The lure of dark literature

Why are we attracted to dark literature?

The art of living, as the wise gurus tell us is to be thankful, to enjoy every moment of it, every breath we take. To the practical mind this translates to finding happiness in every moment and the mind concedes the futility of this search. However, it sees the logic in the search for a less ephemeral and less insignificant happiness, one that transcends concepts like moments and breathing. This practical and average mind, average because of the number of beings it rides on is far more than the other types therefore makes people live in the search of happiness.

With the platitude elegantly established, we will attempt to address the question in the first line which must feel misplaced in the paragraph that it finds itself in. We might even modify the question, now that it feels happy to be back in focus and therefore amenable to changes, and ask what is the happiness that people derive from reading dark literature. For, if reading the material is not making them feel good, then they wont belong to the club of averages. And if that was true, there would only be a few lovers of the dark writings, the irrational being the minority. On the contrary, tragedies over the ages have held a greater veneration than any comedy or writing of the type that justifies why we should be thankful for the gods, for mankind, for our existence and such things as world peace. Contemporary literature is also mostly dystopian, it reeks of suffering of the individual, a pain that one must live with, in every moment and every breath. A darkness pervades every word that comes out of the melancholic souls of these writers. It is overdone to such an extent that to a discerning reader, discerning being a euphemism for the cynic, this blatant display of darkness starts to seem pretentious.

Discerning or not, we all enjoy the books we read, and that takes us back to where we started this ramble. The question remains unanswered. Instead of jumping into the arena and proffering an answer let us remain on the sidelines for a little while longer and examine the nature of the contradicting states of happiness and sorrow.

Happiness compels us to seek company. It makes us look outwards, mostly because everything looks good when we are feeling so. It induces the urge to spread it around. Happiness demands dissipation of the inadvertent answers it conjures up.

Suffering and pain on the other hand makes us look within. It makes us introspect as we are flooded with questions. Everything we believed in, we loved, we thought of ourself, lies shattered to pieces rendering us incapable of expressing the gruesome reality that lies within to others. Suffering is inherently implosive, it leaves us stranded on the island with a heavy backpack of these debilitating questions.

Given these definitions, and being forced to accept the definitions as they are offered, we might re-establish the platitude that no sane person would like to indulge in anything that leads to the island. At this juncture, one might feel like giving up on the answer out of frustration with the author or one might persevere and delve further as one does while reading dark literature. The reader and connoisseur, or even the sceptic of the dark must understand that though the author has been striving to apply the question in the purview of grand schemes and ubiquitous definitions, the question is not pertinent to darkness in life, it is about dark literature.

Reading is an exclusively private activity. Even though some might cite book clubs and public reading, those same members of the clubs and the audience would understand the frustration of expounding the inexplicable more than the outsiders and the non participants. Reading, as we all know and which we in our personal spaces are doing right now with this post, is a private affair, but so is suffering. The subject matter resonates with the verb when we take up writings of the darker shades. It also seems promising because it relates and joins us in the search for the answers to our suffering. As a result, we tend to immerse ourselves in the work instead of the detached, flippant attitude we wear while reading something comical or something uplifting.

The reason we love dark literature is also because of the fact that we all suffer, unless we are the smiling gurus making others aware of their suffering and then providing ecstatic vacuous solutions. Dark literature provides us with perspective that might equip us not only in answering the questions that fester, but also prepare us in coping with life as it would unfold, both on the introspective and the emphatic grounds. The art of living is not about finding or acquiring the state of happiness in every moment, but in accepting the nature of the contradicting constructs that life is made of and reading till you drop dead.


You and I, me!

You bemoan our thoughts,

never resonating.

I delight in the footsteps

always rhyming.

You read to lose yourself

in your books –

their similes, metaphors

and the images.

I seek to find myself

in everything I peruse –

subtexts, layers,

and pauses between pages.

Looking for magic

in a reality mundane,

you let out a sigh.

Perceiving reality

in everything magical

gives me a high.

That romantic song

you listen to

tapping your foot,


reminds me of a dirge

of exhumed memories


You embrace

the brilliant sun,

when I serenade

the lilting moon.

A sensitive son

who will inevitably

fall through.

You are the detached reason,

I the reckless action.

A virile daughter

consumed by her

insatiable passion.

Always in dissonance,

you plot a sweet revenge.

Introspecting afterthoughts

though desire you to change.

I am no different in that

intimate scheming aspect,

disgust I may show,

but for you

I have unfounded respect.

And we were destined to meet

between the gray horizons,

in the vast meadows of oblivion,

where the sagacious stars shone.

Wavering between

a grueling duel

and a riveting duet,

when the flaws

glowed lucid

in our cogent arguments

making us fret,

making us look beyond,

the facade

and everything

we thought we knew.


And then I saw the mirror,

I saw you, as I see you,

and sadly you did too,

as you do too.


Flight of the outlier

conceived in a grey tomb

it grows in the conditioned womb,

discussed and debated by the quorum,

a shade of black in a primal form –

‘evil is dark but develops a shade of grey

judge we must not,

for even God let the devil have a say.’

acquiesced thus,

conceit and contempt deliver it,

suckling at the tragic, and the trodden,

it gets nurtured by wounds forgotten.

pricks hurt it more as it grows,

longs for clean slits in violent throes.

tricks learnt not with gracious flair

but excruciating fits in its hideous lair.

ambition makes it sad

and contentment precludes.

standing tall, feigning a calming glance,

an upright nemesis with an unjust stance,

consciousness in a suspended state,

rising with glee,

it mocks the likes of destiny and fate.

gaping at the moonlit night,

stars push him to rage as it takes flight.

shining eyes of the beast

marvel at the murmuring feast,

twisted tentacles wrap around

as it devours everything on the ground.

night breeze now carries

the rot of the slain dreams,

as an inimitable thought,

it pervades the once tranquil mind,

forsaking the lure of heaven

for hell is all it wants to find.


Denouement of escapism

the fences created to
keep out the others
boundaries invented for
a safety even further
limits exerted when
imagination flew unchartered skies
comforting are these ploys
but that which keep ourselves in ties

the secrets concealed for
sustenance of conscience
excuses invented to
avoid the inevitable finds
furtive glances when
passion soared in immoral skies
deluding are these schemes
of a bruised ego that forever lies

the space offered to
bloom out of a romantic gloom
tranquil voids invented for
absorbing the incessant clamor
distances extended when
reason reigned the moonlit skies
these are the circumventing expanses
in which a suffering love dies

it’s not darkness
because you closed your eyes
it’s not silence
because you stopped listening
it’s not the fences,
secrets or distances that stand
when your soul judges
and you have nothing to defend


गूंज ख़ामोशी की

खोखले उसूलों से भरे ये दिमाग़
खाली कमरे में आवाज़ों सी गूंजती
कोई इन्हे ज़ीस्त-ओ-ज़िन्दगी से भर दे
कि इस शोर को मिटाते थक गई है ख़ामोशी ईमान की

धडकनों की जुगलबंदी जब रफ्तार लेते हुए
पीछे छोड़ने लगी हो ज़हन-ओ-जिस्म गफलत में
कोई इस दिल को दस्तूर-ए-इश्क़ से वाक़िफ करादे
कि इस दौड़ में खो गई है ख़ामोशी इज़हार की

दौलत-ओ-शोहरत-ओ-अना के नशे में चूर
ये दुनिया भूलने लगी है ज़मीर और रिश्तों को
कोई इन्हे मयख़ाने का ही रास्ता दिखा दे
कि शायद शराब में सुन ले ये ख़ामोशी इंसानियत की

क्या अच्छा है क्या बुरा ना समझ सका ये शायर
इंद्राज-ए-जन्नत-ओ-जहन्नुम एक से दिखने लगें हैं
कोई मुझे दिला दे सुकूत, वो किताब-ए-मुकद्दस
या इस शेर-ओ-शायरी को ही फ़ना कर दे ख़ामोशी ख़ुदा की

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Mysuru Dasara


The festival of Dussehra is a perfect example of the multiplicity of Hinduism, elucidating its various mythological, symbolic, and ritualistic manifestations. To start with, this festival has different names in different parts of India, it is Dussehra in the north, Durga Puja in the east, Vijayadashami in some parts, Navratri in others. The word ‘Dashahara’ is derived from Sanskrit that translates to ten days. Accordingly, there are ten days of festivities but the stories and how the festivities unfold over the ten days vary. Three of the prominent stories are:
– victory of Rama(incarnation of Vishnu) over Ravan(king of Lanka), celebrated as Ram Leela, a play based on the epic poem Ramayan.
– the victory of Durga(goddess) over Mahisasura(demon)
– worship of nine forms of Shakti, or the divine feminine, culminating in Dussehra on the tenth day

Barring the Ramayan story, this is essentially a festival celebrating Shakti, which in Sanskrit translates to power, or energy. The dualistic view of the universe is an cohabitation of energy and matter, and it is this concept that is exploited in the Hindu philosophy of life, universe and everything. The translation in terms of mythology includes a trinity of Gods – Brahma(creator), Vishnu(preserver) and Shiva(destroyer) presiding over the world of matter and Goddess Shakti representing energy. The material world goes over well defined cycles of these three stages of creation, preservation and destruction, which in a way signifies how everything material in life, and the universe goes in cycles and it is our ignorance of the grand vision that makes us indulge in things like material, or emotional possessions and their sustenance. Energy, on the other hand  has a transient and less tangible nature, and this fluidic aspect is captured in the numerous forms which Shakti acquires in the forms of various Goddesses. Nine of which are worshipped in the nine days of Navratri, with a tenth, Durga worshipped on the day of Dussehra.

Given the freedom which translates to different branches of the same family celebrating the festival in a different way, one cannot help but wonder at the unstructured nature of the religion. But then, Hinduism has always been more of an interpretative religion than an instructive one. It not only lacks codes of conduct or edicts, but is equally vague in its philosophical implications. What it does have is myriads of options to choose from depending on your disposition, profession or inclination. For the ones looking for something to practice as a way of everyday living, there are the Vedas, and for the ones who look for philosophy as a way of everyday thinking, there are the Upanishads. But for most of Hindus, both these variants are inaccessible due to the lack of knowledge of Sanskrit language. One can subscribe to the translations, but they come the riders of the translator’s opinions inevitably muddling the original text and intent. The saving grace for most Hindus is a rich mythology in the form of epics and Puranas from which to derive stories, and celebrate festivals. Dussehra, for example, is a celebration of the basic element of mythology, the celebration of the victory of good over evil. And it is this simplicity that endows it with acceptability over most of India.



Mysore city

A detailed reading of the epics, stories and mythology, though entertaining, is something I am not going to do here, except the one mentioned in the title of the post – Mysuru Dasara, or Dussehra as celebrated in Mysore over ages. The demon Mahisasura was a shape shifting monster who acquired the form of Buffalo and wrecked havoc on the world, or Mahisuru, the ancient name of the place which was modified by the British to Mysore, and recently restored to a more vernacular Mysuru. Goddess Chamundeshwari, which is another of the forms of Shakti and whose temple is now situated on the Chamundi hills in Mysore killed the demon on the day of Dasara. Celebration of Dasara is therefore a big event in Mysore, or to be more precise a series of events over the ten days. The place is crowded though, so it is enjoyed by people who have an appetite for multitudes, which are usually the same people who have an appetite for multitude of stories that fill Hindu mythology.



Mysore palace

Both the crowds and the bizarre stories are however abhorred by the intellectual who finds peace and solace in philosophy and the abstract. WP, for instance has most of its denizens favoring poetry. But poetry was severely criticized by the philosophers of ancient Greek, the way mythology is criticized by the lovers of the esoteric. This interplay of poetry, philosophy and mythology was a vital aspect of the ancient religions, the last of the still followed being Hinduism. With its poetic epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata, philosophy of the hundreds of Upanishads and mythology captured in an even more number of Puranas, one is bound to be spoiled with choices. It is therefore sad and also in a way Quixotic that some people engage in imposing norms and try to ordain how to practice this interpretative religion.


Involution of a revolution

the singular blue eye watches,


clairvoyant seers feign the squint and


crutches abandoned, the senile discover a new


aberrance in youth endows bravado, ready for imminent


flinching at the sun-soaked day he walks in, a smile


clueless the guards push and shove, as the vociferous crowd


choices of exile or shameful remission, with a wave of hand


adorned with eyes that resonate his polemic, of an impelling


sedition with grace, conjuring a verbal trance, in its riveting


teach a lesson, o people of forgotten clans, recall the ancient


senates wince at the sanguinary call, now victims of the


thronged streets echo tumultuous war cries, precipitating a


blood on the hands and anything that glints reflect his scarlet


hordes of warriors fight for justice, his vision a grand


revolution though they soon realize goes round on itself,


foils reason, with an equivocal vigor fizzles


rout the echelons, open the dungeons…


a blue eye felled

for another to inevitably rise

cries of mothers, of conscience, pierce the bones

the fallen and victorious

stung by the cruel reprise.