By Dipika Kohli
Northwest Asian Weekly
Midday. Overcast. Reading Man and His Symbols, Carl Jung.
That and looking over a few photographs of rural Ireland, plus notes I made in those days, more than a dozen years ago now, poke out of folders here on the park bench. Making headway. On the story. One I’ve been a long time writing. Finishing this month. Have to. I promised the person I wrote it for. Not to get all morbid, but… she’s… dead now. This was a long time ago. Three decades, exactly.
Been working on it, been asking, “What about if?” Writing under the name Kismuth, which means “destiny” in Hindi—my parents’, and her parents’—native language.
All things considered, the words are flowing okay. A good thing. ’Cause “Kismuth” is ending.
I’m ending it. Junve got a picture of that, here, somewhere, too… Ah yes, this one. At Ahakista, in County Cork.
The anniversary of Kanishka, the name of the plane… there’s a memorial in Ireland… It’s about writing. Put them all down in a letter to, well, someone I just met. Who lives in Paris.
It’s all ready to go.
A tisket a tasket.
Nerves. This is hard.
A green and yellow basket.
Is telling me about consciousness.
This is right.
Now, wait a minute. Who is that? A young woman. Zipping a beeline at me. From… the other side of the giant clock. This is Wat Phnom, the Buddhist temple in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It is a cone of the few places you can catch some hearty shade. Who? We make eye contact. She’s not stopping. She stops. Right in front of me, at 10 o’clock. “Do you know about meditation?”
Direct gaze. But somehow, maybe it’s my fading Kismuth?, some part of me meets it with matched evenness. “Yes.”
She rolls up the sleeves of a prim, button-down cotton shirt. It’s green, like the treetops, paired with a knee-length pleated skirt. Sun hat, too. Wide-brimmed, a little yellow feather in the band. Just 25, she’ll tell me later, she’s from the Mekong Delta. For now, though, it’s all business. “The law of attraction?”
Then she asks me the next thing, and, because I’ve just poured my whole heart into the short letter, pre-writing the whole story of… that stuff from 1985… and the questions since… I’m ready. I’ve got it. I’m fielding this one, and it’s the sum of five years of writing Kanishka, quietly, to myself.
“Do you know,” the girl says, “that everything is… empty?”
She teeters. “You do?”
She doesn’t know it, most people don’t, but we are talking Kismuth’s beat. The “What about if?,” the questions of being, treks round Sheep’s Head and Punjab to suss a story, to unpack what you’re never really able to unravel altogether, what you can’t, no matter how hard you might like to think it’s important, reshape into tidy lines that connect now-absent dots.
She sucks in air.
“Everything is blank space,” she says. Like it’s an equation. “Uncertain.”
It is an equation.
In 1900, Max Planck came up with: E=hc/λ.
Relating energy, the speed of light, and wavelength. But he needed to use some stuff about uncertainties, Boltzmann, et al, to make it work. And throw in a constant. See ‘h’? It’s Planck’s constant: 6.626×10^-34 Js.
Soon the space between us goes redolent with caramel, popcorn, soy sauce and fish. Quiet, too, which is unusual.
She tilts her head. “Have a name card?” A wind touches her hat’s yellow feather.
“No. Just, um. Well, google ‘fuzzy quantum pop.’”
She smiles. It’s buoyant, the smile of someone who’s ultra content with the way things are, doesn’t twist them into what she thinks they ought to be. “No name card? Really?”
“I’m, uh. I’m going through some transitions.”
For no reason I fish out the yellow envelope.
I wrote a letter to my love,
And on the way I dropped it.
I push it into her hands the way a big sister might. “I was going to send it to, well. Nevermind. But you know. The post. Cambodia. Take it, will you? I think you’ll enjoy it more.”
She nods, and before I know it, she’s—
A little girl picked it up, and—
—Put it in her pocket. (end)
Read the letter on June 23 at Kismuth.com.
Dipika Kohli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.