Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Andalusian Dog

I wait for the teacher in the empty class. It is air-conditioned. Oh, no. Cut. Scene change. There is one more character in the room. A guy with his laptop who eyes me now and then. I see him, sigh and sit down next to him. He has a laptop. He starts to play cheesy Bangla "romantic" songs or something to that effect. Something in my head screams, "MORON". I don't let his laptop finish the first line of the song, barely wait to hear which language it is in. I drop my bag abruptly and leave the room. Outside it is hotter. 

I move towards the open window at the end of the corridor. It has a neat bench and lots of fresh air. Cool breeze comes rushing in every three seconds. I look towards the staffroom. Another sigh, this time a deeper one. Wish he was here. So gentlemanly. He looks at me, I look at him. He even switched on the AC for me last time. He is so brilliant, so...what do you call it, "avant-garde"! I ask ma'am whether she is going to take class. She says, "Yes, Definitely. But let others come." Tough luck. 

I message one of my classmates saying it is times like these when I miss her the most. Critical times. Meanwhile the laptop guy (I have a terrible desire to call him "MORON" for the rest of the story but I will control myself), comes out with his phone pretending to speak as if on the phone with someone, just so he could come and look if I am still there. 

For the second (or third?) time, my brain screams, MORON! Try something new. So then thankfully, our teacher arrives and she saves me from further torture. Or so I thought. He and I are the only ones attending the class today. So he asks me how many classes have gone by, and I am quick to answer, "I don't know." Small Talk. 

" Have there been more than 15 classes?" He continues. 
"Yes, I think so". 
"This is her first class?" He points to the teacher. 
"No, second." I say quietly. Pointless question because she was just talking about what she taught in the first class the day before.

And then my teacher looks for help to me as she goes on teaching new things about video, film and digital media. I put in an occasional helpful nod but hardly say anything, coz let's face it, I was sleeping in the first class. And how was I to know that nobody from last class would be here? Where is he? Mr. Chatterjee? He always knew the right things to say. He is such an amazing teacher. He's so quirky, so eccentric. Sighing I sadly update my FB status, but even that's difficult when there's only two of you and the teacher is looking right at you. And yes, someone else too. 

And then comes the icing on the cake. We are shown a surrealist film. Now those of you who are remotely acquainted with surrealism know that it is a magnificent and inexplicable thing. So I won't even try to explain it. The magnificence of this inexplicable "ism" is surplussed in Surrealist movies. I had seen one such movie earlier and the class was then taken by the man who I now miss so ardently. The movie gave me a shock, and I remember feeling dizzy for the next twelve hours. This time we were shown a less sexually explicit movie. 

For those of you who want to know, an important part of surrealism was to deal with sexual repression as enshrined in Catholicism. The interpretation of dreams excited them. So what you basically have in these 1930s silent films is the release of sexual desires by means of dreams. Since the whole movie is a dream sequence, so anything can happen, anywhere. No logic of time or continuity is followed. So here we are shown this movie by artist Salvador Dalí and filmmaker Luis Buñuel called Un Chien Andalou or The Andalusian Dog

This was a famous sixteen minute movie which is till date considered a testament of Surrealism in Europe. The artist paints his pictures through moving images. So anyway, I never got Surrealist films. And this one had an elaborate scene where the man who is dreaming continuously holds on to the woman's bosom. She refuses, then closes her eyes, then threatens to hit him with a stick. Quite frankly, the characters moved like cartoons and I found it so funny, I wanted to laugh out loud. But all I could manage was a little smirk. And it was killing me.

The pain of not being able to laugh because some stupid guy is sitting next to me eyeing me. I don't like anybody staring at me. It is embarrassing. If I like that person, I would look away even if he was staring at me. And if I don't like that person, I'd do the same. So yeah, there's no way of knowing.So anyway, the torture ended for the class ended soon enough. And as soon as it did, I bumped my notebook and pen in my bag and ran off from the class. Halfway out of the department, I realized I had forgotten my handkerchief in class. It was a judgment call.

Hanky important or Guy, I wondered. You will leave your faithful comrade Hanky in some unclaimed classroom because you want to run away from a stupid guy? Be brave.All decided under 30 seconds. It's not much to think about, but then I think about almost everything under the sun. Even the sun. Sometimes I feel I am a big thinktank, a tank full of thought. So I take a long jump back to class, snatch my hanky and make a run for the door again. The guy is still there. He catches up with me just as I am about to put on my shoes. 

He is running so fast he almost bumps into me. "Sorry". He says looking down, searching for his shoes. I don't care to mutter a reply or even look at him. Hardly putting my feet in the sandals, I make a run for the stairs. 3 floors of stairs. I sprint down the stairs, two at a time, like Jet Lee in some Kung Fu movie. He catches up with me as if Michael Johnson.

"Hey you study in this college, na?" 

Small Talk. I hate small talk.

"Yeah", I reply continuing my flexible stair sprinting skills. Jet Lee, how I admire thee!

"Which Department?" He tries to keep up with me. My feet hurt. He's smiling.

"Comparative Literature", I mutter. I don't like being rude. I also don't like being chased down a building. Yet here I am.

And then it comes. "Will you give me your number?" Think think. He's your classmate. Quite natural for him to ask for your number. What to do.

"Why?" The word comes out of my mouth surprising both me and him. 

"Well, I would get to know when classes will happen. I don't know na, that's why." Moron. The course is about to end and you don't know timings! What an excuse!

Quietly I say, "Course will end next week. Next class is last class."

"How do you know? They said they could extend the course till May."

"We were told."

"How do you know? Did you ask them?"

Now when confronted with individuals with less IQ, I stop and explain them things with minute detailing. "Gifted" people need to be explained things. And I would have even in this case, if not....

"Sir came. He talked to us. He said this month we will have the last class. No extension."

"Actually, I am here only for this month. After that, I will leave. In May."

Wtf! Am I supposed to shed tears for you now, MORON? 

Obviously he was very hurt by my "coldness" or "indifference" or I don't know what, but he went away. I stopped for a while. Checked my mobile. Pretended to read an important message. And then resumed walking. Ouch, my feet hurt.

And I thought, "Was I rude to him? Was it bad manners? Poor guy. Did I hurt him?"

And then my devilish side kicked the angel inside me to an unconscious state and I happily went for my bus. :) 

Sunday, April 17, 2011


I sit to eat
Great food, fried rice and chicken
As I put the first morsel
Something gets stuck in my throat
And it moves.

Quickly I hurl it out
A cockroach.
A cockroach in my food
I look down at the plate
It is swarming with insects.

I am so hungry
I have not eaten for so long
I am always hungry
There is nothing to eat anywhere
The insects look ugly
The insects look repelling
But I am hungry, I pick one up
And start chewing it.

Soft, juicy, it does not taste so bad...
Its wings and antenna, quite crunchy
It has a peculiar sour taste
But what is that pungent smell?
Chhi! I puke all of it down

But I am so hungry
I have to eat
Nothing to eat, anywhere, anymore
Reluctantly I stuff my mouth with the vomit.

It's not so bad, the vomit
Once you have gotten used to the smell
And taste.

But hunger knows no bounds
Hunger will make you eat anything.

Now I fight with lizards
To get hold of insects
To eat.

Sometimes I catch the lizards
But they are quick
And I am weak.

The lizards, insects and I coexist
In our house full of happiness.
We eat each other
But we are still hungry...
Hunger, offensive hunger
Shameful hunger
Malevolent hunger.


By the door, by the window
Bent on the floor, she sits. 
And cleans

By the nook of the bed, the drawer
A small speck of dirt
Oh no, she cleans.

Humble life forms
Cockroaches and mosquitoes
Are scared of her.
She cleans.

Day and night, night by day
She goes on cleaning.
Her house smells of detergent
The smell is sickening.

Her house so spotless, so white
But still, she cleans
Her hands, her body
Smell of disinfectant
Used to kill pests.

Her hair so rough
Her palms white and diseased
With prolonged detergent use.
But still, she must clean.

Cleanliness is Godliness
Cleanliness is Purity
Cleanliness means no Dirt,
No Obscurity.
She hates dirt
And things that are dirty
As she is.
Cleanliness is Beauty
And she is ugly.
Cleanliness is Perfection
And she is but, a wasted reflection
Of her former self.

And when the house sleeps gently at night
She stealthily walks up to the bathroom
And standing by the mirror
She secretly checks her scars.

Scars on the neck, scars on the stomach
She washes them with detergent
And hopes she will be clean.
But they become swollen, more painful, those scars
And larger day by day.

And fresh scars adorn her body
Time after time.
Like a garland of soft petals
Sensitive, itchy, painful, these scars.
Detergent only makes them bigger
So she decides to use acid.

Acid cleans
Acid feels
Acid heals.
Acid will clean her.

So one night, in her spotless house
She pours acid over herself
In the hopes of becoming clean.
To cure her Incompleteness of Being.

But you, dear reader
Don't be appalled.
Isn't Cleanliness a great virtue?
Cleanliness of mind, body, soul?
Isn't Cleanliness a Perfect Being
The Most Loved One of All?

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Insect

The morning light streams in
I wake up.
The soft breeze caresses my face
Its time to get up.

I try to move the covers
But cannot.
My hands too small
My body, that of an insect.

I try to move to the side
Can't. My numerous tiny limbs fail
Ah well, got to run to office
No matter how much I ail

It's late, I better get up but
I fall to the floor
And Baam! I hurt my head
I don't find support.

I cry for help
But my voice is gone
A little squeak escapes my throat.

Pushing hard, I open the door
I see my diseased father, my worried mother
And then there is my boss, "Oh hello Sir!"
They get appalled at my sight.

My mother lets out a horrified shriek
My boss flees, repulsed.
My father chases me round the room with a stick.

Bam! The stick hurts my hind leg
A transparent liquid oozes out
I squeak in pain
And hurriedly retreat to my room!

Did I do something wrong?
Did I say something?
I just told them I have a life
I can't, I won't do everything they desire
Follow their orders blindly
I have a life of my own.
I am not perfect. I am human.

Why then does my mother stare at me shockingly?
Why then is my boss repulsed?
Why then did my father beat me?
Is it because of the insect body?

I lie on the floor, looking at the ceiling
The milk they left me is no good.
My antenna diverts my mood
To some insects by the wall.

Suddenly they seem attractive
Suddenly they seem delicious
Stealthily approaching, I snatch one up.
And quietly gobble it down.
There I lie on the floor staring at the ceiling
Wondering of the past.

My five year plan,
My career, my love
Go past me in a flash.

And as the daylights dim
I fall asleep
And go into a distant dream...

P.S: Inspiration and Concept from Franz Kafka's novella Metamorphosis published in 1915. The famous first lines of the book which have become imbibed in history are as follows, 

"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. He was lying on his hard, as it were, armor-plated back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his domelike brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes."

Franz Kafka(1883-1924) dealt with the extreme fragmentation and dehumanization that occurred in the modern man's life due to the autocratic pressures of power. He was a Czech Jew who wrote in German roughly before the rise of Nazism. However, till date,  his novels are considered to be powerful testimonies against the functional machinery of power, whether hegemonic or autocratic.

Monday, April 11, 2011

That Afternoon of April

She took a look at the prescription. The stark white walls and corridors of the hospital smelt of disinfectant. Her heart skipped a beat. She felt dizzy, suffocated. Searching around desperately, she looked for a seat. There it was, a white seat against a white wall on a white floor. Slowly she made her way to it. Sitting down, she read the prescription once again. The doctor had said that there was nothing else he could do. These drugs would only relieve the pain. But the damage that had been done could not be repaired. She felt vulnerable, helpless.

"How are you doing?" A voice spoke from beside her. She looked up. There he was, oh thank God. She had missed him so much, needed him so much. But no words came out of her mouth. She just looked at him with a strange expression. And as the tears came to her eyes, she quickly looked down. She couldn't let him see her crying.

He came and silently sat down beside her. "Have you eaten? You look tired." Again she looked at him strangely. Why was he doing this? He never cared about her.

"No. I have not eaten for two days." She answered quietly.

"You will fall sick." He said gently.

"I don't care."

"Hmm... I brought some coffee and snacks." And saying this, he took out two closed paper cups of coffee and some doughnuts from a packet.

"I don't...I'm not in the mood. Thanks anyway." She looked away.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, absolutely. Thanks for taking so much trouble." She added formally.

"Hmm.... Now look, either you have this or I am going to scream 'Rape!' ".

"Excuse me, what?"

"I will cry that you tried to take advantage of my innocence, that too in a hospital. Imagine that, huh."

His face looked so serious she burst out laughing.

"There that looks better." He smiled. And handed her the doughnuts and coffee.

"I'm taking the coffee, but I really can't have the doughnuts. I feel nauseous."

"No problemo. I even got some non fried chips, if you would like." And grinning at his own joke, he took out a packet of fried chips.

"Non fried chips, indeed huh? Your sense of humor did not improve through all these days..." She smiled again. "Okay, I will take some, but I can't have more.."

They started eating. Nobody spoke a word.

As she opened the coffee and began to take a sip, the hot brew burnt her lips. She winced in pain. The pain of the hotness was nothing compared to the pain she was going through for the past month and a half. But she couldn't keep her calm anymore. She burst out crying. He held her around her arms, and she gave in. 

Tears flowed relentlessly as she cried on his shirt. He didn't say anything, just held her. The pain, the trauma was too much for spoken words. There was nothing to say. After what seemed like a long time, her tears stopped. Getting up from his chest, she saw that his shirt was completely wet. 

"Oh, I'm so sorry.." She mumbled. 

"That's okay.. Accha what do you say, we have the coffee and chips, and this hospital has a nice garden. Wanna take a walk?" He smiled.

"I..don't think so... He's there suffering and counting his last breath, I possibly can't go out and enjoy life, behave as if nothing has happened....". She spoke more to convince herself than anyone else. How could she possibly ever enjoy her life? Shy away from responsibilities? Be a coward and run away from problems? It would be a sin.

He knew she had a tendency towards paranoia. "Look, I'm just asking you to take a walk with me...not marry me", he looked at her deeply, with those brown eyes of his. So like the puppy's. 

Yeah, I wish, she thought, in response to his reply. Outwardly she said, "Okay..".

As they walked through the corridor of the stark white hospital searching for some color, they could see the lush green garden outside. Pink, red, yellow flowers shone in the sparkling sunlight. She felt happy. Alive. 

"I knew you would like it", he said noticing the smile at the corner of her mouth. He held her arms. And she closed her eyes, taking in the warmth and his touch. He looked at her face, so tender, so pale, so beautiful. She was shivering. Something inside him stirred. The storeroom to their left was half closed. He opened it and took her inside. Then the door locked. 

In contrast to the rest of the hospital, the storeroom was not very clean. There were brooms and bins around. A window at the top of the wall let in some sunlight as compared to the artificial lights of the hospital. It was warm, not very clean, more human. In a wisp, the cold replies and calculating gazes of the doctors who had told her that they would not be able to save him, went away from her mind, her world. She quietly took in the feelings, the warmth, the hope. 

And suddenly he kissed. On her cheek. She opened her eyes. He kissed her again. A little to the mouth. His touch was comforting, made her realize she could feel too. That the money minded gaze of the doctors had not dehumanized her too. She kissed him back, near his mouth. He hugged her tightly.  Aahhh...All she wished for was to get absorbed in him, in his strength, his being. He was stronger than her emotionally. He would not let her be grasped by these blind money making robots. He would know of a place where love, kindness, humanity still existed. He would certainly.

But what was she doing? She looked at him. This was all wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. He was supposed to get married tomorrow. She walked back from him and turned away. No, she couldn't let this happen. And suddenly he came near her, held her from the back. His hands embraced her under her soft heavy breasts. She moaned. It was relieving finally to have a support for her burden, her weight. After ages. 

Her moan attracted him. He kissed her neck. Her soft tender neck. He found it so delicious that he bit her. Lightly. She moaned again. And slowly his hands explored her body. Passion held both of them together. Her left hands touched his face and she kissed him all over. He kissed her on the lips. She pulled him by his collar and kissed him madly....

"Ms. Kapoor, Ms. Kapoor...." The loud voices broke her day dream. She was sitting on the stark white seat in the stark white corridor against the stark white wall. She saw a couple of people, she had seen for the past one month. Doctors and nurses. Who had vouched for saving lives. Who had said that life mattered more to them than money. Who were in it for the love of the profession and not for big houses and cars..

"Ms. Kapoor, are you alright?" The voice rattled her brain. "Yes..Yes.... what's the matter?"

"We are sorry, Ms. Kapoor. We couldn't save him." A carefully practiced soothing tone of compassion alerted her. "But..but, I gave the medicines you asked for....see..", and blindly looking down, she showed them the clutched piece of prescription that she was still holding in her hands.

"We are sorry, Ms. Kapoor. It was already late. We could do nothing."

She looked at her watch. It was barely fifteen minutes since she had handed down the medicine to the nurse.

She looked at them blankly. "But perhaps, it reduced a bit of his trouble..?"

"Ms. Kapoor, he was a lot worse by the last hour. We are going to keep him under watch for some more time and after that you can claim the body." The doctor patted her on the shoulders, a carefully practised pat through years of experience, and walked away. She stood in the stark white corridor looking at the doctor with the freshly starched white coat go away. Body....Body, he had said. "Claim the body.." But he was not just a body, was he?

End of a two-month old ordeal. May be now she could sleep peacefully at night without the crying of three-month old Milky bothering her. Even he was white, as the milk. Whiter than snow. Besides Shekhar, he was the only one that made her feel human. She still remembered the time when they had taken him away from her arms. His smell was still on her. Now he was gone. And Shekhar was to get married tomorrow. She finished some formalities with the hospital, and walked out into the sunlight once again. 

The sun shone bright. It was an afternoon of April. That afternoon that she would remember forever.