Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Luncheon

Do you remember that afternoon we were all sitting on the floor in a shapeless circle, sharing the contents of our lunch boxes?
I wasn't particularly hungry then. I ate only because i wanted to sit by you.
Do you remember that question we were discussing? And your answer. I remember it. And i wished then that i was that girl. I still wish it.
Do you remember my reply?
I spoke about someone else. Something else. 
It got me thinking - have i ever done anything sweet for you?
I couldn't come up with a satisfactory answer to it that afternoon.
Today, i think of it again. 
Today, I have an answer.
And this - is it.

I remembered the lines i had written for you - on sultry afternoons and rainy evenings.
The words i had read out to you in the wee hours of the night.
The words that seemed so effortless - that they almost took me by surprise.
I hadn't attempted verse in seven years.
I had almost given up on prose as well.
And then you happened.

No, you weren't a gust of wind.
Neither were you the stormy rain.
You were more the quiet drizzle, the gentle August breeze.
That blows softly all over you - just when the drops of sweat are about to trickle down your forehead.
You made me a poet - again. 

And though we know so much of each other
That our farts and burps have ceased to cause shame
I still feel conscious now, as i type out these words
A strange consciousness that comes not from being watched but from the prospect of being read.
Do you like my words?
Do you find my poetry poetic enough?
Or should i stick to prose.
Should i simply say - I love you.
For i really do.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

To the stranger at the beach

Dear XY,

I never thought I could fall in love with someone I have never even met. I am not that type of a girl. I don’t have crushes on celebrities or characters from books. I don’t dream about knights in shining armour riding towards me on a white steed and sweeping me off my feet. I have never been in a damsel-in-distress situation. I don’t like romantic comedies. And I dislike the entire concept of candle-lit dinners.

I also intensely dislike the notion of ‘love at first sight’. Each time someone mentions that phrase around me, I snigger inwardly. Sometimes, I forget and even laugh out loud. I receive looks of pure hatred from the speaker of the phrase. I shrug, smile sheepishly and try to change the topic. I usually avoid confrontations.

Until recently, my world consisted of my books, my writing, my brother and the evening walks by myself on the beach. And though I was never too happy, I was quite content.

Why then does everything have to change? Why does life have to go topsy-turvy? Why have I become the very kind of person that I once detested? And why don’t I detest the person I have become? Why?

It was exactly two weeks ago that I first saw you. You stood there, in black tracks and a blue tee, hands on hips, right at the edge of the beach, gazing into the distance. It was as if you were waiting for a signal of sorts. I remember noticing that the blue of your tee matched the blue of the sea. You must have stood there for over half an hour. Perhaps longer. All that while, I stood just a few metres behind you, wondering what it is that you were waiting for. Your lady love to return from her trip? I hoped not. I hoped that you, like me, were standing there to soak in the sound of the sea. You waited till dusk had set in, and then you turned and left.

After that day, you came to the beach at exactly the same time each evening, dressed in exactly the same attire. And stood for exactly forty three minutes gazing at the horizon. And each day, I would watch you, and wonder about the story of your life. A million thoughts raced past my head. Sometimes I wondered if you were mourning a terrible loss. Sometimes I wondered why you never changed your clothes. Sometimes I wondered what if you had eyes on the back of your head and could see me all along. And sometimes, I wondered if I could ever muster the courage to come up to you, lock my hand in yours and gaze at the sea standing by your side. I imagined several other such scenarios with you, but I never once imagined a conversation between us. Maybe because I was already so comfortable with the silence we shared.

After the eight day, you stopped coming. It has been six days since I saw you. On the first day, I thought maybe it was because you had some errands to run. On the second day, I thought you might have caught a fever. On the third day, I feared your lady love was back. On the fourth day, I imagined you got bored of gazing at the sea. On the fifth day, I grew restless. Today is the sixth day. And I am afraid. I am afraid I have lost you even before I met you. I am afraid we will never meet. I am afraid I will never be able to tell you that I love you. For I do. I fell in love with you the very first day, the moment I saw you standing at the edge of the beach with your hand on your hips, gazing into the distance.

And do you know what it is that I am most afraid of? That I might run into you sometime, somewhere, and never recognize you because I never saw your face.


It was magical...

It has been a long while since I last wrote. In the last two months, I have often wanted to write – sometimes because I was angry, at other times because I was hurt, and at times because I was sad. But today, after a long while, I want to write because I am happy. It’s not that the last two months have been unhappy. They definitely haven’t. But writing requires a certain state of mind – and that has been eluding me for quite a while now.

Yesterday was different. Yesterday was beautiful. Yesterday made me happy.

It was the Rooftop Film Festival. A bunch of friends and I were attending it. And though they were around all the time, as were a couple of hundred others, I felt alone. It was a nice kind of alone-ness. Not the sad lonely kind, but a happy kind of solitude.

We were lying down under the open sky. Whenever the film or the talk got a tad tedious, I would gaze at the stars. The friend on my right was an astronomy enthusiast and pointed out some of the constellations. After a while, I drifted off from our conversation and began inventing constellations of my own. Here was an elephant’s bum, and there was a lady with long-flowing hair. And up ahead, to the right, was the little boy with a bat in his hand.

The first movie began. It was one of my favourites – Before Sunrise. And it contained one of my favourite scenes. The one in the church where Ethan Hawke tells Julie Delpy about the Quaker wedding he had been to. It’s the most romantic description of a wedding that I have heard. The couple kneel down in front of the congregation, and they just stare at each other. Nobody says a word unless they feel that God moves them to speak or say something. And then, after an hour or so of just staring at each other, they’re married.

At the end of the scene, I had a weird sense of happy-sadness. Happy, that something so beautiful exists. Sad, that I had no one to share that moment with.

I slept through the latter half of the second movie and most of the third. When I woke up, at the end of third film, I happened to glance upward. And what I saw, took my breath away. There, on what I had thought was a moonless night, stood a slim crescent shining bright in the eastward sky. It was magical.

At the end of the fourth movie, I glanced upward again, hoping to watch the crescent as it faded away. But it was already gone. Instead, in its place stood a bright, orange ball. I smiled to myself. So what if I only saw two of the four movies completely, I got to witness two miracles. I am happy, once again.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Letter 1

Dearest A,

You must be wondering why I didn’t address you with the letter that your name actually starts with. I wonder too. I also wonder why I can’t be seen with you in public. Or why I can’t hold your hand. I wonder why I can’t call you whenever I feel like it. Or why I must constantly watch my back even for those few stolen moments that we spend together.

But I can’t complain. Some things are just not meant to be. And you and I are one of those ‘some things’.

I still remember the first day I actually noticed you. It was at a party. I was just getting to know your friends. They were quite friendly. Some said hi. Some lingered on to have longer conversations. But you stood aloof. You didn’t even notice me, even though I was wearing one of my favourite sarees. It was then that I decided to inquire about you. They told me your name. I liked the ring of it.

A few days later, we bumped into each other at the tea stall. You were alone. And I was feeling rather lonely. (I didn’t look it though, did I?) We spoke about one of my favourite things – bookshops. I remember offering to take you to one of my favourite bookshops. It has been almost two months since that conversation. Two wonderful months.

That day, at the tea shop, you looked at me a little oddly. I wondered why. Later, you told me it was because I reminded you a lot of the girl you first loved. Soon after, you told me you loved me. That was the happiest day of my life.

It was a scene straight out of a fairy tale. We were on the terrace. You and I. The sky was our roof. It was a starry night and a cool breeze was blowing. Simon and Garfunkel were singing “The Sound of Silence” in the background. A few minutes later, I told you I had to leave. And I hugged you goodbye. The moment I touched you, I felt something electric pass through me. I shuddered inside. Was this for real? I had known you for all of three days. It felt like much longer though. We walked in silence. Out of the terrace. Onto the corridor. And there, just before we were to get onto the staircase, you asked me for a goodbye hug.

A rational me would have asked, “Didn’t we just hug goodbye?” But rationality was lost on me that night. I turned to you, placed my arms around your neck and lay my head on your chest. And we stood that way for what seemed like eternity. I could hear your heartbeat. I could feel your breath on me. I could feel myself melting in your arms. I could feel myself falling in love with you.

Three days. A few conversations. A long walk. Two shared cupcakes. One night on the terrace sitting on a bench under the starry night listening to Simon and Garfunkel. A long hug. A kiss. Love.

Whoever said that thing about falling in love when you least expect to was right.

I wish that person had added a statutory warning though. I wish I had known then that I will have to live each day knowing that I can’t have you. I wish sometimes that I don’t love you as much as I do, for it hurts.

But then again, I think of the wonderful moments we share. The stolen kisses. The late night conversations. The occasional trips to the tea shop. The long walks in our secret lane. The day I almost got married to you at the Armenian Church. The days I lay on your arm in the sands of the Marina Beach, drawing make-believe constellations out of the stars. The day I broke into a bright smile when I realised that the red seeds I was giving you were in safe custody. The days we sneaked onto unknown terraces. The days I snuck into your house. The days you snuck into mine. The days I sang songs to you to put you to sleep. And the days I sang songs to you to wake you up. The days I said little prayers for you each time I saw a small shrine. The days we shared soups, salads and more. The days I poured the coffee into your dabra because you had butterfingers. The days I fell asleep listening to you. And the days I woke up in your arms.

And though I agree that every session of laughter is followed by one of tears and heartache, I will not give up loving you. For even two moments in your company makes the heartache worth it.

Yours forever

Saturday, January 21, 2012

My friend Sanjog

I met an old friend yesterday. Someone I had known since I was 17. We were meeting after almost two years. Incidentally, in the eight years that we knew each other, we had met less than a dozen times. But I still like to call him a good friend. Funny, considering that there are people I meet on a more frequent basis but who don’t yet qualify as good friends.

Many of my good friends, I realise, are people I have met just a few times. Invariably, it is an accidental meeting that turns into a conversation, which in turn results in an enduring friendship. There are times I have made friends without even meeting them. Letters. Yes, hand-written letters and emails have resulted in some beautiful friendships.

Sanjog was one of the first friends I made through letters. Or rather, through emails. Sanjog happened to read one of my travel pieces in The New Indian Express. In that piece, I had written about how I backpacked alone across a few towns in Tamil Nadu. I received quite a few emails for that particular piece. But his stood out. Perhaps because like me, he too was fascinated by goat shit. Or perhaps like me, he too was a Virgoan.

We began writing to each other. Long mails. Really long ones. And then we would talk occasionally over the phone. I still remember the day I told Sanjog I was quitting The New Indian Express to travel. He was at once shocked and happy. Happy because I was going to travel to his state.

And then, after almost a year of emails and phone calls, we met at the Cuttack railway station. I stayed with his family for a whole week before heading off to Kolkata. And what a delightful stay it was. Sanjog was busy filling in applications for universities so I ended up spending a lot of time with his mother. Tripti Aunty is a beautiful woman. One of those ideal women you read about in your history textbooks. She and I would have long conversations on spirituality and psychology. She cooked me many Oriya delicacies and treated me like I were her daughter. I shared her joys, sorrows, her wardrobe and her life. A few days before I left, she told me, “Don’t call me Aunty. Call me Chitthi (mother’s sister). I am like your mother only, no?” I had to look away, lest she see those tears of joy in my eyes.

Later that month, I returned to Cuttack to travel around Orissa with Sanjog. We went to Keonjhar, Kondodhar and Khiching – three lovely places that I will dwell upon later. When I left Orissa for the second time, we both knew we wouldn’t be meeting each other in a long while. And even though we haven’t met each other in almost a year now, Sanjog and I remain close friends. In fact, like I was telling him just the other day, he is one of the few persons I would label “Best friend”. It might sound juvenile, but who cares.

Since last Feb, which was the last time I saw him not counting the 10 minutes I spent with him in the railway station on my way back from Kolkata, Sanjog and I have been in constant touch over phone. We talk twice or thrice a week. He is now my friend, philosopher, guide and punching bag. We have shared many laughs. I have cried to him a couple of times. And we have discussed almost everything under the moon. We have eaten rosogullas on the highway, almost met Maoists, explored ruined bungalows in the middle of a jungle, met a 94-year-old sadhu who survives on berries, and cooked Maggi. No wonder I call him my best friend.