About Last Night

How do I live a moment
Knowing precisely
That I am
Never gonna live it again
Just how

It is as if
A memory is being created
A memory is being cemented
Simultaneously, as I live this moment
Tonight, here now

You know,
Moments are like people
One very different from the other
And this one is made of
Profound nostalgia

A moment in which
A dozen more moments are caged
Memory within a memory
Moment inside a moment inside
Another moment, and so on

Probably, with the life I've chosen
There may be similar times
In the future as well
But not this one
In exactitude

I feel
Hopelessly incapable to let go
Of whatever sand
I have gathered in my hands
But I know, I rather would

Yet
I have bought myself
A piece of space and time,
And I would freeze the universe at that.

Perhaps

Again the question
How do birds sleep
Do their bulbous voluptuous bodies 
Balance on their thin tiny legs

Because a huge peepul tree
Faces my portico 
And even at 23:50
Two birds, I don't know which kind
Are fooling around on it, 
It's their time of the night, perhaps

As it is mine.
My time.

Once a friend of mine
A very dear one at that
Told me, exasperated 
With hands in the air
That I have everything

I smirked at the fulfillment 
Of possessing everything.

Now, I feel, that
My friend has it all.

Again the question
Why are we so incurably unhappy then. Why

This poem, is an ode to the truth that I have been writing something almost each night now. Writing every night is either a sign of distress. Or contentment, perhaps

Stranger

I, riddled in my own passive aggressive shit, still thought of him. I would be all quite fine by myself in my own peaceable cocoon. And without notice, he would come wafting into my mind. Very casually. Like the fragrance of spices cooking in a broth. And he would linger for hours. I wouldn't know what to do with those thoughts. Unrequited love works that way, and that way only. It's often a disaster. It addicts women for a lifetime. Then I would map times and spaces in my mind and try to locate where he would be. What he would be upto. And all for what? Nothing. It doesn't lead anywhere. Nowhere. I often take up this fruitless exercise and sit motionless inside my mind. 

Nuances of him would bother me further. Happy little things would now turn into dangerous memories and haunt me. He never once remembered my birthday. I would be silly enough to remind him a couple days in advance wishing he wouldn't forget it that time. But he always did. That would push any self destructive woman into further self destruction. Bouts of depression and loathing would follow. This used to be an annual event during my birthday, I recall. There was no escape. He would send across belated wishes. Even those sufficed, but not as much. That affair was not to last, we both knew. It was so skewed and one sided, it had no future at all.

We moved on after a fling of a few years. To newer people, fresher faces. But, I could never get him out of my mind. It seemed silly, the happenings of it now even felt juvenile and physical. Yet memories are unerasable. I had once called him on the night of my birthday to secretly extract my wish of being wished. He was having a party instead. He kept the phone on speaker on the table with all his friends gathered around it. And for what felt like the entire night, I eves dropped on their drunken conversations. His friends didn't know. I waited for him to say somethings about me. When you are in drunken stupor, you can hardly leash your tongue. May be he gave in in the end and said somethings. I cannot remember. 

He called me back the next morning to apologize for what he had said and asked me to ignore it entirely. He was really high on some authentic grass. Ah, grass I said. Yes, very smoked up. I told him I smoked too. A franker camaraderie developed that moment. May be I was upgraded in his eyes. I seemed deeper, more mysterious. 

But soon after that, we called it off. On my next birthday, I received a nameless package. It contained two packs of favorite brand of cigarettes. I lit one, inhaled the smoke and exhaled out all my heartache. In one long endless sigh. I would never think of him again. 





Self Portrait

He is an egotist. He has a suave exterior. Very gentlemanly. He carries the weight of his reputed degrees. Numerous foreign trips. His consultant like mannerisms. His erudite family as well. The elegant wife, with slender arms. Who wears sleeveless blouses. Looks nice without suffocating herself with the effort to do so. And their recent addition, a bubbly little baby girl. He is the center of all that. He seems to be a nice man. His face is somewhat chiseled. He would have felt tremendously geeky, only a couple years ago. Now he is more seasoned. He isn't outweighed by his net-worth. But he silently takes an aggregate amount of pride in himself. Now that is not bad, is it. But it is. The modest exterior, vis-a-vis a crouching ego within is no child's play. You could never guess, when he's playing you and how. He could keep you guessing, even perplexed, may be. He would shower you with attention, one day. Ignore you the next. I know this category of men, only too well. Old acquaintances. He will pamper you and at the same time, make you feel completely abandoned. He takes a long time before making you realize, this, that you cannot trust him. And also that he's not the one. Never the one. 

The Lightness of Being

Your feet tingle. Toes feel so light, they might just detach and take flight. In a deep drag, you think, sobriety is overrated. Why else would God have planted the opium. Words trickle into your head, you feel the whim to write on numerous subjects. You fling your arms out and let be. Another deep drag after, memories come back to you. Those that happened for real, and some that never did. The future that couldn't be. Alternate universes. Even remorse is mellowed down by nicotine. Everything feels easy. Stress melts. You wonder why you don't do this more often. It's winter. It's so hard to resist. And be sober. You remember how much you cajoled yourself not to. But you caved in. Almost imploded into yourself. In the end, it all comes down to pushing that window open, late after midnight and experimenting with your conscious. A tweak there, a twist here. The eternal lightness of being. What could go wrong. How much could be lost. And what, in the end cannot be risked. Everything has its own cost factored in. Isn't it. One moment you are the pawn. The next moment you are the empowered seductress of life. Erudite, fluent in intellect. Then again, you are a silly girl. You are everything locked up in your cocoon. The next drag tells you that. And then the next. Your chest puffs up, eyes begin to burn a little. Water a little. Your heart fills with ash. You un-clutch your hair and toss it all to one side. To rest peacefully on your shoulder.You think of the dreaming people asleep downstairs, upstairs. You feel stacked. In a building. In a chair. In a bed. One singular soul in billions. By yourself. Inconsequential. Then you look at the sky, the darkness is unfuckwithable. You think about your next poem and resign. You call it a day. You call it a night.  

Baker's Delight

Do you remember the year of depression? Because I do. A terrible year that. 2015. I don't know, why exactly I realize this just now. Now, that another year has also almost followed 2015 into the bygone and the forgotten. Yet, I cannot cease myself from writing about it. 

The weekdays used to be delusional. You understand the kind of delusion, when you cannot recall how did things get so worse. You cannot recall the steps, the small pouches of misery coming in before the surfeit of it choked your throat. And you ask yourself, rhetorically though. Only one mere word. Why.

That kind of delusion. That could nudge mental heath enthusiasts off their comfy couches. It was concerning. But what was more demanding of empathy was Sundays.

I recall, it started with a rant of not-feeling-well to I-feel-like-cake. I poured an instant cake mix into the pressure cooker as directed on the cover. And, voila. An amorphous antidote for depression. I knifed it out, spooned it out, in crumbs and that was the first of numerous.

I took to the heavily underused microwave then. And blatantly decided to mix my own batter for the better. Better batter. And boy, did I bake some mediocre unpalatable stuff. I am told baking is so simple and often asked, how can I be bad at baking. But I just was. Probably it as my mood. My mental heath, as enthusiasts would say. 

I was battling my own wars. Arguing, screaming. And almost simultaneously baking. I whisked flour, eggs, milk, sugar. Sometimes bananas. The baking soda was either too scant or too much, it always failed me. I was in tears. Chocolate powder or vanilla essence, nothing sufficed to fill the holes in my soul. The knife I stabbed into the cake to check if it was done, I weighed against it the option of stabbing it into myself. I couldn't handle anymore questions. I had no answers. 

It was such a ruthless time. And I was so callously lost. 

I Google-d newer recipes to keep my mind engaged. I once baked an apple pie with a bunch of overripe apples. I distinctly remember baking my personal favorite, the caramel custard. Cup cakes were done too, Jars and jars of Nutella, and Hershey's chocolate sauce. Powdered sugar as icing with cherry toppings. 

But nothing helped me as much as I would have wanted to be helped back then. I would cut myself two generous slices on a plate and go to bed, every Sunday afternoon. The rest of the cake would lay on the dining table next to the microwave, untouched. Sometimes, I ate the rest of it, on week nights. It didn't matter. 

And then suddenly, things changed. Both for the better and the worse. It's hard to imagine it bothways, but it's true. And I stopped baking altogether. Probably because I don't own a microwave anymore. Amen to that. 

Cocoon

A cocoon isn't necessarily a bad thing
Where I live, alone
Like the quiet li'l person, I am
It's a dumb, blind and deaf spot
Very inert
My holy chunk of heaven
Within ladles and ladles of silence

You 'member that story
About the old witch
Who slept serenely in her palace
And her life lay within the
Box inside the box inside the box
Seven such boxes
Well guarded
My cocoon is the smallest of all those boxes

It's here
That I've always longed to be
Forever, and ever
Probably, yes, sure, why not

These walls shall never crumble
The air doesn't even move much
Except fragrances that I sometimes wish to capture
And there's no noise at all, at all
It's dimly lit, it's always dusk, in here

People do come in,
They leave only memories behind
Their palm prints
Names scribbled in archaic fonts
But nobody stays long enough
And it's good that way, too

It's incorruptible, this place
Coated in the art I've treasured
And some that I've created
Even as I age, and my wrinkles come
My cocoon stays as it is
Undepreciated,
Like the spring of mindless youth.

The Couple by the Lake

It was an intense moment. Like a moment inside a moment.

We sat on a bench by the lake. City lights reflected on the black water. Nearly mesmerizingly. But there was nothing romantic about it. We were both deeply bothered, I guess.

We had a rule. One smoke per night, strictly. One each that is. Sharing a smoke would be too intimate. His black polythene bag was between us on the bench. It had his drink for the night. I would have a swig from it before we walked back to our rooms. Sometimes, two or three. 

There was a girl he loved deeply. She had recently been married off to another man and had been shipped abroad. She still loved him back. That so rebellious love of the early twenties. He had heard her voice after weeks, he was almost too benumbed to speak. He had told me about her earlier though. About how they had met and fallen in love at the place they worked. And how vehemently her parents had opposed the match, and so on. Their love had been obsessive-compulsive. 

Not the milder poetic version, but serious life endangering love that. I wasn't aware of such love myself back then. I only came to know of it later when I fell into it myself. Some mind-fucking, nerve-wrecking shit that. 

But back then, I was in a different kind of a love. With another man, who was as far away as far away could be. Victimized by my repetitive tendency to fall for unavailable men. That was young-vulnerable love. The love of cards and roses. And preferably, low sugar chocolates as well. 

One thing we had in common was that we had both been equally sequestered by the ones we had loved. And that pain was enough to make us sit side by side with the lake and with its shimmering lights on back water. Every night, for as long as it took for us, individually and together, to gather our heartbroken selves and walk back to our rooms. A strange camaraderie that. 

Somethings needn't be explained. This, needn't even be touched. Years have gone by, now all that remains is a faded memory of two jaded beings by the lake. Almost wiped clean, it is sometimes recovered to remember, so many loves since then, so many heartaches since then. But I can still recall the taste of the ice-cream he treated me with afterward, to snap me out of whatever depression that was. Dark chocolaty chocolate with cream, yes. And no, not sugar free. 

A Poem for Irrefutable Sadness

Something devastating must've happened.
Else why do I feel the way I feel.
Things must be fine in a parallel world.
Wherein time ticks in a different fashion.

Isn't most things crumbling as I speak.
It's a catastrophe in this world, may be.
Dreams being crushed, ruthlessly.
Too much for a mortal to handle.

So many handicaps to be ashamed of,
And so many smokes needed, there by.
Can't take this no more.
Now that everything has come to nothing. Zilch.

M.I.A.

I remember you.
And if not often,
It would be wrong to say
I don't think of you at all.

On nights of impending gloom
When the air is chilly
When I have just heard some good music
Or re-read an old poem I wrote, years ago

My mind distinctly goes back to you
And our December
The December, we found everything
And lost everything

After many years,
I don't remember your face of course
But your tantrums,
It's difficult to forget those

Yes, if it makes you any proud
You've stayed
I've moved on though
In some ways I've stayed too

In this chaos of poetic commotion
And lack of motion
And rampant illusion,
I remember you

And I can't help myself,
When I do.
You waltz into my memories
And waltz out, abandoning me moist,

Sometimes on the verge of nostalgia
Sometimes dreamy
Wondering what you've been up to
It's been quite long. This long

That you've been so M.I.A.

Much Love

The cyclone that was to be,
Has now been averted.
A changed course,
Perhaps, on the way back from Myanmar.
Somewhere else, on this indented coastline
It shall make landfall

Now the coconut trees
In my backyard, shall live.
But alas, I have no backyard.
No coconut, just a sterile shrub of potted hibiscus
That refuses to even, flower.
And ants ate away the basil.

Now, there are long nights
And deep sleep.
Dreamless sleep against the backdrop of
Instrumental guitar
And the masochistic pleasure
Of losing oneself.

And never finding oneself again.
For there is a certain bliss in being lost.
You my judgmental friend,
Will never know, what glee this is.
You stay where you are,
Go to parties.

I will stay back and smoke in my portico
Releasing circles of smoke into still air
My toes resting on the grille
Beside my sterile hibiscus
With my head, between my deaf ears
Pregnant with memories, shallow regrets and the
Immeasurable joy of solitude.

Much Love

For: Donald Hall

Rukmini

Rukmini is about 65. She is reed thin, with a sari draped around her. Else you could see her protruding bones. She has an almirah at the end of her kitchen. Just behind the stack of steel and aluminium utensils. But she wears all her jewellery. A thick gold chain, earrings with strings going around her ears and anklets. That's all the jewellery she has. The rest she has sold. To get money to run her house hold. She began selling the brass and copper utensils first. After they were emptied out, she began selling her gold.

Her house is a train of rooms. The first room has nothing. It's almost on the verandah. It has nothing though. The second room has a bed. And a mirror in which Rukmini has seen herself grow older over the decades. From a nubile bride of sixteen. Till her breasts sagged and the wrinkles came over and her luscious hair fell off. Every single day of those several decades, Rukmini focussed on her face in the mirror and placed a thick red dot of vermilion between her brows. The third and the last room is the kitchen with a small stove and groceries stacked in the wooden shelf. Here she cooks two meals for her rather senile husband who sleeps on the single bed in the second room all day. Who screams a lot and hears nothing. His word being her command.

She is childless. Everyday, all those years in her youth when she bathed by the well in her backyard, she felt a void in her womb and her eyes filled up. So she snuggles up to the children of others. And embraces them tight till her heart's content.

She has a string of marigold shrubs around her well she tends to. And she also has a kitten. Who she feeds the occasional fish bone to. Sometimes even now, she feels the void in her reed thin body and goes on with her day.

Best of Times

May be the best of times are actually behind us. May be.
The time you fed me poached eggs on the kitchen counter. 
The day I sat where the rocks parted for the sea and took a picture.
That time when I had an infinite number of drinks and slept on the bathroom floor.
That afternoon I bought flowers for myself, long stemmed gerberas with water droplets glistening.
The evenings, numerous evenings of coffee and smokes. In the garden. In the cafe. On my particular table.
The days I took off, stayed home and wrote stories during.
The mornings I walked into the river water and pretended to catch fish.
The time I bought my wedding dress.
The time I bid you goodbye. For the last of many many times. 
Yes, all those.
Those times, the best of them.
Are way behind us now. Locked up in memories. Like fossils. Or like zoology specimen in formaldehyde.

29.

The last time I saw him was at the mall. In the groceries section. I recall we were in the toiletries aisle. I was totally concentrating on my brand of hand wash when he just appeared. Right in front of me. It took me a moment to recognise him.

His was the perfect picture. His little girl on the shopping cart. Her hair tied into a pony tail. Wife in tow. A very pretty wife at that. She must have been prettier when he had married her. Now her face was rounder, hair a little disheveled, like every young mother's. But still pretty. He was the same. Lean, dark. And very terse.

There was a minimalistic exchange of pleasantries after which we parted. Then for the rough fifteen minutes that followed, in which I continued to tick items off my shopping list, I remembered that it hadn't been that long a time. Probably two years. We all lose track of time. So many many other things worry us more that there is no mathematical account of time in our lives.

Years go by and we cannot even recall what we were upto when. But it wasn't two years ago even.

The half a dozen tea breaks in the chawl downstairs. And the chit chat. Sometimes, strolls too. It was nothing. I had moved on from that nothing. And he had too.

Time, they say is very powerful. And we all must wait, if nothing else. Everything passes on.

Written for the one who has never forgotten to wish me on a birthday.

Happy 29.

Matinee

She was completely soaked in the plan. She went through it again and again. The show was at quarter to three. She had to leave at half past one. The cinema hall was more than ten kilometers away. And he was to meet her at their designated pick up place. She couldn't be late. They wouldn't miss the ice-cream before the show started. He had booked three seats for the two of them in the corner of the last row. So that he could wrap his hand around her shoulder and no one would be bothered. She had made a suitable alibi at home, she was away for back-to-back tuitions and soon after she would go to the beauty parlor. She prayed hard that nobody should find out. What else could she do but pray. What could anyone do but pray. She was a few minutes late and he had been waiting. She tied a scarf so as to hide her face and climbed on to his bike, and sat clutching his chest from behind. Like they do. In a minute, they were on the main road. The wind was unstoppable that afternoon. It shouldn't rain, how would she explain at home if she got drenched. Her head had transformed into this constant alibi manufacturing machine. It didn't. They licked their ice cream cones standing in the alley behind the hall. Her face was uncovered now, and people stared on, uninhibited. In her eyes he saw how nervous she was. In the darkness, when the film played, they held hands and even plucked kisses off each other. But her heart lay in her phone, which might ring anytime. What if they found out. Nobody called, though. In the interval, he bought more soft drinks and wafers. The cold breeze from the air conditioner, gave her the chills and she snuggled as close to him as she could. He whispered things into her ears, making her promise for a few more matinee shows like that. She whispered back, asking what if people back home found out. He whispered back saying that he had his way of taking care of things, if they did. She felt both empowered and bothered, by what he had said. Later, when the show ended, the skies opened up. The wind had stopped and the rain began to look scary. They couldn't ride back in that weather. They waited and waited for what seem like an hour and she couldn't make anymore alibis on the phone. She was at her wits end and her forehead heated up.They were both soaked under their skins. She was in tears, well almost. And he consoled her with all he had. That they were going to be just fine. 

Letting bygones be bygones

I

When I love something, I read about it till exhaustion. And beyond. Mostly, sorrow attracts me the most. Poignance, casts a spell on me and brings me to a standstill, rather where I am compelled to explore. Till exhaustion. Once I can't feel my feet on the ground, I choose to sink deeper and deeper. Even if it means nothing. I discover the agony I have buried within myself and I cannot bring the process to a halt. It's nasty and it's involuntary. Almost like a chronic addiction. For instance, if I love a film, I read about it for days. Until I have had my fulfilment. And fulfilment is a relative word, my friend.

II

My friend was sitting in a bar with his friends. They were all smoked up and were having a few beers. I was back in my room, writing a poem. Or something. We were all of twenty. Or less. A very fragile age that. I was writing a poem called Underachievers Anonymous. Sitting on my bed. On my blog, back then. Mist on my windowpane. Blanket till my waist. Memories are best set in winter, I say. I wrote it in a flow and published it. He read it almost instantaneously. Yes. And my phone rang within a minute. I had barely un-blanketed myself to walk up to the coffee table. And my phone rang. And it was him. He had called to say how exact my timing was and how his gang was now going gung-ho about underachieving etcetera.

III

Something beautiful and terrifying I read today: Love, even if never fully expressed, somehow lasts forever.

In The Mood For Love

Imagine smoke and mirrors. Smoke, often from his cigarette and more than a couple of mirrors, facing each other at varied angles, light reflecting and refracting as it wished, without restraint, through red curtains and green bed spreads and tiled marbled floors coloured like a chessboard, printed wallpaper with chequered designs, of light blue, or deeper, a lampshade or two, a can for carrying soup, an umpteen number of bottles, spread across, the entire room feels like a living kaleidoscope, beside her fuchsia lipstick. And music playing in the background, probably, cello, or the trombone, that digs a hole in your soul. Only that, everything that is is thoroughly jaded. So as not to stand out but to merge with an oblivion, creating a subtle lust in our mind and slowing passing it down to our gut.

Just as, at times the vastness and beauty of the universe makes us feel tiny and inconsequential, a great work or art, a masterpiece such as this, decimates me beyond human imagination. I am all but flattered that I came to witness it, purely as an act of coincidence.

It is as if, by itself an enigmatic repository of memories, the actual events corresponding to which I never experienced, however, I somehow, ironically, carry those memories around. Guilty as charged, my heart full of shame and broken at that, by love that didn't last. This causes a universal amnesia of sorts. We have all been there, ages ago, in that same room of dull yellow light. And impersonated conversations, spaced out with sighs. And rainy alleys and damp staircases and singular light bulbs on the streets that have been proof of so much love, abandoned, so much love, forgotten. So many phrases, left unsaid, so much skin left untouched, unseen.

But just smoke and mirrors. Smoke and mirrors. Smoke and mirrors.



Bottom of the Pyramid

One of the toughest realisations in life is that you're going to be average. And nothing more. Mediocrity is no crime. Except it seems like one. All the time. Forget average, you might as well be below average. Bottom of the pyramid. And your only achievement would be that you survived. Lived to tell your tale. Or better, keep mum about it. Losers are my type. But more definitely when they are the quieter kind. There are always going to be the virtuous others. Who are richer, prettier and more glamorous. Fuck them. You be god damn average. Or poor, ugly and pale. With nothing to say. But just be, already. Just be. Even if it means starting your days thinking that you can't do this anymore. Even if it means laughing at other people's pointless humor. Even if it means ageing and getting fat and getting spotty skin and tired bones. Even if it means counting to the last penny. Even if it means failing at every plausible objective you set for yourself. Even if it means being ambivalent and un-opinionated. Even if it means looking down at yourself. Even if you realize, every passing day, that you are the bottom of the fuckin pyramid. And that, no matter how hard you try, you can't get any better. Still be. Right there. At the bottom. Where you are. What you are. Whatever you are.

The Dung Beetle

Once when I was four or five or six. Years of age. I was a stout little girl roaming around in umbrella cut frocks. You know frocks that swelled up like an umbrella. A dung beetle stung me a bit. On my left hand or right. I don't remember which. Memory doesn't work that way. And you know that. Just that it was either hand. Probably, my right. And it swelled up like a dung beetle itself. Blew up like a balloon, my little hand. It began to smell weird. Nasty. I didn't think I would ever get my original hand back. In my little head, I was so worried. 

But, it did get better. The swelling went down. The pain went away. I must have been happy. And as usual, relief must have overshadowed my happiness. That's the way it works for me. Mostly I am so worried and then, so equally relieved that I strangely, accidently forget to be happy.

There's this kid that lives upstairs. I meet him in the elevator sometimes. When our times match. He has got plump rosy cheeks. We don't have nothing in common. But sometimes, I go up to his floor, bid him goodnight and then come down to my floor. Translucent human attachment, this. Even if I have had a bad day or good. Even if he has had a bad day or good. He stands there, with his backpack on and a smile on his face and waves me goodbye until I vanish downwards. 

His mother left them. Both him and his father. His father, whenever I see him has wry heart ache written all over his face. As if he has lost himself. Forever and ever. And nothing would cure him. His eyes are as sunken, as his son's are bright. His son, is a miracle. 

I see him chasing butterflies in the garden downstairs. To capture them for a moment between his cupped hands and then instantly release them. Colorful butterflies, dozens, flock the magnolia trees. I hope he recognises the colors. I pray that his vision opens up. And so does his mind. Everyone tells me, he is slow. What a horrible thing to say of a child. 

I am afraid, that a dung beetle might sting his tiny little hand as well. It's three decades after. Dung beetles might as well be, extinct. For all we know. It's not even the same garden or the same flowers. But I wonder. 

To Choose is To Be

In some concocted way of mine, I have finally established that I have a choice. Choice is all the freedom one can demand. And claim. And have for her own. Isn't it. And after years of impatient limbo, I have established that in some spaces, I shall have my say. Sometimes this say comes at the cost of money. Sometimes at the cost of a sore throat and incessant screaming. And baby, I am a crier. I am. It can't be classified as nagging, what I do. I secretly, heinously, stick to my point. Quietly, sometimes, without a word or shriek. So I am uncorrupt from within. And exercising my choice in secrecy. It's quite twisted a concept. But choice comes at the cost of secrecy sometimes. After plenty of second chances, I am having things my way. Raw, cooked, baked, fried, salty, sugary, whatever it is, it's something I have picked and let me have it, shall we. 

I have anecdotes of being a conformist. Even now, in this era of independence in my life, I am more a conformist than a rebel. Because life is easier being a conformist and frankly my dear, I don't give a damn. I am beginning to have very few priorities in life. And areas I am a conformist in, don't involve those priorities. At all. So, I choose easy because, I like easy. Haven't we all wailed enough. Enough of rebellion already.

I don't think this contradiction makes sense to you. Life is confusing and my ideas are very fluid. But it's good to have run-off-the-mill-random Sunday night on which I feel free. Freedom is a huge thing. Very huge. It's bigger than the fucking universe for me. Raise a toast, shall we. 

#NowPlayingStephaneWrembrel 

How did we get past all the shit. Those must have been small steps. For every step we took, we went back half a step. Distances traversed felt negligible. We felt static. Coagulated. We felt we should probably give up. Fuck it, we thought. But on most days, we hung on. Got resilient, if that's the word. For the better and for the worse, we are here now. We shattered egos. Melted hubris. Quietened banter. Made peace. Now it feels unbelievable. From where did we derive such power. Such deafening arrogance. How strong was that will. We should take sometime off and appreciate the effort in humbled glory. Because of not this, then what. If not now,  then when.

Learning to Duck

Why was I walking on the road? And not on the sidewalk. Because years ago, when I was younger and possibly, fairer, I had tripped and strained a muscle on my right toe, all while walking on the sidewalk. And not on the road. Was it the left toe? I can't remember. But the pain had stayed for years. Vanishing at times for weeks and then reappearing for months. Some doctor suggested I take an injection in the cartilage. I imagined the pain was psychosomatic.

But I lost my confidence on the sidewalk forever. I prefer the road. Even if it feels like buses would run you over. Or autorickshaws would graze past your shoulder. It doesn't matter. You can always duck.

Also walking is my meditation. I am always lost in thought. And more so while walking. And the sidewalk has those bumps and semi circular iron rods, or arcs sticking out from them, probably to pick up the covers off the manholes. The sidewalk mostly runs over drains. And I tripped over on one of those thingies. I still do.

I never grow up, do I ? So I prefer the road. Like very much.

Shy Malaise

Your ovaries probably have a cyst. Or a couple of them. The shooting midnight jabs of pain you feel below the abdomen. Yeah, that. Cyst they say. Very common. Oh you would feel rather left out if you don't have one of those.

Or it could be the bloody appendix. All that oil and ajinomoto and refined flour is going to show up someday. Because sometimes that jab of pain is toward the right. Sometimes, the left. You can never be sure what is wrong with you. You can sit and brood. And get a few scans done. But nothing ever shows up.

No concrete sign of illness. But you know not all is well. There is something wrong with some organ. Something is unhinging somewhere. Somewhere the blood is choking. But you can't ever know what. You live in pain. Dreading a malaise, but too shy to confess.

Then there's the head. The brain. The channels and tubes that connect the eyes, the nose, the ears and throat. Something is definitely up with that. There is a casual pain in there somewhere always. There is migraine, the unforgiving friend of everywoman. Or spondylitis.

Enough of pills have been swallowed over months. Strips and boxes of them, yellow, red, white and off white, oval, circular, tubular, have been downed with tiny sips of water. Before and after meals. With neatly memorised instructions. Also blood drawn in syringes tested numerous times for lipids et al. And x-rays of heads, searches for the sinus. And so and forth.

But the pain always does come resurface. After a few days, as and when it feels like. Without warning. Without fear of retribution.

This malaise demands to be endured. And to top it all, one dreamed on a recent night that one was dead. Dreaming about one's own death. I wonder what that's called. And more than that, the realisation on waking up, That. Indeed. One. Is. Alive. What is that called?

The Marooned Marriage


Syamali had very less memory of her first times. Like she couldn’t remember having had her ears pierced for the first time. The memory of that first prick, the sudden gushing pain had been erased from over the years. She would have the wholeheartedness to remember the areas around that memory, as in remembered she sat on a wooden rickety chair on a veranda and feared toppling down as someone had held the dangling flesh from her  left ear tight and done the needful. But she couldn’t remember the pouncing of her heart or the blood chasing up to her brain, the fear of the impending pain.

Similarly, she couldn’t memorize how she had been kissed for the first time, though she still hid within herself faint relics of the man. The boy. Sinking in that moment, she was swept  off by the suddenness of that act, the intrusive affect of a foreign tongue in her mouth and how surreptitiously they had met after he had handed over to her a dozen sleazy letters swearing his love.

She had touched twenty and would graduate in the two months. And that would make her a B Sc in Chemistry, a degree that would be pretty forgettable and would erase itself off the yellow moldy certificate lying in the bottom shelf of her almirah, monsoon after monsoon after monsoon.

In the weeks following up to her final exams, Syamali was delivered a string of letters from her lover behind the bamboo bushes. These ones were more explicit with carefully worded descriptions of what more would he have done had she not left him abruptly that afternoon, pining for more. She callously left them under her mattress, sometimes reading them numerous times under her dim table lamp before she fell asleep on them. And then suddenly with an alarm of bare protectiveness for a man’s love, who she had barely seen once in what can be called seeing, she hid them amongst the pile of her old books from her previous years.

A few days after that day of the first kiss, Syamali has been shown to Natraj’s mother. Natraj’s mother seemed to inspect Syamali like a school headmistress trying to point out a speck of dirt in a child’s Saturday white uniform. Syamali sat nearly trembling in fear, her hair tied in strings of jasmine, the jasmine that she had planted, watered and protected from strange chattel throughout. 

Syamali was not asked if she could cook or boil dal well enough. She wasn’t even asked if she herself had tied the sari she was wearing. She had. And Syamali wasn’t obviously asked if she foresaw a faint possibility of the loving the man she saw locked in his mother’s eyes. But she did see the man though. Through his mother’s round eyes, held in place by dark circles on a menopausal wrinkled face. 
The session was vaguely out of line for what it had been for the couple of her older cousins who had been shown in the same room with the creaking sofa of jute and springs that placed old buttocks comfortably enough for a few dozen minutes or so, before they slightly shifted, to the sides. Some of them had even been asked to sing, stand up so that the jewelry they wore around the waist could be evaluated for what it’s worth.

But not Natraj’s mother. After she left that day, tiny children from their neighborhood pored over the ring on her right ring finger and Syamali sat perplexed breathing in exactly what had happened. She clutched between her fist  rupees three hundred and one which was to ensure that the prospective  groom’s mother had not drilled a hole at the expense of the sweet meat and sherbet bought on her pretext, taken on a long discarded plastic serving tray and kept before her.

That night,  Syamali latched her door from the inside and fished out those letters from that sleazy lover from among the leaves of moldy pages. Those words titillated, arose her sleepy nerve ends. And in that half dream like state, she flipped through. Reading, forgetting, creating memories and simultaneously erasing. Carrying nothing along and yet living momentarily that meticulous of a love life. One sided, one and a half sided rather. As only the left half of her was involved. The ring that adorned her right ring finger, kept that half of her outside of the charm of that hallucination.

Switching between her antithetic halves, Syamali didn’t sleep much that night. She carried those burnt eyes into writing her exams a week later. A bit of that burn stayed in the corners of her eyes, when Natraj wed her a month later.

It was early in July. The lush leaf green outlived the pale grey blue of the gargantuan clouds that roamed around like loafers all day and kept everyone suspecting so as  to when they would rupture. Before or after the day that would be photographed and pasted on albums with roses on their covers and lie untouched on the bottom shelves of Syamali’s closet, monsoon after monsoon after monsoon.

Mango leaves twirled about thin ropes of jute were strung across their thresholds and banana plants uprooted from their backyard and fixed on either side of the stairs that led up the veranda to the door. The walls were whitewashed, the odor of quicklime stayed and nauseated Syamali as she packed suitcase after suitcase for her sister-in-laws, gifts for her nieces and nephews, sifted through the gold that lay on her bed, sewing together her broken heart, stacking those godforsaken letters under the sheath of her bridal suitcase. Bits of that indefatigable infatuation with a unabashed man hung lose in between the dowry she was meant to carry two days later.

Just about that afternoon, some godforsaken force ruptured the clouds. It must have been the angst of the man she left behind. The man she left behind to move ahead and see the tall and olive eyed man that was Natraj.

Out of that old lover’s spat and also out of the sighs of every man that had ever laid their eyes and lusted for the form of Syamali, the rain couldn’t cease for the coming two days. The bamboo poles that held upright the tents, the shamiana to be, were almost washed away. Damp smells prevailed in their household with the gloom of a wedding that may or may not be. There was no power, the inverters had been exhausted. The kerosene generators made so much noise that it added a tinge of migraine to the existing nausea.

Scores of those unheard of relatives, aunts of aunts, unborn cousins until Syamali’s older cousins’ weddings, old discarded widowed toothless grandmothers were all left behind. None could make it drenched in the rain. The roads were clogged, the buses stopped plying. Other channels of transport were unknown then.

The mandap had to be shifted to the roof because their entire house was flooded till the knees with water. Little fish swam under Syamali’s bed as the bridal suitcases were stacked up on one another swaying in a delicate balance, just like her mind.

As an answer to an uncountable number of prayers, Natraj arrived on the evening of the fate-less day, an hour behind schedule. Carrying along-with his father and his younger sister and her son, decked up like a younger groom. His father breathing in deep sighs and explaining how they had to get down a hundred times over and walk in mud holding their slippers in their hands because the rusty old ambassador wouldn’t push the weight of all the people through the rain ditches. His sister began about how they had to start from home in the morning and how a two hour ride took them day long, and how much she needed to pee as she hadn’t had the chance to do it all day. Her son, toyed with Syamali’s red veil and asked her how long her hair was, that he found the big knot that held together her mind that time, to be some plaything.

The roof had been waterproofed with multiple layers of tent cloth, the floor, dried and carpeted. Not a drop of rain fell through. Only the neighbors came to eat, the grand dinner arrangements made by Syamali’s older brother, now talked about in the past tense were the most discussed matter around when the vows were read out in Sanskrit. Not a word of which did the fatigued girl with a bit of a burn in the corners of her eyes, understood.

Yet they sat as the rain lashed down incessantly that night and the few guests that were talked about dams breaking down, about the government opening sluice gates selectively to flood unfavorable constituencies and choosing to sweep away certain patches of population and leaving the others to thrive for no fault of either.


Amongst airs such, and in the heat of the sacred fire, sandalwood paste, vermillion, grains of rice thrown about and stuck between strands of their hair, their fates were tied for keeping safe each others’ secrets, holding on to hands through the thick and the thin, for a destined period of time. More than to stand by each other, to actually stand each other. To be blessed with the capacity to live through and not yet to get incapacitated through mundane human insanities that breeds a lull in every marriage after the first gushes of passion are done with.

Being Pronouns.

A man was wearing straight cut jeans. A man was coming out of the bank. A man got into his car and slammed the door shut.  Upon seeing a girl, he retraced his steps and tried to contain the shock on his face with a stretched out smile. A girl stood in the parking lot, equally stunned if not more. What had it been, ten years? A man had been so much in love with a girl. Dire obsessive meticulous love it was. Now a man looked at the girl as if in a girl he had spotted a long extinct bird. A girl said hi and a man took out his hand from the pocket to shake hers. It was all extremely awkward. It was a sunny hot afternoon in June. A girl was out for a drink of coconut water. And a man was at the bank. The years had made a man's face plump and a girl's face bony wrinkled and dusky. A girl felt a man's sweaty palms and said, 'So hot, I wonder how much longer, the rains are going to keep us waiting.'

'Oh I met them on the way while driving down here. They definitely must get here tonite.' A girl giggled. The months and years submerged between the infinite lines on her face.

A Decade

Now my life comes to surmise this building. Yes, the time has come. There is a drink on the rocks. There is a kitchen in the corner and cups and saucers don't clean themselves. How stunning. There is a sink, that fills itself up. There's a bunch of dried curry leaves in the bottom drawer of the fridge, if anybody cares. Life is dry. Life is good. How can anyone describe life with adjectives. Wouldn't that be judgemental? It is what is is. By itself, in its own absolute singular capacity. I do not choose to describe it with adjectives and demean it. You wouldn't believe, this is the only place wherein I speak up. Because it's a one way road. I am not the one that confronts. I am the one that quietly places an opinion on the table and vanishes. It's my audacity that you don't want to see and I don't want to unleash. 

My neighbors, got a row of potted plants today. What looked like a shrub of green chillies and mustard seedlings in those pots, I hope I am wrong. The building needs more flowers. Women on floors other than mine have acquired entire corridors to plant cacti, crotons and money plant. Money plant is actually Devil's ivy. Now I didn't know that. The woman who planted them so generously told me. They also have bougainvillea by the bunches. Red, pink and white. Some women have entire trees on relatively tiny pots, one of tamarind for instance. A tree literally standing on a tiny little pot.Some women have their own hanging gardens of potted plants. Table roses and the kind. But still, the building needs more flowers. 

So I got three potted plants. Not three, four actually. One, the holy basil. Two, moonbeam. Three, hibiscus. And the fourth one is clitoria. Yes, the one that looks like the female-holiest-of-the-holies. They are pretty low maintenance, they don't flower much, but I check on them twice everyday. Sit with them and think. When I have time. I wish I had more time.

I started blogging exactly a decade ago. Not a day has gone by when I didn't wish I had more time. More time. More time. More time. 

Terminus

I am not Holden Caulfield. I am more together than that. Nevertheless, there is always a drought on my face. As if I have lost my way. The blood began surging up my temples. It was almost audible, it was so loud. My skull was increasingly unable to keep the noise within. I felt like a cola. I walked to the nearest parlor. They don’t keep colas anymore. They had skimmed milk and yoghurt and juices of about hundred and twenty nine kinds. But no cola. This was a place for kids may be. Then I looked around saw. Lots of kids. Toddlers, hand holders, some with honeysuckles in their mouths. This was a mistake, meeting this guy at a place that was for kids and their mommies. Gross mistake. But it was too late to change it now. And anyway, one could always go to the next floor of the mall. And drag the conversation to up there. Or to the basement garage where scores of cars are parked in abandon. Some cars have lain so much dust on them, they probably have been lying there for months. The owner has forgotten where they parked their car and gone back from a party from the pub on the roof by hailing an Uber or something. And suddenly they haven’t found their car after waking up and went looking. Tracing back their steps from last night. That would not be a passable theory though. Because the first place they would look out for would be the parking of the mall. But not if they had gone pub hopping. From one to the next to the one after that, losing count, going absolutely crazy, painting the town red and yellow and all the shades of pastel there are. And waking up like a total amnesiac. That would be a good story, yes. Definitely. I checked the time on my phone again. It was 11:37. What was keeping him so long? I texted him asking where he was. He was delayed at the hospital he said. I didn’t call because hearing his voice would give me the shivers. So I just texted. And he was at the hospital where he had come to see his grandmother who had been put on the ventilator two days ago. Somebody had sent him downstairs to the OTC medicine store to get something and he was just about catching the bus to the mall. I was at least forty five minutes away by bus. And boy! Was I secretly relieved or what? I could still pull away. Compress myself into my shelled cocoon, tell him I couldn’t wait any longer because the assistant of the ENT specialist had called. An operation had come up around 3 pm, so my appointment had been proponed to like 2 pm. Yes, that sounded true. No more sweating. No more shivering. I could lie and get away with it. He belonged to one of the water tight containers in my life. Just like everyone else. My life has lots of water tight containers, did I ever tell you? Everyone I know is in a separate one. I like no links between two characters in my world that doesn’t verify it through me. So if I lied to him, and he was a well-kept secret, I might as well get away with it. He would never find out. Except that he would get that feeling. That I didn’t want to be seen, just yet.

An Excerpt from::: A Tryst at Terminus. 

Odd Jobs

1
He works as a security guard. Far from home. Like two nights and one day away. That's very far in train terms. He sees his family only twice a year. Going home for Diwali is a constant. And once more, whenever the opportunity fell through. He speaks a different dialect. And lives in a single room asbestos shack. He cooks his meals on a solitary stove. Three neat meals everyday. Rice and dals and rotis. Sometimes chicken too. Aromas fill the air around his one roomed existence. Apparently, he uses garlic in everything. Whenever I see him, he is slicing garlic, chopping garlic, crushing garlic in his stone pestle.

2
She works as a sweeper for the municipality. Wearing one of those fluorescent jackets over her tattered sari, she would sweep the sides of roads. She collected polyethylene bags and plastic bottles and gutka sachets from the streets that somebody forgot to put in the garbage bin and put then in her sack which she would finally load into the garbage truck. She worked with poise. As if there was no hurry. In her own comfort zone. She would smile at other women like her and at the end of it all share their harvest. They plucked whatever was worthy from the trees on the land beside the streets that nobody owned. Be it drumsticks, or wild spinach, or papaya or pumpkin flowers or guava. There was never much. But how much ever there was, the sweeper woman and her friends took their shares in the pouches they made from the ends of their saris.

Erosion

A well-rounded two year old baby. Her plump cheeks. Being held like a cat would be. Flagellant. Like a worm. There is a certain glee on her face. And a lump in my throat. Because life is far from cake. It's so hard sometimes, it's not worth bringing another person in between us. To suffer it all from the beginning and till the end. The end doesn't come easy.  Slowly, but steadily dreams are powdered. And blown off like dust. Food doesn't taste as good. Days turn into a bore. Love was but a rumour. We thought it was real, but only it wasn't. Now we are stuck in a mesh of equations, unknowing if we are a variable or a fixed element. Love was but a rumour. Dreams don't be anymore. Where we had envisaged, to be, and where we truly are. It's not worth the little baby girl. It's not. Really not. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

Second Hand Sorrow

It was the peak of summer. The sun beat down almost relentlessly. There was no sign of any rain or breeze. Skies were often clear, unabashed blue. Roads shone in endless mirages.

His grandmother fell ill, just around that time. She was old. But there is no such age beyond which one can say that a person needn't be. Anymore. So she was that way. Old, ill, under the constant care of her children and grandchildren. He was terribly attached to his grandmother. Almost all his childhood memories would have glimpses of his grandmother pickling mangoes or grinding pulses or de-husking rice or simply sitting between all her grandchildren and telling stories to ease long afternoons of summer vacations. And no wonder he missed her and was miserable to see her because everyone thought that she was too old to be now.

He was delicate and sensitive. The phase that we were in then, I was yet to see his sentimental side. He never expressed emotion per se. He cracked jokes, I laughed a lot. And that was about it. A few times things had gotten out of hand where in emotions had come into the picture. Like I had messed up someplace and I needed someone just to talk to and not merely make jokes. Or the time he forgot to wish me on my birthday and was apologetic like a bunny. Like that. Apart from such occasions, never had he ever brought up feelings, sorrow, fears into our conversations. We had been very safe that way. Very insulated from each other.

So when he spoke about his grandmother the way he did, I felt very unprepared. Sometimes providing consolation is not one's forte. What can you do? But I genuinely felt for him and I told him everything was going to be okay. There are hospitals and doctors and everything. But deep down we both felt, this was it. I discarded that deep-down-feeling as my ingrained pessimism and told him that I truly-deeply felt his granny was going to be fine.

And I don't know how, but he got a rush from what I said. Instead of being sad, he planned to go and see her. The temperatures would make the journey impossibly hard. But I didn't have the heart to stop him. He was like a child to me and all I could do was quietly obey and execute whatever he wanted to be done.

I packed him some fruit and a few bottles of juice in his backpack. Literally squeezing his clothes and laptop for space. And saw him off at the bus stop. He didn't text me on reaching or to tell me how things were. I didn't bug him either. Space was an important thing. And suddenly I felt like an egotistic bitch. I am that way, nobody can help me.

The next day, he texted me that his 'aai' had passed away. 'Aai' is what one calls their maternal grandmother. I felt a tug in my heart. I cried and couldn't sleep at all that night. Still didn't know what to text him back.

Inertia of Rest

Lately I've picked up a rather weird habit. Before falling asleep, I listen to some guitar instrumentals, read my own poems and cry. Yes. And my nostrils block. But the nasal drop is in the top flap of my backpack on  the living room sofa. And nobody is gonna get that for me. So I turn sides half the night with a blocked nose and develop a slow yet stringent insomnia.

I've been living alone for the last six months or more. And it's one of the best things that has ever happened to me. There are fewer issues to be dealt with. Lesser questions to be answered to. Lesser conversations to be faked and alibis to be phrased. It's better. Definitely much.

But there's nobody to get you the nasal drop from the living room, in the middle of the night. Everything has its pros and cons. I learnt this phrase at the tender age of sixteen or a bit later. May be twenty-one. When I had begun having opinions about things. And I repeat it to myself very often.

I've never had strong opinions about many things, nor is my voice that loud. I am not that type of person. I am a classically mild person. A classically mild person who keeps a journal. In a layman's language, I am your typical run-of-the-mill loser. I am not trying to get anywhere. Except putting in all my might to avoid paranoia.

As I wrote, I read my own poems and cry. When there are at least three half-written-probably-abandoned stories waiting in my laptop for my collection of short stories. But the words wouldn't just come to me. Right now. 

Someone, probably a well wisher had anonymously commented long ago and had asked me to get myself checked if I had one of those syndromes. Asperger's syndrome. Because I am so completely shut off. You know. I felt offended immediately. But not anymore. Also another old friend/companion-of-sorts had written that life comes a full circle. That there is as much joy, as there is sorrow.

I am realizing that he is right. And waiting for my nose to unblock by itself.   

An Introduction to Murakami

I wish I could write listless fiction. Like Murakami does. A story needn't have a beginning or an end. Either. It can be, peacefully be, a random extract from time. Happenings of a day, or an hour, or a lifetime. It needn't even carry any direct meaning. Or a climax. Or a moral. A story in itself is a being. It begs no justification. It can be about a man getting random telephone calls all day, or making spaghetti brunch for himself, or listening to records, or taking a train alone. Or an elephant vanishing into the blue, or an insomniac woman driving around all night, or a man with nothing but a strange sounding name. It can be about me-you. It needs a faceless narrator yes, one who is neither happy, nor sad. Who is neutral enough to merge with Murakami's canvas. And his sole job is to narrate, read out Murakami's fucking brilliant mind like a dispassionate reader. Isn't the man a genius? And genius is clearly an understatement. There are days, when all I can fantasize about is reading him. He addicts me. With his bare words. I don't know how to stop. Or to look the other way. I am obsessed, with him, like I am never with other stuff. 

Probably, I love him so because in his incomplete unpredictable abrupt endings, I have snuggled up to a new found comfort that not everything is entitled to a meaning. And things can be, just because they are. Just for the sake of being, and nothing else. And I am otherwise so fatigued with jumping to conclusions and drawing deductions that I find a certain relief in Murakami. It's okay. It's normal. And even if it's not, that's okay too.

That's okay too. Because Murakami says so. 

Memories from April

It was a summery afternoon. I felt like watermelon dessert in vanilla ice cream. The kind that comes into vogue every time the season changes. Summer dictates a lot in our lives and you know how much I detest her for that. Anyway, I genuinely craved for the dessert. How neatly, 'twas served on a bowl held up on a tripod stand, as if it were the godamn chemistry lab. The watermelon cubes, de-seeded and mounted upon by three scoops of vanilla ice cream. Very geometrically symmetrical. It was perfect for the onset of summer. And that only. Later months of May and June, nothing, absolutely nothing helped. 

There was no remedy for summer, then. The cranky air cooler had a history of mood swings. It worked if it felt like. No lassi, no sugarcane juice would stand by you. The air was hot enough to give you blisters. We sat for hours inside the ATM. That was the only placed that was air conditioned. Until it too gave up one day. 

Summers gave way to very typical blossomings though. The smell of raw mangoes and the relentless nostalgia of first love, sometimes. I don't remember if I fell in love in summer. Now memories don't work that way, do they? I feel a mild loss when I look back. A mild one, yes. 

The mountains would turn grey from all the dried grass and leaves. And catch fire. It was a scary thing, the way those forest fires looked at night, up from the roof. Where I sometimes spent hours trying to forget the stifling heat in the house. As if ghosts had come back to life, or as if the fires would not be quenched and would spread to the plains and burn everything with them.

But you, in addition to getting me that glorious watermelon dessert, got me a dozen other consolations. Nothing bad was going to ever happen. You even took me boating, to take summer off my mind. To the park at one end of the city that had a lake. And that lake had huge trees across its edge where bats lived, probably. And when you paddled too close to the edges, a swarm of bats would swoop right over your head. 

How I clutched on to the sleeves of your shirt then. I panicked and couldn't find your wrist in the dark. And you told me that bats were blind. And that they can't even see me. How reassuring was that. 

Bibliography


One autumn, I picked up Jhumpa's 'The Lowland'. A cyclone hit us then. Metaphorically and literally. Then months, probably years later I remember picking up a distant suggestion. 'The Book Thief' by Markus Zusak. That book has made me a WW II fanatic for the rest of my life. Probably after this, Murakami happened. I chanced upon 'Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman'. You must know there is a charm in not completely comprehending what is being read. Murakami enthralled me with that. I had 'Norwegian Wood' then. Soon after, totally by chance, discovered 'The Diary of Anne Frank'. After that, I must have tried 'Kafka on the Shore'. But Murakami's cats and faceless men, kept me awake longer than I could handle. So gave it up. Then Jon Krakauer's 'Into the Wild'. Christopher McCandless stayed for a long time in my mind. He might never leave, to be frank. Also let me confess, I tried reading 'Jane Eyre' and 'Persuasion' somewhere in the middle. But failed. I also tried 'The Great Gatsby'; but Leo's face kept coming to my mind. To Fitzgerald's displeasure, read Hemingway's 'Old Man and the Sea' though. Sometime, somewhere. In between. Couldn't go back to 
'Moby Dick' after a few days. Out of the blue, started '1984'. George Orwell's dystopia soothed my jarred nerves for sometime. And then, J D Salinger's 'Catcher in the Rye'. The last story I finished would be Murakami's again. 'Tony Takitani'. Meanwhile, tried reading Plath's 'The Bell Jar' more than a couple of times but it depressed me so much that the book and I mutually abandoned each other. And out of fear and mouth tottering respect for Woolf, yes, lets call it that, shall we, never finished 'A Room of One's Own' and 'Mrs. Dalloway.' And probably I would never know, what the woman writes about. Rand's 'The Fountainhead' changed me forever. I still am saving 'Atlas Shrugged' for the next decade of my life; which starts in slightly more than a year. Yes. It's lying in my bottom drawer. And Roy's 'God of Small Things' needs to be reread. Something that had so generously enthralled me, is now beginning to fade in my eclectic memory. 


  

A Story

Sometimes, the stories you write, don't let you sleep. At night. 
Your eyes burn all day through. Shamelessly, unbridled, your two eyes look red. 
Like you made love all night, through dawn and didn't, hence get a wink of time, to sleep. 
But that there was no real person. 
All night, you stayed up, making love to your story. 
And not getting enough of it. That's the libido of an idea. 
A plot, that is driving you insane, almost as if it's new love and raw lust.  
Each time you touch it up, undo and redo twists and turns, create pages, paragraphs and moments, it is the equivalent of touching the lover's body. 
Feeling for curves, squeezing soft flesh. 
Every pause in writing and the distant stare are like assuming and finding his arms in the pitch dark. 
Waiting for fiction to come to you is like waiting for his next surprise move on you. 
Like the act of love, writing a story is a two way thing. Being the subject and object in the same sentence. Being made love to and making all the good endless love, to him.   
The men and women you are constantly creating and disintegrating, the narrations of their face come alive so strong and so real that their faces stare back at you from the screen and you can't sleep no more.
It's like Frankenstein. But a good one. This story of mine. 

A Happy Man

A happy man is hard to find. Specially to my eyes, that I constantly squeeze out only the morose. But this one, is a happy man. He oozes with calm and content. It's almost like a spectacle. Like a natural wonder, to me. A man, so in his skin. I wish he could scatter the dust of his joy on the jinxed like us.

It comes with a lot of seasoning, this happiness.He wasn't born with this. Nobody is. He must have consciously, laboriously developed into his present person. He wears it like his attire, the Ganesa like laughter, the suitable little paunch, his gestures, everything about him is so slow and beautiful. I wonder what thoughtcrime have I ever committed to feel the way I do. Forever trapped in my imagined list of things to do, I am so restless. Whereas, the happy man's eyes are like a calm ocean. Glistening and deep. Like he's trying to tell me, life is not about today or tomorrow. It's going to stretch decades and I could be myself. That this day to day struggle is going to kill me and that I shouldn't. Allow it to do so. That in the really long run, tiny compromises are the harbinger of so much joy.

Happy man, relishes his lunch of four side dishes. He takes two full helpings of the rice that his wife cooks and packs. His daughter's name is stickered onto the rear windshield of his car. He doesn't care about the font, it's his daughter's name. He talks good of his wife and how she chops up the vegetables the night before and keeps them in the fridge. About how she takes care of the tiniest of things, to make him happy. He talks good of even his house maid. He talks good of everyone. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have an opinion, he does. Just that he does not make a business out of being an asshole.

Some people when they exhibit their happiness, they helplessly make it appear so fake. And I have an allergy for such people. But not this man. His happiness, is probably infectious. Need I say more.  

Leap Day

Today is February 29. It's an extra day. Today is the day when Phil Dunphy takes out the kids to indulge in things they wouldn't usually do. It's an extra day, it ought to be taken as a privilege.

The last time we got an extra day was in 2012. I cannot remember the state we were in when that happened. I must have been reeling under some kinda pressure. Something must have been irking, troubling me. I wasn't the problem solving machine then, that now I have become. I was a slower lamer version of the woman I am now. But pain and pressure is omnipresent in the life. Imagined, if not real. But still there. I must have wasted February 29, 2012 exactly the way I am whiling away February 29, 2016 today. It's sad, how predictably and ruthlessly uneventful life could be. Introspection is vile. Last night, I showed the symptoms again. Of mild insomnia, bubbling depression and a nascent headache.

And I am sure, come 2020, if alive, I am going to be the same. I am going to let February 29 pass without anything meaningful, worthwhile. It's who I have become. Can't help it.

God bless Philip Dunphy. And his three kids. And pray, God bless me. And make me better. Happy leap day all.

My blog is gonna turn 10 in a couple months. Yeah, 10 fucking years. That's twice half a decade man.

Culinary Flashbacks

He has a long history with food. He ain't the fat kind though. Far from obese, he's lean and lanky. It's unfair. But that's how it is. The way he speaks of food, makes your mouth water.

When he was in college, campus life treated him to many delights. In his days, there used to be a guy who used to vend omelettes through a pigeon hole in the compound wall. After past midnight case discussions and team meetings, they walked down in gangs and surrendered themselves to the guilty pleasure of cheesy warm omelettes sprinkled with black pepper. He would fork out the tiny bits of green chilies. And relish the rest. Order a couple of refills if need be. He barely ate the dinner in the hostel mess. And hence, the calories never showed up.

He worked in Calcutta for a bit. A few years I guess. The city that would set your palate straight. It's so difficult to think of anything else when you are in Calcutta. Anything but food. But he wasn't in for the street food. The chaats and the pani puris. There were, are these shanties, in corners of streets. Their roofs made of hay and tilted walls nearly falling apart. These shanties dish out lunch meals as early as eleven. In the A M. And the beeline in front of them, men scattered around, holding plates made of sal leaves never seemed to dwindle. He used to be a fan of these.

Since he used to be, I used to be. He told me, they served steaming hot rice and dolloped with lentils cooked in vegetables, potatoes, pumpkin, papaya. There would be a lump of sweet and sour dessert of dates and tomatoes. On the edge, you could get a slice of lemon with salt and a green chilly. And a dish or two more. But he was more nuts about the fish in mustard than about anything else. Pieces of deep fried fish simmered in a paste of mustard and garlic. The aromas would disintegrate before me every time he brought up the fish. Garnished in fresh coriander. He would go on about the patrons of the shanty if I didn't stop him. But then again, that was very very long ago. Now, I wonder what he eats. Where he lives. And what his newly wed wife cooks for him.

Pheromones

If indeed, it was all about pheromones, what the fuck have we done?! We have gotten ourselves into something irreversible, called love, lust and the like? If it's just the smell of the lover, that we can't overcome, isn't it an overstatement to call ourselves a smart race? It's just one thing. The smell of the lover, that intoxicates us and keeps us tied. The way his chest smells, or the odour of his mouth, the smell coming off the ruggedness of his feet or that from his soft fingertips. It's just a smell. A pheromone. A smell very very categorically belonging to the lover, that we cannot just overcome, then it's more black magic than it is love. And love is too much the price to pay. But what can we do? Our nostrils cannot overcome him and his smell. An odour that belongs to him in the whole entire world and therefore, has no replacement. No complement. But what, on earth, can we do? Pheromones, like run the world. They have been, for a long long time now.

Yet in intervals, we go totally absofuckinlutely immune. Not only to pheromones. But to all other senses. We feel no hunger, no heat, no cold, no thirst, no libido. No passion, no whim to be anywhere or with anyone. But continue to stretch one's own solitary line of existence? And just that. May be, this interval is called peace, if not joy.

This

We are here now, because we couldn't be anywhere else. Life has taken the exact number of turns and twists that it has, taken. Shorter and longer paths. Through whirlwinds and thunderstorms. Night walks and dawn breaks. Deafening silences and paralytic dumbness, later, we are here. Because we couldn't be anywhere else. But now, here. This.

We have stared at graveyards, through nights. And written poems on heartache. Breathed in smoke. Breathed out fumes. Made strangers our own. Discarded the ones that loved us, and those we loved, also. Walked by hills, gotten scared. Felt infinite. Crumbled under the sad misery of our very very tiny and hapless existences. Tasted momentary exhilaration. Felt bound, completely incarcerated, sometimes. For others, for our own selves. We've blamed others for our endless suffering and passed the blame. With ease. And sat back, and turned away. 

We have walked towards and walked away from. We have tried to write. To read. See through others' eyes. We've won, sometimes just the illusion of victory, vis-a-vis sometimes having actually won. But mostly we have failed. We have mulled over ending our lives. Yes, we have. Shamelessly. And thought that there be no shame in that, either. 

But more than anything else, more than everything else, we've run for time, and against it. To get things done. Some many of them. Groceries, salon appointments, laundry, work-stuff, shopping dates, temples, cleaning and wiping and dusting, errands, payments, receipts, crap, crap, crap. More than anything else, we haven't learnt to pause. We haven't waited to absorb, whatever is happening to us. We haven't rested to appreciate, the simple, the tiny and the beautiful. 

We've fucked up big time. By running around and not pausing. To be here. Exactly here, now. This. Yes. You heard me. 

Moonlighters

Dirt can have categories too. There's several kinds of it. First, there's broken bottles, glass. Then there's cardboard, smashed cartons. Then there are polythene bags. Hordes of it. Like our worlds have collapsed into it. Also there are piles of scrap metals. Rubber. And other things, I don't know the names of. Everyday, they sit down in the morning heat and categorize the garbage they pick up. Women and children. Women sit around in spaced out semi circles and talk in their high pitched voices. Covered from neck to toe. Except their beautiful pale yellow faces. Like features carved out of stone. In an artist's mind. Hair tied in a bun. Women who are barely even women yet. Holding babies, clinging to their chest, bend down to inspect the scrap collected for the day. They laugh, their shrill voices aloud. 

Their children, each must have at least four or more, play stray games every day. All damn day, no school. No books, chalks and pencil sharpeners. They roll around cycle tires with a stick. Sit in old abandoned cars and pretend they drive. And there are lots of them. So many of them. Young girls, too hold babies. Boys chase trucks that drive past. Their laughter sounds like utopia. Like the last knot of constraint on human life has been undone. These boys experience, fathomless freedom. The younger ones are naked. The older ones don torn pants and crumpled dirty shirts. Barefeet. Some of them pick out shoes from the garbage it seems. The girls sit on trolleys and watch. In the yellow moon of dusk, they begin to look more like their mothers. It's a scary bent in time, when that happens. The drunk men, who would have just gotten up in the afternoon, after a change of clothes may be, head out to be drunk again, tonite. But before that, they sit down, where the garbage had been categorised in the morning, for a quick game of cards.

The slum nearby is that of prostitutes. It's said that some of these garbage picker women also moonlight as prostitutes. And give them a run for their money. And why not!

Cold

That night was an unusually cold one. Now that is strange because it doesn't get cold down here. We are very close to the sea. You wouldn't hear the waves. But there's the sea in 10 miles. Embraced by mangrove on the coast, and tiny fishermen huts, the sea makes its presence felt every now and then. In the warm afternoon breeze that brushes you awake from lazy siesta. Or in the mild sunshine dissolved in morning air. We know that it never gets too cold, down here.

But that night was strange. May be it was because of the air conditioner buzzing in top of her head. There was absolutely no need for the air conditioner. Or even the ceiling fan. For that matter. On the other hand a thin quilt could suffice. It could have been so that her immunity to cold had suddenly plummeted. You know magical things happen. People also write about it. So probably that it wasn't cold and she imagined that she was shivering. Psychosomatic sensation of sorts. But her jaws actually chattered. She clenched her fists into her belly and rolled like an embryo. Such things can't be imagined.

In half sleep, she turned towards him. He needed the air conditioner. Their skins reacted differently to the same temperature. I mean, how could that be? He felt hot when she felt cold. And they had a lifetime ahead of them, at that moment. A bit of it past too.

May be the cold was an excuse to hug him tighter that strange strange night, she murmured, and went ahead.