Have you seriously wondered why people ever started writing diaries?
(Hi, I know I’ve been gone forever, life issues!)
Yes, we come across the preserved and published diaries of literary and political consequence, of war victims, of famous writers. And we read them as novels. But think of the writer one moment..why does she write.
She writes for herself. A part of her strives to give permanence to the life and times through her eyes, and a part of it is strictly therapeutic – to ease the burden of secrets, those secrets that emerge out of pain and those that have no ear but the diary page.
Rilke, Bukowski and others have hammered home the point that I increasingly feel today - write if you must write. write if without it you will perish..
It is true that the urgency of taking the pain to heal oneself and even to make sense of the maze that is life has brought forth some of the masterpieces of literature. It is when the writing has intense objectivity that it gains universal subjectivity..
When the muse assists a writer to take the pen and let out his pain and experience it assumes the stature of Art, for that pain or laughter or angst or tears touches the Humane.
It is then that the objective situation becomes magic. A schoolgirl, a middle aged banker, a prostitute or anybody will adopt it as her child, and derive pleasure from a singular interpretation, that is close to her life’s context.
Somebody once told me the arts are what we make of it. We create our own arts. And these are our ways of celebrating the One.
I wrote this today after fleeing away from a rather posh gathering of intellectuals discussing books over tea. From my road diaries, to you.
When I see the lingering vagueness in Picasso’s depiction of Paris’s nightlife, I have an inkling suspicion we are on the same page on this.
So I visited this this today. And it was crap. I think it’s too much of an effort anyway. If you gotto dress perfectly, say the perfect words, notice each and every nail in your body, what exactly are you achieving anyway? How much of honest creativity can flourish in these circumstances, I wonder? Beneath coats and fine teas, hushed conversations and restricted merriment, where are you going dear? Or maybe, and I’ve an inkling suspicion that this may indeed be the case, I may be of a different exotic species altogether.
What is creativity anyway? No, really. There must be coming a point in a writer’s life (I still don’t know why I squirm at the term) when you need to explore the meaning of the very word you are celebrating and claim to be a master of.
Like, what exactly is creativity anyway?
Is it me, Sreemanti Sengupta, escaping from a gathering of posh uptight writers and a publisher who dismissed my manuscript with a curt, ‘good but not our material’ thingy and sitting here in a dingy coffee house, writing away on my little notebook, while my rough black coffee, assured to produce a beautiful migraine attack, takes its own sweet time to cool down and suit my freakish temperature intolerant tongue-epidermis?
Or is it really there, in those uptight bosoms, those tight lipped hushed conversations, those muted lips sipping on the finest teas of the world?
Or is it indeed there in all the fakedom, the fact that we’re all trying to overcome skeletons in the cupboard, the fact that some of their accessories might have been bought right off the footpath and are being passed off as branded stuff?
Or is it me, a self-proclaimed intellectual, lost and disgusted in the world of real intellectuals? To the point of thinking that some of the people are even faking their sexual orientations to stay in literary fashion!
Or the me that is coping in my own way with my life, seeing some dreams fading away, like butterflies escaping a torn net that I can’t mend?
At this juncture of the argument, or whatever I’m trying to do here (a part of which is recognizably escape a distressing situation at home and reclaim the pen-on-paper routine ritual that I’ve always loved) I falter and stop a little and maybe sip on the potentially migraine inducing black coffee. Whatever I choose to think and say at this moment is really crucial, for it is that belief that I will seek consolation in, and it is a matter of another belief that we all seek consolations in beliefs, because absolutes always seem out of reach.
I have a feeling that frighteningly pure creativity is more than the power of invention or discovery. This, am in agreement with the thinker J. KrishnamurtI because it makes sense to me. It is more than the ability to invent new techniques, or new thought patterns, more than the ability to scourge your mind to do something different. Something that allowed me to write in The Odd Magazine‘s descriptor, “Different is a dead word. We are Odd.”
Creativity must be an exercise in freedom. It is rather difficult for me to explain, for I, alas, (still) am not in that zone. It must be this wonderful state, a close cousin of Alice’s Wonderful, where nothing is improbable or simplistic or difficult. It must be this world without adjectives that qualify or restrict emotions. It must be without limits. And notice, this world is in the mind. Inside is where the change starts. I am in the process of trying to believe this theory that a change in the mind is corresponding to a change in the outer world. If the mind-land is free and uninhibited, if the mind-society is without taboos and unknown of restrictions, then we have a case in point for the external world as well. Creativity must be a product of this free mind-land. An unshackled experience where you have the Midas touch without trying. It is the place where the muses are really your playmates and bedfellows. Or maybe, you haven’t labelled them as ‘muses’ at all, because it is as it is meant to be – obvious and natural! That is what happiness must smell like!
Now, since we haven’t got this state (as yet), we choose our paths closest to it. The short cut, that which suits you! These paths in fact must be our attempts to reach the Beyond Power (Most of us prefer the G word). It may be writing for me, painting for you, housekeeping for Mary, seeing his children grow up for Subhash! You get the drift, right?
It is through this path that we truly feel at peace, a sense of power, well-being, a light shining through. THAT must be, to my mortal understanding, our individual paths to the ultimate Understanding.
When I write like this, freely and without a qualm in the world for these moments, preferrably in perfect situations, against the winter sun, bang in the middle of Kolkata on a Sunday, in an apparent time freeze, things start occurring to me and linking themselves up, and I shamelessly digress, as I am suddenly conscious now, with an alarmingly long sentence that I will gratefully end here.
I remember now, that when I was terribly in love, I heard from somewhere that staring at your lover’s eyes can be meditative, ethereal, and I believed it, because I felt it (by this time, dear reader, the amount of beliefs that I have already expressed about me, must have given you the certain belief of my fickle belief system).
So you get it, right?
You search for the Power in your path.
I’m in this hyper non-judgmental mood so I’m not going to express what I would have in 99% of the cases. I won’t tell you that people have corrupted their paths. That probably in their tight lipped conversations, their shawl drawn smiles and their expensive teas, they’ve lost the sheer mystic of creating to the lure of intellect.
(Aside: I love Charles Bukowski for nailing it. “An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.“)
Because, if I tell you that their path is corrupted, maybe you’ll turn back and tell me some day, “Yeah so what’s so merry in your chipped nailpolish-freakish hair-lonely as hell – adventure trek dream path anyway?”
That may indeed be tagged as another form of corruption all together! Another camp, relative.
There must be sub-routes of our way to the Power.
The Fine Tea Vs The Rough Life
The Chipped Nailpolish Vs The Body Shop Muted Lip Gloss
The Open Road Harley Vs The Sundeck Cruise
The Loner Brain Rant on Sunday against Rusty Windows Vs The Intellectual Chatter
And the beauty as always, is the choice. The beauty, the agony, the distress. Well, that’s another choice anyway!
Have a fab day earthlings!
This shivers me: This madness. It shivers me.
This mad world. It sends shivers down my spine. Every time, I come to think of it. Every time I let myself make the mistake of thinking of it. The delectable taste of madness touches me and burns right inside. Closing my eyes, I can see what Yashodha saw in Krishna’s open mouth, the space, the sparkling rolling planets. And opening my eyes, its the world in the mundane and real. The tables and chairs, the tea boiling and spilling over because I’m just sitting here thinking without paying it any attention. This madness. It shivers me. As I imagine how it would be to be insane, to be Rumi, my sister, who is insane because and only because we don’t understand her. But who knows? Who knows, whether the way her brain cells are working is taking her closer to the truth? Why do I feel it? It burns, this madness. I like to feed on it. It’s inspiring. It is thrilling to burn out, like a shooting star through the sky, who doesn’t give a damn to what wish you earthling has inflicted upon him. It’s tired. It’s mad. It’s unburdening. It cannot carry your burden of wishes. It cannot be another totem of your endless desires. People like this are like a stake through my body. A burning stake, a needle stuck with Tantric verses. They’re mad. They’re mad at everything they do, say, want, feel, see. Their madness moves me. There is a brutal urgency in their breath, in their walk, a jig in every step. Because, life is running out of them. Because life is lived in measured steps. Because life is sane. Life doesn’t allow a Rumi, an autistic sixteen year old weeping over a radio. But life itself is the maddest I’ve come across. It is the consummation of madness. A living fountain, a spate of insanity. We are blips of a mad accident called Creation. We are constantly trying to beat insanity into saner shapes. In office ledgers, in science and in theories. But God, I tell you is this sane-insane being or nobody. This incalculable, infinite madness is what afflicts us. Is what makes us sad. Is what makes us beautiful.
Text: Sreemanti Sengupta
Illustration: Ana Vivianne Minorelli
This Shivers Me’ is part of a longer and collaborative work, First Person with Brazilian artist-photographer Ana Vivianne Minorelli. The work is on the look out for publishers. Tell us about takers.
Have you met an outsider?
Have you seen that fidgety teenager over there, hair awry, hands bruised on guitar strings, locked in a room?
Have you met a crazed stare on the street?
Have you cringed at the irresponsibility, have you marvelled at the freedom?
Have you seen mismatched socks and a free maniacal smile to go along with?
Have you been proved wrong by a perspective you thought never existed?
Have you hated and loved an Outsider?
I have. Since my wee tee days.
I have felt it bubbling along in me. Like a ball of vomit pushing itself through.
I have felt my esophagus ripped, and a madness screeching out, when girls discussed boys and lipstick n school.
I have felt it, the burning, when the world mocked. I have burnt inside.
I was foolish. I still am sometimes. (We are the breed of fools)
I had wanted to belong, when my belongings belonged outside.
Late in my youth, it dawned, I am an Outsider.
Today, I am writing to tell you normal people, to not accept us. I am tired of the touch-n-go game. Let us be, we’ll manage.
Today, I tell you, let us burn, let us be. It’s going to be hard. But, what’s not?
“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
― Jack Kerouac, On The Road
The world is different for us. Thank your stars. We give you magic in your stale normalcy. Yes, we colour our hair electric pink and trip on acid and drugs. Yes, we come home at unearthly hours or not at all. You don’t understand us, but we’re working for the better. We feel a lot more, we’re often in pain. We’ve removed the bridles from our mouths, the blinkers from our eyes. We’re pained because we are at the door of the infinite. The four walls do not contain us. A page and canvas are not enough. Drive us to the corners if you will, but leave us there, let us breathe. Next time you discuss lipstick, you may try not to mock the girl drowned in a Dostoevsky. Yes, that much, you can do. Don’t make us pay the price for not being you. It’s not a choice. It’s fate.
We like it this way. We’re Odd. We’re the Outsiders.
Wait till we change the world for you.
Recently, I was writing some ads for a power company. Night was falling heavily. Dusk was reflecting right off my watch chain and telling me that a big migraine attack is pending. My brain was probably sucking up to the walls of the cranium. The cranial joints were probably giving away, and all the madness of the day like cold angry air was wrapping up like velvet heavy blankets and falling to deep lowers of my body, to my feet, which were becoming exceptionally heavy to lift.
And yet around me, white papers swirled around, each jostling for space, trying to make sense at and with each other. Some floated and blobbed, scattered and screeched – energy, light, carbon credits, bio-fuels, power. And then maybe, I had fallen asleep a little on that word..power.
And then, in my own quizzical way, which I often do to escape the audacity of the world and events, I picked up that word, like a mother picking up a baby sent downstream on a bulrush basket, and weaved a dream, or a reality around it.
You see, Power is one of those funny things that assumes importance due to its intangibility. The quality of having it is equal to not having it in the material sense. It is not eating the sundea. And yet, its palpable pressure is denied by noone.
One of the things I have come to heed about power is that everyone is searching for it, in all their capacity. I had this one phase where the search of power in the inanimate interested me greatly, because I believe they do, too. Everywhere, in all denominations of life and non-life, there is a craving to be powerful.
What is it actually? Terms like these are irritatingly irreplaceable, since they have been nailed down to name a virtue in absolute exactitude. It comes to mind that power may be expanded to the feeling of having an importance or control over something or somebody.
Zoom in from the galaxies to the family of a patriarchal leper husband beating up the wife. Everywhere an invisible sceptre is passed along. Like a truce since pre-Bing Bang, pre-everything that came to be!
Defeat thus, must the feeling of powerlessness. The feeling of having to let the sceptre slip from your hands unwillingly. But the will here is the magic word. This sceptre if handed over willingly transforms to the sceptre of defeat, or mellower, of compassion and kindness.
And my power rests in writing this to you.
Power to you.
In all might.
I am directionless. In every sense of the term. Medically, there must be a term for it. Romantically undiscovered, that’ll add to my admirable list of illnesses now or posthumously. I don’t know roads. Perhaps it doesn’t register in my brain. It’s amazing really, the same roads, landmarks and buildings I pass every day, in a city that has cradled me since birth, and yet, I am lost the moment I step out. The regular roads, the way to my office, to the local grocery and so on I have forcibly memorized, and I look frantically around to make sure I’m not losing my way. I’m never at ease when I have to go somewhere, because there is an address, there’s a direction and I don’t know it. Addresses, roadmaps are always useless. I kindly nod and take visiting cards and dispose them because they aren’t any use. So how do I go around? By asking people. I’ve been all over just by asking people where the road leads. And I get quizzical stares all along the way – “Heck you, didn’t you ask me the same road yesterday?” Yes, I say. They stare at me and take me to be a goner, a Kepplerian, eccentric or retarded. But they tell me anyway. I can’t cross roads either. I’ve been saved, abused and pulled back from accidents forever. When adolescence was hovering around the corner, ravishing diva told me, “You better look after your appearence, you need someone to pull you back from accidents forever!”
So what would you choose – Truth or Death?
You’re in this war you have created. Maybe, merely by paying the taxes for weapons all your life. And now your husband is carried away. And now your daughter is raped. And now you’re told to comply to a political lie. You’re told that this dishonesty is organized, much like the organized crime going on all around. Your husband has been carried away to a remote camp and he is dead. See, he’s not going to come back. But you, you have to survive. Your beauty is only young and a baby nestles in your lap. Say it. Say the lie. Conscience is just your mind. It’s yours. You can do what you will with it. The country owes you nothing. You are singular, what’ll you do with that plaque on your grave, the plaque of a patriot, when you’re a mutilated something in a mass of mass graves somewhere?
You choose the truth.
You choose to say what you’ve seen. You can have recipes to choose from. A patriot who will die with head held high. Or the stark matter-of-factness. A soldier, you can’t let the devil get to you. A soldier, your heart is your country’s first, that wedding ring came later. You will live and see to the end. Don’t fear anything. Death is the worst that can happen to you. It’s only the wait that’s your death. The death is your release. You will have no memory. Your mother, your family, they will carry on. You will live for truth. You will die for truth.
And yet I have seen you stagger back from the sight of the mass graves. Lose your sight at the thought of having to join them in seconds. Piss your pants the moment before the gun sticks to your head. I have seen you trying to remember a prayer…
It’s good to see we choose SOMETHING. A decision saves us all the time. A decision makes it all really simple, structured, organized. Organization is what we’re made of. From the moment the sperm meets that egg to when the religions bury or burn you, you need to stand by your decision. Of course it is the plaque you wear smothering your indecision and killing that conscience.
And it’ll be intensely funny, one day to think on your dying bed, of the moment you executed the rival somebody for your country. He must’ve felt just like you’re feeling now. He must’ve hated dying.
Me? I like the days when there are no roads to take..
- The Directionless Sreemanti