Forbrydelsen: Seeing Sarah Lund

Watching detective Sarah Lund on screen is an absorbing activity. Like doing homework for a teacher you really like. She is the most intriguing person on TV. And I don’t only mean detective TV.

There are many ways of seeing Sarah Lund but they are not enough. I only know that I can tell when she sees something while solving a murder and it’s not because the soundtrack seems like it was made for her face or because the tingling sensation in my arms means that she has solved something. I can tell because even though I am dying to know what she has seen, I am more distracted by her eyes which open like mouths to swallow details that are meaningless without her.

I like that no one in the show or outside can tell what she’s thinking. Earlier this year, when I was watching Drishyam 2, there was this delicious realisation that the film’s premise is built on the discipline of not using more words than necessary. I wanted to count the number of words Georgekutty used between Drishyam 1 and 2 because I was convinced there were very very few with his family and fewer with outsiders. It’s a good practice, I thought. More words means more talking means more revealing. Less is always better, especially if there’s murder involved.

Sarah Lund ties her hair in a ponytail. She wears sweaters that later became the iconic Sarah Lund sweaters. She carries a brown hand bag which she is very mindful of. She chews on nicotine gums mindlessly, sometimes even while talking to suspects. But she removes the gum from packets very carefully. She falls in and out of love through the three seasons. She has a son who doesn’t like her but she cannot do anything about it. She doesn’t respond to people who bother her with too many questions. She isn’t available for any explanations – neither expecting any nor giving any.

There is thoroughness in the way Sarah Lund sees people as if they are not people but photographs, as if they are their own memory. All she has to do is look long enough for them to reveal themselves. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t but her eyes are open regardless. She is not always right even if it seems like she has every right to be. That there are consequences to the things she does, to the things she doesn’t say make her touchable, reachable, knowable.

I don’t care that she isn’t though. Everyone who falls in love with Sarah Lund must prepare themselves for an Ek Tarfa Pyar. This does not mean that she doesn’t know how to give love, it means that you don’t want her to. You just want to spend your days watching her solve crime using as few words as womanly possible.

Watch Forbrydelsen here.

A word with you

Very few writers have the courage to laugh when they feel like laughing. Siddalingaiah was one among them. In Ooru Keri, I discovered a way to read and write, yes. But what I learnt more than anything was a way to laugh. Before that, I am not sure I knew how to laugh. Sometimes I stole laughter from my father who laughed with his stomach. And everytime he broke into his hiccupy laugh, the room held its breath for him to finish. I don’t know if Siddalingaiah laughs like this but I like to imagine he does. 

Siddalingaiah left me with many stories. 

I will leave you with four.

The first one I shamelessly find excuses to tell is the Boodisaheba story from Ooru Keri. The story of young Ambedkar falling into an ash pit from a tree, people teasing him and calling him Boodisaheba was something that might not have happened, need not have happened. But the image of a young Ambedkar saying that he might be Boodisaheba now but will be Babasaheb in future gave me goosebumps for how true it turned out to be.

I stood nervously in front of Townhall during the Anti CAA NRC protest one evening, my legs refusing to hold me. I clung to the mic with my heart but didn’t know what to say so I told them the Boodisaheba story. I could conjure only Siddalingaiah that day because no one wrote protest like he did and that’s because no one wrote poetry like he did. That Boodisaheba story is poetry, protest, and song.

The second one still puzzles me. When Bangalore Brahmins refused him a home for rent, he wasn’t bitter. That the home that was promised to him was taken away after the owners discovered that he was Dalit didn’t leave him angry. That when they made it worse by saying “we like you & would’ve given you this house if only you weren’t Dalit” didn’t make him want to scream. He put his hands together, said thank you and walked away.

That story continues to be a lesson that I still haven’t learnt.

The third is a story I am fascinated by: his love for graveyards, for the silences they offered him, for the muffled secrets they teased him with, for how magically poetry came to him when he sat in one and began to write. 

The fourth is a story I am stunned by: his capacity to hold multiple truths. He was being felicitated at a hostel in Bangalore and when he went on stage to receive it, he saw his mother standing on the first floor, a broom in hand, watching him. She was a sweeper there and he leaves us here at this point to take what we want from this truth. I don’t know what he took. I am scared to ask.

The fifth is a story for me. For all the laughter he taught me, the hardest to learn was laughing at myself. There is steel in my mouth when I think of the time someone called me a Brahmin for writing in English. The steel becomes grit when I think of how according to this beautiful logic, even Ambedkar must be a Brahmin. The grit shatters into 4 meters of giggles and 5 kilos of laughter when I think of Siddalingaiah. 

‘O world, I must get to know you

And so I must have a word with you’

P.S: He doesn’t say if a word should be in English or Kannada or Konkani or Urdu.

Who do you think you are?

is the name of a lovely book by Alice Munro.

it’s also what a boy’s posture once asked of me as he stood tall in front of my desk, his finger issuing a warning to me and my table.

Behind him were creepers that had work to do but hung for some reason, on every word I said, every yawn I stole, every fart I managed.

And that day I learnt that very few things in this dreary world are as cute as 18-year-old boys taking themselves seriously.

TIL that ‘Who do you think you are?’ is also the name of a TV show.

Rain: with apologies to Francis Ponge

⁣The rain, by the front door where I watch it fall, is only in its effects. Nothing like the way I imagine it from inside, where it falls on the house in sounds: splatters, drips, trips, pattars, thwacks, & pachaks. ⁣By the steps, it gushes in soundless patterns as if letting go after too much withholding.⁣

Outside the compound, it flows down the road, in a fierce, determined brown, the kind that means the tea is perfect. ⁣In a far away country, I once stepped out to find that it had been raining for a while, with no warning. Where is the rain if there’s nothing for it to fall on, alva? Without gudgud, without laughter?

Like it does here from pipes sticking out of pakkad manè, as the French say. Or freezes itself into white droplets on thick black wires, trickling into each other now, running away now.⁣

On mosaic, it falls with clarity. On granite, with purpose. On marble, with glory. On my palm, with giggles. But no one has quite learnt to catch it like the trees do. After all, only they seem to know what to do when it rains – stand themselves in utter, brilliant solitude, refusing to go anywhere, soaking it all in, shivering only when they want to.

Read Francis Ponge here.

Ammonite

Neck

Mary (Kate Winslet) is looking at Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan) who is sitting with someone else in the first row. They came there together and it doesn’t make sense for them to be sitting away from each other. A little before she leaves, Mary looks at Charlotte’s neck. It is quiet, the kind you want to touch and disturb. It is also inviting, the kind you can never be sure of. Nothing is as bitter in your mouth as the taste of watching their naked neck teased away from you.

Hands

Women’s hands when they are at work, and in love are the most easiest, most forgotten pleasures. In the picture is an ammonite that Mary and Charlotte heave onto a plank and carry home.

Toes

What does it mean to steal a glimpse of her toes while the rest of her body has already surrendered itself to you?

Face

We must learn to be grateful for art that can lead us into love, pleasure, and desire so ruthlessly. Ask for nothing less. It must be exactly like this.

Letting go

When does body become bodies? Is it still not one body when they are bodies throbbing together?

Fin

Doors

It’s exhausting to occupy two worlds when you know that really, you belong to only one because that’s where you want to be. Home is home only when I don’t have to deal with the fatherliness of boundaries, the anti-elixir of freedom. I wonder now what happens to the body in this fight between the life you want to live and the one you can’t escape.

A week ago I saw that in my mind I live a completely different life from one that is expected out of my body and me at home. Coming back home from work before the pandemic only held the promise of sleep and early morning solitude. It didn’t need me to change who I was before stepping into the house because everyone would already be asleep, except mother whose anger simmered on her eyelids in a half dream-half awake state.

That I had a place to be in every morning for nine years, that I didn’t have to wear another face for work, another for home offered me a kind of freedom I haven’t appreciated enough. It is irritating to write this with what I assume is a cheap xerox copy of freedom, knowing that outside this room, there are people with the original, people who see a completely different life for me, and seem awfully confident that it’s all going to happen, despite me.

I feel like a fraud sometimes, talking and dreaming of freedom with passion and fury – never intense enough to go get it. Sometimes I am able to persuade myself into believing that parental expectation is not free of caste, so I shouldn’t wallow in a helplessness that wasn’t designed by me. Despite that and despite years of knowing and unknowing caste, I continue to be bothered by how unsettling it is to confront that there’s still something I don’t have and will never have. Every day I wonder what it would be like to be the student whose ambitions burn my insides with a fever, to be in homes where marriage is barely mentioned, and dinner is always a table full of charts and maps- making plans to go here, go there for studies, and mornings aren’t battlefields for last night’s unspoken demands.

Stepping outside my room after class last week, I overheard someone say on the phone that getting daughters educated is a mistake, that they shouldn’t be sent to schools because they grow up wanting to do PhD, not wanting to be married. I walked straight back into my room, my legs burning with the desire to run, hands wishing they were now holding the key to the department door while my bedroom door swelled with rage and slammed hard on the other world, the bolt clicking it shut.

Today, I am just grateful for doors. They not only open other worlds for you, they also close.