There once was a city, where people fled their cares.
All they ever wanted was to escape death’s gaze, so they’d cling onto life to keep it from being stolen.
Thus the dead began to dwell under the city they used to abode in.
Their cities needed the reflections of the past to have an order, the brothers clad in hood would match both their borders.
Dead lived like the living,
Then the living like the dead,
Soon no one could tell which was which and who was where.
Their realms now entwined like a fair maidens hair.
Even death itself couldn’t undo the foul souls that now rot the air.
It’s been a century since Pandora let out the plague of misery unto the world. The people of the world were terrified of their now state of mortality and clung on to life with a desperate need to live. They lived life to the fullest till the days they departed. However, death was frightening. They wanted more. So the captured the souls of the dying ones and after turning their perishable vessels immortal they’d return the souls back to the body.
Eusapia of the living was too small a place for the dead, so they built one for the living, an identical city underground and the confraternity of hooded brothers were the only ones who could commute and exchange between the two.
Initially the city of the dead was changed according to the changes in the city of the living. The mummified bodies carried out activities they performed amongst the living but the dead having regained immortality had no need to carry out these mundane tasks unless they liked their tasks. Now having no direction to follow, the dead began to innovate. Changing the design of their Eusapia. The confraternity needing to maintain the identical cities started changing the city of the living.
When the members of the confraternity die, due to their nature during life, were compelled to carry out their duties, form the city of the dead they commute to the city of the living. The veil that separated the two cites has disappeared. No one knows which city is being made in whose image. People believe the dead are the true creators of the cities and they are all that will prevail.
A North Eastern holiday
Image courtesy of : http://www.bodhisattva-store.com https://www.bodhisattva-store.com/listings/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=91_97&products_id=3335&zenid=066aa9a82035bcb87cd21140404bf74a
During the summer of 07 my family and I had taken a trip to visit the regions of north east India. At Dharamshala my Dad picked up a Tibetan bell (Dorge). This bell was cast in bronze and held religious and cultural meaning to it. Like a traditional bell it has a flower on the shoulder with an eight petal pattern and on the handle it has a Chetri mask.
To a 10 year old child bells in general are fascinating, but this bell… an ”antiquey” looking one with various engravings peeked an innocent kind of interest in my heart. The thought of having the Tibetan culture merge with my own was thrilling. The location of the bell changed, but its significance never did. It has a hard wood striker that is used to resonate sound from the bell. The sound it produces creates calmness that blocks out all other sounds. The resonance shudders through the air washing out all thoughts, marking a sort of new beginning moment.
We now use the dorge during ganpati puja and other religious rituals. I love using the resonance bell. Although it wasn’t used in our family before, it feels like it’s always been here. It feels like a connection to God, regardless of the idol its user worships. Just a gaze at it captivates you and you get possessed with a longing to play it.
This is a sector of contrasts. Flyovers sheltering the roads, skyscrapers, 5 star hotels, cinema houses, company buildings, supermarkets and shopping malls, towering over either sides of the roads on one hand and homes, hawkers, small businesses, taxi stands slums on the other. The sector of Lower Parel has an extreme variation of people and lifestyles. It’s like a hub of social distinguishing the barriers of which can only be joined during lunch hours or to go home. Youngsters thrive on the malls and eateries. The old and weary are seen resting within the shelter of their homes. Everyone is busy in their own little tasks that an outsider will rarely get a chance to ask for help. As the sun goes down, this hub is the most crowed, that is… before darkness sets it. Once it does people scurry away back to where they had come from, and the life that once inhabited, haunts the streets, yearning for the sun to rise again.
INDIA. Mumbai. A view of Marine Drive from atop the flyover, 2010.
In my initial days of college, right after breaking out from the cocoon of school the memories of traveling past marine drive are fresh in my mind. The feeling of a new found independence, combined with the scent the sea and that of late monsoon showers glazed the roads with the reflections of countless headlights and traffic lights. My journey often washed over an over-whelming calmness that was much needed as we juggled between prep classes and college. I would rarely take my friends along as I wanted to preserve the preciousness of these journeys. Back then the sight of the sky and sea merging into a dull blue made me feel like I could almost reach out to them.
INDIA. Mumbai. Students trying their hands at a portrait session at JJ School of Arts, 2010.
Sketching portraits was always my strong suit, and it became stronger with every session of portrait class. During this time I would isolate myself at the back of the class and form a sort of barrier between me and my mates in such a way that there remained only the life, beauty and emotion of the model to be captured and I. I would watch as the initially still and composed expression of the model would become uneasy, with a desperation to move, even a little. The hollowness in their eyes grew deeper with every passing hour. I marvelled at the feeling of being able to witness this metamorphosis of emotion taking place. I wondered if others could see what I saw, but to me no one but the model and sounds of charcoal scratching flimsy newsprint sheets existed. After class ended there was nothing but an army of ghosts with the same face that showed its observer a different side of itself, much like the phases of the moon.
INDIA. Mumbai. Children having a goat-drawn cart ride at Juhu Beach, 1971.
Running around with my siblings, making sand castles sculpted to the uniqueness of our imaginations and decorating them with the shells we had collected after splashing around in the water, consisted some of the innocent pleasures of our long awaited Sunday trips with Dad to Juhu beach. Despite the fact that it was Sunday, we’d get up early as opposed to school days. After some scurrying around in a battle to get ready first, we’d race up to the car and drive off. Dad would buy us many treats like golas, bhel puri, pani puri and coconut water. Then after playing on the merry-go-rounds we’d get cart rides where we pretended to be great kings and queens in a chariot cheered on by our royal subjects. Dad keeping a watchful eye on us would smile, with an inexplicably genuine feeling of happiness.
All Photos courtesy: Magnum Photos. Rights held by photographer / Magnum. The pictures are used for educational purposes only. Explore more photos: http://www.magnumphotos.com/
The citizens of Eusapia love life so much that they decided to create a city for the dead, which is a reflection of the city itself. This shows that the city clings onto the past so much that it can’t let go of its memory and in an attempt of holding onto that it recreates its memories. The confraternity in the city that oversees the changes in the two cities, which, in my opinion are people visiting the past (memories). Eusapia shows that even though it clings to the past it also learns from it, as over time people’s views or opinions of things change i.e. in the book when the dead in the city of the dead made changes to their city before the original Eusapia. However in the end, the Eusapian’s unhealthy obsession of dwelling in the past kept them trapped in a paradigm where they eventually couldn’t distinguish the past from the present.
A promising city with staircases lined with spiral shells and perfect telescopes and violins arouses curiosity in the hearts of people. However every city has its dark side. The founding families torture and steal the youth of the youth of travellers. This is how my parents were taken away from me. This city is just a hollow façade. I seek shelter at the observatory and wonder if my parents watch over me from amongst the stars.
Mother used to tell me stories, of wishes made on shooting stars coming true for those pure of heart… if only the people in this city would vanish… my parents would still be here.
I glimpsed a shooting star burn through the sky and wished.
(The wind chanted through the trees and silence washed over the city.)
I was all that remained.