Under the shallow stream On that vacant riverbed I remember red seeds in the clay Who spilled these rubies Like the light on a starry night Among the snails on the pebbles Where snakes take to water But fish do not swim Upon that empty bank My heart is trapped Oh Village of my ancestors Whose fables are still sung When I am with my people I am alone in elephant grass Dusty breezes folding them My family a rainstorm But in the shaky soil My heart is strung In the shallow mirror of water My reflection looks back Though I live far away In the rituals of this land Ancestors are called Around a bonfire in the night I, a tree alone, in grassland Over the mountains tall Have heard a siren call
Snakeskin on the mossy rocks Left behind after a long winter rain Her tears allowing, beetles in fight Followed by cat ears, seated on the ledge By the old kitchen fireplace Tracing the smoke stone walls
Light of an old bulb hanging by a wire The old magazines stiff, wooden cupboards and rafters Kerosene lamps made of bottles Red Mangalore tiles and red oxide floors Just a day visiting, escaping To old village life
It was meant to be a lunchbox but only held sea shells. Every holiday, every cousin, every friend and family outing- you go to the beach of course.
A natural tendency; geography ruling people. We never left till sunset, poor lighting makes for bad pickings but makes your haul look great. Maybe you need exhaustion to appreciate sea shells, possibly reaching unconscious poetry collecting the remnants of the dead while the sun sets before an endless ocean. A treasure chest was an inevitable requirement.
Somehow the shells kept piling on, I kept them meticulously, neatly while my cousins threw them away. Where? They could not remember. The box grew heavy, the shells broke under their own weight, faded and rotted away. I would hesitate to open the box anyway, I don’t know why.
Now and then I had to open it, sand always got out, where did it all come from? I lost the box and memory of where it went long ago, and I live far away. Still the smell of the sea always remained in my memory and the box while the shells decayed.
A woman laughes without any hesitation cutting right through the neighborhood, reaching me on the 7th floor.
Small towns have large areas of quiet, parking and shaded greenery that lull you into a sort of luxurious laze. No wonder life seems more pleasant here. Looking down you’ll see just green cover, the coconuts trees give away the boundiers between homes, every house has them.
Maybe apartments makes voyures of us all. Natural vantage points and a view right into your neighbors home. I can see my neighbors at their worst, their uninhibited habits and routines, glimpses of who they are when no one’s looking. It’s like trees across seasons, changing habits and routines slowly but in circles. The same arguments, the same hunched positions at their tables.
I see right into the apartment across the street where others also look for the laugh. There’s no one we can see, only a few dogs sleeping on roofs. They make the best of the steep incline that the neighborhood is on.
I can smell the sea in the air so I stay on the balcony while the rest retreat indoors. It’s a smell you grow fond of.
A lazy motorists makes his way into his yard behind the apartment. He’s got a stream behind him and space he’s done nothing with. The moss grows green on his walls. All old house, old neighborhoods and old memories are closed off by green, green moss. Everything goes back to sleep.
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.