It makes you happy.
Fill up Journals.
Empty Margins of Magazines.
Tissues from tables at Cafes.
It has been a while since I have written and I can almost hear the creaky rust in my fingers. There are too many people who know about my blog now, people who know me and can affect me and my loved ones lives directly. Each time I think of this, the voice in my head that wants to come out gets a little more muffled. It doesn’t make any sense, I write to be read but I don’t want these people to know that I wrote it or to form an opinion about the people I write about or to start a conversation with me about this. Even my mother, read a piece I thought I had very cleverly labelled as ‘fiction’, but she is my mother and she knows the difference between fact and fiction and this piece kept her up for two nights until she finally decided to talk to me. She cried and apologised for her role in the incident or her lack of it. I did not want an apology, I had forgiven her way before that. I wrote the piece to cope with it, to make sense of it, to release it from the throes of my mind into this white blinking screen thinking that once it takes on a definite form in black and white it will lose it ghostly air and stop haunting me. This has always worked for me, making sense of the chaos of the world through words, finding patterns and also imagining them where there have been none. But this helps because it is unadulterated by what other people think of the incident, the people in the incident or even about the way I choose to express it. It works because I do this alone. Writing is my safe haven, the place I need to go to in darkness and in strength, to find and to lose and then lick my wounds, to create new parts of myself and to destroy the old.
In spite of my various attempts at order and schedule, writing has always been something that comes at its own will and like a stubborn child refuses to cooperate when its on a clock. Now I am beginning to negotiate with it but she still has the upper hand and I have a vague feeling that she always will. The urge to write will always come to me when I do not have the time, means or space to flesh it out completely or it will teasingly evade me when I sit with hours to spare and a word count goal to accomplish. It’s a wave I am still learning to ride and the last month or so has just blitzed past without anything more than a few mundane journal entries. She has roared and foamed and been as enticing as she could, but I have simply remained at the shore blatantly procrastinating, as if, as if I didn’t know that when I get around to it this particular wave will be gone. There will be more I am sure, but this one will be gone and I will never know where she could have led me.
Here is the part where I swear to myself that I will write more and post more and find Cthulhu. But sadly words don’t work for me that way, instead I am thinking of all the time that has passed since my last post and all the questions I have had since.
I am staring at the screen for a few minutes and I remember the last thing I stared at for so long, so blankly. It was a present I received a few days ago, a set of four unlinked strings that were in some complex and mysterious way to come together to form a necklace. This wasn’t a gift, it was a puzzle and who doesn’t love a good puzzle every now and then. I untangled those four strings, touching its metal and plastic beads and baffled by the lack of a logical beginning or ending or a broken link that explains everything. I ask anyone who agrees to help piece this puzzle for me, lesser and lesser because I want to wear it and more because I realise this too is now adding on to my large enough pile of unanswered questions. I watch as each person approaches it with a different strategy and I watch each of them give up or fail. In my fingers, the strings feel cool and unaffected by the confusion they are causing, they don’t seem to mind being incoherent. When I am alone I hold them up and make them dance and though I still don’t know how to wear them without risking them slipping off me or knotting them around my neck in a most unaesthetic manner at least I can hold them and dangle them and admire its strange unknowable beauty. This is not enough of course. I realise that as I try to braid it into semblance (it doesn’t work) but for now I think, for now this will do.
There are some questions that stand before us rather grotesquely, demanding that we answer them as soon as we can, questions about boundaries and trade offs and about our choices and the price one would pay to follow our urges even when they lead into the dark woods. And then there are others, the simpler ones, the ones whose answers we chase knowing that they wont affect us in any profound way but the chasing of which makes us forget, for sometime at least, the other more pressing questions.
I begrudgingly got off the Mumbai to Bangalore AC Sleeper bus that night, I was so plagued with sleep as I often am when sad or lost that had it not been for the inconvenience of having a limited bladder I would have stayed in that coffin like sleeper berth and waited for the bus to start again.. It was past ten ‘o clock and we had halted for dinner at an exaggeratedly fake Rajasthani Restaurant named Rajgadh Palace, somewhere along the National Highway still within the Maharashtra State border, while other buses and trucks whooshed past us. A tiny frail woman caught my attention. She was draped in a Saree that looked so heavy for her that she moved with a trepidation that made you feel like she will slip any minute now. I was sitting on this six-seater table on one corner, as all lone travellers do resigned to the fate that a whole table to themselves is asking for way too much. I was groggy with sleep and my mouth held that strange feeling that comes with not speaking for hours at a stretch. Seated on one of the chairs on the opposite side was a rather impatient man travelling on the same bus as me, his hair shaped funnily in the shape of his pillow, threatening the waiter every five minutes to hurry up with the food or the bus is going to leave without him. The waiter fruitlessly assured him that the bus will wait for at least another twenty minutes but in vain. The man was stubborn. When his food finally did arrive, he asked for rotis one at a time as one does when being fed at home with all the ladies of the household waiting on us. He rested his left elbow on the adjacent empty chair and reclined with an apparent sense of entitlement and an implied difficulty to please.
Midway through my own meal of piping hot and fiery sabzi so red that it stained the tips of my fingers with its redness, this tiny woman who caught my eye came and occupied a seat on the same table accompanied by her rather squarish and stout husband. He wore the traditional Marwari red flower earring in his left earlobe and the amount of jewellery she wore corroborated the recentness of their wedding. They did not exchange a single word after joining the table and the husband ordered food for the both of them. They managed to spend the ten minutes that the food took to arrive without giving each other any eye contact. I imagined a muffled loneliness emanating from her and it tousled my sulking sadness. The food came and the husband sprung forward to fill up his plate and then the wife’s who showed no movement or expression. He poured all the rice onto his plate and with barely some left as an almost afterthought he tilted it towards his wife and asked, “You won’t have any of this right?”
She nodded politely and I looked at her shrinking frame and fought the urge to ask her if she was okay. I unwillingly imagined her petite frame crouching under this man double her bodyweight, in the darkness of the night and I hoped against all evidence that at least there she has a voice.
I worried about this little woman whose name I did not know and because I couldn’t pull her aside and ask her questions about her life till I was convinced she was safe, I sighed and dodged the green pea on my plate. When her husband wasn’t looking, I gently pushed a glass of water to her side and she smiled as she lifted the glass to her lips and I swear for that moment she looked like a friend I met back in Mumbai, ranting about the unfairness of being female over a few fruity cocktails.
The shape and size of love is hard to tell.
His was an arrow
Moving straight ahead.
Hers were polka dots
Sprinkled all over.
His were a series of squares
A bit too sharp around the edges
One leading to another
Keen to reach a conclusion.
Hers were swirls and whorls
Dancing around the page
Crowding at the edges
And margins and random places
Happy to be wherever.
Her spiraling affection
Stood quietly outside
His tightly shut box.
If only it opened slightly
She could spill inside
And fill up the dark corners
And vacant edges
Tucked safely inside.
She waited and he asked
For more shapes
The sun, moon, star signs
Her birth chart
And she wondered about
The particular shape
His hair would take
On early winter mornings.
His square and her spiral
Tried to fit into each other
And in the dark of the night
And the high of the alcohol
Running in wayward lines
Through their blood
For sometime, they fit
A new shape emerged
A beautiful amalgamation
Of scars and pains
Of words and kisses
Of love, almost.
When the morning came
The sunlight drew its own shapes
On the floor where
Their clothes lay intertwined
He asked again
For her stars
She offered whatever was left
Smiling that from squares to spirals
It had come down to stars.
And that’s how one more was added
To the many hearts that broke
And the fault
Is all in our stars.
Therapist Me (TM): Are you in your dark place today?
Sad me (SM): I am. I think I am losing the focus of the ‘why’ in life. Why should I wake up, go to work, talk, laugh, be me? This why was so sharp at first now I have to strain my eyes to see.
TM: And yet you get through the days and yet you live on.
SM: It scares me, this dark place and yet I see myself coming here more frequently than ever before. And the same things that used to calm me are now drenched in black shadows, grabbing at me with their cold fingers. The sound of the waves that always help me align my thoughts is now the inky black sea calling out to me. I want to walk into the sea.
TM: But you haven’t yet, I know you’ve been thinking about it lately, but tell me, however blurry it may look right now, tell me about your ‘why’.
SM: My ‘why’ is only the people I love and who love me back multiple fold. My ‘why’ is the one who holds me through the night when I cry wordlessly and the one who is not afraid of my dark place. The one who does not rescue me but waits until I find my own light.
I feel if Dad was around, I’d be more anchored and not feel as directionless in life.
TM: Look at the things you have managed to accomplish however small. Look at them closely, I see direction and focus. I see things that Dad would have felt so proud of.
SM: But he did not get a chance to see those things. I never got a chance to know what he thinks and aspires for me.
TM: You had the chance to know him closely enough to know what he thinks. You know just when he would be happy and when he would disapprove. You have him, his voice, right there. You just need to close your eyes and listen.
Me: Each time I come visit you my eyes are closed, in fear and pain and all I do is curl up and lie here. Feeling but not seeing, but today I feel stronger, enough to open my eyes, look around and ask you some questions.
Dark Place: You haven’t come visited me in a while. The more you come and stay, the stronger I get. We can talk for as long as you like till you stay with me.
Me: There is a locked cupboard in that corner there. Open it and show me what you have hidden.
Dark Place: It is full of broken things, your broken things. Ghosts of the past you banished, shards and pieces of all the things you did not become. Each one of those things are sharp, mind you, don’t touch them, they may hurt you.
Me: If I look closely first and accept those broken things as just a part of me, of who I was and who I am now, I know they won’t hurt me then.
Dark Place: And you think I would? Am I not too, only a part of you?
The last family dinner of the Sharma’s was held on 3rd January 2016 at an overcrowded family restaurant with yellow lights known for its large portion sizes. The meal was to celebrate a birthday and was preceded by an inordinately long wait outside the restaurant peppered by irritated remarks and impatient leg jiggling. Present for the occasion were Mrs. Sharma, her two children Rita (26) and Avi (22) and Mrs. Sharma’s brother and his wife, the Singhs. In addition to those present, Rita’s legs also made their prominent presence felt. The contention for the evening lay between Mrs. Sharma and Rita, both of whom differed on the acceptable extent of leg exposure and its function in the delightful evening. Mrs. Sharma strongly voiced out her view of the leg exposure as vulgar and an invitation for rape multiple times throughout the evening only to be met with awkward silence on the table. The men on the table preferred to take a politically wise, neutral stance in the conflict. Mrs. Sharma was remarkably consistent in constantly acknowledging this indecency for it is after all the complete responsibility of moral young women to safeguard their bodies from men. Rita on the other hand differed in her views although hard to say what those views exactly were owing to her remaining silent for most of the evening. Except on one occasion when she just looked down into her food and remarked about the unusual amount of chilli in the chicken leg this evening. She remained unavailable for further comment.