The Silent Breeze

Be quiet for a while. Listen.

Review of Jerry Pinto’s “Em And The Big Hoom”

This is a story about a world within a world. The reader is introduced to the cobwebs in the hallways of a mentally challenged person’s mind. The book catches him by the collar and takes him on a whirlwind of a trip. Immediately enough, the reader finds himself inside the four walls of that unique world in which Imelda resides. He is introduced to the trials and tribulations of the narrator’s life and that of his father and sister. While the wheels of existence revolve in a normal pattern for everybody else outside that apartment, a stark contrast is painted inside those four walls. The reader tries to voluntarily dive into the erratic machine that is Imelda’s mind and, as a result, is taken on a roller-coaster ride as the chapters unfold. There are moments when he is able to untangle a few knots and is lulled into feeling that he is finally being able to decipher this weirdly enigmatic but oh-so-real character. At other times, he is rudely brought back to earth when he realizes that the untangling of knots was more of an illusory phenomenon. The volatile mindset and the lack of a proper direction in the thought process coupled with generous helpings of suicidal tendencies and erratic actions and decisions tests the husband’s, the son and the daughter’s endurance.

Even amidst this chaotic environment, there are healthy dollops of narratives which give the reader a sneak peek into the Imelda and The Big Hoom of yesteryears. The description about her job and the courtship that ensued gives a sense of direction and normalcy to an otherwise ravaged character. Understanding her causes the reader to feel an involuntary sense of empathy for the family as a whole. The Big Hoom endures this tsunami of madness and carries out his duties like a true stoic would. This, in turn, makes him a larger than life character drawing the reader towards him even though his character is shrouded by a veil of silence. Through the narrator’s words and otherwise, one gradually realizes that the undertone of sadness is exacerbated through undulating waves of negativity and the one simple thing they crave for is what the whole world takes for granted – a normal happy life. The book essentially helps us to revisit our own lives and makes us understand how fortunate we really are. Here is a family where the children have been forced to grow up faster than usual and the father has steadily grown weary of his burdens. Here is a family where a normal incident-less day is celebrated euphorically. Here is a family that would give anything to be in our shoes and experience the normal happy life.

The saga of Imelda’s life and the people willingly and unwillingly embroiled in it opens up a new disturbing world that the reader could not have ever fathomed otherwise. As a result, the book is a brave trend-setter which veers off the beaten path and makes the reader sit up and take notice.

 

Published in Efflorescence, Journal of the Department of English, Naba Ballygunge Mahavidyala, India (July, 2013)

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Those Meeting Rooms

Those meeting rooms

Devour suits and shining shoes

The suits sit

The shoes stare

The nib of the pen

Twinkles for a second

Winks smartly

Kisses the white pad

Sensuously

Smoothly

Ravenously

Oozing out the oily ink

On the bare skin

Of the white pad

The new lights

Motion-sensor

Ignoring emotions

Saving energy

Stoic witnesses

On the clean ceiling

The table at the center

Curved at the sides

Two dimensional obesity

Hands rest

Cufflinks peek

While minds analyze

In branded clothes

 —

The sudden ugliness

The occasional yawn

Operatic

Magnificent

Momentary

Drowning disdainfully

The meeting itself

All Rights Reserved

Up there

Yes, you!

Your golden throne?

Carved by lies and fangs

That belong to you

You, who reserve

Privileged  privileges

Just for yourself

Reserve your game reserve

For your entertainment

The game reserve

Contains us

Pawns in a game

You deceive

Buttered hands

Buying imported butter

Buttering special buttocks

 —

Many special rights

Leaking many wrongs

Flowing into the mass

In the bottle

Of limited capacity

Limited endurance

The Mutation Of A Dream

THE DREAM

 

The dampness of the floor kissed my weary veins as my tall frame cajoled itself to rise up and start walking. There was an invisible wave blowing through the room and outside it. The walls and the bed beside mine were floating coyly inside the silky wave. There was no one on the bed which should not have been the case. I walked through the wave effortlessly and reached the door of my room. Outside it, the hallway was equally empty, barren and somewhat lost. The walls were gray. Perfectly painted and gray. At the corner, stood a cupboard. It was partially open. I peered into it and there were abandoned cobwebs. The cupboard was a dark gray. Finally, I moved out onto the balcony. The view was indeed splendid. Scores of trees lined up their manes beholding the gray worn leaves that wandered about with the effervescent wave. There were solitary bewildered (or were they free?) leaves riding on and in the wave while the trees never seemed devoid of them. A sea of trees with their gray leaves and a constant quaint rustling sound filled up the environment. There was a chair waiting for me. I sat down. Peacefully lost.

 

THE DRAMATIZED DREAM

 

The eyelids parted to give way to a humongous enchanted spinning vortex. It was pitch dark and the vortex kept on turning ever so slowly gnawing away at the bits of foreign particles floating in the air but too miniscule to be discerned by the common eye. My groggy eyes kept on staring at this sensation as my body lifted itself up and attempted to get off the bed. My feet looked ghoulish and mutated but they did not feel any different. The floor was the surface of the sea. I could see clear pristine life below the liquid grooves. There were small fishes and big ones and other randomly shaped creatures floating about freely in no direction in particular. My feet moved over the sea of water in an effortlessly buoyant manner. I walked across slowly, playing with the invisible waves, as they came along lazily and seduced me as they flew through my mind. My bed was in the distance now or maybe it had lost itself in the horizon. Fare thee well, my comforted companion.

As I walked further, I chanced across a second bed. It was identical to mine and it resembled a barren and deserted tract of land shunned by humanity and languishing in the shadows of deprivation.  Where was he? This was his bed. Where are you, little kid?

I stepped out of the water and out of my room. The door was embroidered with pictures from the old days to the new. Photographs of memories adorned the frame. It was an exquisite and bewildering sight. The door was open but the designs and the carvings scared me. I flung myself, sweating, through the door, eventually landing on the water with a loud splash. My clothes were dry much to my dismay. I longed to taste the wetness of the clear water on my clothes which would slowly mould a shiver down my spine. A deep sense of sadness filled me up as I came to terms with the opacity of this surreal environment.  The cupboard in the corner beckoned me like a newlywed. As I neared it, the door of the cupboard creaked open to reveal the guarded cobwebs of yesteryears. As my wrinkled fingers crept through these strange, random and delicately silken cobwebs, a startling paradox came into light. My hand had touched a time-triggered bomb.

The explosion and the grand symphonies of existence came together in one loud ear-splitting reality-shattering bang. For many seconds, there was an outpouring of bright light from all ends. The sea and the vortex had coalesced into a big ball of light and fire. As with time, the effect diminished. Through the haze emerged a forest dotted with gray trees. The water had receded to give way to a sea of leaves floating in the breeze. The fiery rage had given way to the soft sounds of the breeze in between the branches of the trees. As I stood on the balcony, I saw a figure emerge. The boy, naked and glowing, walked towards my house.

The kid was finally back home. It had found itself.

Bonded Labourer

Walking on a barbwire

Careful slow steps

Ballerina on cue

Walks the human

On an inhumane road

Sombre

And the sweaty soiled hand

Herded by the shepherd

Ripples and the water

Wrinkles and time

Slow warm breath

Sleep

Peaceful Cold

Bickering winter
Naked branches of the dark
Solace in the void

Haikus Of Hope

Dark unpleasant road
Travels the woman I know
Is she still holy?

The night sky is black
Countless souls are mortified
And a candle’s glow

Hope grows on fresh trees
Tsunami of sunlight comes
Her deity now glows!

Published in “Aatish” by On Fire Publications, India (March, 2014)

An Ode To Thought

There are certain times in the day when I stop doing whatever I am doing at that point of time and jump into a vortex of thoughts, all bound up in each other to form a complex grid. The blank white wall in front of me dissolves and becomes vapour. There is no tangible boundary, neither is there a reason for the existence of one. In that complex grid, I find myself wandering on meadows and hillocks that blend into one another time and again, periodically and sporadically.

Then a concoction of faces start appearing in front of me. Some of them smile, some cry and some look at me with hollow eyes. I let them come at me. They walk through me and leave as abruptly as they come. My senses are no more a part of me. They are independent characters in an effervescent story. I watch them flow effortlessly through the grid, filled with curiosity and devoid of direction. Pictures, memories, words and smells play in front of me, like a rusted motion picture. The reel falls off the projector and  I pick it up.

The liquid is brewing in my mind. The smell hits. The faces come back. They explore me once again. I am now thinking of all that was good, is good and whether the future will contain a morsel of happiness. Simultaneously, I think of all that has gone wrong in me, around me and without me. I see acid and darkness and bloodcurdling screams. They are glued to the good parts like Siamese twins. Would a surgery be good enough? Or does it require the loss of a life?

 —

 I am out of the vortex now. The latte in the paper cup has gone cold. Damn it! Stupid cold latte. I feel cold. The air conditioning is not working properly it seems. There’s a message on the screen – “Your session has timed out. Please login again.” Time had run out. Eviction was only a necessity. The balance has to be maintained. Maybe not in the virtual world, I realize. I trust the mouse and the keyboard. They help me to login again.

My mind is a beehive of radioactive waste. I think of things that hurt me, hold me tight and strangle me. I think of all that has become weird. Things that were not meant to be but are. Things that are a reality even though they look better in a book of fiction. Even then, I see the colour spreading wide. It is there. It was always there. The colour is constant just like change. These random and weird thoughts mixed with the memories of the past and the future confine me in a room under the earth where the damp walls smell nice and the sounds do not pervade. I am in me when I am in the vortex.

The latte goes into the dustbin.

Published in The Cauldron, India (May, 2013)

An Excerpt From A Writing

(1)

The momentary swallowing of pride made him toss and turn in his bed for hours on end. It was nearing dawn. The light peered through the gaps in the curtain lending a strange red glow on the walls of the room. It was an unnatural feeling. The incident had robbed him of his sleep. Maybe the kid was right. He was a lie. The world was real. The people were real. The kid was real. He was not. The blood in his veins seemed to turn into mud, refusing to move forward. His heart beat slowly. Maybe it realized the futility of it all. There was not a drop of sweat on his weary limbs. He felt a strange feeling of peace course through his body. He could not stop it. He wanted to feel shocked. Instead, he felt happy. He could feel the weight of his body sink comfortably into the softness of the bed.  In spite of it all, he lay wide awake pondering about it like a broken record playing on an infinite loop.

Shy streaks gave way to proud harsh beams of sunlight, rudely awakening him from the shallow slumber he was immersed in. He felt lighter and buoyant, probably for the first time in his life, even though it was the dreaded Monday. His disheveled hair gave perfect company to the smell of empty booze bottles lurking at the corner of the room. He had forgotten to turn off the laptop last night, not that it really mattered. There were three new messages.  Two of them were related to the office chores of the day and the third was the usual stern mail from his boss. He browsed through them nonchalantly.  He was running late already. Reluctantly, he dragged himself around the room with a bid to getting ready for office.

He was three hours late. The maniacal movement of the hands and the utterance of piercing insults by his boss failed to stimulate the desired reaction in him. He could not hear or comprehend much of it. Not that he cared to. It was as if an invisible protective veil had sprouted its roots all around him, thrusting him into an impenetrable cocoon of positivity. The stifling cubicle did not feel stifling anymore. He could see the kid sitting on the desk in front of him, swinging his legs playfully. “It’s good to meet you again”, he said. The kid looked up at him, smiled and said “Tell me about it!”

There was a sudden banging of fists on the desk. He looked up startled and saw that repulsive scowl on the face of the boss.

“You’re shameless, man! How dare you keep on smiling while I’m shouting at you?”

“I’m sorry, Sir. I didn’t mean to smile. “

“Do you realize the gravity of the situation, you twit? Your job is probably at stake here. You’re more unproductive than your sorry ass! …and all you can do is stand there and smile like an imbecile!”

“Well, I wouldn’t exactly agree to the comparison with my buttocks but yes judging from the hard facts placed in front of me, I wouldn’t dispute the latter part of your comment.”

“Eh? Trying to be a smart aleck now, are you eh?”

“Not exactly, Sir. I believe I’m a dumb duck.”

“You echo my sentiments, boy!”

“I’m gratified to know that, Sir.”

That was the last time he entered his boss’ chamber.  Walking out of that door, he felt like he was shedding a foul-smelling mutated skin. As the distance from the door increased, he could feel the new smell envelop his body.  It grew more and more prominent with every passing moment.  The expressionless cubicles gaped at him and murmured in hushed undertones. His steps grew lighter as he approached his cubicle. Gathering up his things, he could not help but grin a little. He felt pity for everybody else in the office while everybody else felt pity for him. The world was indeed based on cosmic balances.  He felt guilty of not being able to betray a stray feeling of remorse as he walked out of that place for the last time in his life. Yes, tears were being shed inside and a void had been created. Strangely enough, he did not feel as morose as he should have felt nor did he feel like basking in the sympathy showered on him by his co-workers. He felt a surge of freedom run havoc in the vast meadows of his mind. As he walked out on to the pavement, his eyes fell on the kid, leaning casually on a wall belonging to that majestic building from which he had only just emerged, patiently waiting for him all this while. They smiled at each other.

(2)

It was already afternoon and a red dim melancholy had captured the imagination of the sky.  The sleepy atmosphere was rudely awakened by the thunderous gurgles emanating from the heavens. The sporadic orchestral performances gave way to crystalline drops of water which clung lazily to the rusted window grill for a short period of time, after which they hesitantly dragged themselves down to the bottom edge of the boundary of the window. The unlucky passer-by, with the lower part of his pants adorned with patches of muddy water, darted across the street all the while engrossed in deep thought  while the auto-rickshaw driver moved about lazily, unrolling the patchwork curtains meant to act as a barricade against the rain pervading the inner sanctum of the vehicle. Slowly, the intensity of the downpour increased and the streets grew empty. The rapturous silence that had descended upon the street was broken only by the sound of the incessant rain.

Mr. Banerjee was restless today. He looked at his watch. The minute-hand moved ever so slightly as if to taunt and tease him, reminding him of all those empty years. He had weathered many a storm and today, standing underneath a makeshift battered canopy, he waited for his son to come back into his life again. The steaming cup of tea coursed through his body, filling it up with a passing surge of warmth.  Opposites come together in an unheralded random manner. The warmth of the liquid coupled with the cold damp day transformed reality, for a moment, into a blurry ethereal vision. It was like an orgasmic pleasure that blended in and forced its way into the dark cobwebs of the mind, purifying it and cajoling it and thus catapulting it into a momentary heightened state of eternal happiness.

The Momentary Word

You spit me out

Like a necessity

Like a volcano

Impatient

I adorn your paper

Resplendent

Beautified with ink

 —

In a moment of indiscretion

You grow blind

Forgetting me

Strike through

Death knell

Maybe you are lost

Therefore, losing me

 —

In a moment

I fall through

To the nethers

Glory in tatters

Once desired

Now despicable

Scribbled out

 —

The birth

The cause

Of the death

To live

To die

In the same breath

I was alive

 —

Scribbled me out

Disfigured me

But I remain

On the page

Hapless reminder

You had wanted me

Even if for a brief moment

Published in Recours au Poème, France (August, 2013)

Published in “Connections” by Solstice Initiative, Ireland (March, 2013)

  Published in  “A Poet’s View Of Being” by Brian Wrixon Books, Canada (October, 2012)

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