Winter has its own vocabulary. A is for Abandonment.
Nothing decries winter like the squawks of migrating geese leaving every evening. Flocks after flocks. The feeling grows as I come upon robin nests abandoned in the snow. I might as well have been one of those robins — we moved twice this year. Gaining a house, losing two. Holding on to books but leaving almost all else. Down south to Midwest to Up north. Long road trips, short stopovers, shorter memories. Just as my little son knows that the geese are headed south to the lake outside our home in Atlanta and will be back with the warmer climes, I find myself waiting for my proverbial spring which will change this Abandonment to ~Abandon~.
All memories are like places you visit in sleep, flat and multicolored. You think they leave you, but they don’t. Like leaves left behind in snow, some yellow remains stay. Or perhaps they are like chairs in their quiet empathy and knowledge of hurt. E. B. White‘s “Chairs in Snow” is one poem I think about as I sit here.
Quiet upon the terraces,
The garden chairs repose;
How like the furnishings of youth,
In back yards of the mind:
Residuals of summer’s truth
And seasons left behind.
Snow is an alien feeling. To an Indian born and brought up in dry and dusty New Delhi, snow is almost a white lie. Perhaps it is that which led me to write in what I call, my “Snow Postcards”,
Do I love snow ?
Yes. As much as one can love a white lie
Spread so thick, you have no choice
But to believe it –
It was perhaps a window of a solipsistic kind that was on my mind when I wrote further
It is difficult to tell you of the snow on phone
Where I sit in the window, it is hard
The falls –
Snow notwithstanding, many such white lies were unleashed on an unsuspecting India as cold winter winds began to blow. First one to fall was Tarun Tejpal. As his harassment of his colleague, a girl young enough to be his daughter — nay, actually a friend of his daughter — , rocked the nation, the heavy irony of him masterminding some of nation’s biggest sting operations was not lost on anyone. Once again, I thought of snow and its white lies. Like when you wear ear plugs, it blocks out all worldly cacophony but take them off and the jolts come sharper.
Perhaps it wasn’t so much the lies, as the pretenses of an intellectual kind which rankled. Especially when they came in the form of writings which compared him to Neruda and his rape of a Sri Lankan maid. Social media, though, has a way of squeezing humor out of a humorless situation, especially in the humor-starved nation that we in India are, and as Tejpal requested to be ‘recused’, the word was as much a hashtag in winter on Facebook as onions were in fall.
A also stood for Abandonment of another kind as the Supreme Court abandoned the entire LGBT community in India as it upheld Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (harkening back to British rule in India, and which criminalises sexual activities “against the order of nature”, including homosexual acts) and left it to the attention of Parliament. As they pass the ball from one to the other, one cannot help but note that A is always for Avoidance in India, irrespective of the season or the branch of government you are left facing.
And I thought of how snow, when it falls on something dark, brings out all the crevices of form and shape and somewhere, a loss of hope. A very apt poem by my friend from New York and a proud lesbian Evie Frishman,
Sometimes it seems
the dark has such advantages
Its course runs smooth and known
and it brings with it the warmth
of old familiarity
but the light
is a tourist here
a brash neophyte
who makes assumptions and generalizations
and so, so many promises
one ought never hope
it will keep.
In Delhi’s winter vocabulary, A is clearly for AAP (Aam Aadmi Party). What began in the fall between silences on one hand and screechy speeches on another, has come to rest in a dream in winter. AAP (the word also means a respectful You in Hindi) is expected, amongst other things, to bring a sense of grace to our falling political ideals. And in the process, to become an alternative for Tu Tu Main Main (a disrespectful exchange of you-s and me-s; a verbal bickering) that has characterised the Indian political scene for long. Old Bollywood songs when grace was still in fashion — as were some of the political ideals — have been brought out of closet and set to contemporary meaning and tempo. Yes, expect to face some music, AAP.
A chair in snow
like any other object whited
and yet a chair in snow is always sad
more than a bed
more than a hat or house
a chair is shaped for just one thing
a soul its quick and few bendable
perhaps a king
not to hold snow
not to hold flowers