k i s k a J i s m / w h o s e b o d y?

Trafficking LABELS presents the first of a series of tales…
December 24, 2006, 2:09 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The gates are locked,the doors are closed , the curtains are drawn.

No entry, no exit.

Presenting, Screen Sifar as The Abominable Eagle

The first  of a series of tales…

There was once an eagle. She sat on a cliff and stared down. She was deigned to jump, into the torrent below, because the camel didn’t care. And as she stared, deep in the water, the camel mated with the fish.

 I started wearing the hijaab when I first joined college. I have been wearing it, on and off since then. I could see the reasoning behind it, but even then as of now, hated being physically restricted or confined.

 “You don’t exist in other peoples’ minds, live in your own. If you push and kick real hard, you can swim.” 

She was brought up among many birds, but no one was as magnificent as the hoopoe. The hoopoe was not an apology, was not just a part of a self. The hoopoe represented for her the possibility of being complete. If there were tears in her world, the hoopoe never spoke of them and took them in her stride. The hoopoe was the antipode in her life. It was when the hoopoe met her mate that the eagle realized what she was up against, in she was building herself. Watching the two wed in solemn societal and spiritual consent she wondered if the camel and she would ever have the same kind of sanction. The hoopoe pairing had weakened her ideas on her own life. And when she told the camel, he knew how she felt, but was afraid of what it meant. He was not ready to give in, and besides, he was preparing steadily, to let go.

 Meanwhile, a senile turtle was conspiring to kill the eagle. The eagle had first laid eyes on the turtle when she was a fledgeling. He represented to her the coming together of two worlds that she sought to be acquainted with. The fluid world of ideas, and the solid world of science. He represented the power to be in both places at the same time. 

The eagle would leave the camel for stretches of time. On one such journey, she realized how incomplete she was without him, and sent him a letter expressing the thought. On returning home, however she didn’t rush out to meet him. It was the holy month of Ramadan and she held back, awaiting from him an affirmation of the same thought. After each journey she returned to her family and would proceed to blend in as if her travels had never eroded, only strengthened her service to god and to them. This commitment boggled the camel, but he never expressed it to her, except the time when they were with the fish.

 The eagle’s life was by no means simple. She could only look at it in fragments. And her vision faltered in many places because she had dulled away many parts of her memory from consciousness. What this left her with was the ability to look at her past, microcosmically at certain areas and then alternate between microcosms from time to time. 

The turtle had brought with him, along with the verbal pleasure of discourse, expanses of mindscape that she flew through with him, taking him with her into, each microcosm, looking at it afresh and asking questions about the way that things were. He drew her out and although he rarely spoke, he created for her an imagination broad enough to encompass them, as an ‘entity’. And in this imagination she dwelt, learning from him what he had to teach her, and loving him, with his myriad stories. He was fond of her, and he may have loved her, but he had a life away from her in the water where they could never be seen together. So, in order to be in this world, she had to swim. The waters where he led her, though, were shallow, and soon, there developed a suture in their watery copular imagination. The eagle, unshielded in her flighty vision to the rules of the water world found in the turtle’s lair a story that had gone past that excluded her. Confronted with this reality and with the difficulty in sustaining their imagination, she left the turtle, reluctantly and sadly. But she still made sure she attended all his nightly discourses by the sea-shore. When inspired, he could reach profound dominions with insightful clarity.

 It was on these nightly discourses by the sea that she met the camel. And with him, the desert was opened out to her: vast and expansive, and with the slightest hint of a purpose to her journey. They didn’t travel together , for he was too self possessed to let anyone go with him yet, so each entered at their will and were allies, but not companions. For the first time in the camel, she found a muse that was distinct from herself, and yet wide enough to contain her, for a short while at least. They were both content, because for him in the bargain lay the promise of a companion, and were thus conjoined in their lust and their purity. The camel had made the eagle want all the things that fledglings want. A safe home and conjugal bliss. And after the hoopoe union, it seemed like a beautiful dream in which she knew she didn’t fit in, but it was a good dream as far as dreams are concerned. Self consciously now, she had to swim, because that was the path that she had chosen to tread, and fly, because she, like the hoopoe wanted to also be a part of the airy universe.

 Identity is at the crux of the camel and eagle story. She couldn’t let go of her airborne ness, he his land. But the camel wasn’t a rooted being. He could travel far and live on nothing. He was self-sufficient. The place of his birth was not the same when he returned to it, his home now in fragments that were scattered in various far flung parts of the desert. In this aridness he could only relate to the temporary comfort of the oasis, and then move on. That was all he desired out of the eagle.

Still, the desire for love lay wrangled in some part of the lake he carried, undaunted by the desert’s scorching heat, still fresh somewhere in a molecule. The eagle and he built, out of each of their fragments a makeshift home. But only the eagle depended on it. The camel was so uprooted that this, even, he could let go of.

 This is where the fish enters our story. The fish is the most rooted being in this story. The fish is an overbearing presence, with her intensity and certitude. The eagle acknowledged the possibility of a break. The camel accepted it. While his world with the eagle gave him a new sense of companionship, he built on it the boat on which he went out to meet the fish.

So, the eagle shriveled up in the reality of her angst left the land of the camel, the fish, and the turtle and of her birth. She took the desert with her, in her vision and lived in its heat, in its memory and in its vastness for the next year. She left behind, for the camel and the fish, garment, a piece of stitched cloth, which she felt she had to give to the fish. And she took it to her, and the fish accepted it, in need of past narratives. She told the camel of the significance of the garment, she had one of his.Their parting was sweet. They were both beyond despair, he in the promise of his new love, and she, her new sorrow. It wasn’t a parting, yet. They were both waiting for life to give them whichever absolution they wanted, but not yet. 

  They story of the camel and the eagle will end when her residual life with him comes to a standstill. And the wheels for it are set in motion, inexorably and with a violence that neither wants to be subjected to, but would rather not let fate play the first part in executing, so they live it today until it ends. In writing their destiny, each wants to be the principal player, and so their cowardice to not let the pungent acid of separation hit their faces completely makes them lead half lives, both bleak and rosy, both real and illusionary, both with and without. Neither has the fortune of complete annihilation in love, because of lust, and the seeds of lust, scattered all over their lives. They walk their separate paths and don’t dream of union but of closure. They preserve the image of each other, but neither will be the same person. That is the good in all of this. That is what is meant by moving on. It comes from taking a step away in order so that you may contemplate the extreme from afar, until you think you’ve lived it so you can actually live.

And I began to cover myself again out of an unwillingness to let memory seep out or the world seep in, to close doors and begin to heal, to regain all that I’d lost. That my ilk had lost, that I wanted to protect. That was someone else’s if he ever wanted to come back and show himself worthy of it. So that within and without, we may both be separate, and each other.

 The eagle learnt many things from knowing the fish, some of which she has to unlearn, and some, build on. But being a creature of the air requires her to take wing, and from the camel, she learnt how to survive aloneness. The turtle can see her, and awaits an encounter, for him a closure, a confrontation, with her airborne ness, like her confrontation with his fluid domain. 

This triadic tale between air, water and land leads our story to the destination of its closing, or like they say, its beginning. And this is the Giant’s Causeway, a long Island of hexagonal volcanic stones on water, and in order to cross this one must know land, be airborne, and in case of a fall must be able to swim. In the end of the Giant’s Causeway, which she now traverses, is a cliff. From which, dear eagle, you must drop, so in the absence of all struts, you will finally fly.

* written as part of a workshop called Phalke Stories by Kamal Swaroop.