Jarnalis, I'm a hard bastard, I hide my feelings. Ask people they'll tell you I'm the same as ever, anyone in Khaufpur will point me out, "There he is! Look! It's Animal. Goes on four feet, that one. See, that's him, bent double by his own bitterness." People see the outside, but it's inside where the real things happen, no one looks in there, maybe they don't dare. I really think this is why people have faces, to hide their souls. Has to be, or every street in Khaufpur would be a passage through hell, which Ma Franci says it is anyway, except she sees angels suffering, I see panicked humans. One night Farouq and me, we'd drunk a lot of bhang, about enough to get you on first name terms with god, we were ogling women in Naya Bazaar, as I looked at passersby their faces vanished, just disappeared, I could see their souls. Most were ugly, some shone like green birds, but all without exception were full of fear. I told this to Farouq and said, "Look at my soul, tell me what does it look like."
"Your soul?" He began laughing and couldn't stop. "Your soul, my dear, is a tomb, even god can't see inside." This happened on the night of Holi, when he was trying to get me laid.
Jarnalis, there's a lot to tell, it wants to come out. Like rejoicing, the world's unspoken languages are rushing into my head. Unusual meanings are making themselves known to me. Secrets are shouting themselves into my ear, seems there's nothing I cannot know. Ssspsss, haaarrr, khekhekhe, mmms, this is how the voices are, often I'll babble aloud the things they tell me. "Tu dis toujours des absurdités," Ma says, smiling, the rest just shrug, "Fucking boy, crazy as fishguts. Sees things, hears voices that aren't there." Well, I do see them, I do hear. To deny what you do see and believe in things you don't, that you could call crazy. Some believe in god whom they've never seen, who never says hello. In each other's dreams we are all fucking fishguts. It's better I speak these things to the tape.
Hah! This story has been locked up in me, it's struggling to be free, I can feel it coming, words want to fly out from between my teeth like a flock of birds making a break for it. You know that sudden clap of wings when they take off in a hurry, it's that sound, listen, clap, clap, clap.
Pandit Somraj's good friend, the poet Qaif Khaufpuri, when he grew old his poetry dried up inside him, an ulcer came on his leg, an open mouth that wouldn't go, one day it began reciting such sweet verses, his poems were trying to burst their way out of him.
Same way is this, a story sung by an ulcer.
My friend Faqri gave me this mashin, batteries I stole from Ram Nekchalan's shop, he can't say anything to me. Now the tape is running. I'm remembering the eyes that hide inside your eyes, you said I should ignore you and talk straight to those who'll read these words, if I speak from my heart they'll listen. So from this moment I am no longer speaking to my friend the Kakadu Jarnalis, name's Phuoc, I am talking to the eyes that are reading these words.
Now I am talking to you.
I am saying this into darkness that is filled with eyes. Whichever way I look eyes are showing up. They're floating round in the air, these fucking eyes, turning this way and that they're, looking for things to see. I don't want them to see me, I'm lying on the floor, which is of dry dust, the tape mashin is by my head.
The instant I began talking the eyes came. I tried to hide. For some time I stayed silent. The eyes remained, they were wondering where the words had gone. They watched quietly, blinking now and again, waiting for something to happen.
See, it's like this, as the words pop out of my mouth they rise up in the dark, the eyes in a flash are onto them, the words start out kind of misty, like breath on a cold day, as they lift they change colours and shapes, they become pictures of things and of people. What I say becomes a picture and the eyes settle on it like flies.
Copyright © 2007 by Indra Sinha
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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