Monday, March 24, 2003

human is the music; natural is the static

"for some reason deep in my karma, i have always felt compelled to set down a vision of things i have heard or seen. life itself has never been enough. it only became real for me when i fashioned it into stories. yet, somehow, despite all i've written, the true nature of things i've tried to grasp in my fiction still manages to drift through the words and sit, like little piles of dust, between the lines. the histories are even more unsatisfactory than tales in capturing the essence of things. as i look back through the diaries i've kept over the years, i realize that although they jog many memories for me, they are likely to be utterly flat to anyone else. ...perhaps by engaging the fact of my fiction i will at last be able to come to some sort of truth. ...can it possibly atone for all the paper, though?"

that's from a book i love, 'tale of murasaki', that i was given by a very good friend. that passage is one i like because i have felt at times that the 'essence' of what i'm trying to relate is the very thing that is not coming across in the hundreds of words i'm devoting to the cause! however, unlike murasaki, i don't always feel that way. mostly, i have fun being a writer- it's not exasperating. it's enjoyable. it's just kind of cool to find that an ancient japanese woman who lived hundreds of years ago had some of the same frustrations as i do when it comes to journalling!

here's another phrase i liked in the book:

"fate is unmoved by one's pitiful hopes; what changes, bowing to fate, is what one hopes for." ....isn't there a rolling stones song that echoes that very sentiment?

my favorite topic

hello again... i've been trying, since i've been back, to round out my (very) basic understanding of exactly what is going on right now in the world- i know that the extent to which i keep up with the news leaves much to be desired, but in light of everything i've been putting a lot more effort into it. however, any such discussions will be absent from this blog, only because in this world-affair-political realm, i am a listener and - decidedly- not a speaker.

that said, i'm going to just post a few things that have been running through my mind regarding this trip i took to india- on the way there, i was reading a book for class, which is basically a literary travel narrative by a writer who roamed through india and spoke to dozens and dozens of different people. these people were from the cities, from the villages, from the high castes, from the low ones, rich, poor, and everything in between, hindu, muslim... you get the idea. what was amazing was that he just let the people themselves tell their story, and in his book, he surrounded their stories with very little comment or analysis. he truly let the people speak for themselves. and what struck me was that here was a hindu man, speaking of issues that he faced on a daily basis, and i got to see how many of those issues he attributed to his class/religion; and then here was a muslim man, speaking of many the same daily issues, and attributing those very similar issues to his very different class/religion!

it was enlightening. not that i'm surprised by the universality of the human condition, but i can only imagine how much we would learn if we listened closely to the stories that are told by the people against whom we rage.

my favorite part of the book was a small section about a man who had lived his entire life in the chawl, or slum. his wife was also from a chawl. now, i've been to india before and i know that it is very easy to drive by one of these and wrinkle my nose at the smell, and breathe a little easier when we've passed the chawl by. but here was the author, sitting with this man in one of these chawls! already i was being presented with a perspective that i doubt i would ever have had access to otherwise. the man said something that will remain in my mind forever; i will never, ever forget the way i felt when i read this:

he said that he made a little more money, and he and his wife moved out of the chawl: "it should have meant a new life - ...after 100 square feet for 10 people in the chawl, they had 300 square feet for three people in the new apartment. but it had led to calamity. mr. ghate's wife had lived all her life in a chawl. now, left alone for much of the day in her self-contained 300 square feet, not seeing anyone, not having anyone to talk to, she had become frightened. she had begun to suffer seriously from claustrophobia, and she had been taken close to breakdown."

it seems that what she missed was the life that surrounds one in a chawl; the noise, the people... the human-ness (or humanity, perhaps?) ... it became possible for me, reading this account, to actually see the chawl through this wife's eyes. and i realized that what she loves about her lifestyle is not so different from what i would say i love about living in the city, for example: the social buzz, the energy in the air. as taher pointed out, maybe she sees a 300 square foot apartment the way i might see a mansion- as an echoing, empty, isolating place...?

Thursday, March 06, 2003

little leave of absence

hi all, i'm going to india this afternoon, so i won't be posting for a couple of weeks. but be sure to check in around the end of the month- i'm sure i'll have a lot to say (as usual)....!