One cup of coffee
left with out a single sip
One packet of potato wafers
The strip of pyrexia on the
forehead , skips , hops
The bones of teakwood cot
have put on some flesh
I hear the cry of the violins
like rain fall
Everything darkens at
this close distance
A limitation of cones
Only rods work in the dark
His heart thumps over mine
My breath gets shorter
This gum does not stick
Nor does it seal
Like octopus unwinds automatically
the key of a music box
silently out of order
Eight limbs sort out into four hands
and four legs only half are mine
The loss is acute inside
fever falls without a trace
Every muscle aches
Here I thought poems left along with you
they did not stay like memories
It was tough to live the vicarious trauma of a raped wife
It was easier to display manhood by becoming an abuser
The most ordinary reaction.
What did you see in him ?
An adolescent with bipolar affective disorder was grabbing
his younger sister by her breasts,she was scared of home
mother was torn between children.
Was it mania ?
How to handle this?
I was confused.
The man who had felt the vicarious trauma of rape,looked angry,
so angry,completely convinced of the guilt of the boy…
“You must call the bluff”He said.
Something in me melted to see the reflection of my anger, my vulnerability , my violation in a man ….
Yes,he felt it as though he was a woman…!
I wanted to hold him …
That one minute changed my life.
I saw innocence before it was destroyed.
There was a power cut,lights went out.
Like it did when I was raped 14 years ago.
The first schedule of shooting was to be in Mysore Palace. Those scenes when Padmini loses her husband, struggles alone to make both ends meet, and is sexually exploited in the low paid jobs that she takes up, so finally resorts to flesh trade and gives up her daughter in adoption to a Christian convent were being shot.M and Adithya had not much role to play. They hung around on the sets watching Padmini perform her legendary tear jerking scenes with astounding finesse. Her face was moulded to the camera and the make up was her second skin, meant to emote. Every facial crease emoting like a poem. Those small eyes came alive with the lights, looking enormous expanding with the gief demanded by the situation. Her overweight body looked light, because of the ease with which she carried herself, cooperative gestures were easy, uninhibited.The willingness to pretend happened with certain emptiness within.
This willing demeanour somehow made even her acts of pretended shyness, resistance to sexual overtures look powerfully palpable and convincing. Madhu sensed the profundity of Seena’s words “Only when the shyness vanishes, you will look shy”. To depict shyness one needed to be brazen. Like the essence of all humour was in someone else’s fall, the divine comedy in our own fall. The backdrop of heavy silky vibrant colours of the palace blended with the scenes, completing the frames. She received the attention that art invariably seduces out of even a common man. M‘s mood was one of inspired awe.
His wife was raped by a patient?
Yes , she was working with the mentally ill.
And he went to police?
Yes. And the whole institute spoke about it.
Obviously he could not be punished, he was being treated for mental illness.
He felt emasculated by this trauma…?
I do not understand your words. He experienced psychological impotence.
Does that justify him raping a virgin of 14years?
According to him, it cured him of impotence.
The accused collects it
to hide his guilt
The innocent collects it
to prove her innocence
Obviously they don’t tally
If the crime scene is her body
It can not be wrapped with
yellow sticky tapes
Witness can not get in
Any ways you can always
lie back and think of England
If there is no bread you can eat
cake,revolutions happen like that .
In all countries nice women are
asked to keep secrets
Lesser women scream
Some others write poetry
and tear the paper.
Her attention wavered to a small group of younger men in designer outfits, looking misfit in that gathering. They were shouting “AD thumbs up man” M confusedly wondered what AD was , to her it appeared in history textbooks , BC before Christ or AD after death. Adithya smiled self consciously, “I only drink coke, that too never without scotch, these guys are having a dig at me, I shouldn’t have called them” M asked gingerly “What is AD?” Adithya laughed “My initials’ she felt foolish, she hated all drinks,they brought tears to her eyes. She noticed one of the young men to be particularly flamboyant, as loudly seeking attention as Padmini.
He was short, thin with longish hair but a head looking larger than his torso, his eyes were slanted, narrow like slits, and he positively looked evil.M was curious about men with long hair. She wondered if they found their masculinity to be a vulnerability and masked it with long hair or were they flaunting it because long hair invariably drew attention to sexuality in both sexes.
Whenever M entered her regular “man hating” phases, she was tempted to cut her hair or at least trim it. So men who grew their hair were they in “woman hating” phases? All hermits who regarded women as distraction grew long hair. M wondered if Menaka was a distraction to Vishwamitra, what he was to Menaka? Just a challenge or temptation, or a situation of voluntary sexual abuse of a heavenly body? Male desire was loud in its description, elaborate in translation; female desire was stubbornly silent in all pages of history and prehistoric times. Scriptures only recorded the events in the lives of female characters.
As the story goes her father had fallen for her mother’s long plait in his friend’s wedding. When he followed her mother and found the glimpse of the face of the owner of that plait to be lovelier than the plait , he wanted to marry. M’s mother cared for her hair for years grooming her. But M had cut her knee length hair when she was fifteen years old and vowed never to grow it for any man. Her man hating spells occurred too frequently for her hair to reach a length beyond her shoulders.
Her father had that expression of some one who was mutilated when he saw her at the dining table with a crew-cut. Since his opinion did not matter as the act was over, he ate his dinner silently, not looking at her , like ignoring a painful boil on the sole of his feet.
M was aware of the uniformity in all the faces made up by one make up man. The regular matinee idols catered to the unfulfilled longings of a common man, being at the top of the heap always. The women centred roles often gave a free vent to the masochism latent in women, the heroine undergoing unnecessary travails in all gusto, with both her and the audience shedding copious tears. When it was all over wondering why everyone cried so much! Padmini specialized in depicting such roles. Padmini was a plain looking woman, loved by the camera. Looking at her M learnt that being beautiful was easier than appearing beautiful. Art was appearing beautiful, not necessarily being beautiful. That was the painful lie, behind that beautiful mask.
Contrary to her filmy image of a demure, fragile, tearful helpless epitome of chauvinistic ideals, whom every young man of those times would want to marry and take home to meet his mom, Padmini was a querulous, loud mouthed, insufferably vain woman bossing around the sets.She was acutely uncomfortable with M, who could not be impressed with loudness. She looked upon M as an old inmate of a prison looks at a new entrant, a right mixture of repugnance and empathy. Padmini was a sacrificial goat that had lost its blood eons ago and is currently a free spirit, sheer talent undressed of all identity springing out of false relationships except that of an actor towards a non existent self. She was so restless without attention, loudly calling out to the director for some inane reason. It was as if she feared she would stop existing if no one noticed her. That famous identity needed constant reassurance about its fame, only then the private miseries would be under control.
She was relieved; there was no spark between them at all. She was too young to know that relationships grow, not all of them happen in an instant and mind is not the only landscape available for a man to make a start. Perhaps mind was the only untouched aspect of a woman even in a marriage.
They made small polite conversations with each other, about weather, politics, and education. He seemed informed of brands, pubs, designer clothes, turf club, imported cars. Like the cool bubbles of champagne, uncomplicated high society kid. A last bench student of the classroom, he went to school because his mother had to attend kitty parties, and ayah could not be bothered the whole day. The first bench kid who came to school to get the first rank was also uncomplicated, secure with parental ambitions to be fulfilled, with a preplanned map of chalked out routes in front of him, and girls like her who sat next to whoever loudly wanted them had a problem. They had nothing in common.He was impoverished of emotions having listened to “Baby don’t cry I will buy you a BMW’ He needed to be enrolled in kindergarten if he had to learn the lessons of complicated love, simple betrayals,hopeless passion, unrealized dreams of mundane human existence.He had never longed for anything that could not be bought,he seemed to have just the right amount of money to buy anything he really cared about. She was amazed to learn that one has to have experienced a life with limited budget,to know what money can’t buy. If they had chanced to meet anywhere else they would not have given a second thought or glance to one another.
She was 13 in the ICU her right arm was amputated 8 days ago, I read through the case file she was removing clothes from the line on the terrace that was dangerously close to electric live wire, she touched accidentally and all the tissues were charred. Her little brother of six years had touched her with a wooden parrot , hence she did not die. License to construct unauthorized floors ” Damn ” I muttered.
She asked me several questions about wound healing and when she could have an artificial limb, could she draw with that? She was right handed. I explained about ambidexterity latent in all our brains, how young her brain was and she could do it all with her left arm as well…. Mother needed “de briefing”
I worried over “Phantom limb phenomenon”… explained it to the mother.
I met her after 12 weeks she showed me the drawing of a Goddess with 12 hands,that she had drawn in her left hand “For you” she said shyly..She shook hands with me with her left hand,carried a little sister in left arm , smiled and said ,
“God may need so many hands,for me even one is enough”
One dress in blue chiffon was designed by her, there was a quiet disapproval by the director as the length of the skirt was too long, and they wanted a view of her legs. Vineetha altered the dress at the last minute wanting it to be tighter, so the dress was opened up and the stitches were put while she wore it, the whole unit waiting for her, She was consoled that the length was not reduced. The song demanded her to express sarcasm, not romantic mushy emotion, so she managed. Camera man Sirish came up to her, while everyone was eating and said “I will let you know the angle being focussed in the camera before hand, so chill. Don’t alter garments, this is your first film kid, you have a long way to go” she looked up to Sirish “ This is my last film Sirish, incomplete projects haunt me so I am completing it . I rather alter the skirt than myself as a sex symbol to suit their needs, it was not mentioned in the contract”
But his discretion deserted him faced with tears of outraged modesty, no matter how incongruous it looked to others ” What you don’t want to show will not be shown, that is a promise, now wipe your tears”. True to his word, he managed to find her before most of the shots, would give her one word commands, “ cleavage” “waist” “legs” …she covered up those parts; Sirish would give her an approving nod. So he had to look at all those parts she did not want to be seen, the process of protecting her demanded that,it embarrassed their friendship by an intimacy of looks. Madhu could not face him when the camera was out of their way. After all she could hide the skin, not the form.