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Thursday, February 19, 2015

I was in a hotel recently. Job. It was a small, cosy space, which had at least five mirrors. I mean, wherever you turn, an image of you will stare back. It was unnerving, almost nightmarish…

Then I found Jorge Luis Borges talking about mirrors. Then it made sense…

Says Borges: “As a small boy, whenever I saw myself reflected in a large mirror, I felt all the horror of the wraith-like doubling or multiplication of reality. Mirrors, with their never-failing mimicry, their pursuit of each of my movements, their pantomime of the world, seemed eerie to me. If a mirror hangs in a room, I can no longer be alone there: someone else is present. God created the forms of the mirror to show man that he is but a reflection, that all is vanity; this is why mirrors frighten us.”

A Boy Named Sue

“A Boy Named Sue”
Johnny Cash

My daddy left home when I was three
And he didn't leave much to ma and me
Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze.
Now, I don't blame him cause he run and hid
But the meanest thing that he ever did
Was before he left, he went and named me "Sue."

Well, he must o' thought that is quite a joke
And it got a lot of laughs from a' lots of folk,
It seems I had to fight my whole life through.
Some gal would giggle and I'd get red
And some guy'd laugh and I'd bust his head,
I tell ya, life ain't easy for a boy named "Sue."

Well, I grew up quick and I grew up mean,
My fist got hard and my wits got keen,
I'd roam from town to town to hide my shame.
But I made a vow to the moon and stars
That I'd search the honky-tonks and bars
And kill that man who gave me that awful name.

Well, it was Gatlinburg in mid-July
And I just hit town and my throat was dry,
I thought I'd stop and have myself a brew.
At an old saloon on a street of mud,
There at a table, dealing stud,
Sat the dirty, mangy dog that named me "Sue."

Well, I knew that snake was my own sweet dad
From a worn-out picture that my mother'd had,
And I knew that scar on his cheek and his evil eye.
He was big and bent and gray and old,
And I looked at him and my blood ran cold
And I said: "My name is 'Sue!' How do you do!
Now your gonna die!!"

Well, I hit him hard right between the eyes
And he went down, but to my surprise,
He come up with a knife and cut off a piece of my ear.
But I busted a chair right across his teeth
And we crashed through the wall and into the street
Kicking and a' gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer.

I tell ya, I've fought tougher men
But I really can't remember when,
He kicked like a mule and he bit like a crocodile.
I heard him laugh and then I heard him cuss,
He went for his gun and I pulled mine first,
He stood there lookin' at me and I saw him smile.

And he said: "Son, this world is rough
And if a man's gonna make it, he's gotta be tough
And I knew I wouldn't be there to help ya along.
So I give ya that name and I said goodbye
I knew you'd have to get tough or die
And it's the name that helped to make you strong."

He said: "Now you just fought one hell of a fight
And I know you hate me, and you got the right
To kill me now, and I wouldn't blame you if you do.
But ya ought to thank me, before I die,
For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye
Cause I'm the son-of-a-bitch that named you "Sue.'"

I got all choked up and I threw down my gun
And I called him my pa, and he called me his son,
And I came away with a different point of view.
And I think about him, now and then,
Every time I try and every time I win,
And if I ever have a son, I think I'm gonna name him
Bill or George! Anything but Sue! I still hate that name!

The song in Youtube, here.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Book Review

I am always flummoxed when people ask me, “What your poems are about?” I do not know how to answer this question.

Now, thanks to you, Sucharita Dutta-Ashane, I can quote you and say that my poems are “wistful exploration of journeys through life, its lived realities and desired metaphors. Structured as a series of select journal entries, the poems trace a deep and long history of sorrow—acceptance—sorrow, the mind’s efforts to confront reality, the poet’s anguished heart turning into metaphor the journalist’s experiences. It presents life strung across a wire, taut, waiting to snap, perhaps, but held in place for the moment by the spine of a journal. Lyrical and “seeped in sadness”, the poems thus record stories of moments—probed, prodded, laid out bare—a journey that has to be made even if there is no destination in sight.”

Thank you for the wondrous words.

And, a thank you to you too, Arjun, for your enthusiasm, above all else.

The review is in the December 2014 issue of The Four Quarters Magazine. http://tfqmagazine.org/DUTTA-SUCHARITA-TFQ.html/

/
The text of the review below/

Life, Inventoried

By Sucharita Dutta-Ashane

“Poetry is the journal of a sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air.”
-Carl Sandburg

Dibyajyoti Sarma’s Pages from an Unfinished Autobiography is a wistful exploration of journeys through life, its lived realities and desired metaphors. Structured as a series of select journal entries, the poems trace a deep and long history of sorrow—acceptance—sorrow, the mind’s efforts to confront reality, the poet’s anguished heart turning into metaphor the journalist’s experiences. It presents life strung across a wire, taut, waiting to snap, perhaps, but held in place for the moment by the spine of a journal. Lyrical and “seeped in sadness”, the poems thus record stories of moments—probed, prodded, laid out bare—a journey that has to be made even if there is no destination in sight.

“It’s just a place,
Like any other.
It may not be your destination,
But
It certainly is someone else’s.
Take a hike.
Explore the place.
You may start to like it.
There are people who did.
It is after all a destination, like any other.”

The poet is the observer and the observed, the planes of emergence and submergence fluid, continuous, the journey from the outer to the inner ruthless, deliberate, an exorcism of the soul that doesn’t bring relief.

“Oh, how sad, the old beggar
On the roadside
Naked, shivering in the cold
His head between his knees
Like a cloudless piece of sky.

In my warm clothes,
I pitied him, I stood before him
And shedding my clothes one by one
I gave them to him,
My muffler and my torn underwear.

The beggar stood up and
Elaborately put on the clothes
One piece at a time, and finally
The wristwatch. He bowed a little
To thank me, and walked away.

Oh, how sad, I
On the roadside
Naked, shivering in the cold
My head between my knees
Like a cloudless piece of sky.”
(Journal Entry: 78)

The poems negotiate ways and ways, destinations reached and breached, sometimes to find fulfilment, sometimes to forge escape routes, but the journey is unsparing. It snares the traveller, the roads wrap around one another, in the traveller’s “throbbing heart/There lies an impenetrable darkness”. There are no exits; what seem to exist are phantom promises.

“Poems are escape routes
Fire exits
Always there
To make you feel secure.

But when you need them
They bar your entry
With the stubbornness of a six-year-old
Crying for his favourite candy.”
(Journal Entry: 100)

The poet mulls over possibilities, wanders among love and loss, dedicates words to friends and lovers, to those who have inspired and those who have caused despair, deeply aware, all the while, of the pervasive transience of all that takes place; “Finally, nothing remains”. As the refrain resonates across the poems, the tone swings from despair to acceptance to intense yearning, lingering hope:

“He will come.
He won’t.
...
He won’t.
He will.
...
He won’t come.
He will.”
(Journal Entry: 51)

It is in these spaces, in the elision between hope and acceptance, in the repetitive arc of expectation and loss that the poet seems to exist. These intervening spaces spring hope and the joy of anticipation, of finding fulfilment, the intertwining, intense pleasures of loving and leaving, of remembered presence or the expectation of presence.

The poems thus carve a cyclical path, emotions beginning where they ended, the dragon gorging on its tail. The poet travels on, “through time/Through everything for which you/Once wanted to stop”, through the history that engenders them—the day’s experience, the mind’s inquest, its struggle, the meandering between thinking and just living, between distress and hope.

“In short, I’m blind
For a while now.

I’ve removed my eye-balls
And hung them on the gate.

He will walk by this way
Dazzling my sight.”
(Journal Entry: 76)

Elisions also inform the structure of this loose collection of recordings. The journal entries are numbered, though not necessarily in expected succession. What transpires in the blanks? What journeys does the poet undertake, where does the mind wander, how does it come back to the trajectory it has shaped for itself? Intense and repetitive, the general theme of love and yearning is expressed by the poet with sincerity of tone and language that leaves behind melancholy, as also a deeply pervasive mood of knowing that

“Dreams inhabit a different world
Beyond us and surrounding us
We live in glass jars, made of dreams.”

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Love Is Strange

To the all crazy motherfuckers.
Alfred Molina and John Lithgow in Ira Sachs’ brilliant and humane Love Is Strange (2014)


“I have missed having your body next to mine too much to have it denied to me for reasons of bad engineering…”

Some love transcends and survives to old age and death. John Lithgow in Ira Sachs’s brilliant and ultimately heartbreaking, Love Is Strange (2014).


“Come closer, I want to kiss you.”

I would go running if Mathieu Amalric would stretch his hands and tell me in his French-accented English. In Arnaud Desplechin’s at the same time ambitious and maudlin ‘American’ film about a Blackfoot Native American, the Jimmy P. of the title, and a French doctor, George Devereux, played by Amalric, based on Devereux’s book, Reality and Dream: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian (1952), Jimmy P. (2013).

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The view of the busy street, with the evening traffic below, and above, the Metro platform… Halfway through reaching Rajendra Nagar Metro Station, on a regular Saturday evening...
There was a time, in the not-so-distant past, when photography was about film rolls. You could click just 32 photographs at one time (33-34 clicks if you are lucky). You did not have the chance to review the pictures, until you sent the roll to the dark room to be developed, and you received the prints, either in gloss or matte papers. Then, digital cameras were invented, and everything changed. Now, you could click insane amount of pictures at one time, and also, review your photographs real time. You did not need prints to see your pictures. With the coming of smartphones, the act of taking pictures took another dramatic turn. Selfie became a legitimate word in our language, and taking pictures, selfie or otherwise, became the national pastime. Today, you no longer print photographs. You upload them on Facebook, and if you fancy yourself as a photographer, then on photo upload sites like Instagram and Flikr.

Does this mean that photo printing as we knew it is dead? Yes and no. Photo printing is not dead. With the advent in technology, even photo printing has morphed into something else, a specialised service. Now, you don’t print pictures in 4x5 papers, you make a photobook, with vivid colours and various enhancements, which can make you look a million bucks. There are presses like the HP Indigo series, Xerox Versant and Scodix, which can help you achieve this. And there are service providers who will make you a photobook of your pictures the way you want it.

Talking about cameras, a shot of the Vintage Camera Museum, titled Museo Camera, curated by Aditya Arya, who displayed cameras collected from around the world, including some iconic cameras from the last 100 years, at the CEIF Photofair 2015, which was held in Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, from 8 to 11 January, 2015, organised by the All India Photographic Trade and Industry Association (AIPTIA) and co-organised by the Asian Imaging and Photography Magazine.
Mutton Curry at Rajinder De Dhaba, a popular eatery in the middle of posh Safdarjung Enclave in Delhi. And, the food, awesome.