Thursday, January 16, 2014

Gathering Stillness

If someone asked me what I have in abundance, I'd say stillness. And yet that is the single emotion( if it can be called that) which scares me. I seem to have some special ability to meet some of the most still people that nature could have produced. Extremely interesting people, in their own ways, endowed with the enduring capacity to be still. 

During my college days, I would often travel from college to home in night buses, during holidays. During one of these journeys I once met a man who sat next to me and talked nineteen to dozen, shared silly jokes, trying to make me laugh, related anecdotes, for most of the journey while I hmm d and nodded in my limited conversation and listened mostly to what he might be actually trying to convey. At the end of sometime, he turned towards me and said, 'Talk, I'm scared of silences' Over the years we kept in touch, we wrote to each other, became fast friends. But as time went by I discovered that there began to be more of shared silences than shared conversation. My last communication with him was about 2 years back, when I had asked him how things were and he had replied, 'Sitting in my office making faces at the walls.' I hear from common friends that he has not spoken in a long time, to no one.

Sometime back, I met a fellow writer over a social networking site. We would sporadically exchange notes on what we wrote, talk of absurd things that had no connection with each other, forming a strange but happy bond. One fine day, he disappeared. Ultimately people disappear is what I have come to understand, whether you like it or not they do, perhaps because they want to or because they have become like blank pages with nothing written on it, not even the wish to write. Out of the blue, I receive a mail, I'm well and writing a book about trees that speak to each other. I write a long mail back.

A few evenings back I walked on a road and I saw stillness again. An old woman, she sat on the pavement. Still. Orange saree, a black petticoat, red bangles, silver anklets. I had almost walked past her when her face registered and I walked back to see her again. I've never seen clearer brown and more tired eyes, wondering if years of neglect and indifference had rendered them inscrutable like the Bangalore skyline,where everyday is a yesterday and a tomorrow. She looked like the high priestess of elegance somehow, lover of cigars, an imperfect life? She gave me the shivers, though I wanted to sit next to her and ask, 'how long before you're gone still too?'

Sunday, January 5, 2014

When Begum Akhtar wafted in..

By some odd calender description
you and I were supposed to talk.

I stretched a little finger,
into a daunting charcoal emptiness..
Begum Akhtar wafted in
from the corner of a window,
high above.
Tonight, her voice sounded tired.
I looked up,
from where
Raag Desh had caressed
for some time now.

The Begum seemed quiet,contemplative-
lonely as my disquiet sky
vague as her ghostly horizons
and yet she sang,
like a poet's fruitless lines
resignation in every line,
ecstasy in every glimmer.

-© 2013 Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury