Saturday, February 14, 2009



~:To Blu:~
Amor Vincit Omnia, but in Dust We Trust
(And) My birthday wishes...for Feb 20

[traffic in Bangalore]

[...and my thoughts bounce back to find me: alone]

What is so special about sitting in a cab and going to my friends'? I could have troubled him, because he'd volunteered to do it all by himself, like a gentleman; but I kept that as an option. I wanted to give him the advantage he was entitled to; and I guess he was sort of relieved when he asked me over. At least for an instant he must have surveyed his vast playing field; I was relieved, because I'd been bored stiff(1). Only, he wasn't long here in this city so he hadn't the free time that he could know.

His place was some ten kilometres from where I was staying; ten kilometres in a taxi or an automobile, that is. Something struck me as odd. It was plain that he was not playing his full hand; his place felt familiar; likewise, his demeanour—what little of it he spilled in the few seconds it took me to tiptoe to the settee—was composed, but suddenly jittery now that the hour was upon him.

The drawing room had a studied laxness to it, most of which effect was due to the stifling multiplicity of books. Books of every kind, but, as I said, somewhat too easy in their lack of order. I wouldn't have cared but for the fact that there were a number of trade paperbacks—ones you rarely saw even in the television channels. You really couldn't get them from even the big stores. I'll fix you down yet, my brawns and noble man! First discordant note; but I wasn't going to make an issue out of it. I could just as well have walked into a room stuffed with cannabis or grass or mush; this was a lot better though it was quite out of the ordinary. Of course, being the egomaniac that I was, it only inflamed me; like I'd somehow missed an important clue. But I had never even noticed this comic-strip side of his personality. Could it be—but that alarming thought never struck me then.

The room was lit in packets of incandescence: there were at least half a dozen lamps, all carefully calibrated and focused, to highlight artifacts, so that the room looked queerly like a cave. He was a collector, and that would be one of the starting premises for the amateur of crime. He split the line dividing art and technique; but often, an artist needs to be technical. I noticed a luxuriant quilt, Farsi in its rich detailing, carelessly slapped on a sloping divan. It was so tempting that I suddenly allowed myself to be Pauline(2) resting on it. For a few moments I felt like winner. And then, I noticed him, looking at me intently but still with that dissipated, studentlike quivering. But I'd still not played my hand.

He seemed quite all right but for his heavy, sleepy eyes. It was obvious he'd not slept well or much. And it was then I noticed in a lowly lit corner of the room an easel covered with gauze. O, dear me! Another blow! He was taking me down really quickly.

Luckily, I'd taken that devastating sidelong glance whilst clutching at one of the spokes of a rather Danish looking steeply chair. And I vaguely recollect swirling down and slowly bottoming in its reassuring felt upholstery. Felt? Velveteen? I fairly bounced myself from the bottom of pitiless despair, as though to make sure it had sunken in.

I braced myself for a light-and-sound show. It was just a question of bedazzling each other, I thought. I cursed the day I took it upon myself to descend upon his senses in all my intellectual fluorescence. My bulbs were faintly blinking, right now. But no; the lights did not glimmer or fade, I'd just been buttered up for something else. He twisted it in even further, delightful wretch! He offered me coffee, and toast seasoned with mayonnaise, jam, and a little chocolate. Even as I sunk my teeth into a third helping, I wondered if it was a mistake or culinary virtuosity. Delicious either way—so it mattered little.

Naturally, I was thirsty after my swept-off gastronomic abandon. His carefully chosen menu ensured that: It was almost 75 percent fat. After a while I sensed it was not me munching munchies but it was a huge succulent black forest chewing on me, gulping me down, as I wound down a circuitous and treachery country-lane in Schwarzenwald on my 911(3).

We both sensed the instant when we were both alone, intent, heads on the anvil—the moment of decision. Like bees buzzing, our minds full and our thoughts reeling in all directions, extending its spread and licking in the little flies and prey. But we both knew that every bee would tire in its time, and so also did ours; we were waiting merely for the eyes to lock up. It would come any moment because we were no longer shy, having gauged each others egotism and selfishness and found all in working order. And, in a sublime moment, almost idiotic in its ardency, the lock was acquired, and we were alone and isolated and we felt rather lost but resolute. No one, indeed nothing else, existed, pure consciousness, awareness of each other, awareness of another body, heaving, measuring, calculating, quivering, on the balance. Not simply awareness, it was as though something had been clasped into yours; it was not a decision to be made but inevitability. We felt clapped together, and it was only our selfishness that delayed the obvious. It was delicious because we both lazed under the impression that the other was forcing it whereas we were going at the same things and with the same ardency or lack. In lust, the inevitable is merely prolonged for obvious reasons. And it often is merely a habit, not a decision; supremely fit specimens could do without tarrying.

We fell. But afterwards, we talked. Which is to say, it was quite a pleasurable evening. And then it dawned on us that we'd been right in deciding not to talk, right in pursuing the course of events as they unfolded. In short—we were quite happy for each other.

We talked quite a bit afterward. We were not tired, not unduly, that is to say. And we just chatted...chattered. About the weather, about the books, about art, about chemistry...and about each other and about our prospects. He was a hard man, and it almost surprised me how he could forget his hardness. That is to say, he was speaking his harsh views of things with such a mellow tone that for a few moments you forgot he was actually tearing things down. I was amazed at how clinically precise his casual observations were, how cutting, and how devastating it would be to be at the end of his stick. But he talked only when prodded. Or he would have been lynched long ago, he had a knack of hitting you where it hurt worst. If he chose to talk, the other ones would have no option but to kill him outright. It was not his logic, it was not his eloquence; it was the firm conviction with which he shone forth, so you could say it was a combination of everything lethal the spoken word could offer. And he was—if you were careless enough to let him be—quite insufferable, because his words always pointed a finger at you no matter who or what he was talking about. He swallowed everything, himself included, and he spat it out like putrid flesh. And he shadowed you like a con man.

I don't recall how the conversation turned and I started my bit. And then I guess let myself go. I fell for that trick. In hindsight, I could perhaps console myself that he was soliloquising. But my repartee was the opening of floodgate. Traditional, bitchy, I felt like a cow afterward but I recall that I loved it while I poured it out. What was I thinking? Maybe it went like this. One confidence deserved another...or, rather, one ear deserved another. We couldn't either of us assume the Odysseus-Penelope roleplaying. He wasn't Odysseus because he was suitably stacked; he didn't want my riches. And I wasn't exactly Penelope, because I was not exactly ugly though I wasn't rich by any yardstick. I was independent but not a vampire; I just moved on when it became too hot to handle, and I similarly appreciated it when the guy thought likewise and slipped from my grasp.

...But my headhunting days were over.

(1) He was convinced I would buy his version of whatever he was selling because my position, too, was plain to see.

(2) The sculpture by Canova.

(3) Try it on NFS Porsche Unlimited, just like I did...!

This... is where we actually rejoin the protagonist of
Distances. Five years have passed. And I myself have taken quite a while, sufficiently long to again grow distant from my characters. But...I'm digressing. No more spoilers. Let's just say that in the meantime I've suffered quite a bit, endured an ordeal of sorts, and am now in the right frame of mind and cushioned by the right sort of reassurance (cushion is always psychosomatic but the conditions for replicating it are not well defined) to continue writing. In contrast to what other writers may say, the only drug I need to write is peace of mind. And when I'm not even thinking about writing it, the events unfold and I just go there with an umbrella to shade me from the sun.

I had drafted about 300 words and then left to watch over Baby. The power failed (and it was not yet time for the daily half-an hour of load shedding), and the PC went out like the light. (I haven't replaced the battery set on my four-year-old UPS.) This is drafted in Composer, and since I was just starting out, I hadn't yet saved it. Poof! went the first version of the file. It was, arguably, a better, crisper version—ever more so because I am now burdened by a sense of loss, and am vainly trying to figure out the mood in which I had composed those fifteen odd lines.

To offset the loss, and to absolve myself of any continuing affectation, I am leaving out those four paragraphs which might have set the story properly. What we now have is a more dramatic cutting-in; but I guess this one's going to take a while coming, so I'd better put it all down immediately before it leaves me or before the power fails.

[1549/321::1861. Minor edits and proofing. x15]

And this specially for Raphæl: I had to make a start somewhere. This is just that, and you may yet get your serial. In time, in time. But I do have to say: the best things in life are episodic, those moments don't drag on. So too, those chance meetings pictured in Eleonora and in Distances. The great attraction of these meetings was their one-offness. From the moment those meetings became possible, the moment he and she became aware, they were aware of the uniqueness rather than awkwardness. Those moments would never ever come again. When the world was sleeping, when the rest were not looking, they were thrown together to confide in each other a little. That was the magic. I could not forget that I have carried meandering thoughts of this sort in my head for kilometres as the school bus spun around the same roads every day and i kept awake in a delirium. It was intoxication in anticipation of this tête-à-tête that never came. It never was love; there never was any contact, so it never escalated to that. My friend Mr S had a rather squarely-dismissive term for it—a pipe dream(4)
. Love or attraction or whatever else had little to do with that magic. It was just the gravity of the moment.

And, much as I'd like to reinvent a story of true-blue love in Bangalore in 1997, I realise it's a near-impossible task if I'm to steer clear of all the cliché combinations of man-woman love. That is, I can't keep it sanitary and interesting at the same time. Perhaps I could do it short-term; all I ever try to do is short-term, and this will be no different.

He'd consumed his bit of Kubla Khan I presume. I was aware of his reading of Coleridge even then; he made no secret of it. He'd sent me a poem in which this motif figured prominently (It was an invective against the very teenage-boy habit of daydreaming, if I remember correctly.) (And sorry for this footnote to an endnote with parenthetical apologies. It's becoming a disease.)

[373, this special for Raphæl]

No comments: