Gaizabonts is Dead; Long Live Gaizabonts

Is patheticity a word?

Derived from the root, “to be pathetic”?

Frankly, I don’t care. It matters not also, if any of you agree or disagree. My earlier post crossed the limit of patheticity. I asked if it was a word, because i could not find it in any of the traditional dictionaries. But, thank God for Urban Dictionaries: “Patheticity: The pure and utter state of being pathetic.

That’s the state, if you haven’t already guessed, of this blog. See how pathetic it is—I am transferring my state to the blog. That inert, complying, obedient medium which has served for over a decade. Uncharacteristic but expressive. It took anything that I threw at it and let the world know what I was thinking, feeling. It served me well for a dozen years. I am calling it pathetic.

There surely must be some limits to the depths of patheticity. I have crossed them. I am ashamed to admit that I am the one who is pathetic. I have driven words away, mauled sentences, and mocked paragraphs. I have abused these devices of expression in wild stupor; living in the sense of what once was. Every sentence I write here is a string of disconnected words that have been banished. Their absence highlights the hollowness of each letter I type.

Enough, enough now.

Expression is not the prime purpose of our life. Not that we know what the prime purpose of our life is. And when you cannot find expression (given that it is not the prime purpose of our life) – you might as well not express.

2685: Convergence

This is the last post on Gaizabonts.

It wasn’t always like this. I wrote well, once upon a time. Many people liked it, related to what I wrote. Many is relative; in my case, it means: handful. Of those handful, hardly any of the many drive around here. That is why, I am not going to delete this blog. I will just leave.

Lest you think that I am bitter—let me tell you I am not bitter. At all. I am sad, yes. So long an association is not easy to walk away from. I walk away with my feet as heavy as lead. But I have to. I cannot linger for hope in place engulfed by darkness; where light comes to me in lightening-time, and leaves me in lightening-time.

It has been a good ride. Thank you all for joining.

Maybe, we will meet, some other way. Good bye.

Gaizabonts is dead. Long live Gaizabonts.

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Fictional Rain

Technical writers make for the worst fiction writers. If you know how technical writers work, you’d think that they would make the best fiction writers. There is a trained eye for detail, context, and surrounding.

Yet, they don’t write good fiction.

I am not a technical writer (I used to be, a long time ago). And I should stop writing fiction. The last few attempts at fiction, by way of feedback (or lack of it) have been obvious disasters. This isn’t comment-bait. I am not asking that you pity this post and like or otherwise acknowledge the attempted fiction writing. You should never be wasting your time on things that don’t make sense.

It’s just that I feel writing about your everyday environment makes much more sense and is less laborious. Writing what you see is much simpler. There is no appeal to any specific emotion; it is what it is.

I bought a week-load of vegetables after a walk that was meant to silence the chaos. Apart from spilling that chaos all over the streets in my neighbourhood, I am not sure what I achieved. Just as I finished paying for the veggies, it started raining. Everybody in India loves a good monsoon. It rains promises along with the drops. Better crop and such, we think, but inflation is the sun’s cousin, it rises, everyday without fail. In Mumbai, we don’t care much about the inflation; as long as the lakes are overflowing by mid-September, we pretty much don’t care about anything.

4527- Blue Umbrella

Carrying an umbrella in late-September in Mumbai is a sign of weakness, so I don’t. Obviously! Standing in a shop’s shelter, is the lower sign of carrying an umbrella. It must be the last shower of the season, I think let’s get wet, and so I leave the vegetable vendor. It’s raining hard, I stop to pick up my cigarettes. He knows me very well, we’ve been transacting tobacco for a decade. He looks up to me, confirms that I am completely drenched, unlike the other two customers who are weak and carrying umbrellas.

He attends to them first.

If I am already wet to my bone, more water won’t harm me anymore. He chooses to serve the tottering umbrella-bearers. I wonder if I should make a case and identify me as the more deserving of prompt service, since I lack the umbrella that I have consciously avoided (he doesn’t know that!). I let go, for almost the same reasons that, I think, he decided to serve those shivering smokers.

Also, it suits you if you are a technical writer by training. The structure, rules, and constraints become your friend and guide. It’s easier to obsess over the placement of a comma rather than whether the character is displaying consistent behaviour.

We are better off being who we are than who we want to be.

There is No White Wall

Most walls she had seen, were brick walls. Vibrant when they are new, and greying like the concrete that binds them — a few years later. She always hated seeing old walls. Actually, she hated all walls, but old walls she found especially disgusting. Yet, walls were the thing that curiosity is made of. This one made her especially curious. It was tall and it was white.

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There’s always something behind a wall.

A garden, a building, a treasure, or perhaps, another country. Sometimes, a gentle human, occasionally a vile one. The wall in its own standing has little meaning. It’s a structure that hides and protects something. Break it down, and all is exposed and vulnerable. This tall white one marked a territory perhaps — a statement of what’s mine and the rest of the world. It didn’t have to be so tall, she thought, if it was just a statement. Walls that make a statement are usually just waist-high. Mere markers. Feel free to see in, but not step in, that’s what they say. Walls seem to be doing better than me, she thought, at least they are making a statement. I haven’t been able to make a simple sentence for a while now.

The old man was walking towards her, slow, his head down. He’s quite tall, she thought, if only he would walk straight and hold his head. He probably couldn’t. His clothes were muddy grey, it was obvious that long ago they were a brilliant white. A sense of uneasiness surrounded her as she and the old man walked towards each other. She was surprised by that uneasiness, it had no reason to exist.

As they came closer, she saw that he seemed worried, not the kind of worry that lines the face after living a long and difficult life, this concern was immediate. She stopped as they came close and asked, “Sir, I’ve been walking along this wall for a while now, what’s behind it?”

“Why do you want to know?” he asked. His emotion didn’t change for the better or worse.

“I’m a tourist,” she said, “I’m just curious – I’ve never seen such a tall and such a long white wall before.”

“Are you from the press?” he asked, glancing at her camera.

“Oh, no,” she smiled, “I am a tourist, like I said before, I just like to take photographs.”

“Nothing to photograph here, is there?” he asked. She couldn’t make out if he was being sarcastic, his expression had not yet changed. He waved his hand as if covering the monotony of the background, “No subject, no point of interest that would make for an interesting photographs. Emptiness, in a way.”

“I didn’t say I wanted to take photographs, just to know what’s behind the wall.”

“If you were supposed to see the other side, would the wall be so tall?”

I should just politely thank this old gentleman and leave, she thought to herself, no use in prolonging this conversation. Yet his answers, though they were questions, made her even more curious.

“You are right, I should go now; thank you,” she said with a quick smile and started to walk ahead. She’d get to her hotel and ask the manager about this wall. There obviously was some interesting story here. She hailed the black taxi, right there.

“Miss!” he called loudly to her, turning around. The street light reflected his silver-white hair in its full glory.

She turned back and started to wave, to say goodbye. Her uneasiness and her curiosity was now a mild brew of fear.

“A better question, when you see a wall the next time, would be to ask who built it, rather than what’s behind it. You might get better answers,” he said without his worried expression, as he saw her get into the taxi. “Every wall has a purpose, and that purpose is defined by the one who builds it. If you know who built the wall, you may know what’s behind it,” he said, with a sincere smile. She saw that change in his expression, but that’s all that she could make out. His clothes and the walls seemed to have become a single white blur. The old man and the wall seemed to share the decay of white.

“Welcome back, miss,” the short manager with the trained smile greeted her as she entered the hotel, “I hope you had a good day and got many nice photographs of our town.”

“Oh yes, a wonderful and relaxed day, thank you for your suggestions and directions,” she said.

“Always at your service, miss,” came the practiced reply.

“I do have a question for you, however,” she said, as her uneasiness evaporated in the yellow lights of the hotel lobby.

“Of course, how can I be of service?”

“After I turned left from the Town Hall, there was this very big wall, a white one, and it seemed to go on forever. It was almost ten or twelve feet high,” she asked eagerly, “what’s behind that wall?”

“A white wall, miss?” the manager seemed surprised. “We have no white wall in this town. We have one brick wall along the Municipal Garden, and it has flowering plants on it, but it’s just a couple of feet tall. The Mayor’s house a four or five feet tall iron railing painted in black, but definitely no white wall.”

“I saw this wall, I know it was white, and it was much taller than I am,” she said. She didn’t mean it as a comment on the manager’s height, she was sure he thought so.

“I was born and brought up here, miss. I know each and every corner of this town; it is a small town so it isn’t difficult to keep track of changes here. Hardly anything changes here. I can assure you we have no white wall in this town. You are mistaken for sure,” he said, in a confident voice that she had never heard before. “If you took a left after the Town Hall, you entered a large open ground, where there are absolutely walls or building, no structures at all.”

“In fact, it has been like that for a few hundred years.”

It’s Not About Photographs – II

One of the things that an iPhone does not do well, amongst other things, is alerts. The context of the ambient sound in which the alert sounds were supposed to alert the owner of the phone is definitely not a road-facing flat in a busy suburb in Mumbai. That is why I saw Sagar’s Facebook message only when I picked up the phone to calculate the required run-rate at the India-Sri Lanka semi-final at Cardiff.

“Please give me your phone number, it has been a while, I want to catch up,” it said.

I wondered what it could be about – well, whatever it is, it will be my first call with someone in Seoul. With the flood of positive-thinking picture-messages that one sees on Facebook, it is difficult to be negative; you tend to find the good in everything. Of course, it is always a pleasure to have a conversation with Sagar, but an international call is not the best for a conversation; it is good for a quick chat, but a conversation?

He called about ten minutes after I had sent my phone number. The rain was lashing hard and the game was paused for the call.

We lost a few minutes in the ‘how are you doing’ phase. I usually am at a loss when people ask me what’s going on. More often than not, there isn’t much going on, though we are so busy doing things. Doing things to move ahead, running fast, yet remaining in the same place. Those, are not the things worth ‘reporting’.

It would be impossible to have a chat with Sagar and not talk about photography. After a few “updates”, needless to say, we spoke about photography. There’s an interesting experimental project he had undertaken on the Photography MOOC that we are on. The experiment wasn’t moving forward as much as he had expected it to. I was disappointed too, but not surprised. An international experiment which involved sending paper-based photographs around, using traditional mail, would have challenges in these digital decades.

The first camera I ever used was a Hanimex 110 Tele TF. It belonged to my father, and he allowed me to use it on occasion. Later, seeing that I used the camera so often, he got me a second-hand Agfa Click III. Photographs taken by that camera could not be distributed, they had to be shared, if at all. Each share meant a trip to the studio and buying a print. As you can imagine, it was a little more difficult than clicking on the share button and auto-post it to all your networks. Also, given that you had only 24 exposures in a 110 film roll, you were very judicious about every photograph you took. Feet, food and foolish faces were not photographed. The film roll, developing and printing was charged to your pocket-money and your patience.

“It’s possible that people have not clearly understood your experiment,” I said, “it is difficult for people to think of photographs as print products, perhaps that’s the reason?”

“Well, I have received only one response,” Sagar said, with a hint of sorrow. It was going to be difficult to get this experiment in place and into a gallery, we both sensed that.

“I read your post,” he said, changing the subject.

I winced.

I had written, quite casually, in a recent post that I had stopped taking photographs. He was the first one to comment, and had said that he had seen it coming. Many of my friends were aghast, some were amused, and the rest confused. I had smartly titled the post as “It’s Not About Photographs” – but it didn’t seem to give an indication of what I really meant. To be fair, I had not made my thought abundantly clear in what another friend referred to as a potpourri post. On a music player, the stop and pause button actually serve the same purpose, but they have very different connotations. But starting the post with a sentence like, ‘I have paused taking photographs,’ would not make sense.

“Yes, I have stopped,” I said. I knew however, that I’d have to qualify this simple yet apparently mysterious statement, “I am just taking time off, you know, like a gap year, or something like that. There was a time when I took photographs of everything that I thought was worth a photograph. I suddenly had many photographs of many things. And though they were nice and were appreciated, there was something missing.”

“I think I know what you mean,” he said, resonating his comment on my post, urging me to continue.

“I found certain themes in my work and started to work on those for a while. It was quite exciting, even though I was retrofitting some photos into themes, it helped clarify my own thinking about the photographs. Once again, I seemed to be using the Hanimex or the Agfa. I didn’t feel the need to take a few hundred photographs to get one fabulous photograph. It was going good for a while, and again, I feel  that earlier sense of emptiness. This is very difficult to explain; one would call it the artist’s dilemma – when the artist questions his or her own work. I have refrained calling myself an artist for long, but I’ll use that word because I cannot think of a better one, now. I don’t know if it makes sense, but my photographs don’t seem to move forward. Or in any other direction, for that matter. They are stuck.”

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“So, you are saying you are bored?”

“I am not sure if bored would qualify as the right feeling. I still like to look at things, feel them – but I do not feel like picking up the camera and capturing that moment. Sometimes, I wonder if the word capture has got something to do with it,” I added as a joke, but wondering if I meant it.

“It is a block,” he said, but it seemed like a question.

“I think I need to know something more about the photograph than what I know. Maybe I need to think see things that relate to what I feel. Or perhaps – and this seems more likely – maybe I need to feel about what I take photographs about. That is some gap, and the camera is slipping deeper in that gap, away from my reach.”

There was a long pause in the conversation. That’s one of the reasons you should not have one on an international line.

“Well, I’ll take photographs, you know,” I said, more defensively than I would have liked, the silence from Sagar was awkward, “maybe I am just making a very big deal out of it, and I just need more opportunities to get out and take photos. I haven’t travelled in a while. Maybe it is as simple as that.”

“Yes, that could be a reason,” he agreed from three and a half hours away.

“Well, when you are here next month, maybe we should go out for a shoot, a good 24 hrs. Just us, find out,” I offered.

“I agree, let’s do that,” he said.

*

A fictional version of a conversation that I had with Sagar Kolte  fellow blogger and photographer, a dear friend and a philosopher-mathematician. The conversation happened more-or-less in the same manner as you have read, with small changes, adapted for this post. The photograph in the post is taken, aptly, from one of my portfolio series – “Keep the Faith.”

The Fiction Challenge

The Idea-Smithy and I decided on a prompt for writing fiction. When she adds her story, it will be linked. I’m withholding the prompt to avoid spoilers.

My recent updates on various social media networks about the difficulty of writing fiction notwithstanding, I completed the “story”.

Like a barber’s chair that fits all buttocks

“A chair,” I said.

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“We have many, but before we can sell you one, we need to know about you,” he said, as respectfully as his training could possibly permit.

“A comfortable one, is all I need.”

“Of course, sir. But you are still talking about the chair. We need to know more about you to show you what might be most appropriate.”

“I must say, I do not understand.”

He ushered me to the southern wall of the showroom. I thought, perhaps the comfortable chairs were kept there.

“You are new at this aren’t you?” he asked, in a manner that did not expect a response. I was not sure how I should have answered that question. I chose truth.

“No. I have bought chairs before.”

“I doubt it, sir. I believe you have seen many chairs and chose a few, but you have not bought a chair, ever. For those who have bought a chair, always qualify the chair. Executive, chairman, boardroom, and such.”

“I did say, comfortable, didn’t I? That should qualify as an appropriate and useful adjective.”

“That still qualifies the chair; it does not qualify who will sit in that chair.”

“How does that matter?”

“It matters the most, sir.”

“Ok, I’ll be sitting in the chair.”

He smiled, took me to a section of the showroom where there were many chairs. He invited to me to test some of them and pick one. I asked a few questions about the material of the chair. Some were flexible-nylon, some breathing-cotton and he mentioned some unpronounceable material; I realised that the difficulty in pronunciation was directly proportional to the cost of the chair. Then, there were features; lumbar support, swivelling, height adjusting, arm-rest-adjusting and such.

“This chair feels good,” I said.

“Good choice,” he responded with practiced professionalism.

“Wasn’t that difficult, was it?” I asked.

“No, sir.”

“Spit it out man. The sale’s done. What were you thinking all this while?”

“A chair sir, unlike other furniture is not just a piece of furniture. It has more meaning than its structure.”

“How come?”

“People take away things with them when they leave, but they never take away their chair. A chair therefore retains the value of the person who occupied it. But never the value of that person; but the meaning of what that person represents. A new person may occupy the chair and at that time; the chair transfers the received meaning to the new person. And so it proceeds. The actual chair may get replaced due to wear and tear, but the meaning remains. The chair becomes the icon for the person. In time, the person matters less and the chair matters more. If you follow politics, you will understand what I mean.”

I smiled, and said, “This is a personal chair; there are no people around me to make that meaning; I understand what you mean, but it may not apply to me.”

“There’s a sanctity to a chair by virtue of where it is; behind which desk it is.”

“Yes, I agree. The chair and the desk have more value than the person who occupies them right?”

“Yes, and more. I have sold chairs for many years. First-hand and second-hand. After a while some chairs become sad. They miss the first occupant who gave them their reason for being. Sometimes the second or the third occupant; anybody who gives meaning to that chair.”

“I’ll take this one, let’s finalise the price.”

Back home; nylon-sheathed chair with lumbar support is what I sit on, and think about the incident. At once, humans, by virtue of who they are, lend meaning and authority to the chair. Then, the chair takes over and lends that meaning to the human who then occupies it.

And we are confused about who deserves the respect; the chair for the received meaning, or the person for the transferred meaning.

PS: Title taken from “All’s Well that Ends Well,” Act II. Scene II, by William Shakespeare.

The Stain

Perfect love stories live on borrowed endings. Readers re-borrow these and hope to make them their own. And time stops when you are in love. A moment becomes a lifetime. He could write about the moment; how would he write of a lifetime? On paper white as milk, he scribbled a story. Like the moon; only, rectangular. Should I cut corners, the storyteller wondered? The ink would be the stain on the moon. The stain that has given birth to many a description of beauty.

My staining ink has more value than the pure white  of the paper; the author smiled as he started writing his story.