Soft abode

Who does a ship who’s anchor abandons her, go to?

Where does the shadow hide, when the man shuns light?

Why do nights inspire years of pining to trickle down in muffled streams?

How can the song serenade the voice,

Or the voice serenade the lover?

When will this twilight whisper promises

Into my ear, throw some fading light

Into the misty eyes?

What is it they call the need to desire,

The desire to need?

These conundrums, rhetorical philosophies,

Struggles of the heart, wrestles of the mind

And churning of the gut land me in a soft abode.

Albeit these complications, I land in a soft abode.

Letting the ship go astray,

Letting the shadow lose form,

Letting the nights slip away,

Letting the song lose it’s purpose,

Letting the twilight lie,

Letting the need and desire liaison.

I land in a soft abode wasted.

I land in a soft abode, tired and tested.

You disappoint me

I call out to you and you turn away.

When I reach out to you,

You smirk away.

Like I were an unnecessary annexure

A laborious attachment that you’d like to

Strap on at will,

When you’re at ease.

If I were a dog and You,

My Master,

I’d be waiting tirelessly

By your bedside,

Falling asleep and waking up,

Nodding at the unforgiving passage of time,

Over and over again.

Yet, longingly I look,

Groping into the hollow dark tunnel

That bridges the moment I last saw you

And the torturous now,

Where I wait tirelessly

By your bedside,

Like your most faithful dog,

Your pet,

Your playmate,

Your ever-willing naive confidante.

If I were a bird, you’d be my wings.

You’d let the wind

Sweep us away,

Soaring high

Glee in my face, a tune in my mind

Music notes whistling through my beak

You, my wings, would be flapping

I’d be pressing you against my breast

In rhythmic harmony.

I’d cease to exist without you, my wings.

I’d lose character without you, to define me.

I’d die a meaningless death and live a non-existent life.

What’s a bird without her wings to fly!

I’d be a worm then.

Wriggling in and around.

Aimless, purposeless,

Thriving in parasitic non-existence.

You’d then stomp over me

Or trash me aside

Or worse, dump me in a boiling pot of steam,

So, I may wriggle and burst –

Blood shooting out of my veins:

Disintegrating, rendering wasteful.

You disappoint me

When I think of you and I

When my ego reduces to dust here,

Vanishes and reappears around you,

Settling gently.

And you shirk it away

Wiping it off your cheek, your shoulder

And sneeze the dust away.

You disappoint me, darling!

Please go away.

Please let me annihilate you

From the crevices of my soul.

Please set me free.

Waves

Wave after wave

He stokes on and on;

Blooming waves strike,

Beat, bellow, lash and whip

Against the mouth shut.

Wave after wave

He stokes me on;

Gushing waves weep,

Plead, wail, growl

Against the tunnel sealed.

Wave after wave

He stokes on and off.

Roaring waves wreak havoc

Rising higher, falling deeper

Away from the obstinate gate.

Wave after wave

He stokes off and on.

Dying waves drown within,

Fizzling, galloping into null and void,

Away from the tip, into the pit.

In the calm of the storm

He basks in peace

Against her quivering bodice.

In the dust of the musky sweat

He smiles in sleep

Against her disheveled bodice.

While she burns and burns

Stoking his iced bodice;

She crushes and wishes

Stoking his calm bodice;

She drenches and drips

Stoking his neutral bodice.

Magic Seeds: A comic tragedy

“I don’t see what I can do. I don’t know where I can go. Therefore I feel a bad hand was dealt me… I was always someone on the outside…” these lines spoken by Willie in the first chapter of V.S.Naipaul’s ‘Magic Seeds’ are by themselves quite telling of the tragedy that Willie beholds in his life. The character of the protagonist, hereon implies V.S. Naipaul’s intention of depicting the illusion of idealism in revolutionaries.

The book is woven together with sustained parallels and analogies to enhance the sudden transformation that boosts the course of Willie’s life, like that of Jack’s (Jack and the Beanstalk), when the ‘magic seeds’ are discarded into the garden, not even for once imagining that the seeds would reap magical results. Throughout the novel, Willie’s life is propelled by external forces, which surprise him unprecedented. Always governed by pathetic external situations, besides bearing the element of mystery – the unknown cause beyond human control, this tragedy creates pathos in the narrative.

Willie’s constant dilemma to combat and cope with the spectrum of influences cast on him, reveal his emotional and psychological sensibilities. He is a conventional tramp, sucked in the abyss of tragic situations by his own pursuit of ‘magic seeds.’ The parody of Willie’s life is in it’s void and fullness of action, which evoke a sense of monotony, while letting the subtlety of the narrative gradually flower. Though Willie is  globally and culturally qualified – his familiarity with different geographical places aided him in acclimatizing to the cultures of the world or to new encounters with ease, there is a visible fix that he falls prey to, in every encounter. The other characters of the novel pose as rude shocks to Willie, since they portray the very essence of material reality and fulfillment of ends through what appear to Willie as unconventional strategies. The comic element of the novel lies in the questioning of the suitability of the protagonist in his efforts to reconstruct his journey in the sure hope of renewal, as a spiritual exercise, as a rejuvenating act, constantly wondering if its merely a pompous patronizing indulgence or a patent need? The ill-equipped condition of his sighting accounts for his blind journey into the forest.

Willie, thinking he is an agent of change, becomes disillusioned by the idealism of the revolutionary group. His image as a speaker who is in quest for fulfillment is juxtaposed with the meaningless, haphazard, demotivated directions he traverses. Set in a satirical tone, besides being humourous, this is an irony because, eventually, the truth emerges – the truth being inescapable criminality. The public and private life or fulfillment becomes integrated, difficult to be demarcated. The cultural and the idealogical purposes are thereby merged. This modern malady of an exotic revolutionary is significant in upholding the Marxist ideology of the tangible philosophy.

“You were in the outside because you wanted to be. You’ve always preferred to hide… If everybody had said that there would never have been any revolution anywhere. We all have wars to go to.”

Sarojini, his sister although showed maternal love to Willie, was a dominating evolving influence on him. She thrust her views on him. This is ironic, in the sense that it was a corroding relationship, not liberating, not letting the best in each other be manifest. Her influence maybe seen as the cause for the tragedies those plague him, in his life thereafter. The magic seeds don’t behold prosperity. His destination no more becomes a process but encumbers him as a compellation. The self-realization at the point of destination becomes disillusionment.

Sustained throughout, is a definite contrast between the temporal and the spiritual – within the material reality is the incapacity to build relationships, Willie’s utter failure to maintain or develop romantic interest in his wife. This once again reiterates the modern malady.

The ‘rose-sellers’ at the restaurant induce the need for introspection in Willie. Further, the provocative descriptions of the desperate attempts by people to tour abroad, made by Sarojini, compels Willie to understand that the ‘roses are being turned to guns somewhere else.’ The comical representation of events extends into tragic ends.

The commercial activity of rose-selling here assumes a sinister feeling – introducing a sense of alienation.

Joseph and Kandapalli, literate, urban but from the lower strata of the society are common representatives of India – the real man, the remnant of colonial past but involved in the nationalist movement. Joseph’s unchartered route simple adopts even Willie into its course of indefiniteness.

The courier whom Willie totally trusted, to guide him through his endeavours displaces him, the stark realities of the revolution simply corrodes him, leaving him in a state of utter hopelessness.

“Tears of rage, tears of fear, and in the dawn the cry of the peacock, after it had drunk from its forest pool filled him with grief for the whole world.”

All through, Willie is the depiction of the modern man suffering in his own making. The causes of the events that befall him are also unfathomable. The complete change in events saturating Willie become more of a threat in influence that would compel him to not only alter his purpose but even alter the means to achieve it.

The curtailing of his movement is also the curtailing of his liberty. Willie comes to terms with submerging all the pathos of his nondescript past in an ennobling new ideal. This also calls for self-awareness in Willie – there is a grief of the soul. Willie is steeped in vulnerability, a sense of despair haunts him.

Willie’s comic encounter with the false alarm by the revolutionary is besides being grotesque, also a representative of fear and vulnerability out of suspicion, on the part of the hierarchical order, imposing discipline and conduct. Though suggestive of the military regime, the instability is also clearly evident.

Naipaul has depicted the disguise that people adopt for their meetings, comically. This, at the same time describes the class and caste structure. The book itself is divided into two – India and London, wherein there is discrimination of caste in one, and that of class and races in another. This is seen as a global human consciousness, not intrinsic but ideological. It is a juxtaposition of social reality and internal psyche.

Luxury has been treated as necessary, while on an ascent. Space and time have been telescoped. The vehicle, symbolizing rapidity in movement, technology and economic status becomes specific and conscious during transition. The missionary, an emblem of progress, is satirized well.

Willie is seen as acquiring a deconstructing and a reformatory identity, from the sophistication of a European society.

The second part of the novel has obvious comic and tragic elements in ironic contexts. Willie, as a parasite has to live off his friends, to an extent that there is a sexual and physical dependence too. The narrative exposes no internalization of any impact. The character remains static, no gain is gauged so far. The portrayal is a demystification of the individual as a seeker who is crippled, primitive and stagnates at the instinctual level. Willie merely skims the surface, where no interiorizing of experience, is apparent.

Willie is simply a classic representation of modern sensibility, assuming a benumbed, self-defensive posture, raising complex issues of contemporary human consciousness, where everything is seen as flowing past. The tragic irony depicted here is that of complete decadence of human vibrance and vitality, resilience in its absence as the thorough degradation, racing away from progress.

The realistic, materialistic tramp, not the sacred, religious or enlightened one, is redefining himself, based on the necessity of his routine – conceals to adapt to his new environments constantly, throughout the book.

“I’ve been here before. I mustn’t start again. I must let the world run according to its bias…”

“… He said prison instead of jail, as though it was smarter. And he spoke ‘of course’ as though that fact about him was well known… he was alarming. It’s terrible to think of these people who took all right carrying their hidden words even more terrible to think that I am me of them…”

The encounters that Willie has – Peter, Roger, Perdita or Roger’s Marian in his Roger’s story are shocking, lending their due share of experiences to Willie for the germination of his ‘magic seeds.’

“Dear Sarojini… I wish I could turn the clock back nine or ten years… but I know enough now to understand that life can never ne simplified like that, and that there would be some little trap or flaw in that dream of simplicity, of just letting one’s life pass, of treating one’s life only as a way of passing time…”

Though Willie goes through a plethora of experiences, the tragedy remains that these experiences do nothing to help evolve his character. He continues to be a comical, confused modern man stuck in modern facilities, utterly failing to realize the implications of his life. His life remains bland and moribund, devoid of any enrichment.

“Its wrong to have an ideal view of the world. That’s where the mischief starts. That’s where everything starts unraveling. But I can’t write to Sarojini about that.”

D.B.C. Pierre’s Booker Prize Winner, ‘Vernon God Little’

“…Just like the rhinos you see in the wild on T.V, she has a bird that lives sitting on her back. It’s called Betty Pritchard.”

Comedy in ‘Vernon God Little’ is the twenty-first century notion of sharing a consensus on the demystified incongruity of life. Comedy as a genre is seen as relating to the ordinary, mundane businesses of life – life in its sheer routine. Laughter in this text is beheld at an authoritative stance, wherein a sense of liberation is pre-supposed for mutual enrichment to emanate from a time-tested sense of the incongruous. The incongruity is indeed the lapse that lies between what ought to be and what is. That it is not a moral diagnosis of the predictable possibilities of the ordinary events encumbering life but a flabbergasting demystification of the social and civil conditions, has rendered scope for comedy.

The protagonist breaks out of the ordinary and ventures into the unknown, voyaging through the incongruities of life, spewing sarcasm over them. His anti-heroic stance rests entirely in his steep sense of realization of the self.

“Life’s simple when I’m angry. I know what to do…”

On the one hand, his demystification of his puny self reveals the insignificance of his position and purpose, while the projection of his pomposity on the other hand as the heroic is the reiteration of the modern day notion of ‘self-knowledge,’ where the claim of enlightenment is the seemingly highest act of human nobility but adversely leading to a form of disillusionment.

The tyrannical sense of humour leveled at all time-tested notions of like God, man-woman relationships depicts the dismal endeavor of human beings of shrinking within the cocoon of reality. The frame of reference for laughter that the present day world has indiscriminately broadened has been adopted for the cause of liberation. The comic in this has been located in the crumbling down of idealism of life. Owing to the circumstances, the periphery is centralized and the centre is further decentralized, which in turn have many centres, with peripheries of their own. Laughter thereby is the sense of demystification in irreverence that grants ease with tremendous liberty, based on a consensus that is universal. This is in stark contrast to laughing at one’s own self that is edifying, ennobling and curing. It is however in this context that desensitization of life also has emerged. An apparent narcissistic obsession with death, owing to fascination of death lends itself to the surfacing of the juxtaposition of life and death. Comedy is treated in the presence of death. Life that seemed strong has at once become fragile and death alone is permanent.

“You’re killing me like God… I die knowing this is barely the germ of an infection for a thousand miserable deaths…”

DBC Pierre identifies with Albert Camus’ notion of permanence as an illusion. Like Ciciphys as the metaphor of sense of fulfillment enacting the absurd, man’s achievement as the final culmination, is meaningless. There is no euphoric ecstasy in achievement. The experience of going through the act of fulfillment holds permanence because the ends are removed. All that is real, is the enactment of the ‘absurd’ alone. According to Camus, it is the lover, the actor and the adventurer alone, who seek permanence in the ever present now, their merit is entwined in the perfecting of the recurring present, which though brief, is lived fully. This absurd is encapsulated in the novel as a miniature of life that we are living today.

Pierre’s comic stance is humourless laughter of burden and anguish. Laughter here is used a defense mechanism against the obtrusive reality. This explains the anti-confrontational stance of Vernon, his public life pitted against his private life.

The entire work is a perspective of the teenage boy, whose miniature journey’s encounters are inferred, rather than directly referred to. In order to ward off vulnerability, the boy has assumed the norm of a defensive stance, also thereby guarding his private self. The text is jerky, depicting the language as the ‘sight’ of the ‘self’, which is violated, assaulted intermittently by the society. The sloppiness in character also establishes his incapacity and unwillingness to disclosure. He breaks all bonds of compassion. The narrator, omniscient, doesn’t disclose but withdraws and conceals. This lends to the fragmentation of the narrative, allowing the reader to become suspicious. Though the reader is taken into confidence initially, there is withdrawal eventually. This stance of the twenty-first century helps establish the misplaced logic of cause and effect of the reality of the situation Vernon is trapped in.

All characters of this work are caricatured. His mother, the ‘spooked deer,’ Georgette Poekorney, ‘a dry ole buzzard with hair of lacquered tobacco smoke,’ Ricardo moltenbomb, ‘who makes a flourish like a bull-fighter,’ amongst others, are all commented upon with the intention of bringing to the fore, the life of the contemporary reality. Comedy here does not tickle one’s funny bone, does not compel one to roar with laughter but is seen as the absurd that is neither a triumph nor a defeat – it’s only laughing at the pomposity of the adult. Also present is the utter, brutal dehumanization of the characters – a subtle suggestion of his innocence, perhaps. His retort could also suggest, to a greater degree, the treatment he receives for his ‘insanity’, ‘irrationality.’

Fixated in the course of the child’s initiation into the adult world, is the dogmatic classification proposed by adults, which are conversations of parody. The idealism of the adult is a contamination of the child’s mind and this propels Vernon’s initiation into the adult world and forms the rest of the story.

The comic of this work visibly rests in the recurring images of God, quoted with a sinister connotation, mostly in relation to his school, which is no more a place of progress and is drolled off its significance. This makes for the signature stance of the writer, as he introduces the character Vernon in first person, in the first paragraph of chapter one.

“God knows I tried my best to learn the ways of the world, even had inklings we could be glorious but after all that’s happened, the inkles ain’t easy anymore… feels like a Friday at school or something…”

Including the punning on ‘Friday’ for euphoria as the weekend approaches to school children and Christ’s crucifixion, DBC Pierre has carried images of ‘music,’ ‘powerdime shift,’ besides numerous others, capturing in itself, the pomposity of the adult world, through an interior monologue oscillating in a confessional voice. The constructing first person narrative vividly dramatizes the external scene.

The sinister, criminal aggression of the narrator, Vernon is juxtaposed with his innocence while caricaturing all his relationships with an impertinent pre-occupation with the physical. Deeply embedded in the satirical description of events, is the irony of pathos and brutality. The comic elements of the novel are very well the same elements that render the tragic features of the present as well as the impending events of the twenty-first century.

Vernon’s caricature of the elemental characters of the society bound to perform their duties, is a portrayal of the stark socio-economic reality, openly misplaced in its logic of ‘cause’ and ‘effect’ on the mind of the child, symbolizing decadence and corruption of the society. Even the most soothing and classical elements such as music acquire a gruesome stance, where the child, whose tastes are adulterated, craves for liberating music and aggressive poetry, to successfully cope with the ‘powerdime shifts.’ Another overbeating image weeping across the novel is the urban topography, intentionally highlighting the economic deprivation of the suburbs. This is the ‘new reality.’ Chapter 15 describes the suburbs giving the reader a picturesque image that which is so naturally the characteristic, prominent and visible of the Mexican.

“… the clean concrete highway roads… tall, small people flow around me like tumbling store-displays, chubby types in denim carve them, with all the confidence of home… Mexicans…”

Having graduated after initiating into the adult world, the little boy grows out of his naiveté and simplicity. In retrospection, he views the sophisticated adult world that is convincingly a parody. Here, the perceptive takes over knowledge. Ultimately, intuition becomes his sources of knowledge, which is why the narration renders in the comic and the ironic. The protagonist is not bitter, for it is his laughter that liberates or intensifies the serious. This grim humour decries idealism of all time. With associations of discordant words, and blatant metaphor, the protagonist oscillates between despair and hope throughout. He comes through his phase of trial and humiliation successfully. Physical excrement alone saves him in the end. In retrospect, again, he has parodied the adult world of trial, holding the adult as much guilty as he is. Out in the forefront is the adult’s ignorance of the issue of contention and the unscientific modes of approach to the truth that finally emerges.

The contemporary reality of death, annihilation and the absurd has been marvelously portrayed. The text is apparently a parallel sequence of the media. Vernon observes his mom, himself, the neighbourhood and all the encounters of his life as being shot by the media. The real is transformed into surreal. The ‘media’ is the mesmerizing element that the world in the contemporary has submitted itself to. It is the satire of the new reality that projects in the monopoly of the few. Interpretations rendered through the visual media, monitored, rather capitalized over the few insignificant few of the society holds the fulcrum of the ironic paradox. A pseudo  sense of glamour projecting a larger than life image provokes the mental faculties to doubt the extent of enlightenment. The clichéd images of the hero, villain as the warrior and the rapist, have not been shed at all, for they offer psychological comfort. This seeking, however, is in turn not consistent, an inversion emerges almost consecutively, for it is ultimately fiction embossed on life, a curt fantasy of paradox.

Popular writing is caricaturing on the ethical, the factual, the scientific, all of whose stances of wrong and right are clear. The ‘media’ here is a blatant violation of the ethical acting as an intruding force committing ‘brutal assault.’ This function of the media as an encroacher into the private lives of people today have impact fully enamoured the ‘mom’ and the girlfriend, who both betray truth and fall prey to superficiality.

Pierre’s wimpering within is at the American urban. The parallel lifespan of media is embossed on actual reality. The image becomes more significant than the real. Media serves as the key factor responsible for the shift in reality, where the search for truth gets distorted. This is the new reality, which nurtures the upcoming of the illiterate, merging within itself all along, the semblance of economic welfare – comprising the bureaucracy of the legal, the educated and the psychiatrists. Their impersonal, dispassionate and the execution of the duty dilutes the ethical human behavior. Compromises made in the sanctity of relationships are alarming. Depravity projects itself in a dehumanizing manner.

Comedy in this text is an instrument implicated to present disregard for the acceptable, through causal utterances that are appallingly fixated on the banal, the carnal instincts of human beings. Terminology adopted is not that of the public sphere but that of a private individual at the core of the new reality that is ‘broken,’ rebellion’ and ‘anti’ to the system we are breeding in, today. The new America is concealed beneath. He is the semi-literate, confused, dehumanized element, a  veracious personification of squalor and decadence. The ugliness of the system is not obviously directed to the face of the reader, it is seen through the eyes of an individual, who is a true American. There have been scores of instances, where the narrator’s notion of the comic as an exemplification of the sapping off of human nature cull our practical ideologies and philosophies of life. The narrator, himself in a vulnerable, transitional period of his teenage years, primarily as an American, is alike the moth that is confused between the moon that it is genetically programmed to fly by and the neon-light that it gets conditioned to fly by, which eventually slaps it with death. Such is the pitiful pathos of human existence – visibly aggravating in the American society.

Even romantic elements like music and poetry, whose effect on man liberating for a constructive goal is here seen as a purpose of fulfilling the carnal fixation that gratifies and liberates the aggression within, the mounting pressure from the bureaucratic hierarchies crashing down on the budding mind invites mechanisms of defense, to shelter the incapabilities and shoulder impossible responsibilities.

It is a way of his life – having experienced sexuality and lost all innocence, he fluidly adopts sexuality. He is the man of the house, though an innocent, young teenager. He experiences a supreme euphoric sense of power in sexuality in this confessional tone and vivid dramatization. The body acquires the prime focus of which he knows no notion of chastity. A woman’s anatomy is very spontaneously described. The focus almost always and immediately shifts to the contours, in and out, of a woman. Language too is twisted and turned, squirming in its seat of the mind. Contemporary idioms of the American slang fixates today’s notion of the comic, parodying the social, intellectual status and identity of man. The comic is centre-staged in its anti-authority, anti-confrontational stance. The human predicament of seating deeper into the mind a times of jeopardy is all the time expressed in it’s grotesque, not so elevating or refined form.

Pierre’s language as a tool to propose the metaphor of life in the urban reality is a deliberation towards that sense of repulsion and morbidity. Herein, is the crashing down of the human spirit in an urban condition. Sexual indulgence, obsession with the physical, of the sensuous, the carnal, human excretion are the collective codes impinging in shaping communication of the self, of the narrator.

The abysmal result of one’s actions and thoughts in the American psyche, as a representative of the contemporary identity is a caricature in itself. The anti-confrontational stance is shed unknowingly, and the truth is spilled away.

This deliberated, anti-canonical deliberation into limited vision, as the signature statement of the culture and a reflection of the id of the author places the viewer, the reader, the visualizer in a state that’s with the ‘philosophical headfucks to whom the dirt on the sneakers matters more than the sneakers themselves’; ‘the pessimist who has a New York accent’; and the ‘powerdime shift’ which ‘the child can’t face, if he does not get a man’s hand that he needs most’, and so, in the case of which, fate tunes would instill a sense of learning that , only the ‘dumb are safe in this world, the ones who roam with the herd, without thinking about every little thing!’

The immortal friend

They that promise seldom commit,

They find you at their own summit.

 

When life’s trials are hard to evade,

Your doorways, pathways they pervade.

 

You offer comfort, before your own

Hold seeds of burden they have sown.

 

They languish in your precious time

Their thoughts before yours are, well, fine.

 

While they set sail, revived, focused

Are you slumping, spent, famished!

 

Caution, before you imbibe a lesson

They’ll beckon for another treason.

 

Forgiveness: your salve for recurring dismay

Unbroken form: your shield all the way.

Friends or fiends

Friends who adored each other, one perhaps more than the other,

Often nursed a wound, when one’s attention fell short on the other.

 

He craved for her attention, she longed for his side

Together, they nurtured a secret longing – often overt, often public.

 

He exhibited his assets, his talents, his laurels – to her silent acknowledgments

She won him over – quietly, confidently, with her laudable achievements.

 

He made no bones that she was ravishing – a gem, a beauty, a rare possession

He was to her, a prized friend – handsome, talented, generosity personification.

 

Tossing and turning, nudging and shoving, in and out, a secret game

A dear friend much closer, each day; friendship ties crackled one bold way.

 

Intoxicants stirred in ensconced desires, smoke wafted around heated fires

He shushed her fake trepidations; she nuzzled in his bogus permissions.

 

Friends unleashed, friendship abandoned, lust-lorn lovers blossomed. 

They rejoiced in their parts, like man and woman, fuelling wild anticipation.

 

As night flowered, the wild beasts moaned – ravaging like hungry fiends

The morning next, they blushed, not alarmed, at their covert, bare indulgence.

 

Friends, were they, mere playful friends? Or did the universe conspire? 

One night, one carefree seclusion, Lord Cupid sorted them simply out.

 

Dearer they grew, passions flooded, time froze notwithstanding barriers

They decreed ancestral ties insincere and sailed through tough terrains. 

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