Books

Loca for Lorca

No other poet’s work has moved me as much as Lorca’s. In fact, I am not into poetry at all. I only liked it as part of the curriculum, where you could write a million interpretations and get away with not having to mug anything up. But as to poetry in personal life, Lorca has been my only love.

I think his first work I read was the play La Casa de Bernarda Alba: a whirlwind account of the matriarch Bernarda and all the women in her family. In fact there is only one man in the play, Pepe; and even he doesn’t get to talk. The women talk about him. It’s not a poem but the words used just leave you in tears. For what, I don’t know. This may sound hopelessly romantic, but they stir something in you. In a way only beauty can do. And it’s the beauty of the words he uses. I know I sound so young, naive and romantic. But when it comes to Lorca, I am all that. And the same evocative style, the fury of silent, desperate emotions, like they HAVE to come out but their only outlet is words stays a constant. Be it in Bodas de Sangre, be it in El poeta en Nueva York or any other poem, the main sense you get throughout is of an unbeatable sensibility and sensitivity to the raw, bare emotions, without the fear of exposing them. It’s the ability to make every emotion: love, tenderness, desire, lust, longing, jealousy and misery almost palpable.

I categorically chose to visit Andalusia in southern Spain only because of Lorca. My friend took me to Viznar, the place where Lorca is reported to have been executed. It was Lorca’s death anniversary around the time I visited. And words can’t describe the affection Spanish gypsies have for the voice that always articulated their miseries in a way that justly romanticizes the gypsy way of life, without judgments. Viznar is a very little place, pretty much a pit in the middle of nowhere with pine trees around it. And amidst this nondescript place was hidden a makeshift shrine built to commemorate Lorca. There were letters, candles, little trinkets and I almost couldn’t help visualising the place where he was executed: Did they make him stand hugging a tree and fire from behind, did they not show even that much mercy and started firing as soon as he was taken to the isolated spot? Did Lorca die in pain or was he peaceful? The thought that Lorca could have been there with only fear and desperation as close companions sent chills down my spine. But what did make me feel better was the affection that stayed on.

Every place in Granada is replete with Lorcadom. El Albayzin, the famous historic locale of the gitanos still retains its old time charm and a walk along its winding, narrow, endless paths gives you enough opportunity to muse and imagine gitanos: straight out of Lorca’s writing. The park along the main road in Granada has a statue of Lorca sitting on bench. I HAD to have my picture taken sitting next to him…only possible because he is no more. Had I belonged to Lorca’s times, a nobody like me wouldn’t have dared come close, lest his language be tainted listening to me. Okay no, I exaggerate. I would probably have gone and hugged him.

I don’t know what’s gotten into me, but I have want to go back to the Uni and study Lorca again. May be it’s the nostalgia from my college days, the days when I chose Lorca’s poems for recital, or the days I kept saying how I couldn’t get over the powerful way in which Lorca weaved ordinary, mundance, colloquial words and made it into something out of this world.

Llanto por Ignacio Sanchez Mejias is one of my favourite works. I have attempted to translate it here.

Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejías*

The Absent Soul

The bull doesn’t recognise you any more, nor does the fig tree
neither do the horses, nor the ants in your house.
The child doesn’t recognise you, nor the dusk,
Because you are gone forever.

The edge of that stone doesn’t recognise you,
nor does the black silk in which you now lie destroyed
Even your silent memory doesn’t recognise you
Because you are gone forever.

The autumn will bring snails,
misty grapes and clustered hills,
But nobody would want to look into your eyes
Because you are gone forever.

Because you are gone forever
like the other dead of this earth
like all those dead who are forgotten
into a heal of lifeless dogs

Nobody recognises you. No. But I sing of you.
I sing of your profile and grace.
The remarkable depth of your knowledge.
Your desire for death and her mouth.
The sadness that underlined your brave happiness
It’ll be a long time, if at all, an Andaluz** like you is born,
So real and full of adventure.
I sing of your elegance with words that groan
and I remember a sad breeze flowing over the olive trees.

———————————————————————————————————–

*A person from Andalusia
*Ignacio Sanchez Mejias was a famous bull fighter and and a friend of Lorca. Read about him here.

Note: This is a liberal translation.I tried doing it word by word but felt that it lost the emotion.

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The Battle of Hair

I’m currently reading Caitlin Moran’s How to be a woman. I’m only into the second chapter and she has made several interesting points in a straight forward no-fuss way and also raised questions that make me reflect on my life and how it revolves around things that I’d otherwise discard as unfair to womanhood. I have been a meek participant of the crusade of hair removal since as far back as I can remember. First it was only in my thoughts, later it seeped into my actions after I had enough resources to put myself through the numbing pain of removing every follicle with painful attention to detail.

I think modern women have been perpetually at war with their hair and pull their hair everyday over how it crops up everywhere it shouldn’t and how it’s sparse where it should be most dense…on the head obviously! I think this is the first aspect of womanhood that girls who hit their puberty encounter. You look all smooth and pretty till you’re there and then you suddenly have pubic hair, hair on your legs, a slight unsightly mustache if I may, eyebrows that look like wild untamed bushes. All this at a time when you’re just learning about sex and everything around seems to evoke sex for you. This is when you think you need to look pretty and moderately sexually attractive, but  when you have unwanted (?!, may be it’s there for a reason called protection) growth everywhere and no money to take care of it. Oh the miserable age of puberty! This is also the time when you become aware of your body and are likely to withdraw into your own shell. You don’t want to be noticed, and having facial or body hair makes you noticeable, at any age unfortunately.

It’s not even funny how much planning goes into managing hair.  I keep it till the last minute so that it is closer to the day I want to look smooth and hairless, but it has enough buffer period to let my rashes heal so that I look naturally beautiful. How awesomely natural is that! I can so relate to Moran’s piece about this planning. I prefer to get done with my hands and legs 2 days before the day I want to look fancy, eyebrows a day before so that they look sharp and carved and pubic hair 2-3 days before. Because after using the epilator, it gets sore and knobbly there, and there is an occasional drop of blood [when there is conflict between your sane side that keeps telling you that you’re subscribing to the popular belief that women should have luxuriant flowing tresses but absolutely no sign of body hair; and your superficial stupid side that tells you that you want to look like those models from the hair (or no hair) ads] when I’m trying to multitask to prove to myself that it doesn’t take time and try balancing my leg over the sink while reading a book and dexterously moving my hand over the most delicate part of my body without looking at it,  and my hand slips slightly to the right. What happens next? I don’t remember because I saw stars and almost fainted.

Once the days are sorted out, I go through meticulous planning about what methods I’d use to epilate which parts of my body. Threading for eyebrows, waxing for upper lips and arms, but not for legs shaving  as I get a lot of in-growth because of waxing. Pulling hair out with the epilator for underarms because it’s easy to manoeuvre, then waxing for the pubic mound and epilator for the rest…ouch it hurts even thinking about it; and then shaving for whatever remains. I feel ashamed of myself even as I write this. I mean I am an educated, modern woman who doesn’t need to do all this. Even my partner doesn’t care one bit about a little bit of hair here and there. But it’s all in my head. Probably because a million advertisement and videos that bombard us with unbelievably and effortlessly good looking ethereal women with a rich crown but no hair anywhere else that mere mortals like me are led to believe that we have major shortcomings that need to be taken care of on an urgent basis.

What they don’t show us is probably the very same women spending hours at the salon and even more hours locked in their bathrooms with a hand mirror or microscope imagining the existence of a wilful hair that needs to be uprooted; they don’t show a team of experts zooming into every single part of the clippings to remove even non-existent blemishes and create something that would put even wax and plastic to shame. And what they don’t see is how these ads and videos are the cause of disappointment, mortification, low self-esteem and in extreme case, depression for millions of teenager women world-wide. What they don’t see is how it’s a wrong, unhealthy expectation setting for teenage men worldwide who just grow up believing that women in their life should look a certain way, but fail to realize that all of that doesn’t come naturally. I remember an incident when a male colleague pointed out that  it was time for my monthly salon visit as my eyebrows looked like a jungle. I didn’t get angry, I just pitied how this extraordinarily intelligent man was but a victim of social conditioning. I told him of course that I don’t do things just because a random guy told me to. It’s pathetic how men who are so brilliant and can read data like stories fail to read beyond the adverts.

Anyhoo this is a debate which can conclude in establishing that we are victims of media’s bombardment but can’t translate into making us stop spending/ wasting time on the excruciating hair removal rituals.

Sarah Haskins, a woman I absolutely worship has a hilarious video called “Your Garden” which I’m unable to find anywhere now. 😦 Please watch it if you do find it and also send me the link. Extraordinarily articulate and funny that she is, she makes the very same point in 1000 % better way and in just under 2 minutes. Here’s one of her other videos, just as hilarious and thought provoking.