This dream could be quite interesting. A straight line from heaven to earth. A ladder perhaps, not made of steel or hardwood. A bamboo ladder with no nails to hold it together. An old, creaky, termite ridden, hollow bamboo ladder. This treacherous creature is the relic of an age well past, you will instantly know. It was rejected to the margins of our household life, at least a decade ago. This place, an unfortunate abode to people like me, has managed to survive for many years without this ladder.
It is not as if the occupants forgot to climb up to the first floor. In fact we do it occasionally, the staircase indoors is fit and well for this purpose. Our terrace is just a desiccated concrete field of outdated memories. Ever since the coconut tree next to the house perished, there isn’t much up there. I would go up once in a while to smoke up, but then it was a risky maneuver that I could easily do without. In the vast marshes that bordered our little house, there weren’t many people who cared of what poison I chose to inhale. The air was hopelessly polluted; it was hard to make out faces in thick smog. As we went about minding our own business, food and beverage rained upon us from above. State helped us consume it as we pleased. Not exactly a cornucopia, but we were kept alive by the levers of state that was otherwise invisible.
It could smell hopeless to an outsider. But we took immense pride in belonging to this world of ours. Sure, there must be a better place out there, I gather. Every year, a sizeable population migrates out, seeking green cards from places devoid of our glorious culture. They send back songs and movies in which they whine about an uncut umbilical cord. It is said that they appreciate our art too. Grey, white, and bland art that we manage to churn out. Before export, they are seasoned with nostalgia to make them palatable. This way, diaspora helped us open up trade routes through the heart of world. So you can’t really blame them for going away. They are proud patriots.
Sorry for the digression, I am coming back to the bamboo ladder. It is in fact an idea whose time has come, once again. It is unreliable, sure. But it carries unmistakable marks of our culture. It is representative of many eras that failed to leave a lot of marks for us to discover. So if you shall accept this ladder as a totem, you can plug yourselves into its diverse ’ports’. Ports through which you can listen and perhaps converse with a different era.
I placed the ladder inclined to the barn. It was inadequate, for it wouldn’t help me access the roof. A roof thatched with clay tiles from the past century. These tiles were burnt in the kilns that dotted the marshes. These kilns stood there, sending a lot of smoke to clear skies that marked my father’s childhood. These endless trains of smoke acted like a metaphor for the flowing time, he recalls. As they spent time playing in the harvested fields, a lot of clay was scooped up to burn more tiles for consumption across the state. Slowly, they started to feel the flow of time around them.The fields were the first to go. Then came the polluted water that invaded them with dirty fish from abroad. The smoke paled slowly, to eventually close down the factories. As the trickle down vanished, the population around fell into disuse. Their rotten brains first, their strained sinews next. Their productivity was slowly wound up, for there were no takers for surplus labour anymore. As usual, local bards failed to record this history because the aged ones were too busy dying before letting us know of what actually happened. The onus is on me to write down this history. This ladder is my means to reconstruct the history of this place. As you can see, it is woefully inadequate. So I was forced to search for alternate means of exploring reality. Perhaps, traversing across the timeline would be made easy if I could find some mind altering substance. My mind isn’t of much use anyway, if I could find the right drug, it would be a life saver. There was enough prophets around, who assured me of the viability of this plan. Still, I was frustrated by the wait, I hysterically ran across our sacred geography looking for it.
Then I found it. The brook of heroin.
It originated somewhere in the mountains. In the fairy forest, it passed through patches inhabited by monkeys who ate forbidden fruits for breakfast. Dripping sources from the belly of the mountain came together inside a karst cave studded with dragon fossils. To them, fell the dead bodies of fighting monkeys from the fairy forest. As they slowly descended on the stream from lofty trees, they disintegrated into a silvery ash which readily dissolved in this stream. Evolution of brook of heroin involves monkeys too, but no shame here. Nature has no shame, only you do. That’s because you think only about you. But that’s okay. We’ll explore your self deceptions later, this write up is exclusively about my own ways of self deception.
So what did I do?
I drank heroin using pitchers collected from petrol pumps long dead. Their constricted necks gave me a helpless sensation, but heroin was good. I can’t complain! As heroin found a way to bind into the pain receptors of my body, I found myself dissolving in a sweet breeze that swept me from within. It originated from my stomach, then went on to hollow out my ribcage. Replacing my dirty entrails with fragrance, it spread into my limbs, my head, my everything. As I sank, I was thinking if I should be writing the history of my land.
I chose not to. Demagogues of later epochs will do that for you anyway. Why should I bother? As I will abruptly leave you here, I want you to think about this. What was I trying to tell you? I can’t recall, neither can you. But these images will remain with you. They tell the story of a people. My dear reader, a living vessel to the history of my people, please keep walking! Someone will find you, open you up and decipher it for you. If you are to find me in those stories and bodies unwound, don’t forget to greet me!
Till then, keep walking.