Thursday, 30 December 2010
If so, stop at once, please.
This is a non-issue most times. My blood-pressure has never actually soared on a Mumbai local, and I've never hissed at people in Shivaji Market when they jostle me.
But yesterday, in so-called civilisedistan (read, Colchester market) I felt physical rage when someone walked blithely into me - and smack into my broken elbow. (Okay, I wasn't wearing my sling. But I was holding my hand up with a nakedly pained expression on my face.)
(In other news: I broke my elbow on the ice and sprained my wrist and pulled my shoulder and caught a cold. So add these two things to the list of Things That Are Making Me Ill With Irritation: Colchester Borough Councils' apparent lack of grit, and fucking wintertime)
Saturday, 11 December 2010
Sunday, 14 November 2010
Every single one I can think of.
Would it be insanely unwise to put all that out there?
Sunday, 7 November 2010
Friday, 5 November 2010
I have always considered myself a very fearful person. Nervous, anxious, highly-strung, sometimes even paranoid. But I maintain, absolutely, that from the moment I first saw that plaque (and subsequently placed it on the front of the bookshelf), I found what I need to achieve.
Words are superficial. I never interpreted 'Believe' as a slavish kind of devotion to any idealogy, imagined future comfort, any doctrine. I can't define it. But I'm trying to discover what it means to me. 'Fear Not' is by contrast utterly clear: As a dictum, an instruction for how to live, there's no interpretation possible (for me) except the most basic: Banish All Fear. I have diary upon diary, piles of papers, Facebook notes, letters to my mother, emails to friends, documenting all the little bits and pieces of my internal landscape and how it is evolving (or not). Underneath and above each and every one of these is a shadow of that first moment when something led me to find that plaque and the instruction printed on it.
The plaque did not say how to do it, or why it is was necessary.
My whole life so far has been about finding out: from the tiniest and most superficial struggle (going downstairs in the dark without trembling), to the most (seemingly) insurmountable (how to face imagined future loss, how to love but still be free, how to not panic about tomorrow or the day after but still prepare for them). This little instruction sowed a seed which is growing and growing and growing.
I am no closer to the answer or the art as when I first began. But I am closer to being able to think about it clearly (not evidenced by my writing, I know).
Saturday, 30 October 2010
The day before his flying exam when he was to finally earn his wings, she invited him to be her date at her brother's wedding. She told him she loved him too. He woke up the next morning and drove straight to her house to join her for the day - and ever after. And his flying instructor never heard from him again. He never told my mother what he had missed that day, and he only told me years and years later.
That one second's worth of 'I love you too', over some old phone line in my grandmother's house, and that tremendous leap of faith that only my father could have made, had made my life possible. It made my sister's life possible. It brought us into the lives of our friends and families. And it saved the lives of all those lives who were saved by my father's hands. And therefore brought happiness and grace to the lives of their friends, and families. And so on, rippling ever outward.
I think about that off and on, and feel all the strength, and all the fragility, of the things which make up destinies. And a lot, a lot, a lot, of love and gratitude.
Wednesday, 27 October 2010
When I was a child, I was one of those children. I wanted something I couldn't have. I worked myself into a passion in under five seconds. I screamed till my chest hurt. I kicked whoever tried to restrain me. I yelled from my soul upwards. I beat at closed shop doors with my tiny little fists and yelled at walls.
I am still doing it.
Sometimes I think about old loves - and one in particular - and wonder why I cannot learn a simple lesson: Shit Happens, Move On.
I never stop asking why-how-why-why-why-how-why. Even after I've reached an answer to those questions a long, long time ago.
I never stop wanting to go back and try again (even when I don't actually want to try again. If it worked, I'd still want to leave. A piece of profound, paradoxical nonsense that I would caution you against trying to decipher.)
I never stop feeling that strange pull in the depths of my chest that makes me make that half-smile-half-sad face that other people always label Bittersweet, and which to me feels only bitter, never sweet, not even a little bit.
Worst of all: I never want to stop being friends. Stop having a connection. And the thought that some (and one in particular) seems to want this - is killing.
If he was online on gtalk right now, I would probably not say a word.
But the fact that he never is. That is killing.
I just want too much.
All the time.
Sunday, 24 October 2010
Without the first, the second can never be.
With the first, the second can never become.
Whoever designed relationships, hearts, heartlessness and romantic love up in heaven (or further south - much further south) - could you please release Version 2.0 (with the same man, of course)?
Saturday, 9 October 2010
Saturday, 2 October 2010
Black silk top, floaty to a fault, and a necklace bought from Goa for all of 100 ruppees, cascading glass beads of every possible colour.
At the party, she met loads of new people, and one boy in particular, a shy, quiet young man in a blue and white stripped shirt, who was in the kitchen cooking. Something about him struck her immediately, but apparently the sensation was not mutual. He carried on cooking and actually had the nerve to not answer when she asked his name.
Unreasonably hurt and suddenly intensely lonely, she disappeared into the garden for a smoke, and then went upstairs to the bathroom to escape everyone. She sat the edge of the bathtub, her heart somewhere in her shoes, staring at the porcelain door handle and feeling on the edge of tears.
Soon enough it was time to leave, and with the light of dawn and the pleasant cackle of drunk friends walking back to campus with her, she forgot all about the boy who wouldn't tell her his name.
But I believe this. When we meet those we fall in love with, there is an aspect of our spirit that is historian, a bit of a pedant who reminisces or remembers a meeting when the other has passed by innocently…but all parts of the body must be ready for the other, all atoms must jump in one direction for desire to occur.
Six months later, they met at another party, the stars were aligned, each atom was in place and a simple hello turned into a conversation, a kiss, and four years of togetherness.
Thursday, 30 September 2010
I guess that means he has travelled far, and has become a different being.
I've often thought about what I used to write. I have one diary in particular, kept during a particularly poignant year in my life. It's blue binding is scattered with beautiful purple sequins, and its pages are frayed at the edges from my near-constant thumbing them late at night as I thought and thought and wrote and wrote.
I carried it with me everywhere, and wrote in it compulsively. Even if in the middle of a circle of friends having coffee, I would suddenly pull it out and mid-conversation, write something down.
When its pages were full, I put my pencil down, and haven't written on paper like that again, or looked at anything I wrote.
But I carry it with me wherever I go. One day, I'll need to open it again, and there'll be a message in it for me. Until then, it lives with my other diaries - the only one of about a dozen notebooks that is full from page one to page-last, full of exactly what I was burning to write down - and not one word more.
I remember some of what I wrote, though most of the details were just emptied into the pages, and I can't remember them.
Some of what I thought then, I still think now.
Does that mean I haven't moved?
Or that I always knew, and that I need to move from knowing, to being?
You re-read a paper on the back of which your research questions were formed, and out of curiosity, google the person whose manuscript you read four years ago and thought: 'Wow! I want to do THAT!'
You expect an old crony.
And find an incredibly handsome young American smiling broadly in the Indian sunshine.
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
On a different note entirely, Blavatsky says:
Nature gives up her innermost secrets and imparts true wisdom only to him who seeks truth for its own sake, and who craves for knowledge in order to confer benefits on others, not on his own unimportant personality.
Of course, there is no way of knowing whether this is true or not - but if it were, then I guess the questions that keep me up at night will never be answered for me.
I don't know how that makes me feel.
Monday, 27 September 2010
Language is deadening and hopelessly clumsy, sure. But underneath clodhopper words that trample across white spaces, there is something sharp and crystalline.
To be in love is to recall the touch of a lovers skin, sitting here in the office, and to be transported in a lightsecond to yesterday (or tonight!), so that you are no longer in the office, the phone is not ringing, the last few weeks and months of thinking suddenly dissolve and that was not the security guard who just locked you in. Fuck.
Sunday, 26 September 2010
To know how.
To know why it seems so important.
To see and to understand. To be able to read the world and love it.
And above all: To see if there is anything beyond that "grey rain curtain" and if there is, to fly towards it, arms outstretched, smiling, and with no regrets.
These are things that seem to give one wings when one thinks about them. And yet each step seems slow and excruciating. Each drop of understanding fragile and hardwon and always ready to be undone. And each time one pauses, one sees ones feet more tired, more bloody, than when one started out. One seems further than when one started out. And yet there is no choice but to go on.
Sometimes I wish I could just Topshop and go to the cinema and make out and buy shoes and find that enough. But I cannot. Those things make me smile, of course and give me some lightness. But they don't fill this huge yawning hole that seems to stretch wider every day, full of more questions and never any real answers.
Tuesday, 21 September 2010
The utter, fractal, forever-old mystery of each.
Our horror, at the level of the species, of unsolvable mystery.
And our infinite ability to distract ourselves senseless.
Could it be that this - just this - is the pivot of everything we do?
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
Jump. Turn. Kick. Land. Repeat.
The magic of a black belt class is that there need be no instructor to get people to practice their asses off with face-breaking concentration.
We all thought we were very cool. We'd all mastered a kick that had taken us years to come to grips with. The punching bag in the middle of the room didn't stand a chance. In a silent line, turn by turn, we faced it and bowed. And then, jumpturnkicklandrepeat. For good measure, we'd throw a couple of dead-straight punches at the thing as soon as our toes touched the floor.
I did it once.
I fell. Great.
I did it again. The sweet thud of foot slamming onto the side of the bag, and then the tremor on the floor as I fell back to Earth. Success! And again. Harder. Harder! And for good measure, punchpunchslam! My whole body was on fire and my mind was a crystal clear sea, cool as ice.
I thought: 'I didn't know I could think, two feet off the ground - but I can! I can see exactly what to do! If that bag were a person, he'd have a shattered face and he wouldn't have a chance.'
The dojo is not just a room - it is a sensient being. And it detests boasting about face-breaking prowess. It hates pride. It sensed mine rising up from my insides into my smile, and stepped in.
The sensei behind me tapped my shoulder and said, 'Good!! Excellent. You got it. Now do it with your eyes closed from now till the end of the class.' One and half hours.
I was too far gone with my euphoria to watch my tongue and said, 'That's impossible. Even you can't do that.'
He did - Eyes closed, two kicks before landing, one turn. Punchpunchslam! Eyes open. For a second I thought I imagined it. But the bag was swinging wildly from the ceiling and everyone's jaws had hit the floor.
I tried it and of course, my forehead connected with the bag. Hard.
I tried it again. No luck.
Everyone who'd mastered the kick tried it. We all fell.
It's a pretty naked feeling, to wear a black belt and fall with your eyes closed onto a cold stone floor, panting, in front of people you respect and who've broken your bones as you fought your exam. We all felt about 6 inches tall.
The second you think you know - you don't: I've never forgotten that.
Saturday, 21 August 2010
The more eloquently I can describe my life, the more distanced I am from the chaotic ambiguity that I love most about it.
But on a different note, here's the thing:
I've always thought that I love the ambiguity.
I'm discovering that I don't love it unconditionally, by any means.
Perhaps I'm not as immune to conditioning as I'd hoped. Isn't the whole point of the human enterprise to remove ambiguity? From the scale of the couple to the scale of the civilisation, 'success' means that we've locked things down and then systematically removed each and every question mark.
Put up a wall between the civilised and the Wild everything-else.
Definition. Understanding. Prediction. Control.
Engineered Perfection with low probability for disaster or despair.
Isn't that what we try to do, from the lone soul to the species?
And so it is that all of a sudden I find myself asking the Man: Seriously, what is going to become of us. Until I know for sure, I can't be Sure. And if I'm not sure, I can't be here.
To take what at first was the only limitless thing in my life, and then try to wrestle it to the ground with deadlines and contracts: Whose fault will it be when I can no longer fly? And will I mind when I wake up and realise what I've done?
Thursday, 19 August 2010
Tuesday, 17 August 2010
Monday, 16 August 2010
You will feel bruised and alone.
Someone will come along who makes you think you can tell them everything. They'll appear to have a halo and will be everything you've ever wanted and you can't do without them and you tell them your deepest hopes and wishes.
This is the person who will disappoint you terribly.
You will be bruised and alone.
The people you love will come running as soon as you call.
The people you love will come back.
Don't talk to the overly-sparkly ones who appear when they turn their back. They're the universe's way of turning the pack against the weak and wounded.
Friday, 13 August 2010
When a person leaves, I now say goodbye, without bitterness.
I used to take it very personally. Of course, this does not apply to all people. But the exceptions I can count on the fingers of one hand.
When I want to leave, I now say goodbye, without sadness. (And the number of people who'd try to stop me I can count on the fingers of one hand.)
Comes with practice - years and years of practice. But this is a good place to be.
Thursday, 12 August 2010
Wednesday, 11 August 2010
They are, in no particular order -
The Man loves me. I love him.
My parents love me. I love them.
Home is beautiful. And I am here, in my other home, by choice and it was the right choice and I know it.
And there is someone smoking outside my window and I can smell it and I am back in a quitting phase and that ashy smoky fragrance is not helping matters.
Tuesday, 10 August 2010
Surreal trip. Have you ever had the sensation that looking at everything around you, you wanted to draw a giant question mark over it all?
How long does my father really have?
What Will Happen After?
Where I will live.
The fractured horizon over the river - on one side, glass-fronted skyscrappers and on the other, homes made of mud and plastic. A dead river in between. Airbrushed adverts of glossy couples sheltering mothers nursing their babies on the pavement. Everything becoming gloss and polish, surfaces and screens, where there used to be old trees and carved buildings. Shops where there used to be markets. Empty coffee shops where we used to stand amongst crowds pushing and shoving to eat a vada-pav.
Why? How? What can I do?
When Mumbai finally eats up the mangrove, where will those little fishing boats go?
How long does Pasha have?
How long does my Mother have? Will we meet again? (Yes, we will, won't we?)
If I don't buy this dresss or that blouse or those shoes, will that woman or those slum-dwellers have more, will a green field somewhere stay green?
What can I buy the woman who has helped raise me for 28 years and slept on an army camper bed in my sisters' room every night and washed our dishes and our clothes and made our breakfast and woken us up early to study for our exams and held us when we scrapped our knees and slapped us when we said something rude or thoughtless, harder than our own parents would ever think of doing?
Where will I live?
How long does my father have?
What will happen after?
All day, all night, these images, the question mark superimposed.
Friday, 23 July 2010
2 pm and the garden smells of monsoon. Wet earth, leaves. I face a dark window. The field outside is unlit, but I can smell it. And hear it, alive with crickets, the stray dogs, a stray bird awoken suddenly from peaceful sleep. There's the soft glow of my fathers' old reading lamp. What a reading lamp. This is the kind of lamp that keeps you company through the night. Tall, bends this way and that, wherever you want light, it shines it. It must be 50 years old. I am keeping it forever, never giving it back.
The sound of tapping is addictive, smooth. It keeps itself going. Like when I run and the sight of my feet moving is sometimes the only thing that keeps them moving. Or when you wear heels, and you see their long tapering shadow. No amount of screaming pain in my calves is enough to make me stop creating those shadows. Lovely things.
On my screen, a PhD chapter. Almost done. Slowly, slowly. I have to read the lot and then send it to my supervisor. I am aiming for pre-dawn. In the background, there's Carrie Bradshaw and Belle De Jour. Tortured, sexy, writers. When my tapping stops, theirs fills in the spaces. And writing always turns me on. My lovely fictional friends here would understand that, I think.
The slow and steady sensuality of the sounds outside, the tapping keys, the click of thoughts, the mild pain in your muscles. The restlessness. The sense of movement, of flowing. When I finish this thesis I want to rip someone's clothes off. Until then, I have my lamp, and my writer-friends and the dark night outside.
(An Edit: Writing this far from the Man, I am, as always Paranoid. Note to the Universe: When I said 'someone', I wish you to make it The Man. And when I say I'd like to wait until the thesis is done, please, Lord, no, I did not mean that. Thanks. Back to work.)
Saturday, 17 July 2010
Friday, 16 July 2010
Carrie asked this to herself a while ago, and someone asked me this morning (though to be fair, I kept him waiting rather longer than 10 minutes).
It got me thinking.
Here's a list of the top three things that would never happened had I been on time.
1. I met The Man because my evening cleared up, after I was an hour late for meeting a friend and decided split-second to go to a party I would otherwise have missed.
2. I kissed P. on a bench by a fjord in Norway, with the sunset blazing off the hills and shimmering on the water after I was ten minutes late for joining my parents back at the hotel and was running down a short-cut somewhere in Geiranger. I bumped into him on the street corner, and he said he was already ten minutes late meeting his boss for drinks. Parents and Boss both waited a while. Fate. That was the first time we really, really kissed. And I will remember it forever. (Are you reading this?)
3. I missed a flight to Stockholm and the person sitting to me on the next one lives in the same city as me and is a third or fourth cousin I'd never heard of before. We made instant friends.
Life has it's own clocks.
If I'm late, it's because fate ran away with me.
Don't be mad. I will always choose to run with it. No reflection on you.
- When I woke up this morning, there was a cup of hot coffee by my side as soon as I squeaked, coffeeeee.
- On the computer, freshly downloaded Season 1 of the Secret Diary of a Call Girl. We watched Episode 1 curled up in blankets and crunching loudly on our toast, giggling and kissing.
- A packet of Oreos were folded up near my laptop to take with me so that I can munch on something during this odious, tedious, damned chapter.
- And a second cup of coffee was steaming on my dressing table to keep me company whilst I did my make up.
It's always the small things he does that shows me how he out-classes almost everyone else I know, myself included. There's thoughtfulness, finesse, care, of a quality and consistency that is only just about matched by one or two other people in my life. And on the edges, the roughness of his cheeks in the morning and the tightness of his hug at the door. Those are unmatched by anyone, past or present.
(Yes, of course you are excused if you have to go and vomit.)
Thank you, God, thank you thank you thank you.
Thursday, 15 July 2010
I haven't really ever thought about making a point of doing things alone before, because I always assumed that I could without a problem whenever I needed to. Lunchtimes throughout my school career were, after all, spent alone under a rain tree eating my tiffin and staring into the middle distance, first with sullen frustration, then with resignation and in the last few years, with quite a bit of joy. I ultimately made a few friends (all of whom I have now lost, I am glad to say), but even though we ate together often, on the last day of school ever, ever, I made it a point to return to my old spot under the raintree and eat my lunch alone. I bought myself a Pepsi from the canteen that day, sat there and sipped it, and said to myself, thank god that's over!
After, in college and through university, I finally got over myself and found my real friends. But still, I sometimes in restaurants alone, I've taken myself out for drinks alone, I shop alone, and I travel alone more than I do in company. The movies was kind of the last frontier, for no good reason.
So just to tick off that box, I decided to cross it.
Yesterday, I spent the morning torturing myself over a draft for yet another chapter of the thesis. By 3 pm, I'd had enough. I got me a beautiful date for one. A ticket to watch Twilight, a super huge popcorn and a Pepsi, and an entire row all to myself.
The film itself was actually far better than the previous one. Ms. Bella Swan is finding her stride, Mr. Jacob Black has exactly the right mix of pectorals and collar bone and Mr. Cullen has got better lines this time around and his eyes went pitch black for about five minutes. Who knew that that would look disturbing?!
I might do it again tomorrow.
Wednesday, 14 July 2010
Shrugging, and saying, Ok, this feels like this. Great. Now carry on. *shrug.
This is not something that I am good at doing. I plan to get very good at it.
Not because I want to turn into a cold hard bitch. Because I want to stay sane-ish through PhD submission, job hunting, making decisions about moving to India vs. staying here, moving with the man vs. moving without him.
The last one, especially. Makes me want to stop breathing.
That will not do.
That is the word for it.
Sunday, 11 July 2010
Looking at a sunny day laced with fractal clouds in the softest blue sky and hearing the wind blow and feeling ecstasy and despair, both at once. Feeling immense and infinite possibilities and feeling the ultimate futility of any possible path. Open and closed. Dancing on the edge of something incredibly deep, but staying hypnotised by surfaces.
What's the word for this?
I don't know.
But I do know a great little device for stopping it all feeling so fraught:
Thursday, 8 July 2010
But those are just the odd notes.
The spaces in between are intensely quiet, intensely peaceful, intensely alone.
I think. I write. I stare at the sun-dried grass outside the window, dotted with yellow and pink wildflowers. I listen to doves cooing on the window sill and crickets chiming away the long afternoon. I read.
The silence is golden.
The solitude is golden.
In between, there are intense flashes of memory: A piece of fieldwork. A fight I had when I was talking to the Man longdistance from a village somewhere and I had a mad idea to run away right there and then, lose myself in the middle of trackless dusty little villages. The touch of a strangers hand on my arm as he explained some vitally important point about irrigation. The point was vital enough that he touched me. The touch was vital enough that I forgot the point and still cannot remember it. The sound of neem trees and clinking glasses and Suttar drinking - no, slurping - his tea.
Inside all of these memories there is data that has to be written up, analysed and re-analysed, sharp recollections and soft ones that need to be remembered and re-remembered and a life, apparently, to be lived in the here and now. Bills, washing, laundry, insistent emails from my sister asking me if she should or should not order dinner, halfway across the world in Mumbai (No, she should save some money and cook herself.)
I've often wondered what people meant when they said that a piece of research can suck you in.
I'm not just sucked in, I'm several feet under, trying to grow a pair of gills so I can stay there longer.
But I am no mermaid, and sometimes I need to come up for air. And the beer at the bar or the Mans' mandolin, which he has taken to playing every evening, are just about as much sound and Outside as I can stand.
Sunday, 4 July 2010
Life. Is. Too. Short.
It's strange that the immediate catalyst for this (entirely mundane) realisation was the onset of spring. That's usually the time when I become so immersed in the annual renewal that I am positive down to the my bones.
Not this year.
This year, I've been catching glimpses of old people getting off busses, their knees creaking, their eyes dimmed, the grasp of their hands weak, their understanding of this new, fast, hard world sometimes incomplete. And it floods me with pain to think h0w quickly that happens. 70 years, 80 years, 85...
I've been thinking of all the things I want to do, want to see. All the things I want to be. All the things I don't even know I want yet. All the things to love, to hate, to know, to change, to touch, to learn. All the bigness, the vastness, the deepness of the world.
It seems impossibly crazy that we're given One life. And it's a short one. And we're given an instinctive hold on it. A desire to keep it going. How brutal.
It seems as though inside everything that is beautiful, wildly moving or worth learning there's the incessant ticking of a clock that never stops. A sadness. A knowledge that this lovely friend, our time here, is moving always further and further away, until one day she is gone.
I was on the phone to my mother today and I told her what I'd been mulling over in my head, again and again all through spring, and now summer.
She laughed, and reminded me that she'd turned 60 this year, and that I was too young to be thinking like this, I should go out and kiss the Man and enjoy the sun and forget everything else.
But I really can't. I feel a new sense of urgency, of mad attachment to this one, wild, precious life. And a breathless desire to make it stay, keep it around longer, hold on tight.
Saturday, 3 July 2010
Having never been such a person, having never had the strength to do this, preferring instead to lock myself in a room for a time when things do not go my way and simply scream and cry and make no attempt at a straight face when my heart is twisting inside me, does this mean I will not have a happy ending?
Wow, I really can't shake off the maudlin-panna right now.
Friday, 2 July 2010
Thursday, 1 July 2010
I shall change that, though really, is there anyone reading this? If not, why not just type whatever I like!? (Come to think of it, why not just type whatever I like anyway).
Anyway the point I wanted to record was this.
M. came downstairs yesterday evening post-dinner. I was at the dining table wrestling with a bit of proofreading on the laptop.
He wore a deep red kurta that I bought for him at Westside when he came to Pune and flipflops that I bought at Koregaon Park.
When he dresses like this he looks like a social-worker-phirangi-prince.
I am approaching my 28th birthday rather rapidly, so this is perhaps a juvenile thought (hehe) but I would just like to say:
Alternate nothing with that kurta.
That is an order.
Wednesday, 30 June 2010
I am PROFOUNDLY Disinterested in the World Cup. I've been wanting to say that since the damn thing began.
Not that it matters at all to anyone (as with the rest of the content on here, tee hee, but still I thought I'd scream about stuff anyway), but:
I dreamt of a kiss I had fiveish years ago now at Home. Last night. Kisser was on Facebook and chatting, so... Must've jolted the old brain cells.
He told me was getting married and has become as raddled as... as... the most raddled person I've ever seen.
Why does this happen to everyone?!
I told him I was still 'just' living-in with the Man.
He said: 'Oh. haha. Grow up na. All that romance is so juvenile.'
Not what he said when he was salivating for a kiss under my mother's neem tree in the garden.
I hope he falls into the fire and burns his lungi off in front of his mother.
I wanted to say that out loud too, but I controlled myself. I have greatly improved.
Monday, 28 June 2010
Mariam, thinking to herself, after she's said the horrible break up words: "... it's not easy being in a relationship, much less to truly know the one and accept them as they are with all their flaws and baggage... It always fascinates me how people go from loving you madly to nothing at all. Nothing. It hurts so much. When I feel someone is going to leave me I have a tendency to break up first to avoid having to hear it all. Here it is. One more, one less. Another wasted love story. I really loved this one. When I think that it's over, that I'll never see him again like this... Well yes, I'll bump into him, we'll meet our new boyfriend and girlfriend, act as if we had never been together. Then we'll slowly think of each other less and less, until we forget each other completely. Almost. Always the same: Breakup, breakdown. Drink up, fool around. Meet one guy, then another. Fuck around to forget the one and only. Then after a few months of total emptiness, start again to look for true love. Desperately look everywhere and after two years of loneliness, meet a new love and swear it is the one. Until that one is gone as well.
There's a moment in life when you can't recover from another breakup. And even if this person bugs you 60% of the time, well you still can't live without him. And even if he wakes you up every day by sneezing right in your face, well, you love his sneezes, more than anyone elses kisses."
Cut to: Them dancing, post-fight, laughing and kissing in the street, break up forgotten, and love re-remembered, because "There's a moment in life when you can't recover from another breakup."
Beautiful piece of script.
Sunday, 27 June 2010
This afternoon, on the 62, I thought again:
Desire is pain.
Desire is beautiful.
How to reconcile these?
How to be utterly non-attached, but still entwined in the beauty of his cheekbones? How to feel the throbbing pulsating Utter connection I feel when my mother holds me? How to feel, like I sometimes do, like flinging myself across the earth, arms outstretched, hugging the mud and the roots of trees?
I love it here.
I love the ones who're with me. And some that have passed. How to feel them across that divide except through my awful Missing?
How to be an environmentalist, to care, to feel pain, to scream, if I am non-attached?
And yet, how to be peaceful?
When every desire, every beauty, every thing is transient, fleeting.
I have to learn how to look that in the eye.
I can't, yet.
This morning, sauntering into the room, I saw that his cheeks have turned golden brown like the darker curve of a nectarine.
I kissed him there, and said happy birthday.
He half-smiled, half-frowned, and turned over.
I left his birthday present on his computer chair and a birthday card on two pink post-it notes.
One of the presents is a fabulous pair of shorts. He has blue legs. A tan is essential, if only to avoid severe vitamin-D deficiency. Vampire.
The other is Silence.
No more: When're you getting a job, why aren't you happy, are you happy? What can I do? What do you want? Do you still love me? Why do you love me? Are you sure?
The last, especially. For his birthday present, I am boxing up those questions. Topping the parcel with a big red bow. And throwing it out the window.
Que sera, sera.
Saturday, 26 June 2010
If anyone should break my heart, it should be me. Not circumstance nor callous people.
I should stop doing this.
Other people - save one, and he is long gone, now - have been far more careful with my heart than I have ever been with it.
I throw it up into the air and forget to catch it.
I box it when it gets strong enough to soar.
I push it when it wants pulled. Open it when it wants closed.
Reopen healed wounds and leave them bleeding, disgusted.
Only I do this, no one else does it to me.
I really, really should stop.
This isn't really an ahha! moment though. I've known these things for years now.
And still, I do it.
one for each of the infinite directions.
And we should marry them all off:
paired, at last, they'd stop screaming and fighting
And I'd have some peace, at last.
But that's not what I really want, or I'd have it, by now.
Last night I wrote my wedding vows in my head. Silently, in the kitchen, while the Man was upstairs being sick with a stomach bug. They spilled out, in the space between the bean plants on the window sill and the kitchen counter. I had a light blue ceramic bowl in my hands, full of bright red soup.
I imagined saying them very softly, underneath the mango tree at home. I imagined the grass on the lawn. The softly cobalt sky. I looked straight into his eyes, and said, I love you. I love you. I love you. And I promise I will never stop.
I tried to change the never. Superstitious. Unholy word. Awful, if you break a never promise. The word is hurled back at you and it shatters into your face - You promised you would never...
But I couldn't change it.
A tear pricked the corner of my eye, and I said, out loud, Wow! Sentimental ass!
But the tear always wins, and it rolled down my cheek, fast, and into the soup.
He ate it, and I didn't tell him.
He has absolutely everything now.
Which terrifies me. I keep trying to change it. But I couldn't.
Thursday, 17 June 2010
Everyone (me included!) has Problems.
Everyone is 'struggling'. Or 'fighting a great battle'.
I get that.
What I don't get is what I am supposed to do.
Listen? Check. Empathise? Check. Advise, if asked to? Check. Shake person by shoulders and give them a kick up the arse? Check, if we have that sort of relationship.
Do all the above indefinitely? Check, if we have a deep and enduring sort of relationship.
I feel inadequate. But I have to admit that I can't actually do all of the above (or even a few, in isolation) for several people at once over extended periods.
Sometimes I go through good spells. Sometimes bad.
But there are some people I know who always seem to be down.
I developed my sense of self-preservation early, and I know that sadness sticks. Sometimes I come away from conversations with 'them' feeling... inexplicably down. Again and again. And unable to do anything to either help them, or register the slightest positive change in their countenance. I leave feeling irritated. At myself, for being so easily infected with their Morose. And with them, damn it. For being so one-sided in their interaction.
They feel blah.
They feel sad.
Life is awful. Difficult. Tough.
Yes, yes, I get it. But can we make it better? No? Ok. You want to forget about it for a while? No? Ok. You want to talk it out? No? You want me to leave you alone? No? You want me to tell you what's up with me? No? You want some perspective? You want to talk about why problems with bais or work or college or colleagues aren't as earth-shaking as, say, genocide, or war, or Iraq, or oil, or climate change, or whales, or starvation or food crises? No?
Okay, tell me what the fuck you want, damn it!
And admit it: you're annoyed with so many little things, so much, that you completely miss out the big picture. You're a little thing. In a vast picture. Colleagues, work, shoes, bais, they matter to your life, sure. But they're not worth missing out life for. And I'll be damned if you want me to miss out on mine to constantly keep you company as you miss out on yours.
*Big huffy puff.
Thanks folks, back to the sunshine.
Tuesday, 8 June 2010
I walked through wide open fields, jumping over tiny wooden fences and low stone walls (and stopping again to take a picture with a rainbow, and scratch names into the rock), through a huge, windswept graveyard, and then through the church, and sat there for a long, long time, and lit a tiny votive candle for each of the people I love. I read the tiny, almost-gone lettering on the stones (one to a soldier killed in the Afghan War in Quetta in 1898!).
I stared at the stained glass and marvelled at how old it is. And then, after finally returning for the night, I sat outside the hostel, watching the sea breathe in and out against the shore and a tiny lighthouse on the far coast glimmering (every six seconds!) faintly against the darkness. And when I shut my eyes, for ages and ages the sights I'd seen all day flashed past me, and seeped deeper and deeper into my bones.
Monday, 24 May 2010
Don't get me wrong: I call the B.S. in my face-to-face life. Just in rather less corrosive terms. So why put up the bilge here? Dunno. Perhaps I don''t call the B.S fully enough, or it just makes me maa-aad and I need to vent.
Here is something that has been prickling me since it happened.
An exceptionally close friend and I went out last year to the village I did my research interviews in.
For me this was a chance to revisit my friends there, get a day out in the fresh air, let them know that I was finally! writing! up! and eat some great village food. It was also a chance to chat with some of the people I'd interviewed and ask them to clarify some of the things that they'd said during the interview that I didn't fully understand, but thought I had at the time.
Here is a snippet of the conversation we had on the way home. I began by mentioning how much I loved some of the people I'd met there, even though I barely knew them. I felt connected to them, to their place, to their warmth, generosity and care. Romantic of me, perhaps, but so what..
The next few lines of our chat went something like this:
Me: ...and you know they're so incredible every time I go there. They always have time to sit and talk to me, even if they have to go meet someone in Parner (the nearby town), or go to the market that day, or take the goats out...
Me: What was that?!
Him: You know, they really have nothing better to do. These people (that's the part that stabs at my mind: these people) will take any chance to just sit around and do nothing. No matter what you try to do to help them (another stab: help them? How patronising!), nothing will change. They're just all incredibly lazy.
Me: I beg your pardon... I think that's a totally condescending thing to say. And you have no idea whatsoever about their lives, lifestyles or priorities.... you've never even been here!
Him: I don't need to have been here. These people are all the same. Seen one? Seen them all.
Me: So what do you do exactly? What do you do that demonstrates that you're not just a lazy sod yourself?
Him: How dare you... (with no further qualifying answer, I assume he couldn't answer and left it at that.)
You know what bugs me the most?
This is a fairly typical set of opinions. In conversation with friends about my fieldwork, I've often uncovered incredibly condescending opinions about rural lifestyles and people, lurking just under the surface of seemingly egalitarian, open-minded, cosmopolitan people. People who are curious about the world, relatively non-judgemental and god damn it - imaginative. So why the spillover 'these people' opinions that so many of my parents' generation seem to have?
What bugs me also is the fact that the opinions are never qualified by experience or example. They must be lazy because they're poor.
They must be miserable because they're poor.
They must be poor because they don't have houses in the city and can't read or write and eat fried chicken at will until all their arteries clog up.
They must be miserable because they don't have the opportunities 'we' do: to see museums and shows and dance all night and drink and picnic at the weekends and watch documentaries and sit around discussing national politics and art and philosophy and manicures.
And if they're poor and miserable, it must be their fault! They're lazy! They don't work 14 hour days in an office, so they must be lazy. They enjoy sitting under neem trees? Wow. Lazy.
All the assumptions are grounded only in ones' own personal agendas. You know one life - your own - you've known them all. Apparently.
What I've loved discovering during my fieldwork is that 'these people' are just like me. Equally, I've loved discovering how they are different: each one of 'them' is different to the other 'thems', and to me. Individuals. Yes, with some conditioned attitudes, prejudices and agendas. Just like me. But also with entirely individual and powerful traits, personalities, destinies and hopes.
There is no them and us, there's just all of us.
And if there were a them and us, the powerful condescension inherent in 'these people' almost guarantees that them and us will never ever meet, even if we sit next to each other under a neem tree.
What does it take to shatter thems and build us-es?
Sunday, 23 May 2010
I don't know why I always use that tired metaphor. I hate sailing.
But now it's starting to catch up with me, I think. That always-tired feeling has nothing to do with the fact that I've been working on my thesis, and about a million other little things. Nothing to do with the fact that I've been sick, on and off, since this time last year (Nothing serious, but enough to chip away at my patience with myself. The story is rivetting, I assure you. But only to my doctor. Shall spare you.) Nothing, even, do with the all the emotional energy spent and retrieved, spent and retrieved, spent and... oh shit... gone!
Instead I think it has everything to do with the fact that after a while, up and down and up and down get, well, boring. The ups have been marvellous. The downs have been extremely valuable, and not half as bad as they would have been had they occured one, two, five years ago.
And I'm waaay grateful for both.
But the thing about it is that now, please, Universe, zara break do, please. Just a little more stability, over a lot more time, thanks very much! (I read somewhere that you should thank the Something before you get your wish, and then you're gauranteed to get it.)
I've realised a few things about myself over this period. Some of them I like, some I love, and some I plan to thumb my nose at in the hope that they will take offense and go away. (Haven't grown all that much, then. Glad we settled that.)
Things other people say during up-d0wn-down-up-UP!-down times have a special resonance as well. They tend to be especially sharp, or especially illuminating. During this phase I've had looong conversations with a range of different people. And as these conversations get deeper and more personal, I've come across a repeating pattern that I never encountered before:
Almost everyone has that One Wound. The hole around which they have shaped themselves as they healed, sealing their direction, until they reopen it (or fill it?) and heal themselves deeper.
These wounds shape the way they think about some things (or everything). They shape some (or all) of their reactions.
And I realised with a sharp sense of shock, every time a narration turned itself from 'them' to me: I don't have a single, short sharp shock that has shaped me. Yes, growing up scars you, sure. Am no exception. And like everyone else, a couple of incredibly traumatic things happened to me that really rocked my boat (again with the sailing. Buy me a boat, someone!). But I can't zero in on a single one that has shaped me. Not an event, a trauma, a sudden epiphany, a seperation, a loss.
Instead, the thing that's probably shaped me most profoundly is a sustained background tremor that has still (thank you, Universe), not shaped itself into a catastrophe: The vividly imagined future loss of my father. This has haunted me since I was roughly six. 20 years on, I realise that it's just as powerful a force as the singular shaping trauma or change. Mountains, after all, crumble under nothing more substantial than breeze and streams. It just takes a while. But that's slightly misleading - I'm not crumbling, just being shaped.
Here is what my fear has made me do:
- Live in terror for a long time, and then learn to breathe my way through it.
- Appreciate every single facet of every single moment, even the crap ones. Everything I can perceive and absorb. I don't particularly like that the driving idealogy is '...because you never know what tomorrow might bring...'. But hey. I am happy that at least I make a relentless effort to absorb.
- Listen, learn, imitate, listen some more, to everything my father says. He's a wise, wise man. I've always been scared that that source of precious wisdom will suddenly be cut off. And so I've tried to drink every drop that is thrown my way. Sometimes even asking pre-emptive questions about future important life events. His favourite is: 'If you're not here when I get pregnant, exactly which doctors are the good ones? Tell me their names and addresses.' (I asked this at age 10!) And: 'When Mama becomes old what is the best way to take care of her? Wait let me write it down' (Age 12). (My diary entry for this reads: "Asked Papa how to take care of Mama when she is old. He talks too fast for me to write it down. He said I should understand (her), be patient, and show her as much love as I can." (Got it, Dad, not to worry. Learnt by heart, see?!)
- Side by side, it's made me try to develop a backbone of my own. One day I will not be able to pick up the phone and howl 'Papa! He left me! My heart is broken!' I will have to pack my lunch and go to the office and fall apart and pick myself up and pack lunch again the next day. I am trying to figure out how to stand up by myself and stay standing, no matter what else happens, and just be grateful that I grew up in the shadow of a very, very mighty tree, but not a tree I can lean on forever.
And that's just a litle something I'm starting to uncover.
I don't like that the driving force of a lot of these very positive things has been fear, for so incredibly long.
I wish to let that go.
Now. Papa. Tell me how. And please, hold on I need to write it down.
Sunday, 2 May 2010
Your result for The 4-Variable IQ Test...
30% interpersonal, 35% visual, 15% verbal and 20% mathematical!
Your strongest type of intelligence is Visual. You thrive on spatial thinking, shapes, patterns, and form. You're unlikely to be blind. You can probably think in 3D very easily. You are very likely to be attractive, based on only my most rudimentary anecdotal evidence. And you are likely to appreciate a good body in a lover.
Your specific scores follow. On any axis, a score above 25% means you use that kind of thinking more than average, and a score below 25% means you use it less. It says nothing about cognitive skills, just your interest.
Your brain is roughly:
Matching Summary: Each of us has different tastes. Still, I offer the following advice to the world.
1. Don't date someone if your interpersonal percentages differ by more than 20%.
2. Don't be friends with someone if your verbal percentages differ by more than 25%.
3. Don't have sex with someone if their math percentage is over 50%.
Is it today, tomorrow, or yesterday?
U2 is playing One Step Closer To Knowing. That song is my prayer, this week, this month, for the rest of my thesis. For the rest of my life?
Yesterday, I dreamt that something had happened - a volcano, a storm, a something big - and the sky was overcast and rusty red. Deep red and extremely heavy - like nothingness, as described by someone or the other.
Everyone was told to stay inside. My best friend was there, and the man, and my mother and father.
Suddenly, I had a mad impulse, and said, oh screw this! I'm going outside! And I stepped outside under the nothingness-sky, and looked up, and it started to rain gentle, star-bright, slow raindrops. I closed my eyes and smiled.
When I awoke, it was dawn, and the sky was overcast, and red, and I had nothing planned for the day. So I awoke the man, and we went outside, and stood in the park and closed our eyes as it rained gentle, star-bright, slow raindrops.
I opened my eyes, and didn't know whether I was dreaming the same dream again, awake, or still inside last night.
Back in the house now, and the sky is dark, and lightning is forking across the sky, and U2 is forking lightning through me as it throbs on my speakers.
Friday, 16 April 2010
Ever notice how conversation flows exceptionally smoothly when I focus on how's work-what did you buy today - ooh nice heels! -oooh show me your new bed! - aarrey yaaar, why don't you call him - arrey man, he's a jackass, and then just stops the second you say: So. How are you really?
I couldn't give a toss about the new bed, or the new boy in it.
The heels are great, but high as they are, you still look pretty low to me. Even online, even longdistance.
So why can't you just talk about what matters, and stop hiding behind boys and beds?
I probably can't fix it for you, but babu, neither can heels.
Thursday, 8 April 2010
All it takes to remember that I already have it is to recall that the second I saw you, it felt like soaring, and all my walls came crashing down.
Don't make me rebuild them, na, please.
Monday, 5 April 2010
In other words:
Wow, I love that someone I run into every day has a crush on me.
But in so many words, "His interest... is very flattering bit simply not suffficient reason to play."
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Friday, 26 March 2010
In the middle of the afternoon, the chaffa trees are blazing molten pink against the furnace-top of the sky, and the crickets and doves rhythymically crick and chime, crick and chime, crick and chime, crick.. and.. you're asleep. A sister, or a cat, sometimes both, both equally lovely, sometimes walk silently in and sit by you. (And then either jolt you awake or understand, and fall asleep themselves - respectively :P)
No one who's been inside an Indian afternoon in a peaceful place, in a home-place, could ever again think that peace = quiet, simplicity = beige or solitude = aloneness.
Now that I'm back in a quiet, beige and solitary place, these are the things whose absence is like a jagged edge rustling somewhere in the corner of my mind. Even though it is spring, and the birds, the vines, the daffodils, the lilies (and some days, even the people!) seem to be waking up and stretching after a long, cold sleep.
Simple sounds: ceiling fans, turtle doves. Utterly simple scents: moghra and wet earth. And simple gestures: being handed a bunch of white flowers by the gardener, being smiled at. Being handed a beedi by the watchman as an invitation to sit by the garden tap for five minutes and smoke in companionable silence as the sun starts to set.
These dot the whole day, when it's a peaceful day, in a peaceful place, with nothing much to do.
And then the gentle breeze of dusk, heavy with the smell of warm earth and windblown grass, starts to shake the old trees glittering in the sunset, and one by one, loosens the stars into the sky. The trees grow dim, the birdsong fades slowly, and above, a tapestry of silver and indigo starts to spread from the eastern sky. Slowly, the moon begins to glow and with the first call of an owlet from the neem tree, the day is done.
These are riches, this is heaven, this is the love like no other.
Monday, 18 January 2010
Well, a few reasons. I thought my relationship was experiencing a kind of a death, and beyond, I imagined a ghastly, empty and cold unknown. I went home to visit my father a while ago, and my insides lurched. First with relief to find him well, and happy. And then with fear of what might have been but isn't here yet.
And then the day before yesterday, my dearest friend in the world lost one of her dogs to illness.
And in that wonderful and merciless way that life has, I was reminded that no amount of conceptual exploring ever really measures up to the real thing. Thinking about endings is gut wrenching. Living through a real, irrevocable one (or seeing your friend try to) is... well... Oh, Lord, a whole different game.
But still, in each of those imagined or real endings, my thoughts and feelings ultimately turned to consider what lay beyond. It is as if I simply cannot compute the possibility of Nothing. Even if something feels like it, I will create something, to fill the void.
And so I talked to the Man. And we acknowledged the end of one thing, and the possibility that another thing might be born to take it's place, if we let it. The end of our beginning. The birth of something to replace it - a relationship built on stronger legs than infatuation. But still full of fascination and adventure. And slowly, we are watching that imagined possibility come to life, I think.
And so I wrote to my father. Two cards. Newspaper cut-outs. A letter that is in draft inside my head right now, but soon to be penned in ink. I bought him a notebook to fill with poems. I called and stayed on the phone talking and talking and talking. And trying to imagine the possibility that one day, if he is gone before I am (this is always a possibility to be acknowledged), I will have something to fill that void: the memory of a real relationship with him. Not just one built on what I thought I had when I was in school. A real connection between two adults who love each other very much. And slowly, that is coming into being. He called me today, and we talked about his day. Just ordinary chatter. Totally banal. Infinitely precious. And for us, new!
Each of these two has been the result of imagining loss, and bringing about a change to prevent or dilute it in some way.
And as for the little doggie who has passed, I cannot bring anything new into being there, because it was not my loss, or my imagined loss. For that kind of ending, there is more grief, bitter grief, and then healing, and then a slow, tentative rebirth. All I can do is to help with hugs and phone calls and random texts in the middle of the day.
Monday, 4 January 2010
Terrifying, isn't it.
After that thought, nothing is more important than whatever life remains. To throw as much love as you can out there into the void. To pull as much as possible in. To discover meaning, and then, freedom.
How heartless the logic, how worn the cliche: The minute you discover the reality of your own mortality for yourself, your life can truly begin. Real life. The desperate business of doing one's best, cost be damned.
So here it is:
One day, I will die.
Saturday, 2 January 2010
Kissing on the bridge across the Arno. If you look down, you see that the river is absolutely full of water rats. It's quite amazing. And there is almost always a golden haired boy staring down there as well. And you smile at each other. And he says hi, in Italian. Which is a smile, a wink and an outstretched hand. You are crazy, because your parents are sleeping off the afternoon in a little Florentine hotel just across the street. From their room, should they wake up, the first thing they will see from their window is the luminous honey coloured Arno, and their daughter, holding the hand of a complete stranger in the sunset.
But you don't actually think this through, and take the hand that is reaching for yours.
The one thought that you do have is Oh my God, what are you doing!! But of course you brush this aside.
For a split second the world is reduced to the quick, heady motion of being pulled from one point on the bridge to another, just 3 feet away. From one point 3 feet away to the other side, in the under a second, you have crossed over an unfathomable abyss and found yourself alive on the other side. It might be hard to believe, but there will never again be any doubt that connection - the kind that curls your toes and sends your insides into chaos - is actually dead easy. It's like when you first learn to alter your vision by screwing up your eyes. You can never go back to thinking it is difficult, and you can do it at will for the rest of your life. Kind of like learning how to ride a bike. That you are young makes it easy. But it is not what makes it possible.
And you say, only, hello. Once in English, which is a word said with a smile. And once in Italian, which is a kiss. You are not shocked, or taken by surprise, or outraged or indignant. There is no feeling of being taken advantage of. Of your righteous virtue violated. None at all. You kiss him back. And for ten minutes, you just kiss.
Until that thought about your parents possibly watching from the window arises again, and you stop. You hold hands for a while longer, and continue holding for as long as possible, until you are too far away for your fingers to touch. Then it's over. You smile, in English, turn around, and run back to the hotel. When you look out of your window, he is still on the bridge, looking at the street down which you ran.
Life's never been the same again.