Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A Place Called Lamsheh

Last night I remembered Lamsheh.

It was a country that I'd created when I was six years old, but reality intervened and soon I abandoned it in search of more plausible pastures. I shouldn't have, but I did so anyway because it seemed to be the most appropriate thing to do at the time. And like most appropriate things in life, it was, I must say, a very half-hearted gesture because, for some reason or the other, I just couldn't take Lamsheh out of my mind. It just remained there like a persistent mole.

Lamsheh was an island because it had to be one. It couldn't be anything else. And I didn't want it to be anything else. An island has individuality unlike those countries that are attached to the mainland. An island floats on its own and its borders are not marred by the groveling demands of neighbouring landmasses. Hence, Lamsheh became an island out of sheer necessity because it couldn't be grouped with any other land formation. It just was and became... Lamsheh, a world of its own.

The flexibility of the country's cartography, on the other hand, made it easier to mould its landscape any which way I wanted. A mountain range could be flattened into a beach resort, or a desert could be sprouted with a deep forest cover. Or a river could be forced into the terrain like the way blood vessels rush through one's veins. Anything was possible, and it all depended upon my mood or on whatever it was that tickled my fancy at that point of time. It was exciting as only a sculptor would know while chiseling out a man from a stone.

However, I chose a more tangible canvas for which my toys became my brush. Two of my construction sets became the building blocks of a city that began to take shape from one end of the carpet to the other. I named my capital city Hamilton for reasons I still cannot fathom. My matchbox cars and GI Joe trucks provided vehicular movement through the city while I supplied the sound-effects. Hamilton, also, had an airport and my toy planes - Concorde, KLM and a helicopter - kept it busy and occupied.

Obviously, a country like Lamsheh needs citizens, and I emptied my brother's chess set for this purpose and had all the pawns, bishops and knights moving around the city and interacting with each other like some type of super intelligent lab rats. I made up stories and plots, created conflicts and battles, and engaged all my toys in this epic story-telling that became part history-in-the-making, part fable, and part war zone where I could push the events into more action-packed scenarios.

I was so much into Lamsheh those days that, I remember, I used to be busy writing and planning each and every tiny detail of how I wanted the country to be. Sad to say I've forgotten quite a bit but I do remember one thing, and that is, I intended Lamsheh to be the only country in the world which was to have cartoons on all the television channels 24/7. There was to be no grown-up programmes on the telly, and certainly, no lovey-dovey stuff where men and women go yucky with each other. Sigh. How times change.

I don't why I remembered Lamsheh the other night. I know I can never ever bring back Lamsheh that once existed in my mental geography. That Lamsheh has disappeared with my childhood and has taken with it the naive innocence that once punctuated my world view. If I make a new Lamsheh now it won't be the same because it would be a grown-up world with grown-up issues and grown-up concerns and grown-up stories that frown upon happy endings.

And that was what Lamsheh was all about. Happy endings all the time. Even the worst conflict could be resolved without batting an eyelid. Nothing was too complicated in Lamsheh land, but today, everything seems to be a challenge and a hurdle.

Maybe I need to go back to Lamsheh after all.

Maybe all of us need a little Lamsheh in our lives.

Maybe a Lamsheh could still be created out of what we have today.

Maybe it's possible. Maybe, and I mean, just maybe.

3 comments:

Pragya said...

Ashish,

Amazing that you write something along these lines. It is wonderful writing, as always. But just the other day I was discussing with a friend our desire to create little worlds of our own, one where we are in complete control. We start out playing with dolls or whatever it is that little boys play with (toy soldiers, fake war scenes or creating worlds like Lamsheh)and if we end up being in love with words and with wielding a pen when we can, we like to create fictional pieces where the fates of our fictional characters our completely in our hands.

What is it about us, this early manifestation of wanting to be in control, that persists in later days? Of late most of the books I've picked up have had some indication of worlds within worlds - The Music of Chance (Paul Auster), Magus (John Fowles), Lisey's Story (Stephen King) and your post just added to this vague line of thought.

As for creating a Lamsheh, you're right maybe we do need to return to those innocent times when we felt the world was full of possibilities.

Great writing.

Pragya

Quicksilver! said...

Fine writing this! I absolutely love the name ‘Lamsheh’ and am curious to know how you concocted it.

Though your descriptive writing almost made me visualize your island, I feel there are more layers within this piece than it being just about ‘Lamsheh’.

An undercurrent of wistfulness runs through it and somewhere I sense the writer *you* subconsciously lamenting the change around him and wanting to go back to the safe cocoon of the perfect island he had created.

Very nice!

Ashish Gorde said...

I wish I knew what went on in my head when I came up with the name "Lamsheh", but since it happened so many years ago, I guess, I can only do some clever guess work, that's all. Oh yes, you are right about the writer in me lamenting the changes and wanting to go back to the Lamsheh days. I suppose as we grow older we miss the familiar certitudes of our childhood days and there is voyage of discovery that's both painful but necessary -- knowing what's constant and what's not, what's essential and necessary, and what's not... c'est le vie!