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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Debarshi's sequel to my old story

I wrote a sort of ‘story’ a very long time ago, and posted it here in 2007 (More on the lonely mind). Now young Debarshi, who is himself in his early twenties, a whole generation removed but still stirred by what I wrote, has penned his own ‘sequel’ to that story. I reproduce it below, just as he has written it.

More on the lonely mind (continued...)

“I carved the angel in the stone, till I set him free...” goes the famed line, doesn’t it? I am too drowsy to even think straight, let alone reason. One has to find a reason to think, or is it the other way around? Auroras of colour have started exploding like supernovae in my blurred field of vision, heightening my senses, putting me to sleep in this dark world of the senses, where all other fellow beings wake. My chemical romance has started, as I have begun to see my life through the kaleidoscopic vision of my inner eye. Someone has applied a red-hot poker to my very innards, and as I start twisting in pain, I catch myself in the mirror, with a contorted grin. I yelled out loud, demanding to know the identity of the apparition. “It is you, my dear. It is the likeness you have fashioned yourself into, and not the one you should have. Allow me to carve out the real you!” came back the answer. The glass shattered and the mirror cracked from side to side – of course it would, seeing as my hurled vase had found its target. Love built us, and pain shapes us, does it?

You rest your feet on the worn out, moth eaten pillow and stare at the ceiling, lost in thought. The endless stream of demands has finally died down, and you are left all alone with only your poor self for company. The thought gnawing at your mind now starts off as a furious tirade between two opposing factions, conceived in unity and separated by will – the head and the heart. “You must be yourself...”goes the debate. The frames per second rate of the movie playing itself out in your head are too fast to decipher. You let yourself go with the flow. Torn pages flying about, dusty walls, heavy metal, a lot of sound ensuing masking the innate fury, train journeys to nowhere, dying neon lights, dishevelled and shabby clothes, hours of boredom, and watching that ridiculously idiotic television set as if your life depended on it – images fly past, and you grow tired and weary of this world of distractions that is hell-bent on tugging at you with each passing minute.

Visions swimming past, reels changing tack continuously, all these provided me some meaning to this conundrum called Life. Now, they only seem to be the flashbacks of a fool. The chemist could help me out, you say? I laugh it off with a shrug of the shoulders, copying every move from a stereotypical alpha male you all like so much. The Eternal chemist does not even provide me euthanasia for all my prayers. I clutch the pillow tighter to my chest and try to doze off. Sleep will finally overtake me and send me off to a land where defeat and disappointment are accepted as natural precursors and successors to glory. In this madhouse, how does one even keep sane?

I have dreamt of corn-fields awash in the mellow moonlight, of picking up pink shells on the sun-kissed shores and listening to the sound of the old, old sea, of snow-capped peaks and valleys of lush foliage, of snowflakes and the emotions they imbibe in the eyes of all, of dark alleyways with a coffee-house at each turn, of lonely men in a pub sharing their stories as works of beauty which happened to someone else, of arched corridors and the delightful smell arising from old books with dog-eared pages, of stirring, soulful music which makes me free from myself, and of unending tales like the ones of Scheherazade. How can you sleep? You try to bury your head deeper into the pillow, and will yourself to give in to the lovely goddess of Sleep – how she entices you, with promises to play out all your sub-conscious fantasies! Pardon me, I am no Freudian, and so do not get your hopes up. All your defeats, the hypocrisy that masks our lives, the roles you keep on playing – drop the pretence, and be yourself in your own garden of memory, where sun-drenched acacias lend you shade, where the bluebells, germander speedwells, flash smiles at you, willing you to remember, remember your true self, so that you might not forget. Hey, you creep about in your own garden, stealing furtive glances at all others who wander into your memory! It is a dream, alright? How hard it is to be oneself!

You jerk yourself awake, splash water onto your face, grimacing as the cold reality hits you. You are what you have done, and what you will do. Humans are funny: they label this simple stochastic process as a law. You catch sight of yourself in the mirror, and it reflects the state of your soul, instead of yourself. Chaos ensues in your heart, and yet you search for peace! You finally realize that another evening has passed you by – Time is a harsh mistress. Let go of all of your fears, your expectations and start living! – You say to yourself. What’s that shrill trill? It is the beastly mobile phone, with your newest distraction widget, a caller photo flasher application. How can one plaster such fake smiles on their faces? As you start talking nineteen to the dozen, your voice fades away, and your dreams trail away; they realize the futility of a lost battle. Why can you not live between the wondrous moments that ensue between the two wing beats of the fly of Paradise? Searching for permanent happiness in a transitory, surreal, vanishing world, you realize that maybe your heartstrings are out of tune. How does one listen to this tune, amidst the deluge of cacophony? You sleep over it, and you know, your pain will soon be over. Maybe that’s why we realize all our lives, and unravel the mysteries, when we sleep forever in peace. My spirit is away on a wing and a prayer, free from itself finally!


Tanmoy said...

Dear Suvroda

Thank you for posting the story written by Debarshi. I have taken print-outs of both your story and the sequel written by Debarshi to read. I will eventually read it.

Debarshi, though I have not managed to read your story till now but I just wanted to tell you that I am very happy that you took out time to write this sequel. Creative writing is something which is very close to my heart but due to various reasons, currently I am not being able to devote as much time as I would like to. However, creative youngsters like yourself tend to inspire me and to a certain degree force me to sharpen my own skills.

I wish you all the best for your creative pursuits. Keep writing.



Suvro Chatterjee said...

It's been 500+ visits now, Debarshi, and I must say that the (almost complete lack of-) response, disappointing as it is, is no more than what I expected.

We live in a virulently anti-intellectual country, for one thing, and for another, I have as a teacher failed miserably to nurture readers and attract real readers to this blog. So I won't waste my time analysing all the possible reasons why virtually nobody commented on this post. All I'll say is, if you are one those rare people who enjoy serious writing, don't even bother to think of attracting mindful readers: just do it for yourself.

One more time - thank you for taking the trouble to write this 'sequel'. I liked reading it immensely.

Comfort yourself also with the thought that if I had instead of this article posted a soft-porn video, or an essay abusing any particularly gender or community, there would have been thousands of visits and several scores, or very likely hundreds of comments already. Tells us all we want to know about our so-called fellow human beings, doesn't it?

Sayan Datta said...

I have been thinking about writing a comment here for some time now, so here goes –

At the outset, let me confess that I do not understand either of the essays very well. There are parts where I seem to follow the authors pretty nicely, but I haven't been able to, so to speak, hit at the core of the point in question. Having said that I must also add that I find the essays almost poetic, and their capacity to stir the mind unquestionable. Sir's essay seems to me to be a battle between the futility of existence on the one hand and the grand beauty of it on the other; whereas Debarshi seems to be speaking of a battle won. Both seem to be on the trail of a search for the 'real self'. Upon reading the essays, my immediate reaction was to say to myself - Who knows! Who knows whether we are but cogs in the grand machine having no other purpose than to move according to the designs or the laws laid down by the Prime Mover. We want to make life justifiable; we invent theories in order to make sense of it. Logically there should be some sense to life; but whether the creator values logic more than His dice, or uses logic in throwing His dice, no one can tell. The use of Logic itself might be a primitive method of trying to understand 'The Truth'. Reality is surely much deeper, much subtler and perhaps even much nobler. I don’t think I can do any better than to quote John Wheeler – “The hardest part will be in asking the right questions. Why should the universe exist at all? The explanation must be so simple and so beautiful that when we see it we will all say – ‘How could it have been otherwise.’

I think the essays also deal with the phenomena of death and the process of dying. Whether it indeed breaks the deadening effect of the repetition called life and forces us beyond the wall, wherein the limitless potential of the unknown lies, is the question, I think. Does death make us come face to face with reality? Or is it a state of dreamless sleep, I wonder. This question puzzles me, vexes me and even annoys me as does the question ‘Who am I?’ I am reminded of Democritus’ words and Schrodinger’s experiment and I wonder whether God laughs at us, as we, creatures to feeble intellect, try to glimpse ‘reality’.

I will stop rambling at this point. I have tried to interpret the essays in my own way although I know I have not been able to do justice to either of the essays. And for this I apologize.
Sayan Datta

Suvro Chatterjee said...

There, Debarshi, you should be happy now. Just one comment, but from someone who can think, and done us both the inestimable courtesy of applying his mind to our essays!

And thank you, Sayan. I'm sure Debarshi will agree with me that it is not so important to figure out what exactly we were trying to say as to let your own mind be triggered into that exploration of some of the most vital and eternal questions involving creation, existence and the meaning of it all, and allowing us to look into your mind at the same time. You have done a true reader's job, and no one who writes can ask for more.

Debarshi Saha said...

Respected Sir,

Warm regards.I am indeed very happy now!Thank you so much,Tanmoy-Da and Sayan-Sir..Thank you so much indeed!..I really appreciate it!..

Sir,I certainly agree with you..The beauty lies herein..two people can look at the same object and arrive at different conclusions..Our world is such a multi-faceted arena,so multi-dimensional,lending itself to interpretations of all kinds..How wonderful indeed!

With best wishes,

Shilpi said...

I’ll have to offer you a very kind thank you for writing this piece, Debarshi. It made me re-visit the first part, before reading your own essay, if somewhat with a heavy heart at the beginning because I was sure that I would come away feeling vague and perplexed. Perplexed it did make me feel this time around but for entirely different reasons.
The recurrent battle is still on in the human’s mind and within, and in this sequel of yours. Even in this piece. I wish to remember some of the liners here, ‘love built us and pain shapes us’, among some others. This is a line worth reflecting over. I wondered about the ‘reason to think’ liner as well. I would probably put it the other way round even though reason may not open all doors. In this sense I have no idea whether I have stuck to reason too often in my life or not used it often enough.

Your paragraph in the middle where you narrate your dreams reminded me of an essay that Suvro da posted here early last year. The one on memory. It’s worth reading and re-reading the description of the dreams that you have seen. If those are your sleep-dreams or the sleep-dreams of the narrator of your essay then I’d say you/he are doing well in spite the questions, and in spite of the 'mirror cracking from side to side', I'd say that the 'curse' is being avoided. Being oneself in one’s dreams isn’t always an easy thing but sometimes it does happen, by sheer chance maybe or because the Real Self – or whatever one chooses to call it – simply does not let one forget. Sleep sometimes seems and feels like a drug indeed. It can be employed to simply get away from the world as we see it and as it barges upon our senses, and the unconscious movies maybe are what we wait to fill our spirit and soul. This does not work for all humans though. I have dreamt of eating salad, and after half waking up have promptly bought a bowl a salad and only while looking at the salad I have wondered, ‘why on earth…?’. I have had nightmares, but I have also had dreams of such incomparable beauty (at least in sudden frames) that I’ve woken up not knowing whether they were dreams or reality…A few memories too, which rise within sometimes have the enchanting quality of blissful dreams. Strange rather to think of: are our waking dreams then happening somewhere...visions running through the mind; are they happening in a space hanging in time? I don't know but I wonder sometimes.

Sanity is difficult to preserve. One can try but it’s impossible without some divine intervention and unless one accepts what is with a balance of humility and grace and faith. Even then I don’t know what the guarantees are. Life maybe doesn’t come with any surefire guarantees, and so one prays and chants. I don’t know what qualifies as being spiritual and it differs from person to person, and what ultimately links and clicks in one’s journey of meeting one's Real Self may be something entirely unimagined. I wonder whether you’ve read one of Tagore’s essays in Santiniketan. It’s titled ‘Ekti mantro’, and your bit about 'doing' and 'what we do' reminded of the notions of being and doing. You may have already read the essay.

The idea of oblivion is something I don’t think about because I don’t know what it means, and cannot grasp at all. I can’t think of an absolute state of peace and rest and sleep either. It was good to read this essay of yours, Debarshi. Very many kind thanks and my apologies for not writing a comment sooner. I was almost tempted to write a third part, but I don’t think I can. It did give me another idea though - to write a part of a story which really needs a sequel if only so that I can sigh. We’ll see….


Thank you, Suvro da for putting this one up. I may put up a bit of a comment again later.

Debarshi Saha said...

Dear Shilpi-Didi,

Thank you so much!You have indeed struck upon some of the more important points of the story;Samuel Coleridge's lines might strike a chord too,in unison with my train of thought,albeit a very puzzling one.I quote them here-

"If a man could pass through Paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there, and if he found that flower in his hand when he awake — Aye! and what then?"

And what then?That is the most troubling time-when the lines of reality and fiction start to blur,and when our identity starts to dissociate.

Thank you once again for such a nice comment;I wish you would put up further observations on this post at your leisure.

Thank you so much indeed,Sir.

With warm regards,

Sayan Datta said...

I couldn't resist writing in another short comment -
I found both Shilpi di's comment and Debarshi's reply brilliant. They helped me understand the post better. I got a little stuck up on the word 'faith' though in Shilpi di's comment. I wonder whether it (faith) is a natural consequence of walking the spiritual path, an inescapable by-product of an expanded awareness.
The question of the Real Self always invariably brings me back to the question of the ultimate reality of existence. I am beginning to think that the trick is in being able to perceive all of reality, which includes the 'real' and the 'unreal', our sleep dreams and our waking ones, multiverses, our state of existence in the 'other worlds' (it is said that we exist at some level in each of the infinite possible universes, though being conscious only of the one we seemingly inhabit), all of that which is and isn't, was and wasn't, will and won't be, together and all at once. It is said that the Buddha could live all of his ten-thousand lives, moment by moment, in the blink of an eye.
Something reminds me of an ancient Sanskrit Sloka -
"Purnam adah, Purnam idam, Purnath Purna mudachyate; Purnasya Purna Madaya, Purnamevaavashishyate" A rough translation of the above will go as follows - Completeness is that, Completeness is this, From Completeness Completeness is born; If Completeness is taken away from Completeness, what one is left with is Completeness. I think one can substitute 'Completeness' with 'infinite' in the above without any change in meaning. The last line in the Sloka parallels a very commonly used notion in Mathematics as well - If the infinite is deducted from the infinite what one is left with is the infinite. I wonder who wrote the Sloka and under what Divine inspiration.

Sayan Datta

Shilpi said...

I'll write in a long bit again...

1. Debarshi, it could feel surreal when it happens, but it probably depends upon what sort of fiction/writing written by whom starts resembling or coming closer or tantalizingly merging or not quite with one's real world.

2. As for those liners by Coleridge - I found myself thinking that if I had the flower when I woke up, I wouldn't really care whether or not I had been to paradise (I'd probably be made to remember in other ways about the paradise bit, seeing it's a pledge and all). What I would do however is damn well try to treasure the precious flower with everything I've got so that the flower could blossom bright and blush beautifully, and I'd try very hard not to bother the flower too much. Reminds me a bit of The Little Prince...

3. Sayan, I used faith as one of the emotions. Personally, I think faith is tested - maybe as long as one is around unless one is some enlightened Buddha with no earthly attachments. I think at the very least, it changes. I wonder whether you read Suvro da's review of Debjaan that he put up last year? If you read that; you might want to revisit it and you could try the book. It's terribly interesting, and maybe it might provide you with some directions regarding your interest in 'ultimate reality' ...which connects to the Real Self too actually, come ti think of it.

5. Going to Intermission, one of the biggest differences (at least for me) between that and the 'sequel' dropped in on my head while looking at the sky out of a high window. The narrator in the original piece is looking, sensing, observing, being, hearing, listening to everything that surrounds those moments and him, and he's dipping deep within him with all his senses and conscious faculties on high alert. I don't know much about meditation but to think of the hands on his watch, time, the star-studded night sky, the chirping crickets, the silence, the baying dogs...and to dip in within - all that seems and sounds awfully like meditation to me (although earlier I never quite thought that doing all those things would mean that one was meditating), and very deliberate and very focused. But it's this "real" world that he seems to most intimately inhabit and seeks to find what he does in this world while having his lonely mind motors whizzing away - what happens after? How many times and how often does one have the experience of staying awake through the night thinking that something may change because of a change/shift within? Maybe that's yet another thing that disturbed me about Intermission earlier.

Shilpi said...

In the sequel above, the narrator disappears in his dreams. He flies out and away off on his dreams most often in his search for his Real-Self. Dreams probably are what keep us moving forward and dreams keep us sensing the possibility of happiness but as a human being one would have to find one's purpose and meaning of life and for being and doing somewhere in this world unless it is simply given to one, and even then life is still a mix and a journey and a ride...

There are those poem liners that are shooting around among others. The ones that Suvro da has quoted elsewhere, "My soul, sit thou a patient looker-on...", and a song liner, 'roll with the punches even when the end is not in sight..." in the meanwhile one does and is what one does and is.

The "chemist" curiously enough appears in both rounds...and for that I'm reminded of that other liner, '...narcotics cannot still the tooth that nibbles at the soul'...and a vague song liner too.

6. 'nother point that struck me: the first piece was written by the writer when he was 20, the writer of the 'sequel' was yet to be born, and this reader was all of 8 years old. Now 28 years later, the writer's student who is in his 20s writes a sequel, the writer of the first part has been teaching for over 30 years, and this reader at 37/38, gets to read and re-read the first composition and read the 'sequel' and even understand some, and realize a bit. I am quite tempted to say a slow 'wow'.

And with that, I'll make an exit for now.

Debarshi Saha said...

Respected Sir,

Warm regards.A very fine and deep analysis by Shilpi-Didi,and one that has highlighted some very fundamental thought differences between our write-ups,albeit differing in their methodology,but wending its way through the myriad realms of thought towards the same goal-the vision of an ever-unchanging 'real' self,at the heart of the transitory,ever-changing world.

Dear Shilpi-Didi,I agree with you on all points.Indeed,surrealism often is a personal prerogative,and if we try to think in this manner-like our lives were one giant pointillistic painting,hence the liner relating to connecting the dots in one's life,then pointillism would resemble surrealism to a certain extent,as we could deduce multiple meanings from our very own lives!Every incident would be just like a ripple in the flow of Time,the small waves would propagate in that vast ocean,passing onto other lifetimes,and even other lives in one single lifetime!To me,Shilpi-Didi,that would be surreal indeed.

Sir is the finest fighter in the arena of Life,as I have known him-and me,more of a escapist.Hence,I can explain the difference between the original write-up and its sequel,apart from the linguistic superiority of Sir's write-up!Shilpi-Didi,I sort of live at the edge of a looking-glass,where mundane objects come to life,and flora/fauna take on near-human qualities.I exhibit this in a typical 'Calvin & Hobbes' fashion,switching from reality to fantasy,and back again..Sir is anchored in the real,with his own thoughts for company.

With lots of love and best wishes to both Sir and Shilpi-Di,