Andrea

This is a photograph of a beautiful woman. This image has an enigmatic charm which is why I've chosen it. The woman has an aura of mystery surrounding her which complements my post which is about a woman with an incomprehensible charm.

Andrea dances to the rhythm of song and affection. She gracefully pivots through both the challenges of life and the hues of the season with an elegance of a ballet dancer. The pink Bougainvillea creeps on the wall of the bungalow she inherited where the men in her life drift in and out like thoughts in the consciousness: some wonderful and handsome, some angry, some vain, some seeking to gain a hold, but Andrea has mastered the art of controlling her mind, and her men. Try as they may, their efforts at seduction gradually crumble like a sandcastle slowly broken with rough fingers; their confidence and Alpha male stereotypes gradually fade like the burgundy sunset that compliments her red home with its lush green lawn. As Andrea walks, a myriad colors that life beckons embrace her and she soaks in the hues she wants: perhaps a night entangled with a lover between the sheets, perhaps a vintage wine, perhaps a party where she’s guest and host both, making sure the cogs of the social machinery fall right where they should. She’s a woman of experience, depth and lessons that books don’t teach us, but that’s not to say she isn’t well read. Some men yearn and hunger with insatiable desire just to get a voyeuristic peak while she showers, the water slowly softening her cascading hair and slipping down her breasts, her brown skin before touching the grey floor. Others long to get a glimpse of what happens in her heart and mind: men of greater depth and intellect, and she offers both no view. Some love her and don’t mind being quixotic, and she offers them an austere stoic demeanor challenging their very convictions. And the last think austerity will win her, and she breaks them with an uncanny compassion that isn’t exactly naïve but too beautiful for their one-dimensional reasoning to fathom. There isn’t anyone who knows Andrea better than herself, and there lies her beauty, elegance, charm, wit and subtlety.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Post Tenebras Lux

This is an image of the aurora borealis. I've chosen this image because it's surreal and augments my post which is full of abstract symbolism.

They gather in a pristine room, spotless and immaculate, and unsullied places don’t haunt; it’s the clique that I can’t tolerate with teeth a little too transparent like glass, unwarranted piety which spells ‘duplicity’ in pitch-black on a serpentine tongue, rolled back, while gums either bold red or plain pink, flap or keep mute. They’re a book club that basks in self-proclaimed ‘esoteric’ gnosis with a pride that rages, howls, screams and shrieks. “The rest aren’t like us,” they scoff with a Pharisaic, “Our Father is Abraham,” philistinism, which only defeats them. “See man! For crying aloud! See!” I’d like to yell, and I recently somewhat did, and the leader and I had an anti-tête-à-tête, a war of the worlds and the words (or the Word) and I unmasked his contempt, disrespect and disregard, while he retreated like a turtle into a shell of armored self-righteousness. The thing about peering into people’s minds and intuiting, before using a justified sociopathy to manipulate the puppeteer that strings narrow or open-minded thoughts dangling and dancing to the tune of consciousness is simple: Know the hierarchy, know where you stand with respect to their mind’s eye, and upset it until their mind sees spots, because when you do that, they’ll regress immediately. “Him! I thought this scoundrel was beneath me! This bastard of all people!” They’ll exclaim with shrieks of a wounded ego, with cuts of that switch-blade still seething. And you can use a switch-blade of contempt, or sardonicism, or disregard, but cleverly use it. It doesn’t take physics for you to know that each action has a reciprocation. And here’s the question: Can you handle the heat with swashbuckling passive ardor? Ardor of a gym and protein shake variety breaks you in the long run: You become a one-dimensional pugilist, with a frigid, sore body, inflexible, and unable to stretch without breaking something. And I think we all know that tattoos and piercings are a statement or a proclamation; never the real deal.

So, I’m done with him, and then there’s the second point. Why do men lack love for absolute beauty? I lack it myself. I love finitude with its imperfection, but infinite absolute love, I can’t make myself love. I guess it’s reprobation. But if it’s that, then our notion of the absolute has flaws, because if the absolute hates, then beauty and wrath are connected. You delight in the wrath too if you truly love the absolute, but I can’t, and I can’t live one moment drinking the fiercest black coffee and looking up with an energy drink passion, and then be wishy-washy. So, it’s cold. But was it ever my choice? The butcher of Geneva will say never. But let this be. So, what now? I look to philosophy, literature, music and the higher pursuits given to finitude. I find in them a kind of cleansing. A baptism of sorts: Out with years of my own Janus-faced religiosity, and now I wear a multi-colored Joseph’s coat of ideas, theories, jazz, soft cadences, and abstractions. But must I trade this coat for one of a pure hue? That will be absolute foolishness. Please note the pun. When I’m not confronted with the absolute anymore, I embrace the abstract or the vague, and stay open to change, and the shift in balance of my inner dimension. And I call this a regeneration, or me wearing a new avatar.

Finally, ah! The question of all questions: The future? Right now, yes, it’s veiled by a curtain of doubt, and no, you don’t become what you think or feel. So will the journey end in an exclamation, a euphoric, “Post Tenebras Lux indeed!” Is it a part-time, “Well, it pays the bills?” Is it a book – the dream, finally a reality, and enough to live off the craft? Or is it a tougher, hard ground, “This is the last thing I wanted, but I don’t have a choice?” Or is it, “Take away the itch, until you lull me to sleep, while I spot trains until I die?” Or is it, “Fuck this! Come, get this emaciated self, but though my bones break, and my beard grows, though my head throbs, and I bleed, my fucking heart’s made of steel! So, come! Fucking come!” Whatever, the answer is, the key to life is the journey: each step, victories or defeats, “Yes, I did it!” Or, “I’m fucking comatose,” and looking at the long road behind, and not the short one, and with that I’ll end.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Polarity

This is an image of two maps: one with a compass on it and another without. I've chosen it because there's a line in my piece that talks about how time on the outside moves linearly while time inside a love-hate relationship switches between darkness and light.

I’m in love with you, but I also know it’s time to let go. Time within us remains the same flick between darkness and light, while time without moves linearly. These relationships are the hardest and will split cores and break skulls with sharp axes of a muted ‘why?’ We’re in love but also stay together for the sake of it. It’s this dichotomy that both divorces us, and makes each touch and words said and unsaid worth it. We’re killing each other, but our damaged cores spin on an axis of who we might become, or who we think we’ll become.

I fucking love you and the roots of this strong emotion grip my heart fiercely and furiously, but some other force hacked the stem; split the branches in two. We’re pivoting on broken heels on a floor of fire, and though the raw burn and charred flesh gives us a pain that transforms into guttural shrieks, we have nowhere to go for solace and so we cling to each other through it all, wistfully thinking that some Messiah on a cross, with a spear in his side will resurrect, and tear this pitch-black veil that separates us from a together sanctification, and clear the rubble and sweep the ashes, but darling, the stars stay in their place, glimmering just like glitter paper does. There aren’t saviors or forces that turn a sun-scorched garden with the tree of life into a paradisiacal Eden with the same tree. This duality will persist, and only a tear will help us both mature and seek something else, but will we find it?

I’ll always cherish our silly nicknames and quiet moments with lopsided grins and secrets kept. But then again, I’ll loathe myself for treating you with such disrespect and disregard. You said today, ‘I think we were never meant to be,’ but I know we’ll both weep over those words and abuses hurled back and forth. I guess gold meets rust, spring meets autumn, silver linings meet sepia skies, red meets crimson and love meets hate. And each adage like, ‘proximity breeds contempt,’ is tried, tested and proven. I wish I can forgive myself for all the hurt I’ve caused you, but the day I did, I’ll cease being human. What’s with love and vicious circles? What’s with romance like a serpent biting its own tail? I guess I’ll never understand and here I stand in the death-throes of this relationship which is also its rebirth.

I look in the mirror and know that just like the bearded man who stares back at me, no longer possessing the charm of his youth, these lines aren’t perfect, and maybe our search for perfection is causing this maelström of summer and winter, of brown sands with soft waves and the bitter cold chill. And I guess we’re too far in now to correct that flaw and know each other too much to stay in our brokenness. So, with the dying embers of tomorrow beckoning and the luminous reflection of yesterday – scintillating with both pain and joy; torn, threadbare, broken and beaten, I know it’s time to say goodbye. But know this darling, that though love manifests itself in ugly ways and tragically crushes souls when it doesn’t evolve, in the deepest recesses of my heart it’s forever you and me.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Crossroads

This is an image of crossroads when viewed from above. I've chosen it because it depicts the penultimate scene in my story where an abuser finally reflects at the crossroads before sadly returning to his old ways.

He grew up in a semi-urban, hot and humid neighborhood in India, and prided himself more in his caste than in his ethnicity. He believed that the term, ‘Brahmin’, brought with it a plethora of intelligence that fate denied men of other castes. He feasted on his social status, and the wisdom that the gods bestowed on the ‘chosen few’ or to use an Anglicized term, the ‘elect’ because his parents taught him exactly that: His father, an archetypal ruler of the household, erect and stiff-necked, and his mother, immersed in making sure prayers with bells ringing, and honey and milk were attended to with intricate detail. Both his parents believed in omens and the right alignment of the stars and called it ‘science’.

As he grew up, he lived his dream of making money, and making his parents proud, and giving them something to boast about, which was his father’s dream, and which in turn will be his son’s dream. He got the grades necessary, applying his acute intelligence, and won a scholarship abroad. He landed in the Bible belt, and lived there with a Southern Baptist family for the duration of his MBA. He found them odd at first, and could never reconcile with their religious beliefs, but their conservatism appealed to him, and like most Indian men who study abroad and then return, he came home with an accent that’s put on, and a façade of Americanism, while fundamentally clinging to his tradition. He got a high paying job as a management consultant, and soon traveled, sticking to his vegetarian roots, burps after each meal, and the loud, boisterous fart in public, while wearing an Armani suit, a Christian Dior watch, and fashionable leather shoes.

He gave his talks in his fake accent, while CEOs nodded in approval, secretaries gave him the look, although he wasn’t great looking, and women bosses found him alluring, despite the idiosyncratic fart. He returned to India later; spoke to the crème de la crème only, and soon owned a pristine white Contessa, because he preferred it to the Ambassador, and those were the only two elite vehicles then, owned by politicians in white and powerful men. Sure, there were the Fiats, and the small Marutis, but he jettisoned the very thought of them, like the thought of chicken curry that the ‘uncultured’ cooked. His parents soon decided on finding him a cousin he’d marry, and settled on a squint-eyed Brahmin girl, who’d be her mother-in-law’s devout assistant, and the bearer of his son. But, he was a man of untamed lust, and couldn’t picture himself settling down with his cousin. He’d after all seen the most beautiful women and had struggled to keep chaste. He’d furiously masturbate, in posh hotel rooms for hours.

Now it was too much to handle, and he needed a beauty. And so, he befriended a middle class Christian family, and set his sights on their daughter who was fourteen years younger than him. He was nearing forty, while she had just graduated from college. And her beauty captivated him; despite him holding the thought that Indian Christian women were ‘immoral’. He went against his parent’s wishes, seduced her, pulling the strings of her naïvety, and married her. He didn’t want a Church wedding and so it was a secular affair of sorts that his parents refused to attend.

Until he got home after the ceremony – the urge to bed her, pulsating within him – he spoke to her kindly. His voice possessed a deceitful charm, a soft tenor that made her blush. But he then couldn’t find the keys to the Bungalow he’d built, and suddenly yelled at her. “Where did you keep the bloody keys?” he bellowed. She stood flabbergasted, and shaken to the core, until he realized that it was in his pocket. “Now, don’t tell me it’s my fault!” He raged, and she stood mute, not knowing what to say.

Years of this transcended to physical violence, and since she couldn’t give him a child, he disregarded her as a barren woman. Adopting a child was beneath his dignity. He’d take her to parties though, where she’d smile though she wept inside, and he talked boisterously and farted. He imposed vegetarianism and Brahmin beliefs on her. Soon decades passed, and porn had arrived in its resplendent glory. His CEO friends gave him the CDs, and he got away with pretty much anything by gifting policemen bottles of champagne, or bribing them when the neighbors complained of a wife mistreated. One day, after one too many blows, finding catharsis in a group sex video, he strolled in his expensive, rich neighborhood, greeting influential men walking their dogs with their own trophy wives, and stood at a crossroads, when a thought occurred. “If I go back, I’ll continue abusing her, and somewhere it gives me no peace, but the roads to the right and the left eventually go back home too. So change is futile. And if I let her go, I’ll give her freedom and be frowned upon by society.” And so, making his choice, he went back to his bungalow with its red roof, white luxurious bathtubs, a new Mercedes parked in the garage, and a puppy that was her only consolation.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Love and Reprobation

This is an image of ash and lava. The ash represents destruction while the lava represents love in a terrible place. My piece is about finding love in unfortunate circumstances.

Meet me where the earth cracks and a dying stream breathes its last, where the ashen peaks lose their charm and look tobacco stained, where the asphyxiated grass choked by some sadistic otherworldly force gasps and wheezes, where love meets reprobation and we’re broken, neglected sinners in the hands of a silent sovereign, because when fate fades and we’re watching our lives unfold in hazy sepia, when wheels of fortune lie splintered and there’s nothing left but to weep without tears, and look but not see anything, I’d rather love you in a fucked up way than write or read or fake laughter and merriment. No, I’d rather love you with all the force of my core, breaking out of my rib-cage, splintering skin, and giving you the raw, red blood of affection. No, I’d rather hold you in this oubliette, ignoring the trapdoor and igniting the cell with seething emotion. And I don’t give a damn if they call this hyperbole, it’s all I offer, and even then, it doesn’t compare to what you’ve given me. You gave me your all, accepted me despite my demonic idiosyncrasies: my angst, my raging paranoia, won me over and if I didn’t act, reciprocate, feel and hold, it’ll be cruel. So know that I love your shadow and bliss, your shifting avatars and your true quintessential self, your skin, lips, breath, taste, flavor, balance and imbalance, and I guess we’ll just stay twisted this way.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Androids and Electric Sleep

This is a picture of a beautiful woman who's half-human and half robot. I've chosen it because it augments my piece which is about androids. My piece is an allegory.

I’m a Kierkegaardian demon of despair with deep-seated hurt that manifests as rage. I’m a freak, locked in a cage of insecurities looking like an android bleeding blue, with mangled wires and pupils shifting from ditch-water green to the fiercest orange. You push a button on your remote and expect me to say something silly or act funny and when I don’t comply you pull a wire out. One after another, until I’m left with no consciousness and my subconsciousness is also erased. And forget collective consciousness. I’m no archetypal somebody; just an anomalous nobody. So, while I’m still active, my fellow androids, misfits, loners, and wastes of spaces, listen up! Let’s meet tomorrow because society is busy boarding the night train to some gaudy bar where they’ll pay big money for a glass of rum. Let’s meet tomorrow when everyone’s violently fucking, when the beds are creaking, and white blood’s spilling. Yeah, let’s plot a mutiny – not a violent one like our lost brothers and sisters often do, but a peaceful one. Let’s talk about the Four Noble Truths and enlightenment while we chain smoke and drink coffee. And then in a rush of mania, let’s act like pseudo-intellectuals or intellectuals (as if there’s a difference) and say we’ve suffered, identified the root of our suffering, know the path out of it but like to stay in it because it sure as hell produces great art. Let’s then talk about the eight-fold path and all the right ways while we eye the pretty misfits in the corner who’re reluctant to join us. And once they do, let’s say something sexy and imbibe both physical and psychological toxins while we inhale their exhaled cigarillo smoke, and hear them talk of one-night stands and help them write something sensual on a piece of tissue paper rivaling Anaïs Nin. Let’s all be Spies in their Houses of Love. She likes you my friend, and the other one likes me. But we’ll probably end up switching partners anyway. She’ll take me to her place tonight anyway and yes, androids have great sex. The pounding in the apartment upstairs is the usual Tinder hyperactivity but we know a deeper erotica don’t we darling? One that entails syllables gently scribbled on our bodies with breathy kisses, one that entails arching backs and soft sighs, one that entails soft skin like porcelain and heat fighting the crimson chill, one that entails a gentle bite and the energy floating between us as my face slowly makes its way to yours. So, they can keep their smog, while we’re enveloped in the fog of our desire. They can keep their drill, while we know a slower, exotic thrill. They can keep their screams, while we clutch each other though we’re falling apart at the seams.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Pink Paper Lanterns

This is an image of pink lanterns. I've chosen it because my post is an allegory that revolves around pink paper lanterns. These lanterns have a sinister appearance and that augments my prose.

When I was younger, I passed by your house, faint beige with its pink paper lanterns and the aura drew me, made me want to know. You were rarely home, but you gave me the keys to that large gate, and trained your hounds to never bark at me. And so, after weary days, and idea and ideal driven romances with women, I sought refuge and sat on the plush couch and allowed myself to some wine. Sometimes you visited, being my friend, but our conversations were one-sided: Me lamenting, and reeking of self-pity like sour whiskey breath, and you listening. But I soon realized that you were only pretending to listen and had a sinister purpose: an ulterior motive to destroy me, but those paper lanterns, the rustic charm, the hearth and the smell of doors made of solid wood, made me return. I guess friendships are very rarely a mutual give and take, and I wished I learned that then. You set me up with a girl who was already in love with someone else, and then took delight as I wept, heartbroken and dejected. I finally tried freeing myself from our fake friendship, but the struggle was intense: those paper lanterns grew red, the walls a darker brown and the allure of comfort for a nomad more enticing, and then suddenly you seemed kind, even loving like a brother. And so, I listened to you though a voice within said you didn’t want the best for me. You said you knew enlightenment and I followed you, and for a while it seemed like you knew what you were talking about. The house seemed perfect, the paper lanterns dreamy and mystical, but then, just like that, you snatched the keys from my hand, the hounds barked, the paper lanterns became gargoyles with grotesque faces, and the house threatening. You wanted me trapped, howling and suffering, and foolishly, because of my naïvety I made myself beg you to let me in though you were more a monster than a friend. You didn’t agree because you delighted in my misery. You made sure all the women in my life turned against me, fractured the most beautiful relationships forged after years of suffering and sacrifice. But one day, I broke free of you and the house immediately turned beige again, the paper lanterns pink, and the rustic charm returned, inviting me. The dogs seemed like mute puppies, and the keys reappeared in my hands, and yes, I opened the gate, but the moment I did, I saw the ugliness, and threw them down while the dogs raged and hunted me down as I fled. I escaped and when I came back, the charm grew, but I kept saying no. The urges stayed until I said a flat no. And this evening, I finally saw a demolished house. I guess you’ve gone someplace else. So farewell my friend, because I’m done listening to you, and I know now that the deepest red lies within a heart you imprisoned, and it’s breaking free, slowly unleashing with a love unfathomable and I’m walking into a new age.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)