Kisses under trees and other such endeavors

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Thank you for those kisses

Under trees

Before you bent to pick up an old coin

After the fortune teller told you to

Thank you for the rain soaked leaves

You left inside my shoes

Under the swimming pool

With the rusting ivy

Thank you for the toffee wrappers

That tasted like your eyes

When you wanted to say something

But didn’t know how

Thank you for those kisses

Under stormy skies

And broken umbrellas

While wisps of shadows

Drifted by.

RIP Jason Molina

(written the week of his death, mid-March)

For me, the music of Jason Molina will, in some ways, always be connected to Scout Niblett’s. I’d discovered Scout Niblett in the early months of 2007, sitting at home preparing for those exams that pretty much determine where you’re headed for the rest of your life, as long as you live in this country, at least. I was discovering the joys of broadband internet and downloading anything I could lay my hands on. Scout Niblett was one of those musicians. I heard “Wet Road ” and was won over instantly.

Six months down that line, a boy I pined for, one I thought pined for me back from across state lines (how much simpler those notions were in my head, way back when), sent me a rare 7” split between Scout and Songs:Ohia, with a reworked version of her song “Miss My Lion” and the first version I ever heard of that fateful song “Lioness”. The Didn’t It Rain Translation, it was called.

Songs: Ohia is the work I am mostly familiar with in Jason Molina’s vast oeuvre, an oeuvre that has been called “prolific” for good reason a lot this past week. The man wrote a lot of music. I never even got around to the Magnolia Electric Co. stuff because by the time I was done really indulging in the S:O discography, my interests were temporarily — never totally — strayed towards music of the electronic bent. I’ve heard most of the albums once through, of course, but nothing like my obsession with S:O. not even close. It’s been an interesting mix of stories flowing in, and video links as well, where I’ve mourned a man whose music meant so much to me, even as those links sent me to songs I’d never really heard properly before. A delicious contradiction.

whether you save me or whether you savage me, i want my last look to be the moon in your eyes

In some ways, I should hate Jason and his music. But it’s my fault really, for taking his music literally– not as a warning sign, but as a coda for life and love. It’s all about hindsight, I suppose? He spoke often of love and relationships, real and metaphorical, heart-wrenching and soul-destroying. And the eighteen-year-old me, the one who had yet to fall in love, thought that was love, more often than not: unrequited, sad, painful. Full of late nights under blankets whispering sweet nothings while tears rolled down your cheeks. And then nights of singing along, alone. Thinking that was the stuff of life, that sadness.

Walking to class at 8 in the morning, on an unusually-deserted road, listening to that guitar twang, that gentle voice, on repeat. And then again in 2009, when you’re home on break, and you’ve realized the fool you’ve been for two years, and you finally expunge the madness from your life, and use this album as your salve.

Yes, Jason Molina has seen me through some tough times. And that’s what has been interesting about the very many stories and pieces people are writing about Molina; the fact that his music was personal to everyone. For as many stories as there are reliving meeting him, or seeing him live, there are many more from all over the world — like this silly one right here — about just the music, and connecting with it, and having it be a part of your life. Listening to Ghost Tropic in that loneliest (while ironically being the most eventful) winter of 2009. Cranking up Axxxess & Ace that playful, joyful summer of 2010.

I have admittedly not gone back to his music too often in the last few years, barring introducing him to people around me, and cranking up “Captain Badass” every now and then. Perhaps that has to do with the many other kinds of music I have been on a journey of discovering or loving, or perhaps it is simply because I don’t need these songs as much as I once did. The melancholia, the heartbreak: maybe I’m finally learning to overcome these on my own. Or not having my heart broken too much anymore?

Either way, Jason Molina, thank you. I will continue to listen to and love your music, even as my dependency on it may vary. You are not just a healer of hearts; you fill mine with love.

It hurts to know he ended his life in such sadness. Many more have said things far more eloquent about him and his life. I don’t believe in an afterlife, but if he did, I hope he’s chilling in his, strumming his guitar.

Oft Forgotten Triumphs

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Twenty two years living, and twenty years studying in India: I paid scant attention to any of our neighbors. Barring Pakistan, but then again,  you always have to make exceptions for Pakistan. Now that I’ve moved far away from South Asian neighborhoods, I find myself descending into the forgotten chasm of fascinating politics connected with countries like Tibet and Burma. Irony always did prefer my company.

Here’s a picture that makes words redundant. Remember good things?  They sometimes become a part of the international political narrative. But all too often, (and I wonder why, since belief in a just world seems to be the defense mechanism enabling avoidance of most global conflict) the international news behemoth is quick to gift wrap these stories and posting them to some musty garbage dump.

Anyhow, I will be interviewing someone working on Burma about democracy and governance issues. A side note- it’s impossible for me to fully comprehend the very solid boundaries between disciplines over here, that in India, are merged into one tiny office of one semi major university. The fact that my interviews are focusing too much on  the ‘democracy and governance’ theme, which strays away from the conflict resolution department, is ludicrous. (But accurate.) People don’t realize where I come from. They’re all Humanities y’all; it’s that corner block of school where the stoners and failed lead guitarists hang.

End side note.

Hmm.

So I watched this movie last night, The People I’ve Slept With, that I’m fairly certain I downloaded and did not borrow from a friend. For the life of me, though, I can’t remember where I heard of it and why I decided to download it; my track record with watching movies is fairly horrendous, after all.

The thing is, I’ve been thinking all day about this movie and how to explain it to you guys. I’m lost, because it can so quickly fall into so many clichés (and sometimes, it does), but it also does things that I never expected.

So. Lists! (Mild spoilers, and one big one.)

Things I liked:

1. Wilson Cruz. He was fantastic in the movie.

2. The first words he says in the movie? “Angela? Hello?” (Haha!)

3. All teh minoriteh! The film doesn’t even seem to mention it very much, which some find a form of denial, but the movie is chock-full of non-white people, including a lead that isn’t any Asian stereotype. It was alarming to see, and I couldn’t help but marvel at it.

4. The bisexuality. It’s a throwaway reference in the beginning, when in the big pile of cards, an astute observer would notice a few women. But then there is a later scene with a female bartender. It’s interesting because much of the movie is predicated on her sudden desire to get married, and therefore the norm seems to fall back on her heterosexual preference (more on that a bit later), but it was fascinating for me, personally, to have a main character in a somewhat-rom-commy movie be so casually bi. Huzzahs all around.

5. The last ten minutes or so. Just when I was about to give up on the movie for ascribing to extremely patriarchal ideas of marriage and settling down, the lead character surprised me. It was dramatic, but it did the trick for me, at least.

Things I didn’t:

1. Aforementioned patriarchal ideas of marriage and family.

2. Problematic use of the word ‘slut’.

3. The overachieving older sister: one Asian stereotype did find its way into the movie after all.

4. It wouldn’t pass the Bechdel Test. (In its defence, the movie is about sex. Nevertheless, while I may not agree with Angela’s characterization as a ‘fag hag’, it was a glaring fact that Angela seemed to have no female friends.)

I’m curious to know more about how this movie was perceived, but it seems it wasn’t released very widely and mostly did the festival circuit. Nevertheless, a fun watch, and a refreshing change from the usual 20-something white lady marriage problems movies that abound.

Imagined Cities

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There was room enough there to place any story, depth enough there for any passion, darkness enough to bury….millions of lives. 

I’m in this city right now. I wish I could erase from my mind and the world all that has been written, said, and mythologized about it, and just judge it for myself. Every time I fall in love with something here, I wonder if it’s only because I want to.

It’s just that it reminds me so much of home, and right now anything that reminds me of home beats anything that doesn’t. Until I need to yell to be heard, and maneuver around objects/people to walk- it doesn’t feel familiar. I might as well go to the countryside.

If I were interested in standing out, I’d go to another place, or find ways to be violently creative. But since I’m feeling a Houdini-esque vibe of late, this place seems too good to be real.

Alas, (such an Enid Blyton word) what could I possibly say that hasn’t been said before? I’d rather live to write about it.

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About time that whimsy came home

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Barfi! is quite gorgeous. In a movie without voices, the visuals and sounds would have to captivate, and they do, and how. If you’ve lived on dull old plains that are near hill stations, feel the return of weekend road trip to the mountains nostalgia. As much as I love the living daylights out of cities, watching this film reminded me of quieter joys. Eating boiled eggs from street vendors in Shimla, waking up to family and their friends doing yoga on a patch of grass overlooking valleys and rivers. Capturing ladybugs competitively. Barfi! took a big gulp of my childhood hill side memories, splashed them with color, and weaved a story. Flawed sure, but a new, refreshing kind of flawed. Turning corners we are.

The songs are sublime, but if I had to pick just one:  Phir Le Aaya Dil . This one’s for the entire musicbox: I’ve been getting through it quicker than a jar full of  Hershey’s kisses- I am addicted to those.

#7

put me in this corner 

i won’t quote

I won’t say your name again 

You are only a half lit window now

as i look outside.

that hint of flesh below my third vertebrae

misses the letraset of your eyes.

dance with me and leave me pondering the weight of the world 

of being under the sea 

under the wreckage

beneath you

hoping to dissolve. 

a million hours have aimlessly ambled by

and here i write

and there you leave. 

 

I realized I had said very little about ways or wheels

Presented here without comment. Cause a comment would take up five thousand words.

It’s never easy to say goodbye
To the faces
So rarely do we see another one
So close and so long

I asked the room if I’d said enough
No one really answered
They just said, “Don’t go, don’t go”
Well all this leaving is neverending

I kept hoping for one more question
Or for someone to say,
“Who do you think you are?”
So I could tell them

With intensity, the drop evaporates by law
In conclusion, leaving is easy
When you’ve got some place you need to be
I’m giving up this gig for another season

With the TV on mute
I’m listening back to the tapes
On the hotel bed
My my my apocalypse

I realized I had said very little about ways or wheels
Or riding for the feeling
Riding for the feeling
Is the fastest way to reach the shore

On water or land
Riding for the feeling

What if I had stood there at the end
And said again and again and again and again and again
An answer to every question
Riding for the feeling

Would that have been a suitable goodbye?

whose land is it anyway?

It’s been interesting to note the responses across the country to the current state of events. It’s somewhat jarring and disconcerting that much of the anger and anguish I have personally heard or seen has had more to do with the lack of messaging facility, and not about the very real danger the rumour mill has posed to people, who are leaving behind years of their lives. It’s also strange, and for once comforting, that when the cities from which people belonging to the North-East are fleeing are listed, Delhi is not among them. Delhi would presumably have one of the highest populations of people from the North-East, because of the many colleges and universities here; I know that personally, I only knew a handful of Assamese and Sikkimese kids from school before I came to Delhi and really got to meet people from a part of the country that’s not spoken much about, unless it’s to defend the Army. (Do I sound bitter? I may be.)

At any rate, what’ s happening is abominable, and terrifying, and I am selfish enough to be relieved that most of my friends from the North-East are in Delhi, several in JNU, that sometimes-mecca of heterogeneity, so I don’t fear for them too much. But I know from long conversations with my JNU roommate, who is from Gangtok, how difficult it sometimes is to be so physically distinct in a city and a country that thrives on these distinctions to make sweeping assumptions. If it is that hard, that taxing, on a daily basis, can you really fault those who are rushing ‘home’ (for many, a ‘home’ they haven’t been to in years, having to abandon the real home they’ve set up in cities of their choice) now?

I must admit I was relieved when the government took some kind of action, however imperfect, for once pre-emptively. You know what? We can afford to live without free texting for a few weeks as people’s lives are being threatened. Of course, what’s happening now, with  the blocking of websites and web pages, and Twitter handles, for even talking about communal violence (without necessary even trying provoke the same) is more problematic, but needs to be looked at and discussed with some depth, I think.

Thankfully, Kafila has posted a reasonably detailed piece on the spate of government-ordered blocking that is worth a read.

In the meantime, let’s hope for things to calm down. It’s heartening to see state governments take the extra step to get people back to their chosen homes, through special trains and chartered flights.

There’s a lot more to read, and say, about the power of rumour in this day and age, and about the politics of what’s really going on, and I wish I had read enough/knew enough about it. I will try to post a few links tomorrow.

Shape Of Things To Come

In every never-ending roundabout
dizzying clarity ran in circles
creating a torpedo
that saw you
searching
through
every
eye
at
a
far
from 
the sea
fish pond 
where sat
two creatures
tasting the water
wondering about love
and how it passes like a ghost
 
August 3, 2010