The Enchanted Baroque | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 06, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 06, 2010

Short story

The Enchanted Baroque

Ayat stood motionless on the balcony to feel the time and space of a fresh day. The quiet dawn still held on to the remnants of night. The cool air caressed her face, the pleasure made her shiver slightly. She closed her eyes while listening to the Azan; one note but unsynchronized, the timing was a bit off for each call, yet together it formed a single whole - one message. That is what she loved about this city too, always chaotic, yet life fell in a rhythm. Today she heard another tune, Raag Bhairav. Somewhere close someone was greeting the God of Dawn on a different note! However much she tried to separate the two she could not. It was an amazing blend. She opened her eyes. The mist over the lake just hung there.
Many thoughts ran through her mind, a few esoteric, some creative. Someone once had said, 'Why not pen down the unconventional ideas; turn it into creative writing!' Me write? She mused. A fragment of memory made her smile. Her parents lovingly gave her an odd name, Ayat, meaning verse. Perhaps they believed she would develop a keen sense of observation and end up choreographing these in some form. Name makes a person, they firmly believed. The urge never left her, to write, that is. She kept journals, and somewhere among those bits of thoughts, a story happened! It literally unfolded itself.
She came inside, sat by her writing desk and thought she would give 'her story' a final read before the world around her woke up. Instead, she wandered off to the landscape of her life. Several years ago, upon acceptance of a story, her publisher Q sent her a laudatory note, 'a soul caressing music' it said. They had never met, yet there was this affinity that developed over countless conversations. Once she had sent a photograph with her writing, as an introduction to Q, and he had commented, “There is elegance, that grace and culture I always imagined defined your being. Now that I have seen your picture, I know I was right all along. For one of those rare times in literature, the personality of the writer matches the tenor of her work. Am I glad I have found the friend in you! It's a beautiful world.” Ah yes, the human mind that loves to traverse the unknown horizon. She felt here was something different. The enigma!
After that introduction, a weekend went by. Silence seemed to be all, in time and space. There was this restless feeling in Ayat. The phone rang a few days later and the voice at the other end asked, “How are you?” “Well. And you?” she chimed in.
“Now that I have heard your voice, you could say I am well, I am happy. Music is in my heart and I am in dreamy meditation. Really…how are you doing, my friend?” And with it Q recited couple of verses in Urdu from much forgotten old songs!
She was caught by surprise, “You are quite a poet! I cannot fathom that someone you have not met deserves such admiration. I know your command over English is very good. Now I notice your Urdu is exquisite.”
To which he retorted, “There are poets and there are poetasters. I have reason to believe I fall in the latter category. As for languages, there is this musical tone in Urdu, and I just love it. Twilight descends, silence takes over…and I go home. Stay well, my thinker friend.”
A number of conversations later when she remarked on his uncanny capacity to weave ash'ar into dialogues, and expressed a mild reservation about what such renderings mean; without missing a beat he had simply replied, “Ah yes, whenever I speak to you, some song always plays a welcome theme for you in my mind. No underlying meaning or hint of anything sinister! Don't get me wrong. It's just that you are a good friend and you know Urdu and these two reasons make me go back to shayari. Remember the deep respect with which Isaiah Berlin looked upon Anna Akhmatova? I simply enjoy talking with you. Speaking of books, what have you been reading lately? Here I have a whole load, trying to read all of them together and not making much of a headway.”
That was that. Thus feeling at ease she replied, “I am reading Tin Drum by Günter Grass - a rather dense book which I do not want to read nor do I want to set it aside! Today, from Kundera's repertoire, I remember, 'Do not liquidate people. Learn to listen to retrieve from the wordless infinitude the world of entities with meaning.' During one such defining moment when I listened to myself (!) the following happened:
(Unscripted Love)
The aura of rolling autumn I feel / When the soft kiss I gently steal / Unthinkingly I reach for your embrace / The quivering comfort in me I trace / My heart belongs to none but me / Yet feel the warmth when you I see …
I no longer see the shadow of night / As the scented wind holds me light / New life I feel carved in earthy sand / I see the amazing glow of stars in hand / While holding love in soundless memory / The places to go a moment take primacy …
Smile that comes unprovoked I cherish / To fly on wings of ecstasy I wish / The touch, the words, the snapshots to keep / Love is but remembrances to reap / The sharing I rejoice, celebrate the ordinary / Feeling alive to capture beauty of eternity …
I thus want love not to hold / But let it flow as prayer so bold / As to feel the intense desire of yearning / To worship the feel of divine longing / To be humbled by the dreams forgotten / Love is a story without script…

What do you think?” she inquired. She could hear the smile in his voice.
Is there such a thing as elegant writers? Ayat thought. Perhaps, as once Q, upon accepting another story, had written, “That was really something, really elegant! See what I mean by intellectual links? Someday when I meet the Creator of the Worlds, I will thank Him for getting us in touch with each other. Cheers, my cerebral friend. You are light unto a world. I miss your laughter. It touches the sky!” She mused, “A sentence, a few words, a thought can it construct such unreal magic? Or destroy the calm?” To which he had replied, “Yes. But pray note, though, that out of that destruction of calm there often arises a desire to bond. The bonding is between two souls. The heart reaches out to another, and there, is embedded that abstract yet very real feeling one calls passion.” After a pause he added, “I don't know if we will ever meet, but I do know that I will nurture this friendship, this interaction of thoughts.”
Ayat reflected there is no unconditional acceptance of so called passion. Be a realist. Life is much too crude for the taste of such refined thoughts, and yes deeds! Her quiet mind asked, or can it be the lifeline of living, to feel ALIVE? Instead she reflected with him; surely, the power of prescribed rules is such that it entwines innocent communication, even between faceless existence who have nothing to give or take from each other!
“True, but tell me, is there really nothing we, or individuals like us, can give or take from each other? There is always the intangibility, the sheer abstraction of happiness that defines meetings of the soul,” he retorted.
Ayat relished such interactive exchange of ideas with Q. Once she had put her premise to him as such: As I write, you read, you respond. But you interpret my words on your terms! When the words get back to me from you, the ensuing thoughts carry a different message. As I read this, I construct something else. Or is it REALLY possible to create something NEW? Can that new detach thoughts from its thinker? Always the controversial illicit outsider, the outcast measured on the barometer of standards. Should it matter?
Then the discourse stopped for a long time. She smiled at the absurdity of these braided snapshots. Oh yes, there was one last contact. He had said, 'Sorry I lost track of time. I have not been myself lately; or rather I should say my physical being seems not to be in sync with my mind!” Then, as usual, he went into a rhapsody of reciting lyrics which she had come to enjoy, being his signature trademark.
At that point Ayat had replied, 'Over the months, haven't you unconditionally and consistently proclaimed me as your friend? Even though I have never addressed you as such; it is not my forte. But I am an extremely good listener! If you wish, do share.”
Ah…the human mind! Unexpressed thoughts do not nettle the soul. By good reason, it is cast aside under the shadow of doubt. Thus spoken, broke the real. The conversations stopped. The lyrics stopped. The thoughts were no more a splash of color. And then there was silence.
Ayat is vehemently opposed to expressing her feelings. She likes the equilibrium of her emotions. Anything else she brutally shreds. She reasoned emotion is like God embedded in our psyche. It is our comfort element. We want and want from Him (or is it Her?), and if we get what we want we ask for more. If we don't get what we want, we say it is God's will; and then want some more! Insatiable need, these emotions. It is who she was; she felt secure in those reasonings - her impregnable defensive walls. The sun rises. The sun sets. From this bound time, let me fly away, she thought…
And then, she pushed the delete button to stop another story of hers from reaching its destination!

Ainon Mizan writes poetry and fiction. She is affiliated with Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, USA.

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