Monday, September 17, 2012

Duet: On People who Gifted Me Books. On Love.

 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 Mussorie training 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.





Mystical
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.







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On Love



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.


I can’t define love anymore. I was naive once, not so long ago, in a time when everything seemed possible and there were no missing puzzle pieces. I knew it once, this love, without having to say it in words and I poured it copiously in letters and gestures. But one day it slapped me out of my reverie. Singular attributes continued to lodge in my heart instead of a whole person. Now that time has lifted the veil off the pretenses I had forced myself to believe, I wonder why I ever considered it to be love. The conversations bored me, the laughter was hollow and I longed to be alone and with a book instead. But instead I talked for hours, laughed out loud, was a finicky and clingy lover, as if the love was real! I planned strategies, I made lists of pros and cons, I observed the duel of my mind and heart, and I was scared of acknowledging that it was doomed from the start or that I was passing off a fleeting attraction as love or worse, that I was incapable of love anymore. At twenty three! I was scared of letting go lest I don't meet anyone before I turned thirty, or forty, or fifty.Knights on white horses were a cliché even when I was just ten. The concept of 'casual dating' and testing the waters is lost on me too. So I settled for the first decent person who confessed his love for me. Sad, I know.

My friends call me the ‘most romantic person ever’ and I squirm in discomfiture. I worship romance. I love to love. I crave intimacy. But on actual confrontation with it, I panic and withdraw into a shell. It baffles me. Why do I get attracted to men who I know for sure will break my heart? Why am I incapable of living the romance that exudes from every single fiber of my heart? Have you watched the scene in Annie Hall when Woody Allen is making love to Diane Keaton and she just lies there in bed, inert and passive, and her soul has an ‘out-of-body’ experience and walks around the room, lights up a smoke and reads a book? That’s exactly how I feel when I convince myself that I’m in love!

I have thought about it and have come up with few half-baked theories:

a)  I have set certain standards for the man I want to fall in love with and so far I haven't met anyone who had lived up to them. Practicality convinces me that the standards are high, and I should settle even when just a quarter of my expectations are met. I did so; but deep down I knew it wasn’t what I was looking for and it would only damage me; so I clammed up, emotionally and even physically. One called me prude; the other thought I was sexless. But I tell myself it’s just about not meeting the right person.

b)  I can’t believe that anyone can love me. I have my own set of insecurities which leads me to wonder why would a person decide to devote his time and love on me when they could do so for the millions of other girls who are prettier, can speak well, can make them laugh, can walk on high heels, have lustrous hair, independent and knows how to dance. Why would anyone love me? And this question leads on to another disturbing query, ‘Do I love myself?’ Over the years I have started liking ‘me’, even though I am not bursting with love for myself. If loving self is tough, it becomes tougher to believe that one is worthy of love. Cynicism sets in. Sometimes it takes deep roots. It’s tough to see ourselves through a lover’s eyes, which in my mind is always scanning for flaws! ‘You had been bad relationships. Once you know love, all your cynicism will go out of the window’, my friends tell me. I give them a wry smile and my eyes mock their optimism, but my heart thumps with hope.

c) I worry about the word 'forever'. Intolerance is rampant. Who has time for love? Or the patience to make things work. People jump from bed to bed, memories fade, and all that remains of what started as a promise of growing old together is a tattered  Hallmark card. You start cautiously; you exchange likes and dislikes, you move on to dreams and hopes, then comes the stories of childhood and secrets you don’t tell your friends. You remember anniversaries of first date and first stirrings of love, and get wooed by flowers and dizzy kisses. Then one day when you least expect it (or expected and dreaded since always), everything vanishes. And you are left wondering why you invested so much time and effort on the relationship. It disturbs you that your declarations of affection and confessions of your innermost thoughts are in the mind of a man forever lost in the crowd. You despair that you are back to square one; you have to lay a foundation again, and build block by block another relationship. Just the thought of the effort tires you. So you remain passive.

d) I am scared of infidelity. I have seen it at close quarters in people around me. I question the existence of monogamy. And it disturbs me that I have reached a stage when I feel fidelity is a blessing. I try to be nonchalant about the end of a relationship and feel liberated from a worse fate in the future. But lurking in the subconscious is a cautiousness that’s overwhelming and sometimes damaging, nipping opportunities in the bud.

e) I am selfish. I want it all. The wooing, the proclamations of love, the romance, the right amount of possessiveness, the loyalty, the opposites that attract, the similarities that bind, the conversations that are endless and effortless (Before Sunrise hangover), the adequate space, public displays of affection (not bordering on perversion), the flavor of newness, the comfort of familiarity, the intimacy of knowing looks unknown to the rest of the world, the respect, the honesty, the book-lover, the laughter, distinctively ‘I’ yet ‘We’, a team of two in this world or against this world, growing together in life (not in chronological sense), and a disarming smile is always appreciated. And yes, soulful eyes. Since re-incarnation is not an established fact and I’ve just one life to live, why compromise? So, I wait.

A cynicism has seeped into my attitude towards love that I largely attribute to certain bitter experiences. But in the past week I watched three movies, three unusual love stories that have dusted off some of the cynic crust layering my heart.

Hypnotic
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.

Subtle longing
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.

Melt! :)
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.


I’ve a filmi heart!
 

8 comments:

Amrita said...

I'm in love with this write up.... 'Barfi' brought a thought into my mind... Why can't we love , just love.... without fear. Without anticipating rejection, hurt or infidelity. Just because we think and analyse, we mustn't be deprived of the innocent love. Let's think about how capable we are of loving and giving and leave the rest to fate. Let's us understand and know what we want, what's compatible for us if we have that analytical mind. And when it is in front of us, let's just embrace it wholeheartedly like there was nothing better than that.

Dr.Mayurakshi said...

That's how it is supposed to be...no strategies, no expectations, no planning, no 'what if's. I feel that would be so beautiful :)

Haddock said...

Did enjoy some of the movies of Woody Allen (not all)
Yes must it a point to see Barfi. That boy has got it..... after all he is the son of the best romantic pair of the seventies and eighties.

imonpurple said...

Thanks for adding to my movie list:)

Dr.Mayurakshi said...

@Haddock Watch the movie, you won't regret it. Don't analyze it too much, just bask in its warmth.

@Gayatri I hope you like watching them. Watch 'Before Sunrise' too if you haven't done so yet.

Arv said...

Nice post :)

btw, u r missing on my twitter cos u r not following me and so cant see my replies... pls add :)

thanks,
Arv.

Tanushree said...

In the Mood for Love has two of the most tiresome slash endearing characters you can't help but root for. Then you want to pull out your hair when you realize they won't make it.

By the way, I used to post status updates and send emails on the occasion of my birthday saying only books or bookstore vouchers will be accepted as gifts. I stopped doing that once I realized how obnoxious that made me sound but I did get some beautiful books in the process. So basically, I am not really complaining about me.

Speaking of books, have you read Fredric Brown?

Dr.Mayurakshi said...

@Tanushree I know what you mean. I felt like stepping into the story and slapping them out of their stuporous pangs of desire. I felt similar disappointment in "Mr. and Mrs. Iyer" too when they move in for a kiss during the train journey and a man interrupts with "Side, please". I am not a fan of anti-climax.

I have been prominently displaying my flipkart books wishlist on all my social media profiles, hoping people will get the hint, but they have been myopic till now.

I haven't read Fredric Brown yet; I had been forever stuck in the Victorian era or long Pamuk-esque/ish novels. As for Sci-fi, started with Jules Verne a month ago. Do recommend what do I read next in that genre. Fredrick Brown?