Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tangled Weave

This one began speaking as I was driving to work. The story watched me as I followed the curve of the off ramp, watched me watching it, and leisurely lifted itself from the bole of a gulmohar where it had been perched, and I knew I'd been taken.

And now I am haunted. There is no other word for it. There is familiarity in moving shadows, an almost recognition in the pattern the unmoving leaves sketch on my desk, the scuttling just outside my vision that falls silent when concentrated upon. If I ignore it, or at least pretend to, it'll intensify, and then there'll be chills around my knuckles, numbness just beneath the left hand ring finger, the muscle under the thumb drumming to an unheard beat. That's when I shall have to do something about it. I know this of old.

This time, it is a tangled loom of a story that has stumbled upon me. I can't see the end of it and feel its unwieldy mass pouring in the pit of my stomach. I am really uncomfortable with this one because, like always, being haunted does not assure a good story at the end of exorcism. And the heaviness of this one is frightening.

The thing about largely woven patterns is that they tend to stretch so wide and far that they often get lost somewhere on the horizon. If one is lucky, they carry their creator on their roaring wave and by the time she is washed up on the shore, the project is finished, races off on an ever undulating ocean. However, I am not so fortunate. I am haunted by snippets, images, silvery strands of plot-ghosts as I chase chores, drive, grade, and wonder. I don't yet know what, if they can, will ever crystallize in a coherent tale, but judging by the increased hauntings, the prospects seem promising.

Be that as it may, I can tell that these are going to be a difficult couple of hours, several months, two years, however long the birthing might take.

Good reader, pray that the birthing be easy; light a votive in the gathering the twilight, chew a gulmohar petal for luck, and begin reading or telling a long tale tonight, to ease the season's night passage.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Winguardian Leviosa!

I just watched the last movie of the Harry Potter saga in honor of the passing of an age. I feel as though I am older for having lived this story. As I look back on what I like to call the Harry Potter decade, I am astounded at how much this story has reflected our world and how much it has helped me live it.

The world I find myself in the second decade of the new millennium has changed drastically and suddenly from the previous decades; I've had to re-define some very basic concepts, like the idea of safety, travel, friendship, communication, education, and segregation. It has been, for me, a decade of upheavals on a very basic, psychic level that has mandated that I replace my internal compass with a GPS.

I remember telling my friends scattered across the country that  get-togethers should be no problems, since no place is farther than the nearest airport; but that was before 9/11, which completely changed air travel. I remember being able to count my friends on my fingers; but that was before facebook told me that I'd need many arms and many, many fingers to count my friends. I remember always being on the look out for reliable, reasonably priced calling cards and long distance plans; but that was before oovoo and 3G phones. The list goes on.

In a world that changes so fast, where tomorrow strides and barges in before today is done, I've held on to stories that distill these complex issues into familiar archetypes, told in a way that reminds me of the familiar way of life, at the same time shows characters trying to adjust to a completely new world, having to learn very similar lessons. This story resonates with me for many reasons, but I believe my ability to relate to the characters' choices, lessons, terrors, joys, and crossroads is the main one.

I am not alone in this, of course; my child, who is putting together her college applications, was very impressed to know that one of her dream schools has a very active Quidditch team; we visited "Harry Potter Houses" on our last trip to London and Oxford; no one today is a stranger to a strange word like "muggle."

Today, the entire theatre was completely full and the whole experience to watching this movie on the opening weekend was a treat, like watching a Bollywood blockbuster on opening night. The audience actively participated in the watching: there were boos, clucks, giggles, snickers, guffaws, and outright laughter, as though we were all at a live performance, not a movie. As the light faded out on the characters we'd all come to know so well, the audience burst into a resounding applause.

This was a heartening experience. When I read bleak projections for the future, dire consequences promised for irresponsible choices made by earlier decades, I am more patient. After all, there can be no way to predict what gems of imagination await during troubled, troubling times to remind us of the richness, sweetness, and sheer beauty that is the human experience.

Like audiences emerging out of a tragedy many millennia ago, we, the audience emerging from the theatre today were definitely proud of being human, of the same ilk as the characters whom we admire, then pity and fear for, and ultimately own, so that, like the wish-figures reflected in the mirror of Erised, they keep us company when we look into our solitary looking glasses.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I seem to have stumbled upon a pair of Cinderella shoes: they keep falling off my feet. My feet, in fact, have sent me on a quest for the perfect pair of shoes; but alas, like the perfect handbag, perfect footwear eludes me.
The world is full of shoes: some promise to place clouds beneath one's tread; some promise a complete metamorphosis; yet others pose in mall shops, like portals to alternate selves, selves more sophisticated than imagination could conceive, who seem serious about having fun and making bold statements about this fun.

Some months ago, my 16 year old NEEDED (capitals are deliberate) shoes and so off we went on our Odyssey. As I regarded the fare, I balked at the precariously high heels, the punishing straps strung with hard beads, the uncompromising brilliance staring me down. My child tried on many of these, exclaiming over the unimaginable comfort the shoes afforded, prancing around the store in her borrowed gait.

I crept surreptitiously out of her prancing orbit, afraid of being swooshed off and trampled upon, and found myself being stared at by a row of the improbable sandals, at the ready, seemingly awaiting orders to begin some combat, buckles glinting like weapons.

Undeniably, feet clad in dusty, stringy, un-heeled, loose sandals, feet like mine, did not belong.

Please do not misunderstand me, reader; I do not wish to appear un-groomed and grungy. However, my disagreeable feet are very particular about the kind of material that may clothe them, and they will not countenance the toes being enclosed. They cannot be made to perch any higher than the ground.

Today, I sit here, looking at my faithful sandals, worn out with fitting in, blending, trampling, all in service of my feet. I shall miss them, but like a sad Bluebeard, recognize the need for new ones to destroy.

When I was a child, I was thought of as a rather strange being, one who ran off from street play to hide in libraries, who learned to climb trees in search for an uninterrupted space to read in, who could not manage to keep herself grounded. Now, I know the real problem: I just did not have the right shoe that could convince and assure my feet of the solidness of the ground. I am still on the prowl for a good shoe, one that will not bite my feet in its arrogance and anger, one that will not squeeze my feet and spray blisters on them, one that will not feel compelled to change me into an unrecognizable self, which, instead, would make an effort to blend in with what exists, like an ideal daughter-in-law from a Hindi serial.

After all, not all feet are Cinderella feet, equally comfortable in clogs and gold slippers, and unless the shoe fits, one remains afloat, somehow unconnected to all that everyone is convinced is real, un-centered, even, like Yeats' falcon who cannot hear the falconer.

But then the alternative to Cinderella, of course, are Cinderella's sisters, with their bleeding, sliced up feet and blind eyes, stumbling cluelessly through a graceful wedding, all owing to the perverse insistence of their feet unwilling to fit the right shoe.