Tag Archives: complexity

Short Story: The Midnight Encounter

I opened the door with my hands that had by then taken the temperament of a log of wet wood- soaked yet thirsty, beginning to smooth out on the outside but on the inside falling apart like a web of dead blue nerves, shivering like wreckage of autumn shrubberies. I sneaked in with my eyes unable to gauge everything of the darkness, with a thunderstorm in my stomach- as if in a while- I’ll be an infinitesimal part of all the gloom in the air surrounding my shivery body. The stillness of the room was sinking in my blood with adlibbed goose-bumps. I was in those moments when the faintness of a dark space bloats itself bit by bit and makes one feel as if it’s coming towards you like an adventurous swing from a soaring height and it will hit you in the face with absolutely nothing but it will hurt and bleed like a severe accident.

In a fraction of a second, I heard a strange voice, at first the voice collided with my heartbeat and vanished unnoticeably and then it remained the same way- a streak of golden light does in a flickering bulb. Half of my heart throbbed in my stomach and the other half was hung in the middle of my dried throat; my head felt submersed in a huge helium balloon, unable to move, blink or breathe. I heard an unsteady, cracked female voice. As soon as I heard the voice I stood frozen since it felt like a voice of my own- not the voice that comes out of the rolling tongue made sensibly heard using syllables but a voice that’s of a hungry stomach, unconscious and alarming. I saw a silhouette of a woman sitting on my bed.

From the tips of her blonde hair rolled underneath- kept neatly on her forehead, a vintage shirt with fluffy sleeves and a cargo pant- to the limitlessness of her aura – she looked like sunlight breaking out of labyrinth of silver linings of besieged clouds in a bereft sky. She made me remember of someone important- someone I know as intimately as myself; someone I remember like the lyrics of an overplayed song, recipe of the special dish Amma cooked every Sunday, alphabets and numbers I learnt as a kindergarten kid- like the things you never notice but they are embedded like stones in your memory.

Conspired by what my eyes could see, my dysfunctional brain struggled to push my calves to move ahead and look closely at this woman but my bones were as usual stubborn. In a small second the woman disappeared and I frantically started moving in the darkness- suddenly my fear disappeared and I turned into a mad lover looking for a closure to a mystical heartbreak. I switched the lights on to find a neatly folded yellow letter kept on the bed.

“My dear reader, I want to tell you, that night my thoughts had ensnared me beyond the capacity of a cage. The flesh holding me together withered like embers falling from a forest fire. I looked at the mirror- I saw my flesh torn apart, rotten and dull- I appeared to myself like those scary sketches artists draw of half eaten bodies. That night- like owl’s talons clenching my heart- I belittled every reason of my life, then I saw a never-ending sea through which I dawdled- with each footstep my body becoming heftier and that sea was my pain: the pain was me; I had become it and I had to go for I could see nothing else but this sea going up and down holding my pain across its waves. I had to drown my own sea. In the moment of my own murder, I was free. I saw the sky- after years of looking at it, I saw my widowed sky and a regret ached in me. I wish I had been the seeker of its vastness since the beginning of my life but I was free of this colourless world only when I turned blue in the shadow of the sky casted upon the sea. I am Sylvia Plath, your Sylvia. You’d grieved when you first learnt about my loneliness, you’ve loved me even when I never touched you, I never spoke to you but you told me how they try to shut you for your madness. You’ve screamed at nights your lungs out and looked for someone to give back to you- the mute laughter you crave for. This is what I give to you- be the sky and live me from here. Choose the madness, the sky, the sea and come to me, here I lie like a solaced wildflower.”

As I finished reading the letter, I was drenched in sweat, a million voices echoed around me, my presence juggled between death and life in a micro-second. Suddenly, someone jerked me like an electricity wire and a jot of my senses came back.

Marina, my 9-year-old cousin, tried snatching the paper from my hand but I refused to give up as if it were a key to my own grave.

“I want my sketch back, Didi,” she almost yelled at me.

“That’s not your sketch,” I said and looked at the paper.

It was a beautifully drawn sketch of a caterpillar. She had coloured it so uniformly that it seemed like the caterpillar was dancing on that piece of paper- maybe it was happy- its life would last just three summer days.

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Excerpts From an Interview Given by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter who painted self-portraits. Mexican culture and tradition are dominantly reflected in her work and she always claimed her work as a reflection of her own reality than her dreams. Kahlo contracted polio at the age of 6, had an almost deadly accident at the age of 18 and went on to marry Diego Rivera, the muralist and ultimate womanizer.

Kahlo had a volatile marriage with the famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera. She suffered lifelong health ailments majorly caused by an accident she survived at the age of 18.

Recovering from her injuries she always remained isolated from people which influenced her work greatly. “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.”

Throughout her life she gave many interviews, the best of her responses from one of her famous interview with her husband, Diego are recorded below:

Diego and Frida were both interviewed by Nick Bravo for The World. Here are some excerpts from Frida’s interview:

Frida, your father was a painter and photographer. What kind of effect did that have on you?
Funnily enough my love for painting grew later in my life. Earlier on I wanted to get into medicine. I was so interested in curing people, relieving them of their pain. My artistic side bloomed later.

It was the infamous bus accident that changed your path wasn’t it?
Yes Nick. It’s been well documented. As a part of my healing process, I guess just to relieve my boredom more than anything else, I started painting. And it wasn’t like I had painkillers and experts putting me back together. Those were hard times and I really suffered. I mean, I didn’t get out of bed for a year. But I found an outlet, luckily, in my painting and that in some ways saved me I guess.

Perhaps one of the defining things about your career Frida is that you’ve captured the imagination of a whole generation of women. You’re a lighthouse in some ways for the feminist movement.
I think that’s probably because of my subject matter more than anything Nick. You know, so many of my paintings, I think about roughly half of them are self portraits and in my self portraits I really dealt head on with whatever I was facing. If I was in pain, I drew it, in literal ways I portrayed the emotions I was going through. And I guess that many women have difficulty sometimes expressing that sort of thing. Often women are repressed within the family structure and I guess that my paintings resonate so strongly with women because they are representative of the struggles women face. I think my work too was empowered by my struggles as a human. It was empowered by my love with Diego which ran a fairly torrid course as I’m sure you know. It was empowered by my pain, the constant pain that I went through as a result of the bus crash. And ultimately, it was heavily tinged by the fact that I was unable to bear children. That must be the hardest thing a woman can face, to be unable to fulfill her motherly urges which Nick, you cannot understand unless you are a woman. It is just so strong that urge… I still ask the God why I was denied that right. But maybe, maybe my work would have not been so far-reaching without my struggles.

Retrospectively, what do you feel were the three defining factors of your lives?
My love for Diego, the crippling pain I dealt with from the accident and my inability to have children.

She was a fierce soul whose perspective of her own self was deep enough to make her art beautiful and full of ideas of her own soul and body.

“I wish I could do whatever I liked behind the curtain of “madness”. Then: I’d arrange flowers, all day long, I’d paint; pain, love and tenderness, I would laugh as much as I feel like at the stupidity of others, and they would all say: “Poor thing, she’s crazy!” (Above all I would laugh at my own stupidity.) I would build my world which while I lived, would be in agreement with all the worlds. The day, or the hour, or the minute that I lived would be mine and everyone else’s – my madness would not be an escape from “reality”.

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me, too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”

“… and I hope never to return.” Written on the last page of her diary, Frida’s pain was too heavy to wish for another lifetime. She physically left Diego whom she loved dearly, her friends and her art but she lives in every woman who goes through any kind of pain representing every ounce of strength and endurance she showed throughout her life.

“Frida’s postmortem chuckle, a last laugh if there ever was one is echoing still. Half a century after her death, Kahlo, around whom a whole industry has sprung up like a garden on a grave site, grows more alive with each passing decade.”

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Life is a makeshift

There are these moments
when you’d want to pluck the earth off the universe
and put it somewhere in the junkyard, forgotten;
never get any of these lives back and find yourself anew
folding into layers and layers of unanswered qualms.

I once ran off places on earth and in my head with a wrong map
each time I was sure, I would take some pills and quit this.
Yes, once upon a time I wanted to die or maybe not
but I walked till here and
I’ve shed my own self, I got the path
and I’m an existence forever ‘becoming’.
I never reach a point where I look into myself
And feel where have I reached, where is the right map?

I do not arrive now, at places, in time, in situations, amidst people.
I roam in circles encountering my silent adventures,
I become a dandelion, a root, a leaf, a flickering bulb,
a freak, a wolf, a nest, a cocoon,
And from each life, I move towards another,
To never let the world see,
What have I made of myself.

I am not the noun, I’m a verb.
I change and I am a process,
Maybe like a feather of the bird that falls down
Swaying and shedding the weight of its broken wing.
Yes, I couldn’t once choose myself over my sorrows
But I’ve made museums with chandeliers
Out of each of my grief.

Magic chambers in my eyes,
I’ve left long back
What people made me think
I must learn to be,
I’ve let my eyes dream of plains, scrapes, slopes and mountains,
Instead of directions, seasons, goals and constructions,
I will be my tomorrow before tomorrow arrives,
It is I, who’s moving and maybe not the time.
You’ll not find me arranged in a single manner,
A concrete, a mere life
Till a breath tears me apart.

Sylvia Plath On Freedom, Complexity Of A Creative Mind And Self Love

Us humans are such schizophrenic beings wanting all our lives, a love that heals and a despair that wounds. Our dreams lead us to skies, blue and black and our roots call us back to the smell of the ground. We are all full of wholehearted lightening and a never ending sadness, simultaneously.

My own self, a contrive of extremities and unknown cravings of being nothing, to be found and fixed but someday vanish to never return made me question a lot about life.
Can we exist as dual beings without a centre to hold, roaming from one home to the other? Or do we have to stick to the ground like a crop that someday is disowned, to be sold for a mere price? Years back when these questions started conquering my head, I read Letters Home by Sylvia Plath. Her life felt like a path to me, as if I’m an extension of her emotions and desires.

Sylvia Plath was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 27, 1932. Plath met and married British poet Ted Hughes, although the two later split. The depressive Plath committed suicide in 1963, garnering accolades after her death, for her novel The Bell Jar and poetry collections The Colossus and Ariel. In 1982, Plath became the first person to win a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.

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In 1975, Aurelia Plath, the poet’s mother, edited a selection of Sylvia’s letters to her family which were published as Letters Home: Correspondence 1950-1963. These letters have grave emotions sewed in each line that describe the free spirit of Plath. Here are a few excerpts from her letter and her journal that her mother had put together:

“At the present moment I am very happy, sitting at
my desk, looking out at the bare trees around the house across the street…
Always I want to be an observer. I want to be affected by life deeply, but
never so blinded that I cannot see my share of existence in a wry, humorous
light and mock myself as I mock others.
[…]
I am afraid of getting older. I am
afraid of getting married. Spare me from cooking three meals a day — spare me
from the relentless cage of routine and rote.”

“Somehow I have to keep and hold the rapture of being seventeen. Every day is so precious I feel infinitely sad at the thought of all this time melting farther and farther away from me as I grow older.
Now, now is the perfect time of my life.
In reflecting back upon these last sixteen years, I can see tragedies and happiness, all relative — all unimportant now — fit only to smile upon a bit mistily.
I still do not know myself. Perhaps I never will. But I feel free — unbound by
responsibility.”

After Plath got married and she had kids, she felt alienated from her own body and mind and could not draw a line that could separate her love for her own self, her creativity and Ted. Many people blame Ted Hughes and their marriage for her depressed self but that eliminates the idea of understanding the complexities of a dreamer, a creative mind, and an inevitable quest for self-love.

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Plath was fighting to attain a sense of freedom that flees her soul away from the cage of her own body and mind. She writes:

“I want to be free — free to know people and their backgrounds — free to move to different parts of the world so I may learn that there are other morals and standards besides my own. I want, I think, to be omniscient… I think I would like to call myself “The girl who wanted to be God.”
Yet if I were not in this body, where would I be — perhaps I am destined to be classified and qualified. But, oh, I cry out against it. I am I — I am powerful — but to what extent? I am I.
Sometimes I try to put myself in another’s place, and I am frightened when I find I am almost succeeding. How awful to be anyone but I. I have a terrible egotism.
I love my flesh, my face, and my limbs with overwhelming devotion. I know that I am “too tall” and have a fat nose, and yet I pose and prink before the mirror, seeing more and more how lovely I am… I have erected in my mind an image of myself — idealistic and beautiful. Is not that image, free from
blemish, the true self — the true perfection?
Am I wrong when this image insinuates itself between me and the merciless mirror?
(Oh, even now I glance back on what I have just written — how foolish it
sounds, how over dramatic.)”

Her inner conflict led her to write beautifully about the crossroads of her life well reflected in her early poems.

“There will come a time when I must face myself at last. Even now I dread the big choices which loom up in my life —what college? What career? I am afraid. I feel uncertain. What is best for me?
What do I want? I do not know. I love freedom. I deplore constrictions and limitations… I am not as wise as I have thought. I can now see, as from a valley, the roads lying open for me, but I cannot see the end — the consequences…
Oh, I love now, with all my fears and forebodings, for now I still am not completely molded. My
life is still just beginning. I am strong. I long for a cause to devote my energies to…”

At 23, Plath wrote to her mother about her another calling after she came back from a trip to Paris with Ted:

Dearest Mother,… Both of us are just slowly coming out of our great fatigue from the whirlwind plans and events of last month; and after meandering about Paris, sitting, writing and reading in the Tuileries, have produced a good poem apiece, which is a necessity to our personal self-esteem — not so much a good poem or story, but at least several hours work of solid writing a day. Something in both of us needs to write for a large period daily, or we get cold on paper, cross, or down… We are really happiest keeping to ourselves, and writing, writing, writing. I never thought I should grow so fast so far in my life; the whole secret for both of us, I think, is being utterly in love with each other, which frees our writing from being a merely egoistic mirror, but rather a powerful canvas on which other people live and move…

Her mother included a poem in the introduction of the book, Letters home which dwells into the luminous spirit that Sylvia was:

You ask me
why I spend my life writing?
Do I find entertainment?
Is it worthwhile?
Above all, does it pay?
If not, then, is there a reason? …
I write only because
There is a voice within me
That will not be still.