Friday, July 28, 2006

"It is always nice to see you,'' says the man behind the counter

I met up with my colleague Tall today after a long time. She has just come back from a long break, and we ran our old routine of unwinding over coffee. Tall, Maddy and me. Only this time we met at a different coffee-shop--a rather fancy, sprawling outlet tucked in a quiet corner of the road. Tall was late as usual, and just when Maddy and I had begun to fret (the AC was killing us, it was so cold!) she arrived like a whirlwind, and suggested we go for a walk.

I have hardly gone for walks with friends in this city. Not on happy walks at least. Like when you are all peaceful, and you don't talk. When you just stroll comfortably, listening to the beat of your heart, enjoying the companionship and the evening settling down slowly around you. Like a lot of things that I have left behind in my city of joy, this is one habit that has become rusty from disuse.

But today we did. Along a long stretch of the ill-lit bylane, the three of us walked, talking about our careers, talking of the future, talking of crises, of dreams and ways to live them out. As the halogen street-lights came and went, we talked of the divergent cross-roads our lives were poised at. Usually with Maddy around, it's difficult to have a sensible conversation, with one of us bursting into laughter every other minute over some antic of hers. But somehow today we were all mellow, and as is the way with old acquaintances, we were comfortable in our simultaneous roles of listeners and counsellors.

This year has been a whirlwind so far. So many things have changed in the space of a few months, so many old faces have fallen away, so much of our lives have passed us by, even as we have shuttled through the days with the speed of a jet plane. It's nice sometimes to stand still and catch our breath. Suddenly the kaleidescope slows down and you are left looking at the picture with new eyes. So much has happened to you. So much? Really?

It felt refreshing, our walk this evening. Sometimes we under-estimate the potential of easy camaraderie because we are so much in the habit of classifying relationships in to compartments. I know I am much more attached to Tall and Maddy than I will ever allow myself to believe. I like being with them. I like the certainty of their Tropical Icebergs and my Espresso Americano. Of Maddy's insistence on sitting outdoors so she can smoke, and Tall's knack of surprising us with little nuggets of gossip. We know they don't mean much really. That we aren't quite `BFF', as Maddy would say. But there's a warmth in our equation with each other and an honesty that we don't feel the need to question.

And nothing else really matters.

Then, the busy years went rushing by us
We lost our starry notions on the way
If, by chance, I'd see you in the tavern,
We'd smile at one another and we'd say
Those were the days, my friend...

Tell me a story...

Over the last few days I have been increasingly falling short of words. Blame it on the fever, or on my general lack of articulation, but every time I have tried to express something, I have been left groping...I haven't managed to clothe my thoughts well enough to get it across to the other person. Funny really, considering I knew exactly what I wanted to say on each occasion. But I did not, because I was scared my words would not convey the depths of my feeling. That they wouldn't tell the tales behind the veiled constructs:

Don't worry, everything will be alright.
I wish I could put things right for you.

I love you.
But I am scared sometimes.

I miss you.
I wish you were here. Now.

It's ok.
I have moved on. It doesn't matter anymore.

I am a peddler of words. It's my business to tell tales in a language you find credible. When words fail me, I find it cloying. I wish for an alternative language: signs, gestures, movement; anything that can resolve the status quo.

My friend River called the other day. She is one person with whom I don't have to rely on words. She understands the words within my words. She can interpret my silences. I know she knows. I trust that she knows. And I am secure in my emotive knowledge. ``Life would have been so much easier without language,'' she told me that night for the umpteenth time.

And for the first time in my life, I agreed.

I need the spoken word to mask my emotions. I need it to make you believe that I, the storyteller, am in control.

But imagine a world, where, like in a story-book, every glance, every gesture, every touch has a meaning. Where the pattern is in the emotive design. Where you are taught to cull the idiom of silence because you know that's where the real story lies...

Would I tell you to believe what I want you to?
Would I hang on to your words?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

You give me fever

The most inappropriate post title possible, but then, there it is: I have got fever. My head hurts, my shoulders are stiff, and I can barely move without feeling my rusty limbs revolt in denial. I have got fever.

When I was a kid I used to love being sick. I mean not for anything else, but for the attention lavished on me, the feeling of being pampered-- my grandparents doting on me, Dad coming home early from work, Ma rustling up little delicacies...I miss those days. I miss home, miss Ma, miss the seven huge windows of what used to be my bedroom in a house lived in long ago, miss the shadowy hieroglyphics on the walls. I miss, I miss, I miss...

I have always wondered at the generosity of people who are ill and infirm. I know why in stray bits and pieces at times like this. Sickness is far-sighted. You know how that one hurt here, the other humiliation there, that accidental wound tucked away in a quiet, forgotten corner, do not really matter. You know it when the psychedelic glow of the fever wears off in a mass of inertia. You feel them heal themselves, those festering bruises of the soul.

The wicker lampshade is on in the room, but it's hurting my eye. Tried sleeping without it, but that's putting me ill at ease.The darkness is exploding in a thousand pinpricks of light-showers when I do that. I want to sleep. Badly.

But in a certain masochistic way, I am enjoying the heat that envelopes my body. It makes me feel vitally aware of the life pulsing within, the sensation that life is in this moment. Now.

And all of yesterday is a prism. And all of tomorrow a cryptogram.

I am rambling. Wish me a speedy recovery.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Starry, starry night, Paint your palette blue and grey, Look out on a summer's day...

I am living in the Dark Ages. Every evening when I get back home from work, it's invariably the shimmery darkness that greets me without fail. My attic room with its slant of a window and speck of a balcony are insufficient respite. The Capital is reeling under severe power shortage, so hell, you've just got to grin and bear it.

Last night was fun though. We were all lolling around in the terrace- Fish, Joy, Small, Pretty and me. Small was singing weird Bollywood numbers in her slightly husky but curiously childish, sing-song voice, while Joy and Pretty were discussing sundry technical details of their new cell phones. Fish and I were star-gazing...

Fish tells me she knows all about stars. The Milky Way, the Great Bear, the planets. She points them out to me, even as Small pipes in with questions of her own about which planet is which, and why she couldn't spot Venus at nine in the night. I lie still, staring up at the sky, the voices fading in and out of my thought-stream, making small conversation, laughing appropriately at some little joke.

I don't mind the darkness so much. In fact, I quite like it. There's something very peaceful about darkness. Something friendly and warm. I always think darkness is liquid. It moulds itself to fit in to your moods. And darkness has colours. Amber for anger. Blue for love. Grey for pain. It's not feckless like moods. It holds fast, like an embrace, whatever be your mood.

Last night though, it was none of these hues. It was translucent, like a prism, radiating the colours of our mixed emotions.

I felt peace last night. And comfort, as I snuggled up to the darkness under the clear sky. I could feel the stars in my hair, twinkling with promise.

Darkness is a palette. I can paint pictures with it.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Rain, I don't mind, Shine, the weather's fine

I woke up to a grey world today. Don't get me wrong. I love the rains. Not unusual, because I am a water person. I love seas and oceans, and even random pools at hotels, for that matter. I love the coolness, the feel of running water, the stray misty spray on my face. Water's a tactile emotion. It speaks to you in the idiom of the sensory. Touch me and I'll wash away your muddy thoughts. Touch me and I'll tell you a new tale of hope and rebirth.

And so, I am all for days like today. Particularly days like today, when I am so full of hope and happiness, so contained with the feeling that life is perfect with all its little imperfections.

It's not often that I want to get wet in the rain. I am a stickler for cleanliness, and the idea of the squelch and the mud does not appeal to me much. But today I think I would rather like to get wet. There is something to be said for letting the water wash over your senses. It makes my nerves tingle with an obscure thrill about the life to come. It makes me feel alive.

If it rains like this all day, I don't think I would mind. In fact, I want it to take its time. I want the heavens to open up today even as I sit watching it through the huge bay windows of my office.

Today I am absolutely deserving of this weather. Rain down on me...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I have a space to share inside me...

Love, like most things in life, is a choice you make. It's an intimate choice; your decision is based upon your navigations of those secret maps of your life, the maps that sketchily chalk out the route to your being, the maps that say: This is what I am. I want you to know me like none before.

Most people are not good at cartography. But they are all compulsive travellers. It's not easy to leave the land you know and set sail for the unknown. There's too much at stake. Your life, for instance, with all its familiar contours, that you are so used to. Those secret maps that have taken you years to draw up...But then, that's probably why each new discovery is so exhilarating, each turn gone wrong, such a disaster. That's probably why you are willing to burn for it.

What is it that compels a person to decide that this is the one who has earned the right to travel my soul with me? What is it that makes you want to re-arrange your entire life to fit in to the life to come? The life of the we as opposed to the life of the I? What is it that helps you unlock those shutters and strip your inner life threadbare in the hope that he/she will do the same for you?

Oh yes, I know all the arguments that you'll throw back at me. Attraction and the whole primal instinct jargon. True, you can not ignore the body. Not when it is calling out to you so urgently. Begging you to read the secret codes of passion. Besides, what else can be more personal than surrendering your most intimate to the one you love?

Love. We come back to that again. And here your passion comes full circle. The choice between accepting that you are irretrievably lost in another realm and the realisation that this virgin land is what you had dared to hope for. The choice of giving in, not because logic has failed you, but because your logic tells you that this is the only thing to do.

Love, like all choices, is a matter of moments.

The moment it takes for you to decide that no space of yours is safe from this one person.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Some things fall apart, some things make you hold, Some things that you find, are beyond your control...

Much of my time, over the last few days, has been spent in waiting. For things to happen. Good things mostly. A phone call. A letter. A good book. A smile. A loving touch... Trivial things which go so much in to making up your happiness. And then, in between the wait and the expectation, things have gone wrong. Things so little that you won't probably pay attention, to begin with, till they assume gargantuan proportions. Makes you wonder how little you understand of life. Makes you realise how much of your entire life is a wait for things unknown.

Every day of your life, amidst the thousands of chores that you do, there's that period set apart where you are left to realise the potency of your want. Every unanswered prayer, every desire unfulfilled, every wish unrequited make you aware that this is not what IT is.

Epiphanies have a strange way of coming when you least expect them. Like the realisation that time can break your heart. Or make it whole again. Like the realisation that you are just a morsel of what you want to be. Like the realisation that this life that you breathe, is not the life the television commercial promised you.

You don't live the moment. You live in anticipation of it.

And all along the desire builds up in you like a storm threatening to break out. You feel the rush of blood and the desire in it. Feel it running amok through every vein in your body, every nerve, every sinew. And the gnawing pain that just doesn't let go. It's there like your alter-ego. Shadowy, aching, persistent.

You live in anticipation. Just so.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Do you remember the day when my journey began? Will you remember the end (of time) ?

This morning, when I was getting ready for work, I got a sms telling me that my cousin Prosperity has been diagnosed with cancer.

Prosperity is just a couple of years elder to me-- a vivacious 28 year old, brimming with life. You know, the kind that will have all the people at the party laughing at her jokes, the kind that elders frown upon for being too saucy, and the kind that you almost, always take an instant liking to? You wouldn't really believe it if you met her, that the greater part of her life has been a struggle. To come to terms with the fast-changing scenarios of her life. That beyond the sarcasm and the sharp tongue, is a person, who knows life hasn't really given her a very fair chance, and that she needs to fight, to stay afloat. Not that she has managed all the time, but heck, she hasn't been one to ever give up without a good fight.

Then last year she got married to her long-time boyfriend, and settled down. And just when you thought that her fairy tale had got off to a late and rather shaky start, she fell ill. She suffered a cerebral attack. Two, in fact. It robbed her of the one thing that people always associate with her. Litheness. Of mind and body.

When I went to meet her this time on my last visit home, it was painful to see the frail, waif-like figure lying on the hospital bed. She had lost her speech, so all she had was the language of her countenance. You could see how hard she was trying. To reach out to you. You could see her eyes scanning your face intently for some assurance, some hope. That this too was a nightmare. That she would get over it.

She did. She started speaking even before the therapy sessions had got fully underway. Things weren't the same. But she was hanging on. Like always.

And now this.

I wish I could call her and speak to her. I wish I could tell her that I am praying for her, and that I won't let anything happen to her. That this is a mistake and the doctors have goofed up on the reports. That she will wake up tomorrow and realise that this has been the greatest nightmare of all, but it is just a nightmare.

But I am a coward and I don't know what to say.

Friday, July 14, 2006

I'm a big, big girl in a big, big world...

All hail the domestic goddess!

The grocery has been done, the fridge stocked, the room tidied, and...(hold your breath now)...
The dressing table replenished (ta da)...

Truly a miracle! Be proud of me.

Speak to me. You never speak to me. What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?

It's true that people often complain that I never tell them what's on my mind. ('How can you keep things all bottled up inside?, Why don't you tell me?, But I am your family/ friend') But the thing is, I do. Tell, that is. You just have to listen hard enough to hear all the things I don't say. But mean. Or say, but don't mean.

I am good with strangers. People I know I'll never meet again. Or people in transit. I can laugh and talk and tell them anecdotes. But leave me with a person I know, and I'll play games with him/her. It's strange really, considering so much of my days is filled with the inaudible conversations I have. My silent oral dissertations with people I bond with. It's almost like a challenge. I am speaking to you. Catch my words before they fall..

I am good with masques. Oh yes, I'm bloody good at that game. I can keep you guessing my feelings till you are willing to admit defeat. It helps me be in control. The one thing I cannot have you guessing is how vulnerable I am. Or how hopelessly I am hanging on to your words.

"You don't have to tell me everything. Some things need to be felt..."

How little it takes to crumble your carefully constructed universe. How little to have your mind written on by someone else's. How little really, considering that this is just an arrogant fragment of the truth.

Do. I. Mind?
Do I.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Did you ever wonder where the story ends, And how it all began...

It's one of those days today when you want to stay at home, curled up in bed with the music system playing those old, faraway songs, that you haven't listened to in the longest time. One of those days when you feel so alive that you think your heart will burst with so much love to give. One of those days when you know you can reach out and touch eternity...

Sadly, you have got work to do, and sadder still, a living to earn. So, even as my mind races along with a zillion happy possibilities, I sit at my computer, staring in dead earnest, at the copy that I am supposed to edit.

Are you not afraid to tell your story now
When everyone is done, it's too late
(Too late, too late)
Was everything you've ever said or done
Not the way you planned,
A mistake?
So you promised that tomorrow
Will be different than today...

Today is a new day. Another day in hand...

And I'm a million different people from one day to the next

As is the protocol of all beginnings, this blog should have started with a little note about myself. You know, the usual stuff about who I am, and what I do, and the whole works. Now the thing is, I find such introductions infinitely boring. I would rather, we discover each other as we go along. But here's something to help you on the way...

I can keep you guessing.

I will keep you guessing.

Every one says I am reserved. I am not. They just don't realise.

I talk a lot. In my mind.

I am a writer. Of books yet to come.

Music makes my world beautiful.

I am 26.

Sometimes I cannot decide whether I am old enough or too young to.

I like mind games. I win some. I lose some.

I am hurt a lot more times than I'll ever show you.

I love desserts.

I am a good cook.

I love the sea.

I am just me.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Cause we're moving on and we can't slow down and these memories are playing like a film without sound

My friend Sunshine has a funny way of putting things. The last time she called me, she said, " But why is it that my happiness has to be qualified? Why can't I be just happy without a reason? Like we used to be earlier.''
Why indeed?
A long, long time ago, in another time and another life, I used to believe that all relationships are for keeps, and you needed to be really careful when you chose your friends, because you just couldn't lose them ( families, of course, happened to you, so there's nothing much one could do there really!) And so I grew up with a bunch of closely-knit people, I loved calling friends. It wasn't ideal by any means. We squabbled and fought, and held secrets from each other. But we knew deep down it was a phase. And we held on. Fast. Through the good times. And the bad times. And all the times in between. True, there were those who drifted apart. But it wasn't a goodbye, if you know what I mean. People phased out, caught up in their lives. It wasn't quite moving on as much as a moving ahead. You needed space. You got it. Simple.
And then this new city happened. As did new people. Acquaintances. Friends. Companions. I can't remember when I stopped believing friends are forever. But I guess, somewhere deep down I knew, running through days on end, that all fairy tales have a twist in the tale...
It's funny, this moving on. Because I have never quite figured out where to begin and where to stop. And what's funnier still is the fact, that on the way, you never quite pause to meet. You just keep running on and on. And away.
Happiness needs qualifiers. Because wisdom is not always happy...