Thursday, March 17, 2016

In Matale and to and from Matale

1) Meaningless piles of bricks clothed with dead eyes shielded by barbed wire. The bricks are ancient and their city was glorious. This is an important tourist stop. This is a Must See tourist place. Here you will be accosted to buy post cards, puzzles, key chains, maps, hats, buttons, carved objects, plastic molded injection objects made in China, drinks, trinkets and toys. When you get out past the barbed wire and the sellers and the other tourists you may buy carved wood objects made in this island and true to life elephants and wind chimes and olded-up pictures of parades and perehanas. This stuff is for you. You. It's been commodified for you and you can stuff it in your suitcase and take it back to your dead continent to put in your flat in your dead city that is there only for tourists itself or in your dead suburb that is accessible only by vehicle so your roads are choked and your city is dead and drowned in the puke of early morning drinkers that have been drinking now for far too many hours, far too many weeks, too many decades now to mention, and sure, your place is dead. Under water. If you dare to look in the mirror and you see your stupid tattoos commodified for your moment of manhood or womanhood or whatever they consider a coming of age in that dead place of yours, a place they squeezed all the life out of sometime between say 1815 and 1945, now look at yourself and convince yourself if you can that you are not dead. 

2) More love for animals than for humans and warriors not peacemakers are the sung heros. Why sing the praises of peace are you crazy? Warriors are the strong ones. Sing about them! They are like kings!

3) Rice rice rice stuff it in your mouth
Wrong wrong wrong I wish that I was wrong. More rice and more rice and more rice and more fields of rice let us not be stung by snakes as we harvest that rice. Let us move gingerly through those hot fields in a hot sun in a hot day endless hours shimmering with heat but let's not be bitten by snakes medical care is so far away and snake bites are super fast-acting. But finish today and you may stuff rice into your face and down your gullet like the richest among you. 

4) Don't want to be right about pogroms that no one will talk about. Why not be wrong and also not talk? Why waste the breath?

5) Choke on your own bloat. Choke on your own fat. Choke on your bloat. Choke on the cigarette smoke and exhaust you've created for yourself. Choke on your ruined beaches and your stripped mountainsides. Choke on your incense and your baskets of flowers. Choke on your hyacinth choked waterways and your green waterways and your strangely bluish waterways and your lies. 

The lies you learned so well in school. The lies your parents and teachers taught. The lies you shared with your friends. The lies you read in the paper. The lies you wrote in papers. The lies you thought up while kissing the ground in front of your elders. The lies they remembered while touching your head. The lies you perpetuated through servility. The lies you whispered in another language or the lies you knew by heart in your own language. The lies you ate on the bus. The lies you looked out on as the train roared by. The lies that came with cut wood to use in the kitchen cooking more rice more rice more rice more rice more rice more rice and just as many curries to go with them. The lies that forced their way out. The lies you kept close or the lies that glued themselves onto you. The lies you never tried to hide. They were just so much a part of you they showed dull in your glum muddy face. What was going through that mind of yours behind the eyes as you aimed and spit? What about the snake you hit on the head over and over to daze it but not kill it so you could brush it out of your store into the street without murdering the animal what would that do to your karma?

What about the lies you said when you said you'd be back and you never came? What about the lies you used to cheer your friend but you never paid him the money you borrowed? What about the lies you found in a piece of notebook paper balled up next to the trash bin in Kadurawela? 

What about Kadurawela? What about its inner precincts and its outskirts? What about the way to Mahaweli and once you reach it? What about the lies contained in dust and the lies contained in names, engineered names and names that travel on a breeze or names that are shouted or whispered or sold?

What about the selling and the deceiving and the offering of bribes and the falling coconuts and the cawing crows and the weirdly whining eagles?

What about the lies that go up in smoke or travel on a leaf or smell of dried fish or come in a plastic bag (pink) like so many pieces of cut pineapple? 

What about lies you studied in school? Geographical facts that look like chairs or the chairlike arrangement of river valleys in your country waiting for despoilment and rapacious engineering and more buying and selling and spitting and looking at your watch and pulling on your abaya and swerving up your sarong just so to catch the breeze or retie it?

What about the lies on the hills on roads so steep and houses so aloof and children in gated areas riding round and round on bicycles and watched by their grandfather not dignified but not not dignified either, just past expiration date but still awake and without the haze of fungal spores?

What about the lies in cigarette smoke and wide screen televisions and receipts from Cargill's you collect like so many chits that may ensue a winning number? What about the concrete pavers and the too-wide spaces between them that you have to put your hanky to your mouth and nose because what's down there you don't want to smell but you don't have to smell because you never put a hanky to your face because you are driving in a nice SUV with a nice Buddha on the dashboard and a nice Chinese doohickey hanging from the mirror because luck is with you and you'd like to keep it that way?

What about the lies among the cashews and the brocades, the lies among the plastic kitchen implements and the plastic Christmas decorations? The lies in greeting cards you send with an Rs 1000 rupee folded inside, "best wishes!" you proclaim or the card proclaims it for you or your wishes are not "best" but good enough or your wishes are really "go to hell" that's why I regift an old box of tea. It's sealed so how would anyone, especially a foreigner, read the bad or sad intentions of the tea leaves inside?

What about the lies you show your boss in a pail full of crabs you just got from the lagoon or the quarter full pail of prawns in their gray jackets waiting to be traded or cooked or stewed in a curry with curry leaves?

What about the lies you feel when a price is doubled or change is forgotten to be given or the seller slips off the bus with your too-big bill? Are you to blame because you, a foreigner, should never have come here and never have handled this money or is the blame with the blameworthy bastard who walked away with your rupees?

Is there a lie in the border a child shows you in a map or is there a truth? Is there a lie in the street map or only in the bright glimmer of registration when your child-informant "sees" when you show him the satellite map? Is a three year old a better conversationalist than a thirty year old? Where is the truth in that and can there be "truth" or "falseness" in a question or is the question just a probe to delve into the tissue of lies or truth or the fabric of being?

Can the question itself be a lie or set up for a lie or become prelude to a lie through the words you choose or the inflection with which you deliver or the raising of an eyebrow when there is an eyebrow to raise? What if the eyebrows were burnt off in a pogrom?

What if the pogrom was like a tidal wave, a "tsunami" that rolled in like night and day? What if it seeped through the pavement like a hot day or a drunk in front of an empty lot? What if the empty lot was not always empty but was only empty for the past thirty years? Thirty three years? Could you find coins there if you dig, parts of dolls' bodies, sheets of music, dog food, wrappers or magazines from a bygone day before you were chased out and your house razed to the ground? But what if you were inside the house and all they'd find now might be a tooth of you or a toenail (if they looked hard enough). What about the songs you once sang? Were they good enough to grant you memory? And now, with prosperity, with the joy of making money, with the noise of the new city growing, its buses growling as they struggle uphill, its AC transport spewing fumes, its newly self-proclaimed "Arabs" trading (they must distance themselves from you as a Tamil. They must become "Arab" to make a beautiful new peace with the other peace lovers, the benevolent saintly Buddha believers) is there Room for you any more? The newly widened road, the magnificent A9 flowing downhill to the ever-more-magnificent, ever more prosperous, ever more crowded, ever more bloated Kandy. If all the buildings show portions of their former walls now because the road's been widened all up and down the avenue does everyone share in the disgust? Or is disgust just yours as they choke upon and choke up on their prosperity because the massive covering up, the massive throwing of blankets upon, the massive dousing and redousing and flooding again has smothered your "claim" to truth even if you had a claim or wanted a claim or feared that without a claim, some chit of evidence, some chat of truth telling, you just would not be any more. 

Your third eye plays a silent roulette against the evil eye that waits at the bus stop in a queue on a street corner neither shaded or cooled. The hot hornet of hate the hot blast of wicked silence clothed in a prosperity you never asked for blows down the collar of every gent in that stop, down his sleeve and down into his briefcase so important that he carries to a government job. And the hot air finds its way through every sari wearing office lady even if she's not an office lady but a teacher because that graceful composed clean teacher is telling her students this day, this very day! about the chair shaped river valleys and about the glories of Nuwara and the new engineered tanks that look and work just like the ancient ones. And this teacher, she glosses over the truth because even if she knew the truth she knows. The curriculum. The batches. The covering of information makes a covering of information. Cover the information like you have been covering the information and the curriculum and the few things you know and are not just reading. 

Cover them! Cover them in ash like Vesuvius! Cover them in coverlets like a sleeping baby or a sleeping giant! Cover them in a sauce until their flavor and savor are hidden and finally gone gone gone. Hide them in opioids. Hide them in daylight, that bright light that shines so hard and so steady it blinds, it binds, its grip tightens, it strangles and it smothers by its professing of truth, its "transparency," it's jungle leaf proofness of good better best intention. Very best intention you see by dint of its good manners and supple smile. It is a kind of branding. 

It is a kind of branding this lying because it makes all other brands look cheap and fake. It is a kind of branding this lying because it distinguishes itself from the other products. It is sui generis. It is unique and uniqueness like a beautiful gravy boat that spills and pours and loves to cover and down. 

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