Does a festival ever end?

Yesterday was the last day of this year’s Durga Puja. The five auspicious days of festivities went by too fast it seems. Every street was decked up with lights and beautiful ‘pandals’ embraced spectators from all over the state to seek blessings from the deity. Kolkata was vibrant with the fragrance of autumn and awake with the celebration. People came home to spend time with family and friends, relished the authentic cuisine, and dress up in their best attires. Now we will wait another whole year for this festival! I wish you all prosperity and good health in the days to come. “Shubho Bijoya!”

every street is decorated with lights

a famous ‘pandal‘ in Kolkata

Hard work and efforts start months before the puja, skilled artisans give their best to make the decorations fruitful. Various themes portray the high level of creativity they have.

Another brilliant theme, saluting mechanical labour.

A colourful ‘pandal‘ decorated with cloths. The theme being the world of tailoring.

Ma Durga against Van Gogh’s starry night.

Durga Puja is also a family tradition at many homes; this here is at Shovabajar Rajbari, the heritage house of a royal family in North Kolkata.

Not much to say about Home.

My mother never keeps a record of the ingredients or the procedure to make a good meal. She just creates magic in the moment in the kitchen only to forget how she did. So everytime we go to her requesting that dish she had made for lunch, she is all nervous and it seems like a nightmare to her. So she enters the kitchen to prepare a requested dish and it happened a few times that she created new ones unintentionally. But everytime she cooks, the aroma of the spices being mixed to enunciate the flavours of the curry informs us that This is Home. Cumins, and corrianders sing, black mustard seeds jump up when sprinkled on hot oil and create a fluttering sound. On special occasions, cardamoms and cloves announce their superior presence with their sweet but sharp essence in fragrant rice dishes. We often start eating right out of the ‘kadayi‘ even before lunchtime. But it has been a month and I haven’t been home, and I miss seeing my mother struggling to remember the recipes and then cooking a dish we always fall in love with. I realise only small things make Home.

Waiting

Does a bird feel like not singing?

Does the wind feel like sitting still?

Well, then it’s not yet a wind, is it?

Does the water want to wait for years,

like the unkempt living room?

Or does it want a tiny leaf to fall,

and build a ripple?

A ripple like the wind used to bring,

or like the jobless man’s skipping-stones.

But they’re gone for a while now,

And the lake stands,

waiting like the piece of paper in the attic,

resting in the dust for a tiny scratch of ink.

By them,

who thought they’d give it a try,

after a long time.

Happiness. Excitement.

They’ve had in mind words,

that were waiting to be put down,

waiting to be real,

waiting to be everyone’s own.

But someone called from downstairs,

once. twice. thrice.

the fourth time, they got up,

left the paper, and the half-closed ink-bottle,

and went down.

but never came back to the attic.

Until After Five Decades

They climbed up the creaky wooden stairs,

knees giving up,

hands trembling.

Saw the paper lying there,

where they’d left it.

The hands took up a pen,

shaking as it was to write,

things that were sheltered in the mind,

for years and years,

but water wrote it’s first word

before the ink could,

a tiny pearl drop on the paper,

then another,

and a few more, followed by,

snuffles.

silences.

shaky cursives.

and a story.

Fleabag and Claire: The Portrait by Godmother

A Confession:

Revisiting Fleabag, as I earlier did in a previous blog, because I am obsessed with it!

The element of discussion(although it’s only me writing, still feels like one):

The portrait of Fleabag and Clair, by Godmother.

An Analysis:

Analyzing an antagonist isn’t congenial. But I found something captivating about the portrait of her step-daughters she chose to paint as a wedding gift to her husband. While the elder sister was painted front facing, the younger one was asked to turned a little to the sideways and then completely around, with much desperation.

Fleabag is a memory, rather an epitome of her dead mother. “You’re not the way you are because of me, you’re the way you are because of her. And it’s those bits that you need to cling to”, her dad had said. Maybe this was the Godmother’s greatest insecurity, her fiancé being reminded of his wife. Although he didn’t like her, he loved her, her kindness, her fun. So was Fleabag. Claire had gotten the more serious genes, to the liking of Dad. She was easy to get along with. But Fleabag, she was different. She was frightening. But at least she was never omitted by her Godmother, although the Godmother was afraid of Fleabag’s strength, something she got from her mother, something startling, something harshly honest. So it might be an explanation, why she didn’t want them to “face” Fleabag. Godmother spoke her heart, her passion through art.

A Difficulty:

I cannot further justify the intentions of the Godmother, but she could have done worse. Whereas she just chose to paint. Art has captured and contained her villainy, her insecurity, her fear of losing control. It is a buffer. A way of expressing, yet not committing something terrible. Things that can be said contently through art often quenches the thirst to carry it out. Suppose you hate someone, then isn’t it far better to write a song, or a poem, or paint a picture rather to communicate that hatred. Oh come on! I am not a saint. We are not saints! We dislike, we get terrified, we get anxious. It’s very obvious for humans to feel that way. However, when you take refuge to art, it isn’t that ugly. Your art might be. And people might say your art reflects your negative emotions….”you have a criminal inside of you!”, and so on. So What! It’s only that. It stops there. The hatred found it’s way to get out of you through a painting, it did not come out as a crime!

A Conclusion:

Trust in Art. It helps.

Doing: a reflection on how I have generally felt.

“Do”, by Sol LeWitt. I am reflecting upon this outstandingly powerful letter to Eva Hesse and realized that after completing something, anything, I always judge myself, my work, and end up finding it horrendous altogether. In the letter, Sol writes to Eva, “You must also know that you don’t have to justify your work, not even to yourself”. I, for once, found it very relieving. A sigh rather. It might actually be good if I am kinder to myself. I think I should be. I think it’s sometimes enough that I’ve done something, anything. It came from within me, a place I might not even have discovered if not by my own work. Often, I go on and write something to only surprise myself, the thought that I’ve been nourishing in my subconscious for so long. I couldn’t believe it took a form of a sentence, or a jumbled up color in a painting. It’s like I am knowing more of myself. I think I find this exciting. “You belong in the most secret part of you”, Sol said.

“Acting”, is it?

Actors are fascinating people. I admire them. Favorites? Well, when I am asked, I never find the names in my mind, because there are so many of them. So, if you can prompt a few names while we are talking, I would be so grateful! Thank you! Yes! The reason behind this, as I predict it, is when I am fascinated by an artist, this tremendous thirst of knowing their work and style just creeps inside me, and stops only until I have them imbibed into my very being. Works of artists have always been that way for me. It’s like you study so much about someone or something, it’s just somewhat insignificant what their name is? Did that come out the wrong way? I have no bad intentions. Very recently, I was astonished by the role Andrew Scott played in the brilliant series Fleabag. The hot priest. No. I am not so much into the hotness, as much as I am into the layers of the character, Waller Bridge rocks! I better call him just the priest. In an interview with Oxford Union, Scott said and I believe, a good actor never plays someone else, rather, searches for and brings out the features of the role from within his own self. Similar to this, Anirban Bhattacharya, an extremely talented actor from West Bengal, India, has said that we have everything within us, a lover, a loser, a murderer. Talent lies in the strength to bring it out, and be it. As Willem Dafoe said, “I never act. I simply bring out the real animal that’s in me.” While Christian Bale helps us look at it from another view, of putting oneself in someone else’s shoes and seeing how far you can come to truly understand them, which, more precisely, is carried out when you actually try to bring that feeling from your heart. To be honest, when it comes to performing arts, I love it, when artists are articulate about their work, and have that experience of draining themselves in the course of bringing out a character. Moreover, when it comes to theatre, it’s even more exhausting. They have to bring out themselves, and also be calculative, because the slightest inch here and there might block an important background element. It’s all about being both deeply emerged in the role, and being superbly conscious of the surroundings and the stage. Good actors have always made me a better audience, helping me resonate with works of art that I discover on my way and retrospect on various aspects and angles of the work. In the words of Daniel Day-Lewis, “The work itself is never anything but pure pleasure, but there’s an awful lot of peripheral stuff that I find it hard to be surrounded by. I like things to be swift, because the energy you have is concentrated and can be fleeting. The great machinery of film can work against that.”

Story of a paperboat

A drenched paper boat came to a stop where the water of the stream had almost dried up and anchored itself to the wet mud. It was made of some daily newspaper, the words from which had already dissolved, but the smell of the ink persisted. After months of uneven showers, the rain had taken a steady pace all day long, making its presence felt by intensifying its pitter patter once in a while. The water-logged roads longed for a fresh beam of sunlight. Ponds overflowed. The fields lay empty with the silent goal posts standing without a complaint. The waterlilies were at their best, mauve and pink and white, standing still in the swamped lowlands where the water hyacinth had created a meshwork, and the algae had spread like an infection. A glimpse of beauty amidst the grey mundane monsoon.

Every evening brought with it the usual smell of the incense sticks from the houses. The paper boat smelled, thinking of the time when it was passing the ruined shrine of an unpopular deity. Someone had lit them in dire hopelessness, the boat saw. There is something about stopping just to look around, to breathe, to think, perhaps to feel an aching toe. It had seen when the infant was still, and the mother was silent as a pebble. It had stopped when the trees were lush and the green in them was studded with pearls of fresh rain water. When the artist started scratching on the blank paper with an unsharpened pencil, it saw hope. Why is it that among so many people watching, only so few decide to scribble it up in a notebook, or maybe turn it into a masterpiece. What drives them? Money? Recognition? But the artist said there is something more to it. That most people feel satisfied, but only few recognize it. You have felt happy, but have you seen yourself while you’re feeling it? You have felt sad, but have you seen yourself while you’re feeling it? When you are too busy to feel what you are feeling, you forget to look at yourself. The boat did not quite understand. Maybe it doesn’t deserve to know, with its skin made of news from around the world, the breathtaking inventions, another new factory, another billionaire, another dream, another murder, another disease, another gadget, another ease in the lifestyle. It felt heavy with the words of lead. When the little kid had smiled and let it go on it’s own, setting it along the small stream of water, it was relieved. It was the beginning of monsoon. And all these days of flowing, and stopping and gazing, it felt that the words on its skin made no sense, the headlines never mattered. It was just an ordinary paper before the machines imprinted ink-works that either shook people, or gave them hope.

Now it settled, anchoring itself to the wet mud. It had seen a lot. The words on its skin were gone, and gradually the smell of the ink was vanishing. The smile of the little boy who let it free was fading. It felt regret for not waiting long enough to see the artist’s work, but an artist never stops being an artist, even if no one cares. It remembered how a nice breeze felt after a storm. It rested. The streets slowly woke up. The rain had stopped. There was sunshine. The daily hubbub started, with buying and selling, with rise in prices, with motion on the flooded roads. With people running to earn. Newspapers being sold. And the paper boat got stepped on with numerous muddy shoes.

Author

I envy the characters in a book. A person has created them just to understand them. She brings them to life and she lets them wander wherever the story is. The backdrop. In whatever year, in whatever landmark. Amidst whatever chaos. There is always chaos. And there is the tiny bit of story, in that chaos. Like the center of the tornado. The author sets her characters free and silently follows them. And then, she meets them a few days later just to see them evolved, maybe shattered, maybe happy. And then she holds their hands, sits them somewhere comfy, and understands what they have to say. What they’ve been through. What they’ve seen. I feel envious, that there are people in the world, who are keen just to weave a story out of understanding. Understanding the unspoken between two people, as if she speaks for both of them, a breach of privacy, but beautiful. Sometimes, all I wish is for people to be like authors, it could make things so kind, and compassionate…to try and understand. No assumption, no judgement, just understanding.