Sunday, March 31, 2013

3am


On a rare occasion when she was awake at three am, unable to decide whether to continue reading the novel or risk sleeping off only to wake up groggy for an early class, he crept into her mind. It was not him per se, having obliterated his existence from her life years ago with a determinedness that turned out to be self-perpetuating, but flashes of a period when it was impossible to categorize what they were, friends sounded inadequate and lovers petrifying.

She knew only what he wanted her to know. He remembered things she forgot she had told him. They had never ventured beyond apparently normal conversations and genial vibes. And eight springs ago, at 3am when the two insomniac quasi-friends had stumbled onto each other online, he suggested "Let's play a game". She snorted, but comforted that he couldn't have heard it asked politely "Trivia?" "Hmm. Let's talk like lovers. It'd be so funny", he quipped. She could sense the fake spontaneity and forced (and negligible) humour of the sentence the moment he wrote it.

They had met a year ago and after some unsuccessful and awkward flirting, he gave in to her offer of platonic boundaries. She was eighteen and socially inept, he was twenty-four and an effortless conversationalist. They were strangers whose only mode of communications were infrequent chats on Yahoo messenger and the single text message that he sent everyday that unknown to both had become as essential and routine and taken for granted as breathing. "I watched this movie last night. And I died." "Sending you one of my favourite songs about love. Strangers in the Night by Sinatra. You might have already heard it. But I don't care." "There's this book I read..." "I got a little drunk tonight and walking on the rail tracks with a few friends."


How To Lose Your Sanity In One Easy Step


Step 1: Try to please everyone.

Do you remember that scene from F.R.I.E.N.D.S when Rachel's mother behaves outright rude with Monica for a minor (and unintended) lapse, yet Monica continues to apologize profusely and disproportionately to her? There are people who can remain impervious to others' opinions of them. I am not one of them and have an innate need to please everybody, avoid conflicts and fall-outs. It would be sheer idiocy to actualize my desire and I succeed in not being a 'Monica' when it involves people whose actions or thoughts I detest strongly. I turn completely indifferent to their existence and memories. But when the people I respect and admire harbour a distorted perception of me owing to misunderstandings or miscommunication, I worry myself sick about setting things right. I would fret about where I had gone wrong, apologize continuously, take repeated initiatives to sort things out, and allow them to stamp all over my dignity by giving undue importance to their (lack of) response. It would torture me to wonder how I am being perceived, and in my restlessness, contribute negatively to that distorted image by offering unnecessary justifications. Recently I went through a similar situation and it disturbed me a lot. Between the two of us, the generous share of wisdom belongs to my younger sister and I often look to her for advice.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Jeffrey Eugenides


“I don’t know what you’re feeling, I won’t even pretend."

“You never get over it, but you get to where it doesn't bother you so much.”

“She may have looked normal on the outside, but once you'd seen her handwriting you knew she was deliciously complicated inside.”

“It was possible to feel superior to other people and feel like a misfit at the same time.” 

“She could become a spinster, like Emily Dickinson, writing poems full of dashes and brilliance, and never gaining weight.”

“Emotions, in my experience, aren't covered by single words. I don't believe in "sadness," "joy," or "regret." Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I'd like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic train-car constructions like, say, "the happiness that attends disaster." Or: "the disappointment of sleeping with one's fantasy." I'd like to show how "intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members" connects with "the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age." I'd like to have a word for "the sadness inspired by failing restaurants" as well as for "the excitement of getting a room with a minibar." I've never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I've entered my story, I need them more than ever. ” 


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

(Unintentional) Things I Learnt This Week

# Even when the first sentence of the book provides details about the suicides of the female protagonists and even when the narrator is a vague collective 'we' of neighbourhood boys, it can fuel curiosity and end up being a page-turner. Sometimes endings makes for great beginnings. Or maybe each ending is always a beginning, considering that's when everything makes sense. I'm reading The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides.

# There is always the option to dive and resurface with an appropriate mask that won't make a valued friend uncomfortable to be around you. It can be a mask of essential detachment that would not crowd their imagination with unnecessary obligations, worries about unmet expectations and unintended hurt. You will feel a secret guilt that you aren't being true to yourself, but then sometimes detachment spares unnecessary confusion and ironically maintains friendships. If you want things to be normal, take the initiative in behaving normally.

Holi

It is a lovely day; the children in my neighbourhood are running around equipped with water guns and fistfuls of colour; the air itself seems pink and purple; and loud happy shrieks punctuate the grown-ups' laughter and (supposedly) drunken singing. There is a relatively quiet corner, away from the target zones of water guns and balloons, where I sit propped back on my hands in a pool of sunshine, with my idea of you, happy and tired and drenched in colours. It is a lovely day. Happy Holi.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Every Single Word


While I can’t have you, I long for you. I am the kind of person who would miss a train or a plane to meet you for coffee. I’d take a taxi across town to see you for ten minutes. I’d wait outside all night if I thought you would open the door in the morning. If you call me and say ‘Will you…’ my answer is ‘Yes’, before your sentence is out. I spin worlds where we could be together. I dream you. For me, imagination and desire are very close.

What should I do about the wild and the tame? The wild heart that wants to be free, and the tame heart that wants to come home. I want to be held. I don't want you to come too close. I want you to scoop me up and bring me home at nights. I don't want to tell you where I am. I want to keep a place among the rocks where no one can find me. I want to be with you.” 

Do you fall in love often?

Yes often. With a view, with a book, with a dog, a cat, with numbers, with friends, with complete strangers, with nothing at all.” 

Yes, we are [friends] and I do like to pass the day with you in serious and inconsequential chatter. I wouldn't mind washing up beside you, dusting beside you, reading the back half of the paper while you read the front. We are friends and I would miss you, do miss you and think of you very often. I don't want to lose this happy space where I have found someone who is smart and easy and doesn't bother to check their diary when we arrange to meet.” 

Trust me, I'm telling you stories.

~JeanetteWinterson

Saturday, March 23, 2013

On Swaying Hips and Jiggling Boobs

On the hopeful premise that the particular demographic of 'regular readers of this blog' includes someone other than me, I wouldn't elaborate on how I had always been an effortless introvert with occasional deviations to being an uncertain (and unsuccessful) extrovert. I shy away from the spotlight, and the last time I danced in public was in 1994, when I was just eight and yet ignorant of big words like 'performance anxiety'. Later puberty flicked on a hitherto dormant introvert switch and I was embarrassed to be associated with anything that involved song and dance.

A couple of days ago I stepped out of my comfort zone and signed up for a Zumba class. I knew it comprised of several dance moves with unrestrained swaying of hips and waist. I was doubtful about how I would fare considering I don't have a waist per se and it has been replaced by a paunch. And what if anyone tittered on seeing my swaying paunch? But I curbed my nervousness and went for my first Zumba lesson today.

The room was filled with women of all ages, shapes and sizes. My bulging belly blended in quite well. The trainer didn't have an ounce of extra fat on her and had gravity-defying curves, a dancer's curves. I wondered if I should have taken the aid of a gravity defying garment, but dismissed the thought when I remembered the anecdote from Tina Fey's Bossypants where a woman had pushed her breasts so high, they were practically above her collarbone and could even be mistaken for a goitre! So I let gravity win and avoided glancing into the side mirror.


Friday, March 22, 2013

There Never Was Such An Animal



You're not like the others. I've seen a few; I know. When I talk, you look at me. When I said something about the moon, you looked at the moon, last night. The others would never do that. The others would walk off and leave me talking. Or threaten me. No one has time any more for anyone else. You're one of the few who put up with me."
(Note: The world is getting busier each day, and we discreetly explore the outer limits of our peripheral vision to find someone who would put up with us, the good and the bad, without being judgemental. It involves a lot of luck.)

He glanced back at the wall. How like a mirror, too, her face. Impossible; for how many people did you know who reflected your own light to you? People were more often--he searched for a simile, found one in his work--torches, blazing away until they whiffed out. How rarely did other people's faces take of you and throw back to you your own expression, your own innermost trembling thought?” 
(Note: In my relatively short life, I had met only one person who mirrored my innate and well-concealed restlessness, but I didn't stick around to find out more. It intimidated me.)

"I feel I'm doing what I should've done a lifetime ago. For a little while I'm not afraid. Maybe it's because I'm doing the right thing at last. Maybe it's because I've done a rash thing and don't want to look the coward to you."
(Note: For a little while we lose the fear. Just for a little while.)

Are you happy?
(Note: Yes. But I am afraid to think beyond what is obvious and within reach.)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Personalized Spring


I am aware that the first day of spring is seldom the first spring day; the sky is overcast with dull grey clouds, and if not for a lone cuckoo's call one can almost call it early winter or the late monsoon. Yet when I woke up this morning I couldn't help the anticipation of something serendipitous around the corner on this first day of spring. Not long ago I was told that I manufacture reality without any basis, and maybe today's anticipation was a classic example of it. Maybe most of my hopes, dreams and yearnings would thrive only in the world of wishful thinking and never in the real world. This uncomfortable realization is not the serendipitous thing I wanted to happen today. So much for the joy of spring! 

But I have a weird problem. No matter how many skies fall I can't sustain an appropriately gloomy mood for long. It was only the anticipation anxiety that troubled me in the past, but a depressed mood rarely lasted beyond a few hours. I always find something to occupy myself and create my own happiness; a task I had mastered since childhood.

So, when the day started going downhill with unexpected skirmishes and stubborn memories crowding my mind, I knew I had to salvage it myself. As night fell, the dull grey clouds finally started pouring out the first shower of spring, and I stuffed my sneakers into a bag and headed for the Pilates class after a month's hiatus. After an hour of challenging previous limits of elasticity and flexibility, the mind was unable to focus on anything apart from a violent tachycardia, which was followed by laughter and the conversations that varied from mountain treks to (one-at-a-time, because it is so expensive) butt implants! The rush of endorphins returned the spring into my day.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

In Pursuit of A Selectively Spotless Mind

I am accustomed to the despair that ensues in the aftermath of losing the people I love; a covert awareness and dread of an eventual end always runs parallel to the initial rushes of love. Yet the melancholy of knowing all the while that this too won't last doesn't offer any consolation. Each loss leaves its own mark; fresh invisible wounds quietly await time, the good old physician, to work its amnesic magic on them.

The first time it happened, I roamed around apathetic, gloomy and dazed for a couple of years; torturing myself with worthless hopes and analysis. The second time it was just a quick spell of anger followed by the relief of escape. The third time I was over it sooner than I would like to admit, and the ensuing guilt about this self-assumed fickleness led me to repeat to myself that of course I was still in love for an acceptable period of time (which in my mind is a minimum of two years). It bothered me how soon I had forgotten the face, the voice, the laughter and how I had felt for him, that I erected my own (and completely unrelated) idea of him, cherishing this imaginary love just because I was scared of admitting that it was a mere infatuation and never had been love. I continued to fool myself because its negligible longevity ashamed me.

Then there is this fourth or rather the real first or an intermittent second or maybe intermittent third or the only persistent and subdued and very complex yearning over the years, something that had never dared to leave the shadows and move into the blinding light of realization until now, something intermingled with hope and the lack of it, something vulnerable yet resilient to the passage of time, something that defies closure, something that doesn't seek acknowledgement or reciprocation and is sustained by its own intensity, something that is beyond fear and shame, something that is unknown and elusive yet eerily familiar, something that wants to be declared unabashedly yet lingers in a sacred veil of secrecy, something that is as pleasurable as it is agonizing. I don't know what it is, but it is like a splinter that had gradually burrowed its way deep into my heart; and owing to its tenacity and sense of belonging, the pain is just a minor deterrent to my existence. I had made a choice and I have to live its consequences.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

David Foster Wallace


How odd I can have all this inside me and to you it’s just words.

“It's weird to feel like you miss someone you're not even sure you know.” 

"Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it.”

"What if sometimes there is no choice about what to love? What if the temple comes to Mohammed? What if you just love? without deciding? You just do: you see her and in that instant are lost to sober account-keeping and cannot choose but to love? "

“We're all lonely for something we don't know we're lonely for. How else to explain the curious feeling that goes around feeling like missing somebody we've never even met?” 

“The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.” 

“You will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.”  

“Acceptance is usually more a matter of fatigue than anything else.” 

“The parts of me that used to think I was different or smarter or whatever, almost made me die.”

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Price of Resilience

When I was a child, I used to accompany my parents to visit a family whom they had known for more than a decade. The couple had lost their elder daughter, then aged four, in a road traffic accident a couple of months before their second child was born. Both their present children, a boy and a girl, had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Even as a child, I could comprehend the graveness of the adversities faced by them. But no one in their family sulked about the apparent unfair and cruel blows life had dealt them. The whole house was a riot of laughter and activity. Sketchbooks, crayons, plastic trucks, glass marbles, frisbees, half-eaten packets of potato chips and a football were always strewn around the living room. Since the children were the biggest fans of Michael Jackson, they often used to rev up the music volume and give impromptu performances. They continued to quietly celebrate the birthday of their departed daughter, just the four of them, huddled around a chocolate cake baked at home, and the kids were oddly solemn in the remembrance of the elder sister they had never known.

There was none of the expected shadow of gloom hovering over their home; in fact often we could hear their laughter from the street as we turned into their home. But I was not convinced that not even a shred of anger, disappointment or sadness lingered in the lives of their parents; and was always on the lookout for hidden signs. But they were no more exasperated about their children than my parents were about my sister and I. I was suddenly disappointed about the hue and cry my parents raised about the glass of milk we refused to drink at bedtime or procrastinating on homework. I couldn't contain my curiosity and bewilderment at their amazing coping mechanism and asked aunty how she managed to accept whatever life had brought her so uncomplainingly. Didn't she ever get angry that this wasn't exactly the life that she might have envisioned when she was young? Wasn't she scared of what the future held?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Let Her


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.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Where They Say It Better


Fear

Often I don't foresee any disconnect between what I say and what others hear, and feel assured that my words are being perceived in the same context that I intended them to be. So, it troubles me when I have to clarify misconceptions about my intentions. What saddens me is not the misunderstood content, but the thought, "Is that what you have been thinking about me all along?". Such conflict in perceptions vitiates or nullifies for me any previously laid foundation of kinship; and I can't help viewing any past conversations or interactions through the distorted perception of the other person.

Even when the doubts get cleared, all future interactions get tainted with a nagging fear of being misunderstood again. I don't hold any grudge against the person who misunderstands me, such conflicts are fairly common, and quickly forgiven. But they contribute to self-doubts and heightens my awkwardness in dealing with people. Being an introvert, it takes me paramount effort to establish new friendships and connections, and misunderstandings generate questions about what I am doing wrong. I rely on my instinct to decide the people I feel safe enough with to rely on, open up to and consider as friends. When the instinct proves false, I get the impulse to go back to a shell, surrounded by my books.

I am quite upfront and not used to carefully measure my words, but when misunderstandings occur, I hesitate with what I have to say. They restrain me, and I can't just be myself, and that is never a good feeling. What hurts me though is that I lose the opportunity to continue getting to know some wonderful people, but I have no idea how to overcome my fear of being misunderstood again. I am not averse to giving people second chances, I am afraid of taking up second chances myself, lest it leads to even greater distress and anguish. I isolate myself due to that fear, but I don't want to.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Smorgasbord: A Joke, Anne Tyler Read-athon, Rumi's Words

I read this little joke on Twitter and only fat people will be able to squeeze out the last drops of humour from it and laugh so long that you will get hiccups. Here goes:

Doctor: Are you sexually active?
Me: I am not even physically active.

*hic! hic!* Yes, I am fat. :-)
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I had an Anne Tyler read-athon recently; started with Dinner at The Homesick Restaurant, and followed it up with The Amateur Marriage and Breathing Lessons. The common elements of each story are: suburbs of Baltimore; emotionally volatile wife and subdued husband, who have a whirlwind romance and long tumultuous marriage, and despite their best efforts and the shared years the love often fades; at least three children and the eldest one is usually the rebel; the other two are obedient, intelligent and hence rather dull, nothing interesting happens in their lives; lack of communication, quick and wrongful assumptions, incoordination and unsaid words creates irreversible rifts; and an all-pervasive despair and bitter-sweet emotions about how things could have gone so well, if only they knew how to go about it and said what they felt. The prose is poignant and insightful, and certain sentences strike such a chord of familiarity that a new lump of heartache forms. But The Accidental Tourist is the last of Anne Tyler books I will read.
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A Hole In The Wall


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.

I doubt that the wall crevice could really contain a decade of repressed love; and the ennui, stifled hope, scattered memories, the quiet yearning of all those wasted years. But confession to an inanimate object spares one the indignity of indifference and heaps of hurt. And sometimes that is the only solace one ends up seeking.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Being The Proverbial Ostrich


Sometimes I am the proverbial ostrich which sticks its head in the sand and feels smug that no one can see it. It amazes me how often I defy the ceiling effect of idiocy, reaching newer heights each time, and chuckle quietly about continual attempts to outdo my own records of bad decisions and self-delusions.

I get into these dangerous moods, battling an impulsiveness that provokes me to do things that I would surely regret. I contemplate giving meditation a chance. But then I am too young to visualize a field of daisies or the calming aura of self-styled gurus with creepy smiles to rein in my mind. I have a few more restless years in me.

It might not always be wise, but I am used to speaking out what is on my mind. So it is positively a  torture when I have to give consequences a thought and settle for writing letters that would never leave the drafts folder. Or keep my face composed not to betray the slightest bit of emotion. Or resist the urge to kick something really hard. Or plaster a huge grin on my face and listen to a couple so in love it is almost  nauseating. Or overlook an inner void. Or quietly allow sleep to overpower me and wake up to another day.

Quiet Dignity


I had allowed others to dig their heels into it, and the resultant dents still gives me nightmares. Loss of dignity by revealing one's vulnerabilities and weaknesses to people who don't value it, and the inability to say 'no' to self can leave deep scars. There is a tendency to indulge in self-pity, blame others, and refusal to take responsibility for the consequences of one's own decisions. But good sense eventually drifts in with the passage of time as one gathers the scattered pieces of life. The only lesson that stuck with me from the past is that absolutely nothing or no one is worth compromising my own dignity and self-respect for. It comes from being unapologetic about who I am and the choices I make, with full responsibility for their consequences. It would be sheer idiocy to give the reins of my life to those who have the ability to hurt me, and lament about it when they eventually do. Only I know what I feel and what I want in life, and that shapes my character. Others can only speculate about it, and these speculations shape reputation. I prefer the former and tend to be fiercely protective of it, shielding it from unworthy influences. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Assumptions

It's funny how we inhabit two worlds simultaneously; one that is real, tangible and where 'A is A', and the other that is essentially an overlap, crowded by our myriad assumptions about the objects of the real world. People, intentions, books, movies, places, relationships, emotions; nothing is spared from the realm of assumptions.

I am no exception and often assume who is worth letting into my life, and who would be merely excess baggage to lug around. Despite being a insatiable reader, I still harbour prejudices about the readability of a book if they belong to certain genres, or the section of the readers they appeal to. I do it without even flipping open a single page. The same goes for travel choices; often I assume that certain places have nothing worthwhile to offer apart from the usual touristy stuff. I make assumptions about relationships (often equating superficial variables like time spent together, number of conversations to the amount of care; even when I talk only once a month to my closest friends), about emotions (I am/was in love with a boy I met a couple of years ago and had known for just a month, and it was initiated on the assumption that he liked me too. stupid), and even about everyday conversations (what did she mean by that? should I read between the lines?). It is human nature to create our own versions of everything we see, feel and hear; blending with, and sometimes even overpowering the truth. Sometimes I feel guilty about jumping to conclusions without bothering to verify facts, but usually I brush it off as it doesn't affect me in a direct and immediate manner.


As If

Lately, in the course of a normal day I get this weird feeling. As if never wanting to get out bed again. As if holding my breath indefinitely. As if lugging around a phantom conjoined twin. As if waiting to hit the bottom during an endless fall. As if a irreversible numbness has engulfed me. As if not caring any more about anything. As if being told that I would never have any new thoughts or new experiences. As if being wiped out of all memories. As if saying a single word will require paramount strength. It is a fleeting sense of physical and emotional lethargy, barely lasting a few minutes, but it is scary that it should even occur. 

Maybe it is a sign to spring-clean my life; weeding out the old, the stale and the stagnant, and planting something new and joyous.

But what?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Moment to Moment

It hasn’t been a conscious decision but I have led a life of discrete moments that are grasped from here and there, like a magpie, and chunked together side by side in some semblance of a continuum. I live from moment to moment; each new and whole, each offering a blank slate. That is why I am unable to hold a grudge; it seems silly to remain angry or annoyed about incidents that happened so many moments ago. Often my leaky memory finds it difficult to retain the cause of an argument, and even if it does, the earlier flammability is lost.

Even uncalled for convolutions in the course of life that threatens to throw me off the edge are relegated to being mere mishaps in retrospect. They don’t fade from memory, but past hurt is automatically and effortlessly eradicated in the onrush of the new moments that seduces with so many possibilities. It is perfectly normal for me to argue in the morning, remain annoyed for an hour or two, and backslap the person by afternoon, wondering at their bemusement. Flitting from moment to moment creates incoordination with people who mothballs their past, but that is a price I am willing to pay, along with the slightly raised chances of repeating the same mistakes.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Desired Ruin


“Maybe...you'll fall in love with me all over again."
"Hell," I said, "I love you enough now. What do you want to do? Ruin me?"
"Yes. I want to ruin you."
"Good," I said. "That's what I want too.”
 
― Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

Weird Synapses

While driving on NH-37, most people notice the Sarusajai stadium, a popular dhaba, a few educational institutes or the Balaji temple. But when I go for a drive on the same route, my attention is grabbed by two unusual landmarks, a Tyrannosaurus-shaped tree atop a hill and a life-size model of a red car atop an ordinary house. On my weekly commute to the village where I used to work, few of the familiar landmarks I looked out for were as follows: a pumpkin shed, the toothless old lady who sat on her haunches every morning and picked the head lice of her grandchild, a row of birds on the electric wire, a smoky brick kiln, a muddy pool of lilies, and a police station outside which two men always played carom.

Most people I know are amateur cartographers, gauging distances, noting landmarks and flaunting an impeccable sense of direction. I can drive on the same road for a whole year and yet fail to remember what comes after what, the familiar bumps and bends, and the commonly accepted landmarks. My focus veers into the oddities instead; which after an adequate frequency of visual stimulation serve as good enough reminders to find my way around. But it is a hassle to tell anyone directions such as, “turn left after passing the restaurant that had written ‘dhoosa’ instead of ‘dosa’ on the outdoor menu” or “the lane next to the building that is the colour of vomit”, or even “take the right at the intersection near the statue with parabolic breasts”.

In larger cities with an abundance of one-way streets, I have to take lengthy detours to get anywhere, owing to my selective peripheral vision (once I had trouble recalling and telling a friend the colour of the building I stay in) and driving past my destinations. I require time to cram whole buildings, little nooks and corners, and the roads into my memory. But as I notice the weird stuff rather than the proper street names or house numbers, even GPS technology fails to salvage my paltry spatial awareness and navigate me in this immaculately labelled urban world.

My father claims it is a lack of focus, but I feel it is just an alternative focus; like being left-handed in a world swarming with right-handedness, or being colour-blind among people who sees a riot of colours. Now, colour-blindness is another story. On my first day of HS at Cotton College, I gloated about securing a seat on the first bench of the severely cramped chemistry gallery. The reason was to get a ringside view of the magic show (or the fun chemistry experiments) that is demonstrated on the first day of college by a very exuberant professor. While the magic tricks were going on, the professor turned to me and said, "Do you see that heap of powder on the table? Tell me what colour is it". It was late afternoon ans we were in a minimally-lit room, and there was the additional pressure of nearly five hundred pairs of unfamiliar eyes that had suddenly turned towards me, awaiting my answer; so after a moment of observation  I replied, "It is dark green, Sir." The professor shouted, "ARE YOU COLOUR BLIND? That's grey." And I shrunk in my seat.

Considering I have perfect vision, I wonder if my brain has weird synapses that perceives the world in a different way from the normal folk; and this feeling is reinforced by my habit of looking for signs where they are none. Dear reader, tell me I am not alone.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Two Sleepy People

Here we are
Out of cigarettes
Holding hands and yawning
Look how late it gets

Two sleepy people by dawn's early light
And too much in love to say goodnight

Here we are
In the cosy chair
Picking on a wishbone
From the frigid air

Two sleepy people with nothing to say
And too much in love to break away

Do you remember
The nights we used to linger in the hall?
Your father didn't like me at all

Do you remember
The reason why we married in the fall?
To rent this little nest and get a bit of rest

Well, here we are
Just about the same
Foggy little fella
Drowsy little dame

Two sleepy people by dawn's early light
And too much in love to say goodnight

By Hoagy Carmichael 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Ignoring Life

The clock in my room observes a twenty seven year old wearing mismatched prints and a pair of precariously placed reading glasses, poring over a book with her mouth half-open, till a few hours before dawn. If these discrete hours of reading every night are gathered and calculated, it would amount to nearly two years of uninterrupted reading. Two years of my relatively short life had been spent in scanning words of unseen men and women to crowd my imagination with new stories, lives, places, ideas, stirrings, perspectives and often discovering a hitherto unrealized or unexplored thought, or a trace of familiarity. It brings a new plot to my life where things head in a specific direction, reach a climax/anti-climax, and i don't have to wait for ages to see how things will turn out; i can skip decades with the flick of a page.

Real life introduces new plots and unexpected twists too. But they don't come frequently and take ages to develop into something substantial; also the restlessness of not knowing what is to come is just too much for me. It is our prerogative to decide whether our life will be an open book that stands revealed and unapologetic about its contents; or be as private as an adolescent girl's journal, with stories that are open to a select audience of choice. I have chosen to be an open book after years of being the latter. But what are its contents? I open my journals and all i read are accounts of the people i have met, the conversations i had, the funny thing that occurred, the disappointments; people walked in and out of these pages with no definite pattern or purpose. My days have no specific continuity as i run helter-skelter through life; there can be a wide discrepancy of the events of one day from the other. Milestones are often insidious and realized in retrospect. And so is love. He might be an irregular visitor on the pages of my journal, but all of a sudden i mention his name with the intimacy of an old lover. I miss the transitions. My life's plot is confusing even for me to follow; it's all over the place, going in every direction, and hence stagnant.


What is Stopping You?

"Mother, have you noticed that this society we're in tends to be a little…repressive?”

“What does that mean, Eugenie? What does that mean, that strange new word, ‘repressive,’ that I have never heard before?”

“It means…it's like when you decide to do something, and you get up out of your chair to do it, and you take a step, and then become aware of frosty glances being directed at you from every side.”

“Frosty glances?”

"Your desires are stifled."

"What desires are you talking about?"

"Just desires in general. Any desires. It's a whole…I guess atmosphere is the…word…a tendency on the part of the society…”

"You'd better sew some more pillow cases, Eugenie."

- Donald Barthelme

Sunday, March 3, 2013

In Which I Talk About Reluctant Beautification, Intimidating Stylists and Bikini Wax



I’m a beauty salon (almost) virgin, and every few months when my forehead is three-fourth occupied by a bushy unibrow, I reluctantly walk into one to avoid being the poster girl of hirsutism. I don’t scoff at the salon regulars; I have the utmost respect for their patience and willingness to shell out a considerable fortune for the purpose of beautification. I can’t help fidgeting after a mere five minutes of sitting still on the chair and find it very hard to spend a couple of thousand every month to look prim and polished, when I could buy at least five new books for the same amount. The books usually win.

My salon guy is used to my restlessness and forcibly maneuvers my head into uncomfortable postures while cutting my hair. While getting my brows threaded I scare away half the customers with pain-induced expletives and facial contortions of horror. I had even endured hour long facials prior to a couple of weddings or important social events. It began with soft hands generously slathering my face with fruity concoctions and gentle massage, but that isn’t relaxation enough and the beautician places cucumber slices over my eyes, dims the lights, puts on some soothing music, and leaves the room asking me to ‘simply relax’ for a while. That is all very considerate but I can’t relax while lying completely motionless; the tip of my nose would itch; or my phone would beep and I am overcome by the irrepressible urge to check it; and by the time the beautician returns with her Buddha-like serene smile, the cucumber slices had mysteriously disappeared from my eyes and I am busy texting.

Walking into a salon and seeing the dazzling, blemish-free complexions and the lustrous, perfectly coiffed hair of the regular clientele deflates my self-esteem quite a bit and revs up the guilt about the neglect I subject myself to. The remainder of the self-esteem is sucked away by the salon staff that is quick to point out my coarse hands, rough cuticles, dark under-eye circles, thin and unmanageable hair, acne-prone skin and arms in serious need of waxing. As I stare at the mirror in front of me, listening to their monologue on my flaws, I picture myself morphing into a grotesque monster. There is always some ridiculously expensive treatment available that would take no less than ten sittings for each of my flaws. A few even audibly sigh their disapproval on learning that I had never had a manicure or pedicure. I always keep my nails neatly trimmed and hands well moisturized; but apparently that is not enough. It appalls them that I had not heard about cuticle treatments, anti-wrinkle packs, anti-tan packs and skin polishing too.

Most stylists intimidate me with their aggressive advice and over-selling of various products and treatments. During my last haircut at a posh salon in Delhi, where I felt a bit intimidated by all the glossy and shiny people around, the conversation that occurred was as follows:

Hair Stylist: Your hair is very dry. Aap baalon mein tel nahin lagate?
Me (grinning indulgently): Not regularly.
Hair Stylist (in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear): Kyon? Kisine manaa kiya hai?
Me (cowering, mumble a barely audible): nahi.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Rainer Maria Rilke

That’s love: Two lonely persons keep each other safe and touch each other and talk to each other.

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it.

Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The One About Skinned Knees, Distractions and Absent Lovers

Two decades ago I barged into a class and under the scrutiny of fifty pairs of eyes that had turned towards the door, I tripped and fell. I didn’t pause for a single second on the ground, and dashed towards my desk, trying to overlook the classmates who sniggered. And it was only when the teacher shrieked ‘Your socks are soaked with blood!’ I looked down at my bloodied knees. The wounds gaped wide enough to require sutures but I was too preoccupied with my embarrassment to feel even the slightest stab of pain. As everyone fussed over my injury, caressing my head, and offering me a glass of water, I felt the pain in my legs explode. That’s what I remember from that day. If you don’t dwell on it, the hurt is negligible. I took to suppression as a coping mechanism against injuries and setbacks; I don’t conceal or run away from hurt, but face it with an essential detachment, like events unfolding in the life of a close acquaintance where I have a ringside view of everything but I am spared the pain. I don’t dwell on the ground to look at my bleeding knees.

February was tough. I lost a sister, an important plan fell through, a close friend disintegrated into depression, and I witnessed (and still witnessing) a career-related legal drama. If I allow myself to take it in all, the chaos would choke me. But over the years, my mind had adapted to detach and distract itself from the dreams that crumble, the people I lose or the ennui of everyday existence, filing them away in neat little cabinets. Life is too short to mourn about what happened and what didn’t. I am yet to be loved; I am yet to achieve my goals. There are so many places I haven’t visited yet; there are so many books I haven’t read yet. I go from one day to the next, concentrating on what is and what would be. The past can’t be crammed into my life.