7/5/20

The Creaking Chair – Part XIV

2:46 PM





11th July 1999

“I am writing to you in a state of unbridled passion
I have intoxicated myself on poetries from Pablo Neruda 

and the 90’s Bollywood love songs 
Remember how you found my love for ‘Zara Zara’ from RHTDM 
to be hopelessly romantic !
I am in one of those moods right now 
And it’s pouring outside completing the setting for reminiscence


It’s funny how in spite of calling myself a poet,
I have never written many letters to you 
That is supposed to be the thing with lovers who are poets, right?
Wasn’t that my biggest pull when I tried to woo you? 
Oh those were the days !
The butterflies in the stomach, the incessant checking for text messages
Do you even know how many times, I wrote an entire poetry 
just because I wanted to tell you something 
and was too shy to speak to you directly


How far have we come from there
From writing messages through my words 
to concealing messages between my words 
and you still read me; with all my apostrophes and full stops.”


I found this handwritten note in one of Pablo Neruda’s anthologies yesterday 
I think it was ‘twenty Love poems & a song of despair’ 
the letter was half-written, in fact I was just getting started
and I don’t remember why did I stop
This was the time when she was in a foreign land 
and we decided to experiment with letters so that we would have a story to tell later
Maybe it was a call from her that made me stop writing 
or it was the use of full stop – like a valve shutting off the flow of thoughts & emotions


~ Ashk

P.S. - Should it be ‘Lovers who are poets’ or ‘poets who are lovers’?

P.P.S. – The letter must have been somewhere in the early August of 1949 or 1950

For the complete series, visit - http://www.ashksymphony.com/p/the-creaking-chair.html

6/25/20

Black Coffee

11:49 PM




2 months and 2 days...and he still was lost for words...but he did write each night...like a fanatic following his religion...he was pious too..he did write the letter each night and burnt it every morning...he sprinkled the last bit of the ashes in his coffee every single day...it was a peculiar habit...but he was so full of peculiarities now..that his own reflection was a little baffled at his sanity...they din know he did that..if they knew they would chide him on how it could effect his health...but then he already knew how he was...he only din say...

Why make it a sad story...every time I write...someday..maybe it will be a little more sweeter and saner than last night..maybe then he would post the letter...but he did not have the address..but then he still din have the final letter ready...

Dramatics...never his trait...but he craved for applause...for critique...for honour...would his story make them cry...will those words finally fall into the perfect order of Music which would make them cry for he never wrote to make them laugh...those were not his realities....

His words were still mere letters and yet not the letter...and they still asked him why he drank black coffee...and he already said...only till I do....

~ Ashk

6/7/20

The Creaking Chair - Part XIII

3:00 PM




3rd August 1953

I woke up in the morning at 5.23 AM

Something like my regular routine these days 
It had been an uneasy sleep 
Remembering when I ended up sleeping is a lost cause 
Its happening most of the nights these days 
I generally sleep between 2 or 3 AM
Must have been some time similar


It is a shady chapter of my life 

if anyone ever cares to write about it 
though I doubt they would get to know much about it in these pages
but I would still try 
understanding human nature & emotions is a tricky act 
some excel in it, while others run away 
They call it escapism – couldn’t find another fancy term it seems


I have been practicing Hikikomori for a 2 years now

Never thought I would start to love it so much
at first, it started as an experiment 
the charm of total isolation without any human contact 
without any worries of handling emotions which come from human interactions to be honest
but then it grew on me


The first few weeks were blissful

you could do whatever you felt like 
It was my space – shielded from all consequences and associated responsibilities 
then came the months of reality hitting you
the self-doubts and existential questions 
realization sinking in of the extent of your escapism 
That was the toughest part, where meditations worked, at least for a while


It was a time when every action you have ever taken in your life comes back in colored reel 

And so does the bundle of emotions like a wave on an ocean front
battering your psyche like that rock on the water front
It’s amazing how there is so much talk about the effects of depression and anxiety on people 
but the issue is that it talks in generalizations 
these demons never attack a herd
each story is unique and each reaction is personalized 
that’s what scares the mental health awareness groups I feel
though I am sure it is sprinkled with some amount of genuine care


I have been told when I look back at these days

I would have a happy laugh about it and how I blew the minor issues out of proportion
while also stating that these are significant emotions & important to me
Choose a side, guys!


But all said & done, I at least know that Depression is real 

and it can hit you anytime, in many different peculiar ways 
I also know how stress in life is equated to an anxiety disorder
or even full blown depression 
but glorifying something like this is not a good choice, mate 
Here’s a toast to reality & as my counselor told me self-realization


~Ashk

P.S. – Well, on hindsight this is one of the only dark entries you would see in my diaries. I think the only reason I plugged this in is to remember my days of Hikikomori. 




P.P.S. – Of course, I created a different journal documenting those 2 years of my life. 

For the complete series, visit - http://www.ashksymphony.com/p/the-creaking-chair.html

5/31/20

The Creaking Chair - Part XII

2:24 PM


28th May 1999

I have an abnormally large collection of photographs

moments I have captured over years
and I use them as mirrors to keep me grounded on a plane of simplicity
so my pictures are not the regular friends laughing in a pub kinds
or teens banging their heads in a rock concert
or even the quintessential birthday party as a kid
with the lettered cut out on the wall calling out ‘Happy Birthday’ 
and the beaming smiles of friends behind the cake & the Birthday Boy.

My collection has a rather abstract view of life
A fallen eyelash resting on a copper pooja thali;
the queer expression of a rebelling atheist
An aimless braided chair sitting idle on a sunny day with a hint of cloud in the background;
the untainted memory of a peaceful afternoon embossed upon the mind 
A rope line with my mother’s freshly washed saree hung for drying
the untarnished smell of unfiltered warmth spreading through the heart
A shuttered public library with the leftover ashes of a burning sigri
the aftermath of another cold night in the open for the watchman

But the one photograph which made me write this entry today
was the photograph of my beloved coleus plant 
It was a housewarming gift from a dear colleague when I moved to Kolkata
Placed in a fish bowl shaped casing it had layered soil and tiny crystal like rocks on one side
the plant nestled nicely in the middle of this boundary between the decorative crystal patch & the underlying soil 
there was another smaller budding offshoot on the other side 
I liked the gift – it was good, but I did not love the life in it, yet

And then a few weeks later, I saw tiny new shoots on it
beautiful red leaves with spreading green on its corners 
Oh boy, that was a feeling difficult to match
an untainted adoration and pure love spreading like a smile on my face 
and for the next few weeks, every morning it was my first ritual to watch the new bud & smile 
This was my first experience with the weight of responsibility of nurturing a life 


But the photograph was not of that little bud

the photograph had to be inanimate right? 
if you have not yet caught the recurring theme in my photographs
It was a black and white shot of the same bowl with a fallen plant with shriveled leaves 
In my youthful zeal filled with an arrogant ignorance 
I kept feeding water & sunlight to it – at times too much water & too less of sunlight 
without realizing the underlying build up of tiny root eating aphids
the day I look the photograph, I realized they were too far in their act of weakening the roots 

I did replace the plant with another 
and this time took much better care 
for I was now prepared and a little bit more wiser 
But I miss that original plant for it gave me my love for gardening


~ Ashk

P.S. – Sahil has taken up to ‘digitizing’ my photographs as his project this summer vacations. I have a feeling I have a summer filled with walks down the untrodden memory lanes & loads of stories to tell. 



P.P.S. – Maybe I should convert these stories into something like ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’.

For the complete series, visit - http://www.ashksymphony.com/p/the-creaking-chair.html

5/25/20

The Creaking Chair - Part XI

6:35 PM


10th October 1986

The first thing I saw as soon as I got out of my car was the non-descript street light
It had a spooky feel to it, but also romantic 
like something ancient was peering back at me 
how many such long stares would it have endured in the last centuries
But then what makes me think it has been standing tall there for centuries..
It felt like I almost knew.

The murky yellow light from the lamp was rather dull
but it was the only thing which stood out in that countryside on yesterday’s spring night
Mikhail, his elder brother and me had decided to take a road trip 
They had done all the arrangements – the car, the tent, the camping stove to cook 
and of course the path we would take 
It was not a like a fancy camping trek you see in the Hollywood movies
It was a discreet retreat into the desert wilderness 

I have been on this ‘tour d’experience’
that’s what I am going to call it when I grow old and tell these stories aloud
It’s a fancy dream with a humble beginning
the first one was the visit to the ocean
not that I had never been on the sides of an ocean before 
but this was different
this time I had ‘experienced’ the ocean 
the ocean breeze saturated by the smell of sand & salt 
the sun reflecting on the ocean trying to match my thoughts 
Ah. Reverie.. I must not digress though 

This time it was about a night on the roadside scrub of grass
in an otherwise non-vegetative spread of the Rajasthan desert
We were told there is a massive celebration planned in Gujarat from the coming year
but a commercial hotspot. Not for poetic romantics like me…
This was a night of sitting under the moon in an abandoned dhaba in a nearby state highway 

We had ideally wanted to go completely off the road 
but Mikhail’s brother had been skeptical
and wanted to have access to the cellular network in case of an emergency 
when we spotted the abandoned structure on the roadside, we were elated 
this was the perfect spot for a night spent talking and singing 
I was trying my hand on the guitar and could sing 
But Mikhail was the real musician amongst us with his charm over the mouth organ
As we stretched ourselves on the bonnet and roof of our car
staring up the clear sky, many childhood memories ran back to me 
How I used to enjoy sleeping on the cot in Grandama’s place looking at the constellations
but the emotions it stirred were different 
the breeze flowing from the desert was slowly cooling as the night progressed
it was like an indication that I had moved on from those innocent days too 
and the only totem of time that remained was that street lamp and its light 

It reminded me of the days which went by 
and it gave me comfort of the days that were to come 
youth had given me hope slowly taking over the innocence of the younger me 
fear of the future had started to slowly creep into my spirits though 
and lying there gave me a feeling that the past, the present and the future were all coming together
for that one night 
It is ‘this’ experience which I take along with me today

~ Ashk

P.S. – Now that I have read Julian Barnes, I wish I had just written this instead of the entire diary page. How beautiful these words are -

In those days, we imagined ourselves as being kept in some kind of holding pen, waiting to be released into our lives. And when the moment came, our lives -- and time itself -- would speed up. How were we to know that our lives had in any case begun, that some advantage had already been gained, some damage already inflicted? Also, that our release would only be into a larger holding pen, whose boundaries would be at first undiscernible.” ~ Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending


P.P.S. – Keeping a placeholder for my thoughts here, for I am sure I would revisit this page. If not for anything, but for these lines by Julian Barnes

________________

For the complete series, visit - http://www.ashksymphony.com/p/the-creaking-chair.html

The Creaking Chair - Part X

6:33 PM

08th June 1999

The other day I was speaking to Aman on telephone 

and we ended up talking about how we came to be friends, 
Not in the obvious sense, both of us were in the same batch in my graduation 
but more like when did we actually start talking,
what were our first words; non-verbal cues to each other that our frequencies match as Sahil would say in his generation
and not for the fault of our fading memories 
but neither of us could genuinely remember that moment of first encounter
Its quite ridiculous how easy it is to portray in a biography, a musical or a documentary 

‘We met for the first time in a sports bar while playing pool’ , or 
‘The first time we met was when Calen introduced us in one of her parties and we hit it off right away’
Realities always work differently, and hence the allure & charm of fiction I guess 
I repeated the experiment with Steffi and Manu and guess what?
We drew up a blank again !

By now I was quite determined to find out what had really happened,

I headed for my attic again, pulling out all my journals from Graduation days 
Alas ! no mention of that fateful day for either of them there too 
This comes as a rude shock to me though, 
a man who has always prided himself with capturing every significant detail of my life in these journals 
If that author friend of Kamal every decides to write my memoirs, 
She should just go through these journals, or maybe a movie would be more entertaining

I still decided to revisit the memory lane of some of the most wonderful years of my life

and went ahead reading all those diary entries and slowly these names started to appear
first it was sporadic, where I was massaging my ego by judging Manu for his hairstyle 
The warmth of the relationship slowly crept in
when time routines became intermingled,
the routes to the market to pick up milk started having a pitstop to meet Aman 
and when conversations changed from college gossip to broken hearts and future dreams 
This makes me sure that my story should definitely be a book 
a movie can never do justice to this surreal pace of integrating into each other’s lives as family

It is the second day and I am in the attic again to read from where I left yesterday

I have not yet reached Archit’s mid night accident and the scare he gave us all! 
But it made me realize, I could never find that moment when we first spoke to each other 
In hindsight, it may have been the most relevant moment between us 
but in the grand scheme of life, it was an irrelevant speck
just like the Earth in the Cosmos, and yet a lifeline 
just like Old friends



P.S. – to read about the day Archit’s mid-night accident & his temporary memory loss, go to 19th September 1952


P.P.S. – The only friend with whom I remember my first encounter is with Richard & our debate on the why I never learned the lyrics of Opera music and yet enjoyed it thoroughly




- Ashk

For the complete series, visit - http://www.ashksymphony.com/p/the-creaking-chair.html

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