Thursday, October 12, 2006

sapnon ka sheher


Watching The Science of Sleep was painfully funny, because through much of the film, my laughter was bittersweet, laughing not just at the antics of Gael Garcia Bernal, but also at myself; at how much that interior landscape of dreams resembled my own. And how much of my own life tends to get spent inside my own head. (Or up my own ass, as my more persipacious friends would say. Right, Ashley?)

And since coming to New York, my dreams have just got weirder. I thought it was just a reaction to being from away from 'home' (and hence unheimlich, unhomelike in the most obviously Freudian sense), but maybe it's just my bed. When Gaurav was here, he kept slipping in and out of weirder and weirder dreams (or so he said). Meanwhile I, for once, slept dreamless in the sleeping bag.

So, not only have suitcases run downhill and become cellos, but senile old women have dug up rose gardens at 3 in the moonlit morning in some strange country, warplanes have been shot out of the sky over what surely wasn't Nizamuddin by Stingers, and a childhood friend has been held captive on an island amid a sea of floating refrigerators, and all of this happens in vivid, precise detail, in landscapes I've never seen before, the newspapers have headlines I've never read before, and the light? The light seems to be from a different planet altogether; or maybe it's just the Dutch Light which has supposedly vanished from the real world, but shines forever on neverneverland.

Sapnon ka sheher. City of dreams. And yesterday a plane crashed into a building, again; on the Upper East Side. In what could have been a scene from Stefan's dreams. Or what could have been, a few years ago, a scene from mine.

… They come visiting at the oddest of times – when I am walking in Connaught Place, for example. All of a sudden an A-10 Thunderbolt appears, ten feet above the long façade of classical pillars fronting M block. Everything is silent and everything is stationary, and the Thunderbolt’s long wings and elevated engines make it look a bit like a silhouette of Mickey Mouse with an overlong, overstiff moustache painted on, in frontal perspective. But then the muzzle of the Avenger cannnon under its nose starts twinkling. Red tracers shoot forth, thirty millimetre shells, four thousand per minute, a thousand in the fifteen seconds the plane takes to pass over Central Park and Palika and vanish down Parliament Street.

The scene becomes a collection of erupting fountains. The rush hour crowds, the pavement trinket sellers, the couples hand in hand, the office goers briefcases in hand, the tourists handkerchiefs in hand held over their noses; all erupt out onto the road, vaulting over railings, the controlled chaos of rush hour goes completely out of hand. Blood spurts and gushes, dismembered appendages describe lazy spinning arcs towards the pavement, where the worn red flagstones are also erupting into fountains of sandstone chips.

The traffic has ground to a complete halt, which, in this part of the city, is slightly unusual. The tarmac on the road has been ploughed up marginally faster than it would otherwise have been. A couple of more cars have been FUBARed than the Blue Line buses generally manage to. There are gaping holes where some of the shimmering mirror panes of the Jeevan Bharti building used to be. Holes, once again. The reflection of the world is incomplete. Through one of the holes, a frightened face peeks out, a face whose desktop computer has been pulverised. He’d been asking for a faster processor and a bigger hard disk for months.

A wail rises from the pavement, into the rapidly darkening sky, its edges blurred with smog and smoke. It blends with the long drawn out, sonorous and slightly metallic sound of the amplified azaan being broadcast from the nearest mosque. Allah hu Akbar. God is great.

Angel nearly puked when I first told her about these bombings, strafings and general aerial mass butchery of the residents of Delhi that happens regularly inside my head. Too many Hollywood movies, was her first diagnosis. Anybody who can proudly boast of having seen Terminator 2 a dozen times is bound to have violence implanted in his brain, she concluded. When I stopped watching all movies and even playing the occasional game of Doom and Quake and Strike Commander, but the regular Pearl Harbours wherever I happened to be didn’t; she switched to subtler reasoning. Now she tells me to go see a shrink. She says the fighter planes are all a sign of the repressed violence in my pseudo-Gandhian psyche. She also talks of anarchic impulses, the bombings as a symbol of the destruction of the institutions of the repressive state, the necessity of destroying which I never hesitate from endorsing in public. Switching to Freud she talks of repressed sexuality too…


(excerpt from, ‘ Flight; aka A Short History of KLPD’, written by hand, Delhi, January 2000)

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