Venerations

[1]

It was a moonlit night. I swayed from side to side as the boat that carried me floated down the blackness of the river. The river was not still; he was turbulent. He gurgled and bubbled and foamed at his mouth as he dashed against the rocks, which held him not captive, against the wind, who only wanted to aid him, against the earth, who rested back, and was allowing the wanton child his pleasure. Yet the river surged, restless. Where did he want to go? What did he want to go away from? And why was I allowing my boat to be carried by his fancies? Was I his, or was he mine? Was I, with my lazy oar, trying to egg him, encourage him push him on his journey from nowhere to nowhere? Was he, with his spirit of rebellion, trying to take me with him to the lands where all waters flow? From my boat, I leaned over, and in the foamy waters, my hands sunk, bringing forth a sparkling liquid diamond that I wetted my lips with. And as his restlessness ran through me, rousing my consciousness, I became one with him, and plunged into the river, streaking my way across him, along with him. When I was long gone, to be away from nowhere, leaving my lonely, faithful boat behind, the brook still babbled, the night bird screeched, and the winds hushed them silently, hurrying through the crevices of the leaves and fronds. And she looked on with a beatific smile.

[2]

Do you remember the day when we played with the dolls? We decked them, decorated them frilled them, paraded them, promenaded them. Do you remember how empty their eyes looked? I remember how bright yours were! There was a vapid smile on their faces, a smile bereft of all emotion, a smile that tried to express too many emotions all at once. They moved their limp arms and legs as we wanted them to move. They nodded and shook their spineless necks with such vigor of purpose! And you, and I, you and I who played with them, laughed and cried and smiled and frowned and pretended anger and faked sorrow. Tell me, what were we trying to do? Did we try to impersonate the dolls? Did we try to make our fatuous friends take on the hue and color of our minds? Was this attempt just? Justified? Honest? I do not know. All I know is that you tickled the rubber belly of the doll, and I…I burst into squeals of laughter.

[3]

I am on the swing, and my feet brush against the earth on every subsequent rise and fall of my fluctuating fortunes. It is with a resounding kick that I push myself up, up, up…against the air, along with it. You stand there. I see you, but not with my eyes. You stand, your arms folded, with a smile on your face. I do not question your meanings and motives. But the lure of the sky, who beckons me with his enticing wares of white cotton candy and vastness and eternal solitude, is too much for me. As simply as a child needs its mother, a man his sleep, an addict his source, the river its sea, and the moon the sun, I needed the sky. I exhorted you. “Push me up. Higher. I want to touch the sky.” You obliged. Higher and higher and higher I went, crashing to the earth, moving back with equal momentum, when you pushed me higher up. “Higher!” I demanded. “I want it! Make me touch the sky!” When I came down to meet the earth this time, I folded my feet under me lest the friction skin my soles raw. I was elated, honored, exalted, by my sway over you…did I not make you do my bidding? Yet, I own, I was afraid, more than a ‘little’ afraid, of thee. And confusion overtook me, for why should I fear that which came from me, that which is me? Thy enormous power pushed me higher and higher and higher…till my hands scratched the blueness. My fingers turned blue, the blueness wrapped itself around the clamminess of my lonely heart. I was one with the blueness. My soft brown eyes turned a hard, blazing blue, as the sky was born in them. With a piece of the sky held in my palms, as the only offering to thee who made me possible, I, I returned to the earth. The clouds broke where I had grabbed them, and the water from them fell to the earth. As I finally turned to meet thine eyes, I found that I was not able to do so. Whether it was because I was afraid the newly found power in mine could hurt yours, or because I was afraid the gentleness in thine would put mine to shame, or whether I was afraid of the combined strength of that which was ‘ours’, I do not know. My eyes, blue, sought the countenance of the stolid brown earth, she who gave me, me, and me, thee. The trees surrounding us in the Glade of the Swing had already made their offering, white flowers dotted the surface of the earth. The flowers on the trees, followed suit, they sought the comfort of their mother, and drooped downward, looking at the earth. The rain flowed into the deepest crevices of the earth, taking the earth’s brown for its own, imparting its own characteristic moisture to the hard dry cakes of soil. And in that moment, that infinite moment, when I saw the earth and thee, me, when I silently held out my offering, mine, to thee, thine, when my gaze followed that of the white flowers, when their redolence awakened long sleeping sensations which were born with the birth of the universe, I saw thee, I saw thy eyes, I saw everything that makes thee, thee, in me. And in that infinite moment of hesitation, I was thee.

[4]

I accost my friend, the darkness. I seek the comfort of his presence. I beseech him to share with me, the primordial essence of eternity, that darkness which exists in every light that strives to be one with that awesome, all encompassing, compassionate darkness. I am but a crude picture of perfection. My lines are not as fine as the hand of perfection demands. My waves lack the form of stiff white foam that gives shape to the blue clouds of water. My song lacks not in tone nor timbre nor rhythm, but it cannot equal the silence of the winds before the storm at daybreak. My darkness is not untainted with light. Yet, I hasten to invite him into my bosom. I remove the shrouds and veils that have had me ensconced in them from ever since I can remember. No stray glimmer of light should set their velvety sheen aflame. I strip myself bare of my wristlets and anklets and diamonds in my ears and about my neck which might throw my face into relief and shadows. I try to bring out the darkness in me. Yet, try as I might, I am not able to rob these eyes of mine of their glint of Gubraithian fire. My hair is one with its luster, and my skin is one with its luminescent glow. My own fire burns with such great exothermicity that the heat glows and grows and feeds upon itself, making the blackness I have strived to create, red, the red of mountainous earth, the red of vermilion and henna, the red threads of blood, the red rings on the cheeks of the sun at twilight as she blushes when the arms of the earth and sky embrace her, the Red the communist tries to find in vain. I soldier on, trying to integrate these silent ruddy coals with the blackness that is, and was, theirs. The last vestiges of light, I try to wipe away from my consciousness. In this darkness, the pictures on my wall come alive. The words that I have written, with the ink still freshly wet on the surface, shine in the blackness and beckon to that in me which gave birth to them. Thy face recedes into a memory. Instead comes to my vision, thee, that smile of yours I did not see, I have never seen. As I walk on and on towards the waiting arms of darkness, the walls seem to crumble and become one with the earth that bore it. There is only the hard blackness of the earth below, the starless perfection of the sky overhead, and with darkness for the only companion, I wait. I await thee.

[5]

One night, with thee for my companion, I paced the corridors, up, down, up, down. Thy restlessness, thy gentleness, thy integrity, thy spirit, I tried to analyze. Thy only reply was a smile. In that moment of turbulence, I espied the instrument I play. She was swathed in cloth and dust sheets and wrappers, and she was propped up on pillows and cushions, like the febrile humans who passed past her without even a look. Her fever, I knew immediately, was born out of neglect, despair and indifference. I stopped my conversation with thee, mid sentence, and hastened to free my instrument of all its bonds and ties. I tore her clothes and covers and sheets and pillows off her slimness, and she stood, modest, demure, before me. She was made of wood, wood from long dead trees, wood that had fed itself on the milk of my mother, the earth… wood that came alive in my fingers. Her wood was augmented with earth, the finest soil her mother could give out of herself, earth, shaped, fueled, soul-ed… by me. Her wood was cut, hewn, into precise constructs…designed, by me. My mother’s veins and nerves, the streaks of ore in her stone, has been refined, amalgamated, made into strings, stretched across the wood, the wood that came from the Earth who bore me, the wood I cut and planed and constructed, the wood laid across the bosom of the Earth, drawing from within her fundamental resonance for me to play with. As I held her, as my bones and skin cradled her wood, as my fingers plucked her strings and held them in proper tension, as the air in the pores of her earth forced themselves out in perfect unison with my intention, with my force, with my thought, with my action, as the unyielding wood forced the melody out…oh! The earth in me spoke with the earth in her, my force with her string, my bone with her wood. We had never been apart, not one second. For before her birth, before my conception, we had always been together in the depths of the earth, and it was that eternal togetherness that spoke in the sweet sad lilting tunes thou forces upon her. And then, it was not me and her, it was we, it was us, it was I. And when I looked back at thee, listening, the same unchanged smile on thy face, my face broke into a smile too, a smile born out of the very music I played, a smile for thee, her, us, I.

[6]

Often, when I am by myself, I think of this: “I am sitting on the sand, and in front of me, the restless sea plays ‘kabaddi’ with the earth, trying to roll itself out, trying to play with his earth-mother. Foam dribbles at his drooling mouth and crests his handsome waves, and the child prances on, no knowledge of his own might, his own strength. The endless cycle continues, and I am but the modest spectator of his antics. The coconut fronds far, far away wave their arms in the sea-wind. The smell of the salt rises its head and freely wanders all around me. The kite flyers fly their kites, and the sea rears its head to watch the wind and paper fight it out in the blue, blue, sky, who is already in him. I watch all these things, and the wind blows my hair about my face. My hands clasp my knees, and without a care in the world, I watch them. And thou? Thou sits beside me, thou sees, with thine eyes, everything that I see. Thou dost not talk, and I do not break the silence. We, are one, in the silence, with the silence, that silent silence, that soundless silence, that sweetest music of all tones and timbres, that we created. And, I see thee, in the sea, in the sky, in the kites, in the fleecy clouds and fronded palms, in the eternal conversations of silence, in my own reflection in the things I see.”

[7]

I clutch thy hand with the trusting instinct of the child who knows no better companion in the world. The crowds fascinate me. The acrobats jump over the walls of flame and walk over taut ropes. The fire eaters drink, with apparent enjoyment, that fearsome yellow monster thou hath told me would ‘burn’. The dancers dance, and their dance radiate a mindless joy that I strive to find the meaning of. Their steps waken the heart beat of the Earth, her feeble beats which speak of her life, amplified a million times in their rhythm. Their song crawls into the very roots of my hair. The parrots screech and cackle. The men and women, they hold baskets of flowers aloft, they move to give their god their gifts. I watch, open mouthed. Green, green leaves of betel turn blood red as the mouths chew them and spit the blood out. Huge mounds of sweets piled all over. Laughing young women, hiding wide white grins in cunning smiles, flummoxing their ardent pursuers. A fortune teller promises to tell me my future. A doctor with strange roots promises to cure me of my stranger, non existent ailments. He, yonder, displays a seven eyed fish. I have long let go of thy hand, and I have walked long and deep into the fascinating crowd of heads. Wherever I turn, my sight is filled with wonderful delights, new in its very novelty. I have almost forgotten the existence of thee. And finally, when I encounter the temple square, with its rearing monster of a head, the gentle giants in attendance, when the people all around look down at the child, me, as their ‘God’, and rush towards me, whether to hold me up in their arms and cherish me and pet me and exalt me, or to do away with me for once and for all by making me a sacrificial offering, my fear, my fear I had no inkling that even existed inside me, came out in a single breathed scream. I ran back down the road that I had so ardently admired just a few moments back, ran back to thee, where you sat patiently, awaiting my return, knowing that I would return to thee. As I rushed back into thy arms, my scream of terror culminates in one of absolute relief, as I say that word aloud: “Father!”

[23.11.2007]