I take my time, wondering who the stranger in the reflection is. Watch everything, read everything, hear everything. Well that’s I pretend to want. Feels like we all expect to emerge from the month in lock down with new talents.
The world has too many sharp edges and I have nothing to buff them with. Yesterday a phone call pinned me to the center of someone else’s world. The mirror has splotches and mystery marks I can’t pinpoint. “I prefer keeping work at a safe distance” I tell myself as I take the mirror to the window.
In the light, the stains jump out to me. I erase them, my hand steadily waving at the silent stare in the mirror. The surface is clearer but the image is still hazy, shrouded by fog. The mirrors edges are brittle and discolored, plastic shows its age even if it never goes away. In these times of isolation you have no excuse not to self reflect; so close your eyes, take a deep breath and look into the mirror.
Lines of sun beaten faces twist and curve along the flyover, moving from their still and slightly annoyed expressions to frustrated sighs as the traffic inches by. They turn, look down, inspect their vehicles, stop to have a look at the congestion up ahead while noticing now and then someone else they had previously overtaken, passed by or trailed in some new alignment in relation to them.
Now and then the flyover rumbles underneath the vehicles and humming engines in a concerning manner. The bridges are meant to do this, if they didn’t the bridges would crumble. The rumbling is because of the wiggle room to account for vibrations from vehicles and changes in temperature. Such concerning shakes are possibly an inbuilt safety feature to prevent the lethargy and dullness in the traffic from putting travelers to sleep. Put the traffic to sleep and you’ve killed a city.
Seated on the flyover, one’s line of sight has the dusty tree tops, the unseen and uglier portions of building that their owner’s don’t care to hide and a blue sky. A pedestrian might catch a glimpse of the sky, which on the bustling streets seems like an idyllic escape that hung over a quiet farm or town that once marked the area. The flyover offers a different perspective- the sky empty and echoing the dulling noise, the warm and dusty breeze that seeps out of the city below it and escapes desperately like a man gasping for air, greedily drawing in all that it can to live a little longer.
There are no idyllic villages left, there are warm backwater’s gasping at anything urbane while dust and plastic accumulate along the widening roads that march from the cities. Travelers scratch their heads, pull up scarves, push their sunglasses up after twisting their noses. Dammed fools of them, dammed like the rest of us, blindly grabbing at something the city seemed to promise. There’s got to be someone among those who rule over us who’s tired of squeezing everyone into one tried, dusty ball of confused complaints about how the world is. I really hope there is.
It’s not like the ones on the bridge are getting anywhere in this traffic.
The bare root of the plantations are white like the hooves of the raiding deer a crack of thunder in this season of morning dew more unfathomable than the waters and clouds by the mountain slopes between breaths, I burn.
That summer we stayed with her aunt who smelt of cut grass and ghee. We walked the beaches, pretend nomads with face scarfs till a dog rushed out of a patch of wild flowers and begged for a game. Bored cattle strayed past, watching the sea while grazing. That night the sea’s breeze and scent carried through the window. The dog sat happy after the meal we gave him. She put on some music and the dog tried to bark in tune. She danced till her footsteps on the hardwood floor was all I could hear. When I woke up the french windows were open, she had a flower under her foot and a smile on her face.
A Bootha Kola is a sort of shamanistic ritual where you summon Bootha’s or Daivas- spirits neither malevolent or benevolent who reflect the relationship between the tangible and intangible world. Or the farmlands and the forests.
These pictures are from one where Kalurti was summoned. She’s mute and howls while she dances. I couldn’t take a video- it would have been blurry anyway- even though most people don’t care what you do at a Kola. People would text or greet relatives right when the Bootha was dancing away or proclaiming judgments in front of them. It’s not that they don’t care, they don’t think the spirits mind.
During intervals in the dance Kalurti would point to people and make hand gestures that indicated if she was happy with them or not. But while dancing her face was expressionless. She lept and howled, carrying a touch that she beat against her chest while she circled the people who’d gathered. My grandfather said in Tulu that she was just trying to throw away her legs and arms. The performer was who really interested me. Nobody spoke to him; he never said a word- before or after the performance. These pictures were my attempts to capture any emotions the silent shaman showed under all that makeup.