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A life in reverse!

Discussion in 'Cheeniya's Senile Ramblings' started by Cheeniya, May 17, 2007.

  1. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Balaji
    Thanks for the reference. I saw this song in YouTube just now. It was quite interesting. I was impressed by the fact that over 5 million people have seen this clip on YouTube!
    Sri
     
  2. Balajee

    Balajee IL Hall of Fame

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    Cheeniya sir, here's is another life in reverse reference. This idea was dealt with by German writer Ilse Aichinger in her short story Spiegelgeschichte (Mirror Story) which deals with a woman's life from death toi birth!
     
  3. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Balaji
    Life from death to birth is a fascinating concept that should engage the thoughts of many eminent novelists. It will be interesting to know how they deal with this awesome thought. Is it possible to get a synopsis of these stories that deal with life in the reverse?
    Sri
     
  4. Balajee

    Balajee IL Hall of Fame

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    Cheeniya sir, here is a translation of the Aichinger story from German I found it in the internet. IF you could read German I could mail the original to youl

    “Mirrorstory”

    When someone pushes your bed out of the ward, when you see that the sky becomes green, and when you would spare the curate the funeral sermon, then it is time for you to get up, gently, as children get up, when the morning light shimmers through the curtains, secretly, so that the sister does not see it-and quickly!

    But he has already begun it, the curate, you hear there his voice, young and eager and unstoppable, you hear there, he already speaks. Let it happen! Let his good words be submerged in the blinding rain. Your grave is open. Let his swift confidence first become helpless, that it may be helped. When you leave him, he will no longer know in the end, if he has already begun. And because he doesn’t know, he gives the pallbearers the sign. And the pallbearers ask no more and take your coffin out again. And they take the wreath from the lid and give it back to the young man, who is standing with bowed head at the edge of the grave. The young man takes his wreath and rubs all the ribbons smooth, embarrassed, he lifts his face for a glance, and the rain dashes a few tears from his cheeks. Then the procession moves itself back along the walls. The candles in the small, ugly chapel are lit once again and the curate says the prayer for the dead, so that you can live. He shakes the young man’s hand violently and, in his embarrassment, wishes him much luck. It is his first funeral, and he blushes down to his collar. And before he can correct himself, the young man is gone. What remains to be done now? Luck has been wished, there remains nothing for him to do, but to send the dead home again.

    Just the same, after that the hearse with your coffin drives back up the long street. To the left and to the right are houses, and in every window stand yellow narcissi, like the kind wound into every wreath, there is nothing to be done against it. Children press their faces against the shut panes, it rains, but one of them will run out of the door. He hangs on to the back of the hearse, is thrust off, and remains behind. The child covers his eyes with both hands and looks after you angrily. But where else should one swing, when one lives on the street to the cemetery?

    Your car waits at the crossroads for a green light. The rain weakens. The drops dance off the car roof. The hay smells from a distance. The streets are freshly christened, and the sky lays its hand on all roofs. Your car drives out of sheer gallantry for a moment beside the tram. Two young boys at the street side wager on their honor. But the one who has bet on the tram will lose. You could have warned him, but no one would have yet climbed out of the coffin for this honor.

    Be patient. It is, after all, early summer. The reach of the morning still continues long into the night. You come in time. Before it becomes dark and all the children have vanished from the street side, the car turns into the hospital yard, a ray of moonlight falls right on the entrance. Soon come the men to lift your coffin from the hearse. And the hearse drives merrily home.

    They carry your coffin through the second entrance across the court and into the mortuary. There waits the empty catafalque, black and lopsided and raised, and they set the coffin on it and open it again, and one of them curses, because the nails are hammered in too firmly. This damned thoroughness!

    Soon after the young man comes also and brings the wreath back; it was high time. The men arrange the ribbons and lay them in front; there, you can relax, the wreath lies well. By morning the faded blooms are fresh and close themselves in buds. Overnight you remain alone, the cross between your hands, and by day you will have much peace. You will not accomplish it long later, to lie so still.

    On the next day the young man comes again. And because the rain gives him no tears he stares into the emptiness and twists the hat between his fingers. Only before they raise the coffin onto the bier again does he cover his hands over his face. He cries. You stay no longer in the mortuary. What does he cry for? The coffin lid lies open, and it is bright morning. The sparrows cry gladly. They know not, that it is forbidden to awaken the dead. The young man walks before your coffin as if glasses stood between his steps. The wind is cool and plays, like a romping child.

    They carry you in the house and up the stairs. You are lifted out of the coffin. Your bed is freshly made. The young man stares through the window into the yard, where a pair of doves mate and coo loudly; he turns away, disgusted.

    And there, they have already laid you back on the bed. And they have bound a cloth over your mouth, and the cloth makes you look so strange. The man starts to shriek and throws himself over you. They lead him gently away. "Observe silence!" is written on all the walls, the hospitals are crowded at this time, the dead must not awaken too early.

    From the harbor wail the ships. To arrive or to depart? Who should know? Still! Observe silence. Awaken not the dead, before it is time, the dead have a light sleep. But the ships wail still. And a little later they will have to take the cloth from your head, whether they would like to or not. And they will wash you and change your shirts, and one of them will bend quickly over your heart, quickly, while you are still dead. There is not much more time, and that owes to the ships. The morning already becomes darker. They open your eyes and they flash white. Now they say no more that you look peaceful, thank the heavens for that, it suffocates in the mouth. Wait. Soon they are gone. No one would be a witness, when one would still be burnt for this today.

    They leave you alone. They leave you so alone that you open your eyes and see the green sky, so much alone that you begin to breathe, heavy and gasping and deep, rattling like an anchor chain when it is cast. You rear up and cry after your mother. How green the sky is!

    "The delirium is letting up," says a voice behind you, "The death throes are beginning."

    Oh, them. What do they know?

    Go now. Now is the moment. All are called away. Go, before they come back and before their whispers again become loud, go down the steps, past the porter, through the morning that is becoming night. The birds shriek in the darkness as if your pain had begun to rejoice. Go home! And lie back down in your own bed, even though it creaks in its joints and is still rumpled. There you will become well faster. There you rage against yourself for only three days, for only three days you push away the soup that the woman from upstairs brings you; on the fourth you take it.

    And on the seventh day, which is the day of rest, you go away. The pain drives you, you will find the way. First left, then right, and left again, right through the dock-alleys, that are so poor that they can do nothing but lead to the sea. If only the young man were near you, but the young man is not with you, in the coffin you were more beautiful. But now your face is distorted by pain; the pain has stopped rejoicing. And now too, stands the sweat upon your brow, the whole way long; no, in the coffin, there you were more beautiful!

    The children play with marbles in the street. You into them, you run, run as if you were running back and forth, and none of them is your child. How could one of them be your child, when you are going to the old woman that lives by the tavern? The whole harbor knows that, how the old woman pays for her Schnapps.

    She already stands at the door. The door is open, and she stretches out her hand toward you; it is dirty. All that is there is dirty. On the hearth stand the yellow flowers, the ones wound in the wreaths, they are the same ones again. And the old woman is much too friendly. And the stairs creak here too. And the ships wail, wherever you go, they wail everywhere. And the pain shakes you, but you may not cry out. The ships may howl, but you may not cry out. Give the old woman the money for the schnapps! Once you have given her the money, she holds your mouth shut with both hands. She is entirely sober from all the schnapps, the old woman. She doesn't dream of the unborn. The innocent children dare not complain of it to the holy ones, and the guilty ones also dare not. But you--you dare it!

    "Make my child live again!"

    That no one has demanded of the old woman before. But you demand it. The mirror gives you strength. The blind mirror with the fly dirt lets you demand, what no one has demanded.

    "Make it live, otherwise I’ll knock over your yellow flowers, I’ll scratch your eyes out, wrench the window open and scream into the alley, so that they all must hear what they know, I’ll scream--"

    And that terrifies the old woman. And in her great terror, in the blind mirror, she grants your request. She knows not, what she does, but in the blind mirror it succeeds. The fear becomes terrible, and the pain begins finally to rejoice again. And before you scream, you know the lullaby: Sleep, little child, sleep! And before you scream, the mirror hurls you down the dark stairs again and lets you go, lets you run. Don't run too fast!

    You had better lift your gaze from the ground, otherwise it may be that down by the fence around the empty building site you run into a man, a young man, who twists his hat. That is how you recognize him. That is the same one who recently beside your coffin had twisted his hat, it is him again. There he stands, as if he had never gone away, there he leans against the fence. You fall into his arms. Again, he has no tears, give him of yours. And take leave, before you are hanging on his arm. Take leave of him. You will not forget it, when he has forgotten: At the beginning one takes leave. Before you go again with one another, you must part for ever at the fence by the empty building site.

    Then you go on. There is a path there, that leads past the coal-yards to the sea. You are both silent. You are waiting for the first word, you let him have it, that you are not left with the last. What will he say? Quickly, before you are at the sea that makes careless! What says he? What is the first word? Can it then be so difficult, that it makes him stammer, that it forces him to lower his gaze? Or is it the coal-tips that loom over the fence and cast shadows under his eyes and dazzle him with their blackness? The first word--now he has spoken it: it is the name of an alley. It is the name of the alley in which the old woman lives. How can that be? Before he knows, that you are expecting a child, he has already mentioned the old woman, before he says that he loves you, he has mentioned the old woman. Be quiet! He knows not, that you have already been to the old woman, he cannot know it, he knows nothing of the mirror. But scarcely has he said it before he has forgotten it. In the mirror one says all, that it may be forgotten. And scarcely have you said, that you expect a child, before you have hidden it. The mirror reflects all. The coal-tips face behind you, there you both are by the sea and you see the white boats like questions on the edge of your gaze, be still, the sea takes each answer from your mouth, the sea swallows what you still would have said.

    From there you go up the beach many times, as if you were going down it, homeward, as if you were running away, and away from it, as if you were walking home.

    What do they whisper in their bright hoods? "This is the death-throes." Let them talk.

    One day the sky will be pale enough, so pale, that its paleness will shine. Is there then any other splendor than that of the greatest paleness?

    On this day the blind mirror reflects the condemned house. Condemned, the people call the house that will be demolished, they call it condemned, they know no better. It should not frighten you. The sky is now pale enough. And like the sky in its paleness the house too waits for the bliss at the end of its condemnation. After much laughter, the tears come easily. You have cried enough. Take your wreath back. Soon now, you will be allowed to loosen your braids. All is in the mirror. And behind everything that you do, the sea lies green. When you leave the house, it lies before you. When you climb through the sunken windows, you have forgotten. In the mirror one does all, that it may be forgiven.

    From then on he urges you to with him inside. But in your eagerness you leave the house behind and turn away from the beach. You don't turn around. And the condemned house remains back behind you. You go toward the river, and your own fever flows toward you, it flows past you. Soon his urging passes away. And in the same moment you are not ready anymore, you both become shyer. That is the ebb that draws the sea away from all coasts. Even the rivers sink at the time of the ebb. And over there on the other side the treetops finally take the place of their crowns. White-shingled roofs sleep underneath.

    Take care, soon now he begins to talk of the future, of many children and of long life, and his cheeks flush with ardor. They inflame yours too. You will quarrel, whether you would have sons or daughters, and you would prefer sons. And he would have his roof covered in tiles, and you would have...but now you have already gone too far up the river. The fear seizes you both. The singled roofs on the other side have vanished, over there are only more pastures and damp meadows. And here? Pay attention to the path. It becomes dusk, as dully as only morning can dawn. The future is passed by. The future is a path by the river, that peters out in the meadows. Go back!

    What is supposed to happen now?

    Three days later he dares no more to lie his arm around your shoulders. Three days after this he asks you what your name is, and you ask him. Now you know no more each other's names. And you ask nothing more. It is better so. Have you not become mysteries?

    Now at last you walk beside each other silently. Now if he asks you something, he asks whether it will rain. Who can know? You become more and more estranged. You have long given up talking of the future. You see each other only more seldom, but still you are not estranged enough from one another. Wait, be patient. One day it will come so far. One day he is so much of a stranger to you that, in a dark alleyway before an open gate you begin to love him. All has its time. Now is it.

    "It will not last much longer," they say behind you, "it is going to end."

    What do they know? Isn't all just beginning?

    A day will come when you see him for the first time. And he sees you. For the first time, that is to say: never again. But fear not. You must not take leave of one another, that you have done long ago. How good it is, that you have already done it.

    It will be an autumn day, full of expectation, that all the fruits will again become blooms, like it always is, the fall, with this bright smoke and with the shadows that like splinters lie between one's steps, so that you could cut your feet on them, that you could fall over then, when you are sent for apples to the market, you fall for hope and for happiness. A young man comes to your aid. He has thrown his jacket loosely around him and smiles and twists his hat and knows not a word to say. But you are very happy in this last light. You thank him and throw your head back a little, and then the pinned-up braids loosen and fall down. "Ah," he says, "aren't you still in school?" He turns himself around and goes and whistles a tune. So you part from each other, without even another look at each other, entirely without pain and without knowing that you are parting from each other.

    Now you may again play with your little brothers, and you may walk with them along the river, the path by the river under the alders, and over there are the white shingled roofs between the treetops, as always. What does the future bring? No sons. It has brought brothers, braids to dance around you, balls to throw around. Don't be angry, it is the best that it has. School can begin.

    Still you are too small, still you must go around the schoolyard during the long break in rows and whisper and blush and laugh through your fingers. But wait another year, and you may again jump over the skipping-rope and snatch at the twigs that hang over the walls. You have already learned the foreign languages, but it did not stay so easy. Your own language is much harder. It will become still harder, to learn to read and to write, the hardest is to forget everything. And if you must know everything by the first exam, so you are allowed at the end to know nothing. Will you pass this? Will you be still enough? If you have enough fear not to open your mouth, all will be fine.

    You hang the blue hat, that all schoolchildren wear, again on the peg and leave the school. The blossoms have long since become buds, the buds become nothing, and nothing again becomes fruit. You go home, your father waits for you, and your little brothers shout as loud as they can and pull at your hair. You calm them and comfort your father.

    Soon comes the summer with its long days. Soon your mother dies. You and your father, you both take her from the cemetery. Three days she lies between the sputtering candles, as you did. Blow all the candles out, before she wakes. But she smells the wax and raises herself on her arms and complains quietly about the waste. Then she gets up and changes her clothes.

    It is good that your mother has died, because you could not have managed alone with your little brothers much longer. But now she is there. She takes charge of everything and teaches you to play much better. One can never become too good at it. It is not easy art. But it is certainly not the hardest.

    The hardest thing still remains, to forget speech and to forget the knowledge of walking, to stammer helplessly and to crawl on the floor, and finally to be wrapped in cloths. It remains the hardest, to bear all the tenderness and only to gaze on. Be patient. Soon all will be well. God knows the day when you are going to be weak enough.

    It is the day of your birth. You come into the world and open your eyes and shut them again because of the strong light. The light warms your limbs, you stretch yourself in the sun, you are there, you live. Your father bends over you.

    "It is the end," they say behind you, "She is dead."

    Quiet. Let them talk!

    <!--EndFreetext-->


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  5. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Balaji
    What a gripping story! And the expressions are so vivid. This is the kind of story that one would cherish all his life. Thanks for sharing. After reading this, I wished I had studied German.
    It is a pity that many will miss the chance to read it as it appears as a feedback to my post. I suggest you post it under Snippets (Fiction) Section.
    Thank you once again Balaji
    Sri
     
  6. arshi1611

    arshi1611 New IL'ite

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    hi cheeniya sir,
    just read this post and I really had to write and tell you that this is one of the best post i've read and very thought provoking...life cycle which all of us go through but none of us would want to think of our end...even the earlier phase of life we remember but we try to recollect only the good times we had during childhood or at school... but then that being one thing we don't want to remember the difficult times cuz actually we never forget it and its always there at the back of our minds. Childhood is the best phase according to most people as there are no worries,no responsibilty,no fear...well there are exam fear but as you grow up you realize that exams were the least of your problems :) The innocence and happiness in childhood days are priceless which never returns i feel maybe because as you grow older you loose the value for little things.We loose ourselves in the run to earn more,own more forgetting that when we depart we won't even require these things that we're running after and loosing on time with our near and dear one.Actually it wouldn't be a bad idea if we could go thru the complexities of later years at first and then return back to younger years to experience that joy and happiness before finally departing but then God has made this cycle so he must have known better :)
     
    1 person likes this.
  7. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear arshi
    Life in the reverse mode will have the same ingredients that we passed through. The same cross roads, the same potholes, the same patches of green that we passed by. There is a difference though. In the regular mode, the problems get more and more acute and in some cases, death even comes as a great relief. But in the reverse mode, the problems grow smaller and smaller until they disappear completely. My take on this is that even if life is irreversible, we can reverse our attitude to life. Many a time, we are done in not by what happens in our life but by the attitude we develop towards such happenings. A healthy view of all that happens in our life will certainly enable us to live this life in reverse in the sense that we can derive unbridled joy even from our sorrows. Should we give up our childlike attitude to life under the weight of the footprint that the passage of time leaves on our flesh?

    I loved this sentence of yours:
    The innocence and happiness in childhood days are priceless which never returns i feel maybe because as you grow older you loose the value for little things
    If a tiny ball of fur playing with its siblings can make me happy as a child, why the same scene should irritate me at 60? What goes wrong with us as we age? Why do we lose our capacity to feel happy over small things? Why nothing less than a villa on the sea side with a BMW parked outside can bring a smile on my face? The problem is all with our attitude Arshi.
    Sri
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2009
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  8. satchitananda

    satchitananda Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Amazing read Cheeniya sir. But what does one expect from you other than such fascinating articles. I had the good fortune of reading this as I was given the link by Chitra Ma'am (and in as much as I went back into the pages of snippets, I did a small scale life in reverse). I wonder what life would be like if we could actually go back in time like that. Would we use our own experiences to lead saner lives? And then enjoy the best years of our lives with our parents holding us before vanishing into eternity.
     
  9. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Satchi
    Thanks a lot for your appreciation for this 'kinky' post of mine!
    But honestly if this going back in time is possible for me, I would certainly not like to correct all my errors and omissions of life. Life so far has been great fun and my mistakes played a great part in making it exciting too. Right from correcting my official mark in my progress report before I submitted it to my dad for his signature, every mistake of mine made my life suspenseful, eventful and tension-ridden. When I think of them today, I just smile but at the material time, each of them made me sweat a bucket! Why would I want to correct them? To make my life as dull as that of a camel in a desert?
    Sri
     
  10. Kamla

    Kamla IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Cheeniyasir,

    This is one example of how Finest Posts forum dishes out that extra pleasure to me, in spite of the 'pain and strain'!!

    Thanks to Satchidananda's newly nominated post also called 'A life in reverse', I decided to refresh my memories and revisited this post and once again, what a refreshing read it made! Your posts are evergreen.

    Reading it after a gap of a couple of years brought out different set of feelings and thoughts. Although,
    I still think that I prefer my past to be past and pray for a peaceful future. One thing I constantly remind myself is to infuse as much enthusiasm as possible to enjoy the present of present that God has blessed me with!

    Another bonus of going through this thread is reading Balajee's post. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Ilse Aichinger's 'Spiegelgeschichte' or Mirrorstory. I will try to read it in German if I find it on the web. Hope Balajee took your advise and has posted it in the story forum....I wonder!

    I am forever thankful for these little pleasures God sends my way!! And thanks to you. :)

    L, Kamla
     

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