So Long


In the cab, I was getting hallucinations of Mount Fuji. Closed confines make me nauseous. I’ve got vertigo I think. Curious things happen inside my ears. But then again, Mount Fuji. Did you know there are thirty six views of Mount Fuji. I couldn’t recall more than four. Mount Fuji under the bridge. Mount Fuji as seen from the bucolic fields of Japan. Mount Fuji from in between waves. The bloody red Mount Fuji erupting, the quiet dormant volcano of centuries. Mount Fuji, like God, is omnipresent. Overlooking everything. No matter where you are, there is always a Mount Fuji behind you. Tiny or huge, nevertheless. And those nostalgically mesmerizing Ukiyo-e Japanese paintings by Hokusai. It meandered through my mind as the cabbie honked and halted in impenetrable traffic. I was so going to miss that flight, baby.   

My nausea wasn’t going to cure itself. And lemons were sparse. Minutes ago, I was telling him about my recurring bouts of yearning for raw mango slices dipped in salt and chili powder. Strange yearnings, you’ve got, he retorted. But that’s the only antidote for nausea, there is. With the onset of summer, raw mangoes come plenty in this country. This ain’t no Japan.

The mid-May sun shone relentlessly as we scrounged for a little bit of road to the airport. If I missed the flight, I would have to come back to his apartment. And that was not a feasible option after the motions we had just been through. My tongue felt funny, saliva accumulated beneath my tongue. That was it, I could puke any moment now. As one last resort, I closed my eyes tight and tried to remember the smell of cosmetic closet. It had an amalgamated smell of deodorants, body lotions, face creams, nail paint etc. I thought initially, that it was the previous tenant’s smell left behind in that closet. But then I shifted apartments and then I realized that the smell was mine. It feels backward to say that science still hasn’t found a way to preserve and carry smell, or have they. Our olfactory senses are underrated. My vomit subsided and I had two gulps of water. He could probably read the relief on my face.

My apartment otherwise stank of cigarettes. Almost perennially. A week after I had publicly proclaimed that I had quit. Just like it did the week before. I never quit, actually, I lie, for convenience. White little lies. Or because I read somewhere, that when you say it aloud, you feel scrutinized and your resolve to perform is doubled. But you double zero, it stays unchanged. Similarly, my resolve. I wanted to smoke again. I wouldn’t be able to, in the two hour flight.

I looked sidewise. Drops of perspiration on his forehead had dried up. His face nearly covered the vent of the air conditioner. I held his collar from the back of his neck and pulled him away. He smirked. A smirk suits his face. His almost pentagonal face, such a nice jawline he has, I thought. His glasses sat capriciously on his nose. Sliding down from time to time. He put them back in their place Every time, without fail. Sometimes even before they had begun to nudge in the slightest manner. He is prone to his habits.

One cannot blame habits. He works in this city. Wakes up, goes about his ablutions. Walks fast to the train station, takes the train. Walks out, walks to his work place. Eats breakfast. Starts working. Goes about his work. Taking timely breaks in between. Eats and drinks in those. Smokes as well. When it’s time, he walks out, walks to the train station, takes the train. Takes the long lone walk to his apartment again, or hails an auto rickshaw, if he’s too tired. Eats dinner out of cans, sitting on the table, going through the morning paper and goes to bed, after two rounds of masturbation, of course. Sometimes, he skips dinner and goes for a drink. But rest of the routine remains the alike.

On most weekends, he has to work. But on some of those, he visits his aunt. She lives in the suburbs. With her borderline alcoholic husband and fourteen year old daughter. That fourteen year old cousin of his is as good as twice her age. She, apparently has a very four pronged sex life. Once rummaging through her cupboard of books, he found cigarettes, alongside a pack of condoms and an unused pregnancy kit. Kids, these days! When he told me so much about her, I told him, that if he rummages through my cupboard, he would find pretty much the same things. But she would probably have been more discreet and hidden them safe. In my case, he wouldn’t have to rummage that much.

But then I am much older. More than twice that cousin’s age. So that’s a given.

His lighthearted misogyny got to me. What is with his putting women in parenthesis. Of defining what she should be like and not otherwise. I began choosing the right words to rebuke him. Such that the idea is communicated and the man isn’t scathed much. But soon, I gave up on that idea. The traffic was relentless. The airport was still fifteen minutes away. May be I should just pick up my bag and walk.

But wait oh, I had no bag. I was there only for the day. The limited length of time of a few hours, rather. A few days ago, he had mentioned that he was planning on purchasing a washing machine. A washing machine, a big electronic purchase. A washing machine before a television or a fridge. He said he had become exhausted of washing all his white shirts. He wore white shirts only. Just like Donald Draper. Or sometimes, a few variations of white. Egg shell, cream, ivory, vanilla. Too many hues for a man, who by virtue of his gender is gifted colorblindness.

So he needed a washing machine. I suggested some brand my parents had for years, but rarely used. In my family, all our lives, we washed our clothes with our own hands and wrung them dry in the window railings of our middle aged two bedroom apartment. But he lived alone in the city and needed fresh shirts every day. He asked me do some further research. Should it be front load or top load. Should it be automatic or semi-automatic. I compared some brands for him, but he wasn’t satisfied with the long lists and short lists. After days of perambulations, motions between yeses and noes, he decided I should come down to his city and go to the store with him so that we could pick it out together.

His father was a surgeon. His mother had pigeon like eyes and read poetry. His brother was gainfully employed whose wife had just has twins. They all lived in a different town though. He lived alone in the city where he worked. I booked my ticket, before second thoughts creeped in. I had known him for three long years, on and off. How bad could a meeting go? It would be a make or break. Okay, then so be it. I took a long look at my tickets, both to and fro and rechecked the days and timings. The AMs and the PMs. Everything was in order.

Without allowing chance for much suspicion, I met him that day at the airport. He had come to pick me up though he had said he wouldn’t be able to make it. Our eyes met uncomfortably for a moment or two. We sized each other up. I remembered that I had shaved my armpits and my legs, that very morning. They would be bristly, but not before tonight. We shook hands, mine were soft, his were firm. He was smaller than I had imagined. His shoulders stooped and his glasses made him look nerdy than your average person. A lot of regions in my body, tingled at the same time. The temperature in my temples rose, suddenly.

We picked out the washing machine within ten minutes of entering the store and the sales girl told me that I was going to like it very much. He winked at me and smiled back at her. I disapproved of people jumping conclusions. We didn’t look married to each other at all. What newly married bride would wear a man’s t shirt and have a back packed slung on her shoulders and have hair opened and spruced up like a tree. Not many.

They said they would deliver to his address within the next three hours. He asked me what I wanted to do next. Subtly indicating that he hadn’t had any rigid plans in his head and was as flexible as I would like him to be. I was agile enough to say it aloud that I wanted to see his apartment. And anyway, shouldn’t someone be there to check if it was installed alright. He nonchalantly said mentioned that he left a spare pair of keys with the security guard of his building and tipped him heavily not to rob him.

But I insisted that we ensured it was done right and in our august presence.

He kissed me as soon as we shut the door and told me that he knew he wouldn’t be able to hold himself back if we came to his apartment. With that breakage of ice behind us, I closely inspected every square feet of space that was as he made me some black tea on his hot plate. I checked the window panes, the corners behind the shelves, the bathroom, the railing in the portico, the view to the road that spiraled lazily downstairs in the near soporific pre noon traffic. There was nothing to be found. And I didn’t know what exactly I was looking for. I hadn’t finalized that yet. Was it hidden cameras, was it belongings of his ex-girlfriend or paraphernalia that his mother had left behind from her last visit.

I made myself comfortable on a corner of his bed and sat with my feet up, crossed like in yoga. The pastel color bedsheets gave themselves away easily, they deserved a wash. With rocks or something. This man sure needed a washing machine. He entered with two cups and a plateful of crackers. Don’t mind the mess, he told me. Of course I didn’t. Living alone could be taxing, for some reasons apart from the tremendous freedoms it betroths one with. Like I never split a straw. I understand how life functions when you are a single person in a one bedroom, I told him.

We discussed rents in our respective cities and security deposits to be left interest free with the landlord, deductions from it thereon etc. After being through that, we came to public transport and climate change and so on. Somewhere in between, our fingers touched, accidentally, on the bed. I confessed, I never thought I would ever get to see him. Why, he asked. Because life doesn’t work out in our favor as much as it works out in its own meandering aimless manner. Not to our specific benefit, particularly, but we see others doing relatively better, leading distinctly more happy and content lives, at least from what it appears. And when sometimes, that meandering aimless life takes one capricious turn, bents that seem to have erupted from nowhere, we find ourselves at a loss. We can’t cope with that loss, because, one, we didn’t see it coming and two, the life of others.

The life of others, I long paused after this, is a tremendous phenomenon. He told me, he was the brighter of the two children his parents had. He didn’t think so. But everyone did. His older brother wasn’t as good as school as he was, there was no reason except that despite having been constructed from the same material, from zygotes that may have been very similar, his elder brother by three years turned out to be a shy individual. And because of that shyness, possibly, he slowly vanished into himself, like gobbled himself down. And became invisible, most of the times, outside of home. He graduated in Commerce and worked as an accountant in a company office near their house. It turned out, his brother never went anywhere far from where he had begun. He had gone to school and college, both in the same town. Worked there as well. When the time seemed right, a girl was chosen for him suitable for a quiet arranged marriage. Under strands of jasmine and marigold in a podium in their backyard, they took vows and hosted over three hundred guests, none of whom was the younger brother.

The younger brother, had cleared tougher tests, went to far off schools, paid hefty fees with big fat education loans. Worked in big blue chip companies, in their big blue sky scrapers. Travelled to foreign lands, lived months of his life in hotel rooms that were serviced right and refilled with supplies, but never felt like home. In fact the night his older brother got married, he was in a similar hotel room, several time zones away because his employer wouldn’t reimburse him for a trip back home for a family function in the middle of an assignment.

He met scores of men and women from different backgrounds, his mind opened up, he was supposed to be the one who had seen more of the world. Known life better. At his age, he was richer than the average man his age, and most definitely than his older brother. Though, by genes, he was as shy, but he wasn’t withdrawn like his older brother. He went about life welcoming it. And nothing too bad ever happened.

I wondered if his older brother viewed him as the ‘others’, the way, I viewed the ‘others’ in my life of ‘others’. I was the underdog in my family. Always had been, always will be. And anyway, precisely because of that, I never thought I would see him in person. Because good things happened primarily to other people, people who weren’t me.

And now, if he stopped calling me after I went back this time, an incident which had happened to a couple of my girlfriends, I would again be the one who didn’t benefit from this entire act of taking two flights on the same day, and having my expectations stacked like an unstable stack of pastries, waiting ultimately for it to crumble and create an irreparable mess. This would be a futile chain of events. Like a life lesson learnt.

But of course, I wasn’t telling him this. Did never want to bring up the topic of estrangement. Estrangement was the elephant in the room. He had known me for three years alright, after having accidentally stumbled upon on social media. But he left me intermittently in between. Without a word, he would stop calls and messages. Like one of us had died. Like one of us never existed. That would leave me high and dry. And dealing with terrible bouts of heartache. And months down the line, he would make acquaintance as if the sun rose the next day. Without an inhibition, without doubts towards what I might feel like. I felt envied his lack of fear of retribution but I reconciled nevertheless.

But I never did ask him what happened in the gaps he abandoned me. Did he get too busy with work? Did he get a real girlfriend? Did he have a reality check in his life because he was getting too close to me and was keeping too much at stake through half a dozen calls a day, besides score of text messages. I never asked him anything. Questions were risky. I was afraid of what he might say and my weak chested-ness to absorb that unpredictable truth. So we never brought up the elephant in the room. He never asked him if I had been seeing someone. If there was another man, if at all, besides him. But I had participated wholesomely in the kiss at the threshold earlier, I had taken long pains for this trip. This was no plaything for me, he must know. Whether he had similar feelings for me, were open to debate and a solitary mind’s tribulations.

To cut past this, I suggested eating lunch. Food was a good cause. Food was a good enough distractions. He asked me what I wanted and ordered something online. While waiting for the food, we smoked a few and had a drink. His eyes got a little red and lips swelled up. Or probably, I was hallucinating.

There were knocks on the door. The food and the washing machine came at the same time.

An hour later, all hints of the afternoon disappeared as he strung the curtains on the sole window in the room. A mild yellow light persisted somehow. Was it through the skylight up in the wall. Was it the residue of the light that still continued to filter through the light navy blue curtains. Was it light that had locked itself up from before and showed up after we made the room dark enough.
In a bout of quiet panic, I bit my nails and the skin on my fingertips. He made me another drink and gently asked me, if it was alright, if he went ahead. He was too soft to be audible, at first. When I told him I couldn’t hear him anyway, he withdrew a bit for a moment or so and after an elongated pause near my ear, asked me again.

The ceiling fan left a ghost like shadow on the roof and made a creaking noise sometimes. Like it was too tired. Looking at us sweat profusely, he told me the air conditioner was next. And asked me to look up a good one. I asked him to wait the summer out, they would come much cheaper in the off season. With this ongoing conversion in the backdrop, we can conveniently unclothed each other, like it was everyday business. There was no awkwardness, but yes a plethora of endorphins in our heads. His mouth still smelt of the garlic in our lunch. His chest was hairy and his grandmother’s locket dangled from it, all the time. Sometimes, it was all I could see. The remaining light dimmed out with time. The sun must have set. For hours, I couldn’t absorb the act, even though it had been in the planning for months, almost.

I held on to time, desperately but it passed relentless. From among the gaps between our intertwined fingers in a tight fist, I saw the time on his wrist watch. I wouldn’t be able to make it to the airport, if we left any later. I went in to the bathroom to wash myself. He hugged me from behind in front of the mirror and said somethings. I was too sober for having had three drinks myself. Probably, the sex undid the effect of alcohol or vice versa. I was totally cool, with everything. I heard every word of what he said. I almost knew he wouldn’t stand by what he said. It wasn’t my pessimism or lack of adequate beauty. It was just that every little thing came with its own life span. A stretch of time beyond which it died a natural death.

And frankly, I have seen more painful departures. Couples being done apart by orthodox parents, couples being torn apart because one of them didn’t make enough money, didn’t have a job that paid enough, the color of skin, a couple of college degrees. I have seen couples being done apart by disease and death as well. So honestly, this was a better end to the whole thing. Just outgrowing, forgetting, not living up to promises, said and unsaid. Yet, I heard him out and kissed him back when need be.

It wasn’t dark still, this was the west coast, night came much later here. The bathroom had a tiny window and in that light our naked bodies revealed many truths they didn’t back in the bedroom. I took a good look and him and saved it for later. My legs grew sturdy. Outside, I got dressed with him watching me. I almost wore my top inside out. He helped me out a bit. I walked into the kitchen and squeezed an entire lemon into my mouth and drank a bottle of water.

He assured me that I didn’t smell that much and nobody would stop me from boarding the flight. We laughed at that thought. He called a cab and I unpacked my backpack. I had a few gifts for him, a pair of cufflinks I had bought for him a two years ago, when I had been deeply infatuated with the idea of the man he was. Or I imagined him to be. He appeared quite stunned to see them. And a tiny box of chocolates. Which was actually a silent retort to the number of times I had asked him for chocolates and had been stranded empty handed. High and dry. In the lovelorn months and months for which he had abandoned me for other women, or friends or foreign trips.

In all those years, this time it felt as if he was here to stay. But didn’t it always feel that way with him. Every time more convincing that the last. But he never hung around long enough to be the one and only. Always took the easy exit and I had gotten used to that behavioral pattern. Or so I would like to believe.

I licked his fingertips after he squeezed me another tablespoon of lemon juice. The aftertaste of nicotine had stayed in them. I stole a pack of cigarettes from his cupboard. And this was my return gift, I told him. We were going to quit smoking together, hell yeah, I told him. Sure why not.

The day felt like a poem. I got in the cab and he followed suit. He was coming to see me off. But why the extra trouble, there was no need for it. I would be safe, I had learnt very well how to defend myself from errant taxi drivers, random molesters, run off the mill oglers on the road and the like. I needed no man to protect me. I had a pepper spray in my bag and all the alarm apps installed in my phone. I was fully prepared. If I needed any protection at all, it would be from his lack of response for my unrequited love of years. His lack of answers to my several questions. His absence in my scores and scores of longish solitary nights. The smells and sights of that I was carrying with me which would trouble me for weeks to come. He was the dirty villain, not the bystander who would stare at me for more that his quota of allotted time, or the taxi driver who would utter a slang or three when I haggle with him regarding the negotiated fare, or the man whose hand would brush past my breasts almost as callously as it brushed past a bunch of mangoes at a fruit stall.

He was the villain, not all of those other men. He was the villain, now leaning towards the vent of the air conditioner in the cab, with my hand at the back of his neck, pulling back his collar. The air conditioner was sure the next equipment he was going to purchase. He asked me to book my tickets for the week after next or so. I pretended to be flabbergasted. He pretty sure understood the reason behind my reaction but still asked me what that meant.

I drew in my breath. Looked out the window. The highway to the airport was deserted. I was relieved he had accompanied me. The sun was now melting into the clouds tending to the western horizon. I closed my eyes, the hot evening breeze rolled in as I slid down the window on my side. I imagined a snow clad Mount Fuji, like in those paintings. Feeling a shiver almost, I looked on to his side. The sun reflected on his fair face and his chin shone in the orange light. The wind was throwing his hair haywire. I squeezed his chin and told him he damn sure knew what I meant.

If this status quo of cozy attraction was maintained for the next two weeks, I would think about coming down. For all you know, I might be the one to stop talking abruptly this time. Sans any explanation, any word. Leave alone a decent good bye. He was embarrassed, and looked away. I had never imagined conversation would ever flow this smoothly with this man. I would always, in the past, experience hiccups before talking to him, not knowing where to begin, what to say, how much to reveal and how much to conceal.

He didn’t apologize. He would have to come out of his skin to apologize. And no amount of apology anyway would heal me for the hurt caused. And yet I was there beside him. And was inching closer to booking my tickets for the next, praying like a child that he didn’t change his mind. My resolve to love him wasn’t questionable. His whim to love me even one bit, definitely was. I was slowly filling myself up with anger and simultaneously drawing myself further and further away from him.


       

Dreams of Bougainvillea

It was a decent apartment. Slightly damp. Slightly dark. Breezy, but old. There were two bathrooms. One of them was permanently latched, from the outside. The other one had blue tiles. A wide window in the hall looked into the outside. There was a road, which was sparsely taken. Except by the kids when the school nearby closed for the day.

Beyond the road was a huge tree of white bougainvillea. The tree looked so gorgeous, it looked like Cinderella. Its leaves laden with winter dust, couldn't decimate one bit the sheer numbing charm of its white flowers. Margot couldn't fathom why, she hadn't known before that white was such a beautiful beautiful color. She always presumed it was the lack of it. 

As a kid, her father, the one she no longer spoke to, took her to the house of a friend of his. Who had a gigantic pond in his backyard. He reared fish in it. That pond had a dozen trees of bougainvillea planted around it, or more. Of all the colors, her child's mind could imagine. Red, orange, pink, all intertwined. It was as if a mother tree, grew branches and each branch flowered a different color. And they all reflected in the green pool water and created an illusion of twice the color. The melange appeared to be out of a painting, only it was real. But this is white bougainvillea. Something she had barely stopped to notice. And now that she opened the window, she couldn't move a step away.

This was a date. A mutual friend had suggested they meet. This was the second time they were meeting. Or the third. Probably, Margot didn't keep count. She recently had broken up. If you can call it that. That man, she had met online. And fallen in true love with. But after years of loitering around the point, she had decided, she was not getting anywhere. Now she was on the market again. If you can call it that. And following the mutual friend's suggestion, she met this new man. Whose apartment this was. Overlooking the white bougainvillea. 

Margot was twenty eight. 

The guy, with thick eyebrows, was rolling weed in the bedroom as she looked at the white flowers in the hall. She imagined what it would be like to stand under that tree and look up. What will bits of blue sky look like from between the gaps of white petals. That blue matched the tiles in his bathroom. The one he used. And now they were gonna get high. Really high. 

on the "Cat Person"



What I assumed to be love,
Now reduces to power play, mere
Once I was in it with a burly-burly man
For years, I was so proud,
That, love had touched me, the way it had
Unrequited though
Love, nevertheless

Fuck, that was power play
And mirages of perceptions we built
Toyed with, inside each others' heads
Like a kaleidoscope
Very little of it, must've been for real
Concocted falsehoods, probably
Ideas of how he would kiss me, and fuck me

How his chest would look like in the dark
And our bodies would heave, up and down in rhythm
What his breath would smell like,
How my skin would shiver under his gaze
And most importantly, wet his kisses on my forehead
Yes.
All that

Sometimes I kept the power in me
I am the woman, afterall
But before I could get drunk on it
He exerted that power back on me
By denying all the attention he could
By not calling, not writing, not existing, simply disappearing
Hence, he owned me, by simply disappearing
I equated being powerless, to being in love

A collage of endless stories
Sans beginnings too, I wrote on him
I presume, he imagined them too, our stories
But cared not much further,
I took undignified liberties with imagination
May be, he was a different man than I knew, thought I knew
Now, is too late, to return
Good for us

#CatPerson #NewYorker 

Circa




You & I
Are headed toward the sun
Circa 2085
In our tiny little space ship

We are to either douse the sun
Or reignite it,
Unsure which, we inch closer
Light minutes, light seconds, centi, milli, nano

Our golden spacesuits
Shine and daze each other blind
We float in space, infinite darkness, shapeless
And become fragile spirits,

We time travel
Go rogue, off track
Zip zap by neighbor planets
Asteroids, and such, 

In the front room,
We sometimes sit and stare ahead
It's day 24*7
Get blister eyes, yet never tire

The saffron sun, in your eyes, our collective muse
Intoxicates,
Time expands
We lose our minds

Is it a black hole?
Or just love.
Only.




On Not Existing

Thinking of buying. New covers for the sofa. This time, anything but maroon, I am exhausted on maroon. Also new sheets for the beds, may be. A coconut scraper for the kitchen also. And a dozen new spoons, my spoons pull the disappearing act on me. They vanish from the drawer where I keep 'em. Next to my forks. Curiously my forks keep increasing in number, spoons don't like who they are and secretly convert into forks. Overnight. As in metamorphose. Unlike I, who takes a lifetime to change, and fail at it. To cover up for that failure, and many others, I buy. Stuff. Stuff I need. With money I have. Or have not and fret. Enormously. You know. I need 'em spoons babeh. So many of them. Also I am needing wine glasses. For gorgeous bottles of red wine I don't have. But that I am gonna gift maself for my birthday, thirtyfirst. Meh. Also a shoe stand, for old shoes I ain't giving away. Because they are the witnesses of the miles my rugged feet have walked. For years. And new cardigans, because, you know, it's December. I need tonics to erase some memories too. And surgeries to take parts of my body I am no longer beginning to like. Parts of my body that are parts of other things I despise. I also need a baking pan for my occasional baking disasters, charcoal grey track pants for him that would make him love me back more and fill up the collective vacuum in our lives. And new underwear, not the lacy ones, but sturdy ones that last and that make laundry a less recurring liability. I wanna buy till the end of December and into New Years. I want to sit, cross legged, on the cold floor, between everything I have so bought, and stop existing.

Because, anyway, I don't. 

Faraway

Years ago, on a quiet bylane
Next to a tree where cherry blossomed
There was a house
But more than house, there was
A garden,
Like an untended jungle

Adjacent trees of wildflowers
Stood in between unscathed wilderness
A solo white chair
Sat amongst them all
Rusty and rickety, that chair
Barely white actually

From between its legs,
Rose a creeper
With lotus leaves
And purple, clitoria like flowers,
Only denser
And purple-er

The nectar of that flower,
Or if you crushed its petals,
Squeezed it into your mouth
Made a rare potion
It chose your priciest memory
And erased it

Tonight, get me that nectar
Wontcha, wontcha, apple pie
I need to forget,
More than I need to live
So run, run already
Back in time and fetch from Faraway

Toothbrush


For one, it wasn't even my regular toothbrush
I had it at home, when I lived two hops away
And lest it get mixed up with the rest of their toothbrushes
I hid it in the cabinet in the living room
On the last shelf but one,
Alongside the teddy bears that my girlfriends
Had gifted me in high school
With our names scribbled on their bellies, you know

Every weekend, or so, I went home
I didn't have to carry my toothbrush with me
Tremendous, gasping liberty that
I could go home anytime I wanted
Didn't feel like working, go home
Didn't feel like eating what I cooked, go home
Felt  like sliding into weird combinations of pajamas
Which  I had abandoned long back, but mama kept
Go home

That toothbrush was my thing, really
Like my time capsule
You know, how movie characters hide things
Quietly in their childhood homes
And go back decades later to retrieve the toys
They had stashed above the fireplace, behind a brick
Or something, like that
That toothbrush, held time still for me
Whenever I wanted to unwind time, freeze space
It was there for me,

But then they moved
Pushed everything in cartons, clothes piled in suitcases
And crockery wrapped in old newspaper,
They hired a shitty mover, and moved
And I wasn't even there then
Nobody remembered my toothbrush, I guess
It must have been heaped with the mounds of other junk
That we had collected over decades,
But didn't have any use for, no more
College books, ties we wore in school,
Our Saturday white sneakers, purple bowls we slurped noodles out of
None of it was to be hoarded anymore
So much for low inventory

A lot of things broke while moving
Lives were shattered even
It was like utter metamorphosis
The next time I went home,
Toothbrush  aside, I no recognize nobody
Their faces had changed
Times had eroded them, hoarse
Their voices had gotten coarser
Stories had become more fumbled
I looked in the trash and fidgeted for our old life

Found nothing, nothing at all.

Low Light

Sometimes I wonder if I can see in darkness. I don't trust the dark enough. But once the lights are off, I see almost everything. How eyes adapt. Even the streaks of mellow street lights filtering thought tight maroon curtains are enough. The notification light of the cell phone is enough. Multiple cell phones, iPads and such. 

I had a knack for total darkness back in the day. I celebrated my tweety-fifth, sitting alone on the bathroom floor and smoking, in the dark. My roommate knocked on the door when she had to pee, badly. I don't remember her name. All I remember is that she had straight hair, like ironed hair. She would iron her hair every morning before we left for work and I would steal glances at her, in between my several morning pretend chores. 

Morning chores. Evening chores. Now, night chores. I don't need the strength to go on from day to day, week to week, hour to hour because I busy myself with such chores. Water the plants, assemble breakfast, pack a lunch, dry out the clothes, don't forget this, don't forget that and such. One after the other, jam packed schedule. My routine is my one bloody saviour. Never having a moment to sit in the blank, pitch black darkness to merely think is probably my secret. Otherwise I wouldn't get a reason to get out of bed. In a way, this is the best thing ever. In other ways, it's the worst possible damage I could cause to my soul. 

When I am in a routine, I don't let the little sorrows of life catch me. And when life crumbles like a pack of cards, instantaneously catching me unawares, it's probably the numerous alarms I set to wake up, to go back to sleep, to take pills, to pay bills, to get to work because I need money to pay said bills, that eventually get me back on track in my no thinking life. 

Earlier I loved the darkness so much, it brought me ecstasy. Somewhere in the middle I weaned myself off it, you know, how we do that. But now, again, I am using darkness to catch a break from this mindfucking to do list that I have turned my life into. Because I want to probably grow that courage to go on from today to tomorrow, inside me, for real, and not just fake it around.

Hallelujah 

Matter

You know how Amazon does what Amazon feels like. So they delivered a little foldable table to me in a cardboard box more than twice its size. Initially I thought that I would throw the box away. Then a couple days after I thought why not make a shoe stand out of it, like one of my little anti depressant craft projects. I even bought tape. The storekeeper smiled at me. Not your usual storekeeper kind of smile, I wouldn't bother. But his over warmth made me suspicious and shaky. Like literally I kept the cash on the counter and ran. Should have also ordered the tape from Amazon. But anyway, that shoe stand thing never happened. So I thought I would help my sterile pegions. There is a couple of pegions that has been trying to have chicks for like a year now. They gather hay and leaves in my balcony, build a nest, lay eggs and care for them everyday. But those eggs never hatch. Like I watch those eggs, check on them every other week. But they don't show any signs of life. I even googled pegion gestation. But still no. And one day my maid would lose her mind and sweep the whole balcony away. Now I am thinking if I just kept that box in the balcony instead of making a shoe stand out of it, may be the sterile, infertile, subfertile couple of pegions would find a more hospitable nest. And I would ask my maid to just not interfere. In their business. Everybody needs warmth, it's November. Today I gave away two of my old sweaters to her. One pink, which I had bought about ten years ago as a Valentine's Day gift to self. Now it's too small for me. Also another fairy white one. That one would fit me even now. But somehow I don't like it, never wore it. A friend of mine, a rich one, had bought it for herself and hadn't liked it either and she had given it away to me. I didn't like it much. But given my rudimentary sense of fashion, I thought I would keep it. That sweater moved with me wherever I moved, and that's like half a dozen places, I never touched it once. And today I gave it away. Got rid of it. My maid didn't like it either. I had to tempt her with the pink one and said she would have to keep them both. May be she won't keep it either. Nobody would ever love that sweater. It's going to be discarded unused after an extremely stretched shelf life, I wonder what that sweater thinks. 

A Jibe at the CalorieCounter

Most of my life revolves around food. Food is not the centre of it. But it's a big part of the underlying. It's a motivator to get through the hours. No I am not one of those thin people who make memes about googling their next meal. I am actually fat. Remember, the fat gay man in Sopranos who was beaten the crap out of, to death. Vito Spatafore. Him, I sometimes remember. His food issues. He fucked a chef at a local restaurant. I relate to him. And think a bit much about food. I am fat shamed, yes. I am unsuitable, hell yeah. Always have been. I have been rejected on account of being a fatso. And have rejected some even fatter people. There is bias everywhere. There is so much fucking bias everywhere, you cannot live with yourself. I like to watch movies about fat people and their food distractions and how their lives fall in order. Long ago, after tremendous self coaching I made my peace with it. Accepted myself as I am built. But it keeps returning, those slight jibes. They push you into the abyss. I stress eat. I follow several food handles on Instagram. I follow people on Twitter who fake tweet about body positivity. Who knows who thinks what and says what. I don't know how to starve, I mean I did know. Not anymore. In the beginning I used to assume it's my mother. But no, it's me. I am responsible for myself. Food is an endearing distraction for me. And even if I am not hungry, I gotta eat, I am a compulsive one. Torn between food websites that post ten different pictures of cheese and spaghetti pasta by the hour and aneroxic women who eat nothing but thin air, I can't help myself. And probably don't want to. Is this self love.

Yes, it is. 

But, who'll take care of the Baby

Your shirt always creased 
In that mild way
That only with someone
With eyes for you
Could only see

I remember, those road side stalls
Where we stood and slurped
Cold-drink-ice-cream-float
With greasy egg chicken noodles
You, applauded me

We walked into the 5 am forest
A flower stuck in my hair
Your sweet-man-gait
Broad chinned smile
When my ovaries leaped

Today, I compare
Myself with a dozen others
And look for scraps of 
Happiness
You're a rich badass, though

I don't wait for you to salvage me
Man, you stuck in my memories
In numerous parallel pasts
That didn't even happen, ouch
I write

I write to create that past
Alternate threadbare truths, 
You know.
Even-though no one reads
Relentless, I never cease
At constructing what could've been 

Sunroof

Our Saturday home has a Sunroof. Rented for a couple thousand bucks. Couple thousand. Swiped off an unsuspecting credit card, to pop up as a surprise in the bill, a month later, like an unwanted child and what not. 

Downstairs there is a Champaca tree. Magnolia Champaca. The one with seductive yellow bud like flowers and honey like smell. We have a swing tied onto one of its branches. With nylon rope of fluorescent green and one discarded wooden table top as a seat. Sometimes I sit in the sun and swing. 

When I am inside, I use the Sunroof. It's right above the empty hall, by the stairway. Leaning on the railing of the spiral stairway, I can see the sun. Clouds. Sometimes the moon. Sometimes the birds. And when it lashes, I can see the rain. Falling vertically, forcefully, under gravity and striking the glass top of our Sunroof. 

In Autumn mornings, when the Champaca flowers I walk down the stairway, pick up fallen flowers from the dust and clutch them onto my hair. Back in the house, a thick beam of sunlight falling through the Sunroof lightens the hall. I stretch myself under the beam of light and bathe for a while. On afternoons, I pull a chair or just sit on the floor and watch the night envelope the sky.

A Sunroof is an amazing thing to have when it intensifies one's propensity for life. Just for a couple thousand, off an unsuspecting credit card.  

Covalent Bond

That afternoon, he picked me up from chemistry tuition. That day we were going to learn about the covalent bond. How ironic.

I made an excuse. Something very pretty silly. Meeting him was a consequence of a chain of careful excuses. Some at home. Some to friends. Lies made me anxious. Back then, I didn't even know how to contain anxiety. Meeting him had become synonymous to this anxiety. Love, like carbon, does rarely come in its purest form. Love often manifests itself in one form or another. Going down, this anxiety would probably be synonymous with love. And one would have to quietly and patiently unfurl this anxiety, one petal after another, like flowering a rose bud. And at the center of it, find love, untouched, unhinged.

For me, it was always the little things. His face was always neutral of any expression. It wasn't a poker face, never a poker face. Yet, devoid of joy or sorrow. He was always in his skin, contained. But when something genuinely funny happened, his taught face would break into a smile. A slight half smile, if I may. And then, that would lead to a laugh. He didn't laugh that way at jokes. At jokes, he guffawed. That guffaw was devoid of emotion too. But that slight half smile, that one's truly one of my favorite things of him. Most cherished.

The afternoon that reluctantly replaced the class of chemistry was misty. His bike made an usual sound. Probably, it always did. But this was the first time I heard it, being away from the traffic, and all. We rode into what appeared to be the country. I diligently held on to his shoulders. He did cajole me to hold on to more, but that didn't augur much in his favor. Holding on was not my preferred act then. I never assumed we were for the long run.

I was astonishingly young to take it by the day, but I did. We stopped for some tender coconut. After I drank all the water, I sucked in lots of air through my straw, just to ensure I hadn't wasted a drop. And that had led to that sheepish half smile of his. The hawker scraped out the soft coconut cream for him, mine had none. He teased me with it, before giving all of his to me.  He was a serious guy, and that probably made him engaging in trivial acts like these very adorable. Yes, he was adorable, whenever he gave in.

It was rather confusing, why we would go out. It didn't seem to fit. All the zigs and zags were out of place. He wasn't my quintessential type. And I wasn't anyone's type. But once we were together, these rationales seemed to matter much less.

Later, I tried very hard to take it by the day. But somewhere down the line, I forgot how to anymore. And got extremely involved. Like head over heels over head. He was quite brilliant. He would make up for the bunked classes eventually, I told myself. And help me too, probably. I swayed and twirled.

Years later, I realize, how much time erodes us. His half smile has stayed. But he has lost some hair though. And I, I have recently got my first few rounds of dark circles. I tell myself they're faint enough and it's gonna be quite alright.

Personal Day

Today, I did nothing.
I saw, others walk away with prizes

Today, I sat all day
Sprained my ass.

Cooked both meals,
Ate with a fork, white-yellow meals

I didn't read, neither write
Didn't intimidate myself with fear of missing any buses

I didn't kohl my eyes
Looked for the moon in a cloudy dusk sky

Later it poured, oh
And I braided my hair, standing in the balcony

Yes, that's special, my thinning horsetail of a hair.
My fingers running through semi moist strands of those

And now, with my braided hair
And my bellyfull of quietude, I slip into my Personal Night

Shuteye

Every other day, I would like to shut my eyes for a bit. A teeny-weeny shuteye. And view life from a distance. To assess our collective tininess. To bask in our inconsequential failure at being. And to nevertheless, extract joy in syringes and save it for the lifetime of winter. Or harsh summer.

You wouldn't get it, probably. But I feel loved when a gust of cool breeze grazes me on a hot afternoon of May. I wait through exhausting and unending days at work because in the end, I get to slurp noodles from my huge purple bowl. I love the onset of the night, despite our complex issues, convoluted emotions and unfinished businesses, it's an excuse to  call it a day. It's over. Or, soon, it will anyway be. I love the way, the wind blows in my city. I appreciate how invisible I can be, if I want to. I love how being far-far from home, gives me wings of freedom. I lust for how a longish faltering stare from a man, can make my heart go up in bubbles, even if it's gonna lead us nowhere. No one, nowhere.

Despite the propaganda otherwise, I think I am kind of getting it. Shuteye. Night Night.

Moving

One of those things that dims the daylights of my mind is nostalgia. Rotten nostalgia.

So, we lived in this house, with cracked walls and sickening noise. All that, for years. Over and over again. The peel off paint was life. The poker face neighbors were mundane routine. Their screams and fights and their failed attempts at life submerged our failures too, in a way. So, we were happy-sad. In a way, equally un-confusingly both. Crammed parkings and scribbled love letters in scooters. Dimly lit garages and longish uncomfortable stares from known strangers, was a concoction we called home.

Anyway, we moved. In truckloads. Carrying faint half formed memories. Tears in jewelry boxes. Decades old school uniforms in trunks and our ancient cursive writing notebooks. Piles of utensils. Torn albums. Broken photo frames. Tilted fridges. And all this, with a mother that abandons nothing. Her only hope is that holding on to things, will literally cease the process of letting go. Only, it won't. We took as much breath as our lungs could contain and moved. But we left our diaries behind. And some other artifacts from the dingy-old-good-old-past.

Now, this new place has whiter walls and wall size windows. And it overlooks a huge green field. Yet, we feel so homesick. And we count nights. We fiddle for keys of that old home and clutch it tight, might that get us some sleep. We are collectively yearning for a place and time, that is slowly vanishing. Or much, already has, by now, may be. And we can do nothing.

30 - On Never Being Icarus

I am too scared to look within.
Don't know what I might see,
I am too scared to be
Alone with myself, tonight.
There's no confetti
Or rose petals and chocolate
Just a crumpled bed-sheet
And half read books strewn
I am imploding, as we speak

Haven't we had too much?
Haven't we had too little?
I am thirty
When will my love of irony,  die?
My drama. My scarcity
My appalling dearth of guts
My fear of myself
And my pointless distractions,
Lined up one after another

So I ne'er haveta think
Where I'm headed
If I am getting ahead, or stuck
Or simply regressing, guess I am
My whole entire idea was to,
Just stay afloat
Merely nostrils above water
Exactly this way,
I'll float out into the sea
With least possible effort.

And life treats me right back,
The same way.
Quid pro quo
With minimal reward.
And hence my implosion
There's this logic
That I don't want to see.
But now see.
I know why I fall
Probably, I'd be no other way

My love for oblivion
Goes a long way
Transcends all ambition
My diminished self worth
Digs up nadir after nadir
Tied in my own tongue
I am succumbing to
Self inflicted asphyxia,
You know

As I child, I stumbled on Icarus
Icarus who, flew too close to the sun
Melted his wax wings
Fell into the ocean and died
I can't recognize who I've become
But certainly far apart from the child
Who was fascinated with Icarus
I've probably made my choice
I've set my heart on
Never Being Icarus.

What we will not do

Sometimes my heart goes up in hot flames wondering about the things we will not do. Never do. The essays we will never write. The books we will never read. The films we will never watch. The wandering awefuckinsome artists we will never come across. The dresses we will never buy. The colors we will never paint nails with. The markets we will never walk through. The beaches we will never lie on. The secrets we will never share. The TV shows we will never watch. The wall hangings we will never buy. The time we will never have. The foods we will never taste. The wines we will never slurp. The cities we will never ever travel to. The bougainvillea we will never stand under. The breads, the views, the pens, the shoes, the smokes, the bracelets, the stories, the poems, the secrets. So much is lost in not doing. 

Also the bygone singers that we will never listen to. Sometimes, I am so afraid to read something because I know reading it is going to make me realize there are twenty dozen more beautiful stories like that which I am never going to flip through. So much of time we have lost, and there's a serpentine future ahead of us. And we are never going to be in those times. Except wallow in suffering in this moment at present that how absolutely hopeless we are. 

Kaput Again

Living days in perfunctory anxiety
Missing the bus, most of the times
Building worlds within worlds
Pointing all furniture toward the TV

Waiting for that day of the week
When you can say, that
My day has been bad enough
To deserve a smoke

Cooking, chopping vegetables
Peeling vegetables
The same condiments, in every meal
Yellow mildly disgusting food

Walking, looking at your toes
Stealing eye contact
Being mum, containing poetry
Caging prose

Coating hours with abandoned love
Soaking minutes in sunlight
Chasing cabs, chasing autos
Wading through knee deep flood waters

Fiddling for change
Running out of money
Thinking you're poor
What have you done, nothing

Except watch TV and shirk
Watch TV and shirk
And live in this perfunctory anxiety
Waiting to go kaput

Prequel here

The Dissappearing Act

Your classic disappearing act. Post facto, I now know that it was an orchestrated act. But in that moment, in those moments, in those bygone years, they felt like accidents. Probably, you were just busy. Too much work. Too many presentations. Too pushy a boss, may be. Or could be that you went out for a beer after work with your buddies and forgot to call. That night. The night after that. And dozens of such nights afterward. Or were you just tired, didn't want me to see your fallible self? No, that couldn't be. I was a delicately forgiving girl. The answer was simple, you just forgot. About me. 

As I turned myself inside out. You know, and such.

How could you? 

It was my fault. I never asked. I let you off easy. 

But can I now, travel back in time and sue you? For negligence. For apathy. For pulling off your treacherous disappearing act. And not once or twice. Several times, if I may. 

You held out a mirage of niceness when you appeared back again. It made me forget. But that shouldn't have been that way. 

I should've held some ground. I didn't. 

But now, when I don't even bother to think about you, I learned somewhere that disappearing on your near ones is typical drug addict behavior. You pulled it off with such panache, were you one of those?

And your drug of choice, was by no chance me, was I.

Still can't believe, you outsmarted me, so well. Man.

So much poetry for zilch.

Abnegation

Our soggy sandwiches. Our constant running out of dental floss. And our several mental issues. Mental and physical. Psychological. Our indignation with the silence of P's. Our misery toward wrong grammar. And yet our vicariously short-lived memories. Our endless drying out of thoughts. Our fear of facing those thoughts alone. Our finding comfort in food. Our daily challenges. Monthly challenges and yearly challenges. Our struggles with intimacy. And with space. Our sickness. Our health. Our money. Our poverty.  Our unhealed wounds. Our under realization of calibres. Our own resounding echoes in the air tight rooms we are constrained to. Our crippling social awkwardness. Our fight with depressing daily news. Our nausea. Our vertigo. Our pounding in the stomach. Our fear of having a child. Our scare of overeating ourselves to death. Our fear of losing touch with our deep inner selves. Our fear that our potted plants will die. And that we all will die and all this will come to nothing. Our strange acceptance of that end in nothingness.

Locking Pandora Again

All my life I've been looking for someone discreet. And now you've been bestowed upon me. Hell knows, I wanna engage in small talk with you. Me and small talk. Yes. I am afraid of scratches. And for you, I wanna play with fire. Tonight. Adrenaline is rushin' to my head like a madwoman. It's all a game after all. Nothing is ever enough. And I'm always falling short anyway. In money, space, time, success, joy. Nothing's ever enough. So I've put my finger on the thing. The key that can lock Pandora again. I'm gonna use ye as my drug to forget everything. Hereafter. I'm gonna chase you. You swan. Ye beautiful beautiful eagle. You snake. You man. I'm putting my foot down and letting go. And shedding all else. I'm gonna close my eyes and hallucinate about being chained to your wings in midflight. A bit too late for poetry, isn't it. Will you have a drink with me though. Drench me in your wine. And let me wreath around you and lose this garb I've been faking so long. I'm gonna lose my story and merge with you. That way, I wanna tremble my pain out. My sedimented sorrow of a mountain will melt and drizzle out of my holes as I am entwined. In that position, midflight, I wanna leap down with you, plummet from heights and meet my end in the gorge. Instantaneously. In a pop.

Fijacion

Our fates are intertwined. We are enclosed in this chamber. With just the right amount of oxygen. We will last right until we collapse into each other. It's as if the universe is conspiring for us to merge.

Your roving eyes. Those nimble movements. A glimpse of your flesh from between buttons. My stealthy eyes. Arm hair, warm breath, your outstanding voice. Getting dissolved in the everlasting noise, yet filtering out.

Again your eyes. Their roving fijacion on me. What a live contradiction, this. We humble ageing bodies, don't even deserve love of this kind no more. We have had our times, back in the day. Long tortuous years.

Love, like a person has aged right with me. It is about five years older than me, rather. Whatever age I am in, love is exactly half a decade older. Now I am thirty. And love should be thirty five.
But aloha. Love is suddenly eighteen, even thirteen, when you're around. Some Benjamin Button phenomenon this.

Your shiny ignorance, my colorless past. Both us folks have had exams, degrees, jobs, loves. Movies, songs and books. Many many infatuations like each other. But all in the past. Hell, we don't even deserve each other, vide our separate justified rationales. But fuck rationale. Why is this even happening now. Oh.

Vagaries

There must a word each for these:

Standing in the shower for a bit longer. And a little longer. Letting the hot water enter your pores, seemingly washing away bad days, dissolving failure, from under arms, from between the crevices of thighs, lumps of hair, falling off, water in sharp strings hitting your chest, where it hurts the most, and scraping off, whatever it is that you are trying to; scrape off. There must be a word for this. 

Looking for that familiar face, almost everywhere. In buses, trains, sidewalks, malls, movie theaters. Everywhere. Scared equally that you might actually see it. It's a familiar face, though not very familiar. You had seen it, long time ago, probably. You don't recollect the contours of his cheeks, or the shine in his eyes, the shape of his glasses, or the ending of his chin. You have never seen him for real, for real, so you have made neat assumptions over the years. And living a parallel life with that face, a tiny parallel life with zero repercussions on your three-dimensional  life, this one, yes, where you have a job, and a family. That face construed of assumptions is not a part of this life, but still you look for it, on some days. When it rains, or when you're just sitting around. There should  be one word for this. Because it's possible to live many lives inside many lives, without anyone else knowing, and without these respective lives asphyxiating the fuck out of each other.

Feeling that you know a man inside out. May be you don't, in entirety. But then you know a bit too much for being an absolute stranger. You are seated on couches beside each other, and are barely familiar. But you feel that you know so much about him that you cannot look at him in the eyes, because your eyes will tell. Your eyes will quietly give away that hint that, yes, I know more about you than you have disclosed so far. Or will ever disclose ever, in the future. Probably because I have heard about you from someone, or I have encountered your twin brother from another mother in my past and that motherfucker fucked me up, bad. So you can't look directly at him, even when there's no alibi not to. You look at your wine instead. 

Going through days, even weeks, thinking and feeling a lot of thoughts. Mostly random, Unrelated, so totally detached. You read stuff on your work station, or sitting on the toilet, or while walking home. Stuff that stays, irreversibly buries itself in your heart. Like stuff that is deep as shit. But you cannot assimilate it and write even three words. You just cannot. Because you cannot summarize, you cannot firmly put your finger on the singular story that you should write. Things seem so generic and vague and hazy. There's no specificity on the surface of it, but the depths are swiveling you around your axes. You're being moved, but you have lost the prowess, even the bare capacity to understand the gist of what you're thinking. So yes, there should be word for this.   

Swimming against the daily disappointments of life, sluggish careers, strained relationships, crippling social awkwardness, and all other syndromes that are there, body fat, bowel issues, hearing issues, seeing issues, all the issues in the freaking universe, the involuntary and rather distant passage of time, lack of me-time and the boredom of solitude, both, endless but undisciplined diets, pointless to-do lists, laundry (yes), dishes (yes, that too); you slowly but steadily lose all your libido for life. But, yes, let me interrupt, but, then comes a shallow realization that if you're not in the shadow of a major calamity of life, you can ignore the daily disasters of life and continue to live, like your average person. Say a prayer before dinner every night, and eat. So yes, a word for this too. 

Vignettes

One time I wanted to be my mother's Chinese bamboo. Sitting in a glass bowl, full of filtered water. Water that is changed every day and my roots cleaned. And shifted from place to place in the house during the day, depending on where the sun fell. From the east in the morning to the west in the afternoon. Sitting quietly, paralytic and observing everyone in the house pass by, busy and breathless, running for school and tuition, out from hot showers and swallowed breakfasts. I envied that plant so much. 

And later, I wanted to be my husband's pet cat. No, my husband doesn't have a cat. Neither is he a cat person. Nor is he a dog person. We're not animal people, at all. But I wish I were his pet pussy cat. Black in color, with white stripes, furry and soft so he would cuddle and squeeze me, every now and then. And hold me in his hands and snuggle. And I would lap milk from my milk bowl sitting on our coffee table in front of the TV or behind our sofa. And I would lazily witness passage of scores and scores of mornings and afternoons and judge the motion of the wind and the shadows of the window grille. Hundreds of thoughts and emotions, in entropy, behind my little black pussy cat poker face. 

The Chinese bamboo, at least existed. But the cat doesn't even. 

Another Obscure Sorrow

I thought about,
Coming to bed with a glass of
Rum,
And I forgot, whoever does that?

I chase street lights at dusk
Let dust settle on me
And watch days pass me by
Nights, more so

I leave thoughts unattended
Let love hover over me,
Like a bee, and then
It just scares me away

I let my feet crack
And I eventually run out of creams
See my dull skin, in yellow bedroom light
I see I am suddenly older

I abandon books midway,
So unfair, this
And sometimes I take my time, own sweet
When I finish, I forget the beginnings

Sometimes I yearn for a past reader
You know, an oracle
Who reminds us of our memories
Because life, like a cannibal, eats itself away so thoughtlessly

A Peaceable Sunday

Moments ago I had sautéed unevenly chopped onions, tomatoes and capsicum to pour over my Sunday morning poached eggs. Sunny side up. Peeling and cutting up the garlic stubs was the troublesome rung in the rather modest recipe. I like most of my food with a hint of garlic, sometimes raw, sometimes slightly fried. And I wonder, very much why they haven’t invented a garlic peeler yet. Amongst the constellation of other kitchen appliances like hand blenders, air fryers, dough kneaders, why not a tiny garlic peeler at the corner of the kitchen counter. For people who love garlic in everything.

The eggs were to be ladled with above sautéed mixture and sprinkled sparingly with a pinch of oregano. And oh, I forgot, the whole ensemble was to be topped on top of two lightly toasted breads, such that the essence from the eggs, the oil, the salt and the spices, the soul of it, gradually trickled down into the bread, just enough to make it soft and yet somewhat crunchy at the same time. The semi raw yolk of the eggs would dangle from atop the breads and leak downward, if it felt like. It was to be eaten, with the one dainty fork from the kitchen cabinet. Generous lumps of it carved out and placed in the mouth, wide open. And chomped off in between sporadic sips of black coffee.

Eggs, had such, won’t make you hungry until late past the designated lunch time. Designated lunch time was thirty minutes past one o’clock. I wasn’t hoping to feel the need to eat before three o’clock in the afternoon. Egg yolks had plenty of cholesterol to keep the walls of my stomach from releasing their angry acids. Now that I would be at peace for a long time, I opened my laptop to write, something, just about anything.

John Lennon’s Stand by Me was playing full blast in my bedroom. The air of March was hotter than February’s. The whole entire world was gearing up for the summer, when the sun would beat down at not less than fifty degrees centigrade. I will have to line my windows with bamboo blinds  to keep the sun out. Nevertheless, this transition between seasons was pleasant. The heat gave sweat patches under arms, but was not as bad as midsummer blisters from touching the window grille. Or watching your plants die if you skipped on watering them less than thrice a day. How I had lost all my zinnia to the epidemic of drought the previous year.

The previous year had been the exact opposite of the current year though. Yes, very much the antithesis. Now I am plump from being amongst no one whereas, last year I was shrunk tiny from the ignominy of being amongst the severely unwanted. Now I while away hours, days and weeks in cherubic inaction. Last year I was running errands like an insane woman. Jumping into auto rickshaws, buses and cabs, meeting strange vendors of all kinds, ticking off things off my to do list. Now I am pampering my tongue with of all kinds of delicacies, whereas, last year I was famished in the midst of plenitude. This year, I am writing prose after poetry after prose. Last year, this time, I was drained. My depression was just about too deep to fuel my writing. This year things have taken a lethargic turn towards normalcy, and I am learning to appreciate it.

My job was mundane as ever, but I have given up on tasking myself with it. I work my nine hour shift at the office. And after that and before that, I shut myself from it. Don’t answer calls or make any. I am very prudent about not spending a minute more at work than I had to. Yes, that is another secret of my newfound mental balance. I work without the hunger for any appreciation in return, in kind or in cash. Merely go about my job, write mails, read mails, forward memos, recommend approvals, rationalize rejections and quote the right clauses from the manuals when need be. Nobody guesses there is anything wrong with me and marks anything uncommon about me. They treat me like an average colleague.

I eat lunch alone at my desk, that being an excuse not to engage over obligatory formal conversation over a meal. Fill my bottle of water from the water cooler whenever I run out of it. Stand there for however long it takes for a one liter and half bottle to fill to the brim and look down so that I don’t have to exchange awkward glances and nods. Pee when I have to, four or five times a day, sit on the toilet browsing various updates on social media. I go about my day in a very documented manner. And this has resulted in a peaceable life, give or take, a couple of outbursts per week. Or month. Outbursts in which to calm down I told myself that unhappiness was not a disease. It’s not a disease. It was being specifically caused by a lot of external factors that are catalyzing my small joys into auto destruction. I should just keep distance from such factors. And not fall easy prey. That was all.

Tried to keep a diary for the first few weeks, but I minimized writing my daily entry in it day after day and ultimately stopped. After the first month I had to throw it away along with the rest of the trash because it reminded me of failure. I just had to do that. The peaceable life also ensued that there be negativity around. All paraphernalia of failure be thrown out immediately. So the diary had been thrown out along with clothes that didn’t fit anymore.

Along with the diary and the clothes, several other items are rolled in old newspaper and thrown out from time to time. Whenever waste disposal was needed, it was called upon, deliberately. Though this was a new apartment I had moved into, I had moved into it with a lot of old stuff that were not needed anymore. Because in moments of emotional vulnerability, we retain somethings hoping that we are preserving them only as a relic. However, those memorabilia, come back to life soon in our closets and help implode whatever good is left of life.

After the bountiful breakfast of eggs and bread, I checked my closet to find out if anything in there was redundant as yet. Upon a closer look, I surmised, nothing was. So I wrapped a scarf around my neck and went down to get two packets of milk. To meet my random cravings for coffee all day. Even minutes after I locked the door shut and put the key in the pockets of my trousers, John Lennon was still audible inside the elevator. Could that be grounds for eviction, I rumbled under my breath and walked into the street. The cement and dust from the construction sites nearby created a chimera of bright light and endless grey. Green and other colors were only scattered scantily on that canvas. I walked into my regular store and showed the store keeper a V shaped two finger insignia. He must by now understand I meant two milk packets. I screamed it aloud nevertheless.  

After paying and collecting the change in my pockets I turned around to a slightly familiar figure. He was at a distance. Casually leaning with his back on the compound wall of the store, one leg folded and foot rested on the wall. Freely releasing clouds of smoke from his mouth. He wore an expression of relief, his eyes must have reflected freedom bordering on dementia, if I could get a closer look. Upon seeing, he recognized me but the surprise didn’t show up aptly on his face. He has always been the understated man, always will be.


Torn apart between living my peaceable life of not meeting strangers from the past life when I ran into them and being roughly courteous, I held two packets of milk, one  in each of my hands and froze with confusion, our eyes still meeting. He gave up soon after, stamped out the stub of his cigarette after two last longish drags and after what looked like he was getting away, he was walking straight toward me. In that neat camouflage of grey cement and dust, the noise of construction machines and the hails and shouts of the dark and skinny workers, his blue shirt stood out, neatly. I transferred the packet in my right hand to my left to free it to shake his hand. He half smiled. I too half smiled, possibly. What else could I do. 

The Crossing

There is an extremely busy crossing I walk across everyday on the way back. It took me, probably weeks to learn to safely maneuver across it. Because you can never be safe enough. A car or a bus could hit you from any given direction. There are like a hundred vehicles waiting to cross it and another hundred crossing it simultaneously. It's complete chaos. And amidst all that, tiny humans like me are trying to keep aside their regrets for the day and go home in the evening. Their heads calculating so many things at one time. What groceries are to be picked up from the store, did they run out of milk already? Or are they getting enough exercise. Is their marriage alright? Is there spouse talking to them enough? Are they feeling heard alright? And why is it that they haven't had the time to retouch their nail paint for the past week.  What would be the kids doing? Could they have gotten by at work any better today? Have their friends of  yesteryears left them behind in life for good? So many thoughts. And such a busy intersection to get through.

With the fear for dear life in me intact, I run on the zebra crossing on to the side walk and then again on to the zebra crossing and then again on to the side walk and so on. Waiting adequate stretches of time on every perpendicular road divider. Feet precariously balanced. With countless thoughts in my head too. How old is that tree? Which stands bang in the middle of the intersection. It has a trunk wide enough to be from the sixties. Or fifties. Does it flower even today? Trees never lose their virility, do they? They are forever fertile. Unlike us women. Our biological clocks ticking fast. The tree for instance, must have seen scores of single women cross it every day after work for the several decades of its existence. With their lunch boxes and vanity bags hung on their shoulders. With an umbrella in the rain,  or a cardigan in winter. The tree has witnessed so many women like me. And it will, so many many more in the decades to come. When we cease to be, the tree won't. I have a feeling it reads our minds. This tree, is a long standing witness to it all. A quiet repository of the evening emotions of hundreds of women whose footprints form in the dust and are blown away by the subtle, enchanting Bangalore breeze. 

Bein Invisible

In my tiny room, in blue light, I sit
Gathered and at peace
Awaiting the hours of my future
Tomorrow and the day after
November & December
June & July,

Holding a shaky pen
Between my index finger and my thumb
Wanting to write,
But not sure about what
Because, there is so much
And simultaneously there is, nothing at all

Observing my life
Meander from one mundane punctuation
To the next,
How much more common can I get
Now that I am already invisible
What else is still left to be

Homecoming

Stories that we keep telling ourselves. Every day. Day after day. We have become these incessant story tellers, hon, ain't nobody stopping us no more. That going through the motions is doing us good. It isn't. Every day is a disguised failure. Trembling with masked anger. Unspoken, unspoken wrath. Sugarcoated love, that only isn't. In all this rush, when am I myself? Never. I am scared that I am underacting my way through life, not pretending enough. So I overact. I laugh really loudly when I am sad. I joke around when I am angry. I make small talk when I am lost. I overwork to get rid of the omnipresent feeling of disappointment that life has become. Somewhere, a while ago, everything has shed its meaning. I keep masking one thing with another and then that with another. There are so many masks, hon, I forget where I hid the real thing. Life has become folklore's quintessential demoness's soul, stored in a chamber inside seven other chambers. 

Sometimes I recall the hallways in which I became a person. An adult from a child. Tunnel like long endless hallways with rooms on both sides. My memories are trapped in dungeons of the past. And it takes so much effort to uncover them because they have been positively hidden for my benefit. Yet I scratch that wound sometimes, hoping that probably, I would find something I left behind. And that something would help me hold on to the real and slowly unmask myself. But there too, I seem to find only pain. Only sorrow. I have nothing concrete to hold on to in the past. Because I mostly lived in imagination, partly in denial. May be I am still living in denial. Wobbling in knee high denial, you never know. Some truths are so tough to accept and internalize, I would rather choose denial. I am living in denial despite being fully aware of the scores and scores of flaws in my mind and body. Goodness, what else, is even there.

And more often than I would like, I think about the years to come. Will I continue to be this dull. This selfish, even. I ain't crafted for too many challenges, hon. In the face of adversity, I lack the fortitude. I collapse and become a shamble of bones. I wonder if I will even begin to deal with my issues, or will I have the glorious courage to accept oneself as one is. Probably, I will float in the mundane middle, forever and ever. And whatever the potential I deem to have, I shall never achieve. Will I always measure myself and never fucking free myself from the fucking scale. 

Living entangled this way, I have made chaos my home and look forward to going home. Deeper and sooner. 

Now Playing: Nina Simone's You don't know what love is. 

Yeah, hon. I don't. And I never would. Hon. 



Ergo

All of my memory converges into one evening in the past. It was 2006. Or 2007 probably. Because 2008 would rather be too late for the events I'm going to narrate. It was a silly little evening. Nobody significant was even involved, as in physically present. But people don't have to be present in body and mind to cause effect and effectively mar an evening, a day, a life. Mostly, it's their absences that work that charm. So yes, it was an evening long long ago and I was mostly by myself. And it was then that I lost my innocence. Ergo, all my memory, if retrospectively stretched back in time, converge, then and there. 

It was January. And it was drizzling. Winter rain. I must've been eighteen. Unscathed. In love. Brimming with naivete, unbeknownst of the ways of the world, that such scales existed on which humans are weighed and chosen, and the rest rejected, I callously thought till then that love begets love. It never did. Never does. And it shouldn't either. But I was young and full of colors. Purple, magenta and violets. 

It was a grey evening we'd stepped out into. With a few friends and somebody's cousin. I was meeting somebody's cousin for the first time. He was tall, bespectacled, comfortable in a lose T shirt. Forgettable as a person, because I don't even recall him name. But he has been reluctantly stuck in this memory forever. Because he simply happened to be there. It was a huge college campus. Somebody's cousin was showing us around. Mostly from the streets, their stadiums, activity centers, auditoriums, gyms. I saw numerous, numerous boys that evening. 

I knew you were there, out there somewhere. But we're never lucky enough for coincidences. I never saw you. You never sought me out. It was a lost cause. But you were right there. Within square meters probably. It was getting duskier, cooler, darker. Slowly yellow light from the street lamps filled the streets. I looked up to see bulky deodars on both sides of the streets. Upright like our guardians. We were just a bunch of kids back then.

Within minutes the air got chilly. The power went off. It was completely dark except for the shrieks of voices. And laughter. It began to pour. We took shelter under the nearest tree. I scooted to under the nearest tree. I almost hugged it tight. I could feel its trunk on my cheeks. And shut my eyes, I wanted you so much. It was so debilitating to be so close to you and still not have you. It was precisely under that tree, that day, standing in the rain that I got my heart broken the first time. 

For a few years I imagined you were there with me under that tree. But I knew you weren't. I have concocted so many alternative memories of the same exact incident, I can't tell the real from the unreal. Probably none of this even happened. But now I am too seasoned to give away the truth so easy.

In parallel universes and in other tesseracts of time, you were probably there with me under that deodar. In a tight embrace, in galloping rain, our cheeks touching its trunk. Because that would answer just so many questions right now. 


No Underlying

A couple of months ago, I compiled a bunch of stories I'd written and put 'em up for sale. But that's not how these artsy things work. Nobody read me. Then my parents came to stay over for a week. I was grappling with loneliness on and oft. Solitude is peaceful until the deeper emptiness of it all hits you in the soul. Then I came to know that someone I knew was terribly sick. It felt as if it could have happened to me as well, that sickness. I felt saved by a threadbare margin and yet I felt vulnerable. And then there always is this constant feeling of bein' a loser. You know how that works. You wake up, you're a loser. You go to bed, you're a loser. And there's zilch in between. It's not that the joy of others itches my eye, it doesn't, in fact, I possibly couldn't care any less about the life of others. But there are short minutes in may be, say weeks, that my knees feel weak. And there is nothing I can do about it. 

Despite it all, I was not depressed. I was alright. I mean, yeah, life's tough. It has got its meandering way of going about things and it doesn't give a shit what I think. 

And then one day, last week, I completely damaged my glasses. My glasses had been damaged two years, but now they started feeling too bad. I visited the optometrist. And as he was checking me for the correct power, switching so many glasses and asking me read out the letters on the wall, a bitterness caught the pit of my stomach. It wasn't unusual. Nausea is my second name. I feel like puking for two three hours every day. But this nausea stayed. But two days straight. Like I had been constantly inhaling automobile fumes. I got the shivers. All day in summer, I shivered. The hair on my skin stood perpendicular. I had nothing, no shawls or jackets. I shivered all day. At night I got chills. My forehead felt feverish. For a moment there I thought I might be pregnant. Then I looked up all the new diseases that were in the news recently. Zika, Ebola, Dengue. 

The next day, the shivers and chills subsided to certain extent. The nausea too plummeted. But there was no energy left in my body. I didn't have it in my to lift a finger. I felt no hunger. No thirst. I just sat there like a log. Didn't cook or clean. Didn't work even the slightest bit. I slept for very long hours and woke up exhausted. I couldn't taste whatever I ate. The void that my life is, hit me. Hit me in the soul, finally. And I felt this actual loss of control on my mind. Like literally, I felt my fists loosen up and let go of the grip. I wanted to vanish. I went through several days, doing nothing but waiting for the night to come so I could go to bed. And sleep and get a break from life for as long as possible. Everything was pointless. Then I heard myself saying hushed, that this is what Depression is. 

Every morning, I wake up, drink three fourths of my water bottle and take a dump and brush my teeth and make tea. Then I whip up breakfast and make some lunch, and then pack that lunch, take a shower, put on face cream, book a cab and run to work. Then work or pretend to work and drink tea in between and more water. Eat lunch. Work some more. Read some more. Check social media. Hate social media. Pack my bags, book another cab and come home. Wash up, sit on the couch. Watch some TV. Eat dinner while watching TV. Do the dishes. Some more TV. Then a book possibly, then bed. This is my life. My life on the surface. 

I am too scared to look for any kind of underlying. I do my chores, breathe, eat, drink, earn a living, sleep. I never look for any deeper meaning. If I feel like it, I do laundry. Or dust the shelves. Or watch some more TV. But when I am Depressed, my vision is so much clearer. I can see below this surface of artificial and constant busy-ness. I can see that there is nothing underneath. No underlying. 

Not a single reason to wake up in the morning. 

Edge of the Night

Bikers ride by, bikers zoom past. Their tires crush the midnight roads with such friction, it's not music, not even to my semi-deaf ears. It's an awakening sound, though, on a dawn like Saturday night, smokey as hell. That crass noise of bike tires, does awaken you in ways few other things can. We are sitting inside, by the man sized window, grilled, but only hardly. Through gaps in the grille, arms can easily pass in and out. May be even an entire baby. This night feels, strangely on the edge.

The coffee table is now strewn with our paraphernalia.Cigarette butts, the ash tray over turned. Ash mixed with vodka has created a clay which darkens the color of tonight. There's like a dozen other bottles on this table. Bottles of all shapes and sizes. Tall bottles, slender bottles, stout bottles, curvaceous bottles. Just like women, who come in all shapes and sizes, so do bottles, apparently. There is a measuring cup though, that works for all alcohol alike. Hour-glass shaped, on one side it measures 30 ml, turned upside down, it measures 60.

Large drinks are for the big guys. We take small measured sips. Moisten our lips mostly. And lick the edge of the glasses. And sit and sit for minutes that melt into hours. The night is forming outside, like an amorphous being. The buds of flowers are shyly blooming outside, in the courtyard, on the roofs of our neighbours and in the rest of the world. The earth is slowly rotating on its titled axis. That axis must have also been as drunk as us, to be titled all the time.

The air feels warm for after midnight. May be, we are just locked in a closet, a closet with the mirage of a window. In a closet, mind numbed in asphyxia, high enough to believe that we are making sense, when we are not, and we are whiling away our entire lives watching American television. And then from being the size of a closet, the room expands gradually and becomes an open field, an open gallery. And there is no need to hide behind walls anymore.

There is a back room though. A bed room. With a fluffy mattress and a bobby print curtains. Should we leave the night alone and go back in there. What are the chances that we make love tonight now. What are the odds?