Dogg knew there were five hours to go before the Blue Bus would arrive. He had enough time, he thought. But then there was this devilish screech and a farting puff of black diesel smoke that disintegrated into tiny curly vaporous moustachios around his head.
It had arrived. The clock read 2 a.m.
2 a.m. Time to go to work? Dogg believed that the strangest things happened all the time. He was reading “Trout Fishing in America” and the doorbell rang.
“Who is it?” he asked.
“A goldfish looking for its bowl,” came the reply.
“What might your name be?” he asked.
“Richard … Brautigan,” came the reply.
He did not dare open the door. The man had killed himself. So it could not be him but an impostor.
There were three silver gray metallic steps to climb up and his kidneys ached, or was it his liver, as he stumbled down the aisle to his seat in the blue bus. It was taken so he went further down to find a seat. He pushed open the window to let in some air. What he heard was the bleating of sheep chasing the bus and the blarping horn of an old truck shadowing the Blue Bus.
The next thing was blackness dark as dark chocolate. Is this how the beginning of another day is, Dogg wondered and began snoring like a serpent with its tail’s tip stuck into a nostril.
This bus has a bathroom in it, he thought as he watched his feet walking ahead of him, his toes kind of slipping up on the tilting tiles turning yellow with chemical urinary abuse. There was a woman sitting on the pot and he heard the sound of her pee sloshing into the bowl. He ignored her.
His ritual ablutions went like this. A quick shower with his clothes on, then off with them. Standing naked before the 3”x 2” mirror in which only his right eye shone like a lone star, he spread Palmolive shaving cream onto his toothbrush and brushed his teeth, the foam tasted good, it left him fresh out of breath.
He marched out puppy naked from the bathroom to the sound of a drum roll and thought it strange that none of those seated in the Blue Bus noticed his disarray. There were two pony-tailed boys, a hare-lipped conductor, a driver dressed in a bow tie and underwear with polka dots on it who guided the bus into puddles and potholes and an assortment of ugly girls with bounteous boobs and squishy butts in the Blue Bus. The bathroom was adjacent to the driver’s seat up front.
He passed a girl wearing a pink frock whose hem had crawled up her thin white thigh sleeping in a seat. A thin trickle of whitish spit crept out of the corner of a thin cruel mouth. He surreptitiously grabbed the newspaper lying beside her thigh. Covering his crotch with it, he made his way back to his back seat.
The Blue Bus passed a lake that had seen better days when it had been part of the sea. Dogg watched a flight of storks flying backwards over its murky waters. They were returning squawking babies to wherever babies came from or deserved to be exiled to. This was happening elsewhere in the universe too just this instant, Dogg knew.
The bus stopped outside the gray walls of The Compound. Dogg was suddenly ashamed of his nakedness. He lifted the newspaper off his lap. His penis lay limp and comfortably shrunken, nestling quietly in a tousled patch of hair. He did not want to stand up. But three girls giggling at what they saw hauled him up by his arms. One of them pulled a blue sweater down over his shoulders. The other tugged at his right leg to get him into a pair of yellow and black striped shorts. The third kissed him on his nose. They left him barefoot.
It was a lazy lolling walk to the sensor where Dogg flashed his Smart Penis. A green light shone in the evil eye of the sensor.
“Your attendance has been marked,” said a digital voice.
IN THE DUNGEONS
The stars were still out in the night sky although it was a new morning. He wondered what awaited him in the Dungeons below. Had they got the manacles ready? Would the whips sting? He bared his back.
The first objects that met his gaze were Marvik Ramjet and Adviket Veda, monkeys on a stone bench. Both wore dark glasses in which no reflections showed. They had the look of pregnant women who had just broken water. Adviket was about to give birth to a fish. Marvik was wondering how he got pregnant in the first place.
They were obviously waiting for a third monkey to join them. This bestial trinity had mentally rehearsed the day’s morality play in which they would arm-in-arm do a jig and a jive to the tune of Fa la la la la – la – la la la. The play was titled “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” and penned by one Mahatma Koot Hoomi.
Alas! Nastyram Godsent used a revolver to kill the Mahatma and bring the curtains down on that play in not so ancient Hindoostan. Nastyram made the hit to please a Bollywood vamp called Leela Somnolescence who nursed a homicidal hatred for those who hated Hindi movies.
That was all right, one is allowed to express deep disgust in whatever way one wants. The point was Dogg had once again descended into the abyss, the hospital ward with the black shroud hung from a designer exhibition structure made of steel pipes. Here the only way to survive was to put on the exhaust fan. Its mechanical throbbing drone had a hypnotic effect of him, soothing and helpful. It always put him in a mood to help others.
So he got the computers booted and whirring and chirping like electronic flies that had their wings pulled out. It always amused him to change the background color on different screens, the act reminded him of how the landscapes of time and experience shifted in static windows according to the disposition of one’s will, the Will, that faculty few had.
While he pottered around, a half-know-it-all, he wondered about what he had been called to do in life and how it all never tied up. To read and write or to teach others how to read and write or to be a father and husband or even a saint? The denizens of this Boschian universe would soon arrive, he could smell them already, the gunas of the breakfasts they had tucked in would illumine their faces but their minds would be tabula rasa waiting for him to ladle out medicinal spoonfuls of vitaminized educational soup. Where was he to get the meatballs from? There were too many vegetarians around these days. Vegetable soup sucked, that thin primeval sattvic gloop whipped up for sickly Brahmanas.
Night or day, nowadays he was never sure which was which, his job was to ponder over what others were thinking and writing. Dogg had been mulling over in his mind a story Love Dugout had written.
It was about a man who kept searching the faces of women looking for that one woman whom he would instinctively recognize as his Lost Rib. But in the end, the story faltered, he finds the woman and gets a slap for it, a rich girl who lives two lives, one of sweetness and innocence and another of moving from man to man weighing and tasting the terrors of unfulfilled sensuality. The seekers find one another but the story had no real flesh or bones.
Love Dugout came in, she smelled fresh and edible, like newly baked bread.
“I saw myself in the story,” Dogg told her.
“Yes, you know I modeled the man after you,” Love Dugout said with her sweet smile.
“And the woman? She is one-dimensional. It doesn’t sound convincing probably because you have never met such a character or been one yourself. She is the weak link in the story, just a paragraph,” he said.
“Yes, I know. But I imagined such a woman,” Love Dugout explained.
“Well, your imagination fails you, takes you nowhere,” he said.
“I will work on that character,” she replied.
“Ha,” said Dogg. “And how? Will you be that woman?”
Love Dugout seemed offended. It being a Saturday spelt F-R-I-D-A-Y morning, he offered to take her out for a drink in the afternoon. Ingesting too much alcohol distorts time, space and thought.
“You are putting ideas in my head,” she said giggling.
“Yeah, in your head and that’s about all,” Dogg thought. Later, she disappeared into thin air.
WHEAT OF GOD
Between the concept and the conception, Dogg always found the Shadow. Thought amplifying thought. As he stared at a Rubik’s cube spinning on a screen, these words trilled in his mind.
“I am the wheat of God and by the teeth of wild beasts am I milled that I may be found to be the true bread of Christ.”
Ignatius of Antioch.
Dogg spent the evening at Koshy’s, the restaurant for dilettantes. Timil Khan was asking him, “What’s up with you? You seemed to be so unhappy recently.” Well, what was Dogg supposed to say? All moods have to do with God, spirits and man, especially women.
Some others arrived. They were anxious over Project Dilemma, deciding what art or design theme to take up as their final project and paper, it would be the key to finding their wings and fleeing the comfortably cruel Design Compound into the real cruel world.
Rashpants arrived last. The beer was flowing and so were tongues. Nothing substantial, transubstantiate or consubtantial was discussed though. In the end, at his invitation, they went back to his kennel where there was a television set and a CD player, hashish and rum. So they sat there listening to music and watching a cartoon, making associations between the two and laughing. There was food too, dosa, two varieties of chutney, fried fish and chicken.
In the end, only Rashpants and Timil Khan were left and Rashpants had to rake up his pet issue with Dogg. He could not understand how Dogg, or Timil for that matter, considered themselves “wheat of God” in the process of being milled into the “bread of Christ”. Call the process of transmutation faith or illusion.
Dogg preferred the “being milled by the teeth of wild beasts” to anything else. It was very different from The Process that was execrably functional. Process cannot be taught, it happens, forms form ex nihilo from out of flames in the fireplace, clouds in the skies, stains on the walls. Very different from the “batteries of ad men marching arm in arm through the pages of Time & Life”.
Rashpants cornered Dogg in the kitchen, knocked down another rum, and spoke in his kindly wheedling way, in that manner that sought to impress upon the other his humanistic holistic approach to life and people.
“People like you and Timil pray, don’t you?” he began.
“Yes, I do. She does too,” Dogg said.
“I want you to pray when I am here!”
“What? Why should we?”
“No, I want to pray with you both.”
“To whom, which God will you pray to? To Jesus?”
“No, I want to pray with you both. Just pray.”
Dogg knew the game. Rashpants was an aspiring artist, and perhaps every artist explores the spiritual, forced or not. But he was setting up a situation, a Test (God does not tempt anyone), there was a faint whiff of mockery in The Process.
“I don’t have to pray before you or with you. I am sure Timil knows that too,” Dogg said.
“In any case, prayer isn’t what you imagine it is. It is breath and I breathe,” Dogg went on.
“No, but you must,” Rashpants insisted.
Okay, let’s play, Dogg thought. Also, there was no shame in praying at any time. So he went out into the living room, switched off the stereo playing Vangelis and told Timil that Rashpants would like them to pray but would she like to pray?
Rashpants sat down and in that moment Dogg saw something like anguish in his face, the worms of post-modern doubts gnawing at his pupils, weariness of soul and purpose. But since it was his game, Dogg pressed into the attack.
“Well, here we are seated and you are the one who wants us to pray. But why don’t you pray, set the ball rolling if you have someone or something to direct your prayers to,” Dogg taunted.
Rashpants was silent, sitting crosslegged, his palms came together in the customary gesture of prayer, his head was bowed low. The poor soul!
Dogg knew in that instant that he should just pray. So he prayed. What could he say? He said a big “Thank you” to God for everything that had happened, was happening and would happen in his life, his loneliness, his drunkenness, his own doubts. And would you, Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation, show him THE WAY? Timil had not much more than that to say either. The Presence, the Shekinah, was there. Rashpants remained silent but in a few moments he was back to contesting the Faith.
“Have you ever met this man?” Dogg asked.
“Haven’t you, Timil?”
“There is no beauty in him that you should desire him,” Dogg said pointedly.
“All we like sheep have gone astray and turned everyone to his own way and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all, the burden of Sacrifice,” Timil said.
When they were leaving, Dogg shook Timil’s hand.
“You know and understand. With stammering lips and other tongues will I speak to these people so that seeing they shall not perceive and hearing they shall not hear,” Dogg said.
Rashpants was already taking the stairs two at a time and disappearing into the dark. He had left his parting shot too.
“You … you … fanatics, you think too much of the Man.”
Dogg had replied “Of course, but you are greater than him, you paint, you write, you are a higher form of life, aren’t you?”
And after they had prayed, they had sat in silence for a while in the Presence, the pillar of cloud by day, the pillar of fire by night, till Rashpants opened his mouth to pollute his empty tongue with empty words that revealed the snaky twisted roads of his understanding, his unreasoning hatred.
Dogg did not have words of his own to reply with so he spoke the words that live forever. They sounded strange to him too, for one never plumbs these depths easily. It was as if they spewed forth from some fountain of the deep, some glacier upon a higher mountain that burned with smoke and fire and led to a God who cloaked himself in darkness.
“In the days when King Uzzah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a high throne and the palace was filled with smoke and the flapping of the wings of cherubim. With two wings they covered their bodies, with two they covered their faces and with two they hovered. They said ‘Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God of Hosts, Yahweh Sabaoth.’ And when I saw this vision I fell at his feet as one dead and cried out in surprise ‘I am a man of unclean lips who lives among a people of unclean lips!’ And an angel approached with a hot coal taken from the fire and touched my lips with it. A voice from the throne said ‘Now you are cleansed.’ Then I heard a voice ask ‘Whom shall we send?’ I heard myself reply ‘Send me!’ I was sent.”
“You always take refuge behind words from some book or the other,” Rashpants complained. “This is not the way.”
But Dogg went on, the words dancing upon his tongue, his mind filled with the colours of myriad butterflies lighter than the moon in the sky, transported by the spirit behind the words.
“Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. There is no other name under heaven whereby men and women might be saved. And we beheld him, he was a Man of Sorrows, but we despised Him.”
THE LIGHT WOMAN
That was how the evening ended and Dogg imagined it was night and time to sleep but the Blue Bus had arrived and he was back where he belonged ?
Rashpants dropped into the computer lab to return a black jacket he had borrowed. He had a smile on his face but it was not for real, or so Dogg thought.
Rashpants did not leave Dogg’s consciousness. He had begun writing a story about how this man was packaged, how he was being tossed about and shot forward like a billiards ball across green felt strewn tables, bouncing off the edges and into pockets, well controlled by cues.
In many ways Rashpants reminded him of a woman who, when she cannot make up her mind, turns her back to the man. She does not sleep. She just lies, her back turned to the man, her eyes open. Then he puts his arm across and turns her face gently towards his own, her eyes are open but unseeing, there is too much darkness in them.
Now we are but Presence, man and woman, the Shekinah, the glory, Dogg thought. Breath. Blink of the eye. Beat of the heart. Swollen breasts. Stirring skin.
He touches her cheeks, stroking them, and draws her lips to his. They resist and part. He is in. This feeling. Light. Lightens.
The Compound was where Mies van der Rohe had stood before a class and maintained an excruciatingly long silence. The he spoke and he made it out to be words from the Holy Mountain.
The students waited with bated breath. What mystery was he about to reveal?
“Light … is …”
Short and stocky and swarthy was Rashpants. When unshaven his smile dazzled the bees so much so they forgot to sting. When stung too, Rashpants would wander around unshaven, the puppies in his wide eyes whining a puppy tune, listening for a whistle to approach, a bone to gnaw upon. Till he found the breast of the Queen Bee to suckle upon once more or one of her minions.
Packaging Rashpants was easy for he lent himself to moulding. But he never saw that there could be different moulds, he obviously thought his mould was best. That was why he hated Jesus. Again, he would rationalize that he did not believe in patriarchy. He had a mother in the Queen Bee.
The Queen Bee was the center of the hive. Her lineage, Dogg had traced it, returned to the Earth Mother, the fertility cult. This Mother Goddess epoch was coming round again for such was the Zeitgeist. Weak men were turning to her.
She held Rashpants by the seat of his pants when he wanted to go a-wandering and a-conquering. She drew him to her strict lines and planes well hidden behind her muslin veil of curves and contours. When she was finished with him, he would understand that freedom meant discipline, he would meet Venus in Furs and fall at her feet. He would meet the Dominatrix to feel the bite of her black steel studded collar around his neck. Rashpants, however, thought that he had been lost and won.
“My son, do not give your strength to women,” said Solomon of the ten thousand concubines and among then he could find only one woman worthy. Wasn’t it the Queen of Sheba, who crossed deserts to bring him costly gifts, eager to listen to his wisdom ? Or was it Bathsheba who bore his children and knew he loved her too? Dogg’s mother had prayed for him to have the wisdom of Solomon.
“I am a free man,” Rashpants had said after Timil and Dogg had prayed. “And you … you are mindless … fanatics.”
“I am a slave, a bondslave,” Dogg had replied.
In that other place, there was another body beside her. Not his, alone. The bed was not built for three. But three could fit. There were spirits in the room, spirits of fear, spirits of judgement. In the Light, there is Three.
Could one interpret the Word of God as forbidding divorce but condoning polygamy? That was what Moses David had suggested when the Jesus People and the Children of God emerged from the chaos of the Sixties and CultWatch nailed them. Was there not an iota of truth in what was said? Divorce points to hardness of heart. Loving two instead of one was the harder road, the second mile. If one can’t love two, how will one love three and all mankind? Yet the boundaries of the heart are squeezed, such experiments must cease, and the heart must collapse back to its original size, that of a little yellow lemon.
She flinched again and again though her lips did not leave his.
“Keep my mysteries silent, God knows the lonely soul,” he whispered to her.
She stroked his forehead and ran her fingers through his graying hair. She turned around, a half turn cutting through his darkness with her black eyes. The corpse beside her, did she know her?
“Go away,” she whispered, breathless. But her fingers gripped his hair as if she was tearing out trees from a heaving ground, gentleness lighting up her fingers with a fire. He went. He had never sought one unlike himself, never sought to own or be owned. Bee Queen.
Packaging Rashpants would be easy, would it? Dogg was not too sure. But in the end Rashpants would bow to the Blue God in the Blue Bus, whose flute deceived with the promise of holding the world of rasa in the left hand and the bountiful gopis in the other. All over his body were tattoos, the women and songs packed together in the experiences of love and war and mammon, the victories. But only Nakulan knew the defeats! He had passed this knowledge on to Dogg.
Rashpants looked pleased. He had learnt to return to the hand that fed him with a slap to the buttock. Ah, the pain of putting behind the dream of flying. Tweedle the Sparrow, outside his frame, was singing a song upon his windowsill. He could not understand it, so he thought “Art is education!”
“All the world’s an Eye and the universe is Seeing, Liquid, rare, radiant.”
Dogg quoted from the Book of Blues.
Rashpants smiled a distant smile, rare, liquid. He knew what Dogg was doing, watching him being poured into the mould that would set him to sit smugly upon a storefront shelf or hang from the white walls of an art gallery, his hair stroked by wealthy worthless society women.
Rashpants and Dogg. Friends? Dogg was the animal Rashpants might have liked to pet, fondle, throw a stick to, the animal he might have been himself if he hadn’t met the Queen Bee who ruled over the huddle in the Hive in a darkness lit up by serrated golden rays. Rashpants now lived by the sale of his instincts in the marketplace of knowledge, his intuition exchanged for Systems Theory.
Dogg wondered what kind of package would suit Rashpants, this man with no mind of his own who sat one night punch drunk on rum boasting he would paint and earn a million selling beauty to the masses or the elite, who knew which was which? Who’d want to be a starving artist when one could be the cherry in the Queen Bee’s pudding?
The odds had been stacked against Rashpants from the beginning, even before he was born of the coupling of an uncorked bottle of liquor with a mouth that was arranged to receive it. When the cork was pulled out, he came out in a rush, the last drop! He had been washed up from the Red Sea onto desert sands where Djinns played pranks.
The Djinns had seen Rashpants’ future. Dogg was familiar with Djinns, animals know more about such matters. The Djinns had cursed him and he had turned into a brass lamp. Rubbed the wrong way, he shone. Rubbed the right way, he wailed.
At first, Rashpants wailed, then he whimpered, then he grew silent and only smiled. Now he was confident, he shone. He preferred the shine to the mournful wail of anguish. He could not be the Speaking Cat, an obscure friend of Dogg’s, arcing his back on dark, moonless nights, walking on supple feet the thin walls of unreason, waking the neighborhood with its cheerless caterwauling.
The damage Djinns could do. The Djinns had given powers to the Queen Bee too, showed her the pattern of her Hive temple. They had hounded Dogg to this zoo and haunted him. But Dogg hadn’t yielded to the monotony of the Hive, the mysterious mastery of the Mistress, the Moon Goddess, the Destructive Mother. He had resisted the pack-urge and the advantage of the hunt, a dozen wild dogs pulling down a wild-eyed doe.
Sitting beside Rashpants inhaling his stale licorice breath, Dogg knew yet again that it was far better to be on all fours than on two. Wings he did not need if they only carried one to flowers from which to steal the yellow dust of fertility. Dogg could say “Gray walls do not a prison make” and pass through the bars of his cage like a ghost while the Djinns sang their funeral dirges for the corpses dressed in bridal finery that slept behind the gray walls. Once, he espied Gurdjieff coming in for a visit on a broom and leaving hastily on a rainbow-colored rocket gripped between his sturdy Russian legs. They did not meet though.
Was gray the right color to wrap Rashpants in? Should he be hammered into a sphere or a cube? Should his skin be left fragile, baby soft, or crumpled and coated with silver tin foil to give it glitter and glam? Dogg shook his head and his ears and sniffed at the early morning sun, snapped at the flies buzzing around his nose and licked the cold dew that had settled upon it. They were only flies, not bees. He sighed, relieved.
Packaging Rashpants was easier said than done. Would he rot in the heat inside his wrapping or become plastic synthetic tasty meat for heat and eat customers, pickled with the preservative of the Queen Bee’s droppings, that conspiratorial The Process? What brand would he wear upon his ear, who would design that logo? What ought it to be? Prepare a Client Brief, he thought.
Dogg scratched one ear with a soft paw, there must be more than one tick out there telling the truth about these times, sticking closer than a brother, growing fat upon his thinning blood. Let parasites live, red blood corpuscles regenerate themselves, he thought. That was all he knew about the Tree of Life.
The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Tree of Life. They had discussed it that very afternoon over lunch, when the Blue Bus had dropped them into town.
JAPTHAA AND SONJE
Japthaa Esminja had the light of intelligence in her eyes, a heavy body and soft smile. She waxed her body and legs because she thought it was hygienic.
Esminja had strewn her photographs all over the table. A black and white photograph seemed to catch her essence, that of the goddess-demoness Bhadrakali preparing for her tandav of destruction, eyes rolled up, hair loose, light silhouetted against perennial darkness. The photograph reminded Dogg of a woman in the throes of orgasm, the shaking, the sweat, the thrashing, the shrieking, the deep sighing, the shuddering, the sucking spirals, slower and slower and slower into even breathing, the closed eyes, the grip, the violence engulfing the man, entrapping him, erasing him. Dogg didn’t tell her any of this.
“I shot it with a flashlight lighting up the left side of my face while standing before the mirror,” Esminja said.
Suddenly a different image flashed into Dogg’s mind even as the waiter stood there, waiting for their order. It was Sonje Aios sitting on the stone steps behind the gray walls. Her face, as always, was animated and intense. She was not pretty in a feminine way, she even looked masculine, patriarchal, but her intensity would make her attractive to many, Dogg thought.
“No, I want to be secure. I dare not be insecure,” she was saying.
“Do you see Esminja, God is light and there is no darkness in him.” Dogg said. But you don’t, he knew, because all this sort of Education said was that there is no right or wrong.
Dogg saw with new eyes the schoolgirl who had met the woman Nin and had been disturbed by her. He remembered his dream with a certain sorrow, his work “I met Nin in the House of Love”, a story he had written years ago and yet to see the light.
“I will not let you be a failure,” Nin had told Henry Miller. It had worked. But he had found no one like that! Yet.
Sonje Aios noticed only the legality of the certificates of marriage between Hugo and Nin and Henry and June, respectively. She did not fathom or recognize as “legal” that other marriage, between the “people of the word”, Henry and Nin. Yet Nin’s relationship with her legal husband Hugo did not break up. That frightened Sonje. The only truth for Sonje was the illusion that the only marriages that exist are monogamous.
“Were those relationships real?” she asked.
“Yes,” Dogg replied. “It was 1931, 1932. It really happened. Love one another and fuck the fascist Huns, that much they knew intuitively. That’s how much they had grown in understanding and sharing,” he said softly.
“There is no security but there is trust,” he added.
“I don’t know anything about these things,” Sonje said somewhat wistfully. “I haven’t even ever been kissed.”
“You might learn,” Dogg replied.
Esminja and Sonje had been trying their hand at writing. They too believed that art comes as education in a Design Compound. Esminja was the more experimental of the two. Both were finding it difficult to articulate their thoughts and feelings.
“The problem is you have neither a wealth of reading nor experience at your disposal. Words are images, they are experiences of the imagination, worlds. What we call imagination alone does not help unless it is emanates from that source of imagination Blake discovered. He called it Christ. Blake also saw terrible beauty and truth in the path of excess that leads to the tower of wisdom,” Dogg said.
Esminja was a confused bundle though she carried it with poise, a waddling penguin. In the Blue Bus, she made a confession.
“Remember you told me something Bach, Richard had written. Something about not having to be ashamed if everything about your life was exposed and broadcast abroad,” she said.
“But I would not like that. I would be ashamed.”
“That happens when one is not honest with oneself,” Dogg replied. All confusion and sorrow comes from dishonesty, the inability to see oneself as one is and then not to lose the hope of transformation, Dogg reminded himself.
“That is why perhaps I cannot write or paint as I want to. I find that I cannot let myself go, let that which is inside of me emerge. I think I would be ashamed if it all was laid bare,” Esminja continued.
“Yes and your grades might fall too, you might be seen as a loose woman, your jury might say you are demented,” Dogg laughed.
“You see, every saint and artist is a madman but he knows how to swim in the sea of the unconscious. One treads the edges of the trenches in the sea. Or teeters upon a wall. Sometimes a leg swings this way or that but the center of balance holds. The waves crash, one comes through awash and gasping but alive. One crouches like a cat, tiptoes like a bird, one twists turns leaps falls on all fours and it’s back upon the wall, never inside. In time one knows exactly how deep to press in and when to pull back, the vision is enough, the images and metaphors would have been netted,” Dogg said. “From then on, it’s hard work, The Craft, the lonely wrestling with form.”
He turned suddenly in the Blue Bus and asked Sonje two questions.
“Is your mind teeming with fishes? Is your mind teeming with storks?”
“I don’t know,” she replied.
“What is the difference? Ah, the one eats the other.”
Sitting in that restaurant, the buzz of conversation all around, the scraping of chairs, sipping water, laughing and conversing with Esminja, thinking of Sonje too, “Ah little girls make the shadows on the street shorter than the shadow of death in this town.” That’s the song he heard.
“Beautiful girls primp but beautiful boys suffer,” he replied to nobody in particular.
“What? What was that?”
He laughed. “You wouldn’t understand,” he told her.
When Dogg said things like that, a little pinpoint of anger or distance would appear in her eyes. He liked doing that, make that pinpoint appear and disappear and then he would say something instantly which would make her laugh or smile.
MUSINGS ON DEATH
Dogg wondered how long Rashpants would consider him a friend. For one so young and just about getting ready to pass out of art and design school, he was already condescending towards Dogg. Of course, Dogg didn’t mind, the stray passes on, passes by. But he sees, hears, watches.
Rashpants did not understand that Dogg did not fear death, whichever form it might take. Defeat, disillusionment, humiliation, losing a limb or his critical faculties, castigation, betrayal, persecution, or the real thing.
Death was the Blue Bus, the blue-black buffalo on wheels waiting for its meat hook, a staccato beat that would fade into the distance behind and below as he swam up into the unapproachable light he had been waiting for so long. Rashpants would find the buffalo but never touch its essence. He did not even think that it was Yama’s steed till Dogg had told him about it. How the mind clings to the life of vanity and the vanity of life and death is taboo.
“Do you still believe in the Light?” It was a line a soldier asked another in “The Thin Red Line”.
“Yes,” Dogg said to Esminja. “This Yin and Yang thing, this all-is-one-thing, it’s not for me. I come from the Root of David. We have rejected these customs that have come in from the East. For us, God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.”
Whoa! He had never meant to talk about such things to her at all.
“I am afraid,” she said. “My mother has taken to Reiki and meditation. Now it is as if she knows everything about me, though I am so far from home. I don’t want her psychic scrutiny extending all the way here. She knows what I wear, what I am feeling. She even predicted the day on which my sister’s examination results would come,” Esminja said.
“Ah you cannot but be a victim of all this, it is your culture,” Dogg replied.
“And you, what do you think of palmistry, astrology, the psychic things?”
“I despise it all. The Jews were different because their revealed God taught them to despise these customs of the East, to know that there is only God.”
“My grandfather always said that,” Esminja said. “That it was enough to believe in God and love him and all things would work out for good. But then my parents met this impressive person and since then all these things have been happening. I don’t want to be controlled by these things.”
“So shake it off,” Dogg replied.
“But what of this culture, our glorious heritage, the Indian culture?” she asked.
“For me, being in this culture has always brought me back to the central issue of the Truth. Is it inclusive or is it exclusive? I believe the Truth is exclusive. So whenever I come across this Big Idea that seeks to include me as a cog in one big wheel of Dharma or Karma or whatever, I resist it. I prefer division, separation and difference.”
There was one, only one, who had given him an interesting answer to this issue. He told Dogg “You must be responsible, accountable to yourself.” Dogg ignored the advice though his eyes had filled with tears in the space of a significant silence. This one, perhaps, understood. But it was irrelevant, he had escaped the Hive.
“Why do you prefer division?”
“Only divisions can help one see the need for mutual respect. But mutual respect does not mean accepting all religious impulses as one and the same. It means seeing the differences clearly and treading carefully.”
Esminja looked confused.
“I remember how a friend of mine became an enemy. It was the eve of Ganesa Chaturthi and she and her friends made a little shrine to the god with the elephant head and potbelly and a rat for his vehicle. Bosha Lagorpaj and I loved one another deeply. I watched her as with her friends she laid out bananas and some other fruits before the idol. The next morning, Bosha came to me with pieces of banana she claimed had been blessed by her god. I laughed and said ‘You really want me to believe that this piece of banana is blessed? Forget it, you can eat the blessed piece of banana but I can only eat it as a plain, ripe, tasty banana. Who knows if it is a banana at all in the end?’ That was enough for Bosha to reconsider her friendship with me. She sulked for a few hours until I pulled out an Aesop’s fable from somewhere and some gin and made small talk that made her feel better. But she had been stung. And a woman does not forget easily when a man has stung her.”
Dogg did not tell her that it was not just such things that came in between him and women. Whenever he sensed a woman wanting him to change in someway, telling him to get his spine erect and to walk on two legs, he would resist. He had never liked Queen Bees and their concern for the all, the whole, it all amounted to men giving their strength to women. Women clung all the time but Dogg liked to roam free and return to his women. That is why he searched the faces of women to see if he could find such a woman, one who understood his nomadic nature and yet trusted him.
Telling such tales did not leave a good taste in Dogg’s mouth. He had never wanted to lose friends or lovers. But it usually happened. And it was lunchtime. The garlic chicken and fried rice had arrived. Dogg persisted with the story.
“A couple of years later, Bhosha came home and stayed a day or two. Yes, it was soon after hordes of saffron clad sadhus chanting OM had destroyed the Babri Masjid, an Islamic mosque in Ayodhya, the Aryan warrior Ram’s mythical birthplace. Another friend of mine, a Hindu, Drape Pev, was at home too on holiday from work in Bahrain. A discussion got going in which the idea of God was discussed. Somewhere down the line Bosha did not like us suggesting that she was an idol worshipper. That she needed an object of wood or metal or stone to remind her of the Spirit or mediate with the Spirit. That those who thought this way did not grasp anything spiritual, they remained earthly and materialistic though they cloaked this weakness in spiritual jargon.”
Dogg thought it was dainty the way Eminja ate her food, especially the chicken in its red sauce and she had a patient ear.
The discussion led to Dogg throwing a challenge to Bosha. She always carried on her person a tiny idol of the very same Ganesha. Dogg said if she would break it, he would take down a ceramic tile with the image of Jesus Christ crucified hanging upon his wall and smash it. She would not do it. Drape Pev laughed long at her. Bhosha left, never again to meet Dogg.
The images of the Buddhas of Bamiyan appeared in Dogg’s mind as he told this tale. He heard the blast of the anti-aircraft shells slamming into their torsos. He listened to the crashing of the sandstone blocks, he saw the spaces being carved out in the mountains of Afghanistan. Spaces for new images whenever they would be carved in there again. People of the image fear iconoclasts because they cannot face the truth that images only appear and disappear, they never last the ravages of time and man. Only the Logos remains constant.
“But this mind is what some of the seers of the East would call rajasic, egoistic, enslaved to Maya,” Dogg said. “They lie though. They want to reduce everything in the universe and beyond to specks in a simulacrum and some of us refuse to accept it.”
That is what packaging Rashpants was all about, this ultimate The Process. The conspiracy was all about the Grand Unified Theory, a power leech using which the uniqueness of each individual could be sucked out and blood-let into the Great Sea of Nothingness. Or worse, it would be the creation of an elite who used the concept to become New Age priests, the Brahmanas of Art by Design.
Now Rashpants loved the manner in which he was being packaged by design. For which lonely, disgruntled, unhappy, bitter and ambitious artist does not yearn for the touch of the Queen Bee, those hugs that pressed him to her abundant breasts, milk white and tattooed with the mark of the scorpion? But of these breasts he knew not much except that they were firmer than soft and that they were not to be tweaked into arousal erect under a man’s fingers. What is packaged looks good but loses its virility and droops until it is withered and small and blown on winds of doctrine like dead roses, jasmine, even the leaves and thorns break in the puffs of the evening breezes.
Rashpants, how is it within The Compound now? They have taught you that time matters, so does space, and form must please, it must be made to pay, isn’t it so? It was always night inside The Compound but that did not worry Dogg. His job was to be up at night, to howl at the moon those dire warnings that men faced with the flood or a hail of fire would inevitably ignore. But Dogg had learnt also to slink around as dogs do because to illumine the night they had installed searchlights along the high walls that made its periphery. And apart from The Compound, there was also the Dog Compound he did not care to visit. In that spectral light, the rhododendrons bloomed eerily, colors with engineered cause, effects that cloyed.
Rashpants knew the night and its seductive secret charms too for when he walked the streets outside those walls looking for the Queen Bee he found the painted harlots who lived the life apart. They lifted their skirts up to the knees when he passed by whispering “Come, come, come!” He ignored them for he knew the thighs up and beyond housed rotten apples, he had been tamed, domesticated. But the Queen Bee always looked fresh and smelt good, she was modern, she was cool decorated with the CMYK or RGB hues of the Zeitgeist and though he could never kiss her, he would be her drone.
Dogg found a corner where the psychedelic rats scurried softly, starting perhaps at the sound of the Speaking Cat stalking its prey, laid his cold snout upon his forepaws and slept. He needed strength for the hard road ahead.
Packaging Rashpants was possible if one knew how to go about it, and who knew better than the Queen Bee and her drones and soldiers. There was a cell in the Hive for each one to be put in its place. The Hive had three levels – Heirarchy, Strategy, Tactics. And within were slogans like “War is Peace”, “Love is Hate”, “Zen Speaks”. The Queen Bee knew it all, she was always sitting in her dark corner learning tips and tricks from every slave in the Hive. Assimilating these, she devised tips and tricks of her own to offer those who cared to listen. Who dared to be like Daria’s lover who refused to be “soothed, smoothed like milk silk, like ice cream on cake”?
“I won’t be smoothed,” Dogg sang.
There she sat in the Garbagriha, the womb, mother of the race of Titans, born of fornication between angels and women. Lilith.
Eve, “mother of all the living”, had been subsumed once more.
“Ah, Nin, I miss you,” Dogg sighed. “Yet I write, your spirit guides me.”
In this sacred space was a boatman waiting to be towed, tugged, rowed, wanting, impatient to be caught in a current that could not gauge its own flow. Occasionally, he remembered the mountain afar where the fire had thawed the glacier in that spot which when touched, rubbed made a woman feel faint with the passions of the love game and the waves swelled and raged and swept all along in directions one never knew existed. The boatman was dead, driftwood.
The second womb is the most frightening. Should it be a woman’s womb or a man’s? Dogg knew it was a man’s womb he had been reconstituted in, secretly his frame was shaped in the lowest parts of the earth. But Rashpants had found a place in a woman’s womb for the second time. There was no water here only air. In the shadows Rashpants was the oil lamp the Djinns had fashioned. Only he was now imprisoned inside it.
Was packaging Rashpants foreordained? The flame’s flicker and the fuel of oil, would it come from himself or would it be poured in? Who would light the wick, who would rub him up? A good package is well gripped by the giver and grasped by the taker, rinsed, untied, gaped at, hugged and kissed and left on a bed as a wedding gift, a birthday gift or, worse, an anniversary gift, when the shine has evaporated and the rough edges showed and the raw nature thawed. Who would help Rashpants then?
Packaging Rashpants, the deed must be done, Dogg decided. Duty calls, it brings with it its own reward. So let’s out of the Garbhagriha and into the sun. Outside the camp, outside the Outer Court, far outside the Holy Place, far away from the Most Holy Place, upon the hill, the mountain, that is where he must pop up from like an angel from the sun, like a jack in the box with his head in the clouds bringing holy words from the cave to the image worshippers. That’s where it was at!
What beauty can one behold, O Rashpants, when one’s head is lowered, one’s head is bowed, one’s snout is in the sand and shit like Dogg? Rashpants, let me teach you the ways of the Queen Bee, be petted, pampered, parceled out in paise and pennies, Dogg murmured.
Who has been to the Factory and seen the geared teeth bite into Rashpants’ neck, shake him back and forth (Dogg knew how this happens) till the sense dawned in his head? Rashpants, the light of life was lost when the spine grew erect and the eyes could look up into the beckoning night skies and desire the stars for a meal or a crown? The Speaking Cat could see further with the glow of insight in each eye a thrown spear. Dogg had ears that could hear right into the depths of Hades and high into Heaven and it was only on Earth that he was not, his furry ears caught each sob and rack in the soulless ones.
Packaging Rashpants, but who could save him from it? The buzz of the Queen Bee and the concentrated buzz from the Hive had reached into the gold in this potbellied lamp’s magic coursing through the artist’s hands and the mind that pored over paper and canvas and photocopies.
If only you would allow me to cut off those hands, they don’t belong to you, Dogg thought.
Remember, Rashpants, how Van Gogh cut off his ear for he did not need them anymore to listen to pedagogic shit and no bandage could hide the scar? Dogg whimpered a poem into that ear for he knew it might yet be understood.
How many fragments of paper
Does it take
To make or unmake
This process of silent dying?
And how many hands
Must be cut off
To heal or un-heal
This sexual process putrefying?
Dogg felt pity for Rashpants but, of course, Rashpants pitied him too. There was no meeting point. His furry pointed ears had barely escaped the snip of the scissors and he would not get caught in between. He had shaken off the buzzing in his ears.
Rashpants, Rashpants, my brother, Dogg sighed.
Must you learn this from the Queen Bee? To love all people, especially those who wish him well. Then there would be no danger of him being other than human, less than human, more than human, super-human, trans-human, post-human, preternatural. He would become natural like the Sabda Brahma, that mystic eastern OM drone, that hypnotic keening as painful as a woman’s periods and as cantankerous as menopause, he would not feel the painful cutting edge of the western incisive blade in his drugged state.
“It is with words I would whip you, O Rashpants,” Dogg said. “I would break the tables upon which you do your drawings, I would set fire to your classroom, hang your teachers from the rafters, I would leave their heads to be eaten by carrion.”
“With the Word that bites like the fangs of the serpent I would lash you, the Word that bites harder than the Image that lies, twist it how you will,” Dogg whispered.
“But you – you can only take it when it’s that one & not some other one
Or you say “he lost it” as if I (I so nothinged) could ever lose the word
But when there’s only one word – when you know them, the words –
The words are all only one word the perfect word –
My body my alcohol my pain my death are only the perfect word as I
Tell it to you, poor sweet categorizers
Every me I was & wrote
Were only & all (gently)
That one perfect word.”
In the beginning was the Word and as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen. But Rashpants, feed upon the honey of images in the Hive, this Visual Culture, till the Buddhas of Bamiyan topple under gunfire that speaks of God’s wrath that exceeds Mohammed of Ghazni’s or Babar’s zeal and technology.
Look, Rashpants, the packaging is like the Upanishadic onion, concealing much seemingly, till each layer is peeled away by skilled hands that leave you with – NO THING. Tears in the eye do not matter at all, they are chemical reactions, liquid spewing from a whole that is mathematically no more than a hole, for now it can be proved to be so, their worm dies not.
Dogg was hungry and went looking for that Old Garbage Bin. A leaflet with the words “Tapies” written in an illegible scrawl fluttered against his feet. A car with a sticker saying “JESUS SAVES” appeared beside him on the curb and transformed into the Blue Bus. Was it already time for another day’s work in The Compound? What time was it? Suppertime, yet the sun was up. He refused to climb up the metal steps. Instead he turned his back to the Blue Bus and dipped his snout into the Old Garbage Bin. Here he found that divine GodSnack, the Host, not by Chance or Education, but Grace!