aranya #8: genesis

The sun streamed through the rafters and cast a broken lattice on Djyn’s sleeping figure. A spider was making its way across the roof of the hut. enjoying the warmth of the just born sun. A mosquito ventured slowly towards the little boy clinging to his mother, in quiet repose. His little chest rose slowly up and down beneath the felt razai.
He was dreaming.
He was sitting in his little treehouse. playing with the new baby (the one who was going to come in a few months). She had blue unflinching, curious eyes that peeped out through a round freckle face. Her hair was dark and curly. It bounced up and down as she laughed excitedly. He was explaining to her the law of the jungle. Just as Baba Qi had explained it to him so many times. It was a happy dream. Baby was smiling.
The morning had woken.
Djyn opened his eyes and let the world in. He looked around him. the ashes from last night’s cooking fire lay on one one side. his mother was sleeping next to him. Outside Baba Qi was boiling his daily concotion of herbs and leaves. Qi-tea the children liked to call it. Nobody knew what he put into it. but it was beautiful. not too sweet, or sour. It was just right, a symphony of flavours married in an earthen pot. The pot itself was ancient. It had funny symbols carved into the black neck. When little Djyn asked Baba about the symbols, every time, he would give him a different answer. The story of us, he said once. or alphabets from a  foreign language.  He didn’t reveal much, and he would smile that simple smile that Djyn loved. That was Baba.
Every action, every movement, every joint in his body, where skin stretched over bone, every little twitch, was infused with the breath of peace. If silence was a person it would have been Baba. It was as if the patience of the ages, the watchful calm of the forest rested in his fragile frame; as if an ocean slumbered behind his radiant eyes. When he spoke, it was brief, only what the moment demanded.
not one word less,
not one more.
Seeing him stirring the cauldron, Djyn went out and jumped onto his father’s back and tried to tickle him behind his ears. Baba laughed.
“Are you ready?”
“I am”, he chirped back.
It was the big day. they were going to put the last slab on the tree house that he had built by himself. Well, almost. Baba had showed him how to let the wood find its own way, how to never go against the grain – and allow it to become the structure, rather than beating it into shape. It was quite beautiful really. There was only one , to complete his little haven.
“What are we waiting for then?”, he  whispered in that husky voice, slinging Djyn properly on to his shoulders, with the axe in his other hand. They trotted to the grove, and Baba started to climb to the top with Djyn on his back, swinging effortlessly from one branch to the next, before jumping on to the wooden floor of the tree-house.
Djyn saw it first.

His eyes widened.

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question

Things happen slowly
The turning wheel
is only a notch
In the spiral

I asked the stone
If it remembered
How the sun drenched
Its sleep

And it showed me the forest
and a childhood of falling things

When the world comes to you
It is better to just sit
and watch

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aranya #7:the artist’s workshop

There is a place deep in the heart of the forest. it is a silent grove. an oasis. a place where time is forgotten. a place of magic. of heresy. of wild desire. It is aranya’s workshop.

The artist sits here silent. and each moment sits in anticipation of her carress. A slow trance engulfs the hiatus. a heady drum beat breaks the conversation of the earth, and the rippling brook. It sings of the birth of sensation, the first cries of recognition, when darkness meets light.

The rhythm of the trees beats in the thundering soul of her movement. And the goddess dances in her eyes. red. sensual. catastrophic in her slow murder of everything we know to be sacred.

Her art is neither man nor woman. It is both man and woman. It is the wonder of union. And the fission of creative, destructive energy. It precedes language. It’s the beginning. Going back to the genesis, the womb of the forest.

We are born complete. Our innocence enmeshes us in everything we do. Every act, every gesture, every silent giggle is plucked out deep from a stream within. The blank stare of consciousness is the pool from which we drink.

As we grow older, we start to dig the earth, we bury our incomprehension with the paraphernalia of the chase. The sickle which burns skin after skin, in the archaeology of the restless soul’s quest. We dig a pit so deep, searching for ourselves, forgetting that our image is already there. The ripples cloud our senses. And we dig deeper. With the toys that we find.

And when we’ve reached rock bottom. We begin to fill the hole again. With dollops of culture, society, art, knowledge, information. We create a hall of mirrors. We fill the void of our loneliness with people, and with adulation, and with the rhythm of routine.

But aranya knows better.

She sits there quietly observing. She sees the palace in the stone, the forest in the quivering root. centuries of humanity fall away in one twitch of an eyebrow. She holds the sublime like a spider weaves silk. And basks in the warmth of epiphany like the excited squirrel, that finds and collects. And then forgets.

She embraces the first impulse, and learns from what is around. Her muse is the incandescent wind that flirts with the leaves. Or the shadow that a branch casts on the slippery mush. Her body is the plaything of destiny. Everything she does is the disheveled nonchalance of the deepest, most basic instinct.

Aranya reminds you of yourself. Without trying.

Her quest is complete. Because it never began.
Her feet found the path. The path found her feet.

She was, in her natural state, the anthem of the forest –

‘When two ends meet,
It’s a circle’

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One song

There is only one song
One reed
The sound slithers through the windows
Of the eternal flute
Scouting for an opening
Searching for a solitude
That it will never find
Heart of the fire🔥 from which time came
And left her shadow in the artist’s dream

What craft can whittle out the brilliance
Of the tinkling bell of formless streams?
What roads lead to the place
where no mind can cast shadow?
What breath can carve out silence?

naked,
imperfect,
unfinished,
unchartered,
dappled,
prophet-less,
moon-burnt
🌙 night?

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aranya #6: the beginning

The evening sat on its haunches. at her feet.
Her mind was baavra. never stopping. flying from this ghaat to the other. a nomad without a home. or everywhere, a home. everywhere she roamed in the forest.
The evening lay back. made a cushion of the chilly breeze that petted the still water in the pond. It gazed at her shamelessly. Her cinnamon-stick waist had made it a deewana. and now it say there leching. While dynasties, armies could find their destinies in the elephantine lilt of that waist. Even the forest had sat there astounded once. smitten. unable to meet her kohl lined gaze.
The evening lay around like a dog. panting. fishing for her attention.

‘have some shame’
‘kya aranya sahiba, pujari ko bhagaoge aap’ – a dirty leer punctuating his expression.
‘Hmph’

She sniffed the air.
Something was not right. She could hear it in the crickets’ uncertain chittering. could feel it in the dew that shiftily slipped down the jacaranda leaves. could see it in the hurried gait of the lizards.

Suddenly, the forest went quiet. the kinds of pregnant silence that falls upon a theatre before the orchestra begins. aranya smiled. then gazed at the other end of the watering hole.

She nodded at Tara, the tigress, as she leapt down from an overhanging branch. and bent her face to the water. every inch of her slow torso, moving in the way mountains do. royal, filled with largesse, but not measured. a spontaneous air of command rose from her velvet coat. the epic and the sensual shared secrets in the undulating chasm of her shoulder blades. She turned towards the water and bent low. acknowledging aranya with a near invisible flicker of an eyelash. before she sipped from the edge of the pond. Then she vanished into the undergrowth. as quickly as a steady thought. or the memory of an early morning dream.

The orchestra began again.

‘Do you feel it? Can you smell it?’

Evening jerked his eyes away from the parasmani tied around her wrist.

‘Yes’

‘That is why you have come, I presume’

‘Yes’

‘I have no answers’

‘But you have questions.

That is enough for now’

Hmmm

They say there in silence.
Gazing together. At the sanguine pond.

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aranya #5: Kaththi

Kaththi wasn’t like other humans. The blood that ran through his veins pulsed with the beating heart of the forest. He was heresy. A poltergeist. A kind of curator, of history.
He was the poacher.
Of stories.
When Troy fell you might have missed him, somewhere in the epic city, going about his business, prodding events along. Whispering the right thing in the right ears, sticking his leg out in the right places. He would trip up time and plant dreams of world domination in the minds of princes, or of urchins. He gave Sisyphus company, and pleaded (along with Bhagiratha) with Siva to let the mesmerising Ganga out from his matted locks and into the world. He counseled Ganapathi when he was lost in the forest, and set the wheels in motion whenever the hydra-like juggernaut of time was stalled.
Kaththi was a footsoldier of the gods. He was a divine fixer without really knowing it himself. He knew the way the wind was blowing, and even the lingering aroma it carried with it before getting there. He didn’t keep his ear to the ground, because he didn’t need to (or because somebody would come and step on it).
Kaththi is the unsaid.
The afterthought.
The agent provocateur.
But you would never know it, if you meet him. Shifty bugger that he is.
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aranya #4: Djyn Qi (of the shinagava clan)

The years had traced their ontologies into his face. It was a battlefield of humours. His eyes were a window from which the multiverse indulgently gazed into the forest.
The window was shut.
The forest nourished him. Nobody knew how old he was. There were rumours that he was as old as the forest itself. He emerged, as it were, from the undergrowth. Roots had latched on to his torso. The skin of his lower back had coalesced into the supple cartilage of fibers and flailing hands of the earth. Beside him a rusty transistor radio played some channel from another reality. the sounds were incomprehensible, the language, forgotten. except in ol’ Djyn Qi’s mind. a fly sniffed at the cracking wood where his nose should have been – like a bullet, a green knotted stem of a hand leapt out and grabbed hold of the poor, helpless insect; and it vanished somewhere into the forest.
‘the end is the beginning
the loop is complete’
Manasa jerked out of her reverie. a thousand thoughts stopped mid-think and waited and watched. She had heard it. but there was no sound. she turned her head slowly towards what appeared to be a part of the foliage her web was built into. one leg, peeked out and prodded a bleary twig whose leaves formed a closed eyelash.
‘Djyn Qi’, she exclaimed, ‘I didn’t know you were here. I didn’t see you coming’
‘there is no coming
or going.
there is only
silence’
‘I am glad I found you, albeit coincidentally’
‘there are no coincidences’
‘sorry, that’s what I meant. I was looking for you.
Master, last night when I was spinning my home for the night, I saw something spectacular. I saw raaga the eagle catch fire and fall to the ground. And the snake in his beak slipped out and spilled to the ground in a stream of blood. I saw grandfather time start in the eyes of katha, the banyan sprite. I saw the elephants congregating at the rock temple of great Hun Ra. I heard them whisper about the second coming. Their trunks parched, they conversed in clack the ancient language of the forest. What is happening O master’
Djyn was quietly rolling a cigarette between two twigs. It was taking an age. Manasa let out a quick swirl of silk and bound the roach. Djyn put the cigarette between his lips, conjured fire out of the pregnant air, then inhaled deeply.
‘It is here. The human is here.’
Manasa trembled as if someone had just told her the time of her death.
Suddenly Djyn’s eyes blazed red. And he appeared strangely…
human
‘I can still see it. As if it happened only yesterday. I remember my father screaming as he tried to protect ma from the fiery sticks of the blargs. They were here to cut down our homes. I hid in the tunnel of silence. And saw the entire shinagawa clan burn before my eyes. I sat there crying, for days – the last surviving member of a dynasty of protectors. The very elite of the forest.’
‘To this day I carry the burden of survival in my chest. The forest has been generous. It has shared my pain’
Then his eyes went back to darkness again. The window shut.
‘We must consolidate.
Sound the alarm.
Summon Kaththi’
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