Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Untitled [A prelude to the Hymn of Creation]

I was sitting by the window one evening, with a cup of coffee in one hand and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita in the other, trying to bridge the gap between prose and poetry.

I am trying to imagine that I am in a movie. I wouldn’t, of course, have liked to be the protagonist, or anything at all like that. You see, I don’t really like being in focus, and I had much rather have the –lets see– yes, I would much rather have this vase some six feet away from me be the focus than have the fuss over me. That is unusual, but of course it wouldn’t very much be any other way than that…

I should perhaps tell you at the very beginning that this window isn’t mine. Oh well, its mine as much as I am sitting on it and looking through it, but it still remains a borrowed piece of imagination. It belongs to my mother and she had quite careless given it to me along with a whole host of odd little trinkets that are scattered all around this room. Flashes of memory and a blue wall are my most treasured inheritances. I don’t need the rest. I am quite horribly choosy but I think a jumbled montage of disjointed plots interspersed with elaborate song-and-dance sequences will do just perfectly well for my movie; the one I am supposed to be in.

He was walking up the stairs in the rain, with an unopened umbrella in hand. The alley was lit by a single light bulb dangling over the clothesline and he was so far away from it that I couldn’t catch a glimpse of his face. He was moving away from the tea-stall; he was in a hurry and he could have broken into a run any minute. Now he was right under my window; now two feet towards the left, now four, six, ten, a million… He was storming through the alleyway; he was barely a specter in a soaking wet shirt, and I was an invisible gust of wind following his trail; gliding right besides him. It came effortlessly. But soon, he would be gone, as he has now, having travelled so deep in the parched landscape of my mind.

“You are far too apologetic”, she said, and that was that. The immense anguish of poesy had collapsed into a heap of rubble; into some scattered dust, and from it emerged a pair of eyes that beckoned the universe to stillness for all eternity. I was quivering with amnesia and she was shivering with fever. A distant snap of twigs and some secretive whispering amongst birds had alarmed her soul and I saw the fear in her eyes mingle with the melody of her gaze. But between us had fallen a veil. A blast of narcotic memories had inflamed my mind and yet she was dousing my soul with doses of sleeping pills.

I was dreaming of Ghalib,
in a sun-sheltered sky.
He had left the door open
and left me to die,
so I was dreaming of Ghalib,
in a sun-sheltered sky.

The lights are out. In the dark the silhouette of my beloved is a tantalizing mass of transmission lines and graying skyscrapers. She is basking naked under the moonlit bridge over the river and I am waiting for the old man to come looking for his lost letter in these waters beneath the invisible bridge. The sun and the moon are arched over the voluptuous hemisphere of my words and I am wooing them with my ungainly offering of aesthetics. Lopamudra is dancing in my balcony and I am waiting for the night train from Dehradun to carry me home. The rush of the wind brings to me the tinkling music of her anklets and I am mesmerized by the vacant expectation of this night, and it is then, in that moment suspended by the creaking of the door that it dawns on me that the power-cut tonight is her frivolous conspiracy. I am at once her enemy, her lover, her playmate, and the confidant of gossip-loving crickets. They are watching me from the window, and I am once more a specter of their imagination. I am restless with the weight of everything unwritten; chaos around me is a swirling storm of desire and I turn over to the other side and surrender to the moonlight singing.

There was neither non-existence nor existence then; there was neither the realm of space nor the sky which is beyond. What stirred? Where? In whose protection? Was there water, bottomlessly deep?
There was neither death nor immortality then. There was no distinguishing sign of night nor of day. That one breathed, windless, by its own impulse. Other than that there was nothing beyond.
Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning; with no distinguishing sign, all this was water. The life force that was covered with emptiness, that one arose from the power of heat.
Desire came upon that one in the beginning; that was the first seed of mind. Poets seeking in their heart with wisdom found the bond of existence in non-existence.
Their cord was extended across. Was there below? Was there above? There were seed-placers; there were powers. There was impulse beneath; there was surrender above.
Who really knows? Who will here proclaim it? Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation? The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe. Who then knows whence it has arisen?
Whence this creation has arisen- perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not- the one who looks down on it, in the highest heaven, only he knows – or perhaps he does not know.

(10.129; the Rig Veda)