Sodom

This is a picture of the apocalypse. I've used it because my post is a darkly humorous take on the biblical destruction of Sodom.

I woke up that morning, feeling sixty-five and I needed a walk. I needed to breathe in the fresh air. Now, I lived on the outskirts of the city and there’s a Jacaranda Park very close to my house. The violet-blue flowers dancing to the rhythm of the morning breeze invigorated me and filled me with confidence. I sat on a stone bench for a while and lost myself to nostalgic reverie. I thought of the years spent following the rules and standing up for what I believed in, years spent being a conservative, years spent devoted to one woman, and I felt pride swelling up within me and teary-eyed, I returned to my cottage.

The carpenter Bill came home that day because the cupboards needed repairs. I looked at the size of the nails he used and wondered how painful crucifixion is. Those big, slender but powerful nails. I imagined them piercing skin and splitting bone and shivered at the thought. We fortunately didn’t carry out crucifixion in the city. In fact, we outlawed the death sentence, but we had Lot constantly criticizing us for doing so and campaigning for it. He really acted like a judge of sorts. Maybe it was sexual tension. I don’t know but he considered himself ‘righteous’ and preached at every quarter of the city. ‘The day of the Lord is near!’ He barked, the spittle falling on faces.

I had a wedding to attend that day. My distant relative was marrying this beautiful woman called Maria. And so, I walked to town and saw Lot barking in a corner. ‘Sodomy! You’re guilty of sodomy!’ He yelled vehemently. I ignored him and went to the town house. The ceremony was beautiful. The man was a young conservative like me, but not radical like Lot. It was beautiful seeing two people in love waltzing and enjoying themselves. The wine flowed, and I drank to my heart’s content. Soon it was dusk and time to go home.

As I walked home I saw two men descending the hill with Lot. They were headed to his house. The men looked angelic and there was a commotion outside Lot’s house. And so, I rushed there, hoping to solve the dispute. And then I got a closer look at the men and dropped my pants. I rushed to the door and screamed with my walking stick in hand, ‘Bring them out! So that I may know them intimately!’ My loins were on fire and even Viagra didn’t compare to this tension, this excitement. I needed those men and it was strange because I was a straight, conservative man. What is happening to me? I thought but brushed the thought away. What about my wife? I thought but screamed at that thought. I needed those men. ‘Sirs, my daughters are virgins, you can have them and do as you please,’ Lot said, but all of us shouted, ‘No!’ In unison. It was then that I realized that I wasn’t alone in my heat and would have to fight others with my walking stick if necessary. But I was ready. ‘You’re always Judging us Lot. Now bring out those men!’ I screamed.

But then the men did something, and I couldn’t see. I stumbled into the others gathered and they all screamed of blindness. It was black and that terrified me. Soon, I thought of my beautiful wife and I decided to go back home. I ran, slipping, stumbling and falling. I hurt myself and I was naked waist down! I don’t know how I got home but I pounded the door and shouted, ‘Jeanie! Jeanie! Open! It’s me!’

‘What happened?’ she cried and took me in and my sight suddenly returned. ‘That bastard Lot!’ I yelled, but she put a hand on my shoulder and then bandaged me and fetched me new clothes. We then ate kebabs, and chicken biryani with some Kingfisher. And then the fire and brimstone struck.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Onion

This is an abstract painting. I've used it to depict personality and identity because they have myriad layers to them. One can never truly comprehend another person fully.

He was odd, to say the least, and he would walk around hunched, with this peculiar gait that made him look like some wounded war-veteran who limped. He seemed so absorbed with himself, and I often wondered whether thoughts buzzed around inside his over-sized head like flies circling a pile of garbage. He had this effeminate way about him, but his voice was a rich baritone that reminded me of the Euphonium. It still shocks me that he took his own life because nobody really hated him, and some in fact nicknamed him “a man with a thousand reflections,” and wanted to get to know him better, to put together the hundred pieces that made him so unique, so that they could finally get a glimpse of the solved puzzle. Having said that, loneliness isn’t about being alone in a dimly lit room with a back against a wall, smoking a cigarette; it is being surrounded by different unique realities, or a hundred faces – each with their contours, pimples, wrinkles and facial hair (or lack of it) – and still seeing this thick impenetrable fog that threatens. Was he lonely? I don’t know, but then again what do I really know? I’ve lived with my wife for fifty years and even though she’s been so forthcoming, I think I’ve only peeled a few layers of the onion. Every man’s mind is a galaxy in itself, with ideas and constructs orbiting the core that makes him. Sometimes I wonder if he really was that complex, if he was really an instrument like the piano, with its tuning pins, soundboard, keyboard, bridge and case, or if he was just this hollow reed we mistook for a flute. The naïve often have this enigmatic charm about them that makes them so alluring, and makes us see them from all kinds of vantage points, thereby giving us a blurred reality. Maybe it was just us, looking through glasses, or a microscope when we should have seen him plainly for who he really was. Nonetheless, none of it matters now. He sleeps and with him rests an over-analytic mind that calculated the steps he took to reach the college canteen from the classroom, or an introspective one that told him that there was no escaping the frightening hands of fate; or a creative one that made him think that he was like a character out of a fantasy book: grey in every sense, or a simple straight forward one that couldn’t get past some obstacle, and hence caved in.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Glorious Violence

This is an image of a twig of cherry blossoms silhouetted against a black background. The contrast represents mental illness (especially Bipolar Disorder) which is what my post symbolically speaks about.

The Japanese Cherry stands in front of me, shivering and trembling. She shies away from the breeze, and her Cherry Blossoms look like cotton balls soaked in blood. It’s noon, and I hear the crickets. They sound like a man with a slit throat gurgling. The sky is a pale beige, and red birds fly across it reminding me of slashes on a depressed man’s wrist. The sun is dying as the black serpentine tendrils of the night slowly choke him. My eyes are bloodshot with little crimson rivulets running across them, making their way to the dark brown iris, the color of putrefying flesh. I’m unwashed and unclean with a matted beard that looks like a burnt rope. It looks like the remains of a once healthy cord you’ll find underneath the stake after the witch dies – shrieking and screaming; howling and wailing.

A choir of angels dressed in pristine gowns plays its harps and flutes behind me. A chorus soars, and an ethereal melody inundates the place with sweet sopranos, smooth altos, and rich baritones. Fireflies drift into my space, and at that moment I’m whisked away by something inexplicable; something beyond reasoning, and it teleports my senses to a haven outside time and space. The realm between this world and the next splits and showers of mercy fall like gentle rain, caressing my every bruise; healing each scar I’ve gathered over years of fate kicking me in the ribs.

But the feeling quickly evaporates, and I find myself held upside down – fastened by chains to a sturdy branch of the Japanese Cherry – by the same demons, the same imposters, the same charlatans and I feel the blood rushing to my head as quickly as pus leaks out of a broken abscess. The old enemies then place a saw between my legs and slowly cut through ballsack and midsection, and my screams are like soothing lullabies to them, making them nod their heads and cut right through. At that moment I’m the archetypal Kierkegaardian poet. The one who suffers for the pleasure of others.

And then I hear a sweet call from the abyss. A soft minimalistic piece rivaling Richter’s ‘She Remembers.’ A glorious, delicate song. I’m overwhelmed with emotion and forget the torment. The song reminds me of dewy grass and sun-kissed slopes. It reminds me of the cool mountain mist obscuring the ugliness around me like a scabbard conceals its sword. It reminds me of petrichor and its invigorating taste. And my eyes close as the music breathes life into me; stitching my wounds. I look at myself, and I’m in a valley of dry bones, a cadaver myself, but tendons and flesh envelop me, and I’m soon alive and marching to the promised land.

The Japanese Cherry stands withered, and the azure sky symbolizes more things than words can depict. Am I free? Will the old demons never haunt this house again? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but by and by, I’ll win.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Retreating into myself

This is an image of an introspective man. I've used it because my post talks about the Aurelian notion of retreating into oneself. I feel this image captures that.

I toy with the Aurelian notion of retreating into myself, and find it works. I’m by no means a master, and resolve is something that takes years to forge in the fires of an unbending aim with an unbreakable hammer, but I’ve found it changing the little things. And if I can bottle petty fireflies of distracting thought, until their false glow diminishes and then cleanse the jar, then who is to say that bigger emotion cannot be caught too? Anger throbs, irritability pulsates, guilt swirls, and sadness echoes, but it’s ephemeral, and impulse makes a man a beast, but transcending it by withdrawal into oneself despite the situation, scenario, place or time begets a joy or satisfaction which is more than mere catharsis or a transient solution. Going a bit off tangent here, I’ll say that existentialism stripped off its clothing regardless of the positive or negative spectrum that a person who believes in it adheres to, gives us two nude reflections: responsibility and meaning. And losing sight of the first is more catastrophic than the latter. I’m not responsible for the lives of others or the problems of this world, because I don’t adhere to a collective responsibility at an individual level like some nihilism suggests. But yes, I’m responsible for me, my faults, the hurt I’ve caused, the happiness I’ve given, the love I’ve shared, and the person I am: both good and bad. And for me the question of God is now irrelevant. But that’s not saying that my life has no purpose. My meaning changes each day or each hour, and I can either lose it or accomplish it. And when I’m losing it, because of emotion or resignation or circumstance, I retreat into myself, and acknowledge my responsibility, and will my drive. And yes, fate exists, because sometimes unwarranted and unnecessary circumstances place obstacles, but I’ve realized that the key is the present, and looking at those obstacles as challenges I must savor and not burdens I carry, and here again retreating, irrespective of if I’m in a bar, or in my bedroom, or smoking on the balcony, or in a park, or somewhere idyllic helps. And trust me, it isn’t easy, because I often fail. But if I just lay there and didn’t ultimately gain the mastery I need, then I’ve lost both responsibility and meaning.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Being and not-being

This is an image of a grey background. I've chosen it because it symbolizes apathy which is central theme around which my post revolves.

He wakes up at one in the afternoon these days, walks to the dinner table, pops his prescription, nonchalantly, not caring anymore about bubblegum skin, sawed off hair, or bloodshot eyes that itch. Having said that, he does look perfectly fine. His gait is a little knock-kneed, perhaps it’s another side effect or it’s just this self-imposed malnutrition. He picks up his iPod and plays an EP called Re-Traced by Cynic. They’re this progressive rock band with eclectic influences, a little jazzy, a little groovy, with passages that are a little metal sounding and others that are a little mellow. He prefers them to Dream Theater though most will win an argument about which band is better. He doesn’t care about petty squabbles or disputes anymore though. I’m not sure he cares about anything anymore. They say everyone worships something, and it’s often either something materialistic or another person, or themselves, but he begs to differ. Perhaps he worships solitude, or apathy, but then again he stopped giving that thought any room a long time ago. Thoughts often turn into equations that need balancing, or puzzles that need solving, and so he just lets a non-linear sequence of ideas or the lack of them place themselves in those alleys of his mind, now neglected. He walks to the kitchen and uses a sharp knife to cut open a packet of milk. He can’t be bothered about finding the scissors anymore. A bit spills on the floor, which he can’t be bothered cleaning up. He pours the milk into a large glass, pours some coffee into it, mixes it, and goes to his balcony and drinks it while he puffs on a cigarette. Once he’s done, he grabs whichever book he can find and reads at a stretch, losing his identity and sense of self, and then some inner clock makes him go to the shower, strip and let the lukewarm water wash away yesterday’s grime. He does this without concentrating, and then brushes his teeth, which are slightly ashen now. He wears a shirt and a jean and it’s already seven in the evening. He goes to a pub, and dances with a girl who’s very attractive and alluring: her slightly cascading hair, her somewhat lean frame and her top and jean entices him. She gives him his number after a few drinks and he tells her that he’ll call her tomorrow. He keeps his promise and she arrives at his apartment the next day and they make love. She’s great in bed and it’s a treat, and there is a part of her that is attracted to him. Perhaps she wants more than an evening spent together, but he’s too jaded for a relationship or even a fling. He politely shifts the conversation to something else until she leaves a little frustrated. A lot of women are attracted to him, and he doesn’t know why, and can’t really spend time reasoning and figuring out the solution. In this millennial age, they’d probably call it no game-game, but he doesn’t give dating that much thought. He moves from woman to woman, each possessing their unique charm, their unique vibe that he senses, though not thoroughly, and perhaps his disregard for existence makes him an enigma to them. But in the end, he prefers the wall of his bathroom, his cigarette, and his own space and time, which exists both within and outside the clock. Some might call this sort of thing nihilism with a slight bent to degeneracy, but labels don’t define him, and that’s the freedom that divides him from the romance that spills from a screen into life. Even the books he loses himself in don’t really shape him, and that’s the emancipation from syllables, vowels or nouns: the stream of thought that does not run parallel to lines of poetry with meter. He rests now at three in the night, and as he shuts his eye, a sense of closure unlike love, belief or the need to work envelops him. He does work and often changes jobs, but he distances himself from the grit and yet functions just fine. I guess this is a different transcendence without the need for self-actualization. And I don’t judge the man or his lifestyle.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)