lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Snark is always a Boojum

In the middle of the word he was trying to say,
In the middle of his laughter and glee,
He had softly and suddenly vanished away—
The Snark was a Boojum, you see.

The Hunting of the Snark, Lewis Carroll

There is a magpie-robin singing in the mango tree in the backyard. A koel is calling from across the street, in the trees that surround the lake. It is a strange juxtaposition. The magpie-robin's song — a freely offered gift, a long, complicated phrase. The koel's call— piercing, reaching across the lake. The magpie-robin contemplates its song, tinkers with the phrase, adds some trills, and makes another offering. The koel calls again and again, the same notes repeating, getting sharper and insistent. Its call gets mocked and parodied, driving it to frenzied repetitions, growing more strident.

I hear them both as I sit here staring at your mail.

You want my life to be all sunshine and laughter, picture postcard perfection and impossible happiness. Why should I disabuse you of that imagined life? You want me to be chirpy, all glib retorts and smart comebacks, placing your allusions and capping them. I do.

We connect online and we play. How does it matter then, that the picture postcard depicts a chamber of horrors? On the evenings we while away in banter, discussions and serious dialogue, I am as much a disembodied spirit as you are, I am as anonymous as you are, as smitten by the notion of us, as much revelling in our relationship.

You want me to be sunshine and I am sunshine.

Online relationships are a bit like hunting the Snark. They work only online. The enchantment will never carry over to real life. In real life, instead of instant wit, one might find measured speech. The caustic critic could turn out to be a silent observer. The charmer one imagines will never be the actual person.

It is easier to let go of online relationships too. Sometimes one loses interest, learning as much of the person as one can stand; then the intensity cloys, suffocates and finally, bores. One lets days pass between connecting again, the conversations become shorter, and one lets it all slide and we talk no more.

The opposite can happen too. The initial wonder of discovery keeps growing and attachment deepens. So now you've changed your tune, now you say you want more, now you say want to, have to, need to meet the wonderful me I project.

I thought our nightly dalliances were where we met mind to mind. For me you are the last star that shines defiantly against arriving dawn. Now you want to be more than a chance wanderer swum into my ken. We are ships that pass in night. True, we have regular ports of call, so pass each other regularly, perhaps. Now you want us to dock side by side.

I thought what we had was the magpie-robin's song. It's the koel calling, instead.



Blogger Rimi said...

Dear Missus Em.

Masterful. Although it IS a pity that language is reflectively patriarchal.

In quiet jubilation,

4:28 am  
Anonymous Rajesh said...

Who is the poor sap you wrote this for?

9:37 am  
Blogger Shirsha said...

Hey, this is absolutely topping way to put what happens with any regular online chat session. IM buddies rarely develop into real life buddies. Mostly things are like the mud pot, they hold water and cool it too, but soon the clay cloys! :) And we have to move on, buy a new mud pot for the new summer...

10:31 am  
Anonymous Ash said...

This is an excellent post, Lali. The opening paragraph, seemingly veering off on a tangent and the last line...Bravo!

1:27 pm  
Blogger Sivaram said...

Thank You for the invite m'am, it will be my pleasure to visit regularly and perchance put in a line.
There are many parallels - my early days at Madras, then Calcutta/Lake Market, later we wandered to Delhi .....
But more than that, am impressed by your Roudri poem.

And, agree with you, we play many parts in our lives, each subtly moulded to suit the audience. But every such act, does change us too, in ways we discover much later.

2:34 pm  
Anonymous dipali said...

Lovely post, Lali. I wish I could hear the magpie robin. All I get to hear are insomniac koels!
At one, two, three in the night....
which is fine as long as I get my sleep. If I can't sleep, then my brain starts harbouring murderous thoughts.....(and I thought I was non-violent)!
Relationships, both online and otherwise, can be so many things...
Some are long lasting, some fleeting....As long as there is some enrichment of one's being I guess the duration and intensity don't really matter.

6:35 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the barrel you're a pickle
In the gold mine you're a nickel,
You're the tack inside my shoe.
Yeah! I can do without you!

In the bosom you're a dagger
You're a mangy carpetbagger.
In the theatre you're the boo!
I can do without you!

How elegantly and gracefully you reject! I live in hope though.

Secret admirer

8:26 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Rimi- I wish I could figure out what you mean by 'reflectively patriarchal', really I do.

Rajesh- Why do you assume I wrote it for somebody?

Shirsha- That's a brilliant analogy, girl, how clay pots stop cooling and need to be replaced periodically. I wish I'd thought of it.

Oh and when did you make your blog by invitation only? I used to rather enjoy reading you.

Ash- It wasn't veering off, as such. Thanks.

Sivaram- Parallels indeed. The Roudri poem on this blog, I suppose you meant. Thanks. And yes, each part we play tends to change us that little bit and we realise it much later.

Dipali- I am lucky to have a resident family of magpie-robins. The songs change from year to year, and it is fascinating to hear how they evolve. The koel, on the ther hand has only one thing to say, and loudly at that.

I know all about insomniac birds, lady. I live on the edge of the lake, don't I? But in your neighbourhood, too? Join the club of wanting to take potshots at idiot birds which sing at night.

Anon- Calamity Jane, 1953. Don't make me research like this again, and get a name.

9:54 pm  
Blogger Shirsha said...

ooh u did read my blog!? cool, lemme send u an invite! :)

7:34 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Shirsha- Yes, please. :)

9:51 am  

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