Probability | Poetry

Two numbers,
0 and 1
and between them
lies these
probabilities,
endless as they
may seem.

0 and 1
and these probabilities.

Do you know how
heavy it can be to
hold them,
everything between
0 and 1,
feeling like eternity.

It would rather
be simple
if it were 0 or 1,
instead of the
combinations
in between.

0 and 1
and these probabilities.

But we fear these numbers
because as certain
as they may seem,
equally fragile
they are.

It does not take
long for one to
shift, and yet we’d
settle for 0 or 1
rather than the
in betweens.

0 and 1
and these probabilities.

Re-creators of the Magic

I was halfway through Haruki Murakami’s South of the Border, West of the Sun when a thought suddenly struck me. Murakami is a master storyteller and I have been awestruck by the scale of how he imagines great patterns in simple lives. His first person narrative is haunting. It feels all too real. But this is not what struck me in this particular moment.

It was his Translator with a capital T.

South of the Border, West of the Sun is translated by Philip Gabriel.

I have been reading translated works for a long time, but surprisingly the idea never struck me before. Some people choose to live as translators, in the shadows of the author so that we may be able to relive the magic of stories that would otherwise have rarely reached us.

And I’d always thought that it is the author’s book. It is, it definitely is. But may be it is not just the author’s book anymore. It is not just Murakami’s words anymore. It also belongs to Gabriel, whose translation takes me as close as possible to what Murakami intended.

To the re-creators of the magic.

Like The Seasons | Poetry

May be we’re like the season
I’ve never seen
spring meeting autumn,
like the day never sees the dawn
all we do in our alternate universes
is quietly burn.

Like summer and winter,
when one comes
you are bound to remember the other.

May be we really are like the seasons
fading away time and again.
Perhaps this is the sign of being human;
flawed like the cracks winter brings
to be cured only by the warm summer rays.

But we often forget
the first green of spring
and the first fall of leaves
as they turn golden.

May be just like the season
we will all be,
a little jealous of spring and summer,
autumn and winter
because they get through eternity
together.

And may be just like the season
we keep repeating our lives in circles,
in hopes of something new in every corner.

Just like the seasons
we think spring
was late this time around
and winter was colder
and we eventually forget
how it was,
once upon a summer.

And like the seasons we let go,
when spring leaves for summer
and summer opens its doors for autumn
autumn bids goodbye for winter
and then for spring to arrive again.

Like the seasons,
we learn
we can’t really overcome
and perhaps that is why we embrace,
spring for its blossom,
summer for its color,
the leaves of autumn
and the winds of winter.

May be we are
just like the seasons.


I stumbled across the line, ‘I’ve never seen spring meeting autumn.’ And my first reaction was, ‘How can they ever meet, they’re seasons!’ Exactly, they are seasons. The subtle thought that there are seasons that never see each other inspired me to scribble down this piece. 

The Festival of Reminiscence

“What does a rhombus look like?” the teacher asked. 

“A Kite!” the students replied unanimously. 

A rhombus in our heads was always represented by a kite. And a kite, was and will always be about Dashain, one of the most important festivals of Nepal and Hindu devotees around the world.

I have been trying to remember what is it about this festival that I absolutely adored as a kid.

Perhaps it was the month long holiday (which is now only being cut shorter and shorter as we step into adulthood!), or perhaps about the cramped shopping with my mother and aunts. May be it was about meeting my cousins after a long summer at school, flaunting our new dresses and making plans weeks before on what we would do the day we finally meet. May be it was the kite flying tradition at the last moment that we always lost, because some other neighbor always had sharper and stronger thread. Or perhaps it was the amusing game of cards that the adults played as we counted the number of years when we would be able to join along.

We learnt about cards in probability or probability in cards. Whatever it was, it was certainly worth the wait.

A big part of the festival was always about my cousins. Some of us have moved abroad, some of us in the city are studying and busy chasing our respective lives, others- the younger ones, the new generation is growing up and living the times we once lived. Some of us have joined the cards table, borrowing a couple of hundreds from our parents to marvel at the game while it lasts. The younger ones are demanding kite traditions and traditional clothes, moving their tiny heads away from their iPads and tablets.

Lately I have been talking about how Dashain is no longer the same. But may be I’ve forgotten that it was not supposed to stay the same. Or perhaps it has remained the same and I have changed, as I was supposed to.

As I returned back home a single kite flew past the crescent moon. The air does not feel like it used to, and the skies are not that colorful anymore. 

As I watch from the observer’s seat, the child like excitement may have faded away, but a new set of perspectives are on the rise. For each year, it means a different thing. For each set of transitionary period, it represents a new angle of life. The memories that were still remain. And they are not essentially just about the time that was, but also for the time that is and that will be.

As Corrie Ten Boom would say:

Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.

It was simple. And it still is.

Behold the time has come and gone in a flash, what have you seen? What you have seen is all that counts.

Wishing everyone celebrating a prosperous, lively and meaningful Vijaya Dashami. May this festival bring you closer to what you’ve been looking for.

Best Wishes,

Alfa

The Art of Hiding Behind Words

When we think of hiding, camouflage and going underground would be the ideal option. You wouldn’t normally think about writing. Nah! we write to express, to communicate, to disseminate ideas. Could writing be a way of concealment then? Very unlikely, and yet very possible.

The thought struck me when I came to know about a film related to Charles Dickens. Dickens is one of the most widely read authors in the world, he is also considered to be the quintessential gentleman from 19th century England. The man who when was asked to write about the pomp and glory of the royal family denied to do so, because he wrote of the pains and joys of the everyday people. That was Dickens to me, whose stories I have read and rejoiced since a long time. But this particular film was a revelation, because it shattered his image as a family guy, uncovering his secret mistress that he had for a time period of 13 years till his death.

150 years ago, Dickens had a strong brand image, which would have gone down the drains had his secret been revealed. Thus, he tried his best to conceal his relationship, shocking many people. But I am not here to debate his life.

The faint possibility that Dickens might have written much of his later works to conceal his pain, agony and his secret affair with his mistress interests me the most; the idea that through writing, Dickens did not necessarily express but rather hid behind his craft.

Think of a line you absolutely love, from a book, a movie, a conversation. Anything.

I’ll share a snippet of a piece I wrote.

The Wordcastle Instagram 4

Now, I might have 1769 reasons behind writing this line. And it is not necessary that as the listener or reader, you will be able to interpret it exactly the same way. Unless I explicitly state the objective, you will never know it, but what you will know indeed is your objective, your understanding. It surprises me greatly, how is this expressing myself then?

What I am doing but hiding behind an array of carefully chosen words? Of course I am writing. But it is you who is expressing, to yourself. I am merely hiding, beneath these networks of words. Some might call it a barrier, but it is a beautiful barrier I must say, one that helps us hide.

This is of course a very rudimentary version of anything concrete. All I do want to say is perhaps there is a different side of writing, one that does not involving expressing but hiding in metaphors and characters.

Perhaps that is what Charles Dickens did. His mistress is believed to have had a profound effect on his greatest work, Great Expectations. The story follows the life of Pip and his beloved Estella, but they never meet, not explicitly. Dickens separated from his wife, but could never bring his love for his mistress into light because of his public image. He could have instead hid his desires and confusions inside his characters and inside a story. But does this mean all works of writing have something hiding behind them? Not necessarily. But the idea that people write to express, might just be a one-sided approach to the very complex nature of us, humans.

You don’t necessarily have to express as you write, you could hide, camouflage and divert your audience in a world so very different from where you are. It makes writing sound like a code breaking task in Sherlock or James Bond. It might be and it might not. But it sure makes it interesting to explore.