Chew on it.

Chances are all we have.

Tag: experiences

Screen 2. Act 2.

It couldn’t have been.

It takes more strength to resist doing a double take than you imagined it would. He is somewhere to the left behind you and while you were surprised he hasn’t seen you yet, you also know that he wasn’t looking for signs of you everywhere he went. The best sequence of actions would be to not look, get to the counter, collect the popcorn, and then head into screen 2 without a pause. As if nothing happened. Because nothing did.

It serves as a harsh reminder, and now you want to be anywhere else.

You look back at the menu overhead. 3 more to go ahead of you. That gives you ample time to change your mind about the kind of popcorn you wanted. Then make a run for it. He was always the classic popcorn guy. You never found out by direct information from him. But you knew. From the day you saw his hair combed and parted like a wet dream from the 80s. The same week that he had your reluctant heart swallowing his filler-less taking down of Bollywood’s blue-eyed filmmaker (even though a later conclusion was reached that he had contributed an unhealthy but essential chunk to your adolescence) whole.

You are now the first in the counter. You know that the man in the next queue 7 turns away from you wants classes popcorn with coke. You still don’t know if popcorn is what you want.

Very well. “Nachos and a coke,” you tell the server, tapping your fingers on the glass. The chatting of the servers, the passing of the card machine, the inefficiency of it all is getting to you. Theatres can be managed so much better. A 14-year old inside you clucks her tongue at the loss of patience and empathy for the working crew.

Food’s here and you let out a nearly audible sigh of relief.

Screen door’s to the left. You turn right. You hear him. You’re hoping he won’t/hoping against hope that he will notice you and thank goodness he doesn’t because now is not the time for pleasantries. You’re at the door. One last glance at the queue to make sure that was him so that you aren’t wondering through the movie is worth the risk and so you turn infinitesimally to your left and nearly drop the coke on his very visible, very chequered, very close shirt.

Fuck.

He helps you with the drink, says sorry and moves ahead. That he didn’t do anything to show recognition of your face, your presence, your hurricane emotions hurts you – again – after so many years.

Flashback to every time you passed each other in the corridor, in the train, in the parking lot. He never stepped back. And you never touched. You never had to. You and he, only wanted to feel his breath on your neck.

Very well then. Good riddance. Movie in peace.

You’re fucking sitting at the beginning of my row you sly fuck.

He mumbles an apology for his legs obstructing the way and lets you pass.

He still hasn’t recognised you and you want to deliberately drop more cola on him to start a conversation but what will you say and of course, that’s just rude. Also, no more drawing attention, he knows you from the crowd already and again. You want him to feel sick and leave. You want this thumping in your chest to slow down so you can breathe – afraid that he will hear you breathing from 10 feet away.

He’s looking at his watch now.

Stop looking that way.

Look here.

The lights are off, and you want the movie to start. Your friend, long forgotten and used to it, can’t connect the twitchiness of your movements to you and has settled herself into her seat. The movie has begun and you’re trying to keep a ready review of it in case he asks. Pat on your back for letting him trigger another hypothetical scene in your head. But it’s dark and you’re allowed to glance at him, because you aren’t interested anyway and any more. Besides, he doesn’t know you’re looking, so you turn your head to your right to see him looking right at you.

You both pretend to look away and you know it’s okay to speak for him.

The movie seems decent. You squirm in your seat because English movies without subtitles always make you feel uncomfortable just in case you miss heard the dialogues courtesy the accent. Is he still looking at you?

No.

He’s watching the movie, as you should. Obviously you have increasingly no idea what happened in it. Your friend does, you can ask her later.

You decide to stay put during the interval because movement is only getting him to pay attention to you and while a younger, naive you would have lapped it up, you don’t want it right now. It’s easier to say yes to a cake, than to say no to a cake, and especially one you love, when you’re on a diet. What is this analogy about? You hope he’s read your mind and nearly turn to look at him, ready with a knowing giggle from a version of you from centuries ago. Nearly. He’s just getting back to his seat. He still has the same neck. Your fingernail can feel the coolness of its skin and you’re not embarrassed, not here in the dark. The movie has begun. You’re out of coke. It’s alright.

Must he have changed, who is he seeing, is he writing anymore, was he ever in the same town before, what songs does he like?

You want to know it all. But not here. Not like this.

Not by pretence. Maybe you should ask him. What’s the worst that could happen.

You can’t put a finger on it.

You want to put your finger on his chin. Then, more than a finger.

You shake these thoughts off and that subconscious movement startles your friend.

You look apologetically at her, and for some reason no one else can decipher, look at him too, except he isn’t on his seat.

He’s gone. You’ve lost him. He’s gone again. You’ve lost him again. The rush from the train is back. The tide of regret rising like bile inside you and the movie is drenched and out of focus in the world of your tear-filled glasses.

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Dimmed.

“What moves you?” you ask

Looking at me in a crowded room

As the crowd presses with its eyes

On the new victim of your unwanted curiosity.

But I will know that later.

 

That evening of dimmed lights and glasses half full,

I have nothing to say.

I know your gaze anchored to my unseeing eyes

Is a game you have played and mastered;

But a game that matters only to you

A personal victory that does not scratch the surface of another soul

Yet here I am writing about it.

Let me explain this.

You asked a question,

And I will answer it because the question

Intrigues me.

Let’s not presume it’s you.

 

You don’t know how far back

I have to scroll my photo stream

To find a picture of myself that I clicked

That I may like.

That show my eyes without the baggage

Of nights I lay trying to court sleep

He, like everything I desire, rejects me gently.

A picture of a friend pulling me close

To share the moment.

Of family that does not hand me the camera

To capture them, ever so complete without me.

Of any trace of my existence.

 

Further back, when a boy asked me

If I could honour him with my love

I refused to believe that my love is honourable.

No love that has rolls of fat

No love that has broken teeth

No love with pimples is honourable.

I shall get my share of loneliness

That my loud faults warrant.

Because anything good in me

Is swallowed by my lard.

 

A little before that, not long ago.

A woman whose womb I come from

Looked me in the eye and said,

I cannot love you anymore.

And she cut the umbilical cord.

She was free.

I was happy for her.

She was free

Of being tied to a millstone of disease

Of shame, of questions and worry.

She climbs mountains now,

Watches birds, flies with them.

The farther she goes away,

The closer my demons breathe.

 

Before that.

A school bell rang and a gang of girls

With quieter laughs and thinner knees

Sat away from me.

When I opened my lunch to share with them,

They inched away.

I’ll have all of my lunch myself.

Yet I felt hungrier.

 

What moves me?

I don’t move.

Last night.

Everyone around me says they can do without the internet and I agree. I can do without it too.

Of course it isn’t a compulsive brain-damaging urge to want to stay online and browse all the time. It’s just that I have made so many friends through Twitter (little note – it’s part of the internet!) and they are across so many time zones and regardless of time zones, they are leading so many lives that I want to be part of each of them and I’m afraid of the day when even one of them doesn’t think of me if they are in crisis because I want to be there since that’s what friends do even if you have met once or never. I want to be there to share their joy, news, highlights, frustrations, rants, their pillow talk friend, their shoulder to cry on, their first SOS contact I want to be on their speed dial because what if they’re into something that they can’t tell their mom or what if they just want to hear a human voice? It’s not compulsive, it’s my emotional drive to not let anyone be alone, even if that means I get late to class in the morning and have to text an apology as the teacher takes a break to sip water and even if it means I have to skip gym before work and instead head to after work when my body is dragged through the day and has a thousand conversations with every soul I have interacted with running through my mind wondering what is the next most comforting thing to say because if you ever need reassurances I must be around to give it to you, to soften the blows and to set things straight. I don’t think of it as an obligation because I choose the people I interact with even if they are many and one day I don’t know who I love the most and who I would want to settle down with and I was pretty sure I didn’t take her name the last time someone asked me who my best friend was but hey, circumstances change and I can assure you that she really does think I’m the best friend in the world and for me, in my heart that is enough, even if she doesn’t remember what she told me the next day. I’m here for everyone and I like it, till the names blurred last night and I wanted to know who I am in love with and if I am in love at all and I had no answer because of so many names in the same list, each a promising candidate of my affections and a brilliant soul.

So I put my internet off, and I slept.

Untouched.

Written before and posted on May 22, 2010. I was at the peak of crazy thrashing teenage love and in the middle of my intern-ship. 

 

What I mean by yours for keeps

Is that every time I wake up and

Every time I wish I could dream of you and

Every time I do- there’s you starting my day.

You keep my thoughts with you.

Don’t let go just yet. We’re almost there.

I also mean that every time I hear a song

And you decide to call up that minute-

I know it’s a little more than time

Or such insignificant measures that bind us.

You, by the way, are now a yardstick.

For anyone or everyone who has to pass by in my life

As a ‘somebody’. And you’re still up there, untouched.

Funny, haven’t I said that already?

But you may not have heard.

No it isn’t love. That’s such a limited word.

Words. Beautiful things, but limited scope.

Us. Unlimited, unbound, unafraid, unreasonable- Understand yaar.

Inevitability.

The dressing up doesn’t take a lot of time, as much as you expect it to. Before you know it, the dress is on, you’re looking nice, but a little less nicer than your best friend, or the first girl you see at the entrance of the pub. It’s a fancy place, and like all fancy places, this too smells of a generic perfume and has lights dim enough to miss the sweat spots on your dress and bright enough to see that another girl’s bosom is curvier.

Would he prefer to be with her? – you think.

You shake the thought off as you spot your girlfriends over at the table. You smile, not only because you’re happy to see them (after, usually, not too long) but because you realise that you have dressed properly for the occasion. A relief, and now you can seat yourself graciously by the table, avoiding a seat that offers direct communication or eye-contact from the girl who really doesn’t like the same songs you do. A class difference settled between the two of you and even while it’s erasable, you want it to remain.

A general round of admiration for your dress, the cut, the earrings (which someone has definitely spotted at the same store a week, no- maybe 3 weeks ago), the weight lost and at least one other thing passes the group. Soon you’re eating, talking, reminiscing, and as the group slips back into memories that aren’t more than a year old, your eyes wander to the bar, where a man sits with a frown, rolled-up sleeves, and a furtive glance at everything about him.

You surprise yourself when you think of him as a man. The word has more sexual connotation to it than you intended it to have. He could be your age, A little older, judging by the grey in his hair. You stop looking at him, but your body has automatically aligned itself to face him, and you’re embarrassed.

The validation of your thoughts against the boy (a word oozing fondness, ease, love, dishevelled hair, home smells, the shampoo you chose for him) waiting at home makes you uneasy in your seat. You claim your love for him; protect yourself from even mentally wandering and turn to join in a conversation, now having steered to something that you can contribute to (much to your relief.) But your eyes play truant, and you keep checking at him. You strain your neck a little when a group arrives at the bar, louder than him in sound and sight- of course he’s the quiet one, you always magnetically crawl towards those.

Soon, you are irritated by the conspiracy of the world to keep you away from this man who has only perched on a bar-stool so far.  This is your moment of glory. You know you look decent, and of course he’ll have an eye for the curvier ones. So you get off the place, making as much movement as possible, to visit the washroom. You make sure it is in his direction. And if it isn’t, you must ask, of all the waiters and managers waiting to help you with the directions to the desired destination, the bartender.

Leaning forward a bit, as visible to the man as can be. You act as if you can’t hear the reply, lean in closer and when you do, thank the bartender more graciously, in lesser words and with softer expressions than a new actress thanks the audience at the Academy Awards. The bartender, who has seen a hundred and more women act the way you did, smiles and gets back to business. You pass close to his stool, whispering an ‘Excuse me’ to no one obstructing your path in particular, and head to the washroom, determined to not turn back.

In the bathroom, you widen your eyes, wipe the little sheen of sweat from your face with the napkin in your purse (no human with a vagina and a brain leaves her purse back at the table even for the shortest trips) and readjust your dress, showing just a hint of cleavage, and a prominent part of your collarbone. You plan your next move as you set your hair back (not really) and expose an entire side of your neck. Who could resist such a creamy neck, you wonder. The answer is ‘everyone’, and a tinge of guilt breaks open in your gut. You wave it off, because this? It’s not serious- you know, and have read about it in reliable, well-researched and much-vouched-for scientific sources like Readers’ Digest, Thought Catalog and Cecelia Ahern books that reassurance is all a woman needs- the confidence that a man can still want her. You put your scruples off to sleep with the thought of the boy and head back outside.

He’s still there, and you smile to yourself.

Putting your clever ruse into action, you walk halfway to the table, swaying your ample bottom (ever so emphatically that people wonder is you’re beginning to slip sideways within your footwear) and then turn back, to the bar. Leaning over the counter again, a little closer this time, you ask the bartender his name. In that din, he answers you and without a smile goes about his business. You call him by his name, accentuating it (unnecessarily) and ask him to send over a round of vodka to the GIRLS AT THAT TABLE. The sudden rise in decibels makes the man on the stool look up at you and you mouth a worried ‘Sorry’ with your eyebrows knitted at him (with the sincerity of a mother with an infant crying around the sick-bed of an old, old man). He smiles at you briefly, looks at your chest, to the counter and back at his drink.

With the effort and the money for the vodka now down the drain because of the lack of interest in the conversation, you walk back naturally to the table. Disgruntled. Your closest friend follows you back with her eyes and when you sit down, leans over and asks you, in whispers to buy the man on the bar-stool a drink. You tell her about the round of vodkas that you’ve paid for and she pats your thigh with sympathy. You glide into the conversation and participate, accepting defeat. When the vodka comes you raise your glass as a friend makes a toast to how well the group as stuck over 18 months and how some friendships last forever and graciously accept the thanks for the shots. At the back of your head, you say- Thank that guy sitting there and oestrogen.

Soon the party is over and the ladies at the table disperse after long-drawn farewells. Outside, you stand with your friend, hailing a cab, when she lightly nudges you and indicates to the man on the stool waiting for a cab too, as aloofly as he sat inside. You marvel at how aloofly is even a word and smile broadly to yourself, hoping he’ll catch your eye in that moment. An adolescent theory of always bumping into an attractive man a second time after the first comes back to mind and you grin harder. Your friend is about to usher you in the cab she successfully stopped on its tracks when he turns and your eyes meet. You shoot what can only be described as a ghost of a smile at him and get into the cab, partially annoyed at your friend for her inexplicable rush to get home at only 11.45 PM. You smile through the journey home, and by the end of it, you have forgotten his face, his shirt and everything physical about him. The residue of the evening is high spirits and a general smile.

The boy opens the door and goes back to TV. You suddenly like his arse a little more and want to reach out to it. He’s plonked himself on the couch by then, and is listening with rapt attention to how leopards kill their prey. When he asks you how the evening was, with his eyes on the TV, you tell him it was ‘nice’. The food, the company, the place, the stories- all while you slip into a t-shirt and shorts and wash the light make-up from your face. You join him on the sofa, and within 10 minutes all your weight is on him. You pucker your un-coloured lips for a brief kiss that turns into a long one. His arm wraps itself around you and with your head on his stomach- rounder than what it was before- well, before any of this, you drift to sleep.

When he wakes you up to move to the bedroom, you are glad to be home.

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