Joy in the Junk

Once used to the environment they find themselves in, children find joy–at least momentary ones–in the dust, among broken machines, in the concrete rubble heaps of war, under the roofless slum houses, though those in oppressive conditions would have to get back to their torturous realities after a brief period of joy.

Adults! Hmmm! What they do in search of joy, in search of happiness! Unhappy about happiness. Tired of searching for rest.

Yayati

Shots from the Liberty Theater director Uttam Kumar‘s Yayati translated and adapted by playwright Ksh. Sanajaoba from Girish Karnad’s play of the same name. The play premiered at LIBRAICK auditorium on 27 May, 2017.

I am not yet aware of the players and other necessary details. I will add them on the go.

Uttam Kumar and Ksh. Sanajaoba

While rolling up the sleeves for my film, Walking Home, I met the Liberty Theater director, Uttam Kumar and Manipuri playwright, Ksh. Sanajaoba at the Laipham Loknung pukhri on the outskirts of Kakching on 6 March 2017. They were having a lunch party there as a kick-start for the Yayati (translated and adapted from Girish Karnad’s text in English by Sanajaoba), which was to be premiered on 27 May 2017.

Uttam Kumar (Director, Liberty Theater, Kakching)

Ksh. Sanajaoba, a Manipuri playwright

Jotin Kumar Singing Surmai Akhiyon Mein

Nobody knows why he does not choose to be a singer when he has such a golden voice.

Here he sings K.J. Yesudas’s Surmai Akhiyon Mein from Balu Mahendra’s 1983 drama Sadma. Karaoke.

This song was recorded at the Robert Leishangthem Workstation, right at the heart of Kakching keithel, where all the noise of the market and the street flowed in from one side and three walls blocked it like an echo chamber.

Why aren’t you a singer, Jotin?

Photographer Jotin Kumar sings Saawariya a cappella.

Jotin himself recorded this song in a small studio not designed for music recording. Without any instrument accompaniment. I doubt he positioned the mic properly :). I did no editing, except increasing the volume because the volume level of my laptop speakers is terribly low, and I am not sure how this is going to sound despite Jotin’s golden voice.

Failed Comedy: Chewing Gum

Here I sit where time terminates
My tired legs hanging off the cliff into the other zone
Listening to the noiseless sounds beyond these gates
Still feeling the hard end of time’s long bone
Brooding on rock climbing, climbers and mountains
Chewing the gum over why things are as they are over the mains.

Man of Word

Vysakh R on his last night (11 May 2017) at JNU, New Delhi. I designed this word-cloud portrait on the night of 14 May. The words are from a couple of my unfinished poems.

In the Woods

Son of an impractical philosopher type of guy with a taste for literature, I got inured to hard work, privation and stoic life, and all the more importantly, as it will have consequence to the rest of my life, to abstract things, quite very early in life. When I think of my father, now a diabetic invalid, and then of myself, I can’t but think life is too vast  a field for one person to live the entirety of it, but when you choose to live only certain parts of it, that may turn out too narrow to support its own weight that you sink. An economist of an artist–perhaps a flawed one–I don’t like many things about life to form part of the art called my life (for example, I hate earning for survival, detest eating, hate me being wished unmeant and meaningless good mornings and birthdays, the formalities of life such as schools, colleges, universities, jobs, making friends, chit-chats, workshops, conferences, etc.), and I don’t want to go through these processes, and without me undergoing them, I have to pay for it, by ruining my own life, and that is what I am doing, most of the time. That is why I am in a troubled relationship with life.

As a boy, I wanted to become a painter, philosopher, sculptor, dancer, filmmaker. Some sort of artist. But I always wanted to live in the woods without much contact with the world. Then at school, another ambition caught hold of my mind–a scientist. A physicist. Working in the field of energy. I read a lot. Actually a lot. Infatuated. I did not know what formalities it took for one to first go through before one reaches there. You need to pass through a lots of gates, and the gatekeepers don’t let you pass that easily. I took up science at secondary school, where my first ever ambition was shattered. A lot of things happened. I gave up that ambition. Streaks of that desire still swell weakly in me, once in a while. Quite a familiar stranger now. A sleeper in me. Deep sleeper. One thing that has made sleep beautiful for me is this sleeper inside me. In deep slumber, turning over once in a while.

What do you want to do in life? I ask myself. Nothing. Seriously, nothing. I can paint, think, dance, and believe I can still do sculpture. Clay. Wood. That’s just the force of life. Primitive. Like the wind blowing, dogs barking or wagging tails, stone just being hard on the cold ground. They serve no purpose. I have no purpose in life–not just mine, I see no purpose in life and this is making me feel empty. Just purposeless, I don’t want to enjoy life. Gay abandon. Eating around. Sleeping around. Fucking around. No carpe diem for me, please. No advice.

Why is it that humans, at least some of them, want to die when they have nothing to do in life? Do they want some job to do in life? Do they want to be busy? No. It’s not that simple. To exist, to undergo the process of existence in the stark meaninglessness, is a torture. Injustice. It is irritating. But why don’t I just commit suicide? Why not just blow my brains out? I wonder why I don’t do this–kill myself? Seriously. I don’t know. It seems like underneath I am a detective, justice of the law of the universe, that senses something is not quite right and wants to figure this out and fix it. Sort of some buried anger deep inside me. A quiet but burning desire to bring the culprit–if we can call it so–to justice. This is the violence in me. The cool violence. The icy cold stiff die-hard, stoic in me. Waiting patiently. But punching once in a while into the walls, on the floor, breaking my valuables all of a sudden. As if madness emerging out of nowhere. The violence in me.

Art gives me solace. I am an artist. I live as an art. My life is a work of art. There is pleasure in this art, this me. And I am not for show. How does art give me solace? Art distracts me from the meaningless elements of life. I remove parts of life I think do harm to life. Weeds. I live like an editor of life. Artists are editors of life. I edit my life. I live in my edited world. But it is also true that I want to die along with art–this art. This art is too delicate for the wake-up knock on the door. The membrane between the rumbling life and this dream called art is too thin and fragile. But I do not know how I come to the conclusion that death puts everything to rest. What is that logic? I am not sure. No, I am not sure.

I have no ambition in life. That’s true. No ambition. That did not result from any failure or fear of failure or any kind of fear. I just don’t like much about life. But that much of life I like, I want to live that much in the woods. Raising a small family. Raising birds and animals, too, as part of my family. Fish. Feeding them. Flowers. Trees. Farming. Producing my own food. Being part of nature. Dying of snakebite or being tiger-food. Or dying in the lap of my wife, surrounded by my children and grandchildren. Or dying alone in a cold bed. Unseen by any, except fruitflies. That would be a pleasing one. That is the life I am looking forward to now.

Konsam Kulladhvaja

A cute light smile spread across his pensive face when he saw me during a literary program in Manipur in mid January this year. He still recognized me after over ten years. The first and the last time we met was at  a translation workshop in Kakching in 2005. He, like participant, patronized me, though quite distantly–I was a young boy then, and the youngest translator.

We walked out. He extended a hand to me, and I clasped it in both of my hands. “How are you, sir?” I asked. “Spent!” His reply was cool and quiet as ever. I had to strain my ears when I first met him. Later it occurred to me that we are almost equal in this regard–remaining within our own auditory comfort zones, both of us are not much considerate to our listeners.

Konsam Kulladhvaja, a Manipuri literary critic

I recognized the smell emanating from his person. Alcohol. He has always loved that, since when I first knew him. In any case, that goes well with him.

When I requested for a photograph giving the reason “You are going into history,” he did not protest but he was not enthusiastic either. But the expression on his face was not for words to describe. My camera was yet to be held up.

Three Artists

Depression broods in art. Anger chafes in art. The fires, cries and deaths of war do not spare art. Every human thing touches art. Still, there is something about art that keeps it cool. You will rediscover the innocence of humans in old men of art being together. Just being happy, without any reason. Just being together. Just listening to each other’s songs. A cappella. Just listening to each other’s poems or short stories.

These guys are such folks. I photographed them after a literary program in Manipur early this year. January 2017. From left to right:

Usham Nirjitkumar (singer)
Rajen Moirangthem (short story writer)
Thangjam Ibopishak (poet)

Forgotten Self, Unfinished Poems

The grey curls from the ash tray
trail up like an unwilling soul
stretched from life to death.
Somewhere in the dark under the thatch rafters
they would meet with the spiral
up from the cigarette between his fingers
and the infrequent clouds from the lips.
He’s smoking away the night—
the night comes in a whirlpool into his cigarette,
mazing through that stuff of the tube,
turning into brooding smoke on the other side
in the cave that blows it back out
in clouds into where it belongs.
Bored, I had gone out time and again,
spilled my heart out in the moonless night
wide as a fisher’s net, to see
if anything in the dark interests me

I found this untitled, unfinished poem when I organize my usually messy desktop today. Too messy today. The MS Word properties say it was written on 7 January 2017. Left unfinished. Many poems. In fact most poems. Yes, I often delete unfinished poem, when I cannot finish them, when I am not in the same mood as I was in when I wrote the original piece. I don’t know why I wrote this. Not in the same mood.

Here is another piece. Left unfinished on the same day–7 January 2017. This one is titled, but certainly unfinished:

Melody at Dawn

This dawn the rain suddenly comes.
I had thrown my wishes up in the skies,
my memories too, where they’d come from.
and I’d forgotten about the rains.
Now suddenly the drops of the rain
come a long way and patter these ancients
against my doors and window panes,
on the dusty leaves in the garden
and the hard long-dry ground—
they must be kicking up the dust
the air smells of the dusty long sigh
of the earth and the vegetation
at the first rain of the season
after they have held their breath for long.
From the balcony I see the dark all around wet,
the sound all around are wet
and the strings of rain run on in the dark
and the drops of rain beat on in the wet.

January 2017. That was when I was so deeply depressed, if I remember it correctly. And when I did not want to talk with anybody or see anybody. I remember I wanted to flee Delhi, but I could not yet do so until 16 January after I had done the formalities at my university, which I wanted to run away from too. I was in no mood to see a single human being, especially the ones I have known and am familiar with.

I more often than not delete unfinished poems. I know I would not ever be able to finish them. I have not done it today. I don’t know why.

Forgotten moods. Forgotten pieces of my self. The idea of the self! How much do I know about myself, if knowledge is made of memory? I forget most about myself. So life goes on. Forgotten promises to myself. Forgotten wishes, left unattended. Pieces of life left unlived. Strange pieces of life I have rather lived, without having wished at all.