Gypsy Bohemia

Freedom * Beauty * Truth * Love

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A close friend asked me recently what ‘home’ meant to me. It’s not that we often delve into the philosophical during our frequent conversations together; she needed some information for a project she was working on and was interested in getting the perspectives of her friends and family. I was flipping through the answers she got from various other people and, in comparison to their one-liners, my own responses were rather long-winded. While this is laughingly typical of me (I have never quite mastered the art of being concise), I have a vague feeling that my answers to her questions were rather confused and convoluted. Weeks later, I still keep coming back to that question of what ‘home’ is and what it means to me – especially from my changed perspective as a fly-by visitor to the country I grew up in – a country I’m not sure I’ll ever truly return to again, except for periodic visits like this one.

It could have been because I lived a few of my formative years in Sydney that my bonds to Sri Lanka never felt terribly strong or permanent. I don’t remember much of my time here pre-Sydney. I was under 5 and have vague but happy memories of going to nursery and playing in my grandmother’s vast home and garden. Memories that old (or new, depending on how you look at it) are tied more to people, family and immediate environments rather than a country and sense of national identity. As children, I don’t think we ever dream there is a world outside the playgrounds we make for ourselves – except of course in the fancies of our imagination. For me anyway, anyone who wasn’t a fellow pint-sized sibling, or protective parent or grandparent, or stooping, loving Sumana, or sari-wrapped teacher, was either faceless or quickly forgotten. Read the rest of this entry »

Aurora

Joker Card, by Chronoperates

I went out to a movie and came back dead.

Batman, the movie was.
One of those superhero movies
Where a masked vigilante finds himself in
extraordinary situations and somehow emerges
Triumphant.
Unscathed.
A hero who could never die,
who could take down a hundred men
without any help.

Then there’s me – in the most ordinary
of situations – at the movies with my girlfriends,
laughing about the cute boy in our class,
slurping noisily on my milkshake,
trying to drown out the thought of calories.

If someone had told me my life was in danger,
That I was going to die that day,
I would have laughed out loud.
Who would want to kill me?, I would have asked them. I’m just a kid.
My biggest problem is
the history test next week
that I can never seem to start studying for.
Life gets in the way, you know?

Besides,
I had more going for me than any superhero -
I was young. I was healthy. I was going places.

Was. Was. Was.

Where was my superhero?
I sure could have used one
when that boy came in and blazed his gun at me.
Yes, he was a boy. Who bought a gun because he could.
And decided to kill a bunch of people at a movie.
Because he could.
You can do that here, didn’t you know?
Here in America, we call it freedom.

He had orange hair.
And he had on a costume, like he was playacting.
The way we used to do when we were young,
throwing fake punches and cocking our fingers.
Pow! Bang, bang! You’re dead.
Except this time, the gun was real.
My life was real. And then it wasn’t a life anymore.

I didn’t get to see how the movie ended.
Did Batman save the day and get the girl?
Did they leave room for another story?

I didn’t get to see how my story ended.
This couldn’t have been it. I refuse to believe that it was.
Don’t I get a sequel? Another chance?

I wasn’t done.

It’s not fair.

*Inspired by the tragedy of the Aurora shooting – where 24 year old James Holmes killed 12 people and wounded 58. 

Skoonheid (Beauty): A discussion

NOTE: Contains spoilers

Francois and Christian in ‘Skoonheid’

At the wedding of his daughter, Francois van Heerden, thin-lipped and cold-eyed, watches a young man from across the room as he laughs and talks with friends; and if it wasn’t for the length of the stare, you wouldn’t know why. Francois is a man who has become the mask he must have donned years ago, from whichever point in time that he made the conscious decision to deny who he was.

His life is reflected on his face – it is a mask and the mask is without expression. He and his wife sleep in the same bed, yet they do not look at each other when they make conversation, let alone touch. He watches dispassionately from across the road as she embraces someone we assume to be her lover and then drives away without murmur. He appears to be a regular at a meeting of white Afrikaan men – no “faggots” and/or “coloureds” allowed – who have unappetizing and unfeeling sex with each other before going back to their suburban, heterosexual lives.

Yet, under this detachment in Francois lies something that puts us on edge, although we cannot at once put our finger on it. If the adage “calm before the storm” could have face, it would be Francois’s.

Read the rest of this entry »

God Only Knows (Beach Boys cover)

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The greatest love songs cover all kinds of love, and that, I think, is this song’s triumph. It’s not just about romantic love — you can sing it to your lover, but it would be just as true if you sang it to your child, your best friend, your mother. Furthermore, it’s not about sweeping statements and dramatic declarations. It’s a jolly, rollicking little tune which takes as its message the one thing we have all sighed to our loved ones at some point in our lives when they have come through for us when we needed them the most: “God only knows what I’d do without you”. It’s a song of simple but glorious gratitude. And it makes me terribly happy.

Hate

Also published on Groundviews.org

image by michal tokarczuk

 

Tell me,

do you feel it every day?

When you’re buying groceries,

taking a train to somewhere;

when you smoke, eat or dream?

Does it take a toll? Make your feet drag, perhaps,

or your head ache?

*

Tell me,

Does it get away from you sometimes?

Have people around you sensed something

not quite right,

caught that glint in your eye (there for just a  second,

and gone the next)

and wondered what it was that made their skin

crawl?

Or have they wished you good morning every day,

sat down to lunch with you, asked how your mother was,

without ever having a clue?

*

Read the rest of this entry »

Catcher in the Rye: my thoughts.

WARNING: Spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read the book.

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I finished reading J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye today. Despite being such a short book (at just over 200 pages), I was surprised that I managed to finish it so quickly. I read every day but sparingly – perhaps on the train on the way to work if I’m lucky enough to snag a seat, or sometimes during my lunch hour. (Well, lunch half-hour but sometimes I cheat a little.)

I was also surprised at how easy it was to read. I have this childish preconception that books now dubbed ‘literary classics’ will, simply for that reason, be difficult to read, both in terms of content and language. Fortunately for me, and to my enduring delight, I often find that this is not the case. It was so with Catcher in the Rye: the language and tone of the narrative was very modern-retro, and hilariously pock-marked with the protagonist’s incessant swearing – a combination that had me hooked from the first paragraph.

People have seen me reading this book at work and said things like “Oh I loved that book”, and I’ve found this reaction quite difficult to reconcile with my own. At first I thought it must be because I hadn’t yet finished the book and had missed some vitally cheery ending, but now that I have, I am still unable to be so… effusive about it. It’s not at all that I didn’t like the book – on the contrary, it kept me both entertained and ponderous right through – but when you get right down it is, it’s not exactly a terribly ‘feel-good’ read, is it? In the colourful words of Holden himself, “It certainly didn’t make me feel too gorgeous”. Read the rest of this entry »

Erase/Rewind

No Time To Stop, by pinkparis1233

I see songs in colour and line. This might sound strange but that is one of the many ways I experience music: I visualize it involuntarily. As soon as it fills my ears, it fills my head with tinted pulses and waves and I revel in the sensory experience no matter where I am – whether on a train, walking on the street or at my desk at work pretending to be very busy and important. Sometimes, when a song is just that good, I have to stop what I’m doing altogether – distracted beyond all pretense – and just sit there with a glazed look in my eyes, simply appreciating.

This song, by the Cardigans, is all dark blues fading into black, like a night sky. It is definitely a night song – I can’t listen to it during the day, it wouldn’t feel right. It’s coy, but bold, but also understated. I love the well-placed echoes; the pureness of the vocals against the slightly grungy music. Here’s my take on it.

She Is Fire: Poetry and Candy Royalle

Photo by Nicola Bailey Photography. http://www.nicolabailey.com

When she spoke, her words seemed to be coming from another time and place, as if she was shouting to be heard from a distant room, and we strained our ears, desperate to catch every syllable. She spoke of the sea and in my eyes she swam with the colours of the sunset and her voice rippled across the room, splashing intimately against our ears. I sat enraptured in the semi-darkness…

-       Written on the train, Sat 21 May, 2011

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I’ve spent months trying to put Candy Royalle on a page and I have to admit – it has been harder than I thought. This strikes me as odd, because I don’t usually write like this. When I’m inspired, the writing usually comes in torrents and my fingers own the keyboard, almost as if they know what to say before my brain registers the thought.

And I have written about her – reams, actually. Disjointed paragraphs in that book and the other, even on my phone – all over the place really. Tackling a hundred different ideas and sensations that never really came together into one cohesive thought process. So here’s take number umpteen.

*

“I will her to want it all”, Candy admits from the stage, half singing, half speaking, staring directly into the collective gaze of her audience.

I drink in the tone of her voice, the sensuousness of her language and try to close my mouth, aware of the cameras deftly roving the crowd at intervals. I don’t want to be caught on screen with my jaw unhinged, but quite truthfully, that is how I feel on this late week night, sitting in this cosy pub enclosure together with a handful of people, watching this otherworldly poetess speak about love, sex, anger and politics.

This is the second time I’m seeing Candy Royalle on the stage.

The first was at a more public gathering, at the Sydney Writer’s Festival. I had seen her speak that same morning with a group of other poets, writers and artists who were using their work to inspire positive social change – a talk I enjoyed enough to want to know more about each of the speakers. So when I saw that most of them were performing that evening at a session of performance poetry, I thought ‘why not’. I had never seen performance poetry before and while I had a sneaking suspicion that I would find it pretentious or silly or downright depressing or all of the above, nevertheless, I figured there should be a first time for everything and decided to go along.

I’m not sure what gave me that first negative impression of performance poetry. I am a lover of language and I enjoy poetry even though it’s not usually part of my typical reading list. For whatever reason though, I had this picture in my head of self-proclaimed ‘poets’ standing on a dim stage with bits of paper in their hands, monologuing at length about their tortured feelings and depressing experiences, beating at their breasts while we sat in the audience trying to stifle our yawns.

So yes. The first time I saw Candy Royalle on the stage, I went with the eyes, ears and mind of a skeptic.

The poets who performed before her pleasantly surprised me – I marveled at their clever witticisms and wordplay and laughed at their impressions. I was enjoying myself. Candy was one of the last to perform. She had already intrigued me that morning – from her appearance, to her direct introduction of herself as a queer Arab woman, to the gentle huskiness of her voice, to her opinions on revolution and social change, to an excerpt of one of her poems that she had briefly performed. Read the rest of this entry »

Crash Into Me

Whenever I hear this song I think of the sea. I’m not sure why, but there’s a sea-like quality in the songs and lyrics; the way he talks about lust and love and dreaming. Perhaps it’s simply the word ‘crash’. I don’t know. Either way, I love it, and thought I’d give it a shot. Dave Matthews, thanks for the music.

Secret

There’s just something about Maroon 5 – I’ve always loved their sound and admire how they manage to be one of the few ‘pop’ bands out there with real soul. Their melodies and lyrics are usually extremely vivid: when I listen to their songs I always see something in my mind – certain situations or moments that the lyrics coax into my mind, no matter how occupied I am. It’s almost as if I am watching a music video that was never made.

Cool these engines, calm these jets, I ask you how hot can it get,
And as you wipe of beads of sweat slowly you say, “I’m not there yet”. 

This song in particular has always held a fascination for me. That lazy guitar at the start instantly makes me think of sunset on a hot, sultry, summer day. I tried to echo that same lazy sultriness in the main melody of the song as well as in the backing vocals, which were probably my favourite part of the song to sing.

Enjoy!

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