Sunday, August 5, 2018

Nothing like us – Candle Vanrempuii

Your absence built my childhood. I remember it lending me a hand, stacking bricks to build a wall the thickness of your selfishness and the height of your irresponsibility in every direction you stabbed me. So I ended up with a 360 degree wall, pretty thick and pretty high. Other children my age were learning to make doors – properly painted ones because their parents taught them how important presentation is; properly secured with peepholes that allowed insiders to identify who they would allow to walk in and who they would not; properly measured with a doorway wide enough to make a two way street where one can walk in and, on the occasion of a fire breaking out which hopefully will not, walk out; properly locked with chains of gold that the insider can open or close at free will. Other children were making doors with their parents while I had built myself a mighty fort. My fort was pretty impressive to me until years after, I realised that I had neither the simple luxury to bask in the yellowness of the sun nor the shimmering light of the moon.

So I taught myself the art of whatever could be learned by a child in the absence of a father and I made objects to entertain. The product of a handicapped craftsmanship resulted in a volume of broken things, and a volume of variations of broken things: a collection of almosts. Things that were only a few steps short of completion but things that seemed so good at remaining that way – a little rough around the edges and a little incomplete. There were shards of the incomplete here and there and their trails everywhere. My home became a maze of objects that were ready to cut you in their incompletion if ever they find in you the slightest, tiniest intention of leaving. Leaving, yes, they were afraid of that and I must admit, they take after me in this respect.

Your absence is what built me a home and had me a childhood and I think I owe you a drink as a token of my gratitude. I know you’d love that but I doubt we ever will because I heard you left town to come back on a Saturday and now it’s Monday, it’s always Monday…Besides, I was 8 then, I’m 20 now.

A sincere thanks anyway.

In the past 12 years I’ve spent without, I must have acquainted every form of loneliness. Every day and every hour, nothing but loneliness. Gee, where are my manners? I meant to say no one but Loneliness. You’d be surprised how versatile Loneliness is if only you’d met the half of them. Some talk to you, some stroke you and some even caress you and you’d be proud to know that I’ve even had enough time and closure to pick a favourite. And my pick is the Loneliness that stays. I’m quite proud of myself and I like to believe that I have good taste because at least I picked the one that stays.  Unlike you. It lulls me to sleep and awakens me with a kiss, it feeds me breakfast, lunch and dinner, and soup on days I do not feel well, it handles me with love and care, it bathes me and clothes me and never fails to pray daily for me. It practically raised me. So it’s only fair that I favour this Loneliness over all the others – only natural, I must say.

It did a pretty decent job because it taught me the value of love. In all my years, I have never wanted nothing so much than to love and be loved. So I’d say I was raised right.

However, it took me 20 long, lonely years to realize that the first and possibly the only thing needful to welcome people to your home and let them into your life is a door. 20 long years of loneliness to teach me the value of love and after the lesson was thoroughly taught and so very thoroughly learnt, I realized that I have no door.

No freshly polished knob to turn, no doorbell to press ever so impatiently, no wood to knock, no bolts to unbolt, no peepholes to look through, no sound of creaking, no gush of wind from the act of a door being opened.

Nor a stranger to shake hands with or introduce; to shyly welcome or offer juice. No stranger to become a friend or perhaps a lover. No stranger with the wind of possibilities tied to his footsteps to ever walk through my door and into my life. No door, no stranger.

Just an endless, circular wall of concrete and exhausted possibilities.

Taking matters into my hands as always I’ve done before, I walk through the maze of shards and I’ve a number of cuts on my skin and tatters on my clothes. I complain not because that’s just the price I have to pay, a fair one too. I have to reach that wall and make myself a door because as much as being left hurts, I don’t think it hurts half as much as being lonely does. Leaving can never be as bad as having no one. At least when you have someone there is that ever so slight possibility of that someone wanting to stay and having someone who might leave is still better than having no one. The stakes are high, I’m well aware, the odds are against me, I don’t doubt, but I’ll take the bet, I’m a gambling woman anyway.

The blood trails are my map and the scars these cuts will leave are my stories and the bruises I have from banging against the wall in my thousand attempts to break it down are a baptism – a worldly mark of someone who has fought to love. Someone who has learnt, first hand that it is better to live in the hurt of the leaving of love than to live in the fear of being left and never be loved.

I stand behind this closed door, waiting and bruised and cut and bare. But believe you me, I was in a fight for something beautiful. Something that sounds, looks, tastes, smells and feels a lot like love.

And I hope the first person that knocks on my door is nothing like my father and nothing like me. I hope his home and his childhood are built on something better than absence.

                                                                         ~ ~ ~

I am rooted in you

I am rooted in you.

I stem from the ashes of who you were and what you believed.

I am a sprout of your faith.

And a bud of your prayers.

One day I will bloom with your name on my petals

And your legacy in my scent.

On that day this I will remember -

I am rooted in you.

That being said -

I hope your heaven has isles upon isles of cherry blossoms and sky the colour of a shy blush you were so particularly fond of.

I hope it smells like the perfume Apu bought you that you loved and treasured so much and I hope the air is filled with constant carolings with the likes of Pu Vankhama* and Pu Rokunga*.

I hope your heaven is filled with things that need fixing because you were so good at that.

I hope your heaven has people in desperate desire to be rooted and I hope they eventually find their way to you.

* Vankhama and Rokunga are both poets who belonged to the 50s' golden age of Mizo poetry.

Candle Vanrempuii is currently in her final year of English lit. at Pachhunga University College. She recently published her first collection of writings titled Evermore in collaboration with her friend Niji who contributed a beautiful set of evocative photographs. 

Candle was introduced to literature by her grandmother who loved Mizo poets Vankhama and Rokunga, as well as by her grandfather, the late Pu Dengchhuana, IAS. Her favourite author is Neil Gaiman and she is particularly fond of the genre, magical realism.  She says that her writings generally do not have any cultural, political or historical value (not unexpected from someone still so young) but that every piece is written because of something that deeply moves her.  In this context, mention must be made of her father, the late Maitawka, acclaimed guitarist and musician. In much of her writings, his is a very significant and poignant influence. Candle has also made quite a name for herself with her spoken poetry, having performed at a number of events in Aizawl to highly appreciative audiences.