Chew on it.

Chances are all we have.

Tag: perspective

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.

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Chaos.

I’d suggest you read this before you read ahead, and then continue with this post.


It’s the same spot. I’m waiting for you to come into the room so I may ask you to switch off the light.

The summer is leaving soon. I know it because I see clouds where I could see the Scorpio constellation, and the paper dial we bought is lying next to the bed under our Kindles, my watch, your pen, my wires and our empty mugs.

I’m starting to sweat a little, so I add “put on the AC” to my “list of things to ask you to do before you slip into bed.” Another uneventful day at our jobs and another night of mismatched dinner timings, reconciled only at TV – we support the same cricket teams, but the enthusiasm has drained off a while ago. Now it is just the prelude to going to sleep, and catching up on each other’s day. The term ‘defamiliarisation’ comes to mind. Schlovsky’s essay was right, but we did manage to look past the silhouette into the details and extract the art out of the algebrisation. What a rubbish thought to think, I scold myself – there is nothing romantic about being asked by your partner for a few years about plans for the weekend. The answer was for once not “working this Saturday”. We’re too old for double-takes.

You’re here. The t-shirt has come off and I’d like you to throw it on to bed so I may wear it. We haven’t found out whose t-shirt it is. It’s a Calvin-Hobbes one so it could be anyone’s, even my father’s. I ask you to get the lights and AC, but you take a second to register what I’m saying. Work has a way of bogging your thoughts – I give them the space they require before you slip into bed. After which I am territorial.

But not yet. Have I forgotten to post the letter to the society? Nope. I have – wait, there’s a possibility that the electricity bill wasn’t paid on time. An unnecessary itch begins in my mind. You haven’t been at the door for more than a few seconds longer than usual and my mind has found its way to the archives of my insecurities. Is it work? Is it Ashwini? It’s Ashwini, isn’t it? She has called me thrice accidentally this week. I have always appreciated how she’s family to you – to us. But never have I seen you hesitate so much (it’s almost a minute that you’ve been looking around the room now) and never has she called me without any purpose. I need to stop thinking this way so I give you a smile and shift infinitesimally to the right of the bed, so your left is wider and you please, please get into bed.

You’re walking. What a relief. Before you settle into bed you open the window to let the wet air in. I cannot sleep any more. I need to know. I wish I had asked sooner than you had answered.

“How long has it been?”

I’m too scared to answer. I raise my eyebrows.

“Since we moved in.”

You want to ask me to move out. You’ve always wanted to move to a new city and have the family and I’ve never let you speak about this so you have spoken to Ashwini and you’re seeing yourself with her. Hold fort Ammu, hold fort it could be about a new wash of paint.

“4 years.”

“Hmm.”

I hate your fucking ‘hmm’s. They fuck with my brain. I shrink into the bed-sheet and I want to end this. You are now in bed. You want to soften the blow so you put your arm around me. Don’t. Be reckless. It’ll hurt less.

“Why’re you crying? What happened?”

The table lamp is back on.

The orange is seeping through your hair and I want to touch it but you seem so distant and not mine that I don’t. I also cannot see very clearly because there are hot tears in my eyes and I need some self-control. I shake my head.

“Was it work? Did Taufiq say something again?”

No no no. It’s what you aren’t saying.

Your hands are on my face and so are your lips. I struggle to break away. But you’re holding me firmly. Why are you doing this?

“What is it? It’ll be okay, I know it will be okay, you know it will pass. Problems don’t last.” You’re whispering in your this-is-not-what-I-really-mean voice. Fuck fuck fuck.

I calm down. I have to. You will drag this to tomorrow if not now. I cannot survive this. Do I have a suitcase?

Your lips are on my forehead now. You’re talking. I catch one word in the utter chaos of my thoughts.

“… Ashwini…”

I did not know I would hiccup.

Your eyebrows are knitted together. You were saying something and now you have been interrupted by my unnecessary sobbing which you are sick of for 4 years already.

“So you know?”

I nod.

“Let me say it?”

I squeeze my eyes shut. Will this go away?

“She’s been sitting on my head for this but I told her I did want to tell you already. She must have tried calling you.” I nod.

“So you know?”

“Say it.”

The defeat in my voice piques your attention. Your fingers are fidgety against my back.

“I’m sorry I did this without you knowing. But I checked with Taufiq, and you do have a holiday on Friday. The registrar will be available at 7 pm. Is that okay? I know you’re mad. Fuck you’re mad. I don’t want any change but this could save us taxes and getting the Mahim place. The fridge looks bigger here and I can’t stop thinking of the windows – come on you said you wanted a balcony.”

“Registrar?”

“The chairman said they’d prefer married couples. I told them of our situation but I really want to see our baby grow in that place – it has a park! Where do you find parks in Mumbai anymore?”

“Baby?”

“You said you wanted to have one before you’re 30? You’re 28. We need to work on it now.”

The bite on the shoulder was tautology in action. There is a lot of confusion on both our faces.

“I can cancel the registrar’s appointment. Ashwini’s idea. He works at her office and they usually take 6 months but she speeded the process up.”

Oh sweet panic in your voice. Ashwini, I love your dear soul, and I owe you lunch for a year.

“I’ll talk to them again.”

I raise my eyebrows, noticing the number of times you’re blinking now. Nervous blinking.

“The chairperson and all? Ridiculous rules about families. We’re in 2018 for goodness’ sake.”

I’ll wait for your argument with yourself to stop. Your eyes need kissing. The puzzled silence hangs in there, an imp dancing on your nose.

“Say something, woman.”

My lips have better things to do.

You’re breathless now.

“Is that a yes?”

“Yes, cancel the appointment. Yes, speak to the chairman about those ridiculous rules about families. Yes, baby.”

Geez, boy, stop those tears. I can see them, as hard as you hope that I don’t.


There it is. Another post about guys making their proposal for marriage to a girl a whole new experience while standing atop a rock in the middle of nowhere or in a cave in South America or on a boat in the canals of Venice.

And a photographer, capturing the exchange.

Two people who have probably been together sharing moments intense enough to make them wish that the bond lasts for as long as they have their wits about them need to express to each other in elaborate ways that they want to legitimise what they have for the sake of grandeur and in this moment that they share, have a third person with a camera, doing their own thing.

It’s unsettling. The urge to make everything an act that anyone else tries to outdo, and importantly, rubbish the intimacy of the moment (which you probably had coming) by adding a third into it – it’ll take a while for the why of this to sink in. If it does, at all.

This blog was how I imagine such an exchange happening.

 

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.

Premonition

I know what this will feel like.

12 years from now
When we ‘meet up’
You’ll be with her
And I’ll be with him
And he and you will be
The awkward pals you were years ago

I’ll know you though
The slight of hand and the twist of your words
And how every word was a dreamy sound
I imagined your voice
And you imagined my feet
Why didn’t we meet?

He will then settle for a table
So you’re across or close
Do I meet your eyes or elbows
You will see the red seep in
And wish you could find a corner
To take it out
Sip it away
Lick it off

She is quiet
She is graceful and charming and well –
Quite like nothing you said you loved
She is observant of nothing
A dullard image of pristine perfection
Awash with your attention
Drowned in her assumption that
All is well, all is well
With you and your old friend and me
Who of course, you haven’t met before

Now the dinner has begun
And the memories and the chatter
Between the girls and the men
Begin to start again
‘What do you do?’
‘Do you remember?’
She watches in amusement
I mimic her expression to be part
Of the ruse you are living up to

If hearts have to be broken
Let them be ours.

Slowly the silence seeps in
Between the aridity of conversation
Between you and me
He and she are the quiet ones who
Never noticed the change in the air

I want to stomp off
Shake him
Point to you
Can’t you see?
I tell him
Can’t you see what happened?
We ruined everything
We ruined you and me
Him and her
Before we met
We ruined nights
And trust.
HA!
You fool
You empty man, you.

I sigh

Look up to see him and her
Looking at me
His brow
Her stiff lip
You lift your champagne and sip
I’m sweating and I’m dazed

Look here, I command you wordlessly
We need them to not know
Not even guess
Not even feel
Not even doubt
That there has been smoke
Without fire
And that dark, distorted desire
And dreams of uncertainty
In the last 15 minutes
Through the salad and the champagne
(I’ll sip it again)
You – do you realise?
You – look me in my eyes

I sigh.

They talk of illnesses now
And how suffering is physical and inconvenient
The worst kind, they comment

(She is looking at me though)

He is patting my knee
It’s a gesture, I want to tell you
A promise of attention
And that later tonight
As he unzips this dress
He’ll worry again
And hold me through the dark
I’ll let him

You?
Let’s leave it here.
I fold my napkin.
Good girl that I am
And intertwine his fingers
Give him the smile he loves

You sigh.

You? You have nothing of me now
Nothing I owe him
Though your knee against mine
Keeps me alive.

Forged, unwilling friendships.

You’re at a party.
Your seniors got promoted. I hear the hint of alcohol in your voice. There’s music. You’ve eaten, and you’ve asked someone the score. You have calculated the Fantasy League points your players have got and will go back to the guest house and check if they’ve increased. The music isn’t something too loud but you don’t mind it. You never mind most things, even if you wouldn’t do them yourself. You’re dressed in a light shirt and trousers and you’re worried your hair will catch attention. “It grows up,” you’d told me, when I asked you to not cut it. You’re mixing with the men in your confusing Hindi and you’ve come to terms with the agreeable company you keep. The scotch isn’t the finest like your GM’s party had, but it’s a week you’ve decided to enjoy anyway. You are still talking more than your alcohol.
A few hundred miles away, I’m curled in my bed. Ready to hear your voice put me to sleep instead of your arms for yet another night. Filling in the distance with words that we share to bring us closer.
I dial the number you usually answer. It rings. And rings. And rings some more. And falls silent. I remember that you must be at the party.
But you had the phone. Why aren’t you answering? Is something wrong?
I try the number you asked me to call. It follows pattern and falls silent with the same result. No you. A pit forms in my gut.
What if he’s passed out? Or had an accident on the way to his room? Is anyone looking after him?
I try the first number again. It rings. The seventh time, the ring sounds different and my spirits soar and crash, as the ringing continues. It ends. And sighs with me.
It’s like the wind has been knocked out of me. I curl in more, cradling my now-alive tummy that has abandoned hope. I shut my eyes tight, opening them for the 3 seconds I need to leave a message on your IM.
Call?
I close my eyes. Alcohol – 1, Radha –
You call. I almost choke.
Among other things like what time you will call and if I should stay up, you say it. “I love you,” you say. Reassuring, fond, firm, alcohol-induced because you never say it otherwise, even if you feel it. I am overwhelmed. In tears. Choking.
Do you know what that does to me? Your grip on my heart has tightened at 11.45 pm.
You kiss into the phone, and say you’ll call. I nod my understanding.
And for the sake of those three words and bringing them to your lips so I can exhilerate in that moment of your attention and love, I shake hands with alcohol.

Mahua

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