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  • From the time I was little, I have had the habit of closing my eyes shut right in the moment, an attempt to save something in my mind for later. I wrote then too. My mother had the habit of going through all I wrote. When I discovered this, my words got cut short into keywords, words only I would know, contexts only I had seen. Funny, because I use the same method to sketch out my characters for the scripts I write today. The scribbled code reminds of me of the exact light, the mood the person has just stepped out of, the direction he wants to go. The image description makes the language come alive for me.

    When I work on the field, it is the same, I never speak the language of the people in the interiors most often, but I do manage to speak, inspite of the difference in our words.

    In Rajasthan once, I spent long hours in the heat by the anvil of a reticent, quiet blacksmith, a master traditional scissors-maker, who carried on with his work the whole afternoon like I did not exist. I kept speaking to him, in the language I knew, tottering between words from his language and the closest dialect I knew to it. Eventually, he understood I had seen his method in the mountains far north, he understood I had made a short film on it, he understood I wanted to share it, the only thing he said to me after the four hours of my intermittent chirping was to come at 2 pm with the film to his house.

    At 2 pm, I set up the laptop on his jute bed as instructed, he collected his wife and kids and sat himself on the floor to watch. My film, shot in Ladakh, had a Ladakhi metal worker who described his metal making process in Ladakhi, my driver translated it into Hindi on camera, I had the film subtitled in English, and I played the film for the scissors maker and paused it every once in awhile to translate the images out into a mix of Hindi and the dialect of Marwari this man spoke.
    Right in the middle of this exchange, his eyes suddenly shone when he saw the Ladakhi man pump air into his kiln using a goat skin air pump, and started speaking excitedly in fast Marwari, he got up, let go of his intimidation with the laptop, took it into his lap, and pointing at the image kept talking to his wife and me excitedly. I learnt later, this was the exact process his grandfather had used, the same goat skin air pump, he identified tools in the background, he asked me to continue playing the video, and marveled at the old Ladakhi man's work as he carved a dragon out of molten metal on the jug handle he was crafting. I didn't have to do anything. We were just juggling around words from five languages in his living room, we were almost talking to ourselves, we continued with our words solely on the basis of the light we saw in each other's eyes.

    I believe any words work, however they totter out in alien tongues,.. it is finally about the light in your own eyes, and the words flow out in desperate attempts to describe what that light sees, especially when you see the light in the listener's eyes.

    The image up there for example, is from Karnataka, it was the bath house of the Queen of the kingdom. I spent the entire afternoon lying on the floor under each of the arcs forming the corridor around the bath area. Each square so different, each one such a storyteller, I thought about the sculptor who crafted each one of them, his thought process, was he thinking about the queen when he worked, had he been instructed to create each different for her amusement? I thought of the queen's maidens in waiting, the starry nights, the visiting king, about myself, about my teachers, about objects, and art and the meaning we try engraving into our bodies of work.
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