One night in Jaipur

I was in Jaipur only for a night and was preparing to get sleep in the hostel. I was supposed to present a paper in Kolkata. At the reception there was a well dressed group of people getting ready for a party. Hesitatingly i asked them if I could join. They welcomed me but the problem was that I was without a partner. Apparently stag entry was charged for around 2500 and was only free if there was a woman with you. We reached there anyway and a fellow hosteler requested a group of women if one of them could pair with me. We entered and it felt like any place in Hauz Khas in Delhi. I do not dance but had to pretend that I can; to stay with the group. Although I really like to sit and enjoy by watching people enjoying. Plus, it was very crowded. I could smell the typical perfume mixed with sweat in the environment. Any shitty song would sound nice in such setting and lights were making everyone look good especially the women wearing red lipsticks. Although they all looked similar to me. Drama unfolded after a while with entry of a woman who was so drunk or high that she was hugging random guys. She was not hugging in a ‘Free Hugs’ kind of way but was using random shoulders to fall asleep. Maybe it was a prank or something but I am not sure. However I preferred to stay away from her path. One side of bar counter was full of women. They were being served for free. On the corner there was a woman with lips like permanent pout and was enjoying kind of dry humping with a guy. She was much taller than him and I never saw his face because in whole party he was behind her. She was continuously looking at her appearance with the front camera of her phone and was checking everyone around with an inviting gaze. That made me think that she could be an escort/prostitute and my friend agreed with me. Most memorable for me was another woman who was dancing in an extremely provocative way. She was wearing backless dress and shorts. I would say she was kind of fearless and original in her attitude. Guys were greeting and dancing with her. It looked like she was regular there. She was accompanied by two tall and bulky guy, for her security, because I overheard her saying to my japanese and Korean acquaintances that, “I am alone.” While dancing, she offered drink to my fellow hosteller and he replied, “I don’t drink.” She asked his name and when he said, “Faraz,” She said,” Wah…Muslim!…you are so cute” and kissed him on the cheek. Faraz would never forget her I am sure but the guy was really decent and sweet. While dancing in an unusual way sometimes she was sticking her tongue out and used the pole to show her pole dancing skills. Another moment, we were sitting on a sofa and a girl with a group of friends put her hands on my thigh. Then she moved to another guy from the hostel who, in my opinion, resembled the actor Ranbir Kapoor. He embraced her and after a while they were into each other. Something I did not dare to do. She was disturbed by something and opened up about tragedies of her life, as the guy told me next day. She repeatedly kept complimenting him. I felt that conversational skills of (sasta) Ranbir Kapoor consoled her. Next day he told me that she took his number and they will be on a date. I remember he emphasized on ‘she took his number’ and he was actually not interested. I remained mostly dazed and silent, like a meditating Gautam Buddha unaffected by dancing apsaras. Something you can expect to be in such scene after months of spending time in libraries. It felt like alternative epicurean world, where connection was easy to establish especially if you look good, have a good personality and can dance well. But as I said, the lights made everyone look good.
I was back to hostel around 4 in the morning. Next day I was supposed to reach Kolkata for an experience that was polar opposite and tragic enough that I can only dare to share as a fiction someday.

OPEN LETTER 

Dear future wife,
I wish I can call you by name. Such a terribly cold and lonely night and I am thinking of you. I wonder if you like to stay up late night or wake up early in the morning. I can’t even guess how you look like, what language you speak and what religion you profess. I wonder if you often think about me and are concerned about your career in the similar way. I wonder if you drink a lot of tea or prefer coffee. Well, I often try to cheat my mind by having hot water like I am doing now while writing this. I had too much of tea today. If you smoke a lot then I must tell you that too much smell of nicotine really puts me off. So never anticipate a kiss from me after smoking. Once I asked a crush of mine if she likes poets or philosophers. And she replied, “Poets”. I read Diwan-e Ghalib to impress her. I actually discovered the book those days and that generated my interest in poetry and other disciplines. I supplied her a lot of poetry. It worked for a while but not after I ran out of comprehensible stuff and she totally lost interest in me. Now i laugh at myself when I think of those days. I don’t want to say much but her car driver was earning more salary than I was. Anyway, I am a grown up man now and I don’t read to please anyone. I read like my life depends on it. And my life now depends on my PhD and the choices I will make in this period. Do you also often think that nobody understands you? And that is not easy to express the way you feel but the same time that helps you to have empathy for others? I have always found kind and intelligent woman extremely attractive and you must be the epitome of those qualities. I admit that I am not so clear about you. If you exist, you will uncondition me from one secretly held perception of mine that every woman I find attractive is attracted towards the other guy, who often seem to me either rich, or popular. I still do not underestimate myself too much. This letter is an example that my idealism is not dead yet. It will not die as long as I am reading good stuff, thinking better thoughts and friends around showering me with their love. I need a lot of improvement and i wish to learn from the qualities of the different people I meet. I try to understand what is likeable or interesting about them. Someone is energetic, someone is generous, someone is so well read, someone is so eloquent and someone is so focused on their work. Nothing is as encouraging as great qualities (that most of the 99 names of God also talks about) are visibly embodied in the people around you. I wish I can I incorporate those qualities in me. I have lot of interesting and secret experiences of mine to share with you as a single man looking for love. I understand money is important, but lusting after fame, money and power is not my style and I am sure yours not too.

Hope to see you in the future,
Rashid
8/9 January 2019

Touch Deprivation

The other day I was reading at the Café and was going through the same page of the book probably for the third time. Maybe the language was too difficult or maybe my heart was not at it. I was aware of a mild headache. That was a kind of headache when you feel some weight on your head. I caressed that part of my head with my hands.
On my left a man explaining a business plan to another. Repeating again and again that poor people remain poor because they do not change their ways. I tried to avoid his irritating talk, but he was loud. On the other side of the glass wall that is on the open terrace of the café, I saw this rich looking couple. They were well dressed with undeniably attractive bodies. Their bodies have the presence of the kind Walt Whitman talks about in his poetry.
While the lemon slices were floating in their colorful drinks, the woman was stroking his hair and face like he is her child. I started observing other people around to see how many are touching each other. The touch I thought has whole philosophy to it. Perhaps those around me not touching each other might be touching each other through words or unable to do so. After all, one can be very specific about who they allow to touch and where. Touching could be a way of understanding each other. It is how we transfer healing warmth from the one body to the another.
I was looking at that couple again. I was thinking that these two must be enjoying closeness to each other. How healing it must be for him to feel her breast, her hair and her face so close to him. Edward Munch would not have created his ‘Madonna’ without experiencing such closeness. I reached to a conclusion that my headache might be out of a deprivation, especially the touch deprivation. I liked the precise term I coined for my sickness. I can borrow money to have coffee here but I cannot borrow a touch.                  
This is where my failure lies?
I carried on with my reading.

On Beauty

<Interesting question asked by friend. I forwarded the same question to my friends and got these responses>

QUESTION:

Vinay Ramki (to me): You seem to be loving beauty. I seem to have an opposite opinion I guess. So would love to know more about your perspective.

Beauty, especially physical beauty is one big unfair thing in the world. We have a particular definition of it (most cases it’s being fair color, appropriate size, etc etc) we see that as beauty/sexy(while typing I’m referring to women). It is just how we define, or more appropriately, accept the definition of beauty as. There is an African tribe I guess where pot bellied women are sexy. There’s an other tribe where disfiguring your face in particular ‘cuts’ is beauty.

There are most people who follow this definition and fantasise that beauty. This is extremely unfair on people who mostly don’t fall in that category. Some might not want to fall in that, but nevertheless… Most want to be seen as beautiful, but alas our definition! They don’t fall in that category. It could be for many reasons beyond their control too.

You on the other hand seem to appreciate in a gentle and poetic way, the same beauty. It is beautiful in poetic sense, but isn’t it the the same unfair concept.

So can you give your perspective on this. Many artists also think like you I guess. So knowing why and what you think would help me understand similar (artistic) people.

ANSWERS:

Indira Krishnamurti Pradhan: In the society we live, our primary scale of value, which is most unfair is in the physical. We are conditioned by factors such as culture, educational background and class and are bombarded daily by the western cultural misogynistic values that emphasize how to remain “young and attractive” for ever. Billions of dollars are generated each year promising the human body a status of “permanent beauty” and also sexuality that are highly valued in western and westernized societies.
Thus our explanation of beauty becomes subjective, when considering beauty and aesthetics. In truth, we all know that the value of an object goes beyond our sensory judgment of what we consider as “beautiful”. It would have to embrace judgment based on emotional and intellectual values of what we are reacting to when we view an object or person by way of beauty.
I would go along with what Aristotle said, which is that it is the experience of the audience that actually determines whether something is art or not. So he does not place importance on the creator’s intention as much as on how the audience reacts to the artwork. It is an absolutely personal decision and conclusion we arrive at when we judge a piece of art.
As far as poetry is concerned, I’d like to quote what Shelley had said: “A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truths.” It is these truths that we are in search of and get sidetracked by externals, which are but a superficial reflection of what lies inside and which we struggle to find. Kant also said: “Whereas the beautiful is limited, the sublime is limitless, so that the mind in the presence of the sublime, attempting to imagine what it cannot, has pain in the failure but pleasure in contemplating the immensity of the attempt.”
Even the rich and famous Hollywood folks whose survival depends on the value placed on their “beauty and wealth” go through a feeling of emptiness and depression beyond a certain point. There is no way they can find permanent joy in the kind of beauty they are programmed to worship in themselves and others. Just as we see beauty in nature or in its natural form externally, we are also infused with its presence internally. This ensures that we live our inner lives too. Beauty is not stagnant; we are in a sense nomadic and travel from threshold to threshold where we discover new possibilities and avenues of creativity and beauty.
In a true sense, we are constantly searching for a state of wholeness, which is a place where we feel that everything is integrated. And until we find that wholeness and attempt to integrate ourselves with our spiritual aspects, ‘beauty’ can only remains “skin deep” in our eyes.

Terry Dalfrano: Beauty counts not for what it is, but for what it suggests: a dream of perfection. A beautiful woman, picture, poem, song are a sort of utopia of a better world. Formal perfection is the negation of the real world. It might sound unjust for the ugly women and bad poets. But it is precisely because we do not like the real world that we like beautiful things. And when we really come to know the object of our admiration, with all its imperfection, we are disillusioned. This is why love cannot be eternal: the real people, and their artistic products, are not eternal, are not perfect.

Please note: Everyone is invited to express their opinion  on the question asked by my friend.

Urdu poets on mystery, wonder and beauty of woman’s hair

Neend us ki hai, dimaag us ka hai, raatein us ki hain
ye zulfein jiski baazuon par pareshan ho gayin.

 

Sleep is his, pride/head is his, the nights are his
on whose shoulder your curls became scattered/tangled
– Ghalib

 

Javaab naama siyaahi ka apni hai vo zulf
kisuu ne hashr ko ham se jo sawaal kiya

 

The answer for the ink (of our deeds) would be those tresses
if anybody will ask us the question on the day of judgement
– Mir Taqi Mir

 

Idhar aao tumhari zulf ham aarasta kar dein
jo gesu ham sanwaareinge kabhi barham nahi honge

 

Come here; let me straighten your troubling hair locks
when I set them right your tresses shall never ever be entangled again
-Kaleem Ajiz

 

Kya ho gaya hai gesuu-e khamdaar ko tere
aazad kar rahein hain giraftaar ko tere
Ab tu muddaton se hai shab-o-roz ruu-ba-ru
kitne hi din guzar gaye didaar ko tere

 

What has happen to your curly hair
they are releasing your captive now
It’s been long since we’ve come face to face night and day
many days have passed without any sight of you
– Jaun Elia

Painting by John William Godward

John-William-Godward-Hair-.jpg

A Dream

They were wandering, holding each other’s hand on the University campus.

 

They went to the parking to find a personal space, and like any young couple they were enjoying snuggling and cuddling.

 

He remembered he was gazing at her lips while she was telling him that she likes reading poetry, and is working on a Samuel Huntington’s poem (yes the man from clash of civilization), so he went to Chawri Bazaar to get some books for her. There he saw his father- a teacher who taught him about South Asia- and his dead uncle, talking to each other. Surprisingly they didn’t notice him.

 

Again they are together, wandering on that road that leads to the boy’s hostel from the University’s Post office. Many gossips echoed from somewhere in his mind about her multiple affairs and past lovers. He only remembers there were multiple voices and he didn’t pay much heed to them.

 

Suddenly, a contingent of soldiers appeared marching on the same road. One of the soldiers shot them with his gun. The bullets hit them but there were no wounds, or feeling of death. Instead of blood there was a profusion of perfume from their bodies and a mystical fragrance all around.

 

A woman with too much makeup appeared from behind that soldier’s contingent. She offered them dinner in exchange for the trouble they had been through. She said “it’s a Valentine’s Day party” and they must come. They realized their bodies still had the smell of the fragrance that had emanated from the hit of bullets.

 

She asked the woman, “What cake is going to be served at the party?”

 

The woman asked her if she had a suggestion, and she offered a most beautiful name- but suddenly the boy woke from his dream and that name drifted beyond the reach of his memory….

(Photo credit: Stella De Genova)12662553_962802470471530_225040070066017816_n

Prayer

I am here again after a long time
My instinct brought me to you.
Give me a sign, when these demons will turn into angels?
I feel too tired and old now.
I wish for a day without pain:
When I will wake up with enthusiasm
and sleep satisfied.
I don’t want to be afraid of people’s questions,
their critical analysis on what is I am doing to my life.
I want to praise beautiful things
and be honest in whatever I write.
I want to be a courageous lover,
who loves passionately the woman he likes.
There are so many things I wish to do,
but I am stuck in this darkness
and unable to get out of it.
Why don’t you take care of me God?
Am I not your favorite child?

– 10th Sept 2015

Note- Lately, while going back home, the sound of Azaan moved me and I found myself inside the mosque reading namaaz. This is an edited version of dua part.