One by two

Do you remember that chicken soup corner at the end of the street. Where there was a huge banyan tree, and the road forked. You found it the year before I was to graduate. And boy, did we make the most of that. The first time you bought soup for me, I had been down with the flu. Influenza, as you would call it, it was a thorough windy afternoon of winter. And the warden's assistant called. I had a visitor. You were waiting downstairs with a tall plastic cup in hand, your face seemed smaller, your glasses covered most of it. You looked a different boy from afar, very apart from the backbencher-latecomer in class. The soup was only lukewarm. My shawl din't stand the breeze. Your t-shirt had swollen up, the wind got in and bloated it up. Like a balloon.

Three days later, when you had gotten my cold, we had walked down to that soup corner. Together, for the first of many times. It was only a shack, back then. Boys and girls, sat in pairs, stood in pairs, about the cemented base of the banyan tree, cycles parked in tandem. You shook one and the entire pack would collapse, one upon its adjacent. I actually wanted to do that once, shake on cycle and run for my life. Or pretend that nothing happened. Like a poker face, you know. You always asked me to confine that idea to my mind, for the better part of the year. And just drink the soup. Chicken noodle soup. Fiery and hot. One by two. 

Everytime, later in life, I split soup with anyone, I would think about you. Everytime, I see anyone read Chicken soup for the Soul, I would miss you. Hoping you were around, then and there. Sometimes, when I see a banyan tree, centuries old, and pause to see it some more, it is as if you are there. Like literally. And then I see the fork in the road, I realize again. Hands are held, till the road forks. 

Raison d’etre

On certain random afternoons, upon feeling like a late lunch, they cooked.

She marveled over how she remembered the names of few new exotic vegetables that she had picked up. From some TV show. He unearthed his mother's recipes. She complained that the knife was getting rather blunt. He said that she always chopped more than they needed, and that she was the holy goddess of plentitude. He looked at her top, dusted in flour and smiled. She appeared cuter than her usual stern self, he told her that. Hence, she took it off, that top. He pinched her to make her giggle softer. But she couldn't help, looking at the little shriveled lady finger in his fridge. Or the slimy bunch of spinach. How can you not have food, she animatedly slammed the pack of frozen peas to his bum. 

They fought over doing the dishes. They had very few anyway. Saucepans and bowls, knives, spoons and graters. All went back to their rightful places. They ate, sitting on the floor. Guarding their food against the other. Sometimes, they lay on the kitchen floor, turning off the stove midway, staying still for hours. The music from the bedroom, could still be heard, faint. But loud enough. 

Tea. Every evening there was tea. Around seven, His was green, or lemon. Hers was thick boiled and milky. On special days, there was coffee. He made that of course. They sipped it from the glasses they drank vodka from. Later that night. Deeper that night. Continuing the same conversation, or sometimes, inquistively switching,  

Lunch, by herself

Norah Jones was playing, in the back of her head. Compulsively. As she was eating lunch by herself. By the glass wall. Staring at the pigeons outside, scores of them sitting on the asbestos roof opposite. She had told herself to look at the way the leaves quivered though. Like they were cold. It brought her peace, how the wind that couldn't be seen effected motion. How the cause was invisible and the effect, she could see, feel. Those leaves and the trees they belonged to, she loved. The way their boughs touched the glass wall. Flowerless and lush green in rain. They aroused her, like hardly anything did.

From when she was a little girl, she was prone to illness. Of the mild kind, of the virile kind. Hypermetropia. Otosclerosis. Rheumatism. Complex words, lent by other languages to English, scribbled in illegible handwriting by bespectacled doctors. It took her months to get the spelling right. And today, she was aging. Sooner than she would, had she been elsewhere. Anywhere else. 

She felt the blood rushing to her head. Felt her temples warmed up. Sounds in her ears, both of them got loud until she could hear no more. As if, she was inside a factory. And then, like she was inside a machine. Her eyes, began burning. To begin with, they felt sore. But in the minute that followed, they burnt. She wanted to run to the mirror to check if they were red too. But her legs wouldn't move. A convulsion passed right through her body.

How that felt, to have her body invaded by so many external forces. All invisible. And yet, she felt every limb shaking, dysfunctional. She tried so much to focus on the leaves and their quivering, the breeze, the glass. Or the pigeons. There was, what looked like a crow circling the asbestos roof. It seemed to fly higher and higher, into the afternoon sun. Or was she merely sinking from her chair, and then into collapsing into the ground. 

Pigeons

Pigeons sit on the parapets in my building. On the edges, almost falling off, they don't look down, they don't gauge the fall, they are fearless. Some of them sit in rows on the cables that run across walls. Swinging. At peace. Their faces quite numb, their wings pretty limp. And no matter how much you shake that cable, they wouldn't budge. Like they owned it. 

Sometimes, I feel, they are in waiting. They build their nests in my room. On the roof of my closet. Relentlessly bringing in twigs, leaves. There is always only two of them making that nest. But at night, when I shut the window, and they can't come in anymore, they just wait outside until morning, for me to let them in. Meanwhile, they must also call their friends, because there always are six to seven to nine of them. Waiting. 

They sleep that way. On their feet. On the swing. Or on the edge of the parapet. It amazes me. This routine, in a bunch of birds. I go out and stare at them, and get some air also. That strange grey color, you barely find much else. Except in the mind.

They come back every night.  In unbearably hot summer nights, they expand in the heat, and I feel their elliptical shapes might burst and plop open. They sit there on endless monsoon nights. And in the afternoons and mornings when it rains. Sometimes if I miss out on opening the window, they peck on it making that faint noise, like something very close to knocking. Like they were real people.




The Tireless Heartbreaker

Supertramp is a tireless heartbreaker. He leaves everyone behind. In the sense, even his name. Some people wish to be so boundless, that there is nothing that could contain them. You can try. To hold them back. Keep them. Keep him. But he wouldn't. He would break away, and break your heart. And never tire of it. 

His idea of the self, his boundaries are holy. He wouldn't let anyone overstep that. And he is not an escapist.

He left his car. His guitar. He burnt his credit cards. Destroyed any ID. Layer after layer, each skin that garbed him, he peeled away. Like an onion. Anything at all, that could let him grow roots had to be let go of. It's liberating and debilitating in the same breath. Liberating for Supertramp. Liberating for I. And debilitating for the man, woman and child he left behind. For the future he abandoned. For the past he denied. 

However scanty could you be? Define minimalistic. Living out of a knapsack. Hitchhiking your way through life, living on the road. Living like an ape. Under a tree. And being the anti-materialistic, homeless, philosophical genius who understands how your entire fucking life, all you have been striving for breathlessly is laying out one beautiful deceitful trap for your own self. What fools. 

Supertramp was truly on his own. No bondage. I cannot grasp, him. Neither can I help you grasp. Because the former. 


Flop Show

There was a guy once. And trust me on this, there have been many such. Guys with incomplete stories, devastating heartbreaks. Guys with tunnel and more tunnel. Only no light.

But more about this one. 

Guy in context and I went to high school together. I hadn't known he existed back then, I was quite the class valedictorian. After high school, I left town for college. And then moved to some other place for my masters. And one blue day, he messaged me on facebook. Hi, this is so & so. We studied together in such & such. Can you place me right? It would have been quite embarrassing to tell him that I didn't know who the hell he was. Instead we got to mailing. No exchange of numbers, like hearing each others' voice would ruin it. We mailed and mailed. 

I wouldn't go far to call it a fling. But there was definitely something. A tiny little crush at the back of my mind. Not heart. Turned out we were going to be interning in the same city, starting next month. Woah! How was that going to work out without meeting. I began growing expectations. How would the first meet go. How we would roam around on weekends, in the afternoons. Go out, dance, sing, have fun. Do stuff that twenty two year olds were into. I mean, I really did have plans. I was so fucking naive back then. 

Ultimately, heavens came down when he told me that he had a change of plans in the eleventh hour. Like, suddenly I felt alone, with nothing to do. I didn't take it well. Like I said, I was young. Innocent. Trusting. 

I would cut the story at that. But to this date, I quote this incident to remind myself and my friends, how you should never meticulously plan and expect. Turns out your pillars weren't strong and now you are suffocating in the rubble because the fucking roof crumbled on your head. 

But, shit happens. Oops, I did it again! 

Cold Feet

That day, while driving down to see him, you hit all the green lights. Straight, no pauses. It felt like a breeze. So much so that you wanted to stop and check if this was indeed happening. It felt right. And it felt scary. Paradoxical, yeah. But scary right. You wonder if this was the right thing to do afterall. If you haven't left behind something more opportune. More significant. You begin to doubt. All kinds of thoughts trickle into your head and yet you never hit a red light. Like the whole goddamn road was made for you. You remember how you inched through the same road, like a tortoise, on other evenings and afternoons trapped in nerve wrecking traffic. But not today. You are happy. Delighted. Relieved, that the distance between you and him is getting shorter. You are only minutes away from seeing him. Your mind strays to what he must be doing. Wouldn't he be surprised. It's morning after all. But there's something choking your ecstasy. It's making you want to not let it in, keep it outside for a while may be. You're getting jitters. Not knowing, one bit. What the fuck is going on. 

You take that blinding U-turn and go back home. Tail between your legs. 

Or drive right past, and slather yourself in unforgiving love. Debilitate yourself, go pale. Go limp. Let go. Let in.