Day 4: Phosphorescence


(…in other words, of netting the light particles tingling around us. ~ ‘The Enchanter’, Lila Azam Zanganeh)

You don’t need to have read Nabakov to read Zanganeh on Nabokov. All you need is to listen to the way she talks about him- the passion in her words, the gesticulating hands, the laugh with which she tells us never to trust a writer completely- and to the little she reads out of her book, to fall in love with either this strange man she loves, or with Zanganeh herself. Both.

I remember liking Lolita, but I never got the chance to finish it- meh, college. I picked it up because I’d heard of it- scandalous, disgusting, I’d read, thinking that these epithets had been applied to Wuthering Heights too. I love Wuthering Heights, so I took Lolita to find out if I could love it too.

The first words of a book matter so much- it’s one of the many reasons that Pride and Prejudice remains my favourite book after all these years. (It’s heartening to know that Ms Austen was perhaps the only female writer Nabokov approved of, but I suspect that if he’d dismissed her, I’d be writing this post on something totally different) Beginnings are important. And when Humbert Humbert said Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta, my heart stuttered. With one line, Nabokov had grasped the tail-end of my lungs and squeezed, so that the top expanded and then with a whoosh deflated, sending all the air rocketing up my throat and out of my mouth in a gasp.

This, I thought, is a beginning.

I never talked about Lolita because I never finished it. It seemed futile to talk about a book when I never had the time (or card space) to take it out of the library, or indeed off the shelf ever again. Still, sometimes I silently tapped out the syllables Lo-lee-ta in my mouth, my tongue working light and precise. Lo-Lee-Ta. And then I’d cease, embarrassed at what I’d caught myself doing.

I have a copy of Lila Azam Zanganeh’s The Enchanter (a signed copy, thank you), and I look forward to reading it. I wonder whether I’ll find shades of Lila in her Nabokov or, when I return to it after reading him, traces of Nabokov in Lila. Not in her writing- in her. When I finish Lolita or Speak, Memory, or Ada, and revisit Lila in my head and her book, will I find Nabokov? Does she mean him to be found?

Even in darkness or demise, Nabokov tells us, things quiver with lambent beauty. Light is to be found everywhere~ ‘The Enchanter’, Lila Azam Zanganeh.




Eyes From Trains


So there’s a boy. And yeah, there are some feelings. But this post isn’t about the boy, or about the feelings.

This is about the eyes of the people I see beyond the boy’s shoulder. The eyes I see, when I look up from his texts with a small smile, a small smile that slides lifeless to the ground when I see their lifeless eyes.

The eyes, starved of dreams, of the children crossing train tracks to pick up wet plastic, or of men waiting, by the tracks passing by a hamlet, for the train to pass by. The eyes of young women of my age, who should be twittering nervously to friends about nonsense, about things that don’t matter but really do, because you’re a girl and he’s a boy and there are little glances and touches and smiles and things and didyouseethatmovie ohmygodRanveer and ‘haan ma, I’m coming’ accha suno did you know-? But their eyes run lonely, begging for a sliver of a hope that they can’t hope for, hoping for something that they know will never come, for something that they don’t know how to hope for.

The eyes of mothers who rail all day and cry at night, hamara kya hoga, kya hoga, bacchon ka kya hoga, kya karen kahan jayenge aage kya hoga? The eyes of mothers who love their children just as much as ma loves me, but money means more than kisses when you don’t have enough to eat.

I see them, waiting by the tracks as my train flashes by, their eyes catching mine for a second that isn’t really a second but a lifetime or twenty. I see them, bundles in hand, leaning on pickaxes or shovels, squatting on their haunches in a boredom that reeks of hopelessness. I see them waiting for something, waiting, waitingwaitingwaiting for whoknowswhat. Who cares now, because when your days run blood and your nights buried without sleep, who cares about dreams and hope and fairy things you can’t touch, except little girls with dying smiles and parted lips, rich little girls with distant sympathy and troubled eyes staring at you from trains?

Hindi terms:

haan ma- yes ma

accha suno- okay, listen

hamara kya hoga, kya hoga, bacchon ka kya hoga– what will become of us, what will happen, what will become of the children

kya karen/ kahan jayenge/ aage kya hoga?- what do we do/ where will we go/ what will happen in the future?

A Journey In Despair- Part I, by ValyrianWizard

A Journey In Despair- Part II, by ValyrianWizard

Cutting Losses


Like a cool hand slinking around your waist, soothing, for a moment, the heat that lies thick and dormant on your skin. Only for a moment, and then it becomes another dropped anchor, another weight holding you back, pulling you down, pulling you back suddenly and sharply, so that your fingertips only just graze that which you wanted, were reaching out for; they flail, desperate, make a final grab, and close around nothing- holding blindly onto empty air.

It’s gone, and so is the weight around your waist, and you wonder if it was ever there. You stare around, and you can recognize nothing around you. There is nothing but you and the feeling that you’ve lost.

What you’ve lost, you can’t remember. Like a dream that a dream of you dreamt, or a dream within a dream, some half-remembered fantasy, some child’s world where you can step onto the stars, and the froth of seawater is stardust in your hands. Something that fades as you grow, and has faded into the loss that presses in around you now, from all sides.

You reach out again- a trembling hand, nothing like that mad rush and that impassioned last lunge and that desperate final snatch that came away with nothing. Your arm feels heavier than the heart that weighs down upon your lungs- even heavier than the sodden air that claws its way into your nose, down your trachea and into your chest, swelling it- as heavy as the loss that weighs down upon it, closing in around it, obscuring your arm, almost detaching it so that you almost feel detached and begin to wander, unmindful of how the heavy arm and the limp, shaking fingers continue to weakly grope for that which this faded imprint of you has forgotten…

The fog- mist- loss- numbness clothes your nakedness, and though your bare skin is visible for all who deign to see, you merely wander on. Nakedness does not matter to those who have lost. For yourself, you would rather walk naked in the free sun than be shielded from the body’s shame by the loss and the fog.

Something stops you, and you blink. A boundary. You turn, and walk back the way you came, though even this imprint of you loathes turning away, despises turning one’s back on the obstacle and walking away. Even now there is a dim memory of crushing boulders with bare, bleeding fists and shuddering from the cold of the torrent just crossed. And then you remember your arm.

You run. It is an odd thing to do, and you can tell that the mist and the loss are oozing along, trying to keep pace with you. It registers dimly that you must keep running, and you do.

You find your arm, almost dead on your shoulder, the pressing heaviness too much for it to keep reaching for that which is once more your heart’s desire. You are no longer detached; both arm and desire are yours once more, and you keep running.

At any moment, you expect to hit that boundary again, and there is still no fear in you. It seems to have been left behind  with the sodden air and the loss and heaviness, and though it is still grey all around, you run naked, visible to all the world, uncovered even by the mist.

Suddenly, your eyes are blinded. Sunlight thrusts its way into your eyeballs and your cold-deadened brain, causing you to let out a cry akin to when you were first lifted out of the womb. You reel, and stumble, and slow down, but you stagger on, warm and naked, undetached, light and whole.

You stutter to a halt as the first travelers come upon your path.

They stare and turn away, and mutter to each other. Their cheeks are bright red, and you blush of your own volition.

Still blushing, you creep away, trembling, still clutching the concrete idea of your heart’s desire in your hand, and wish fervently that you were clothed.