Flowerbelly

A face is a face. It tells you just what it can tell. There are other things besides faces. Faces are not the other things. Humans are addicted to faces. For them everything has a face–houses, cars, computers, mobile phones, bras, underwear, pianos, shoes, food packages, pens, boxes, tin cans, machines, flowers, and what not?

Yes, looks tell you what is what. The face of a mango and the face of a lemon tell themselves from each other. But what about two mangoes? Yes, they look different. But are we concerned only about looks? Yes, most of us don’t care–we are cognitive misers.

Still, there are some slow and quiet people who don’t want to go far in life. They dig miles into the space of a second–a second has space big like wide enough to contain a house or a hospital and deep like an abyss. And they want to fill that depth and width with thoroughly drenched experience. Just a few things for them to wriggle into like worms–enough for them. The world is too big for them. They are too little worms for the world. For them, the face is just one of the things things have, if any. They love the insides of things, which carry their own weight, and that the outside cannot represent. By the same logic, the logic of first impression does not work always for these people. You cannot get all what they are from how they look because they don’t show off. This is true of even those who make an effort to put everything they have on show like shop windows because they are richer than they can show.

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Anil Bhatti

Anil Bhatti, Professor Emeritus, Centre of German Studies, JNU, chairing Andrea Allerkamp’s lecture on Moving Constellations: The Political Challenge of the Aesthetic Regime at the auditorium of School of Arts & Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, on 8 February 2018.

Dr. Andrea Allerkamp

Dr. Andrea Allerkamp (Europa-Universität Viadrina, Frankfurt, Germany) read her paper Moving Constellations: The Political Challenge of the Aesthetic Regime at Auditorium, School of Arts & Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi on 8 February 2018.

The program was chaired by Anil Bhatti, Professor Emeritus, Centre of German Studies, JNU.

The lecture invitation has the following introduction:

In critical philosophy the systematization of sensual perception leads us to two sources of knowledge – sensoriality and intellect. I shall discuss Alexander G. Baumgarten’s fundamental insight into a new discipline of aesthetics. In order to enlarge the realm of legitimate cognition and to include sensual forms in philosophy Baumgarten provokes an epistemological break which operates with poetical terms of transition and similarity: “The path to truth leads from night through dawn to noon”, it says in § 7 of Baumgartens Aesthetica. In Baumgarten’s attempt to overcome the rational metaphysics through a thinking in similarities, we are confronted with a gap between presence and presentation. It is the political dimension of this gap that draws our attention to Jacques Rancière’s aesthetical regime of arts. In modern democracy we have to face the challenge of common places of sensual experience where political conflicts become visible. Rancière’s return to Baumgarten’s Aesthetica is owed to the insight that politics can only exist as a coming to be in narration and poetry: Il y a politique – There are politics.

Indian Philosopher, Divya Dwivedi

Indian Philosopher Divya Dwivedi at the Present of the Day conference in Senate Room, IIT, New Delhi, 22 January 2018. Franson Manjali chaired this last session of the day and French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy read his paper Le Bonheur du Jour. French philologist and philosopher Barbara Cassin also attended the conference. It was organized by Divya

Reality-Symbol Association in Culture

If it is impressed on our minds in infancy, that a certain arbitrary symbol indicates an existing fact; if this same association of emblem and reality is reiterated at the preparatory school, insisted upon at college, and pronounced correct at the university; symbol and fact–or supposed fact–become so intimately blended that it is extremely difficult to disassociate them, even when reason and personal observation teaches us they have no true relationship.
 
Eadweard Muybridge, the famously enigmatic British photographer in America, wrote this in the late 1870s about animal locomotion that had remained elusive to painters until the publication of his epoch-making locomotion photographs in 1872 and its subsequent publicity throughout Europe and America. Painters before that had been representing the gallops and motions of animals erroneously–they failed to reproduce the exact/real positions of the legs and the bodies at different phases of locomotion. As a result, humans had hitherto been having an erroneous idea of the physics of animal movement.”
 
What Muybridge said about animal locomotion applies to culture as well–our association of ideas with symbols, such as mother/father with a country, language with mother, certain idols with gods, flags with nations/states, etc. I personally don’t give weight to these arbitrary associations. Muybridge continues:
So it is with the conventional galloping horse; we have become so accustomed to see it in art that it has imperceptibly dominated our understanding, and we think the representation to be unimpeachable, until we throw all our preconceived impressions on one side, and see the truth by independent observation from Nature herself. During the past few years the artist has become convinced that this definition of the horse’s gallop does not harmonize with his own unbiased impression, and he is making rapid progress in his efforts to sweep away prejudice, and effect the complete reform that is gradually but surely coming.
 
David Company, in his Art and Photography (2002), quotes Georges Memeny’s account of Meissonier’s reaction. Meissonier was a painter who had been struggling to represent the gallop of the horse exactly:
 
The great painter Meissonier … came to our laboratory concerned with the gaits of the horse which he was trying to represent exactly. When he saw the first photographic analyses that we presented to him, he gave a cry of astonishment and accused our camera of seeing falsely. When you give me a horse galloping like this one–and he showed one of his sketches–then I shall be satisfied with your invention. But photography has proved the painters wrong and they have had to modify the gaits of their horses and like the others, Meissonier obeyed the photograph in the end.

তূম্বা য়াদবা অহিং (Insomniac Night)

Last night it rained here in this part of Delhi where I live. Its sound was so sweet. The sound of the rain is my crush. After sleepless nights, days and nights of sleep and wakefulness in fits and starts of about two weeks, finally sleep came heavily on me after 60 hours of sleeplessness at a stretch. The rain continued.

The alarm rang long before dawn. I could not remember setting it. The last time I went to Manipur (yes, recently), I was so busy that such basic things of life as food and sleep became secondary–I worked at the studio day and night, without sleeping for 48 hours or more. I must have set it then, not to miss the dawn run of the Kakching Runners. Things often slip off my mind. But back to Delhi, I have not once heard the alarm ringing. Strange.

When I woke up, it was still raining, though slow. In the dark. I could not go back to sleep. Then memory brought a lot of things back to me. My thought was set into motion. My emotions aroused.

ঙরাং অহিং দেলিগি ঐনা লৈবা মফমদা নোং খরা তাখি৷ মখোলদু য়াম্না নুংশি৷ নোংগি মখোলসি ঐগি ঙাওজবীনি৷ ইতৎ তত্তনা অহিং তূমদবা, খরা তূম্বা য়াও তূমদবা য়াও হপ্তা অনী লৈরকপনা মমৈদা অমুক্তদা পূং ৬০ চূপ্না তূম্লক্ত্রবা মতুংদা ঙরাং অহিংদি য়াম্না তুম্নীংবা ফাওখি৷ নোংদু অদুম তাহৌই৷

নোং ঙানগদবা ৱাৎলিঙৈদা অলার্ম খোংলকই৷ মদু থমখিবা ঐ নীংশিংদ্রে৷ ঐনা মনিপুরদা অকোনবা চৎলুবদা অহিং নুংথিল তূম্বা চাবা খঙদনা ষ্টুদিওদা থবক চিনখিবা, অহিং অনীকা তূমদনা থবক তৌখিবা, মদুদা ককচীং রন্নর্স কাঙবুগা নোং ঙাল্লমদাইদা লমজেল চেনশি হৌনখিবদু শোয়দনবা থমখিবা ওইরম্বা য়াই৷ ঐ খরা কাউগল্লী৷ অদুবু নহানমখৈদি ঐগি ফোনগি অলার্মসি অমুক্তসু খীংলকপা তাদে৷ করিনো খঙদে৷

হৌগৎলকপদা নোং খরা খরা চুরম্লি৷ অমম্বদা৷ অমুক তূম্মু য়াদ্রে। অদুদগিদি করি করিনো য়াম্না নীংশিংলক্লে৷ করি করিনো য়াম্না খল্লক্লে৷ করি করিনো য়াম্না ফাওরক্লে৷

 

(১)
অহিংগি ঈচীক হুনবদা
ঊৎমান মচুগি অনেম্বা অতিয়া মখাদা
কাঙলূপ কাঙলূপ ঊচানশিংদো
মুশুক মশুক
মুরূম মুরূম
অরোনবা অমা তানবগুম
কৈনোমা ৱানা ঙাইবগুম
মীৎশেন খাঙদুনা
(য়ৌরকহন্নীংদবা নুংশিবরা মদো?
কুইরবা অহিংদু নীংশিংলি
মমা মপানা পমদুনা পুরকখিবদু
অচীকপা ময়োম অমা য়ূমদা, অপীকপা মচলগি
তুমিন্না, ঈচীক চীক্না
অরাপ্পা লায়েংশঙদগি৷)
লেঙদবা অহিংবু চুরূপকুম চিংদুনা
নিংথমগি অৱাউবা মনিল কামদুনা৷
অচীকপদা
মখোয়গি ফি তক্নবগি মখোল
মখোয়গি শোরনা চঙবগি থোকপগি৷

নুংশীৎ শীৎলকপদা
মখোয়গি মশমশু মফিশু
মায়কৈ অমদা ফ্র-ফ্র৷
য়েংবশু৷
মখোয়না ঙাইরিবদু নুংশীৎনা চেনবীখ্রগুম
ঊনাগুম মরী মরী
হনুবগি মীৎনদি উদবা৷

২.
তপ!
তপ!
তপ তপ!
তপ!
অতিয়ানা থোঙ থীল্লক্লে
মীৎশেন খাঙলিঙৈ তূম্বা ঊনাগি৷
তূম্বা য়াদবা অহিংদা
অহিংনা ঈচীক হুনবদা
নাকোঙগি ঈখৌলাংবা মখূৎ মশা মরেং ঙম্নমক
মরেঙ মরেঙ লামথোরকই৷
খোঞ্জেল মরীক অমত্তশু!
লৈতাদবা ফমুংদা লোংনা৷

নোংগি অশাংবা মরীশিংদু চেন্থরক্লে
মুশুক মশুকপা ঊচান মরক্তা
মখোলদি ইথোক থোকহন্দ
অরোনবা থবক তৌরিবগুম
হোন্দোক হোঞ্জিন তৌরিবগুম অরোনবা খরা
মালেমগা অতিয়াগগি মরক্তা
তপ্না, য়াম্না তপ্না
অচীকপদা খোঞ্জেলদং থিবা
তূম্বা য়াদবা হনুবতনা তাগদবা মতৌদা৷

৩.
নুমীৎনা মমীৎ পাঙলকপদা
উচেক ৱায়া ঈরাঙ লাঙলে৷
অদুগা লৈমায়–মদু অশিবগি ইমুংগুম
ইহিং হিংই, তরু তরুই,
খোঙ্গুল অমত্তশু তাদে
ঊচানগি শম্না অমত্তসু
ঊনা খরা নত্তনা কদায়দগিনো খঙদবা
অকংবা, কংফাত্তবা, নাপু৷

অরোনববু অশুক লোনব্রনে?

Of God and Men (Part 1)

But little folk who will not climb
Into bed at the proper time
Get acquainted by-and-by
With Sleep’s big brother Hushabye.

“Ssssh,” says Hush to girls and boys,
“Go to sleep, and don’t make a noise.”

As he occasionally does, Stille Quiete looks up from the book—The Raibow Book by Samuil Marshak—toward his sister sleeping soundly on her hospital bed, the head section raised a little to her comfort. The transparent IV solution is dripping from the plastic bag hung from its hanger hook into the drip chamber slowly and regularly, and from there it curls down the tube through the roller clamp, takes a few circular turns where the tube lies in a few casual coils, flows through the needle and finally enters her body. She is recovering from a bad cardiac arrest.

“Eeeyouch!” This time the groan from the other ward is disturbing, both in loudness and the anguish it is filled with. “Mama! Aaaaugh! Somebody kill me please!”

The loud cry, cursing and howling in sharp pain continues in the hospital ward in the wee hour of the night when nobody—no patients and no attendants—makes a noise except for the whizzing of breathing and the rustles of shifting in bed once in a while and an occasional cough or two here and there. His sharp cry rings clearly in the silence and many wake up and sit up without complaining but worried.

“Something is really wrong with this guy.” Toiler Hard, husband of Lina Hard, the patient, turns in the cushioned divan on Stille’s left, which he has turned into a makeshift bed.

The sound disturbing to the others does not disquiet Stille, whose thresholds of the intensity of silence and noise are off the chart. But he quietly puts the open book face down on the steel bedside table with cabinets, walks out the door without a leaf, continues for a while in the corridor and disappears into the long ward on the other side.

With all lights out, the ward is semi-dark, lit only by the cold light from the lamps along the gravel path in the hospital campus on the other side that is thrown on the walls along with the skewed shadows of the windows. The man’s cry and cursing makes it easy for Stille to locate him in the semi-dark.

When Stille sees and approaches him, he finds the reduced, sixtyish-year old body of the man in agony from which the loud, high-pitched cry originates, and he restlessly tosses and turns in his bed in the semi-darkness attended only by a confused pre-teen boy who, at a loss, only keeps readjusting the blanket that keeps slipping off as the man writhes, and an old withered woman in head scarf seated on the naked floor (hospital floors—kneaded by restless shoes with dirt and floor cleaner and smelling of medicines and phthalates, triclosan, ammonia, chlorine and other chemicals—are a dreadful paradox of cleanliness and dirtiness) curled up and leaning on a wall near the foot of the bed, her forehead resting on a palm and the hand supported on the folded knees. A pathetic picture of utter confusion, hopelessness and resignation.

Stille rushes to the staff nurses’ station. In the low light of a power-saving night bulb, the place lies still, the swivel chairs and stainless steel stools empty; the several piles of files, record and register books ranged neatly on the desk, with a couple of medicine boxes lying in the spaces in between; and the visible corners of the open station harboring some unnamable dire-looking light pieces of hospital equipment and a couple of oxygen tanks clamped onto their carts leaning on the wall; a squattish off-white fridge humming at 40 Hz, quite peskily uncomfortable if you continually hear it in the silence.

They must be asleep, Stille thinks. He turns and looks around as he steps slowly, reading the door signs legible from this distance—Nurse Changing Room, Sterilization Room, and here is the Sister on Duty.

A nurse answers his knock and opens the door, her eyes crumpled from lack of sleep. Stille does not have to say much to identify the patient and his problem—she guesses it right and fast, which feels like there being something about it more than years of experience.

When they are back, Stille finds the light on.

“The sedative isn’t working?” She asks when they are at the man’s bedside, looking at the man and then at the empty tube attached to his hand and the plastic IV bag shaking caught on the hanger hook. Her control and casualness could not cover her irritation. The old woman on the floor turns and looks toward the nurse.

“Relax. You are on a sedative.” The nurse hates it that the emaciated man has so high a threshold or is refractory to α-2 adrenergic agonists. She goes round the bed to the other side, removes the connector from the cannula luer lock, caps the lock, casually coils the tube up and hangs the coil on the hook after capping the connector.

She must have been so fed up with that man that she then slips into scolding him loudly in the silence of the night. With a grimace he turns his head to the left and wearily stares at the wall, and his noisy complaints, cries, restless toss and turn stop all of a sudden as if an insensitive reproach were more effective than a sedative. Is he angry with the nurse? Or is he rather thankful that the nurse’s reproach pulls him back out of a dark abyss he has plunged into, like a 200–1000-volt shock defibrillates an arrested heart quivering into a final rest.

She swings the doors of the two cabinets on the bedside table one after another and looks casually into them. Then as she rises, she pushes the doors back in listlessly just to leave them half-open and leaves without a word further. A newcomer, who arrived the last evening just a few hours ago, Stille cannot not understand a thing about it.

“What’s he suffering from?” Stille asks the boy.

“I don’t know,” he says innocently.

The old woman has retreated into her somber silence.

The light goes out a few seconds after the nurse’s departure, and turning round to see any sign of who may be doing that, Stille catches, three beds away, a grainy glimpse of a black figure in the dark move from the wall and it fades into the pervasive darkness below the level of the beds. Used to gloomy rooms and finding the cold light reflected from the wall in this part end of the ward sufficient, he does not complain. The old woman and the boy also seem to be accustomed to darkness.

Stille turns to the agonizing man, ready to do something about him. But the man confuses him—he complains his chest is burning and Stille attends, and almost at the same moment he says his feet are icy cold. Stille checks and they are not, but he removes the blanket from over the man’s chest to fold it up and cover his feet. Then the complaints pile up–“This head is frozen. Oh, my feet–burning. My chest–something pierces me. Ah, cold chest. Cold feet. Hot head.” All almost simultaneously–he just takes time to give words to what is happening to him, it seems. It is like ice, fire and pain are running here and there all over his body, taking turns to occupy different parts of the body momentarily. Stille shifts the blanket very fast and massages the muscles as the pains ghost around.

Despite all Stille’s sweating, the man’s complaint does not subside. Amid his breathless moaning, he asks for water. Stille looks at the boy who is standing still and confused on the other side of the bed opposite him—he does not move in response to “water,” the man’s thirst.

“Water!” Stille says.

“Run out of it,” he replies resignedly.

The woman on the floor shifts in response and glances slightly toward us, apparently apologetically. The weak light through the windows from the hospital campus thrown on the walls cannot light up her face enough, but it seems she is wiping a few drops of fresh tear off her cheeks.

Stille tosses off a twenty rupees note from his pocket and gives it to the boy.

“Go run. Fast as you can.”

The boy disappears and Stille continues to help the man as he keeps rolling and complaining, but not so terribly as he did before.

 

Go the Of God and Men (Part 2)

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.

Bokeh in Lakeshore Evening

The stirs of life slow down to rest
at sunset—they don’t like the dark much.
The streets, closed malls and parks—
they are left to the homelss, dogs, cats,
lost newcomers and nocturnal tourists.

I sit on a shapeless rock growing out of the sand.
Through the sunset. After the sunset.

Dull sounds of oars hitting gunwales—yea,
I saw some lazy boats off the shore in the twilight.
The sound of water lapping against the shore.
A dog barking at a far distance.
Nameless noises of being wriggling in the silence.
A cat teaching its kitten cat tricks
on the white table at my room verandah.
Idiot. Useless things.
There are more important things.

I have brought my eyes back to myself
and keep them about myself only to sense
almost imperceptible ghostly shadows
coming into their curtailed field.
I look at nothing particular—
I just remain capable of seeing.

I sit on the shapeless rock growing out of the sand.
Through the sunset. After the sunset.

The sounds of a familiar language are brought
by the wind, the wave forms twisted into unintelligible shapes,
into a strange language or a non-language.
Just the voices kept intact as humans’.
They must be walking arm in arm in the sand.
In love. In the breeze. The evening soon to pass.
Long tuned to the silence and pressures in the nocturnal air,
you can sense the presence and absence
of movements around.

My mind sits at the center of the quiet
weaving a thought without an idea in it.
Thought in bokehs of ideas.

My photographer friend would say
this is a beautiful scene.

Dancing in the Dark

Even as I looked, I didn’t see
how it seeped into the port–
the ship of shadows docks
with dancers dancing in the dark
mixing darkness with dance and dancers,
the mix filling the mould
bubbling out sound and silence.

In the absence without pressure,
noiseless sounds ooze out of the ears
to creep for a flash unsensed
before yielding to the yawning thirst.

Failed Man

Failure is a beautiful thing–
the most beautiful but the hardest to live.
A beauty you avoid, an art you fear,
one you like only from a distance
as your negative space.
The best men in the world
are failed men.
They keep failing. Beautiful men.
Hopes crumble down in their laps,
brick by brick–those they laid one by one–
into shapeless rubble heaps,
formless grains of dust and mass of wastes,
in sounds from the mute fall of airborne dust
to the soundless noise
following the crashing of towers
and skyscrappers onto the dust
where the sky begins.
Meaningless until you hear them on a tape
meaningless until you rub
and feel their roughness on the canvas.
Failed men breathe through the wreck,
speak in nonsense–
a tongue of a different frequency range
where sound and matter merge.