Saturday, December 27, 2014

Who Would've Thought?

That things would be alright.

That love is just there, lightly tapping you on your shoulder, when you were not looking.

That superficial attractions and the pomp and show and the butterflies in the stomach are not signs. The comfort of a quiet and steady company is.

That a smile can melt all your resistance and wash away all your fears.

That life REALLY does go on.

That life can change in the ordinary instant. It is amazing how much love the heart still holds despite the bruises and cracks.

That a hope can lift you up.

That you finally understand that good and right are not synonymous. And that the ordinary day can throw you the loveliest of surprises.

That a voice can make your heart leap with joy; erasing all echoes of the past.

That life is rife with possibilities.  Some we find; some finds us.

That silver linings need to be chased.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The History of Love

"Part of you thought: Please don't ever look at me. If you don't, I can still turn away. And part of you thought: Look at me."

~ The History Of Love

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Saving The Day

The nights are damp and cold and windy. A vague reminder of the hills. It rains and stops and rains again. I love it. Cold autumn weather. Sweatpants and flannel shirts and scarves weather. Soft blue quilt weather. Hot cocoa weather. Curl up in bed delving into stories or weaving new ones weather. Petrichor weather.

There was a light drizzle when I walked back from work yesterday. The road was wet and shiny, reflecting the old oak trees that lined it on either sides. I stepped into occasional, unavoidable puddles; and my bag bore the brunt of the slanting rain. But the wind that whooshed through the trees was so cold and magical, I didn't want the walk to end and be cooped up in a dark, cramped hostel room. So I decided to head off towards the centre of the college campus, nearly four kilometres away. The evening light and overcast skies threw beautiful shadows on the grand buildings and brought out every shade of green in the foliage.  The impending rain was a thrill, waiting to see how far can I make it before it pours down.

The collage centre has landscaped gardens,  a temple, large green fields, numerous tiny eateries and a central library housed in a grand, opulent ochre building with brick red domed roof and balconies. Of course, I went to the library.

It was already past the hours to issue new books, but I liked to walk through the huge circular hall lined by tall, never-ending wooden shelves stacked with several thousand  books. And the narrow corridors that led off the hall into various sections of rare books and manuscripts, the linguistics section, the book stack housing novels old and new, the arts and sciences sections, research sections, and journals section. It was my own personal heaven. I stayed browsing books till the sun set and tall, yellow lamps were lit in the garden outside.

I took a rickshaw back to the hostel, the magical wind still howling around me. I missed something sorely then. Or maybe someone. But soon I was back in my warm room, munching  banana chips, sitting crosslegged on the bed and studying about paragangliomas while "Rocks On The Road" played on my phone. My room-mate came from back from (supposedly) "evening" shift at the hospital well beyond midnight and after an hour of giggles and conversation, she created our routine 'ambience' to bring about sleep, that is switch on the air cooler. Even when it is biting cold outside because we could no longer fall asleep without the pleasant hum of the air cooler.

In the morning,  she left for work at eight.  And I found myself unable to get out of bed. Head exploded with pain and fever burned every inch off my skin. I called up a friend who readily agreed to replace my duty at the department till I felt better. I spent a couple of hours gathering the strength to walk the few steps to the medicine cabinet!

The day was spent in my darkened room, buried under two blankets, sleeping fitfully and aching for home. I longed for company, someone to just sit by me for a few minutes. For reasons unknown to me, I dreamt of you. Got teary-eyed and went back to sleep.  It was only towards three in the evening that my fever broke.

The feeling of utter loneliness and crying continued. I wondered if it had anything to do with the pent up worry about my mother's recent cancer scare. Or was it just hormones? Or maybe it was an embarrassing pining for lost love? I hadn't ate anything since the past twenty hours.

Just then my phone rang to inform me that the books I had ordered online would be delivered in five minutes. I had no choice but to walk downstairs to collect them. Holding the neatly wrapped package of books in my hand brought about an instant change in my mood.  I suddenly craved food and went into the dining hall and quietly had a hot meal of rice and rajma.

Feeling strengthened, I returned to my room and set about cleaning it up and opening the door to the balcony to let in fresh air and some pale sunshine. Then with eager fingers I unwrapped the package to unravel the books.

Maus- Art Spiegelman (A graphic novel that is one of the most personal retelling of the Holocaust)

Mr Penumbra's 24-hour bookstore-by Robin Sloan (The title is enough to intrigue me. Books about books and bookstores. Porn for me.)

Delta of Venus- Anais Nin (I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the sexual escapades of Henry Miller to even Khushwant Singh. But I had never read erotica written by a female author. This book would be a welcome start)

So in the bleak mess of damp weather,  high grade fever and loneliness,  the books and the stories that awaited therein managed to salvage my day, and reinstate my autumnal love. Books always save me.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Poem

You who never arrived 
in my arms,
Beloved, who were lost from the start, 
I don't even know what songs 
would please you.
I have given up trying to recognize you in the surging wave of 
the next moment.
All the immense images in me -- the far-off, deeply-felt landscape, cities, towers, and bridges,
and unsuspected turns in the path, 
and those powerful lands
that were once pulsing with the life of the gods-- all rise within me
to mean you, who forever elude me. 

You, Beloved,
who are all the gardens I have ever gazed at, longing.
An open window in a country house-- , and you almost stepped out, pensive, to meet me.
Streets that I chanced upon,-- 
you had just walked down them and vanished. 
And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors were still dizzy with your presence and, startled, gave back my too-sudden image.

Who knows? Perhaps the same 
bird echoed through both of us 
yesterday, separate, in the evening... 

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sunday Thoughts

For quite some time now, I had been totally ignorant of my sligtly blurred view of the world. I considered as normal  the soft rounded edges of everyday objects, the pale hazy light that bathed my days, and the flickering letters on the television screen that involuntarily brought about a frown as I tried to read them. I had never been modest about my eyesight; boasted openly about the ability to withstand years and years of reading late into the night under inadequate lighting, and that too with eyes that weren't fortified with the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin A (being a vegetarian who hates vegetables). My delusion shattered only a week ago while waiting at the airport when I could no longer read the flight schedules displayed merely a couple of metres away.  Instant panic. Outcome: Splurging on a pair of geeky glasses that appealed to the reader in me. And while at it, I decided to chop off my hair too. Weirdly liberating, no more distress over styling them and making sure they behave. Starting off autumn with a completely new look which disturbingly correlates with my childhood fascination for Winona Ryder!

..........................

Home for a week. Back among my books. Insane conversations and convulsive laughter. Food I grew up eating. Familiar horizons. Cloudy skies. Long nights. Lazy afternoons where nothing much happens. The beauty of it. Midnight drives. Music. Sleep. Books. Sunrises. Cuddles. Getting used to the subtle changes that can occur in a span of three months. The small corner shop no longer sells the delicious homemade bamboo pickles. The baby next door is no longer adorable but a monster of a toddler who pees on my new sandals for fun. The joy of financial independence, the comfort of ticking off 'save for a rainy day' or similar sayings from the to do list. Falling in love with gutsy Canadian female authors who have mastered the difficult art of keeping a story short yet detailed; Munro, Mavis Gallant, Joyce C. Oates. Nightly escapes into Studio Ghibli landscapes. Erasing a decade long love, and trying to be nonchalant about it. 'Happens all the time'. Songs and books about unrequited love reaffirm how common this malady this; unifying us, the moon-gazing insomniacs, the poetry-spewing loners. Reason and logic applauds my attempts to avoid love: old and new. And yet, wildly flattered against my better judgement by the quiet and undivided attention of a boy who strategically places himself at my frequent haunts and does nothing more than look up everytime I arrive with a gaze so tender and engaging that I can't but momentarily forget my resolve not to meddle with the matters of the heart for a long time to come. Sigh, what can one do! *not suppressing a laugh here*

..................

The night before I was leaving for home, I greedingly (and hurriedly) borrowed a few dozen movies from my batchmate and loaded them on my laptop. Day 1 at home: Watched alone the Three Colours series movies. Day 2: Watched Malena with a friend. Gasped, fumed, cried, sighed. Day 3: My little cousin wanted to watch a fun, animation movie. I scrolled down the list of new movies and came upon one that said "Human Centipede" and immediately conjured up the image of lovely hand drawn cartoons depicting the story of maybe an arrogant prince cursed to be a centipede until he gathers a motley of oddball friends, fights a dragon, rescues a princess and transforms by the kiss of true love. The entire (potential) story flashed through my mind in a matter of seconds and I smirked inwardly at the lack of originality in choosing a movie title. I summoned my little cousin to sit beside me, opened a pack of tomato flavored chips and bursting with naivete and in full confidence of my infalliable judgement of movie titles, dear reader, I clicked on the movie link. Unspeakable horror! Something died in me that day, something that can only occur when you reach the pitch black bottom of the well of utter shame. Lessons learnt: 1. Never predict a movie's content by its title. 2. I will continue to surprise myself by reaching new depths of embarrassment owing to my innate impulsiveness.

............

Night after night after night, a fragment of you always drifts in; momentarily peaking an old urge, an old love; and then fades away into the nooks and crannies of locked up thoughts. Just a flicker of what never was.
........

A cure for my Sunday evening blues: Read Dorothy Parker. Augment it with a Madonna song from the 80s. Pasta. Welcome interruption by a long telephone call by a friend who has seen up close the entire spectrum of things that I can mess up and yet stands by me,  merrily chatters on, fitting in an hour-long conversation topics as diverse as Modi at Madison, Huntington disease, boob sweat, farting co-workers, mutual funds investment, the pros and cons of wearing polka dots on a date, planning itinerary for a 'someday' trip to Paris, the joy of reading books about books, autospell horrors and if time permits, maybe that thing called love. Followed by some writing-a long overdue letter, a blog post, journal entry, a haiku maybe; the content becomes immaterial for a while, the joy is in writing itself, letting the words take shape on a clean, blank page and see where it leads you.

..................

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Of Wishful Thinking and Inertia

One of those days. Cooped up in a darkened room.  Black oversized tshirt and grey track pants. Bloated. Sadistic uterus on a torture spree. Umpteen cups of ginger tea. Lying in bed, listening to chirping birds, losing track of time. Aching for home. A book comforts for a couple of hours. Work forgotten. Inertia worshipped.  Solitude. Sleep. Slowness. No thoughts. No plans. No 'to-do' list to strike off. Everything awaits behind the bulging door of tomorrow.  But today I give up and crave quiet companionship more than my usual preference for solitude. I  want someone to make me another cup of ginger tea, hold me, listen to 'wild heart' on my old ipod, and whisper stories throughout this long, blue, autumnal night. But then, its so difficult to realise simple wishes. Definitely, one of those days.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Welcome Darkness

Memory is a tricky thing. For years and years, despite the subconscious awareness of certain truths, a simple hope persisted against all evidences that were out to mar it. If you love someone with every fibre of your being, surely a day would come when it would be understood, valued and reciprocated. Naive sentimentality, in retrospect.


Yesterday I heard the words I had always known and secretly dreaded, loud and clear. No roundabouts. No vague references. No sugar-coated assurances. The plain, simple truth. That love isn't enough, sometimes. I thanked him. For his kindness in finally saying it out loud, canceling all the earlier vague replies and gestures, ripping of every shred of hope. I just turned off the light and slept off. Part of me never wanted to wake up and face the gaping hole that the lack of hope and his absence would cause. I woke up though, late, and on a wet pillow.

The overcast skies and heavy downpour echoed my mood. I skipped breakfast. And then lunch. I didn't smile at my friends and colleagues. Formalin vapors in the histopathology room became the ready excuse for my reddened eyes. I missed home. A lot. My bed. My books.


I didn't know why was I mourning something I'd always known. Maybe it's just the death of hope. There'd never be any reading between the lines, no searching for subtle clues of love and caring. "No matter what I say or what I do, how many more decades I wait for...he would never love me", I said it out loud. He would never love me. Yes. Fuck it. Why am I crying out a river for him then? As if on cue, part of my mind fell into absolute darkness. I can no longer recall having loved him. It was just that sudden. Just that complete.


The upside is the vast expanse of time before me that is no longer wasted in daydreaming, checking if he is online, writing to him, worrying and worrying some more. I decided to get some food into me. The unpalatable hostel food won't do, and I ordered in my favorite dishes. An hour of delightful banter and racuous laughter with my friends followed. I read for pleasure last night. With a free mind. Love had crippled me. Amplified my negatives. Maybe I'm not cut out for love. Maybe it was the wrong person. The wrong time. Maybe I should just concentrate on creating my own happiness...books, hills, travel. The simple joys. Love should never again be the centre of my happiness. It is risky. And foolish.


Yes, memory is a tricky thing. The sudden darkness that fell over certain bits of it, has blunted the pain and makes it so much easier to go through the day. Essential coping mechanism. I'm meant to survive everything on my own. And maybe it's a good thing.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday

The door to the balcony is open. The wind orchestrates a pleasant and familiar harmony; coursing its way through the tall trees. The sun glistens a warm yellow on my stretched-out legs . A collection of short stories by Mavis Gallant lay on my lap, dog-eared at page 72 . My hair smells like green apple, a new shampoo. Memories are dug out from the archives and relished at leisure; haphazardly, recklessly; that shared look, that sigh, that day, that book, that song, that blue door, those lanterns dazzling the evening sky, those friends, that magic wind in the hair, those waves, that smile. A foamy brown moustache proudly adorns my upper lip, as I delay the pleasure of licking off the last drops of cold coffee. I find myself humming old songs of Kishore Kumar, the same songs that my father used to hum during the weekend drives, nearly two decades ago; and I remember listening to them, sleepily curled up on the backseat of the car. A warm, lazy cocoon envelops me today, this very moment. These rare moments of solitude pursuing absolutely nothing, but indulging in the slow life and the simple pleasures of the senses-a good book, some good food, a familiar scent, a warm touch, an old melody-is all I require to replenish my energy for the approaching week. What would life be without good, old Sundays?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Stormy Seas


Some nights things swoop in. Unexplained dread. Cold sweat. Insomnia. Restlessness. Panic. Loneliness. An army of fears. Veiled vulnerabilities. Teetering at the edge of this gaping dark hole of consciousness, arms flail helplessly towards an anchor of comfort, an anchor of the familiar. And it becomes the perfect hour to shatter delusions and realize that there is no anchor, and never will be. I sail my own stormy seas.

I am not brave. But I can endure. A decade ago if anyone had forewarned me of the hurdles that laid in store for me, I wouldn't even have had the courage to get out of bed. I would have just remained motionless petrified of the calamities that would befall me.

It astounds me that I had been through it all-career setbacks, broken and bruised heart, grave illnesses or loss of loved ones, abuse, several medical emergencies, drifting apart from the people who mattered, really bad decisions, financial errors-and I had survived it, accepted responsibility for it, learned few lessons, misted the unpleasant memories, wiped the dust and blood off my fallen self and moved on. Moving on. The next step. That is all that matters.

I still get scared, so very scared of the problems at hand, and at the nadir of distress I just want someone else to live my life for me. Sometimes I miss a re-assuring grip on my hand and the words, "Don't worry. I am here for you". It would neither dismiss problems, nor drive away fears. Just be a source of steady comfort and encouragement. The lack of it disheartens, but never detains the journey.

The next step has to be taken, another day has to be lived, problems have to be solved, fears have to be faced. Expectations can often weaken and delude. Sail your own stormy seas.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Missing Five Months

Amateur astronomy. Deneb. Antares. Polaris. Supernova. Daylight Comet-1910. Reading. Exploring.

Margaret Atwood. My Hero. 'Life Before Man'. Bored, fractured hearts. Here, there, everywhere.

Malignant cells. 40X, 100X objective. Euphoria of diagnosis. Changing lives, timely or untimely.

Fluffy omelettes. Creature of habit. 7:30 am. Aroma, taste, solitude, thoughts. No conversations.

Navy blue zippered dress. 2011. Never worn. Muffin top. 2014. Hourglass. I see it now.

More unaccustomed earth. Giant leap to the opposite end of the country. Another leap soon.

Airports. A big brown bag. Coffee. Books. Goodbyes. Reunions. Constant motion. Move me.

Sleep. Sudden, unanticipated reprieve from work. Cloudy days. Naps. Dreams.

A particular man. Gone. Gaping void of a wasted decade. Now what?

Nephew. Two feet tornado. Foo Foo. Cuddles. Endearing attempts to bite off my cheek!

Highway. Aimless wandering. Unhurried. Finding self. Losing love. Ali, Hooda, Bhatt, Rahman.

Freedom. 2am bike rides. Stargazing. The boundless universe. Free, free, free.

Friends. Valued. Understood. Infinitely. For life.

Midnight rain. Raindrops chasing each other on my window. Don't stop.

Writing. Words. Purpose. Passion. Syntax. Relearning.