Mother- a Darren Aronofsky film

mother-French-poster

Darren Aronofsky’s Mother is bizarre to say the least. If you watch the film as a psychologist, you will find evidence of various mental disorders. The setting of the film is a large house in the middle of nowhere. All you are allowed to see is grass surrounding the house. The horizon is made only of trees and light. C’est tout!

At no time is the camera taken outside the house. Metaphorically, we are meant only to dwell in the inner domain- a place occupied by Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) and her husband, Him ( Javier Bardem).

Mother is a young girl who seems to be devoted to Him and the house she is trying to rebuild. Despite the cracks and the unending labour, she give the house her all. Never once, does she crib. She aspires to make the house ‘paradise’- not because it is her house, but because it is ‘His’ house.

While Mother is spending her days and nights toiling away, doing laundry, cooking and feeding Him, he is locked up in his study trying to write. She is not allowed in his study alone, because, “He doesn’t like anyone going in there without Him.”

She is the muse, and He, the artist. Their peaceful existence is disturbed when strangers descent upon their house. First comes the Man (Ed Harris) who brings with him his bad lungs infected with terminal cancer. Following him is his wife Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) who is loud and inquisitive to say the least. She is the nosy neighbour we are all weary of. She needs to know why Mother and Him do not have children yet.

Woman uses sex as a weapon and her lace lingerie as the ammo. She tells Mother that she should have kids asap because she will not be young anymore.

Not only is she inquisitive, she is condescending too and only ends up feeding His humongous male ego.

After the unexpected guests arrive, the film becomes more bizarre. There is blood seeping in from all sorts of unexpected places. The wooden floor melts to give way to a metal door, the incinerator fires up all by itself. The sound effects and the cinematography all points towards the genre of horror.

Yet, nothing happens.

Half way through the film, Mother gets pregnant and He starts writing again. His book is a success and one fine day, history repeats itself. Horde of strangers descend upon the house.

“The poet asks us to share”, they say. “This is everyone’s house, the poet says.”

The chaos that follows reminds me of Dante’s inferno. There is violence, fornicatation, theft, etc. and in the midst of all this there is Mother, who is trying to save her baby in the confusion.

Everything becomes surreal and Jennifer Lawrence’s confusion mirror that of the audience. “I have given you everything. Why am I not enough?” is a question asked by the viewers along with Mother to Him.

All he has to say is that they (the horde) need him as much as Mother does.

Finally, Mother sets the house on fire and everything is burnt to ashes but Him.

“Nothing is ever enough and that is how I create,” answers Him- he who has one last favour to ask of the dying Mother. He needs her love and it is that love that keeps him going.

Now, for a lot of us Bollywood lovers, this film is anything less than weird. But keeping aside the obvious,  let us try to understand the metaphor.

Mother is a representation of the everyday woman. She is shown as a muse, who gives and gives till she has nothing left to give. She loves endlessly and that is what drains the life out of her in the end.

He is the male ego, the creator, the loved one. He takes inspiration from her, drains the life force out of her and expects her to keep functioning according to societal norms, despite his selfishness. He is the creator, the selfish one.

One can ask whether Aronofsky is questioning the ways of God. We do refer to the entity as Him. Even within the world of the film, Mother is overlooked and the only time she is acknowledged is when she gives birth in a closed room. Mother is away from the public eye and yet she is the giver of life. But Him, the artist, the God to the horde is well worshiped.

They come from far and wide and just need one touch from Him. Yet they turn against him when the time comes. They take more than they give. Could the horde be the human race? Could it be our disregard for nature, the Mother of all?

I found this film apocalyptic. It showed me how the world as we know it will come to an end. We (the horde) will take from Mother Nature, not acknowledge her presence and will lead to our own doom, all the time searching for the Him, the creator.

I cannot begin to understand what Aronofsky wanted to portray through the film. But I do know why this is a horror film. The horror lies in the fact that life was taken by the horde without a second thought.

It lay in the fact that murder is so ritualised in us and deeply engrained in the audience, that we do not feel as strongly about it as we should.

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Train of life

Death. The final destination. Baba had once told me that we are on a train. This train has a start and a stop. At the start is a lot of pain, a lot of blood and a scream. We begin with denial. The screaming infant wants to go back where it came from. It doesn’t want to be born.

As we get used to the train’s motion, the tire jerks on a stone and for a moment our world goes upside down and then it’s back to normal again. When we start to enjoy the journey and get used to the sounds and smells in the train, we are thrust out into a platform we had no idea existed.

We are in denial at the end of the track too. We are dead. We don’t want to go where we are taken. We like the train now. But no one listens. We extend a hand seeking help, run towards the moving train, scream for it to stop, but all of that is in our minds. No one can hear us. We are dead.

Death. The final station.

In between the start and the stop comes unexpected halts where other people, whom we have grown quite fond of, deboard. That is when we see death consciously for the first time. The cold hard rubber like skin and the smell of rotting flesh subjected to the mighty fire that rises high into the sky comes first. Follows it is its old friend disgust.

When I saw the lifeless body of my father, I couldn’t recognise him. The mount of flesh that lay on the slab was not him. It didn’t even look like him. It was without essence, without his poise and without character. It was dead. It wasn’t him.

He disembarked and I kept going. After touching death and setting it on fire, I know where I am headed. All I wonder now is when?

The Ghost- a girl’s best friend

It’s been a couple of months since she visited. It was very often initially- everyday almost, then it reduced to about twice a week and then she vanished for a month without leaving a trace of where she had gone. I missed her. I cannot lie. I missed her cold touch and her visions, as weird as it may sound.

Somewhere deep inside the mesh that is my heart, she felt like home. She was my constant and her being there meant that I still had feelings. She would make me dream reality when awake and she would spin stories from the remnant fabrics in my mind as I slept.

Who is she? She is my ghost- my friend, my past and my present. It was six months since I moved back home- the small apartment with more windows than doors that I call home. The morning of January 25th was grey with specks of black dispersed here and there. The golden had been replaced by the gloom and even the birds thought it safe to stick to their nests and not venture out far.

The cookie man across the street didn’t show up to lift the shutters off his store and the milk man seemed to be in a smoke induced haze of opium as he handed the milk packet. I knew she was coming even before I opened my eyes.

I had to prepare for her- make her a welcome feast and burn down certain documents in the archives of my head. I kept the drugs close at hand. Just in case…

As I opened my eyes, I saw her dark boring eyes just inches away from my face. She had the same paleness and was accompanied by the chill. When she saw me smile, her cracked lips extended into a full smile. Now, reader, you might get deterred by her features. It’s almost death like, but know this she is the part of me that is just naked emotions manifested in physical form.

Very silently without a whisper, she changed positions and rested her hand on my head. Her nails were half eaten and half chopped. But it didn’t matter.

I closed my eyes and I saw a little girl run towards a dog. The dog wagged its tail and welcomed the girl with licks. They seemed happy. The kid’s hair was tied into a ponytail and her frock was turquoise. Her laughter echoed in my ears making me smile.

The scene changed. The dog, now old and haggard lay on a steel table that seemed to have no space for emotions whatsoever. A woman, presumably the little girl now grown up, stood holding the dog’s hand with tears streaming down her face. Her long hair was tangled and hung around her like mist and her mascara poured down her cheeks along with the salt water.

It was time, the man in the white coat said. It was time indeed. She gave the dog one last look; there were tears in the dog’s eyes but they smiled none the less. She bent down, gave him one last kiss and watched the life ebb away from her only friend. She was all alone in the white room, holding on to the only piece of life that was hers and hers alone.

It was done.

After what seemed like an eternity, I was back in my bedroom with her by my side.

“Until next time,” she said as she faded away in the grey once more, not to return soon.

The Ghost contd…

Introduction:

 

A guy I once had a thing with had accused me of being heartless; had said:

“You feed off pain, yours, mine and everyone else’s. That is the food for your poetry and prose; the nectar to your hive.”

I don’t disagree with him. I am no preacher and neither do I pretend to be something holier than thou. I am just a writer; a romantic if you will, always out to achieve the impossible; the impossible expedition, the impossible relationship, the impossible situation where you need to stick squeezed out toothpaste into its tube. Impossible, impossible, impossible.

But pain’s just my bread and butter and neither do I deny the fact that I revel in it and nor do I pose to be not-guilty.

I am guilty guvner; so hang me by all accounts.

Consider this: a tale for the passing traveler and a means of satiating their thirst. Thirst for gossip and thirst of drama.

A small tale whose end I leave you to decide.

 

The Ghost contd…

 

It had been two years since the exchange of glances in the bookstore. 2 years since my ghost walked out the backdoor with a smile on her face. 2 years of winters and 2 years of clearing the snow from our front porch.

I can see the dead bees in the ground- a bee graveyard. Last night’s thunderstorm had knocked the hive out of the tree and the unsuspecting queen had been crushed to death along with her children and servants.

They say that it is at moments you least expect that the force of the hit is most. I experienced that hit last night. It was a text message on his phone that got my guard up.

“Honey bun…I miss us. Come back to Cali soon my love…XOXO.”

The sender was titled ‘Work’. I could hear him whistling Bee Gee’s Staying Alive in the shower. It was 9:45 and we were due for dinner at the Mason’s at 10:30. They were completing their ten year anniversary.

Jake came out wrapped in a towel with his hair all tousled and brown, just the way it was the first time I had seen him. His eyes still had the piercing power it held and his hands- his strong masculine hands covered with a layer of light brown hair- reached for his shirt.

“D why aren’t you ready yet?” he asked in his honey voice.

“Who is ‘work’ and why is ‘work’ crooning for your love from Cali?”

His face changed. From a light hearted spark, his eyes went to that of a defiant child caught with his hands in the cookie jar to that filled with rage.

“You’ve been reading my messages? How could you do that to me? To us? Don’t you trust me? This is unbelievable. I am out of here.”

And just like that it was over.

Bags were packed in a matter of minutes and the taxi was called. The funny thing is that none of us spoke. The Masons were sorry that we couldn’t make it and ‘work’ was really pleased that she didn’t have to hide behind a noun anymore.

I was back home- to my tiny flat- in a matter of two hours. The storm was raging outside and I could hear the wind whisper- I told you so.

The tequila bottle stood innocently on the shelf and called to me, as if asking me to embrace it like an old friend.

It was successful. Half a bottle later, I could hear her sing to me:

“Drink up baby, stay up all night,

All the things you could do, you won’t but you might…”

This was our favorite song: her and mine.

“Missed me have you?” she asked while caressing my hair.

“In a way I have,” I sobbed into her lap.

Her cold hands brushed against my cheeks and her cold lips pressed against my forehead in a sisterly way.

When she bend down to kiss me, her curls covered my eyes and all I could feel was darkness.

The night held comfort. Nothing could go wrong anymore. The worst was over and she was back. I was free to rejoice in the night once more. The pretention could be thrown out of the window.

After an eternity of her comforting embrace, she pulled me up and led me to the balcony.

It was almost dawn and through the pool in my eyes I could see the horizon: clear with a hint of cloud and the tiny speck of light that was the sun. The breeze rustled the trees as if waking them up from their deep slumber and telling them of a new day, a new opportunity.

I went close to the railing; spread my arms and felt the chill pass through me. If was scarily beautiful. That beauty could destroy, just like a set of luscious red lips on a petit maiden.

But warning of those evils never stopped anyone from falling for them. I remembered Desiree and her tragic love affair with the fearless Napoleon. Love consumes all till only ashes remain.

Today was the dawn of ashes and along with the rustling, the puppeteer upstairs rained down ashes of a fragmented relationship on me, freeing me from the clutches of him and his web of lies forever.

The storm had cleansed at last and my ghost was back with me for eternity.

 

Tuntuni pakhi and jet sprays

My favourite dress was a hand me down from my sister. It was sleeveless and had blue cars drawn on it. I could sit any way I wanted wearing it (not that I would have followed any propriety as a child) and there would be air coming in through all sides.

One of my many nannies was a young girl named Sonia. She was only one feet taller than me and wore her hair in a high pony that resembled a palm tree. She used to take me out to the lake in front of my house and we would throw stones into the water. Hers would always go farther than mine.

Kanta Singh owned a lot of bulls. His hut was a short walk from home. He was quite fond of me and would let me get on his bulls. They didn’t seem to mind either. Quite on the contrary, one of them (named Kalu) licked me across the face once.

I never liked Barbies much. The only thing they seemed to be fit for was to be chewed on. My first act of violence would be to cut their hair, then remove their clothes and head simultaneously. Then, I would spend a good half of my afternoons lying in bed, chewing their limbs till you could make out the fingers from the hand no more.

Dadan was my favourite white haired adult. He used to take me on his lap and feed me rice while my eyes remained stuck to the TV screen. It was Sunday and Tintin was chasing some bad guy across a little island.

Ma had to always run behind me to get my homework done. Being the defiant kid that I was, I had once shoved an eraser into my right ear so deep that the doctor had to jet spray my left ear.

I could never get the tables right. Why did five have to multiply with five at all? I didn’t see any use.

Baba would put me to sleep by running his hands through my hair. He would sing the same song every time. That was oddly comforting. Ma would come next and tell me the story of Tuntuni pakhi. Everyday.

Once I got hit on by a cricket ball because I had dared to play with the boys. Never again did I go near another.

Between the once and the now, many years have passed; years I don’t really remember. Some I choose to forget too. But today when I woke up and looked at myself in the mirror, I wondered when was the time I started taking my own decisions and deciding what to wear to school myself?

The answer left me feeling lost!

Oh Kolkata!

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Oh Kolkata, oh Kolkata!

How I sigh every time I think of your lanes, of your various moods, of the ‘aste ladij‘ of the bus conductors, of the kakimas and the didimas, the smell of cha on hot coal mingled with the smell of burnt tobacco. How you have been and will always remain a mystery to me. This is an ode to you- the only subject I can write a novel on:

I started off in Kolkata- my local Amsterdam, as a white blob called Diya. A few years later, I came back as Radhika- only to leave it again as a strange amalgamation of the two. My two year stay in this city might seem to all as ant years in a human’s lifespan- but to me it feels as a lifetime. The drastic change I underwent while here cannot be described in words- at least my vocabulary is insufficient to do so.

After a lot of brain wracking on my part; cups and cups of coffee; walking down the memory lane; I finally found a metaphor for this city—truth be told, I found plenty of them. The first thing that came to my mind was- a black hole- an oddity that sucks in every bit of a person, rips apart all of their ideals and give back pure bits and pieces of the soul. But this seemed very negative. Further down the road- I thought of it as a rehab center—people come in for a while; undergo agony and excruciating pain and leave a better person. This too was black. Then I thought of Kolkata as an oxymoron—a city which wants to progress yet is stuck in the past. Too clichéd? I know.

Finally the romantic in me came up with another metaphor which, I thought, fit best—my first love. Very like the first lover one has ever had, this city comes across as a much needed break in a person’s life. It is simply different- its many facets, one can never understand fully; its vibrance is blinding; the twist and turns of the its lanes- a labyrinth in a sane mind; its heat and humidity- suffocating and its mentality- claustrophobic.

My initial feeling towards my new love was one of hatred. But as days went by, I just got used to its vices and its way of life. The city moves at a caterpillar’s pace—viscous and slow. It took me some time to realize that this fact will never change and in trying to change it- I changed as a person. Here every day is a continuation of the previous- there is no new day.

Hence my hatred gave rise to resignation. This is how it is; no point trying to change it—I said to myself. I had come into the city as a ‘know it all’; I left it, a humbled soul. Every step of the way, my lover challenged me—it gave me a hard time; kicked me in the ass and helped me back on my feet. In short it gave me room to grow. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly face of the city. I will not try to fool anyone by saying that I take back only the good. Quite on the contrary, I take back the whole experience.

Kolkata taught me the value of hard work and humility. In the multitude of people, I found certain strange faces which later became family in the true sense. The city, I later found, has numerous layers to it—it starts with being cold and harsh and proceeds by giving you the warmth you have never felt before. It never gave up on me- yes, I personify the city. Why I do so, you will only be able to understand if you have lived here. It has a bit of everything to offer- art and culture for the intellectual; music for the harmonist; lights and glamour for the party freak; money for the businessman; solitude for the loner; bad habits for the indulgent and religion for the believer.

Kolkata is life personified. I might never go back to stay; but I know for a fact that the umbilical connection is there to stay for life. Like the tough school master, Kolkata has made me able enough to face the world. 20 years down the line, I will still sigh with wonder whenever I hear this name. I am mesmerized and yes, I am finally in love with it- the purest of the loves- the ones which survive years of separation.

To the vitruvian woman

Your lips the color of my womb

bleed words that take me to the moon.

The look in your eyes set fire to my tomb

while your touch comes to me as a boon.

 

Bukowski, you say, is your lover,

you claim to be his bread and butter.

Gertrude has your heart in a cover,

your beauty, if shunned, can lead her to a gutter.

 

Life ‘came a full circle when I first saw your face,

your fire burnt my soul to the depth of my grave.

A Madonna on earth, you weren’t from my race,

had a halo around you, I could see you brave.

 

Your memories taunt me like something I haven’t got,

How I worship your feet and I can help it not.