Tuesday, December 29, 2009
“In the stories he’d read so far Father said that all the Parsi families were poor or middle-class, but that was okay; nor did he mind that the seeds for the stories were picked from the sufferings of their own lives; but there should also have been something positive about Parsis, there was so much to be proud of;
In 1989, I went on a camp with my Boy Scouts troop to Davier, a coastal village on the border of Gujarat with Maharashtra. Davier was one of the many villages in Gujarat where Parsis had settled down in substantial numbers and established community institutions like agiaries (fire-temples) and dokhmas (Towers of Silence). Ours being a troop consisting entirely of Parsis, one of our activities was a visit to the agiary. It wasn’t the first time I was going there. I had come before in 1982, again on a camp that also included a visit to the agiary. But this time, it was a different experience. Instead of leaving our offerings of sandalwood at the door of the keblah (the sanctum sanctorum which only the officiating priest could enter), we entered the keblah itself and placed our offerings directly on the fire. I felt a little uncomfortable doing it; entering the keblah had always been a taboo. But Farhan, a fellow Scout whose family also owned the property where we were camping and therefore kept coming to Davier often, informed me that this had become the practice here ever since the agiary had been left without a priest to look after it. Not wanting the holy fire to die out, a resident (among the handful left) had taken the responsibility on himself to keep it burning. And since he couldn’t afford to give the fire his undivided attention like a priest would, others too could offer sandalwood directly to the fire.
This dissertation was to have been on Aravindan. The few films I had seen of his oeuvre – Thampu, Kummaty, Esthappan – had charmed me with their deceptive simplicity, and left me with a feeling I found difficult to articulate in words. That, coupled with the paucity of written material on Aravindan and his films, made writing this dissertation a personal challenge I was eager to take on.
“I have nothing to say / and I am saying it /
and that is / poetry / as I need it.”
- John Cage, “Lecture on Nothing”
Music and I have met a few times, but we remain strangers at best. And though we have even worked together, we remain indifferent to each other, not comfortable with each other, not understanding one another, not communicating. The chemistry is just not there.
Now, we are being forced to work on a film together.