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!

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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*

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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.

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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.
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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.

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