Memories

Regina Spektor’s Musical World, the Random Wise Talk and Creativity – Part V

Coverage

In earnest, at random…
[Source – Pixabay]

At random, randomly, in quiet randomness, a wise thought meets the mind, very gently like a leaf aiming for the pond, to talk without pretence and reveal something true – maybe a different not so obvious stand-alone truth among the other established ones – to pass on a message.

This message – shining like a silver lining – may usher you to creativity; towards a painting like van Gogh’s, an algorithm like Newton’s, a discovery like Herschel’s, a poem like Angelou’s, a song like Spektor’s, a choice made by you.

One could very well ignore this message but don’t worry, the message almost without fail knocks again, it reaches out, shinning like a silvery figment you think is weak but is actually feisty, stretching a hand towards you, promising or faking nothing, just there to randomly have a discussion with you and maybe show you your creative side.


See how Regina Spektor creatively turned these random discussions into gold for herself and all of us.

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Listen to Folding Chair before reading further –

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Come and open up your folding chair next to me
My feet are buried in the sand
And there’s a breeze
There’s a shadow
You can’t see my eyes
And the sea is just a wetter version of the skies…

Regina Spektor

Sigh, sigh, sigh… after boarding nine jet flights psychologically and/or emotionally, after abandoning, condemning, loving some of these when you open up your eyes and let out a sigh, you’re slightly a different person.

You then understand yourself a little better and the world a little less for your focal point shifts that too, most of the time, without informing or making news out of it. And you carry on living, sitting on a folding chair.

But there is nothing wrong with it says Regina Spektor and rightly so. That is life, realisations, ignorance, lies and truths, pass like clouds on a breezy day. Sit back and sing the dolphin song as you wait.

Now I’m sitting here alone
Dreaming of the dolphin song

Oo-oo-oo, oo-oo-oo, oo-oo-oo, oo
Oo-oo-oo, oo

Regina Spektor

Listen to Laughing With

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God could be funny
When told he’ll give you money
If you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie
Who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket
And Santa Claus
God could be so hilarious…

Regina Spektor

A believer or non-believer most likely laughs; most likely laughs less at the others and laughs more with the others; most likely believes or believes in not-believing; this makes our lonely planet a colourful place.

So the chances are high that if an alien pays us a visit we will laugh with that alien and bond well. Ha ha ha!


Listen to Bleeding Heart

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How long must I wait till you learn that it’s not too late
How long must I cry till you know that you really tried
How long must I try till you learn that dreaming’s hard
How long must I dream till you heal your bleeding heart
Never mind your bleeding heart

Regina Spektor

Pick up an old family photo album i.e. after you pay a visit to your old house and the old souls inhabiting it, turn the pages and look at how foolish you look, allow the world to swirl, laugh and cry, let your heart bleed, don’t panic, it knows how to heal, no need to doubt the heart.


Listen to Older and Taller

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I remembered you older and taller
But you’re younger and smaller
So who’s gonna call her and say
That you’re here at last?
And all the days, they were longer
And the drinks, they were stronger
The words, we sang wrong
But the songs were remembered
And time just passed…

Regina Spektor

Memories, if, make you falter, then just smile, for that is the job of memories; to confuse, upset and revive you; it is a full-time job, so smile, that is how time passes and if you learn to smile, it passes well.


Bonus song – Raindrops


The tour of Regina Spektor’s musical world ends here, but only on this blog, listen to her music whenever wherever you can. Check out the first song ‘Becoming All Alone’ from her latest album Home, before and after (2022) now.

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 Keep visiting Chiming Stories for more such posts.


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Regina Spektor’s Musical World and the Ephemeral Moments of Joy – Part I

Coverage
Delicate dance anthem…
[Source – Pixabay]

Walking down the street with old heavy memories, frozen and hazy, not bothering for a while and the unknown liveliness of the fresh sounds greeting us from all around – the dripping thaw, the golden sunny warmth, the tiny twittering birds, the ‘oh my god’ honking of a dashing car’s ghost that passes by, the hearty smiles and laughter – we blush with hope teasing us, giving us bright ideas, gleaming as we experience our quiet, still mind-pond.

These ephemeral moments of joy, so true and innocent, are hard to capture, harder to sustain, probably that is what makes it so special for and loved by all.


Regina Spektor, the star singer, songwriter, musician, the starry-eyed star, the star magician, knows how to hold such moments very well. She doesn’t capture it, na-na, she only knits a pretty, sweet and soothing melody and then soaks it into such warm moments, letting the melody take this ephemeral colour.

To this colour, she adds free-play, emotions and her pianist-self and, voila, a Regina Spektor song wave is ready.

Listen to “Ne Me Quitte Pas (Don’t Leave Me)” before reading further –

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…And down on Lexington they’re wearing
New shoes stuck to aging feet
And close their eyes and open
And they’ll recognize the aging street
And think about how things were right
When they were young and veins were tight
And if you are the ghost of Christmas Past
Then wont you stay the night?

Ne Me Quitte Pas, Mon Chere
Ne Me Quitte Pas…

Regina Spektor

She amalgamates it all so well, life’s experiences, cut both ways and so gently she allows herself to smile an honest smile. How beautifully this song captures time and lets it go.

And she loves Paris, especially when it rains there and so do we all (at least the rasiks* do).

Listen now to “Dance Anthem of the 80’s” –

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…I’m walking through the city
Like a drunk, but not
With my slip showing a little
Like a drunk, but not
And I am one of your people
But the cars don’t stop…

Regina Spektor

This is nothing but a memory, cold, harsh, but funny in retrospect; one that glares until you glare back at it, acceptingly. And Regina Spektor handles this mixed emotion so peacefully and at the same very eagerly, probably eager for it to evolve.


Also, listen to the live performance of “Dance Anthem of the 80’s”, how sweetly she thanks her audience.

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Here, at Chiming Stories, the blogger will be covering Regina Spektor’s musical world in the coming posts, trying to live and relish her songs in your company, so dear readers ‘ne me quitte pas mon chere’ (don’t leave me, my dear).


*A rasik, in Hindi language, is a passionate and thoughtful being.


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Spirited Away and the Art of Forgetfulness

Film Analysis

Chihiro, Sen; Spirited Away official poster.
[©StudioGhibli; Source – IMDB]

Chihiro – My goodbye card’s still here. Chi-hi-ro… Chihiro, that is my name, isn’t it?

Haku – That is how Yubaba controls you, by stealing your name… so hold on to that card, keep it hidden and while you are here, you must call yourself Sen.

Chihiro – I can’t believe I forgot my name. She almost took it from me.

Haku – If you completely forget it, you will never find your way home… I have tried everything to remember mine.

Chihiro – You can’t remember your real name?

Haku – No, but for some reason, I remember yours.

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Those forgotten names, memories, thoughts, bemused glances, talks, ear-to-ear cheers, that sweet-warm feeling of forgetfulness and the forgotten tales complete us in the truest sense. Our best friends, these forgotten episodes, always stay with us, kindling our being with love. Absurd if seen with open eyes, pleasant when seen with eyes closed, our forgotten selves are immortal. And surprisingly these bond us strongly as a community.

A warm feeling of forgetfulness slips away and enters this community hoping to meet us one day. Just remember… remember if you want to meet such a feeling, it will come and surprise you.

Forgetfulness, a boon or a curse, every individual experiences it differently. One of such mystical experiences captured is titled Spirited Away, in a Japanese anime style by the incredible writer, animator, director Hayao Miyazaki.

Chihiro and Sen’s Spiriting Away is the literal translation of the Japanese title of this film. But how can a 10-year-old girl experience the “spiriting away” twice? Maybe it can be done by forgetting and accepting.


Storytelling & the Art of Forgetfulness

The journey beings.
[©StudioGhibli; Source – screenrant.com]

Folklores and myths, since ‘eternity’, have used the art of forgetfulness to complicate the hero’s journey and to open a gate to a unique never-heard-of-yet-familiar world; an enchanted world with flying mountains, a lotus island with tempting, misleading heavens, a charlatan with a devious plan, a monster masquerading and a memory trick that evades reality.

What is the art of forgetfulness? Surely something very delicate, absurd and too hard to explain. That we forget both good and bad days and yet remember it all when the need arises, that everything is stored in our subconscious and we forget what we must, to evolve, we forget and make mistakes and grow and bring a change… this is such an ephemeral art, and nonetheless, we have mastered it.

In stories, forgetfulness raises the stakes for a hero that it becomes a matter of life and death, bringing a drastic transformation.

Chihiro almost forgets her real name when working for Yubaba at the Bathhouse, Chihiro becomes Sen, but this helps her to be in the moment and give her best when trapped in the spirits’ world. She is worried for her parents who have turned into pigs and her goal is to rescue them and return back, but as if cut-off from her past, she works in the Bathhouse as an employee, searching for answers, helping Haku and others, living like her true self, making decisions without her parents’ guidance.

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Chihiro’s bouquet and a goodbye card.
[©StudioGhibli; Source – IMDB]

A very thin thread connects her with the real world, she holds on to it without sorrow or regret and moves ahead anticipating nothing, accepting every new surprise.

What Chihiro doesn’t remember about herself, we do and this information gives us an upper hand, we stick to it galloping blindly, trusting her at every step, waiting carefully for a breakthrough. The storyteller uses the art of forgetfulness to build a strong bond between the audience and the character via a short fabulous episode.

And so if someone asks, “why doesn’t Chihiro simply runs back to where she comes from or why doesn’t she take Haku’s help to escape”, we leap forward to answer, “because she cannot leave her parents behind and because Haku is Yubaba’s slave.” We know Chihiro only too well because we know something of great importance that she now doesn’t remember.


Thousand Questions

A purpose to fulfil.
[©StudioGhibli; Source – IMDB]

The Japanese ‘Chi’, when translated in English, means thousand and ‘hiro’ means to question or search. When Yubaba hires Chihiro, she steals her name, her identity, trying to trap her in the spirit world forever.

Your name is something that defines you throughout your life and Chihiro, having lost her name in the spirit world starts to forget about the living world. So she will effectively forget everything about her life of the living, who she was, her parents and basically everything she ever knew.

– Hayao Miyazaki

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Chihiro survives, she tackles and finds the untapped power source within, like the leaves of grass she holds her ground and even without a clear picture of herself and her name, she lives by it; she questions and searches without knowing concretely what she is looking for. She simply doesn’t give up and continuously reminds herself that she has forgotten something.

Initially hoping the spirit world to be nothing but a dream, later Chihiro accepts it without any qualm. Why? Because she is Chihiro, the one with abundance, thousands of questions, she is someone who has plenty of tricks up her sleeve, moves on freely, whose imagination is still alive, just like any other little 10 year old.

Adults, routinely signing their names on several documents well aware of its meaning, forget to live by it. Often begrudgingly they accept the plain perspective, effacing a possibility, forgetting their search, abandoning it altogether.


Haku, the Dragon

The old friend.
[©StudioGhibli; Source – mentalfloss.com]

Haku, the spirit of river Kohaku, serves Yubaba as she stole his real name “Nigihayami Kohaku Nushi”. He remembers nothing but the fact that he had met Chihiro when she was very little. He recognises her and helps her from the beginning, expecting nothing in return. Chihiro saves Haku from Yubaba’s cursed spells and liberates him in the end as a sweet warm memory returns to her. As a little child she had almost drowned in a river, but survived mysteriously; the name of the river, she tells Haku, was Kohaku. Immediately Yubaba’s spell breaks and Haku’s memories return to him.

A forgotten childhood memory, an upsetting one that must have left everyone (related to Chihiro) troubled, beautifully turns into a magical key setting a soul, a dragon soul free.

And in flashes when we see those episodes, those hazy childhood memories – good, bad – we realise how it has shaped us, how far we have come and how its randomness is actually a puzzle piece.

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A happy promise.
[©StudioGhibli; Source – IMDB]

Chihiro and Haku’s friendship represents the fragrant spirit of the romantic era (late 18th century); an era (especially Europe) that through its artists shifted towards a more imaginative and free life, valuing the sublime thought and expression, living more passionately, revolting against classicism and Yubaba like overwhelming Industrial Revolution.

Valuing freedom, both Chihiro and Haku, take risks to win it back, to win it back for each other. In a short span, they bond strongly, like one does with an old memory, not burdening their steps with the idea of remembrance, but only sealing their love with a promise to meet again. That is how they part ways.


Yubaba and Zeniba

Yubaba, a professional.
[©StudioGhibli; Source – myanimelist.com]

Two twins, one evil the other caring, Yubaba and Zeniba, act like a see-saw on which the story plays (and plays so well). Yubaba is not a dark character nor is Zeniba a saint; Yubaba is greedy, cunning and at times silly, silly enough to be tricked.

She may thunder when on a hunt or when managing the Bathhouse employees, but she becomes a tip-toeing mother of a giant baby (Boh), ready to do anything for him. She has flaws and this makes her a doubly interesting antagonist.

Zeniba, a kind-hearted smart witch, recognises Chihiro’s bravery and admires her amiable nature. Her presence assures Chihiro that Yubaba too is vulnerable. She supports Chihiro but not by snapping her fingers and resolving everything, rather by trusting her spirit and asking her to trust it too.

Zeniba – I am sorry she turned your parents into pigs, but there is nothing that I can do. It is just the way things are… You will have to help your parents and Haku on your own. Use what you remember about them.

Chihiro – What, can’t you please give me more of a hint than that…? I feel I have met Haku before but it was a long time ago.

Zeniba – That is a good start. Once you have met someone, you never really forget them, it just takes a while for your memories to return.

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Granny Zeniba.
[©StudioGhibli; Source – myanimelist.com]

Zeniba asks Chihiro to call her granny when at her place and later, Chihiro before leaving the Bathhouse thanks Yubaba and calls her granny too (leaving her annoyed). Things turn out to be in Chihiro’s favour by the end, as her memories return, she keeps no hard feelings against anyone, not even the antagonist.

Chihiro forgives and forgets easily, like children usually do, freeing her own spirit, feeling its happy push towards the next destination.


The Bathhouse

“And heave… everyone… together, heave!”
[©StudioGhibli; Source – filmofile]

Purgation, the holy ritual of cleansing oneself of the sins committed, is one ceremony that is celebrated in many religions worldwide. The Great Bath of Mahenjo-daro, built in the 3rd millennium BCE, had a special religious function for the Indus Valley civilisation according to the scholars.

The unrecognisable “stink spirit” who is Chihiro’s first customer is the spirit of a polluted river. She and her partner Len, Yubaba and all the employees at the Bathhouse work together to cleanse it; the free and happy river spirit, in the end, floats away, giving Chihiro a gift (a herbal cake) that she uses later on to heal Haku’s fatal wound. The purged river spirit also, like a mirror, shows Chihiro her forgotten memory, just a sneak peek of the incident when she had fallen in Kahaku River as a little girl – of how she and Haku first met.

Forgetfulness is not an answer, it is a stage, a brief mental stasis, that gives you a momentary way out or presents you with a leeway so that you can start your journey again.

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Time to work and win the challenge.
[©StudioGhibli; Source – SHL.com]

The Bathhouse here represents a place where you can not only clean your spirit but also free it by remembering all that you have forgotten, ignored, absorbed, quietly accepted, helplessly agreed with. The bright and active Bathhouse, run by Yubaba, is strictly professional, always focusing on the guests need.

Amongst Yubaba’s employees busy running the business, elevators moving up and down, workers keeping the baths clean and the floor shiny, the spirits find peace; in all this loud drama, the spirits manage to find a way out, they cross the maze and pay the company for allowing them to play.

A contradiction for Yubaba steals names, removing an individual’s memory and the baths tend to remind a guest of her unique forgotten identity, the Bathhouse tirelessly functions to unite the community. Together and yet alone we all move forward towards the unexpected future.


The Spirits and Yubaba’s Employees

“Welcome to the Bathhouse, dear rich guest!”
[©StudioGhibli; Source – myanimelist.com]

In my grandparents’ time, it was believed that kami (spirits) existed everywhere – in trees, rivers, insects, wells, anything. My generation does not believe this, but I like the idea that we should all treasure everything because spirits might exist there, and we should treasure everything because there is a kind of life to everything.

– Hayao Miyazaki

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The animal, plant, river and other spirits, and the little dark soot-ball spirits, bring in, ironically, the element of permanence in the story. These forgotten souls never pause, they steadily keep acting, dutifully participating in the after-life drama.

The radish spirit’s gaze, the old river spirit’s thank you gift, the soot-ball spirits’ liveliness all help in solidifying the backdrop; it appears then that Chihiro has entered an ancient mythical land, where everyone has a job to do. That it is not a vague dream but a wonderful possibility. And the same goes for the weird looking frog-like men and women.

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Chi-hi-ro! Bye-bye!
[©StudioGhibli; Source – IMDB]

Every spirit and employee gathers near the Bathhouse’s entrance where Yubaba quizzes Chihiro about her parents at the end, when Chihiro wins, the spirits jump up and sway joyously. We don’t meet them once Chihiro leaves, but one feels that they must have gone back to work immediately.


No Face

Journey within a journey.
[©StudioGhibli; Source – screenrant.com]

A spirit that has no memory, no goal, waits in stillness and clings on to the first hope it gets, a hope to create new memories, to set a new goal. This is No Face, a very interesting grey character; vulnerable for it is clueless, dangerous for it has limitless powers.

When Chihiro, out of generosity, keeps a sliding door open for him to enter as it is raining outside, No Face quietly enters the Bathhouse with the sole purpose to help Chihiro; very soon it becomes greedy to fulfil this purpose – first by offering Chihiro too many herbal soap tokens and then by showering gold. No Face, hungry and out of control, starts swallowing the workers and creates havoc in the Bathhouse. Chihiro then feeds him half of the herbal cake gifted by the revived old river spirit, bringing No Face back to normal; it regurgitates all that he had swallowed.

This quiet, puzzled spirit then accompanies Chihiro on her train journey to Zeniba and later, agrees to stay back and help Zeniba.

How superbly then No Face’s journey points at the significance of memories and a purpose in life! And what an apt name it has got… No Face… purposeless, faceless, one without an identity.


Kamaji & Lin

The catalysts.
[©StudioGhibli; Source – myanimelist.com]

The spider-like six-armed, goggled eyed boiler man, Kamaji, is a character who never forgets, even if he does, he hasn’t got the time to remember what and when, because he singlehandedly runs the water-supply system in the Bathhouse, he and his little soot-ball spirits. Kind-hearted, but always occupied, wise, but always busy, Kamaji’s six arms, which can stretch indefinitely, also find it difficult for such is his workload.

Another character who hasn’t got the time to forget things is Lin; a human-like servant who is not less than an informant as she knows everything about everything. Interestingly, according to the Japanese picture book, The Art of Spirited Away, Lin is described as the spirit of a white tiger, she surely is like a free-spirited soul, rushing, resourceful and undaunted.

It is with Kamaji and Lin’s help that Chihiro survives her time at the Bathhouse; they are the ones who make Chihiro see the spirit world’s reality, suggesting her to adjust immediately and act quickly. And this is what Chihiro needed the most, to keep her forgotten memories aside and build some new ones for her own good. Action always leads to progression; it is the answer to Chihiro’s thousand questions.


Chihiro’s Parents

“More, more, more!”
[©StudioGhibli; Source –myanimelist.com]

Before Yubaba could steal Chihiro’s name and her identity, we get to meet her parents who are two lost beings, unaware of their true identity. Living on the borderline, they act superficially smart on a routine basis but get greedily excited on seeing something that they love – food (or whatever is free).

As they are hardly in touch with their inner voice, with every passing year they have learned the ways of the consumerist society, they are the first ones to forget the reality, leaving their kid with the responsibility to liberate them.

We are not supposed to hate Chihiro’s parents, they may be lost, stubborn, calculative, but they too can find their way back, all they have to do is remember what they have forgotten about themselves.

The fact that their greediness leads to Chihiro going forward all by herself doesn’t appear to be a stereotypical writing tactic because they immediately raise the stakes for the protagonist by turning into pigs. What if they are butchered, what if they can never return back to their human selves? Will Chihiro be able to save them?

These tense queries leave us with no time to wonder about any cliché, we are hooked to witness the unfolding of the uncanny drama. We forget the rest.


The Setting

The vast stretch of grassland, the well-lit restaurant market, the flooded river with big bright carrier ships, the Bathhouse building and rooms, the staircases, the pigsty, Kamaji’s boiler room, Chihiro’s dormitory, the witches’ dwelling, the railway track under the ocean and the dainty cloudy blue sky… the film’s setting contributes richly in making us feel the Chihiro’s “spiriting away”.

It is unique and dreamy, it is intense and crowded, scenic and sublime, wonderful and ridiculous and more… the setting makes the story believable and palpable in a brilliant way. It is a place we have never been, yet is remarkably familiar… like a forgotten memory.

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The spirit realm.
[©StudioGhibli; Source – ghibli.fandom.com]

‘Spirited Away’ is one of the most loved and successful anime of all time; a bundle of magical moments and surprises, tussles and raptures, it connects with our inner child, one who believed in dreams and magic and talismans…

It reminds the forgetful ones that they too can find a way out of the crudeness that ties them down, that the answer to their thousand questions and their endless search lies within, hidden in a forgotten memory.


Spirited Away (2001)

Written and Directed by – Hayao Miyazaki

Production Company – Studio Ghibli

Music by – Joe Hisaishi

Winner of Academy Award for Best Animated Feature (making it the only hand-drawn, non-English-language animated film to win the award); it was also named the second “Best Film… of the 21st Century So Far” by The New York Times.

It held the record of becoming the most successful and highest-grossing film in Japanese history for 19 years (Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train broke its record in 2020.)


Read these reviews to know more about Spirited Away

A magical dot over in the corner – Spirited Away movie review and summary by Roger Ebert

Spirited Away‘ at 20 – Review


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Another Moment

Spirituality

What this moment has to say is the truth…
Image from Pixabay.

In this moment, I am a little bit of this and a little bit of that, I am complete and incomplete, I am pleased and uncertain, I wish for nothing and I know I have to wait.  

Because the distance covered reminds me of the hurdles I have crossed and the ones I could not, it reminds me of a throbbing past and a dreamy future and it reminds me of how much time is left.

Riddling the riddle, puzzling the puzzle, I walk ahead.  

The memories made, the dreams fulfilled and the forgotten ones merge to make me smile, to make me cry. The voices locked in the chamber of my heart can sing, it can make me time travel.  

The visions are laced with hopes and surprises and successes and miracles… is it not magical enough?

Promises are magical too, especially if fulfilled.  

And in this moment, I wonder how did it begin, how will it end, how much have I understood and how much have I measured, how to define and how to let go.

What this moment has to say is the truth… the truth that quietly then slips away into another moment.

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A Simple Prism

Colour blast within!
[Image by kitti851 from Pixabay]

Conversations and time

Old ones like wine

That which is far

Or locked in a jar

Called by memories

And sifting through the debris

Through patient hands

Holding back and

Letting go in a rhythm

Like a simple prism

That knows its colours

Always leave me coloured…

And I walk ahead

With a better vision.

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Crane on Turtle Candlestick Holder

Flash Fiction
“We are old friends.”
“Hai-hai!”

[Japanese vintage candlestick; source – ebay]

Our blacksmith picked up the mould and studied it. His expressions were not discernible, but the sweat on his forehead highlighted his precision as he poured the molten metal into the mould.

Whilst he worked, many frames, metal shapes – some contorted, some flamboyant – stared at him, acknowledging and appreciating in utter silence.

Our blacksmith, on his way back home, saw a little kid who was standing against a wall along with his friend, wasting time, living.

That little kid whispered something to his friend and they both started following our blacksmith, copying his gait.

A silly game, a random thought, a reason to smile.


Dear reader what does time say?

Time says it is next day.


Every frame, every metal shape was eagerly waiting for our blacksmith. Roller shutter made its habitual noise and our blacksmith entered his workshop, and along with him came his two buddies, those two kids we saw earlier.

Quickly they went and stood next to his grand table, jumping with excitement.

Our blacksmith finally showed them what was now ready in the mould – it was a crane on turtle candlestick holder.

The two kids laughed and so did our blacksmith. He said the crane and the turtle were friends and the kids inquired if he had seen something like that in real.

Our blacksmith nodded and said that when he was their age he went with his father to a lake side and saw a crane standing on a turtle’s back.

Childhood memories capture time that never fades.


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Etching It

Poem
Landscape under Trees, etching by Paula Modersohn-Becker, c. 1902
Faded and alive
 
Like an honest illusion
Memories carrying weight
Equal to a feather’s
Delight. Happiness aloud
Heard in the background
Match the dreams
Flying hard, a scheme
Or a plan
To reach the end
Drifting and walking
Singing, not just talking

 

Open your eyes

 

See, smile and rise.

 

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The Better Way

Flash Fiction
Neatly folded and settled.
[Source – Pixabay]

Kavya was searching for a book to read, only to pass that foggy evening. She was in her grandma’s house for vacation. Nothing but memories was left of her grandparents. A faint image entered her mind every time she thought of them- she is sitting beside them and her grandma is reading a book, they are on the balcony, soon she falls asleep, nevertheless feels the warmth because of their presence.

She was young now and restless. An idea came to her, she imagined herself sitting the way her grandma was sitting and reading, she felt that if she copied it she would get some of the serenity that her grandma had on her face. Strangely, Kavya could now see wholeness and contentment in her grandma’s eyes; calmness on her face; as if she is telling everyone to have faith…to believe; even the old monotone photographs of her grandma spoke the same whenever Kavya looked at them.

Finally, she picked a book and went outside on the balcony. Pulling a chair towards her she sat on it. She sighed…what for…she had no clue herself. Was it something in her life or was she simply missing her grandma? Maybe she sighed because we sometimes do, without knowing that we did.

There were two more pages to finish the first chapter, checked Kavya. She always did so. Kavya didn’t count herself in the category of the fervent readers, but among those who read because others read, because books are there to read and because they know reading is a good habit. There is nothing wrong with being in this category; it is just that you lag in one or the other way.

Trying to sit in a comfortable position Kavya got up and dragged the chair but while doing so she dropped the book. The book was old and some pages peeped out as soon as it hit the floor. ‘Oh!’ said Kavya. They say what happens, happens for the good. While placing the pages properly she found a folded piece of paper. Curiosity made her eyes big. She opened it; her grandma’s handwriting spoke to her. The words were few. It said ‘Just smile…it is the better way’ and under it were her grandma’s initials.

How quickly can things change, how strangely can people change, how fast the light passes in the darkness, right? Kavya couldn’t believe that she was suddenly full of happiness; spirited to do anything. She looked at the piece of paper once again and said, ‘Thank you grandma…thank you so much.’ She got up and left the balcony.

Indeed, Kavya didn’t finish that book but then she had something else to complete. The old book is back on the shelf but the message is with Kavya, which will stay with her forever.


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The Zine List

Playing the pond and the leaf game.
[Image from Pixabay]

·         I prefer ink pens if I have an option and I strongly feel that the white paper thinks the same. The smoothness with which it works makes bad handwriting elegant, adding to it an old-world charm.

·         ‘Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone…’ this song is stuck in my head. I cannot put pen to paper when my mind is out for a stroll somewhere in a far land.

·         I think I know what will be the name of the main character in my story. I will call him Shakespeare. What a wonderful name for a tree. This will be so as the other character Tim, a kid, who after reading a story in his English class written by William Shakespeare is captivated by the music of the surname and decides to name the Tree, Shakespeare. The Tree, Tim’s best friend, will be a large, leafy and shady tree.
It looks quite okay so far. I hope I’ll complete the story in time.

·         I love to come on this hilltop. What a calm place this is. My eyes can see greenery everywhere, with a shade of blue, as if these are God’s favourite colours. And the birds fly here and there as if they are the paintbrush. I think I will be able to pour my heart into my writing, in such a beautiful place.
God bless the person who thought of putting a bench in this place.
Oops! Please teach manners to some idiots who enjoy putting chewing gums on the benches. Hah!

·         The story is moving at a good pace. I feel both, Tim and Shakespeare the Tree, are looking strong. But if I am to consider what my teacher said, dealing with an experimental plot like mine could result in a lame tale. Nevertheless, I am going to stick with what I have thought of. Do we have the liberty to express ourselves or not? So what if one enjoys writing absurd stories?

·         Well, I haven’t written much for a long time. My lovely ink pen looks dry lying on the table by the notebook. I wonder what the ink pen is thinking. Maybe it is waiting to pour fresh ink on the paper and make cursive designs. Maybe it dies when one is not using it and when used, it comes back to life.
I can’t forget that scene when Ella trying to fill the ink pen, somehow managed to spill the inkpot all over, staining her new dress. She shouted at me because the ink pen was mine and blamed me for the disaster. I didn’t reply because I was busy laughing and cleaning the site of the accident.

*

Ella and me. {I am the one who is busy reading about insects, Ella is chilling.}
[Image from Pixabay]

·         The highlight of my story will be the interesting conversations between Tim and Shakespeare the Tree. Tim will be a sensitive boy, who notices and relishes each and every movement of the Tree- the dance of every single leaf and every branch, the falling of all the old leaves, the ants walking non-stop on the Tree, sometimes tickling the Tree and the habit of the Tree to make the leaf always fall in the pool of water. Shakespeare the Tree will be like its name- grand and simple, mysterious, life-giving and a great actor. An actor who knows its role very well and performs it perfectly with such swiftness that it looks dynamically static.

·         It is raining today and Ella doesn’t like it. We cancelled our plan. Ella messaged me ‘rainfall… not happening yaar’ and I agreed, though I didn’t in reality. I like the rainy season; the dominant sound of rain splashing everywhere; watching the birds trying to hide; the dripping roof; and the hot coffee.
Thanks to the rain, I’ll add a chapter about it in my story. A sequence about how Tim rushes to save himself from the heavy shower and finds Shakespeare the Tree as his rescuer…but not like a cliche, it should represent the bond between the two friends.

[After a few days.]

·         I am excited because tomorrow I’ll present a sneak peek of my story in the class. And so will the other participants. I’ll have to make the opening sound both reasonable and authentic. I think I’ll be able to sustain the interest of all those who will hear me out. I’ll end the summary in verse.

Tonight the moon looks quite talkative or maybe I can hear more.


The Moon: Do you know about my friend Cactus? He lives in a desert.
Me: How calm one gets just by looking at you.
The Moon: You talk like my friend Cactus. He said he enjoys my calm white rays.
Me: What is that you want to say dear Moon?
The Moon: A lot. It’s quite lonely up here sometimes, you know. I’ll tell you about my other friend, he is a sailor. But later sometime, for now, I wish you a sweet night.
Me: Talk to you soon. I am feeling sleepy. Good night!             

·         I got an average response in the class. It is so that people like straightforward love stories and adventure tales more than any experimental tale like that of a friendship between a boy and a tree. Well, this will not stop me from continuing. I asked my ink pen and he said nothing. Instead, he was ready to write. So was I.

·         Tim can’t be a single child or an adopted child or mentally challenged or troubled at school or anything weird and obvious. Tim should be normal and a happy go lucky child. I want him to be one of us, whose innocent mind bonds with a tree. I think I’ll make him a hostler and his school will be in a beautiful hill station. This sounds familiar but I have to start with this basic idea. Because later in the story I’ll have to deal with lots of How’s and Where’s etc.

·         Shakespeare the Tree will be an Oak tree and I was always clear about this; a big tree with canopy branches and spiral leaves. Like all the trees, this one too will be warm and welcoming. I feel we all have been friends with a tree or will be in future. Not a single tree in the world needs the help of words to express itself. Their aura is such that if we get close to them we immediately sense the connection. This is what I and Tim believe.

·         Ella disagrees. I never want to fight with my best friend but we sometimes upset each other a lot. Like yesterday she said that the story is too “something” and when I asked her to describe exactly what this “something” is, she said it is risky to write such out of place stories. We are not talking, for now.

·         After two days she messaged me sorry. I did the same. We are back.

[The girl writes a lot about herself and her thoughts.]

·         I am irritated. What was Ma’am thinking when she asked us to empty our minds and hearts and see how the zine list helps us?

[Crux of the story.]

·         Tim and Shakespeare the Tree: it is about a blessed friendship between Tim, a 5th standard kid and an oak tree, who is named Shakespeare the Tree by Tim. He names him so because he is impressed by the grandeur of William Shakespeare when his English teacher talks about the legend in the class. Tim wishes to call the magnificent Tree by a magnificent name. He visits the Tree daily and enjoys talking with the Tree. Tim is astounded by the fact that the Tree offers so much to the surrounding. He decides to be like his friend Shakespeare the Tree when he grows up, to be as helpful as the Tree is. Without giving a thought about the future, he delightfully gets close to the Tree.

*

Tim…happy in the jungle.
[Image from Pixabay]

[She is ready.]

·         Tomorrow morning I’ll submit the story. Fingers crossed!

[Before throwing the writing pad away she writes.]

·         My teacher announced the name of the story that was selected for the competition. It wasn’t mine. Ella cheered me up and we went shopping. She asked me not to take it seriously. I told her that I am fine. We both knew I lied.


[No one told Time that it can stop and rest. And so, the life of the girl who wrote the zine list went on. She became a teacher and her dream to be a writer didn’t come true… life wasn’t the way she had imagined. Ella is still her friend but they are not in touch. Ella is married and lives in a foreign country. That girl is now a lady, who works to earn, to survive.

She is presently in her class. She is talking about writing competition. She encourages all her students to participate. Students burst with questions but she is lost. For a second she enters a reverie. She comes back and asks the class to make a zine list related to their stories. It helps she adds.


She reaches home and drinks tea. She knew she’ll not be at rest until she finds her zine list. She rummages all the racks. She finds it and unfolds it. The thin writing pad was old but half of the pages were blank… half filled.  She reads through the zine list. Then she picks up her pen and writes.]

*

Dry ink, dry words, fresh memories.
[Image from Pixabay]



  ·         I am writing with a ball pen. It doesn’t matter much. All you need is words.

[She rubs her wet eyes.]

·         I am glad that my teacher didn’t choose my story, it wasn’t well-written. My story was too sunny and happy. The title for instance Tim and Shakespeare the Tree…what was I thinking? And the chitchat between little Tim and the Tree…everything was like a dream, it was out of place.

[She looks outside the window.]

·         Life is such a shrewd player that you are bound to lose. I have not lost. I avoid participating. But I’ll write a fair ending to this story here. And let me give a fair opening to it as well. The writer in me is back. Funny me!

·         Tim walked into the jungle. As soon as the voice of all the other campers was absorbed by the colossal forest, he thought of returning. He felt the hushes piercing. He was scared but soon the natural noise sunk in him. He took a deep breath and felt alive. He didn’t realize when the serene madness of the jungle entered within him and brought him in front of a giant oak tree. It was godly. Tim felt as if the branches of the Tree were ready to give him a tight hug. Seeing the gigantic structure Tim took a step back. But in a few minutes, he got hypnotized and sat near the Tree, adoring it and letting it seep inside him. He knew somehow that the Tree was waiting for him for a long time. He had a feeling that he was meeting a very old, dear friend. Tim was staring hard. Then he looked around. Nearby, a stream was playing a sweet melody and Tim started humming. Nature is always at its best. Always perfect. Receiving everyone with an everlasting, undying warmth. Tim didn’t realize it, but soon he fell asleep. The smile on his face made it evident that he was at peace.  

[A sigh!]

·         Why am I not Tim? Why have I never tried to meet my old, dear friend? Life can be so mean if you don’t appreciate it. I find myself empty.  

[She stops writing and looks outside the window again.]

·         I hope the idea of making a zine list will help my students. It’s a crazy class. Boys are busy fighting and shouting and girls love giggling excitedly. I love all of them. And those two girls, they are always together, I have noticed their Best Friend Forever bands.  

[Another Sigh! She adds.]

·         “Tim and Shakespeare the Tree” remains my favourite.    

*

Shakespeare in autumn.
[Image from Pixabay]

                                                                                 

Weekly Newsletter

A weekly dose of stories! Get the posts from the Chiming Stories in your inbox and read it when you can. Subscribe now, it is free!


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