Tag Archive | Relationships

Wind and Stone – Masaaki Tachihara

Wind and Stone

 

 

“You are a stone”, said Kase, smoking a cigarette after they had made love.
“I think you are the stone”, replies Mizue without opening her eyes.
“No, I’m more like the wind. I could never be a stone.”

Rapt in wonder the stone deliberates the lightness of the wind. The subtle windy caress arouses a sense of vitality. The stone sewed up in permanence yearns for an escape from its prosaic settings, rousing at the existence of the wind. The imminent chaos blowing over the passage of the wind, gusts through the tranquil garden calling forth nature’s dualistic predicament – transience and permanence. What is it to feel ‘truly cleansed’? To feel alive – the very sentiment entranced by the proverbial elan vital, sprouts an iota of change in the dormant despair of mediocrity. The brevity of the nascent bud awakens the lush green foliage; the manifestation of change erupting a sense of vitality from the tree. The blossoming flower harmonizes the impression of liveliness in the perceptive observer trying to escape the mundane, its echoic gratification consoling the depths of desolation.

Gardens, they say, are the chief marker of time. The rhythmic seasonal cycles alter the landscapes replacing the new with the old. In the yearly cycle of change and continuity, the garden in some mysterious ways fleeting from its mediocrity, matches the rhythms of nature with the flow of time.

“For me”, he then said quietly, “building a garden is a struggle against mediocrity.”

Yusaku Kase’s meticulously crafted garden seeps in irony delineating the tranquil exterior and the internal chaos of both, its creator and its owners. The freedom of aesthetics colliding with burdens of morality forms a limitless extension of human emotions haunted by the kinks of change and consistency. The perpetual ‘struggle against mediocrity’ is the potential dilemma, prevalent in this Tachihara narration. The escape from the mundane animates an invisible force enabling the characters (of this book) to seek out their freedom hidden in a dark lonely place.

In every small, closed world, there is the same quality of complacency and exclusiveness.

Prolonged periods of peace often give rise to stagnation. Peace and Stagnation are not precisely opposites, but, one is desirable while the other is deplored. (The I Ching or Book of Changes ). The need to be loved, to feel desired, overrides the substance of ecstasy, the aspiration of self-indulgence stems from the psychological stagnation fixed in the fears of abandonment. The realization of inner desolation elevated the suffering within the defined portrayal of the four individuals tangled in perturbed relationships, each facing the obvious anxiety of being ‘detached from life’. The garden takes a life of its own demarcating each phase of turmoil and harmony of a man-made landscape scattered in a balanced histories and an imbalanced future of a heart’s non-conformists desires.

Again she had the fleeting feeling that the stones were Kase’s eyes watching her…………Still, Mizue could not help feeling they were composed of invisible colours and empty spaces. She did not know what to make of this feeling. What was this invisible colour?

Mizue , a daughter ,a wife, mother and a lover ; the life-roles confronted Mizue with the dilemma of moral conventions, abandonment and a ‘thirst for love’ ; seeking a sense of vitality to feel alive and “completely cleansed”. Similar to Kase, Mizue struggles against herself. Her significance in an evolving sphere called life. Tachihara puts forth a simmering question, whether we are detached from the universality of nature? The man-made garden meshing with the language of the wild, precisely marking metamorphosing milieu influencing the imbedded stones and yet the timelessness of the stone remain unchanged. An entity on its own, the ever transforming garden, becomes the pathway to ruination. In Tachihara’s subtle narrative symbolisms, Mizue resembles the immutable stone, wondering is a strong gust of wind could uproot her from the prosaic settings, and, Kase, the nomad wind pursuing for a sanctuary which could restrict its flow and purify the turmoil within.

Can ‘lust’ purify ‘lust’, if it takes one beyond the tussle of commonplace? Is ‘love’ an immutable factor among capricious lust or a mere matter of self-indulgence of inner thirst that needs to find self-fulfilment, a sense of wholesomeness? Change and consistency are not reciprocally absolute in the flow of time. Is then in the monochromatic array of transience and permanence, the struggle against mediocrity will seek the exact shade of the invisible colour, everlastingly? The hue that defines monotony.

 

4/5****

Little Sister Snow – Frances Little

Little Sister Snow

The third day of the third month, which in the long ago was set apart as the big birthday of all little girls born in the lovely island, and was celebrated by the Festival of Dolls.

Hinamatsuri (hina means dolls and matsuri means festival) or the Doll’s Festival is celebrated on March 3rd throughout Japan for the well being of young girls , praying for their prosperous health.Isn’t it magnificent? Here is this country (Japan) who graciously honors a girl child through an ancient festival for their safety expunging the bad spirits from the dolls. For someone who grew up in the ‘Republic of XY Chromosome’ such rituals bring immense happiness, even if it is through reading a couple prose verses. And, then sadness looms when reflected over the surviving probabilities of a female foetus in my own country. Fortunately, lightning seems to have struck those ruthless bastards and nowadays January 24th is celebrated as ‘National Girls Day’ to prevent female foeticide and harassment against girls in India. But, that’s an entirely different controversial arena. This book does not veers towards political propagandas , but sometimes words take a whole new turn in one’s mind submerging in plethora of buried emotions. As I moved on to the next chapter, my heart dearly hoped the possibility of invalidating the UN inference of India being the deadliest country for a girl child. Arrgghhh!! See what a book does to me? It makes me go numb with painful memories. Let’s speak about petite Yuki Chan. Such a beautiful child; twirling underneath the pine tree, singing to baby Robin and hoping of not meeting the awful ‘fox spirit’ for being a rebellious kid and marveling at the peculiar demeanor of an American lad who prevents her from throwing the cat in the ditch.

It was as if for the first time the great book of life opened before her and, though unconscious of its meaning; the first word she saw spelled Duty.

Duty seems to be compelled word in a world prioritizing individualism concepts of familial infrastructures. It is seen as an honorable deed for a child to be dutiful and yet when the question looms over sacrificing one’s inhibitions for the welfare of the family, it becomes burdensome at times. Loneliness crawls in the darkest corner encumbering the heart with enveloped secrets and only a smile for the sunny horizon over troubled waters. Poverty undoubtedly plays a pivotal factor in deciding one’s actions and loyalties. Yuki San ( the honorific San is used for young adult women) was unaware of impoverished conditions and afterwards, ever since she knew that her marrying into a wealthy officer – Saito san would exonerate all the miseries, duty to withhold her family’s honor became her sole religion. Even today, irrespective to a family’s economical position, the thought of putting one’s parents in an old age home is inexcusable because a dutiful child will always look after the elderly parents, come what may.

Each day as the burden grew heavier she fought her battle with the bravery and courage of youth. With jests and chatter she served her parents’ simple meals, constantly urging them to further indulgence of what she pretended was a great feast, but which in reality she had secretly sacrificed some household treasure to obtain. She deftly turned the rice-bucket as she served, that they might not see the scant supply. With great ceremony she poured the hot water into the bowls, insisting that no other sake was made such as this. Her determination to keep them happy and ignorant of the true conditions taxed her every resource, but it was her duty, and duty to Yuki San was the only religion of which she was sure. But one day a great event happened in the little home. Yuki San was called before her father and told, in ceremonious language, that a marriage had been arranged for her with Saito San, a wealthy officer in the Emperor’s household. She laid her head upon the mats and gave thanks to the gods. Now her father and mother would live in luxury for the rest of their lives! Saito San was to her only a far-away, shadowy being, whom she was to obey for the rest of her life and whose house she was to keep in order. He was a means to an end, and entered into her thoughts merely as one to whom she was deeply grateful. Youth and all its joys were strong within her, and the pressure of poverty gone, her whole nature rebounded with delight. Many times had marriage been proposed for her, for the story of her beauty and obedience had spread, but her father guarded his treasure zealously, and it was not until an offer came, suiting his former rank and condition, that he gave his consent.

Duty as a religion. For richer or for poorer; till death do us apart. Isn’t it what all those sanctimonious vows are all about? Do not even get me started with certain vows recited during a Hindu marriage ceremony. With divorce being the common word among my friends and the most detested word to my mother, the idea of “being a dutiful wife, mind, body and soul” seems archaic for that matter of fact a verse to a funny limerick, but it means a lifelong commitment to my mother and several other Indian women. The close knit familial infrastructure where the wife does not wash her husband’s dirty laundry in public is still very much preserved in almost all marriages.

Each year the struggle of obsolete methods of business and the intricacies of progress plowed the furrows a little deeper in the man’s face, and when his eyes that in youth had blazed with ambition grew wistful and troubled, he dropped them that his wife might not see. But what silence could hide from this frail woman any mood of the man she had served with mind and body and soul these many years? When she came to him as a shy bride on trial, she knew no such word as love. Duty was her entire vocabulary, and she asked nothing and gave all.

I reckon the very principle that Yuki’s mother adheres when she meant duty was her entire vocabulary. Not once did she let her daughter know about their extreme poverty or the pain that she endure during several still births to her husband fearing that her childless prospects would make her husband find another wife. Her happiness knew no bounds when Yuki was born as her fears of an abandoned future vanished.

Oh! My mother would have loved Yuki San for her unquestioned acceptance of an arranged marriage. Even with all those theatricals melodramas that my mother played every week, I personally still find the concept of arranged marriage rather annoying. Explain my grievances to my mother and she proclaims that I’m a lost case. However, it is still a huge part of our culture and proudly looked upon. Where does that put the idea of finding love? Do you stumble on love and then marry OR marry and then eventually find love in your husband? My mother would assume I just inhaled an empty paint can. Although Dick Merritt called Yuki his “little sister snow” for having a pure heart, she fell in love with this blue- eyed American and his homebound voyage made her a “love recluse” trying to find appeasing shelter in the heartening verses penned in a small morocco book. Yuki’s was one-sided love and many would say a ‘teenage puppy love’, yet the dilemma to pursue love or the religion of duty never gets old in an ethnically rich moralistic culture.

Ah, what funny little thing that heart is! In one half live the joyful. Other side have all the painful of life, and when the love come sometimes he knock at wrong door and give the hurtful ache to life.

Many a time, readers do get an exploratory sense of diving into a book and agglomerating the secreted essence of its text. This is one of those numerous plots that rise above a naive tale of a young Japanese girl falling in love with an American boy, assembling the cultural pillars of Japanese society.

For an author whose prose speaks volumes of cultural nuances, her biography is rather a modest paragraph. Born in 1863 in Kentucky, Ms. Little delineated an intricate cultural aspects broadening a canvas of a mystical Japan known for its pompous samurai and ghostly tales. Frances Little magnified the beauty of Japanese life for an ardent audience. It is an apt timing for me to re-read The Lady of the Decoration. A noble proposal indeed!

4/5****

The Pure and the Impure – Colette

The Pure and the Impure

“But what is the heart, madame? It’s worth less than people think. It’s quite accommodating, it accepts anything. You give it whatever you have, it’s not very particular. But the body… Ha! That’s something else again! It has a cultivated taste, as they say, it knows what it wants. A heart doesn’t choose, and one always ends up by loving.”

Colette writings were on my wish list as long as I can remember. Her life and ideas of sexual liberation enthralled me with the very thought of it being played in the early 19th century. To pine for such independence, moreover live it to the fullest fancies me as even today in this post-modernization era sexual taboos thrive with the strongest clout.

Colette’s writings are a bit peculiar and candid without being mechanically strategize to create a pre-planned ambience. The exceptional quality can be observed in this book. Colette focuses on the eternal pursuit of jouissance, an extreme pleasure to pacify the bodily hunger with a prevailing element of love. She questions the legitimacy of love when engulfed with sexual bliss develops into an expression of narcissism or self-obsessed endeavor. All her characters in this novel are in a never ending pursuit of love defining their own rules yet never seem to have a happy ending. The several protagonists varying from:-

Charlotte:- a 45 yr old woman who tries her best to hide her true feelings from her ravishing young lover.
Renee Vivien:- Seek for acceptance and love in her several lesbian relationships, ultimately rendering to commit suicide with a lonely heart.
Lady Eleanor:- who live a quaint and indiscernible life with her companion Sarah for 53 years.
Pepe:- A Spaniard of nobility who was in love with rugged men in blue overalls.

All of them are chained in sexual inhibitions and failing miserably in achieving self- satisfaction over sought after pleasures. Colette’s notion of the quest to attain pure jouissance brings rejection and vacant contentment solidifying the “impurity” of any relationship.

Colette’s scripts are not strictly feminist or homosexual values; it is a novel implicating the idea of women flouting societal norms of conventional sex, power and love, by discovering their sexuality. Her open acknowledgement of homosexuality as a legitimate and external character and androgynous women delineates her rebellious temperament in a sexually repressed era. Colette’s callous abnegation for “normal” people is reflected in the following excerpt:-

“The viewpoint of “normal” people is not so very different. I have said that what I particularly liked in the world of my “monsters” where I moved in that distant time was the atmosphere that banished women, and I called it “pure.”
“O monsters, do not leave me alone. . . I do not confide in you except to tell you about my fear of being alone, you are the most human people I know, the most reassuring in the world. If I call you monsters, then what name can I give to the so-called normal conditions that were foisted upon me? Look there, on the wall, the shadow of that frightful shoulder, the expression of that vast back and the neck swollen with blood. . . O monsters do not leave me alone. . .”

The book reveals the restless soul of disgruntled relationships, similar to what Colette experienced in her personal life. With two failed marriages and feral affairs she constantly longed for approval and love just like her characters. Thus, I wonder whether ‘love’ is the purity of pleasurable impurity.

4/5****