Of DOP in Defence Colony


, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In June 2011, I shifted into a one room apartment in Defence Colony, New Delhi. Initially everything seemed fine. One day a friend of mine came to stay with me in this tiny apartment as she didn’t have any place to stay. She was thoroughly disorganized and I was having trouble dealing with her in such a small space. It was during those days that it happened that I lost my datacard/dongle. I blamed it on my disorganized friend who I thought had by mistake put it among her things. Then I bought another one, which was with me almost for an year. By that time I had a boyfriend. One day my boyfriend insisted that he wanted to spend the weekend in a nearby city. I had some submissions to do and I worked a bit with my dongle and retractable mouse. Once the work was over I put my dongle and mous aside in a corner and left with my BF. The next day when I returned, I looked for my dongle and I couldn’t find it. I looked everywhere, every inch of my tiny room, I couldn’t find it. I was upset as the retractable mouse did cost some money. However, this is not the first time that I was losing things. I had lost a camera. It seemed it had disappeared straight out of my bag, for remembered having put it in the morning and never having found it later. I had lost my cellphone in my office in mysterious circumstances. I remember putting it in my bag, when I reached home it was not there and then a week later the SIM card was found at the back of the building. It was really wierd as to how that happened because I never went to that side of the building and even the CCTV cameras of the office showed that I had put it in my bag. I have absolutely no idea how it came out of the bag and later went to the back of the building!! Anyway, coming back to that trip. We had bought some saris for our respective mothers and I had kept mine at the bottom of my almirah. However, a few days later when I looked for it the sari was missing!! Same frenzy. I looked everywhere and couldn’t find it. I started suspecting that someone was accessing my room. So I changed the lock. But disappearances continued and especially electronic objects. Sometimes it happened when I was outside my room also. For example once I had gone with my BF to drop him at the airport. On the way, I took out my new camera and took some pics. Then I clearly remember putting it in my bag. After seeing off my BF I came back home in the same taxi. But when I checked my bag there was no camera!!! once again I was paranoid and I checked my bag again and again like a mad woman. I tried to remember if I had ever left my camera in the car. I called the driver he said he didn’t see anything… once again I was suspicious about it, but I clearly could not remember having left it on the seat or something. Then in between, I lost a very sophisticated pen drive that I had bought in France as well as my voice recorder. I had visited Barcelona last year for a conference and the conference bag had an interesting pen and notebook. I looked at it and kept it aside thinking I would show it to my BF. But the moment I opened it a few days later, I was disappointed to see that it wasn’t there. A camera,the new one bought after the previous one was lost   had disappeared.  After all, these disappearances I have looked high and low all over my room but to no avail. Meanwhile, another dongle disappeared and since I had an urgent skype interview to attend I bought a new one – my fourth one in two years. This June, a friend had gifted me two wine bottles. One was half-empty, which I finished one night while doing some writing work and the other was unopened. One day while cleaning my room I thought I would keep the bottle aside for my parents, who were visiting the city the coming week. Two days later, I realised there was only one bottle sitting in the corner instead of two. This time I didn’t even bother searching. In the same month, however a crazy disappearance happened. I was learning to drive and my trainer would come at 9am exactly to pick me up. I was looking at my mobile, not at all fancy by any angle. Suddenly, it rang and the name displayed was of a friend with whom I am never been in touch, but I thought it was to do with a malfunction in the mobile. I picked up the phone – it was my trainer who told me he had arrived. I immediately closed my house and took my belongings. I was supposed to meet a friend after the session to accompany her to the hospital. In the car, I realised that my mobile was not with me. I asked the trainer to call. He said it was ringing somewhere but not in the car. Then I went back to my room and looked everywhere on my bed, where I usually leave my mobile if I have forgotten. I pulled out the sheets, threw the pillows on the ground. There was no sign of the mobile. I asked a neighbour to call my number. When we dialled it was unreachable!! In the evening I came back looked high and low – no mobile anywhere. Withing a week my new datacard also disappeared. I was frazzled I called my friend (whom I was supposed to take to the hospital). She told me a spine chilling story about DOP/Paranormal that happened in her house when she lived in Lajpat Nagar. She was a single mother and every night she would wind the clocks of her house to set the alarm so that her son would wake up to go to school. But every morning the alarm would ring one hour late than the set time and her son would miss the school bus. She had also been experiencing misplaced keys. Her keys would turn up in places she never could imagine keeping them. Every night she would lock the doors and sleep but when she woke up in the morning, it was as if someone had opened them and just bolted them. One day she decided to keep all the clocks in her room in the night. She sat working on the computer. The clock struck 12. But suddenly the timing of all the clocks in her room changed to 11pm. She went out to call her son. By the time she came back even the computer time had changed to 11pm! She and her son then sat in the living room and prayed. She then went back to check on the keys in the bedroom. They had disappeared! She went back and prayed in the living room. Both mother and son calmed themselves and went back to the bedroom. This time the keys were back! My friend then spoke loudly to the spirit(s) and asked them not to disturb her or her son again. The next day she called a priest and organized a religious ceremony to keep the evil spirit away. Since then, she told me, she always conducted religious ceremony once in three months wherever she lived. So I think praying is a great way to keep the spirits at bay!



Deciphering The Blind Assassin


, , , , , , ,

It starts with a bang.

Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.

Murder, suicide only time would temargaretll.

Meanwhile the narrator Iris Chase, goes back into time. Her slow memory lingers upon a mansion called Avilion in a place called Port Ticonderoga, like mist. It meanders through Avilion’s halls and gardens and recounts the stories of its inhabitants, grandmother Adelia, grandfather Benjamin’s button factory their three sons and the death of two of them in the war, her mother (who was proposed to by Norval at the skating rink). Their father, Norval devastated not only by the loss of his two brothers in the First World War but also by its cruelties and their mother, trying to hold the strings together, even as Norval spends more and more time locked up in the turret of the house, drinking. Then there is Reenie – the maid who comes to the house as a teenager, and of course, Laura, Iris’ younger sister an ‘uneasy child’.

It took Laura a long time to get herself born into this world, said Reenie. It was like she couldn’t decide whether or not it was really such a smarter idea. Then she was sickly at first and we almost lost her- I guess she was still making up her mind. But in the end she decided to give it a try and so she took ahold of life, and got some better.

The story told through the eyes of Iris, now an old, silvery, slippery, embarassed about being under Myra’s (Reenie’s daughter) care is simply one-sided and that is what makes it even more intriguing. Told from Iris’s point of view it is an account of the sisters’ childhood in Avilion. Half understood and dim, their mother’s death, (This event changed everything) Laura’s whims and fancies, their tutors, coupled with Reenie’s instructions worded to protect the girls from the realities of the outside world  and bringing them any ‘shame’ and ‘dishonour’. Some questions like where Norval was when his wife suffered an abortion, did he have a mistress or did Mr Erskine really molest Laura remain suspended like question marks for they exist in another bubble for the little Iris who is just living her life according to the rules set by adults.

Reenie said a girl alone with a man should be able to hold a dime between her knees. She was always afraid that people – men – would see our legs the part above the knee. Of women who allowed this to happen, she would say: Curtain’s coming up, where’s the show? Or Might as well hangout a sigh, or more balefullly, She’s asking for it, she’ll get whats coming to her, or in the worst cases, She’s an accident waiting to happen.-

Laura soon drifts towards God, much to the consternation of both Reenie and Iris and the only person who is able to draw her out is Alex Thomas, who is introduced to Laura through Callie Fitzsimmons, Norval’s bohemian artist lover. Alex, introduces  himself as an orphan, during the Chase family’s labour day celebrations. Even as an adolescent Laura engages with him, Iris comes searching for her: The three sit down under the tree and chat. This part of the story, trails along with the narrative in the form of a photograph, which the local journalist Elwood Murray takes as the three engage with each other. However, Iris only has one portion of the photograph, in which she is sitting with Alex wearing a white blouse and skirt tucked under her needs. The only evidence that a third person exists is in the form of a hand on the edge of the photograph from where it was cut – a symbol that takes on layers of meaning throughout the book. The afternoon of Labour day celebrations is also the day when Iris sees her future husband, the industrialist Richard Griffin from Toronto and his sister Winifred.

Things take a different turn from here. Norval continues to incur losses at the factory. He is forced to retrench people or reduce their working hours. This leads to widespread unrest and arson in the Chase button factory of which Alex Thomas is held responsible. Alex Thomas goes into hiding in a place only Laura and Iris know. One day, even as Alex hides in Avilion’s attic he kisses Iris, when she wanders in alone without Laura. The incident makes Iris to wonder whether Alex did the same to Laura.  Soon Alex leaves his hiding place in Avilion. Richard Griffin asks for Iris’ hand in marriage in exchange for a ‘certain amount’. After Norval’s death (which happens while Iris is honeymooning in Europe, the news of which Richard prefers to hide from Iris) Laura, much to her chagrin and displeasure, is forced to live with the Griffins.

But then this is not the only narrative in the book. Somewhere in between the pages two lovers meet in old apartments and run-down hotels.  Hitler advances through Europe, exhilarating many like Richard Griffin. The socialists are being hunted down and Laura’s book ‘The Blind Assasin’ is taking shape. Apart from that there are newspaper reports about Aimee, Iris’ daughter’s, death, Richard’s Death and before that about speeches made by Richard in support of Munich Pact, the socialists, the disappearance of Laura Chase and between all this an aging Iris laments Aimee who was snatched away by Winifred and who later came to believe that Iris was not her real mother.

 Margaret Atwood  deftly weaves a tale taking us through the labyrinth of memory and imagination, in which guilt and love line the cracks of human betrayal.