Seeing and Reading

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Cluny Convent School

Pondicherry

Day Three – 11/10/16

When I am listening to the soundtrack of Pride & Prejudice, I imagine what it must be like to touch the keys of a piano. My sister and I were put in a music class in Belgaum once. We were new and mother made us do everything that our neighbours were doing. We were very late joining so the neighbour kids lent us their music book. It was filled with ragas, all written in neat, round Kannada.

Ma copied everything down in two separate notebooks.  She hand wrote it in a ball point pen. I don’t remember how long it took her. But we didn’t go to that music class for very long. We didn’t understand the instructions because they were in Marathi. One day, the music teacher played a tune on his harmonium and asked my sister, ‘ye raga cha naav kai?’ (What is the name of this raga?) And my sister screamed her name loudly. Everybody around us collapsed with laughter.

I was happy that at least we got people to laugh at us. I was sure they didn’t like us much. We were the strange girls from a strange town who didn’t speak their language.

***

When day 3 begins, I am sorry. My bus is at 11 pm and there is a lot to be done, drunken, walked on, touched and taken pictures of. In the middle of all this, I am worried because I only have Alice Munro to read and things with her are never quite simple. I decide to risk it and take her along. I leave the room determined to see and read as much as I can.

If it has rained all morning, I haven’t heard it. I can only tell by the suddenly wet roads. I take a little stroll by the beach and don’t recognise the almost vacant land before me. On a Tuesday morning, Beach Road was a ghost town. I walk to Indian Kaffe Express for breakfast. It’s a small restaurant with six tables and 2 waiters. And here I begin to read the first story in a book called ‘The Progress of Love’.

Reading Munro makes me hold out all my stories like one would hold out playing cards. In this moment, I see the capacity there is in all our lives for stories and storytelling. Atwood once said that in Munro’s stories she feels a nostalgia for vanished miseries.

The first story I pick is called ‘The Progress of Love’. It is the story of a girl, an old house with cornflower wallpapers, the many women and a few men in it. The girl recalls watching her mother trying to kill herself on a Saturday afternoon. Standing atop a chair, and noose around her neck, the mother tells her to go call her father. The girl runs down the hill, looks for her father at the farm, and cannot find him. She is still wearing her night clothes but she only realises this after it has been pointed out to her by a bunch of men who stand listlessly– ogling and sniggering at her. Your father is not here, they say and laugh loudly. The girl is repulsed by the sound of their laughter. Munro later says that the sound of a group of men laughing loudly is the most terrifying thing in the world.

While on the bus back home, there is a loud group of men that doesn’t shut up until very late in the night. They call each other loudly, make jokes and sing songs. By the cold silence that follows after, I can tell that everybody on the bus is annoyed with them. I am annoyed too but I am more afraid. Their voices are loud and all alike. Just before exploding into menacing guffaws, they whisper things to each other. Every time they do this, I tighten my grasp on the far end of the curtain and go deeper within the folds of my blanket. When they get off the bus at Electronic city, the many relieved faces of women and men peep out from the curtains. There is a long line of sighs heard. Mine, I am sure, is the longest.

***

The story continues. The girl runs back up the hill and waits for a train to pass by. Even as she waits, she bawls loudly in the faces of many strangers who are sitting by the window and watching her. This scene stayed with me. This is the most ridiculous, yet the boldest scene I have ever read.

My waffles are cold by now. I pack up and head towards the Romain Rolland Library.

It is a government -white building with dusty old stairs out the front. When I step in, I smell a faintly old library smell coming off the corners of the red oxide floor. I peep in and see some fifty old men sitting pinned in their white lungis and white shirts, all reading newspapers. My enthusiasm died a little bit and I left. I walked slowly towards the Pondicherry Museum.

The Pondicherry Museum is a treat. The first floor has a whole section of ancient coins, guns, swords and stones. The second floor has the entire bedroom/living room/dining room set of Governor Dupleix. This includes the hugest almirah I have ever seen and a giant piano. My favourite moment at the museum was watching two Tamil school boys gaping at a vintage car and nudging each other. ‘Par ra, indha car la, Jacku, Rosu titanic la kiss pannanga’ (See man, in this car only, Jack and Rose kiss off in Titanic)

I giggled at this for 5 minutes before regaining composure and heading for lunch.

***

Lunch was a solid 6 hour halt at Palais De Mahe. This was easily the best meal of the trip. Prawn Moilee with appam, 3 cocktails whose names I don’t remember, gin, and coffee. I sat with Munro, reading another story called ‘Lichens’

I was there until it was time for my bus. Flashback tells me that Goa was far more exciting. N suspects that I’m used to being on my own and that’s why it’s not what it was like. I am glad I did this though. I am happier and calmer. 

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LOL

In the beginning, it was just me. I would sit huddled under my blanket with nothing but the light from my new Moto G striking my face in a thousand shades of Diwali. I was reading my teacher’s blog. Who the hell does she think she is? She writes like a 4 year old who has just learnt to draw. She knows nothing about writing. Her commas appear like pile after pile of turd coming out of constipation.I don’t understand how she is qualified to teach. She must have faked her degree. How can someone with that kind of English teach me?

A fortnight later when she had written enough, I decided to have a drinking game. I called a couple of my soup boys home and we all read her blog together and laughed. Every time we read something that was stupid or she had made a grammatical error, we took a shot of rum. That’s what she calls her blog btw, rumlolarum it seems. Once upon a time, when my penis wasn’t shriveled by the size of my head, I would sit like this with my school friends and watch porn. I can’t do that anymore because the doctors say that there is no semen left in my body anymore so if I shag now, it may confuse the fluids in my body and the residual semen may come out of my mouth. Doctors are so stupid. They also can’t even write properly.

I called the soup boys home last night and we all read her latest post. It was about how much she is enjoying teaching. Balls. I’m sure she can’t even spell teaching. When I become a teacher, I will make sure all my students love me. I will grow a beard and teach them poetry. Since I know how to write better than all my teachers, I can show my students how not to write. I can show them this woman’s blog. When I told this to my soup boys, they all appreciated my rocket sharp intellect and my mighty balls. Sometimes I think that I should become an intellectual man. But the only problem is, I think I am already an intellectual man. God, the world is so stupid. There aren’t enough things I want to be.

Today we are having the biggest soup boy party. My gang and I are going to display her dabba article on my big screen. We are all going to drink to rumlolarum and celebrate her stupidity. God. That website is so stupid. Why would they want to publish her article? Even that website doesn’t know how to write. Do I have to teach everybody how to write?

Today my friend asked me why I can’t just go to her and tell her on her face how stupid she is and how unreadable her writing is. I hadn’t thought of this. I think I get really angry when I see her — so angry that I become hulk that’s why I don’t want to tell her. But I will try to tell her tomorrow. You see, nobody knows this but centuries ago, the Greek Gods had cursed me. Because I am brave and an intellectual and I do real work and I am good looking and my grammar is perfect; the Gods had decided that I am in charge of other people’s writing and their blogs and their lives also.

So it is practically a violation — an assault on my person to read her writing. I must save the blogosphere. It’s okay if I can’t jerk off and have no semen, it’s okay if my soup boys are all bored with the same old drinking and laughing game on her blog, it’s okay if a hundred people hate her, it’s okay if nobody likes to read her — wait, it’s 80 years later, why the fuck is she still writing?