Homecoming

Stories that we keep telling ourselves. Every day. Day after day. We have become these incessant story tellers, hon, ain't nobody stopping us no more. That going through the motions is doing us good. It isn't. Every day is a disguised failure. Trembling with masked anger. Unspoken, unspoken wrath. Sugarcoated love, that only isn't. In all this rush, when am I myself? Never. I am scared that I am underacting my way through life, not pretending enough. So I overact. I laugh really loudly when I am sad. I joke around when I am angry. I make small talk when I am lost. I overwork to get rid of the omnipresent feeling of disappointment that life has become. Somewhere, a while ago, everything has shed its meaning. I keep masking one thing with another and then that with another. There are so many masks, hon, I forget where I hid the real thing. Life has become folklore's quintessential demoness's soul, stored in a chamber inside seven other chambers. 

Sometimes I recall the hallways in which I became a person. An adult from a child. Tunnel like long endless hallways with rooms on both sides. My memories are trapped in dungeons of the past. And it takes so much effort to uncover them because they have been positively hidden for my benefit. Yet I scratch that wound sometimes, hoping that probably, I would find something I left behind. And that something would help me hold on to the real and slowly unmask myself. But there too, I seem to find only pain. Only sorrow. I have nothing concrete to hold on to in the past. Because I mostly lived in imagination, partly in denial. May be I am still living in denial. Wobbling in knee high denial, you never know. Some truths are so tough to accept and internalize, I would rather choose denial. I am living in denial despite being fully aware of the scores and scores of flaws in my mind and body. Goodness, what else, is even there.

And more often than I would like, I think about the years to come. Will I continue to be this dull. This selfish, even. I ain't crafted for too many challenges, hon. In the face of adversity, I lack the fortitude. I collapse and become a shamble of bones. I wonder if I will even begin to deal with my issues, or will I have the glorious courage to accept oneself as one is. Probably, I will float in the mundane middle, forever and ever. And whatever the potential I deem to have, I shall never achieve. Will I always measure myself and never fucking free myself from the fucking scale. 

Living entangled this way, I have made chaos my home and look forward to going home. Deeper and sooner. 

Now Playing: Nina Simone's You don't know what love is. 

Yeah, hon. I don't. And I never would. Hon. 



Ergo

All of my memory converges into one evening in the past. It was 2006. Or 2007 probably. Because 2008 would rather be too late for the events I'm going to narrate. It was a silly little evening. Nobody significant was even involved, as in physically present. But people don't have to be present in body and mind to cause effect and effectively mar an evening, a day, a life. Mostly, it's their absences that work that charm. So yes, it was an evening long long ago and I was mostly by myself. And it was then that I lost my innocence. Ergo, all my memory, if retrospectively stretched back in time, converge, then and there. 

It was January. And it was drizzling. Winter rain. I must've been eighteen. Unscathed. In love. Brimming with naivete, unbeknownst of the ways of the world, that such scales existed on which humans are weighed and chosen, and the rest rejected, I callously thought till then that love begets love. It never did. Never does. And it shouldn't either. But I was young and full of colors. Purple, magenta and violets. 

It was a grey evening we'd stepped out into. With a few friends and somebody's cousin. I was meeting somebody's cousin for the first time. He was tall, bespectacled, comfortable in a lose T shirt. Forgettable as a person, because I don't even recall him name. But he has been reluctantly stuck in this memory forever. Because he simply happened to be there. It was a huge college campus. Somebody's cousin was showing us around. Mostly from the streets, their stadiums, activity centers, auditoriums, gyms. I saw numerous, numerous boys that evening. 

I knew you were there, out there somewhere. But we're never lucky enough for coincidences. I never saw you. You never sought me out. It was a lost cause. But you were right there. Within square meters probably. It was getting duskier, cooler, darker. Slowly yellow light from the street lamps filled the streets. I looked up to see bulky deodars on both sides of the streets. Upright like our guardians. We were just a bunch of kids back then.

Within minutes the air got chilly. The power went off. It was completely dark except for the shrieks of voices. And laughter. It began to pour. We took shelter under the nearest tree. I scooted to under the nearest tree. I almost hugged it tight. I could feel its trunk on my cheeks. And shut my eyes, I wanted you so much. It was so debilitating to be so close to you and still not have you. It was precisely under that tree, that day, standing in the rain that I got my heart broken the first time. 

For a few years I imagined you were there with me under that tree. But I knew you weren't. I have concocted so many alternative memories of the same exact incident, I can't tell the real from the unreal. Probably none of this even happened. But now I am too seasoned to give away the truth so easy.

In parallel universes and in other tesseracts of time, you were probably there with me under that deodar. In a tight embrace, in galloping rain, our cheeks touching its trunk. Because that would answer just so many questions right now. 


No Underlying

A couple of months ago, I compiled a bunch of stories I'd written and put 'em up for sale. But that's not how these artsy things work. Nobody read me. Then my parents came to stay over for a week. I was grappling with loneliness on and oft. Solitude is peaceful until the deeper emptiness of it all hits you in the soul. Then I came to know that someone I knew was terribly sick. It felt as if it could have happened to me as well, that sickness. I felt saved by a threadbare margin and yet I felt vulnerable. And then there always is this constant feeling of bein' a loser. You know how that works. You wake up, you're a loser. You go to bed, you're a loser. And there's zilch in between. It's not that the joy of others itches my eye, it doesn't, in fact, I possibly couldn't care any less about the life of others. But there are short minutes in may be, say weeks, that my knees feel weak. And there is nothing I can do about it. 

Despite it all, I was not depressed. I was alright. I mean, yeah, life's tough. It has got its meandering way of going about things and it doesn't give a shit what I think. 

And then one day, last week, I completely damaged my glasses. My glasses had been damaged two years, but now they started feeling too bad. I visited the optometrist. And as he was checking me for the correct power, switching so many glasses and asking me read out the letters on the wall, a bitterness caught the pit of my stomach. It wasn't unusual. Nausea is my second name. I feel like puking for two three hours every day. But this nausea stayed. But two days straight. Like I had been constantly inhaling automobile fumes. I got the shivers. All day in summer, I shivered. The hair on my skin stood perpendicular. I had nothing, no shawls or jackets. I shivered all day. At night I got chills. My forehead felt feverish. For a moment there I thought I might be pregnant. Then I looked up all the new diseases that were in the news recently. Zika, Ebola, Dengue. 

The next day, the shivers and chills subsided to certain extent. The nausea too plummeted. But there was no energy left in my body. I didn't have it in my to lift a finger. I felt no hunger. No thirst. I just sat there like a log. Didn't cook or clean. Didn't work even the slightest bit. I slept for very long hours and woke up exhausted. I couldn't taste whatever I ate. The void that my life is, hit me. Hit me in the soul, finally. And I felt this actual loss of control on my mind. Like literally, I felt my fists loosen up and let go of the grip. I wanted to vanish. I went through several days, doing nothing but waiting for the night to come so I could go to bed. And sleep and get a break from life for as long as possible. Everything was pointless. Then I heard myself saying hushed, that this is what Depression is. 

Every morning, I wake up, drink three fourths of my water bottle and take a dump and brush my teeth and make tea. Then I whip up breakfast and make some lunch, and then pack that lunch, take a shower, put on face cream, book a cab and run to work. Then work or pretend to work and drink tea in between and more water. Eat lunch. Work some more. Read some more. Check social media. Hate social media. Pack my bags, book another cab and come home. Wash up, sit on the couch. Watch some TV. Eat dinner while watching TV. Do the dishes. Some more TV. Then a book possibly, then bed. This is my life. My life on the surface. 

I am too scared to look for any kind of underlying. I do my chores, breathe, eat, drink, earn a living, sleep. I never look for any deeper meaning. If I feel like it, I do laundry. Or dust the shelves. Or watch some more TV. But when I am Depressed, my vision is so much clearer. I can see below this surface of artificial and constant busy-ness. I can see that there is nothing underneath. No underlying. 

Not a single reason to wake up in the morning. 

Edge of the Night

Bikers ride by, bikers zoom past. Their tires crush the midnight roads with such friction, it's not music, not even to my semi-deaf ears. It's an awakening sound, though, on a dawn like Saturday night, smokey as hell. That crass noise of bike tires, does awaken you in ways few other things can. We are sitting inside, by the man sized window, grilled, but only hardly. Through gaps in the grille, arms can easily pass in and out. May be even an entire baby. This night feels, strangely on the edge.

The coffee table is now strewn with our paraphernalia.Cigarette butts, the ash tray over turned. Ash mixed with vodka has created a clay which darkens the color of tonight. There's like a dozen other bottles on this table. Bottles of all shapes and sizes. Tall bottles, slender bottles, stout bottles, curvaceous bottles. Just like women, who come in all shapes and sizes, so do bottles, apparently. There is a measuring cup though, that works for all alcohol alike. Hour-glass shaped, on one side it measures 30 ml, turned upside down, it measures 60.

Large drinks are for the big guys. We take small measured sips. Moisten our lips mostly. And lick the edge of the glasses. And sit and sit for minutes that melt into hours. The night is forming outside, like an amorphous being. The buds of flowers are shyly blooming outside, in the courtyard, on the roofs of our neighbours and in the rest of the world. The earth is slowly rotating on its titled axis. That axis must have also been as drunk as us, to be titled all the time.

The air feels warm for after midnight. May be, we are just locked in a closet, a closet with the mirage of a window. In a closet, mind numbed in asphyxia, high enough to believe that we are making sense, when we are not, and we are whiling away our entire lives watching American television. And then from being the size of a closet, the room expands gradually and becomes an open field, an open gallery. And there is no need to hide behind walls anymore.

There is a back room though. A bed room. With a fluffy mattress and a bobby print curtains. Should we leave the night alone and go back in there. What are the chances that we make love tonight now. What are the odds?

House with no mirrors

I took an auto to the market. I had some money. I didn't even bark at the auto wallah over the fare. I paid whatever he demanded. I was there to buy clothes for me. Dusk was dissolving into the air. And I was at the beginning of long and seemingly endless veins and vein lets of streets. Filled with hawkers selling split open raw mango sprinkled with salt and chilly powder, guava the same way, and bangles and wallets and trinkets for your home and you. Of course there were so many well lit stores, filled with stacks and stacks of clothes. Thousands and lakhs of clothes, I couldn't imagine how many there were. For the first time in months, I began to feel overwhelmed.

I randomly walked those streets to regain my breath. Paid for things in cash and hoarded clothes and bangles and bindis and earrings into my bag. It got heavy, but it didn't matter. It began to drizzle and I didn't stop even then. Despite knowing that the rain would wreck havoc over the city traffic and I wouldn't get an Uber to go home. I ran out of cash and started coaxing hawkers to take Paytm. I swiped my cards at so many shops, I don't even remember. And then suddenly, my gusto collapsed. It had enough reason to, alright. But that happens, you don't know why you feel the way you feel. You take yourself by utter surprise. It makes you think if you've been hiding something from yourself. Intimidating thought that.

My mind traveled back to my first apartment. It had a lot of windows but I had the maroon curtains so stretched out end to end that no voyeur would even dare. I lived there for about a year. And entirely by happenstance, that apartment didn't have a mirror. I lived an entire year without looking at myself. Not that there was anything to look at. Life batters the self esteem of a no looker by the time you are thirty. But nevertheless, not even the tiny flagellant remnant of the narcissist in me wanted to see myself for a year. So weird was that. I now come to realize. 

Self esteem apart, what does a mediocre laggard even get in life. Except crying in gulps sitting on the office toilet. Reading what great writers have written. And how every sentence of them once read pulls a chord real strong and pours out of those fucking tear glands. Because I know I will never write like that and never be cried over like that, at least, not anymore. I would rather go shopping in endless streets and feel overwhelmed. Once in a blue moon. 

Penumbra

There was a time when we were all,
Gleelessly stuck in Penumbra
Between the ages, thirteen to nineteen
Or twenty-one

That teen angst, wasn't like nothing else

One particular afternoon,
I wasted sitting in the sunbeam
That trespassed through my window
In the dark, and writing a letter
On pen & paper, yes, real blue ink
And sprinkling it with rose petals
An unposted letter with that angst
About being alone and unwanted

Don't recall much else though
Literally speaking, for instance
My first sip of alcohol (cocktail - sex on the beach)
Or my first kiss
The first smoke,
But I know I had many firsts

Growing like a multi faceted organism
In so many directions
And with so less control
Nothing could begin to heal that angst
Not a box full of books,
Or nights spent drinking coffee
Or making craft

So many years of constant rebellion,
Do you recall yours?
Stuck in Penumbra, glee-less-ly
So long, so long.


Amour Fou

Lately, I landed myself with a bunch of letters. Between two people I don't know. I exaggerated, actually. Not letters. They are mails. More like chats. Conversations. It feels illegitimate to read them, like intruding their privacy. I know, it's wrong. But I just can't stop, right now, I am knee deep in their lives.

They worked together and talked incessantly on an intra office chat messenger. Among their numerous typos and monosyllabic questions and answers and even entire statements consisting of punctuation marks only, I have formed two images of them, I can't seem to get past. I've never seen them, never will. It's just a bunch of chats erroneously downloaded.

Their talks are coquettish, least to say. The man seems to ignore the woman at first, but then later he too folds into it. They barely discuss their spouses, but reading on and on, I realize that they are both married. The woman's husband stayed away, probably, the reason she sought out his attentions. And he seems to fall for it, even between his short and precise replies, I understand, he is very much in the conversation.

If you take the two marriages out of the equation, it's even a sweet story after all. And even if you don't, even then it is.

If love doesn't find us, we seek it out. Like a blind child, in a dark room, we are pounding for love. There is no wrong time and age for it. They probably never had an affair, or kissed in the elevator, or booked surreptitious hotel rooms. May be their fling stayed at chatting only. Or may be it didn't.
But now they're apart. And I can't help, but imagine so many things.