lalita larking

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

Location: Kolkata, India

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Still life

That was a wonderful book, was Fup. Grandaddy Jake Santee, Tiny, their hen mallard Fup, and the rampaging boar Lockjaw. What I remember best about Jim Dodge's book is Grandaddy Jake's pursuit of the still life. I regret giving the book away.

I live a still life now. Curtains flutter and birds swim in the sky I see from the windows; light and shade play games on the walls and on my retinae. I await and note the passage of planes flying too high to sound their passing but that leave contrails as memory.

But there is the phone next to me. Always. It rings and memories take flight, like a flock of birds startled at feeding. I always think of the Thousand Lights Mosque then. I wonder if anybody even remembers the pigeons there.

But I was talking about memories, how they take flight, bloom and overwhelm, all in the space of a heartbeat.

How many years do you have to be apart before a voice stops being instantly recognisable? Or a name all that one has to state? The phone rings and I know it is you. I know half a dozen Rams, variations on the theme of, but there is only one you. As we talk, I remember inconsequential things, things you probably don't remember, but then you probably remember things I forgot or never gave importance to.

Do you remember that cricket game one blazing summer afternoon, when I asked if I couldn't be the good keeper rather than the wicked keeper? Or that walk to Teynampet, badam kheer and how we gave up and took the bus back home? Sucking on ice cubes?

There were the endless board games and our version of go-moku. I thought of you when I read about Shibo Yangcong-san and HEX running on the march of the ants. Do you remember those evenings of solemn discussions when we were older?

The phone rings and more memories blossom. Of the first time I wrote to her. The first mail I received from him. The first time he called.

The phone rings and my sisters transport me back to my youth, shared jokes and signals so esoteric that the original joke is lost. Leela Vanalata Mahatma Gandhi Dorasaani? Why do we laugh at that?

The phone rings and I am a tentative seeker once more, finding friends in chat rooms and remembering the laughter shared. The phone rings and I talk about poetry and favourite authors. The phone rings and there is gossip. The phone rings and suddenly I am awash in memories and talk, more memories being forged all unnoticed till later.

So what are you doing, is a silly question when you call and open the conversation. We both know that. But it is a point from which I take off and fly in memories and now.

Physically I am in my bed, yes, watching flights of birds and planes, the transit of stars at night along the dome of sky. I wonder at a flashing bright point moving entirely too fast until I remember Clarke, and smile at the satellite winking its way on the canvas of my sky. Physically, I am confined to these four walls. But the phone rings and my mind soars.

It is a still life, but memory is the flight of birds.



Blogger anantha said...

One of these days,
The caller tone will sing.
Of memories of his voice,
no bell will ring.

As the flock of birds
twitter, feed and sing.
At a good time, I promise
your phone will ring.

One of these days...

10:01 am  
Blogger Lalita said...

Anantha- We'll make a poet of you. One of these days...

1:22 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By some coincidence, was listening to "Ninaivo, Oru paravai".

One of my favourite themes, memory.

"And to me, do you bequeath
your other treasures
memories of love and loss
and stories of yesteryear".

2:25 pm  
Blogger Chenthil said...

My mind lets go a thousand things,
Like dates of wars and deaths of kings,
And yet recalls the very hour--
'Twas noon by yonder village tower,
And on the last blue noon in May--
The wind came briskly up this way,
Crisping the brook beside the road;
Then, pausing here, set down its load
Of pine-scents, and shook listlessly
Two petals from that wild-rose tree.

-- Thomas Bailey Aldrich

4:35 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just Loved it completely...... Sometimes your heart is filled with so many emotions and your eyes actually convey so many things...... which only the stillness in life makes us realize it.

Keep writing .. very Beautiful post!

5:31 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a poignant post! The last line moved me to tears.

8:51 pm  
Blogger dipali said...

Heartbreakingly beautiful.

9:50 pm  
Blogger Phantasmagoria said...

Fup! Takes me back on my own memory trip Lalita. Thank you. And stay well.

12:31 am  
Blogger Guruprasad said...

its not fair, the way you rake up so many memories of loss and pain... and then still manage to streak the edges with hope and the hidden sunshine...

but thats how it is meant to be, i guess.

and so inspite of myself, i can't help but say, keep writing.

1:11 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Hehhhh-And however many more you want. That's a nice song, yes. And, of course not; why should I?

Chenthil- Thank you for that.

Nisha- You know, I've always had problems with this 'eyes conveying emotions' business; they can't. Expressions are muscles moving. But I agree, one does need a quiet period in life to realise the treasures in memory.

Ash, Dipali- Thank you (though I thought it was a cheerful post).

Ph- You read that book too? Wonderful, wasn't it?

Guruprasad- Thank you, especially if I managed to convey hope and optimism.

9:42 pm  
Blogger Phantasmagoria said...

Yes, and hadn't met anyone else who had. :) It's still my all time favorite book.

5:10 pm  
Blogger Phantasmagoria said...

I still have my copy. Would be happy to share it with you.

5:12 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Ph- Ooh, (Get thee behind me, Satan) can I? I'd like to read it once more, start to finish. It is not that I gave my copy away carelessly, it was a considered gift to a person who'd appreciate it, but I miss having the book to flip through or read favourite passages. Mail me lalitam [@] gmail [dot]com, please.

You won't find a more grateful soul, I tell you. :-) I will send it back, never fear.

9:40 pm  
Blogger Guruprasad said...

copy too? if there's an electronic version of it going around?

3:09 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Guruprasad- It is still under copyright, I think. :-)

4:29 am  

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