Friday, July 29, 2011

I,Too Climbed a Hill

                                                                                  Kula Saikia
 Translator: Stuti Goswami

            The light of flaming torches in the far distance, a festive night, could be any festival—where music flows unhindered, where self restraint is let loose, where one rehearses to forget oneself, in just such enthralling  environs, along with music, probably a dotara or a Spanish guitar or a flute—in other words with consistent rhythmic background music, an ambience  created by an unknown web of mellifluous notes—amidst such pristine beauy, they climbed up the hill, a few utterances in between— a story read long ago, it’s title, comes to mind. The forgotten details dying away in talks of the hill they were climbing, the pebbles and the hilly stream, the desires of the grass and the innocent trees, in the jili’s voice, in the sounds of pebbles crushed under the weight of treading feet, together with fragments of Japanese poems and memories.
            The frame hasn’t changed, just the dimensions have broadened, and we can see, a moon-less starry firmament, the hill’s whistle on the background, the jharjhar of the stream, the sound of winds, as if, this moment, a gust of wind howled over our thoughts and desires—and then slowly, in a close-up shot, a lone star shining through two straight lines, and a voice is heard—“My star, my light, my being”
            Bas, this way, and after this, some other things will follow, but this is  the main thing, I mean such a  vow  or a promise, or something, like you’ve given me the hill, I give you the star.”
            Saying this, he lowered the glasses from his eyes, they should have fallen on the ground with a thud, but they didn’t. His eyes were a little moist, probably with emotion, possibly with the richness of his thoughts. I asked: “ The name?”, and indeed, he turned pensive, may be he hadn’t thought of any; this film’s title could have been the title of any story, and yet, he had to sift the idea in his mind, what could be after all, a special, interest arousing name?
            As he sat on the chair, he spread his legs apart, he felt a niggling sensation as the blood  circulated. He shut his eyes, and tried to peer into a list of new names, an appropriate title which would best reflect a film’s events, emotions, climax—and he jumped up, and said, “They too climbed a hill.”
            After many days, today, I met him; with emptied tea cups on the surrounding tables. The tung taang of glasses and bare plates are to be heard. The crowd is increasing, bringing variety to the adda’s colours. I ask, those two characters, climbing a hill, a friend’s hill, the tiny flickers of light from the familiar town in the distance illuminating their memories, who have given away a solitary star in the sky—from the hollow of an  innocent tree—in short, such a story, or a few montages of a film, or some such kind of a painting on a canvas.
            The crunching sound of the cheap nimki that had come to the plate broke my wave of thoughts. Disheartened, I flung towards him a questioning look, hoping to tell him how one day I had gone searching for him, without an address in hand, just a name on a piece of paper beneath which was written, c/o The City, where in numerous lanes and bye lanes I had searched for such an address—a broken culvert at Lakhimi Nagar, a blurred sign board, probably a coconut tree as the road bend a little ahead, or else Chandra Das’s tea stall, my be  if not a coconut tree then one or two expensive ornamental palm trees, or else Naresh plumber or Mahendra garage in puddles of stone and mud—somewhere in all these might stand such an address—it may not of course. Remember that haze, that feeling of incredulity at the beginning of the story—it may not be Nonkrem festival after all, it could be something else, probably a dotara’s notes, or else, a Spanish guitar’s.
            I wanted to tell him--whether I found him or not, in between these possibilities there might lurk a third, for instance, Aristotle’s arguments do not hold ground in Quantum Physics; or that an electron particle may be here or there; or else the condition of Schrödinger’s cat—dead or living at the same time—in other words, and in all probability, an in-between stage, a middle stage.
            “And this search of mine, looking for him in those two creatures ascending the hill, is that really possible? Often, the right and left halves of the brain are deemed for different purposes, for instance, as I pick the cup with my right hand and bring it to my lips, and then draw in a sip of tea, all the while cooling the air inside my mouth, probably at that very moment, numerous analyses are taking place at different parts of my brain, lakhs of cells are engaged in some other work, at some other instruction—the  neurotransmitters between the  two halves of my brain are not functioning as bridge—that is, right now probably I am a different person, a divided personality, I am not even aware how I am thinking of a hill, the slippery grassy tracts, the whistle of the wind, a few promises, faith—how all these have transformed into tiny microscopic pixels in my mind— to me, these feelings, this emotion-laden man is a stranger—I know not his address, or probably, for me he is an entirely revolutionary state.”
            I waited hoping to hear all these from him, but without a word he continued munching onto the fritters.
            “Another round of tea?”
            “Sure-but before that, a cigarette— “
            A stick emerged out of the box witha  bullock cart printed on the cover, a cheap brand of cigarette was lit. at each puff, the burnt end glowered in that dim room. And now, a table—it’s cups and plate and spoon—all vanished in the puffs of cigarette smoke. The tattered remains of the food we had, the smoke increasingly felt like dense mist and one of the two mountaineers said—“Indeed, the darkness grows denser. Can’t see anything. A little later, a thick blanket of fog would descend. Do you hear the sound of the pebbles beneath your feet.”
            A rustling sound came from beneath the table, out of a pair of weathered shoes.
            Different people areseen  thronging inside the tiny cubicles, their chatter, laughter-jokes come floating towards us—some of these words have incomplete meaning, some words are sheer nonsense.
            These meaningless words, with their rhythm, their wavelength, and their echoes—have some kind of inherent meaning. Probably sometimes we  do notice a kind of harmony, for instance, a man afflicted by Tinnitus too hears various humming, buzzing sounds, in which he may discern some kind of rhythm, some melody—what we may say, coherence within the incoherence of chaos. This powerful and consistent flow of myriad thoughts, which you and I are unaware, and yet, which if we pay a little heed can be aware of –sometimes those thoughts are frozen in our minds, like frames of a cinema shot, or in the smaller canvas of a painting, or else, if it enters the limited pages of a short story—in other words, if we colour our words within the proper contours of those laws which we deem to comprise a cinema or a story, wouldn’t those be a piece of art—cinema, story, painting? They say, Beethoven was afflicted with Tinnitus and probably that smooth surge and ebb of notes in his 9th symphony had emerged out of the meaning of certain unintelligible and unknown notes—in other words you may say that this is something like that Gestalt philosophy where one added to one is greater than one, i.e. some of these meaningless words of yours have brought in a meaning, which become our source of mirth, the pleasures of reading, the joys of listening.
            Probably I could have said all this, but I remained silent, for I didn’t feel like breaking this stream of silence that was flowing into me incessantly in the midst of such cacophony. My thoughts flowed uninterruptedly, and I contemplated—just like Gödel’s famous theory—in any system of rules we can always see how to go outside those rules—we too can break the boundaries of  those rules that govern cinema-painting-story--, for there is no completeness ever, everything is liberated from the limitations of fulfillment, and such a story too now draws to an end, but this is not closure, a film has ended, but some things have remained unsaid—leaving behind the pleasures of unfulfilment.
            He went away—through the mist of cigarette smoke
            I tried to recall his address, that address which I do not have, but which I now tried to imagine and I felt elated, for “imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” And I unraveled the endless web of my imaginations—and now, I am ascending an unknown hill, with a dear friend—I read on: “…those thoughts and desires haven’t ended; but that courage is sapped, that right too is no more. Are you feeling cold?”… 
            Even I ascended the hill.

·         *dotara--two stringed instrument, used in folk music
·         *Jili --an insect, a cicada
·         *nimki is a crispy snack..
·         *adda--informal club, where people discuss life,philosophy,films,books,love...women(differs with the people involved in that discussion)


  1. Nice blog ... And nice stories

    Will keep visiting this blog regularly, hopefully :)

    - Nikesh
    (Some random blog-hopper!)

  2. @nikesh: thank you. do 'blog-hop' here again, in the future....:)

  3. Sure ... Thanks to inherent magnetism in interesting stories :)