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.