I return after three days to my stay amidst the backwaters of Kerala, beginning though with the comment made by an European with a sensitivity to language, which added to my faith in the rhythms of my writing. But after a picture of him, since I showed Alain Robbe-Grillet earlier, I show yet another picture of those lovely days by water.

The heartening comment I referred to in the last post hereabout my political disquisitions was by Juli Minoves Triquell, when he was Vice-President of Liberal International. Though there were claims from larger countries that it was not correct for him to become President, since he hailed from the smallest country that had a Liberal Party, Andorra, he was duly elected to the position and served in officer for two terms, entirely satisfactorily.

Alain Robbe-Grillet was responsible for the sceeenplay of ‘Last Year in Marienbad’, which I hugely enjoyed when it was shown at the Alliance Francaise in the heady days of the late sixties when Robert Vigneau was in charge. The distinguished Director presented the film as a collaboration between him and Robbe-Grillet, and certainly the impact of the repetitive dialogue suggested hat this was well deserved.

I took the collection of stories that I found in Roshanara to Kerala and re-read its first story while I was there. It was not really a story, simply a description of three children walking on a beach, while a flock of birds walk parallel to them, nearer the sea, flying upward when they approach and settling far ahead, until the children catch up whereupon again they fly and again settle down.

There are three children, very simply described, a girl and a boy, and a smaller boy between them, and he describes their footsteps stretching behind them as they walk on, while the prints of the many birds are obliterated when the sea washed over them.

The prose is ineffably gentle and must sound even more musical in French. The length of the story is perfect, seven pages each in English and French, not too short so that the impact would be soon forgotten, not too long so that it would be tedious. Recording an extract does not do justice to the achievement of the writer, but I feel I must, to give some indication of how he works –

The birds, which they had been on the point of catching up, flap their wings and fly off, first one, then two, then ten…

Then the whole flock is once more on the sand, moving along the short, about a hundred yards in front of the children.

The sea is continually obliterating the star-shaped traces of their feet. The children, on the other hand, who are walking nearer to the cliff, side by side, holding hands, leave deep footprints behind them, whose triple line lengthens parallel to the short across the very long beach.

On the right, on the side of the level, motionless sea, always in the same place, the same little wave is breaking.

And that is how the story ends, with a sense of ineffable tranquility enhanced by the regular movement, forward, ever forward, of the birds and the children. There is no point in reading into the story a metaphor about life, though one could find endless parallels. Enough that it recreates so gently the sense of sea and sand and the steady progress of birds and children.

Advertisement