After all, my only real possession is my vision
I generally try to avoid adding whole posts that are simply a lengthy duplication of what (little I have read of) other great thinkers, writers and artists. Obviously, this is not because I do not value their creations, and certainly not because of any delusions of grandeur where I believe my words are more significant – far, far from it!
I feel my simplistic and amateur writing has some value to myself. It is extremely personal and depicts my world at particular moments in time, as seen from my eyes. This space, like my other creative endeavours is a mingling of my memories, experiences, feelings, observations and dreams – my realities from the past, present and future.
However, once in a while, I come across literature, or an anecdote that I find so truthful that it connects with me on an emotional and even spiritual level. It speaks to my inner most self in such a way that I feel the words are the unspoken thoughts that I could not express due to my limited talents. It is those time, that I am compelled to share it and the feelings of longing and love that they arouse within me. Continue reading
7. Fear of the unknown
”If what you’re doing does not have the possibility of failing, then by definition, you’re not doing anything new. So the only way that you can do anything new or interesting, is to open yourself up to that risk of failing.”
Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (Caspar David Friedrich: 1818)
Society has trained us to be afraid, to be very afraid of all that is unfamiliar and all that we are unable to understand. The journey of fear begins with most parents who – aside from trying to live vicariously through their children and passing on the burden of their unfulfilled desires and ambitions – project their fears that have prevented from living freely. Then it’s the turn of the schooling system to cement a fear of non-conformity, of authority and failure at every corner. Organised religion manipulates us into being forever petrified of a wrath of God that will surely strike upon us, and confine us to eternal damnation. And government, well where do I start?
The greater the amount of fears, the more intensely we are socially controlled. We lose the freedom to make life choices out of love for ourselves, and instead we are compelled to make life decisions that emerge from the exaggerated fears we have been fed and by over-rationalising the threat of failure.
It becomes so deeply internalised, that our life decisions made as a result of these underlying fears are justified as being ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ or accepted reluctantly as being a ‘part of life’- an unfair, yet necessary negotiation. By the time most of us reach our twilight years, there is not even a flicker of the creative, curious and daring child who once made pretty sandcastles and chased butterflies. We simply exist as an accumulated mountain of fears that are now passed onto future generations.
6. Crippled by self-doubt.
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”
Does this mean I believe myself to be a wise person? No, the term comes with too much baggage. But I do know that I am neither a fool, nor a fanatic of any kind.
And, that I am filled with constant and stubborn self-doubt about my capabilities, and about every single thought and story idea that I have written down. Neither does it help in any way, when I read that apparently, self-doubt and creativity go hand-in-hand. No. I want to be confident, even arrogant about my ideas so that I am propelled to bring them to fruition and share them with the world. I don’t want to be wasting away precious time mulling over how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ I think they are, while the days go by.
But what I want to be, is different to what I am.
5. Embracing the waves of melancholy
“I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.”
(Edgar Allen Poe)
Melancholy (Edvard Munch: 1894)
Feeling shrouded by melancholy, has meant being haunted by ghosts of past, stifled by regret , an inexplicable and insurmountable sense of loneliness and longing, a perpetual uneasiness with the crude and selfish ways of the world, an overwhelming burden to pursue truth, meaningfulness and destiny, while accepting the futility and insignificance of my existence, and a dream of a dawn that I know will never arrive.
4. Ambition handicapped by laziness and inertia
” I don’t do anything with my life except romanticize and decay with indecision.”
Self Portrait by Francis Bacon (1969)
You’d think that after making obsessive efforts (which I excel in), to trawl the internet in order to track down two favourite Indian filmmakers in their secluded office hideaways in suburban Mumbai, asking one of them if I could assist them on set – and then actually getting a positive response – that I’d be really serious about learning filmmaking.
Nope. 2007 was yet another year that passed away. Only this time I could brag about my feeble attempt at how close I got to the magic of real-world filmmaking, and then lament about how my (already booked) flight next day meant that I could not have stayed and made something of it. Continue reading
3. The burden of dreams
Sisyphus by Titian (1549)
Having come from a completely non-creative, working class background, understandably, my folks were not equipped to recognise, encourage or direct my creativity – I even wonder in their defence – if it even manifested itself during my adolescent years. They, were simply the products of all their influences and experiences, and just like the masses they understood schooling as a means to secure ‘respectable’ and ‘successful’ (financially rewarding) employment, that would perhaps also be a source of pride for them.
2. Races are for rats, not artists
“The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.”
Just until a few years ago, I found it very difficult to escape the burden of the rat race taking place around me, and as much as I knew that it was an exploitative and selfish way of living, I just could not escape the feeling that with each passing year, I was falling behind everyone else.
In fact, when I had decided to extend my years in higher education, it had not only been a desperate attempt to appease the questions that were evolving in my mind, but it introduced me to a reservoir of extraordinary ideas such as the malice of capitalism, which I previously knew nothing about. These next few years of real education then also became an opportunity to delay my entrace into what I confirmed as being the oppressive 9-5 grind. Continue reading
1. A Steppenwolf cannot live amongst sheep
“I am in truth the Steppenwolf that I often call myself; that beast astray that finds neither home nor joy nor nourishment in a world that is strange and incomprehensible to him.”
(Herman Hesse – Steppenwolf)
In this world that seems so indifferent and alien, the rebellious, creative, artistic Steppenwolf many a time craves to be around other kindred souls, so that there can be an exchange of alternative thoughts and ideas, which then nourishes the already afflicted soul, and provides some kind of mutual motivation to stay alive.
In the absence of this, and in reality, we end up preferring to live as loners. Continue reading
On Friday the 23rd and Sunday the 25th of March 2018, after about 6 months of writing and planning, and a lifetime of varied life experiences, conscious and subconscious inspirations, so many years of writing down and accumulating ideas in secret notepads, and then tiring people who had to listen to my crazy dreams – I finally directed my first short film.
The days were long and arduous but exhilarating. I felt like a fish that had finally dived into the sea after spending a lifetime in a fish tank, imagining the sensations the sea would arouse.
This is such a life-defining moment that I am compelled to write about my journey… Continue reading
Eric Lacombe – The Weight of Silence
“We come from a generation of people who need their TV or stereo playing all the time. These people so scared of silence. These soundaholics, these quietophobics.”
“My solitude does not depend on the presence or the absence of people, on the contrary, I hate who steals my solititude without in exchange offering me true company.”
I’ve often wondered why so many of us are afraid of silence and solitude?
Is it because we have been surrounded by artificial types of noise from such a young age, that we now crave its presence at every moment in our adult lives?
Or is it that people simply fear sitting on their own, with themselves. And, that any type of noise – even it is of little substance and value – gives them a temporary, superficial feeling of company.
“If you look at the four seasons, each season brings fruit. In summer, there’s fruit, in autumn, too. Winter brings different fruit and spring, too. No mother can fill her fridge with such a variety of fruit for her children. No mother can do as much for her children as God does for His creatures.
You want to refuse all that?
You want to give it all up?
You want to give up the taste of cherries?”
(Mr Bagheri in Taste of Cherry)
Anything I can possibly write praising the late, great poet of cinema Abbas Kiarostami will be an epic disappointment. One, because I lack the finesse to write well, and secondly because the art that this grand filmmaker and artistic polymath has left us behind is beyond the limitations of words, it’s beauty is simply inexpressible.
Although, I had only seen ‘Taste of Cherry’ (quite a few years ago) and ‘Close-up’ (last February), prior to his untimely passing, I was so moved by just these two films that I felt compelled to say something – but I just didn’t know how or what. Continue reading
Believe those who seek truth, doubt those who find it.
Prophet of the Most High by Jean Moore
I first came across a similar version of the above quote in first few pages of the book ‘Makhmalbaf at Large’ written by Hamid Dabashi.
I find that it neatly summarises the philosophical position at which I have found myself arrive at, since 2013.
The seekers of truth(s)
I have discovered them through the ages, and undoubtedly they are few in numbers, yet they are the ones who I feel a deep reverance for.
Sometimes the world has called them saints, philosophers, poets, artists, or revolutionaries. Other times, they have been called heretics, or madmen.No matter what their labels, I believe they have shared a precious and rare commonality. This is their inheritance of an abnormally sensitive and fragile soul.
Many of us may have heard of the legendary and timeless love story of Qays and Layla, popularly known as Majnun Layla. It is reported to have been composed by the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi as well as Amir Khusrow later on, and many others who have interpreted and been inspired by it in different cultures. The love that Qays has for Layla is such that it surpasses the boundaries of mortal love, and he becomes known by the people as Majnun – meaning the mad or possessed.
Here is one of the anecdotes which involves Majnun and the Praying Man that I came across many years ago and which I have presented in my own words. Continue reading
A beautiful, poignant piece of writing about how our childhood sense of innocence slips away from us.
Written by Jeff Coleman – a modern literary fantasy author.
Innocence of Youth
There are those exceptional moments in life when you experience crystal clarity in thought and purpose, when all is as it should be, when all is right and good with the world. But those moments are rare, are few and far between, and they almost always occur when you’re young. As a child, you didn’t have time to formulate your own beliefs; instead, your world view hinged on the beliefs of others. The innocence of youth is a wonderful carefree time in which the mind and the heart are free from the burdens of autonomous thinking and responsibility.
Nietzsche by Edvard Munch (1906)
The Turin Horse by Bela Tarr (2011)
The Ill Nietzsche by Hans Olde (1899)
It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
The alleged moment which executed Friedrich Nietzsche’s journey into apparent clinical insanity is the basis for Bela Tarr’s masterpiece film ‘The Turin Horse’ (2011).
This moment of inhumane cruelty and bleakness that Nietzsche witnesses in his life against an innocent animal, could be a symbol of the tyranny and silent desperation in elements of our lives and the world around us.
We continue with our lives desensitised and immune to the brutality within, and around us. Perhaps our inability to not become ‘clinically’ insane at all this, is evidence of the silent sickness (or the true insanity) that has engulfed our lives.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Yes, there is truth to the idea that Ghazals and Qawwalis are the passions of the old.
Despite my limited proficiency in Urdu and my complete ignorance of the intricate differences between the different forms, I have seized the few chances I have had to attend such gatherings. Each time I have been surrounded mostly by the older generations.
I think this may be partly due to the frequent use of complex Urdu or Punjabi poetry which is difficult for the generally linguistically-challenged generations of today – myself included. It could also be because there is a greater focus on the lyrical value of the words sung, rather than simply emphasising repetitive foot-tapping musical numbers which appeal so much to the mainstream. But mostly, I think it is because of the deeper existential and melancholic themes that dominate the poetry – which appeal to older people who have perhaps had the gift to reflect on the past experiences in their lives, unlike the naive and inexperienced younger generations.
Maybe this happened, maybe it didn’t. Do the facts even matter, when the truth is so illuminating?
Legend has it that Pablo Picasso was sketching in the park when a brave woman approached him.
“Oh my — It’s Picasso, the great artist! Oh, would you be kind enough to sketch my portrait for me?”
Picasso agreed to sketch her. After studying her for a moment, he used a few pencil strokes to create her portrait in a few minutes. He handed the woman his work of art.
“It’s perfect!” she gushed. “You managed to capture my essence with a few strokes, in such little time. Thank you! How much do I owe you?”
“That will be ten thousand dollars” Picasso replied.
The woman was floored.
“Ten thousand dollars! How can you want so much money for it? Why, it only took you a few minutes to draw this sketch!”
To which, Picasso replied, “No, madam. It took me thirty years of my life to be able to draw like that”
A beautiful saying which filmmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf narrates in a book I have just finished reading (Conversations with Mohsen Makhmalbaf by Hamid Dabashi), reminded me of my own changing perceptions of truth(s).
“Truth is a mirror that fell from the hand of God. Each person picked up a piece of it, and, seeing his or her reflection decided was what they each held rather than realising that the truth had become fragmented amongst them all”
What a preposterous and dogmatic idea it is that possesses humans to proclaim that a chosen group of people possess dominion over one absolute truth.
‘Life is strange… I think we forget things if we have no one to tell them to…’
A Failed Memory by David Szauder
After months of waiting and reading about The Lunchbox (Ritesh Batra), I was lucky enough to watch it last year in a local art house cinema. It turned out to be a beautiful meditation about love, longing and loneliness that ended up leaving me close to tears. I felt that Irrfan Khan (Saajan Fernandes in the film) had once again stolen the show with his naturalistic performance, breathtaking screen presence, and the sheer intensity of his eyes. Yes, I do have a major man crush on him.
But truth be told, most of the praise for this masterpiece should go to Ritesh Batra – the writer and director. In June this year, when I decided to read the screenplay, I ended up teary eyed once again. I realised then, that it was the dialogues of the film that were actually so powerful. They appeared to be simple and minimalist, but contained so much within them. Continue reading