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 It is then when I will wish I had with me my unpublished drafts of an assortment of undecipherable poetry – akin to Eliot’s – and contemporary prose – complete with lowercase I’s, a paucity of punctuations, and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.