Friday, January 31, 2014

The Holy Ghost...

As a child we all have imaginary friends. I too had and quite a few in number. There were Indu and Rudra. They were mature, adult couples, I was inspired from movies and TV shows I watched along with the grown ups. Without much understanding why every movie circled around a male and a female protagonist, I quite assumed that was the standard. All the things I was not allowed as a child, like stepping out of the door alone, arguing back to an uncle or aunt—Indu and Rudra would in their mature, adult way talk to each other or the people in their imaginary world on my behalf, to make my point clear.

The other imaginary friend I had was God. I threatened him, lured him, bribed him and even held grudges for long saying, “I will not talk to you ever.” And God would then plead for days and I would agree to forgive him this one last time.

But with these friends, my relationships were clear. The one that I was not clear with was a ghost that would often come, meet me, reveal to me and then by the time I opened my eyes to see its form, it would just disappear. 

It originated in the days of my leisure, back when I was a child, when I sat with my drawing book scribbling and making drawings of whatever came to my mind. I am saying this, so that next time you see a child engrossed in scribbling in his drawing book, you do not go and disturb with your boring  “who you love more, mom or dad” talk… or when ignored bluntly, you don’t come home and gossip to others about an unfriendly child.  To understand why, you have to keep reading this post, as it is a serious matter. Only much later I became an adult, I realized not every one knows about this ghost that comes, and it is therefore necessary to clarify its nature.

After I learnt to spell, read and write, I then picked up to write poems and as I sat to write, the ghost visited me there--the same ghost I had met earlier. The more I wrote, the more often it would come. It so surprises me now, that in every occasion it would so naturally come to me, wake me up in the middle of the night or an afternoon nap and because I was a child, nobody would question my madness of disappearing suddenly into the corner of a terrace where no one could find. 

It would then very slowly come. Imagine taking a handful of ash and throwing it up towards the sky, now image those bits come down with the least of gravity s-l-o-w---l-y and cover you in a layer. You are black…unable to see yourself, unable to see the world. And then when you have properly prepared its arrival cutting yourself off from every existing thought, the ghost would come. You have to be patient to allow it to settle down, wait enough for it to sit properly so that you can go behind it and latch the door to prevent it from escaping easily when it wants. And then it would wrap its shawl around its shoulder and close its eyes… while you are ready with your pencil and paper to jot down whatever he utters. 

He would then speak and he speaks very fast. If you have a blunt pencil and want to sharpen in between, it might just get up and leave through the door, fly away and disappear.

Once when I was in a village in an aunt’s house, it came to me in the middle of the night. I found no paper around and some banana leaves thrown around on the mud floor and twigs here and there. I actually like a stone-age girl picked those up and scribbled as the ghost dictated its verse. 

In the morning, my uncles, aunts and cousins found it lying beside the bed while I slept in peace after beading farewell to the ghost that night. They laughed, made fun of me and said they had paper and pen in their closet and I could now take it from there and write after my breakfast. 

That’s what they wouldn’t understand. It cannot just come whenever you want… when you have eaten your food, combed your hair, properly sat in the chair and took your best diary out with properly sharpened pencil or the fragrant eraser…

I then realized, I have to alone bear the responsibility of the ghost and discussed this with no friend, no relative, no best pal. 

My hindrances increased as I started growing up. My favorite classes of course were language and art. When I was in the middle of writing an essay or completing the drawing, the bell would go on, the teacher would say, “Ok. So, we continue in the next class”. The ghost would suddenly out of its shock burst out of the door and squeal and run. It does not like being dishonored. 

Later on, one more problem got added to that--the responsibility of friends and social pressure. Your friend would want to hang out, come and talk to you when the ghost is already there. You cannot really explain his presence to them and would make excuses that would be misinterpreted later. 

So, as a solution, I stayed away from close friends who you are emotionally responsible for and focused more on having “friends in general” who you can as you please go on or off. 

And it is so much more difficult to keep your ghost visiting after you are an adult. You can no more choose not to reply to someone and just take your face away and get back to your ghost-affair, you can no more use your “I don’t feel like” excuse for anyone. Being responsible to prove your sanity constantly to the world has a huge toll you have to pay for.  When you are clearly being rude to keep a person away when the ghost is with you, you can in no words explain why that is not rudeness from your heart. 

And this is why most children when they grow up give up the ghost they once had. Because in an adult world, when the clock strikes, you have to switch to your next work, you have to struggle and struggle hard to be like everyone else least your sanity is questioned of, you can no more disappear into that corner of the terrace without having a proper, logical explanation. You can not, to avoid being rude to anyone, go to an isolated place outdoor because of course, as a woman, if you are raped there “asking for it” what would you explain to the world. 

I am not sure if everyone in creative field meets that ghost for their every task, I have not asked anyone. May be there are artists who can independently, all by themselves do their work and I am glad they are better off. And I am not sure if it is necessary for your work to be a masterpiece if he comes, and a regular work if he does not. Hence I am not at all trying to say I am a budding genius. 

But since I have been chosen for it to haunt and have dealt with it from my childhood till now, I can explain it with my words. Next time you see a child quietly engaged in an activity and after you came near, he still does not want to buzz, please leave him alone and don’t pressurize to talk. When he is done dealing with the ghost and you have proven mature enough to understand, he will on his own come and show what the ghost had whispered. 

Next time you meet a student in the class who in the lunch break is not running around and sitting isolated in his own pleasure, please don’t go and advise him to be an extrovert.

Next time you see an adult a bit weird, talking of being in mood in this very practical world, making silly excuses to avoid something so fun, talks normally often and then suddenly switches off, do not go and suggest him the happy things in life. He might just be dealing with his ghost and imagine if he has gone through so much through his life, just to keep that ghost alive, what beyond happy, surreal source of experience that must have already been for him to keep everything aside.


Tarun Sachdeva said...

First of all a very nice written piece Aparajita. Though I was expecting something spicy after reading the title. :P
Now as the young child is immature and the 'ghost' is his/her manifestation so it is also bound to lack the adult knowledge irrespective of being influenced from adult characters as in your case. Besides as you mentioned, it might not be a case with every introvert person such as I. But probably it is a thing of creative persons only. So I think every such case should be handled subjectively and one shouldn't just let an introvert child spending all the time with his/her ghost. #AnOutsiderView

Shreyas said...

Reminded me of this talk by Elizabeth Gilbert on "creative genius"

Miriam said...

Aparajita! I love this piece, beautifully written. I was also the child who would sit aside and speak to my imaginary friends and write, while the adults would scold me for not socialising.

Have you ever read "Emily of New Moon?" It was one of my favourite books growing up, and Emily, an aspiring writer, often finds herself becoming aloof, drawing apart from the crowd and to observe and to create her own world.

I agree with you so much, I agree that our busy, routine adult lives leave so little room for visitations of the imagination. But I find comfort in the words of many writers who caution that we can't wait... I think it is Madeleine L'Engle who wrote that, like a violin, one can't write just when inspiration strikes, but have to be in tune for when it does.