Poet, Author, Editor, Creative Writing Consultant

Friday, January 24, 2014


I sit in the space, on a boulder, hidden. The sound of the water flowing from a pipe into the pond is like a gurgle. I like it, it is said this is akin to the sound of the womb,  that is why we humans like to be near the sound, near water. The goldfish , large and orange and gold, had been spotted once by me in this pond,  but I search for it now and cannot find it. The pool is muddy, it is difficult to see clearly. The boulders are rough and red, the two central ones have flat surfaces, but are also lower.
I have chosen one of the flat surfaced ones to sit on and it feel cool and smooth under me. Opposite me is a hut like structure build in a traditional style, open, raised on bamboos, and with thatch as roofing. It has clay pots placed on a high ledge, an opening that connects the structure’s inside with the outside. From my low vantage point, I catch a glimpse of more clay objects through that opening. The look is cool, inviting, and I almost unseat myself to explore this structure and what it holds, but force myself to keep in place, willing myself to enjoy the stillness.  I hear a bird’s sweet call, the water’s soft gurgle, the sound of an airplane above, and nothing seems amiss in the world order. I close my eyes, trying to drink in this peace.
A sound. My eyes open, angry at being disturbed. A man is dragging a plastic hose , a long cream coloured thick , snake like creature, across the uneven and muddy terrain at my feet, a couple of feet away from me, indifferent to the fact that I am sitting there. He places the hose pipe into the pool, letting its water pour forth. I wonder why he needs to do this, the pool is already being fed by another hose pipe near to where I am seated, at a point where I had spotted the goldfish. He has disturbed the equilibrium. He goes away and my eyes wander.
I can see to my left a vast expanse of open green lawn, where the sun shines with intensity and no trees are there to stop its glare, and watch two of my friends drift into the space and out of it. I wonder, are they still looking for a place, a place to seat themselves and be quiet? I can sense their restless energy, the need to find a location. At the same time, I feel somewhat like a voyeur, I can watch them from my hidden shaded spot and they do not know that they are under observation.
Another sound of feet hitting the ground. I look back to the space in front of me, the rough ground, and another man is walking past. He comes up to the hosepipe and washes his hands in the water that is pouring out. He leaves, retracing his steps. I find myself distracted by all these comings and goings. Though no words are spoken, the entries and exits bring with them an element of disturbance and noise.
 To the left and back of me, behind the garden space, is the main building, with a stone pillar painted with coloured acrylic art forms almost guarding the entrance. It is very modern and contemporary and goes with the monolithic, triangular style structure of the building. The building is imposing and seems strong and foreboding, set amidst the surrounding nature that is so green and bending, accepting and vulnerable in comparison.
I am looking out of the spot so much that I cannot bring myself to be at peace with what is immediately around me, the movement of the water, the natural roughness of the boulders, the colours of the leaves, the gentle shade which shields me from the harshness of the sun. The way the tiny little leaves and flowers lie scattered on the brown mud path, some trampled, some still fresh. All this is not consciously and willfully imbibed into me, I am searching everywhere around , looking in the distance for some kind of filling into my being, a pouring forth into me from the outside.
 I look again at the thatched building in front of me, with its clay and terracotta figures and objects and the contrast of the two buildings in the same space hits me. My eyes travel up the baked mud exterior of this pottery building and stop at the ledge. I am about to get up from the seat and as I do so, I find that someone had been observing me quietly from behind the ledge, for his eyes meet mine as I rise. My bottom feels painfully frozen and numb as I begin to stand.
A sense of shock and strangeness overcomes me, I am not the only voyeur. I had been observing quietly, drinking in the surrounding scenery and people, thinking that no one could see me doing so.
I have an unexplained feeling of embarrassment as I walk down the path, back to where everyone is, where interactions are taking place openly. Here people distract with words, not through the making of noise. Here they communicate through voice and direct gaze, not through the silent observations of hidden eyes. Here the guards are up, people are not allowed to observe without being put in their place.
But now I know, even when you think no one is looking, you can be quite sure that you are wrong. You are being observed.
© ABHA IYENGAR, April 2011

First published online in Red Room.