Day 5: Tempest and Tranquillity

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“Sometimes I feel like my life is someone else’s dream”~ ‘Let Them Eat Chaos’, Kate Tempest.

Last time, I told you about Nabokov, the man who squeezed the bottom of my lungs and forced a gasp out of my throat. This time, let me tell you about hypnotism.

It’s not of the slow¬†you are getting sleeeeepy pendulum kind. I wasn’t sleepy. I was awake, alive, and frozen.

When Kate Tempest said¬†Imagine, I did; when she said¬†Jemma¬†and¬†Ester and¬†Pete and¬†Zoe, I saw them come closer and closer and melt into my limbs. I’ve no doubt that if she’d said¬†we stand here and grow roots, I’d have stood up, grown roots, and become an amaltash tree.

Kate, do you realise that you gave us no choice?

I sat there, breathing only when I heard her breathe into the mike. That was the only chance I had to catch my breath, as she piloted us, brakeless, weightless, into a journey from which we all came back more than a little ragged. A little broken in the best possible way.

I come away from this year’s Jaipur Lit Fest with books, few photos, and other things more important- Lila Zanganeh’s happiness, Kate Tempest’s chaotic brilliance, Sholeh Wolp√©’s sweetness, Rosalyn D’Mello’s courage, among others. I leave with more goals, a desire to build and grow, to engage in passion more. I leave with the idea of working at writing, of getting better by working harder and every day. A lesson at once simple and confusing.

I leave with a knowledge of living with people I don’t know, in an unfamiliar family scene.¬†I came expecting a hotel, and when I found a family home, I was shaken and a little afraid. But somewhere in between my first makki ki roti and preparing the child¬†for an upcoming test, I found comfort, and a space that I could, for five wonderful days, call my own.

I leave hoping to come back some day. Hopefully, soon.

Day 4: Phosphorescence

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(…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.