Follow Me on Twitter
Slideshow Image 1

Recent Posts

Friday, August 28, 2009

Cries and Whispers

            Cries and Whispers

Where does a tear emerge from? is it from tiny pores of the eye or from the thousand invisible pores of the mind? does it drop off from the shivering body like wind shattering the water on the tree or does it ascend down like rain when the grey clouds of solitude cover the soul? does it seep from the floors of the spirit drenching the mind or does it break the walls of the eye and collide into the being? Where does a tear emerge from? a tear emerges from truth. Yes truth. We cry at the moment of truth, the truth of an intolerable pain, the truth of an unbearable revelation, the truth of an irreparable loss, the truth of an irreversible moment. When left alone in the dark room with just a candle of truth we all cry without being able to handle the brightness of that tiny candle. I am an atheist, but I believe truth is god, crying is a prayer and tears are an offering. And whisper? whisper emerges from our most secret chambers, any whisper is an indulgence with a secret, a whisper is the wind which blows into the keyhole of a guarded room, a whisper hides more than what it reveals. Ingmar Bergman made a movie in 1972 called Cries and Whispers (Viskningar och rop- Swedish) which has become the benchmark of art that cinema is, and for years people have interpreted it with a hundred emotions. My interpretation literally translates Cries and Whispers into Truths and secrets and its infinite possibilities. A behavioural study of the human mind with respect to reality and disguise, a peep inside the well of the dark emotions, relationships, hypocrisies and insecurities. An artist’s impression of the human mind. A tale which takes you a ride into the complexities but teaches more about the path left behind. A fable amidst all its morbidity proposes selfless love as the only virtue to sustain life.

The film opens with Agnes a middle age spinster who is on the verge of death, a disease is slowly eating her insides, causing moments of tremendous pain and agony. She is cared by her two sisters Karin, Maria who have come taking a break from their daily lives to be with their sister. Then there is the fourth women who completes the circle, Anna a long time servant who takes total care of Agnes in her hour of pain.  The story is the exploration of the insides of these four women who live together in a old Swedish manor house. We slowly learn about the human beings they are, for Agnes pain is an everyday suffering she requests comfort in the presence of her sisters, but her sisters Karin and Maria slowly we learn, are women with shallow and pretentious traits. They are physically and mentally distant from each other and except for their sorry faces there is nothing they feel from the heart for the sufferings of Agnes. Karin is in total disgust with others, she has lost the belief in love or touch, she loathes herself and everybody around her in secrecy. Maria too distains herself from her sister but she is very obvious and weak, not able to care for others because of her self-centeredness, she is unable to sympathise for anyone. But the drama of love and care unfolds in between them everyday with Anna being the only true soul in the house who reaches out with the warmth of love. In non linear sequences we slowly learn about these three women who are somehow are the observers of a gradual death. Maria has been infidel to the man who truly loves her and Karin has a painful history of a disturbed childhood and a fruitless married life. Anna a mother who lost her child, lives with the sisters taking care and giving out love. With the plot firmly set, Bergman slowly reveals the human mind which dwells in the constant battle of love and hate. The characters break to tears, not able to handle the pain both physically and mentally. The intrusion of the thinking is so close that we are not able to handle such realities that are usually not discussed or agreed upon. The death finally happens after enough revelations, screams, cries, whispers and pain. The house is closed down and the inmates leave back to their false lives and Anna the only true soul who expected nothing takes only the diary of Agnes which reads or paints the climax where the three sisters are seen happily on a swing on a perfect autumn day. Agnes being comforted by the presence of her loved ones, and looking at the distant green meadows, says “I feel profoundly grateful to my life, which gives me so much." The screen closes as our heads drop down, down enough to look inside ourselves.

This is not a movie, this is an experience. Not entertainment but enlightenment of some kind. It should be watched with the indulgence of someone looking at a piece of art hanging on the walls of an ancient museum. Or like reading a very intense literature. Never before a movie was so intruding, never before it explored the dark state of human condition, at times becoming tough for us to endure it. Bergman chose women as his subjects as the women mind always has deeper kept secrets, there are men in the movie but not as intense as its women. The performances requires the weirdest emotions to be portrayed on screen. In a scene Karin and Maria enter into an confront, Karen reveals how she hated Maria right from her childhood, the most intense scene of the movie. The reactions that Karin gives out after revealing a truth disturbs you than words ever can describe. The movie is set in a house which is filled with blood red walls, carpets, and in a set up which actually replicates the bloody vacuum of the human mind. The vision of the movie is claustrophobic that at times you need some breath. The cinematography captures very very deep close-ups trying to capture every single emotions through the face. The film projects itself into the insides of the eye than the outsides. Later you understand that the film was not even made for you to watch, but it was the work of filmmaker whose vision in life was to capture everything that he believed to be documented. Ingmar Bergman, is a phenomenon who for decades has inspired all those filmmakers who wished to take the art to a greater level, to a more profound and honest level.

For sight the movie looks like a very bleak tale, then you think of Anna the poor servant who knows nothing but simple, straightforward, and selfless love. Not the selfless love that we show to the people around us and the people whom we already love, but the spiritually selfless love on every human. Anna would have cared for Maria and Karen too, because she is made only by love. Anna is the soul of the movie, and she silently proposes love as a remedy to all the misfortunes of the mind. Anna is an ideal image that we don't get to see around, because selfless love on every human is tougher to practice than said. There is this dream sequence where the dead Agnes wakes up and calls for her sisters to hold her hands and give her the warmth, but the sisters refuse and scream at the corpse and run away in disgust. Anna comes to Agnes. Anna makes Agnes sleep on her naked bosoms, giving the sufferer the warmth of the human flesh. The corpse of Agnes is shown lying down on Anna’s breasts in comfort and love. It is in this particular scene we understand the magnificence of the movie, for the movie reveals more than it hides, it cries more than it whispers, for the movie not only locks you down in a room filled with darkness, but also lights a candle.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bus no.36

The summers of the early 90’s were hotter than what they are today. I still remember those particular days where a women would stand with her little kids under the sun, waiting for a bus which would take them to her native. The women was Mom and her two little kids were Arun and I. I remember them like looking through a framed photograph. The day, the bus stop under the splendid sun, those brown sarees that Amma wore, those bags which travelled with us, the flowered slippers and "irumbu-kai” mayaavi comics that I would have just completed during the travel. I remember them because that is the way that particular day unfolded, summer after summer, year after year.The first day after school closure, we would have travelled from our home in the sub-urbs of Madurai towards my mothers native home in a village distant from Coimbatore. In the last leg of our journey we would stand there in the bus stop, waiting for our bus. Arun and I would make a cushion with our bags, calling names, cursing and fighting. The bus was the only means that we had those days to reach our village. The bus had its own timings, so we had to wait for hours at times. My eyes would have been frozen on the road, looking at the distant vehicles to find our bus in their midst. I would be looking at the name boards from a distance and updating their numbers to Mom. A hundred busses would cross my eyes then 2, 47B, 62, 28, 31A each had their own numbers and their own routes. The bus was my only hope to take me to a place where i loved being. My little village. My escapade of school days. Hours would pass, and sometime in the evening when the sun drops down, I would see the bus at a distance. I would shout “Amma, namma bus ma”. And the moment would come to life. The wait for a bus to arrive has its own share of surprises. As we lift the bags the bus sporting the number 36 would float towards us. When we get in, I would know i am going nowhere else, but home. I would go sit near the windows with a grin which overflows my lips. I would hold those iron rods of the window and sit there like I shared something special with the bus. As if the bus bus belonged to our ancestors, as if the bus was a car that my family never had. For my mom, getting into the bus was like getting into a neighbours house in the village. For she had travelled in it from the day it started visiting her village. It was this bus she would have left her village after marriage.It was in this bus she would have brought me and Arun when we were born. She would sit there in peace as if she was speaking with an old friend. People in the bus would be those she knew from childhood, smiles would be exchanged and greeting be shared. The bus was a part of my village that travelled on roads. I would feel safe in there, and sitting in the lap of mom i could see it travel through the same village roads, the same groves, same cactus grown lands, same moon lit nights, and stopping exactly the same stops every time. We would be the last to alight. I would run down to hug Mama who would be waiting for us, and when i look back the empty bus would honk its good bye and would be slowly fading in sight.

The world was a more closed place then, we all lived like drops floating in the bottom of a glass bottle. There were imaginary walls built around places and we stayed inside the warmth of those walls. I spent my summer inside those walls that were built around my village. And the bus was like a magical dragon which took us through the city. The bus came to the village fives times a day, twice in the morning and night and once in the noon. To catch another bus the people had to walk at least for 3kms. the bus no.36 was the lifeline of the place, from taking people to work, affording distant learning to the village children, bringing raw materials to agriculture, bringing grooms to the possible brides, transporting the aged and the sick, the bus was their only way to keep up with the world. We were not so rich then, we only had our grandpa’s old cycle in our place. So we only had the bus to move around. I still remember every time i came home i would prepare a timetable of the bus timings and stick it in the back covers of my comic books. We left the village once a week. Arun and i would dress at our best and stand with Mama on those sand ridden bus stop by the village temple. Then it had a very silvery white paint with thirukkural written on all the possible curves, there were some happy looking conductors and drivers. We travelled a lot sitting by the window seats, to parks, to temples, to doctors, to hotels, to get seeds to plant, to get chocolates for our birthdays which fell in may, towards distant relatives, to those summer exhibitions, to travel in giant wheels and eat masala pappads, to movies which were a craze for all the three of us. I remember the day when we travelled back from watching Jurassic park, i was excited like hell jumping and making dinosaur movements in the pathways. Telling to people how huge those animals looked and how big and sharp each teeth was. A part of life happened in those journeys. The sense of belonging the bus gives you and takes from you cant be explained. The toughest of journeys happened every year on the last day of summer hols, when we would be reluctantly taken back to Madurai. I cried a big deal then, i would lock myself in a room for hours believing that they may let me stay. I would never want to go back then. I would go hug patti and bleed my heart out to her “naan pogala patti, ill stay here and join the village school” and all those childish cries. But after hours of threatening and pleading I would be standing at the bus stop to catch the last 36. When the bus leaves, in the distance i would see either Patti or Chiti wiping their eyes. I would with a long face, lie on the windows of the bus. The moment I had to get down fro 36 would be the toughest, like all the strings of the holidays were cut down, like i am no more inside the warmth and love, like bidding goodbye to a very dear friend. A huge pain would plunge the heart to see the bus move away from sight, for it would take one more year and one more day under the sun, to see the bus again and to step back into it.

Years of the same cycle passed, I came to the same village to continue my graduation. To a college located in the busiest roads of the city. The first day when i went to college no one came with me, but i took the bus .That day was exciting, to dream of the next phase of your life sitting in the same old bus which has seen you grow up till day. When i got down looking at the huge arch proclaiming the name of the most sought after institution, i stepped down from 36 and it felt like there were hundreds who came with me to drop me at college. Before i left for the stint at hostel, and before i got a bike to roam around, the bus took me to college. To wait for the bus with those single books in hand, to cling at the footboards challenging life and death, to seat three or four school going kids in the lap, to start behaving like a grown up, to get home with a heavy heart after getting my first arrear, to hear a romantic song on the FM playing in the bus and to think of the girls who disturbed sleep then, the windows of the bus opened up to a lot of dreams. The bus was a very part of all those transformations. Then with time i got my own bike and the dependency on the bus became minimal. We have had enough cars and bikes at home then, the bus was only a way of alternate transportation. But, whenever i found a chance to be in the bus, i could see that it gave me the same warmth like when it gave me in my childhood. Now, the bus is no more the life line of the village, but it has not lost its love to the people it still visits the place five times a day, still transporting them in its huge rusted compartment. I have not travelled a big deal across the world. I may or I may not, but a journey i would want to take all my life would be the journey again sitting near the painted steel grills of the bus and looking through the window as the age old breeze scatters around. Through the same windows of 36 i would look at the way the landscape has transformed, the way the little tress have grown in those distant grooves, the way the cactus grown lands have started hosting houses with little children, and in the soothing closeness that the ambience of the bus gives, in my aesthetic loneliness i would be lost in the thought of those thousand little journeys which i had in the bus. Journeys which began in the insides of a little bus, journeys which have ended up becoming the most cherished memories of my lifetime.

PS: Sometime last week when the night slowly opened up to another morning and as the first rays floated around the village, i left the house for work. At a distance from the village i saw the bus. After months i saw the bus again. The driver and conductor should have left for a cup of chai. The bus stood there, empty. I parked my bike nearby and stood there looking at the bus. The same old bus. The same old friend. I didn’t go up to it, but we both kept looking at each other for a long time. A very peaceful moment passed in between us. Then I left, and from a distance i could see the bus slowly fading in sight, honking its way into the village.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On a nightfall

And the night fell on me, like a woman trying to spread on me with her wild kisses, like being immersed into a dark ocean of stars, like the sky breaking the roof and colliding into my sleep, the night fell on me, and i was awake. I was still lying alone in the gloom, on a cot of wires. Around me the limestone walls which aged a century glowed meekly in the dark. The tiled roofs patterned a series of dark brown lines, hiding in them were a few wooden lizards which usually creak a sound which always fell into my loneliness. Today they were quiet. People were asleep so was the village around. The house was still breathing, and i could feel it on my skin. I reached my hands to a little pot of water beneath my bed. It looked chilled by the breeze that was roaming around the walls. I quenched a thirst that never was, and again I lied down in silence thinking about the dark and moist night that was filling in the room. Yes!, the night is as moist as a tear, the night is as dark as our depths. The day begins from the sky but the night begins from the land. I looked at the floor around me and wondered if the night was slowly seeping from the million invisible pores of the land. I tossed around the wired bed and a beam of brightness fell on my eyelids. It was the moon on the other end. Through a glassed tile in the midst of the sand ones, i could see the moon floating on the sky. Usual sight for me to be waken up to the sight of the moon. We kept looking at each other through the blur of the glass. We had witnessed each other enough that only a silence prevailed to fulfill the distance. The lonely moon floated on the sky as a lonely man floated on his bed. The moon is the perfect symbolism to solitude. It has been there with its precious solitude, dreaming alone in the night when the rest of the universe is still asleep.The moon is not the source of the night like what the sun is to the day. A moon is just a companion to the night, a shepherd who guides the herd of stars into the wilderness of the night. He lets them feed on the night and rests himself on the shadow of tree and dreams as he always does. The night is the habitat of the moon.But the night exists without the moon for the night is not just the absence of light but the uncontrolled glow of the dark. The night is a huge vacuum pot into which we throw our secrets. The night like a faithful guardian has safeguarded the secrets of humanity, the night still has stories about Adam's first kiss.

The night jumps like a blind cat leaping from the edges of the day. While breaking away from work in night shifts, and walking alone into the night, I have seen the night lying down as a tired cat with its blind eyes glowing in the dark. Then a cup of tea would taste more when it is flavoured with a drop of the night. I would stand there on the empty roads far away from work and wonder if night is just a huge dusky bird which keeps flying around the world and the darkness is just a shadow that the birds wing descents on the earth. The night bird with it pulls the strings of time, in its mighty wings it carries the globe around. The night is the invisible dark river which is flowing from the origins of time heading towards the end of eternity. The dark river on whose shores we sleep after we get back roaming in the yellow sands of the day. The light of the day drops from the mammaries of the night, like a cattle feeding on milk the light of the day feeds itself from the darkness of the night. Night is always for the awaken and soon the smell of the night slowly enters my nose and thereby reaching my inbound pores. I look around to see that the moon has left its place. Only darkness prevailed over the glass. In sometime the same glass above my head will host the sun and i would be waking up to the yellow rays. The days are always hosted on top of the nights. Night is not one container of darkness but is made up of million tiny parts which keep floating around us.I lie alone feeling the night. The night slowly crosses over like a music. I become the one acquainted with the night. Like a fountain the night keeps pouring around me in all directions, almost drowning me, then slowly very slowly I close my eyes.
eXTReMe Tracker