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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

"In the German tongue, in the Polish town, scraped flat by the roller of wars."

I have forgotten all but the vague feeling left behind by my dream from last night. Nostalgic, with a tinge of metallic aftertaste lining the inside of my mouth. I run my tongue over my teeth, trying to wipe out the memory of everything I fail to recollect. A memory of falsehood, an impression of lies. And eccentricities are secrets that have escaped us, quirks we couldn't contain within our ever expanding lives. Like eight-limbed creatures scrambling to slip through the many prisms of self-consciousness.

And all you have to do is smile, before shuffling to the corner of your tiny bed and lifting the duvet. A silent invitation, letting their fingers slip over your waist and intertwine with yours as you turn away from them, allowing yourself to disappear into deep sleep. It’s the sleep you have been fighting off for too long, afraid of waking up to find yourself alone and abandoned, free but lost, stricken and shivering, your skin glistening with fresh bruises and your eyes tearing up from the lashing winds. The muslin cloth you chose for its lightness didn't have a chance against the piercing drizzle which has left it translucent, and you naked. Forlorn, tragically exposed.

The clock strikes three and you find yourself awake in the middle of the night, scarred from this beautiful nightmare. But you find solace in the face of this sleeping stranger beside you, the moonlight grazing past, giving you a solemnly rare opportunity to observe unabashedly, as you familiarise yourself with the lines, ridges and the bare cervix. Something you wouldn't dare when they are awake, subdued by the fear of appearing keen, looking away just before your eyes could meet.

But they are asleep, and you are exhausted from having been dragged through an infinite distance by this unrelenting fear which has you by a noose around your neck, your hands calloused from pushing against your will, your eyes blinded by this anger mingling with self-pity, to form bursts of wild dust around you. You aren't complaining though, because you would still rather suffer the ordeal of uncertainty than let this stranger know how the thought of them overshadows every vein in your body, staining every trail of your being.

Why, I ask. Why do this to yourself? But you have no answers to my anguish on your behalf. You don't have words that can cajole me into believing otherwise. You don't know, and you pretend. I want to grab you by the shoulders and shake till your bones rattle in your body, forcing you to pay attention to my warnings, my words of caution, my love for you which has previously surpassed all madness, even your stubborn angst of self-destruction. But you remain adamant and I give up, sitting down on the concrete, my head in my hands.

And when they wake up, you will yourself to not look away. Instead, you echo verses from a poem you didn't know you remembered, the words barely making it out of your mouth, as they fall through the space between the two of you, forcing this person to lean in till your nose touches their cheek… If I've killed one man, I've killed two / The Vampire who said he was you / And drank my blood for a year / Seven years, if you want to know… the words start to become incoherent and you find yourself slithering into the beguiling comfort of sleep, having already forgotten about the horrors waiting for you on the other side of this fluttering veil, the illusion of which separates me from you. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

We can sympathise, but can't ever truly empathise with another being.

We can't feel what another person feels completely but that doesn't mean we can't try. That's from a blog I read earlier today. And in the evening I walked circles through an art gallery that was projecting a 43-minute long documentary about newborns who go through traumatic births and how the process of  'cooling' helps ensure their normal mental and physical development. The treatment was first practiced in 1997 when a woman passed out after giving birth in a toilet. The paramedics, when they finally found the baby floating in the toilet, put it in a plastic bag and had it sent to the hospital to be pronounced dead, before redoubling their efforts to revive the young mother. Luckily for the child, there was a curious pediatric on-call that night who was aware of the theoretical concepts of cooling. This story has a happy ending, I was assured.

The documentary was mostly a collage of hyper-real close-ups of tiny limbs, softened edges, still babies and a timer. 72 hours. That's the amount of time the newborns are kept in an incubator, the number of hours it takes to determine the fate of each baby. Surrounded by fathers, mothers, carers and siblings who are living their personalised 72 hours of hell. But before I could try to imagine how it might feel - to watch your baby struggling at the brink of life, alive but barely, breathing but still - a mother spoke to the camera, to me. Her voice seemed to quiver at the memory, but she spoke indubitably about how no one can understand what she went through. They could try, but never truly feel the hollowing fear she felt. So I stopped trying, glad to know that her son is now fine, blissfully unaware of his uncertain start.

The images were out-of-focus for effect, some blurred beyond recognition. Faces were dismembered to fit several screens, making me feel as though I was right beside the parents, their calloused hands caressing their child, their perfume settling around me, their muffled voices hiding the raw fear of possible loss. And silence punctured by the continuous bleeps. It reminded me of a film I had seen years ago. And how it has left behind a single colour in my memory. A blue that could be the sky, the ocean or the pupils of a child. A blue that refused to be wiped away. Wet cloths and hard scrubs. A blue that stained through a clear conscience, a reminder of everything that could be but never was. It was the colour which couldn't be locked in a safe behind a painting and forgotten about.

There are people in my head tonight and they are talking in a language I don't understand. There is irony that is lost on me and jokes that I don't find funny. Laughter that is shrill enough to make me cringe and words trying on different voices, like an under prepared understudy put on the spot because of an ill-timed hernia. Find your voice, I instruct myself. In the shower, between meetings, during lunch, while binge watching the new season of GIRLS. Find your voice and choose a vice, why don't you please write down a sentence that feels right? I throw the question around my mind, hoping that one of its many inhabitants rises to the challenge.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

"Sometimes I wrestle with my inner demons. Other times we just hug and eat cheesecake."

Half Nelson. Half of a Yellow Sun. A film and a book. And half of me, stuck in my perceptually evolving destiny. That doesn't make no sense, you say. I smile, too tired to make an argument against double negatives. I offer you a packet of Kale crisps, you pick one and stare at it quizzically. It's good for you, I respond. Better than potatoes. Any day. Have you lost weight? You want to know. Have you lost sight? I ask instead. We have been walking for a while, my feet are tired but you refuse to consult the haphazardly folded map, I explain. I'm tempted to pull it out of your grasp, open it up and hide away your face. But I can't read maps, and you can't read minds. The words crumble within me, like stale cookie dough, like shattered dreams.

And yes, write happy stuff. An afterthought, a parting shot. I pulled out my journal and noted the phrase down, enclosing each word in a cloud of doodles. Quick strokes and smooth curves, black ink and stained imagery. Each memory sepia-toned, laugh lines smudged and open mouths blurred. It was dinner time, a couple of weeks ago, my family gathered around the table. I can't remember what was so funny, but I dropped a spoonful of blanched spinach on the place mat beside me. And I finally understood what people meant when they said my eyes disappear when I laugh.

I was happy then. As I'm today. As I've been for a long time. I glance at the journal again. Write happy stuff. A suggestion, as way of goodbye. I promised to try and it isn't like me to lie. So I allowed myself to think about why I protect and possess happiness, sharing it selectively and visiting it carefully, unlike the way I visit sadness, with open arms, ready to drown. And I thought about how I prefer to smear my existence with imagined sorrows instead. I listened carefully, and kept shut. And what I didn't say was how easy it is, to stay stuck in a rut. To move slowly, to wallow, to turn over and go black to sleep. It's such a perfect day, croons Coldplay, because it's been a while since I last heard them sing.

I spent the morning in bed, my head hanging off the edge, my eyes trying to capture the view from an upside down window. The trees speak of a past we can't relive and Ryan Gosling asks what does history really mean? Opposites, he answers his own question, pulling his fists away from each other and back. I could be the princess and you could be the king, but we chose to be agent provocateurs instead. I laugh at the reference. A hand slips in her hair, loosening the bunched tresses. We stopped moving, struck still by the beauty of what lay ahead of us. A whole life, possibly intertwined. A whole night, probably mythical. Which reminds me of a Greek God whose power is hidden in my name. But you never asked. And my thoughts form a slithering trail, waiting to unleash, waiting for the next time we talk, if at all..

A book worth reading,
and a song I really like.
A film which scandalised me in part,
but mostly something which made me reconsider art.
A blog I visit often,
An idea that hasn't left my thoughts,
here is a picture of my happy place.
And finally, a look at reality,
another reason to refuse to cross the line,
to fall off.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Did I tell you about that time in Kerala when I went looking for toilet paper?
No. When was this?
Late 90s.
Did you find any?
I asked the shopkeeper for some toilet rolls and he said he had tissues. I said: Great! I'll have some tissues. To which he replied: But they are for women. 
...

I'm out.
Okay.
Listen to this in the meantime: Cake- I'll Survive.
Wow, it's really good.
That's Cake for you.
...

I used to visit every 3 months. But this is my first time here in after almost 2 years.
Why is that?
My grandmother passed away.
Oh.
She was the center of my world and I couldn't imagine Jeddah without her.
So how is Jeddah without her?
I didn't go to her house.
Doesn't it get better with time?
Not really. You never stop missing. 
...

Zebs?
Yes?
Do you want to see the Vagina Monologues? Friday, 14th March.
Sure! I have always been curious about them monologues.
Haha, awesome! I've booked us some tickets. Here's a review.
Oh boy, should have read that before saying yes!
...

Watch the movie called Submarine. Not many would like it, methinks.
The trailer looks great. I already like it.
...

What are you reading?
An Examined Life. 
How do you like it? 
Love it. Such a precious insight into the human mind.
You may also like AC Grayling, try meaning of Things. I'm reading his Ideas That Matter along others.
...

Psychology claims that if two past lovers can remain just friends, it's either they are still in love, or never were. There is a thought.
Psychologist, they rarely know what they are on about.
It was merely a general observation. Not a comment on you and I.
Oh, I see. 
...

Why do you like James Franco so much?
Because he is James Franco!
...

Do you smoke?
No.
Drugs?
No.
Alcohol?
No.
WHAT? And you are a writer? I'm sorry but you need another perspective. 
...

Light of my life, fire of my loins.
Hah, I love that book!
I had to stop reading. It was getting too weird for me.
Oh my god, you don't know how Lolita ends?!
...

Saw terrible accident on the tube today. Girl tried to jump onto train as doors were closing, front coach. Doors closed on wrist, her outside.
Aaaaah. She okay?
Fear not. Train moved off into tunnel, she was slammed into wall.
No.
Terrible terrible screams. Can still hear it. Tragic.
Stop. Please.
...

I love her.
Oh god, why? She is so anal.
You mean she is so wonderfully anal.
Bah, you guys deserve each other.
...

Coldplay's new album is coming out.
When?
19th May. The new single sounds interesting.
Yes. Reminds me of their better days.
...

Did you know that Virginia Woolf's husband published E. M. Forster's books?
Really?
Yeah. And after Virginia's death the publishing house was bought by a man whose wife was having an affair with Leonard Woolf. The husband approved of the affair. And the woman continued to love both men till her death.
...

Listen to Angels Walk Among Us. Anathema. It's for you.
It's beautiful.
...

Don't do that.
What?
That! When you tell me how awesome it would be to fall in love with a friend.
But it would be! 
You are just trying to get me to ask you to marry me.
No I'm not! 
Yes you are. Stop laughing.
...

I love Albert Camus.
Why?
Because he once asked, "Should I kill myself or have a cup of coffee?", and I get it.
You know you can get help right?
I hate it when you make a joke of everything I say.
...

No.
Even when I ask you in my gentle German accent? Softly and sweet?
Okay bye.
...

I'm not pure evil, I'm necessary evil.
You are trying to act evil to hide your true face. I hope.
...

Whatcha do that for?
Dunno.
Are you okay?
No.
Do you want me to come over?
No.
I'm coming over.
Get food.
...

Did we ever talk about you helping me run away on my wedding day?
What? No. This isn't Bollywood, woman.
Then why do I have an image of us driving around Rajasthan in a green roadster. And why am I wearing a wedding dress?
First of all, do you have any idea how hot it is in Rajasthan? I would never take you there. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Your absence makes me sad. But I find solace in its rightful presence.

My fingers smell of orange zest, reminiscent of a somnolent breakfast. Sleep hasn't fully left me yet, and thoughts muddle in my mouth as I try to communicate with my indulging siblings. Earlier today, a carefully hidden stack of moleskines was revisited, and now words from years ago swarm my languid imagination, filling my cognizant self with juxtaposed perceptions. An entry from early 2008 chides me to 'read Ullysses and be amazed'. The unread copy which was dutifully unearthed moments ago from the store now sits in front of me. It was bought on a more optimistic day, searched for among the high stacks of an old bookshop in Bangalore. I remember the whirring of the ceiling fans and my irrational fear of how the tall metal shelves would fall in, burying me forever under the tragic mess of written words.

A song is playing in the background, softening the harshness of the day and reminding me of the beauty I have been shunning away. My smile lingers hesitantly over the edges of my day as I sing along absently while carefully turning the pages of one journal and then another... main rang sharbaton ka, tu meethe ghat ka paani... mujhe khud mein ghol de toh, meri yaar baat ban jaani. Words rise from the pages to meet me, my own writing paling in comparison to the words of others, the ones I have collected meticulously since the day I learned to hold a pencil. The song and the words come together to create a drowsy interstices, taking me away from my surroundings and momentarily introducing me to a world behind the veil, where everything is slow, dazed, beautiful. The smiles are radiant, the pain nonexistent and the stars always shine bright.. and in my naked yearning to prolong this moment, I let the full force of these handwritten words hit me flat on the chest, while my hands remain to my side, allowing this poignant atrocity to happen to my weakened soul...

'Edgy we were. I miss youth.'
'I want to possess your essence, the rest of you is already mine.'
'I sense a passive aggressive threat in everything you say.'
'She not only brought them to their feet, but she brought them to hers.'
'Sarah, what a beautiful name. A poem in two syllables.'
'It's fiction, based on truth.'
'If I'm sincere today, what does it matter if I regret tomorrow?'
'The fragile earthquake in your chest as I curl around your lungs and rest in your exhale.'
'Tayray aanay ka dhoka sa raha hai, diya sa raat bhar jalta raha hai.'

I pause here, afraid that the almost healed wounds will burst through at the beautiful reminder of everything I like to believe I have recently lost. A moment of complete stillness, where the music is forgotten and the words blur. But when I look away and back again, the words are still there, and I'm still here. Alive, smiling, and tapping my finger on the hardcover of the moleskine as the song comes back to me. The memories are ever present, but at least the pain isn't crushing anymore. And I know that a day will come when this yearning too will be replaced by stark indifference. And is this what it means to be human? To fall and get back up again, brushing away the pangs of hurt from both knees and then the elbows. That was a rhetorical question. I smile, you sigh.

Bukowski wrote that 'to experience real agony is something hard to write about, impossible to understand while it grips you; you're frightened out of your wits, can't sit still, move, or even go decently insane.' If I could meet him now, sitting on a public bench somewhere, writing in his little notebook, I would sit down beside him, trying not to grimace at the overpowering stench of alcohol surrounding my literary hero. I would then extend my arm, curl my fingers around his limp hand and hold his gaze till his eyes sobered from the anger caused by my imprudence. I would resist the urge to take a peek at the open page, and tell him instead that it will get better if he lets it. That to experience real agony is a privilege and if he gives it time, it will all make sense. Of course, I won't be telling him anything he doesn't already know and when he stands up suddenly, yanking his hand away from mine, muttering about the crazy people walking the streets of his hometown, I'll remain seated, trying desperately to wipe the smugness off my face.