an evening.

The road to the house where I live right now has a blockage of lazing street dogs. I am terrified of dogs. Been that way as a kid, still scared as an adult. Well, young adult. I’d like the ‘young’ moniker to be around for some time, just for security. I think I see one of the dogs looking at me. They don’t like me enough to not bark for the sake of my nerves. I take an alternate route. It has lots of cars and no dogs. It feels safe. I feel hungry. It’s going to be 20:00 soon or it already is. I don’t bother checking the phone in my hand to see the time. I feel like tearing off grilled chicken flesh off its bone. I am intuitive about food like that. I know what I want and I am now pushing the glass door to the KFC in the nearby mall. I took a 6 buck auto ride here, I could have walked. I did not want to come across unfamiliar dogs.

At the fast food outlet, I take up an entire booth to myself. All of the space for me! The chicken is fine. I try not to think of the diarrhoea it generally gives me. There is a kid’s birthday party, two other men taking entire booths to themselves, a date, friends eating out. A couple of old couples wait around for a man to finish his meal. One of those men with the booths. They have reduced the space for this outlet. It used to be double what it is now three years back. I was in college three years back. The neighbouring pizza joint took up the space. The woman at the table next to my booth seems to be looking my way. She is with her friends laughing. My skin crawls. Is she laughing at me? Am I eating this drumstick funny? Not that it bothers me, but you know… it bothers me. If someone is laughing by me when I am alone, I feel like they are laughing at me. Not that this makes me anxious or nervous. Not at all. It’s just… why would you laugh at me?

I am gnawing on my last drumstick. I’ve had 4. An old gentleman joins me at my booth, sitting on the other side. I feel generous and am okay with sharing my space. He has a burger, a packet of fries and a coke on his tray. I stare at him while he enjoys his fries, at his neatly combed hair, checked shirt and a pen in the pocket of that checked shirt. Now here is something you don’t see that often anymore. A pen in a pocket. That’s the sign of an upstanding man.

I keep staring at him from behind my phone. It’s rude but if you stare at someone long enough you could start a conversation. “Don’t stare at your phone so much. You will ruin your eyes,” he opens. “Sotti,” he stresses, his eyes comically big to drive home the point.

I take a moment to consider this. My eyes aren’t all that good to begin with. I can never tell if a guy standing few feet from me is a pretty face or not. He may have a point.

“Okay.” I say.

This makes him chuckle. He asks me what I do.

I hate this question. The truth is I am not proud of what I am doing. 15 year old me would have been. But not 24 year old me. When I tell what I do to people I can see them thinking of me as less than. I think of myself as less than. I am on my path to learn that what I “do” need not define me. I may be more than what I contribute to society. The self-worth attached to your contribution to the society and the benefits achieved from the contribution is still too big for me to renounce altogether at 24. I explain my job to him. He doesn’t seem to mind it the least bit. There isn’t any judgement. I can always tell when a pair of eyes is being judgemental. He then voices the concern I knew would come when I told him the truth. I sometimes lie to avoid this part. He asks why I started working so early. I ask him how old does he think I am.

15-16. “No, I am 24,” smile on my face. Surprise in his. Delights me every time.

I ask him what he is doing alone here. This he takes as a cue to tell me about his children and their accomplishments. They, indeed, are accomplished. Academics, professors, world-travelers. He is proud. His sense of self revolves around the accomplishments of his progeny. Is he lonely? I ask him what he did. Nudge him to talk about himself. Self-centered stories are what I am interested in. I am also interested in figuring out what kind of father does it take to raise accomplished children. A self-sacrificing, hard-working East Bengal born, JU graduate engineer who raised his siblings and then his children. That’s what it takes.

I take my leave.

I board a rickshaw that would take 30 bucks to drop me till my door. I could have walked. I would have liked to walk but it’s late and you know, dogs.

I spot a woman crossing the road with her daughter. Her daughter is wearing one of those frocks with attached belts at the back. I had one too many a frock like that as a kid. I spent one too many an evening with my mum, crossing roads like that. I imagine them having one of those tight-knit mother-daughter relationships. I have flashes from my childhood. That always makes me cry. I cry in the back of the rickshaw silently till I notice the wheels moving without the guy pedaling. Is this running on electricity? I ask him, “Is this running on a battery?”

“Yes!” clearly enthused he takes this as his cue to explain to me the working of his automobile.

People tell you all kinds of things if you just ask.

Advertisements

Objects for the Body

rei2

To Rei Kawakubo, she isn’t the trailblazer revolutionary designer since Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel in the fashion industry. To her she is nothing but a business woman. One who started making clothes because she couldn’t find anything that she was looking for, went on to create a brand that since has changed not only how we view fashion, clothes and women with respect to each other but also changed how the industry approached doing business.

Looking at Kawakubo and her brand, Comme des Garcons’ legacy is almost overwhelming. Ever since the Met Gala for The Costume Institute’s Spring 2017 exhibition “Art of the In-Between” celebrating her work, I threw myself down the rabbit hole that is her work – pulling articles, interviews, past shows, what have you. I couldn’t stop, the more I read about her, the more information I wanted. In college, I barely knew of her work. I had come across it several times, but I didn’t know then how to appreciate her clothes. They weren’t wearable. They weren’t pretty. They definitely did not flatter the one wearing them. The clothes almost always devoured the wearer leaving only the impression of their outlandishness. I didn’t understand it. And that’s what precisely one of Kawakubo’s aims is. When her clothes translate their purpose easily to the outside world, be they critics or buyers or consumers, it irks her. She refused to include her Fall 2005 “Broken Bride” collection or Spring 2005 “Motorcycle Ballerinas” in the exhibition because she deemed it too “understandable”.  She doesn’t want to be understood. When understanding isn’t an option, all they do is stir up emotions. The clothes walking down the runway want to strike a chord deeper than merely understanding them cerebrally. Very few designers can move an audience to tears like in her Fall 2015 show titled “Ceremony of Separation”.

To me the appeal of Kawakubo is twofold. First and foremost, it’s her clothes.  What motivated her in 1969 hasn’t changed much from her motivation in 2017. Her drive to continue creating the new, approaching matters at hand in a new way, looking at things in a new way is primary. When I started to go through her old archives from the 90s and the 00s, it didn’t feel dated. Take a look at her Spring 2002 and you will find high street brands saturated with similar concepts that have trickled down from recent shows. Although they shocked the critics at the time by being nothing like anything that came before, her clothes from 30-20 years looks contemporary now. Her clothes, if I can call them that as she has stopped making clothes, still shock us, but they aren’t cheap thrills. She delves into concepts and gives it all she has to create masterpieces. Her Fall 2012 commonly known as her Paper Doll collection where she explored clothes in 2-dimension still remains an iconic piece of work of the 21st century. When she couldn’t fathom new silhouette, she created new bodies to drape dresses around, giving us the “Body meet Dress, Dress meets Body” of Fall 1997. She isn’t creating mere garments for popular consumption, not for the main Comme des Garcons line. She is creating what comes next, as she has always done. She is tuned with the future like no other. She creates what truly can be called “modern”.

Second, it’s Rei Kawakubo herself. Her clothes, shrouded in mystery as they are, are still open to interpretation. But Rei herself is an enigma. A titan of the fashion industry, having erected an empire independently, a figure revered and worshipped, but what do we know about her? She doesn’t explain her work, she stopped taking a bow at the end of her shows, her interviews come across as short, dry and deadpan. There isn’t another figure of her stature that comes across as guarded as her. To me, she feels like the quintessential Japanese. No pomp and show, her work creates the noise on their own without a peep from her. To me, she’s also a BAMF, a punk BAMF. There is a “fuck you” in her work that you can’t miss. She doesn’t do anything according to the establishment. Whether it is her clothes rebelling against the beauty standards or her brand refusing to associate itself with a celebrity in the name of having a face, or just her refusing to talk about her design process, she never did anything to compromise her own vision and truth.  That’s rare. That’s legendary.

04SCENE-WEB1-master675

Photograph Courtesy: The New York Times

Where Fashion At?

I am obsessed with eras bygone. Particularly, how women dressed and what fashion dictated in the eras bygone. It’s fun and illuminating to study how fashion manipulates choices and how those choices ended up tweaking behaviors and outlooks, hence, bringing about a change. I am absolutely oversimplifying history here, but please don’t tell me that shift dresses of 1920s, miniskirts of 1960s and Bohemia of 1970s did not influence the Suffragette movement or the Vietnam wars or the free love going about. It probably didn’t, but they sure were there to witness it. That’s a long disclaimer and might lead me to digress from the point I want to bring up, which is, what is my era going to look like to a fashion dweeb in 2065?

Runway trends have been kidnapped and we forgot to pay the ransom. Now, they are dead. What was it that lead us to here? Is it the power of the internet and the information age catapulting us forward than any other previous generation to only sit back to view photographs of eras bygone, nostalgic for something we didn’t even experience first hand? Is it the fatigue from a technological revolution outpacing our needs, world politics throwing us in a tizz that we crave for the simplicity of items, tried and tested by our mothers and grand-mothers and their mothers? It could also have been the financial crisis of 2008 that helped in the rise of fashion bloggers, DIY culture, shopping vintage and re-appropriating fashion. It’s very much is a result of all of these factors combined.

This leads us to the present where the fashion industry is going through major changes in the way it does business. The traditional model of business in fashion started from the couturiers of Paris dictating the “new” shape, color, texture and detail depending upon the technological innovation at the time in the fields of textiles, dyes, machineries to the Royalties of France, these “trends” would then travel to America from where it would trickle down for the consumption of the commoners. This model hardly changed over time, except for two factors. First, New York, London and Milan joined Paris as influential centers around which the fashion industry revolved. Second, the time span for a trend to be dictated and travel down the rungs of society to become ubiquitous kept becoming shorter and shorter primarily because of industrialization, innovation in mass production, availability of cheap labor in countries such as India (Hi!), Bangladesh, China, Mexico.  and now the internet manipulating consumer behavior.

The “see now, buy now” business model that designers have been adopting for the past seasons is a direct reaction to the power of the information age. You have images from the runway circulating on social media, blogs, websites within seconds, saturating all platforms and boring the consumer before the styles even hit the stores (not good for business). I am not even getting into the knock-offs produced at a lightening fast speed by high street brands. All of these in turn, have turned the fashion scene on its head. We aren’t chasing trends anymore. At least the consumer is not. This decade so far has been heralded as the era of personal style, where everything goes, no rules, you do you. It’s the era of the weirdos who have all of the options. They wear ruffles, sequins, athletic gear, psychedelic colors, holographic metallics, distressed tees, poplin shirts, slip dresses, sometimes all together. Coupled with the desire to not be homogenized, uphold the individuality. It’s the consumer who is pushing the boundaries by questioning the rules of style, questioning whether it’s necessary to wear a shirt like a shirt, because it can also make for a cute skirt or an off-the-shoulder top. It’s the consumer that the designers in Paris, Milan, London and New York are taking cues from. You can see it in Demna Gvasalia’s approach for Balenciaga, or Alexander Wang’s decade long career or Marc Jacobs since forever. It’s trickling upwards more so than any other decade. Bringing me back to the wonders of the information age, without which there wouldn’t be any personal fashion blogs, street style blogs, Instagram, Snapchat or Pinterest. In other words, there wouldn’t be the democratization of the fashion industry.

So what does the dweeb of 2065 make of all these?

Unedited

I haven’t been able to write. Somewhere during the end of 2015, I couldn’t stand what I was writing. I was taking a moment of sadness and spinning away with it. I was sick of being sad and writing about sad. I was sick of the aura of sadness that enveloped me. I needed to go a different way. I started painting again. It was the therapy I needed. The colors, the brush, the wet color on the brush sliding on a paper making a happy picture. Anything you put on paper with color is happy. I needed happy. It worked. I got out of my funk, got a job, got my perspective back, got over. I kept painting almost on a daily basis for the rest of 2016. Things changed with the passage of time and I have a painting for almost all of the days. Painting that makes me happy, even though I might have cried on the day. Maybe that’s why I stopped writing. My writing made me sad, and I didn’t want to be sad.
But here we are. This is 9th April, 2017. A lot has changed since the beginning of the year. The change doesn’t matter. Change messes me up, it has always messed me up. On 9th April, 2017 I know it will eventually work itself out like it did so many times before. But what bothers me about the past few months is that I have stopped communicating. With myself. Or with anybody else who matter. The saddest moment had been crying on the bathroom floor wanting to tell anybody who cares how wrong and shitty and bad it is but also wanting to tell nobody. What would they even tell me that they haven’t told me before?
It will be okay. I know.
Be strong. I know.
Focus on your work. I know.
You are luckier than you think. I know.
Instead of reaching out, I cried harder because I felt I hadn’t made a friend I would want to go to at 2 AM knowing that they would comfort me. I was under the impression I did and I no longer had them around. Looping back to square one and crying harder. At moments of despair such as these, I always think of killing myself. Which makes me cry more because it’s a cop out and all the faces I would hurt immensely float around in my head. A lot of things makes me cry when I am crying on the bathroom floor at 2 AM. I don’t know how to continue on with this thread of thought.
I will start anew. Things are looking up. I still have difficulty facing a Sunday. For some odd reason, Sunday depresses me the most. But as I said, it’s looking up. I am smiling more. I am reading up on things I love. I have the inner unrest to do something with my time again. All good, healthy, happy things.
I want to write again. About thoughts that pop up in my head. About things I love with passion. About people I meet. Books I read. Days I live. Maybe a sad story or two. Balanced with a happy painting.

1

The Last Poem I Wrote About You

painting by Naomi Okubo:

The greatness lies in the words.
The scribble of an ink on paper
could easily be what your mind is screaming in your closeted head
or the thumping in your chest.
Why does the brain let us think that it is the heart that is the greater, while all it does is pump blood in our veins, on its own instruction?
Why do I think you are the greatest, when you just told me things I should have known last year, or the year before it?
I should have told myself that I am a caring person
and I am a sweet girl and I dont deserve anyone making any less of it.
I don’t deserve myself making any less of it.
You are different, for not who you are because you are just another lesson on a boring school day.
No, you are different because I thought you could’ve been.
But damnit, you just had to twist your words with your action.

I had a good time while it lasted.
I had a great time while you were there.
And then it was time for us to leave.
You could’ve enjoyed the good bye, been less hasty,
I wouldn’t have minded.
I could’ve complained less.
We are who we are.
You are who you are.
But it was my pleasure that you stopped by.

Painting Courtesy: Naomi Okubo

Making Up Words

"No one is you and that is your power." —Dave Grohl   artwork by Daniel Segrove:

As I sit there,
looking out of the moving window
I feel all kinds of feelings stir in me.
No, just the melancholic ones.
They overflow through my
eyes.
Just a little.

Just a little
more time I wish
I’d had
She bolted away before
I knew,
she was gone forever.
“It was nice knowing you,”
she said, leaving a
kiss on my cheek
I touched the spot,
“Likewise”
I should have sayed.

Should I have stayed?
Does he care that I left?
I didn’t want to.
All my instincts only ever
wanted to stretch this
affair as long as
it could endure.
But I have seen too
many stories end on a
sour note when
enduring is all that’s left
I wouldn’t let it happen to mine.

I shouldn’t have let it happen.
I shouldn’t have let her go by.
Does she think I don’t care?
She said, “Now I need to run away.”
Did she not care?

If only he knew
running away might kill me
show up as stains on my face
and bruises on my lungs
But some doors need
to be closed behind us.
Maybe we will meet again…
Fate is funny that way…
I hope he remembers me then…

Someday we may meet again.
Let fate work it that way.
I pray she remembers me then.
I hope she remembers me then.

Artwork Courtesy: Daniel Segrove

10 Things About An Escapist

1. I like escaping reality.
2. I like reading books because in books you travel far and wide to places real and unreal and meet people fantastical and maniacal and you reach the end and it is just a kooky little world someone cooked up in their mind and used their hands to write it down using 26 letters and that’s all that is there to it. And that’s all it took to make me feel like I just lived a life far and wide.
3. I like movies because one day someone decided that the human kind needs to learn the power of imagination and that it is within us to give a form to that imagination and include all kinds of people into our little world to share stories about girls and boys and men with guns and aliens and that not only can you imagine but you can probably shape it too.
4. I like painting because I like colors and I like to feel my hand make something that my brain pictures and my eyes see and then give my opinion about the whole affair.
5. I like boys. Because sometime their words can bring about a physical change in me and make me smile and make me blush and make my stomach flutter.
6. I hate boys. Because sometimes they will say something and make me feel small and make me cry and break things and make me confused about why I am giving someone else have this power over me and why do I lie awake at 4 am picturing scenes after scenes of what was and what is and what could have been.
7. I escape reality every time I fail.
8. I like reading books because in books I can forget that I woke up that night thinking I wanted to kill myself and I didn’t want to kill myself and instead lose myself in a world where I can picture a different life far from here.
9. I like watching movies because in movies I see someone else’s what was, what is and what could have been and finally, what became.
10. I like painting because I can always paint myself – with more colors and start over.