Friday, 10 April 2009

which brings me to this thought:

For someone who thinks about death and what it means so much (and I do): I have never actually thought that it will happen to me one day.
I can't fathom that and don't know what to think of it aside from a vague feeling of excited curiosity and homecoming.
So I kind of get what it means for Me. The wider, deeper Me.
But what does it mean for my this-life?
What should that knowledge, that my time too is limited, propel me to do, think, be?


The pa is well again. But not allowed to sit up too much, walk too much, talk too much, at least until the end of the weekend.
But today he was on the phone to me and said he loves me.
And my mum said that there was a cat outside his hospital room these past three days, just curled up on the bench or mewing at the window. So my mum took some cat chow for her, a bowl of milk to soothe her mews, a gentle pat on her head to show her we recognise and accept her kind offer of companionship in this hard time, and would she like to come home with us?
She climbed into mum's soft warm lap and went to sleep.
A blessing, a companion, a guardian angel outside my father's hospital room.
Sent by Amy, or Jenny, our white angel cat who died so long ago, or some other One we knew and loved and who is still protecting us with their love.
Who knows? As my mum said: 'She found us and she feels like a friend.' Sorely needed, that, in hospital wards - friends.
But a blessing she is, this little cat mewing outside his room. She hasn't left for three days, she's always peeping into his room, there through the quiet of the afternoon at the window sill, dozing quietly on the other side of the jaali. There through the night on the wooden bench. And my mother felt a surge of love when she held her. That's good enough for me, I'm so inclined anyway.

My father sounds like himself again.
And he said he loves me.
And there's an angel cat outside his room.

Beautiful moment

Elvis playing on the Man's sound system.
'When we kiss my heart's on fire / Burning with a strange desire /... you're heart's on fire too..."

In the house opposite the street there's a couple in a deep embrace by their window.

Ships sailing by in the night.
You almost want to wave, standing by your own window in your own deep embrace.
You there, in the blue house: We see you! Are you as happy as we are?

Thursday, 9 April 2009

On another note entirely:

Does anyone here read the newsletter of the Smart Set from Drexel University?
Some beautiful writing and insight on there.

As evidence, this poem posted on one of the pages:

by Stephen Dunn
So many different kinds,
yet only one vague word.
And the Eskimos
with twenty-six words for snow,
such a fine alertness
to what variously presses down.
Yesterday I saw lovers
hugging in the street,
making everyone around them
feel lonely, and the lovers themselves -
wasn't a deferred loneliness
waiting for them?
There must be words
for what our aged mothers, removed
in those unchosen homes, keep inside,
and a separate word for us
who've sent them there, a word
for the secret loneliness of salesmen,
for how I feel touching you
when I'm out of touch.
The contorted, pocked, terribly ugly man
shopping in the 24-hour supermarket
at 3 a.m. - a word for him-
and something, please,
for this nameless ache here
in this nameless spot.
If we paid half as much attention
to our lives as Eskimos to snow ...
Still, the little lies,
the never enough.
No doubt there must be Eskimos
in their white sanctums, thinking
just let it fall, accumulate.

Because I can't stop looking at my facebook inbox

... I think I should remind myself that since teddy-woman-shredder I have:

1. Gotten myself through 7 years of karate and earned a black belt.
2. Read Dostoevsky and Tolstoy and Sophocles and Nietzche neat.
3. Learnt to give in to the writhing within and cry facedown on the floor for 2 hours straight.
4. Learnt to get up off the floor and wash my face and make my eyes up to look ravishing despite tears and fierce dabs of Kleenex.
5. Learnt when I should call a friend to join me as I lie on the floor. And when to just lie there alone.
6. Learnt to make love. Learnt to make out without making love.
7. Learnt both things first hand in Rome with 5 different hot Italian men at age 17. This is no exaggeration. 5. Different. Hot. Italian. Men. At. Age. 17. I still text 2 of them and they still text me. There is no one I know who has had this... this... miracle of beauty and light and carnality and plain ol' rocking summer afternoons in Rome. So sorry, pooh, but what did you think would happen? I'd cry for a year and then... what... nothing ever again? No. I own my body now. And the mind that lives inside it.
8. Can feed myself, manicure myself, do my hair in 5 different ways, my make up in a million different ways and I know when these skills are important, and when they aren't. Sometimes a girl just needs the Man's sweater and woolly socks, y'know? And she needs to know to still feel beautiful and sexual in them. The days of lipgloss and kajal and sneaking before every kiss are gone, pooh. Finished.
9. Learnt to be alone at home without saying a word to anyone all day without going insane, and learnt when it's okay, desirable even, to be completely batshit crazy.
10. Learnt that first loves sear their way into you and stay there. But that real loves are better, stronger, faster, deeper and I would not have gotten to the real thing without the first thing. So it's okay, pooh, teddy, love. I forgive you. Now go away please.


Of course, it was all wonderfully heady and there was lust dripping from our pores but really, he should have been a butcher for all the care he took with that tsunami-heart.

If it's not clear, teddy, or pooh, or whatever the fuck I used to call you, I'll it say it again and shorter this time:
Fuck off off my facebook page, you 12-years-of-silence-jerk (yay, I'm old enough to say that to you now and I understand exactly what I mean.)
Go join an abattoir for shredded women and make your calling into a full time career. Bastard.

I couldn't possibly write this in a message to him, could I? If I reply he'll be able to see my whole profile. Do I want that? Who knows.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Bad fiction.

Her father loaned her the car and the driver. Please, Papa, he's leaving for Delhi tomorrow. That part at least, was entirely fictional. He wants to take me to dinner.
There was no question of him picking her up on a bike. So he loaned them the car and driver.

The driver, at least, was privy to the fictions in the story, and even more privy to the facts.
The facts, in order of importance to him, were:
- She gave him money for bidis and he will likely have a spare cigarette. He smokes good ones.
- She never kept him waiting in the car for hours in the hot sun or in the dead of night like the other missy sahib.
- The sahib-baba she was going to meet was her first love.
- She'd promised him he wouldn't get into trouble with her Dad.

Off they drove, in the direction of the coffee shop where she'd told her Dad they'd be grabbing a bite. A sharp left turn just shy of the hotel, and they're outside the park instead. No street-lights here, just a leafy darkness and a watchman's bonfire.
A boy sits on the edge of the park wall, his backpack still on, his cigarette lighting a small golden halo around his lips every time he took a drag.

Helloji!, the driver says, as he opens the door to the boy.
The boy puts out the cigarette. Helllllo, saah'b, kaise ho? he says to the driver, and silently hands him the rest of the pack and two notes for chai and snacks at the stall three streets away. For that one as well, he says, nodding towards the park watchman.
That one is more than delighted to leave the park gates and the mosquitoes and walk with the driver to the chai stall.

The door is held open and the sahib gets in. Keys passed from driver to sahib. 'Just in case there are lafangas, sahib'. 'Of course, saah'b, here.'
Door shut, windows rolled up, lights off.
Hey, babe.

They smile and look at his watch.
30 minutes until her dad will ring the driver's mobile. He must not be forced to lie. In 30 minutes, he will say: 'Yes, yes, she went into the hotel with him they are eating in the cafe. Should I call you when they are finished, Saah'b?'

The watch is then taken off and chucked onto the floor with a giggle.
Both so thin, they can lie on the backseat and there is room to move.

Chaste as a pair of twins, lusty as spring, they know exactly what is and is not going to happen. This is not the time for surprises. He will kiss her neck. Spend long moments at the tendon that shows when she looks away. His hands will be in her hair, over her face, they'll grip her shoulders. They will kiss and kiss and kiss and kiss. Their bodies touching touching touching. Perhaps one of the straps of her vest will slip down her shoulder. Perhaps he will pull the other one away. Kissing so hard, so deep, so long, smiling all the while. Making delight. The windows steam up. There is never any conversation. Two minutes into saying hello they're kissing furiously. And they don't stop until they hear the drivers footsteps and then it feels like a physical tearing to stop. Her lipgloss has come right off, her cheeks are flushed, and his fringe is wet with perspiration. Their eyes are shining and whatever is coursing through them is coursing fast, fast, fast.

Once, they have a whole hour and they go up to his terrace and in the mock moonlight of a white streetlamp he gives her one, short searching look, and she nods. They're standing against a wall, and he's so close to her, she can fill his hip bones jamming painfully against hers. And before she's done smiling at him, the top comes away. There is so much heartbeat on that terrace, the building should topple over. Two school kids in their Levis, her bare back silvered by the streetlight, her ribs making stark shadows across her stomach when she leans up to hold his face. So cliche it could be on a hallmark ad. They stand like that, pressed against the wall, with startled, secret smiles. Together, they've set off a nuclear bomb on the terrace! And no one knows! They're in love, babe, and no one knows. He is looking at her breathing sharp, shocked breaths, in just jeans and chappals and a nose ring, and no one knows!!!
The whole world should be a chaos of noise and light, but it's silent and dark. The noise and light just in their eyes, their exploding lungs, his heartbeat so fast she can see it through his tee-shirt. Later, much later, she will think it must have been like a tsunami inside them both, blood cresting into their hearts, ripping the walls to shreds, heavy and furious and fast with love.
They should have been screaming in pain, or passed out, or had strokes, died.
But they just stood there, smiling, trying to stop love or whatever it was from physically exploding them to pieces. Just jeans and chappals and a nose ring!
There is nothing to say expect 'Babe, I love you.' And 'God, babe, I love you too.'
And what do they do, the chaste, lusty fools? They kiss and he pulls her tight tight tight against his chest and whispers it again. I love you, I love you.
20 minutes later they dare to pull away and he dares to touch her and she wants to cry or scream or faint. So she just kisses him some more. And then it's time to go downstairs again, time to see if the world has overturned because of what they just did.
It hasn't. She is still mildly surprised.

But this is as far as it will ever go. This is a time in their lives when fuck is still a filthy word to be avoided on pain of being grounded and therefore unable to kiss. Fuck is not yet even an act. 'Making love?' they sometimes wonder, without any clear understanding of what they mean. 'Aren't we doing that already?' 'You bet, babe,' he always replies, fingering her upper lip, pulling her head back with his other hand, kissing under her chin.
This simple act is enough to fulfill every madly urgent screaming desire she feels at 16. Because their kisses and fingertips contain every vestige of the love they will exchange.

But right now it's still months away from that time on the balcony. And now, the footsteps outside have crossed the park watchman and they roll down the windows to get rid of the steaminess and clasp hands on the backseat, pulses leaping out into the other's palm.
'Where are you going to eat tonight, Sahib? Baby?'
'Normal jaggah, ji,' replies sahib-baba.
Just as the car pulls into the hotel, both of them still are breathless and holding hands tightly on the backseat, and her Father rings. The driver smiles, one of the sahib's cigarettes hanging from his lips.
He takes a drag, winks into the rear view mirror, and just as they're crossing the hotel porch and swinging into the double doors, he answers: 'Yes, sahib, they're in the hotel. Should I ring you when they're done?'
She loved butterflies. So I'd screech to her from the downstairs porch whenever I saw one.
Once after lunch, I went out onto the front lawn. All along it's vast outer edge, Janardhan had planted rows and rows of spicy smelling white and gold flowers. The sun had seeped into them and the air was thick with the scent of their molten, chilli-tinged honey. Over the green monoscape of the lawn, only the odd bug crawled. But all along the periphery, from end to end, butterflies clustered over the flowers. Each stalk was a circus of jewelled wings and feelers. A swarm of butterflies. I had never seen so many before - or since.

I stood in the middle of the lawn, barefoot, the sun beating heavily down on everything around me, and the quiet clink clink of cutlery and glasses as the rest of the family finished their lunch. The low hum of their conversation, and of the fan, coming through the open window.
Everything else was perfectly silent.

I stood there for moments that have stretched out in my memory like a long summer afternoon.

Finally, the breeze broke the spell and I turned and ran - like only a 10 year old can run after lunch on a hot day - and burst into the peacefulness of the lunch table screaming, 'Amy! Amy!!! Get up!!!!! Get up now!! PLEEEEEEEEEASE!!!'
Sudden panic. Everyone's chairs moving back, everyone getting up. They thought there was something wrong. The dog bitten by a snake, a cobra on the porch, who knows.
I remember shouting 'NO NO NO. Only Amy!!!'
She wiped the corners of her mouth and excused herself.
We walked, hand in hand to the garden and I felt her grip tighten around my fingers when she saw it. So tight so sharp so fast. I tightened my hold on her too. I heard her breath catch in her throat.
I looked up at her astonished expression, and she beamed down at me and we raised our entwined hands and shook them in a gesture of ecstatic victory. Like we'd found Narnia or the Grail or Neverland after a long, arduous search.

She stood there drinking in the bright, incandescent wings and then said, 'Come on, baby, would you like some ice-cream now?'
I trotted off with her, back to the table. The family asked her what we'd gone out to see and my heart wrenched with love and delight when she smiled a coy, deliberate smile at me, put her finger to her lip and said 'That's a secret for just baby and me'.
If I'd hugged her then I would have crushed her with love. A secret of butterfly wings in the sunlight.

Once upon a time, a man who was leaving university to go out into the world had a party. It was August, and hot, and dissertation time in England.

A girl was in her room that afternoon, piles of books and papers strewn over her window sill, her desk, bed and floor. It was too hot to breathe. The oak tree outside creaked in the occasional breeze. A dove chortled with it's mate and the grass swayed this way and that with a low gentle swishing. The muslin curtains were hot with the sunlight. White hot and still.

There was a violent blue in the sky. A violent green in the oak tree. So green, the very principle of green.

Everything so still, the breeze making only tiny punctuation marks in the quietness.

The girl's phone beeped. She was invited to drinks that evening, to bid farewell to the man who was going out into the world.

Dusk. Showered, dolled up, a tiny peach camisole because it was a hot night. Her grandmother's apricot shawl flowing over one arm in case it got chilly later. And then, the day swirled and gave up it's stillness and spiralled into the glittering of cocktails and ripples of cigarette smoke and the nameless enlivening laughter that is the background to all good party-memories.

A beautiful boy sat, one leg tossed over the other knee. A black shirt to match the black night and starry blue eyes. Violently blue, softly glimmering against the black.

The girl forgot the stillness of the day and had a drink and smoked and laughed and her eyes flashed and she danced.

She danced alone and poured out the stillness of the day, gave up the locked-down quality of the afternoon's heat, swayed like cigarette smoke. Twisting through the music, the boy with the black shirt found her like this, alone on the dance floor and smiled at her.

"There he is again," she thought, and reached out for his hand. Not realizing until much later what that thought really meant. There He is. Again.

And we're still dancing.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Amy, I hope you don't mind me writing about you on the internet.

My grandmother had a flower-table.
It was on the front-end of the house, on the top floor. You could see her at work at it when you drove up to the porch.
A slim, tall old lady with her hair done up and a belted pastel dress (always belted, always pastel, always a dress) and sometimes a cardigan.
Even at 80 she was slim and tall and wore a belted dress just below her knees and her legs stretched out out out long long long.
She had a walking stick. I've forgotten how fast or how slow she walked. I was too young to be alarmed by such things.

Anyway, the flower-table: It was a long sturdy trestle table with a light, summery plastic cover on it. At one end, an assortment of vases. No, not 'a couple' of vases. About a hundred vases. Every shape, size, texture and colour. At the foot of the table, several large buckets. These the gardener would fill every morning before she awoke, with fresh flowers from the gardens around the house. (I should explain: it is a huge house with extensive grounds and FLOWERS!!).
There'd be tiny bunches for little vases. These would be filled and lovingly placed on my grandfather's desk, in front of his picture. Other photo frames would be similarly graced with bright pink phlox or deep, thoughtful pansies or hazy violets. Every frame was beaten silver. Perfectly polished, impeccably simple rectangles holding the faces and smiles of people she loved. So many. And in the light that streaked through the drawn blinds in the afternoons, every slash of their silver edges was set further afire by a red rose, a saffron gulmohar, a huge explosion of raani-pink.

In some of the silver bowls there'd be ferns. These would sit as table arrangements at the lunch table. Something exquisite about the baby green of a frond, caressing an old burnished silver. Something that brings in all the damp green freshness of the fern-garden by the pond and melts a swathe of completely refined silver elegance into it. Takes away the impression of mud, leaves its lacey softness. These are things she taught me, wordlessly. I still feel a heart-lurching delight when I see them in my mother's house. No doubt she spent many mornings at that table too.

What I remember most is the colour and the smell.
Her colours were always light and airy and hazy. Like all the colours of the flower table had aged and mellowed and been diffused over time and had found their way onto her. So while on the table there'd be a deep emerald green, on her dress or belt there was mint or pista. Her fingertips, always fondling the petals on the little phlox flowers, would give way to baby pink palms. For every colour of flower or vase or day she had a corresponding mist in her skin, her eyes, her dresses, her soul.
And the smells. Her eu-de-cologne, her old Camay soap and the fresh smell of a new day that only comes when the entire house is surrounded by trees and a small army of gardeners with hosepipes, spraying the hot earth with water from the garden pond. The wet smell of the insides of vases, the wet smell of freshly cut flowers.

Every so often, I had to run downstairs to the garden and relay messages between the gardener and her: 'I asked for the blue ones!' 'Tell her I already told her they haven't flowered yet!!'. They loved each other. Everything he touched turned into blossom. Each blossom, she cherished. The clip-clip of her scissors so gentle. Never any hacking or tearing of leaves. Always time enough to feel a flower's petals. To point out its colour or softness or scent. To look into it's heart and put your nose in it ("Check for bees!!") and inhale!! A mock-deep breath and widened eyes were our sign to each other that truly this one is loveliest of them all. We always checked that yesterday's vases had enough water, enough light. No flowers ever wasted.

Once, there were too many little ones in the larger silver bucket.
She said, "Run down to Janardhan and ask him to do that thing he did for your mother. Go."
Janardhan was squatting by a flowerbed, smoking a bidi. He saw me clambering down the garden steps with a huge bucket full of pink and blue flowers.
Wordlessly, he took the bucket from me, handed me the hosepipe, "Here, you hold this." I was so delighted that I was being allowed to take over the watering, I didn't think to ask what he was going to do with the flowers.
Ten minutes later he nudged me. In both hands, a perfectly formed blue and pink and green wreath in his hands. Made without a shred of wire or rope. A crown of flowers. He put it on my head and said "Raani."
I was a garden fairy-queen that day. I spread my arms and mock-floated, mock-flew, up the steps and back to my grandmother, wearing my crown, and she let me keep it on all day.


The 'quiet within' is overblown.
It's a veil.
There's nothing silent about shock.
I want to cry violently.
Or smash something. Noiselessly. But not quietly. And not a glass. A table. A chair. A door. The wardrobe and all my shoes within it. A building. A mountain. Bring it on.
Tear down a tree.
Scream in a desert.
Fuck someone.

And all this, not out of anger. There is nothing to be furious about.
But adrenaline is like an atom bomb, sending shockwaves long before the noise. Then a white heat before the thunder.
And right now there is white heat white noise, and I want to break something.

Except I will be nice to myself and the universe, since it it colluding in my father's recovery and just smoke a noiseless cigarette outside in the sun instead.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Finite lives, finite planet.

Even when the day is bright, and the afternoon is long, time swishes this way and that and is gone.
Never enough time. To love everyone fully, even when love is coursing through every vein, jostling your blood out of the way.

For someone with such a ruthlessly effective and final 'let go' mechanism, I find to my surprise that now,
I can't.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

I stood outside the house smoking today.
I looked at the moon and there was a veil of mist passing it by. I watched it pass.
The brightest moon this year.
The warmest night.

I love my father so, so much. I cannot bear being away from him at this time. And yet, here I am. Doing bullshit all day.
He would be so disappointed in me.

My mother is so brave, so brave.
She grew up intensely alone. Terribly lonely.
She wraps her own arms around herself in times like this. Such a fragile, sensitive, soft woman. But her aloneness is like steel. She eats her breakfast, she does her hair, she selects her clothes, she folds them.
On days when I couldn't bear to brush my teeth or wash my face or even change my underwear. She's fresh and clean and bathed, with food in her tummy and her steely aloneness even through her tears.
I, having grown up in a house with two angels like my mum and dad, surrounded always by the most intense, palpable love, can never wrap steel around myself like this. I simply don't have it in me.
No steel. No walls. No armour. No moat. No blanket. No nothing.
Just cigarettes and the occassional bleed onto a blog post.
These are all I have right now to keep my expression straight, my fingers moving, my breath going in and out.

I love them so much.

Particularly cogent right now.

Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.
- e.e. cummings.

I vent therefore I am.

Or something a bit less self-indulgent....
But anyway here is my list of thoughts as they're occuring to me, all at once.
It took a coffee and a cigarette and the first warm sunshine of the year to be able to seperate these out as seperate thoughts.

The thoughts are:
  • Dad is better now so I can stop panicking. They've diagnosed what it was, treatment started within the first half hour of it's onset, excellent doctors - including him - managing his treatment, stop stop stop panicking!!
  • Dad is better now so I can stop making a militant effort at keeping calm, and therefore fall to pieces with pent-up panic combined with shattering relief. (Boyfriends shoulders are excellent for the sort of Biblical deluge this brings about.)
  • However: Still feel numb from shock. That gave me a big fright. My Mum called me and said 'Papa's not well, he's in the ambulance, he's not conscious.' Whatever lurched inside me at that second, I hope it wasn't my heart, because that was one solid smash I felt. I think I am still stuck, mentally, in that moment 2 days ago. So I have two days worth of feelings as backlog. (No, they don't actually go away when put into storage; you have to feel them through and through. Gah.)
  • To put everything into perspective, this thought: Get over yourself, you wretched, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, entirely stupid girl. Think what Mum must feel.
  • However: Mum is right there and can hold his hand, and he can hold hers. I feel adrift and alone, halfway across the world, hearing his heart monitor bleeping in the background when I'm on the phone.
  • But: Having said that: Come on, child. You're your Dad's daughter. This is a man who would not have you sopping and 'feeling numb', he'd have you say a short prayer (since you're so-inclined), gather yourself in a quiet corner and plunge into the day knowing that this too, shall pass, and just helping out whenever you're needed. None of this crying or wailing down the phone would impress him at all. Therefore. Stop.
Whoo that was difficult to type out, even harder to seperate out into seperate thoughts. In my head it all feels like a combined mess of aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrhhhhhhh!! But when it comes to dealing with the aaarrrrgh divide-and-conquer has definite advantages :)
Yay. On my way back to smiling at the sunshine again.