Posted in Movies

Throwback to a Tale as Old as Time | Beauty and the Beast

It is a tale as old as time. The tale of the Ugly Duckling, the misfit, the circular peg in a square hole. But that is the thing about Great Stories orAncient Tales, they are the same all this while. And yet we like to return to them over and over again. There is something about them, their predictability makes us feel safe, almost. We know what comes after what and we love to know why does it come like that. Over and over again. It is almost as if we are in regulated and constant need of the same lessons over and over again. Like it was food for the soul and the soul went hungry every few hours or days or months or even years maybe? But it does go hungry again and that is when we go back to the these Stories and Tales, or find ourselves in a serendipitous meeting by chance.

This year we have given a throwback to one of the oldest tales we all have told and retold as a generation, the tale of the Beauty and the Beast. A tale of two misfits, two Ugly Ducklings coming together in a charming tale of love.

I had to go. I had to go see this movie even though I had watched it in bad print off of the torrent sites. Even though I had the older animated version of the Disney movie already downloaded and watched recently. Even though it meant I had to go watch the movie all by myself, because my parents would not be interested in the story. Even though the movie would be dubbed in my native language, at least it would be in 3D and good picture quality. Even though I would buy popcorn and cold drinks costlier than my ticket itself. I had to go.

And so I went. I went to see how was the throwback after all. Was it good enough? Did it bring something new to the Great Story, a new dimension, a new way of seeing or how did the Tale change when seen in 3D with real life characters instead of the old animated circles and ellipses? Would it touch my heart in new ways? Would it remind of the first time I read the story in a big, old yellow fairy tale book? Would it bring tears to my eyes like it always did? And most importantly would it make me Believe in the beauty of art and power of storytelling, all over again? Especially in this age of ours when artificial intelligence is challenging the very foundations of our artistic media with its

And most importantly would it make me Believe in the beauty of art and power of storytelling, all over again? Especially in this age of ours when artificial intelligence is challenging the very foundations of our artistic media with its bots who are so close to creating art and writing stories, challenging the artists to come up with something completely out of the blue or become extinct with time.

I know, a bit too much to be expected from a single art piece. But then art is known to transform the world with only a handful of demonstrations which are only duplicated for the time that follows until another transformation happens.

So the parts of the story that were already known and expected, did not quite bore me as much as I had thought they would. The elaborate musicals that followed the intensely emotional scenes were passable and not so moving especially because I was listening to dubbed lyrics and not the original ones in English. So I let it pass because with a benefit of doubt. And since I live in a small town, the 3D quality was also not quite mindblowing.

And yet the moments of magic did come. They were quietly moving and beautifully written. But they were few. So this may not be the revolutionising art piece, but it would be a reminder of the grandeur of the past that the storytellers of our generation need to prove themselves upto.

Moments of Magic | Misfits Fitting Together

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First, was when Belle and Beast are having a conversation, in just the company of each other, and in a deserted land away from all the square pegs of the world. Beast is quite obviously discriminated against for his horrible looks. But that is not what makes him sad. He is sad because people stop smiling and laughing in his presence. And it is not because he looks a certain way or smells a certain way that puts people off to stop smiling. It is his rage and uncontrolled temper that scares away smiles and laughter.

To which Belle replies with a dilemma of her own. Quite opposite, but a dilemma nevertheless. She talks of the laughter that ensues in her absence as well, but not that of joy but of scorning and taunting. People do not like her ways of having a dream to want something more than the small town. So they taunt her for being so naive. At the same wanting to keep their children away from her naivety, fearing it would any day turn into rebellion. They don’t let her read, her one true love in life.

That was a beautiful moment because it did not go by the regular understanding of the story where only the ugly beast is rescued by the Beauty. But they are both rescuing each other.

Moments of Magic | Sorting the Childhood Skeletons

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Then comes the time he offers a small artefact of his magical kingdom, the magical world book that could take you to any place of your choice. He asks her if there was anywhere she wanted to go. And she chooses a place from her childhood. Almost reminding me of the Skeleton Woman being discovered in Belle’s mind – an old, horrifying wish buried deep in her psyche. What happened of her mother? Why was she abandoned as a baby by her own mother? And she finds out the truth, the Skeleton is removed from its hiding place and put together in place like a real Skeleton. She finds out her mother was ill and did not wish for her daughter to catch her illness as well. So she chooses to die alone and asks her husband to take Belle away immediately. The broken Skeleton is slowly fixed. And then it was time for the muscles to form over the Skeleton. And it is the passionate heart of the Beast that does the job, as in the Skeleton Woman’s story, where the drum-like heartbeat of the fisherman is used to summon flesh for the naked bones of the Skeleton Woman.

The Beast apologises for separating her father from Belle. He apologises for thinking him to be a thief and realises his mistake. And when time comes for her to ask for being set free so she could go back to her father in grave trouble, he sets her free. His passion is put to test and he passes. It is another way of saying you set, what you love, free. But it is also about realising why did you want to cage something you loved, in the first place? He mistook her father to be a thief and punished him with a life sentence, which was taken over by Belle as a punishment for herself, in exchange for her father’s freedom. But when Beast realises there was no offense done, but just an act of pure love that inspired Belle’s father to pluck the rose, he lets her go as well. Even though now it means he was going to be condemned to a lifelong sentence of becoming a beast himself. He accepts it. And this passion gives Belle the strength to stand before a whole society, her old ways, her old townspeople as a whole and speak the truth. She confronts the evil Gaston who wanted to capture her with his misogynistic love and succeeds in returning to her true love.

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In return, she helps him set in place his own broken Skeleton by teaching him to face his own self as a Beast and accepting him. She does so by accepting him, herself. She drinks soup in a way he can too. She helps him realise his main problem was his uncontrollable temper, which was in his control to fix. Unlike his beast self which was beyond his power to control. She realises he is cursed because he was hurt as a child. And she accepted him because she knew people with broken hearts could become beasts themselves – morose, sulken and non-believing beasts – who are in need of love and acceptance. She sets his old, buried Skeleton back in place.

Moments of Magic | Raging Against the Dying Light

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And then finally the magic happens when the castle transforms under the first rays of the Sun. There was dark and now there is light, at last. Both within and without the castle. The wisdom is restored to the mind that had gone astray, that of the Beast and the townspeople. The magical curse of ignorance has been lifted, with love and passion. The Sun is up in the sky again, after a long, dark night. And the words of a certain Wise Old Man, cannot help but resound in my heart and bones –

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

~ Dylan Thomas ~

~

Beauty and the Beast was a record-breaking success in its first week of release this year. Although I was disappointed to see that it did not make it my cut of a revolutionary art piece, it was nevertheless one of the most brilliant throwbacks to the beauty and power of art. And that of storytelling as well. Technology and its advances made the experience of this storytelling nothing like before. And yet there is something that is required of a revolutionary art piece, that is a revolutionary thought in the storytelling and just the language of its communication.

I think I will have to wait a long time till that revolution rises in an artist, till someone is ready to step aside themselves and let the Wilderness speak through them the words of Wisdom which will set our human race free, from the curse of the dark night of ignorant bliss.

Join me on my journey through art pieces and my experiences of them, twice a week.

 

 

 

Posted in Reflections

I write to not give up.

It has become one of the few routines that I have left these days. It is like that painful paradox that rules my life and I do not know if to feel good or bad or hopeful or grateful or angry about it.

Change is the only constant. It keeps changing. When things are sorted they are on the verge of being distorted again. When things are distorted they are about to be sorted but are not sorted just yet.

And since I have been facing rejections from the colleges I have applied to for Masters, I am only looking at the half glass empty, at the distortedness and the anticipation of distortedness right now.

The cover art is courtesy the photo blogger on rareist.blogspot.in. There are other some really great photographs represent peace and softness. But this is one of the few illustrative GIFs.

Things are not at their best definitely. So I am jobless, without a real purpose except for posting weekly twice here on this blog and reading. Reading like my life depends on it. And you know what, it really does. My life depends on reading right now. When there is a constant change going in my life between order and disorder, it is reading that is my peacekeeper. It is like the black lines in the above illustration. Always there.

Even as they distort into a mess or arrange beautifully into a meditative globus, the still exist. They are what break the war of the opposites for me. They are to my angels and demons what life is to health and sickness. We get proud and ambitious when we are in the pink of our health. We get depressed and sad when we are not feeling well. But we forget the simple presence of Life that allows us to feel both these opposites. In order to be healthy or sick, you have to be alive first. Like in order for the meditative globus or the disordered mess to exist, the black lines are required. Reading books are like the black lines to my messed up life right now.

Rejections are difficult to face. However much you are prepared to face them by being your own worst critics, rejections always hurt. And even more so when you are provided with no clear reason as to why were you not accepted. Although, we have a cowardly benefit of doubt that there were other reasons for our rejection apart from our own incompetence. We do not always want to know the truth adn find it easier to project our own truths in order to deal better with it all.

And that is the worst part of it all. By doing so we are actually preparing for more rejections for the future. By not acknowledging the truth of why were rejected, we are preparing grounds for a future rejection. But it is more difficult to get to work to avoid a future rejection. It is more difficult to stick to the plan and keep hustling even in the face of dejection. It is difficult to write another blog post about the thigns in your mind when you are constantly thinking about who others are going to think your writing unworthy of attention and appreciation.

It is so difficult. So I have decided to ditch writing that and write this post instead. To write about what is on my mind, that is preventing me from talking about what is on my mind.But to not ditch the hustle, the struggle, the dream. I write to not give up.

Posted in Books, Reflections

Correcting My Foolish Understanding of Love

In wise stories, love is seldom a romantic tryst between the lovers… 
Love does not mean a flirtation or a pursuit of a simple ego pleasure but a visible bond composed of the psychic sinew of endurance, a union which prevails through bounty and austerity, through the most complicated and the most simple days and nights. 

(Women Who Run With The Wolves, Ch 5, Hunting: When the Heart is a Lonely Hunter)

The above lines are taken from the book Women Who Run With The Wolves, by archetypal Jungian psychologist Clarisse Pinkola Estes. The book is a collection of legends and tales from various cultures, across various continents, collected by the author to delineate the nature of a wise, wild woman.

The Skeleton Woman is a story that is used by the author to speak about love in the life of the wild woman. She is a woman denounced by her family and murdered by her father for disobeying him. Her skeleton lies at the bottom of the ocean for a long time, until a brave fisherman from distant lands dares to venture into the waters beneath which she lies.

I am reveling in the pleasures of a realisation of how this ancient fable so deeply reflected in the central love story of the novel, The God of Small Things. With each passing day Arundhati Roy’s novel seems like an ode to the Wild Woman Archetype. And as I am indulging in these pleasures, I am learning deeply important things about myself and women in general. The latest of which is understanding the nature of love – the pure hearted, fairy-tale kind of love.

The Skeleton Woman is healed and her broken skeleton reassembled by the scared fisherman. First she haunts him with her broken-bones-self but then he embraces her out of pure goodness and kindness (Much like that of Velutha, from Roy’s novel, who is also a fisherman). She is healed by the beating drums of his heart. She goes into his body to take out the beating drums. This also resembles an art piece I had come to love once, for the instant connection I had made to it. It reminded me of someone I loved and I had shared it with him. The woman was holding onto the heart of the man. Her hand penetrated into his rib cage but did not seem to be hurting him. I had imagined that she was strengthening him. I was so wrong.

I was amazed at first by the signs of skeleton on the girl’s body like the skull decor in her hair. But now I know what it meant. She was probably the skeleton woman represented in the art, and she was not giving, but taking strength from the man and the strongest muscle in his body, that of his heart. When I looked at her with this realisation, I saw how her arm had an imprint of bones. As if the marks of being a bone, a skeleton, were slowly wearing out. She was growing muscles around her bony figure because of the passionate heart.

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In the ancient story, the man has a heart that beats loud when he is scared or excited. The Skeleton Woman uses his heart’s music and sings to revive her lifeless bones. She sings out for flesh and life. As the night reaches its end, the Skeleton is reaches her Womanhood.

She then sings out for the clothes of the man to be ripped off and they lie down naked, skin to skin. Coming back to the Roy’s love story in The God of Small Things, she uses just those words, skin to skin, to describe the first physical encounter between the lovers, Velutha and Ammu. I think the words are as follows –

 She went to him and laid the length of her body against his. He just stood there. He didn’t touch her. He was shivering. Partly with cold. Partly terror. Partly aching desire. Despite his fear his body was prepared to take the bait. It wanted her. Urgently. His wetness wet her. She put her arms around him.
He tried to be rational: What’s the worst thing that can happen?  
I could lose everything. My job. My family. My livelihood. Everything.
She could hear the wild hammering of his heart.
She held him till it calmed down. Somewhat.
She unbuttoned her shirt. They stood there. Skin to skin. 

(The God of Small Things, Ch 21, The Cost of Living)

Ammu’s character was a divorcee in a conservative society where broken marriages could not exist as an acceptable idea. Her husband tried to sell her body off to his boss, to save his source of livelihood, his job. He was a hopeless alcoholic which was threatening his career. The worst part of it all was that theirs was a love marriage. Yes, Love. Ironical isn’t it? And yet so close to reality. Women never seem to understand which man is truly perfect for them anymore.

Anyways, she was a loner in a world full of people because she was intellectually and emotionally alone. Velutha came to her rescue, with his wild passionate heart. His love was not just of the physical body but emotional in its acceptance of her, her body, her soul. He was healing her. Like the brown man in this art. Like the fisherman in the story of The Skeleton Woman. She was gaining back her womanhood, her life giving capacities, in his presence.

And then in the end, having reclaimed her womanhood back, it was time to express her gratitude. An utter surrender of herself to her saviour, a token of gratitude for his immense kindness. After all, she was but a bundle of bones tangled in itself, when he chose to love her. To disentangle her. To revive her. Coming back to life, she had to thank the one who revived her.

Which part of this togetherness can you call Love? What is love in this story?

The part where he chooses to show kindness to a bundle of bones? Bones are without any gender but love is more often than not associated with gender, especially romantic love.

Or is love the part where she is able to draw life from his wild, hammering heart. And yet not murdering him. Where the passionate heart is refueling her life with passion, passion for life itself. It is an awakened consciousness of her whole being. Bones are symbolic of the lifeless structural member of life. They need to be surrounded and fused with the soft, enduring muscles to keep the being erect and functioning. He is bringing back that life into her, like a doctor, like a healer. Is that love?

Or is it love when they finally lie down, skin to skin. The part that is most overrated in our understanding of romantic relationships today? The sex. The physical.

But what about the rest of the things that have lead to sex? What if the bones could never have been healed, could never acquire the flesh, could never realise that they were feminine and capable of loving the masculine? What then?

It is so easy to forget everything else and just focus all of ourselves on this end moment, when they lie down skin to skin. Forgetting the nakedness is not just of the bodies but also of the minds and the souls.

And I am no less culpable of this crime. After all, I had forwarded this photograph to someone I ‘loved’, long time ago. Without any knowledge of the stories behind it, the inspirations. Without even bothering to observe up close that she was not healing him but actually, he was healing her.

~

Image Art courtesy Tumblr.com

Posted in Originals, Reflections

Can You Love Someone With Just an ‘O.K.’ ?

We pour ourselves into words. There is a guy talking about how he makes up words and has written an original dictionary of words defining elusive emotions. He says when people ask him if the words he used from that original dictionary are real or not, he replies with saying they are real if you want them to be. But on further contemplation he says to us, that what they are really asking is how many brains will they have an access to if they were to use to open up an emotion. If the key was regularly used one. To which he said that O.K. was a word that could be treated like a master key. It opened up to so many of the brains. Although we do not know and do not care to know what does the word stand for or where did it come from?

It speaks so mych about what meaning we attach to words. We pour of ourselves into and onto the words like they were cups to be filled with labels of the words on them. Like words were nothing real but like cups into which we filled a part of ourselves and kept them stored.

When I would speak to my beloved and the conversation was about to end, especially on a note where we had to end it without wanting to. Maybe in case of making it through the night talking and now it was time for our offices. Or maybe when one of us had to go and we could not continue talking about whatever it was we were pouring ourselves over. Or when we were angry at each other after a fight and yet did not wish to disconnect but were forced to, because two parts of us was at war and the one saying we should stop talking, was winning.

When in such times, the O.K.s we shared were brimming with our emotions. And if the word was followed with our respective petnames, the ones we gave to each other out of love for each other like we were each other’s pets, the Okay seem to swell and engulf both of us in that moment. And then it did not matter if we were 3 miles or 3000 miles apart. We would be together at that moment, aware of the fact that we somehow, digitally, but very really, connected.

The guy from the TED talk also said these habits of people associating things to words on their own, spoke immensely about how we look at language. How words have no meaning of their own. How we gave them meanings. Which is what I told my family too when a lady in the distant family had begun to openly and publicly abuse the family using abuse words and foul language like it was normal everyday language. I asked them to repeat what they had taught me when I was a kid, crying over being abused my odler brother. That abuses do not get stuck to our bodies and even if they did, they could be removed and thrown away.

I am reminded of a scene from The God of Small Things, when the lower caste guy’s love for the upper caste girl was exposed to the girl’s family. And the mother had spat on the face of the guy, who was the son of the house sweeper. The character was shown to have felt as if he was spat onto his insides, as if the head that hung on his shoulders was ripped open and the spit was poured in there. Like the insults hurled at him were deeply intermingled with the existence of the person. Like he was a bundle of threads and the abuses hurled had entwined themselves in a way unfit for disentangling.

We hear about even trees and plants response to the abuses hurled at them from people. The words may not be important, I guess. It must be the negativity, the will for the tree to be broken and swalloed by death and despair, that finally brings the death of the tree. This technique is used by the nomads in a part of the world to bring down the trees to clear off land and grow food. They do not burn and risk the burning of the entire forest. They simply gather in groups of 5-6 or 10-12 depending on the size of the tree and hurl abuses at it. They are pouring their will to bring about the death of the tree to the tree and it picks up the feelings despite not having any chance of knowing their language.

This speaks deeply about the existing consciousness of even the immobile trees and plants that seemingly are the less developed species of life. At least that is what we like to believe, as humans. Yet they share a consciousness that which runs through us as well. The consciousness that we pour into the cups of words and label them with words calling the tea party as Language. The trees may have a different manner of pouring out their consciousnesses, their language may differ. So if we are not aware fo their languages, how can we ever know about us being the more developed species? How did we come to that conclusion?

And thinking of it this way, what does it now mean to be in love? To say that you are  in love with someone or something? Why can I not pour my whole existence in a simple word like O.K. and still make the other person feel loved. Without even using the label of the word love. And maybe not pouring my love into any cups but directly into the being of the beloveds. Having it absorbed by them. Having their heads ripped open and poured in, directly?

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~

Woah, so I just remembered there is a silly Bollywood Romantic movie by the name of Ok Jaanu. Now I am sure they did not have the same thought trajectories I just took. In fact I found the movie to be nothing out of ordinary than the usual romantic Bollywood cinema. Well, even my rants cannot escape the movie buff in me!

Although I do post dedicated stories every Mondays and Thursday, I am also bringing in reflective rants on life and everything that it is made up of – love, friendship, language, expression, art etc to be shared with you.

 

 

Posted in Artists

On Courage, Dreams and Being an Artist | Arundhati Roy

To love. To be loved.
To never forget your own insignifance. 
To never get used to the unspeakable violence
and the vulgar disparity of life around you. 
To seek joy in the saddest of places. 
To pursue beauty in its lair.
To never simplify what is complicated 
or complicate what is simple. 
To respect strength, never power.
Above all, to try and understand.
To never look away.
And never, never to forget…
another world is not only possible,
she is on her way.
On a quiet day, 
I can hear her breathing. 

~Arundhati Roy~

Ever since I recognise being able to write words, I have had a diary. Not like a daily journal, but a special diary where I would note down important words. Words that inspired me, made me smile, or laugh or even cry. Words that came to me through stories or songs or someone’s lectures or moral lessons at school. I always made a note of them in a shabbily decorated diary. Shabbily because although my intentions to decorate would be grand, my skills would not match up. Nevertheless, I sufficed my dissatisfaction with keeping the words pure and beautiful. Only those that moved me with their love, of any form, could make it into the diary.

I would like to extend that diary to my online journal here. A Blog, whatelse is it but a web based log of anything and everything. To keep a log of things, of daily activities, of daily thoughts and to be able to share them on the web – that is a blog, right?

So I have decided to write weekly twice here and I hope to condense the confusing clouds of thoughts of the week into words worth reading and worth keeping a log of. This week’s are borrowed from a widely acknowledged and yet controversial author of my country, Arundhati Roy. I read her work of fiction The God of Small Things only a few months back and fell head over heels in love with the work of art. I even chose to write my Critical Writing sample for the MFA applications on this book and its craft of writing.

The book seemed to me to be having multiple layers, at the first reading. And in the second reading I was absolutely sure I was not to find all the layers of this piece of art for a long time to come. Religious, spiritual, interpretive, literary, feminist, post-modern, post-colonialism, casteism, capitalism, nationalism, die hard romance, mythical, individual vs society, marriage-family drama, are just a few to be named. It is an experience of life in itself, so complex when it has to be complex, and so very simple when it is simple. A beautiful work of fiction that I aspire and revere by all means.

There is a thing called religious reading of popular literature, one of the best examples of which is the project titled Harry Potter Sacred Text. As part of such reading, the readers are exposed to the various methods of reading a religious wherein we mainly look to preach lessons out of the stories we read in the texts. We all have done such a reading of a text we love, stories or songs or essays even. We read and re-read them without realising what is it that attracts us so much about them. Then one fine day, the moment of epiphany occurs when we are able to reflect our lives in our beloved stories. We become characters we love and before we know it we are already drawing parallels between their lives and our own. We are rejoicing in their victories and despairing quietly at night at their losses. We are slowly becoming one with the story and simultaneously with the creator of the story.

And this is when the writer is tested for their capability to share a Way of Seeing. Once we are so deeply involved into the act of reflecting our own lives into the story, we are now looking for finding a solution to the problems of our own lives. We are going to sub-consciously act according to the heroes of these stories, in our real life. There is no guarantee, but there is a most definite possibility which is what makes the starving, that the writer bears in order to write a story, worth every trouble taken. Psychology calls this the work of Mirror Neurons in our brains that reflect and mirror things before it, whether in the form of a story, a dance, a music piece or any other art work. They give us capabilities to immerse ourselves into the world of the creator and enjoy it for the while we are entranced. And hopefully to come out with a pearl of wisdom. Simply put, we walk around in the shoes of the creator as the art piece was conceived by them. And the purer the art, the more beautiful the experience of conceiving it, difficult but beautiful.

Despite having an auto-biographical feel to it, the book The God of Small Things is but a work of fiction. This week I discovered these words from Arundhati Roy, and I felt like I was close to realising what it was to walk in the shoes of this great artist, this storyteller, this Wild Woman. Despite the incredible pessimism in her works about the current state of the society and its hypocrisy, these words brought me to the incessant hope that sits at the center of her heart. She may criticise the world and its ways for all of its unspeakable violence and disparity, but she never forgets to dream of another world, where everything is better and beautiful.

It is what probably gives her hope and strength every night to have the courage to see dreams for the future and every morning to get up and have the courage to work hard for those dreams. The God of Small Things was her dream once and it has changed my life. Her courage to fulfil her dream of writing a story about love and loss, gave my Mirror Neurons one of the most important exercises to do. Across time and space, her words made my life a little bit better.

She inspires me to fulfil my own dreams so I can be to someone what she has been to me. Even if I can be that to one person, I would be so grateful. She touched millions of hearts, the book sold about 6 million copies. But then the God of her story, The God of Small Things, resides in things small as well as big. And I will certainly be grateful to create art and suffer for it, if only I can be what she has been to me, to even a single soul.

~

Join me on my journey through life, learning to live with lessons learnt along the way, in stories, in art and in labours of love. I post in new stories every Monday and Thursday.

(Cover art by the stoned storyteller, on the dorm room wall. :P)

Posted in Artists, Movies

Nina Simone and the Wild Woman Archetype

Dangerous Minds uploaded a video of Nina Simone performing a rather melancholic number. She kept improving along the performance saying how it was a tragedy that such a song had to exist. The pain of having to create a music piece, a melody, a baby, that had so much blood and tears in it was shining in her big eyes. This was my first introduction to Nina Simone.

I had instantaneously taken to liking that brutal honesty in her demeanour. She looked like a fighter to me, who was fighting all the pain you could see in her eyes, to be able to create art and put it out there to be shared. I had immense respect and love for this woman, whom I had seen only 3 minutes ago.

Pure hearted love was what she commanded out of my heart in the first few minutes of knowing her. Today when I read the stories of the wild women who let their wild natures run with the winds, goddesses of Life/Death/Life cycles, La Que Sabe – the one who knows; I imagine someone like her. I imagine that face with a struggle strewn across it, fighting against whatever she had to fight, in order to let her baby, her creative labour, exist in this world.

Vasalisa the Wise

I read stories of the wise woman Vasalisa, who went into the wild jungles risking her life, to find the fire of life so she can cook and feed herself. I see how the young woman is initiated into the rites of becoming a woman, of discovering her inner creative fires – the lessons of Life/Death/Life cycles where she lets live what must live and lets die what must die – so she can feed herself with the fire. So she can have her creative endeavours feed her stomach and her children’s stomachs. So she can accomplish the rites of becoming a wild woman of the wild natures.

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Source – Wikipedia

And then I watch the tribute to this wonderful woman who wished to be the first Black Classical Pianist in the world. She had dreams beyond the limits of her skin and her race and the society she was born in. But she was not to be contained. She accomplishes her grandest dreams that she saw as a young woman, but not until 3 days before the end of her long, fulfilling life of a seventy years. I watch the documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? and somehow the stories of Vasalisa, the Wise Woman, coincide with those of Miss Simone.

As a 4 year old child, Nina was gifted with a piano and a chance to take lessons in Classical music – a chance which was rare in the Black community. She was instantly estranged by her own, much before discovering how her own were estranged too, in the society outside. She travels into the jungles of show business with this gift of music and survives its worst nightmares. Much like Vasalisa, who is left estranged when her mother dies an early death leaving behind a gift for her, a magical doll.

Dichotomies of fame, choice between selfish art and selfless civil rights activism, the decision to build one’s career or devote oneself to those in need, being treated as a race horse, even by those closest to her, an abusive marriage and finally, her own clinical manic depression and bipolar disorder.

These are nothing less than surviving the dangerous House of the Hag from Vasalisa’s legend, where impossible tasks are laid down before the woman is to be initiated into the ways of the creatively awakened woman, the wild woman.

She returns from the jungle with what she set out to seek, the fire of creative spirit awakened, alive and burning. In the story, Vasalisa returns from the jungles with a skull on fire with the eternal fire. There is a moment of being fear by what is seen of the bright light of the creative fire. There is an urge to let it all be thrown aside, for the darkness that has been brought to light, the darkness of the society around. But she carries on nevertheless, both of them carry on nevertheless, both Nina and Vasalisa. This fire burns down the destructive demons of her own being as well. Vasalisa has her evil step mother and step sisters burnt to cinders by the eternal fire of the skull. Nina fights her manic depression, the demons of her own mind and body, picked up over the years of racial discrimination, isolation, abusive marriage and pressures of a career in show business. She fights the illness with love from her estranged daughter and the modern medicine that can recognise this illness as illness and not madness. She is cured.

And finally, as Vasalisa returns home with her fires to keep her alive and healthy, Nina makes a full circle to the point where she started. As a 19 year oild, young black pianist, she was denied an entry into the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music even after graduating from a prestigious institution in itself, Juilliard. Three days before her death, she receives a degree in music from the same institute.

~

Nina Simone (1933~2003) is a legend of both the music industry and the social activism. Her music was her way of participating in the Civil Rights revolution of the 1960s America. Her music was ahead of its time in acknowledging the importance of keeping it real and true to the soul. She let herself be criticised for being unprofessional when she dedicated herself wholeheartedly to the Civil Rights movement instead of focusing on her musical career and a politically correct image. And yet she is a legendary musician with her music encompassing a variety of genres like classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop. She is known as someone who brought the discipline of the Classical music to the spontaneity of Jazz. She is known to have a mystical, almost religious relationship to her music, so much so that even the mind numbing medication of Manic Depression could not stop the flowing waters of her music.

She quit the American dream after Martin Luther King Jr. was shot dead. ‘The king of love was dead.’ she declared in her journals and also one of her songs. She made France her home in the later years of her life. But not before spending a brief time into the wild, and away from the show business, by staying in Africa. By returning to France, she claimed her music, her daughter and her self back.

The story of Nina Simone is an inspirational one, it is painful, depressing at times, aweinspiring and motivating all at once.

Stay with me here. I bring in stories that touch my heart and soul every Mondays and Thursdays.

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Posted in Artists

Cigarettes After Sex | Universal Music of Love

I know that you say I get mean when I’m drinking
But then again sometimes I get really sweet
So what does it mean if I tell you to go fuck yourself
Or if I say that you’re beautiful to me
It’s affection, always
You’re gonna see it someday
My attention’s on you
Even if it’s not what you need

Cheryl Strayed is the author of a wonderful novel by the name Wild. It is an autobiography of her struggles to cope with a personal tragedy, leading to drug and sexual addiction and finally the discovery of the healing powers in wild nature. It was converted into a widely acclaimed motion picture by the same name, starring Reese Witherspoon.

Cheryl had named herself Strayed after her divorce with her long time husband. It was her choice of surname symbolising how she felt. Strayed. Like a stray dog on the street. She was the one to say those words you read at the top of this post. Someone strayed physically by her family, emotionally by her dead mother, mentally by the drugs she was addicted to and spiritually by the loss of faith in the world- spoke of how the innermost voice was still universally recognisable. That it could say things that were worthy of pulsating across the universal nerves.

It was incredible amounts of pain, that brought out her innermost voice, the universal voice. Pain being the dark well, at the bottom of which lies Veritas, the Roman Goddess of truth, the innermost voice that reverberates universally. We have heard of her in legends like the Frog Princess where the Frog, who helps the Princess realise her truth and come of age, lies at the bottom of the dark well. The elusive goddess of Truth chooses the dark corners to hide herself into. The darkness is her abode.

The music of Cigarettes After Sex has both the darkness and the pain. No wonder the music pierces through to the heart, via the ears as well as the goosebumps on the flesh. No wonder it only takes the listener to hear the song once and get addicted to it immediately. The YouTube success of their singles, with millions of views, can probably be explained by these two attributes.

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Title Image for C.A.S single Affection, Photography by Man Ray

Cigarettes After Sex pierces like the sword of truth does. It hurts at first, and you bleed, but then you are at peace with the truth. Savouring in it.

Music has memories

Music has memories associated to it. A long lost melody sweeps us off of our feet and back into time. But there are some kinds of music that take you back into time even when you had never heard of the music. They take you back with their truth and their universal voice, to a time where you relate to what the voice has to say to you. This is when you begin sharing the same dimension as the musician, the composer, the creator of the art you are consuming. You become one with the artist.

Sometimes we talk all night long, we don’t shut up
And when it’s late we’ll say we’re still wide awake so…
We love to talk about how you’ll come up to visit me
And we’ll rent a car and we’ll drive upstate
It’s affection, always
You’re gonna see it someday
My attention’s on you
Even if it’s not what you need

I think of you, I want you too, I’d fall for you
I think of you, I want you too, I’d fall for you

~

Cigarettes After Sex is the labour of love of Greg Gonzalez and his friends. The band is particularly famous on YouTube not just for the die hard romance essentially but also for their androgynous vocals. You cannot particularly differentiate if it is a woman or a man singing the ballads for their beloved. And this is what makes it all the more universal in its appeal. It is a tribute to love in a very pure form. You could sing it to your boyfriend or your girlfriend, best friend, mother, pet dog or cat or anything/anyone that you have felt a soul churning  love for. The kind of love that hurts but soothes at the same time.

Music is a beautiful medium of storytelling. And I love to feature music that talks right to the listener, like a letter or a story in narration. Do let me know what you think of their music and the particular noir nature of the music. And share widely the music of die hard romance.

Do follow the blog and let me know about other music you would like me to listen to and respond to. I post in new stories every Mondays and Thursdays. (Sometimes a day late, because I am lazy and indisciplined! :P)

(Cover Image – Photo by Stoned Storyteller. Song lyrics – Affection, by Cigarettes After Sex, written by Greg Gonzalez.)