Mary the Mannequin (SOC experiment)

What do you get when you close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and write anything that comes to your head? I had heard of writers doing this before. Virginia Woolf, Michael Cunningham,  John Frusciante of Red Hot Chilli Peppers, others. It’s a great exercise to loosen that writer’s block- that’s for sure. My first stream of consciousness experiment- unedited, right from the mad hat.

painted orchids around my

neckline tied with window

shopping around neon-lit

mannequins i’ve asked to

marry me, marry me

Mary I promise you our odds

even out my god

of probability and the universe

will tremble to it’s knees

when you utter the words

like magic will free my tiny locked

heart and explode in a magnificent

big bang my veins pink champagne

dinosaurs in my stomach

Say yes, yes, yes

now, not long now

before it’s closing time, again.

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All rights of this image are reserved by Yago Partal. To see more of his awesome zoo portraits, visit http://www.zooportraits.com.

 

Chapter 5 *Elephants on the road*

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It’s been three years since I’ve been writing this book. Part fiction, part experience. Sometimes I’ve loved writing it. Other times I felt like I needed to write it. Some stories need to be coughed out. Chapter 5- Dive in folks. Everything you need to know about the book is here.

Sixty three days ago, when I had packed my backpack and stolen some money from my father’s desk drawer, I had started running the moment my feet stepped out of the bamboo gate. Even though no one was home my feet raced to the end of the road, to the colony gate, as if even a glimpse of my mother, my father or even one of the maids would make me freeze in time. I had hoped the letter would explain something, and offer some respite, if not consolation. Wasn’t this something sixteen year olds, the rebels without a cause did? I had looked at my reflection through a car window and my stubble glowed like wildfire. No, it wasn’t an act of rebellion; it was more sacred than that, and definitely more urgent. Before I boarded the 329, I smoked a menthol cigarette, the last remainder of Zar, of Sarojini Nagar, of the university, of Tiger.

I climbed in with that blooming head rush, looking back to the road that lead home. Everything seemed surreal to me, as If I was watching a memory slowly sliding down a waterfall, disappearing into rising vapours- familiar faces, shops, trees, all floating backwards into the smog as if a gigantic landslide was forcing them away from my bus. I turned to the road ahead and immediately felt a little better. It was long and unfamiliar, strange and unknown, all the things that I needed at the moment. The bus jerked to a stop on the market road, right where it narrowed, interrupted by a huge procession of a brass band. Dressed in synthetic red uniforms, yellow feathers adorning their caps, they painted a picture of  grizzled grandiosity. Every white glove moved animatedly with a sparkling instrument, followed by four dancing ponies, two elephants, all decorated elaborately with bright colours and traditional punjabi attire.

 Aati Rahengi Bahaaren,   (Springs will come)

Jaati Rahengi Bahaaren   (Springs will leave)

 My departure was being thoroughly celebrated by the stinking rich bureaucrats of South Delhi.I got down as swarms of passengers descended into the road like insects on a honey jar. One of the horses was moving her legs rhythmically to the beat while the baraatis gyrated around her, pumping champagne. Before I knew it, I was thrust into the procession, behind the whisky saxophone and the dhols, right between the two elephants. I liked it there, hidden from the overdressed men and their shining wives, and voices of my past seemed distant in that narrow space.

“L-e-a-v-i-ng home, are we mister super-tramp?” a hoarse voice stammered in a British accent on one side.

“ And which tremendous force of existential crisis has pushed you to take such a step?” the other voice boomed, with a slight brush of the trunk. I straightened my backpack and did not reply.

“You know, both of us tried to run away once too, but Raja here was hit by a bloody bus on the highway near the banks of Yamuna.”  Raja bobbed his head silently. I noticed he was missing half an ear on the other side, but it was well concealed by elaborate patterns of bright colours, which stretched from his forehead to his legs. “And Changhez here was the s-m-a-r-t chap who took the bright dec-is-ion of taking the high—wa–y to escape. Of course, who would notice two scrawny el—ep-hants on the na—ti–onal highway?” Raja said tilting his head to my side. “Well, the old chap who was driving the bus didn’t notice you did he?” Changhez bellowed, adjusting the carriage kept on his back with his trunk. This attracted a sharp reprimand from the mahavat who shouted something in Malayalam and showed him a stick. Changhez let out a little shriek.

“Oh, Mister Supertramp finds this amusing. That stick, sir, hits sharper than the bridegroom’s mustache.” Changez said, widening his shadowed elephant eyes.  Raja guffawed, as if he’d heard something extremely witty.

“Let me ask you a question, Changez ?” I shouted. The brass band was deafening now as the bridegroom’s uncle was handing out packets of notes.

Both trunks nodded in sync.

“Why the hell do you have a British accent?”

Raja let out an exasperated sigh and Changez nodded his head in disappointment. My limited intellect had missed the obvious.

“What do you think we are, Mister supertramp, some unkempt beasts from the Western Ghats? Dear sir, absolutely not.” Changez put out his trunk to my face. It smelled peculiar, of a mixture of grass and ripe bananas. “We are successors of the Raj. Yes, you heard us. Our grandfather was the..the.. royal comma-nder in chief’s wagon in Lutyen’s Delhi.” Raja stuttered with some pride.

“From the Raj to Raju Brass Band in Sarojini Nagar? ”

Changez groaned and stamped his foot loudly. Raja looked me straight in the eye, curled his trunk around my neck and said, “ Look around you, mister supertramp.” I turned around.

The bus was still stranded, leading rows of honking cars and scooters, their drivers busy in a flurry of  sympathetic expletives; the bridegroom’s friends forcing a bottle of scotch down his throat; members of the “Raju Brass Band” busy collecting falling notes ; but constantly missing them on their instruments. I felt for that moment, that I was inside a TV trying to tune itself to sense. Chaos. Nothing but a mad mix of hair and beasts and saxophones and alcohol, all rolled up on the street that lead to the railway station.

“You pla-n on catching that t-r-ain?” , Raja stammered slowly, weighing every word. 

I thought about what he meant. A teardrop floated upwards from somewhere in my chest and stammered inside my throat, much like Raja. Immediately, I ran back to buy another menthol ciggarette; running, a different kind of running.

 

 

 

 

Mending storms.

Some nights are empty. Like a bottle that’s been wasting away at a bookshelf for far too long, gathering dust, watching silently to be filled up. With anything, anything at all, it can be that rather sweet pink syrup for all it cares; just not this space, this space representing everything that’s not, everything that it could be.  My dog sleeps on my blanket, dreaming. He twitches his face from time to time, jumping in a dreamy garden, chasing cars, fetching frisbees. The fish seem to be holding an intervention in their little corner. Diving around the bubble man in their aquarium, they are going to get through the night just fine.

But my mind is cooking up a storm. It’s heading towards this nice little cottage, with a rather plaid windmill accompanying it. Imagine a photograph if you may, a swirling hurricane in a wide meadow, filled with wooden desks and ties and bills, all going round and round in circles, heading towards the cottage. If the rule of fifths is to be considered, I might be standing at the crosshairs on the bottom-left of the photograph, looking straight ahead. There’s a face peeking out of the only window in the cottage. A face that looks violently familiar, but I can’t remember who it belongs to. Every once in a while she looks at the approaching hurricane with the same, calm expression and looks away. I imagine she’s brewing her last cup of coffee- a good cup was to die for. But looking at the spinning windmill was making me feel queasy. Although it would make a good mixer about right now, the way it was chopping up everything that flew into it, branches, beds, books.  Soon, that beast of a storm is going to hit the tiny cottage and break it like a pack of cards. Already, the tin roof has started to slide away. She comes out of the door now, munching on a little cracker and looks at the roof with quenched eyes. I imagine the dust particles are hitting her like needles. Our eyes meet when she turns. She’s got angry eyes. I turn away.

Yes, I had no right to be taking up my storm everywhere. So I took off my tie and wore it around my head. As the night grew colder, I burned the college grade sheets to keep myself warm. And sometime around midnight, I planted some flowers in that bottle.

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( A painting by the famous American landscape painter, George Innesse)

~Memories of a sunflower

I remember that little girl from my first school. I remember how happy I felt around her, how she tied her hair in a twirled ponytail, how her voice quivered when she sang. But as hard as I try, I can’t remember her face. She comes to me only as a feeling, something which only a boy aged six years could understand. So I began writing a collection of short stories on memories..

~Memories of a sunflower

I noticed you on the roof, watering the lilies. You seemed worried and started whispering to me, so I told you to move around in circles. But then you started going inwards and your circles turned to whirlpools, and I tucked in my life, packed some plans and dived right in with you. I wished we would emerge outside the Ursa Major, the big bear, and ride him into carpets of celestial amnesia. I hoped to remember my dreams, but some things I needed to forget- like the monsoon you abandoned me.

Those cloudy afternoons, I swam and swam until everything I remembered had turned into a song of your whispers. I could hear it resonate across all stardust, it was right there with chuck berry, in the voyager. Some obscure being in a lonely, exploding meteor would fall in love hearing it. It would cock it’s ears to the spacecraft, eyes to the sun and see it’s blinding, furious fire. Like me, it would know crippling love for the first time. The kinds that would make it grow a heart, and orbit around the sun till the end of time. It’s your love that would make planets, nurturing little islands of dreams and oceans of being.

And today, as I face away from that sun, to watch your face, I pray that it’s sunflowers you prefer to lilies. I pray that my god is an animal. I pray that your whirlpools turn to cartwheels, and that you find happiness.

You did. Happiness came in a bunch of purple orchids delivered to your doorstep.And you marked it by plucking me off and setting me in your bun. I didn’t complain in those last hours, I would get a better view than the poor orchids on the fridge.

But I did wonder, Why my story titles were always better than my stories. And where did my stories take me? Into some paragraph in a page I barely remember, strung together in a line, stripped down to a word -Obscure.

 
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(The above painting is Room in Brooklyn By Edward Hopper)