A litter of small black pigs roots at the ground, they surround their mother a huge black sow. Posed against the compound wall, with ears pricked, two mongrel dogs, dirty white and spotted brown, look back at me. A policy of live and let seems to infect the animals if not the humans. Last afternoon, a ginger cat stalked by, followed casually by the same white dog, both pursuing different goals. In the house opposite lives a skinny man, not altogether compos mentis . A little gate leads into the apartment compound, and he trots back and forth during the day, carrying buckets of water. I wonder if there is no water connection for that little yellow house, while here in this complex, water overflows from the overhead tank without anybody running to turn it off. These are the material contradictions that bracket life in India, marking off the lives of those with money and those without.
I travel in two days to Chennai, city of my birth, on matters of money. Almost time for me to leave, apathy holds me down. A week later, I will return to the ashram. I resist my return there, but emotional ties force me back–the death, two years ago now, of the ashram’s founder my Swami, my Merlin (King Arthur’s wizard mentor). A week after follows the death anniversary of my mother. She died 10 years earlier to Swami. The rituals and festivals that mark any religion don’t summon me back, but their deaths do. I need to celebrate their moving on, Swami & my mother, in spaces sacred to their now decomposed physical selves. Grateful to had Swami in my life, I have now to let him go: guru [spiritual mentor], god [avatar], friend, and shadow of my self. Even language is fraught here, veering between Indian reality and western framework.
I decide that I don’t want to deal with Swami in my writing, but he turns up anyway, often uncalled for. In these descriptions of sundry encounters/collisions in Goa, birds, dogs, pigs, fish, his presence shadows my words. I resist t/his unwanted shape; I don’t want to search for phrases in language to sketch realities beyond words. If, willy nilly, I hint that common and everyday sights lead me to other realities, so be it. But, deliberate descriptions of a Merlin being, magic in daily life, mysteries of a living god are beyond me and my skills as a wordsmith. I’m only waving, not drowning, to reverse Stevie Smith‘s tart, ironic poem,
Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.
Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.
Put to music, sung by Tanita Tikaram (a boundary hunter herself) in her husky monotone, the poem turns mystical.
No matter those who write their experiences in prose, god is best left to poetry. The more that we speak about divine longing, the more mystery turns mundane. A crow sits on the roof of the adjoining building, looks down at me, and caws his being forth. Another crow flies by with a piece of bread in its mouth. Smoke rises into the morning air.
- Not Waving, But Drowning by Stevie Smith (unexpectedfreedom.wordpress.com)
- Not waving but drowning. (medstudentitis.blogspot.com)
- Not Waving but Drowning (kittenstant.wordpress.com)
- Homonyms Action (lizbethwrightbooks.wordpress.com)
- Spiritual Punk 2 (quiescentbeing.wordpress.com)