18 Oct 2018

Eyes that speak

She sits across from me.

Her eyes will occasionally meet mine, then travel. At first, they will look at her feeble fingers wringing on her lap, then to the side as her head cocks as if to listen to a voice far away. Like a weary traveler, those eyes that have seen more than language could ever express, finally rest on the notebook in my hands.

I follow those eyes.

                                                                                    pic source

They beg to be followed. They promise to tell, promise to show. It's a nondescript notebook. But in it holds questions that reduce her life to a series of answers. Suddenly, I want to throw it away. It seems to generate heat, too much. It's a Moleskine. Nothing much. But as I look at it through her eyes, its the window in which her past is displayed. It's the epitome of all things evil, all things inhuman, all things she has been working so hard to forget.

I find my hands putting the moleskine down. I am surprised by this move, more than she is even. We both look at the object of her disdain and my new-found bane.

I have been asking her questions for the past 15 minutes. It feels like we have been talking forever.
Talking insinuates we have been discussing how healthy her goats are, or how fat the chicken are becoming. Talking makes you think we have delicate china in front of us on checkered table cloths with steaming tea and biting on finger sandwiches.

I doubt she even knows how to make finger sandwiches. I doubt she ever owned a china set. Her cups are old cylindrical tins that have hints of the colour they were when she first got them. That is what she offered me tea in.

I do not like tea with little milk. Yet, norms dictate that I never refuse such an offer from a woman such as this one. Now my tea sits on the ground next to my chair, flies covering the rim of the cup. I see them fight for a spot on that rim. I assume that spot is the least hot for them to perch on.

She clears her throat. I look up. Those eyes again. Now they are imploring. Asking me what I am thinking. If I am judging her.  I hold her gaze, trying to push back the current thought. Which goes like this - 'I am stupid for shifting my attention to flies, instead of what you are telling me. I am sorry.'

I pick the moleskine again. I have forgotten what my next question is. Shameful really. Because I have been asking the same questions to women in this area for a few days now.

'Are you afraid of dying?' I ask

Stupid question. Who isn't?

Eyes that speak answer me. No.

Why?  I ask her.

The cameraman who has been quietly filming this interview interjects.

She did not answer, he says.

I sit up and shift in my seat. Of course she did not. Her eyes did. She has barely moved.

I ask her again.

She bites her lower lip, and chews it slowly.

The woman in front of me is 40 years old. She looks 70. She is frail. Too thin. She is dying of AIDS. Because she was raped and infected during the post-election violence. She has 6 children, all under 15 years. No husband. She is alone. She is all her children have. They have no idea she is dying.

I seek out her eyes. And hold them.

No. She says.

I have been here before, just not here.

I had what most would call a dream job for about 5 months this year. I was excited. I talked about it constantly. It was like being paid to be on holiday. But then it wasn't. I could not grow creatively and I had to make the hard decision to quit. Now that I am trying to unpack what exactly about that job did not work out for me, one thing is hazily manifesting. I need to work with people, I was not doing so on that job. I was not creating. I was processing created content. I create for a living. I weave stories and spin tales. Real human tales mostly. I need it. I cannot live without it.

Barely 3 weeks after saying goodbye to God's playground in the African wilderness, I was on another project. I had no time to regroup and gather my thoughts. What did I want to do? What was my next project?

So I packed my bag again and caught a flight to one of the remotest parts of the country. To tell a story. It's not my story, I am working with a group of filmmakers who conceptualised it. But it could as well be mine, it's the sort of thing I would do. It is my first time here, but not new to such a setting. I have been here before, just not here.

Everything looks the same. One road looks like next road, the trees merge into one. It's sun and sand; and not the holiday type. It is the beach without the ocean. I could take a million pictures and it wouldn't matter where I took them.

There's despair in the air. Pungent. Strong. A feeling of not belonging. For me and for the people I meet. Like we are all drifting. Except I get to leave. I get to live.

I am here to tell a story, one that I don't think I am even qualified to tell. Not professionally, but as a human being. What makes me the right person? As a filmmaker, I struggle with my self appointed duty to tell others' life stories. But its like a drug. I feed off their life challenges to drive me. It's a sick relationship. And yet. I am still here. Doing this. I am telling others' stories. Of things I will never experience, of a life I will never know, of tragedies I will never imagine, even with my overactive imagination. 

I have moments of incredible fear. Paralysing. Moments where I feel insignificant, worthless. Moments that I feel like a fraud. Like I deserve no paying attention to. Moments that I want to disappear and hope no one ever notices that I am gone. These moments that I question my purpose; if this - telling stories - is actually my purpose. Moments that I wonder if I am making a difference. 

I get to go back home. To my warm house, to snuggling with quilts on the couch and hot chocolate mugs with bits of marshmallows. To a life where my biggest challenge is figuring out whether I want to cook or order take out for dinner. To a life of a fully stocked fridge and claim to have nothing to eat. I sat down under a tree and listened to a girl my age tell me of horrors she has lived through. I was there with her. I was re-living the moments with her. My heart broke. But my broken heart is hardly an issue. That is my problem, not hers. Her heart broke along time ago, she no longer cares about her heart, just her hurt.

I will tell your story, I thought. And from this, your life will change. But will it? Or will I tell her story to people who only want to see others' pain so that theirs can seem insignificant? Can I look her in the eye and tell her that her opening up to me and to my camera will make her life a little easier? But that is the unspoken promise between a filmmaker and her/ his subject. Tell your story and hopefully,  someone somewhere will do something. And I hate to walk away with this promise hanging over my head, knowing that I might never fulfil it. 

6 Sep 2018

Coming back home

In more ways than one, I am coming back home. I have been away working in the Maasai Mara as an Assistant Director for a company that does live game drives - a very interesting experience for me but also a huge eye opener. Now that that part of my life is over, home is where I am headed.

This blog had been my where I brought my thoughts for years. From 2005 I think. That is a long time. I was a fledging then, and I guess for you to really know me, you would have to go that far back. 

Sometimes I do that, and constantly get awed by how far I have come. How much my life experiences have shaped me, what tenets I have kept and which I have let go. I have realised that what I thought was an unhealthy relationship with this blog, actually kept me grounded. 
And now, I am coming back. 

Home. To this blog.

5 Sep 2018

What a 23 year old me wrote -- Life

Life is what you wish you had but you don't. It is what you see from a far and yearn for, or in some cases, actually pursue it diligently, if only to have a taste of what you think other out there might be enjoying. Life wheezes pass you like that cab that won't stop when you hail, but will not hesitate to splash muddy waters on you on the pavement. And as you watch it speed away, you realize that you have just been dealt a very bad hand, and lady luck has retired, not for the night, but for the decade. Every morning on my way to work, I'm forced to stare outside the car window for long (long is used loosely as this could stand for 2 – 5 minutes) and sometimes, I do actually pay attention. Sometime last week, I observed, really observed. I become aware of a small pickup truck that I meet with at around the same time every day. It's a very nondescript car, and you are likely to ignore it. What made me notice it were the chickens in the back. The owners have constructed a mesh cage and horizontally divided in into two, thus making a double storied kind of cage. They pack chickens – hybrid broilers / or old layers on their way to the slaughters house – that is my assumption – in these two stories. The chickens sit quietly, almost demurely, as if cognisant of what awaits them.

Is this any different from my journey to work? Do the chickens also look at me and feel that fore boarding sense of worry and pity towards me? Do they look at me with their tiny beady eyes and wonder whether I know what awaits me, what the day that the night worked behind the veil of darkness to so deftly craft hold for me? Douglas Adams almost convinced me that mice do run earth. In one of these traffic snarls, my house mate and I got into a conversation, well more of a speculation about Mice and Cockroaches. I will give them first caps as this will somehow recognize their yet-to-be-proved dominance. Cockroaches will be the only surviving living things on the planet when we finally fry ourselves up with UV rays and other cosmic rays and their off springs, radioisotopes. And we wondered, is there a scientific research, maybe in the USA, or Russia or even Japan, to make a replica of the cockroaches shell for humans to wear protectively, when we can no longer make higher SPF's? And Mice actually do run the universe; that every little thing we do, no matter how ingenious is orchestrated by Mice. Which is what got me wondering to my housemate in the car, what of the mice that scientists conduct research on? He thought that those were the prisoners or pariahs of the Mice kingdom, and being subjects of us lowly brained beings is their punishment. I thought he had a point. Imagine the lowest animal you can think of on earth, actually, expand your thinking, in the universe. Now imagine you being condemned to be the subject of its meaningless research.

What I fail to understand is why you would allow yourself to be one of the dirtiest animals on earth, especially if you controlled Earth. I mean, look at all the advancement we have thereof. Even in my pea sized brain (I'm looking at my brain from a Mice Point of view); I would surely want to be a greater animal. It's like God choosing to send Jesus as a pig to rescue the human race. I would call that very bad mathematics. Anyway, he had a point, if far fetched at that! We could be controlled by the lowest form of life without our knowledge. Apparently even dolphins had a revelation of what the world was headed into (notice I said what not where), and have been trying to tell us for years. Can't blame me, and other human forms for not listening. Their language is harder than Danish. And take it from me, Danish is not a language, it's a advanced form of galactic medley of confusion (Sorry Hunny, you can kill me later, you know how best)

Happens that religion can explain most things and hence rest our troubled minds as to why we exist. Science can also do that. Big Bang is where the two meets. They fight to differ, and to me, the harder they fight the more similar they get. Like an old married couple. Think about it, if an old married couple to us is along the lines of 10 years to 60 years (life expectancy limits the bracket), what about centuries, and still forced to co-habit in the same house (read Earth), deal with the same kids (read Humans) century after century? I'm not a fan of religion. I was born into one. And somewhere along the way I felt like a groupie on some really confused rock band. I got the concept of what religion tried to do, but I saw it fail. Then I wondered why I was in the religion I professed to be in. I got one answer; because I was born into it.

When I really thought about it, I decided to get off the bandwagon and watch from the sidelines. I think this is when I should confess that my not so favourite pastime is thinking, and worrying. About things like; are there homeless children in Alaska, whether the ant that I stepped on accidentally this morning knew that it was going to die today, and if so, it say a proper goodbye to its family, (I worry about that with humans too) whether my pal knew her mother would be dead this time last year, and if so, what would she have done differently, whether I will celebrate my 30th birthday...anyway, that was not the line of thought I was going to follow in this blog.

You believe in the religion you believe in because you (your soul, your nature) cannot accept that death is finality. There has to be something more, otherwise, why do we bother living, why not kill ourselves and get over with. Well, I think suicide bombers have got that covered. That is why we go through the motions of life, because we have given ourselves reasons to, because we humans need justifications, reasons and answers in to Why, which when married to How, breeds very naughty children, namely, When, Where, and the twins, What and Who. We then devote our lives to finding answers, fighting about it, and proving the dominant faith and downplaying the rest.

Are the dolphins really that cleaver they might actually have something to say that if we do not heed to, will lead us to dire straits? If we stopped cutting into Mice and just observed them, would we learn something valuable and hence settle the Ultimate Question? I bet if I were to choose an animal, I would pick Ants. Sorry I know they are not animals... for animals I would pick the pig, for its celebrated orgasmic capabilities. But then, I figured that the only thing I have to worry about in this life is living to the ultimate satisfaction in everything I do, as I don't know what awaits me ahead, and if I spent too much time worrying, fighting and arguing about it, I'll lose on the best things.

Busy as I may claim to be enjoying the best of things, I do worry though; I'm still human, no matter how hard I fight it. Do I worry about religion? Yes. Why? Because it was ingrained in me from the day I learnt the difference between the beauty of fire from a far and the beauty of fire on my fingers. And just when I convince myself that I have safely crossed to the other side without the proverbial troll riding and digging deep into my back, it sinks it claws, from whatever end of my body it was hanging on to. But then I have that special innate ability to be stubborn, even unto myself. Don't' forget that other special gift of not being able to concentrate on anything for more than the time my brain will allow. It selective on what it really wants to concentrate on and there is nothing I can do about that, in this case, thankfully!

Making excuses is not my specialty. But I do like listening to them and wondering how best I would have put it, were it left to me. And by gawd, I would have an excuse for everything in the universe, and to me, everything interconnects. By some cosmic power of pulling elements towards the centre of the earth, all things hurtle towards each other, like the Bermuda Triangle, only at a slower pace. Religion, politics, relationships, business, war... all of it. It's all to satisfying so sort of deficient.

A quest by the human race to prove something to each other, to themselves. Unexplainable does not mean inexplicable. Just because something is unexplainable does not mean that paranormal forces must have been involved, only that we haven't found the explanation for it yet. I could start a whole school of thought and argument with true and untrue theories in accordance with that statement, but I'm not that inspired today. Take it as it is, mull over it in your sleep.

Living without knowing what you are here for, what your purpose in life is, where you are headed is frustrating. Which is why we have higher stress levels that any other living organism. That elevated stress level of animals, say a chimp will be to find it's tree cut down, or it's favorite spot occupied by a pride of lions. Why don't you try for a change, just not think about anything? Live today like you don't have another day like this. Actually, you don't. Today is never a continuation of yesterday, and neither will it ever be a prelude to tomorrow. Different entities, like you and your parents or siblings. You are related, but you are not the extension of any of your family, not even your twin. Think of the days septets, their mother being the week they fall in, their father the month. In the end you will have a father that has 4 wives, and each has 7 kids. Now take 11 more families like that and you have a clan called Year. The only relationship they have? Association by marriage, birth, nothing more.

This blog was not about religion, life, etc. It was about nothing really. It was my weird way of trying to prove something. Now as you were busy reading this, you failed to notice that the first words of every paragraph formed a sentence: Life Is What Happens When You Are Busy Making A Living

Get my drift?