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Essay: The Bahuroopiya in a Bhoolbuliya: Rupture and Rapture

The processes of creativity fascinate me as much as the act of writing itself.

What are the transformations occurring in the writer’s imagination and persona that make for a spell of writing? How can this be sustained? Is there another, less explored aspect beyond or beneath the pull of creative expression that propels one to write? Such questions led me to propose — for the recently concluded literary salon – the subject Translating the Self. This, in turn, got translated, through Dr. Alok Bhalla’s interrogations, into The Self and Its Translations as our ideas combined and changed to offer a vaster interpretation of the originary concept.

My explorations are first around how the writer translates her ‘Self’ through the play of multiple forms and strategies to make an artistic creation. From here I move to some of the ways the concept of translation is negotiated in my writing.

The “I” of the writer opens outwards and translates through a crucible of words and the via media of literary invention into a multitude of personas, fictions and forms. In this process, the writer’s everyday “I” with its nama-rupa-kriya –name-form-activity –is forgotten. The emergent writing Self is a bahuroopiya, an acrobat in the bhoolbuliya of its own creation, wandering in a labyrinth of solitude and a maze of forgetting and remembering– for it has forgotten its everyday self in order to remember other ‘selves’. Perhaps we write and translate ourselves in part to flee the constrictions of the “I” and in part to flow with the writing self on its flight of exploration. This bahuroopiya, a shape-and-identity-changing entity, is in constant flux as it attempts to fix form, tone and texture through the irradiating depth charge of language. There is an inherent contradiction in the self needing to maintain continuous mutability in order to position and assign form to aesthetic compulsion.

Marcel Proust was possibly considering this nebulous and risky experience when he wrote that the writer is a person who “is blessed with a blurred memory of truths he does not know“. The point here is that the writer knows such truths exist — just beyond the pale of the known and its shadow. Therefore, each act of writing is both

an act of worlding and

a returning to the “blurred memory” of truths not known;

each session of writing is both

an act of faith towards the outer world as well as

an inner descent into the Self.

The process, being simultaneous and contradictory, yields a third possibility that I seek even as I invite each reader to actively participate in re-making my work in her or his translated understanding.

Richard Ford stated something profound on why we write – and translate ourselves. He said it is the attempt to, “pay reverence to art’s sacred incentive – that the whole self, the complete will, be engaged”. If this, indeed, is the thrust of artistic creation it is necessary to lay out ideas of how this process comes into being.

Here, it is perhaps useful to invoke Bharata’s Rasa Theory of Aesthetic Rapture that insists on the participatory presence of the receiver/reader to ‘complete’ the work of art. That is: another’s presence needs to be involved for the worlding of meaning and beauty.

To complement this argument, Anandavardana’s concept of dhvani or overflow of significance from an artistic work should be recalled. Anandavardana wrote: The true import of poetry (that stands in for all artistic creation) is when sympathetic appreciators have turned away from the conventional meaning (of the work)”. Three concepts collude: turning away from conventional meanings, the active interaction of sympathetic appreciators and true import of art emerging. I propose that this true import of poetry/ art ‘may well be the attempt by the artist to reach the “blurred memory of truths not known.” There remain the twined concepts of the sympathetic appreciator and the need to turn away from conventional meanings. Turning away from the conventional meaning of ‘another’ to signify someone else, I suggest what if this ‘another presence’ is interpreted to include the artist’s everyday self?

This transposition implies that as we write the passing, as we attempt to translate ourselves for readers, we are also, simultaneously, trying to catch the dhvani of our everyday selves for we have turned away from its conventional interpretations of nama-rupa-kriya. We therefore become our own “sympathetic appreciators”. In this light, the arrogant exclusivist phrase “I write for myself” takes on another connotation, a deeper and more inclusive shade. Perhaps, through writing, the Self seeks to uncover the everyday self beyond its conventional sense –and taste this dhvani.

All creative acts invite the process of tirobhava – the play of veiling and unveiling. In this process we may glimpse the lurking self that holds the oppositions of the everyday and the writing self. I suggest this is “the whole self”. This is attempted to be recovered, however unconsciously, even today, as response to arts’ “sacred initiative” when we translate ourselves into work.

Disparate art forms have shaped the aesthetic structures of my work and it seems as if I’ve often located my ‘self’ through echolocation, sounding off from various art forms.

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