Sunday, November 20, 2011

Aiming the Impossible: An Artist's Memoir-VI

When you are alone and feel like holding on to something, you’d better look for yourself. I was alone there, then, at the bus shelter.

Yet, I was visible and present. For me, being present meant something else too, other than just breathing, eating talking with people and writing exams: painting. I found myself in that pale and lonely night doing graffiti on the wall of the bus shelter.

The following morning brought some admirers with its first light for the graffiti; the picture of a man standing in front of a dark box within a pale background. For the ones who looked more closely there was a surprise too. Within the dark box, there was a pair of secret eyes, addressing directly at the admirers, leaving the observers with a horrible sense of vulnerability. But no, no artist is sure of what he had achieved with his work of art. His success is that single moment when he realizes his finished work. But I was sure of one thing; my father would come to the bus shelter for getting his bus to Kannur.

I left the shelter at nine in the morning, just one hour before the time my father would arrive at the bus shelter. And by the time I had earned about 50 rupees from the contributions made by the admirers of my graffiti work. Most of them were curious to see what the young man in their neighbourhood had done. For the villagers, I was not an artist, not the man with colours, but just a jobless young man, who now had done something curious on the wall of the public bus shelter. I was no way close to the real “I” in their eyes. Sometimes, strangely, what one becomes in life is inextricable from what others think of one, especially parents. Taking up this theory, the absence of the “I” was justified.

After spending the rest of the day in Kannur beach, in the evening I went to my usual road side tea shop. There I met the writer, who was there the day before yesterday as well. What I felt different about this person (in whose blog now you read these words), was his eye for wisdom.

“Writing is part inspiration and part memory,” the writer said. “The memory of a distant self that one believes once he was. But in my case, that self is a vague word, an apparition which at once scares me and fills me with hopelessness. There is no time in my life any more. The more I worry about making a living, the more time slips away leaving myself strayed from the path I wanted to walk; writing.”

He seemed wanting to talk about something that worried his life. Perhaps he was looking for a companion to share his problems. I was not sure if this was the same thought that went through his mind. However, it was the same I thought of doing then. But something stopped me at first in sharing my story with the writer. I always felt that in order to share something, I must first take care of the proud emotional self. That proud self might find it degrading me sharing something. It's always concerned if I could go vulnerable once I shared something crucial. I could not tell him what I am, jobless, since it unravels the wounds of the proud emotional self. So I lied. “I am an art teacher, at the Art College, in Kannur. I do it for money, for sustaining my life. Being an artist and art teacher are different things, entirely.”

I was, I thought.

“Nobody knows what I feel in my mind. Perhaps you would know, because you are an artist, too.” I said.

He seemed lost in thoughts for sometime. Then he said something that I could not make out. But one word caught my attention: “Write.” It was an imperative. A sense of happiness came over me, euphoria. Sometimes what we feel is like how we deal with seasons. We live through every season, have been aware of all the measures that should be taken during each season and know what should be sowed and reaped in each season. But each time, each season leaves us bewildered, with its unpredictability.

Pacha’s memoir concludes here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

(Contd.) Aiming the Impossible: An Artist's Memoir

“Prakash Pacha is dead!”
“Artist Pacha passed away.”
I visualized these headlines in my mind. One was more proximate, the first headline. The second seemed much far away; the artist, which I could never be.

Though the visualization itself had no material grounding and just a hypothetical exercise in order to find an answer to a question that never existed, the process of imagining these titles gave me some sort of satisfaction. Peace. But then an acute sense of tragedy overwhelmed me. I was the tragedy. If I die now, my death would be a suicide. And suicides would be reported as ‘suicides’ not “death” or “passed away”, moreover, which news paper would cover my death. I was nothing, which I still am, for that matter. The sense of this tragic nothingness pushed me even harder than my genitor.

“What are you saying? Are you hoping God would help you? Then spread your hands and wait; let me see who would come to help you.”
My ears never rang, but that day.

My self had been divided into two; logical and emotional. My mind had reached the end of a monotonous indifference. For no specific reason, I felt slightly uplifted. I felt a delicate smile trailing through the right end of my lips, the euphoria of a warrior running towards his enemy soldier to kill or get killed. My logic had been forcing me to go back home. It showed me the fear of the wall my absence could build inside my family. It made me think about the lack of any sleeping space, and free food in the future; being an outcast sounded luxury. I trusted none of my friends to come for my help in hard time. Not because I was unfaithful to them or they are not good people, but they had their own problems to deal with and life had its own betrayal games to play with them.

No. I do not blame any of my dear and near. I love my family. I love all of them. I am the culprit. I could not face them. I realized I was slipping into a dark dungeon. My smile had vanished. The pale light seemed to diminish. I sat down on the concrete slab in the shelter. It was my emotional self, reminding me of another sort of loss, a loss that I could never be able to fill; the loss of love. My beloved ones are abandoning me because I pursued a path that was deemed impossible. I saw in the dim light the distant shape of a temple. I closed my eyes and prayed. I apologized, to a God that was darkness in the pale street light, for what I had done to my family. We sometimes say sorry and hardly mean it. That was one of such moments in my life.   

I got off the bus that dropped me close to my home, in the local bus station. The rest of the distance home should be walked. But my feet stood still. There was a bus shelter nearby. I went in.

There were very few people in the bus station, as it was half past nine at night. I wanted to hold on to someone or something. I wanted to be looked at by some empathetic eye. And I found a pair of eyes at the shelter looking unfriendly at the new arrival in the limited space. Perhaps it was a beggar. I could not see in the dim light inside the shelter.

Being an artist and an art work oneself are two different things. The latter is more threatening. I felt one at that time; the portrait of a confused young man, inside a dark cubbyhole, the bus shelter, with a pale background. It was the street bulb. I was ever more visible in that picture than at any other point in time. It was confusing too. I was alone, but with a beggar who is just a patch in the darkness of the portrait. But still I was visible more than being with all those who belonged in my family, those streaks of brilliant colours.

I thought of my painting at home about the “Impossible Flight”. The pigeon that took the flight had the form of an eagle. A pigeon transformed into an eagle. “When you follow something no one else believed worth following, you will undergo tremendous transformation.” John Varghese had said.

The pale colour was also the colour of uncertainty, or that was how I fixed it in my mind. There was no such accepted notion I hear anywhere which defined the colour between yellow and white as the colour of uncertainty. It was my decision, my choice. It is ridiculous how we all cling to our obstinacy to live on when the ground below our feet skips away mercilessly. Perhaps it is life that makes us adamant. Life is a teacher that teaches thorough a series of betrayals.

John Varghese had said something else too. What Varghese said did not fit proper with any of my divided selves. It was altogether a different situation. “Transformation means resurrection too,” John Varghese had said.

So I chose.
I decided not to go back home.
{Will be continued in the next post}

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Live from London: Book Review

The essential ingredients for writing a best selling chick lit are: a feisty protagonist, some personality quirks that would essentially land her into troubles, her misadventures, and as the final nail, an exotic setting. In Live from London, you find nothing.

In this grossly irritating Indian English misadventure, the writer has pathetically failed to strike any cords with the readers. Parinda Joshi sets her story--I mean if we can presume what is described in the book a story-- in London. The novel lacks a well structured plot, good characters, fine dialogues, events that show some sort of connection with each other and anything else that can be worthy of pursuing in the process of reading a novel.

This is not due to my frustration of wasting time reading this worthless crap of a book, but rather a sort of brotherly and friendly warning to all those who decide to spend a couple of hundreds to buy this book from market and investing their precious time reading. The book costs Rs 195. And the only worth paragraph that strikes you could be seen in page number 131. The second paragraph; which goes like this: “I was devastated, I lay crying on my couch all evening. I could feel the flames from the fireplace swallowing me. Every tear brought back memories; his smile, his touch and his promises. My favourite poster of him that used to be the highlight of my desk at work was now hanging on my celery green wall. I continued to stare at it with numerous silent questions in my eyes and he looked back at me from that poster, his eyes still piercing, not saying a thing.”

The reason why I quoted the whole paragraph here is simple; it is an unwritten rule that in order to write a good book review, one should address the positive sides of the book rather than just ranting at the negatives. Here, I found myself in a predicament. The situation I was in held multisided impacts. One was the time I spent with this book. That I never am going to get back. The second concern was the positive side; there was none worth mentioning. Then this paragraph came to me like a soothing breeze. Indeed, that is the metaphor I must use for this paragraph. In the eerie sterility of the novel, this paragraph stands out with its touch of melancholy and consistency in its feel and basic idea, something that you should not expect in Live from London, a soothing breeze.   

Scenes move from paragraph to paragraph giving no hint at where and when what had happened. The novel opens with the protagonist’s failure in Britain’s Got Talent reality show. She then lands up as an intern in a music label company. There she gets into a relationship with Nick Navjot Chapman, a young Indo-Canadian singer. Due to some misunderstandings and also due to couple of other reasons Nishi Gupta, the protagonist returns to India. She starts a new career as an anchor in one of India’s biggest reality shows. Wow! I summarized the novel quite well. But do not expect half the fun if you actually intend to read the book.

The guitar that is shown in the cover page too has no crucial role in the story. Nishi plays it in the Britain’s Got Talent show and miserably fails, and at intervals the author tries to make it a point to tell us that Nishi is a guitarist, as if saying Lord Voldemort has his powers hidden in his wand.

This book reminded me of some of the best chick lits I have ever read: The Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella, but only to feel lost and disappointed. 

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!