to be free, my will, my feisty nature, but people forget I’m just human. Where is the time? I’ve lost so much, I’ve gained so much. I have cried, I have laughed, I have lived and now I will die.

But this story, it wants to be written. Murray will surely publish most of my work even though I’ve told him not to. It sells, my writing and so shall its fate be, it’ll be sold! I need to sit down on days when the pain is bearable and write. I want to give my readers hope, yes everything is twisted, but there is hope. I was tired of reading every single thing out there from the perspective of a man, I mean how long is society going to ignore us? The fact that the women in my stories have decided to speak up shows me there is hope for us. Our voices need to be heard.

The Fourth way may just be my way, reading Gurdjeiff is a complicated process, yes it has opened up new portals to my experiencing life, but then there is so much left to be discovered and do I have time? Regret, don’t we all have a pinch of that with every sip of life we take. I for one, am swamped with regret. I regret my childhood, I regret the taunts and mocking because of my rather hilarious glasses, I regret not writing more often, I regret not supporting the women’s suffragette in the U.K, I regret not being vocal about it, I regret not telling Maata how much I loved her, I regret my obsession with Chekov. No I take that back, no regrets there. I regret my brother dying like that. I can still see him in uniform, bloody and dusty.

Although I have been quoted as saying that I do not regret anything. I have asked my readers to never regret, but that is only the half truth. Yes regret is an appalling waste of energy and nothing can be built on it, but it exists. I wish I could just erase it away. REGRET ERASED!

The Work must be done, it’s 1922 and here I am in colonial India, Calcutta to be precise, all alone. A sick white woman in the midst of all these natives.

Then I saw her, she was vibrant, her olive skin was smooth as it tasted the Sunlight which played on it and created so many hues that I just watched. I don’t know how she arrived right in front of me, definitely not dressed like the ordinary native girls or like an English lady. She had on trousers like men, I think they’re called denims. The road workers in America wear them as overhauls. I never expected a woman to dress in them and then her long, dark negro like hair. I thought she was a figment of my imagination, the medicines playing a trick on me. After all I was a sick woman. I waited for the apparition to disappear. But she sat there and just stared back. I think we briefly spoke, about Dega’s ballerina’s, but it made no sense.

Theosophy and Gurdjeiff! You know the three types of men or women found in this world- those that are centred in their physical bodies, then the ones centred in their emotional space and those that focus on their minds. What type am I? I have never been able to quantify myself in any one category, I’m indeed a mixture of all three. I have lived centred in the physical, more than not I have existed only in my emotions and then of course my mind is one of my favourite places to visit and spend some time. So yes, I’m a bit of all. All writers are as we have all these stories inside us where we become those people when we write them.

I remember alluding to this story of this woman who makes motion pictures, these dreamy silent films. I think she is my protagonist.

Right now, all I can think of is Van Gogh’s painting- the self portrait. I consider myself a writer/painter. I paint too like Van Gogh, I paint with words.

I just wish I had more time. I want to be healthy again, to experience a full, living-breathing life. I want to be with the Earth and see all the wondrous things- the sea and its infinite waves, the mellow Sunrise of a perfect morn.

I know I exist in this state of hypnotic waking sleep. I want to wake up and I’m willing to see if the Method will help. This story needs to be written. I need to find her again. That woman, no she’s more like a girl. I need to find her.

And then I see it, the Insect scuttles away and there are these strange voices that I can hear. Sounds like some Hindu chants. What is it?

Is my illness getting the better of me? I see myself, is it me or some other woman, no wait it’s her, dressed as Van Gogh, holding a gun to her face. She pulls the trigger!

I see a thick manuscript by the coffee table and note that’s its rather gloomy this afternoon, the wind shakes the trees so. Flashes trouble me- I think I see Lawrence. Murray tells me that THE LOST GIRL is modelled on me. I know, I know that my writing and me in person have had a significant influence on him, and he’s drawn parallels between me and some of his noteworthy characters, but why do I see him, in Colonial India?

My neighbour from Cornwall, my friend, the eminent D.H. LAWRENCE. I am his Albina and we both struggle everyday for our independence and outcasts we’ve become. We shared a number of things in common, I was a colonial outsider; he was from a working-class mining town. I am more like Lawrence than anybody. We are unthinkably alike, in fact. Four of us did form a peculiar brief and uneasy friendship in bleak Cornwall, yet, I treasure those days.

And now I find this letter from Murray. It does nothing for my mood right now, but leafing through it seems to be my only option. So I do it.

“You are all about me – I seem to breathe you, hear you, feel you in me and of me.” I actually wrote those lines for him and felt like I was home in his tent, sitting at his table. It seems far away, back here dreaming of silent films and Virginia Woolf.

There were times when I wanted to strangle my beloved Murray. I go back in my mind to one such incident. It left a sour taste in my mouth. I was cruel, we were verbally bashing one another, oblivious of who was present. I’d like to think it was tragedy that kept us together.

There’s nothing I want more than a cigarette. The curls of smoke rise up to meet their oblivion as I take a pull. It calms my frayed nerves and I take a sip of the tea. Darjeeling tea from the foothills of the Himalayas, a colonial addiction. Tea snobbery!

As I relax, she appears in front of me. Seated in a cluttered desk, she seemed to be looking at something. It looked like a boo, but a light emanated from it. She seemed to be typing like it was some sort of type writer. I couldn’t see properly, the smoke and mist clouded my vision.