Exile and the Cosmopolitan Desire–Part III

Distance breeds discontent. My own objectivity keeps me from feeling too much.  The effort of seeing all makes the head feel as if it will burst outwards, like Dali’s painting. The masters of peace say that one should immerse oneself in the moment. Believers immerse themselves in the Ganges, thinking it will wash away their sins, a baptismal absolution unto a new life within this one on earth. Immersion, natal waters. It was true that absorption in the moment brought peace, transcendence even. Blessed was he
who had found his work. The scientist, the explorer, the devotee, all knew it.
The child, too.  Be as the child, said the Way, be one with the purpose. My father knew it, his singleness of mind the knife-edge of peace in his middle-aged achievements. He said I had it too when I was young. I remember utter fascination under the moment, a depth-dive into words; I understood Through the Looking Glass. I still get it sometimes now, in moments when I live or remember poetry, or when an
enthusiastic acquaintance asks me if I can ‘see’ the story I read.  Or when one or the other person asks me of my mother’s exact past illness, or what rural India needs in the way of technological miracles using human power. Then I realize how self-absorbed I have been. A long-legged fly upon the stream.


Discontent breeds desire. So now I wish to find again a purpose to discipline a dissipated life. I choose my mauled culture, wishing to make it the dress-shorn Draupadi. But she will have none of it. Headstrong, she always was, that nation, that culture, and pliant as a woman. Thus she fell to the invaders, and thus she resisted mutely, in the antarmahals of her collective psyches. I am too far away, and I am not Krishna. Rasa will not be our game, lila will.




Exile and the Cosmopolitan Desire–Part II

Hope remembers that perhaps none of the particles in the cosmos are created or destroyed. If none are ever lost, then these that erode and fall away from me as I pass cannot be lost either, really. One wants to believe in the ultimate law that balances the perfect checkbook, one wants poetic justice to be true.


But exile is no place of departure nor port of entry. It is present, and continuous—a being in state. There is no one to mark the lost lands, nor any one to count the debited small change, only credits to pay off against survival.


The things Shila had not done attached themselves to her like saddlebags. She grew fat with worry and care. The world walked with her.


The body is our  means to the world. Like the body, the text, which records the body’s existence and disappearance. The text to the body of history as the sun to the stars. Work. Use value. Marx. Labour. Labour of childbirth. Acknowledged labour. Hegel’s slave. We imbue our own work with value. We are told to know the pertinacity of our work, to know why it matters, even if it is not entirely an original idea. But the battle for the acknowledgement of its value takes place on a stage external to us. The thing to do is not to acknowledge lack in return. The trouble begins when we receive the same.







Jehovah’s Witnesses

There was one, and then there were two.

The doorbell rang twice this time. I knew him from the shape and dress indistinct through the screen and glass. He had come on a Sunday last month to try and convince me to come around to his views: the world has been foretold in the Bible, and we must live as the Bible say to live, for the current state of the world says the apocalypse is near, and if we are not good we will be sent to hell. The last time, he had been kindly, giving me something to read, and showing me passages from the book he carried. This time he brought a friend.

I treated him courteously, never opening the screen door (for he was a stranger, wasn’t he?), and superficially debated the heft of the Bible with him.

Later, my mind wandered over connections I never wove.

god the charioteer

evangelical passion.

the channeling of passion into the Passion.

passionate trances in 19th C women.

the Angel is not sufficient, for that is a divinity, but the Angel in the House is desirable. I know why a caged bird sings.

Arguing, and losing, with a friend that day I understood the need for congregation. One seeks out similar minds in self-affirmation. To say: I think, therefore I am, I need my witnesses. Verification is law and verification often enough is truth.


A witness may not be a participant.





A study of relation, according to Henry Adams

It is thus, always, that the love gods come.
You sit with a girl at night, speaking around questions of relation, gauging  the degree and kind of past and present lives, and you realize that what is not there is the gratitude. Gratitude is he who sleeps in the next room, complexly unaware of your approach or of fate’s. A long-lost night of terror, and an eaten life crumbles the edges. But it is still oblation. A study of relation.

The passing and the past

I told my mother, the belated danseuse, that her aashor would vanish some day. This, too, would pass. After we had rung off, I realized that from the rush of passing time I had taken only the passing, had not held anything back, as the stone does its moss or the river its bed. My basket, my mouth were empty, not because time had cleansed them out but because I had forgotten to retain anything. Aasha jaoar pother dhaarey bhuley giye I did not make ghats that would allow a moment with the river’s curents. Tai aaj ami jajabor na hoye bhikkiri. My stories are frozen wombs.