Here we are, then. He said to no one. In particular. There was no one there. The last fireflies had taken their bow. His words did not echo the emptiness. Flat. Hermetic. Sealed. And solitary. He spoke again. Looking up at the sky. Or in the general direction of where the sky had last been. Sort of stage right and up. A slanted view. A sloping sky. Descending to the tip of a horizon. Painted silver grey. Stylised. No real reason. Just a design whimsy. It did look interesting, though. Like a stairway. Or an upside-down slide. You slid backwards each time. The soundscape was insidious. At least that was the brief. The air had to be subtle and in “conspiracy” with the surreptitious. Artful, if you were on its side. Plain cunning sly and wily if you weren’t anything but honest. Necessary for the scene. Stealth was called for. But without a visibly recognizable instrument. Like a body on steroids feeling the tremor. All over. Including in your voice. But the mind was alert and sharp and hyper. Active. Activity that pulsated. The atmosphere: alive. But not with sound. Intended sound. Yes. Not the easily audible kind. So yes. Underhand. The space had to be blasted with desolation. White. Bright. Light. In your face. And cold. Winter. The season of our ageing. Everlasting henceforth. And full of promise. Contradictory, you say. An ageing winter full of a future you mock. A spring. Another one. Your greed. Your fingers and wrists bruised with the grazing of the rope. Your hold on life. Fast slipping away. And you want promises. So, settle for winter. Make it harsh. I will grant you that. But winter it is. And a smoking one. Mists. Fogs. Fires. Eye burning and skin dampening. Frosty. Its lonely swirls orchestrate the air around us. Choreographed to suggest a vast and monumental barrenness.

Here we are, then. He said. Precise. And particular. There never had. Been anyone. There. Only the lingering glow of receding fireflies. Sensing the light cue. The blasting. The desolation. Had scurried away. Hastily. All that remained were his words. Mere wisps in the emptiness.

Theatre. The experience of sensing other lives – both lived and imagined – and the “elsewhere” that inhabits the silences between the spoken word and the “hearing” one. An audience of course hears and listens and follows a sequence of un-folding suspense. But it also senses a parallel often “contrary” text, tale, story that remains “un-spoken”. The subtext that is simultaneously linked to the playwright’s intent, the “actorial” interpretation of this “perceived intent”; their – the actors – ability to articulate enact emote express in “audible” – therefore timber tonality emotion – words; the split second “domestic-daily-nesses” each member of the audience brings to this “hearing” of the “other-elsewhere”, both as self-discovery, and, curiosity. All this in a “staged”, time-bound environment. The duration of the performance. All this combines to create form give a “naming” to what may be called “the un-questioning despair of the everyday” as you in so many words suggest. The reader-viewer as a trapped being. Refusing stubbornly to risk questions. The status quo of this “condition of despair”. It is also a condition that affects the Spirit.

Thing about the Spirit is that it knows the “truth of the heart”. I do not mean this in a “medical” manner. I refer to a “part” of our inner landscape where freedom roams. A space without any kind of world-driven bandish which is a finer word (and a musical one!) than its English counterpart, bondage. This “roaming” sends signals of well-being to the heart and makes the mind see things with great clarity. This process of “seeing”-viewing? triggered by a feeling of creative well-being is what we sometimes sense as “our spirit”. The spirit is a doer. One that is in instinctive opposition to its mirror-opposite. The non-doer. The “doing” and the “nondoing” is in this context specific to you, the individual self. It is not to be confused with “providing”, “doing one’s duty,” “caring for others at all cost”. A Self we often neglect. For example, some of us spend a life time for others. This is a fine and amazing way of being human. But it does build a certain “anxiety” that accumulates. Layer after layer of “providing” at the cost of one’s own well-being? Maybe. I am not advocating a philosophy of selfishness! Just trying to explore this business of the levels of spirits. High. Low. Middling. You have, after so much hard work, created carved etched out a creative space for yourself. This is good. You are now trying to create another space. One that rejects the “safe” and the “protected”. But this comes with a price. It sometimes makes us low in spirit. And yet, we are merely doing what women and men of great wisdom have advocated over the years: live also for our inner being amidst the chaos of our “other” lives. Not by neglecting, or seeking a self-imposed exile as the Indian sages of old used to do, but by doing. For our own inner well-being, that, which, we are hoping, will give us strength and peace. Period.

I offer you creativity as a form of resistance.

Another thing we instinctively do when we are lowly in spirit is to resist. We must not. Let the “low” do what it does. Let it attempt to drown you. It is okay. It will eventually ebb if you allow yourself to remain in a state of stillness. Do not fight it. It will tire itself soon enough. And. You will feel all the better for it. For. You will have seen into the heart of despair. The darkest part of our being is inhabited with immense light.

As, when for example, someone – a stranger or a friend – actually “hears” what I photograph or finds what I write to be close to “music”. It is very touching. “Music as sound that grows out of words made invisible”. That which leaves “traces” behind. We gather these traces into notes. Music.

We create. To resist.

Here is what I wrote after seeing a vast body of George Baselitz’s work:

This man. Bringing alive. The Lucid. Lying dormant inside one. Like an entire Iliad. Or the other one. Odyssey. An ongoing chant inside your head. Interrupting the obvious. And the mundane. Guiding inspiration. Second nature. Fine-honed instinct. Intuition by any other name. Or labels. Should you need any. Even as the artist unfolds his curatorial vision. Experiencing memory as it appears. Takes shape. Makes manifest. Like a perceived truth. One we can both believe. And remould. Or sculpt. In a manner that makes it our truth. One we can rely upon. Or shed. Depending on the circumstance of our thinking selves at that moment of appearance. A moment of apparent clarity. Like seeing things through a third eye worn proudly like a good-luck charm. Or simply as clairvoyance. Or like Cassandra. Despairing at the vision. The ability to unmask the future. Even as it layered its entire being with make-up. Changing shape and size. A masquerade of deception. Does it matter? I love the concept of devotion. The seeing one. The one who views. For the pleasure of seeing. Or is it viewing? And how different are the two? The view? And that which is seen? Viewed? Sometimes for the pleasure of understanding what lies in the viewing. Often the breathlessness of the view is pleasure enough. Is it not? Being out of breath is not always about having lost the battle. It is also a sign of desire. The rush. The lack. The want. The only way of seeing is through the blindness that faith wears. Often like a mask. The kind that refuses to be ripped off and reveal the truth beneath. Then again does it really matter if it is your truth or someone else’s? The artist. The viewer. The creator and the Creator locked in combat. Dust. Sweat. Grime. Mutual devotees in an endless bout of wrestling.

The lure of walking into a living landscape of possibility specially if no one else has trampled that way before is exhilarating

Probe. Memory that one digs around. Carefully isolating the fact from its shadow. Fiction. Or is it the other way around. In the process, the mind makes many points. Items of interest for a future of “delving”. Lists, if you are a meticulous maker of lists. Often the impressions that flit at rapid miss-n-blink speed during the course-process-act of dig-delve result in a memorising that is intuitive and necessary. And yes, in an effort to reveal all that is concealed, the probing has to be both courteous and delicate. And deliberate. All of this could take a lifetime of deduction. The apparent daily-ness of facts as they reveal themselves may appear to be ordinary but the ordinary adds up. And often results in an exemplary gathering of multiple layers of deeply delve-salvaged fact. Or fictionalised fact disguised as someone’s truth. Over very long-time spans. And under so many different skies. Spread over centuries. And yet some things don’t appear to change. Almost remain unpolished and in a state best described as “raw”. Like feelings that appear of lesser consequence and yet seem to occupy our interest. Beyond the emotions that feelings inspire what is often “restored” by way of thought becomes visibly stronger than all that is lost forgotten “unremembered” – as in deliberately erased from memory. Loss as it manifests itself when personified as remembrance is also something that interests me. Especially if it is accompanied by ‘us’ quietly picking up the pieces.

Unquestioningly. But then the pieces themselves are often individual “mystifications” or puzzles in need of solving.

It’s a race. The writing of what I need to say before it erases itself from my mind. Accelerating the forgetting even as I write. There is a no-man’s land between remembrance and its opposite, forgetting.

The slippery limbo where everything falls apart.

I wonder what it is? The moment of writing. The actual millisecond. Of impact. When the fingertips strike the keys. Hammering the alphabet into shape. Letter by letter. Forming words. Words that gradually find their way. Through the fog. The sculpting of meaning from a seemingly sparse beginning. Empty. Devoid of sense. As you and I know it. Barren. A terrain that is neither familiar nor inhabited. Unknown. Undiscovered. Untraveled. And yet you will explore it. You must. You crave. Therefore, you carve. A path through the desert. Through the forest. Through the mountain. Through the dust storms. Through the landslides. As you walk. Sometimes you hear a whistle. Like a train engine. Ahead of you. Like someone left an echo behind. Its hands tied and mouth gagged. Muffled. Somehow it managed to free itself. And what you are hearing may be a plea. For help. Or behind you. Over your shoulders. At a distance. Always at a distance. As if from afar. Growing nearer. Therefore, rising in volume. You could be on a train track. Or so you think. The ground beneath your feet. Strewn. With the small rocks. Large pebbles. The tracks themselves are more imagined then seen. No sun to glint on the metal. So unless you go down on your knees and crawl. Which you are prepared to do. Reaching. Stretching your arms to the sides to feel the cold metal. You are not sure of the tracks. But they are there. In your mind. Remember also that there is a horizon. Distant. Concealed by the fog in line four. The one that resides in the space between the hammer and the chisel. The tools you are about to use. To sculpt carve make your way. To write yourself into the horizon. That remains. Elusive till you get to it. But you know it. As does the horizon. That it is invisible. Will remain out of reach. Out of touch. It will not happen. Your, getting to each other. Often it is the other way round. The horizon has the urge to get to you. Find its way home. Through language. Through words that were carefully strewn. In the desert forest mountain dust storm landslides you have already written. After all what is the horizon? But a part of your imagination. It survives because you give it birth. Your words breathe life into it. And give it appearance. Yes, your words. They lend it the colour of the sun and the moon. The day and the night. The rain and the snow. You and the horizon. Rushing headlong towards each other. You become the horizon. The horizon. Becomes you.

Learning the virtue of staying close to one’s belief and one’s practice. Not easy this. Often the two stray from each other. Visually it is akin to looking at the illusion of motion. The rubber-like elasticity of parallel train tracks. Almost appearing to merge. Almost growing apart. A repetitive cycle that only ends when you turn your mesmerised gaze away.

I speak in particular of tolerance. Not only over the larger political and humanitarian issues that concern nations and individuals of power who have the influence of changing the course of history. But also in our daily lives where we tend to be “short-fused” and devoid of this quality of The Tolerant. Thinking beings. Writers, poets, filmmakers, artists. Those that fall into the category we label as “intellectual”. How do we negotiate their “tolerance” or should I say “in-tolerance” over small issues? Their disregard of the fine virtue of courtesy. Where do we draw the line between “I refuse to suffer fools” and “this is not a matter of ideological life and death, so let it pass?” One tends to slot people into a “class-classification” of the intellect. As in, those that we “rank” as nearer our own perceived levels of intellect and ability to articulate thought. And those that may be perfectly wonderful people but do not appear to keep pace with our standards of what we call “high-minded beings”. I am aware that this is not some form of arrogance. Or snobbery. It exists. Often like squatters a landlord is unable to get rid of. As against paid tenants who have our blessings to inhabit-cohabit our common intellectual landscapes. Or those that we see of the same “class” of intellect as ourselves. The former, are, almost always, taken to task for doing their best. Because. Their best. Is never enough. The latter on the other had do their best effortlessly. And so never get pulled up chided rebuked in quite the same way. I find this difficult to accept.

We are quick to cause hurt. We often say things and move on. Hurtful sentences. Not looking back to see the effects of our trampling. It is the little hurts that add up over time. Makes me feel that sometimes the wisdom that begets silence is indeed worthy of its name. The surprises that an unfolding history as it records itself has in store for us are nothing compared to the shocks we get from each other. Each. Human. Other. The pettiness. The ensuing melancholy and the “matchlessness” or “misfit nesses” of human nature at its mean best. I find this, too, difficult to accept.

It had begun over something trivial. Like the stars bumping into each other; because the moon had lost its way behind the thick clouds; or the layer of toxic dust that had wiped the shine off the North star; or perhaps it could have been that the sun had overslept; failing to wake up when it should have; this led to a late dawn; which meant that the stars had to patrol longer; all the while trying hard to stay awake; and twinkle; there is also the rumour that the moon had refused to budge; sulking; till the fox had reluctantly agreed to jump over it; thereby keeping a fuming sun waiting; its face red in anger; older and wiser the woman who had helped stitch the milky way had another story; the sky had been ravished; torn asunder by a pair of thunderbolts; vying for its attention; a serious accusation if true; it could lead to at least ten years of exile; by which time the bolts would have lost their voice; become feeble; and without strength; and therefore vulnerable; it was also in the realm of the possible that the planets; Mars and Jupiter and Mercury had conspired to take over the Earth; but had failed to do so; unable to reach a consensus on who would lead the brave new order after victory; and do not forget that through all this bickering over futile disputes the clocks of the world had struck work; refusing to tick; their small and big hands frozen at whatever time they had decided to go on strike; unionizing themselves; against the unfair practices of the watchmakers; the ones who crafted pendulums made of cheap brass; passing them off as the finest metal; this led to a crisis; forcing time to stop; leading to a serious problem; nobody could move forward; or backwards; in fact the realisation of this non-movement in itself; was not fathomed; the sensation of time passing had come to a halt; the clocks had indeed struck a fatal blow; and to think it had all begun with something trivial involving a few stars in the sky.