(Note: this was written nearly a decade ago and remained forever in the drafts folder. No longer relevant and is as good as fiction, hence, reposting.)
Let her withdraw. Let her say what she doesn’t feel, and only feel what she would never say. Let her be afraid of getting hurt, of indifference. Let her fiercely preserve her dignity. Let her know that nothing good would ever come out of certain truths. Let her quietly conform to societal expectations. Let her pride trample old yearnings. Let her be wary of perceptions and mortified of drowning in stereotyped roles and wrong presumptions. Let her foresee that she would be judged unfairly. Let her (always) be the one to understand. Let her accept that she would never be sure of what goes on in another’s mind. Hence, let her lie.
At the end of the movie In the Mood for Love, the man whispers his long repressed love into a hole in the wall. I found it funny and had serious queries about his sanity. But now that I’m on the other side of the fence, the scene kills me.
Purposes, work hard at that.
I think I will learn the Latin name of every songbird, not only in
America but wherever they sing.
(Shun meditation, though; invite the controversial:
Is the world flat? Do bats eat cats?) By digging hard I might
deflect that river, my mind, that uncontrollable thing,
Turgid and yellow, strong to overflow its banks in spring,
carrying away bridges
A bed of pebbles now, through which there trickles one clear
narrow stream, following a course henceforth nefast—
Dig, dig; and if I come to ledges, blast.
“Dig, dig; and if I come to ledges, blast.”
|Cupid driving the Lovers|
While walking uphill on a wintry morning the cold air stabs the eyes and tracks through the throat to settle heavily on the chest; the icy gulps don’t just perpetuate but invigorate my existence; the walk is labored, but who wants to stop? That’s how love feels. Strained, punishing, deoxygenated, and so intoxicating.
The book I’ve been reading
It’s beautiful out there —
fields, little lakes and winter trees
in February sunlight,
every car park a shining mosaic.
Long, radiant minutes,
your hand in my hand,
still warm, still warm.
I had just seen her silhouette framed on the thin curtain of my room window on sunny days. I had never met her nor talked to her. But we had been privy to each others’ lives for almost three years now; hearing muffled sobs, hummed songs, angry curses, unrestrained laughter, nervous pacing, bored yawns, incomprehensible snatches of conversations; just by the architectural accident of adjacent windows. A month ago I wrote about her here.
Vulnerability is tricky. It can make us feel human. But its exposure creates uneasiness. Sometimes it brings about an intense fear, of exploitation, or of misinterpretation. Then there are the ones who use it to manipulate, to cling. That’s the dark side; it’s a thin line, and it’s blurry.
I think of you as my only reader and hope that the essence of what I want to convey doesn’t get diluted or misinterpreted in the transit. I write for you because I would never speak to you. I don’t know if you are even aware that I write, but hope that serendipitously you would stumble upon my blog someday. The only drawback is the constrained range of topics that thoughts of this particular reader brings to my mind.
I write an hour before dawn, sitting cross-legged on my bed, impatiently drumming my fingers on the laptop, wondering what would I like to tell you today. Sometimes I have little to say, sometimes I have to remind myself about this lone reader’s attention span. I am unable to contain the things I’d like to tell you; it’s a chaos that I look forward to each day.
Today I woke up at four-thirty am in a familiar yet relatively new city. The sun wasn’t up yet and it was freezing outside. So, I switched on the bedside lamp and started reading the book my sister gifted me yesterday, “The Groaning Shelf” by Pradeep Sebestian. This is a book about books, about unabashed bibliomania! I think of you and wonder if you would frown in amazement that I’m just a small fry among bibliophiles.
As the grey early morning light suffused the sky, I slipped on an over-sized black pullover and walked out to the terrace. It wasn’t an impressive skyline but the familiar stillness of dawn that greeted me. A sliver of the moon still hung unsure in the sky. An aircraft flew by uncomfortably close. A scary pigeon stared at me the entire time I was on the terrace. Do you know that I’m scared of birds? Hitchcock and a pair of huge swans are responsible for it.
As I sit on the edge of the bathtub waiting for it to fill up, my thoughts drift to you again. I eat eggs for breakfast and wonder how do you like your eggs. Fried? Scrambled? Omelette? I laugh hysterically over my sister’s antics and wonder if you would find them funny too.
I’ve traded my dream of travelling to the distant hills to visit the accessible Chandigarh due to lack of travel partners. I’m somewhat disappointed. By nine in the morning we were already on NH-1. There were so many things that caught my attention. I saw a woman standing on the sidewalk and she was nearly as tall as the lamp post, 6’5” at least. I gaped like an idiot, till I realized it was making her uncomfortable. I saw acres and acres of naked fields that would be luxuriant next spring. And there were the fauna; the horses, the bullocks and even an occasional camel! I saw turbans in every possible colour; aquamarine, peach, lilac, brick-red, you just name it. Old women with pendulous breasts carried large bales of hay on their head. Liquor flowed freely on this route. And so many expensive cars that I don’t even know the names of!
I stopped for lunch at a road-side dhaba where the utensils resembled a hotbed of staphylococcal colonies but the food was mouth-watering. They got the concept of ‘fat-free‘ wrong, and freely poured dollops of desi ghee on the paranthas. I thought of you again as I stood outside the car at this unfamiliar spot on the highway.
I am in Chandigarh now. I type these words as I lay curled up on a large white sofa. Today I wear pink, a welcome addition to my wardrobe of monochromes. In a few minutes I will accompany my sister on a shopping spree. She wants to buy kurtis with embroideries and works that she had painstakingly explained to me but I didn’t understand anything. I think I’ll settle for window-shopping.
I will think of you there too. And you won’t even know.
I read about the hotel manager who had lost his wife and children in the 26/11 incident; he had re-married and has a two year old child now. I tried to imagine what he must have felt holding his newborn, the morbid deja vu of life coming a full circle, the trying attempts to build a new life around the debris of an irreplaceable loss, battling flashbacks of holding other tiny hands or the pain of losing the woman he had committed to love for life. I mourned the fragility of life. Why do we ignore it? Why don’t we love with abandon? Why don’t we do what we really want to do? Why do we hold back? What do we really treasure? I am still trying to figure out the answers.
After his retirement my father works from home now, and I spend half an hour every day typing and mailing his daily work report because he is stubborn about not using the vile computer. Sometimes I find it tedious, and ask him what he would do when I’m not there. He asks cheekily was I planning to go somewhere in the near future, and I blush at the implied notion of matrimony. We grumble every evening, but when I see him jot down his reports on the black notebook that he carries everywhere, and know that in few minutes he would stand awkwardly beside my bed, clearing his throat and trying to gain my attention, I can’t help but smile. I like being useful to him in these little ways, and it brings a quiet satisfaction.
I don’t have a home there, but my heart lies in the hills. I want my voice to echo through pine trees, walk all day on narrow winding lanes, have clouds within reach, wiggle my toes over a log fire, drink umpteen cups of chai, let a wild wind beat against my face and redden the tip of my nose, wake up to the rain on a cold morning, snuggle under a cozy blanket, read late into the night, stargaze, watch the sun rise through a cleft in the distant mountains like the drawings of my childhood, lose myself, and find myself again, rejuvenated. I’ll be there in a fortnight and want to cram all these into a weekend. The anticipation is palpable!
I dared to dream an impossible dream and let it peep out into the sunshine of hope from the dark recesses of my heart. But then reason overshadowed it, sending it back to its dark depths and locking it for better measure. Now it beats wildly at odd hours, but I won’t let out my dream again, I already feel foolish that I had done so earlier. I don’t want it battered and bruised by a heart it can never touch. Why bother? I ignore it now.
These subdued grief, happiness, excitement, satisfaction, yearning is interpersed with nervousness about an upcoming exam. A quiet week at home doesn’t guarantee steady emotions!
On People Who Gifted Me Books
Only four persons gifted me books I love and thus brought upon them the misfortune of being gushed over for life by yours truly.
|Ruskin Bond’s autograph|
There is Mannan, my classmate from medical college, who is straight out of an Austen novel- brooding, intense and frighteningly intelligent. He was in Mussorietraining to be an IAS officer and I had asked him to try to get me Ruskin Bond’s autograph. A few months later he sent me a book autographed by an author whose stories populated my childhood. Thank you, Mannan. I really appreciate the gesture. He gifted me Dust on the Mountains by Ruskin Bond.
|Reading it now|
There is Shakeel, a friend from high school who writes like a dream. He is living a life I covet and admire; writing and getting paid for it. Someday I hope to read a book written by him. Our mutual friend, Snata, is an amazing writer too and I’m simply happy to know this talented duo. I received a book from him today; and it was so unexpected and it made me so happy. Shakeel, prepare to be gushed over for life that would embarrass you enough to hide behind doors and duck under tables whenever you see me. He gifted me The Black Album by Hanif Kureishi.
The third is Amrita, who is nothing short of my soul sister. We have conjoined hearts and minds. She is a quiet person weaving her own world; and it’s a beautiful world peopled with soulful thoughts. I’m glad she invited me into her world where we can talk about books, movies, love, life, men and hills. She has gifted me a lot of books including Paulo Coelho’s The Fifth Mountain.
|Heart-felt essays and poems|
Then there is Priyanka, who is courage personified. She brims with intelligence, wit, confidence and a passion for writing and for making the world a better place. She has taken risks in life that I highly admire; she is vibrant and full of infectious energy. She recently got into MIT as the prestigious 2012/2013 Elizabeth Neuffer fellow and it makes me proud beyond measure. I cherish you, Priyanka. She gifted me Kora by Tenzin Tsundue.
I write about love, but I’m not a lover. I read about love, but I don’t live it. I see love, but I am a mere observer. Even when I was in love, when I was a lover, when I thought I was loved, it was emptiness and detachment wrapped in a thin crust of passion, that was a ghost of some earlier self, and a dollop of forced interest. This detachment and ambiguity of feelings scared me and I tried to be involved; I became neurotic about it and felt re-assured when I experienced symptoms of romantic jealousy or missed someone, which gave a false sense of being in love, or capable of being in love. I am often swept off my feet, but never by a person; it’s always a singular attribute: a warm smile, owning a common set of books, very often it’s the eyes, or kindness, sharp wit, ambition, intelligence, a fancy pair of shoes, arrogance, clean nails, someone who dines with family, writes poems, well-travelled, chivalry works every time too, or sometimes it’s just a mix of serendipity and hormones.
The first is Wong Kar-Wai’s ‘In the Mood for Love’. This movie seduced me! It curled my toes, sent a shiver up my spine and unspeakable parts of my anatomy, and haunted my dreams for the next few nights. The simple act of passing each other on the stairs on the way to buy noodles can be orgasmic for the viewer. It told of a love that crept up unknowingly, discreetly; a love that would be illicit yet the purest form of love. Intense gazes, dark passageways, metaphorical rain when the tension brought you to the edge of explosion, a haunting melody that intensified every gesture-a bend of the neck, a touch of the earlobe, a wave of the hand. ‘It is a restless moment. She has kept her head lowered, to give him a chance to come closer. But he could not, for lack of courage. She turns and walks away.’ The agony stayed with me, I lived that tale of doomed love for two hours and a long time thereafter. It reinstated something I thought I had lost.
The second is Before Sunset. Its prequel is one of my favorite movies of all time. But this movie edged ahead with a subtler love and longing that I could identify with better. It’s set in Paris over the course of an hour; two people who met just once and had spent an amazing and meaningful night in Vienna, meet again after nine years. They are still in love, but are cautious and bound by new commitments. They walk around and talk about everything under the sun. The effortless conversation portrayed in the movie is what I crave. No mushy talk, no promises, no flattering. But the love is palpable as it surfaces with every passing moment. The fragility of it all and the fierceness with which they protect it and hide it is touching. The way he looks at her, the way she looks at him, secretive yet fully aware, melted my heart.
The third is Barfi! I don’t need to elaborate on this; by now everyone and their uncle must have watched it. It felt like a warm, fuzzy cocoon. Misty hills, the humor (Saurabh Shukla takes a nervous bow when he is caught peeing in the field by the hidden farmers), the dizzying visuals, the refreshing silence that spoke volumes, the Chaplin-esque acts, the lifted sequences (like the train scene from Fried Green Tomatoes) that blended so well and thus forgiven in an instant, the charming Barfi and the adorable Jhilmil ignited in me a love for the whole world! So this weekend I feel everything is possible and good things will happen. I put Libya and Egypt and diesel hike away for a while and basked in the mellow Barfi daze. But it’s the tender innocence of a love so giving and so enduring that rejuvenated my sense of romance.