Le Cirque Terrible
November 6, 2009, 8:54 am
Filed under: thirsty raconteurs | Tags: , ,

Far, far away, in a land where the mellow glow of the morning sun lightly skims the snow – softer than a stolen kiss, swifter than a swallow – and the minute-dial of the vintage Vostok watch stops functioning in a biting blizzard, a convoy of caravans dot the backwoods east of the Ural Mountains. In the afternoons, people from nearby villages swarm to gasp at fire-breathers and goad at tightrope walkers. In the nights, discordant roars and shrill caterwauling rise above the thunder in the Siberian skies and brilliant pyrotechnic parades ride above the thickness of the smog.

Welcome to Vaudeville.

The ringmaster, a boisterous samovar of a man, introduces the French circus to the heterogeneous hordes of people – Muscovites, third- and fourth-generation Ukrainians and Kazakhs, indigenous Yakutians, and Turkic descendants – as the last circus that has not surrendered to nouveau cirque; the last circus that has not blotted its escutcheon by succumbing to the money-making snares of the contemporary circus. He declares that his circus’ only true love is to thrill its patrons with the charm of the circus of yore. “Let the show begin,” he bellows into the microphone.

Trapeze artistes swing from the upper airy lofts of the giant tent; they perform the corde lisse – adroitly intertwining the silken vertical ropes with their sinewy limbs and dancing gracefully in mid-air to the somnolent tune of a folk song – and the crowd applauds impassively; they are visibly bored of the “dancing in the air”. Unicyclists juggle plastic balls as big as watermelons but as light as opened tin cans while creaking along a curvy path, and the eyes of the throng begin to droop. “Zut alors!” swears the ringmaster under his breath.

“Bring on the lions, Esmeralda!” he roars, trying to hide the nervousness in his sonorous voice. A sudden blast of Wagner’s funeral march jolts the audience, having slipped into a moment of sleep, into consciousness. The zaftig trainer flings open the cage and the lion languidly stretches out one pathetic paw. A crack of the leather whip on its derriere and the animal springs into action. It gives a low growl before starting its routine: circle the periphery of the inner ring – it had to represent its pride back in Africa with due pride, especially in the company of the cunning Siberian huskies – and then perform various stunts on its two limpid legs. Despite the poor lion’s gallant attempts at entertaining the onlookers, some of them still snore lightly in their seats. By now, the ringmaster looks distressed, only short of shouting diatribes.

On tenterhooks now, the ringmaster is desperate to try anything that would save his circus and him from falling flat – face first – on the cold, muddy snow. He decides to let the 1940s – the fury of Operati¬on Barbarossa – work its melodramatic magic on the apathetic crowd; something ought to incite this dispassionate lot of rustics!

“Ladies and gentlemen, ze grand finale – Rhönradturnen, the German Wheel!”

Instantly, a pall of stillness casts itself upon the moment. Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu – as germane to Germany as can be – wafts in the quietude. As the unmistakably German twins – tall, blonde and beautiful – arch their long backs in the womb of the wheel and turn it into motion with their practiced fingertips, gasps escape the chafed lips of the crowd. And as the twins deftly maneuver their way, from inside the wheel, onto the platform from where the audience sits – their blood boiling as the twins inch nearer – one bellicose Yakutian youth throws a particularly succulent red tomato at the wheel. Out of balance, the wheel drops to the ground. And the crowd – like one big spleen-venting copier machine – rises to rejoice!

The ringmaster, heaving a sigh of relief, thanks Germany for ever being anti-Slav, anti-communism, and anti-Russia. It saved Vaudeville from vanishing.


countless smiles under cover of the streets
November 3, 2009, 11:19 am
Filed under: random sighs

Random photoshoot.

I swear I have jet-black hair :O


gingerbread girl

And I know I have dramatic facial expressions :/


smile you mean it - the killers

The rest of the pictures were in black and white, and I happen to like colour. So no more pictures >.<

November 2, 2009, 3:05 pm
Filed under: poignant strokes | Tags: ,

Just an editorial for my weekly newsletter:

Life is a nomad. One day, Life is in Neverland with its heart aflutter like Tinkerbell’s, and the following noon, Life is in the Land of Oz, fleeing from the Winged Monkeys. Nonetheless, Life keeps a box filled with slices of its odysseys for Life hopes to live simulacrums of these slices, if not the entire odyssey itself.

My heart is fueled by two things: memories and wanderlust. (Fastidious to the hilt, I struggled to not use such an oft-repeated word as ‘memories’ foregoing this but ‘memories’ stuck, and as for ‘wanderlust’, it spawned too many technicoloured Polaroids of the seven continents for me to ignore it. I am a word nerd, yes.) I spent the first nine years of my life in a charming white house with a wooden swing; the second nine years flitted by in this school; and as for the coming nine years, I know not where I will be. But like Life, I will carry with me my box of memories – “slices of my odysseys” – and look out for relapses of snatches of my time – “simulacrums of these slices” – spent in these nine years in this school on my travels powered by wanderlust.

Perhaps, when in Damascus, a hawker will sell me a bunch of autumn damask roses, splendidly pink; and my mind, heady with the sweet fragrance, will float me back to the days when Zeina and I – artist and art dilettante – would put my head and her hands together to sketch surrealist illustrations for abstract poetry. Sometimes with a touch of Dali-like genius, sometimes with Warhol-esque brashness, and sometimes with our own arabesques and Aegean inspirations; we would conjure crimson roses with vintage yellow Japanese strokes, monochrome clocks in nooses, quirky cartoons of princesses and their royal carriages, and a caboodle of curlicues around boring body text. When many of our illustrations went unsigned (or rather, it was signed but only the discerning eye noticed that), a few readers claimed that we had purloined from the Internet. We did no such thing. But your allegation is tantamount to high polychromatic praise in our book. It is this praise that keeps us going from pillar to post, or rather, from comma to colon.

Commingling with revolutionary literati in the Tbilisi underbelly, I will find myself hearkening to Delphic utterances, dissecting Georgian gnomic truths, and stifling a chortle at grandiloquent rants. It is then when I will wish I had with me my unpublished drafts of an assortment of undecipherable poetry – akin to Eliot’s – and contemporary prose – complete with lowercase I’s, a paucity of punctuations, and deliberately erroneous spelling – written by no other than the quintessential pupils of this school. Perhaps, and I hope, a prolific Russian genius will take a liking to Aviator Literature, and will soon beget novellas out of these unabridged and unedited schoolchildren apercus, rife with allusions to life within the periphery of the school; much like these: “…when the sun sets, the stars sweat” (inexplicably ingenious), “…will she say Hi to me today,” (missing punctuations – very modern) “…and then i told my housemaster…” (lowercase I’s – supposed to denote the humility of the writer), and “I luv my skool, it is so kewl!” (in vogue amongst Internet-users and dimwits). Now, if any of you of that ilk of authors are still angry with the Assam Valley Express for never printing your grand works, I humbly confess that it was solely because this drab newsletter was too incapable of handling your esoteric genius. One of our many foibles, you see.

As furious fuchsia flashes of lightning will crackle across the Mykonos night sky, I will intently watch the tempest in the sea: the waves crashing against the jagged sedimentary rocks, yesterday’s sandcastles flattened by foam, a fearless albatross swooping to catch the last bait of the day. Perfunctorily, my own mind will motion me into its recesses to ponder about another tempest; a different kind, a smaller kind – a tempest in a tea cup. There’s something about human beings that makes me, a solitary observer sitting on the sidelines, want to cringe but… I just can’t put my finger on it. It might have something to do with their infectious enthusiasm for lighting controversies; a speck of it might have to do with their delightful hobby of embroidering canards; but I think that it mostly might have a little something to do with their unrequited love of creating tempests in tea cups, making mountains out of molehills, or, to put it plainly, just making a big fat deal out of imaginary vapour! When we – freelance ghost writers at your service – edited your works but missed a letter here or there, acerbic tongues lashed about; when we asked for a report on an event in correct English, you gave it in Gobbledygook, incorrect Gobbledygook; and when the weekly newsletter came out – looking as professional as unprofessional can get – you scanned for your name, grinned like the Cheshire Cat, and then tossed the newsletter – still fresh from the printers – into the dustbin. Yet, in spite of all this, the Assam Valley Express harbours no hard feelings and still looks forward to your contributions to its pages. After all, this newsletter is yours at the end of the day.

Further still, in an idyllic Uzbekistan village, will I make snow angels in the knee-high blanket of white only to rush into a shanty, seized by sneezing fits, for some bucolic warmth. There, amid spartan surroundings and strangers’ smiles, will I remember my halcyon days at the helm of this newsletter. Not all was as sepulchral as I may have unintentionally projected it to be. In fact, unbeknownst to us, the hours spent in the tiny back room would fly by in a jiffy: hilarious repartees between Tenzin and Parvathy; Tamanna’s smart aleck ripostes and Owamika’s sarcastic one-liners; Shruti’s banal wit and Zeina’s graceful brushstrokes; Ma’am Chettri’s impromptu elegiac rhymes and my fatal obsession with fonts; the Alleluia for Alliterations campaign; farragoes of politically incorrect sentences; ‘incessant’ being an ‘incessant’ word; gallimaufries of Gallicisms; blank, really blank, poetry in blank verse; and missing reports that resurfaced a week later all added to the spurts of occasional fun that we could afford to relish. On my way out into the whiteness, I will thank the Uzbek for stymieing my sneezes with hot tea but a queer smell – the olfactory memory of stale coffee from the Publication Unit – will bring the fits all out again. The things that bittersweet nostalgia can do.

Watching the world pass me by like Charlie Chaplin cinematic slides atop a Dromedary camel in Rajasthan – happiness betwixt hearty laughter and little scowling – I will idly muse upon the fantastic futility of Life. What need of Life if it is to be snuffed out? What need of Life if agony is overwhelming and ecstasy is spasmodic? What need of Life so moribund that it can just saunter into the arms of Death? These questions are quotidian and their answers are like arias to the ears: it is because Life needs Death to explore the afterlife. Similarly, my stint with the Assam Valley Express is like Life – excruciatingly painful yet strangely satisfying – but Death as the Editor-in-Chief is only a cynic-turned-optimist’s chance to start Life anew.

Just like the beautiful swan that gracefully dies after summers well-spent, I, too, shall fade into the folds of these pages.

It has been many summers well-spent.



The Madness of Nietzsche
November 1, 2009, 4:40 am
Filed under: poignant strokes | Tags: , ,

“It is the chaos in your soul that gives birth to a dancing star.”

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a German philosopher, a philologist with a devout hausfrau for a father, and a staunch disbeliever in Christianity who wrote startlingly brave and anti-establishment works using contradictory metaphors and aphorisms to thrust his philosophies into the unthinking minds of the society. “It is the chaos in your soul that gives birth to a dancing star” is a clear depiction of the madness of Nietzsche.

Chaos. It is a beautiful word. In my mind, this unassumingly powerful word spawns images of a lethal biochemical experiment gone dangerously wrong; the darkest of demons devouring the dreams of demigods; intellectual debates amongst emaciated and unwanted old men on the “evil of goodness and the goodness of evil”; love in the time of the Armenian genocide; the war between gods and goddesses. Chaos – the conflict between the wrong that feels right and the right that feels wrong.

It is the chaos in your soul that gives birth to a dancing star but it is the strangling of freedom that gives birth to the chaos in your soul. Freedom is a sweet thing but absolute freedom is the sweetest, the most unadulterated thing of them all. When absolute freedom is tugged at the leash, then the first sparks of the blazing conflagration of chaos is ignited but when freedom – just freedom with all its many tubes plugged onto the body as if it is on life support (and indeed, what is a life without freedom?) – is strangled, then chaos is unleashed.

History is strewn with men and women who have had their right to freedom – the freedom to practice, preach or profess any religion; the freedom of speech and expression; the freedom to be whoever they wished to be – chained to an iron ball. While that precious prerogative of mankind struggled to free itself of its chains, slowly but determinedly, the hemlock of hatred and the venom of vengeance filled their veins until their bodies could take the overwhelming passion of poison no more. Thus, chaos ripped apart the body of its breeder and manifested itself in the dancing stars – the artistically and intellectually non-conformist works of the breeder which earned him or her bread and bagel.

Nietzsche is one such neurotic genius who gave birth to a “dancing star” – Thus Spake Zarathustra. “God is dead.” The finality of those words, in an era where the zeitgeist was Christian fundamentalism, sent a shudder throughout the religious circles for they felt that it annihilated their very existence. What Nietzsche meant by this was that the world needed to stop taking religion as the reason behind and the answer to everything. Their angst further augmented, religious fanatics condemned Nietzsche to hell for his brilliant philosophies on existentialism and postmodernism, all of which were alien to their opium-clouded minds, for in that era, religion was the opiate of the masses. At this curse, I can only imagine an unshaven and haggard Nietzsche bellowing with laughter for to him, there was no such thing as hell. He also dared to say that there is only one true Christian in this world but unfortunately, he died on the cross a long, long time ago. Piteous, indeed.

What led this progressive-thinking philosopher to write about what he did was the chaos in his soul. Living in a tightly-bound Christian society and being brought up by pious female relatives, Nietzsche was thirsty for differences in opinion; for the freedom to not conform to everyone’s way of thinking; for the right to think like an individual and not what political diktats coerce you into thinking. He was aware that these simple joys would not be granted to him easily so he went against the whole godforsaken (pun intended) system which resulted in brilliant philosophical masterpieces. Today, Friedrich Nietzsche is a hero for many free-thinking individuals throughout the world who feed the chaos in their souls with his philosophies, thus, giving birth to a constellation of dancing stars embedded in the night skies of non-conformity.


chaos of colours